Forum Family & Friends: Alan Kemp Is ElCuervo

by Archie Arevalo (Archie)

Alan Kemp, who usually goes by the PCLinuxOS forum name of ElCuervo, had lived in 14 states before he was even ten. He settled down in the desert ... (I mean New Mexico), together with his hippie-joined-to-the-hip companion for the last 35 years.

“We never had any interest in getting married, but had the need to get her on my insurance, along with other legal issues.”

And would you know that Alan and his wife, Marilyn, compared notes of the places they've lived, and found out they had lived in the same towns at the same time five times before they finally gave in to the tug of destiny?

Since neither of them were really interested in the nuptial chains and blocks, but since they had to anyway, they decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary every four years on February 29th. Happy 9th Anniversary, dude!

“We first met in 1972, and I was very taken by her ability to drive her old floor-shift pickup and roll a cigarette with one hand, to say nothing of her obvious Irish beauty. When I kept bird-dogging her, she told me I had a very bad history with women. It's true ... I had already been married 3 times ... and I should go away and live by myself for a couple of years. I did, and five years later I looked her up again. This time, I got lucky and she's been my steadfast true love ever since.”

Alan was born in 1943, and is one of the MLUs at the forum who likes spending his time in the Sandbox. He lived in west Texas for a while with his brothers. He's been married four times, and he's quite confident that he's got the knack of it now.

Alan is also one of the many grandfathers in our midst. Yet, he is still on top of the heap being a great-grandfather to two great-grandchildren. Still, he insists that he isn't that old. Well, isn't age simply a state of mind?

He described his picturesque home in the northern suburbs of Albuquerque, in a beautiful river valley, a quarter of a mile from the Rio Grande. One word draws his description: Nature. Alan and Marilyn share their acre with some animals. He highlights his hospitality to the migrating raven and sandhill cranes.

He majored in English and Philosophy in college, and spent the next thirty years of his life fixing cars!

“When my body started complaining too much, I switched to teaching younger guys how to troubleshoot those pesky automotive electronics. After ten years of that, I’m now semi-retired and knocking out technical manuals for the corporation that had me teaching.”

I asked him about his handle, ElCuervo. Who would have guessed? It dates back to his high school mascot and has continued through the years, with his love affair for the cactus juice lasting throughout his adulthood. Other than that, he seemed to hint of his fondness to chirping passeriformes.

And what does your present signature tag, “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” from Anatole France mean to you?

“Let me just point out that tag has changed quite often. But seriously, I have tried all my life to embrace change; what else could a ten year old kid who lived in fourteen states do? No matter how happy any change may have made me, though, I’ve found that line to be true - there’s always a bit of sadness and sometimes even resistance to leaving the ‘old life’ behind. You know, like leaving Windows for Linux, or KDE 3.5 for KDE 4.x.”

Regarding Linux and PCLinuxOS, how ever did you get yourself into this mess?

“I’ve always been a hands-on person and started tinkering around with the guts of computers back in 1988, and hardware led to an interest in software. I was indeed quite the distrohopper before I landed on PCLinuxOS. My first dabble was with Caldera sometime in the mid- to late-1990s, and damn I hate that I ever gave them money now! I found Mandrake to be pretty comfortable, and Knoppix knocked my socks off with that LiveCD - what a concept.

“There are still lots of distros that I think are great, notably Mint and Mepis. And of course, I can’t help myself. I still look at others from time to time. I have seen lots of cool features in them, but PCLinuxOS captured me from the first time I tried it. Nothing impresses me more than a thing carefully designed and executed, and Texstar has never let me down in that regard. Even the bumpiest bumps and the gnarliest gnarls have come and gone so quickly that there’s hardly time to notice. Of course, I uphold my end of the contract — the regular updates, attention to posted notices, etc.”

Author's note: In the process of this interview, Alan's companion, Kayla, sadly passed away. On December 6, 2011, Alan posted the following message in the Sandbox section of the PCLinuxOS forum:

“Every morning at 4:00, my dog Kayla would start telling me it was time to eat. I didn't mind, heck, I like to get up early anyway. Yesterday, I woke up at the usual time and for the first time I could remember, she wasn't barking. I went to check on her, and she was up and walking around, but in the obvious distress my wife and I have come to call the "death walk". We called my vet and we made the arrangements to say goodbye. She left us peacefully, surrounded by her loving family, including my daughter and grandson. We all thought she would last forever, even though we knew that was impossible. She was an iron lady to the end though, and out of more than 100 dogs in my life, she lasted the longest - she was 17 years old.

“Pulling her bowl from my daily dog-feeding rotation started the tears again this morning. They've been flowing off and on all day. Thankfully, I still have two little guys and a cat that are doing their level best to cheer me up. I'm just worried for their well-being now - Kayla was the seventh pet we have lost in fourteen months - not a good time to be one of ElCuervo's dog and cat family.”

Well, life goes on, and as with this interview, Alan made every possible effort too conclude our interview, in spite of his setback in life. So, I asked him, “In your own opinion, what do you think sets PCLinuxOS apart from other Linux distros?” The answer? In short, Texstar, coder extraordinaire and perfectionist of the highest order. The mantra, "It will be ready when it's ready" says it all.

What particular flavor of PCLinuxOS do you like best, and why?

KDE all the way. In my opinion, Texstar has done an incredible job of creating and maintaining it as the most stable, well-crafted, and finely-tuned desktop environment in all of Linuxdom. I have always appreciated fine craftsmanship in all endeavors, and Texstar's KDE work is the gold standard of Linux. He started with a great product, and through all the years I've been using it, he has only made it better.

I try to like some of the others, and not just by trying them out in VBox but installing to the hard drive. Yes, there are many nice DE’s with lots of hard work put into them, and more to be appreciated. It has been said by others before, though: the PCLinuxOS Control Center is unsurpassed in flexibility and, well, control! I admit I'm a control freak, and having spent a great deal of time learning the ins and outs of the PCC, so I am reluctant to go digging through the menus of Gnome, etc. I guess that just means I am as reluctant to change as anyone else, but really, I DO keep trying. And maybe, someday, I'll be convinced otherwise.

BTW, one of the ways I enhanced my knowledge of the command line was by turning on Options > Display Logs in PCC. Following those real-time "undercover" commands in that way has made it possible for me to fall back on a good ol' terminal in many of my forays into those other desktop environments, rather than dig around through sometimes obtuse GUI menus - heck, sometimes it's even easier in KDE!

What gives you the most delight in our forum?

Finding a question that I spent a long time solving for myself and helping someone else solve it. Sure, there is the jocularity and comradeship, and I feel very much part of a community there, but nothing spins my crank like helping another person get a positive result.

What would be your message to all PCLinuxOS users in this New Year?

This year, 2011 was a bummer in so many ways, not the least of which was the loss of our dear friend, Joble. We have all suffered losses in this past year, and I hope we can all use those experiences to remember how interconnected we are, and how much we depend on "the kindness of others". I will be doing my best to model my own interaction with other people with the same grace and dignity that Joble showed everyone.

And that, dear readers, is Alan Kemp … our ElCuervo.

Alan Kemp and Zorro in one of their dearest moments