What's With the z/VM Bear?

From Melinda Varian's exhaustive and fascinating document "VM AND THE VM COMMUNITY: Past, Present, and Future" (see: http://web.me.com/melinda.varian/Site/Melinda_Varians_Home_Page_files/neuvm.pdf :

With VMbs amazing growth, the VM Group in SHARE has always had a problem making newcomers feel at home, simply because they always outnumber the oldtimers. In 1983, the Group was going through yet another attempt to overcome this problem, and it was decided that at SHARE 60 we would hand out little square yellow stickers to newcomers to the VM Group and little square blue stickers to oldtimers, with the idea that if they all put the stickers on their badges, the oldtimers could identify the newcomers and help make them feel at home. The problem with that, of course, was that nobody could remember which sticker was which, so it didnbt work out at all. A couple of days into that week, however, Carol Jobusch bought a few hundred teddy bear stickers, with the idea of affixing them to the cuddlier of the oldtimers so that the newcomers would know that here was a warm cuddly person who ran the warm cuddly system and who could be counted on to be friendly if approached. Within hours, the teddy bear had become the de facto symbol for VM, and everybody in the VM Group, old or new, cuddly or prickly, was wearing a teddy bear on his badge. (The Jobusches subsequently got a 50-KB (kilo-bear) roll of stickers, to keep SHARE well supplied.)

One rather strange result of all this has been that the offices of many hard-bitten system programmers are now full of teddy bears.

Mike Walter (now employed by Aon Corporation; without ever having left his office at Aon Hewitt, or Hewitt Associates before that) further relates in an IBMVM discussion list posting on Wed, 26 Oct 2005 13:00:56 with the "Subject: Edgar Beargen's heritage (was: Edgar and Tux)"

For those interested, the history of Edgar...Edgar Beargen was "conceived" at the very hot and humid SHARE in New York during August 1988. Long-time VM'er and frequent VMSHARE and VMESA-L discussion list contributor Rich Greenberg used to bring a bright pink "VM" sign, posted on an easel atop a table at SCIDS. He could not attend that particular NY SHARE, so Gabe Goldberg escorted this New York novice to a local art supply store where we purchased a sheet of brown corrugated cardboard. Back at SHARE in the then-called "VM Group Office" I enlarged and traced the outline of a 1-inch plastic teddy bear affixed to my SHARE badge, cutting a rather unfortunately lop-sided cardboard bear that resembled the current Edgar. That night the cardboard beta-test of Edgar Beargen debuted as a member of the ESP (Extra Special Person) program mounted on an easel placed on the VM table at SCIDS. I promised those attending the SHARE-week-in-review meeting on Friday morning that by the next SHARE the VM Program would have a suitable icon for display at the VM table at SCIDS. SCIDS (an acronym reported by http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9905/05/1955.idg/ as meaning "Sessions on Common Information Discussion") has been replaced by the politically correct name: "Evening Receptions". {shudder}

In his third trimester (with my wife Judy by happystance also in HER third trimester with our first child, Becky) and with SHARE looming large on the near horizon, a trip to the local fabric store netted us "infant supplies" of brown fur (coat material -- but who would wear THAT!?), eyes and mouth (buttons), and quilt batting. Labor began with Edgar being more evenly outlined on paper, then traced onto the back of his new skin. Through careful genetic engineering, Edgar was sized to reach full maturity while still fitting into my largest suitcase. Hard labor commenced, but a Cesarean delivery was required, with surgery to separate him from the umbilical cord of excess "new skin". Precise suturing by my capable surgical assistant/wife resulted in a successful delivery of a brand new baby bear, measuring 25" and weighing in at 1 pound, 8 ounces.

There was simply no discussion about choosing a name -- it was obvious. One of CMS's first full-screen file editors was called EDGAR (EDit Graphically And Recurrently). A proper surname quickly became obvious as well. As a "bear of a systems programmer", responsible for system generations (sysgens), Beargen was clearly the right name. Given that Edgar is somewhat of a puppet (he does have a hole right up the middle from the bottom), it seemed proper to pay a little homage to Charlie McCarthy's senior partner: Edgar Bergen.

Engineering a means to mount Edgar for display above a sea of sysprogs, atop the VM table at SCIDS, was more daunting. I could not bear (forgive the pun) the thought of placing a noose around his neck to hang him from above -- it's not the image of VM we want to present. Performing skull surgery to place a ring at the top of his head (a new body-piercing location?) to hang him from above caused the fabric to sag, resulting in an unacceptable and obvious frown -- still not the image of VM we'd want to present. You'd probably frown, too, if hung from a loop at the top of your head. That left the only feasible choice of mounting from below. I cut, fitted, and sweat-welded copper plumbing into a stand that could also be disassembled and fit into by suitcase. Judy polished the copper pipes and I sprayed them with a clear-coat to reduce tarnish. Thus Edgar became one of the first journeyman plumbers (he does journey between SHAREs) to use copper pipelines and fittings!

Edgar (V1R1M0) debuted at the February 1989 SHARE in Los Angeles and, to best of my memory, has attended all but one since. That one SHARE he missed was sometime in the early 1990's when I could not attend for a few years. Fellow Chicago Area VM ENthusiast (CAVMEN) user group member, VM Community member, SHARE Officer, and frequent speaker at SHARE, Roger Deschner volunteered to take Edgar in his luggage (he did so several times). But one time when it came time to pack for SHARE and a follow-on ski vacation, Roger discovered that there was room for either Edgar, or his ski boots. Roger chose his ski boots, and magnanimously accepted proper chastisement at SHARE for leaving Edgar languishing in Chicago. As fitting penance, at SCIDS during the next SHARE Roger appeared on stage in a full-length bear costume. After that, when I could not attend I shipped Edgar to whomever volunteered to "SHARE" a room with him, escort him to SCIDS, and reclaim him late each night for the trip back to their hotel room. Marty Zimelis graciously performed this duty many times, which helps to explain Edgar's late night party habits -- ones that often keep me awake late into each SHARE week night, making me drowsy during sessions. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!). Spending that much time with Marty may also explain Edgar's preference for adventurous, exotic, and eclectic restaurants. It's a little surprising that Edgar doesn't want to wear a cowboy hat! SCIDS has been closing down earlier each evening during the past few years, closing down a few times even before we returned from dinner. In those cases, one or another Smith-Bucklin associates have taken Edgar up to their room to spend the night. Oh, the stories Edgar could probably tell about being VM's "warm and cuddly" mascot...

Edgar was appearing lonely during the long days in the hotel rooms during SHARE week, even with the frequent company of oft-surprised housekeeping staff each day. Fortunately, a few years ago Tux arrived to keep Edgar company and they quickly became good friends. Actually, a pair of Tux's; with one sitting on each of Edgar's rear paws, and yet another penguin puppet as Edgar's "right hand penguin". One of Tux's cousins, Tucks, has formed an especially "close relationship" with Edgar. If you dare, you may search for Tucks at the next SCIDS via careful observation in the vicinity of where the copper pipe stand is inserted into Edgar.

The trip between my hotel room and the SCIDS ballroom each evening has caused a few raised eyebrows from adults (a 6'2" guy with a 2' teddy bear and assorted penguins is not something one sees very often), and has resulted in wide-eyed stares and huge smiles from many children in hotel elevators and lobbies. One memorable trip in Minneapolis between the hotel and convention center a few blocks away caused me to worry for my own safety. As I walked down the sidewalk carrying Edgar under my right arm and the denim bag with 5+ copper pipes in my left hand, several large black SUVs with dark windows came around the corner from the left, followed by a few long black limousines and more large black SUVs. Each SUV had men in dark suits, sunglasses, and automatic weapons leaning out the windows. It was only then that I remembered that the US vice-president was delivering a speech to another group at the convention center that evening. Those men leaning out the windows with automatic weapons were Secret Service agents -- and here I was walking down the street with what could be misinterpreted as pipe bombs! Fortunately, they did not stop... and I did not soil my clothing.

So... Edgar has reached age 16 in good health. He is due for a little age-related minor surgery, and a replacement of his unsteady copper plumbing stand is in order (perhaps with stainless steel plumbing!). Fortunately, Edgar does not exhibit the typical self-centered, demanding, argumentative attitude of most teenagers. I do worry a little about when he will begin demanding the car keys (how does one insure a driving bear?), and worry even more about his first date (the whole "birds and the bees" discussion should be challenging - especially when given to someone who likes honey as much as the typical bear). I look forward to many more years as Edgar's escort to and from SCIDS.

After years of happily hauling and shipping Edgar Beargen, and following miserly company travel/education budget cuts, Dan Martin of Rocket Software has generously ensured Edgar's care and feeding, getting him safely between his home in Arkansas and all SHARE conferences.

I offer the attached personal photos, if only for your own amusement. At least a couple are probably not suitable for publication by such an austere web site; nonetheless they were displayed during at least one SHARE LVM group opening. ;-)

Mike's pictures are attached below.

Zip File edgar-beargen.zip