In memoriam, Paul @pdxflaneur Bingman

I am saddened to report that Paul Bingman has lost his battle with cancer. Wm Leler has access to Paul’s Twitter account @pdxflaneur, through which the news was released today.

Wm has also established a Facebook page for Friends of Paul Bingman to share their thoughts.

Like many of you, I was lucky enough to get to know Paul. He was incredibly warm, supportive, and engaged within the Portland tech community. He was a big man. With an equally big heart. And a love for Portland and technology.

I for one will remember many a happy and jovial conversation with Paul during Beer and Blog and for his being the first smiling presence I encountered on my way through the doors for many an Ignite Portland.

I’m truly at a loss.

From a profile he submitted to Portland on Fire, a few years back:

Web programmer, film junkie, railroad movie consultant

Born & raised in Portland, always lived here. Grew up in SE, went to a mix of public and private schools. Starting taking myself to movies when there were lots of neighborhood theaters, then to downtown theaters like the Orpheum, Fox, Music Box, and the old Broadway.

I worked a mix of odd jobs, like assembling bicycles for a discount store that was on the opposite corner of the block from where Walter Powell was starting to open up a used bookstore. I also worked 3 years as a machinist.

In the mid 70s I became a telegrapher on the Burlington Northern railroad. The work was interesting – mostly train order and station agent work at depots and interlocking towers around the Pacific NW. At various times I was the railroad agent in Astoria, St Helens, Roosevelt, Junction City, Beaverton, and Camas; the yardmaster at Longview Junction; the CTC and train order operator in Vancouver; and the late night wirechief here in Portland. I worked a lot of depots that don’t exist anymore, like Wishram, Redmond, and Bend, and ones that have been closed a long time, like Maupin and South Junction.

In 1979 I was promoted to Train Dispatcher, sent to 4 weeks of school in St Paul, Minnesota, and then worked as a train dispatcher, chief dispatcher, and assistant chief dispatcher for 2 years. The railroad had an amazingly huge computer network that was online all the time (24/7 hadn’t been invented yet). I could send wires all over the railroad’s network, and even get them forwarded to other railroads. The I/O devices were paper tape teletypes, card punches and readers, and some early IBM smart terminals.

During my stint on the railroad, I built my first computer from a kit – it had 16K of RAM and ran at a blinding 4MHz. I taught myself programming: first BASIC, then assembler, and C. After the railroad, I worked for several years at the now-defunct Control-C Software as a support tech, marketing tech, sales, programmer, lead programmer, and then manager. I did software configuration, operating system ports and ROM BIOSes (including the first true clone of the IBM PC), and managed projects installing and integrating a clone of the PostScript interpreter in a variety of printer hardware.

I left Control-C in 1988 and formed Northwest Software Partners with 3 business partners. That company did custom device drivers and other operating system work for a variety of US and international clients. I put the ABIOS support into Microsoft’s OS/2, wrote the spec for the OS/2 device driver, and put much of the /? support into DOS. I also worked on a big disk array for image storage for the then-not-yet-built lakeside home of Bill Gates.

In 1993 I parted ways with the last of my business partners and started my own software company which is now Edgewood.net. Over the years I’ve done a wide variety of custom programming and forensic software work. I once manipulated an HP logic analyzer into collecting data over the Internet. The programming work became more Internet and database-focused, the programming languages much more web-friendly.

I was the chair of both the Linnton Neighborhood Association and the Linnton Community Center for some years. I’ve started non-profits. I volunteer at various places around town.

And I sat for the Hermit in a new Tarot deck, due out later this year.

What are you up to?

Back-end website programming for a variety of clients, mostly creative studios but also many small clients. Some site design, but my expertise is in wrangling various programming languages, database servers, and web servers to make sites dynamic, interactive, responsive, interesting, and fun.

I’m a big fan of open: open standards and open source. I’m strongly against locking clients into proprietary technologies or frameworks or a single vendor unless absolutely necessary.

You’ll see me around town at BarCampPortlandMeetups, Ignite Portland, DevGroup NW, OSCON, and various events at CubeSpace. I help put on WebVisions each year, one of the best conferences you’ll ever attend.

In the summer of 2007 I launched a new business. I started by asking myself what might lie at the intersection of what I know a lot about besides programming (railroads), and what I really have a passion for (movies). So I created a new business as a railroad movie consultant. I’ve seen railroads done so poorly in some films – they get so much wrong like equipment and language and operating procedures, and leave out other things that would make the story more interesting or give the scene much more character. I’ve built it, now they just need to come.

What are you into?

Movies. Lots of films, mostly indie and foreign. I was worried I had a movie habit, so I started keeping a diary and was surprised to discover I see 200-300 movies a year, at least half of those in theaters. I’m a big fan of the Portland International Film Festival and the NW Film & Video Festival. Both fests give me a chance to see an incredible selection of films and meet filmmakers and other interesting filmgoers. I also hang out at the Hollywood, Clinton St, and Cinema 21 theaters.

People. How we tick, and how we perceive and interact with the hidden world (all those intangible and unscientific things that still somehow affect us). I’m a past board member of the Oregon Friends of C.G. Jung and continue to volunteer for them and attend the lectures and workshops. Portland has the most active lay Jungian organization in the US, if not the world.

Books. I’m a huge book addict with a long list of books I want to read. Now if only I was better at knuckling down and actually reading them. Lots of non-fiction, lots of murder mysteries and Jasper Fforde.

Walking. You see so much from walking at ground level that you never see while driving or riding the bus. Yards, buildings, people – it’s all better at the natural human speed of travel. Read Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.

Writing. I’ve been told I should be writing, many times by many people. Slowly I’m getting the hint.

Dating. Sometimes. When I meet an interesting/attractive woman and work up the courage.

The old part of town, any town. Good beer. Stories. Pipe organs. The green ray. Bruno Ganz. The night sky. Django Reinhardt. Tableaux vivants. Dirigibles. Rumi and Rilke. Pie. Kiarostami, Kurosawa, Kaurismaki. People who are good to each other.

What do you like most about Portland?

All the interesting stuff happens at the edges – where one world rubs up against and cross-pollinates another. That’s always been true of port cities, and it’s definitely true of Portland. This city is one giant convoluted edge, so many worlds to mix and mash up, so many ways to be interesting. Film, books, theater, tech, art, music, religion, politics, the environment, transportation, living and livability – it all rubs together, throwing off sparks as it fuses and melds and reflows again.

Where else would one want to live & work & play? Temperate weather, even if it’s too wet and gray at times. Less than 2 hours driving will take you to the snowy mountains or mama ocean or the desert. Where I live, 10 minutes’ driving will get me to downtown Portland or downtown St Johns or almost downtown Scappoose, to rural Sauvie Island or up in the rolling fields of Washington County. Forest Park is just a few footsteps away.

As others have noted, Portland is full of friendly, interesting, quirky people. It’s so easy to start some innocent smalltalk that slips into quality conversation and ends up out of control as a new friendship.

Sometimes people ask why I’m still here – why haven’t I moved to Seattle or New York, Helsinki or Tbilisi? The answer is oh so easy: because anything you can have there you can have here, but in a much friendlier, more relaxed, infinitely more livable environment. And, most importantly, I live here because this is Home.

What’s it like being an older geek?

Well, it is noticeable at a business meeting or networking event that I’m a whole generation older than anyone else in the room. But that’s about the only obvious difference. We all speak a geekly language, all are interested in technology and especially what we can do with it, all want to work on great projects and see them through.

When I was younger I had lots of energy for surfing all the new technologies, new languages, new protocols, playing with them and seeing what I could get them to do. I’ve probably learned a dozen high level languages and twice that many assembler languages. Each year I care a little less about the nuts and bolts and more about the people involved, about how I can use that technology to do interesting and even useful things for them and their customers.

3 decades of programming has given me a lot of experience with projects. You develop a sense of smell for projects that were ill-conceived or poorly developed or aren’t being managed well. You come to love people who have great ideas, have really worked on them, and present you with a job you can excel at or an interesting, tough problem to solve. You learn to really appreciate the craft of good project management, people who stay on top of their projects and see them through. And you worship at the shrines of clients who pay you on time.

What’s your biggest unfulfilled life ambition?

To be a world-class Mahjong player.

I hope you got to play Mahjong, Paul. Rest in peace.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories here or on the Friends of Paul Bingman Facebook page.

I’m truly sorry if I’m the one breaking this news to you.

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  2. Relive some of Paul’s wit via his email correspondence.


  3. Words can’t fully express my thoughts at losing Paul. Ironic really, as he and I shared a love of language including crazy puns and portmanteau words. Reading the Portland on Fire article again I was reminded that Paul introduced me to Jasper Fforde. I’m sitting with a glass of whisky, musing over memories that bring a smile, but saddened that I’ll never pour him another wee dram.

    I don’t know when I first met Paul; probably in the early ’90s. We were both very involved in Internet Professionals Northwest. Paul took me to a Film Festival event when the movie didn’t arrive (or was it just late?) It was fun watching him with the other buffs all flummoxed and wondering what to do instead or before. Paul videotaped Jan’s and my wedding, and there, as always, pictures show him with a wonderful smile and twinkling eyes.

    I haven’t seen Paul much since moving to Seattle a few years ago, and our phone calls weren’t regular. But every conversation contained joy, deeper thoughts, and mutual support. I look forward to sharing memories with others at the celebration, bittersweet though it will be.

    I hope someone will create and publish Paul’s LinkedIn InMap. I expect that there will be more clusters in his than most of us.

    “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”

  4. Planning for a celebration of Paul’s life is currently underway. If you have time, please consider volunteering.


  5. Most of will leave this life with barely a ripple. Paul leaves like a tidal wave. He was the heart and soul of PIFF, welcoming to all and always ready with a quip and that shy smile. Memorials are often heavy on positive comments, disregarding the negative aspects of a person. With Paul it was all positive. I think of him constantly He leaves a large hole in all our lives.

  6. Death- that cowardly thief in the night come too soon; we are robbed!

  7. They should rename “Beer & Blogs” to “Drinks with Paul.” Hate that I wont be around this week to raise a glass in his honor.

  8. Paul was one of the first people I met in Portland. Everything about his demeanor amazed me. His attitude toward life inspired me. I think the best any of us can do is to carry that zest of life forward in our interactions with others.

    I’m so sad that you’re gone. I’m also very glad to have met you.

  9. Like so many, i met and have loved, admired, respected and looked forward to seeing him Paul at a gathering of minds for a lecture. Over the years we talked about people and relationships and how folks treat each other and love and romance. I had no idea his depth of emplyment regarding the RR, but i knew and felt his great love for trains and he paid me the nicest the love complement when he said i like your pictures. I had given him a disk of the hundreds of pix i took of a string of historic trains, cars, steam locomotive engine, cabbose on route through the Gorge~ous. The sound of a train whistle has always filled me with hope and i knew whatever endeavor before me would come to pass well. Now, the sound, and sight of trains tracks and whistles, will bring me to memories of Paul… My favorite memory of him, though, i don’t not want to give too many details, was a warm sunny summer day, gently rocking on a backard swing at a mutual friends home… not heady conversation but a lot of love and emotion and laughter!
    Reading his notes above, i am surprised he did not mention his beloved van. He may have loved trains and he may have enjoyed a pleasant walk, but he really loved that old van that took him wherever he wanted to go, whenever he needed to, except for the occassional reparations which seemed to put him through a kind of cold turkey. Intense and extreme. Kind, gentle, generous, thoughtful, endearing, dear, wise, well read, unpretentious, fun, funny, serving, community minded. A one of a kind original and there is a very big void where there once was a very freindly smile and really warm hug. Dear Paul we all dearly love you and will greatly miss you very very much.

  10. Igal, that was… well it was better than anything I could have said.

  11. I last saw Paul in the Park Blocks. He was strolling unhurriedly with his characteristic grin, enjoying the crisp day. When he spotted me, he smiled brightly in his usual way and threw a quirky, pun-filled greeting at me. He was going to a Curiosity Club session where folks were going to explain how they built mandolins, pinhole cameras and such. We chatted about that, then about a documentary film on French armored trains, local streetcar expansion plans, schemes for applying augmented reality technology to showcase historical landmarks on Portland transit routes, and movies he’d seen recently. When we wrapped up our conversation, I watched him head off, strolling unhurriedly with his characteristic grin, enjoying that crisp day, and looking forward to whatever came next. It seemed like just another day.

    Part of me is angry and surprised. I miss him. It’s not right for this to happen to him. I nearly asked one of the folks at this week’s hackathon where Paul was because I expected to see him strolling, grinning and chatting with people there.

    Part of me is sorry that he suffered. I can’t imagine how much this hurt, nor how disappointed, scared and alone he may have felt. I’m sorry that he had to experience this.

    Part of me is frustrated that this happened to him. He was a good, kind and genuine guy that really enjoyed life and helped others enjoy theirs. He seemed to get a lot more out of living than I or many others. He always had so much more that he wanted to see, learn and experience. In a world where so many years are wasted or simply thrown away, it feels unfair that someone that made such good use of his time lost his allotment early.

    Yet part of me is at peace. Paul may not have had all the years he should have had, but he made good use of the ones he had. He did many things, had many laughs, and made many friends who respected and enjoyed being with him.

    I’m sad that Paul had to board his final train so soon, but if there’s anything beyond this place, then I’m sure that he’s out there grinning and making friends with the passengers on the way to his next destination.

    I’m glad I met Paul and will miss him.

  12. This is truly a shock.

  13. Eva has put up a post, as well. I thought I should share it.


  14. Thanks so much for posting this, Rick. A big guy with an even bigger heart, Paul made us all feel special for being part of his massive circle of friends. Portland will be a little colder and emptier without him.

  15. Rick, thanks so much for posting this. I’ve been too busy to get out to tech events lately, so this news comes as a big surprise. I didn’t realize Paul was ill.

    Paul was among the first I met a few years ago when I started immersing myself in social technologies. He was always a friendly face and had a kindly demeanor. I’m sad to hear he’s gone and want to thank you again for posting this very nice tribute.

  16. I haven’t talked to Paul in several months – this came as a complete shock. I am sick. He truly was a great guy!

  17. He was a consistently happy face at tech events in Portland. He always made those new to the community feel welcomed as much as the regulars. For that, the witty conversations and much more, I will miss Paul very much.

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