See the main memorial page for information about what this is, and who Martin Sikes was. The following people were among those who spoke about Martin at his memorial on Sunday, January 6, 2008 at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Some have kindly given me permission to post their notes.
My name is Carmen Jensen, and I welcome you to the celebration of the life of Martin Sikes. He was an inspiring human being. Martin meant a lot of things to different people. Son, Brother, Friend, Lover, Dad, Room-mate, president, partner, co-worker, employer, inventor, entrepreneur, DJ, Landlord and Mentor are just a few of the many roles he took on in his life. We will try to touch on the many aspects of his life today but he was such an extraordinary person that it would be impossible to do justice to every facet of his being in this short event.
The news of Martin's departure has been shocking and saddening for all of us. I think many of us feel as though a huge void has been left in our hearts. The comments I have read on Martin's Facebook Wall have been touching and sometimes revealing but never surprising. Each post is like the pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle and when you put them together you get a remarkable image that is Martin. But still, I expect there are many more things I will learn about our departed friend. He will live on in our memories.
To me he was one of my best friends. He was the kind of friend that you could pick up your friendship where you left off. We would not see each other for several months and then continue when we met as though we had never been apart. His enthusiasm for life was infectious. He challenged his friends to live life to the fullest. He was a generous, kind and loyal friend. He taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, encouraged me to take risks and helped me to grow as person. Today, I plan to tell a few stories that remember when I think about him.
I first met Martin in the summer of 1992 on a camping trip to Cultus Lake. He suggested a group of us go on a hike up nearby Mt. Cheam. When we arrived at the summit, tired and thirsty, we realized it was all a plot to gain a better vantage point for watching trains. It was at that time that I first glimpsed Martin's passion for trains. One of Martin's great qualities was to pass on his enthusiasm to his friends. I couldn't escape the infectiousness of his enthusiasm for trains.
Together we went on to plan a freight-hopping train trip from Blaine to New Orleans. For those of you who haven't hopped on a freight train, a radio scanner is an important piece of navigational equipment that is used to determine where one is going. There are no signs along the railway tracks saying "Welcome to Sacramento" or wherever we might be. The Scanner allows one to listen to the engineers on the train and get some clue as to where they are heading. The problem was on a three week journey, like we were planning, batteries would often need recharging. To solve the problem, Martin (always the engineer) invented "Hobomate," a dynamo that we clamped against the train wheel to recharge the batteries for the scanner.
We actually made it all the way to New Orleans travelling only on freight trains. While in New Orleans, we acted like a couple of tourists, going on swamp tours and even playing a round of golf—Martin swinging the wrong way and removing his shirt on the golf course. Needless to say, the course marshall was on our case. We slept in gravel cars, were chased by helicopters and border patrollers, camped in garden sheds along the sides of the rails, fell flat on our faces in the gravel next to the tracks and lost quite a bit of weight.
We didn't make it home to Vancouver by freight-hopping—just as far as Denver. When I look back at the pictures of the trip and trace the path we travelled on across the country I am amazed at our achievement: that we could get across the continent travelling only on freight trains. That was Martin's essence, that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Early in our friendship, Martin invited me to "Simpsons Fest." His directions to the house were simply to look for the "local maximum". Every Thursday, he would open his home to his friends and their friends and cook dinner for 20 or so people. (Keep in mind we were all starving university students when Simpsons Fest started.) His curried rice with raisins was delicious. Simpsons Fest ran for several years.
I also was one of Martin's room-mates for several years. We lived together in the Trafalgar, Tisdall and Andover houses. Martin was always house manager—not an easy task when there are 7 room-mates. He was a great leader and being a house-manager was a piece of cake for him. At the end of each month he would post a blue sheet on the fridge outlining all of the accounting for the house. I still recall the "Doorbell unveiling party" with the doorbell created by Martin that replied "Ow my eye!" when you pressed it.
When we were looking to rent the Andover House, Martin wasn't satisfied with any ordinary houses, he had to have the one with the indoor pool and hot-tub, high in the British Properties above Jim Pattison`s House.
When my husband Erik and I got married Martin was our "Man of Honour". Some family friends threw us a shower where guests were asked to bring a gift for a "first time in our marriage". Martin brought a silver tea set for the "first time that the Queen comes to tea". I'm still waiting for that first time.
We've camped together and vacationed together over the years. I can remember exploring the Spences Bridge campsite with him when returning from a camping trip at Savannah and the many years of tubing trips down the Nicola River that followed. Martin would decide that something looked fun and that he wanted to try it, and then make it happen no matter what the obstacle. Before long, it would become a tradition.
One summer he came to my family's Fanny Bay cabin and insisted on taking the train from Nanaimo. Once he arrived at the cabin, we planned to watch the Perseid meteor showers and laid out on the lawn with our sleeping bags waiting for the show to start, only to wake up at dawn having slept through the showers. But it didn't matter because it wasn't about the meteor showers, it was about being together with old friends.
Many years later, Martin invited us on a houseboating trip in the Shuswap with his daughter Brooklyn and her friends. The houseboat was nicer than my house, with a hot-tub and fireplace included.
I remember meeting up with him in 2006 in Las Vegas. He had lost his cell phone and credit card in South America and made a collect call calling himself "Martin CallingfromthelobbyoftheMirage" so that we could find him. This past year he invited us to his retirement party at a secret location and then took us all to Hawaii. He was generous and spontaneous. You could count on him to show up in the most far-flung places to reunite with old friends.
He was one of a kind. An exceptional person, a loyal and genuine friend, a brilliant mind and caring soul. I will miss him greatly and feel privileged to have known him for the time that I did.
I would also like to welcome you to this celebration of life for Martin Sikes. My name is Michael Smith and I've known Martin since we met in UBC engineering during the fall of 1986. Martin was an incredible friend and room-mate, and this large turnout bears witness to the impact Martin had on the people around him. He has left a hole in the hearts of everyone here today. As Martin was a key member of so many distinct groups, the space left in each heart has a distinct shape, and I think many people would be surprised by the beautiful variety in these spaces. During this celebration of Martin's life, my hope is that we will provide a broader understanding of the life of a great friend, a brilliant mind, a charismatic leader, a very generous man: someone who could see the wondrous in what others would consider ordinary, create excitement in those around him through his contagious passion and work hard to follow through with anything that he set his mind to pursue.
Martin was an incredibly caring and overwhelmingly giving friend, both with his time and his resources. When people know that their friends are moving, they tend to check their call display religiously. Not Martin, he was always there to help you move and truly enjoyed planning the most efficient packing arrangement for each vehicle involved.
He had a flair for making his help memorable. One time while we were in school, I found myself with a dead battery, parked on Cambie St. I called him for a jump and he said he would be right over. He showed up in his white van, the one he purchased because it so closely resembled a BC Tel service vehicle. He loved driving it; he had blue stripes across the back with red and white reflective tape up the rear door posts. His best addition was the bumper spike on the front, on which he had placed a stack of orange traffic cones. As he pulled up behind my car, he instructed me to stand back from the curb. He proceeded past my car, made a U-turn and pulled up facing nose to nose with mine. He got out of the van, matter-of-factly removed the traffic cones from his bumper and placed them around both of our vehicles. I was then motioned towards my car, as proper safety protocol had now been observed. We proceeded to start my car, the cones were removed and placed back onto their post and away he drove, perhaps to the next service call.
During our studies in electrical engineering, we learned about different forms of RF transmitters and receivers. Martin, armed with this knowledge, decided it should be put to good use. He modified a miniature radio transmitter into a bug that could be powered from fluorescent lights and late one night he and his merry band had it installed in the ceiling of the forestry student's club room. It provided us with many hours of fun as we tuned in radio C-FOR to hear what our forestry rivals were up to.
During his tenure as the UBC EE club president, he transformed the club from a small one consisting solely of electrical engineers to a much larger and more popular club, consisting of members from all engineering disciplines, science and arts. The government's "Serving It Right" had just come into effect on the campus and Martin saw the importance of us all becoming certified. In very short order we were one of the only security and bartending teams able to take on the various beer gardens and parties that keep the university functioning. The EE club became indispensible, made many new friends and in turn gained many new members. It didn't hurt that we were able to tap fresh kegs 5 minutes before the end of an event and have to carry the excess back to the EE clubroom for proper disposal.
During one of the summers following graduation, Martin, Rob McKay and I went up to the YMCA camp at Deka Lake for a few hours of work followed by a 3 day holiday at the lakeshore. Once we were captive in the wilderness however, we ended up doing 3 days of digging 4' deep plumbing trenches and sleeping in a cabin, where the sounds of nature were caused by the hundreds of bats living in the walls. Near the end of the second day of work, one of the Y task masters said that if we wanted to take a break from digging trenches, we could rest by moving a large pile of rocks across the property. Rob and I couldn't stop laughing at this proposed diversion; Martin however thought what a fantastic idea and proceeded to move the pile. This epitomized how Martin faced life, he loved a challenge, he saw adventure in obscure places, he loved the unexplored and sharing his passion with others, he never shied away from moving a pile of rocks.
As you will hear repeated many times today, Martin had a great love for trains: schedules, systems, operating procedures, sounds and smells. But not just as an observer, as a stowaway passenger to many rural and distant locations. On one of his adventures up the Fraser Canyon, a train in which he was riding pulled into a siding along the Thompson, near the hamlet of Spences Bridge. Martin decided to scout the area while waiting for his train to continue on and discovered an oasis hidden in an otherwise desert region. A waterfall flowed down a crack in the valley wall, creating a series of cascading pools surrounded by lush vegetation. None of this visible from Hwy 1, only to be discovered by someone walking the rail line.
Building from this discovery, Martin made the leap that the nearby Kettle Valley rail line followed a river great for inner-tubing and our annual tubing adventure was born. The first 4 or 5 years, we camped at the oasis, since the sign which said "No Trespassing: Spences Bridge Water Authority" was affixed so poorly to various posts and poles. As the years went on and this sign became more impressively secured, we eventually moved our campsite up the Kettle Valley rail bed to be near a beautiful rail tunnel cut into the hillside. This past summer was the 17th annual tubing trip. Notice in this picture, that while the rest of us find a low center of mass position in our tubes, Martin chooses instead to kneel high on his tube as he did for every run down the Nicola River.
Martin loved to lead groups on adventures. On the campus, these excursions could range from campus roof explorations to steam tunnel treks below the surface. When I was finishing my pilot's license, Martin thought flying to southern Oregon would be great fun, so off we went with his daughter Brooklyn and a friend to the California border, just for lunch. On adventures with him through the Okanagan in his BC Tel Van, it was mandatory for us to pull over if we were driving by a lake and he spotted a log that he felt was suitable for log rolling, lumber jack style. The journey was never dull.
This past summer Martin blessed some of us with the ultimate Martin excursion, a 5-day, destination unknown adventure. This celebration of Martin's retirement started off at the Ivanhoe pub, bringing us by trains, planes and automobiles to the North Shore of Oahu. Martin had every detail of the adventure planned out, utilizing a backpack full of at least 8 clipboards, chock full of itinerary details, as well as false itinerary details to thwart those trying to peek ahead. Rest assured it was the full-on Martin show from start to finish.
Martin's adventures, passion for life, and unique perspective on the world will be missed by a great many people. We will all carry a piece of him with us throughout our lives.
The core of John's story was that one summer day in the early '70s he heard a preschool-aged Martin and a friend playing in Martin's parents' yard, which was next door to his own.
"My dad knows everything," said the friend.
Martin paused. "My dad doesn't know everything."
Another pause. "My mom doesn't know everything," he added.
One further pause, then Martin finished, "But together, they know everything."
Martin and I met at Highlands Elementary School in the late seventies. This is in North Vancouver, which was a pretty wild and wooley place back then—it still is—but it was a little wilder back then. Those were good times. What drew me to Martin, I think, was that while the other kids were content to play road hockey, or chase each other around with guns—myself included—Martin set his sets a little higher.
I remember we liked the forest—there's a lot of them around there—at least at the time. And we would explore. Martin loved to explore. I remember we would blaze our own trails. My favorite was to take turns to build mazes out there. We'd each take our turn and set up these elaborate paths and try and bewilder each other for as long as possible.
We built forts and invented games and some would continue after dark. Another cool one was with a flashlight. One of us would scale up a tree while the other would attempt to get near it—to approach it without being tagged—without being lit up. These were games that noone had ever played anywhere in the history of the world. They were crazy. He would not only dream them up, but he would march out—get the tools and actually do it. So you had to know when we were brainstorming that he was taking you seriously.
That's when Martin looked for other places to explore. With the help of a crowbar that we pillaged from some construction site, he turned over a manhole and with some flashlights we went down and started figuring out where they went. I loved it. And we started our very own Pipe Explorers Club. The thing about Martin, was that not only did he invent these games, but he would lead them. He would be the first one in, and he'd never flinch.
The other thing about him was that he was inclusive. There were plenty of dodgy characters in the neighborhood—and Martin would never judge them or turn them away. Even little sisters. Speaking of sisters and just how sweet a kid he was. I remember a story when we found his little sister Belinda eating a slug in the backyard. Not only was he not the one who gave it to her—unlike other big brothers—but he actually stopped her from finishing it. That went against some of my instincts at the time. Well, the thing is. Martin left. North Van was just too small I guess and he went off to some other higher ground. That would be West Vancouver and we didn't hang out so much. But the coolest thing is that we stayed in touch. Every year or so we would get together somewhere and gossip and catch up and no matter what was going on in his life—in good times and bad—it was always really interesting to hear what he was up to.
I don't know what control we have over how and when we leave, but we do have control over the impact we have on others when we're around... And what a wonderful legacy he left behind.
Okay, I know that the only reason any of you said yes is that it was Martin's idea. If you drew that tunnel on a map of Vancouver, it would be a new line, one that almost nobody knows about. There's probably a larger proportion of people in this room who know about it than in any group except railroad workers.
Martin was all about making new lines. They could be lines on a map, lines of code, lines on a circuit board, telephone lines, storm sewer lines, steam tunnel lines, rail lines, or the lines that make up the grooves of a vinyl record. Martin's lines went in unusual directions, sometimes daring ones.
It was a phone line that brought me some news in the late '80s. Martin's girlfriend Wendy was pregnant. To a teenage modem geek like me, what Wendy and Martin were doing was pretty unusual, I tell you. When Brooklyn was born and the rest of us saw what it was like for modem geeks to be parents, well, that was unusual AND daring.
When I say "the rest of us," I'm talking about a group that called ourselves the Excursionists. Martin was part of the core of that group, along with Wendy, Steve, Richard, Alistair, Joanne, Bob, Sebastien, Julie, Dave, Harminder, Derrick (the other one), Deanna, John, Andrew, Dennis, Paul, Karen, and many others over the years. (Sorry if I missed some of you.) Most of us are here today.
We were a bunch of nerds. And we still are.
The Excursionists formed gradually between 1983 and 1986 or so. The group really started to coalesce at a party at Martin's house in 1985, which is still legendary.
As a true nerd, I missed that party completely.
Instead, I first met Martin at Expo 86, at a huge modemer meetup. He showed up with a streak of blonde in his dark hair—remember, this was the '80s—and a Super 8 movie camera.
But he wasn't taking movies. He was snapping individual frames, one at a time. They turned into head-spinning time-lapse films that made no sense at all. But they sure were cool. And so was he.
Here's what an impression that day made. Some time later, my Excursionist roommates and I held a Halloween party in our basement. Most of us dressed up the usual way, but Larry, who's also here, dressed up as Martin, with a shock of blonde in his hair and holding a movie camera. We thought it was by far the best costume at the party.
I mentioned that some of Martin's new lines were lines of computer code. Martin was the first person I ever knew who made money writing software. Under the pseudonym "Beelzebub," or simply "Beez," he wrote his own program to run his BBS, called Blue Hell, on his Commodore 64. It was good enough that he sold it to other people, calling it Blue Board.
Actually, Blue Board was a lot more than good enough. It was fun for users who were dialing in, but when I first saw it running in Martin's room, I was amazed at how much fun it was for the sysop—the person who ran the BBS. When things happened, like users signing in or changing settings, the computer would play little polyphonic tunes that Martin had composed.
Later, he showed us another program where you controlled a little dot on the TV screen, and the landscape of coloured dots you flew it through represented various locations in the computer's memory. As you moved around, memory status changed, and so did the landscape. Blew my mind.
He had a car with a fake hood scoop, and glow-in-the-dark stickers all over the outside. [It turns out that Wendy, Steve, Dave, and Rich added them as a prank, and Martin loved them.] You could draw all sorts of new lines imagining constellations on it. Many of you also know that when Martin drank beer, each bottle would follow a line further and further to the side of his mouth, until he was drinking way over near his ear. That might have been some sort of safety mechanism.
For an engineer, Martin was surprisingly outdoorsy, which is one reason the Excursionists were called that. I saw him climb a telephone pole on Burnaby Mountain and shimmy along the phone wires dangerously high in the air. He showed us how to get into the steam tunnels under the UBC campus.
During my bachelor party in 1995, he led us on a return visit to the extensive storm drains under our feet right here in West Vancouver. A few of us talked about going there again today, but there's too much water in the pipes this time of year.
Some of Martin's new lines were across the sand at Long Beach, where we camped every year for eight years, and where I remember him pushing Brooklyn in her stroller, slightly too fast. Here's a photo of some of us, including Martin. Now that I look at it, we're much the same there on the beach as we were sitting around a late-night table at Denny's back in Vancouver, winging sugar packets at each other.
Martin made new lines on maps of the backcountry too. Anyone who's gotten separated from him while hiking or biking in the woods knows that all you had to do was listen for him to yell: "BEEP!"
Sometimes his new lines led to risky things. Near Chilliwack Lake one summer, I watched him scramble up the scree of a loose alpine rockfall in his shorts and runners, and then get banged up a bit when he tried to slide down again. He admitted he was scared, but he laughed with that usual Martin gleam in his eye.
And sure enough, later that day, *I* was the one who wiped out on my bike and scraped up the entire left side of my body. He drove me home to recuperate.
Some of us kept in close touch with Martin over the years. I'm sad to say I didn't. I ran into him from time to time over the past decade, and last summer he hosted a party for us old Excursionists at his condo. Here's a photo of that, with some of the same people from the camping photo a minute ago.
At that party he showed us yet more new lines—little plumbing pipes he had engineered throughout his rooftop patio, so he could water all the plants with a flick of a switch. Part way through the party, we all went to Denny's, and some people threw sugar packets.
I'll finish with this. The EE's in the audience know the right-hand rule, where your thumb is the direction of electrical current and your fingers are the lines of magnetic force around it. Somebody once described Jimi Hendrix as a wire with a lot of extra current running through it. I think Martin was like that too.
Look around at everyone here. Imagine the invisible lines that connect you to each other, friends and family and co-workers and more. Those are the lines of force Martin made, not wrapped up like the right-hand rule, but sticking straight out, grabbing us all, holding us together.
Time for more audience participation. I'd like us all to try something. Remember that "BEEP!" he would yell in the forest? Let's all do that together, say "BEEP!" for Martin, after I count to three. Okay?
One, two, three: "BEEP!"
I wish he could say it back.
Martin was my friend. I miss him, and I know you all do too. Thank you.
Hello, my name is Rob McKay and I have the great honor of being asked to talk to you about Martin's UBC years and Martin the Engineer.
It's a wee bit difficult to summarize the countless events of 4 years into 5 minutes, but I'd like to try and convey to you some of the highlights and events that show the character and personality of Martin.
First and foremost, Martin was a true Engineer. I don't know, (or have even heard about) too many people that have the inherent problem solving ability of Martin. Sure, there are a lot of smart people out there. Just about any geek can build a particle accelerator or a neutron beam fusion device. But, not everyone can build an Insta-bEEr, text wand, or a HoboMate. These are just a few of the devices that Martin has helped to produce. He may not have created them single handedly, but he certainly was a creative and driving force in making them a reality. And I think that was one of Martin's strongest characteristics—his creativity and the fact that he was a "doer".
As most of you know or can imagine, Engineering at UBC can be a tough grind. There are many obstacles and challenges along the way. You very quickly learn to develop survival skills in order to cope with the heavy workload. One of these is forming a "study group". It's just as you would expect—a group of guys getting together to pool resources and prepare for upcoming exams, etc.
I recall one such study group while preparing for a year end final. There were 4 other guys there, milling around, complaining that there was no way we could master and understand all the material in order to pass this final. Then Martin arrived. After the group unloaded on him about how doomed we were, he matter of factly stated, "I'm going to give each of you two questions to solve from last years exam. You will have one hour to solve it by whatever means necessary. Then you will present your solution to the rest of the group," essentially teaching us how to solve this type of problem.
In retrospect, it sounds so simple and rational, almost an obvious solution to our dilemma. But it took Martin to implement it. Again, he was the "doer". This tiny example shows his leadership characteristics. He had a natural charisma that made people follow him and believe what he was saying.
This natural leadership brought him into the position of Electrical Engineering Club President. There are many stories to be told relating to this but I want to share a couple that demonstrate Martin's ambition and initiative. For those of you not familiar with the EE club room, it is a tiny room in the basement of the Electrical Engineering building. Suffice to say that it was ill-equipped, disorganized and...apparently in need of a home renovation! You have to realize that undergraduates are at the bottom of the food chain at UBC. All building maintenance is conducted by the union run Physical Plant on campus. But far be it for Martin to pay attention to rules or authority figures. Under Martin's leadership, and on a long weekend, the club room was gutted and transformed into a stylish, space efficient hang out complete with loft and spare sleeping quarters for Johan!
One of the key design criteria was that it was built around the now famous "Insta-bEEr". Don't even pretend you haven't heard of InstbEEr! It was one of Martin's great contributions to the campus. For those of you who may not have heard of it, Insta-bEEr is essentially a computer controlled pop machine that works on a credit/debit system, activated by a keypad and a personnel access code.
How many times have you finished a hard day of classes and just wanted to kick back in the newly renovated EE club room and maybe even have a beer or two? But you just didn't have the correct change on you? Well, for Electrical Engineering club members, this nightmare came to an end with InstabEEr. You could load up your account with how ever many beer credits you wanted, then access them at a time when they were needed most. This became a little bit of a double edged sword. Fridays after class were always a popular time for InstabEEr. Occasionally, Friday's at lunch! Sometimes Tuesdays at lunch...hardly ever Wednesdays and Thursdays before lunch. And almost never before breakfast...unless Yo was there and needed someone to drink with!
One of Martin's pet projects was the Bug in Lost Lagoon in 1992.
Essentially a floating bug made to look like a whale with a fire hose attached to the fountain in the middle of the lake up to the underside of the bug, spewing out like a whale's blow hole. The technical part was to break into the fountain at Lost Lagoon and attach the fire hose from the fountain pump to the underside of the "whale". Believe it or not, there is a utility room under that fountain. And if they didn't want us in there, why didn't they have better security? Actually, have you seen the number of geese in the lagoon? There is goose poop everywhere! That is some sort of security in itself. In a nutshell, Martin and another engineer skulked out to this goose poop island, crawled like dogs to the utility door and miraculously opened the door. As you can see from the pictures things worked out quite nicely.
In the end, a bill for alleged damages was sent by Vancouver Parks and Recreation. Immediately a bill was sent from Engineering to Parks and Recreation for evaluating their security system and highlighting the deficiencies.
Speaking of security and the UBC Physical Plant. As I mentioned earlier and, for those of you that don't know, Physical Plant is responsible for maintaining the buildings on campus. For example, if a building was to get new doors, they would remove the old ones and install the shiny new ones. What you may not know, is that they dispose of the old doors in some junk heap on a remote spot on campus. Martin knew this. Yo knew this. Together they would sneak into the junkyard under cover of darkness and extract the door knobs from the as many doors as they could. From these door knobs Martin was able to painstakingly reverse engineer master keys to just about every building on campus!
These keys were not used for malicious purposed, but for informational purposes only. Like the one shown in this next picture.
Lead by Martin, we broke into the Agricultural building and their trophy case (and by breaking in I mean evaluating their security system and highlighting any deficiencies). Martin thought the Aggies would appreciate their trophies re-attached to the ceiling of their office space!
Speaking of keys, I used to do a lot of mountain biking with Martin. One day when we were resting in a parking lot somewhere, we came across a set of car keys that someone thought they had cleverly hidden under a stump before heading into the forest. My first thought was to say. "Let's show this guy he's not so smart and move his car to another spot in the parking lot". Martin was much more subtle and cerebral with his torture of this guy. He took off a few spare keys from his keychain and added them to this guy's chain. He thought it would be much more tormenting for him to wonder in the future, "What the heck are these keys for again?" Martin was convinced he could passively drive this guy crazy!
One last thing.
As Carmen has mentioned to you earlier, one of the weekly highlights in Engineering was Simpsons-fest. It started out with a bunch of Engineering geeks getting together, eating lots, and watching the Simpsons. What she didn't tell you was that in true engineering geek fashion, Martin would video record the shows and then after we had watched it, rewind the tape and watch it again frame-by-frame, looking for hidden messages or Easter eggs in the cartoons.
What she also didn't tell you was that Martin's Simpsons-fests grew and grew to include not just Engineers, but like minded people from other faculties. Soon there were people from Science, Arts and Commerce attending the weekly events. This goes to demonstrate the many diverse groups that Martin acted as a catalyst to bring together.
In closing, I can only reiterate the words you've already heard, and no doubt will hear again today:
Martin Sikes was a fun guy to be around!
Martin Sikes was a leader.
Martin Sikes was an Engineer.
And, Martin Sikes was my friend.
I had the great privilege of working with Martin Sikes in the video game industry for 11 years. I can say, without equivocation, that of the hundreds of programmers I worked with in that time, he was the best. His code wasn't the most sophisticated, or the prettiest, or the most flexible. But, it would work. Every time. And he would get it done in a day. It would be easy to debug and to maintain, and it would compile and link on any toolchain you threw it at.
But I'm not here to talk about what a great programmer Martin was. I'm here to talk about what it was like to work with him.
Martin hired me in the summer of 1995. While I had an engineering degree, I didn't _really_ know how to program in C++, and I had trouble with his favourite interview question: "what is -1 in hex?" Why he decided to take a chance on someone who was barely qualified for the job is not totally clear: maybe it was my Commodore 64 programming experience from 10 years earlier; maybe it was my long hair and skinny arms. Whatever the reasons, I soon found myself part of a small team led by Martin. We were Physical Plant, and we built the tools and libraries used by the rest of the company.
As you might imagine from the other stories you've heard, working with Martin... was fun. He organized technology planning slash snowboarding retreats at the UBC ski lodge at whistler; he built buzzer hardware so that we could have a company quiz show; and he took us on freight train trips to california to crash parties at the Game Developers Conference. Eventually some turntables found their way into the office, and we all learned to DJ. Physical Plant would form part of the nucleus of Soundproof, which you'll be hearing about in a few moments.
Martin's uncanny expertise in electronics provided a secret weapon to every company that he worked at. While hardware development systems for the latest game console would be very expensive and hard to come by, martin would design and build his own for a fraction of the price. They might consist of circuit boards hanging out of a wooden box, and they might have to be frantically hidden every time a publisher came through the office, but their consequence was enormous: everyone on the team could now have a development system, which meant we could make better games.
After a few years, Martin and I and 10 others had the opportunity to start our own video game company, Black Box Games. To repeat a theme that you've already heard today, it was in Martin's apartment that we all met together for the first time.
Early on at Black Box, Martin established the naming standard for pipeline tools. He named the central tool that touched nearly every piece of data the Gonkulator. From then on, almost any tool built by anyone on the team would follow this lead: carulator, textulator, careerulator, vinylulator, copulator, seeulator; the list went on.
Anyone who ever shared an office with martin will remember how he typed. It was fast, like bursts of machine-gun fire. When he really got on a roll the bursts would join together into a continuous symphony, the most beautiful sound you'd ever hear, because you knew he was out there kicking ass for you and the rest of the team.
Eventually we became a part of Electronic Arts. The environment became a little more corporate, the team sizes _much_ larger. This initially caused martin to become more reserved, but after a while he threw caution to the wind and carried on in true martin style. He became known across the team as the sender of hilarious and sarcastic emails, and as the enforcer who would mercilessly mock you if you broke the build.
Even when he wasn't in the office he was omnipresent. He would still be logged in at home, sometimes even while on vacation, sending emails, submitting changes, fixing bugs. He was probably more effective working from home than anybody else on the team was when they were in the office. No offense intended to anyone here today.
I left EA in the fall of 2006 to change careers. On one of my final days, as we struggled to take Need for Speed Carbon final, a nasty bug reared its head. The game would not run properly when burned to a disk. Martin and I spent all day working on it, firing emails back and forth, trading hypotheses, testing possible fixes, gradually narrowing down and isolating the problem. By late afternoon we had it. We were both grinning as we put the final pieces of the puzzle together at his desk. Suddenly a wave of sadness washed over me. Since I was leaving, would this be the last time that he and I would work together to solve a problem like this? I dismissed the thought—surely we would work together again, somewhere, somehow.
As things turned out, that was not to be the case. But this much can be said: In the time he had, Martin Sikes changed the video game industry in vancouver forever. He showed a generation of programmers how to keep a complex technical system functioning. Even more significantly, his creativity and enthusiasm showed all of us what it really means to live.
Hi, my name is Elana Robinson and for the first years I knew Martin I was simply referred to as "Doug's Sister". Not too surprising for a man who valued efficiency, this way he didn't have to remember a new name. Then, as the years went by and I would crash in Doug's rooms while Doug was traveling, I became "Doug's Sister, Elana", and then finally "Elana" when I moved into 950 Cambie.
Although I've known Martin for almost 17 years, it was when I moved into Martin's place that we became very close and in the years that followed, he became and will remain one of my best friends and part of my family.
I wonder if there's any true way of defining or classifying what someone has meant to you. And now, here I am, trying to denote all the things that Martin meant to me and marveling at all the things that Martin meant to everyone else.
Part of my concern, of course, is that I get everything right, express everything so beautifully and concretely that there can't be any doubt or confusion about the impact Martin and his friendship has had on my life.
And then, I am reminded, that often in my moments of self-doubt, it would be to Martin I'd turn and after expressing this I would always get to see Martin scratching his head, creasing his brow, and wrinkling his nose as he would consistently respond "Sweetie...that doesn't make any sense."
One of Martin's gifts was that if Martin loved you, it didn't make any sense that you wouldn't love yourself. If you were beautiful to Martin, it simply didn't make sense that you or someone else may not find you so. He would always be delighted at how amazingly funny, attractive and intelligent the people he loved were and there were so many people he loved.
Because of his capacity to love, I believe that Martin saw that in every moment and in every thing, there is a relationship and that relationships were precious. Not always easy and comfortable, but precious nonetheless. I know that who I am and who I strive to be in the world is a by-product of our friendship. It didn't matter how much you may have pissed him off, made no sense to him, made him laugh, made him happy, made him cry—what was precious to him was his relationships and what was sacred to him was his daughter, his family, his many friends... and trains.
Martin has taught me so much about unconditional love, so much about how foolhardy it is to believe that there is a more, or better or less or other such quantifiable amount of love. He helped me to see that there is very little risk in giving pieces of your heart to everyone, because there was never any end to his heart, so then there can't be any end to ours.
I will always cherish and hold this because I can feel pieces of his heart that he gave so generously to me and the pieces of his heart he gave to all of you. With the piece of his heart resides his generosity, his enthusiasm, his way of ensuring he took the quickest way to work through counting the number of steps he took, the way he'd stand on your toes and wiggle them when he hugged you, his wonderous ability to dumb down highly scientific information that I didn't even realize I found remotely interesting, his rules, his formulas, his wit, his love of irony (although he was quite certain that no one could actually define irony...) his playfulness, mischievousness, his brilliance, his compassion, his ability to give and receive physical affection and his never ending ability to love and be loved.
So Martin, to paraphrase one of my favourite quotes: I feel worthy of every kiss I laid up your brow for in each of them went part of my heart.
And I know that that's only one contribution to the pieces of our hearts you've collected and incomparable to the parts of your heart you shared with us.
You were our explorer.
You eschewed the plodding of measured paths,
Preferred the rare air, the uncharted trail
And always came back to show us the way.
A massive attractive force,
You gathered into your orbit
a strange and sparkling constellation
of queers and geers and geeks and gamers,
the envy of any big top.
We frolicked in the jubilant maelstrom,
The scintillating whirlwind that you willed into being,
You the serene, bemused center,
Untrammeled by time,
Scoffing at very idea of misfortune.
You made us feel invulnerable. That was your superpower.
Half a bubble off plumb, a tad bent
Like your head, cocked, reconciling some new curio
into the formidable clockwork of your mind.
Blessed with perhaps the most ungainly grace I've ever seen,
You were the dread foe of the pedestrian, the mundane,
A bloom tried a little harder when you happened by.
Let him in, God, because he was an
Industrious, kind soul who took care of his things,
And when I get there I expect a tour of the labyrinths of Heaven.
You were our explorer.
You chart now that undiscover'd country,
But you will not be back this time to show us the way.
We walk the ground where the big tent stood, and
Listen for your echoes, try to capture them, gift wrap them,
Keep them in our pockets for ever.
But you can't keep echoes.
Like us, they are just here and then they are gone.
We linger in the remnants of the storm,
Our empty hands vainly clutching at the wind.
We want to do his FUN RETIREMENT HOME still.
Martin's MEMORIAL TREE Plaque and rededication.
The MARTIN SIKES SCHOLARSHIP for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.