In Memory Of Dan Burger
August 27, 2018 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When in heaven do you start, when it has been two decades of sharing work and life together, as comrades in arms, as confidants, as companions in the heroic sense of that word?
You can start by saying that without Dan Burger, there never would have been an IT Jungle.
After an unexpected, brief, and intense illness, Dan passed away on August 19, to the great shock to all of us here at IT Jungle and to the people who knew Dan and know that he is gone. Dan was part of many communities, and the IBM i community was but one of them. His love was cars, and he made his living in his early years as a writer in the automobile industry. He did side work – as all writers have to do – chronicling the work of police forces and SWAT teams, and he also loved the desert and helping to preserve archaeological sites around San Diego. He was a man who could sometimes make a fuss about something – it was never anything personal because an Ohio farm boy of his era was not taught how to open up like that – having to do with business or the way the country was running. I spent a lot of years complaining about the lack of civility and public duty, and Dan listened with great humor as I threatened to run for president in 2020 – this was back in the early 2000s, mind you – if we didn’t straighten out and he egged me on. (Real life got in the way of this potential alternate life.)
So much of my days in the past two decades was timed to Dan. For the past decade, I took coffee break every day with him sometime between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., depending on our schedules, because there was always something to talk about, either in the IBM i business or our lives. Mine was always crazier than his, and when it got really crazy a couple of years ago and my whole life changed, he was right there with me, every step of the way, being the companion that he always will be, supporting me and cajoling me. I like to think I amused him. He sure did laugh both at me and with me, that’s all I know.
Case in point. Back in 2005, when we were at COMMON Orlando with the rest of the team, we were all taking a break out at the pool. A massive 1 million gallon pool with two or three hot tubs – I can’t remember – where we stayed. I do remember Amy Lantz, then of SoftLanding Systems, and Shelli Peck, of ProData Computer Services, were there, too, and a cartoon artist sitting by the pool did a sketch of both me and Dan and showed them to us:
We both got a little pissed off, to tell the truth, and then Dan laughed and said, “Actually, Tim, that is what we look like.” I had to reluctantly concede this.
As a writer in the IBM i space, you face a lot of blank pages that have to be filled, and I have had my share of nervousness looking at the white screen with a deadline looming. And whenever I got to that point, when I didn’t have a clue what to say, I would call up Dan, and just let my mind wander, and he would poke at me here or shove me there and then say, “Maybe you should do that.” And off I would go.
Dan was my counterweight – he pushed me when I was not moving fast enough and reined me in when I was too fired up. He brought a calmness and sometimes a curmudgeonly but warm grumpiness to our days. When I needed someone calm to deal with a hot situation, I sent in Dan because I knew I would either lose my cool or just go stone cold on someone who was messing with us. He was so much more than our executive managing editor. He was our balance, which is not surprising in a man who hiked and biked – motorcycles, not ten speeds – a lot.
We both loved college football, and with the season starting next weekend, I am sad that we won’t share the trials and tribulations of this pastime anymore. But I will root for his Ohio University Bobcats forever more, and maintain my position that the Ohio State Buckeyes are overrated and that they can win every game every year but one – the one the Bucks play against the Penn State Nittany Lions. <Smile>
More than anything else, Dan and I both love old music – he was more bluegrass and I was more country – and traveling the backroads instead of the highways. This is where the adventure is, and where America can truly be found and enjoyed. We also enjoyed a good IPA here and there in our short time together in this beautiful and sometimes harsh world, and in the end – the real end – he told me he loved me as I had told him for many years because, well, someone has to be manly and do it. I told him to keep a cold one ready for me on the other side, if there is another side, but that I would be a while yet with a new wife and a new baby and all. And he laughed and said he would do just that.
This life may just be one scene in a fractal play extending out to infinity and down to the infinitesimal, with all of us characters coming and going in the curlicues, again and again and again. See you on the next turn down that backroad, Dan. I know where to find you.
In Memory Of Dan Burger
by Alex Woodie
I first met Dan Burger in the offices of Midrange Computing in 2000. He had just been hired by Jenny Thomas, the outgoing managing editor of AS/400 Technology SHOWCASE, to take over that job. I liked Dan immediately. I could tell that he was more of a journalist than a computer whiz, which was great because that was my background, too.
I looked up to Dan and we helped each other out at the magazine through the next year, until Midrange Computing imploded in late summer 2001. After that, we both signed on with TPM at Midrange Server, which turned into IT Jungle a few years later, and have been working together ever since.
Dan and I were colleagues at work, covering the IBM i beat and attending numerous COMMON conferences over the years. But we also were friends outside of work. We would hang out at each other’s homes, watch football games at local pubs, and camp in the mountains and deserts of Southern California. We had a lot of good times that will never be forgotten.
It’s hard to process the fact that Dan is gone. He was a great colleague, a good friend, but above all a kind and decent person. The world is worse off without him.
In Memory Of Dan Burger
by Jenny Thomas
I met Dan Burger in September of 1996. I had just started as an associate editor for Dog Fancy magazine at the now-defunct Fancy Publications. In addition to the numerous animal titles they published back in the day, Fancy also had several specialty magazines and Dan was the editor of one that was right in his wheelhouse called Classic Auto Restorer.
Unlike today, paper magazines were a big business, and Fancy employed hundreds of people. Like a new kid in school, I was eating lunch alone in a nearby deli. I remember clearly Dan coming over to my table and asking if I was working at Fancy. I invited him to join me and we quickly learned we had a lot in common. Dan had worked on Police magazine in the early 1990s, and during that time I was doing a college internship and then got hired at a publisher of emergency services magazines. I didn’t just make my first friend at a new job that day, I made a friend for life.
Eventually we would move on from Fancy. I landed at a job on a tabloid magazine some of you might remember called AS/400 Technology SHOWCASE, and Dan went on to another auto magazine. But we always stayed in touch at our regular dinners that we fondly called Margarita Meetings, and we played on some softball teams together. It was during those softball days that we would call out “Hey Baby” to each other when we were at bat and that nickname stuck. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I called Dan by his name because he was always “Hey Baby” to me.
When I got an opportunity in a new industry, Dan took over the reins of SHOWCASE in 1999. Again, we remained friends and talked frequently, eventually getting to work together right here at IT Jungle. Dan has been a constant presence in my life for 22 years, and we have had some great times in the last 16 here in the Jungle. Since we all work remotely and don’t get to see each other often, we always looked forward to traveling to COMMON shows, where many good times were had.
Dan wasn’t just a good friend, he was family. When I got my first apartment all by myself (no roommates), he joined the moving party. When things looked serious with my boyfriend (now husband), he good-naturedly questioned him about the future and was so happy to learn there was a plan for marriage. (He actually called our boss Tim in the middle of that dinner because he was dying to tell someone what he had just learned.) He asked about my son all the time and loved to hear about his adventures, and my misadventures in motherhood. And when my dad got ill and passed last year, he called a lot to check on me. I like to think I did the same for Dan in his life, but he made me work for it. Fortunately I like asking questions. I loved hearing about his trips to the desert and reminding him to bring a jacket because gets cold at night (as if he didn’t know). He begrudgingly told me about the motorcycle accident that made him finally give up his bike. (I was never a fan of that hobby). I always looked forward to our calls because I knew he would have a good story to tell.
My last call from Dan was shortly before he passed. I was overjoyed to see “Hey Baby” pop up on my phone and fumbled to answer it. He told me he wasn’t doing well and he had a few people he wanted to call and I was at the top of his list. He didn’t want to talk about what was going on with him. He encouraged me to keep volunteering at my son’s school and enjoying time with my family. He reminded me that I would now be in charge of Tim. And he told me he loved me. I told him that I loved him and we both said, “Bye Baby.”
Sometimes something will happen and I forget for a second and think “I need to call Baby.” It still doesn’t seem real that I won’t hear his voice again. I have heard from so many people recently who have such nice things to say about Dan, and it makes me happy to know he was so loved. I had been worried that I don’t have enough words to do him justice, but I see those who knew him in any capacity already know he was just an extraordinary human being. There was no way you couldn’t. He cared about people. He gave blood regularly. When he and his wife found out about some older dogs whose owner had passed away, they took them in and gave them a loving home. There are just so many things I want people to know and remember about him.
Dan really believed in IT Jungle and the IBM i community. Being a classic journalist, he took our role as a news source very seriously and he worked hard on every story. It is difficult to think about going on without him, but I know he would be disappointed in us if we didn’t carry on. So we will.