The Unexpected
by Doc Searls Tuesday, March 19, 2019

I learned in the last two days that two people I knew had died "unexpectedly"—or so said their obituaries.

Yesterday it was Sandy Ostby, a friend from my North Carolina days, pictured there on the right. Today it was Ron Schott (@rschott). Both died young: Sandy at 61 and Ron at 49. Both also died some time ago: Sandy in 2012 and Ron this past May. Their obituaries are at those links.

I met Sandy at a dance in 1983. She grabbed me out of a crowd and we just started swinging. I was a spaz and she was a pro, so she led and I followed. That was my first and last experience of feeling like a good dancer. We got to be friends, but fell out of touch after I moved to California in 1985. Yesterday I looked her up on a whim and found that obituary.

The cause of Sandy's death remains a mystery to me, though I'm glad to know one mystery in her life was solved. The last I talked to her (I'm guessing in 1985), she thought her brother Steve, then already long missing, was possibly dead. But Steve was one of those writing kind words on Sandy's obituary page. Another person there mentioned that she and Steve had recently reunited. So I'm glad that happened.

I learned about Ron just a few minutes ago. I had tipped my hat to Ron and other geologists in one of my tweets, and Andrew Alden (@aboutgeology) in a private reply gave me the news that Ron had passed. He also told me that, best he could recall, Ron had died of heart failure.

Ron was a leading field geologist specializing in the hard rocks of the American West. He was also a first-rate gigapan photographer. See here. And here. The last of those was taken just a month before he died. Next to John McPhee, I learned more about geology from Ron than from anyone else. He was a great correspondent by email and Twitter. Callan Bentley (@callanbentley) calls Ron— 

a giant in geoscience outreach on the internet. He was an early adopter of just about every technology you can think of: Google Earth, GigaPan, Twitter, Google+, geological apps for augmented reality. He was always pushing to innovate for the public good with these technologies, making publically-accessible “Geology Office Hours” on Google hangouts and inventing new geo-ed hashtags like #weatheringWednesday and #btgt (“Been there; GigaPanned that”). He was the king of “Where on Google Earth?” so much so that the players of that game invented “the Schott Rule” in his honor. He was kind and inclusive, encouraging and thoughtful. His omnipresence on geology Twitter was pretty much unmatched. When I announced his death there last week, the outpouring of grief was unprecedented.

And now I'm grieving too. 

So will the rest of ya'll please stay alive? Thanks.

And if you have any specifics you're willing to share about Sandy or Ron, write to me. I'm doc at searls dot com.