Earlier tonight we lost our wonderful, bright and caring friend and team-mate Simon (@KSK) to cancer. To those of you feeling his tragically early loss, I am so, so very sorry. My heart goes out to Gin, his wife and his rock (to use his own words) as well as his children, Sam and Owen, of which he could not have been more proud. I will let you know the family’s wishes for honoring his memory as soon as I can and if there is anything we can do for them at this dreadful time. (Update: see comment below: Remembering Simon Krughoff - #27 by frossie for details or just visit ls.st/kskfam)
Please excuse this rambling and hopelessly personal recollection of some good times with us in DM. I hope it will encourage some of you to add your own happy memories (if it would not make you uncomfortable) so we can share them with each other and his family. I beg you to pardon any faulty recollection on my part.
When Construction started on what was then called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in 2014, Simon was a staff scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, and had already contributed to the project in its R&D phase - besides Data Management work he contributed to the Sims team whose work was vital in early software development and science planning. When I joined the project in mid-2014, Simon was my opposite number at UW, running the Seattle-based DM team focussing on Alert Production. Simon would sometimes try to convince me he was poor team lead; that worry was more a reflection on how seriously he took the role rather than reality. He was highly conscientious with the responsibilities of his position, a great peer to us other T/CAMs, and all his people I ever spoke with felt well looked after.
Around 2017, to my delight, Simon expressed an interest in joining SQuaRE in Tucson. He and Gini have family in the area, but he also wanted an opportunity to return to more hands-on work, much as he agonized about leaving his UW friends. Simon eventually joined us as as the SQuaRE science lead and as such contributed to more areas of the project that I can be trusted to enumerate: from being a product owner of the Science Platform at its critical early phase, to patiently training engineering folks on our summit EFD system, sustained contributions to the DM Science Team and its verification efforts, lending a hand to other developers with services like rubin-tv, and taking part in a number of important working groups including the one for the Gen3 Butler. He was a central part of the efforts that resulted in our team awards and his sense of ownership in this project’s success was second to none. He is, and will always remain, an LSST builder.
The above might have told you some of what Simon accomplished, but not what it was like to work with him. Let me try for those who have not had that pleasure, though I know it will be a poor attempt (and even more of a personal view).
We unfortunately work in a field that does not always visibly reward pro-social behaviour - the good guys if you will. The outpouring of love and well-wishes we received on Simon’s illness showed me that it is nevertheless rewarded in other ways - with the affection and respect of your peers. Simon was a fantastic work partner - no matter what the problem was, he was always ready with a “How can I help?” to my gratitude. Offering his help to anybody who needed it occasionally got away from him, and I knew my assigned role, in his eyes, was to go “You don’t have time for that! You can’t help everybody! I’ll tell them no right now!” until we negotiated a bit and there were enough hours in his day again. This dynamic apparently led one colleague to ask Simon whether he was being bullied - his evident (and oft-revisited) mirth he derived from that exchange extinguished any indignation at the suggestion on my part. In truth, I found it impossible to say no to Simon - he was an indefatigable advocate for our users’ needs in a polite but nevertheless irrefutable manner, while never asking for more that the team could reasonably give.
His gloriously deadpan sense of humour did not shy of the occasional mischievous trolling; never more when we engaged in that most difficult of Data Management pursuits - naming things. You see back in the day, DM had been discussing giving a snappier name to the LSST Science Pipelines. Simon and Jim (I think?), had thrown OSPRAE into the ring - Optical survey pipeline Reduction Analysis (Environment? Execution? something like that) pronounced osprey at any rate. Simon loved that name, advocated for it unusually strongly by his standards, and was bummed when for (understandable!) reasons it never quite happened. Ever since then, whenever we were having trouble naming some random package Simon would look deeply thoughtful, and then slowly, as if the name had only just occured to him, would muse “How about… Osprae?”. I fell for the punchline every time. I wish we’d done it.
After a notorious conference incident when his own (then little) kid briefly mistook colleague Matthew Graham for him, Simon derived an impish pleasure in sowing that particular confusion; our office receptionist had her work cut out for her when they were both in the building.
It’s a bit of a team hobby to fill in my considerable gaps in US culture exposure; Simon contributed among many other things fill-at-the-pub growlers (which he would turn up with when I was forced to disclose my fridge had nothing more than cerveza and Barrio Blonde, the latter being the worse sin in his eyes); mutant so-called sandwiches with absurd-to-me quantities of meat in them (a legacy of his Pittsburgh grad school days I think); and NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. That last one was a small indication of his considerable love of all kinds of music. It might surprise you to know that he was also a fantastic singer - and the computers agree with me: until the pandemic put an end to it, we’d often get together to play the video game Rock Band. His ridiculously good pitch control racked up the scores (and boy, did video gaming bring out his competitive streak) - at least unless Love Shack came up; don’t get me wrong, he still racked up the score for that, but his rendition of it was so outrageously unrestrained that I, at least, couldn’t remotely focus on what I was meant to be doing. We would occasionally joke about an All-Hands (later PCW) karaoke night. I wish we’d done that too.
After he became too ill to work, he seemed to find much solace in music. On better days he was able to work with a mixing deck that seemed hellishly opaque to me; he never seemed to lose his curiosity and willingness to try and understand complex things.
It’s heartbreaking that he didn’t get to see this wonderfully complex thing we built with him.
And so. If you didn’t know him well, I hope that gave you a small glimpse of him. If you knew him and careed for him, I hope it made you feel less alone. Please be particularly kind and forgiving of each other’s mode of expression in the comments (or their absence from them), people process their sadness in different ways and all are valid.