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Features | Fall 2015
(photo by Susan Andrews)

Special Feature

In Praise of Carl Foote

Who would have imagined? Back in the early fall of 1999 when I, then CMN’s national coordinator, suggested to the board that my friend Carl Foote would be a good person to bring in to finish setting up CMN’s first independent website, could he or I have envisioned that one of us would still be part of CMN’s operations in 2015? The website project had started off in one direction, was partially implemented, and then was paused when we found we needed to reorient the operation. Carl agreed to volunteer his time to finish the technical set-up and design work and get the site operating. Conferring over the next few weeks, he and I hustled to get the site into minimal shape to go live on schedule. So there’s the first thing to know about Carl: He comes through with what’s needed.

On the heels of Carl’s CMN connection, board member Barb Tilsen became the chair of the board’s Internet Services Committee, the point person to oversee and guide CMN’s expansion into the electronic world, including finishing the initial site setup. Out of Carl’s work on this, he quickly became a fixture and was serving as the webmaster.

Barb, Carl, and I functioned as the ongoing core of the online services team that included a number of other people for varying periods. Carl put the content material in place, providing technical expertise and an artistic design aesthetic we felt fortunate to have applied to our site. He also contributed ideas for features or improvements, alerted us and educated us about new technical possibilities, served as technical troubleshooter for the various electronic services, and communicated with ISPs as needed. That’s another thing about Carl: He’s a team player par excellence, one who actively engages with others who share the work, who makes his way with civility and patience through the give and take, the differences of opinion, and the sometimes untidy processes of an organization that operates on consensus decision making.

Lisa Heintz
CMN Board, Song Library Committee
Marty Cooper, inventor of the cell phone. Bernie Rush, my junior high algebra teacher. Charles Baudelaire, author and translator. Will Shortz, puzzle creator. Steve Martin, comedian. Dale Chihuly, glass artist. Tom Hanks, famously nice guy and actor. The wonderful qualities of each of these people are embodied in CMN member Carl Foote. During the last many months of frequent (and lengthy) phone calls and countless e-mails, Carl has demonstrated inventive problem-solving methods; he is patient beyond words with those of us who are less tech-savvy than he (and that’s most of us!); he is able to translate complicated coding constructions in terms even I can comprehend. He’s capable of seeing the “big picture” and how each small part of our decisions will impact the others; and he does all of that with integrity and a sense of humor! Carl is kind, creative, dedicated to his work and to CMN, an artist himself, and just generally an all-around nice human being with whom to talk and work. I highly recommend that you get to know Carl, too, at a conference, local gathering, or by e-mail (you know he’s at his computer). You’ll be so glad you did!

Katherine Dines
CMN Board, Song Library Committee
Carl is rock solid, a team player, adds valuable input to any task, constructs every bit and byte of digital information CMN uses (PIO! and our website), and completes every job within deadlines and with a smile. As importantly, Carl embodies the spirit of CMN and cares deeply about CMN’s vision and values. So please join all of us board members and...give a hand to CARL FOOTE!

Carole Stephens
CMN member
In 2004, I drew Carl a miserable home page idea. In pencil. And crayon. He sent me a first stab at what would become MacaroniSoup.com and our collaboration began. Carl Foote—unassuming, gentle, funny, thoughtful, a good listener, and wonderfully creative. He still does my updates—and I consider him a friend.

The original site design was a sort of starter model, and a revamp was undertaken before long by Carl and a second tech/design volunteer. When the national disaster of September 11, 2001 hit, the site had technical capabilities in place to allow quick creation of the Peace Resources pages. A committee worked to secure a substantial grant from the Dodge Foundation to expand the resource, which also covered—finally!—payment for Carl’s services, allowing him to devote more of his time to CMN. With electronic services increasingly important to CMN, Carl’s paid work had become an ongoing necessity.

There are a couple of chunks of work I did with Carl the process of which had for me something of the feel of magic because of the transformation that occurred. One was the member directory that originally existed as a database that lived in my office computer and periodically took on the alternative form of ink on paper. When it became possible to put the directory on the website, everything had to be designed and programmed not only for user presentation but also to integrate with the membership system and office records. Naturally, it took a lot of time to hash out, especially since one of the hashers knew the content, information outcome needs, policies, and such, but only a sliver of the relevant technical stuff, while the other’s knowledge skewed more in the reverse direction. Thank goodness Carl is one of those wonders in a technical field who is able to—and willing to—explain things intelligibly to the tech untutored.

Magnify the directory effort and you have some notion of the process of transforming our Pass It On! journal’s print “body” into an entity wholly digital in its makeup. Carl and I spent many hours mentally picking apart all of the pieces and details of a finished PIO! issue and thinking out how to reshape and reintegrate them to form the digital scaffold for the new version. His explanatory abilities and patience were given a good workout. This project, too, had the feel of a metamorphosis resulting in a new, exotic organism. Once again, Carl had offered ideas, solutions, and alternatives, framed with the eye of an artist. No doubt any CMNer who has had occasion to work with him could tell of a similar collaboration experience.