Klok – Memorial

Brian Converse
AKA: Klok, klokwkdog, StephenFosterKane

Here is a picture that Brian put up on our CNI Radio Frappr! page:

Klok - Brian Converse - as a child at Grandfather Mountain

A picture of Brian at Grandfather Mountain. He posted that one on our CNI Frappr! page because we had been talking about how wonderful it was at Grandfather Mountain when we visited there with our children. Brian had also been there as a child and it cetainly was a great picture.

It is so hard to lose a friend or a family member. It is particuarly hard to lose a close friend who is like family.

Yesterday, Saturday, October 14th, we found out that we lost a “Dear Friend” in Rhode Island. Brian Converse, also known as StephenFosterKane and klokwkdog or Klok for short passed away quietly at his keyboard on October 5, 2006.

This past Thursday night during the FT Chat, I think we all realized something was very, very wrong. None of us had heard from Brian in about a week. Brian was a creature of habit and something would have to be very wrong for him not to answer an email or return a call from his friends (thanks to Tweeny/Kurt for the phone number to try to get in touch with Brian that way when emails were not returned). Anyway, Thursday night, Dr. Headphones/Ken found the North Kingstown Police number and while we chatted in the FT Chat, I called to ask for their help in making sure that Brian was OK. They said they would send out a car and I would hear from either him or Brian. I never heard from either one and was going to call back.

Later, I heard from Dr. Headphones/Ken in email with a forwarded email from Fred Davis, a long time friend of Brian’s who lives in Connecticut. Fred had driven to Brian’s place to check on him. Unfortunately, it was too late.

Fred wrote in an email to me today:

I also want to thank you for calling the NK police. As I learned talking to Brian’s neighbor, they didn’t take it too seriously at first. The neighbor reports that they only did a cursory scan of the house, and were very skeptical of a call from “someone on the internet.” The neighbors hounded the police until they took action. You can tell they loved him, too.

The sad thing is, it was all too late. Not even my driving up there earlier could have changed the outcome. If that were true, I don’t think I could live with the guilt.

I’m pretty much devastated. Thanks for being his friend. Those who took the time to know him realize the loss.

You are so very right, Fred.

Klok - Brian Converse - Firesign Theatre Chat image - CapeKlok

A picture of Brian from the Firesign Theatre Chat Cheese log archives.

Brian, AKA Klok to those who listened to the JimmyLee and Bambi Show on CNI Radio, where he did a weekly audio segment/piece each week, was a great friend to the station. JimmyLee/ah,clem and I had known Klok/Brian since before CNI Radio was formed, while we were still working with Skybird Radio and ah,clem started doing “A Few Minutes with Firesign Theatre” on Thursday nights in conjunction with the Firesign Theatre Thursday night weekly chat. That tradition was carried over to CNI Radio.

For those who knew Brian, one would immediately realize that if he had to go, as my Jim said, “they would have to pry the mouse from his cold, dead hand” (similar to prying the remote from other’s hands 😉 ) – so it was truly appropriate that Brian would be found at his keyboard doing what he enjoyed best and spent so much time doing – keeping contact with friends in email, listening to internet radio or videos, trying out new software or OSes, particularly Linux, researching and reading articles from around the world on just about any subject that interested him and boy did he have alot of interests!

Earlier today, I talked with David Curtis on the phone. David used to work with Brian in the 80s for 4-5 yrs and he talked to Brian once every one or two by phone. He felt uneasy about how Brian was doing and actually called midweek before this all went down and talked to Brian. David said he was so glad that I contacted him in email because he knew nothing about it. I had been looking for Brian’s brother John’s email address and came across David’s because David had been on dialup (at the time) like Jim and I are, and Brian would download and burn ISOs of Linux for us all to try out, and audio and video pieces like Leo Laporte’s TWiT, etc., so we could get to see and/or hear them and send them to us in DVD form in snail mail.

That’s just the way Brian was. He would spend hours researching a question someone had, or putting together a DVD or CD to send to friends who didn’t have broadband in their area, or sharing his formidable knowledge on so many topics including history, politics, sciences, electronics, computer hardware, OSes or software … and of course, Firesign Theatre.

He had a big heart and was such a sweet soul and I don’t think there was anyone who knew him that didn’t care for him. Brian was a kindred spirit and we all seemed to just gel.

A little known fact: I would never have been on the air on CNI Radio as a co-host of the JimmyLee and Bambi Show if it were not for Brian. My Jim could rarely get me to even say hi on the mic. I would simply choke up every time.

But Brian called in July 2004 while we were still involved with Skybird Radio after one of the live “A Few Minutes With Firesign Theatre” shows that Jim/JimmyLee/ah,clem had done on Skybird Radio at that time. Brian and I were talking on the phone after the show that night. Unknown to me at the time, my Jim felt the phone call was interesting enough that he was sure folks would enjoy hearing it so he put us on the air while Brian and I were talking. I was enjoying talking to Brian so much that I didn’t realize Jim put us on the air for several minutes. When I did, I stuttered for a minute, but Brian just went on non-plussed talking to me and he is, err, was so cool to talk to that it got me over my ‘stage fright’ about being on the air. We actually talked for QUITE a long time that night. And it was great to share thoughts with him. And there is a recording of most of that conversation here (right click to save the mp3) or here (click or right click and copy the URL and paste to media player to listen live). Even though I still get a little anxious before a show, I can do it each week when we go on air and enjoy very much our time with our CNI Radio friends and listeners … all because of Brian.

We never did get to do another all nighter on the phone sadly although we had both talked about it and looked forward to it. Being on dialup, we can’t take live calls during the show. But I really miss talking to Brian back and forth in email. I am glad however, that we have his audio bits for CNI Radio to listen to. Brian/Klok will never die in our hearts. I have spent the day going over many of them and reading his emails. I didn’t find John’s email address, but I sure enjoyed reading Brian’s emails again. (NOTE: Thanks to Terry Peterson for sending me John’s email address. From John’s response in email, I learned that he did already know and he was the one who authorized the police to enter Brian’s house on Friday morning. Our deepest condolences to John, Bob (who posted in the comment section below) and all the members of the Converse family.)

I thought everyone might enjoy this too. Here is the first of an 8-part series called Russian Tea Howto – Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7) that Brian did and sent to us on a DVD. I have uploaded all seven pieces of it now. NOTE: There are 7 parts, but he started with zero and skipped over 3 in the labeling of the files so there is no RussianTeaHowto-3. Also, the sizes of the files vary greatly. I think that originally Brian was trying to create smaller ones so we (due to dialup could easily get them), but later decided to include them in the DVD so he didn’t have to worry about the size so much. Quite interesting. I had never read the Russian Tea HowTo so it was pretty cool to hear it, and even better with Brian’s commentary. Enjoy.

EDIT: For those who wonder how to play .ogg files, you can download several players that will play them, but probably one of the best ones to use is vlc (video lan client). Brian was an avid open source advocate and always provided any audio pieces he did in open source .ogg format.

There is a wonderful group of folks from Firesign Theatre that talked back and forth in support of each other’s loss when we found out about Brian. And those emails certainly warmed my heart and helped give balming salve to the the pain of loss. Many of the Firesign Theatre Chat folks (you can see their pictures at the bottom of the archive of the virtual wake discussed on this Memorial) have known Brian many years longer than Jim and I have known him, even so, I am glad to have had the pleasure of knowing him even for the last few years. It is a pleasure I would not have wanted to miss.

Hemlock Stones/Brian Jackson from the UK suggested that we all meet last night at midnight in the Firesign Theatre Chat which usually meets as a group only on Thursday nights. We all did at one time or another throughout the night and early morning in memorial of Brian in a virtual Wake of sorts while ah,clem played all the audio pieces he could pull together that Klok had done for CNI Radio (small bits like IDs and larger segments from his weekly audio pieces). The great FT Wizard, Meryln, saved the FT Chat and sent the link to it in a Firesign Theatre email:

Brian Converse (as “klokwkdog” and sometimes StephenFosterKane),
a regular at the Thursday night Firesign chats, died on October 5.

As word got around, many of the FT chat regulars logged in last
night to remember klok and listen to him on CNI radio:

Tweeny/Kurt sent a note to say that he has put up a blog entry entitled “The Dog That Roared” about Klok/Brian on his “The Day The Constitution Died” blog. The posting really touched my heart. We feel the same way Kurt.

Other blog entries about Brian: Elayne, Lodestone Blog, Cat Simril.

Fred Davis shared in email about the first time he met Brian:

Since you all were close to Brian, I thought you might like to hear about the first time we met. You’ll probably smile, nod your head, and say “Yup. That’s Brian.”

It was the fall of ’66 or ’67 (that part’s a little muddy), and I was a young sprout at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. I was walking down Hillsborough Street just across from the campus, when I spied an interesting looking guy with an odd-ball cap acting kind of weird. He was stopping at the parking meters along the street, dropping in a coin & giving the knob a twist, then moved on to the next expired meter. What a nice guy! I thought.

Then I noticed that he was about 30 feet in front of the meter maid, with, as I recall, an unpleasant look about her. That’s when I realized he wasn’t just being nice, he was tweaking the meter maid at the same time! Now that’s someone I wanted to meet, I thought. And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thanks for sharing that Fred!

Fred also sent in the following picture of Brian and the anecdote beneath it about a NH trip with Brian:

Brian on a trip to NH with Fred Davis - click on the image for a larger image

This was from our summer vacation in 2005. I love to collect rocks, but my wife thinks there may be rocks in my head [not far from the truth]. So we invited Brian to go on vacation with us numerous times to keep me company on my adventures (this was the last one). Brian, I’m sure, could care less about minerals, but he’s a wonderful friend who would tag along anyway. We explored a lot of forgotten quarries around New Hampshire together, finding them with my GPS. The attached photo is from the world-famous Palermo #1 quarry in North Groton, New Hampshire, taken August 22, 2005.

Another adventure concerned the Alexandria Mica Mine, in Alexandria, New Hampshire. I had located this old quarry on a 1945 topo map, and transferred the location to my GPS. We then set about finding it. The route led us to an old, unpaved road in *very* rural New Hampshire. We got as close as we could according to the GPS, and parked. The next several *hours* were spent bushwhacking through thick brush, fording streams, climbing steeps slopes and avoiding other potential “Deliverance” style dangers [not really, but it’s a good image, no?]. We followed the GPS path religously, taking the least-distance path to the mine. We finally made it! And then we discovered the old mine road. A road? Yup, a road. On the way out, we followed the road out. It was an easy stroll in comparison. And sure enough, it led us back to about 25 yards from where we parked the car!

Best regards,

Thank you so much Fred. I remember this story! Brian told us about it. 🙂

Ken/Dr. Headphones sent in these two pictures/captions, and the following anecdote about Brian’s last Black Friday escapades.

Brian on a trip to NH with Fred Davis - click on the image for a larger image

Here’s the dinner where (in order, L-R) Lili, Tom/DocTec, and Brian/Klok are seated on the right side of the table and me (Ken/Dr.Headphones) and my friend Chris are on the left. I met her in Michigan and she moved to Rhode Island so I drove up there not just to see her but to see Tom, Lili, and Brian also. The date is May, 2000, but I can’t tell you the day since I couldn’t download them until I returned home from the trip on the 28th. –Ken

Brian on a trip to NH with Fred Davis - click on the image for a larger image

I just looked at the rest of the pics from that trip and realized that both Brian’s and Lili’s pics on the Firesign log page were from there also, as was mine on the day after the dinner when Chris and I went to Cape Cod. After dinner, we went to a bar and shot pool which is where Lili’s pic came from. Brian’s is one I took from my seat at the table. I found this one with me shooting (notice the excess chalk on my hand!) and Doc and Klok standing in the background watching. –Ken

Here’s an email I got from Brian last year on his “day after Thanksgiving sale” adventure. I had a couple of years previously sent him my report about the mess I encountered at Wal*Mart buying a new TV set and he promised me that the next time he had an experience like that, he’d tell me about it. You may wish to put it on your Memorial page. You don’t have to, but it’s /him/ totally.

It personifies him exactly. He planned the trip completely, but went with the flow when things weren’t exactly like he had envisioned. I can read this and *hear* him narrating it to me. It’s just like he talked, and he loved to talk and to write emails 🙂

Should I ever again (I seriously doubt it!) venture out on the “Black Friday” sale circuit, Brian will be in my mind the entire time. RIP, my dear friend.


——– Original Message ——–
From: Fri Nov 25 11:21:35 2005
From: Brian Converse
User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 (X11/20041206)
To: Ken DeBusk
Subject: Black Friday report

I put out salt, but the garage door froze last night. Turns out it was at the edges; I lost 10 critical minutes from my 6AM schedule! Note to self: buy another $2.99 10 lb bag of rock salt at Job Lot!

Staples only 5 minutes away; got there 6:11. Whoa Nellie, bar the door! Not like last year — parking lot is 80% full. I look across the rotary at the Wal-Mart parking lot; they’ve been open over an hour and sure enough, full to the gills, plus the usual fistfights, gun battles and traffic jams. I swoosh into Staples unopposed. I grab a cart and start filling it. 50 pack DVD+Rs, 50 pack DVD-Rs. Do I _really_ need DVD-Rs? I’ll be getting plenty more DVD+Rs at Best Buy, probably… I look at the up-front and decide to go with both; $3 after rebate. In goes the 200G Maxtor HDD and the PNY 512 MB flash stick. Done. I can leave now. Huge line at the registers; not many people coming in, so I wander around to look at the Samsung 19″ LCD monitor going for $149 (!). VGA input only. They maximized the sale stock by not putting out a 19″, but they have an “equivalent” 17″ on display. Looks solid, nice brightness, contrast, pretty good viewing angle. Not this year. 😦 Hoping for $100 or better next year! The “$149 Leather Managers Chair” that’s $100 off looks chintzy. Used my Staples Reward Card for the first time since Washington’s Birthday 😉 Nice sunrise as I reached the car.

Out of the shopping center, I decided to keep going and scoot into Warwick to hit Best Buy and CompUSA. BB had 75 DVD+Rs for $2.99. Gone. Didn’t even bother to look for the $149 e-Machine or whatever it was (listed as “sold out” yesterday). CompUSA had 20 DVD+RWs for $4.98. Gone. I neglected to check the CompUSA ad yesterday. I tried to; couldn’t find it. Turns out _their_ sale started at 11:59 PM last night!! Grrr. Best Buy was a _zoo_. I hate that whole Barnes & igNoble/Sam’s/Home Depot/Olive Garden/Fitness Center/car dealership mess around there anyway; it’s impossible to get into cleanly off a major artery. I got there at 7:15 AM. Well, I got to the parking lot _entrance_… A few cars pulling out of places had blocked all thru traffic because lazy people in BMWs and Mercedes wanted the nice close spaces. Once a hole opened up, I just zoomed on past and headed for the North Forty. A long hike back to Best Buy. I have warm clothes. A space opened up as I got there. The parking lot was completely full, otherwise.

I wasted a lot of time and gas driving into Warwick, for no good result. Staples continues to be a nicer experience. They had clerks running around helping everyone and actively /asking/ if people needed help finding things. Very civilized, aside from the long line at the registers. Those were no worse than what I saw at CompUSA or Best Buy, and the help was friendlier.

Thanks Ken for sharing the pictures and the anecdote. I thoroughly enjoyed this email when I received a copy of it at the time.

Fred Davis sent in a couple more pictures to add … thanks Fred!

Brian and Fred - beach scene at Cape Cod around 1966 - click on the image for a larger image

The beach scene was taken at Cape Cod around 1996. We went to the beach together several times before discovering New Hampshire (I prefer mountains to beach – must have something to do with growing up in the Blue Ridge). My kids were small then, and Brian was wonderful with them. We all had a great time. –Fred

Brian and Fred - pre-dinner shot at cabin in NH - 2002 - click on the image for a larger image

The pre-dinner shot is at the cabin in New Hampshire (2002), one of several trips there. The kids were bigger then, so we had more time to hike off into the wilderness in search of wild, untamed minerals. –Fred

Brian's collection of his own ID Tags that Fred Davis was kind enough to send to us - click on the image for a larger image

Brian’s collection of his own ID Tags that Fred Davis was kind enough to send to us for Brian/Klok’s Memorial page, 6/30/2007.

Brian's collection of his own ID Tags that Fred Davis was kind enough to send to us - click on the image for a larger image

Brian’s famous collection of Buttons – Brian spoke of these either in quotes or references to these buttons many times. Thank you Fred Davis for sending these to us for Brian/Klok’s Memorial page – 6/30/2007.

You may remember Brian AKA Klok recite some of these Buttons during his Klok Contributor Hour pieces on the JimmyLee and Bambi Show on CNI Radio. You may also remember Fred, aka Pen Umbra, recite them in his Contributor Hour pieces as well, in honor of Brian/Klok.

Brian and moi (Fred Davis) on Cape Cod, 1999

Fred sent along the picture above and this footnote in email:

Guess what I found cleaning up? Attached is a photo of Brian and moi on Cape Cod, 1999. Ah, a relaxing day at the beach – long pants, shoes, hat and a good book. I’m surprised I compromised with a short sleeved shirt! My hat is my favorite beach hat – with a shark running through it front to back. BC was reading about Java, and I’m digging into digital signal processing. You know, light summer reading…


NOTE: For anyone who knew Brian: If you have some clippings from emails, etc., that you would like to share on this Memorial page, or audio, or pictures, or links to blog entries, whatever you want, please email me at bambi (at) cniradio (dot) com with them and I will add them here. Or you can add a comment (please note that you must register to comment and I will authorize them as soon as I get notification – this is due to the spammers.)

Comments on: "Klok – Memorial" (14)

  1. Brian was my cousin (our fathers were twins) and I was shocked to hear of his passing. We received the news in a call from Brian’s brother John of Four Oaks, North Carolina, who had only sketchy information.

    I had a feeling that there might be more information online. However, I was amazed to learn the extent of Brian’s electronic presence and at the outpouring of love and respect that I found. It gives Brian’s family great comfort.

    There will be a memorial service for Brian at 11:00 AM on October 21 in Wake Forest, North Carolina, at St. Johns Episcopal Church.


  2. Hi Bob,

    It is great to hear from you and we are so glad that this Memorial page gives Brian’s family some comfort in this sad time. I hope it does so for anyone who knew Brian.

    There is more coming. So please come back to visit periodically. I have another picture and an anecdote from Fred Davis to add later today about a trip to NH. It really touched my heart to read it.

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. We all loved Brian as you can tell.


  3. […] I never met him in person, but I wish I had. Many who knew him much better than I have posted tributes to him online. (Bambi, Elayne, and Tweeny) […]

  4. Trackieman said:

    In my search for tech related radio over a year ago, I discovered CNI radio. My Saturday night “Edutainment” changed right then. I never knew who Klok really was. But it was obvious that Klok was a true geek. Someone referred to Klok as Klokipedia in the CNI Radio chat one night. I can’t remember who said that (sorry), but it was significant and damn right. I loved Klok’s audio segments. Klok was Albert Einstein to me.
    I was dumbfounded to hear that Klok had passed away. I just could not believe it. Started surfing for news but could not really find anything at the time.
    I’m very sad that I never had the chance to meet Klok. As I’m in the UK that may not of been easily possible anyway. But I still feel as though I had a friend ripped away.
    Rest in peace Brian. I will miss you so much.

  5. One comment called Brian “klokipedia”. That brought to mind my private, never shared with anyone–even him, name for him: Encyclopedia Briannica 🙂


  6. Here it is 6 months later, and I just found out about Brian’s death. I’ve known him since the late 60’s — our common interest was the Linc computer which he worked on at Duke and I at Washington U in St. Louis. He came to visit around ’73 — at that time, a visit to computer Mecca. He sported rather long hair — apropos for the day. That was the last time I saw him.

    We kept in touch via email (after the invention of the Internet) but not on a frequent basis.

    We recently started a project to restore a Linc here in STL, and I emailed him with some details. I knew he would be excited about the restoration of a 42 year old computer. I was surprised that there was no response. Tonight I searched for his name and found the obit in a NC newspaper and then the Firesign stuff which lead to this site.

    Well, there’s another hole in the universe, and it will take some time to get use to that fact.

  7. maury,

    So glad another of Brian’s friends has found his Memorial. 🙂

    Brian was a great friend of of ours through our little Internet Radio station, CNI Radio (http://www.cniradio.com).

    Long time friend of Brian/Klok, Fred Davis, may still very much enjoy hearing about what you all are doing with the Linc. Fred used to work with Brian as well back in the programming and true building days of early computers.

    Brian/Klok and Fred have both done some great audio pieces for CNI Radio on the early days in electronics and computers.

    I bet he would love to talk to you. I can email him if you like, and see if I can pass his email address on to you.

  8. New addition to the Klok Memorial! Brian’s ID Tagss and Buttonss!!

    Thanks Fred!

  9. […] .ogg Audio Files on BambisMusings.com Yea! The images and .ogg audio files are back on the Klok – Memorial, and the Spring 2006 Blossoms page and on the To My Dad .. In Loving […]

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