I spent a lot of time on the internet during the lead-up to the Invasion of Iraq in 2003 reading as much diverse information as I could get my hands on. I read a lot of interesting stuff, most of it completely unhinged. It was fun. It was informative. It was thought-provoking. More importantly, as the shrill screeching of the various camps increased, I began to get a sense of who had a clue and who was completely delusional as their rantings and speculations were confirmed or shown to be completely baseless. That time shaped my current political views in ways that are still unfolding. It was a great time for me.
In the middle of all of that, I stumbled onto the website USS Clueless. The author, Steven Den Beste was a bracing breath of clarity in the fever-swamp I was muddling through. In addition to politics and the impending war, he wrote about science, technology, engineering, philosophy, and anything else that interested him. He was clear, brilliant, interesting, and wrote in a calm, reasoned voice that was a refreshing counterpoint to the invective and hyperbole that was, and continues to be, what passes for discourse on the internet.
I was not, am not, nor will I ever be, as brilliant, well read, well educated, nor as deep a thinker as Mr. Den Beste, but, in what borders on hubris, I aspired to be like him. Although I have never come close, Ratlands exists because he inspired me.
I never met him and I never communicated with him, as I had nothing of value to add to the conversation, and as big a fan as I was, even I knew that rabid fanboi fawning was unseemly and inappropriate. He quit blogging on USS Clueless over a decade ago, in part due to health problems.
Steven Den Beste died recently.
If you read the comments in the post linked above, you will see that I am one of many who are deeply saddened by his passing.