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In memory of Bob Nylen, or BAO Nai-Leng

About a year ago, I set off on a round of meetings with an experienced media entrepreneur, Bob Nylen, to get some feedback on plans for expanded China-focused publishing. Bob had been involved in founding (and fundraising for) New England Monthly, sat on the boards of various western Massachusetts media companies, and been an essential agent at Beliefnet.com in spite being, he said, moralistic rather than a believer.

When we visited Rho Ventures in New York I met Perry Chui, who is now with Steamboat Ventures in Shanghai. Perry is Chinese and had been living in the U.S. at that point, he said, for half his life. We  had a lively discussion with Perry and his colleagues, and at one point got onto the subject of Chinese names and English names. Afterwards, Perry came up with a Chinese name for Bob, writing, that “包乃能 (BAO Nai-Leng) means “guaranteed capable” in Chinese; BAO is also the last name of one of China’s most famous judges in the Song dynasty (600 AC).”

I met Bob in 2005 through Robin Wolaner, author of Naked in the Boardroom and now a founder of TeeBeeDee.com, a social networking site for the over-50 crowd. He was dealing with cancer the entire time I knew him, always valiantly and with extraordinary humor. He wrote not long ago about barfing, thanks to the latest treatment, in his hotel room after a celebratory board meeting. And it was funny, somehow, when Bob told the story.

I’m fairly sure he told me he had had 22 surgeries. I know for certain that he broke a lot of bones last year, and the photo above shows him with BAO Bear, our get-well gift. His memoir, Guts, is coming out soon, and here’s the obituary I like best, from the Boston Globe. And here is the New York Times obituary of Bob Nylen, BAO Nei-Leng – guaranteed capable. I miss him. How I wish I could show him some of the pages from the Encyclopedia of China.

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