Daily Archives: November 22, 2006

The Sky is Falling

There has been so much open-source news lately — Oracle / Red Hat; Sun / FSF; Microsoft / Novell — that many open-source experts see dark clouds forming, and some even think the sky is falling.

I come not to write about Chicken Little, or even Henny Penny, though Henny Penny would be a good subject for a follow-up post on the poor rich folks who need a billion or so dollars to enjoy a comfortable upper middle class life-style. No, today I write for the open-source folks — and non open-source folks — who just read blogs and don’t comment, or who read e-mail lists, but never write any e-mail to the list.

We call them “lurkers,” and our guest of honor today, the day before Thanksgiving, is none other than turkey-lurkey himself.

As those who were here a fews week ago can attest, TWWP takes holidays seriously. See for example:

Happy Halloween

Halloween+1: Deflating the pumpkin

(By the way, Mike Shields, owner of Mike’s Pumpkin, is home for the holiday. He and his sister Jen are driving to a nearby cider mill — , Thompson’s Orchards — as I write this, to get some cider for Thanksgiving. Mike is an expert at “mulling” cider.)

So let me try to offer some holiday amusement by recalling some of my memories from attending Macy’s famous Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC over 20 years ago, when we lived on NYC’ West Side.

People outside NYC who see the parade on TV see a spectacle that takes place near Macy’s main store on 34th and Broadway. However, the parade actually starts on West Wide, at 79th Street, just south of the American Museum of Natural History. It then goes down Central Park West (CPW), on the western edge of Central Park. We lived on West 93rd at the time, less than a mile from the parade. [1]

Our first parade was when our oldest daughter was in the late 70’s. We had a leisurely breakfast, and arrrived near the Museum around 9:30. Turns out the parade had already moved on — it was too late — and all that was left was a broken-down cart. So we turned around and vowed to return earlier the next time.

We were quite protective of Alison, our first child. We read to her a lot, and didn’t let her watch much TV. We didn’t watch much TV either — we only had a black-and-white set then.

Next year we were on time and she one among many children when we saw a big green-colored baloon come around the corner from 79th onto CPW. I said, “Alison. Look, a giant green frog!” Then I heard thousands of children shout, “Hi, Kermit!”

That’s when I realized we were depriving Ali of her culture. We put her on on occasional diet of Sesame Street the next day.

(A few years later I heard from a friend that one of the questions on the entrance tests for kindergarten at some private schools was, “What color is Big Bird?” I then realized that the admissions officer assumed that parents were making their children watch Sesame Street, and that they could afford a color TV. I bought our first color TV shortly thereafter.)

Our family, as well as many others in our neighborhood, did have a personal connection with Sesame Street. The actor who played Mr. Hooper lived on CPW near West 93rd, so you could hear the shouts of glee as children said, “Hi, Mr. Hooper!” when they saw him sitting on a park bench.

By the way, my wife and several others spent years of volunteer time convincing the city to renovate the playground at CPW and West 93rd. We left NYC in 1987 just before it re-opened. It’s till going well today, and I hope has the same name, “The Wild West 93rd St. Playground.”

We arrived late one year, so proud-papa Dave hoisted Ali onto his broad, strong shoulders so she could see the parade, and spent most of the rest of Thanksgiving day in a state of near-paralysis on the sofa of our hosts.

Here are a few tips for those who haven’t been to the parade:

Parking is difficult on the West Side that day — it’s the most expensive day of the year to park. If you can, take the subway.

Get there early.

It’s more fun near the Museum of Natural History.

Stay on the street level; the park side is less crowded. This way you can hear the children and the bands. We saw it one year from the 3rd floor of a posh building on CPW in the 60’s, but it was like watching something on a big-screen TV.

You can watch the helium baloons being inflated the night before, starting around 8PM, on 79th between CPW and Columbus.

Speaking of the Museum of Natural History, I invite any residents of NYC to join an elite circle. One day, just after a big snowstorm in NYC, my wife took our son Mike to the Museum on a sled, and when she went to check in the sled, she learned he was the first person in living memory to arrived at the Museum via sled.

The Museum of Natural History is open every day of the year except Christmas. Must-sees include the dioaramas, especially the group of elephants considered the finest work of taxidermy to date, the gems and mineral collection, and the dinosaur exhibit. There is a benchmark just outside the south entrance on 79th between CPW and Columbus.

Just south of the Museum on CPW you can find the New York Historical Society, one of New York’s under-appreciated treasures. Notable exhibits include the Audubon prints, as well as one of the great works of American art, Thomas Cole’s five-picture series “The Course of Empire.” See where you think open-source is today? Thomas Cole was an early forerunner of “Where’s Waldo?” He signed his paintings but in an unusual way. Look for his name on a rock, or on a tree, for example.

Happy Thanksgiving — to both turkey lurkeys, and turkey non-lurkeys.

PS: I forgot to add another open-source connection. In the early 80’s I used a modem control program called “kermit,” written by folks at Columbia Univ.

Notes.

1. Most of Manhattan is laid out in a grid, following a design established around 1820. Avenues increase in number from east to west, and streets from south to north. Twenty north-south blocks comprise a mile.

On the origins of the phrase “Open Source Volunteers”

I just came across the following while cleaning up my desk:

OpenSourceVolunteerism

It’s the oldest record I have of writing which resulted in the name for our project, OpenSourceVolunteers.

One of the hardest aspects of programming is coming up with names. If you get the names right then the code often writes itself.

Make my day

Some days I envy Jon Stewart and the writers on The Daily Show. It happens when I see a headline, or a photo, or a quote, and know that one of them has seen it too, and immediately realized they had enough material for the first half of the show, and perhaps for several more shows as well.

Sometimes it’s just a phrase. Remember Al Gore’s saying, “I invented the internet.” Or the current President Bush landing on an aircraft over a third of a decade ago to say, “Mission accomplished? [1]

Sometimes it’s a photo. Yesterday’s New York Times had a photo on the front page that showed the current President Bush and several other world leaders. It was taken at a dinner in Vietnam, and shows them wearing a local costume that makes them look like teeny-boppers caught in the act at a pajama party.

I’ve read the New York Times every morning for over forty years now, and one of the interesting aspects of open-source is how often I can find an article that I can relate in some way to open-source. Today’s New York Times had a front page story that made this blogger’s day.

It bears the title, “In Web World, Rich Now Envy The Superrich.” I knew right from the get-go it was not about open-source, but I read on, and my patience was rewarded:

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 20 — Almost anywhere else, Reid Hoffman would be considered a major success. As an early executive of PayPal, he was in the money when the company was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. These days, he runs a new start-up company of his own while investing in others.

But when greater fortunes are made — as happened recently to three former PayPal colleagues when YouTube was sold to Google for $1.65 billion — Mr. Hoffman said he could not avoid a twinge of envy.

“It’s kind of embarrassing,” said Mr. Hoffman, 39, whose start-up, a business-oriented social-networking site called LinkedIn, is almost four years old. “You started a year or two earlier, and they start after you and then this thing zips right past you and gets the golden results.”

The article goes on a bit, and then includes a quote that Mr. Hoffman will regret for the rest of his life (emphasis added) :

Mr. Hoffman, who made enough from PayPal to “retire to a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle,” said he felt no spite toward peers who later hit bigger jackpots. Still, he said, “there’s always components of, ‘Wow, you happened to pick the right time,’ and that will always lead to some kind of implicit envy.”

Got that fellow open-source developers? I know we’re not used to dealing with money, especially large sums of money, but even I must admit I find it very troubling that the entry ticket for “a comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyle” is a chunk of one and one-half billion dollars.

Turns out it’s tough to be superrich. I learned from Alain de Botton, author of “Status Anxiety,” that “It can seem like the only way to be respectable is to achieve as much as the founders of YouTube or Google.”

Not so in the open-source world. Who is more respected than Linus Torvalds? Last I heard his salary was in the medium six digits. Pretty good for a programmer, but certainly not commensurate with his skills. He’s the leader of the team that has produced Linux, software of such quality that Microsoft has been forced to take a novell approach to dealing with it.

What would Linus be worth if he were a Microsoftie? One billion? Two billion? Who knows. Who cares. He doesn’t.

I read on to learn it’s not just about money, but what makes the world go round — sex:

Mr. de Botton pointed to research that has been done on attractive women who feel ugly when surrounded by images of more beautiful women. “Very often the problem isn’t so much what an individual happens to look like, but the extraordinary comparisons being made,” he said.

As open-source developers we can’t help these “poor” rich folks with their money troubles, but we can provide some assistance in their love lives.

So if you happen to know any rich folks who are turning green with envy of the superrich, please direct their attention to soem of my earlier posts:

Who should be the Pirate of the Caribbean? Linus Torvalds? Johny Depp? Russell Crowe?

Open-source is sexy

TWWP goes to the movies: “Bond, James Bond.”

Bond Sucks, Tux Sux: Linux Hacks Nix Bond Flix

We learn further on in this sorry tale that a Mr .James Hong, a co-founder of Hotornot.com, a dating site, and someone else who is going to regret talking to a New York Times reporter the rest of his life, has decided to dedicate his life to matching Mother Teresa in saintliness, starting with the daring deed of trading in his $55,000 Porsche Boxsteer for a Toyota Prius, as he saw himself succumbing to the envy malaise. Trading a Porsche for a Toyota — noblesse oblige at its finest.

The saddest part of this sad tale is that these people don’t realize that the greatest rewards can come as soon as you have enough money to put food on the table, clothes on your family, a roof over your family’s heads.

Because once you’ve done that then you can try to find some spare time to volunteer your skills to help make the world a better place — on your own dime, on your own time.

Which person do you admire more, or would you want your children to admire more? The rich gentlemen Hoffman and Hong, or the subject of one of my earlier posts, E. Fred Garel, Jr., May his memory be a blessing, a maintenance worker who spent his life in service to others?

As we near the holiday of Thanksgiving, let us celebrate the things that matter — the things without cost.

Notes:

1. Those with an interest in the history of Linux can find an interesting quote in an e-mail sent to me in January, 1999, as noted in the Jikes Archives section of this blog; look at the end of the cited document ShieldsD.txt.

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