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, 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.


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.

One Trackback

  1. […] I’ve spent some time recently coming to grips the the new economic reality, that it takes a chunk of a billion dollars to live a comfortable upper-middle class life style, as reported in the post Make my day. My attempts to respond with an attempt at humor have apparently caught the attention of the editors of the New York Times, and they have fired a new salvol over my bow. […]

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