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.


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.

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