Monthly Archives: October 2006


Here’s a story, a story about IBM and open-source. It is also a kaddish story.

Since early in 2003 I have been a member of the team responsible for the day-to-day management of IBM’s open-source activities. When an opening came up and my name was suggested I eagerly sought the job, both because I was looking for something new to do and also because I wanted to see how a major corporation engaged with open-source as a serious business activity. One of the first proposals I dealt with was brought forward in March of 2003.

The proposal was called “C Vacuum Cleaner” and came from a team in the Netherlands. It related to a project started in 1999 by an IBM employee, Jan Willem Wissema. It was described as an “Automated C/C++ Preprocessor Statement Cleaner” and had evolved to a point where it had become a “Tool used within IBM’s Internal Mission by IBM AMS Netherlands” and the “CFSW Project – IBM’s High-End Software Configurator for our Sales force.” The proposal went on in the next few sentences:

Jan Willem Wissema fell ill, 2001.

Last wishes on his last day — request to IBM to consider “open-sourcing” his Vacuum Cleaner work.

Open-sourcing the Vacuum Cleaner has business benefit to IBM.

Though one might assume that the nature of the proposal would make approval obvious, I was impressed by the thoroughness of the presentation. The proposing team met all the requirements and answered all the questions asked about proposals to start a new open-source project. The proposal was approved.

I’m proud to work at IBM, because I get to work with the kind of folks who didn’t ignore Jan Willem Wissema’s request, but worked to meet it, and in so doing made his work available after his death so others could see it and perhaps even make use of it. They honored his memory. That’s why my IBM badge is one of my proudest possessions.

As I have recently come to appreciate, this story is not just about IBM and open-source, but is also a kaddish story.

A few months ago I noticed a new book in our house: Living a Year of Kaddish: A Memoir, by Ari Goldman. Ari Goldman is, in his own words:

Ari L. Goldman, a nationally recognized expert in religion and journalism, is the author of three books, including the best-selling The Search for God at Harvard. He serves as a tenured professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he is the director of the Scripps Howard Program in Religion, Journalism and the Spiritual Life. Professor Goldman came to Columbia in 1993 after spending 20 years at The New York Times, most of it as a religion writer.

My wife said the book would be the first book to be discussed by a reading group at our Temple this fall. The book is about his experiences mourning his father’s death and the people who formed the community in which he mourned that death over the course of a year.

It is also a book filled with stories, stories about people gathered together in that community in a process of collective mourning, a process which collectively leverages the power of the community to assist each individual mourner.

Here a few of the quotes and writings that can be found in the early pages of the book:

After the grave is covered by earth, the son takes off his shoes, walks a few steps from the cemetery and says kaddish, for it is a prayer that renews the world.

Rabbi Joseph Caro, in his sixteenth-century code of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch

At the age of fifty, I was no longer the child of divorce. I was no longer the child of anyone. Losing my parents altered my view of myself — and of them — in ways I had not anticipated. My year of mourning, for all its hardships, became a time of insight and growth

Mourning also became a time for mentoring and modeling. I lost my father, I reasoned, but I myself am still a father. …
for me, kaddish was as much a chain as it was a prayer. It was a chain that in some way continued toconnect me to my parents, and will some day connect me to my children.

And, finallly, mourning became a time of community.

We came for prayer and we prayed, but we also talked, joked, laughed, and gossiped. We shared each other’s stories and helped dissolve each other’s pain. We became a community in the very best sense of the word; we knew that as individuals we were bound to the earth, but as a minyan we could reach the very gates of heaven. My kaddish connected me to my family, but it was empowered by my community. The story of my year of kaddish starts with me, but it derives meaning and context through the people I touched and the people who touched me every morning.

The book club met to discuss the book this past Sunday morning. By a stroke of great good fortune Mr. Goldman was at our Temple that same day, to discuss his book at a “Brotherhood breakfast.” We all got to hear him speak and the book club members were able to engage with the author of a book just after discussing it.

Kaddish is both a prayer and a ritual process. The Kaddish Prayer is, as Professor Goldman said in his talk, the most well-known prayer after the Sh’ma. Almost everyone knows of it or has heard it at some time, most likely at a funeral. For example, back in the 60’s, decades before I became a Jew, I recall seeing an episode of the TV series Combat! with a scene in which a soldier has just died. There’s a short part, just a few seconds long, in which a friend learns of the death, and then says the first words of the prayer, “Yitgaddal v’yitqaddash sh’meh rabba,” before moving on. [1] Just by that I knew that both the dead soldier and his comrade were Jewish.

The prayer is also central to the Jewish process of mourning, of bereavement; see Bereavement in Judaism.

He gave a very moving presentation. At one point he said he had spoken many times about the book and that he could usually see the effect on the audience. I can personally attest to that in that, while I never quite cried, I came close to doing so, because of the power of the memories his words brought to mind.

One of the stories Ari related was one that struck me when I first read the book, because it turns out some people say kaddish for others, even though they have no obligation to do so. As he relates on page 54:

Allan had a kaddish story of his own, too. He had been attending our morning minyan for a year when a neighbor and friend, Deborah Norden, died in an airplane crash near Pittsburgh. At the memorial service he learned that no one would be saying kaddish for her because her parents were not observant and her husband considered himself a Buddhist. Allan felt that someone should remember Deborah with a year-long kaddish, and so he assumed the obligation himself. Most of all, he was moved by the death of this young woman who had been his friend. But, as he also told me, “In the back of my mind was that I could in some way perhaps make up for not saying kaddish for my father.”

Where did he get the idea? He said that he was following the example of a friend of his father’s named Archie Green. When Archie realized that Allan and his brother would not be saying the year-long kaddish for their father, he decided to take on the obligation himself in memory of his friend. “I did for Deborah what Archie did for my father,” Allan said. And several years later, when Archie died and left no one to say kaddish, Allan Koznin spent another year saying kaddish, at Ramath Orah, this time for Archie Green.

During the discussion after his talk, I posed the following question to Professor Goldman:

I started blogging quite intensively back in mid-September. Though I have thought of myself as a solitary person one of the things that has struck me is how much of my blogging has been about specific people and stories about them.

But the one thing that has surprised me the most, something I would have never have thought of when I started blogging, is how many of my posts have been about me as a Jew.

Aside from the book itself, has the experience of writing it changed how you write or what you write about?

He responded, as best I can recall, that it had indeed changed him. He has kept a diary since the age of 19, and writes to clarify his thinking, to learn more about himself. He said he had learned much from the writing of the book, and that he had been especially moved during many of the talks he has given about the book since its publication.

He asked for the name of my blog. Realizing he might actually read it, I copied back some of the posts I had spun off the the “Tracking Tom Friedman” blog, as one of them is the first in which I mentioned my being a Jew.

Here is a list of the posts on this topic, in the order in which they were posted, earliest first:

In closing, I have often said that open-source is not just about the code, but about the people who write it. And it’s not just about the individual developers but the communities they build. And it’s not just the communities but the relationships you can build with those communities.

Both Kaddish and open-source are about communities. For the last few months in my volunteer activities trying to find ways to encourage folks with open-source skills to use their skills to make the world a better place — what we Jews call Tzedakah, or Charity — I have come to appreciate that open-source is very important in that it offers new ways to make our world a better place; for example, the Sahana project I have mentioned in early posts and also in the area of education, an area which I intend to make my focus going forward. So those of us who engage in this effort should understand that what we do is not only important, but in some way is sacred, and hence we have an obligation to preserve and strengthen open-source as much as we can, so it can be used by communities yet to be formed.

Jan Willem Wissema – may his memory be a blessing.


1. The Kaddish prayer is in Aramaic, not Hebrew. The two are closely related. One of our Temple members, a native of Israel, saw Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ soon after its release. The soundtrack includes Hebrew and Aramaic; see The Passion Of The Christ – Aramaic an ancient language comes alive. She said that because of her native fluency in Hebrew she was able to understand much of the Aramaic portions of the soundtrack and that she found it virulently anti-Semitic.


Thomas L. Friedman: Anyone, Anything, Anywhere

Tom’s column posted today is about an outsourcing operation in Uruguay that is partnered with Tata Consulting Services, India’s biggest technoloy company. It has a few thoughts that directly relate to our work:

The New Yorker once ran a cartoon by Peter Steiner of two dogs, with one sitting at a computer keyboard saying to the other, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” …

One of the most interesting features of this era of globalization is how any entrepreneur — with the right imagination, Internet bandwidth and a small amount of capital — can assemble a global company by matching workers and customers from anywhere to do anything for anyone. Maybe the most important rule in today’s increasingly flat world is this: Whatever can be done, will be done — because so many people now have access to the tools of innovation and connectivity. The only question is: Will it be done by you or to you?

… in today’s world having an Indian company led by a Hungarian-Uruguayan servicing American banks with Montevidean engineers managed by Indian technologists who have learned to eat Uruguayan veggie is just the new norm.

That cartoon illustrates a crucial aspect of the Internet. People don’t know if you’re a “dog.” They also don’t know your sex, race, religion, or political beliefs — unless you tell them. Yes, Google can discover this information sometimes, but in the OSS world even that doesn’t matter: You are measured by what you do, not who you are.

There’s another kind of flattening going on. It’s not new; it has always been with us and unfortunately it always will be. It is the “flattening” wrought by the earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, mudslides and hurricanes that can level large areas in an instant.

But something is being done about it, using the global access to the tools Tom’s mentioned. For example, just after the devastating 2004 Tsnuami, IBM was one of serveral organizations that worked with a small group of programmers based in Sri Lanka to assemble an open source system to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It is called Sahana. The project has some received some recognition, for example it was the SourceForge Project of the Month for June 2006.

It’s worth noting the initial effort was led by Sanjiva Weerawarana, a former IBM Researcher who voluntarily left IBM to return to his home country to help improve its economy and educational system. In short, a volunteer effort of the highest order.

Work on Sahana continues to this day, but much remains to be done. Indeed, I started writing this note immediately after concluding a call with an IBM team that is working with other groups on the design of new function to be added to Sahana.

This illustrates perhaps the greatest challenge facing our project: Is it possible to assemble a team of volunteers that can work with — and create as needed — major projects that will require a sustained effort — one measured in years or even decades — to make real progress?

There’s only one way to learn the answer — try to do it.

Thomas Friedman Islam and the Pope

Tom’s column today, as always, speaks for itself. Every word is worth reading and trying to comprehend. Here are a few parts of particular interest:

We need to stop insulting Islam. It’s enough already.

No, that doesn’t mean the pope should apologize. The pope was actually treating Islam with dignity. He was treating the faith and its community as adults who could be challenged and engaged. That is a sign of respect.

What is insulting is the politically correct, kid-gloves view of how to deal with Muslims that is taking root in the West today. It goes like this: “Hushhh! Don’t say anything about Islam! Don’t you understand? If you say anything critical or questioning about Muslims, they’ll burn down your house. Hushhh! Just let them be. Don’t rile them. They are not capable of a civil, rational dialogue about problems in their faith community.”

Now that is insulting. It’s an attitude full of contempt and self-censorship, but that is the attitude of Western elites today, and it’s helping to foster the slow-motion clash of civilizations that Sam Huntington predicted.

I don’t get it. How can Muslims blow up other Muslims on their most holy day of the year — in mosques! — and there is barely a peep of protest in the Muslim world, let alone a million Muslim march? Yet Danish cartoons or a papal speech lead to violent protests. If Muslims butchering Muslims — in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan — produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

I’m all for a respectful dialogue between Islam and the West, but first there needs to be a respectful, free dialogue between Muslims and Muslims. What matters is not what Muslims tell us they stand for. What matters is what they tell themselves, in their own languages, and how they treat their own.

Without a real war of ideas within Islam to sort that out — a war that progressives win — I fear we are drifting at best toward a wall between civilizations and at worst toward a real clash.

His words rang true, as did the words I heard from someone else who spoke of this topic, at the Rosh Hoshanah service in our synagogue, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester.

I think we are blessed in that we know at least one person, and if we are lucky more than one person, about whom it is impossible to find anything bad to say. Just impossible. To attempt to do so is to expose your ignorance.

The man who spoke at our Temple is such a man. He is a physician who has dedicated his life to healing and helping children.

I hope to say more about him in future posts, but for now I’ll just relate part of what he said. I will be paraphrasing his words, in doing so will not be doing them full justice. He said,

We are Jews are supposed to be forgiving. That is one of our responsibilities. Yet I just learned that a nun had been slaughtered in some African country. She had spent several decades living in that country and educating its children.

She was murdered a few days ago, by fanatics who had taken offense at the words of her Pope.

I try to forgive. I do try. But this act, this murder, that I cannot forgive.

Unbreakable Linux: a hat-trick for open-source

Oracle’s recent announcement about what they call “Unbreakable Linux,”
Enterprise Linux: Announcing: Enterprise-Class Support for Linux
, has caused quite a ruckus [1]. A good summary, including links to some of the press articles on this topic, can be found in Steve O’Grady’s blog post So Ellison Was Serious: The Oracle Linux Q&A.

The conventional wisdom is that Oracle is firing a shot across Red Hat’s bow. Red Hat’s stock took a hit just after the Oracle announce.

Steve’s post notes that there have even been accusations that Oracle is doing something wrong, that it is playing unfair. People are displeased! Steve says in his post:

Haven’t seen too many folks jumping for joy, though I’m sure there are fans of the move out there.

Steverino, say Hi to fan Dave. [2]

I’m jumping for joy. Let me tell you why.

Now I wear dual hats in writing this blog. My day job is working for IBM, so I guess that hat is blue and not red. But in this blog I’m writing as an open-source developer, a role in which I wear a hat only to keep warm, as can be shown by my picture that can be found in the Wayward’s Author section. I need all the help I can get in that department.

And as an open-source developer this announce is both a great hoot and a cause for great celebration.

It’s a hoot because, as is so often the case, analyses about one company’s taking an action in the open-source arena that is perceived as having an impact on another company in the arena focus on the corporate battle and in doing so ignore the folks that in my view really matter, the developers who write the code that is the source of all the fuss.

We developers just sit back and watch the salvos fly back and forth. At least some of us do. I’ve been involved in a few open-source announcements from IBM and from to time I have had to remind the marketing folks that open-source developers don’t read Gartner reports, Infoworld columns, or eWeek postings. They are too busy writing code, so if you want to reach them you have to find other venues. For example, A post from a Linus Torvalds, or Brian Behlendorf, or another key Apache developer, can have more impact with developers than all the business-oriented rags put together.

So, in the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning , let me count the ways I love the Oracle announce, and what it says about the state of open-source today:

Oracle’s announce is yet another proof-point that open-source has grown up. We have no more need to make the case that open-source is ready for the enterprise. IBM has been making that case for several years, and Oracle has just said they are ready , willing and able to support open-source in the enterprise.

Oracle’s announce means they realized that so many of their customers are using Linux to run Oracle’s software to run enterprise-level applications that it makes sense for them to provide support. By their announce they are admitting there is no need for them to put together their own distribution — which was my guess when I first heard all the buzz about an upcoming announce — but can rely on the distribution-building skills of Red Hat. Yes, they are competing with Red Hat, but are doing so on Red Hat’s home turf, deferring to Red Hat to define the software that Oracle will support.

Oracle is playing a delicate game here. If they are so successful that they drive Red Hat out of business then they may have to enter the Linux distribution business. Are they ready for that?

One of the real surprises in the announce is not what they say, but what they didn’t say. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories wrote about a dog that didn’t bark:

What’s that exchange about the dog that didn’t bark?
“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” “The dog did nothing in the night-time.” “That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes. (It’s from the short story “Silver Blaze”.)

What dog? Microsoft! For example, a story in Red Herring,
Can Red Hat Survive? Oracle CEO Larry Ellison plays rough with the leading Linux software distributor
misses the point entirely. The question is not if Red Hat can survive, but can Microsoft survive? (This Red Herring article makes no mention of Microsoft.)

Think about it. Oracle is saying Linux is so ready for the enterprise that it makes sense to divert some of their resources that could be used to support Oracle running on Windows in order to support Oracle running on Linux. Who would have thunk it?

But the real trick is to think of the impact if Oracle had instead made the following announcement:

Enterprise Windows. Announcing: Enterprise-Class Support for Windows. Oracle Unbreakable Windows is a support program that provides enterprises with industry-leading global support for Windows. Recognizing the demand for true enterprise-quality Wndows support and seeing an opportunity to significantly reduce IT infrastructure costs, Oracle is now offering Windows operating system support.

Unbreakable Windows! Give me a break. Would Oracle be willing to offer enterprise-level support for Windows, installing each week the quota of security fixes, readying themselves to support the Vista that will soon be thrust upon us. The Oracle announce says they think Linux is unbreakable — would Oracle be willing to say the same about Windows?

That is perhaps the key point. Oracle is saying they believe Linux can be made “unbreakable.” Would anyone, including Microsoft, be willing to make that claim about Windows?

Microsoft isn’t ready to support Unbreakable Windows — they are too busy trying to figure out how to get the next version out the door — almost a decade since it was first announced.

I’ve also read that Oracle has hired away some developers with Linux skills away from Novell. That is wonderful. Competition for skilled Linux developers can only drive up their salaries, helping to drive another nail into the coffin about open-source being the work of unpaid amateur hackers. [3]

I expect so far I’ve listed at least three reasons why this is a cause for celebration in the open-source community. Which makes Oracle’s announce a Hat-trick for the open-source community. In the long run it might even be a Red Hat-trick. We shall see.


1. If you look at the URL of Oracle’s post you will find they are using PHP, an open-source technology, to power their own web site. I expect they’re using Linux and Apache too.

2. I watched Steve Allen’s TV show as a child. It was one of my favorites; he was one of the great TV comics, and a good musician to boot. He put together a great cast that included Don Knotts, Tom Posten, Louis Nye and Nanette Fabray (add links later). His wife Jane Meadows was also a great artist.

3. I’ve seen estimates that about 50% of the key Linux developers are paid to work on Linux and that they account for about 75% of the accepted contributions. Oracle’s action may not only give these developers more power to shape the course of operating system development but give them more money while they are doing this important work. And if Oracle doesn’t keep those developers happy they will move on.

On “email take 2” — Moscow Take 3

There were only a couple of referrals to this blog yesterday. One came from Russia:|1|1|1|1|1|1|1&cur_page=0

Which as a URL is NIGMA:email take 2.

The URL ends in “ru” which stands for Russia and when I followed the link I found the site was definitely in Russia because it was in Russian. As best as I can tell by my limited Russian, someone was searching for “email take 2” using the Nigma “Intellectual Search System.” It was started about a year ago. I think it is based on Moscow.

Oddly enough I spoke last night with an Israeli soldier about Moscow.
He was visting our Temple. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have for some time been sending some of their soldiers to our country so we can learn more about Israel. The program started in Stamford, Connnecticut, several years and this year was expanded to Northern Westchester.

Our visiting soldier is about 22, though he shows the confidence of a much-older man. He has about 25 men serving under him, and has the unusual job of training dogs. The dogs can be used to search for explosives, to investigate a building, or even to save a life. He said that several months ago someone had attacked him and his dog had jumped in front him and by doing so saved his life, but had been killed in the encounter.

His unit was among the first into Lebanon last summer. When he goes into battle he has no rifle, just his dog. He mentioned they found extensive bunkers, much more elaborate than anything they had imagined — air conditioners, laptops, DVD players. It took them two weeks after the end of hostilities to blow them all up.

One of his closest friends was killed in the first hours of battle.

He had planned to leave the army this year but had just signed up for an additional year, simply because he could bear the thought of leaving the army when he was so responsible for so many men.

He took questions from the audience. Several were about security issues. He said he was quite comfortable traveling around Israel, and that 15-year olds would travel on their own to another city, rent a hotel room, and tour. He said later during a private conversation that he thought American children were much more limited and had less freedom.

He also said he thought that we here in the U.S. should require a year of national service just after high school.

At the end of his presentation one of our board members who had recently been to Israel spoke about how she was surprised so many Americans were afraid to travel there, that they thought it was still dangerous.

After the service I had a few minutes to speak with the brave soldier, and I mentioned that my son had spent a year studying in Jerusalem. In December 2003 I had to fly to St. Petersberg, Russia, on IBM business. The St. Petersberg airport is quite small for such a large city; it’s about the size of the Westchester County Airport near White Plains. After my business was done I flew to the Moscow Airport. It was much bigger but not particularly fancy. I was struck by how few people spoke any English — I really had to use my limited Russian.

I then flew from Moscow to Tel Aviv. [1] I left around 8:00PM and soon saw only darkness below. I didn’t see any significant lights on the ground until we neared Tel Aviv. Then I saw highways, traffic, then tankers, then parked jetliners, and finally the runway as we touched down.

I told him that as I was landing I had fully appreciated then that Israel was a complete modern nation-state, fully able to defend itself.

I also said that I had felt quite safe during the week we spent in and around Jerusalem, and that my fondest memory, aside from seeing my son, was that, as I got out of the taxi cab in Jerusalem at 1:30AM on a Friday morning, the taxi cab driver said to me, “Shabbat Shalom.”

He smiled.

The hour is late. If I had the time I would write good night in Cyrillic but I don’t recall the keyboard layout, though I once did. [2] So let me just sound it out, “spakoynee noch.”


1. This was my third and most recent time in Moscow; hence “Moscow Take 3.” I have made four trips to Russia, in 1973, 1976 and twice in 2003. I’ll write about them in future posts. For example, on returning from our first trip in 1973 my wife and I were so desperate for some real food that we had the taxi stop in Forest Hills, Queens (she grew up there) at the Knish Knosh, home of the world’s best knishes. We didn’t have any U.S. currency and store owner said he didn’t take checks, but when we explained why we were there, he cashed a traveler’s check for the first time in the store’s history. (I was there a few weeks ago and the knishes are as good as ever.)

2. I once had a Russian portable typewriter made by Olympia, and at one time knew where most of the letters were. I sold it to the astronomer Fritz Zwicky.

To Protect and Serve: Iraq, flashing red lights, seat belts

It’s a beautiful fall day as I write this. Indeed I heard the sound of many leaves falling at once for the first time this year, and took a picture from my backyard:

October06 077

Two stories on the front page of today’s New York Times caught my attention. [1]

The main story, on the rightmost column, bears the headline, “G.O.P. Moves Fast to Reignite Issue of Gay Marriage.” Sigh. I remember the days when the governing party actually addressed issues that mattered: education, Social Security, national defense, fiscal responsibility, Medicare. Will they ever return?

The second can be found on page A10. The front page has a photograph accompanied by the following text:

An Iraqi policeman viewed the body of a colleague, one of 24 killed in an ambush near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, that officials said left at least 42 people dead. Five American service members were also reported killed in Anbar Province, raising the month’s American death toll to 96.

Dave to G.O.P.: Stop having a bash bashing gays and address the issues that really matter. You can start with your war in Iraq. [2]

The Iraqi’s who are willing to serve as policemen are true volunteers. Yes, they are paid to do their job, but they volunteer for the job knowing full well they are putting their lives at great risk, but they are willing to take that risk because they want to help their fellow Iraqi’s put their country back together. But the jihadists know — as do we all though some forget from time to time — that policemen are among our most important citizens, and the jihadists have to date been far to successful in their mission to kill as many of their fellow countrymen who are policemen as possible.

We also have policemen here who protect and serve today. The Chappaqua chief-of-police lives in my part of town. I first got to know him back during the First Gulf War in 1990. He was then a Detective and helped guard our Temple during the height of that war. He is a wonderful landscape gardener; it’s always a treat to drive by his house and look at the grounds. His children have been classmates of my children. I noted once in an art display that his son draws very well.

I saw a police car with its lights flashing as I was leaving the bank in Mt. Kisco earlier today. [3] I heard the office admonish the driver of the parked car, “Don’t you know you should pull over when you see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing?”

That reminded me of a change to my driving habits I am trying to put into effect. I read recently — and at the time thought it might now even be the law — that when you are driving on an expressway and see the flashing red lights that tell you that a State Trooper has pulled someone over, then if your car is in the rightmost lane you should move leftward if it is safe to do so. Too many — in case too many being just one — troopers have been killed during stopovers by cars that have plowed into them. By moving to the left you give yourself more freedom of action, so if someone suddenly cuts in front of you then you have a place to go.

Later in the day while on the way to HOUSEHOLD CHEMICAL CLEAN-UP DAY [4] I was stopped by a policeman who wanted to see if my Vehicle Inspection Sticker was up to date. I mentioned the pull-to-the-left policy and asked if that was the law now. He said no, it was just a good safety procedure.

Thinking of those flashing lights reminded me of another local institution, the Defensive Driving Course. It takes six hours and if you take the course then you get a reduction on the rates for you automobile insurance policy. The course is often given by retired policemen. They are the most effective instructors in that they can give real-live examples to emphasize the importance of defensive driving.

One lesson they teach very well is the importance of wearing your seat belt. Some folks find a seat belt uncomfortable and believe they don’t need to wear it all the time because if they see an accident headed their way then they will have time to fasten the belt into place. I witnessed the folly of this belief a couple of years ago while driving down the Taconic State Parkway in Putnam County during a snowstorm in February. I had just pulled into the left lane when a car a few hundred feet ahead of me suddenly slid to the right, struck a rock, rolled over a couple of times and came to a complete stop. I was just able to get by without hitting the debris that had been scattered over the road. All this happened in less than one second.

Wearing a seat belt even when your car is not moving can help. Once I was with my wife and one of our children to pick up the car after it had been serviced. We had just gotten into the car and fastened our seat belts when a truck plowed into the back of our car. Fortunately no one was injured.

Here’s another example. If you drive on the Saw Mill River Parkway near the Hawthorne exit you will notice that many trees are down. Your first thought might be some sort of construction is underway but you are looking at the after-effect of a small tornado. A state trooper had just finished lunch at Wendy’s and was pulling out of the lot when the tornado picked up his car and turned it over. [5] Fortunately he was wearing his seat belt and so he escaped serious injury; see Sergeant OK after tornado picks up his patrol car.

So next time you see a policeman thank him for his service. And that doesn’t apply just to policeman. While at the gym this morning I saw one of the regulars wearing a T-shirt that mentioned a city in Georgia. I struck up a conversation since my oldest daughter lives in Atlanta. I learned he got the T-shirt because his son was an enforcement officer for the Social Security administration and had been sent to a training facility in Georgia. I said he must be proud. Indeed he was, and I shook his hand.

In closing, another note from Dave to the G.O.P.: Hundreds of billions sunk into the desert sands of Iraq. Wouldn’t the money have been better spent elsewhere, say in Afghanistan or in our own country, to pay more to our own police and other law enforcement officers?


1. One of the delights of living in or near NYC is that the New York Times is your local newspaper. I’ve been a loyal reader for over forty years today. On the way home earlier this afternoon I passed by one of my neighbors, Peter Applebome. He has a regular column that reports on communities near NYC. As I drove by him he was on a cellphone, probably working on his next story. He was walking his dog “Wally” — named after his brother-in-law Walter.

We subscribe to the New Yorker, our “local” magazine, and still one of my favorite publications for over forty years.

I also recall once when I had to drive to midtown Manhattan that I was just “driving into town.” What a town indeed!

2. See my recent post Having a bash bashing Microsoft: Shell game? or Shell game!.

3. I live on the border of Chappaqua and Mt. Kisco. Both are in Westchester county and jurisdictions are divided. My children went to Chappaqua schools but I’m in the Mt. Kisco fire district. Mt. Kisco used to be part of New Castle, the town that contains the village of Chappaqua, but it split off back in the 70’s. This is an instance of “forking” in government. Two such forks have been key to our history: the successful fork from Great Britain in the War of Independence, and the unsuccessful attempt to fork that started the Civil War.

My house is closer to Mt. Kisco’s downtown than to Chappaqua’s, and I drive into Mt. Kisco almost every day to go my gym. The downtown area is lovely. There are several streets with many shops and restaurants.Main Street winds gracefully up a slight hill going East, passing a beautiful stone church on the way. One of my favorite bumper stickers is, “This car climbed Mt. Kisco.”

4. Our house is less than a mile away from the Croton Reservoir, part of the NYC water supply system and is also several hundred feet higher, so I am well aware that to dispose of any pesticides and such by pouring them into the ground is to pour them into NYC’s water supply, even though it might take years for them to reach that water supply.

I have a beautiful commute on the way to work in that most of it is on Route 100 right next to one of the reservoirs. It’s especially beautiful this time of the year during the fall foliage season. One of the comforts of the drive is knowing the view I am enjoying will not change as long as NYC exists.

Among the key nineteenth-century technologies that made modern NYC possible were the NYC water system, notably the Croton Aqueduct; the safety elevator, the first of which was installed in NYC in 1857; and the use of steel-based construction instead of load-bearing masonry that gave New York the buildings that comprise its skyline, Skyscrapers.

5. The Hawthorne exit is near IBM’s Hawthorne building, a part of IBM Research. I worked there for over 15 years and often got dinner from that Wendy’s back in the Jikes days when I was working into the evening.

Ethical Culture Society

One of the reasons I wrote about E. Fred Garel, Jr. in my previous post was that I noticed he worked from 1957-1985 at the Ethical Culture Society

My wife worked at Ethical for a couple of years, working closely with a teacher who became a family friend.

Our friend the teacher is retired now. We see her a few times a year, and she has joined us for many Thanksgiving celebrations at our house. She and my oldest daughter have a special bond in that they share the same birthday
One of my favorite stories is about her early days in the 1950’s working as a teacher in Brooklyn. From time to time one of the class parents would come in to sing to the students. He was a good singer. Indeed, I’m sure he wrote most of the songs he sang to that class. His name was Woody Guthrie.

E. Fred Garel, Jr. May his memory be a blessing

I write of Mr. Garel because I happened to see an article about his recent passing in today’s New York Times. He was a volunteer in the truest sense, as is evident from the start of of the article:

GAREL, E. Fred, Jr.

85, On October 23, after a brief illness. Born May 8, 1921 to Elmer F. and Rosina Murphy Gorel, he lived most of his life in NYC, where he worked as a printer, short order cook, oiler, elevator operator, hospital orderly and — at the Ethical Culture Society 1957-1985 — maintenance supervisor and, later, community service worker. Active in starting up many social action programs, Project FIND, SAGE, Prison Reform Task Force, homeless shelters, etc. Volunteer cook at Catholic Worker and Goddard-Riverside’s The Other Place. Studied with Institute for the Crippled and Disabled, the “labor school” of Fathers Corridon and Carey, Institute of Theology at St. John the Divine. Received Martin Luther King, Jr. Award the community service from Lincoln Square Community Council, 1985. His autobiography, “Lighting the Lamps,” was published in 2002.

The title of his autobiography, “Lighting the Lamps,” brings to mind another post in this blog on volunteerism, It is better to light just one little LAMP … Please, please, help Sahana.

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