Play ball

September 3, 2012

Warning: Very little of this blog item deals with free/open source software. In fact, with the exception of some historical references or discussions in the periphery, there’s little here on FOSS. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it; on the contrary, you might welcome the break from my tilting at windmills and read something slightly more important.

This blog deals more with the human condition, or specifically Ken Starks’ human condition, and baseball, as well as why sometimes you need to step outside the proverbial batter’s box to get some perspective.

As many of you already know — and for those of you keeping score at home — back in the spring Ken and I planned to go to the Astros-Giants series in Houston at the end of August. Let me back up: Ken and I have been planning to go to a ballgame since 2008, since we teamed up to organize the Lindependence Project, and never got around to it until now. Last week, he and I went to Minute Maid Park to watch the three-game series and, as one might expect, the Giants swept.

That’s all the gloating I’m going to do. Honest.

As many of you also already know, Ken’s about to go under the knife for larynx cancer surgery, which many of you heard about through FOSS channels; and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for pitching in like most of you did. As far as the trip was concerned, we were touch-and-go on whether Ken was able to make the trip due to the fact that he may have had a quick reservation for a table for one at the hospital where his surgery will take place. But finally he was cleared for travel, and we ended up watching the series at Houston.

Let me tell you something about Ken that he relayed to me in conversation between innings, and I don’t think he’d mind if I mention it. I thought the topic was somewhat obvious to me, yet I think Ken may feel it bears repeating.

It is this: Some may be under the impression that he’s down for the count; that he’s lying in bed waiting for death. Clearly he’s not.

I got the impression that he finds it irksome that some may think he is somehow disabled or on the fast track to becoming an invalid. To say Ken has a lot on his plate at the moment is an understatement: In juggling the news of his possible mortality with negotiating the maze of the American health care system, all while continuing his day-to-day life, I think Ken wants folks to understand that he’s still standing.

Whether it’s just his Texan nature or just the fact he’s an incredibly tough guy (and I’d want him on my side in any fight), Ken’s continuing to do what he’s always been doing while he waits for the next step on his fight against cancer. Of course, that would include getting underprivileged kids computers with Linux on them, and promoting FOSS with the same passion and zeal, just as he has been doing all along. In short, he’s just getting things done; not for the accolades or for the fanfare, but because a.) it’s what he does, and b.) it’s the right thing to do.

No, he hasn’t got the strength in his hands that he used to, and there’s a self-consciousness about “the PVC pipe sticking out of my throat” that a bandana conceals. He speaks in a hushed tone now, or what he refers to as his “Godfather voice;” a voice that may even be more quiet in post-surgery. But with each time that Ken gets floored by chemo or radiation treatment — let alone by surgery — it seems he gets up off the proverbial mat, dusts himself off and is asks, “Is that all you got?”

Today, Ken blogged about the Linus Torvalds-Miguel de Icaza dustup when I’m sure he’s had some other, more weighty, things to think about. During my visit to Houston, we talked a lot about how many kids were being helped in Taylor, north of Austin, by Reglue (formerly the HeliOS Project) and how this is going to continue as he recovers. In other words, it was pretty much business as usual with a couple of hurdles in the near future to overcome.

Some of you already know this story: Ken and I would probably have never met, let alone be on speaking terms, if it wasn’t for FOSS. I wrote about it here before he and I actually met in Felton for Lindependence in 2008. Videographer Christian Einfeldt of San Francisco filmed much of Lindependence that year and did an interview with Ken and me that you can find on if you do a search for Lindependence, so you can see the Mutt and Jeff, the Laurel and Hardy, or the Abbott and Costello first-hand in unedited form.

I’m proud and honored to know Ken and I’m proud and honored to consider him a close friend and a teammate in the wide world of FOSS. And if he gets on base, you can bet I’m going to drive him in for a run, just as I know he’d do the same for me. It’s what players on the same team do.

Play ball.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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  1. diane franklin
    September 4, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Thank you Larry for a great tribute to whom Ken really is. He is the kindest, most selfless man I have ever had the priviligle to know. As most of you know, I had several strokes about a year ago and am continuing to heal due much to Ken’s strength. Trust me, there were times I wanted to give up, but he gave me the strength to keep going and it is that strength that gives him his positive, can-do attitude. I can’t tell you how much he enjoyed going to the games with you. And be it said, you forgot to mention the sacrifice you made, a)getting time off work, b) traveling to Texas so you could sit in 100 degree weather and c) juggling all the travel arrangements at the last minute because it was unknown where Issaic would hit. That is a true friend! Again I thank you. I enjoyed watching the wonderment of the little boy with never a thought about cancer. Thanks to all of you for making this possible.


  2. September 4, 2012 at 5:13 am

    Make that
    [audio src="" /]
    [audio src="" /]

    • September 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

      Ah. Nice catch, Scott. Thanks and fixed.

  3. September 12, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Since the day Larry first posted this I have visited this post at least two times a day.
    If you know these guys you don’t need my words and if you haven’t had the pleasure
    of meeting them I will just say:
    Ken Starks and Larry Cafiero will be my first two picks if we ever get the Linux Fantasy
    League going.

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