How I became friends with jimmy john (4/18/2008)

Inroduction – I have ended up digging deep into my past while creating this blog. It was supposed to be a simple re-post of an email I sent many years ago. Much water has flowed under the bridge since 2008. Life was very different at that time. This blog even takes me back to the early days of my career, before the email you are about to read was written. Here goes.

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There are two separate topics in this e-mail, and the second topic is more of a reflection on longer-term happenings in my life.  It would be perfectly understandable if you skipped this second part.
 
So here I was walking through the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show in the Convention Center in Las Vegas, when I heard a shout “Hello, Malayalee anoo”?  (Hello, are you a Malayalee?) I turned to see this guy walking up to me.  He started talking to me in Malayalam with a heavy accent.  I was totally taken aback at being accosted in this manner in the middle of a convention center in Las Vegas.  The gentleman mentioned that he had seen my badge and recognized that the name must belong to a person from Kerala.  Very quickly, before I could even recover, he asked me where I was from, whom I worked for, how long I was going to be in Las Vegas, etc..  I had no clue who this person was, and did not understand why he was talking to me with such familiarity and asking all these questions.  He must have noticed a bewildered look on my face because he paused for a moment.   “Am I asking too many questions?”, he enquired.  I did not know what to say.  He then noted that the way he was asking me questions was the manner in which people broke the ice and started conversations in Kerala.  He said that he was from Toronto, and in my confused state of mind I heard the word Trivandrum instead.  I looked at his badge and it said jimmy john (just the way I have written it!).  Anyway, jimmy soon realized that I was not too much of a Malayalee (even though my parents are from Kerala), but that did not deter him from continuing the conversation.  We continued to talk in English for a while about our backgrounds and I became more comfortable with the conversation.  I suppose he was a simble (inside Malayalee joke!) person, and perhaps we could continue talking because I am also simble (hmm, maybe not that humble).  Turns out that he produces a show in Toronto called Malayala Shabtham and his production company is called CKTV, Canadian Kerala TV Productions.  He seems to know people and politicians in Canada, and he sounds like an enterprising fellow.  For all I know, he is a well-known person in certain circles.  Perhaps one or more of you may have heard his name.  Anyway, we exchanged cards and then parted ways.
 
Now, changing topics:  Later the same evening I went out for a dinner organized by a gentleman from DIRECTV named Bob Plummer.  Bob had been at the David Sarnoff Research Center while I was there and had moved directly to DIRECTV after that. (He is one of the folks who encouraged me to move to DIRECTV.)  He is a very senior person, has a lot of friends in the industry, and will be retiring this year.  He apparently has been organizing this dinner during the NAB for several years for his friends in the industry.  This time he invited me to the dinner so that I could get to know some of the folks, and I also met an old friend from Sarnoff, Joel Zdepski, who has now gone on become a Senior VP in a company called OpenTV.  In any case, the food was very good (and very expensive) and there was plenty of wine to drink.  At a particular moment during this whole affair, Bob walked into a conversation that I was having with somebody else and turned to the person and said something along the lines of – Kuria is one of those people who can actually get things to work.  My goodness, what a complement!  It is quite possible that the number of drinks that had been consumed at that point inspired the comment.  But it got me thinking after I got back to my hotel room later in the night (and this is where the humble part goes out the window!).  In the early years of my career I had worked on some really unique and challenging problems that were cutting edge, without really realizing the magnitude of what I was doing.  At Sarnoff, we were trying to design the first digital high-definition broadcast TV system in the world, and were implementing certain concepts for the first time.  Without really thinking too much about it, I came up with a unique solution to a particular system problem that we had, and, although I did not have any hardware experience, I got into the thick of things and actually helped in implementing the concept and making the darned thing work.  I was working on something that I had minimum expertise in, and something far removed from the topic of my graduate studies.  I depended a lot on intuition. I was also quite naive and did not even realize the complex nature of the problem I was taking on and solving.  But others did notice and remember! And it is staggering to realize that the things that we worked on at Sarnoff have now become the foundation of a gigantic worldwide digital TV industry.  Wow!
 
I had a few other such “Eureka” moments during the early part of my career, some of them at Hughes Network Systems, but I think none matched the magnitude of the work at Sarnoff.  I think I had a real problem-solving mentality that is typical of an Engineer, and this ability compensated for a lot of my other personality issues.  But the years have gone by since then and the reality of life has caught up.  It is now more about shouldering responsibilities and trying to make sure that one does not screw things up.  I do not have to solve difficult technical problems.  I am more careful. Everything is more mundane.  And I have to find other less risky roads to follow to push myself and experience the excitement of learning new things and challenging myself.  And, although one accepts where one is in life without any regrets, one wonders once in a while about what might have been if other routes in life had been followed and if more time had been spent earlier in life on developing other talents. It is probably true that one can waste a lifetime simply asking questions and not doing anything else. But at least on that one magical evening in Las Vegas (under the influence of alcohol, of course) I felt like I had done something unique and special, something that not just anybody could have done.  Is it all about feeding the ego?
 
There used to be an advertising line having to do with the Las Vegas tourism scene that stated – Whatever happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.  You can see that this is certainly not true with what has happened to me in Las Vegas during my last two trips.

Such is life.
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Today’s postscript – While looking for pictures of people who I worked with while at Sarnoff, I came upon this website with details about the project I was involved in at that time. You can even find pictures of me from my youth (at least four of them in the section about the “AD-HDTV System Integration at Sarnoff Field Lab”). My signature is on a document that we signed at the end of the project. I directly contributed to the specification document for this project. I was responsible for something called the priority processor.

I do not know how long this website will stay up, but I might as well make use of it while it lasts. This is certainly taking me down a memory lane.
https://www.glennreitmeier.tv/advanced-digital-hdtv-prototype
https://www.glennreitmeier.tv/advanced-digital-hdtv-prototype?lightbox=dataItem-jkrigr9z2

My Continuing Search for Autumn Colors

The weather turned wet on Sunday after an extended period of sunshine, a period of time that had left me wondering whether the solar panel system on our roof would end up generating a record amount of energy for the month. I now do not think this will happen. There is an concept called the law of averages that will probably even things out over the the month. (Note that the law of averages more of a common sense statement rather than a mathematical statement of probability. But that is a discussion of another day!)

Anyway, it was a sunny morning last Thursday when I did a bike ride, heading towards Washington, DC. The experience of this bike ride left me with the feeling that I could be reaching the tail-end of the riding season – or that my strategy of starting a bike ride early in the morning – in order to ensure that I was back home at a reasonable time – was not going to work for the rest of the year. It was much too cold! It was cold enough that I went off-trail to visit the fully-equipped restroom at Great Falls after about eight miles of riding – to turn on the dryer in the facility in order to warm my hands and get sensation back to my fingers. It being early in the morning, I was riding in the shadows of the woods, and I could not even depend on the touch of the sun to warm me up.

I was still feeling the cold when I got to the end point of the ride, a spot beside the trail between the mile 7 and 8 markers of the towpath, just beyond the footbridge across the canal.In order to keep myself warm (while I refreshed myself with a Clif bar and some water), I parked the bike next to a bench that happened to be in the sun.

It had warmed up nicely by the time I started making my way back to Rileys Lock, to the extent that I encountered many more riders headed the other way during this stretch of pedaling.

As you can see from the pictures above, and also from the pictures below that I took at the start of the ride at Rileys Lock, the leaves on the trees were still generally green that day,but there were also signs that they had begun to drop!

I did not feel too tired at the end of this ride. I am sure the outside temperature had something to do with it.

We went for a walk on the towpath last Sunday starting at Pennyfield Lock and heading north towards Rileys Lock. Because of the threat of rain later in the day hanging over us, we decided to get a very early start. We did not even have breakfast before heading out!

You observe more things around you when walking than when biking. There were the early signs of the coming change to the foliage, and there was at least one point at which we also got a glimpse of how extraordinary the Autumn view can become as the season progresses towards its peak.

In any case, a walk along the canal is beautiful and therapeutic in so many different ways.

Unfortunately, we were also reminded of how busy, and sometimes unpleasant, this section of the trail can get during the weekends, with hordes of inexperienced bikers and walkers taking over the towpath. We had to be on our toes and aware of traffic in both directions while walking. We encountered large groups of people who were unfamiliar with the protocols and courtesies of the trail, people who created a danger to themselves and others. What to do? I made the mistake of trying to let people know in one instance even though I am not good in situations like this.

Nobel Prize for CRISPR honors two great scientists – and leaves out many others: The Conversation

I have written blogs about CRISPR in the past. In one of thses blogs, in 2016, I talked about the possible ethical ramifications of the use of the technology in the future. My other blog, the next year, was just a link to a description of how the technology works. The scientists who developed this technology have now received the ultimate recognition, the Nobel Prize. But, as happens in many cases, there is some controversy about whether other deserving people have been left out of this honor. This article gives a broader perspective on this subject, including some history.

https://theconversation.com/nobel-prize-for-crispr-honors-two-great-scientists-and-leaves-out-many-others-147730

Dam 4 and Big Slackwater

This is so beautiful. This is the best I have seen on the C&O Canal.” These were the words uttered by the person who had just arrived on a bicycle at the recently reconstructed section of the trail upstream of the Big Slackwater boat ramp and parking lot. We had just finished walking the section that he was looking at – the section he was entering – and were walking in the other direction back to the car. I could understand his reaction. “There is more to come“. That was all I could tell him.

We had a later-than-usual start for this Sunday walk, once again investigating territory that had not been visited in a long time, a place that was also far away from home. The last time we came here together was in February 2016. The trail had been covered by snow at that time. I came by with my high school classmates later that year during our bike ride.

We started our walk at Dam 4, just like we had done during the previous visit. The power plant on the West Virginia side of the river was visible through a light mist that rose out of the water, generated from the water falling over the dam.

It was a cool, sunny, and peaceful morning. Three herons could be seen downstream of the dam.Fishermen were already active, one even standing in the flowing water downstream of the dam.We encountered a group of bicyclists at the dam who were heading south. They were bundled up against the morning chill.It turned out that they were the first of many such batches of riders that we were to encounter as we continued with our walk – many more people than we were expecting in this section of the towpath, especially at this time of the morning. Seeing their clothing, and noting how disciplined they were as they rode along the trail, especially when they encountered people going the other way, we speculated that this was an organized ride of experienced bikers.

We were headed upstream, north, towards the boat ramp and parking lot for Big Slackwater. We began to see the flowers soon after we got on to the trail. Asters and Goldenrods dominated.The trees looked like they were just beginning to change color.One could see that the color that would dominate the autumn phenomenon in these parts would primarily be yellow. I have noticed that this is the manner in which autumn makes its appearance in a lot of the sections of the river. There is not much of a variety in the colors. The trees just turn yellow. There is a section of the towpath closer to home that could be different. We need to make a visit to that section during the next few weeks.

A little more than a mile into the walk, we arrived at the parking lot and boat ramp for the Big Slackwater. The canal ended at a guard lock just beyond the parking lot. These days, the guard lock is permanently blocked to prevent water from the river from entering the canal basin.The guard lock is the point at which the canal boats transferred in and out of the river from and to the canal itself. The trail begins to run just next to the river upstream of the lock.

Early signs of autumn could be seen across the river at we continued north. Also visible were boat docks.Big Slackwater appears to be a well-used water recreation area.

It was just beyond the opening into the reconstructed area of the towpaththat the complete expanse of the Big Slackwater was revealed without obstruction for the first time.Running along the right edge of this expanse of water, and disappearing off in the distance at the end of the visible section of the river, was the reconstructed towpath running along the shore.

One of the first things that caught my attention as we entered this section of the trail was the view of the river itself in the morning light. There was something about the light that brought out a unique glow to the space.

And then there were the flowers that you could see everywhere. We had arrived at the right time of the season to witness it all. Teresa called the bunches of flowers natural bouquets.

How many pictures of Asters and Goldenrods can one take? It turns out that you can take as many as you like, even a few dozen!

The concrete boardwalk was lined with so many different kinds of flowers that the pace of the walk slowed down significantly.And then there were the other flowers that I have not bothered to post pictures of here. I still need to identify some of them.

There were plants and flowers emerging from in-between the concrete slabs of the boardwalk itself.

There were flowers coming out of the rock beside the trail.

It was all amazing and breathtaking – the natural bouquets of flowers!

This recently reconstructed section of the trail runs for about a mile and a half, at which point one arrives at McMahons Mill. We turned around at McMahons Mill to head back downstream to Dam 4, the place where we had parked our car.

“What are you looking at,” the child asked us as he approached on his tiny bicycle. We had been looking up at what we thought was a cardinal. The bird had flown away by the time the kid looked up. His father appeared right behind him on his own bicycle. The father was pulling a carrier loaded with gear. It was attached to the rear axle of the bike. At the back of the carrier was a fishing rod, standing up. I also noticed a big jar of peanut butter tied to the top of the package on the carrier. Turns out that father and son had crossed over from Virginia, parked their car at some location along the canal, and then biked their way to a camping spot along the river for an overnight stay. Good father-and-son bonding time, I think! Cool!

This was another long Sunday morning on the trail. But there was no harm done by the later than expected return home!

Just to note, I have provided information (and online links) about Big Slackwater in another blog about our visit to McMahon’s Mill earlier this year. The section we explored this time is downstream of McMahon’s Mill. We had walked upstream from McMahon’s Mill during the previous visit.

At Antietam Aqueduct

It was early Sunday morning. When I asked Teresa which section of the canal she wanted to go to, she left it to me to decide – because it was my birthday. There was no particular time constraint either on how long we could spend on our adventures that morning. I picked a place to go to that took a little longer than usual to get to, a place that she had not ever been to for hiking. We spent the whole morning on the towpath hiking near Shepherdstown, WV, (my biking companions from 2016 will surely remember the place!) and Sharpsburg, MD.

This walk was a little different from usual. We spent more time than usual exploring off-trail, beside the Potomac river itself.

As we drew into the parking lot after the long drive from home, my attention was drawn to the sound of a freight train beginning to make its way across the river from West Virginia, on its way to Hagerstown. Although I had the urgent need to visit the facilities, I changed my mind and quickly grabbed my camera from the back seat after parking the car. This is what we saw. It made me wonder.

Once on the towpath, we decided to head in the direction of Harpers Ferry, towards Washington, DC. It was a nice and cool morning.

The first time we decided to walk down from the towpath to the river was when we heard the sounds of the water rushing over rocks, indicating the presence of some rapids. We do not come across rapids that often during our walks. Usually, the river is very quiet. Additionally, we had noticed many places where people had walked off the marked trail towards the river and created ad-hoc paths through the woods in the process. We took one of the paths that appeared to be more easily navigable. Since the towpath happens to be at an elevated level when compared to the level of the river in this section, we had to be careful coming down the sandy trail to the level of the river.

It was still early in the morning when I took these pictures from beside the river. The rapids, if I could even call them that, were very gentle, with a very small drop in the level of the river at this point.

Back on the towpath, we passed a neighborhood with older houses on the berm side of the canal. This one could have been unoccupied, and perhaps even abandoned.

We arrived at Antietam Aqueduct after passing a huge campground next to the trail.The Antietam Creek Campground is the only one of its kind along the 184.5 mile towpath. It is a very different setup from the regular Hiker and Biker campsites that line the rest of the trail. This campground is much bigger, with many individually marked sites that can be reserved. Unlike the Hiker and Biker campsites, this one is accessible by car. There were many vehicles parked in the vicinity of the campground on the berm side of the canal. The facilities in this campground could be considered slightly less primitive than at the Hiker and Biker sites – but not by much.

When we arrived at the Antietam Aqueduct, my first instinct was to go down creek-side to get a picture of the aqueduct itself. This proved to be a little bit of a project since the closest approach required stepping down a steep slope immediately next to the wall of the aqueduct. The slope was covered with small, loose, gravel. It would have been easy to lose footing while trying to go down, and to end up sliding down to the bottom.

After some exploration, we managed to find a spot further along the towpath that was less intimidating, a spot where other people had attempted to go down to the river in the past. We managed to get down to the river, and then walk back along the riverside, on a rough and uneven path, to the the mouth of the creek, where the creek met the Potomac. The aqueduct was revealed to us in its fullness.

This was a view of the river from the mouth of the creek.

We got back to the towpath taking the shorter route up to the trail, the one next to the aqueduct itself. It helped to hold on to the wall of the aqueduct while climbing. I think going up is easier than coming down, especially if you are dealing with damaged elbows.

The next time we decided to go down to the river was on our way back, when we found a nicely cleared path down to the river in the section of the towpath next to the homes we had seen on out way out to the aqueduct. This foray into the woods resulted in the decision to attempt to keep walking along the riverside, using whatever rough trail we could find, for as long as we could.The risk was of having to walk back along the same rough trail if we found ourselves stuck, with no easy way to get back to the towpath from where we had reached along the river.

We had to pick our way over a narrow and very lightly used, perhaps even disused, pathway, walk over sand and pebbles in some places, and even navigate past fallen trees. If I were a child, I would have enjoyed the experience even more. Eventually, we got to a place where we had to cross a stream that passed under the canal via a culvert. Fortunately the stream was shallow enough for us to walk across.The path along the river seemed to end here. There was a path back up to the towpath on the other side of the culvert. That was the end of this particular escapade. I would be remiss if I did not post a picture of this object that we found in this section of the trail.Some of you might recognize it for what it is. It makes you wonder!

The final time we explored off-trail was when we got to the general area of the parking lot we had left our car at. We walked beyond the parking lot and up to the bridge for vehicles that went over the Potomac river, the bridge over which my friends and I had biked in order to get to our hotel in Shepherdstown one evening in 2016.Walking back to the parking lot along the riverside allowed us to see the remains of all the old bridges that used to connect the two sides of the river at this point.The railroad bridge that we had seen the freight train activity on earlier on could also be seen from the level of the river.

The off-trail activities that took place throughout the morning ended up making this a longer outing than usual. But that was not the end of the story. We also took the longer route home, taking the country roads, and driving past Harpers Ferry on the Maryland side of the river.

We were sad to see that the National Park Service had shut down the parking spots that used to exist next to the road in the section of the road next to Harpers Ferry. It will make any future attempt to climb Maryland Heights a somewhat longer effort, with much more walking involved. It is also the end of free parking if you were planning to visit Harpers Ferry itself. It is probably a good thing that they closed the parking lots. Their locations were dangerous.

That was about it for the long morning on the towpath. I had my customary PB&J sandwich for lunch, after which I attempted to take my usual Sunday nap that was needed to recover from all the activity. But this was not the usual Sunday.

Early Monday morning, we got some very sad news. It was about a death in the family. Joy Aloysius Thomas was a truly remarkable person. You do not find people like him in this world often. He was incredibly brilliant and knowledgeable. He was also an terrific human being by all measures. He was humble. He had already done so much in his life in the service of humanity, and for his fellow human beings. He would have done much more if he had not lost his life. He died young, unexpectedly. I decided to hold off on this blog until funeral services were complete.

The Simple Math Problem We Still Can’t Solve | Quanta Magazine

Some of the problems that mathematicians attempt to solve can be intellectually very challenging, and also stimulating – maybe even fun, but could leave you wondering what, if any, practical use they have in real life. I mean, why did anyone even bother to create this problem?

https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-mathematicians-still-cant-solve-the-collatz-conjecture-20200922/

Riding Into Autumn

I went for a bike ride last Thursday. I rode from Edwards Ferryto Point Of Rocks,and back, a distance of 35 miles. I had started out intending to bike about 30 miles, but the possibility of reaching a concrete destination rather than some arbitrary mile marker on the trail drove me on a little further than I had originally intended.

It was a late decision for me to actually do the ride. I also had to push myself a little bit to overcome the laziness I felt that morning. I have not done that many rides this year anyway, and it would have been easy to call it quits for the year. It was also going to be somewhat cold that morning (about 45° F at the time we woke up) – another reason to not push myself. Besides, my exercise route is, in general, completely destroyed by all of the disruptions taking place – and by my lack of discipline and, once again, laziness. But I willed myself to do what was necessary to get to the trail. I had to put the bike rack back on the car. I had previously taken it off, not anticipating further rides this year.

I felt the cold as soon as I got out of the car and prepared to ride at Edwards Ferry. I had to put on another layer of clothing, on top of my regular half-sleeved jersey, to protect my hands fully. Riding into a cold breeze (caused by my forward motion) was a little uncomfortable, but I got used to it. As I rode, the thought came to me that this could be the last ride of the year. I felt that I should do the ride as if this was going to be my last bike ride – because who knows what awaits me at the end of this riding season. Anything can happen. Maybe it is a good general philosophy – and I have heard it elsewhere – live every day as if it were your last.

I enjoyed the ride to the fullest extent, the impact of the ride on my bottom being cushioned that day by the generous usage of Chamios Butt’r for the first time in many years. (You see, I had thought that regular biking had made my nether region impervious to the effects of chafing from the constant rubbing motion, but had found out during my previous ride, a shorter one than the one I was undertaking that day, that this was not necessarily the case. Previous years of toughness of the skin did not mean a thing!) The cool weather also actually helped make the riding easier.

I did get used to the cool temperatures, and it also warmed up a little bit during the ride – to conditions that would actually be considered ideal for the activity. I did also encounter many other bike riders on the trail.

I am now hopeful that this will not be the last ride!

The Story of Freedom Summer


I have been working on this particular blog for a long time now. I have taken long breaks in the process of completing it. I am trying to be as thorough as possible in the background information I am providing, and the source of my information is a documentary video that is not short. I am taking this effort primarily so that I can feel good about what I am doing, even if not many people end up reading the blog itself.

I also gave some additional thought to the reason why I wanted to put a blog on this subject out there. My first thought was that Freedom Summer was a topic that any American knowledgeable about American History would be aware of, even if they did not know all the details. But then I realized that this was probably not the case. First of all, history is not a strong suit for most of us in the general public. We also forget easily, especially if it is a topic that one would not be particularly proud of talking about. Also, since this happened well before the youth among us were born, I suspect that many of them may not even be aware of what happened. I would point them to this video because it is good to be aware of the soul of the country that you call your own.

So, even if it is only a few people who read this, and further follow up, I want to do my little part in providing the opportunity to learn something about this particular episode in American history. Some might even find the circumstances of what was happening in 1964 unbelievable in the context of our lives today. Others may not be that surprised considering the nonsense that is going on in our country today. For those who already know about this part of our history, here is an opportunity to actually delve into the details.

What I am providing here is a link to a PBS episode in the series American Experience. I am able to watch this episode through my browser on my computer. I am hoping that readers will have the ability to view this video in this simple manner even if they cannot find a way to view it through some more traditional means on their television sets.

This episode of American Experience is simply called Freedom Summer. I hope that this link works for everybody.

As I mentioned before, this episode takes you back to the year 1964. This was before the Voting Rights Act was passed. This was the time of the Civil Rights movement, when Jim Crow laws were still being used to subjugate Blacks. The problems were especially bad in the south, and Mississippi might have been considered among the worst of these states. Less than 7% of Blacks there were registered to vote at that time. (In comparison, the numbers ranged between 50 to 60% in other southern states.) The suppression of the black vote was a deliberate effort to ensure that the Whites would not lose their positions of power in localities with majority Black populations. The Whites managed to do this by coming up with a literacy test that the Blacks had to pass in order to be registered to vote, a test that was deliberately rigged to be unfair. The test included questions that most people would not know the answers to – including interpretation of sections of the state constitution. Registrars controlled the process of registration, including the taking of the test. The about 800 White registrars had total power over the process. The process of registration was made even more difficult – even including direct intimidation while taking the voting test, and also public posting of names of those who had taken the test in the newspapers so that they would face a backlash in their businesses and from their employers.

As an aside, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed (shortly after Freedom Summer and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), there was a section, called Section 5, that addressed the voting suppression efforts of the South, in that it required seven states, states with histories of voter suppression, to get pre-clearance from the federal authorities before making any changes to voting rules. This was to ensure that the changes would not discriminate against protected minorities. This regulation was, unfortunately, undone by the Supreme Court in 2013. Unfortunately, voter suppression efforts exist even today, and seem to be getting worse with each election cycle.

The Students Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was a group of Black students who were trying to register Black people to vote. Seeing that they were not making much progress on their own, they decided to get help from outside Mississippi by opening up the state to the rest of the country. They called it the Mississippi Summer Project. They invited young people from all over the country to volunteer to teach in Freedom Schools all over the state during the summer. These volunteers would be embedded in the different black communities, stay in their homes while they were there, and would live just like they did. They would learn what their lives were like. They would teach subjects like Black Literature, Black culture Black History, etc.., topics that were not taught in the regular schools. They would implement community center programs that involved the older people. They would be active in voter registration.

It was mostly White kids, both male and female, who signed up for Freedom Summer. They signed up from all over the country. The SNCC conducted an orientation program in Oxford, Ohio, for the potential volunteers. The kids who wanted to volunteer might have been idealists at heart, but they had no clue what they were getting themselves into. They had no idea about the life circumstances of the Black people of Mississippi. They had no idea about their problems. Even the idea of getting directions from the Black SNCC leaders during the orientation program was something they had to get used to. But, they learnt, and they rose to the occasion. Freedom Summer worked, and if you see the video, you can see some of these folks talk today about the experiences of their youth. This would have been a life-changing experience for them. It was an experience that turned many of them into heroes.

At that time, the White people of Mississippi actually thought that they were a superior race. Maybe some of them still do. The pure hate that you see in some people’s eyes in the video is shocking. (Let me assure you that we are all capable of such hate.) When the Whites learnt about Freedom Summer happening, they were concerned, and even prepared militarily for what might happen. They knew the details of what was being planned. There were police cars waiting in some cases when buses carrying the volunteers crossed the border into Mississippi.

At this point, I will stop talking about what happened in 1964, except to mention the names of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney. They were volunteers who went into Mississippi ahead of the rest of the group because of a church burning incident in Philadelphia, Mississippi. They disappeared. James was the only Black person among the three. You have to watch the show to find out what happened to them. The other volunteers still followed James, Michael and Andrew into Mississippi in spite of not knowing what had happened to them – and fearing the worst. Consider how brave their actions were. There were over 700 volunteers who participated.

When thinking about the volunteers of Freedom Summer, I was reminded of the experiences of Peace Corps volunteers who go off to other countries to serve. The bonds that they form, and their experiences in foreign lands, stay with them for life. These kids learn true empathy for other people. These kind of impacts must be much more intense for the youth of Freedom Summer – even if they did not actually leave the country.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in the presentation. You will, in all likelihood, also learn a lot of new things. The documentary (obviously based on real life) is much more engaging, moving, and powerful than any fictional movie that you will find out there today. I am thankful that the voices of some of the older folks who experienced those days have been saved for all time in this film. Listen particularly to the voice of Fannie Lou Hamer (towards the end of the documentary). Watch how Lyndon B. Johnson and the Democratic Party, with their corrupt politics, screwed the Blacks of Mississippi. Listen to the moving last words of the documentary. We should not forget.

Once again, this is the link to the video.
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

All About Mellow Yellow

We are back in Maryland.

It is almost time for the Autumnal Equinox. Perhaps in anticipation, the weather turned much cooler than usual last weekend. It was cold enough that my friend Reynaud made its first appearance of the season. The seasonal numbness and the loss of blood flow to the extremities is something that I do not look forward to. It was cold enough that I had to wear a tracksuit to keep me warm during our Sunday morning walk. It is that time of year when the constantly changing weather forces you to be flexible about your outdoor wear when exercising.

But, if you were to dismiss the temperature as a measure of the change of seasons, you could be convinced that Fall is not here just yet. The trees are still green in the park, and it is not cold enough to slow down the volume of early morning bikers on the trail. Besides, in a day or two, the weather will become warm once again – for a few more days.

But, the yellow flowers – oh my, the fields of yellow flowers!

Something is certainly afoot!

There were different kinds of yellow flowers that dominated the scene during our walk. I suspect that a few of them were from the sunflower family of plants.

The experience was different from when we were in Massachusetts, where the flowers were much more varied in their colors. That kind of a change might visit our neighborhoods during the next few weeks when other wildflowers of the season blossom.

The view will change as the days, and weeks, and the months roll by, and as a cantankerous and dizzying 2020 fades away, in a huff, into the cold and the darkness of winter.