Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

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On paternity leave, hope to write some code

I’m taking 3 months off to hang out with the family! Baby Emma is doing great, and the big kids are, well, big. It’s been about 7 years since I’ve had a sabbatical from work, so this seems like a great time to do it.

One of my first projects was to move hebcal for Unix from SourceForge to GitHub.

Hebcal for Unix has been around for 20+ years. Danny Sadinoff wrote 98% of the code, and Michael has been fixing bugs and adding features here and there.

SourceForge had been providing hosting for the GPL code for 14+ years. We even converted from CVS to Mercurial about 3 years ago. However, with the recent changes to SourceForge code hosting, Hebcal got stuck in some sort of limbo-land. Lots of 500 Internal Server Errors.

So… we’ve decided to join the cool kids and make the transition from hg to git. And while making that transition we’ve also moved to GitHub, which is where all of the open source developers are hanging out these days.

Over the coming month we’ll be cleaning up the code and the hebcal.com website, removing references to the old sourceforge.net URL.

And then we’ll get back to fixing bugs and adding new features.

A letter to Emma Margalit on the day of her Simchat Bat

Dearest New Little One,

We are so very happy to greet you, meet you, and welcome you into our immediate family, our big family of friends and neighbors and loved ones, our community, and our big world.

We have chosen for you the name Emma Margalit, named after two phenomenal women in your family tree. Your great-grandmother Emma passed away 7 months ago, on the night of Kol Nidrei. She never knew you, or even about you, but she would have loved you. Your great-uncle Lewis will tell you a bit more about her in just a minute, and we have much more to tell you about her through your whole life but there are just a few things we would like to tell you right now.

Emma was a devoted mother who raised three sons, and took responsibility for teaching her children and grandchildren proper manners, grammar, nutrition, and posture. She was an amazing cook who could turn vegetable scraps into coveted soup, and was a gracious hostess as she served it. She was a great believer in hand-written thank-you notes and letters, and her slashy handwritten correspondance earned her great admiration in certain small corners.

She made sure that we all took care with our “who”s and our “whom”s and thought that an elevated vocabulary was a sign of a well-educated person. On daily walks, she took care to pick up coins from the ground that others had dropped, over a period of years eventually assembling a kitty of over a hundred dollars. That single habit says volumes about her dedication, sense of propriety, humility, and patience. We hope that you can emulate some of those great qualities.

She lived for 91 years and is greatly missed. Her, and your Hebrew name is Nechama, which means comfort, and it is the words used to describe the way we comfort mourners after a death. We hope that you will be some comfort after her death for those who loved her. More importantly, by naming you for Great-Grandma Emma, we hope you carry on some of her graciousness, her intelligence, her beauty, and her modesty.

Your middle name, Margalit, means “pearl” in Hebrew. We have chosen the name for several reasons, but one of them is that the name Margalit reminds us of Grandma Emma’s dear cousin Martha Benenson, who was like a big sister to Emma. As children, they grew up together after Emma’s parents took in Martha and her brothers. As an adult, Martha lived on her own in Washington, D.C. She lived quietly and modestly, never moving out to California despite Emma’s requests. Your mother remembers her annual visits to Studio City, sitting in the winter sun at the breakfast table and doing crosswords puzzles.

By naming you for both Emma and Martha, we not only remember two extraordinary women, but we also pay tribute to the loyalty and devotion of friendship and family. Their relationship was special in both of their lives, and we wish for you the same quality of intimacy and loyalty throughout your life.

The name Margalit, while literally meaning a pearl, can also be used to talk about the Torah, and Torah learning more generally. Great words of wisdom and learning can be called a Margalit, and we wish you a life filled with Torah learning. Pearls are a jewel of great beauty, and your date of birth is on the day of the Omer corresponding to Yesod shebe’Tiferet, the foundation of beauty. It is a miracle in the world that the foundation of beauty of a pearl is the oyster, not typically thought of as a paragon of beauty. We wish for you a life that recognizes that beauty can be found in all places, from all people, and from all walks of life.

On the Gregorian calendar, were born on April 15, which happens to be World Art Day in memory of Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday. Most Americans remember April 15 as Tax Day. Since your father now works at Intuit, he has joked for several months about naming you TurboTax Radwin if you happened to be born on the 15th. Luckily, you have a mother, and you’re welcome. You also share a birthday with the State of Israel; you were born on the 5th day of the Hebrew month of Iyyar — Yom Ha’Atmaut, Israel Independence Day.

But also, sadly, the day you were born will likely be remembered for acts of violence that happened during the Boston Marathon. You are not born into the same world as your great-grandmother Emma. Things feel more fragile, scary, and violent. It’s not to say that it’s a worse world, but the pressures of trying to make it better more urgently fall upon all of us, and upon you. We wish you a better world, and we will work with you as your parents to help you make it better in your own way.

Which brings us to our first charge. There is a line in the prayer for peace that we say on Shabbat: “We have not come into being to hate or to destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labor, and to love.” Little Emma, regardless of the hatred or violence in world at large, you must find a way to fill your life with praise, labor, and love. May you find opportunities to praise God in everyday things like washing your hands or eating foods, and recount the oneness of God in the recitation of the Sh’ma every night before you go to bed. Find fulfillment in your labor – work using your hands, your heart, and your head. And be sure to love. Love your family, your friends. Love deeply and passionately, even if it means your heart may be broken. It will heal. You have not come into being to hate or to destroy. You have come into being to praise, to labor, and to love.

You come into our family as the fourth of four very extraordinary children, each unique in their own many ways, each strong and determined already. Unlike the way that your older siblings may have molded the family around them, you more than they, inherit a family that is already somewhat set in its ways, a family that has already long ago given up on having children sit down while they eat dinner, but that has not yet given up on catching a Leprechaun. You will of course have the chance to make your own mark on our family and our rhythms. There are more conversations to enter and there are more conversationalists with whom to share the microphone. We welcome you to the big party.

Our final charge for you comes from the the naming ceremony. We recite “K’Shem she-nichnasah la-brit, Ken tikanes le-Torah, u-le-chuppah, u-le-ma’asim tovim”. This is usually translated as the congregation expressing its wishes that the newborn child will grow up to study Torah, be married under the chuppah (wedding canopy), and perform good deeds. Our good friend and teacher Dr. Rabbi Aryeh Cohen translates these a little differently: a life filled with Torah study, meaningful relationships, and and acts of justice and kindness. Regardless of whether you choose to study the sciences or humanities or Torah, we tell you today that learning is something you do not just when you’re in school, but something you do during your whole lifetime. And when it comes to “good deeds” – doing the mitzvot is just the beginning. To truly be a mensch, you’ll need to pursue justice and kindness, especially for those less fortunate than you.

We have so much more we want to tell you and teach you. But you’re not yet even one week old, so perhaps this is enough for now.

Our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude. Brucha habah’ah, welcome to the world, little Emma Margalit.
Love, Ema and Abba

A letter to Sivan Hallel Radwin on the day of her Simchat Bat

Our dear sweet girl,

We are so blessed to have you here today, to introduce you to our community and to share with you the blessings of the covenant of the Jewish people. You are the newest member of the Radwin and Schlesinger families.

We have been waiting for you! Since Pesach we have been counting each day and anticipating your arrival. We’re so excited to finally meet you. And, after getting to know you a little bit this week, studying you, watching you breathe and sleep, we have chosen for you the name Sivan Hallel.

Your first name, Sivan, is chosen to remember two very special women in your family tree, both named Sylvia. Sylvia Weinstein was the dear younger sister of your mother’s grandfather Julius. Sylvia Weinstein was born in 1915 and died just weeks before your parents’ wedding. She had many extraordinary traits, but maybe one of the most special was that, in her eyes — everything and everyone was wonderful. Especially family. She would have thought that you, Sivan, were wonderful, and she would have been so thrilled to meet you and welcome you into the family. We miss her today even as we remember her and name you for her.

You are also named for your father’s grandmother, Sylvia Burns Radwin. Sylvia was a high school biology teacher, a counselor, and an artist. Sylvia was always singing, or humming melodies or songs. Any word you spoke that reminded her of a song lyric would inspire her to sing. She was a bird-watcher, a tennis-player, and a swimmer. She tried unsuccessfully to instill a love of all three of these things in your father. But perhaps these loves skip a generation or two or three, and you will be the one to carry on these passions. Sylvia was a phenomenal story-teller, and we hope to share some of her stories with you. Remind your father some day to tell you the story about the watermelon at summer camp.

Your middle name, Hallel, comes from your great-grandfather, Arthur Radwin. Although his proper American name was Arthur, his Hebrew name and his name in his early years was Haskel, a Yiddish version of the name for “Ezekiel.” Arthur was a lifelong high school educator who taught biology and later became a principal. He had a delightful wry sense of humor, and an unusual culinary aesthetic. Arthur ate leftover cold oatmeal with grated parmesan cheese on more than one occasion. Arthur shared Sylvia’s love of tennis and bird-watching, and taught your father and Uncle David to play soccer.

Your name also comes from the season in which you were born. You made your entrance into this world just 10 days ago on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the eve of the new Hebrew month of Sivan.

Sivan is the third month of the Hebrew calendar year, which, according to the Torah, begins in the spring with the month of Nissan. Sivan, you have both the privilege and the challenge of being born as the third child in our family. You enter a family that not only welcomes you, but that already has a sense of itself — rhythms, habits, stories, and personalities. Some very big personalities. You have a brother and sister who have already demonstrated how deeply they love you and welcome you, and who also have years of practice of sibling interaction. You will both insert (and assert) yourself and learn from those who have come before you. We welcome you into our family, and eagerly await how you will change it.

We also want to reflect a little bit on a second meaning of your middle name, Hallel. Hallel, is not only like your great-grandfather Haskel, but also means “praise.” And, at the beginning of any new Hebrew month is a holiday called Rosh Chodesh, literally the “head of the month” when we include additional prayers. One of the extra prayers for Rosh Chodesh is Hallel, in which we sing Psalms 113-118 as praises to God, often with joyous melodies. Hallel is not only an expression of gratitude for all that is good in the world, but an opportunity to recognize the magnitude of our Creator.

When we think of what it means to “praise,” it seems easy to confuse that with thanksgiving or gratitude. Those are important too, and we take for granted that, growing up in our family, you will develop a deep appreciation and disposition of gratitude for all that will be yours in the world. But to praise is actually a step deeper, because it isn’t personal. It is a choice to see what is good in a world that doesn’t always seem praiseworthy. We live in a world which we wish were kinder, more peaceful, and more just. And yet, “Anachnu nevarech Yah me’atah ve’ad olam”– we shall praise God now and forever. Halleluyah!”

To us, this means to never give up on seeing all that is good, mighty, and powerful. To never lose sight of the miracle of creation– the incredible miracle of the sun rising every morning, setting every evening, the stars and planets suspended forever, the earth spinning, the trees and plants growing, and we humans partnered with God to perfect the world. To praise God is to choose to see the beauty… not just to thank God for what is ours to enjoy, but to recognize all that isn’t.

We ask you to take this as a charge for who you may become: your task in this life will be to find your own calling, your own uniqueness, the way that you can add your voice to the chorus of voices in this humongous world, the harmony that you can bring that nobody else can bring. There are praises of God that you can sing that nobody else will be able to sing, particular gifts that are yours alone, and we as your parents ask you to sing them well.

Sivan Hallel, may you lead a life of Torah and ma’asim tovim, and may you someday be blessed to stand under the chuppah.

Welcome to the world, Brucha ha-ba-ah, our little Sivan Hallel.


Ema and Abba

A letter to Yael Goldie Radwin on the day of her Simchat Bat

Dear Little One,

Welcome to the world, to the community, and to our immediate family. We are overwhelmed with the joy of seeing you, of holding you, of loving the you that you are and the you that you will become.

You have made such a graceful entrance into our lives, sharing with us with the sweetness of your face and surprising us with your vibrant auburn red hair. We have spent many hours this week looking at you, thinking of both what we know of you and what we hope for you, and choose for you the name Yael Goldie.

In the womb, you were so active. We would watch and feel you kicking, and wonder who was in there! When you were born with the shock of red hair, we recognized the biological imperative of your feistiness. We have chosen for you a biblical name of one of the most feisty women in our tradition. Yael the Kinnite woman heroically defended the Jewish people by pinning a tent pin through the head of an enemy general, Sisera. She was a brave military heroine, resourceful enough to be both seductress and warrior as she broke through the rules in zealous protection of her people.

The name Yael has three other meanings. First, and most famously, a Yael is a mountain goat, or ibex. This desert animal certainly is no match for your beauty, but is sure-footed and steady on rough desert terrain. Secondly, Yael can also mean to ascend, or go up. The letters of “Yael” are from a similar root of “aliyah,” moving towards Torah, Jerusalem, or God. We hope that you find your own aspirations of height, and move towards them with the sure-footedness of your namesake.

There is yet one more possible meaning of Yael, perhaps one of the foremost considerations when picking your name. While Yael in Hebrew is spelled yod-ayin-lamed, the syllables suggest a different spelling of: “Yah”- “el”– two names for God. The name said out loud is in itself an affirmation of God. It also shares something in common with both of your parents– the names Michael and Ariella both use “el” to refer to God. We hope that you will find meaning, as we do, in a name that carries within it the name of God.

Your middle name is Goldie, which we know is an unusual name for a little girl born in 2008. Your namesake, Goldie Kassel was born 110 years ago, and yet you are the first little girl to be born in the family since she passed away in 2001. Your grandmother will speak to you more about her own grandmother, but we just wanted to reflect the very gentle way that Goldie Offenbach was, in her own way, an incredibly fesity woman. She possessed about her an incredible zest for life, and she found her own feistiness giggling her way through life. We hope for you the same infectious fun.

For your Hebrew middle name, rather than choose a translation of “Goldie,” we choose the name Gila, which means joy. It seems a rather fitting tribute to your great-great-grandmother, and also a fitting name for you, named just a few days into the month of Adar, a month of rejoicing.

And it is indeed a month for our family to rejoice in the addition of you.

You enter our immediate family as a second child. Your older brother Noam has been awaiting your arrival so eagerly, rehearsing over and over the narrative of how you would be born, where you would sleep, and the love you would bring. Eleven days into your life, he is eager to hold you, to give you hugs and kisses goodnight, and to always account for your whereabouts. Enjoy it the best you can. Enjoy the close relationship you have with him, even though it is occasionally perilous these days. Nonetheless, we hope that as you grow, you continue to hold onto that closeness and share your life with him.

You are also blessed to have a large extended family which is eager to love you. Today you have celebrating with you aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, great-aunts and uncles and great-grandparents who have come together to witness the miracle of you, to welcome you and bring you much love.

As we write this letter to you, we also want to take a moment to reflect to you our hopes and prayers for what we hope will be a wonderful life in front of you. We know that we will have many more opportunities to speak to you, but today we are struck by the family, the community, and the world, and how you may change the places where you tread.

We ask you to be a good citizen in the world around you. Be mindful of other people, and strive towards righteousness. Take care of the planet. Take care of yourself– of your body and of your emotional state. Make good friends, and keep them forever. Do acts of justice and kindness. Study hard, learn things, and use the knowledge to make the world a better place. Share your wisdom with the greater community, become a sage, be a person that others admire. Thrive.

We know that these are tall orders for a little person just 11 days old, but we hope that you will have a long healthy life to carry them out. Never stop trying.

Who you are will leave an imprint on the people around you and the world at large. You will leave a unique mark on the world simply by being the best version of yourself that you can be, by finding your calling, and pursuing it. As your parents, we pledge to support the paths you choose in whatever ways we can.

We are so happy to welcome you to our family. Welcome, welcome, Brucha ha-ba-ah, Yael Goldie.


Ema and Abba

It’s a girl!


Originally uploaded by mradwin

Baby Girl Radwin was born January 31, 2008 at 2:40am. She weighed in at 8 lbs, 8 oz and is 19 1/2″ long. Mom and baby are doing great, Noam is a proud big brother, and Abba is on cloud nine.

I want a DadGear Cargo Baby Gear Jacket

Costco DadGear Cargo Baby Gear Jacket

Changing Pad, Diaper, Wipes and Bottle Pockets


Plus Shipping & Handling


Fatherhood hasn’t changed my general consumerist lust for new things. It has merely shifted it to a whole new class of products I didn’t know I needed until now.

The concept behind the DadGear style is simple – a masculine look combined with high quality materials and thoughtful design. The goal for DadGear products is not just neutral or unfeminine, but style that reflects who we are – guys. Guys who take pride in caring for their kids.

Oh, and I want an iPhone, too.

Leave of Absence

I’m taking a leave of absence from Yahoo to take care of Noam for a few months. Thanks to President Clinton for signing the Family Medical Leave Act in 1994.

My leave of absence from this blog is hereby over. At least for the next 11 weeks, I expect to blog at least once a week.

Here’s a picture of Noam in his stroller at the park by the California Ave train station, taken with my brand new Nikon D200.