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...making Linux just a little more fun!
Silicon Valley Humor, Baby Boomer Style
By Janine M Lodato

I am lucky. I accompany my husband, Laszlo, to all the important high level board meetings and listen to how these smart Silicon Valley executives enjoy the new revolutionary passion of my husband, the Hungarian revolutionary who fought the Soviets and put the first big crack into that Evil Empire. But now his revolution is against the real Evil Empire: Microsoft. His new weapons are Linux and the Internet.

During one of the coffee breaks Laszlo cannot resist making the point about the importance of coffee in the world of revolution. The students in Budapest in 1956 sewed the seeds of revolution hovering over their double espressos in the coffeehouse on Castle Hill in Buda. Ever since the death of Joseph Stalin In 1953, the male youth of Budapest have been meeting almost daily to plot an uprising against their communist oppressors.

Not until today, October 22nd, 1956, does the time seem ripe for action.

His university colleagues and he determine which city squares they will stage their peaceful protests in: the technical university in Bem Square, the medical university in the square of the revolutionary poet, the universities of science and the arts in still other squares around Buda and Pest.

Over the centuries, coffee has earned the reputation of stimulating thought, boosting energy levels, preventing sleep, fostering opposition to rulers. Certain rulers throughout history (Napoleon, Frederick the Great, Pope Clement) have even tried to ban its widespread use because of its reputation. Late in the 16th century, Pope Clement liked coffee so much, he decided to adopt it, not ban it.

By 1700, coffeehouses in England were banned as hotbeds of revolution. In 1789, Danton met with fellow revolutionaries in Paris coffeehouses to plan the French Revolution. 1956 sees no bans on coffeehouses in Hungary, so he and his colleagues sip their espressos in this coffeehouse in Buda talking of strategies for the revolution they have planned to begin tomorrow.

The meeting is at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco with its atmosphere quite coffeehouse-like and quite appropriate for this revolutionary discussion.The Board members arrive early morning at the marina and are greeted by a high fog and drizzle. By noon, the fog burns off and the day is beautiful, clear, sunny and cool, typical of San Francisco's summertime weather. The setting of the Yacht Club with its great windows and verandas provides a spectacular panorama of the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz at one end of the picture window and the Golden Gate Bridge at the other. Squawking seagulls furnish the sound effects for the meeting as they nose dive to the deck to pick up the bread crumbs left for them.

But the meeting is very long so my feet often swell from hanging down as I sit in my wheelchair.

The subject of the meeting is deep and important: what can assistive technology do for, what must it do for the baby boomers.

As baby boomers creep into old age, we acknowledge the passing of our grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents, movie stars and singers from the generation ahead of us. In rare instances, we have even been forced to accept the deaths of two famous peers, both Beatles, some infamous peers and worst of all, some of our children. Now it is time for us to face the reality of our own mortality, something I have had to do since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1980.

It won't be long before we must say goodbye to that generation of actors which includes Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor. In 1970 we tried hard to look like them. Now we try hard NOT to look like them. Soon enough, we will bid farewell to other favorite actors and singers, such as Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, the two remaining Beatles, Elton John, Congress, the Clintons and finally to our families or whoever is left when our time is up.

Deadheads used to listen to the music of the Grateful Dead for relief from their woes. Now they call Dr. Jack Kevorkian for that relief.

In 1994, the world saw Superman as a courageous, heroic, fictitious character and admired him for his bravery. After his accident in 1995, the world saw Superman (Christopher Reeve) as a courageous, heroic, real-life figure and admired him even more for his bravery.

Because I am now confined to a wheelchair with near quadreplegia and can no longer run from anything, I need to use voice recognition for the computer and the telephone both requiring aid from my husband in moving the mouse and pushing buttons. The same goes for the remote controlling devices for the television and the CD player. I need hands-free control of the computer, telephone, television, CD player and wheelchair.

The point is, good things about me do exist: I am not blind, I am not broke, I am not boring, I am not betrayed and I am not braindead.

It would behoove people in the high-tech industry to produce hands-free products controlled by voice recognition paired with lip-reading to improve accuracy. I'm sure that day will come, I just don't know when. In the meantime, I must make use of voice recognition as it stands in 2002 so I speak to my computer and yell at my husband but the computer responds better and does not have an attitude.

Everyone is disabled at some time in their lives. Consider the driver who must always keep her eyes on the road. She is better off using voice activation to initiate, converse on and end telephone calls. One day , a car will be driven using voice activation. It's only a matter of time.

Technology developers should keep in mind that baby boomers make up a large share of the market. If they can bring in-home and automobile technology up to speed for that generation, they will win bigtime.

After many grueling hours of meeting at the Yacht Club, my husband reaches down and pulls my legs up to rest in his lap. Upon seeing this, one board member says to me, Your husband is so gracious. To which I respond, Yes, he can be very gracious. But don't let down your guard. He can also be a real asshole.

When Laszlo hears this, he adds, Mind you, that's not just any old asshole, that's a Royal Asshole.


Copyright © 2003, Janine M Lodato. Copying license http://www.linuxgazette.com/copying.html
Published in Issue 91 of Linux Gazette, June 2003

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