Beachhead - Tales from the Beach

Maddog introduces his new column with liquid poetry in motion.

I have always loved the ocean, and by very definition, the beach. Jimmy Buffet was always my favorite singer, not just because of the music, which mostly told of fun and carefree days, but because of his music's relation with the sea and the beach. Of course, I like organ music too, and cathedrals, but anyone who is not swayed by Jimmy's magic in my book is a little bizarre.

When I was living in California, I would often go to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to people watch. Santa Cruz was the first place I took Linus Torvalds and his young family when they moved to California. It is the stuff of the Beach Boys and surfer living, but families go there too to relax and watch the sea lions. Few people get angry at the beach. I also enjoy going to Florianopolis, Brazil, every year during our winter to attend OpenBeach—a bunch of geeks and their loved ones sitting around, sunning and talking about Software Livre!

Sailors also like beaches, and I like sailing. Not “racing sailing” (sorry, Don Becker of Beowulf fame) but “cruising sailing”, with a cooler of cold drinks in the cockpit and one hand on the helm, your friends sunning themselves on the foredeck. Sailing your boat into a quiet cove, dropping anchor in the shallow water and diving overboard for a swim to a small island restaurant on the beach. “No shoes, no shirt...no problem!” Bathing suits are overdress.

Many late nights (and early mornings) in Bermuda, Tortola, St. Johns, Veracruz and “Floropa” with friends at various “Pirate Bars” (and you know who you are!). Reggae or Latino music rules in those spots (although good ole rock and roll also works), as young bodies hop to the beat and old men and women hold hands and watch, remembering when they were young. Beach restaurants, music everywhere...Gilberto Gil seems to Creatively weave a Commons ground (a tip of the hat to Lawrence Lessig). I wish the United States had a minister of culture like Mr. Gil.

Blue penguins (also known as fairy penguins) are so small they come ashore only at dusk and in waves, so the predators that typically swoop from the sky will be confused at the numbers. They waddle madly for the cover of the tall beachhead grass and their nests, where they are safe.

There is, of course, a darker side to the beach. It is where the full force of the ocean meets the earth. Victims of hurricanes and of the Tsunami in Asia understand that all too well. It is also the spot that a lot of the fiercest battles were waged, as armies of men tried to come ashore in times of war, with little cover from enemy weaponry.

And in these days, development of the beachhead leaves many without access. People with money and power buy the land and close it off so others cannot access it. To be fair, some people who want to use the beach do not treat it well, leaving garbage and glass where they should not. The people who close off the beach say it is “to protect their property” or to “protect their privacy”, but it still limits the resource.

The beachhead should be available for everyone, for there is only a limited amount of beaches on the planet, and everyone should be able to enjoy them.

So this column is named Beachhead, and it describes me (think “Parrot Head” and you will understand), the beach itself and a frame of mind. I hope that sometimes it brings you joy and fun, like walking barefoot on a hot day down the beach with your best friend, waves splashing over your feet and a cold drink in your hand, watching for the penguins.

Some days it will not be so nice, casting a storm warning. Some may stay, not believing the warning. Others may evacuate, fearing the tides will be too high, and others will batten down, knowing that the seawall may go, but unless they are there with the sandbags, disaster will certainly happen. Free and Open Source people that I have met always have sandbags.

And some days there will be news of the Tsunami, and it will hurt, but we know that life will go on and renew. We have friends to help us.

Welcome to the Beachhead.

Jon “maddog” Hall is the Executive Director of Linux International (www.li.org), a nonprofit association of end users who wish to support and promote the Linux operating system. During his career in commercial computing, which started in 1969, Mr Hall has been a programmer, systems designer, systems administrator, product manager, technical marketing manager and educator. He has worked for such companies as Western Electric Corporation, Aetna Life and Casualty, Bell Laboratories, Digital Equipment Corporation, VA Linux Systems and SGI. He is now an independent consultant in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Business and Technical issues.

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