This week I met Irene Pepperberg and Alex, the African gray parrot that she has taught to understand and use a large number of words.
On Dec 26 I went home to Boston from Spain. About 40 minutes before arrival time, my laptop display died completely. It had previously shown a tendency to turn off occasionally, but suspending and unsuspending had fixed it before. This time no; not even shutting down the machine and removing the batteries made the screen function. I began to wonder how I could get any further work done until I obtained a new machine. Would connecting it to an external monitor produce a useful display?
I started writing this in the station in Rabat, after getting off the train from Marrakech. You could call it the Marrakech Express, or the Marrakech Local, because there's only one kind of train between Marrakech and Casablanca or Rabat. The trains are European, perhaps 30 years old--enough to seem less than new, but not enough to be quaint.
My short trip this month began with speeches in Santander and Bilbao, Spain. Traveling to Santander gave me a chance to see the beautiful rock-surrounded beaches; we also had time for a brief trip to the mountains of Asturias to the west.
I returned to Venezuela after Mexico, for a conference called Artists and Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity. On Saturday, our main activity was a meeting where President Chavez would speak. I had lunch that day with Sergeant-Major Torres, who has converted the Venezuelan Army's servers to GNU/Linux, and his wife. Since we've become friends, I encouraged him to come back to the hotel and try to get into the meeting too, figuring the security would probably ok his entry, and they did.
I spent a week in Venezuela, giving a speech and some interviews at an event which invited speakers from all across Latin America. During the event, the state oil company PDVSA announced its decision to switch 100% to free software. Their decision is not based on convenience or cost; it is based on sovereignty. Their computers used to be handled by a US company, SAIC. When opponents of President Chavez tried to drive him from office by shutting down oil protection, the US government helped out by telling SAIC to prevent them from using their computers. PDVSA therefore knows from experience that using non-free software means you are at the mercy of the developers, and has decided to solve the problem for good and all.
It was horribly hot in Denpasar when I arrived, just as it had been in Java, Malaysia, and Singapore. But I expected it to be comfortable in Ubud, which is at a higher elevation. I arranged to stay in a really nice home-stay place, where I stayed the previous time, around 7 years ago. I was comfortable there without air conditioning on my previous visit.
I was invited to Australia so as to speak at the Builder conference, which was canceled shortly before I got there (but they had already bought my tickets). This did not mean the visit was wasted, since I had arranged 9 other speeches. The Australian Senate had attached some conditions to the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, and it looked like the US might reject the treaty as a result, which would give Australia a second chance to escape. I arranged to give several speeches about the danger of software patents.
A week ago my plan was to give two speeches in Amsterdam on Wednesday Sep 29, then go to Paris on Sep 30. But in Geneva I learned that there was an e-Democracy conference in Paris on Sep 30 at which it would be useful for me to speak. Francis Muguet was organizing my participation, but it turned out on Tuesday that the only time I could speak was the morning.
Yesterday I visited Luxemburg for the first time. Now I have been in all the countries of the European Union.