Belgium and Spain (2005-05-31 to 2005-06-19)
On leaving Taiwan, at the end of May, I went to Brussels for another event in the European Parliament to oppose software patents. The event had few attendees, because the part of the conservative bloc that supports software patents organized a counter-event at the same time. The people from FFII mostly went to their event, to point out the falsehoods in what the pro-patent people were saying. By holding their counter-event, they pissed off the rest of their party, which could have been good for us.
After this I had a nice lunch with MEP Carl Schlytter, in which we talked about various common political goals and how to push the European Parliament itself towards use of free software. Then we went to the place that a protest was scheduled. We had to walk about 15 minutes to get there, and I was exhausted when I arrived. There were 100 or 200 people, and I was surprised by its location--in a place that few people would see it.
Then I found out the reason for that location--they were planning to march back along the path I had just walked. I told them I was too tired for a march, and wished them good luck.
In Brussels I had a chance for the first time to try Marcolini's chocolates. They were both creative and delicious. Imagine a chocolate whose center is a liquid with the flavor of violets--or Earl Grey tea. I liked them so much that I decided to return the next morning, taking a bus and rushing back before flying out, to get more that I could share with the people I would see in subsequent visits.
My next stop was Barcelona, where I gave a couple of speeches. The first place I planned to stay was with a friend. His air conditioner's compressor was broken, so I desperately contacted the conference organizers to put me in a hotel instead. But on the second day I found a person in the conference that I could stay with. The hotel was comfortable enough, but I'd rather stay with people than in a hotel.
Although I had been there four times before, this time I began to get a feel for the layout of the city and how to get around in it. I walked for a while in Montjuic park. I also discovered a marvelous new restaurant, Restauran Toc.
Also in Barcelona I had a chance to realize a plan I have had in mind for more than a year, but could not get the necessary material: I made an ephemeral sculpture out of a lily. One of the flower shops in the Rambla had the right kind of lily, red and not opening too wide. The sculpture's title is "De-lirio", which in Spanish means both "delirium" and "(made) of lily".
Then I left for a lightning tour to Leon, Madrid and Valencia, then and back to Barcelona. From Leon we went to Asturias to visit a cave and the mountains.
In Madrid I arranged to have dinner with two free software activists and friends, Pablo Machon and Jose Marchesi, in El Cenador del Prado, a restaurant that had been very fine in the past. The food didn't seem to be quite as good, this time, as I remembered it--I wonder if they lost their chef. After Pablo and I arrived in central Madrid from the airport, we first went in search of a replacement for one of the records that was stolen in March, Las Seis Tentaciones by La Musgaña. (This group plays traditional music from Castille, which has little resemblance to what most people think of as Spanish music, and this record always makes me want to dance.) The first department store told us it was backordered, which was extremely frustrating since it suggested I would probably have to wait months or a year for another chance to get it. But we found one copy in another department store.
Walking to the restaurant, we passed the parking lot on the way. I was already tired, so I asked Pablo to go down and get the bag with the Marcolini chocolates. I had saved 1/3 of them for this occasion, to share with them. He retrieved it, and then we walked to the restaurant and waited for Jose. After dinner, I told them how great the chocolate was, and opened the bag. It was the wrong bag.
By the time we got back to the car and found the right bag in the trunk of the car, they had all melted together and were totally ruined. We threw them away; there was nothing else to do with them.
The next day it was on to Valencia, where I saw my friends who live there. The next morning I was supposed to do an internet radio program at the university in Castellon, with a few people present to hear it. They turned out to be a room full of students, and it turned out to be a normal speech.
I spent one night in Barcelona so I could fly out of there the next day. Although it only takes two hours by train from Castellon to Barcelona, with the various connections and delays I'd have had to leave at 7:30 to get there in time for my flight, and that would have been especially painful before heading six timezones west.
Instead of going home, I went to New York. I put this in the plan hoping to do an FSF fund-raiser dinner there. (Have you donated to the FSF lately?) But this was canceled because we didn't get suggestions for potential donors that were not already donating. The visit was the occasion to discover that the two Ceylon restaurants and my favorite Burmese restaurant had all closed.