Spain, Frankfurt, and Wikimania (2005-08-01 to 2005-08-08)
With returning a day late from Venezuela, I had just one night in Cambridge before a brief trip to Europe. I had to hurry just to make all the preparations to leave again. The pocket of my computer bag where I keep tickets, photos, and various other important papers was overdue for cleaning out.
My first stop was in a small town near Antequera, Spain. They had told me the event was in Malaga, but I never actually saw that city. The event was to train the people who are going to be installing and supporting GNU/Linux in schools across Andalusia.
When I arrived, it was time for lunch. At that point I discovered that essentially all the beverages, aside from beer which I don't like at all, were from Coca Cola company--even the bottled water. No way that I would drink any of that! Fortunately there were pitchers of tap water, which I drank. The water in Antequera comes from mountain springs and would be worth bottling, but people in Spain find it unthinkable to drink water from the faucet. I tried telling a few others about the Coca Cola boycott, and felt devastated by frustration when they did not want to listen.
The meeting was held in an institution for meetings of youths from Spain and Latin America, operated by an arm of the Spanish government. It was the government that had made an exclusive contract with Coca Cola. The organizers of the meeting could not do anything.
The next day was a spare day. I always plan to arrive at least 24 hours before my speech, on long trips, in case a flight is canceled. (On the few occasions when I made a mistake in planning this cushion, I was a day late and missed everything.) Aside from working, I visited a site of amazing beauty -- El Torcal, large area of karst on the top of a mountain. We were there shortly before dusk, and wild goats were beginning to come out to browse. We walked towards one, which continued eating, showing no fear of us, until we were about 20 feet away.
Then I felt an urge to play some music and see how the goat would react. I pulled my recorder from my pocket and played just a few notes. The goat snorted and walked slowly away. What a horrible failure--music despised even by goats! We all laughed.
The next morning I gave my speech, and was immediately whisked away by car to Sevilla, which was the only nearby airport that had a flight that would get me to my next destination that same day. It was Valencia, where I visited my friends, and spoke in a book store in Castellon to sell copies of Software Libre para una Sociedad Libre.
The following day I was off to Frankfurt for the Wikimania conference. On arriving in Valencia airport I discovered that my flight to Frankfurt had a paper ticket--and I could not find it. I searched the ticket pocket over and over. What had I done? Had I lost that ticket? Never received it? Left it home? Air France has carefully designed policies which ensure that they can't possibly help a person in that situation They will not issue a replacement ticket unless they can contact the travel agency that issued the ticket. Since the flight departed at 1pm, which in Boston was 7am, there was no chance of doing this before the flight. But they also arbitrarily refuse to issue a replacement ticket after the flight has departed (which could have been changed to a later flight).
During all this, I was trying to call my contact in the Wikimania conference to find if they would cover the cost of a new ticket. He had said he'd be reachable through his cellular phone while there in Frankfurt, but I only got voice mail. It turns out he was talking about someone else's cell phone and I didn't know the number.
I had no way of finding out whether I would be able to get my money back for the lost tickets. All I could do was get the the cheapest available ticket to Frankfurt. I arrived there late in the evening and not at the hour I was expected. Fortunately nothing went wrong.
The next day I spoke about Copyright vs Community. This is a talk that I often give, in which I state the views I have reached as a result of generalizing the ideas of free software to other kinds of written works. I reached these conclusions in several steps--first, in the 80s, concluding that software manuals have to be free because they ought to be included with the software; then, in the late 90s, concluding that reference works and educational works in general ought to be free. In 1999 I began to write an article proposing The Free Universal Encyclopedia and Learning Resource, which I believe had some influence in the development of Wikipedia. At the same time I extended some of the same ideas to other kinds of works, and that is what Copyright vs Community is mainly about.