Travel and work

I am writing this blog entry in Nicaragua. I could stay with my friend Phil, in a nice western house close to the town centre with water, 24/7 wireless internet, hot water shower, my own bathroom and toilet, and a modern kitchen. Or, I could stay with my friend Dora and her four children, who live in the outskirts of Esteli, with... well, put it this way: none of the above.

For the first three weeks in Esteli, I opted for the easy way, with Phil. However, I decided that I was making a mistake, and... well, when in Rome, do what Romans do. And besides, I really missed living with Dora. So, here I am.

I made my life a little easier (and their life a lot better) by buying a fridge (!) and a mattress. However, I am still challenged by the total absence of privacy in any circumstance, as well as the absence of running water. I can only connect to the internet in the morning, because walking back home after 7:00PM is like asking the local bagos to rob you. (Only if you are a gringo: white skin and gringo clothes; officially, “gringo” means “from the United States”. However, I don’t think it makes much difference when you are being robbed).

I found it terribly hard to work while travelling. I am lacking the mental and the physical space to do so.

In the free software movement we have a pearl. The pearl has a name: Richard Stallman. While for many Stallman is this madman who only makes half-sense every other day, people who actually know what he does learn how to respect him. Funnily, everybody seems to have a different reason to respect him; until now, my reason was his consistency. He has some very strong ideas, and my God he really follows them through. These ideas aver very important, and even bending them slightly could mean a complete loss of freedom. He was right about software patents from the very beginning; he was right about Caldera... err pardon me, SCO, and had predicted the current disaster (which cost IBM—and therefore the free software movement—millions of dollars) years before it actually happened—I still have his email about it and read it again recently.

Today, I have one extra reason to look up to him: the amount of work he gets done even though he travels. I now really understand it when he says “it’s not feasible for me to look at a web site”. And I now realise the amount of effort it takes to find the will to work while travelling. However, it’s one of those things that you need to experience to fully understand it. I was in Boston and dropped him an email, and he said “Tony, it would have taken exceptional luck to find me in Boston on a random day”. And yet, he manages to get a lot done.

Next time you feel like bashing or flaming him for being extremist, or for talking a lot without any facts, keep in mind that he wrote gcc (along with the whole GNU system) and that he devotes his life to helping (saving?) the free software movement politically. And it would take “exceptional luck” for him to be at home—at home—for extended periods of time.


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