Douglas Adams, the brilliant author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. The idea is that you take your towel everywhere you go, as — according to The Guide — “a towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have”.
Douglas, who indisputably died too soon, had the idea for the book while lying drunk in a field on a camping-site: “The idea for the title first cropped up, while I was lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1971. Not particularly drunk, just the sort of drunk you get when you have a couple of stiff Gössers after not having eaten for two days straight.”
So me and some co-hackers thought it would be a good idea (and a great tribute) to go to Innsbruck on that day and try to find the exact location. Alas, it turns out that the camping-site doesn’t exist anymore — it has been replaced by a nursing home. Here are the exact coordinates, in case you want to go there as well:
On the train from Munich to Innsbruck I reread a couple of chapters from Douglas’ last book, “Salmon of Doubt”; one of the chapters is a transcript of a fascinating talk he gave in 1998, which is entitled “Is there an artificial god?” (transcript)(mp3).
The reason why I like this talk so much is that Douglas succinctly explains the origins and purposes of religions as well as how technology and scientific progress — he differentiates between “four ages of sand” — shaped our view of the world and religions. Very inspiring words… a must read (hear) for any carbon-based, ape-descendant, bipedal life form.