Nat Friedman

Archive for June 2002

30 June 2002

We’re cruising at 32,000 feet on an Air Canada CRJ now, passing over northern New York which from here looks sparse and green through the heavy summer haze. The last few days in Ottawa were a twisted mix of deep & heady talks on the Linux kernel during the day and a desperate, unabated drunken revelry by night.

And if I was disappointed in the city’s quiet civility and whiney juvenility during the G8, this was more than made up for by the wild energy in the streets and pubs and restaurants that resulted from the concurrence of Canada Day weekend and Brazil’s World Cup victory.

26 June 2002

The word broccoli originates at the vulgar Latin brocca, meaning “spike.” Brocca morphed into the Italian broccolo, for “shoot” or “sprout” before ending up at the English broccoli.

The sour taste in sourdough bread comes from the lactate byproduct of the lactobacilli bacterial, which culture, combined with yeast, is fed a diet of flour and water for three or four days before being made into bread.

We’re in Ottawa for OLS. The G8 graffiti is amusing, but it really brings home the bored-middle-class-teenager aspect of the antiglobalization culture.

Today was numbingly calm, as if the city had prep’d for the event by spiking the tapwater with sedatives. Or more accurately, as if the protesters were just bored, middle-class teenagers, angry about nothing in particular but with a vague and lingering sense of nihilism & malaise, looking for someone else to blame. Blah.

Oh, but today we released GNOME 2.0.0. Check it out.

21 June 2002

Shit, Jacob is right: June is fading fast. And here I seem to have fallen silent. Work has been busy. It seems that everyone in America has reached the breaking point with Microsoft’s licensing practices, and our phones just won’t stop ringing… So I’ve been on the road a lot lately, busting my ass and having a pretty good time.

And the Fiat has been breaking down left and fucking right. Day two, after it won’t start and the ordeal with cables and those big alligator clips and positive and negative terminals, it dies idling at a busy intersection and there’s this picturesque scene with me pushing and Alex steering and huge SUVs that we could easily fit underneath honking and swerving around us and it lasts about 10 minutes till we’re out of the way and the tow guy can be summoned.

And of course the real riot is that we have to replace half the car — battery, alternator, fan belt, timing belt, steering column bushings, oil, brake fluid, windshield wipers — at a cost upwards of $700, a serious chunk of cash, particularly when indexed against the $2500 we spent to purchase the thing.

And as we leave the garage in a taxi I’m running through the list of Fiat-related checks we’ve written in the last two days and the whole thing is just so goddamned funny that I turn to Alex and say, “You know, dude, since we bought this car, we’ve spent an awful lot of money on taxis.”

But such is life, and it’s true that there is nothing like motoring through Harvard Square with The Strokes blaring in an opentop car that’s older than you are, parts dropping off clanging onto the road and swinging a U turn across traffic to run back and pick them up.

I’m in the valley now where it’s cold and damp and gray and disgusting, and I always forget to bring a light jacket when I come out here. So many people talk about moving to California like some kind of End Goal with this sad, dreamy conviction, staring off into the empty space up and to the right, like: once I’m in California, everything will be oh-kay. And I feel comfortable invoking the Greek and mixing it with Norse ideas when I say that it’s like some kind of Valhallan Telos.

Martin Amis wrote about California as where they’ll pump out your blood, clean and filter it, rework your cells and replace your faulty parts, restoring you to womb-like health & perfection. Ruddy raw happiness.

I wonder if when people talk about California or Paris or Tibet like this, do they realize: it’s just another place.

My sister works in a cancer ward at a hospital in Boston and talking to dying people on the phone, people whose days are literally numbered, scheduling their next chemo treatment or examination and they’ll say: “Just a moment, I’ve got another call,” or “I won’t be able to take that much time off work,” or something similarly quotidien and therefore seemingly completely at odds with what’s happening to them. And she’s shocked: But they’re dying! But as it turns out cancer is just another place.

3 June 2002

Alex and I went out and bought a ’76 Fiat 124 Spider over the weekend. This is the model carsurvey.org calls “a unique money vampire.” Most people seem to consider this a negative. “You morons,” they might say, “you’re stone broke and you’ve impulse-purchased a decades-old high-maintenance European roadster?” People actually say this sort of thing. People can be so cruel.

The guy we bought it from is some sort of major Fee-yacht enthusiast, delivering unprompted an exhaustive list of all the models he and his father have owned over the years. So the car has been well cared-for, and it drives like a dream. Actually, I think it’s aged a lot better than I have. And I was born in ’77.

I’m looking forward to wiring the iPod to the stereo.

Unfortunately we’ve only gotten to drive it for a couple of hours: the time it took us to realize that criss-crossing the busiest parts of Boston in a car without insurance, registration, plates or a valid city inspection sticker might be a bad idea. Also bad was when Alex couldn’t tell the speedometer from the tachometer, and when, 24 hours later, the Cambridge police called the previous owner to ask why he’d left his car plateless overnight in a Cambridge parking garage.

“That’s not my car,” he helpfully replied.

A couple of my friends have asked me how I can be anti-oil and still spend money to keep a high-emissions vehicle on the road. To deftly dodge the question (and to cull shamelessly from my email), I once read somewhere that it’s a sign of enlightenment to be able to hold two contradicting ideas in your head at the same time.

Or maybe it’s a symptom of the Orwellian double-think promulgated by the global petroleum juggernauts who’ve convinced us all that true freedom is the wind in your hair and an open road. And how can you be happy if you’re not truly free?

(You are in control. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery. You are in control.)

Or maybe I just want to be loved.

Anyway, we’d like our car to be as beautiful on the outside as we are on the inside, so if you’re in the Boston area, like to paint, and want to leave your mark on one of the body panels, drop me a line.

Oh, and if you’re a GNOME Foundation member, you should consider coming to the Boston GNOME Summit that we’ve been putting together. It’s sure to be a rocking good time.

2 June 2002

Facing an increasing need for solitude, respite, etc, I’ve spent a little time lately looking for an apartment of my own. We pay such regal sums at our current place, I figured I’d be able to find something decent without any significant change in the monthly rent rape. But as it turns out, the entire Boston housing market is like some kind of death-desperate vampirish lech clamping down hard on your neck and draining you dry.

I recently discovered that the four-unit building I currently call home, for which our landlord pulls in, collectively for all units, somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 a month in hard-earned tenant rent, has an on-the-books appraised value of only $600,000. This is absolutely fucking insane: I’ve seen single unit condos go for more than that next door. So our landlord pays taxes on a quarter of the total sellable building value — on a bad day. He probably covers his entire annual cost of property tax and maintenance fees in a couple months of tenant rent, a position incrementally improved for him by a near-total negligence toward basic building maintenance issues like, you know, heat.

And there’s something about the whole sick, sad affair that seems to me sexually perverse. I picture this big dirty den, the weekly meeting place of the Secret Society of Boston Landlords, where under the cover of darkness they gather to beat off to the current and rising rent rates. It’s a circle jerk of financial perversity — the one place in the city where supply meets demand — and when they’re done, spent and empty, a cadre of defaulting tenants is sent in to mop the spooge off the floor and drain it into gilded buckets of feudal excess.

Well fuck them. It’s time to find another way. I’m cutting out of the whole cruel game. Let someone else be a tenant for a while. I’m done.

I may be a little behind the curve, but I’m catching on.


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