Nat Friedman

Archive for May 2004

29 May 2004

26 May 2004

Friday I was at an all-day meeting near San Francisco. Interesting people, interesting conversation.

Friday night Mike Shaver, Chris Toshok and myself went to the DNA Lounge, where Jamie and Angela assiduously plied us with sugary inebriants. I ended up missing my 8am return flight, and decided to spend Saturday wandering around San Francisco.

Mid-afternoon found me at 826 Valencia, Dave Eggers’s writing workshop for students ages 8-18. I saw Stephen Elliott there and bought his latest book, Happy Baby. 826 Valencia is a bit unusual; the space is zoned for retail, and the proprietors are required to offer something for sale to people who wander in off the street, though the back 80% of the store is filled with tables and computers used for teaching and writing.

To meet the zoning requirements, they’ve turned the front into a “pirate store,” where eye patches, jolly roger flags and poison rings are offered for sale, and where one can barter for pure lard by the pound. It’s not clear what pirates use lard for, but it’s there. For public health reasons, they’re not allowed to sell the lard, and hence the bartering arrangement.

Of course, books are also sold.


In 826 Valencia.

I was planning on taking the redeye back to Boston, but then I remembered that my friend Jimmy was in LA, and suddenly the idea of sitting in an airplane all night Saturday night struck me as pretty unappealing. So I flew to LA.

Jimmy and his friend Rory are Caltech alums, and my friend Rony is dating a Caltech girl, so we headed over to campus in Pasadena to check out the party that they were throwing.

We were tired and not really in a party mood, so after an hour we decided to walk the campus a bit. Caltech is gorgeous and very SoCal: clay-tiled roofs, unclear distinctions between indoor and outdoor space, scattered palm trees, etc. The hallways, however, were pretty familiar to anyone who’s spent time at MIT.

Sunday we drove to Venice Beach for empanadas and to take pictures of the daily freakshow that is the VB boardwalk.

Jimmy introduced me to empanadas in Argentina, when we were exploring Buenos Aires in December. They were delicious.


From the beach we rushed to Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard for a post-prandial movie. We saw Troy, and Jamie’s observation — that the movie portrayed the Trojan War as taking place in about three weeks instead of the ten years it actually took — was irking me the whole time. Overall, a pretty good movie. Not sure I would have spent $170 million making it though.

After the movie, we ate polish food at an awesome restaurant called Polka, and then I watched Jimmy and Rory hackey-sack in the parking lot before catching my flight home.

I can’t remember any time in my life when an ordinary two-day weekend has felt so incredibly long. Graham Greene’s book, Travels with my Aunt, ends with a story about a man who learns he has only 30 days left to live. He knows that he cannot lengthen his life and so he devises a strategy to make it feel longer. Too sick to travel, he pools his wealth and rents an enormous mansion in Italy for a month. Every night, he sleeps in a different bedroom, sometimes dragging himself from room to room down the hallway by his arms, so weak is he that he cannot walk. The constantly-changing surroundings keep his mind stimulated and on the final day, he dies a happy man.

If you want to make your weekend last, keep changing cities.

. . .

In other news, the collapse of the new airport terminal in Paris has struck me as a personal tragedy. Such a beautiful building, now partially crumbled and perhaps doomed to being razed. Last month I wrote this in my diary:

The new terminal 2 at charles de gaulle airport in Paris is an extraordinary building. It is modern without being stark. It is vast and grand, white and clean, and somehow it gives hope that out of this culture there can come good. It seems to spring not from the mind of a great architect but from the best parts of a society that sees a humane future in a world of technology and quantity.

An architect in Cambridge, Brad Bellows, is quoted as saying: “We don’t want to purge the world of future Golden Gate bridges, Notre-Dame cathedrals, and Concordes. It should not be lost in the aftermath of its failure that Terminal 2E was a gorgeous piece of work.”

Hear, hear.


Me in Terminal 2E of Charles de Gaulle in October of 2003.


Terminal 2E today.

11 May 2004

The past couple of months were pretty busy, scrubbing code and going through legal and security approvals, but this morning we open sourced our Exchange connector. We also announced that the upcoming version of Evolution will support both Exchange and Novell GroupWise servers out of the box. You can get source code for both backends in GNOME CVS today.

This is an important step. Desktops need a standard set of core APIs for personal addressbook information, to allow things like unified presence information, identity-based data association, and to build a richly integrated environment for collaboration. Our intent is to establish Evolution as the standard client for addressbook, mail and calendaring to make these things possible. And now that Evolution is 100% open source, it is not only a true competitor for Outlook, it also has a real shot at being the hub of your personal information/collaboration environment.

10 May 2004

(I’m in Virginia now, at the end of a weekend at home with the family. The text below was written by me and by Peach.)

It’s hot and humid here, and the air is full of insects. They used to say that the best thing about living in Charlottesville was that there were no mosquitos. Well, they must have been imported sometime in the last five years, because this weekend they are out in legion. My sister and I were driving along Skyline Drive for a hike up Humpback Rock: a childhood favorite. We watched a tractor-trailer kick thick swirls of orange dust as it drifted onto the shoulder, and the dust mixed with the bugs and the haze and it seemed to me that the air in Virginia is different because it’s alive.


He’s wearing a Wheel of Fortune hat.

Nat’s brilliant plan was to run up the trail. Um. Now I am pretty fit and I knew there was no freaking way this was happening, but the thing you do with big brothers is appease them. Nat got very sweaty. When we made it home he fell asleep in our little sister’s princess bed and woke up two hours late for dinner.


Peach on the trail.

Well, okay. So, we didn’t end up running the whole trail. There were long stretches of brisk walking, and stretches of running also, but the sign at the bottom said “40 minutes” and I’m pretty sure we did it in 20. Maybe even 15. I mean, we hauled ass up that trail. And sure, I was pretty tired at the end, but I swear I didn’t know it was a princess bed I was crashing in.

The coolest part of the weekend was realizing that we both listen to crappy pop and like that room key song, you know, the one where he goes, “and I wanna get wichoo cause youse a cutie.” That and hearing Nat introduce himself as “Natty Boom Boom” at a bar on Saturday night. I was ready to go home at 11:00 and bake oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but Nat made me stay out till 2.

1 May 2004

Bart Decrem set me up with a Gmail account. I noticed today that Gmail includes a dashboard:

. . .

Three things are interesting about the Google IPO from my point of view:

So, they’re awfully smart, but man what a tough market to be in. The software industry in general is a bit of a rat race. I don’t think I’d be in computers if they didn’t do such wonderful things.


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