A Saturday spent with my Galician friend

Which started with coffee in the Koffiehuisje. Black (no sugar, thanks) for me, cappuccino for him (don't judge, please).

It was past noon after the second cup, so I also had a croissant (don't judge me, please).

It has been a while, I said after he crossed the door. Then asked about the half-marathon happening the weekend prior. He wasn't that happy because he was 12 minutes above his best mark. I pointed out—only half-jokingly—I would do half of the distance in the double of the time, but that didn't seem to bring consolation. So I then moved to praise the amazing Galician food I had in my last visit to Spain—which give you an idea when was the last time we talked—and that made him smile immediately.

Now, I'm not sure what should I share about our conversation with you because we talked about many topics. Maybe some context is a good start.

We both graduated from the same Master program at the TU/e. I even remember how everything started. So, let me share that.

It was the lecture of Compilers design (the actual course has a different name, a fancier one, but I won't bother to look it up, it was a compilers design course). There were different weekly assignments. The first month or so, it was about writing some LLVM intermediate code optimizations. We were using an 8-bits AVR so, there were some optimizations left because LLVM for 8-bits ATMEL microcontrollers was not fully fledged at the time. It was actually fun. Very enjoyable because those were individual assignments, so I could finish earlier without the annoying sync with teammates. At the end of each lecture, we had some time to ask the professor (or the assistant professor) some doubts regarding those weekly assignments.

( Tangential note: That course was nicely designed (excluding the final exam, because the professor redesigned it that year and had many wrong answers on the reference. So, all the PhD students—who apparently grade the exams as if they were mindless bots following a script—graded the exams incorrectly. Not a big deal, I guess around 12% of the official “correct” answers were actually wrong. So, you would need to go there and ask for clarification. You could get some extra marks or lose some marks as well. So, most of the fellow students didn't take the risk to ask. I did. But I won't tell you if I got extra marks or less). The assignments compounded over time, meaning, each week's task had to be built on top of the solutions from previous weeks. That at least resembles a real life situation. )

First two weeks, no questions for the lecturer.

The third week, many questions about the assignment you were supposed to finish the first week. So, long lines to ask the almighty professor (or one of his minions).

I was waiting for my buddies close to the exit door and next to such line when I heard that G. (G. is my Galician friend) asked something very specific about the assignment of the third week(!).

Actually, that was the tough part of the whole assignment and the toughest up to that point in time. The professor replied to his questions very quickly because he was getting overwhelmed by the queue that seemed to increase over time rather than decrease. I noticed on G.'s face that he was now more confused than before. So, I approached him and explained what I had done to crack that hard nut.

I'm not bragging here, I simply explained to him what I had done, which was legal, by the way. According to the course rules, we were allowed to openly discuss everything as long as no code was shared. Another point for the design of this course because that's resembles real life—which is something some academics have never experienced, apparently.

Needless to say, that conversation happened in Spanish.

And, just like that, our friendship started.

Fun fact: we never team up at Uni, I already had my buddies for that (a Dutch, and a stubborn Polish, both very brilliant kids, in different ways. I was the dumbest, and of course, the oldest. The Polish guy looked up to the Dutch guy; I gained his respect only at the very end of the program. He eventually realized that sometimes having some experience is as useful as being very smart—something that was clear for the Dutch guy from the beginning, so I earned his respect quickly.

Although we were never part of the same team, we talked very often. The conversations were never limited to school or technology.

Any way. Back to the Koffiehuisje after three black coffees, a croissant, and two cappuccinos (if you want to judge, it is fine, I don't care).

I can't write everything discussed there, but suffice to say most of the conversation was about geopolitics. After almost 3 hours talking, we agreed on something: If we live long enough to become old, we will witness the dissolution of the European Union.

So, mark our words: On October 15th, 2022, in the Koffiehuisje, a Galician and his Mexican friend predicted that the EU will dissolve in the following decades.

(Don't take it too seriously. We are just two friends who like to spend time reading about geopolitics, thinking hard and then debating our conclusions. However, we are not experts by any stretch of the imagination).

I even think that will happen before 2040, even by 2030. But definitely in the next half century (in approximately 50 years I will consider myself old).

The pain on my friend's look was evident. In the end, he is European, and I am not.

The collapse of the EU would also mean dethroning the US dollar as the world reserve currency, which also means one thing: more wars. The foundational ideas (and ideals) behind the EU were great, a beautiful dream we collectively dreamt.

So, after reaching that conclusion. We needed a proper lunch and, more urgently, some alcohol. So we moved to a different place.

I dropped my bike at his place on our way to lunch. We then walked for ~7.43 minutes and there we were.

It was a quirky place—he recommended—the kind weirdos like us would enjoy.

If you pass by when it is closed without paying so much attention, you would assume it is an eccentric furniture store. Someone threw different styles of old furniture in there, some objects are clearly baroque whilst others are slick, Danish-style minimalism. All blended together. Nothing matches and at the same time, everything does. I don't know how to explain it. So I won't try.

We sat outside on an oval-shape, wooden-made, old table. Surprisingly comfy chair, I have to say.

A few minutes later, a caucasian youngster with a charming smile came out to ask what we would like to drink. We started with the usual Belgian beers (yes, Belgian beers are, in general, better than Dutch beers, but I won't say it aloud).

I liked this guy right away. He asked us what we would like to drink with a smile. You know, the services industry in the Netherlands is quite odd. More often than not, when you are sitting in a bar or restaurant and the waiter/waitress come to you, he/she would grumpily ask (in Dutch): what can I do for you? ,or how can I help you?. I mean, I don't want to be a jerk, but ... really? I would sometimes like to reply, you tell me. Luckily, I don't go out that often, and when I do, I go to the same places again and again, places where people ask more useful questions.

But that didn't happen in there, so I'll definitely go back. And check this out:

A framed menu in a bar

Yes, the menu in our table was framed. How lovely is that!

After bringing the first round of beers, the blondie youngster with a charming smile (I promise I won't use that description again) asked if we would like something to eat. Another sensitive question with the perfect timing, bonus point for this place.

We both went for the Lamb Broodje. Quickly, the youngster explained that it was Surinamese, and it was spicy. G. looked at me and I smiled as this gentleman was trying to explain how spicy, spicy meant.

(Look. This is problem of explaining spiciness is not a trivial one. Pungency is difficult to measure. A more pragmatic approach is to provide your cultural background so that it is easy to estimate your tolerance).

I'm Mexican, I said (still smiling). The youngster laugh after interrupting the explanation abruptly, and said: “okay, very spicy then”. Then looked at G. and asked, “for you?”. “The same”, G. replied. “are you sure?” said the youngster, to then add the remark: “_when I have it this spicy, I cry. I need to have my emergency chocolate bar ready”. “Yes, I'm sure”, G. said again, confidently.

When the youngster left, G. said to me: “I have eaten Mexican food at your place many times, I think I'm prepared for that”

Indeed, he didn't cry. He got a runny nose, but still, I am so proud!

So, we finished the spicy broodje (another bonus point for this place, the spiciness was pretty decent). The conversation kept rolling smoothly, as it always does when I meet G.

By then, we moved to more controversial topics. One of the greatest things of having him as a friend is that we can openly discuss very topics today's Western culture won't allow. We mostly agree on every topic, but not completely, and not always.

( There was only one occasion when we strongly disagreed, and we couldn't manage to keep the conversation civilized, and that was COVID related.

The discussion didn't go wrong due to what you might be thinking. Although we have opposed views, we both agree we don't have a say in what people do with their bodies. The topic which almost damage our friendship beyond repair revolved around the implementation of the Health Green Pass here in Europe.

See. For months, we were not allowed to sit together in a bar like this.

I still maintain my view—very strongly—that segregating people was terribly wrong. There was never a realistic strategy, a scientific reason or a sound argument for doing so.

Thus, we should not forget what these stupid European bureaucrats did, and still are trying to do in other areas, such as what's going on with the Dutch farmers at the moment.

I won't forget it, at least. And if you ask me if I'm with the Dutch government or with the farmers, the answer should be pretty obvious at this point.

So, we don't touch COVID-related topics any more. )

But I can share part of the conversation in the quirky bar with old and non-matching (yet matching) furniture.

G. had dinner with two friends, a Dutch gentlement and a Italian lady, the night before.

The Italian lady was enthusiastically talking about the different techonologies in the 3D printing company she work for. The company was recently adquired by Meta, and they are experimenting with all sort of crazy things. Apparently, Meta is planning to offer 3D printing services for avatars in the Metaverse, of some shit like that.

What I just wrote is supposedly a big secret. However, this lady was giving all sorts of details about it. Some of them came up in my conversation with G. and now some of it ended in this post.

G. also told me never trust any secret or personal info to this lady if I ever meet her, hahaha. The advice was unnecessary but appreciated.

So, that was a segue to a long discussion about the Metaverse and, in general, the hyper-virtualization of the modern world.

We both agreed that's nonsense.

There might be interesting industrial applications, but this obsessive desire for living in virtual worlds and pretend digitalization will disrupt everything. Well, that can't succeed in the long run—or so we think.

See. The Italian lady was talking about some futuristic technology with which moms could be at work and, from there, control a humanoid robot at home to spend some quality time with their children. What kind of nonsense is that?! Isn't it better to get a part time job and spend more time with the kids at home? If we can't affort to work part time, how the hell are are going to affort this kind of hyperfuturistic technology?

We don't understand these people who believe techonology will solve everything. Not even us, who are quite passionate about techonology, believe such a thing. What is an utopia for some, it sound more like a dystopia for others.

Next. We also touched upon the gender neutrality madness.

My friend told the following story. At the place where they gathered the night before, at some point he went to the toilets. It was the first time he was in that place, so, facing the two doors he chose the one with a logo which resembled the male symbol, there was some text he didn't read.

Once in there, he quickly notice there were no urinals to be found. Weird, but not a big deal. On his way out he looked at the door again, something like the following could be read: “Toilets for people who prefer to sit down” or some bullshit like that.


Basically, my friend went to the ladies restroom!

And as he said: “I don't really care, but I can imagine that if there is a lady there, she would feel really, really uncomfortable”.

And by the way, the symbol on the door wasn't the male symbol, it was something else. Something neutral, I guess...

So, we also spent some time talking about that topic.

The caucasian youngster was there with his smile to ask: another round? each time our glasses emptied. Very charming, very timely.

Everything started to fall apart when he told me: “sir, we don't have more of the beer your drinking, can I offered a different one”.

Let me say something, we didn't drink that much. Really. This failure is on them.

I'm not going to specify how many beers we drank, though (because you're such judgemental). I picked a different one, and went to the (men) restroom. When I was walking from the restroom to the table, he told me: “Sorry sir, we don't have that beer either”. So, I chose a different one, which was the last for the afternoon. Then we asked for the check.

Each time I drink with G., we drink the exact same number of beers, always. Normally, the ones I choose have more alcoholic percentage (but I'm also heavier than him, so it is not a problem).

Something I always do each time I go out with friends, family and acquitances is to keep track of everything we order at the table (on my mind). If it is becoming difficult to keep track of it, that means I have to stop drinking alcohol and order sparkling water or something.

That was not the case on this Saturday.

When the check arrived, I quickly verify it. Something was evidently wrong. The ticked included my n beers and n+1 of the beers G. was drinking. So, I mentioned it to him before he paid.

My friend was half of the sentence in front of the cash when the blondie youngster (I promised I wouldn't do it again, but he deserves it) interrupted to say something like: “yeah, maybe I made a mistake”. This smiley boy thought we were drunk enough so that we didn't know what we had consumed! Oh boy, that never happens! So, right there he lost some extra points, but I will go back nonetheless.

We went to his place to pick up the bikes and go somewhere else for dinner. The conversation during dinner was more personal so I won't share anything of that.

When we were at his flat to pick up some stuff, he gave me the 3D-printed keychain shown below.

3D-printed key chain

The End.

(Note: This is the longest post I've ever written on write.as. ~2.7 words. I'll fix the typos and everything other day. Hitting publish in 3, 2, 1 .... waaaaa aslkdjfpoas fdoais oajsppoidfjaspodjfaos dfjaosjdf)