Personal and family

This is the best advice I can give you right now.

When you are feeling miserable,
learn to recognize what could cheer you up.

Sometimes it's getting drunk or getting high.
Sometimes it's fucking.
Sometimes it's exercising.
Sometimes it's buying something, or eating something nice.
Sometimes it's reading a book, listening a song, dancing a little.
Sometimes it's literally just taking a shit.
Sometimes it's being with friends, other times it's being alone.

What's most important to know is this,
or you can wreck your life pretty badly:
it's not always the same thing.

Some things I've learned during my 40 years on Earth. I'm not including scientific/technical stuff, just everyday stuff; I'm also not including skills, manners, or basic things such as speaking or reading, which I owe to my parents :-)

The list is roughly in chronological order. Years are only approximate references, none of these lessons I learned overnight, but they all changed my life.

  • 5
  • Books are wonderful
  • Programming is fun
  • Some people are idiots
  • God is a lie
  • 10
  • Science gives answers
  • Majority opinions mean nothing
  • Being different means being hurt
  • Everybody dies even the Sun
  • 15
  • Intelligence is not enough
  • A life worth living takes effort
  • Planning saves money and trouble
  • Lying is avoidable
  • Family brings great joys and great sorrows
  • Romance is tragic
  • 20
  • Romance doesn't need to be tragic
  • Some drugs are great
  • Syntactic correctness means nothing
  • Beautiful code is poetry
  • 25
  • Being permanently unsatisfied is fine
  • Good deeds are punished all the time
  • Evil deeds are rewarded all the time
  • Copyright is bad for art
  • Patents are bad for science
  • Hard work can compensate lack of talent
  • 30
  • Physical exercise is necessary
  • Nationalism is a form of hate
  • Immigration is treated as a crime
  • Animals are people
  • 35
  • Money intensifies personalities
  • Men treat women unfairly everywhere
  • People are often wrong about each other
  • Enlightenment is not a period but a process
  • Billions are essentially slaves
  • Everybody must be treated kindly
  • 40

Thanks to all for your birthday greetings :-)

The last 6 weeks have been crazy. We spent 2 weeks in Netherlands, touring by bicycle doing 300 km in total, visiting old and new friends and experiencing fantastic 3 days of electronic music. Then, 2 weeks in Doha, in a series of increasingly liver-harmful farewell parties plus a lot of packing! Then 1 week in Rome including moving to a new house with the 3 cats, clearing through customs and bringing home 280 kg of our stuff. Finally 1 week in Greece, for a summer school and for our first trip to a country we already love.

(Bicicletas en Holanda + plata en Grecia)

I don't complain, I mean we're so lucky, but damn it has been crazy. Now tomorrow will be my first day at a new job, let's see what it brings ;-)

Pictured here is an adorable and playful 6 weeks old kitten, rescued from the -3 level (basement) of Tornado Tower in West Bay, Doha, Qatar.

She was stranded there for several days without food, and no sign of the mother. She has been de-wormed and given a clean bill of health by the Al Tamimi clinic.

She craves maternal care, loves to play, is quite mischievous and explorative, and is tidy with her litter :). She enjoys the warmth of someone’s body to sleep beside at times. I am looking to find a loving parent who can give her a long-term commitment, affection and the attention that she needs.

Please contact me by phone: +974 70194015 or by e-mail if you would like to see the kitten. If you know of a friend who might be interested, please forward him/her this webpage. Thank you!

Less than a week ago I moved for work to Doha, Qatar. I was rather worried, I have to say. The reaction from my colleagues was mostly negative: affectionate, but negative. The reaction from my friends was mixed: some found it excellent, other congratulate me, others said they'll miss us (and me to them!)

My first impression of Doha, is that I do not have a first impression ;-) So far I've only picked small clues about how things will be. Probably many of them are wrong. I write them here to laugh about them later.

The first things is that it is ridiculously hot, 40 Celsius during most of the day, and everybody says this is just a small preview of what is about to come in the next months, where it will go to 50 Celsius and "you won't be able to stand in the sun for 5 minutes".

The cats hated to travel. They spent 12 hours in the cages, with 6 of them flying. When they were "delivered" to me, I found them alone next to the luggage belt. The good thing: they still had water in their dishes, meaning they were not moved so much. The cats were weird after the trip, they did not want to eat and were searching for Fabiola, but now they are easier, eating and wanting to go to the backyard. That, I will let them do it later on when they are more used to this place. For now, Panterita and Trufa are a big chunk of my social life.

I was assigned a house in a gated community where there are mostly people related to education/universities, many families with kids. The community has its own pool and gym. The house looks huge compared with what I've experienced in the last years: Rome (a studio of 16 sq m) and Barcelona (flats of 48 and 64 sq m).

* * *

The other part of my social life are conversations with taxi drivers. Kind of groundhog day: soccer, where is Chile, where is Sri Lanka or Ethiopia, how hot it is in summer, etc. Language is a big barrier. At work everybody speaks English, many of them better than I. Outside work people speak little English or the minimum for basic stuff.

And my activity so far has been ... shopping ;-) To get the home ready, to buy food, a cellphone, etc. There is a mini-mall with a medium-size supermarket attached to the community and I've also gone to the City Center which is the largest shopping mall. Prices are similar to the convenience stores in Barcelona. Here is a sample with approximate prices:

  • 500g of pasta = 1 eur.
  • Colgate toothpaste = 1 eur.
  • Two liters of watermelon juice = 2 eur.
  • Shampoo HnS = 3 eur.
  • Small box of champignon = 1.5 eur
  • One cucumber = 2 eur.
  • Box of tea bags = 1.5 eur.
  • One lettuce = 0.5 eur.
  • Taxi from home to airport, 30 min = 10 eur.
  • Taxi from home to city center, 20 min = 8 eur.

The bills are quite decorated, and as I mix lila and blue I tend to confuse the bills of 100 qar (20 eur) and 1 qar (0.2 eur).

* * *

Most local women wear the Abaya (it covers the head and the body, but not the face) and about half wears a Niqab (a veil that allows you to see only the eyes). I have not seen any woman in Burqa (the one with the net in front of the eyes). Non-qatari women wear whatever they like: jeans, skirts (below the knee), t-shirts, etc. The only thing I saw was at the entrance of the Islamic Museum a friend of mine was asked to cover her shoulders.

On that count, I have not experienced a "cultural shock". I hope to postpone that as much as possible. Well, I was about to experience it: in the toilet at the shopping mall there was a place that looked like an urinal but it was to wash your feet before praying ... fortunately I was suspicious and did not use it for what I thought it was used ;-)

Besides, in many aspects it is a developing country and in that sense, to a first-class human (I am second class), Qatar may look more strange. For instance: my experience to pass some accompanied cargo through customs was strange: there are written rules, unwritten rules, people asking you for money around, it is not clear immediately what for, and in general something systematically dysfunctional. But it can be understood. The logic is that you elbow your way to the counter and shove your papers in front of an officer, smile, and wait. Finally you have to pay to the guys that asked you for money initially because they are legally part of this business, kind of para-officers of this place.

The good side: rules are flexible. For instance the shuttle bus in the airport stops anywhere.

* * *

In the city center there are very pretty buildings. I work at the Tornado Tower which is a twisted tower. Looking at all the funky buildings I thought they could have built a Sagrada Familia, just replacing animals and people by text and abstract motives.

From my office (now that I have an office) you can see buildings, cranes, and a piece of the bay. The work looks interesting, I am just starting to decide what exactly I am going to do, but there is a lot of energy, students, engineers, etc. I still don't have a good sense of what to expect of those around me. I don't care if it is much or little, fast or slow. I just want to understand the work rhythm and who are the reliable people.

* * *

What else can I say? I miss Fabiola so much. I have no idea how these two months without her are going to be. And for someone risk-averse as me, this situation is frightening at times. But I also have a lot of curiosity. I expect to satisfy that curiosity in the next months ;-)

Hugs for everyone. I don't tell you "everybody come to Doha!" because it will be a while before I am certain that it is a good idea ;-)

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