Brad Chen Talk, Roscón, And IKEA


The IT-minded readers of this blog will tend to wonder how Brad Chen relates to a seemingly odd word ‘roscón’ while the not so IT-geared Spaniards will ponder who in the world Brad is and what his relationship to one of Spain’s national cakes is.


On this glorious and sunny day of mid-January, I headed out to London to attend a security talk at UCL given by Brad himself on Native Client, a Google project focusing on secure clientside execution of native code. The talk took place at UCL’s Bloomsbury campus a couple streets behind the timeless British Museum. Rain drove us quickly into the building’s lobby and a few other attendees and I waited for the amphitheatre to empty itself of the previous lecture’s students before settling in.
Soon enough Brad came along, gave us a presentation as well as a convincing demo of Native Client before taking questions from the audience. The main concern that arose was whether Native Client was indeed novel (by comparison to previous attempts e.g. Java applets, CGIs, ActiveX) and how security was handled. If one is to execute native x86 code on their own personal PC, they had better trust the source of the code.
More at UCL Event Details and Google Native Client


On the way out, I strolled over to Holborn and – feeling in a rather merry mood – went to Paul, a French bakery chain, to enquire about a French galette des rois. Traditionally France, Spain, and other countries celebrate the Three Wise Men with a specially crafted cake called Roscón de Reyes in Spanish or Galette des Rois in French. The celebration takes place on the day of the Epiphany, January 6th. But very often, the celebration (or at least the cake-devouring part) stretches on until the later days of January. And so, Paul still had quite a few roscones to be had and I acquired one thinking of my housemates’ delight at eating this French delicacy. This was by no means an easy mission as Paul Holborn redirected me to Paul Covent Garden claiming it was the only (yes the one and only, the unique, the marvellous) store in all of London to still sell the French galette.


This outrageous statement came straight from my beloved Navarrica housemate, Amaia, who scornfully but gladly mouthed in a piece of galette. So this was no proper roscón, merely a pale French version of a local Spanish cake. Shocking indeed! Napoléon would have performed a whopping somersault had he not succumbed to arsenic a few years before. With National pride in jeopardy, it was time to turn to the books to set the records straight: who of the Spanish or the French had invented the cake? And which was the authentic one? Had the integrity of the roscón been breached? A quick read-through of Wikipedia, the ever-increasingly authoritative source of Truth, taught us a few things: firstly the tradition is not linked to the Wise Men (so much for my earlier comment); and secondly France has different cakes depending on the region and the southern French cake seeped into Spain before the time of Felipe V (so much for the Pyrenees as an impenetrable border). The French Rooster could now stand tall and persnickety having dispelled the Iberians’ intrusion in French culinary matters.


By now, one may wonder how IKEA fits into this story of IT security and Spanish cakes. One of the reasons for gathering round the cake at our house was to prepare our upcoming trip to Schruns for a skiing holiday. Still can’t quite see the link? The Swedish furniture-in-a-kit company, source of Nordic swagger, and Amaia’s favorite pasttime, irrupted into the conversation when Maria, our beloved Andalusian midwife sprang into the room not unlike a Jack-in-a-box and declared «vamo’ a IKEA».

Or so we, the non-Spanish speakers, thought. What she had in fact said, in her delicious Linareh accent, was none other than «Vamos a esquiar» which translates to «let’s go ski». Our puzzled looks generated an uproar of laughter from the trans-Pyreneans. Maria then clarified what she’d actually said and we moved on to talk of our future adventures in snowy Austria while nibbling on the last few crumbs of the galette.