Archive for August, 2006

On this day in history…

Monday, August 28th, 2006

27th August, 1883, 10:02am local time. This was when Krakatoa last erupted – and what an astonishing event it was. I'm currently reading Krakatoa: The Day The World Exploded and it's a fascinating read. Allow me to share with you some quite astounding details of the event.

The final explosion (Krakatoa had been erupting since May, and seriously for a day) is reckoned to be the loudest sound in recorded history. It was heard over about 13% of the surface of the globe.

The air shockwave from the explosion circled the globe seven times. The sea waves were recorded as far away as the English channel.

Six cubic miles of rock were vaporized.

Sea waves1 were several and reckoned by many reports (and confirmed by the area they reached inland) to be somewhere around 120 feet high. A lighthouse was simply smashed off its base by a huge lump of coral (say about 600 tons) dredged from the deep. A ship was picked up out of harbour and dumped miles upriver inland, where it remained, providing a home for wildlife until the last remains rusted away in the 1980s.

Over 36,000 people were killed.

And of course there are many reports of other apocalyptic phenomena, e.g. constant St. Elmo's Fire among the shipping in the area, and rafts of pumice containing human skeletons washing ashore in Africa.

But equally as fascinating was the world's reaction to the event. It was the beginning of the global village – underwater cables had recently linked practically all parts of the globe, enabling messages to be sent in a matter of hours rather than weeks. Prior to this, for example, it had taken a full five days for folks in London to learn of the assassination of Lincoln – and that was fast! As well as reading about the eruption in the papers, it was the first time that folk realised that things happening nearly half a world away could have an effect locally – of course, the sunsets, which persisted for a period of years. And the shockwave circling the earth? Well that was picked up by many a European barograph – the latest gadgets of the time were causing a craze for amateur meteorology among fashionable Victorians. This is partly the reason why we are able to pinpoint the exact timeline of the eruption (the other reason is the barometric record of the gasometers in Batavia, 90 miles away from Krakatoa).

Tracking the path of Krakatoa's ejecta in the upper atmosphere also helped lay the foundations for the meteorology of today, and the data still yielded information on analysis well into the latter half of the 20th century.

Anyway, a fascinating read.

1. Sea wave, I read, is a preferred term for tidal wave. Of course almost all waves are sea waves, but then again almost all waves are tidal – funnily enough, except “tidal waves” which are caused by cataclysmic events. So there is a certain logic to preferring sea waves. Of course, the term tsunami fits even more succinctly.

My CV, dateline 1995

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

Dug this up from an old CD archive. As strange as it looks these days, this document, a short cover letter and an hour's interview with Peter Molyneux (we talked about Isaac Asimov and Edward de Bono, ISTR) got me into the games industry. And yet my old CV is a little familiar: I still get CVs like this on my desk today from student hopefuls who think, as I once did, that a course in lambda calculus is worth mentioning in a CV. Well I suppose you have to fill the space somehow…

Computing Skills:

I am familiar with MS-DOS, Windows, Unix (Linux, DEC Ultrix, Solaris (Posix)).
I am fluent in C, Modula-3, and BASIC (including Visual Basic), and have also written programs in C++, Pascal, Fortran 77, and 80×86 assembly language. My degree course additionally covers several non-imperative languages.


10 GCSE's at grade A:
English Language, Physics
English Literature, Chemistry
French, Maths (Pure & Applied)
Latin, Technology
German, Religious Studies

1 AS-level, at grade A: French

3 A-levels, at grade A:
Maths, Physics, Electronic Systems

Sixth Term Examination Papers:
(S-level equivalents)
Maths – grade 2
Physics – grade 3

Degree course results so far:
Part 1A & Part 1B: 2:2

Previous Employment:

I worked for 16 weeks as Technical Assistant for Datasure, a software house in London that produces financial advice software. I wrote manuals and tutorials for their two main products, and assisted in handling customer questions, complaints and orders. Cut-down versions of the tutorials were also released as demos, for which I also provided telephone support. I also assisted in tracing and fixing bugs in a product under development.

Degree Course Content:

C, Modula-3, ML, Prolog and Fortran, language semantics and compilation.
Computer and processor architecture, digital electronics and VLSI design.
Operating systems, distributed computing and concurrent systems.
Digital communication, information theory and coding.
Numerical analysis, graphics, databases, cryptology and security, user interface design.
Systems modelling, software engineering, hardware and software specification.
Computational neuroscience, artificial intelligence, natural language processing.
Concurrency, complexity and type theory, lambda calculus and computation theory.
Philosophy, historical computing, professional practice and ethics, running a business.

My second year group project (running under Unix/X and written in Modula-3) was a graphical city centre traffic simulator. My third year project (also running under Unix/X and being written in Modula-3) is a graphing and numerical analysis package.

In the first year of the course I also studied maths and physics.


I enjoy all types of music, reading science fiction and playing the piano, especially ragtime. In my spare time I also go ballroom dancing, play the harmonica, and play table-tennis and tennis when I can. I play tiddlywinks too: I have played for Cambridge against Oxford for three years running, and have been university singles champion.

Line from a dream

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

“It shoots a chimp when they think [ ] are the bad guys.”

I can't remember what word was in the [ ]. Do you have a good suggestion? AOAP.

Nausicaa Perfect Collection is complete

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Having bought vols 2 & 3 at the local library book sale last week, I picked up vols 1 & 4 online from Amazon marketplace and Alibris. So now I have the full set.

Bread review

Monday, August 14th, 2006

Mrs Elbeno brought back a new bread variant from the local supermarket today. Filone Italiano.


Crust: “hearty”. Well, it wasn’t bad. Although it was not particularly crusty. A victim of marketing hype. But still very edible.
Interior: “full-bodied” and “tangy”. Whatever that means. It was very soft. Very soft. Yet nice.


The intermediate stage of assembly.


The finished article. It goes well with ham and cheddar. I would fear for its structural stability when mixed with pickle, however.

Step back in time…

Monday, August 7th, 2006

…with the video accompanying your purchase of a new Cuisinart food processor. Yes, Mrs Elbeno recently bought one online and we watched the video today. We were transported back to 1978 with the heady promise of effortlessly prepared vegetables, fruit, dough, dressing, even nuts and meat! And it all goes into the dishwasher afterwards, so no mess to clean up!

Let me ask you: Have you ever tasted homemade peanut butter?

Summer book sale and New Amazon Meme

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Saturday was local library book sale day. This is my part of the haul:

Concepts of Programming Languages
Computer Algorithms: Introduction to Design and Analysis
The Great Scientists from Galileo to Einstein
Java Threads
Postscript Language Tutorial and Cookbook
Hugo Award Winners Vol. 3
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind Perfect Collection 2 & 3

I see that Amazon have restyled their personal home page. What a pity that half my searches don’t work at the moment. Anyway, I foresee a new meme: what does Amazon think of you? Here’s what it thinks I’m interested in:

Action & Adventure
All Categories
Blake, Quentin
C & C++ Windows Programming
Cognitive Psychology
Comics & Graphic Novels
Dahl, Roald
Greek & Roman
History of Science
Object-Oriented Design
Recreation & Games
Salvatore, R.A.
Science Fiction
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Software Development
Web Site Design

Saturday morning surprise

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006


Mrs Elbeno called me down at 8am with this on the table. Yum!