One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez

I read “Cien años de soledad” in Spanish. Even if it took me some extra work to get a Spanish copy it would have been a missed opportunity to not read the original work.

The book is written from the perspective of the Buendía family. And this is where the strength of the book resides. Everything is described as seen by not only the eyes of the characters but also their minds.

When José Arcadio Buendía thinks that a magic carpet can fly, then it really flyes. García Márquez does not write an external interpretation of the characters thoughts, but a literal translation of those thoughts into the paper with their superstitions and personal perceptions.

Thru a rich and colourful language, the thoughts in the minds of the characters become real. The protagonists are selfish, pitiful, misguided but also compassionate. Their mindset is laid in front of the reader to examine and learn. From the vulnerability of children to the senility of old age all feelings are described truthfully for the reader to see.

Not only the main characters are shown as they see themselves. All society is described in the same terms. All the nonsense of war, the social changes that technology causes, the fight of workers for their rights, everything is written down in hyperbolic detail except that in its excess the writing shows the real feelings of the population.

Having grown up in Spain, I have seen the destructive power of the Buendía mindset that intensifies in little towns like the fictional Macondo. I can also sympathize with the historical views on Colombia’s society, many of them not so far away from the ones in Spain.

This is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the old mindset of Spanish speaking countries or just anyone that wants a deeper understanding of human nature.

Book cover. Cien años de soledad.

5/5 ★★★★ ★

Cien años de soledad
by Gabriel García Márquez
Publisher: Literatura Random House
Release Date: first published 1967

Faster Than Thought. A Symposium on digital computing machines by Bertram Vivian Bowden

To add some perspective, I can start by one of the book’s assessments: the longest prime number has 2,281 binary digits. As of July 2019, the longest prime number has 82 million binary digits. All thanks to computers.

The book starts with a brief history of computation. Bowden recognizes, at a time that it was not widely acknowledged, the contributions of Charles Babbage and Ada, Lady Lovelace, to computer science. The chapter is a charming recollection of the collaborations of the two scientists. Bowden got this information from Lady Wentworth, granddaughter of Ada. Beyond the recognition of Babbage and Lady Lovelace and the establishment of a historical base for the rest of the book, the chapter is incredibly insightful.

In the second chapter on circuit components of digital computers, amazes me to read “A digital computer may contain several thousand valves…”. The modern language and concepts make easy to forget when Bowden wrote the book. At the time of publishing the book, International Business Machines (IBM) was producing the IBM 701. The first IBM large-scale electronic computer manufactured in quantity. IBM created nineteen of these machines. Any software engineer should be familiar with this introduction. The examples are simple and straightforward. But, the chapter is very technical. The author explicitly states that you can skip this chapter if it’s too technical and enjoy the rest of the book. The format of the chapter is easy to recognize for any modern student. The author introduces Boolean logic, and the construction of AND/OR gates from valves – transistors in modern books – to later build more complex circuits like adders.

Part one concludes with a chapter dedicated to programming. The author writes about code optimization and even about an interpreter – that he calls automatic coding – that converts algebraic notation into machine code. Even at this early stage, loss in efficiency made economic sense in favour of making easier to write code.

Part two lists and describes electronic computing machines that existed at the time. The chapters are technical and illustrate different machine architectures. Many machines used Cathode ray tubes (CRT), but not as a display but as a device to store data. And failing valves rates was a major consideration on building these machines.
There are individual chapters for computers from the University of Manchester, Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory, Harwell, the Telecommunications Research Establishment, Imperial College, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and Birkbeck College. Chapter 14 describes, with much less detail, some American computers like Mark I, ENIAC, UNIVAC, Whirlwind and others.

Part three contains predictions on what uses these new machines will have in the future.
The book predicts the use of computers for weather forecasting and acknowledges the limitations on the accuracy of the atmospheric data that can be gathered. But, there is no mention of Lorenz or chaos. As the chaos theory will not be born until eight years later when Edward Lorenz was using a computer to model atmospheric circulation.
Other topics covered are astronomy, physics, architecture, microeconomics and macroeconomics. All the chapters are practical, well informed, and look into a foreseeable future. All of them will become a reality in a few decades afterwards.
The exception to this practical approach is chapter 25. This chapter talks about digital computers applied to games, and Dr Turing wrote it in collaboration with the author. Most of the chapter follows the same practical style than the rest. But, the question “Could one make a machine which would answer questions put to it, in such a way that it would not be possible to distinguish its answer from those of a man?” is introduced here and will be part of the closing chapter of the book. For a few lines, the book dares to predict intelligence in machines. This is the only prediction that still has not become a reality.

The book is a product of its day. Its age makes it charming. The author and his many collaborators avoid daydreaming and instead introduce the realities of the computers of their time and forecast how computers will be used in the future. Their predictions will become a reality in the following decades. It is a book that is worth reading for its historical perspective and as a good example of good engineering thinking.

5/5 ★★★★ ★

“Faster Than Thought. A Symposium on digital computing machines ”
by Bertram Vivian Bowden
Publisher: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.
Release Date: first published 1953
“Faster Than Thought” at Archive.org

June 2019 trip back to Barcelona, Spain

A trip back to Barcelona it is different than others. To start with, I use “back to” to express that Barcelona is still my second home. Most people know the city for its warm weather, for the architect Antoni Gaudí, and the many good places to eat. For me, it is my birthplace.

This is an opportunity to see family and friends. But, I will stay just three days and I will not be able to see everybody I would like.

Barcelona is a great city to walk around. And, it is probably the reason why walking is my prefered way of experiencing cities all around the world.

I go to Plaza Urquinaona to have breakfast with a friend. We drink coffee and exchange our stories since the last time we saw each other. That is six months ago. After a long talk, he leaves to work.

I have nothing else planned until lunch. I am on vacations, but not so my friends. So, I visit Gigamesh.

Gigamesh is my favourite science fiction book store in the world. A second close is Forbidden Planet in London. I leave without purchasing anything. But, with a mental wish list. I will come back later for a couple of books.

I continue my visit to the city. As I leave the Basilica de La Sagrada Familia, I find l’Hospital de Sant Pau. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner is not as well known as Gaudí, but many tourists that come to Barcelona will admire his buildings.

I go for lunch with my friends at one of the many franchise restaurants in Heron City. Actually, Heron City does not exist anymore as the owners have sold the shopping centre and now has a new name. There are always changes in such a big city.

It is a long lunch that extends into the evening. We had a lot to catch up.

Next day, I will meet more people. I have a tight schedule.

I eat breakfast at my parents’ apartment and afterwards leave to meet more people.

We have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the city. We stop to eat a refreshing gazpacho and drink sangria. Gazpacho is a dish original from Andaluzia but very popular everywhere else in summer. And it is a warm day.

In the evening, I go to my next meetup. We talk while walking in Montjuïc. It is a welcome change. Most of the talk happens around a table with food; this time I will burn some calories.

We pass by one of the waterfalls that feed the Font del Gat. Montjuïc has many unique places. But this one has its own song.

Baixant de la Font del Gat una noia, una noia,
baixant de la Font del Gat una noia i un soldat.

Pregunteu-li com se diu, Marieta, Marieta,
Pregunteu-li com se diu, Marieta de l’Ull Viu.

The three days pass fast. I have met a lot of people and seen some places in the city. Next time I will make sure to reach more people. It feels terrible to go back home and have missed friends.

Barcelona, you are my happiness.

June 2019 trip to Bucharest, Romania

Two months ago, I visited Bucharest for the first time. Dev<Talks/> Bucharest has invited me as speaker. And, I took the opportunity to visit the city again.

I leave the office early and go walking to București Gara de Nord (Bucharest North railway station) to meet with a colleague.

In my way there, I visit King Mihai I Park. The park is built around Lake Herăstrău, one of the lakes formed by the Colentina River.

One of the most interesting places in the park is the open-air ethnographic Museum Dimitrie Gusti National Village. I walk around the village under a light rain. I do not stay long, as, I am in my way to the rail station.

The North station is full of activity as trains come and go. Romania being a member of the EU means that I get Internet without extra cost with my Swedish internet provider. Real-time communication makes it easier to find my friend in the middle of so many people.

Our first stop is the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum. We are close by, and it is an excellent place to take pictures and learn more about traditional Romanian architecture.

From there, we wander around the city, and, I show my colleague some of the most touristic places in Bucharest. The city has many beautiful buildings, but they are in different states of conservation.

At night, I end up at The Drunken Lords with other DevTalks speakers and colleagues from the Bucharest’s office. This pub is a local favourite situated in a narrow street in the old town.

Next day, I do my talk and stay in our company stand with my colleagues. Its an exhausting day, but, it is worth it. DevTalks is a big conference and many developers attend to get knowledge and inspiration.

My colleague will go back to Stockholm on Saturday early in the morning. So, the last conference day, we leave early to do some city exploration. We take the short M4 line and then change to the M1 to get to the city centre.

From there we visit some of the most touristic places in the city. I repeat many places from my April trip to Bucharest. I enjoy guiding other people in a town that I know.

On Saturday, I have some time during the morning before taking my flight. I wander around the city until I stumble upon the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History. It is a modern take on the traditional Natural History museum set up. The dioramas are beautifully constructed, and there are specimens of all around the world.

I take the flight back to Stockholm with a stop in Warsaw. The plane is late, and I have to run in the Warsaw Chopin Airport to get onto the next flight on time. I made it.

Don’t worry
everything will be fine.

Anonymous

DevTalks Bucharest 2019

Dev<Talks/> is the largest IT conference in Romania. This year I have had the pleasure to be a speaker representing Kambi.

To give the talk has been a great experience. I’m very grateful for all their support to the DevTalks organisation and Kambi’s Bucharest office. The talk would have not been possible either without the collaboration of the Manila team that develops our risk management application.

It has been an excellent opportunity to show how we work at Kambi and which kind of technologies we use.

One of our risk tools was created ten years ago and with new business, demands need to scale way beyond original requirements. Legacy Java technologies and limited vertical scaling limit the functionality of the tool. From proof of concept to implementation, I will present how to refactor a service into a modern horizontal-scaling Java backend service with Hazelcast.

MANAGING SPORT BETTING RISK AT A SCALE WITH THE IN-MEMORY DATA GRID HAZELCAST.
Josep Panadero speaking at the Java Stage in Dev<Talks/> Bucharest.

May 2019 trip to the United Kingdom. Summary.

It has been a few years since the last time I visited London. So, it has been a coincidence that I have visited it twice in a month.

My first, short, trip was from the 6th of May to the 8th. I did not extend the trip as I knew that I would be visiting the city soon.

After travelling to Copenhagen and Malmö, I have made a second trip to London from the 21st to the 27th of May. I even stayed for the weekend.

This is the first time that I visit a city other than London in the UK. There is so much to see in London that I have postponed any other British location until this date. I made a short trip to Cambridge. It was the right choice.

I have written three posts about these trips. I have mixed some experiences from one and the other. And, I decided to give The British Museum its own space as it’s my favourite museum in one of my favourite cities.

The British Museum.

Cambridge.

London.