Monday, 30 March 2020

GC XXVI: The proof will carry conviction

The whole 'weekly blog post with homework' format of our ongoing Great Conversation project is a strange beast. Usually I end up delaying the blog post because I need more time to read the books, but this time around I had the opposite problem; despite finishing the 'weekly' readings in mid-November, I've found the actual writing of the post itself to be the bit that's slowing down the process, and now here we are at the end of March, with the readings in the distant past, and if I was grasping for something interesting to say about them back then I have Buckley's Chance now. So, apologies for the limited review section, but it's time to get this show back on the road. It's almost Blapril, after all.

Unfortunately, the Adelaide eBooks site that I've been using as the main source for most of the links throughout the series has now disappeared from the internet, so all of the past links are now irretrievably lost. I guess that's what happens when your seven-year project starts hanging around past its used-by date. This also means that we have to revert to the project Gutenberg translations, which in many cases are inferior, but in the absence of learning ancient Greek and Latin I suppose that they'll have to do. More importantly, though, it means that I can't easily link directly to chapter headings any more unless Gutenberg have included direct links, which is about 50/50 so far. To get around this I'd hope to be using the Text Fragment Anchor flag available in the current version of Chrome. If you use Chrome you would can go here to turn that feature on for now to allow you to scroll straight to nominated places in the document, which wouldn't help readers on other browsers, but would have been a start. Unfortunately, my experiments with getting it to actually work have hit a dead end, and so I've abandoned it for now in the interests of actually getting this post up, so for now we're flying blind and if you want to read the chapters I'm reading I'm afraid you're going to have to do your own scrolling.

The Week That Was:

The History of Herodotus


As Herodotus winds down somewhat anticlimactically after the highs of book seven, I'm mostly just left with the general impression that it's really a wonder that the Greeks ever listen to oracles about anything at all, given how many examples we've been given lately of them being just straight up paid to lie about things. You'd have thought they'd learn something at some point.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Chapters XVIII-XX

If the reader was looking for some kind of conclusion out of the last few chapters of Crusoe, they're in for a rude shock. Once the mutineers have been dealt with, Crusoe returns home having learnt more or less nothing. Of course this is all just set up for the next book, and this being pretty much the first English-language novel the rules of how to write them aren't exactly codified yet, but I want closure, dammit!

All in all, I enjoyed reading Robinson Crusoe. I feel like it's aged pretty well when you consider just how old this novel is, but I think it falls just a little bit short of inclusion in my own personal canon. And I have absolutely no interest on reading anything at all about Crusoe's further adventures.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume III - Book IV

The various characters of the ABC all seem like a lot of fun, but as usual when it comes to French names I have absolutely no hope of keeping them all straight when it comes to the action. Hopefully Hugo will hold my hand a little when we eventually come to that stuff, or I am going to be so lost.

Republic of Plato

Book I

It's a whole new book, but Socrates continues to do Socrates things. As usual we're supposed to think he's so clever, but like Thrasymachus I find myself wanting to bop him on the nose. Rather smartly. If the rest of the Republic goes on like this it's going to be a long book.

The Sand Reckoner by Archimedes

Perfectly transparent

I found this one surprisingly easy to grasp and Archimedes chain of logic relatively easy to follow in comparison to Euler's, and was pleased to find that I could more or less able to nod along with all of his steps, so I was perplexed to find out that Archimedes model of the solar system was way, way off. Despite having a pretty good guess at the size of the Earth, it comes down one of his base assumptions being an order of magnitude off causing the measurement of the distance to the sun to be comically, tragically underestimated, but there's nothing wrong with the logic. Give me Archimedes over Socrates any day, is basically what I'm saying.

Some Numbers: 

This week we passed 3000 pages read during the project, which feels like a pretty significant milestone for someone who really hasn't read an awful lot in the last few years. It doesn't count all the Harry Potter fanfiction, either.

Pages last week: 106
Pages so far: 3021

Readings for Week XXVII

The only new book on the list this week is a return to Shakespeare with the Tempest, otherwise we're jsut continuing to power on through with bite-sized chunks of Hugo, Plato, Dicken, Bacon and our last dose of Herodotus. There's a few mid-sized readings and a couple of teeny-tiny ones, hopefully there's a little bit of something for everyone, so do join me by picking up a book or two ready for this time next week. Unless you only like things written since 1900, I guess, if so, you're bang out of luck.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume III - Book V (12 pages)
#non_gbww #imlit #novel #french

Republic of Plato

Book II (17 pages)
#gbww #pandt #philosophy #greek

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

(25 pages)
#gbww #imlit #play #english #oneshot

The History of Herodotus

Book IX (32 pages)
#gbww #mands #history #greek

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

Chapters XIV & XV (18 pages)
#non_gbww #imlit #novel #english

Sphinx by Francis Bacon

(2 pages)
#ggb #pandt #essay #english #oneshot #short

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