Guus Bosman

software engineering director


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Get Well Soon

A lovely short book about the impact of various diseases and epidemics on human development. I like how the author is opiniated and her style is funny. "That was a monstrous thing to do", she wrote at some point. Enjoyable book on a sad subject.

It was published just before the discovery of Covid-19 which makes it all the more pungent. She actually wrote about "get really worried if you see people dying of pneumonia" -- and that's of course exactly what happened.

Jennifer Wright
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The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner: And Other Stories

Nora read her first Terry Pratchett book; she finished it on Halloween today. I'm a proud father.

The book is _The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner: And Other Stories_, a collection of short stories Pratchett wrote when he was still a teenager.

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Complete Works

Plato's Complete Works! What a beautiful challenge. I would have never thought I would actually read all these works by Plato. This became one of my ever favorite books, both in its contents and the awesomeness of reading dialogues and good discussions from more than 2,500 years ago.

Plato
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American travels of a Dutch hobo

While I keep struggling through the last Plato books, I keep distracting myself with lighter fare. I recently read this memoir of a Dutch retiree who remember his three years as an alien in the US during the 1920s, when he jump ship in the harbor of NYC.

I liked reading this book. It was nostalgic at times. The author, an old man in the 1980s, was pondering how his life could have been if he had stayed in the US, maybe married one of the women he met. It made me really curious about his live after he was expelled from the US, back to Holland.

Gerard Leeflang
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America give me a chance!

I'm still slogging through the complete works of Plato and it is getting boring. So I read "America give me a chance!", a hundred-year old book by a Dutch immigrant, Edward W. Bok. I didn't know much about him at all, but this is an interesting auto-biography. Edward met so many famous people in his life time, including several Presidents. His life work was editing a lady journal, and he's a gifted author.

Edward W. Bok
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Works and Days

This was a short book. The poem is around 800 lines only, though the book has an excellent introduction by A.E. Stallings. She is funny and made Hesiod approachable, both in her translation and the background she gave.

It's nice to think that Hesiod might have been the one introducing the Muses to Greek mythology; he dedicated the tripod he won for a previous work to a local shrine for them.

Hesiod
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Republic

This was the first time I read a book by Plato. Throughout the years I've read about his ideas, about Forms and the Allegory of the Cave, but I'd never read his actual work -- I was always intimidated! Well, now I'm on my Gutenberg reading spree, he was next in line. It turns out that Republic was quite readable, in a good translation and with great introductions by Melissane Lane in the Penguin Classics series.

Plato
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The Clouds

Part of the reading list from Gutenberg was a play by Aristophanes, The Clouds. It's a short play, and I read it in an hour or two, but I don't think I'll immediately read more plays -- I didn't love The Clouds. Unlike the case of Aschylus, where one story (and a book being unavailable right away in the library, haha), encouraged me to read the whole series.

I think what bothered me most was the conservative outlook by Aristophanes, making fun of Socrates and others who were trying to learn more. Even though that's 2,500 years ago, it made me annoyed with the guy; it's like watching Fox News I suppose.

The language was beautiful and very rich. I read Paul Roche's translation which is very contemporary and uses modern cursewords and so forth -- that was a bit shocking but felt right, in the sense that the original play must have been quite jarring and shocking as well.

Update 2/10: Now I've read some works about Socrates, I don't feel so bad about Aristophanes making fun of him anymore. So while taking a break after reading The Republic, I read Acharnians -- a funny story about a guy making a private peace-treaty with Sparta, and the outcome of that.

Update 2/17: You know, I'm starting to appreciate Aristophanes more and more and when I saw that Plato's Symposium is partially model after Frogs, I read that. Frogs is quite entertaining.

It's amazing how all these books refer to each other. Symposium to Frogs, Frogs to Aeschylus (who I really enjoyed), Frogs to Homer and Hesiod.. It's really nice to read all of these in the same time period, to get a full view. In Frogs there is a competition between Aeschylus and Euripides to figure out in the after-life who was the best poet. I have to say Roche's introductions and footnotes are quite good, too. Roche mentions that Sophocles had just passed away when Frogs was written, and Aristophanes didn't have time to make Sophocles a full participant in the verbal combat, though he did weave him into the story-line.

Aristophanes
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Sophocles I

This book contained the full Oedipus cycle, in three plays. Sophocles wrote them through his life -- they were written 10 years apart or more, interestingly. I read the summary of the Oedipus myth when I read Seven Against Thebes. This book was beautiful. It's a sad story obviously, so it was a dark type of beauty but Sophocles could write drama, for sure. The slow realization of Oedipus in the first part is well done.

The translation by David Grene was good, but I like Richmond Lattimore's translation of Aschylus even better.

Sophocles
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Aeschylus I

Well, I'm getting pretty disgusted by some of the things in the book. A father sacrificing his young daughter, really awful.

That said, this is a beautiful translation and now I'm getting more comfortable reading these plays I start to enjoy the language more and more. Take lines 91-96, just gorgeous:

the altars blaze with oblations
The staggered flame goes sky high
one place, then another,
drugged by the simple soft
persuasion of sacred unguents,
the deep stored oil of kings

The third part describes how the main character is chased by the Furies. It's cool to see where our word "fury" comes from and these are indeed some angry characters. They are transformed at the end of the play -- a move from never-ending blood revenge to a society where there is a court of justice.

I read this book around a business trip to Chicago.

Aeschylus
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