Tag Archives: book notes

More reading notes

  • Christopher Matthew, A Storm of Spears: Understanding the Greek Hoplite at War. The most important conclusion from this is how the Greeks wielded their spears. Despite all the pictures, they did not hold them over their heads with a back-handed grip. Instead, they held them with the butt of the spear tucked under their armpits. This allowed for much greater reach and strength. Lots of good experiments with re-enactors.

  • Continue reading

Some of my summer reading

Thomas Bayes and O.J. Simpson

After posting about The Prosecutor’s Fallacy I recalled a similar case with the Defense in the O.J. Simpson trial. The issue was summarized in What is your favorite problem for an introduction to probability?:

… one of Simpson’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, noted that even though Simpson beat
his wife, that hardly mattered, because in the United States, four million women are
battered every year by their male partners, yet only one in 2,500 is ultimately
murdered by her partner (1 in 1000), so, by the ‘reasonable doubt’ criterion, this is
irrelevant. The jury found that argument persuasive, but it’s spurious. The relevant
question was what percentage of all battered women who are murdered are killed by
their abusers, which ain’t 1 in 1000, but rather 9 in 10.

For a clear explanation of the details see Chances Are, by Steven Strogatz, which is reprinted in his excellent book, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity.

Good Historical Novel

Helen’s Daughter is about the life of Hermione, daughter of Menelaus and Helen of Troy, and granddaughter of Atreus (Hence the Amazon blurb’s reference to “the curse that haunts her family”). The author, Laura Gill, knows the Mycenaean Greek world very well and tells a gripping and realistic story about what Hermione’s life might actually have been like.

A great collection of stories

The First Heroes

The First Heroes: New
Tales of the Bronze Age
. The stories are a mix of Historical Fiction, SF, Fantasy, and one of Altenate History. Fantasy comes
from the myths of the era being incorporated in several of the stories. The Greek world is well represented, but China, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, Northern Europe and even Peru appear. Continue reading

Life in Late Bronze Age Greece

Notes on Mycenaeans,
by Rodney Castleden

I have been interested in the Greek Bronze Age ever since I read Joseph Alsop’s
From
the Silent Earth
back in High School (1964-1968). Mycenaeans
is a very readable and recent survey (2005) and I was quite interested in seeing what is new. Quick summary: Some more sites
have been excavated, there have been more digs at known sites, and more Linear B tablets have been
found and translated. So there are Lots of new details, but no revolutionary changes in what archeologists think and the big questions
remain unanswered.

Continue reading

Book Find

After being snowbound for 40 hours we were finally able to get out late Sunday morning. The first event: A family trip to a bookstore. There I found and bought a copy of The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man. I had read it decades ago, back in college or even high school. The author, David W. Maurer was a long time friend and colleague of my parents. When I saw The Sting a few years later I immediately noticed how closely it followed Maurer’s book and mentioned that to my father. Dad agreed, but that was done with without Maurer’s permission or any acknowledgement of his work. As noted here, a lawsuit followed.

After all these years, The Big Con still finds new fans, such as Cory Doctorow.

Recent reading

Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800

Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist. The author is brotherguy.

The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

All are recommended to those interested in the respective subjects.