Saturday, November 01, 2014

This Blog is Moving!

Well, it's time for a change and time for a move. After 6 years, 648 posts, around 195,000 pageviews, I have decided this blog should move on. If you are a regular reader I strongly encourage and urge you to head over to and check out the new site, and most of all subscribe.

There you will be treated to all the usual types of content I have been posting here, especially what I have been posting this past year. So that means classics, language teaching and learning, patristics, latin, greek, the whole gamut of that field. You will also find some audio materials, some permanent links to resources I'm working on, and information on studying languages with me in the coming year.

Why the move?

This blog started life as a second 'main' blog as I moved on from an even prior one. It has grown and developed over the years, and particularly I feel that it has gained a sharper focus and at least a few dedicated readers especially in the last year.

At the moment I am about to move back from Mongolia to Australia to switch my doctoral studies to full-time. Overall I will be more heavily engaged in Greek and Latin work, and I am also trying to bring some of my varied 'projects' to a proper fulfilment, as well as take up more teaching. All of these seem a good reason to establish a dedicated site, an at-least semi-professional presence, and just a touch of hubris.

I hope you'll make the move with me. I will leave this whole site up, and this post as a reminder. Possibly in a couple of months I will start posting here again, in a more devotional/Christian vein. But for all the main, regular content I produce, it's time to move on.

There really are exciting days ahead, I think you'll like what's coming up.

Thanks for joining me on the journey thus far,
Seumas Macdonald

Friday, October 31, 2014

Chapter 3 of a Greek Natural Method

This one's not as long as earlier chapters. I decided not to get into uncles and aunts at this stage, is the main reason. Anyway, enjoy! Chapter 4 coming: whenever it's ready.

All three chapters are in one pdf: Greek Natural method.

I made a few corrections to chapter 1, thanks to some excellent feedback! And the audio recording process really helped me notice a few errors too.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being downwardly mobile

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret the decision to come here for three years, nor am I feeling any kind of self-pity or bitterness about it. I do however feel like some people misunderstand our situation.

See, if you're back home, you just think, "oh, those people have been absent for 3 years", but it's not really like that. We spent 3 years being downwardly mobile. We sold considerable possessions at a loss; we are selling our current possessions at a similar loss, returning to a country where we do not have considerable wealth, and we have spent 3 years not simply "in stasis", not even "keeping up", but simply out of that rat race.

Perhaps a race analogy would help. Imagine one of those 60 lap car races. Now imagine a driver stopped for 3 laps. Now everything is 3 years 'behind'. Our real income has been minimal, and our CVs look like they have big gaps on them. Few organisations or companies would look at experience here and consider it 'equivalent' to experience there. Qualifications one might obtain here would struggle to get any recognition elsewhere, and so on.

For us, personally, this is not too big a deal. I think we are well looked-after, overall our situation is quite positive. But even after 3 years I feel some of this. Which makes me think about other returned foreign workers like us; it must be more difficult, more onerous. Overseas service of this kind really is a kind of downward mobility. One will never 'keep up', even with one's former peers It's costly in this way too. I don't begrudge paying that cost, however sometimes this is part of the cost that we don't 'count'.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Things actually to like about Logos 6

As promised, here are things actually useful in Logos 6. Well, that I think might be actually useful.

The Ancient Literature tool

Looks like it will actually integrate and connect texts from ancient literature. Probably this is one of the most potentially exciting datasets/upgrades.

Bible Text Only

Hide chapter and verse numbers. This should hardly be revolutionary, but it is a nice perk.

Psalm Browser

While I have my questions about why it's only Psalms that has this useful kind of feature, let's all admit that we like pretty interactive infographics.

Journal Search

Would be useful if you had a lot of journals. If journals weren't subject to the same insane racketeering that almost all academic publishing is caught up in.

Textual Variant Tool

Actually useful. Thank you.

Lexicon Alignment

Having worked a lot with LSJ, I do know how difficult Lexica can be to read. Yes, please realign them.

Send to Kindle

Excellent. Yes. Bravo.

Anything to do with discourse analysis

Some of the best stuff coming out of Logos HQ.

Random rants about Logos 6

I like Logos, even though I mainly complain about them. I really like Logos because I don't like having to ship entire theological libraries across the world to landlocked countries.

Now, on to random ranting. Complete with more question marks per every rant.

1. Did we really need 51 different base packages and crossgrades?

2. We can calculate a custom upgrade price on standard editions but not Biblical Languages??

3. Modern and Erasmian audio datasets are on the core crossgrade but you need the Feature crossgrade for Koine pronunciation??? Why are we inflicting more Erasmian on the world???? Do we even need American pronunciation datasets anyway?????

4. Why are we still constructing datasets built only on Greek in the NT canon like it's a special language?????? Stop it, we stopped reading Greek like that.

5. Why are we still marketing with "actual value of all print resources" when huge chunks of digitised books are out-of-date materials that are of dubious value???????

6. Why do they keep pronouncing "Logos" wrong, like it has two different vowels????????

7. Why does the Alphabet tutor mark your ability to write with the cursor????????? Nobody writes Greek or Hebrew on a screen with their mouse cursor.

8. If Logos can give me an individual breakdown of what every item, book, dataset, tool costs 'individually', why can't it give me the option to individualise and personalise my upgrade so I'm not purchasing umpteen useless English translations I don't want, Bible studies I'll never use, and expensive Interlinears that handycap genuine language use???????????

Okay, I promise tomorrow to blog about things that actually look exciting in Logos 6.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What's the Ancient Greek for "wristwatch"?

Sometimes I am systematically working on things that require neo-Koine vocabulary, other times they arise somewhat spontaneously. The other day in class we were doing some Where are your Keys play and a student put their wristwatch on the table and said, τί ἐστι τοῦτο; as I have trained them to do. Of course, I had no word to hand for wristwatch and told them we would cover it next time.

The first thing I do when looking for a word is to consult two English->Greek lexica. The first is Woodhouse, found here, and the second is Edwards, found here. I search first for 'watch' but then for 'clock' as being more likely. Both suggest to use κλεψύδρα for clock. I then consult LSJ and find that it is a water-clock. Now, for some words once I consult LSJ I find that the choice is suitable. In this case, I feel like this is not quite adequate. And of course, some times Woodhouse and Edwards have nothing to offer.

If I find nothing at all, I check with Juan Coderich's list here.

Then, supposing I don't find anything useful in these steps, I retro-engineer. I consult an English-Modern Greek lexicon. Here's one I regularly use, Word Reference. Now I see that ρολόι is a common Modern Greek word for 'watch'. I go back to LSJ and other sources to try and determine the source of ρολόι. Sometimes it is easy to see where a word has derived from. In this case, it's not immediately obvious, so I do an etymological search, and discover that it comes from the Koine ὡρολόγιον. Now we have got somewhere. I can reconsult LSJ which has an entry for ὡρολόγιον under ὡρολογικός in the Supplement. it's a sundial or other device for telling the time. It's meaning is clear, and more adaptable than κλεψύδρα.

The last step here is to make it specifically 'wristwatch'. A simple genitive will do: τὸ ὡρολόγιον τῆς χειρός. voila. This is how we neo-Koinify the world.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things I would do differently

These aren't things I regret, but they are things I would do differently with the benefit of hindsight. I don't think what I did were mistakes, but now I see things could have been done differently.

1. I wouldn't have come to the field intending to do a PhD.

While I'm exceptional, there are limits to my greatness. The ability to obtain physical books and the necessity of time to focus has meant an inability to progress in my dissertation as I would have liked. This was okay at first but the problem has grown.

It's always a little dangerous to extrapolate from one's experience to a general rule, but I would generalise anyway and say that the exceptional cases are indeed that, exceptional. Missionaries should not try and write doctoral thesis in the field, unless perhaps their topic is on the field itself.

2. I should have studied Mongolian more aggressively.

Related to 1, our full-time language load in our first year was me studying 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week. This was quite exhausting. But it also meant I went home and then worked on a PhD. If I wasn't doing that, I think it would have been better to pour 7-8 hours into language a day. I would organise it differently though. I had great teachers, and would keep those 3-4 hours individual lessons. For the other 4 hours a day I would have employed some private tutors and directed the learning myself through something like WAYK or another field-methodology for acquiring language. After six months of this, I would have started doing field trips. They aren't really in my nature, but I think they would have served me better.

I think this would have brought me to fluency faster and deeper.

3. I would have invested less in fellow foreigners.

Again, I think we made the right choices with our situation, and I don't think this is universalisable. Especially I believed we played important and key roles in serving the English language church here. Indeed, through a transitional period our presence was perhaps vital.

However, English language-people investment always came at a cost of Mongolian people investment. And Mongolians are very (a) collectivist in their mindset, (b) tend to value spending a lot of time together. I think to have integrated better, earlier, and deeper, we should have just realised how necessary it was to commit one-way on this front.

Instead our time has been divided, and so I have often felt tired from trying to serve in two different contexts, without ever developing truly deep relations on either front.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A slower road

At the end of 2007 I graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity, and at that time I had some consideration of immediately entering a doctoral program. I decided not to, for a variety of reasons. I suppose that if I had, I might have completed in 2010 and be 4 years post-degree by now.

Instead I choose a much slower path; I completed a 2 year full-time-equivalent MTh program which laid a further groundwork in the area of my specialty, I spent about 2.5 years ministering in an under-privileged area of Sydney,  another year working in an over-privileged part of Sydney, and now almost 3 years in Mongolia, including 2 teaching.

Sometimes I regret that I did not 'advance' my 'academic career' more directly and swiftly. That, as we now go back so that I can return to full-time studies, I have little to 'show' on my cv for these years. At the same time, my hope is that this has made me a more well-rounded figure. The other day I reflected that I have undergraduate majors in philosophy, literature, classics, and theology. That is a breadth that few bring to the table these days.

The next 2 years will be a fairly intensive time of research, and like many I often suffer from imposter-syndrome. On the other hand I despise the hubris of some programs. Perhaps one day I will master my field, until then I feel like there is always so much to learn.