Best Blogging Platform, Revisited

For the past couple years Squarespace has been my blogging platform of choice for one reason: even without much knowledge of CSS, Squarespace allowed me to customize the site to my heart’s content. It was partly about the template I used, too. I had a Squarespace template that was close enough to my style preferences that I could use the built in customization features to get things exactly as I wanted them.

The last time I wrote about this I said that customizing your theme/template is necessary because no simple, elegant blogging theme exists on any platform. Well, things have changed. I found a WordPress.com theme that I really like (the one you are looking at), and the move to WordPress brings along several benefits.

Money

The monthly cost of Squarespace is the primary thing that sent me looking for another platform. Squarespace cost me $16/month. WordPress is $4/month. The $4 WordPress personal plan allows me to map my Hover domain to my WordPress.com site. Squarespace is setup to be much more than a blog, and I finally realized I do not need to pay for such a robust platform.

Mobile

One of my biggest frustrations with Squarespace was their mobile apps. Getting a post up was not difficult. I cold write a post in Ulysses, and then copy and paste the markdown directly into Squarespace’s iOS app. But if I wanted to access my site’s dashboard, forget about it. Navigating the Squarespace website is a horrible experience on mobile devices. At one time, when I went to the site to customize the template, I was told I could not proceed on my mobile device; only way to proceed was on a laptop or desktop. Mind boggling.

WordPress on the other hand allows me to post directly from Ulysses, and I can run just about every aspect of the site from my iPhone or iPad using either their website or their mobile apps.

Style

Finding the “Independent Publisher 2” WordPress theme was the turning point. It isn’t perfect, but it is minimal, single column, and prioritizes the reading experience. I like the large sans serif headings and the way the theme allows me to set the main font to Noto Serif, which has a nice, full featured set of Latin and Greek characters.

Final Thoughts

The only drawback to the switch from Squarespace to WordPress was that I had to edit the slug for every post on this site. Initially, every link to my posts was broken. This problem only took a couple hours to fix, and for the reasons above, it was totally worth it.

If you are looking to start a blog, I recommend registering a domain with Hover — great support and not tied to a particular blogging platform — and getting a WordPress.com personal plan.

Teaching Online iPad Only

For the first time, this week I taught a formal online class using only my iPad. By “formal online class” I mean not a one-on-one teaching environment. This class was for an accredited institution with multiple students all over the country. They see a live stream of me teaching, and each student has a microphone they can use when I call on them.

I normally run the digital classroom on my laptop and use my iPad as a white board. The reason I did the class on my iPad yesterday is because my car transmission is shot. It’s not drivable. This means I get rides to work, and on this day I couldn’t get a ride home until after my online class. I happened to forget that all this meant I “needed” to bring my laptop.

The normal workflow was out the window, and it didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t going to be able to use the white board in the Adobe Connect iOS app as a normal classroom white board. More on that in a minute. I improvised. Instead of writing everything on the whiteboard, I took screen shots of the key paradigms and exercises in the Logos version of Croy’s grammar and cropped them. In the Adobe app, instead of sharing a whiteboard, I shared the pics. The only problem was that each time I wanted to share a different pic, I had to stop the share and then initiate it again picking a different pic. Each time I selected a pic it had to upload, but the upload was fast. Sharing the photos worked really well otherwise. I could hit a ‘draw’ button and lightly annotate them with no problem. The students seemed to like seeing the paradigms in the way they actually appear in the book, and I might actually shift to doing something like this regularly instead of just writing on the whiteboard.

Even after this overall good experience, if I am able to be home I will use my laptop to run the digital classroom because writing on the white board within Adobe Connect is really, really bad. You write for a couple seconds fluidly, and then it’s like it has to process that writing to actually get it on the board. Whatever you are writing during that processing period isn’t recorded.

The definite take away is that this is yet another scenario I have discovered where I can leave the laptop at home. Now, whether I am doing online private tutoring — for which I use Zoom and it’s amazing — or a formal online class, I can leave my laptop at home. There is no situation when my laptop needs to leave my desk except when (1) I am working on a paper or (2) writing multiple quizzes.

Obstacles to Going iPad Only

Apple’s 2017 hardware and software releases helped me make significant progress towards going iPad-only, but I’m not quite there yet. I now only carry my laptop one or two days a week. What has to change for me to go i-Pad only?

There’s two prongs on this fork, but both have to do with one piece of software: Microsoft Word. There’s (1) what it would take for me to be able to leave my laptop at home every day and (2) what it would take for me to no longer need to own a laptop.

To leave the laptop at home

As a teacher I write quizzes and tests every week, and I need the ability to open multiple Word documents so that I can copy and paste from one document to another. Currently, the only way to do this is to break out the MacBook Pro. I usually write all my assessments for the week on Monday, so this is the only day I have to take the laptop off my home desk and carry it to the office.

Printer Pro is a key app that allows me to be iPad-only for the rest of the week. Printer Pro allows me to print any document to any printer.

To sell the laptop

Word for iOS would have to be a full-blown word processor for me to be able to sell my laptop. I need to be able to typeset a paper for publication. I have to be able to create and edit styles, and I have to have full control over the formatting of footnotes. It would really help if there were a way Zotero and Word for iOS could communicate.

The Accordance iOS app would also need a lot more development. Using the MT-LXX merge search is not currently possible on iOS. It also takes too many clicks to move from text to lexicon, and the information window pop-up is too small to be a solution. I still love and use the iOS app far more than I do the Mac app.

Montanari Interview about BrillDAG

Brill has posted a video interview with Franco Montanari discussing four topics:

  1. Why we need a new dictionary (same reasons I noted in this post)
  2. What makes this dictionary stand out?
  3. Ghost words
  4. Words in progress

Each part is a separate video, but all are collected in this playlist. They also have the full interview in one video here.

If you find any typos in BrillDAG, please let me know. I’m trying to keep up with what I find here.

A High School Student’s First GNT

A parent, who wants to purchase a GNT as a Christmas gift for his son, emailed me and asked what I would recommend. I recommend one of two options.

Reader’s Greek New Testament

There are several of these on the market, but in my opinion this one is the best. It is absolutely beautiful and provides both vocabulary and some parsing helps. There is no English translation, however.

The UBS Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition with Textual notes, Flexisoft Leather Black

Greek-English New Testament

Again lots of these on the market, but this is the best. On one side of the page you have the Greek New Testament beautifully typeset to line up well with the NIV on the facing page. No parsing or vocab helps, but it’s a great Greek-English edition. I would not recommend an interlinear. If you want something Greek-English, this is the ticket.

The Greek-English New Testament: UBS 5th Revised Edition and NIV

I own both of these and love them. The first time I read through the GNT it was with a reader’s Bible, the first edition of the one listed above. When asked for a recommendation, this is always the first thing out of my mouth. If, however, the plan is not necessarily to chip away at reading through the whole GNT and mastering the most frequent vocab but to simply have the Greek and English accessible in church, option 2 would be the way to go.

New Greek Resources in Accordance

Whether you are in Boston or not, for the next twenty-four hours you can pick up two new Accordance Greek resources at an introductory discount. These are a part of their SBL/ETS sale. The best part: both are very affordable!

Gregory of Nyssa’s Great Catechism

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity states that Nyssa wrote The Great Catechism around AD 385 and describes it as “a work of his maturity … a doctrinal summa for teachers who needed a system in their instructions” (vol. 2, p. 184).

This type of resource is great for those of us who are more interested in digging through lexicons and working through texts in original languages but are aware that we should be reading more theology (at least a little, right?). Here, you get early Christian theology in Greek!

Along with the Greek text, the Accordance module comes with an English translation and notes containing a few cross references to scripture and other portions of the catechism.

Check it out here.

Whitacre’s Patristic Greek Reader

This is the one I’m most excited about because I tend to spend more time in biblical and classical Greek. Having this reader’s text in Accordance allows me to get a taste of post-NT Greek during down moments when I’m out and about.

In the Accordance module, the reader’s notes are accessible via verse reference hyperlinks. For example, in the second picture below, by clicking 1:3 the notes for that verse appear in the information window. You can click the hyperlink in the top right of the information window to jump to the notes section, which is something you might want to do ocassionally because all the resources Whitacre mentions, like BDAG or LSJ or Wallace’s Greek Grammar, are hyperlinked. You can navigate to them in your Accordance library with a click (if you own them, of course).

Another great feature of the reader is that the texts are arranged from easy to more difficult. The reader is designed to help students with one year of NT Greek study move into more difficult texts.

I’ll post more thoughts as I’m able to spend some time with these resources.

Check it out here.

Online English to Greek Lexicon

Someone asked me today how to say “differently” in Ancient Greek. I pointed them to Woodhouse online and then remembered that I have never highlighted this resource on the blog.

The University of Chicago has put together a nice website that allows you to search for English keywords and go directly to the relevant page scan of Woodhouse. Searching for the word differently will take you to a link for page 223 where you can see the Ancient Greek options.

You can purchase Woodhouse in Logos, as well.

What They Thought when They Were Wrong

Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 2

Greek text

This is what they said to themselves when they were thinking wrongly:

Our life is short and stressful, and there’s no remedy for a person’s death. For someone to return from Hades is unheard of. We were born out of the blue, and in the future it will be as if we never existed. The breath in our nostrils is like smoke, and our speech is like a spark in the movement of our hearts. Once our body stops burning, it will become ashes. Our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will remember our work. Our life will pass away like a fading cloud and will be scattered like a mist that has been chased by the rays of the sun and worn down by its heat. Our time is the passing of a shadow. Our death cannot be undone because the matter was sealed up and no one returns.

So come on! Let’s enjoy the good things! Let’s make good use of the things of life like we did when we were young! Let’s be filled with expensive wine and perfumes. May no spring flower go unnoticed by us. Let’s crown ourselves with fresh rose blossoms. Not one of us will take responsibility for our revelry. Let’s leave the marks of our party everywhere because this is our lot and destiny. Let’s jump an innocent poor person. Let’s spare no widow and show no respect to some old, grey-haired, elderly person. Our strength determines what is just. You see, the weak are considered worthless.

Let’s set a trap for the righteous one because he is inconvenient for us. He opposes our actions. He ridicules us for our “sin against the law.” He ascribes to us the “sins” of our education. He claims to have knowledge of God and calls himself a child of God. He came to us to tell us our thoughts are wrong. He is unbearable for us and sticks out. His life is not like others, and his ways are extremely weird. We thought he was a fake. He steered clear of our ways as one might from something dirty. He blesses the final state of the righteous and speaks of God as father. Let’s see if his words are true. Let’s put to the test his thoughts on the end of his life. If he is the righteous son of God, then God will help him and deliver him from the hand of those who have opposed him. With torturous violence let’s test him so that we can see his character and test his patience. Let’s give him a shameful death, and how he fares will be dependent on the veracity of his words.

These things are what they thought, and they were wrong because their wickedness blinded them. They didn’t know the mysteries of God, and they didn’t hope in the reward of piety. They didn’t consider the honor of a blameless soul. God created people for incorruptibility and as an image of his eternal nature.

Death entered the world through the envy of the Devil, and those who are of his lot put the righteous one to the test.

Advice for New Greek Students

A friend asked me this morning, “What is the number one piece of advice you’d give a new Greek student?” Here’s my reply, assuming a seminary context:

The Goal

The end game is reading, and it is utterly possible. You must know that what you are doing is preparing for a life of reading Scripture in the language in which it was written. That is the goal, and no matter what anyone tells you, you can actually do this. It is worth it. It might seem impossible and impractical at the moment, but I’m telling you that it isn’t. You can do it, and it is worth it.

In the Meantime

You have to make peace with the fog. When the fog sets in — and it definitely will — you have to know that this is normal. It might happen with all the pronoun paradigms or maybe adjective positions or participles, but when it happens and you feel like you can’t keep everything neatly together in your mind, just know that this is normal. The fog will lift, but it might be a while. You have to press on. If you can just get through the basic grammar and start reading, the fog will lift.

Grammar is not the goal. Endure it, and reap the reading benefits for life.