From my diary

No blogging in the last week.  On Monday 6th January I had a brand new and rather expensive Dell G5 Inspiron 5090 desktop delivered, with screen. I spent the week trying to set it up.  It’s time-consuming, isn’t it!  Sadly by the end of the week I had determined that there was a problem with it.  After three frustrating days of dealing with Dell, I have been promised a refund, and I have just finished boxing it up this evening for a return.  The nature of the problem makes clear that the unit was never tested or inspected at the factory.  It is a beautiful-looking machine.  But there is no getting around carelessness at the factory.  Nor is it possible to remedy matters when nobody at Dell speaks English as a first language.  I shall have to look for another machine; but I can’t face that for a week or two.

This week I have been working on the new Latin programme.  I feel that it  needs a kind of context-sensitive pop-up help.  The brief display of grammar is fine.  But sometimes you need examples, and a page or so of text.  The Eclipse, the editor used for Java software development, has such a feature in its intellisense, and I have patterned it on this.  It’s a devil to debug mouse movements, however!

As part of this, I have been taking Morwood’s Oxford Latin Grammar to bed with me, and absorbing some of the syntax.  It’s a remarkably concise guide, yet useful as well.  However it is too brief sometimes.  The old Allen and Greenough grammar still has much to offer, while being fuller, and I bought a copy of this in printed form, for bedside reading.

I also had a go at finding a printed Latin bible.  I thought that it might be nice to read some of the psalms, or the gospels, in Latin.  Your Latin always improves if you use it to read stuff.  But all I can find is complete copies of the Vulgate, and at a  massive price – $50 or more.  I had expected that there would be a glut of these, from Catholic churches.  But it seems not.  Maybe I should produce something myself!

But I leave the best for last.  This evening I have learned that Matthew R Crawford together with Aaron P. Johnson has completed a draft translation into English of the whole of what exists of Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Julianum.  This was a point-by-point refutation, with verbatim quotation, of Julian the Apostate’s polemic Against the Galileans (i.e. the Christians – isn’t it odd how those opposed to Christians so often have to rewrite history?), in at least 20 books.  But only books 1-10 survive, plus a few fragments of later books.  It’s a fascinating work, and I hope that the translation is written in such a way that we can read it and follow Cyril’s thought, rather than use it as a “crib” for the Greek.  It will take them a couple more years to get it fit to publish, however.  Cyril’s Greek is diffuse and hard to render.  This was probably a useful characteristic in political terms – how do you criticise someone when you can’t understand? – but not great for us.  It’s a truly valuable thing to do.  It will kick-start a world of scholarship on the late 4th/early 5th century.