The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, October 27, 2014

How not to do an outsider-reaction survey for Islam

Robert Hoyland's Seeing Islam has spawned a cottage industry of outsider-reaction collections, some of which fall in the revisionist camp. Of these, I have recently found Stefano Nikolaou's A Survey of Byzantine Responses to Islam, just this day on Answering-Islam. We are promised: [The author received his M.A. in Theology from the Australian Catholic University in 2007. The following paper was an independent research project counting towards the MA degree and receiving high recognition.]

I suspect that Dr Hoyland won't be fearing the competition. I should also like a chat with the professors who graded Nikolaou's paper...

The historical section starts with Nikephoros and Theophanes; and a scan through the bibliography turns up that these come from Cyril Mango's editions and translations - which would be excellent, if I'd had the confidence that Nikolaou had taken any care in reading these translations. For a start Nikolaou asserts that Theophanes does not seem to know about Mecca. This statement, at its most literal interpretation, is false. Mecca is absolutely noted - not in a 620 AD context, sure; but not all that later on, because it'll be the focus of the Zubayrid (anti)caliphate. One might muse, more precisely, that "Theophanes does not seem to know about Mecca's role in Islam"; but I'd not place money on that bet, either.

Mango elsewhere had pointed out that these two historians had used two common Byzantine sources before them: a pro-Leo, or at least patriotic, source up to 720ish AD and then an iconodoule tract of the 760s. If we're talking reactions to Islam, the former source is the one we care about. Nikephoros brings also an even earlier Constantinopolitan source, contemporary with Muhammad.

Hoyland, 434, relies entirely on Mango here. So as of 1998, scholars had broadly accepted Mango that these lost sources were real. I think most scholars have sided with Harry Turtledove that the 720 AD source was Trajan the Patrician; as of 2007, Dmitry Afinogenov (not in Nikolaou's bibliography) had additionally published "The Source of Theophanes' Chronography and Nikephoros' Breviarium for the years 685–717", Hristianskij Vostok n.s. 4 (2005), 11–22, which mused that it was a bio of Leo. My point is, that these scholars debate only the nature of this source; they all agree upon its existence. (Since 2007, Warren Treadgold has revived Trajan, and as far as I know this be the last word on't.)

Whoever did this 720ish AD source, we can get at it through a synopsis of the two who used it. This synopsis mentions the Arabs. A lot. It could hardly avoid the topic. In fact we should transpose much of Nikolaou's discussion of Nikephoros back to Trajan (or whoever).

(As for whether Trajan mentions the names of Muhammad, the name Muslim or the Quran... well, probably not as such. I have argued elsewhere that Trajan used the Qur'an, or at least used the jargon in it as it was - concurrently - being translated into Greek. But that's a side issue.)

Also, and this pains me to say it, Nikolaou's mistakes and omissions break in one direction. He doesn't mention Mecca when it should be mentioned, 70 / 690 at latest. He doesn't recognise synoptic sources where most scholars agree they should be recognised, 100 / 720. If we were to believe him, the canon of Islam would be late - very late. This goes to scholarly bias and possible suppression of evidence - and that goes up the chain to his teachers.

So we can't believe him. Answering-Islam isn't helping its case by entertaining his notions. As for Australian Catholic University - I concede that this essay might net a "B" grade in a side class, so counting that class for college-credit; but I wouldn't count it toward the MA directly.

posted by Zimri on 18:27 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Michigan rag

I believe I just got a negative pushpoll from 586-200-0157. That Michigan number called me around 7-7:30 pm tonight, and last Thursday too (twice). And I got another Michigan phonecall at 9:20 AM on 16 October (different areacode). This was just the first time I've answered it.

They're asking about various candidates on the ballot plus Obama. They first make sure I'm not in the media... which is kinda true, in the same way I'm not a published author. Anyway I answered mostly honestly - until I got to the points where they were asking about pro-choice, "so it's a woman's choice" or the other option, "make abortion illegal". Then they moved on to how Gardner was going to take away MUH STUDENT LOANZ. Which I'd just seen playing on TV during the NFL game(s).

At that point I cut the conversation off. I was polite to the "pollster" herself. Possibly more polite than I should have been. But hey, since they called from Michigan, technically they didn't break any Colorado state political-contribution laws. I'm sure Udall's got some loopholes for that too, though.

Michigan is union land, I hear. I wonder what sort of harassment I can expect next from Udall and his allied thugs. . .

Anyway, congratulations Udall. You've convinced me to vote for a guy who sucks and whom I'm always blasting in this blog, Mr Gardner, just because he's not you.

posted by Zimri on 19:48 | link | 0 comments

Vanity press: worst of both worlds

With traditional publishers, you don't lose money but when the money does come in, you see little of it. With Createspace, you lose money in getting the proof sent to you... but that's pretty much it (and it's the best petty-cash money an author can spend). Createspace's vig is much less. It's not zero (I don't like that they charge me eight bucks to cut a cheque, especially) but it's MOSTLY a legitimate cost of business.

Vanity press, like Author Solutions, is the worst of both worlds. The press keeps a larger vig; and it charges you for author-services. Createspace offer that last bit, too, and it's not good; but CS doesn't force you into that rathole.

As for David Gaughran himself, I gotta say, his blog reflects an annoying beta whiteboy twerp (yay diversity!). But on the case of the vanity press scam(s), I can't argue with him. And the traditional publishers' recent move toward that market doesn't make me feel more inclined toward those publishers.

posted by Zimri on 14:59 | link | 0 comments

My life with Microsoft display fonts

The Arabs and Their Qur'an had a Papyrus ampersand. House of War went full Viner Hand. Throne of Glass has taken the middle path of relegating the Microsoft to the subtitle - Algerian, this time.

What the three have in common: font experts hate them. All of them.

Ah well. I'd argue the case for Algerian, more so for Viner Hand; although, yeah, I can't defend Papyrus. Also it was that or waste more time hunting for fonts, or for a pro graphic designer.

posted by Zimri on 10:31 | link | 0 comments

Throne of Glass, week one

Last week I've been laying down the most basic "marketing" stuff: namely, mentioning that this Throne of Glass even exists. Since no-one (as in, zero people) bought it that week, it hasn't shown itself in most Amazon lookups. This false start was good news in one respect: it has given breathing-room toward fixing my own references to my own work. The profile and my google website all, now, refer to it. And Ace's book thread knows about it too (not a review, just a plug).

One embarrassment was when my mom looked up the book on Amazon and called bullshit on its blurb. Ayy lmao. So, I had to fix the CreateSpace description, and since the same stupid blurb was on the cover I had to yank everything. While I was at it, I took the opportunity to scatter some (very) minor proofreading fixes around the main text. Anyway. Since nobody had bought the book last week, the new PDF is not a "second edition" but really just a patchup of the first. Not sure when the new blurb makes it to Amazon but at least the book itself won't have that problem.

posted by Zimri on 10:24 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's happening

Throne of Glass is back in process. It's at 128 pages of main text. If it's still printable it'll be available for purchase tomorrow.

UPDATE 10/20/2014 1 AM: Oh yeah. Before it's actually purchasable on Amazon, here's the CreateSpace link.

House of War reached 127 pages only in its "2.1" version, May 2013 - which is the version which got reviewed. I don't feel so bad, now, that Throne of Glass has taken me 19 months (March 2013 - October 2014). That's almost as much time as the first one really took (January 2012 - May 2013). Really what I should be regretting is that I'd rushed out those too-early version-one's of that first one.

Some may worry that this new book isn't quite done either. To answer that concern, my experience with the first one had taught me to take more care with the manuscripts. So I don't anticipate such a scramble to fix bugs this time 'round.

I'll certainly consider what further reviewers think of, well, all of it. Also, I have in mind one further project: I've dribbled out so many miscellaneous essays on my site that it's becoming worth my while to do a followup to The Arabs and Their Qur'an. It would be after that, that I'd consider going through all of these books to correct whatever errors linger there, and by the way to update the cross-referencing links. But there shouldn't be any face-palm moments like, oh, attributing sura 37 to the rebels or reading "Yemen" into Q. 28:44-46. The first edition is complete enough.

posted by Zimri on 13:39 | link | 0 comments

Friday, October 17, 2014

Yeah, this was weird

The main difference between neocons (as I was, back then) and general Bush loyalists: we were 1980s-era liberals who took our liberalism seriously. Among what we'd counted as "liberal" was opposition to Saddam Hussein, especially after he'd gassed all those Kurds. When Bush Senior reconquered Kuwait, we applauded; when he didn't go on to liberate the rest of Iraq, we voted for Clinton or Perot. (I wasn't a citizen then, so I didn't vote, but I supported Perot. By that point I'd become more an O'Rourke libertarian with a touch of nativism.)

So when Bush Junior showed up, he offered that possibility of getting that Iraq thing dealt with. Iraq after all had those WMDs; Saddam had used them on those Kurds I've just mentioned. So it was clear that something would be found. In fact one worry of the time was that if the Americans had been as weak as Saddam's brownnoses had told him we were, and we'd stalemated outside some cities, those old stockpiles would have been used on us. That didn't happen very much (I'm getting to that), and I'm glad of that; but those stockpiles were found.

But nothing was said. At least - the administration and its Left opposition agreed it wouldn't be said. Sure, out in the blogs stuff was said (Ace, for one); and even I'd said stuff along those lines, at least in comments. But it wasn't said by Bush.

So now, well... it's getting brought up again. The GOP knew what we bloggers knew what we read in the papers. But the GOP let the bloggers handle it all. The GOP wouldn't argue its own message. (Another hat-tip to Ace.) And this told the voters that the GOP didn't believe in that message.

One reason I'm not so gung-ho on getting Republicans elected this time 'round is that I remember how the GOP left us bloggers hanging so many other times 'round.

posted by Zimri on 20:25 | link | 0 comments

ThreeJays on Gardner

Deadspin recently has given to us anti-Gardnerians a lesson on how not to take down a candidate. If anything they've now given to all of us frightened of a politicised media (including me) reason to go against Udall - who supports a veto on non-media free-speech.

Still, there's this, from the comments, by one ThreeJays:

I think my politics are mixed, but it's hard to argue that endorsing creationism in the face of demonstrable science, defiantly calling oneself pro-life while supporting the death penalty and wars that kill innocents, and denying that climate change exists; then saying it does and humans contribute, then backtracking and saying, "I'm not a scientist...", and again putting climate change into issue (even though 97% of scientists agree on the issue), is anything but honest or consistent.

We are sorely tempted to call out ThreeJays, the person, as a slimy and disgusting liar. If his politics were "mixed", he'd know that being pro-life does not entail being merciful to - for instance - murderers, especially murderers who are likely to repeat their crimes.

ThreeJays would also be a lot more careful about calling people who question the received faith of Climate Change, "deniers"; or, for that matter, "dishonest". The only factor staying my hand is the possibility ThreeJays might be eating his own dogfood. It is common among Cathedral believers to hold that their axiomata are just Science - which in this case they actually are - except that the believers haven't grokked that "science" means that these statements aren't axiomatic. No statement is axiomatic in science. (Math department's down the hall, bro.) A true scientist would be reading Watt's Up With That.

Well, I'll still call ThreeJays out on one thing. ThreeJays is lying about the pro-life / capital-punishment relationship, which I'm surprised he doesn't just out and call an "Axis".

ThreeJays's personal life as a lying hack and probable astroturfer aside... he does offer points which go to Gardner's inconsistency. Some digging - okay, I just googled - turned up that Gardner has a very mixed record on Climate Change (his support of birdblenders alone has been documented on this very blog; which is a clear "tell" for a climate panderer). Gardner also supports that amendment on "personhood" (anti-abortion), to one audience; but he vacillates to the other audience. Well, which is it?

Based on Gardner's other stances, and his professions to not really being a Republican at all these days: I think I can tell you. Gardner is very happy to accept the extra turnout from the Republican base. Gardner's answer on "personhood" in general is that it is very important that Gardner be elected. Vote for him and your views on "personhood" will be very... *koff* [babble] oh look at the time.

Gardner is just as much a doubletalking weasel as is ThreeJays. But here is the difference - ThreeJays ain't in the running to be my Senator. Gardner is. So I'll give Gardner as many votes as I'd give ThreeJays.

posted by Zimri on 18:10 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gardner's protection racket

Here is the non-Udall candidate yet again: Republican Rep. Cory Gardner argued he would be more bipartisan than his opponent, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, in a pair of ads released Wednesday as ballots began to land in mailboxes across Colorado.

In a year when the Democrats' brand is worse than it's been since Mondale failed to win, Gardner is running on the platform that the difference doesn't matter to him.

Why, then, should it matter to me?

posted by Zimri on 17:43 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Learning to youtube

My first attempt at lecturing at a videocamera: Intertextuality in the Qur’ân. Here's the summary:

This lecture explains how a study of intertextuality in the Qur'an may help us understand the Qur'an. Its core is a summary of and extrapolation from E E Elder, "Parallel Passages in the Qur'an (the Moses story)", in The Moslem World (1925). Elder had proven that sura 28 used both suras 20 and 27 for its Moses story.

It further argues that sura 28 could only have done that if its author believed that its sources were lacking. It is here shown what Elder did not know, that many early Muslims especially in al-Kûfa *did* object to suras 20 and 27. Sura 28, then, is their replacement; and it was not composed by the same person(s) as composed those earlier two.

(This is what I was trying to do earlier on this desktop. I gave up and did all the editing on the laptop instead.)

As for Throne of Glass: I got the proof-copy from the printer yesterday, and have been marking up various passages in it. Progress is being made. This video I have posted is (subtly) a teaser for that, and for the essays of The Arabs and Their Qur'an.

posted by Zimri on 18:51 | link | 0 comments

Driver woes

Since I bought the desktop for this house, an HP Pavilion with AMD Radeon HD 6450 around October 2011 ish, I've always had problems with the graphics card crapping out on me. Even the mail program would freeze up.

All the Windows Updates in the world wouldn't fix it. HP Pavilion quit keeping up to speed at the end of 2012: 8.892 is as far as they'll go with AMD. The AMD Catalyst updates got me to version 8.960 (and Catalyst 13.1); but their support pages won't handle AMD Radeon HD 6450 anymore either. I *did* manage to get at least the mail program working... last year... when I bought a controller for a new monitor.

It turns out my BIOS was from July of 2011, AMI version 7.11. HP got me to version 7.16.

For AMD, although you can't drop down into 6450 anymore, it does let you download an AMD autodetector. This got me to 14.301. I think.

Will reboot now.

UPDATE 1 PM: Well, now the whole Catalyst centre host, CCC.exe, is foxxered. And this turd of a system STILL craps out.

UPDATE 11 PM: How to clean boot. That fixed at least CCC.exe.... until I got into and out of the Catalyst centre again. Not sure which crapware, exactly, blowed up da owl. Maybe all of it.

posted by Zimri on 12:32 | link | 0 comments

Friday, October 10, 2014

Upload #95: Champion

I had a couple of unwieldy parallel footnotes in "In Ranks" and "Logothete", on topic of that shi`ar preserved in Theophanes. These had been making those projects get updated a little more regularly than I like.

It turns out that there is more to it. It might be another 70s / 690s witness to the written Furqan - which its first historian, Trajan, didn't note as such. So, those two aforementioned projects are fixed, and there's a new one: "Ekdikos". It's not going into Throne of Glass on account that it's tied in best with sura 25, not so much suras 26-28. So really it should have been in The Arabs and their Qur'an. D'oh.

"Iconoclast" and "Interceding" have also taken on some tweaks.


posted by Zimri on 22:11 | link | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

In defence of Ben Affleck

Ulsterman: Miramax Studios was bought by Qatar in 2010. Miramax owns rights to most of Affleck's past/ future studio projects. By the way, this is true, with a few nitpicks. Qatar Holding is QIA; it is controlled by Qatar's amir. Qatar-as-nation is, likewise, held by said amir. Want to know another of the amir's little investments? The caliphate.

To be fair, going back to Affleck, he bravely stood against the Islamic Republic in Argo.... oh wait. That was a Shi`î Islamic regime. Which gulf-coast Sunnite Qatar hates more than it hates us infidels.

posted by Zimri on 19:15 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, October 05, 2014


In Egypt, before Nasser dammed the Nile at Syene, the entire economy depended upon the annual floods.

Sometimes the water got too deep; such an event is noted by Agapius for the late 40s / 660s, which event he appends to the Syrian Source's note on the flood in Edessa / Urfa. Such is also noted of the time of Bronze Age pharaoh Kamose, nowadays thought to coincide with the Thera volcano. Storms in the Nile region tend to coincide with global cooling.

Because of worries about these floods, rulers of Egypt have taken it upon themselves to measure the volume of the river. Such a "nilometer", in Arabic, is a miqyâs.

I've been wondering about a time the Egyptians faced drought. What brought this on, was Roger Pearse's recent posting of Anthony Alcock's translations. One is the Siirt Chronicle; I'm not so concerned with that. The other is Pseudo-Athanasius. To whit:

The river of Egypt will become weak and so low that people will be able to walk across it. Then God will take control of the river not to let water come upon the land for many years because of the sins of those who live in it. So many people and animals will perish from that harsh drought. And even if God is pleased to bring it upon the land for years ... and it is very little. And then transgression will increase very greatly [5 lines] and the dew and the rain not to allow them to come down on the land. For this reason too the earth will be unable to produces its fruits. A great seed will taken from the field and little will be reaped, because the lawlessness of the children has increased greatly upon the earth. God has taken away His blessing on the earth from all that grows in the fields, the vineyards, the olive trees and the rest of the fruits of the earth. There will be much death from pestilence, as the Saviour said in the Holy Gospel: Pestilence will be everywhere.

The woes go on:

The fishermen will weep that their fish have disappeared in the waters of the river. The sailors will grieve that the water of the river has declined and that they are no longer able to sail on it with ease. The craftsmen of the land will grieve that their crafts have fallen into neglect. Trade has been ruined in the whole country.

This drought was clearly the most important event of our preacher's time. All we really know of Ps-Athan is that he was writing when Damascus was the capital, or had been made the capital; and that recently the caliphate was making a big push to re-strike Byzantine gold into Islamic glyphs, to take the census, to collect tax and so on. On these grounds Robert Hoyland in Seeing Islam narrowed Ps-Athan to 75-125 / 695-745. I would narrow it further: there is a real question about whether Sulayman even had a consistent capital, and whether Hisham counts - since he'd set up camp at Rusafa. I am also surprised not to see mention of the attack on Constantinople. This gets us to 75-95 / 695-715, still not too helpful.

Now that we have the full Ps-Athan, we know to look for the fall of the Nile in these decades. Such seems to have hit under al-Walid's last days or the building-project days of Sulayman; such from the bio of patriarch Alexander II.

Back to the miqyâs: We have one from Usama bin Zayd. It was commanded by al-Walid in Maqrizi, Khitat; Ibn Abd al-Hakam, Futuh; by his successor Sulayman in Masudi, Muruj and Suyuti, Husn. For these refs I owe Petra Sijpesteijn, Shaping a Muslim State, 20 (with a modest correction for Masudi). We also have a Syrian record of epic hailstorms over the early 90s / 710s. So - climate seems to have had a hiccup in those days.

UPDATE 10/6/2014: Alcock has an academia site. But really, for more serious dives into the material (and for scholarly citations) you should use Francisco Martinez's dissertation instead (because this has detail, where Alcock only offers a bare translation - and, to be fair, isn't pretending to anything more). Martinez's work is on scribd here: Early Christian Apocalyptic in the Early Muslim Period, free to read but downloadable only with an account.

posted by Zimri on 10:41 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Iran executes a biblical critic

Is the Book of Jonah, and by extension the Qur'anic references thereto, a symbolic tale?

The Ayatollah begs to differ.

posted by Zimri on 19:02 | link | 0 comments


Charles Clymer argues that the focus shouldn't be on Julia Pierson.

I would agree that there are plenty of people down that chain-of-command who should be punished just as hard as Pierson. However, what I didn't understand was the feminist angle - I mean, if a woman in authority screws up, she should get rapped just like if it was a man. Even the womenfolk aren't rallying around Pierson. Those Womenfolk who like Obama and (for whatever reason) Reid, and who worry about Right Wing Extremism - which does exist - have especially good reason to desire competent SS protection - which protection, Pierson has demonstrably not provided.

But then I read... Charles Clymer's website.

I am going to say the following as nicely and delicately as I can. I don't think that Clymer's focus should be on female empowerment right-or-wrong. In fact I suggest he avoid politics entirely for a few months. I think that his talents, which he does have, would be best employed in a less partisan matrix.

posted by Zimri on 18:46 | link | 0 comments

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