The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Megalochronograph

In the early 1980s two Byzantine scholars Michael and Mary Whitby wrote a few articles about eighth-century sources. Abstract of one in 1983ish:

At two places in the tenth-century manuscript of the Chronicon Paschale extracts from an anonymous chronicle have been added, with the attributions ἄλλως ἀπὸ τοῦ μεγάλου χρονογράφου, and περὶ τεράτων ἐκ τοῦ μεγάλου χρονογράφου. At the first place a series of fourteen extracts, recording natural catastrophes and other disasters from the late fifth century to the mid-eighth century, is inserted in the context of the account of the Nika Riot. At the second place a single extract is inserted in the margin in the context of the account of Phocas' deposition of Maurice.

The manuscript in question is a Vatican MS. Since then in 1989 the two have translated the whole thing, with these extracts at the end. Since it's snippet-view, I cannot yet read all of these; just parts of extract 12 and all of 13. I can report that extract 12's earthquake and plague correlate to Theophanes AM 6238 and 6241 - note, Theophanes separates them which the Great Chronicle apparently does not. I can also report that when the future Leo IV was born, which Theophanes puts in 25 January "6241" (750), there was a meteor shower. Note the use of a Roman month and not the Hellenistic months used in Syria.

I did find a Greek version of the full Chronicon Paschale, with Latinate translation. This annotates the V marginalia upon its own base MS pp. 336 B and 379 C, at pages 620 and 694 respectively. The latter is even excerpted for us. Unfortunately it's the former that has what I want.


posted by Zimri on 18:02 | link | 0 comments

Monday, August 29, 2016

Gratitude

Jackie Robinson: anti-communist and proud American - and Republican - up to Nelson Rockefeller's run in 1964. The civil-rights struggle, Goldwater's victory, and Nixon's endorsement of Goldwater soured him on the Republican Party. And beyond, we learn.

Nixon of course supported civil-rights too; and so did America at large. But to Robinson all that struggle, in which drama Robinson played a part, amounted to nothing. As of 1972 Robinson wasn't just anti-Republican; he was anti-American, and anti-white: As I write this twenty years [after 1947], I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.

Once upon a time Superman's creator had his avatar support truth, justice, and the American way. There too once The American Way had its moment, Superman was done fighting for it.

Civil-rights will not win the loyalty of minorities to the state. It just makes minorities contemptuous. And civil-rights does not lead minorities to love whites. It just makes them hate whites more.


posted by Zimri on 17:55 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nate Parker is scum

Nate Parker as an undergrad took advantage of an emotionally-unstable woman, who was also drunk, with the help of a friend. He got charged for rape. He was acquitted (he had to be, legally); the woman whom he tag-teamed later committed suicide.

Now Parker's starring in a movie about Nat Turner, who attempted in the American South what the Haitian revolutionaries had recently enacted in Saint-Domingue. That is: lots of slaughter with some (more) rapes thrown in. Since the announcement of this movie, the sordid past of its star has come out. Parker is now blathering to Ebony magazine about "male privilege", "rape culture", and "toxic masculinity".

No, Parker; what you did wasn't because We Have A Long Way To Go. You did it because you saw your opportunity and you took it. America isn't the scumbag; you are. I'm using the present tense for good reason: you still haven't taken full responsibility.


posted by Zimri on 11:37 | link | 0 comments

Hydrophobia

There was a science-fiction award ceremony somewhere this year, delivering "Hugos" - or not. The usual three factions presented their Slates That Are Totes Not Slates. One was the old clique, now out of the shadows, aligned with the thoroughly corrupt Science Fiction Writers of America. Another was the "Rabid Puppy" clique, run as usual by Theodore "Vox Day" Beale in troll-mode whose aim is to lance the boil. The third is Sad Puppies, who were the only people there to support science fiction for its own sake; this was run by women this year, most notably Kate Paulk.

The old clique won decidedly - on the face of it; the Sad Puppies lost hard. Last year the clique couldn't even claim to have won; the excellent (read, Sad-Puppy) book Three Body Problem won. This time despite the clique's victory the way they won was to serve Beale's interests. They assert to the world that the purpose of SF is to repair the world and that intrinsic quality doesn't matter. I mean: no-Awarding Jerry Pournelle? Really?

I further think Christopher Taylor is right: future authors will ignore the WorldCon (and the SFWA). Larry Correia who founded the Sad Puppies - and sells many books - says he sat this year out, and I believe him.

In other news, Gardner Dozois avoided any mention of last year's Hugo controversy in the introduction to his SF shortstory collection for this year. This stuff might have been arguable in previous years but by 2015 - whatever you think of the results - the event was newsworthy. At this point I have to consider Dozois a coward.


posted by Zimri on 10:34 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Troubled waters

Among the more controversial scriptures of Islam is the sura of the Cave, 18th in the present canon. It features a narrative in which Dhu'l-Qarnayn, "The Two-Horned Man", traverses the cardinal directions over all the world. In the west, the Dominus Totius Mundi observes the sunset... upon a pool of murky water. Some Muslims have taken this literally, and Christian apologists present this absurdity as Islamic doctrine. But most Muslims resist this interpretation.

Among the Muslims who took this literally was, somewhat uncomfortably for the devout, the Sunni muhaddith Abu Dawud whose collection is now considered the third-best collection after those of Muhammad Bukhari and Muslim Naysaburi. Abu Dawud had found this comment in a hadith from one Sufyan bin Husayn < al-Hakam bin 'Utayba. This chain included sura 18's anecdote within a longer hadith about the sun, passed on from Ibrahim al-Taymi. In this form the hadith demands that the sura be taken as literal truth. Christian apologist David Wood has made much hay from this.

But where other muhaddithun passed on Ibrahim's hadith to their students, only the Sufyan < al-Hakam chain did so with the murky pool. Muslims like the host of Let Me Turn The Tables consider Abu Dawud to have erred in selecting this transmission. And that's just the Sunnis; the Shi'ites and the Ibadiya have no patience for any of this. I should disclose that on this one instance I agree with the Muslims.

I would normally let this go, since these posts are four or more years old, but David Wood still hasn't come to terms with the asterisk which the scholars have slapped upon Abu Dawud. And now Wood is being called on it.

Meanwhile Wood is fending off tu-quoque attacks on the Bible. ArgoX20071 yesterday let loose this squirrel: Hm... this is just as illogical as the chapter in the Bible that claims the sun stopped in the middle of the sky for one full day by Joshua's command. It's cute how a Christian ridicules verses from one holy book while completely ignoring those of his own. ;)

I would normally (that word again) commend tu-quoque only to trolls. This rhetorical tactic is too easily fended off with "so what? we're not talking about the Bible here". In this case - as Kevin van Bladel proved a decade ago - we're talking about plagiarism from late Heracleian propaganda. (Yeah, Let Me Turn The Tables has an answer to this too; but here they drool over their ugly hairy chins.) It might also be worth Wood's time to smack ArgoX20071 for being a cultural freeloader, a harmful parasite who leeches off Christian tolerance whilst distracting Christians from their enemies and, indeed, from humanists' enemies. I honestly don't think anyone would mind if Wood just banned ArgoX20071 off his comments.

Unfortunately Wood took it upon himself instead to defend Biblical inerrancy:

LOL! Hilarious when atheists say things! The sun stopping in the middle of the sky would require a miracle (i.e., the intervention of God). The sun setting in a muddy pool doesn't require a miracle; it requires that the sun be much smaller than the earth. This Qur'an passage isn't saying that Allah performed a miracle. It's saying that the sun actually sets in a muddy pool. Of course, if you spent more time developing critical thinking skills instead of trolling videos to whine about religion, this would be obvious!

Since this miracle never happened, defending it is a loser. Chasing this fuzzy rodent into the bushes whilst there's a discussion about something wholly different is even more a loser. Unnecessary, too, as Christian doctrine nowhere depends upon the inerrancy of the so-called "historical" books like Joshua and Judges, where this spurious miracle is to be found. Christian doctrine does somewhat depend on the Torah, but even in Jesus's day the Historical Books were counted as part of the Prophets, a secondary position or even tertiary behind the named Prophets and certain Psalms. (I believe the scholarly consensus holds that Joshua's author had found a verse in a poem and constructed the story around it, as Judges 4-5's author from the song of Debora.)

Wood got himself trolled: first five years ago by (other) ignorant foes of Islam who had latched onto Abu Dawud's bad hadith, and second yesterday by that smarmy creep ArgoX20071. The insecure "LOL" is a tell.

I gather that David Wood has a habit of not backing down from a fight. Sometimes this trait serves him well. But sometimes it doesn't, in which case it's not a trait so much as a character fault. He should control his temper.


posted by Zimri on 12:26 | link | 0 comments

Friday, August 26, 2016

The views from China and Vietnam

I went looking for the two Korean comet-apparitions of 1313 and 1668; both were seen in China and Vietnam as well.

It might be hard to find the 1313 comet in Europe. Another one passed o'er in 1315. That latter one (also seen in China) is associated with the great European famine. I suspect it drowned out notice of the 1313.

For 1668 China and Vietnam give us a lot more help. They concur with Lisbon and Brasil that the comet was impressive and first appeared in early March. The Korean record is, I think, too late; but since it's only late by, what, a fortnight this is still identifiable with the comet everyone else saw.


posted by Zimri on 17:46 | link | 0 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pons-Brooks

Any comet is best visible "when the stars align" - more precisely, if the Earth is at the correct point in the ecliptic when the comet is near the Sun ("perihelion").

I've been tweaking the Pons-Brooks wiki page for the past few weeks. Today I found some Korean records. Apparently this orbit has passed from Aries or Pisces (zodiacal, no surprise) through Cetus toward Eridanus (southward): once in 1313, again in 1668. Now, I don't read Korean myself. But the article gives the key data in Latin numerals and dates - and one of them matches nicely with Western records from (March) 1668. I gather that Pons-Brooks is best visible when the Sun and the comet are both in Aries or Pisces - that is, in March. The comet would at this time have its (southern) perihelion Aprilish, when it sails between Earth and our Sun.

Comets - like Pluto - share space with (much bigger) planets, so their orbits tend to be inclined and eccentric. Comets are to be seen not far from the ecliptic; too far from that, they're too far from the Sun (at "aphelion") and too far from us. 12P/Pons-Brooks happens to run a VERY inclined orbit, so its visible path in our heavens runs nearly north-to-south across the equator. South-to-north on the upswing.

Lisbon being approximately the same latitude as northern Korea, the Korean record drops below the horizon with the Portuguese - but a ship captain in Brasil saw more of it. To my knowledge I am the first to link the 1674 ship's report here with the 1668 Korean chronicle. Yay original research! I hope Wiki's editors don't mind.

Since this comet is faint today (all comets lose ice per stay within the solar snowline), it tends not to be seen at all when its arrival does not coincide with March. The upcoming perihelion 21 April 2024 looks promising though.


posted by Zimri on 16:24 | link | 0 comments

Sunday, August 21, 2016

V's whiff of sulphur

Season Two tells us what the Red Sky is for. Anna's "gift" is laden with phosphates, I suspect mostly iron like lithiophilite. The story is that, like Tibet with nonDenisovans, Vs cannot breed in a low-phosphorus environment. Earth is low-phosphorus (now) so, needs more.

Various characters call Red Sky "a form of phosphorus not found on Earth", and certainly aliens aren't going to schlep all this crap over here in mineral form. So I'm gathering that Red Sky is (1) a brew of artificial chemicals (which is damn obvious) but more to the point (2) containing isotopes and other trace elements in disproportion to Earth's phosphorus. 33P would be my first guess; you can check for those proportions by the amount of 33S, which is rare here yet stable.

The immediate impact of the phosphate rain is to spur plant growth, and this - claims Anna - will reduce global warming. I'm skeptical given that the red rain will also lower the albedoes of the deserts and ice-caps. But hey, that's what Anna does. She lies.

One more thing: the Vs didn't bother mining phosphorus from our own fine asteroids and comets. It would appear they are in a hurry. It also would appear that the V homeworld ain't far. Second episode tells us it was the atomic-bomb tests that alerted the local star-systems to habitation here. A Visitor died on Earth in 1950ish; they've been infiltrating since 2000ish.

I'm still unsure what the Vs want. Looks like a new homeworld. That's certainly a much better motive than the bullshit the 1980s series served up, which was Earth's water (again, how have they not sampled our wide variety of comets?).


posted by Zimri on 20:06 | link | 0 comments

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Max Reed has learnt nothing

Max Reed, one of many of Gawker's ex-writers, has penned an autopsy. This is of interest to me because I am an off-again-on-again gamer (as you know) and a coder besides; computers have been my life since I was eight years of age. Gawker - through Kotaku and Gizmodo - was involved with the very start of #gamergate when its journalists got into literal bed with "Zoe Quinn" von Valkenburg. Vox Day has rebutted Reed already, but I have mine own problems with this piece so that's worth a blog-post of mine own.

Reed makes clear that he had and has no empathy for gamers. Gawker's outlets infamously proposed "jokingly" that they - we - should have got bullied more in school. We figured we'd been bullied enough by the cool kids, that we'd heard "can't you take a joke" one too many times. We weren't going to take it anymore. (And, no; not all of us are too young to remember Twisted Sister, or at least to find them on Youtube.) Gawker's people (through Reed) mooting that "we didn't understand sex" was (and is) just one more sneer from the bully.

We also, as Vox points out, weren't impressed with the argument that just because von Valkenburg didn't sleep with the exact person delivering reviews of her "game", that meant hey, no corruption here at the Gawker family. Those African warlords whom the Clintons supported didn't donate to the Clintons directly, either. The warlords simply helped out those businessmen who did donate to the Clintons.

As for "harassment" of the likes of Anita Sarkeesian, most of that was people refuting Sarkeesian's lies to her face - you know, like adults are supposed to do. Sarkeesian, being a liar, deliberately conflated the reasoned rebuttals with whatever threats she did get (some from Twilight fans, implying that Sarkeesian's meat-puppets faked them). Since we gamers were being told we deserve to be bullied, this claim that we were being bullies ourselves was a very low blow.

If Reed can miss this much to this day, he never should have got into journalism in the first place. If this latest article is an attempt to clear his name, it has failed.


posted by Zimri on 13:33 | link | 0 comments

Friday, August 19, 2016

End of season one

Reporters who hang around the throne, like Decker, will sell anything they have to Gain Access. Even their integrity.

Moving on to screenwriting critique, yeah, the story was clumsy this year. There were a lot of scenes rushing to put out one crisis or another. The second Terminator season had the same problem. Also the scenes (beyond the pilot episode) tended not to blend thematically with adjacent scenes. For instance a more adept screenwriter - like the people currently fixing George Martin's story, or like Joss Whedon - would have juxtaposed Decker's scenes with those of the mercenary. I also must register annoyance at Anna's sudden grief for her soldier-children given that the script did not even hint at this prior to now (we needed a scene where someone catches her admiring her hatchlings). I suspect that the producers realised the first season had problems because the second season's blurb promises darker, funnier, faster.

I am unsure why the queen has reddened the sky. I mean, I get the allusions: to John's Revelation, and to Red Dawn. What I don't understand is what the Vs get out of it strategically - why did they set this up? The Vs seem not to understand the queen's decision either, given that they try to stop her. [UPDATE 8/21 - keep watching.]


posted by Zimri on 19:53 | link | 0 comments

Thursday, August 18, 2016

V-9: a 4G war

The Fifth Column resistance against the V's has stricken a transport-ship. The lesson here is that resistance movements are fought on a moral plane. If civilians are killed then the killers appear immoral.

I sense some influence from Deep Space Nine. A similar trick (which I shan't spoil) made the plot of one of the later, Worf episodes. Also the resistance cell is trying the word "terrorist" on their tongues; Kira Nerys of Bajor never shied away from that word. This cell's objective in striking that ship actually wasn't terrorism (they were trying to take down a direct threat); but they know they're going to have to do true terrorism eventually.


posted by Zimri on 21:06 | link | 0 comments

The emergence of the Koran

I just found out about a book by Professor Karl-Friedrich Pohlmann. It's in German. If it were in English, the title might - I'm told - be “The emergence of the Koran : New insights from the perspective of the historical-critical biblical scholarship”. This book first came out in 2012, and another (more famous) German professor Angelika Neuwirth has reviewed that edition (pdf). This month Mehdi Azaiez reports a third edition is coming out.

Two updates in four years. Sounds kind of like… me! I wholly endorse Pohlmann’s passion for the topic.

Mehdi Azaiez quotes a blurb. I am translating – well, interpreting from Google’s translation –

How is an enlightened and reflective Koran-reading possible? In today's Biblical scholarship it is standard to use text-critical methods with regard to the origin and authorship of open-ended passages. The application of such methods to the Koran is far more of a rarity. So it is no surprise that the Koran is mostly returned as a whole to Mohammed as the sole author. Karl-Friedrich Pohlmann in this comprehensive overview poses rather the opposite. He for the first time (erstmals) applies the text-critical methods known from Biblical scholarship to the long passages of the Qur'an, and he comes to new results about the authorship of the Koran. This fills the long-lamented research gap.

One caveat: I do hope I’m mistaken about that translation of “erstmals”. Pohlmann is hardly “first” to think to himself “I know, let’s do to this Arabic book what Westerners have already done to all the others”. Neuwirth thinks so too; her review had likened Pohlmann's work to the work of Gabriel Reynolds. Maybe the blurb applies to specific passages, which other scholars might not have touched yet.

Either way, now that the book's on the third go-round, I hope there’s an English translation in the works. I’m intrigued.


posted by Zimri on 17:31 | link | 0 comments

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