The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

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


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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Spicy V-8

For V-5 to -7, there's not much Cerebral going on. We do learn what the R-6 injections are for. Some tropes from the 1980s miniseries reappear: humans and Visitors can crossbreed, and Michael Ironside is here played by an annoying British guy. There's also a general theme about honesty and how lies end up catching up with one.

The eighth episode returns to form. An African potentate is Secretary-General of the UN and he seems, on the surface, to be venal and short-sighted. But he does make one important point. If aliens come to earth with "gifts" for the people, those gifts are a wrecking-ball to local economies. Africans know this only too well; and the writers as of 2010 knew it too, as witness this article from 2009. The MacGuffin in this particular episode is Blue Energy, a nod to what the Left wishes Green Energy to be. (One nitpick: seems poor storytelling, in alternate-2010, to have the Sunni Arab delegate applaud the premeditated murder of his own nation's economy.)

PS. from the Couldn't Do This Today file: *kiss kiss* "are you okay with this?" - "no" *kiss kiss*

PPS. Why risk one's life, and one's soul, for the Visitors? Despair was one man's motive: "because we can't win."

posted by Zimri on 20:40 | link | 0 comments

Back to V

Imagine my joy when, last weekend, I saw that the used bookstore had the two seasons of the 2009-11 V remake on their shelf. Over the last few days I've rewatched the four November 2009 episodes which rebooted the franchise (more accurately, that booted up this re-franchise), and I've started into the episodes I'd missed.

At the time, when I was still in Houston, I'd abandoned those later (March) episodes for the last season of Lost ... at the Alamo Drafthouse. Since I didn't have a television-capable cellphone that didn't give me enough time to see 'em both. I'd also figured V wasn't as interesting as the last season of Lost, just one of several mistakes I was making back in Houston.

Back in that November, I'd treated the series as a capital-E Event. Straight off I could see it was politically-charged; it would be labeled "Cerebral" if it were not so anti-Left. But I didn't have the benefit of remembering the original series (which was anti-Reagan). So I wrote essays on each episode's political implications but not as a redaction-critic.

V-1, V-2, V-3, V-4. Then the Postmortem.

In 2013 I tracked down the original (first) miniseries, so: review; On Cerebrality. (Later I found the second miniseries, but this was just a resistance epic with Ironside so, not "Cerebral".)

posted by Zimri on 19:12 | link | 0 comments

Gulen's failed coup

Fethullah Gulen's cult "Hizmet" has been worming its way into governmental positions for decades, and it's partly thanks to them that Sultan Recep has got as far as he has. Now the Sultan has his long knives out.

I don't know to what extent Hizmet was responsible for the botched putsch last month. I do know that that its adherents are prone to paffle like Hizmet is simply a loose association of the pious who have attained good government jobs to improve their lives and contribute to their country. I also know that Gulen himself is given to sermons like this:

You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers. You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey.

Of course Hizmet was readying a coup. That is how you do coups: you set up a parallel network of governmental services - you "become worthy" - and when your rivals fail, the people turn to you.

As for what the US should do with the Pennsylvanian Pasha, I am not here to offer advice. I expect Gulen'll be assassinated before America swears in its next President. In the meantime Obama's letting in just the men to do it and at the same time he's demoralising the police. I wouldn't have allowed Gulen here in the first place, so I don't have a stake in his fate.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

No "Man's Sky" For You

Word on the street is that the new game is not well optimised for all PC settings. I generally trust TotalBiscuit's opinion. He's pissed off.

This machine I got here - which was sold to me as a workstation, not as a rig - has AMD videocard "R7 250". A trip over there says DirectX® 12, Mantle, OpenGL® 4.3, OpenCL™. NMS developer Sean Murray says I need 4.5. I have only myself to blame.

So I'll need a new card, then. I suspected as much back when I was playing "Grim Dawn"; the machine was grinding. When that new card's in place (assuming this is possible) and Murray's fixed his bugs, I'll consider purchasing NMS.

posted by Zimri on 11:00 | link | 0 comments

One more nightmare

If you like Loose Change, Fahrenheit 9/11, and/or Expelled then you'll love this guy, Trey Smith. His stuff is a steal at $ 89.95 $ 59.95!

posted by Zimri on 09:16 | link | 0 comments

Monday, August 08, 2016

No Man's Sky is out

... for PS4, anyway. Next milestone: will open up gamer streaming at 8 PM MST. So Sony won't be taking down channels anymore... like this one.

Via Eurogamer, here's obidanshinobi's review (of the unpatched version). Unfortunately I cannot see how to link directly to it, so I have to copypaste the whole thing:

My copy arrived in the post Saturday morning, played about 10 hours so far.
This game is going to be hugely divisive, the reviews will be interesting.
Had fun during the first 5 odd hours but then it starts to become boring and repetitive. The gameplay loop is get resources for warp cells, jump to next system, repeat, that's it. There is little point in doing anything else.

Trading, what trading ? There is no space trucking in this game, your inventory slots are too few and there is no point in jumping to a system that isn't on the path to the centre. Warp cells are too precious to go anywhere else other than forward. Selling excess elements and the odd relic you've found at space stations and outposts is the extent of trading.

Combat, the space combat is pretty bad, your ship controls like it's drunk, it's not fun it's just an annoyance. And when hostiles "jump in" you can't just escape if you want, either you have to kill them or they will kill you. In Elite Dangerous I'm 19% deadly combat rank so I've done plenty of space combat (in ED) and the space combat in NMS is poor, enemy ships are just sporadic any way, they've only appeared when I've had a nice amount of gold in my ship inventory , it's not like you can go out bounty hunting. You don't find space combat, space combat finds you, and you wish it didn't.

Upgrades, pretty much all upgrades I tried made my things worse. Was so excited when I got a disruptor shield upgrade (for your ship), crafted it, needed 7 free inventory slots mind, and then the bloody thing actually made my ship weaker. After bumping into a few asteroids and noticing that I took about twice as much damage as before I quickly scrapped it.
Let's talk the inventory shall we ? It's a load of piss!!. Thank god the patch lets you carry more elements (will now be up to 500 in your ship inventory and 250 in your suit) but you're going to want more inventory slots. And the problem is that upgrades to your ship and suit take up precious inventory slots, it's just poor design. They should of used a weight system for the inventory like in Witcher 3, Fallout, Skyrim etc.

At the end of the day once you've spent 5 - 10 minutes on a planet you've seen all it has to offer in terrain, wildlife, plant life etc. You could go walking for miles but you can't just recall your ship to you, it stays where it lands. You might be lucky and stumble across an operational outpost or a beacon type thing so you can call your ship, so you're not going to want to wander too far from your ship. I've only been on two planets with grass, one was red grass the other blue, from about 25 odd planets I've visited. You will mostly be looking at ugly ground textures when walking about. The plant life looks good, animals start to look familiar though.

The patch will address a lot of bugs, in which they're are loads but it won't add fun, a sense of purpose and an enjoyable goal / reward system. I will keep playing it for a bit, going to delete my save and start again with the day one patch. I won't waste money this time buying a new multi-tool, no noticeable upgrade, and a new ship, again wtf ! the ship I bought off an NPC handled exactly the same as my previous ship. The only difference was in the cockpit design. Complete waste of money.

I was hoping this would be my GOTY but it will be traded in for Deus EX at the end of the month. Will be interesting to see how it reviews. This may not be the space game you are looking for.

6/10, could maybe rise to a 7 with the patch.

One "daymeeuhn" had reviewed a copy earlier. But I suspected his copy was a leaked demo on account that it mentioned a June release date. As we all know, back in May this release date had got postponed (to today). Since then the game went gold and trickled out to retailers - last month. So, daymeeuhn's review should really be viewed as a crowd-sourced alpha report. For which privilege he paid $1300. (There's a daymeeuhn born every minute...) It seems we won't have him to kick around anymore, which actually saddens me a bit. I do think he meant well. And maybe his sacrifice actually helped the Day One Patch.

As for what went into the devs' Day One Patch, the developers have told us. As for why the why, Rami Ismail devsplains the principle: an arcane ritual from the days before broadband.

posted by Zimri on 17:21 | link | 0 comments

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