||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Thursday, July 21, 2016
There's news about that game I wanna play. The news is not good.
Some math-minded botanist Johan Gielis published a "SUPERFORMULA" and some basic pseudocode (= an algorithm - ya'nî, meta-math) a decade ago. Then he filed a patent, on most implementations of that algorithm. These implementations didn't yet, interestingly, include game implementations. He founded a company around that patent too, "Genicap". Even that dubious patent, Gielis and Co. let expire in several countries.
Along comes Hello Games' No Man's Sky, in development for years and with screenshots available also for years. In 2015 Hello's lead programmer Sean Murray gave credit to SUPERFORMULA in an interview and showed off the current game status in a convention. Suddenly Genicap remembers it has a patent and starts saying nice game you got here, hate for it to be delayed again.
If there's a suit it probably won't fly in the US due to the Alice decision, which already says you cannot enforce a math-based patent here. It seems unlikely to fly in most of the (present) EU either. To many it all smells like a ploy for quick hush-money from a soon-to-be-popular game.
The many ways Rafael Cruz Junior messed up
I had endorsed Ted Cruz, and voted (mostly) accordingly at the state assemblies. But I never closed the door on Trump. The delegates for whom I voted would, if their Cruz votes didn't carry the day, switch to Trump or at least to a decent conservative alternative if it came to that. I did not want to send a collection of whiners who would just walk out. I doubt most Iowan Republicans did, either.
The delegates whom Cruz picked to represent him in Colorado included some of the worst scum in American politics, like that NAGR guy. I wasn't enamoured of the anti-Trump Senate candidates here, either (eventually we got Darryl Glenn, who - like me - didn't close the door). Now that I think of it, Cruz's campaign in Iowa did that weird stalkermail thing, and also insinuated that Carson was about to step out of the race. The Coloradans and Iowans at the convention were elected by shady means.
Cruz later refused to stand up for Trump supporters' right to assemble, but I accepted that as a mulligan given that Trump had done the same over that Garland mess. If Trump had been stronger for free speech earlier I would never have voted Cruz in the assemblies.
Last night Cruz made the convention all about him, which even his erstwhile "campaign chair" cannot abide. As far as I am concerned, Cruz is done. I've spoken too much on this topic already, so I'll leave to others to discuss why Cruz ran the sort of campaign he ran, and what the hell he thought he was out to accomplish. Personally I just don't care.
Monday, July 18, 2016
More space-exploration in development
I'm still looking into space-exploration games. Here are some more I've found.
The Long Journey Home. Looks much like Star Control 2 in its two-dimensional aesthetic and its exploration mechanic. People have also cited FTL (which I haven't played).
Rodina. This comes to us from a Bethesda dev on his own time - like Covert's character in Grandma's Boy. All the action takes place in one solar-system so, no hyperspace here. The game is sort-of finished already, and claims to be the first game to bring your avatar down from space to the surface of a digitally-rendered planet. But the developer is still tinkering: he wants to add indoor structures like caves and fortresses. Because he has been concentrating on gameplay, he hasn't done much with the graphics. Maybe if the game takes off, a bigger studio will drop in, buy the game off him, improve the graphics... and then, in sha llah, NOT make poo upon the story like EA did upon Bioware's Mass Effect. In the meantime I look forward to seeing what Elliptic makes of the game as it is.
Pulsar: Lost Colony. This is another one I found from the same clickbait page that sent me to Rodina. This one is Star Trek like, in that you command a crew of five. Multiplayer is supposed to be A Thing here.
Limit Theory. I think. I'm not sure it counts. From poking through the forum, I gather the developer is coding an engine and leaving any actual "game" to mods. Which is fine; we do need game engines too.
Game critics are outright crooked
If you go onto news.google.com and search for No Man's Sky - as one does, these days - one might run across the Tech Times. They ask the question that has occurred to nobody so far:
The better reviews up on MetaCritic actually have an answer to that rhetorical question. That would be, "only if NMS also rates about a 5/10".
The critic as HR director
As with Wall-E and Fahrenheit 9-11, the critics flocked to recommend this one for the rest of us. I got a "webcomics worth wreading" vibe from those reviews, that the reviewer deep-down knew the piece was not up to snuff, but figured it was socially important. They recommend such movies for other people, namely for people the critic doesn't like. I cannot accept these thoroughly corrupted souls even as critics as such. They are off-duty diversity-officers.
So can we get a round of applause for the modern West's professional guild of critics? After all you certainly don't want to be seen not applauding.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Al-Hakim the Sane
Superficial cartoon histories claim that Fatimi caliph al-Hakim was a madman. He's the guy who promulgated a number of extreme pro-Islamic edicts, like tearing down churches (including one in Jerusalem) and banning the (nonalcoholic!) mulukhiya drink.
Jennifer Pruitt has a fascinating essay up, "Method in Madness". This argues that the al-Hakim was reacting to popular sentiment. In which case he wasn't mad at all.
God's caliph had to do what God wanted. The people of Islam had certain assumptions about God's will - namely, that God hated churches, and wanted them destroyed. As their leader, and especially as one from a minority sect, the caliph perceived no alternative. Vox populi, vox dei.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
I need a separate post commenting on Daniel König's article. The Umayyads did restore order in Spain; and historically in Islam "order" has implied a legal infrastructure. The first coherent Spanish code just haven't survived very well.
The Christian chroniclers noted that when the Umayyads took over, suddenly there came an oppression against the Christians and also against the Jews. This is, as König notes, comprehensible as a religiously-motivated law for minorities that abrogates the old sulh pacts.
It happens that at roughly the same time in Spain, the Muslim jurists there had decided upon a legal madhhab: the Awzaʿiya, which like Sufyān al-Thawri's school in Basra maintained the jurisprudence of the dead Umayyad caliphs. This school does not survive (neither does Thawri's by the way) and is recorded only in fragments. König, for his part, notices that even in Spain not much direct record of Awzaʿism has survived. But the Awzaʿite school's law of war and jihad – which is what König's article cares about – proved practical and popular. So these fragments were often maintained by scholars from the schools that supplanted the Awzaʿiya. (For a summary of the legal fictions in Islam that have historically enabled warfare, see Bernard Lewis.)
Given all that, I cannot dismiss that the Umayyad Spaniards of the 760s and 770s did have time to formulate an Awzaʿite code of warfare and for Christian spies to pass that, or at least to pass a caricature of that, to the Franks. There was indeed nuance between amirs’ legal-systems but this could, perhaps, have been Awzaʿism being tested and failing. As for why Spain lacks record of Awzaʿism today, I would personally not blame the lack of legal sophistication (at this stage); neglect at the hands of the later (here, Malikite) schools would suffice.
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Among the questions debated among the so-called “counter jihad” is the extent to which Muhammad’s heresy, in turn, inspired similar movements in Christendom. Among these would be the holy war. More to the point, I’d like to look at “take the cross or this sword”.
I’d heard the Crusades called a Christian jihad before, back when I used to haunt Christian booksellers in the early 2000s. Probably independently of that confession's tracts, in 2006 one Yitzhak Hen observed the bloody verdict of Verden as religiously-tinged violence. This Jew looked for such atrocities before in Christian history, and despite having every motive to find some he failed. So he looked to classical Arabic accounts of Islamic maghazi instead and, as anyone might, found quite a lot of holy battles on their part. Hen concluded that since Islamic qital preceded Charlemagne's conquests, the one likely inspired the other. It seems anachronistic to consider the Saxon wars a proto-crusade, but then – I’ve done that already with Heraclius, before anyone had even heard of Muhammad.
A decade later, another scholar Daniel König has looked into Charlemagne's time and place. He finds that jihad had little to do with Verden.
König reasonably holds that for Frankish impressions of Islam, we have to start with Spain and the Maghreb. He points out that, over the long decades the Umayyad-commanded Arabs absorbed the Western Med, their invasions and “Islamicisations” were piecemeal and chaotic. Each city received its own terms based on whether the amir was in a good mood or not: viz., the amir was pleased when it surrendered, annoyed when he had to fight. (Such was exactly the way it had gone in Syria a century prior.) There was, in short, no Pact of ʿUmar. And the bulk of the Umayyad-era maghazi narratives are equally bogus.
Spain, when it was conquered, instantly became a backwater for Islam. It lay far from the Madina and Damascus, and even further from Iraq when the ʿAbbāsids massacred the Umayyads there and made it the caliphate's base. What mattered more to newly-conquered Spain was what the Berbers were up to. König notes by way of example that in the 740s, when the Berbers rebelled, Spain suffered what northwest Africa suffered. And the Muslims couldn't even take all of Spain. So early Islamic Spain was also a mess.
Until the 760s it was difficult to find an Arab there (much less a Berber) who even could tell you what Islam *was*. The senior judges could tell you, but these were few. Maybe Mūsā b. Nuṣayr the Lakhmi could have told you (and even here I wonder *what* he would have told you; e.g. did he accept sura 28?). Most Muslims here had other concerns, like staying alive. Only after the Umayyads had restored themselves as amirs in Spain was there a consistency at least in its governmental classes.
König also finds what it seems Hen could not find, on non-Islamic precedent among the Christian Germans and Latins for handling conquered peoples.
Given the knowledge of Islamic Spain I have, which isn't much, I am going to treat König's essay as the default stance on whether or not the Caroling mind had been infected by Islamic holy war. It has convinced me that Hen's essay had overreached. But I cannot call König's essay conclusive, yet, because there's a gap from 760 AD on - [update] which I'm to discuss later. Really we need more legal texts with a secure eighth-century provenance (wouldn't we all?). Perhaps some will turn up in an arid part of southern Spain.
UPDATE 7/14/16: Split this off from the above book-report: possible legal texts.
Monday, July 11, 2016
Joel M Hoffman's Biblical misinterpretations
Today I have found a summary of Hoffman's work on Biblical "mistranslations".
Hoffman assumes of the archetypal shepherd of (MT) Psalm 23 that most today will take him for
If the word "shepherd" has taken on poor connotations, this will come as news to any player of Mass Effect; in which your character - saviour of the universe - is, indeed, named "Shepard". I am pretty sure that Hoffman stands alone among Semiticists and, indeed, among Bible students in his translation of taḥmôd; and besides, unlawful "taking" is already handled in the commandment against stealing. On the flip side, all Bible scholars accept the nuance around "thou shalt not kill" (so why bring it up?). Perhaps we should re-translate the Deuteronomist in terms of "soul and heart"; but again, it's so minor - why bring that up?
Add to that that Hoffman accepts the political-cant term "gay" as acceptable shorthand for "homosexual", and I cannot take the man seriously as a linguist. Nor, come to that, as an honest interpreter of Judaism.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Nothing but lies
How far would you go to promote your book? If you're J.K. Sheindlin, you'll fake a video.
H/t, if you can call it that, to the dupe Howie at My Pet Jawa.
I am here for Umayyad-era Islam. To that end I go seeking 'ilm on what other nations say about the Arabs and their beliefs, following the trail of their conquests (
One comment Valerie Hansen, in The Silk Road (2012), makes: the Tibetans (and Tangut) were illiterate until 617 AD. Until then they did their recordkeeping with knotted ropes. On reading this I thought... like quipu? Maybe there's something about them mountains. And then I wondered what the "uplift" process must have been like, because today Tibet is considered the great book-depository of Buddhist wisdom. For any people there comes a span of time between preliteracy and Classical Civilisation.
The Tibetan uplift didn't go quite the way of the Inca uplift. The seventh-century Tibetans appear to have got on the ball more quickly and decisively. Tibet went more like Meiji Japan.
Within a century the Yarlung, having united Tibet, were able to mount serious inroads on the Silk Road. When An Lushan (Roxhann the Pahlevi) rebelled, the Tang of China allied with the Yarlung and delegated their southwestern front to them. Predictably the allies kept what they took, and even indulged in a little prima-nocte action with the locals' wives. The Yarlung didn't relinquish Dunhuang until that whole dynasty collapsed. Then, depending on who's counting, China - or at least, people identifying as Chinese - retook Dunhuang 848 AD; some Tibetans did try to re-re-take it a few years later, but lost.
Hansen portrays a Tibetan people struggling with transliterating their language into Chinese characters, into the Sanskrit script, and into a syllabary (like the Japanese). It seems the first thing they did in Dunhuang (or second, after done boffing Chinese girls) was to copy and translate all the Buddhist stuff they could get their hands on.
If the Tibetans were still fine-tuning their script through to the 700s, and still figuring out what they wanted to write about with it: that would explain why we don't see Tibetan comments about their western frontier. Although perhaps later Tibetans made some comments later on. There's a book on that: Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett, Ronit YoeliTlalim, Islam and Tibet - Interactions along the Musk Routes (Ashgate, 2011).
The reviews are in
[7/9/2016] For those, like me, who don't want to pay for reviews - in my case, because I critique books for free - here is a roundup of reviews of Ostler's Passwords to Paradise on the inner tubes.
WSJ offers a substantive critique. This is so far the best review.
Sandra Collins calls it
Kirkus offers a blurb. I gotta say, I don't trust its business-model. Last I looked, people paid Kirkus to review books. Those people paying for the review might be involved in publishing that very book. And it looks suspiciously like this is what has happened to Passwords; Kirkus's "review" here smells rotten to me. Also unsure about Publisher's Weekly; if Ostler was self-published would they be so kind? Would they review it at all?
So there's three (or four), a broad spectrum of review-types. Good, bad, and ugly.
7/10 8:30 AM BUMPED: The boulder terlit review. Most of it anyway. Scroll down for the rest of one paragraph.
Saturday, July 09, 2016
The FBI is corrupt
The FBI got nothin' on Hillary Clinton - never did - and they got nothin' on the guy who wants to kill Pamela Geller. So Geller's on her own. Which means I'm on my own too. And I gotta ask about more mainstream Islam-researchers like Gabriel Reynolds...
The FBI was, however, able to indict Dennis Hastert. And not for being a pervert, either; the actual charge was "structuring", which means nothing more or less than "withdrawing money from a bank".
The FBI is a gang of hired thugs. It serves the Democratic Party and not you.
The Torah, full of blessings
Ostler mentions Psalm 130 as an example of the Bible translation-debates in Europe (p. 247). I'm here to riff on this topic too, in this case to fill out that missing-chapter on Jewish translators into Greek.
For the Bible as a whole, the Anglophone Jews now own a literal translation that punts on every word that might be technical. Its Verse 4 reads,
In the Greek Bible, matters are much different for "Psalm 129" - here probably translated in Seleucid Palestine. Its translator(s) went with
In the psalm as I read it, "Law" as such is too mechanical. Israel is not guilty of transgression, but of general sin against God - this is a Deuteronomical sin of para-idolatry, not a Levitical sin of breaking ordinances. Also I find difficult to see a Jew, especially, shifting "Torah" - were it there - to "fear". Gentiles, I think, wouldn't directly care.
Instead I could see the reverse, among the Jews of pre-Maccabean Palestine. I think the Vorlage of the Greek Psalm did read "torah" here. I wouldn't be surprised if the mistake lingered well into Roman days and got into Vetus Latina directly. It is a credit to the Pharisees, ancestors of Jews today, that they have arrested this mistake and preserved the correct reading to the days of Erasmus and beyond.
Language as barrier?
Ostler over chapter 10 (pp. 164) observes that post-Manzikert Slavic Christianity remained intellectually retarded compared with the rest of the world. (Before the 900s, which is when the Slavs converted, everyone was stunted relative to Constantinople and Baghdad.) Ostler floats a reason: the translation of scriptures into the Old Slavonic(s) kept the Slavs out of the Latin (and Greek) mainstream. The Slavs could relate only to other Slavs.
To me that smells like an excuse, not a reason. In Islam at the time, Muslims had their own common language: classical Arabic. In fact their educated class still does. Look at the world the Muslims have made today. I'd put the "parochial" Slavs up against the ecumenical Muslims any day of the week and twice on Friday.
The Slavs are, perhaps, some centuries behind the West in their development - although that might not even be bad, especially given the ongoing degeneracy of the West. I'll grant that Russia, especially, had some problems during what corresponds to Westerners' early modern era. But why blame their language? Protestant Germany had its own Bible. That didn't stop educated Germans from taking the time to learn French, Latin, and even Hebrew.
So I'm not buying it. The late-mediaeval Slavs had only themselves to blame. Well, and maybe the Mongols.
Who converted Ireland?
Ostler p. 131 thinks that it was the Welsh who converted Ireland to Christianity. This because Irish sacramental terms tend to voice the stops, as linguists put it; a "trinitas" becomes "trindod". Irish does not naturally force that change. But Welsh is not the only language that does this. It has also happened to Latin - at least to one dialect thereof, of which Texans and southwest Americans are very aware. I'd also bring into evidence that Irish "Trinity" is not literal "trindod" but "trindoid", suggesting metathesis from *trinidod.
I refer to Castilian Spanish, where we do see names like "Trinidad". On one thing Ostler and I agree: this particular shift cannot have been driven by the Phoenicians or Arabs, who knew enough to distinguish T from D (leaving aside the "emphatics"). I'll get to other possible shifts later.
At first Spain was under the Greek zone of influence. The Punics got to them, and then preclassical Latin held sway. But under new Latin management, the Greek trade-routes stayed the same. Which means the Spanish and the Irish still had contact.
So I'd not be so quick to assume that it was the Welsh (like Patrick) who came to Ireland first. Even Ostler (p. 129) knows that southern Ireland was Christian already. By tradition its first bishop was Palladius - Ostler asks: why establish an episcopacy before there is anyone there to oversee? And here's what I'd ask: exactly who's best getting to Ireland by its southern shore?
Perhaps it was vulgar-Latins from Spain who came to Ireland first, already speaking archaic Spanish. Maybe those Spanish sailors had also held to the Canaanite-shift from a>o...?
Ps and Qs
There's two forms of Celtic: Q- and P-. The division seems to be polyphyletic, in that Welsh and Celtiberian are both P-, with negligible direct contact; the same for the Q-s, Irish and Gaulish. How to account for that?
Over Iron Age Europe, this held true over lots of languages, not just Celtic. For a start we should consider Oscan as "P- Italic", and Latin as Q-. We can see Q- even now in (overcorrected) Latin words like quinque. As for Oscan, we see the P- words also in Latin, in its semantic-field of herding; the word that should be cognate to "cow" is "bovine", and the word that should be like Greek "lycos" is "lupus". They got those particular words from the non-Latin Italians living upon more marginal land. This process must have impinged Greek as well, where Mycenaean had "hiqqos" for horse like Latin and modern Greek has "hippos". As of 1200 BC was Doric already P-? I'll leave that much to the professionals...
In Indo-European studies Q- is considered the more antique form. This is in part because Greek has given to us the longest record - at least if we disregard Doric; in the Greek record we can watch Q fall off, and its words turn to P and K. Our departed sister and cousin, Tocharian and Anatolian, also were Q- tongues. And then there are the Satem languages which turned Q and K generally to S; they could not have done this from a P base.
That is a powerful tool to reconstruct the origins of words. But one must take care here. I've already mentioned quinque in Latin. The Hibernians, it seems, were so aware of being Q- Celts that they remembered Saint Patrick as "Cothriche" (Ostler, 129); "Padraig" came later, after the Irish had sobered up some.
The Q>P shift across western and southern Europe could be coincidence, that there is no "how it happened". That said, I propose that a vehicle does exist, during the Iron Age. In those Lelantine-War days, when the Greeks were subliterate but even then proficient sailors, their language remained, at least, Indo-European. They could talk to Italians and to Celts; which their rivals the Etruscans and the Phoenicians couldn't, as well. (The Semitic Phoenicians, for their part, might have held the advantage among the Berbers.) So perhaps the Q>P shift represents the old Greek zone of influence: Spain, coastal southern and eastern Italy, Cornwall. And Greece itself of course. Those languages which didn't take that shift were under foreign rule (Rome and the Faliscans, under the Etruria) or were far from the best trade-routes (inner Gaul and Ireland).
Friday, July 08, 2016
Exploring the studio-space
Let’s talk space-exploration games. There’s a slight problem here in that the “genre” has barely existed since its late-1980s heyday.
Your dad had the two “Starflight” games, and then he bought an unfinished sort-of sequel in “Protostar”. He had “Nomad” too; but you didn’t see it, because he deleted that shit. He might have had “Star Control 2” / “The Ur-Quan Masters” which was basically the cartoon version of Starflight (and did a great job at that); it didn’t sell well at the time but it has quite the cult following. I’d be stretching the definition to count “Alien Legacy” and “Star Control 3”.
Since then I dunno. The Elite series? the first Mass Effect? Battlecruiser? Freelancer? Privateer? I’d not count anything after SC2.
Some people at this point might cite “Star Citizen”, but let us ignore them. Those who helped fund this turkey are suckers. Instead let’s talk games that actually exist, or are in publicly-visible alpha, or are at least very likely to get into playable form soon.
I’ve also heard “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” but, having looked into this, I don’t see where its authors are even promising a space-exploration game. This is just a shooter. I’m sure it’ll be a fine shooter but it’s not what we care about here.
No Man’s Sky – This was announced too early, and the (late) release-date it got has recently been delayed; some magazines are wondering if it can possibly live up to fans’ expectations. But I’ve loved watching what I’ve watched so far. It went gold yesterday, so it is definitely coming out in early August for PC and PS4.
Empyrion: Galactic Survival – This has been on Steam under its “early access” programme since *last* August. So it’s not done either, but what exists out there now is playable. Word is out that its AI is crappy and, when you get that far, unbalanced. So, needs work. Still.
Mass Effect: Andromeda – Ahoy, matey! Everyone’s favourite homosexual-relationship simulator is back again. Maybe this one’ll have an ending that makes sense …
Space Engineers – another long-running alpha that never did “go gold”, by any definition I can think of, but everyone is happy with that. Best I can tell the business-model was to advertise a proof-of-concept and then to release the source code for free when they figured they’d made enough bank. This is more like Elite in that they don’t give you the story; you’re the story.
Monday, July 04, 2016
Business Insider sucks, don't read it
I've started Ostler's book just now. First up, and out of historical and religious sequence: Mesoamerica, perhaps because it's the paradeigmatic alien encounter.
We start (p. xxii) with the Maya who lack a word for "to be". One Mr Prechtel joined a Tzutujil village and became the "First Grandchild" there (we'll get to that), whose duty is as a sort of mu''adib charged with "initiating youth". Tzutujil, Prechtel says,
A still-closer analogy in Maya to Arabic would be the emphasis on belonging. In the caliphate, what mattered is getting close to God's shade on Earth; thrones were for Khusru and the Caesars. In Mesoamerica we recall that strange inversion of intimacy in "Grandchild" in what, really, should be a paternal figure. Ostler in p. 7 returns to that with the Aztecs whose -tzin suffix, for nobility (which Gary Jennings taught me) turns out to be a term of endearment. Mesoamerica was a small place, or at least the Place Of Reeds "Teotihuacan" had made it into one.
Modern Spanish, we're told, is like the great classical Mesoamerican tongues, in that a Spaniard might call her mother Mijita. But now I'm wondering if this came from idiomatic Arabic, at least in Maghrebi form. In so many little ways did the Muslims prepare the Latinos for their task across the great western ocean...
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