Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Cut to the Goddamn'd Chase!

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Most prefaces, forewords, introductions, and introductory paragraphs are largely or entirely superfluous; most introductory sentences are wastes of time.[1] In the last few years, my annoyance about entropic rhetoric in general and about blathering preambles in particular has become outrage.

The internal state of affairs in the West is more terrible now than ever previously in my lifetime. A great many people believe themselves to have important insights to convey about this state of affairs, and want our time. Our time is scarce, but many of them want to deliver essays in the form of audio recordings, which deliver words far more slowly than most of us can read. Worse, almost every one of those who offer these recordings prologues for some minutes, usually about the importance of what they will have to say but almost always without the prologues' saying anything important.

I believe that some of these people indeed have important things to say; but, in each case, he or she behaves as if unable to recognize what is important. In each individual case, the probability is especially low that a person not getting to the point will get to an important point. I almost always abandon attention before the prologue ends, possibly well before it ends.


[1]  I acknowledge exceptions. I like to believe that I am responsible for some of them; but, had I always the luxury of being my own editor, some of my work would get more rapidily to its point.

The Paradox of Shadows

Friday, 5 March 2021

For many years, one of the projects on a back-burner in my mind has been the writing of a novel, A Paradox of Shadows, in which the principal character is attempting to reconstruct or to otherwise recover an ancient work, the title of which might have been περὶ τοῦ ἀτόπου τοῦ τῶν σκιῶν, or De [Anomalia de] Obumbratio, or perhaps something else.

Everything about the work is a matter of doubt or of conjecture, including its author and the era and language in which it were originally composed; even that there ever were such a work is uncertain. Its existence is primarily inferred from how parts of it seem to be esoterically embedded in other works; sometimes these passages can be made to fit together like bits of a jigsaw, but different ways of fitting are possible, especially allowing for lacunæ, interpolations, and unintended errors in translation or in transcription. In ancient art and literature are found what may be other references to the work, but these apparent references are subject to alternate interpretation, especially as many of them would be quite oblique if indeed they refer to the work. The search is largely a matter of poring over old manuscripts and documents.

No rational person would look at any one piece of evidence known to the main character and conclude that the work must have existed or just probably existed. Few would take the evidence as jointly establishing such a probability. There is both too much and too little information, so that bold intellectual leaps must be made in chaos or in darkness. A searcher may encounter unscalable cliffs or unbridgable chasms; and, if forced to stop at any point, one is likely to look pathetic. But the evidence, taken jointly, associates a relative plausibility of recovery with each of various possibilities as to the nature of the work. In that context, the possible profundity is enough to drive the search by the principal character, even with likely failure.

Adapting Images to Small Displays

Friday, 15 January 2021

This 'blog has yet to fully accommodate mobile computing. Images in entries have usually had an absolute width of 450 pixels, which made sense when displays were 640 pixels or more wide (and seldom more than 1920 pixels wide), but is now too wide for some devices.

I've been occasionally patching old entries to fix this problem. With IMG and IFRAME elements, the trick is to add

max-width: 100% ; max-height: Rvw ;

to the string-value of the style attribute, where R is the ratio of the height divided by the width, multiplied by 100. For example, if the image is 450 pixels wide and 900 pixels tall, then

R = 100 · (900 / 450) = 200

Just what happens when R is not an integer seems to be browser-dependent.

An example of an IMG element could be

<img src="wp-content/uploads/2020/11/A6_corrected.png" alt="[image of formula]" width="449" height="92" style="display: block ; margin-left: auto ; margin-right: auto ; margin-top: 1em ; margin-bottom: 1em ; border: none ; width: 26.4em ; height: 5.4em ; max-width: 100% ; max-height: 20.5vw ;" />

When BitChute gives code to embed a video, it looks something like this:

<iframe width="640" height="360" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border: none;" src="https://www.bitchute.com/embed/QKOTRHgzsuQE/"></iframe>

It should look something like this:

<iframe width="640" height="360" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="border: none ; max-width: 100% ; max-height: 56.25vw ;" src="https://www.bitchute.com/embed/QKOTRHgzsuQE/"></iframe>

Humpty Dumpty and Commerce

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Fairly inexpensive hair combs made of hard rubber — rubber vulcanized to a state in which it is as about firm as a modern plastic — could be found in most American drugstores at least into the mid-'90s. Now-a-days, they have become something of a premium item. I was looking at listing on Amazon supposedly of hard rubber combs and discovered, to my annoyance, that a careful reading of the descriptions showed that most of the combs explicitly described as hard rubber were made of plastic. To me, the situation seemed to be of pervasive fraud, as it will to many others.

But then I realized that it is more likely to be something else. Fraud, after all, involves deliberate misrepresentation. Whereäs we live in a world in which a great many people believe that no use of a word or phrase is objectively improper — that if they think that hard rubber means a rubbery plastic or a plastic that looks like another substance called hard rubber, then it indeed means just that. (Of course, we cannot trust any verbal explanation from them of these idiosyncratic meanings, as they may be assigning different meanings to any words with which they define other words.)

My defense of linguistic prescriptivism has for the most part been driven by concerns other than those immediate to commercial transactions. And, when I've seen things such on eBay as items described with mint condition for its age or with draped nude, my inclination has been merely to groan or to laugh. But it seems to me that the effects of ignoring or of rejecting linguistic prescription have found their way into commercial transactions beyond the casual.

Well, those who are not prescriptivists are hypocrites if they complain, and they're getting no worse than they deserve.

Transcription Error

Monday, 23 November 2020

To my chagrin, I find that I made a transcription error for an axiom in Formal Qualitative Probability. More specifically, I placed a quantification in the wrong place. Axiom (A6) should read [image of formula] I've corrected this error in the working version.

Science and the Humanities

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Reading a book first published in 1951, I am reminded that, at one time, the definition of humanities included sciences of human behavior within its scope. Now, one seldom encounters that inclusion in contemporary use, and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary explicitly excludes the study of social relations (though it says nothing explicit about that part of behavior outside of the social).

In the earlier period, there was a question of whether the study of human behavior were fundamentally different from the study of the properties of other things. Those who insisted upon such a difference would speak and write of science and the humanities as if of two separate things.

But the tools by which the physical, biological, and behavioral science were studied were increasingly shared. The physical and biological sciences took-up probability and statistics; the biological sciences have taken-up chemistry, mechanics, and game theory; the behavioral science have taken-up biological explanation and mathematical modelling. All have been affected by the same philosophic theories of method. A dichotomy of science and the humanities cannot prevail so long as the behavioral sciences are included amongst what are called humanities.

Apparently that dichotomy was so dear to some of those who insisted upon it that they attempted its preservation by implicitly changing what they intended with humanities in order to hold fast to it. Of course, the newer definition doesn't maintain the original dichotomy; but replaces it with a new one.

Writing Efforts

Sunday, 5 July 2020

For several months, just two manuscripts were in the listing of manuscripts accepted by The Review of Symbolic Logic, one on an application of modal logic to set theory which article had been listed on 4 October and mine on probability which had been listed on 20 February. On 25 June, another was added, followed by nine more on 29 June; on 2 July, four more.

I don't know why the oldest two on the list have still not been typeset and moved to the FirstView list. And I don't think that my article will find many readers before it has, further, been assigned to a specific issue. It seems unlikely that the last will happen before 2021.


I have been working on a paper concerned with De Morgan's contribution to an area of probability theory. I had wanted to mention that contribution in the introduction to my probability paper, but saw no way of doing it that would be succinct without seeming occult. I began the new paper thinking that I would finish it in a very few days, but as I engaged in some of the requisite research I found that the task of properly explaining things was going to be still more challenging than I had anticipated.

In the end, the paper on De Morgan will be seen as a minor contribution to the history of thought. Had I known at the beginning how troublesome would be the task of writing it, I would have postponed the undertaking.

Stick That in Your Lexicon!

Saturday, 23 May 2020
bru·to·ri·al /bruːˈtɔːriəl/ adjective & noun
A. noun. An otherwise useless tutorial that one is not permitted to forgo.
B. adjective. Of or pertaining to a brutorial.

Quotations Containing Hanging Paragraphs in LAΤΕΧ

Monday, 4 May 2020

In a paper on which I'm working, I needed a block quotation, within which there were hanging paragraphs — for each every line except for the first was indented — effected in a way that naturally complemented ordinary block quotations as defined in article.cls. Not being a master of LAΤΕΧ, I made a search for how to do this, but I did not find anything that quite did the job. I arrived at this

\newenvironment{hangquotation}
    {\list{}{%
        \setlength{\itemindent}{-1.5em}%
        \setlength{\listparindent}{\itemindent}%
        \setlength{\rightmargin}{\leftmargin}%
        \addtolength{\leftmargin}{1.5em}%
        \setlength{\parsep}{\z@ \@plus\p@}%
    }%
    \item\relax}
    {\endlist}

which I am posting for the benefit of someone which the same problem, or with a problem sufficiently similar that my solution is readily adapted to his or to hers.

Here's an example of the output: [screenshot]

To use the code, place it in the LAΤΕΧ preamble, and then nest each block of paragraphs for which it is to be used between \begin{hangquotation} and \end{hangquotation}.

Voigt and Value

Friday, 10 April 2020

In a previous entry, I asserted that Voigt's Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik contain[s] more error than insight. Here, I'll discuss one of the more egregious errors. In section V, Voigt writes

An die Spitze der Erörterung dieses vielberufenen Begriffes sollte gestellt werden, dass es Einheiten des Wertes giebt, dass man also untersuchen kann, wievielmal so gross ein Wert als ein anderer ist und Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann, dass also der Wert ein eigentliches in einer Kardinalzahl ausdrückbares Mass hat.

which may be translated as

At the forefront of discussion of this much used concept should be placed that there are units of value that one thus can investigate how many time as large a value is as another and can replace goods of the same value with each other, that thus the value has a real measure expressible in a cardinal number.

I'll deal first with the point that it seems that one can investigate how many times as large a value is as another.

Numbers are used in many ways. Depending upon the use, what is revealed by arithmetic may be a great deal or very little. Sometimes numbers are ascribed with so little meaning that we may as well consider them strings of numerals, the characters that we use for numbers, and not numbers at all. Sometimes numbers do nothing but provide an arbitrary order, good for something such as a look-up table but nothing else. Sometimes they provide a meaningful order, but one in which the results of most arithmetic operations are meaningless, as when items produced at irregular intervals are given sequential serial numbers. (The difference between any two such numbers tells one which was produced before the other, but little else.) Sometimes the differences between the differences are meaningful, as when items are produce at regular intervals and given sequential serial numbers. And so forth.

Monetary prices are quantities, but they are more specifically quantities of money; that does not make them quantities of value nor proxies of quantities of value. One would have to show that the results of every arithmetic operation on such a quantity of money said something about value for it to be shown that value were itself a quantity.

The second part of Voigt's claim is that one Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann [can replace goods of the same value with each other]. But an equivalence between things corresponding to the same numbers doesn't make results of the application of arithmetic to those numbers meaningful. (Consider lots of items produced at irregular intervals, with each item in the lot given the same serial number, unique to the lot but otherwise random.) And we should ask ourselves under just what circumstances we can and cannot ersetzen one set of commodities of a given price with another of the same price.

Nor does somehow combining the use of quantities of money for prices with a property of equivalence imply that value is a quantity.

Voigt is unusual not in making this unwarranted inference, but in so clearly expressing himself as he does. From the observation that prices are usually quantities of something, which quantities increase as value increases, most people, and even most economists blithely infer that value itself behaves as a quantity.