Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Three Weeks and Counting

Friday, 16 March 2018

The journal to which I submitted my paper on qualitative probability on 20 February has multiple editors. On 23 February (by a European clock) it was listed as assigned to one. Since then, the listing has remained unchanged; unless it receives a desk rejection (Editor has a decision), the next classification will be Reviewers Assigned, to be followed by Under Review.

It is not impossible that it should be given a desk rejection even after more than three weeks in the hands of an editor, but I think that such a rejection is unlikely. The editor seems to have read or be reading the paper, and to have recognized that it indeed is properly submitted to a journal concerned with philosophy of science, unlike the editor at the first journal to which I submitted it.

It is fairly common for it to take a month or a bit more to find reviewers. It may be harder to find reviewers for my paper than it would be to find reviewers for a typical submission.

A Third Rejection and Fourth Submission

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The third journal to which I submitted my paper on formal qualitative probability had a 10,000-word limit on submissions (with bibliographies excluded from the calculation). I wasn't sure just how they wanted formulæ to be assessed, but it seemed to me that I should still be under their limit with them counted in some reasonable way. As the editors requested a word-count, I mentioned to them that I weren't sure how to assess the formulæ. After barely less than two weeks, the paper was rejected, without a reason being given.

The next journal to which I planned to submit the paper had a 9,500-word limit (with bibliographies included in the calculation). I still thought that I would be under that limit. Unfortunately, they wanted citations and the bibliography formatted in a way for which I was not immediately prepared, so I spent some time wrestling with that. Then, part-way through the submission process, I encountered a note that said that figures were to be counted as if having as many words as the space they occupied could otherwise have contained. What they had called a word limit began to look suspiciously like a page limit (combined with an expectation as to the size of type).

My paper does not have an figures as such, but many of its formulæ are in block-display form. In theory, I could present the formulæ in in-line form, and then the paper would probably come-in under the apparent limit; but it would also become nearly impossible to understand. In order to get my paper under the apparent limit otherwise, I'd have to pare-away more than 18% of its content, which would be dreadful. I might press ahead without making changes, as the editors had not said anything about formulæ, but I felt sure that I'd be wasting my time.

And I think that it is comparatively likely that the previous journal, with its ostensible word limit actually had a similar page limit.

I made some further improvements in the content. One improvement was a consequence of looking again at an article to deal with the citations, and noticing something that I'd long ago forgot. Another was a result of fleshing-out the philosophical discussion, still in the wake of the first rejection. My perhaps too spartan mention of that change puzzled kpm, so I wrote a longer explanation for her, and the process of doing that led to my adding two more points to that discussion.

To-night, I submitted the latest version of the paper to what one might count as the fourth or fifth journal. It is again most likely that I'll get a desk rejection; and, should it instead be sent to reviewers, most likely that they will reject it. Either such rejection would be hard to take, even though anticipated.

But I know that it was a marvelous piece of work when sent to the first journal, and it is still better now.

A Second Rejection and Third Submission

Friday, 26 January 2018

On 25 January, I received a desk rejection (without explanation) from the second journal to which I had submitted my article on qualitative probability. To-day, I submitted to a third journal, adopting one of two suggestions from Anthony Gamst.

This third journal imposes a strict word limit. I am not sure how to adjust a word count in the presence of formulæ, but I removed two tables to ensure that I were below the limit. Possibly they might be restored, if a reviewer wants a pair of claims within the text to be substantiated.

I also made some minor changes in the text to hide my identity in the specific manner demanded by the journal. I don't know whether I would want to reverse those changes should the article be accepted.

Additionally, I added a sentence to the abstract, in order to help the editor (and any other possible reader) recognize the philosophical content within the paper.

Again, most articles receive rejections before being sent to reviewers, and most articles sent to reviewers are rejected. I must be prepared to deal with yet another rejection.

A First Rejection and Second Submission

Thursday, 18 January 2018

I received a desk rejection from the editor of the first journal to which I submitted my paper on qualitative probability. He said that the paper were a highly technical discussion without sufficient engagement with the philosophical literature, and would be better suited to a journal of statistical or probability theory.

There is very little philosophical literature on qualitative probability as such, and I engaged with it; I also discussed philosophical issues that don't appear in that prior literature.

A journal of statistical theory would almost surely reject my paper. One of probability theory might well accept it; but might instead reject it as too philosophical.

I've submitted to another journal of philosophy. That journal demanded to know to where I'd previously submitted the paper, so I told them and gave the editor's argument for rejection. Then, in a set of cover comments, I explained why I thought that argument inappropriate. I also made a point of noting work that this next journal had previously published on probability theory that was formal and did not embrace an interpretation of probability.

My argument not-withstanding, I can expect yet another desk rejection. If-and-when my paper reaches editors who send it on to reviewers, I can expect that at least the first few sets of reviewers will reject it. But, were I unwilling to endure this wretched process, then it would have made little sense for me to write the paper in the first place, as my prior experience informed me as to what to expect in submitting a paper that innovated in a non-trivial manner.

As I told kpm, my submitting to another journal on the same day as I had been rejected was largely a matter of getting on another horse. I might have spent more time investigating my options, and might thus have identified a still more suitable journal, but I didn't want to be bogged-down by such considerations even as I dealt with my frustration and disappointment.

Again into the Breach

Monday, 15 January 2018

As occasionally noted in publicly accessible entries to this 'blog, I have been working on a paper on qualitative probability. A day or so before Christmas, I had a draft that I was willing to promote beyond a circle of friends.

I sent links to a few researchers, some of them quite prominent in the field. One of them responded very quickly in a way that I found very encouraging; and his remarks motivated me to make some improvements in the verbal exposition.

I hoped and still hope to receive responses from others, but as of to-day have not. I'd set to-day as my dead-line to begin the process of submitting the paper to academic journals, and therefore have done so.

The process of submission is emotionally difficult for many authors, and my past experiences have been especially bad, including having a journal fail to reach a decision for more than a year-and-a-half, so that I ultimate withdrew the paper from their consideration. I even abandoned one short paper because the psychological cost of trying to get it accepted in some journal was significantly impeding my development of other work. While there is some possibility that finding acceptance for this latest paper will be less painful, I am likely to be in for a very trying time.

It is to be hoped that, none-the-less, I will be able to make some progress on the next paper in the programme of which my paper on indecision and now this paper on probability are the first two installments. In the presumably forth-coming paper, I will integrate incomplete preferences with incompletely ordered probabilities to arrive at a theory of rational decision-making more generalized and more reälistic than that of expected-utility maximization. A fourth and fifth installment are to follow that.

But the probability paper may be the most important thing that I will ever have written.

A Passing Anniversary

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

I used occasionally to mention a girl-friend in unfiltered entries to this 'blog, but stopped doing so in 2013. The relationship had problems that I didn't and don't care to discuss here publicly — for her sake.

On 30 August 2013, without warning, she hanged our relationship, strangling, at the end of a rope. I don't know exactly when the relationship should be deemed to have died. I can say, to the day, when I reached acceptance of its death, but I don't imagine that, on the previous day, it might actually have been saved.

de transitv Veneris res

Wednesday, 31 May 2017
002 yr

Failing to Recognize an Inner Life

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

In its issue of 19 January 1924, Collier's published The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Edward Connell jr. This now quite famous story — repeatedly anthologized and adapted for film,[1] for radio, and for television — is of Sanger Rainsford, a big-game hunter.

At the start of the story, Rainsford and company are on a yacht, moving through foggy darkness in the Caribbean. In reference to their planned destination, a companion asserts Great sport, hunting.

The best sport in the world, agreed Rainsford.

For the hunter, amended Whitney. Not for the jaguar.

Don't talk rot, Whitney, said Rainsford. You're a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?

Perhaps the jaguar does, observed Whitney.

Bah! They've no understanding.

Even so, I rather think they understand one thing — fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death.

Rainsford dismisses this. The world is made up of two classes — the hunters and the huntees. Luckily, you and I are hunters. On this score, his luck does not hold.

Shortly after this conversation, he falls from the yacht as he goes to the railing to listen, having heard shots in the distance. He decides that his best chances for survival are in swimming in the direction of those shots. As he does so, he hears a cry from an animal that he does not recognize, except in-so-far as it is at the extremes of anguish and of terror. Then he hears yet another shot. Continuing to swim in that direction, he finds his way to an island. Thence, he makes his way to the hunter, General Zaroff.

Zaroff recognizes Rainsford by name, and expresses himself as pleased to think that he might now have a hunting companion. But Zaroff hunts men; as game; as the most dangerous game. The resulting argument between Rainsford and Zaroff is rather like the earlier argument between Whitney and Rainsford, with a terrible amplification. And, because Rainsford refuses to become a hunter of men, he is made the game. He is forced into a life-or-death contest that he never sought, against someone whose skills as a hunter are greater, and who additionally has assistance and weapons that Rainsford does not.

Hearing a sound that he has known — the howls and barks of a dog pack when on the hunt — Rainsford learns the fear of which Whitney had spoken; Rainsford comes to know how an animal at bay feels, because he is now an animal at bay.

I don't imagine any of you learning anything from this story about the perspective of the hunted. But there are as well the perspectives of hunters — the perspective of Zaroff, of course; but also the earlier perspective of Rainsford. Those of us who recoil at killing for sport find it easy to imagine Rainsford as a changed man, who has learned an important lesson, in a terrifying way. But Rainsford was capable of such change, because he is not a psychopath, not a sadist, nor too great a fool to learn. He was simply a man who was very mistaken. Perhaps better men would be better creatures of the same time and of the same place, but he was not truly a bad man.


Theunis Botha was guiding hunters who stumbled into a group of elephants. A female grabbed and lifted him by her trunk; she was shot, and fell, crushing him. My reäction to the story wasn't one of regret. But someone about whom I care (rather a lot) has written

I hope he suffered. I hope he felt every crush and the same sense of helpless panic animals feel when being chased, trapped and shot to death by well-armed hunters.

And I think — my God! — why? What good would such suffering do? It is unlikely that Mr Botha rejoiced in the fear and in the pain that he caused; rather, it is far more likely that, as with Rainsford before he met Zaroff, the fear and pain of the hunted did not register with him. If Botha were a man rather like Rainsford, here he had no time to learn from suffering. Can we recognize the inner life of Theunis Botha and still wish terrible punishment upon him for failing to recognize the inner lives of beasts?


[1] See especially the classic movie version of 1932.

The Way that I Roll

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The state of California has introduced a raft of new taxes associated with motor vehicles. These include an increase of the tax on gasoline (which increase alone is expected to cost the typical driver an additional $280 per year), a general increase in vehicle registration fees, and a new tax of $100 per annum on ULEVs. That last tax is advocated on a theory that, since they travel more miles per gallon of gasoline, ULEVs put more wear-and-tear on the roads with each gallon consumed. I very much doubt that, even on average, the difference comes to about $100; and of course drivers with ULEVs who do very little driving will be disproportionately taxed.

I drive a 2012 Honda CR-Z. It is a hybrid whose design alludes to that of the Honda Civic CR-X (aka CRX) much as the modern Volkswagen Beetle, Cooper S Mini, and Fiat 500 allude to models of the past. (Honda was well-advised not to name this successor CRY.)

The first- and second-generations of CR-X came in three basic varieties: the HF, which was designed for fuel economy; the DX, which offered a bit more performance; and the Si, which was a genuine sports car. (The CR-X originated in an effort to design a vehicle with superior fuel economy, but this naturally led to a streamlined body and limited seating, as with a sports car.) The CR-Z combines three analogous varieties into one, by having three operating modes: an Econ mode, a Normal mode, and a Sport mode. (There is also a special hill-climbing mode.)

I had no desire for the Normal or Sport mode. I'm never in the latter, and only in the former when a mechanic switches modes and I travel a few yards before realizing what has happened. (I've used the hill-climbing mode briefly just a very few times, to deal with especially steep inclines).

In the Econ mode, the CR-Z functions as a ULEV, but the model has not been classified as a ULEV, because there is no politically practical way of ensuring that CR-Z drivers are operating them in that mode. Here-to-fore, the implication for me has been that I cannot legally use car-pool lanes without having a passenger, whereäs those with recognized ULEVs can. But now, unless the state engages in hypocrisy (which is quite plausible), I will dodge that $100 tax.

I don't do a great deal of driving; I've had the car since the start of summer in 2012, but my odometer only recently passed 9000 miles (14484 km). And a significant part of what little driving I do is to visit my family in another state jurisdiction. Most of my recent driving has been primarily to ensure that the twelve-volt battery stays charged and that gaskets don't dry-out. My insurance company has repeatedly demanded to know why I drive so little. On the first few occasions, I explained that driving has become expensive; more recently I've just told them to shut-up and simply be happy that I drive far fewer miles than my policy covers.

The Hate Show

Friday, 24 February 2017

In George Orwell's novel 1984, people assembled each day for The Two Minute Hate. For two minutes, those gathered would feel and express their hatred of those whom they had been led to hate, by those whom they regarded as their guides. Orwell did not invent the idea of an interval or gathering for the purpose of hating. Such things are probably ancient, and were certainly called hates earlier in the 20th Century. Orwell hypothesized the formal institutionalization of scheduled rallies whose sole purpose was for hating.

Such gatherings are now routine, normalized. Some take place on a national or international level, on weekly or even daily bases. Others are smaller or less frequent. People collect in theaters or around television sets, and they hate. But few observers or participants see these gatherings for what they are, because the hatred is packaged as comedy. During these gatherings, there is very little in the way of clever violation of expectation, which is essential to intelligent comedy. Instead, there is ventilation — of disdain, of anger, of hatred, sometimes of fury — at those outside that group with whom the performers and audience identify. Treatment of hatred as comedy is not something new, but the acceptance of unacknowledged hatred as comedy has become commonplace. Gatherings for what most of us once would have called comedy have been increasingly displaced; our comedy shows have been replaced by Hates. We have Thirty Minute Hates, Sixty Minute Hates, Ninety Minute Hates.

The institutionalization has largely been private, but it has had something degree of state sponsorship, as when President Obama grinned broadly in response to Wanda Sykes' expressed wish that the kidneys of Rush Limbaugh should fail, during the 2009 White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

When I last visited my parents, who willfully live in an ideological echo chamber, they made a point each week of sitting together and watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. They laughed at nothing; they smiled at nothing; because nothing on it was funny. Nor did it deliver any fresh insights. What it delivered was hatred. But that was apparently what my parents wanted — a Twenty One Minute Hate.