Split

Another rejection. This time it was a split; one reviewer accepted with no changes, and the other rejected outright.

It was a tough journal, but it was a good article, and I’d hoped for more. In particular, I’d hoped the reviewers would actually engage my argument in a way that might suggest that they had read it. Neither did. The quest continues.

My son, seeing I was annoyed, gave me a cheese cracker. That made it better.

It’s a trap

The North Korean peace overture is almost certainly a trap. Trump is a fool to accept a summit.

The mechanism is simple. Arrange the meeting on tantalizing terms… then cancel abruptly on the eve of it, or walk away during, claiming Ttump was an arrogant pompous ass that insulted NK sovereignty and acted in bad faith. Trump will try to spin it, but fail. Kim looks powerful and in charge. NK and China 1, US and SK 0.

Hell, it might not even have to be a lie… Trump may screw it up without help.

The Amazing Colossal Apostle

I recently read The Amazing Colossal Apostle by Robert Price, from 2012. It is always a pleasure to read a book by a real scholar. Price is often dismissed as a fringe figure, but to me he has that special combination of feisty aggressiveness and being well-read that marks someone that demands to be reckoned with.  It is no longer fashionable to take Baur or van Manen seriously, but Price does, and it is refreshing to see a lengthy analysis of the Pauline corpus that refuses to yet again reinforce the middle of the road.

The general thesis is twofold. First, all the Pauline letters – even the four Baur admitted as authentic – are also forgeries, and that any historical Paul is more or less lost. Second, typical Pauline scholarship unfortunately resembles historical Jesus work in that the Paul that critics find is the Paul they want to find – thus the title, where an essential fictitious Paul often is a more convenient place to place one’s theological flag than the more radical Jesus. The Paul of Romans, then, is just another layer of early church development. There are also some interesting sub-theses, such as Marcion being the likely author of many of the “authentic” letters.

This is what biblical studies should look like – pushing, prodding, challenging, and thoughtful. I have mentioned before that academics tend to defend, but scholars almost always attack; this is yet another example of this law (let’s call it the Law of Scholarly Aggressiveness) in effect.

 

 

 

Rejection

Got a rejection on an article today. Both reviewers rejected it- no R&R.

I have two firm rules about what I do when a paper of mine is rejected by a journal.

  1. Do not send that journal another piece until the editor changes.
  2. Reflect on the positives rather than the negatives.

The first rule is based on an old lesson that took me forever to learn. I don’t think I fully learned it until I was about 30. Maybe even later. Namely, do not try to win the favor of someone who doesn’t like what you are doing. Not only it is demeaning, but it’s a total waste of time.

In this case, the review took five months, and anyone that can’t find anything good in my ideas in five months is not worth trying to please. (I take one week to do a peer review. Maybe a week and a half. Tops.)  The bit about the editorship is mostly wishful thinking on my part, based on a belief – erroneous and idealistic, of course, but I cling to it – that the editor bears the responsibility for accepting or rejecting, not the reviewers. There are a few journals that have the same editor for decades; I have learned to avoid those.

The second rule is also a practical one. The negatives are considerable – no acceptance or R&R in a journal I had specifically written the piece for – and two ‘peers’ that couldn’t find anything redeemable in my ideas, which I had shared with several colleagues and generated some excitement. That’s a professional blow to anyone.

But the positives are also considerable. One reviewer dwells on that 1) my article wasn’t ‘rigorous’, and 2) they couldn’t find a reason for it existing, and cheap shots like that tell me I hit a nerve – and that’s very interesting, given that I wrote a rather harmless theory piece that shouldn’t have pissed off anyone. The other reviewer said much the same thing – and both finger-wagged about how I had not  cited enough literature, but only mention two additional citations that I could have literally run circles around. It is entirely possible (actually it’s a quite common occurrence) that one or both wrote the citations in question…

Lit reviews are trivial. They can be easily added or omitted. It’s a dumb reason to reject a paper. Ideas are far more rare. The refusal to engage the thesis meaningfully is more telling.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the journal that I chose and designed the piece around was a mistake. It contradicted the core assumptions of the reviewers about how such an idea was to be handled with ‘rigor’, and they pushed back hard with numerous technicalities that could have been easily resolved in an R&R. Instead, hard reject.

So I made a mistake. Wrong venue, and possibly wrong subfield. That’s a positive – I learned something. I won’t make that mistake again when I revise. Or I will, in which case I will adapt again. It remains a good piece, and it will find a home. I will sift through their comments and use some of them (one reviewer was much more helpful in this regard than the other), but I will also disregard the spurious.

 

 

 

 

 

Funded Leave & Other News

I got an email tonight saying that I have been awarded a Funded Faculty Leave (FFL). Other universities call this a sabbatical. In this case, it means that I will get paid to do little but research for one semester (likely Spring 2019) – no teaching and no service (though I suspect some will sneak in). This is good news. I will use it to draft a new book on the gospels and rhetoric.

In other news, I sent out another article today. That makes four journal submissions in four months. M is due May 7; I should be able to do one more, a chapter in a collection, before he arrives. Actually, I already have a draft, it’s mostly editing at this point.

I could grade, but it’s late, almost 9:15. I think some time with Stellaris is in order…

On Facial Hair

The NYT has an amusing article on Bolton’s mustache and the political history of the particular trim level.

I have a full beard and long hair past my shoulders, so I feel qualified to hold forth somewhat on this topic.

I hate shaving. Absolutely hate it. I started in middle school and it remained a painful, tedious process for over twenty-five years. I started with an electric razor, but moved to a blade as I got older. It never got comfortable, and I always cut myself and irritated my face. My neck was typically a series of open wounds. Stubble for me appears in 12 hours or so, so shaving every day was mandatory.

As I got older, I went longer and longer between shaves, and often stopped for a week or more during vacations. If I needed to go on a job interview, I would shave close, but typically went 3 days in between. Stubble became acceptable.

Then, around the time H was pregnant with L – when I was 39 or so – I grew a full beard during a vacation and simply neglected to shave it off. I had tried a beard in college once, but it itched so bad I gave up after a month. This time I persisted, and it paid off. After that first month, the itching stopped, and it was a revelation.

It helps, of course, that I have an occupation – professor – that has no special expectation on facial hair, or head hair, for that matter. Most men in my department maintain some facial hair (typically with some gray) like the chin beards that are fashionable lately, or advanced stubble, but I have the only full one.

So I come to the question – what does it mean to have facial hair or not? Well, for me, my long hair signifies – to me – that I’m not a suit. The beard is simply further evidence of this. Frankly, if you think about it, if a man has the genetics to grow facial hair, why fight it? Social expectations? Trends come and go. I wish I had not listened to every conforming male for decades that told me to trim that stubble.

Now I’m comfortable with my face. It expresses some of my personality. H says I look ‘blank’ without at least some facial hair, so there is that to consider as well. I have also noticed that people tend to take me more seriously now, even at work. I think it is more the gray than the beard, but I don’t think it hurts.

Ultimately, though, it is a personal decision. I couldn’t care less about fashion. Beards are a little more ‘in’ now, but so what?

If you are judging a person on appearance you are literally and figuratively engaging them at the shallowest level possible. Rather, examine if they are fair and compassionate. Little else matters, and I say that as an academic. Intelligence is common and easily bent to evil, and looks always deceive. A sense of justice and a care for decency, though, are rare and hard to replace.

So, moral: grow your hair any way you want that pleases you.

Gaming Updates

I can’t recommend Kingdom Come: Deliverance on PC enough. It was a blast from start to finish. Highlights include Benedictine monks following their schedule; knocking myself unconscious while riding a horse in full plate under a low overhang; getting drunk with a parish priest; accidentally shooting my horse in the head with an arrow; sabotaging a beheading by dulling the blade, leading to socially awkward hacking; the satisifying crunch that maces make on armor. The graphics are top notch. There were over a hundred quests, all well written and interesting, and I did all of them.

Other thoughts…

I think there is a big opening for old consoles to move their assets to tablets. I would love to play NES and SNES games on my iPad as opposed to the current best method of an emulator on PC.

But it is not like I am suffering. H’s Switch and Zelda on it are pretty awesome. And, until KC:D intervened, I was playing a lot of Civilization 6. It is turn-based so I can play it a little while watching L.