(Originally appeared in Lognet 95/2)

Profile of Emerson Mitchell

By Wes Parsons

Emerson Mitchell is 51 years old. He is married to Dr. Johanna Meyer-Mitchell, a physician with a successful family practice. He and his wife have selected some creative first names for their offspring. Their son is Merlin Meyer-Mitchell, a junior at Carleton College, majoring in physics, and their daughter is Arwyn Meyer-Mitchell, who is starting ninth grade next month.

Emerson grew up in small towns in Idaho, most notably Salmon, population approximately 2,000 (and the largest city for nearly 100 miles). He still misses the mountains of his childhood. Emerson believes math talent runs in the family. Emerson’s father taught high school math and has a dozen descendants (first and second generations), all of whom find mathematics easy or fascinating or both.

Emerson lives in the San Francisco Bay area and programs computers for a living. He enjoys the Bay area culture, but does not like the hot summers and the lack of winters. According to Emerson, computer programming “is easy work to get and do for anyone with the Mitchell math talent. I like the logical puzzles of creating (and debugging) programs. Computers are very literal-minded and insist on logical code, but when you get it right you can make them do anything you can think of.”

His principal hobby is reading, mostly science fiction. Recently, discussions about Loglan via electronic mail have become a close second. He prefers broad knowledge to precise specialization, and tries to keep current in science, mathematics, philosophy, and logic. He considers himself a Christian and a Platonist. He is a qualified Fighter (but not a Knight) in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Emerson says that the SCA is a historical re-creation club which attempts to recreate the Middle Ages as they should have been (not as they were!). The fighting sport involves wearing full body armor, as authentic as can be made, and using simulated weapons made of rattan (as in rattan chairs) wrapped in rubber tape. With these weapons SCA members fight full speed and hard, trusting their armor. Battles are decided by the recipient of blows acting out the appropriate injury, up to and including death. They can “fight to the death best two out of three.” The fights are fast and furious and look more dangerous than they are. Their safety record is better than football, though they do have injuries such as broken bones.

A crucial event in the formation of Emerson’s personality occurred in second grade. His class was learning subtraction of natural numbers, and the teacher was emphasizing that a larger number cannot be subtracted from a smaller. This felt somehow arbitrary to Emerson, so he worked it out with money: If he had $10 he can “pay” you $25 by paying $10 and owing $15. This felt so right to Emerson that he had to share it and piped up to explain the idea. The teacher simply repeated “you cannot do that” and ordered him to shut up. He did, but unhappily. Then the next year his class learned negative numbers, proving he had been on the right track the previous year, and he was fit to be tied. He found a private spot during the next recess and spent all recess ranting about the injustice. He has never forgiven that second grade teacher, and is still suspicious of any teacher who uses “because I say so” or any equivalent as the justification for whatever they are teaching.

Emerson first encountered Loglan through the original Scientific American article. He has been with Institute since then, although he has not been active until recently. His interest in Loglan is mostly from a logic perspective.

The thing Emerson most likes about Loglan is the power of its logical forms. He is most disappointed in the lack of sufficient participants to keep up with the potential. He stresses that Loglan needs a Loglan-to-Loglan dictionary and a larger corpus of texts. Emerson is concerned that Loglan may remain obscure. He believes that Loglan is right at the cusp between dwindling off to nothing and growing up. The split with Lojban hurt, Emerson says, but will help in the long run if Loglan survives: a type of language with two examples inherently has broader appeal than a language type with only one.

Emerson is interested in the case tags issue as well as logic. Emerson wonders if we have coded in any hidden assumptions in the case tags: a possible case we don’t have is something we cannot easily say in Loglan. He is not very worried; if we were missing any major cases we would have untagged slots for some predicates and someone probably would have noticed. Emerson suggests that the only conclusion is that Loglan does not need to disallow expressions because “the case is wrong.” Such expressions may have no easy or obvious meaning but are the kind of nonsense we want to be able to speak in Loglan, unlike puns which are very non-Loglandical.

Emerson’s most recent interest is in counterfactual or subjunctive statements in Loglan (If I were King...), and he has informally proposed the operators fio and foi to handle this situation. —Hue Ues

Copyright © 1995 by The Loglan Institute. All rights reserved.