Hey, guess what paper

**finally** came out yesterday? That's right, I just received a .pdf reprint of

the original random walker rankings paper that my collaborators (Peter Mucha, Thomas Callaghan, and I) first submitted to

*American Mathematical Monthly* in November

**2003**.

For those of you who don't know the gory details behind getting this paper published, that is not a typo. It took 4 fucking years! Moreover, the paper was never even rejected so it's not like it bounced from one journal to another. The

*Monthly* was the only journal to which we ever submitted this. We first had to revise the paper after getting referee reports 6 months after submission (which is much longer than most journals where I submit stuff). Then we spent a good period of time over the next year addressing the extensive comments (which required a lot of new analytical and numerical work), and then once we resubmitted the paper, we didn't hear anything for 6-8 months only to find out that the referee who wanted that stuff done in the first place was completely AWOL. (The other referee was already extremely pleased with the whole endeavor, and the referee who complained insisted on certain things that were technically in direct contradiction to some of the stuff on the

*Monthly*'s masthead in terms of what article formats and content were acceptable.) Then a new referee had to be found (and then that guy had comments too) although by that point (mid 2005) the paper was guaranteed to be accepted once we addressed the points of the third referee (some of which were a request to make certain aspects of the paper more like the version we had submitted in the first place). The paper then got officially accepted in early 2006 (I think in February) although the

*Monthly* does an extensive mark-up of papers, so we exchanged some iterations to deal with small changes that indicated various degrees of fastidiousness on the part of the editor. Then the paper got put in a queue for when it would be finally published. It didn't make it out in 2006 because of the journal's huge backlog and then when a new editor took the reigns of that journal in 2007, he found additional points that he wanted us to tweak even after the so-called "final" version had been approved by the previous editor. We dealt with those in 2007, did the usual deal with page proofs, and waited a bit more for the journal's backlog to run its course a bit so that our paper could finally be officially in print. Then we got our .pdf file of the reprint yesterday, so this paper is finally out.

I should also mention that leaving aside the considerable extra effort that the journal required of us, the final paper was improved considerably as a result of all those shenanigans. It was often quite painful and frustrating (and I still maintain that the journal didn't handle our paper appropriately), but as good as the original version of the paper was (you can find that on the arxiv by looking at the paper's posting history), the final version is

*considerably* better. And now that the pain from this tribulation has faded away, I am not as bitter towards the

*Monthly* as I used to be and I am even considering eventually submitting another paper to it (though I hope that my collaborators will talk me out of it the next time I make that suggestion, because a 4 year gap is just absurd even if the chosen journal truly is the optimal one for this paper, which I believed when I first suggested we submit to the

*Monthly* and which I still believe now).

Now, I have discussed this work on this blog in a good amount of detail before. So, I will defer to the paper to which I linked above, the expository paper my collaborators and I wrote for the

*Notices of the AMS*, and (of course) the

project's home page.

So, with this long, ranty preamble out of the way, I hereby dedicate to the editors and referees of the

*Monthly* (which, in my opinion, seems to be somewhat of an inbred journal in terms of who the referees are and how blindly the editors seem to trust them) this partial list of some of the events that have transpired in the 4 years since my coauthors and I originally submitted this paper for publication in November 2003:

1. The three authors of this paper have undergone a total of four institution changes. (Thomas Callaghan started out as a junior in college and is now in his third year in the applied math doctoral program at Stanford. Peter Mucha was an assistant professor at Georgia Tech and is now an associated professor at UNC Chapel Hill. I was a postdoc at Georgia Tech, and then a postdoc at Caltech, and now a faculty member at Oxford.)

2. Peter and I both have much more than twice as many publications as we did in November 2003. In fact, I have more than 3 times as many publications as I did back then and Peter may have that as well.

3. Peter has twice as many children as he did then and his older child is over twice as old as he was in November 2003. (We need to stop using those pictures of him when we include this topic in seminars that we give. He's probably already embarrassed by the fact that all of our colleagues have seen this particular picture from his infancy at all these conferences.)

4. Thomas was part of the first batch of 5 undergraduate students I advised or co-advised on a serious project. I have now advised/co-advised close to 30 undergraduates.

5. At least one of my undergraduate research advisees is now married, and many of them are now in Ph.D. programs. (If you'll excuse a little bit of bragging, this includes 1 person at Harvard, 3 at Stanford, and 1 at Cornell.)

6. Most of the college freshman from fall 2003 have now graduated.

7. When we submitted this article, Facebook hadn't yet launched. (It launched on February 4th, 2004.)

8. Since we submitted the article, the Chicago White Sox won their first World Series in more than 80 years.

9. So did the Boston Red Sox. And then the Red Sox won a second World Series three years later. (During this year's postseason, I knew this paper was coming out imminently and I was actively rooting for the paper to come out after the World Series just so this comment would be even better.)

10. Since we submitted this article, the Caltech men's basketball team won its first game in over 10 years.

11. The Caltech women's basketball team won its first two games ever.

12. The video game systems that have come out since we submitted our paper include (at least) the Wii, XBOX 360, PS 3, and two versions of the Nintendo DS. (But Duke Nukem Forever still hasn't come out, and I was supposed to be a secret character in that game! OK, that was a private joke between me and one of my friends who was working on that game back in the day and I don't know if that would really have seen the light of day. But still...)

13. My first book was published. (I started it in May 2003, so I can't say I started it after we submitted this paper.) I also served as the mathematical consultant for a movie.

14. I started blogging (in October 2005).

15. Back when we first submitted this paper, George W. Bush was President of the United States. Oh fuck, he still is.

16. Division I-A isn't even called "Division I-A" anymore. It's now called "FBS" and "Division I-AA" is now called "FCS". (Just to screw with us more, "Division II" and "Division III" have retained their old names.) Hence, the terminology in our article's title is technically now incorrect. (This change occurred after we were done with the page proofs.)

I think there was more that I wanted to mention. Maybe I'll add some other amusing things to the comments if I think of them.