Saturday, July 07, 2007


Chain Mail

Antipodians should not be allowed unsupervised access to computers. This is another meme experiment:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

I don't quite know why I should tell any intimate stories about myself just because someone else does but, fortunately, it's not like many people are going to be reading this.

1. Probably the most significant fact of my intellectual life was that I was educated in Roman Catholic schools in the United States from kindergarten through college (the latter at a Jesuit institution). It has to be understood that, in the 1950s and 1960s, signs outside many places of employment that read "No Irish Need Apply" were well within living memory and there was real doubt that a Catholic could be elected to nationwide office until John F. Kennedy did it. The very existence of a separate (and very extensive) Catholic educational system in the U.S. was because of a pervasive generic Protestantism practiced in public schools, prior to the Supreme Court's push to enforce the Establishment clause after World War II, that was overtly anti-Catholic or, at least, perceived to be so.

In that kind of climate, the push to make Catholic schools better than the public schools and Catholic kids better educated than the products of public education was natural. But teaching children a respect for and appreciation of scholarship and logic and lifelong learning is, for a religion, at best a two-edged sword. Before high school was done I had lost my ability to believe six impossible things before breakfast. The gentle ministrations of the Jesuits finished off any likelihood of that for good. Despite their reputation, Jesuits, or at least the ones I met, are so fiercely dedicated to knowledge and intellectual integrity that religion standing in the way of that goal will not be tolerated, no matter how highly venerated it is. For example, a good 10 percent or more of the instructors in that school were defrocked Jesuits and we had a secular Protestant teaching a course on "higher criticism" of the Bible.

My wife says frequently that "You can take the boy out of the Church; but you can't take the Church out of the boy." I don't think that is a bad thing necessarily.

2. I don't drink ... though I used to; I don't smoke ... though I used to. Nothing's permanent.

3. Best book I've read this year: The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History by Marjorie Grene and David Depew. The worst book I started to read this year but finally, after 180 pages, could not slog through any more, no matter how interesting the subject: The Man Who Found the Missing Link: Eugène Dubois and His Lifelong Quest to Prove Darwin Right by Pat Shipman.

4. The best birthday gift I ever gave myself: the DVD set of The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski.

5. I had, perhaps, the most unique way of dodging the draft: I joined the Army.

In (if memory serves) 1969, the Vietnam War's drain on the military finally required that the draft be reinstituted reformed and a lottery was held by birthday to decide the order that men would be called up. I got lucky number 64 which guaranteed that I'd be called. (My older brother, already at the upper age for being drafted and married with a kid on the way and having by that time lined up numerous medical excuses, got #366 -- the last number -- the bastard.) At the same time, the government was cutting back on exemptions for attending graduate school.

My college, as a cheap way of meeting Federal guidelines for physical education, required all male students to take the first two years of Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), which involved no commitment to actually serve. If you stayed in for the third and fourth year, you were committed to serving two years as a junior officer. The lottery was held just before I had to decide whether or not to stay in ROTC. When I got the lottery result, I naturally stayed because, if nothing else, it is better to be an officer than a grunt.

But as an officer, you could get an educational delay of your active service, while you got a further degree in some field the Army needed. Well, given the number of AWOLs and desertions from the Army in that unpopular war, one thing the Army very much wanted was more lawyers for the Judge Advocate General Corps. By the time I finished my three years of law school, the war was all but officially over. In fact, about the time I finished my Army orientation course for lawyers and I was about to be loosed upon an unsuspecting Army base, Saigon fell. I maintain to this day that the two events were unrelated.

Taking this route around the draft meant that I had to stay three years in the Army (being paid considerably more than most of my law school classmates, especially when free housing and medical care is counted in) at a place where I never heard a shot fired in anger and only had to do "Armyish" things, besides wearing a funny suit, sporadically. A good deal over all.

6. My life is "boring." I do not consider this a bad thing.

7. I'm lazy.

8. I'm lazy.

Okay, now for the further victims. If any of you have been tagged before, too damn bad! I went back a ways but the very nature of this exercise guarantees that, if everyone follows through, sooner, rather than later, the entire population of the Earth will be tagged.

Beautiful Biology

The DesignInterference

The Dispersal of Darwin

Duae Quartunciae

The Greenbelt

Primordial Blog (That one is really mean of me!)

Tantalus Prime

Thinking for Free

Thanks so much... you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel here!
So you got tagged! As you say, "the entire population of the Earth..." So we'll all get there, sooner or later.

I think the only reason some comply is that we get to pass it on, and misery loves company.

Re #1; Every Jesuit-trained person I have ever met was an atheist. And, as far as I can remember, they were all clear-headed, rigourous thinkers. Perhaps this explains, at least in part, the strong dislike the fundamentalist crowd I grew up with expressed towards Jesuits and "Jesuitical 'reasoning'" (their mode of punctuating that phrase).
Every Jesuit-trained person I have ever met was an atheist.

Well, I only made it as far as agnostic pantheist (with touches of deism) but then I never could follow instructions.
You do remember that Mr. Primordial is on vacation and off the air for the next little while, right?
You do remember that Mr. Primordial is on vacation ...

That's why I said I was being mean to choose him. By the time he gets back there's gonna be nobody untagged.
With regard to the military draft -- it was ongoing from WWII, though it impacted a relatively few folks after Korea until Viet Nam heated up in the mid-60s. The lottery was introduced to mitigate some of the inequities of local draft board handling of the matter.

My draft board (Omaha) desperately wanted me from about 1967 on (after I graduated college), and I dodged into the Peace Corps, as a result of high-level Washington shenanigans. Then I lucked out with the lottery (but had positioned myself to flee to New Zealand if necessary :-).
With regard to the military draft -- it was ongoing from WWII ...

You're right, of course. It only impinged on my consciousness then because, as part of the same reforms, they were making it harder to get and keep educational deferments.

If memory didn't keep playing tricks on me, I'd hardly have reason to know it was there at all.
Pieret, you are an evil, evil man. I had to go scrounging around for eight people who haven't received this yet. It was hard, but I did my part.
You totally cheated on 7 and 8 - but I'll still do it anyway. Thanks ;)
Heh. FBI profiler John Douglas dodged the draft the same way you did. You got the better end of the education deal, but he got to run the gym for all of the attractive, lonely Air Force wives.

I used to hate being a female until my mother told me what "Selective Service" means. I still hate being female, but at least I don't have the added stress of having to register and possibly get called up.
I used to hate being a female until my mother told me what "Selective Service" means.

I've always been curious what it would be like to be female but it was never so attractive as when a draft board is on your tail. Nothing concentrates the mind, as Dr. Johnson used to say.
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