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Omaha, St. Mary’s University & Cyrano de Bergerac

Far back in the swirling mists of time, back in the seventh decade of the past century—well, to be specific it was in 1966 and I needed a few more college credits to add to the motley collection I had amassed over the prior nine years.

I was a member of the United States armed forces at the time, not necessarily gainfully employed—military pay was miserly when compared to today’s pay rates. My wife and I were sharing—not equally but sharing—the responsibilities involved in raising a young family of three girls and a miniature Chihuahua, aged twelve, eight, four and one year respectively. That didn’t leave much time for study, but spurred on by my desire for a bona fide college degree, I enrolled in night school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

I had almost enough college credits to transfer my hours to the Municipal University of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska in order to earn a baccalaureate. I only needed a few more hours in general education, and at that time I had more than a passing interest in religion, so in my search for truth I enrolled in several courses dealing with religion. My final class at St. Mary’s was a study of early Greek philosophy and ancient Greek philosophers. Successful completion of that final course with its three hours of credit would allow me to transfer my hours to Omaha under the auspices of the military services’ Bootstrap program.

Remember my statement that working full-time and helping maintain a household and raising three girls and a Chihuahua was a hindrance to my studies? I did not do well in the philosophy class, and that was reflected by my final grade, a grade based only on the final test for that subject in that semester. No credit was given for attendance, dress or attitude, class participation or good looks—not that such credit would have helped me—I just thought it was worth mentioning.

On second thought I am convinced that extra credit was given in that class, but was restricted to the mini-skirted girls that monopolized the front row seats, habitually—nay, constantly—crossing and uncrossing their legs. However, I will reserve that topic for a future Word Press post—stay tuned!

The test consisted of four essay questions, to only one of which—number four—I penned a scholarly answer and was given the full 25 points allowed for each question. As for the first three questions, my blue test booklet showed only the numbers and that little black dot—the period—that followed each number. If you guessed my final number grade for the course as 25 you would be correct, and if you guessed my final letter grade as an F, you would be wrong. The priest that taught the class quite generously awarded me a D for the class, a grade that carried weight and could count toward a degree from St. Mary’s University.

That evening I asked the instructor for a private meeting, and we stayed in the classroom after the other students left. I explained the predicament in which the D placed me, and he told me that it could be used at St. Mary’s, but I explained that even if it could be transferred, Omaha would not accept it. I did not shed any tears during my private session with the priest, but I did allow my voice to waver and crack several times—I know I created a pitiful spectacle, but hey, I was desperate.

And it worked. He told me to study industriously and return to his classroom the following week on an evening that he had no class. I spent most of the next week studying the material and writing notes on small scraps of paper. Yes, they were cheat notes—I said I was desperate, right?

I returned the following week and the priest gave me a blue test booklet and a paper with four hand-written questions, then told me to find an empty classroom on the second floor, take the test and return it within one hour. Although the evening was balmy, I sported a sport coat fitted with two outside pockets and two inside pockets, all filled with those little scraps of paper that I mentioned—I was running late that night and had forgotten to remove them—honest! (And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Arizona, etc., etc.)

The rest of this story will be mercifully brief. I found an empty classroom, entered and closed the door behind me so I would not be distracted by hallway noises, and also with the hope that I would be alerted should the door be opened while I was cheating on the test. And now, just one more short paragraph and you, my readers, will be free to search for greener pastures of literature. I know full well that the final paragraph will require readers to suspend disbelief, but so be it—as Bill Clinton might say, It is what it is.

I removed not one cheat note from my stuffed coat pockets—not one. I had worked so hard to identify test material to put on cheat notes that I knew the material by rote. I never knew the actual point grade given, but my D was upgraded to a C that was immediately transferred to Omaha’s municipal university, an institute of higher learning that graduated me in the spring of 1968, the last class to be graduated before the university became UNO, the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: Please note that I said the Municipal University of Omaha graduated me, not that I graduated the University of Omaha. One cannot graduate a university, no matter how mightily one strives—only universities have the right and the privilege to graduate. Yes, I am aware of the common usage of the verb phrase to graduate, but I steadfastly refuse the common usage, electing instead to abuse the words of Cyrano de Bergerac as given voice by Edmond Rostand in his 1897 play—like the mighty oak I stand, not tall but alone—or something similar to that.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in Books, education, Family, Humor, Military, poetry, Writing

 

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Florida find—lifeless legs in landfill . . .

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/jarred-mitchell-harrell-charged-in-slaying-of-7-year-old-florida-girl-somer-thompson/19416157

The following item was taken from the above URL :

ORANGE PARK, Fla. (March 26) — A 24-year-old unemployed restaurant worker was charged Friday with murder in the slaying of a 7-year-old Florida girl whose body was found in a Georgia landfill after she disappeared walking home from school, authorities said. Jarred Mitchell Harrell was charged in the death of Somer Thompson, who went missing Oct. 19. Her lifeless legs were discovered two days later in a landfill about 50 miles from Orange Park.

Lifeless legs?

Is the word lifeless used for alliterative  reasons, or perhaps used as filler to complete a newspaper column? If legs are found, regardless of where, when, why, who or how, any reader with even the paltriest particle of perceptive power will know that the legs are necessarily lifeless. Please note the foregoing lined-out phrase—it includes a four-word alliteration (paltriest particle of perceptive power), but it is unnecessary, just as is the word lifeless, the adjective used to describe the legs found in a Florida landfill.

Something else is missing from the article—was the body dismembered? At first read, one may safely assume that the girl is dead based on the word murder and the term lifeless in reference to the legs, but must we also assume that the body was dismembered? The article states only that the lifeless legs were found. Was the dismemberment of the body omitted, perhaps, in deference to the emotions of the deceased’s family? In that case, the authors of the article should have refrained from using the term gruesome in this sentence: They sorted through more than 225 tons of garbage before the gruesome find.

Quality journalism does not require such assumptions to be made. To quote Detective Joe Friday’s signature statement from Dragnet, a long defunct television show: We just want the facts, ma’m—just the facts.

A corollary to the adjective lifeless, as used in the above article, is the use of the adjective dead as applied to a human body. We never read or hear that The live body of the missing man was found today. What we read or hear is that, The missing man was found alive and well today. Conversely, we read or hear that, The dead body of the missing man was found today. Note the lined-out word in that sentence—was it needed to let the reader know that the missing man was found dead—not alive, but dead? Of course not—the word body is sufficient information.

For some of the years (too many) that I toiled in the work force, one of my co-workers was a woman for whom English was a second language. She frequently accused me of neet peeking. Well, I am not a nit picker.

I am a fault finder, and I will energetically exercise that attractive attribute to the best of my ability. Please note the three alliterative phrases in that sentence—all are unnecessary but all are self–fulfilling and space–filling (writers are sometimes paid according to the number of words used).

Enough said!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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