A woman I was good friends with in Honolulu started dating a guy I'll call Harry. I got to be pretty good friends with Harry and discovered that he had a Ph.D. in mathematics. His dissertation had been in commutative ring theory, which is fairly close to my own field, and his advisor was someone I knew quite well by reputation.
Since then, though, he had fallen on hard times, had spent some time in a mental institution, and for quite a while had lived on the streets, sometimes eating out of dumpsters.
When I met him, he was teaching at a junior college in Honolulu. He wanted to hang out with me and talk about mathematics, but it was pretty clear from our first conversation that he didn't remember much commutative ring theory. I guess he must have been okay on calculus and high school algebra though.
After the junior college job, he worked as a high school substitute teacher for a while, then got a job going to sea to teach algebra on Navy ships.
I may not have these jobs in quite the right order. Anyway, somewhere in this time he decided to apply for a job with NSA (the National Security Agency). I didn't want to tell him outright that he wasn't nearly good enough for NSA and that they didn't hire people who'd been crazy in any case, so I just told him that they were looking for really good mathematicians and were one of strictest Federal agencies in terms of security clearances. (They're the government's specialists on cryptography.) He didn't get the hint, or didn't want to, and wrote off for an application.
Since he thought I knew more about such things than he did, had asked my advice on one particular question on the application: ``Have you ever taken any illegal drugs?''
I gave him what seemed at the time was good advice, although in retrospect I'm not sure it was. ``Well, in the world we live in, almost everybody has smoked a little pot some time in their lives. So it might be a good idea to go ahead and admit that. It'll show you're being honest anyway.''
A few weeks later, his girl friend confronted me angrily. ``Harry sent in his application to NSA, and he enclosed a list of 22 illegal drugs he's taken. And he told me that you advised him to do that.
``And then,'' she said, ``he told me that he wanted to write them and get the application back, because he'd remembered another drug he'd left off the list.''
Well, he never would have got the job in any case. Last I heard, he was teaching high school again. But this time, it was a permanent position.
A few years ago, he ran for Congress on the Libertarian Party ticket.
Two years after that, the Libertarian Party ran a friend of his, a transsexual advocate for prostitutes' rights. I went to a fancy dinner party at one of the local restaurants to support her campaign and also support her work lobbying the Legislature to legalize prostitution. The Whores' Banquet, my friends and I called it, although it turned out that only a few actual prostitutes showed up. It was mostly just the people I knew from Milton Diamond's Sex Seminar and the local polyamory group and More University and places like that.
She didn't get elected either.
May 31, 1998