My Ph.D.

March 22, 2017

How I Obtained It

Revised 3 July 2017

Thanks to my habit of perpetual self-examination, surveys and quizzes can attract me when they might show something about me that I did not recognize or have doubted in the past. Some of these curiosity provokers have come on Facebook. Although my current time on Fb is now infrequent and irregular, I recently went back to it to post an experience stumbled on from Bing listings.

“Can we guess your highest education level” it begged, “in 10 questions?” Well 10 turned into something in the high seventies. My first try wound up aborted after a slow connection with my responses whether correct or incorrect and a subsequent explanation why. But the invitation showed up again on 9 March 2017, that morning. This time we managed to reach all the way through. I had failed on one question, which I do not remember, and with a score of 98% equivalent to a Ph.D.

Thanks a lot: you have boosted my ego. However, I do not really have that degree. Consequently, I went to explain on Facebook.

No, I do not have a Ph.D., but an M.A. in Library Science and some further graduate courses in history, humanities, and library services. Instead, I have read continuously since third grade and pursued several research projects while attempting to keep up to date with matters that are not trivial. I am a member of the Minnesota Independent Scholars Forum. Two questions were not precisely correct, but I chose the closest acceptable answer.

Though some questions may have been tricky, very few of them took a lot of thought or levels of expertise beyond general knowledge. Questions came mostly from the fields of culture, history, literature, or science. Probably, I could have answered a majority when in high school or at least prior to graduate school.

Here are the first ten questions and why I got them right. An x marks the correct answer.

  1. In what Shakespeare tragedy does Ophelia appear? Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, xHamlet. I did not read Hamlet or see a stage performance of it until into my sixties, but did see the film (1996). When I read and saw Hamlet, I was surprised how familiar the play became. I had read a Classic Comic Book of it in my early teens, but the rest came from many past years of dialogue and character reiterations.
  2. The first World War ended in … x1918, 1945, 1944, 1888 I fell in love with history at 15, subsequent to enjoying historical novels. In college, I majored in history. Dates to me are rudimentary markers – 4 B.C.E., 476, 800, 1066, 1453, 1485, 1492, 1603, 1620, 1776, etc.
  3. What does H stand for in H2O? Helium, Hydration, Halogen, xHydrogen. People frequently use H20 as a synonym for water. How much more basic can you get than that?
  4. What is the capitol of Kenya? Accra, Addis Ababa. Lagos, xNairobi. In college, my cluster of friends played a lot of general knowledge games, one of which asked for the capitals of foreign countries. Besides that, almost every movie that features Kenya in some respect relates to Nairobi.
  5. Frogs belong to which of these animal groups? xAmphibians, Reptiles, Invertebrates, Mammals When I was pre-school, we had a small swamp at the back of a neighboring lot, full of tadpoles that became frogs. I think I knew what an amphibian was since then, thanks to my Dad who seemed to know everything. Of course, I also had 10th grade biology, where Mr. Espeland had us memorize each phylum in its sequence so we could recite them.
  6. True or false: the Soviet Union was a U.S. enemy in WWII? xFalse. Born in 1940, I had four uncles in the war and we had Life magazine at our house. I remember the pictures of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin sitting down together at Yalta.
  7. What language has the most native speakers? Hindi, English, xMandarin Chinese, Spanish. While English may be the most widely spoken, not all are native speakers, and Hindi is only one of hundreds of languages in India; it’s China that has the largest population.
  8. How many chambers are there in the human heart? Three, xFour, Two, One 10th grade biology once more to the rescue. Besides, I have minor reverse blood flow into the left ventricle from the vascular system.
  9. “Call Me Ishmael” is the opening line of which American novel? xMoby Dick, by Herman Melville; Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck; Catch-22, by Joseph Heller; Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Though I’ve owned a copy of Moby Dick since Junior High, I have yet to read all the chapters, but I have read the beginning, seen the film (1956), and know the symbolic meaning of Ishmael.
  10. How many events are there in a decathlon? 12, 6, 3, x10. While I know next to nothing about sports, I had two years of Latin in high school and a semester of Cicero in college. Ten is English for deca in Latin taken from deka in Greek (transliterated), which appears in decade, Decalogue, decahedron, decapod, etc.

Besides seeming easy to anyone who is paying attention, multiple choice questions aid answering correctly when one knows when the wrong choices do not fit the question asked but are true for something else. Perhaps the trickiest question was asking which element is most plentiful in the atmosphere. The proclivity may to answer oxygen which we need but it’s nitrogen. Too much oxygen would burn us up.

Also, it helps to be older with more opportunity for the accumulation and refreshing of knowledge.

The online company that forwards these “fun” questionnaires is Topix, founded in 2002, which at the start aggregated news into various categories or topics. They subsequently created content and other amusements. Offbeat is the subsidiary for this particular quiz and others. See also A general article appears on Wikipedia as Topix (website).

Authenticity of My Big Five

September 30, 2015

Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Openness

A while ago I reported the results of a personality inventory of the “big five” characteristics. Today I took another one linked from the political blog fivethirtyeight, written from the standpoint of authenticity, Hillary Clinton’s in particular. Once I launched into this inventory, I imagined that results would constitute a check on the prior one.

The distributor of these factor markers is the International Personallity Item Pool which has a fuller scale 300 item version presented as having a high degree of pertinence and reliability. However, answering all these questions takes an estimated 30-40 minutes. Thus the quicker inventory has 50 questions.

The specific wording of these character descriptions seems to vary from my previous experience taking a123test®. This time I went through the statements twice in an effort to assure that I understood the measures fully and replied with corresponding accuracy. Each question calls for one of five possible responses – disagree, slightly disagree, neutral, slightly agree, or agree. These responses are the flip of the 123 version – strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree.

My responses to the statements found me responding disagree 18 times, slightly disagree 2, neutral 2, slightly agree 9, and agree 19 times. I wanted to answer on the extreme ends of the responses; nevertheless, at times I found I could not. These predicaments and choices were based on my splitting hairs on just how each statement represented me when a more rigid approach would have sprung from all or nothing choices. Some example statements follow.

3. I am always prepared. I regard that I am usually prepared, but not always as fully as I like or at times learn from an experience that I  could have prepared better. So I only slightly agreed.

8. I leave my belongings around. Yes, sometimes, more than I would like. I don’t always hang my clothes up. I have a tendency to pile, not file building miscellaneous stacks because I am very archival. But I also have thousands of clippings, sheets of correspondence and writings. I own something over 6,000 volumes. Most of this is in order, but I am always behind and struggle to spend some portion of every day clearing my desk. Alas, I can only slightly agree.

16. I keep in the background. Well … I like the background, the vantage point, the retreat to do my thinking and rejuvenate the soul and its consciousness. But I speak out as needed; I serve on task forces; I conduct and speak out at forums; I do readings in front of audiences. I organize book clubs for years at a time. Lately, I have even sung in pickup choirs, something I have been leery of doing for over 70 years. Another slightly agree.

23. I get chores done right away. First off, what is meant by “chores?” I interpreted it to cover anything that is done on a routine or regular basis. That’s agree for me. However, most of what I do requires what I prefer to call mulling, especially matters of an intellectual nature which is where I spend most of my waking time. I cannot handle matters of this nature right away because they do not lend themselves to immediacy. Alas, most of the 13 novels I have attempted have never been completed because I haven’t resolved a satisfactory way to finish them. This time I slightly disagree.

37. I take time out for others. Yes, of course. But the time I spend is largely foundational in building up the community, the culture, or the civilization. I seek my own pleasure in so doing and I trouble whether anything I ever do will have a lasting effect. So I have to slightly agree.

Twice, I have taken the neutral position, something I have not wanted to do. But it seemed to me that was the only alternative since the statement does not really or fully apply to me as it stands.

41. I don’t mind being the center of attention. Okay, I don’t mind, but I do not seek to be at a noticeable center, and my preference remains to get out to the edge and stay there.

47. I make people feel at ease. Pardon me, but I have no gauge for determining an answer to this one.

So here is my resulting profile expressed for each trait. Scores run 1-5, low to high and show the relative dominance of personality domains. Percentiles show that portion of the population I score higher than, presumably better than to fit my own personality.

Neuroticism (elsewhere termed Natural Reaction) shows the tendency to experience and/or show negative emotions or neuroses. My score is 1.8, rather low, and at 9%.

Extraversion shows the orientation towards and satisfaction from other people. The score is 2.4, towards the middle, and at 24%

Conscientiousness reflects carefulness and order for one who is hardworking and reliable. I score 3.7. above the middle, and at 62%

Openness indicates how much I seek out new experiences. I score 4.5, very high, at 71%.

Finally, agreeableness points to how much a person likes and wants to please others. Here the score reaches my highest, 4.7, with 87% ranking lower than I find myself.

I remain unsure or confused as to whether this inventory coincides with others that seek personality identification. In the typologies based on Jung, extraversion-introversion reflect where the sense of oneself comes from and the consequent source of psychological energy.

Nevertheless, it seems the image and identification of my self holds. I see myself as one who has learned or practiced the control of his emotions. I can weep at a painting but remain controlled at the death of a friend or relative. I recognize and live my obligation to others but regard my role as distantly overarching and essentially far reaching, not intimate except with a few. I prefer the depth and nurture of solitude in a life that has numerous public demands. I want to be orderly, thoughtful and imaginative in creative and intellectual ways. I want to make my ideals real and grow through learning and the study required to reach desired levels of knowledge.

Alas, I am not completely satisfied that however much these ratings are in a desirable direction for me, they are not as ultimately on target as other inventories have been.

Copyright © 2015 by Roger Sween.

I welcome comments on this blog. Direct personal comments to me at my email address.

Cool Maplewood

August 26, 2014

Toward a More Tranquil Standpoint

Based on responses by Eric McCormack in “Hot Hollywood,” US (14 July 2014) 6. His words appear in bold with statements completed as I would respond in following the setup.

  1. I’m happiest when I finish something to my satisfaction.
  2. especially if the project is a worthy one.
  3. I’ve always wanted to be able to sing on tune.
  4. My family and I have persisted in our differences.
  5. I was a terrible math student and had no business taking calculus.
  6. My first job at age 9, for which I was paid, was delivering newspapers.
  7. I could probably eat the same menu in weekly rotation.
  8. I stole a lot from reading history.
  9. I was born (2 May 1940) on the same day in history as Czarina Catherine II (1729), Manfred von Richthofen (1892), and Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903).
  10. My all-time favorite film is Slaves of New York.
  11. And I do not care for anti-heroes.
  12. I’m still mad at no one: what’s the point?
  13. I met my wife over a 4-member post theater conversation and then three years later through a mutual friend in her dramatic production class.
  14. I knew I wanted to be a historian from reading histories and historical novels.
  15. I’m not afraid to mix imagination and reality.
  16. I make the best smoothies from half a banana, applesauce, Greek yogurt, cranrasberry-orange juice, and either strawberries, a nectarine, or some kind of flavorful jam, especially if rhubarb.
  17. I have almost no athletic skills, but I bicycle in good weather and enjoy walking or other physical exercise.
  18. I never cry at the end of a book – except once, I think – and now I cannot recall the author or title.
  19. I’m a U.S. citizen who has only been out of the country to Canada.
  20. I spent five years with party politics before I realized how hard it was to get citizens to do their democratic part.
  21. I wish my folks would have lived to tell me more about their pasts.
  22. At 5, I was deeply in love with Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf.
  23. I believe that if everyone had the good of others in mind, we could throw our weapons away.
  24. I can’t stand anything foolish, stupid, or derogatory, but I manage to keep on breathing.
  25. Whenever Game of Thrones is on, I’ll watch it.

This entry parallels Roger Sween Revealed and What I Learned, both linked from the MY TYPE page.


Copyright © 2014 by Roger D. Sween

I welcome comments on this post. For personal comments to me, send to my email.


What I Learned

July 31, 2014

At Least, So Far: Responses by Roger Sween


I do not see much evidence that humans have learned how to live together.

Given free rein, I imagine I would carry on as I have.

A couple of weeks away from civilization would feed my concentration.

I would go to Granada as an afterthought from Provençal.

Phaeton Flight I wrote one summer; everything else has taken the rest of my life.

I do not talk to young writers because they do not talk to me.

Once in twenty years, I think I may catch up. That thought passes quickly.

I most probably would not have been a librarian except for Rolf Erickson recommending I take library courses as employment insurance.

It is just like when I was twenty and I pondered where I was going.

If all I did was read books, I would be deliriously happy.

It is like hunting for any lost item: there is always a logical explanation for where it went.

I do not hunt mammals; only ideas.

Unlike a lot of writers, I think most reliance on conflict for story tends to be stupid.

They published many of my poems in Poetic Strokes, but politely ignored all my suggestions for improving the publication and its program.

I do not think I suffer from writer’s block; rather I lack confidence in measuring up to standards of excellence.

Fifty-two years later and we are still married. I often think of Narum’s statements in Ethics class about the ontology of marriage – shared values.

The interesting thing about the writers I most admire – Hugo, Heinlein, Le Guin, Lively – is their ability to make the nonexistent convincing.

It is overwhelming when you learn something from history that you never knew before, and then you realize how much more you still do not know.

The reason why writers write is that they must unravel their sentiments.

I revere bears and almost all animals in nature, though only at a distance.

I work every morning and most of every day attempting to bring order to my life and thought.

If you have written all day, that day is another good one.

My grandmothers lived into their eighties, each different from the other: knowing them into adulthood became my good fortune; now I miss their steadiness.

All people are unique individuals, their essential worth.

I do not want to die until I have finished at least one novel to my satisfaction.

Has happiness changed with age? My standards are higher, but I expect less.

No conclusions on time; despite, since reading Schnackenburg’s The Uses of Time (1957), I have been obsessed with the dimensions of history.

You end up respecting complexity in an appreciative way.

What is the meaning of it all? However much we persevere, our lives remain essentially minuscule in the ultimate scheme.

Now, where can I do the most good today?


Based on “Jim Harrison: What I’ve Learned,” Esquire (August 2014). With appreciation to Robert Hanson for sending me the web location.

I followed the opening lead on Harrison’s responses, altered so the words fit me and answered in ways as I understand myself.

Roger Sween Revealed

May 27, 2013

Based on Author Revealed at Simon & Schuster (

I discovered the source by looking up Jonah Winter, whose poem was credited as a base for another poet in the May 2013 issue of Poetry Magazine. Winter’s responses were zany, I would say, and I wondered how I would respond to similarly phrased profile categories.

Birthdate: 2 May 1940.

Occupations: paperboy, snow shoveling, baby-sitter, student library aide, school librarian, serials librarian, reference librarian, library science instructor, head public librarian, interlibrary loan coordinator, information broker, state library consultant and grant administrator = adult educator and lifetime learner.

Favorite job: planning for Governor’s pre-White House Conference on Library and Information Services.

Education: Granite Falls (MN) Public Schools, Saint Olaf College, University of Wisconsin (M.A.L.S.), University of Iowa (American intellectual history), Western Michigan University (library specialist courses).

Learning: lifetime reader of literature, history, philosophy, theory, social issues, and cultural studies.

Favorites: Shakespeare (poetry), J.S. Bach (music), Vermeer (painting), Slaves of New York (movie), Masterpiece Classic (television).

Life in Brief: As I never know enough, ignorance humbles me.

My prompt: How far we have not come.

Perfect happiness: Every fresh morning comes close.

Greatest fear: Lack of completion.

Choice of place: Right here.

Historical identification: Montaigne.

Most admired living person: Nelson Mandela.

Most overused word: is

Regret: procrastination

Talent desired: Able to sing from the diaphragm.

Greatest achievement: Helping to bring freedom to marry to Minnesota.

Greatest flaw: Naïveté.

Best quality: Empathy.

Who would you rather be: No one else.

Most noticeable trait: Seriousness.

Favorite fictional hero: Mike the Computer (Adam Selene) in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Favorite fiction villain: I prefer heroes.

What would you say to a chosen historical character. The prophet Deborah: “How did you gain a leadership position in a man’s world?”

Pet peeve: Noise.

Favorite other occupation: Landscaping.

Fantasy profession? Orchestra conducting.

Three personal qualities most important: Curiosity, persistence, judgment.

One thing you would eat for the rest of your days: I do like baked potatoes.

Five favorite songs: Define songs.

Favorite authors: Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert A. Heinlein, J. M. Coetzee, Robert Penn Warren, Penelope Lively.

A book you love to reread: Bible (NRSV).

Five favorite books: The Dispossessed, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Lord of the Rings, All the King’s Men, The Photograph.

Advice for new writers: Be critical, but confident.

Most frequent reader’s comment: “This is a lot of work.”


Copyright © 2013 by Roger Sween.

I welcome all public comments to blog articles. For personal comments from those who know me, sent to my email.