Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Specialization is for insects

As I'm sure many of you know, Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite authors ("Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was both my first Heinlein, and my favorite, in case you were wondering).

In what MOST fans see as his best book (I think they're wrong, but hey. Most hippies who aren't really fans think it's "Stranger in a strange land") "Time Enough For Love", the main character Lazarus Long writes "Specilization is for insects" and presents a list of what a well rounded human being should be able to do:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -- Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love".

So on that list, what have I done?

* Change a diaper
* Plan an invasion - in wargaming anyway; both as part of tactical excercises, and for fun
* Butcher a hog - and deer, and others
* Conn a ship - depends on what you mean by a ship. Lots of small craft over 40' if that counts
* Design a building - built it too. Actually a couple if you count sheds and outbuildings
* Write a sonnet - not a sonnett, but plenty of poetry and songs
* Balance accounts
* Build a wall
* Set a bone - unfortunately several times, including my own
* Comfort the dying
* Take orders - both as a manager, and in the Air Force
* Give orders - both as a manager, and in the Air Force
* Cooperate
* Act alone
* Solve equations
* Analyze a new problem
* Pitch manure
* Program a computer
* Cook a tasty meal - Hell yeah, I even write artery clooging "Recipes for REAL Men"
* Fight efficiently

Of all these things, the only one I havent yet done, is the one I most hope I can live up to:

* Die gallantly

I think it's a pretty good list, but theres not a lot of detail. Theres another list I rather like, from Kim DuToit - "20 Things a Man Should do Before He Dies":

1. Shoot a gun larger than a .22.

- On at least a weekly basis

2. Teach a kid to shoot.

- Many times, and I hope to do it again many more

3. Cook a meal out in the open (and I don’t mean a backyard BBQ).

- Oh hell yes. Nothing better than camp food after a hard day

4. Kill an animal which can kill you.

- More than once, both by design and by necessity. I've hunted bear, and while hunting and hiking I've twice been forced to kill dangerous animals (a bear, and a mountain lion). Trust me on this one, that'll scare the piss out of ya.

5. Taste a good brandy (no French cognacs need apply) and a fine single malt Scotch.

- I take my liquor cabinet very seriously. I do have some decent brandy, but I'm really a whisky man (or whiskey, depending on the mood).

6. Visit at least eight countries outside your own continent, none of which speak your home language.

- I have had the great good fortune to visit all 50 American states, and 40 some-odd countries. I say some-odd because some of them aren't countries anymore, and some of them are several different countries... The perils of traveling in Africa and Eastern Europe (which I would love to do more of; especially Africa before it sinks entirely into the muck). I've also lived in 4 countries for more than 90 days, and 3 more countries for more than six weeks - didnt speak the language in any of those three (USA, Ireland, UK, Australia, Germany, Russia, Japan).

7. Read any six Shakespeare plays.

- I haven't quite read all of them, but I can give you my six favorites right here, in order
  • Henry V
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Othello
  • Hamlet
  • Scottish
  • Lear
8. Win a solo sporting competition—anything that involves physical exercise.

- I was a varsity and USA wrestler from the age of 13 (unlimited heavyweight since I was 13 - which isn't unlimited actually, it's limited to either 140 or 150 kilos for under 18's depending on what conference you're a part of) and I won many matches and a few tournaments for my weight class.

9. Be part of a winning sports team.

- Winning events I've been on many teams. Winning championships, I was a starting offensive tackle for three seasons with the Dublin Rebels, three time IAFL (american football) all-Ireland and UK champions, three time european champions.

10. Make love with a woman in a forbidden place.

- Very fun stuff. In elevators, restaurants, theaters, bathrooms, churches, airplanes... VERY fun stuff

11. Have a strange woman invite you home with her; and refuse her, because you’re married.

- Turns out it was a mistake, as I found out later; I should have gone with her. I loved my wife, but I ended up in a much better relationship with the other woman after my marriage ended. There were others, but that one sticks out... I also cheated on my wife several times; some of which I regret, and some I don't.

12. Build something tangible—out of wood, steel, brick, whatever.

- One of the few that match the list above, and yes many times. I've built everything from furniture and guitars, to houses, cars, boats, even planes and a small church once (eagle scout service project)

13. Sit up all night comforting a sick child.

- Many times. Though I have no children myself, I was the oldest in a very large extended family of fuckups; so I was left in charge a lot. I've also been with a few single mothers.

14. Tell the truth, where a lie would both be undiscoverable, and keep you out of trouble.

- Yeah this one has gotten me fired a couple of times... and worse actually.

15. Watch at least one real virtuoso play a musical instrument—in any kind of music.

I was lucky enough to see lots, but heres just a quicky five guitarists off the top of my head
  • B.B. King
  • Eric Johnson
  • Steve Vai
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn (I was 12)
  • Joe Satriani
I've seen YoYo Ma, Pavarotti, Carerras, Domingo, Church... actually if you go by Wikipedias list I've seen a BUNCH of them. I LOVE live music, and I go to shows whenever possible. Actually next week I'm going to see Crosby Stills and Nash for the second and two thirds time (once was jsut Crosby and Nash). I've seen Bela Fleck and Victor Wootn maybe 6 times... damn I AM a lucky man actually.

16. Perform on stage (music, theater, whatever), to a large (500+) audience.

- I used to front a show band doing Classic Rock, Blues, and Soul covers. Frikken great times there. Just fun stuff, most of us worked for the same company. I also performed in choral competitions when I was a kid and in high school.

17. Play at least one musical instrument competently.

- I used to play guitar competently, but not well enough to do it for anything more than stress relief and fun.

18. Make love to a woman at least ten years older than you are.

- Biggest gap has been 24 years. When I was 17 I was in a regular thing with a gorgeous 41 year old Russian woman, married to an 80 year old American jsut for citizenship. Man that was fun.

19. Tell a government bureaucrat to fuck off.

- In those exact words, and more than once. It can be surprisingly effective, or disastrously ineffective depending on the circumstances

20. And finally: tell a true story to your grandchildren.

- Well, no kids yet; and no prospect of them any time soon, but let me tell you I can't wait... and I should have some good ones to tell.

HT: Erics Grumbles