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Some Things I Learned from Reading Robert Heinlein, 109 years old today - Tom the Alien Cat [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Some Things I Learned from Reading Robert Heinlein, 109 years old today [Jul. 7th, 2016|10:22 am]
Tom the Alien Cat
[Current Location |Somewhere near Earth-Moon, approx 2016 A.D. in Heinlein's Future History]
[music |Jimmy Webb's"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"]

It has been nine years since the Robert Heinlein Centennial. Here are some things I learned from reading Heinlein stories.

Number 1: "Always leave room for your enemies to become your friends."

In "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress", the professor told us "Always leave room for your enemies to become your friends". I've gotten a lot of traction out of that one.

Just like the heroes in serial stories, like John Carter of Mars and any other character that wound up allies with former enemies, I have gotten job queries and job offers from past bosses that used to act like they hated me. The way I curb my aggressions and talk nice nearly all the time, there are some former enemies that probably think "Tom is apparently too stupid to know that I hate the chairs he sits on."

Eventually, people realize that their grudges kind of get to look silly. Especially after a decade or two. And even though two former enemies may have had their differences, they always have that history in common. It is nice to renew and catch up and do business.

Number 2: "When you don't know how to do everything that needs to be done, do the parts that you DO know how to do. Then the rest will be easier."

Also in "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress", the main character was overwhelmed by what needed to be done, when he had the entire defense of his country resting on his shoulders. Too much to do. Then he remembered something else the professor had said: "When you don't know how to do everything that needs to be done, do the parts that you DO know how to do. Then the rest will be easier."

I get frequently snowed under that way, and get out of it with that saying, which I repeat to myself.

Starting my income tax? Don't know where to start? Well, one procedure that IS known to me is to just get all the W-2s and 1099 statements together with a legal pad, and then ... well, it IS easier from that point on.

Number 3: Databases using Hierarchies for Storage

In "The Number of The Beast", the characters have a computer on hand that has voice input. To pack for a trip, they did a magnificent job of cramming their stuff into a small space, because they could fearlessly put the toothpaste into the tip of a shoe that was in a duffel bag that would be under stuff in the far corner of the car's trunk. And they did not have to worry about not being able to locate that toothpaste later.

How? They told the computer "I am putting this toothpaste down inside this shoe", or just as often, the computer would tell them where it should go. The computer kept track of everything in a hierarchy of objects and collections and objects that could hold a collection.

Retrieval then involved asking the computer for the location of the toothpaste, and the computer would say something like "Trunk, the far corner. Under the top stuff, the duffel bag, the shoe inside that. The toothpaste is crammed inside the tip."

Ever since, I've been recording locations in a file I call "Where" that has such a hierarchy, and I am working on the voice recognition part. The recent Windows 8 Voice Recognition wasn't up to my needs, and I've switched over to Linux and am using "espeak" for output, so we will see how it goes.

Number 4: Getting Access Beyond Gatekeepers, Regular Channels and Back Doors

From "Stranger in a Strange Land", Jubal Harshaw gave a crash course in getting past gatekeepers when he tried to get a phone call with the leader of Earth's government. Of course he tried the direct approach, calling someone who was hired to get such calls, and worked his way up the ladder from there. But he eventually wound up with some functionary who was pleasant and would smile and listen to him forever, but would not connect him with anyone higher. Jubal's next statement to the fellow was provocative, and he was switched over to someone in The State's police force. Once more, he tried to get somewhere, but finally ended the call, because (as he said later during the ensuing police raid) "dammit, I thought they would parley".

Before he could be taken into custody, he took a quicker approach, trying to get an influential friend to suggest a friend-of-a-friend sort of thing, and that worked! Nicely done! The leader of Earth's government was talking to him when the police walked in, and that leader told the officers to leave.

Okay, this time I can't say either that I've had something similar happen to me. But from that sequence on, I've paid attention to "how to get access" articles and lessons from life, and yes I've resolved some bad situations just by learning how important administrative assistants and secretaries are, and also how to write nice letters to the members of some company's Board of Directors. All to good, and effective, effect.

Recommending his books, I say . . .

Happy 109th birthday to Robert Anson Heinlein.