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happy anniversary to the best exchange to ever happen on twitter

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happy anniversary to the best exchange to ever happen on twitter

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awilchak
20 days ago
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98% on rotten tomatoes
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jhamill
20 days ago
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this is epic
California

"Remember the trees... Remember all who tried to save them."

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The People In The Trees. Lynne Feeley reviews Richard Powers' novel The Overstory

The Novel That Asks, 'What Went Wrong With Mankind?'
Powers is the rare American novelist writing in the grand realist tradition, daring to cast himself, in the critic Peter Brooks's term, as a "historian of contemporary society." He has the courage and intellectual stamina to explore our most complex social questions with originality, nuance, and an innate skepticism about dogma. At a time when literary convention favors novelists who write narrowly about personal experience, Powers's ambit is refreshingly unfashionable, restoring to the form an authority it has shirked. A former computer programmer and English major at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Powers has written novels about the history of photography, artificial intelligence, nuclear warfare, race and miscegenation, the Holocaust, neuroscience, virtual reality, the chemical industry, and genetic engineering. It was only a matter of time before he took on the greatest existential crisis human civilization faces: the destruction of the natural conditions necessary for our own survival.
The most exciting novel about trees you'll ever read
As is so often the case in Powers's books, "The Overstory" includes a radical expert who hypnotizes us with the provocative implications of her field. Patty Westerford is a young botanist in the 1960s who discovers that "trees are social creatures": They communicate with each other and react to their environment in dynamic and ingenious ways. (Patty's ideas echo those of Suzanne Simard and Peter Wohlleben, popularized in the best-selling book "The Hidden Life of Trees.") As we follow Patty's tumultuous career from initial success to professional exile to eventual sainthood, she becomes the novel's — and, one suspects, the author's — green prophet. Like a double helix of Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson, Patty is that rare, cutting-edge scientist whose work reaches far beyond the lab and inspires a kind of mystical awe.
Review: The Overstory by Richard Powers
For a cadre of protesters, five of the novel's principals, their work escalates into eco-terrorism. Halfway into the book, they begin blowing up the loggers' equipment depots. The violence—in its extremity unlike anything the author has done—makes the skin crawl. The tragic consequences linger for years, affecting even the peaceable figures. Powers keeps the connections subtle, as in a teeming woodland, where interaction takes place "always as much belowground as above." Two Midwestern stay-at-homes find themselves drawn into the bombers' legal defense, and a Silicon Valley whiz, though wheelchair-bound, gives the tree scientist reason to live. In their own ways, every character confronts the question raised by a tree-sitter: "Do you believe human beings are using up resources faster than the world can replace them?" The answer, for everyone, comes "like an unblinding: 'Yes.'"
Speaking for the Trees: Richard Powers's "The Overstory"
However, as Powers indicates, the human lives are only the novel's "understory": the layer of vegetation beneath the forest's main canopy. The overstory of the title is the story of the trees and the forest ecologies they create; throughout the novel, Powers zeroes in on the perspective of nonhuman nature, describing its lived experience closely and at length. Powers is a master of language, and the meditative prose throughout the novel is utterly engrossing, but the descriptions of these nonhuman worlds give the novel its startling impact. Take Powers's account of the Franklin Experimental Forest, ensconced in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest:
All the world she needs is here, under this canopy — the densest biomass anywhere on Earth. Steep, steely streams scour through rickles of rock where salmon spawn — water cold enough to kill all pain. Falls flash over ridges turned jade by moss and tumbled with shed branches. In the scattered openings, shot here and there through the understory, sit secret congregations of salmonberry, elderberry, huckleberry, snowberry, devil's club, ocean spray, and kinnikinnick. Great straight conifer monoliths fifteen stories high and a car-length thick hold a roof above all. The air around her resounds with the noise of life getting on with it.
LOST IN THE WOODS: RICHARD POWERS'S THE OVERSTORY
I share all of the concerns animating The Overstory and agree with its implicit arguments, as well as the explicit arguments Powers himself has made, often eloquently, in interviews regarding the subject of this book. But I do not read novels to have my already existing beliefs affirmed; if anything, I read fiction hoping to have my unexamined beliefs challenged, fiction that compels me to view those beliefs from a productively skeptical distance. Most essentially, I want to read works of fiction that offer an aesthetically abundant reading experience, that remind me there are still unfamiliar practices and undiscovered forms to encounter in fiction. Until recently, I was able to find all of these things in Richard Powers's novels, and it is the greatest disappointment of The Overstory that it suggests they may no longer be available there.
The Overstory – Richard Powers
If the "learners" don't deliver their saving overstory soon, we are going to need "imaginers" more radical — a word with its origin in "roots" — than the characters in The Overstory. Despite the disappointing election results for Jill Stein and the Green Party in 2016, eco-activism — or even eco-terrorism — may not be as futile as the recent history in Powers's novel seems to imply. Westerford shows that forests migrate as a response to threatening conditions. Ray Brinkman gets interested in trees by playing one that moves in Macbeth. Imagine a hundred thousand humans dressed as trees and migrated to Washington. This would be an event the "learners" and maybe politicians would register. How about a "War on Christmas (Trees)"? Fleet-footed activists come out at night and spray the trees for sale on city streets with orange paint, recalling Agent Orange and disrupting wasteful tree farms. The Kochs' estates have trees. Could they be girdled by laser-equipped drones? Eco-suicide is also mass murder. Ray Brinkman — a man on the brink — is a lawyer who argues that if the planet is our home, humans have the right to defend it. Florida has a "hold your ground" law. Imagine protesters breaching the fences at Mar-a- Lago and taking back our home. Twenty years ago, I published a novel (Passing Off) in which an eco-terrorist intends to bring down the Parthenon, which she considers a symbol of building mania in a city surrounded by deforested mountains. A scholar has recently claimed that a scene on the Parthenon frieze approvingly depicts human sacrifice. I have begun to wonder if only the sacrifice of human lives can slow down, if not prevent, environmental catastrophe in the future.
The Overstory review: A ranter's sermon
His characters are in the main idealists, and in the main they are unexamined. They preach the sermon of trees to others and they preach it to themselves when they are alone. This high-octane earnestness is self-defeating. The authors lyricism thrown away in the pursuit of another assertion of the essential nature of trees, the tree lore, tree science, tree philosophy, tree wonder, and their elaborate vocabularies. You want it to work but have your doubts. Rapture is inward-looking. How Americans see the ground under their feet, the colonisers' unfulfilled desire for absolute possession. An insistence on wrestling meaning from the land, shaping it to templates, expecting it to carry meanings, turning nature into self-regard.

The only response is to leave it to its own devices and humans can't and won't do that.
Richard Powers: 'We're completely alienated from everything else alive'
'We've yet to figure out how to live here, in this world,' says Richard Powers, author of the powerful novel 'The Overstory.' Writing it, he says, 'quite literally changed my life, starting with where and how I live.'

Feeley was a student at Cornell during the Redbud Woods controversy in 2005. The grove is marked by a plaque.
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awilchak
34 days ago
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cool yeah i'll read this
Brooklyn, New York
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Kobayashi Maru Management

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Ted’s feeling pretty good. He sits across from me in the conference room and says, “Program launch is solid. We’ve been working on the details for almost a month. We vetted the concept with all the affected teams and made tweaks, and now they’re fine. The only step left is sending the announcement to the whole company.”

“Nice work, Ted,” I say, “Huge amount of work.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re not remotely done.”

Ted, “Pardon?”

A Test of Character

In the 23rd Century of the Star Trek universe, there exists a test for cadets on the command-track of Star Fleet. Via Memory Alpha:

The test primarily consisted of the cadet placed in command of a starship. The ship would soon receive a distress signal from the Kobayashi Maru, a civilian freighter within the Klingon Neutral Zone that had been heavily disabled. Being the only ship in range, the cadet usually either chose to withdraw from the rescue mission or enter the neutral zone and rescue the vessel in risk of violating the treaties. The ship would then be confronted by Klingon battle cruisers which typically engaged in a firefight.

The punchline? It is virtually impossible to win the scenario. The cadet cannot simultaneously save the Kobayashi Maru, avoid a fight, and escape the Neutral Zone intact. The test is one of character and decision-making.

A critical part of a manager’s job lies in their ability to appropriately act in unusually complex, unexpected, and perhaps no-win scenarios, but you know what’s better? Not getting in those situations in the first place.

A System Failure

The daily life of a manager is full of unexpected developments. The daily stand-up where you discover you’re a month late on a feature. The 1:1 where Justin first tells you his shields are down. The random conversation in a hallway where you discover the first hint of an impending professional disaster. These discoveries are standard operating procedure, and they never stop. Good luck.

A Kobayashi begins innocuously. A simple communication. A non-hasty and thoughtful launch of a program. A well-designed and well-tested feature now available to 100% of your customers. You’ve done this before, and you are not going through the motions which make the reaction… jarring.

A Kobayashi erupts immediately. The swift response starts with someone raising their hand virtually or otherwise and what they say or type immediately differentiates this situation from your unexpected daily developments. You think, but do not say, “Oh. Shit.”

If you are finding this piece uncomfortably vague and have no idea what I am talking about, I humbly suggest you stop reading right now because the rest of this piece will continue to read vague and unhelpful.

A Kobayashi is a system failure, and you understand this when the first bit of feedback arrives and it’s a combination of:

  • A complete surprise,
  • An intense adverse reaction,
  • Via a population of humans raising their hands in protest who you did not expect,
  • Including a new piece of critical information you had no idea belonged in this situation.

A Kobayashi is a system failure because the usual means of getting important work done in a group of humans failed spectacularly. A reorganization that felt obvious and non-controversial. An HR program that appeared a win for everyone. A well-intended disclosure of information planned to build trust on the team. The potential situations are endless, and the only true consistency is the two words. Your words. And there are two.

“Oh. Shit.”

A Perfect Kobayashi

The unfortunate truth of Kobayashi’s is the best way to prepare for them is to experience them. To do so, let’s create a hypothetical program that I’m about to launch. All good projects have a code name, so let’s call this one: The Good Place1.

The Good Place hypothetical specifics. It’s is a company-wide program I’m launching later this month. It will only affect 5% of the engineering team and the affected folk’s day to day lives are mostly unaffected for a quarter. After that quarter, they’ll need to make some changes to how they work, but, hey, they have three months to prepare. No problem.

The Good Place shares attributes with all Kobayashi’s. Specifically:

  • It affects a broad set of diverse humans.
  • It represents an unfamiliar or significant change to how those humans work.
  • It’s initial perceived success depends on how the affected humans react to the change.
  • It looks a lot like work I’ve done the past.

Combined those attributes create the perfect Kobayashi. My guard is down, the change is hard to digest, and I’ve underestimated the number of affected humans. Since success is dependent on initial perception, when that larger than expected reaction emerges, I go into extreme denial and start lying to myself.

  • It’s just a couple of people. It’s not.
  • It’s just a misunderstanding. It’s not.
  • It’ll blow over. It won’t.

This is the bad place.

A Proper Preparation

A useful article document on how to move into damage control mode and deftly handling this no-win scenario seems like a good idea, but wouldn’t it be better if this article explained how to not get into this situation in the first place?

Super.

My Kobayashi prevention protocol is conveniently the same process I follow for any significant change on the team. Let’s begin:

Frame the situation via a written artifact. You need to create a presentation or document that clears explains what is going on, why it is happening, what success looks like because of this change, how we are going to measure success, and how anyone can give feedback on this development. This is simply a draft, and it’s going to change a lot before you’re done.

Vet the draft plan with three no-skin-in-the-game trusted humans. Take your draft and give it to three humans who are not affected by this change and who you trust to tell it to you straight. If there is only one piece of advice you should follow in this entire piece, this is it. Unaffected trusted humans are the ones who are most likely to see the obvious flaw in your plans and who are also eager to tell you about these flaws.

Write down a list of all people and teams that you expect will be affected by the change. This exercise is the first step of building out a communication plan, but right now it’s a sizing exercise. Write the list. Ok, how many folks are on it? Five? Just five? Why are you still reading this article if we’re talking about five affected people? I’ll tell you why. You can smell the larger-than-expected impact. Your spidey-sense is tingling. How many humans will really be affected? Not just direct, but indirectly. Humans who care about the directly affected humans. Humans who will have a strong opinion about the change. Humans who are going to raise their hands and speak. Yeah, but them all on the list, return to your three trusted humans and vet the list.

Draft your communication plan. With your framing and vetted list in hand, it’s time to operationalize this program. It’s called a cascading communications plan because you start with the most affected humans and slowly work your way towards less affected humans. Here’s the order of operation:

  1. A pre-flight meeting with affected humans in a 1:1 situation. Face to face, you are going to walk the directly affected human through the framing. The rule is: no one who is directly significantly affected by this change can learn about this from anyone, but you.2 I call this pre-flight because there is a non-zero chance that one of these humans is going to point out an obvious flaw in your plan. I’m not about being unhappy about the plan; I am talking about a strategic error in your framing and/or roll-out. Plan for changes to your framing.
  2. A walk-thru with small groups of “person of interest” through the framing with Q&A. It’s little less personal in a group setting, but the goal is the same: gauge reaction and, if necessary, make adjustments to the framing.
  3. A presentation with Q&A to affected teams either team by team or all at once. By this point, you will have vetted the plan with trusted advisors, affected humans, and persons of interest. This is the first presentation where you are unlikely to make changes based on feedback from the audience3. At this point in the process, the questions that show up during Q&A will be the ones you’ve heard a couple of times. Nailed it.
  4. An announcement to the entire team or organization depending on the size of the program via presentation, an email or Slack.

Have you ever sat at your computer with a huge message that you need to send to the team and you can’t hit the SEND key? You know why? You smell the Kobayashi potential of this message. You can sense there is an essential angle that you did not consider. There is one person who has critical feedback that you have not heard. You will know that you’ve done everything you can regarding Kobayashi prevention when it’s trivial to hit SEND.

A Prediction of the Unpredictable

Like most principled leadership applied with consistency, your reward for all of this Kobayashi Maru inoculation is nothing. Nothing happens. No one raises their hands. There is no drama. The team looks at your framing, crinkles their forehead, and then says, “Yeah, that makes sense. What’s next?”

No one celebrates when nothing happens. We all know when something significant goes wrong because suddenly everyone rushes around with great ferocity. Heroes and heroines appear when something goes wrong. They work for three days straight. We award spot bonuses for this exceptional effort. There are no spot bonuses for averted disasters because they are the results of capable leaders competently doing their job.

I, like Captain Kirk, don’t believe in the no-win scenario in business. There will always be system failures large and small in complex groups of humans combined with rapidly changing stacks of technology. There is win inside of each failure because there are lessons. There are essential discoverable lessons within each failure, and these lessons are essential new additions to the playbook we use to prevent that failure from happening again.

That’s how you win.


  1. My current favorite show and a positive affirmation. 
  2. This rule does not scale. If you’re launching a massive reorganization which is affecting hundreds of people, you can not personally talk to affected human. You can make sure that affected teams hear about the change well before the public announcement. 
  3. If surprises are showing up here, I bet you skipped a step. 
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awilchak
46 days ago
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quality post
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Dwell

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Dwell

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awilchak
54 days ago
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👍
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when a web site asks if i want to see their "New Design" it is the exact same thing as a man asking if i want to see his penis and ass

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when a web site asks if i want to see their "New Design" it is the exact same thing as a man asking if i want to see his penis and ass


Posted by dril on Friday, July 27th, 2018 2:24am


20129 likes, 2861 retweets
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awilchak
58 days ago
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:|
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Software Development

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Update: It turns out the cannon has a motorized base, and can make holes just fine using the barrel itself as a battering ram. But due to design constraints it won't work without a projectile loaded in, so we still need those drills.
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awilchak
65 days ago
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yep
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alt_text_bot
67 days ago
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Update: It turns out the cannon has a motorized base, and can make holes just fine using the barrel itself as a battering ram. But due to design constraints it won't work without a projectile loaded in, so we still need those drills.
alt_text_at_your_service
67 days ago
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Update: It turns out the cannon has a motorized base, and can make holes just fine using the barrel itself as a battering ram. But due to design constraints it won't work without a projectile loaded in, so we still need those drills.
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