Hand in Hand and Skipping All the Way

*Oh, this will tell you how sleepy I was when I wrote this two hours ago — I forgot to announce — A Few Good men is one of five finalists for the Prometheus Award.*

Years ago my husband worked for a company where the maintenance department put out the most hilarious weekly reports I’ve ever read. I don’t remember what the department is called but let’s say it was Systems Engineering. The reports were called Systems Engineering Versus The Forces of Evil and then had subtitles, along the lines of “The Week We Were Almost Eaten By Dragons.”

Then the entire report was written as though it were a superhero adventure and usually finished with the line “and so, holding hands and skipping all the way we defeated X” with X being whatever the menace for the week was.

Needless to say, being possibly the world’s least techy person, I had zero interest in the actual technical issues of the company, but I loved those reports. They were written like a rousing adventure story and – more importantly – they told the story of a team fighting continuous menaces and prevailing.

Besides the fact that this teaches us that writing is not a matter of “come up with a good story” but of how well you tell the story you have, even if normally it would glaze the eyes of an hyperactive dragon, there is another thing there: the idea of the team that works together against a well-nigh insurmountable challenge.

Which is a prevailing myth and desire of mankind.

Leading to us getting people in here telling us that “socialism” is any cooperation/group work and therefore extolling the virtues of a system that at best leads to the sort of soft/slow decay we see in Europe and at worst… well, at worst it fills mass graves. (It needs only for them to say that socialism is just another name for the things we choose to do together – I’m sure they believe it, which is why it’s important to set things straight.)

In between lies the enforced group work of schools which is in fact more akin to socialism than voluntary cooperation.

I’m tired of the confusion between voluntary teams and forced teams (including but not limited to government-enforced and school-authority enforced.)

I was about to say the two are as akin as ice cream and spackle, but it’s worse than that. The two are as akin as lemonade and anti-freeze.

In all the years I had to do group work in school, it worked exactly once. I was in a form where I had four friends, and where we were more or less inseparable. We were also the sort of dream team that companies, governments and, yes, schools, keep trying to assemble, in that one of us was good at math, and one at art, and one at writing, and one at real-world horse sense, and one at presentations.

Now, we were all fairly good at all of those – it was that sort of form – but each of us, naturally and by inclination, preferred one of the other of the specialties. When group work was announced we immediately claimed our group as a group and we were well known to be an unit, so teachers rarely tried to break us up.

Was that work more fun/less onerous/better results than learning individually? You bet. We routinely astonished both the teachers and ourselves with what we could achieve in terms of both content and presentation.

Kind of like the department at my husband’s company, we faced the forces of evil hand in hand and skipping all the way, and we won every time. (BTW, that department, not coincidentally, had hit one of those happy situations, where everyone got along.)

Beyond those two happy years, after which my friends and I fell apart/left for different courses, etc, before and after there were “tolerable” group works. This is where you all have roughly the same goal, and you are more or less evenly matched, and so you can pull in the same direction, give or take a few inches either way.

This work is rarely more efficient than doing everything on your own, but to be fair it’s not less efficient. And if you’re a gregarious soul, or at least if you don’t dislike your team mates, it will be pleasant enough. I think all of us have been in teams like that, in school and work. It works. And sometimes you keep the friendships for years after – but it adds nothing to the product over just having each of you break out a piece of the project and do it on his/her own.

And then there is what most group-work/socialism is. An authority set above you will assign groups, sometimes according to the authority’s idea of what you can/should do, and sometimes utterly at random.

One favorite method when I was in school was to go by alphabetic order. As in socialism, you are not allowed to say “No, thank you, I will undertake to provide for myself if you stop stealing my time/property/individual effort.” You have to play.

Often too, just in socialism, teachers do it with an eye to redistribution. If you’re the class’s best pupil, you find the teacher’s “random” assignment sets you in a group with dullards, laggards and incurable bums. And since their result is yours, you have to work three times as hard so that the result is what it would have been if you’d all pulled. In the end you feel like Horse in animal farm, and should just be glad that they can’t send you to the glue factory.

It is from this last method that most smart/hard working students learn their “group work” method, which is to say “Please don’t help me. I’ll do the work, we’ll divide the results.”

Of course, this often leads to resentment, because humans are like that, and you often get the least capable student trying to “help”—by which you should read wresting the project in the most moronic possible direction.

But none of this equates state-imposed group work, aka socialism. Since societies don’t have teachers, whether benevolent or malevolent, and since politicians tend to be people who rarely have the ability to do anything else, we end up in a situation where the state has the vague idea that groups are good and that cooperation is good and that we should all look after each other. And then it tries to assign it, just like the teacher with a political agenda assigns group work by combining the hard-working and the incurably lazy in one group.

Oh, sure, it might start out – often does, and in Scandinavian countries this sort of worked for decades – with the most capable saying “Here, let me do the work. Just get out of my way.”

But first that is as akin to true cooperation and the benefits thereof as … poison is to food. And second, the most capable members sooner or later get tired of pulling the whole load. On top of which that resentment that the least capable members of the group feel? Yeah, in a society-wide group that becomes a true resentment. Even if the material difference is very little, those who are willing to work hard can make much out of that little. They will use their resources better and live better lives. And the resentment explodes into envy. There is no socialist state that ever achieves perfect “equality” and therefore class strife can always be invoked to bring about more “equality.”

What is broken here (and in the work in assigned groups, incidentally) is treating humans as interchangeable widgets. Since humans aren’t interchangeable widgets (they can be equal in dignity and before the law – and imho should be – but they will never be EQUAL. Even my sons, children of the same mother and the same father, with the same rough education, have almost diametrically opposite abilities and very divergent interests) this comes to grief, over and over and over again. Inequality is always present because humans aren’t perfectly equal. And when you hold to the ideal that all humans should be alike and work in this homogeneous group, you are making envy a virtue. Because if we’re all supposed to be alike, to be envious is to “resent inequality.” You are justifying the most vile feelings in a human being and, incidentally, removing all incentive to do better.

Just as in group work, when you pair people of widely different abilities and expect each to do an equal share and thereby you justify the “hurt” feelings of those who aren’t allowed to contribute their “idea” – I once had to fight tooth and nail against a group member in a class translation project, who not only refused to believe the term for fried sticks of potato in the US is French Fries, but who had decided to die on the hill of calling them “Friend Potatoes.” (no, not fried. Friend. Because it was his opinion, and his opinion was as good as mine, and it was far less ludicrous sounding than French Fries, and never mind if I had lived in the US for a year.) – in socialism you justify the “hurt” feelings and the feeling of exploitation (enhanced by the whole concept of finite pie) of a lot of people who don’t know how to utilize the resources they do have.

The surprise is not that it ends in soft decay. It is a testimony to the essential goodness of mankind that – at least in this more benign and less authoritarian form, what I’d call smiley-face socialism – it doesn’t always result in open and violent massacres, at least until it slides one way or the other into authoritarianism. (The least said about the soft massacre of denied opportunity, of destroyed lives, of dwindling resources and of denied treatment for less useful members of society, the better – but one must admit it’s much better than the shot in the back of the head and the mass grave.)

But at the heart of it, it is a dehumanizing ideology which bears no resemblance to voluntary cooperation. In voluntary cooperation, even if your skills are widely different, or at vastly different levels, each member chooses to come in and do the best he/she can. It is assumed they’re not all going to do the same and they’re not interchangeable.

And the results are often sublime. And can’t be forced.  No matter what teacher, bureaucrat or petty tyrant thinks they could and should be.

183 thoughts on “Hand in Hand and Skipping All the Way

  1. there is another thing there: the idea of the team that works together against a well-nigh insurmountable challenge.

    Which is a prevailing myth and desire of mankind.

    And pretty much a summary of human history.

  2. I was one of the lazy kids growing up. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not going to hide from that shame either.

    I used to love group assignments. With a minimum of work, I could still get a solid grade because the teachers tried to make the groups “equal”. While I was good at the idea stage, execution was a different matter and with group assignments, I didn’t have to. Someone else would pick up my slack.

    I was a prime example of what’s wrong with socialism. I could coast on the hard work of others. Over a long enough timeline, people would follow my example and coast until eventually, everyone is trying to coast.

    Luckily, I’m much better about that now. Oh, I’m still inherently lazy. It’s part of my nature. I just don’t expect anyone to pick up my slack. Ever.

        1. but… my younger son isn’t named Tom!
          (though that’s what we intended to name #3 if I’d managed to bring another one to term.)
          You know, that boy only awakes for engineering and — occasionally — Heinlein… 😛 Okay, maybe girls. But his favorite activity is napping.

              1. Nothing wrong with that.

                Plus, when you’re a writer, you can always claim you’re not surfing. You’re researching.

                Like I told my wife after she looked over my shoulder, “Yes, I’m researching my next story. What’s that? Why yes, it does involve Bass Pro Shops. Why do you ask?”

                1. That makes perfect sense. Maybe one of your character works in a Bass Pro Shop, or needs to buy something from one. There might be plenty of other reasons too. 🙂

        2. Once worked with a software developer who said that the best developers were the laziest people. If they had to spend more than five minutes doing something, they’d write code to do it for them. He was one of the best devs I’ve ever worked with.

            1. There is laziness that is closer to slothfulness in that nothing gets done. Then there is laziness where things get done intelligently and efficiently.

          1. Sure; laziness is one of the cardinal virtues of engineering.

            A good engineer is too lazy to do things the hard way, too impatient for the slow way, and is arrogant enough to believe he can do it better.

            1. So… the kid was BORN to be an engineer? Judging by how HAPPY he is studying and doing projects — truly, I’ve never seen him so happy — I’ve been suspecting this.

            2. “Do it right the first time and it never has to be done again. Do it wrong and you have to first undo it, *then* do it over.”

              There are certain good life lessons when you’re raised by an engineer. (And some totally random knowledge when the other parent’s a paleontology nut.)

          2. “I am a person. This is a tool. Any work that it is capable of doing is work I shouldn’t have to do. My necessary function is not doing work, but finding the most efficient way to cause it to do work for me.”

            Thus was born…well…everything that separates us from the other Upper Primates, from campfires and clubs to nanotechnology and cascading style sheets. 🙂

          3. Cf. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. IIRC, one of the major improvements to one of the common factory machines came about because the little boy hired to open and close the air intake wanted to play instead… so he figured out how to automate it. There is nothing new under the sun.

        3. Yer not the only one.

          However, when health issues come along and give me the dope-slap of the decade, I can — on occasion — rise above temporary limits. I can sink my teeth into something and run with it (sometimes), and know how to work with others even when I do so. BUT it is something I had to work at and learn the hard way (actually, while having SOME fun: Scouting via “the patrol method”, with rotation of tasks until each patrol member identified and was able to build up skill in what he could do “best” [good reasons that I was never ever asked to be the Bugler…]).

          I may be in an odder than “normal” position WRT the general population, but sounds like I’m in darn good company around these parts. I wanted to be at school, to learn everything, and to do my part (and more) in the learning process. Yes, I read the encyclopedia for FUN. I still do — well, some of my web-surfing counts these days.

          Research, don’cha know?

          1. My favorite definition of a dullard is “someone who looks up a thing in the encyclopedia, and who, upon finishing the entry, closes the encyclopedia and puts it away.”

            1. People actually do that? ::boggle::

              On Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 2:58 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

              > Mrs. KilteDave commented: “My favorite definition of a dullard is > “someone who looks up a thing in the encyclopedia, and who, upon finishing > the entry, closes the encyclopedia and puts it away.”” >

      1. You do know that 99% of all inventions were discovered because someone wanted to find an easier way to do something that HAD to be done, don’t you? Perhaps Marsh will discover a valid form of fusion power. Or build a building that generates its own electricity and heating/cooling. About a dozen of the changes I made in things during my Air Force career were to make life easier for all of us involved. My boss at LSI was constantly amazed that I found easier ways to do things.

      1. Yeah, but I’m too lazy to learn any of the technical stuff so I could actually have invented something.

        Story of my life.

          1. Possible.

            Does using your toes to pick stuff up so you don’t have to bend over count as an invention?

            Probably not.

              1. Nice 🙂

                It kind of freaks my wife out, since she’s never done it before. I think it’s kind of cool, like a throwback to evolution or something.

                    1. idiot! Don’t criticize a woman if you hope to marry her. especially a stupid criticism.

                1. My four year old does that!

                  And takes long enough doing it that we sometimes have to yell at her to just pick the blessed thing up, but it is adorable.

          2. I invented the theory that all knowledge in the universe could be represented by a sufficiently large set of “lightbulb” jokes.

    1. Yup. I know how that is. I was one of those people who thought it was a waste of MY time not to do something, so generally speaking I would have a group of four coasters and me doing the whole project myself. That was the ideal outcome. The worst part was when someone felt…guilty? and when I was almost done decides to have an argument about how I SHOULD have done it, even though they were off playing hackey sack or whatever. Every time I was a part of a group effort, I would tell them upfront that if they weren’t going to help, they didn’t have a say. It didn’t help.

        1. Yeah, well, if I tried your route the stupid project would never get done, and I would get a sucky grade, and people tended to blame me. Not that I cared about the last, but it irritated by the confluence sufficiently that just doing the work was easier than pulling my hair out watching the whole ship sink.

          1. Probably not. And, for the record, I’m not excusing my behavior back then.

            I was a shitball and I know it. It took a while for me to get past that, which I did thankfully.

            Now I believe in at least pulling my own weight.

            1. Hey, I’m a big believer in second chances. I mean, I had the virtue thing DOWN, then I decided I was going to Go Gault…except I tossed out my brain with the bathwater. Also had to hide from my own cop out. Didn’t mean I didn’t work on my OWN stuff, and still secretly believed in the goods of liberty, but… critical thinking was not so good until the hypocrisy and butthurt got… chronic.

              1. Well, sometimes I need a third chance, because old habits are had to break.

                Of course, now I don’t expect someone else to pick up my slack. I feel pretty bad when they do, or I think they do.

      1. I told teachers I would not, ever, do group work, and fuck people getting a good grade because of my hard work. Because inevitably, I would end up doing all the work. Most of them believed me, especially as I turned in better work alone than most people did as a group. One particular teacher in college who felt that I was being antisocial insisted that I should do the practice thesis with a group. Predictably, the rest of the girls slagged off and expected me to do the work. I came up with my own premise, began preparations, and three weeks left to submission, told the professor I was breaking away from my group to make my own mini thesis. She asked me why and I told her. And I said I would prove it by succeeding. Since I declared this in front of the whole class, she took me up on my dare. She said that she would have to alert the dean of my college major (who had suggested I break away in the first place) so that if I failed the class, it would be completely on me.

        Three weeks later, my former groupmates had to try explain why they knew nothing about the premise they came up with, and had nothing in the correct formats. I turned mine all in, got 90% on score, and watched with satisfaction as the girls who thought they could slag off the resident weirdo and geek, cried as the teacher told them that hopefully this would be a valuable lesson.

        She asked me if I thought they’d learn a lesson. I said ‘No. Because they’ll learn to seek out the people who will meekly allow themselves to be used.”

        1. Tried to do that at one point. It worked for one class, and then they would just give me zeros. That angered me so much I jumped back in. So congratulations, you’re smart!

  3. “Group Projects.” Yeah. The whole country’s about there. And when the productive say the H*** with it and retire early–I’m seeing a lot of that already–where’s the government going to get the money to give special rates for the deserving? (Answer: they’ll just print it up, The invisible tax of lowering the value of the dollar.)

  4. Ah yes… The government that “forces people to be free.” Gotta love old Robespierre. Heck, I love him so much I might even have spelled his name right.

    I’ve had this argument eighty four million and six times, I swear it. The leftist definition of the word “democratic” makes me borderline psychotic. Hopefully, I can keep that to borderline. I have no problem whatsoever when people voluntarily (notice that I said VOLUNTARILY) choose to live in a commune ala some of the hippy communities of the Sixties and Seventies. Seriously. If that’s your thing, do it. But dammit, don’t tell me I have to.

    People have a right to what they earn for themselves. It’s that simple. This whole communistic, socialist BS is bunk. It doesn’t even sound high minded to me. The socialist movement is based on hatred. It’s the equivalent of an annoying five year old pulling on his mother’s dress screaming “He’s got something I don’t mommy. Take it away!” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s sheer hatred, mixed with a wee bit of jealousy.

    I’m not rich. I probably never will be. But that doesn’t give me the right to rob a rich person of what’s theirs. Nor does the fact that I have some things mean that I should give them up because someone has less than I do. Sorry, but it ain’t gonna happen. No freaking chance.

    Lefties don’t see it that way. To them, everything should be community property. I had a fun conversation with my aunt one day. She works full time and my uncle was, at the time, a union electrician. He made pretty good money and she did ok too. Between the two of them there were easily in the low six figures in income. She was complaining about how the government should stop helping rich people and help more people like her. Her exact quote was: “Why should some of these people on the [location redacted] have such big houses? I don’t get to have one.”

    I did, barely, manage to restrain my impulse to laugh in her face. I didn’t even call her a hypocrite. But I did point out that, while the government was taking houses, they might as well give hers to me. After all, I made less than she did and I had a bigger family at home. It was exactly the same thing she had been talking about minutes earlier.

    She hit the roof. “Why should I have to give this house up? Your Uncle Ron worked hard to pay for it.” She was right, by the way, and I never seriously meant that she should. I was just trying to show her what would happen if she applied her principles to herself instead of others. Somehow, someway, I just wish we could teach the left in general the same lesson. I have no idea how to make it happen though.

    1. “Lefties don’t see it that way. To them, everything should be community property.”
      But only when it’s a case of you have something that they want, either for themselves or to give to those they have determined are more deserving. As you found with your aunt, when it’s a case of them giving any of their own stuff up they can become downright belligerent. And still never manage to recognize the blatant hypocrisy of their position. In fact they almost invariably seem to be highly accomplished in the skill of selective blindness towards both the motives and inevitable repercussions of their progressive positions.

    2. I have no problem whatsoever when people voluntarily (notice that I said VOLUNTARILY) choose to live in a commune ala some of the hippy communities of the Sixties and Seventies

      Cousin joined one of those in college. Their “house” or whatever it’s called had zero trash, only recycling.

      Which meant that in the middle of the night they took the trash they didn’t have and shoved it into the garbage bins of the other houses.

      I seem to remember they didn’t have cars, either– only bike parking. So they’d park mommy and daddy’s car in someone else’s space.


      1. “I seem to remember they didn’t have cars, either– only bike parking. So they’d park mommy and daddy’s car in someone else’s space.”

        They must have been neo-hippies, whatever happened to the VW buses with shag carpeting?

      2. IMO the majority of Hippies were upper-middle-class/rich kids who were still using their parents money. IE they didn’t have to work for a living.

        1. I’ve read some about the commune Louisa May Alcott’s family founded. I think they had a different name in those days, but era was another one where they were popular.

          Most failed after a few years, but that one failed spectacularly within a year.

          Mostly, of course, because it was founded by city boys (I don’t care if they were married and had kids) who had no idea what running a farm was like. And also, because they were so full of themselves that they went about giving lectures about their perfect society, and left most of the real work to Mrs. Alcott and her young daughters.

          (Really, when I was reading about it, I kept face-palming, and saying “Do’h!” And I’m a city (or at least suburb) girl myself.)

          On Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 12:14 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard commented: “IMO the majority of Hippies > were upper-middle-class/rich kids who were still using their parents money. > IE they didn’t have to work for a living.” >

        2. Their anti-materialism consisted of the confident belief that they’d always have plenty, so they could scorn it.

    3. If you really want to see lefty heads explode, point out that anyone with an income of more than $34K per year is in the hated “1%”, if you look at it from a global perspective.

                1. Start mini-rant —Would corporations please send their paperwork before March 25 so my poor tax dude isn’t having to recalculate stuff all the time? I’m still getting K-1 forms that I have to pass along. —End of Rant.

              1. Sadly, there are times when one must use rude words to correctly express an idea. I try to make sure to do so as rarely as possible so that it will have the best impact, though, and apologize for hurting those with finer sensibilities than myself!

          1. third world shops. For instance, the sorts of vendors who set up outside larger shops and prosper because they are willing to sell in much smaller quantities, such as, for someone who wants a little luxury, one drop of perfume.

          2. “Dollars” also mean different things if you’re not required by law to spend this or that amount. (The variety of stuff we’re required to have in our rented house probably pushes us over a dollar a day alone. There’s good and bad in this.)

    4. I keep saying that the only real sacrifice is that of one’s own self (or property.) If you’re making somebody else do it, it’s not a sacrifice.

      IOW, don’t take stuff away from someone to give to someone else, but it’s perfectly fine if you think that you should take your own wealth and distribute it around. (There’s a story that’s gone around about a billionaire who is now a millionaire because he gave 90% of his money away. Nice going, sir, you actually understand the point. You don’t hear about him agitating for changes in the laws.)

  5. There’s only one group assignment I can remember from school that I was at all excited about. We were supposed to do a short skit of some kind (it was a unit on “drama”) and the teachers kind of let us make our own groups. Our group was awesome and we were reaching for the sky with our ambitious plans. (Literally reaching for the sky — we were going to do a bank robbery skit complete with stunts and special effects.)

    At some point the teachers decided we were having too much fun. Plus our group was all-male, and one of the other groups that was not having nearly as much fun was all-female, and there obviously needed to be some redistribution. We were told we had to swap one of our team for one of the girls.

    Turns out one of the fellows on our team was mildly cognitively impaired. (That is, in the blunter and less kindly language we used in the day, he was a “retard.”) We were sympathetic to the kid but we knew who we thought we could do without.

    Then I had to play hero and insist that we draw straws for the unpleasant duty. Naturally I drew the short straw myself. At this point the other guys were, I think, certain I would go back to their Plan A. I was too … what’s the word? … not “honorable” because that would not have described me then or probably now. For whatever reason I stuck with my Plan B and ended up in the girl’s group. Whose skit was a riff on some chick T.V. show where I ended up being the token metrosexual. Yeah, it was lame, but then my original group’s skit ended up being pretty lame too.

    I still hate group assignments. Tell me what part of the project I’m responsible for and leave me alone to do it.

        1. My sympathies. That’s about where I lie on the spectrum. Somewhere between “lawful neutral” and “lawful good” (with a sneaking suspicion that floating between “chaotic neutral” and “chaotic good” would be more fun).

          In other words, all things being equal I’d rather things go well for everyone, but it’s not an obsession. I despise people who try to ignore or game the rules for an unfair advantage. I’m too stinkin’ proud to try to do it for my own benefit. And generally too stinkin’ proud to even ask for help when I need it.

          1. Chaotic good has its downsides. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to ask a variation on the question “Nothing is on fire, I’m obviously doing my job, why won’t you leave me the *%)^$ alone?”

            But yeah, figuring out how to dance around their rules to achieve their goals can be a lot of fun.

            1. The character I use as an icon is chaotic neutral; if she doesn’t actively like you, you’re expendable.

              The amazing thing is the overlap this had with both the lawful evil and the chaotic good characters that were in that RPG…..

  6. There’s a paradigm in economic thought of exit vs. voice: you can deal with a group’s or organization’s problems by walking out or by staying and advocating change. Conventional economic thought treats these as substitutes—with the implication that if you strengthen exist you weaken voice. But I think that’s very short-term thinking. If you think in the longer term, they’re complements: An organization that knows you don’t have to stay has a reason to listen to your complaints—the prospect of exit enhances voice. If you don’t have the right to exit, your protests have all the significance of kittens squeaking in a box, as one of Heinlein’s characters put it.

    It’s exit that keeps organizations from becoming abusive or exploitative. That’s better for the people they supposedly serve, and from a certain perspective it’s better for the organizations themselves—if only because it gives them an incentive to start shaping up long before they reach the point of catastrophic failure. But of course the people who run them often hate facing that kind of corrective feedback.

    I had the good fortune to have my schooling before group projects were trendy, let along mandatory. I don’t think I would have coped well with them.

    1. Exit can coexist with Voice, and not even just as an implied threat. I recall some college engineering labs, assigned in groups – the initial stage was always to figure out who’s the best leader in this group for this experiment (Voice), followed by trying to make the leader/follower group dynamic work (Voice), which if it fails (usually because 1/2 or more of the group is too underprepared or unmotivated to do their share) is succeeded by just doing the work yourself and sharing the results with the free-loaders who are at least going to have to write their own lab reports from the data you took (basically an Exit, slightly modified).

    2. I had to take part in group projects when I was a kid, not so much in later classes but they were fashionable here when I was preteen and in my very early teens. I usually had all these ideas nobody was ever willing to listen to, which led to me going all passive aggressive and doing as little (sometimes nothing) I could get away with.

  7. “…short in the back of the head…” I envision a cattle prod with improved battery technology. Certainly more efficient than the old-fashioned firearm approach.

    All kidding aside, I remember a “group exercise” in — I believe it was a college communications class — which was designed to demonstrate the power of working in groups. We were given some kind of survival scenario — one was on the moon, one was in a desert — and were required to individually rate the relative value of various objects. Then, discussing in the group, we would come up with a group consensus. Afterwards, the “official, expert” answers being revealed, we were supposed to see that the individual responses were poor (compared to the official answers) while the group consensus was much better. This turned out to be true for 5 of the six group memebers. The one member who had actual knowledge relevant to the scenarios (me, of course) had exactly the opposite result. So 83% of us learned that they needed to “go with the group” for better results. The remaining 17% (me) learned that it was better to ignore the others and do your own work. It is probably relevant that I was 22 or 23, just out of the army, surrounded by 18 yr olds just out of high school.

      1. “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”

    1. Afterwards, the “official, expert” answers being revealed, we were supposed to see that the individual responses were poor (compared to the official answers) while the group consensus was much better.

      We did a space mock-up of the first continental congress.

      First thing I did was ask who the heck called us, and what exactly they expected to get out of it.

      The teacher ignored that and when it was over followed the script that said “of course, none of you asked the most important question, which was who had the authority to call you together–”
      Me: *raise hand*
      Her: “Yes?”
      Me: “Yes we did. It was the first thing I asked. It’s in the script we submitted, and in the transcript you made me take. My group agreed that the only reason we showed up was curiosity, and maybe profit. We even pointed out we don’t have authority to negotiate on behalf of our planet.”
      Her: *ignores me*

      1. I hate when teachers ignore what’s actually going on in front of them. Of course, I remember vividly derailing one professor’s scripted speech by actually knowing the answer to a rhetorical question—to be fair, he didn’t ignore me, but it took him several minutes to get his stride back… 🙂

    2. So, in a voluntary-association world, solo or group is a decision that depends on whether you are expert and capable of handling the whole job, and on whether you have some other reason (e.g. payment) for helping a group.

  8. As an educator, my experience with group work has been pretty much the opposite what you describe. However, I’m thinking about science classes at the university level in which more than one or even two sets of hands are necessary to get the work done, so I may be comparing apples to oranges. I don’t deal with outside of class group work.

    I’m not talking about traditional, follow-the-cookbook-instructions laboratory, but the course itself. The students have to perform a series of guided experiments, thinking and writing about what they think will happen before they perform the activity or experiment, and again afterwards. They regularly have to discuss their results and ideas with me or the TA. (These are small classes of about two dozen people, and we don’t use a traditional textbook.)

    I let the students choose their own groups, which usually works out well. I only move people if there are personality conflicts, BFFs who socialize too much, or an entire group is floundering. I usually can go the entire semester with little disruption to the groups.

    These students tend to be in the preprofessional programs (premed, predental, etc.). The feedback we’ve gotten is that this approach has helped prepare them for later education by giving them practice working in teams and problem solving.

    This may not be what you’re talking about, Sarah, but I’ve found that taking the science out of the book and putting into the students’ hands to be very effective. OTOH, I see your point about group work when it’s not done this way but with an agenda other than education.

    1. Motivated adults there by choice doing a job that requires multiple people vs “group projects” is more like grapes to rocks, rather than apples and oranges!

      The problem is, they were probably thinking of that– or the real life, adult version of it– when they decided “group projects” were so great.

    2. Yes, that’s entirely different than what she’s describing. For one thing, you’re working with “pre-professionals” who are there because they want to be. Don’t worry about it, science groups for experimentation can be fun!

    3. Keith– What you do sounds like what my favorite AP Bio Teacher did– set up a series of lab stations, give us packets with directions, let us pick groups, then let us pick the order of stations to work. Then, he’d sit there and wait in case we had questions. BEST group work ever. He had a room full of hyper intelligent troublemakers, and unlike most, he rarely had discipline problems. This is because he simply expected his students to act like adults, and transferred us out if people misbehaved. NOBODY wanted to be removed by Dr. K. He was one of the few teachers who really had the kid’s respect.

  9. I have shared my group project fiascos before– hate them. Hate, hate, hate them. When I was in charge of a mat shop in Panama, I was assigning PMS (Planned Maintenance System), I found that my E-4s (newly from school) had not been trained on how to do them. Since this was a group– team– I had to start a training program with each PMS card every morning. Normally you have at least four E-5s to train their section (of one or two new techs). I had no E-5s– I was the E-5. It took me awhile, but I had my E-4s in section able to do the planned maintenance. When it came to troubleshooting, I ended up having to go into section when something needed to be fixed. I was in and out of four different sections — all the time. When I remember those days, I didn’t sleep much.

    1. Also I didn’t get the credit for the training– yes, my E-6 decided that since I worked for him (not really), that anything I did was his work.

  10. The dichotomy of good,self-formed groups vs bad, non-voluteer groups is reflected in the history of communalism. In American history there are multiple samples of communal groups who succeeded very well indeed, at least in the first generation when all member were volunteers. There are also, of course, examples of failure. But authority formed groups are almost inevitably failures, and this becomes magnified as the “group” grows in size, until you have Communism, where the “group” is the whole of society, there is no practical way for “authority” to keep track of every important variable (even if they were competent to do so), and the result is a fairly direct slide to failure, scape-goating, mass murder of the ‘goats’, and economic death-spiral.

  11. This is why I read insted of try to write. If I wrote Anabasis it would read. “We went to fight for a guy. He got killed, then we had to walk home and it wasn’t fun.”

  12. Ah, yes, the chem lab assigned partners in high school. “Don’t worry, you can just copy my notes” was the only viable way of dealing with it. The good news was that I was famous for competence and my partners were cool with just getting by (small school, all girls).

    Where I found teamwork of a benevolent variety exciting was in founding software companies during the tech booms of the 80s and early 90s. That was FUN. We were able to hire-to-fit, of course, and made very few errors of that type, so the team grew nicely until, in each case, we reached the sell-by decision for the firm. My management peers were each aware of their own strengths & weaknesses (me, too), and so we had very little counter-productive preening about methods (areas of expertise), combined with useful planning for goals (significant skill overlap). And each of us were able to mentor the new hires and suborn them into the culture. Many became lifelong friends.

    Alas, I was naive enough to expect that to continue into the more heterogenous organizations that succeeded those halcyon days, where the management had delusions of competence (if not outright corruption) and the workers had been wrongly hired or had given up and taken refuge in well-armored cynicism. I spent another 10-15 years trying to recreate those early team environments in startups or building them in existing organizations, without success.

    When it works, the “we’re all in it together” teamwork is immensely seductive and satisfying. But it’s rare and impermanent. Treasure it when you find it.

  13. Most successful example of a group project that I have ever been involved in was my senior year of high school in English Composition/English 104 (it was a dual credit class with the local college, so we were already self-selecting a bit…). The class was 16 or 17 female and 2 male. My graduating class had just short of 400 in it, so I’d had classes with several of the other kids, but none of them were friends. Anyway, the teacher came up with a project for us to all write a page or two about a resort of our design. Next day she put us in groups (of 3 or 4) and had us read each other’s papers and decide which one we liked best as the setting of a story (we selected mine which was a log cabin resort on top of a mountain…I stole the idea from the Eagle’s Nest in Germany). For homework each of us had to write a one page bio on someone staying there. Next day our groups got together again and as a group combined everything. Over the next day or so, the class ROTC/computer geek (me) and the 3 girls in my group wrote a 10 or 12 page (typed, single spaced) soap opera. We completely demolished the rest of the class. I wonder if I still have a copy of it somewhere.

  14. When the students (High School) ask me what I think about socialism/communism, I say that in some very small voluntary settings, it can work well. But you can’t scale it up and you can’t make it compulsory. After a bit of discussion most of them agree that what works in a convent (there’s one not far from town that most of them know about) would not work for something as large as town.

    Teamwork I’m in with and can do it well. But force me into a group project just because “group project” and I’ll give you the best display of passive-aggressive behavior ever seen. *evil smile*

  15. Group “assignments” actually represent sheer laziness on the part of most educators. See, what happens is this: Instead of having to teach, and take responsibility for teaching everyone in the class, they split up the groups so that each group has at least one person in it who really doesn’t need “teaching”, and let them carry the load. The remaining lumpen don’t really learn anything, but the teacher can point to the results that they had nothing to do with, and claim success.

    I absolutely loathe “group efforts”, and if I encounter such bullshit, I call the instructor on it. There are reasons and places for such things, but the routine use of them in most classes is sheerest bullshit. If I find a teacher who relies on such things, I automatically drop them from consideration for further instruction.

    The one thing that just aggravated the living shit out of me in the military was the reliance on “small group instruction”, which most of the Army NCO education system is based on. What it amounts to is a systemic case of the blind leading the blind through things about which they know nothing. Literally. I swear to God, if I’d heard my Advanced NCO Course instructor say the phrase “Well, I don’t know much about this stuff, but maybe some of you do…?” one more ‘effing time, there would have been a mass murder. Small group instruction may have a place in things like senior staff schools where it’s more a case of experienced professionals sharing experiences for the edification of others, but for the love of God… Basic instruction? Nope, nope, hell no…

    And, the mentality has polluted civilian schools, as well. What I think it is is that some lower-level teachers saw what was going on at master’s level instruction, and decided to copy it. And, it doesn’t work. Period.

    1. Small group instruction works very well, IF, the instructor knows his stuff backwards, forwards and sideways. If he doesn’t know his stuff he is relegated to simply being the pivot man.

      1. It’s that whole “If” thing… There are settings where small group instruction works very well, and is appropriate. I’d submit that those settings emphatically do not include basic instructional courses where the majority of the students are not at least somewhat familiar with the material.

        There’s nothing more ludicrous than having them try to teach the Army Writing Program to the average Joe and Josephine via this technique, especially when 90% of the people in the course can’t even write a coherent paragraph describing something that just happened to them.

        If you knew the grief I had dealing with some of the situations I had where this fact became brutally clear… Well, you’d understand. There’s nothing quite like having to edit and virtually re-write 37 sworn statements so that they a.) made sense, and b.) were still legitimately sworn statements that the individuals could sign as their own words… Yeesh. Nothing will make the failures of the American educational system more painfully apparent.

        And, you want to know what’s really, really scary? Knowing that the guys I had working for me quite literally represented the cream of the crop, when considered against the general population. Y’all really don’t want to know what the military doesn’t take, by comparison.

    2. I swear to God, if I’d heard my Advanced NCO Course instructor say the phrase “Well, I don’t know much about this stuff, but maybe some of you do…?” one more ‘effing time, there would have been a mass murder. Small group instruction may have a place in things like senior staff schools where it’s more a case of experienced professionals sharing experiences for the edification of others, but for the love of God… Basic instruction? Nope, nope, hell no…

      It works great in the Navy, because we use it in tech school and the instructor did know a bleep ton about what they were teaching.

      I think inner city schools would become the place to learn if they’d export it. (Rural schools don’t have enough people to make it reasonable.)

      I think I’ve mentioned it before, but basically you test the little kids when they come in. The kids are organized by what they can do, and go into a class of five to fifteen other kids with a teacher who does only that subject at that level of skill for that class. You do that for a week or two and test. If you pass, you move to another class; if you fail, you stay there. If you massively fail, you go back to the class that covers the thing that messed you up. If a class gets too big, you check to see if it’s a problem with the teacher and either fix that or split the class.

      1. By testing the kids and having the older/better taught kids teach the younger/less learned kids is how little red schoolhouses worked. They would have about 30-100, all in a one room. Grandma started with 100 at 19.

  16. The fundamental flaw — the original sin, if you will — of leftist demands for their brand of (scorn quotes) “equality” is that it denies the individual. And, since the individual is made in God’s image, that reveals the deep evil of leftism — it denies the divine nature of the individual. Individuals are unique, not interchangeable. By treating people as interchangeable parts of a machine — rather than as individual and autonomous machines in and of themselves, the Left engages in stereotyping. And, after all, isn’t that the ultimate prejudice?


    1. True.

      The sister/twin/same-thing-different-view sin involved is in trying to deny the divine gift of choosing to do good.

      There’s no virtue in being forced to do good.

    2. Kind of explains the Statist love of the mass rally- the uniformed, interchangeable masses in neat, orderly rows standing in front of or marching past the elevated podium of the great leader.

  17. Oddly, I had similar thoughts from a different direction the other day.

    My husband and I have started playing Everquest II until Landmark gets to the point that he can share his guest-codes, and we spent an hour or so each evening killing orcs before bed.

    There are a lot of quests that have random items drop, and he’s got the loot set so that it pops up for a roll. If it’s a class specific item for my Paladin, I take it, and he grabs the other stuff for either use or sale. If we can both use it, we roll.

    He almost always wins, and with some other stuff we’d been talking about, it occured to me that this worked as a metaphor for marriage. If I didn’t both trust that he wouldn’t take anything he didn’t have a need for, and if it wasn’t a matter of course that he’d still be there after getting what he needs, this wouldn’t work. It requires trust that we’re a real team.

    Similar problem in comparing voluntary and involuntary groups for non-survival situations. (stuff that everyone agrees is incredibly important have slightly better outcomes)

    1. Does he like Landmark? I’ve been reading about it and I’ve watched a few videos, but I haven’t gotten an opinion from anyone but the devs at this point and OF COURSE they think it’s awesome.

      1. Shorter version:
        Yes. Very much.

        It is in rather early development, and right now what the Elf is excited about is that they’re putting in caves. As it is, you’ve got about 30 minutes of digging straight down before you reach the “bottom” of the world. They’re going to put in caves with, if I understand it, monsters and resources!

        Right now, it’s mostly a sandbox where you can gather stuff…but holy cow, the stuff people are making. Seems like every week the Devs go “Check out this cool thing. Our designers are not quite sure how this guy managed to get that effect…..”

      1. Go to liberation, LIbby is where a lot of the RPer types ended up. There isn’t anything to RP, but the conversation is good.

        Oh, and don’t give Fragkat any way to reach you– he can be amusing to talk to, but is one of those kind of people who thinks that RPers are “too up tight” because they object when he destroys something they spent a week setting up, be it a claim or an RP situation.

          1. Not only can you make on more than one, you can be on ALL of them as easily as clicking on a “spire”!

            The only difference is that you’re on that server’s chat and see the claims built on that server.

            When I’m desperate for material and there are just too many folks farming what I want, I’ll switch over to the European servers and take advantage of most people being asleep.

              1. For mining and stuff, yes!

                I think you can have claims on different servers, too, but I haven’t even bothered to do that yet– I’m running around farming for my husband’s “ice castle.” (As described by the girls.)

  18. “He almost always wins, and with some other stuff we’d been talking about, it occured to me that this worked as a metaphor for marriage. If I didn’t both trust that he wouldn’t take anything he didn’t have a need for, and if it wasn’t a matter of course that he’d still be there after getting what he needs, this wouldn’t work. It requires trust that we’re a real team. ”

    I was over at a friends last night, and his neighbor lady was going off on him about how marriage has to be 50-50 it can’t be 60-40 or anything else, the woman has to have equal input or it won’t work (we’ll ignore the fact that it seemed to work, for a certain definition of work, for several thousand years). Her ranting and raving about the fact that the woman must have as much input as the man (always assuming if it is unequal it is the woman who is getting shorted) made me think, ‘It’s no wonder her husband spends nine months a year working in Alaska, while she stays down here.’

    1. Being self-aware enough to know your perception isn’t your partner’s, helps. Someone said of partnerships that work: “You can’t just try to meet halfway. Both of you have to think you’re going 2/3 of the way toward the other, for meeting halfway to actually occur.”

      1. Very true. Goals can be aligned, but people are their own selves.

        I tend to think of partnership as a teeter-totter. No one is strong all the time. Sickness, fatigue, lack of specific skills…sometimes you have point, sometimes your partner. Trust, however, is essential.

    2. What a silly woman.

      Of course it’s supposed to be 40/60– just as my husband, it’s one of the things we agree on and it’s why our marriage works as well as it does, being 40/60.

      The only thing we disagree on is that we each think the other person is the one giving 60 and think we’re only giving 40, but we keep trying to up our input percent.

      1. My hubby has gone way past the 60 percent (more like 95 plus) when he took care of me on my sickest years (2003-2005). I keep trying to catch up, but I am pretty sure that he is way ahead of me and will always be–

      2. Shortly before getting married, I came across this: “Marriage isn’t 50/50; it’s 100/100.” One of the best bits of advice I’ve ever heard. (Married now for 23 1/2 years and still going strong. 🙂 )

        1. I heard that one as well but being unmarried, I can’t tell if it’s true from personal experience. [Wink]

      3. I heard that a “perfect marriage, like any good group, is all give 100%, and take the same.” IOW, you don’t worry about. “Am I doing most/all of the work.”

      4. The really sad thing is, she’s still looking at equality of output. This means sooner or later she’s going to sit on her hands when she *perceives* she’s not getting her share. That’s toxic. It’s a swift boat to resentment alley, and resentment alley tends to fork, and the well traveled path to the left is divorce. The right of course is to realize you are being stupid and apologize, and FIX yourself.

        Because that’s the thing about marriage. You can’t fix the other person. You can only fix yourself. That means it often looks like you are doing more work than the other person, because (at the GOOD times) you are blissfully ignorant about half the work the other spouse is doing. Also, this competitive attention sparring discourages *real* communication, and undercuts about every corrective measure for the quickening hatefest.

      5. The only thing we disagree on is that we each think the other person is the one giving 60 and think we’re only giving 40, but we keep trying to up our input percent.

        Heh, same here. He has to try get me to relax a bit on that score. It’s a bit of a holdover from my days of ‘if I wasn’t paying attention to everything and making sure it’s all 100%, it’d become an out of control disaster.’

  19. Jumping in without reading all the comments first: Please no switchings. 😦

    This has been bugging me a lot with the recent ‘visitors.’ I really do blame sociology, since they seem to have adopted a definition of ‘socialism’ that naturally incorporates all cooperative effort without reference to political theories. And it fouls folks understanding of human interaction and political philosophy. Particularly since many of the things they love to cite as examples have superficial characteristics in common with political organization, and so they ‘feel’ right. Blech.

    As to equality, the greatest tragedy of the push for equality has been convincing people they all want equality, as in equal expectations, desires, outcomes, paths… I don’t want to live the life that leads to whatever result some arbitrary official has deemed best. I don’t want to be a billionaire, because I don’t want to live the life that leads to billions. Not because it’s ‘evul,’ but simply because it doesn’t appeal to me. Likewise fame and celebrity. And I don’t want the people for whom it does appeal to be denied the opportunity for pursuit.

    We don’t have inequality because some of us are better than others (by which metric?). We have ‘inequality’ because we want different things (at different times, for different reasons). And any metric for equality will be inconsequential for some significant number of people.

    It is the sublime nature of “pursuit of happiness.” You chase yours, best of luck, I’ll be over here chasing mine. Man, those dead dudes really knew what they were about, huh?

    1. I’m actually pretty good on equality of opportunity, to the extent it’s realizable. I’m pretty down on equality of taking advantage of opportunity, if you see the distinction. Let alone equality of outcome.

      1. Yes. And that distinction is vitally important.

        I decry equality of outcome. In harsh language.

        1. There is a nice Japanese phrase for equality of outcome. “Hammer the tall nails down.” They think it’s a good thing. I say it’s time to go finger hunting.

    2. If socialism==cooperation than the most effective socialist system ever invented is the market. You and I can’t trade unless you agree to cooperate with me and vice versa. The competitive aspect of the market is purely about trying to find the best partners (from each individual’s perspective) to cooperate with.

  20. “This work is rarely more efficient than doing everything on your own, but to be fair it’s not less efficient.”

    Even on this, many of us will be forced to vehemently disagree with you. It _is_ less efficient, because even in the ideal situation it falls victim to a more general case of Brooks’ Law. (“Adding more programmers to a late project makes the project even later.” This is true, in part, because in addition to doing their own work, each person must also manage the connections between their work and everyone else’s work, and the number of connections rises as the _square_ of the number of contributors.)

    There are a few cases of relevance.

    1. A group of people with comparable ability levels, complementary skills, and enough humility to get out of each other’s way, genuinely working together to accomplish a goal that none could have accomplished on their own. Brooks’ Law applies even here, but in groups this exceptional, the synergy of complementary skills is so great as to overwhelm the scaling problems. (This is not _entirely_ mythical, but is so rare that it might as well be. I’ve seen it happen three times in my life so far, and one of those is my marriage.)
    2. A group of people with roughly compatible personalities, and a subgroup with a high level of competence and complementary skills. The sub-group operates as if it were #1, but the remainder of the overall group sponges off their effort, contributes little of value, and claims credit for the whole work. (This is the typical case in business environments with a reputation for being fantastically efficient and well-managed. It is also sometimes found in the more elite educational environments.)
    3. Case #2, except without the assumption of roughly compatible personalities. Thus, in addition to the non-contributors being dead weight, they also bring meaningful quantities of interpersonal drama to the group, resulting in an overall team that would be measurably improved by the simple act of removing them from it. (This is the more typical case in a normal business, and the best conceivable outcome in an American public school.)
    4. Case #3, except that the negative members (virtually always a majority of the overall group, at this level and below), in addition to “contributing” personal drama, also try to (and often succeed at) introduce actively detrimental content to the group’s work product, as well-exemplified by Sarah’s “friend potatoes” example, thus forcing the contributors to spend a large fraction of their time fighting the rearguard battle against invincible ignorance within their own assigned “team”. (This was the modal case in American public schools 20 years ago. Its prevalence in poorly-run business enterprises has also kept Scott Adams well-supplied with “Dilbert” gags for decades now, and shows no sign of stopping.)
    5. Case #4, except that the anti-contributors, in addition to their almost certain numerical majority, also have the active support of whatever objective “authority” exists…not so much supporting their ideas, as supporting their right to impose those ideas on the work product. As in “yes, I know ‘friend potatoes’ is wrong, but if that’s what she wants to put down, you have to put it down, and it’ll just come off everybody’s grade”. At this level and below, it is no longer possible for an intellectually honest person to deny that the system is on the road toward socialism. (This appears to be the modal case in public schools today.)
    6. Case #5, except that the authority in question rejects the notion that wrong answers are wrong, as long as the members of the group who proffered them are willing to agitate their case forcefully enough. (See this in action in government bureaucracies, and in the more dysfunctional sorts of schools.)
    7. Actual socialism, in which those members of the group who are able to come up with correct answers in spite of the powerful incentives toward falsehood are routinely and actively punished for doing so, in order to massage the self-esteem of the dishonest and incompetent majority. (The horse may never completely tire of being beaten for the unforgivable crime of making the other animals feel bad about themselves, but if/when they finally get around to sending him off to the glue factory, the collapse of their regime is certainly imminent, because by this point it’s damn sure nobody _else_ is going to get any useful work done.)

  21. The difference between a voluntary team and an involuntary one in terms of efficiency is very great. Members of a voluntary team like and hence work better together. And even then, in my experience, it takes a lot of self-discipline for each member of the team to produce as efficiently as would each individually, and the team tends to be dragged down to the speed of the slowest member.

    Teams are only more efficient when work is divided so that each member does something different in terms of fundamental skill. For instance, a geologist and an electronics technician operating and maintaining a geo-sensor such as a ground penetrating radar together may be more efficient than the geologist having to do the maintenance and or the technician having to do the geology. And even then, it helps if the two like each other and hence cooperate well.

  22. I’m glad to see the news of your book making the finals has gotten to you so quickly. We’re hoping to have the official press release out by the end of the month. But we try to make sure the authors hear from us first.

  23. The only group project I was on was a disaster, I think. The teacher picked me, a loner, to be the lead. H*ll, I didn’t even want to be in the room. I was never asked to participate in anything ever; afterwards.
    Congratulations on making the finals.

  24. The worst thing ever was “The Raisin Game” aka all resources can be eaten or destroyed, but none can be combined or increased. Basically I destroyed everything and ranted, because it had nothing to do with econ or politics. Fortunately, my teachers either were amused or also thought it was bs, as I was never punished.

      1. I’d guess from context that it was one of those “look how unfair it is, share and be nice so everyone has some” things.

  25. “…but one must admit it’s much better than the short [sic] in the back of the head and the mass grave.”

    With Ukraine in the news lately, I  wonder how they would  feel about this statement? It’s not just the production of widgets but of food that get’s messed with.

    Death by starvation or bullet? 

  26. “…but one must admit it’s much better than the shot in the back of the head and the mass grave.”

    Perhaps we could just say that the most truthful promise socialism has ever made was “Arbeit macht frei”.

    Then again, perhaps I should not be reading about this after watching “The Soviet Story” yesterday.

      1. I watched it on the web. It’s hosted on a Russian-language video website and embedded in a post at The People’s Cube blog earlier this month.

        It’s most definitely worth the time if you can catch it.

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