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Everything I Needed To Know About IT I Learned From Logan (Part Two)

Level 17

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(This is the second part of a series. You can find Part One here.)

It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.

Get out among the "regular" people, the users. It will feed and inform your work. REALLY meet them, though. Don't just sit on the sidelines, aloof and observant.

At the start of the movie, we see Logan driving a limo for a ride-sharing service. He's out and among the people, which would make many folks feel more connected to the world around them. Hearing stories, experiencing a moment in time that becomes a slice of his own life. He ferries a business executive, a bunch of frat boys shouting "U-S-A" as they cross the border into Mexico, a bachelorette party, and a family on their way to a funeral. As stark as the differences are between passengers, they are not nearly as stark as Logan's emotional disassociation with them.

Contrast this with a scene later in the movie, when Logan, Charles, and Laura sit down to dinner with the farming family they assisted (as mentioned in my previous example). While dancing around the nature of the school, Charles and Logan (acting the part of father and son) express touching affection for their past life and each other. Doing so allows the family who has invited them into their home to join the conversation.

Later, when they are alone, Charles tries to impress this difference on Logan:

Charles: “You know, Logan? This is what a life will explain. A home, people who love each other. A safe place. You should take a moment and feel it.”

Logan: “Yeah. It's great.”

Charles: “Logan. Logan! You still have time.”

The lesson in all of this is that, as an IT professional, you need to get out with the real people in your environment. You have to become involved, to see what they care about and what problems they are trying to solve. You can't, as Logan did when he was driving the limousine, dispassionately observe them from afar and remain aloof. You need to connect, to communicate, and to share.

It's not all on you. The next generation of IT pros is strong, even if they don't have your experience. Know that they will rise to the occasion if you give them the chance.

Near the end of the movie, Logan is so incapacitated that he passes out on the side of the road, and wakes up in a doctor's office. How did he get there? Laura, the 11-year-old who has not spoken a single word so far, whose native language is Spanish, and whose understanding of the events around her are never 100% certain, manages to steal a truck, load Logan into it, and drive him back to town and into a kindly doctor's office.

Just a few scenes later, she once again takes the wheel and completes the drive to the lookout station from which she and her fellow child-mutants plan to make the journey to "Eden.”

Finally, Laura and those same children get Logan up the side of a mountain and nurse him back to health.

The point is, Laura and the rest of the kids are capable. They have skills and abilities that extend beyond their mutant superpowers. Also, they care. They care what happens to this stranger not just because they find him bleeding on the side of the road, but because they see a chance to connect with another person like them, and they take the risk. They even have the audacity to shave Logan's beard into the shape it appears in the X-Men® comic, not to mock him, but to create friendship through a shared joke.

Later, these same kids who giggled unabashedly at the sight of Logan in his iconic muttonchops are able to hold their own against an army of mercenaries. In the end, it is Laura who kills X24, not using her strength, speed, or claws, but by thinking through the problem and literally finding the silver bullet to end the situation.

As IT professionals, we need to remember that the next generation might lack our experience, but that doesn't mean they lack skills, intelligence, commitment, or even common sense. It doesn't mean they can't hold their own. It doesn't mean they won't rise to a challenge. Of course, new team members shouldn't be forced into "sink or swim" scenarios. But it means that, when our own tank is empty, we can look to them for backup while we recharge.

Better still, it means that if we allow them to be a full part of the team, the entire team will be stronger for it.

Powerful tools used indiscriminately can hurt everyone.

One of the key plot points in the movie is Charles' degenerative symptoms. In the movie, he is 90 years old, and although he's relatively lucid, he has moments where he loses touch. The problem is that he is a mutant with one of the most powerful psychic minds on earth, able (if you accept the X-Men Apocalypse story as canon) to speak directly into the minds of every human on the planet while simultaneously having a separate conversation with the X-Men who are trying to save him (and the world). So, when Charles loses touch, let's his control slip even a little, the minds around him are at risk.

This sits at the heart of the "Westchester Incident" that is hinted at throughout the film. Charles loses control and people (possibly his students, with the exception of Logan) die. He loses control again in a hotel in Las Vegas, and everyone in the area is held in a kind of violent stasis, unable to move or even think until Charles is sedated. Everyone affected is left weakened and sick for several minutes afterward.

The takeaway for us is that Charles has (or perhaps it's better to say he IS) a powerful tool. When used with control and finesse, our most powerful tools can perform amazing feats and literally save the world. But when used in an uncontrolled fashion, the results can be devastating.

By way of example, think about DNS. On October 16, 2016, a DDoS attack on one DNS company destabilized it to a point where the internet was practically shut down (at least in parts of the world) for hours. But a few months later, a single 22-year-old registered a domain name and effectively brought the damage from the #WannaCry malware to a complete halt.

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But that isn't all I learned! Stay tuned for future installments of this series. And until then, Excelsior!

1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

7 Comments

I was fascinated by Logan's "friend" and assistant ("minion?"), Caliban.  Not because he was powerful or cool or strange--all of those descriptions apply to virtually all of the mutants in the Marvel realm.  But because his name has been used throughout history as someone synonymous with bizarre powers & forms, as someone oppressed, as someone who is "other."

Shakespeare's Caliban can be found in "The Tempest", and he's reportedly the deformed beast/man son of a witch and a devil, and is intent on performing unpleasant acts, and even conquering his world  by reproducing more "Calibans."

Wikipedia lists many references (Caliban - Wikipedia), including:

  • Forbidden Planet (a 1956 movie) has Caliban as an invisible monster of the mind.
  • A woman's kidnapper
  • One of the semi-sympathetic characters in the movie version of Dr. Zhivago
  • A rebellious black slave
  • A good and kind creature with a face made of vegetables who is initially judged hideous, and later discovered to be empathetic.
  • The intro ceremony of the 2012 summer Olympics featured "Caliban's Dream"

Logan, as a move, can be deeper than just asci/fi action film, depending on how it touches a person.  Some may think it violent or sombering, others merely a rollicking action/adventure film.  Still others may take away a thoughtful ending that can include a circle of life, and a hope for a better future for "mutants".

Through that hope for a better future, it's not a giant leap to imagine a future where ALL peoples are welcomed, no matter their physical form or abilities.

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MVP
MVP

You need to connect & communicate - Working on it

Nice write up adatole

Level 14

Get out and about.

As a 20 year contractor I am always amazed when I join a new client and find their 3rd line support staff never see users.  They have no appreciation of the issues users face and no idea of what the users want.  They then make decisions about what  technology to foist onto users and specify how it should be used.  It's no wonder users hate us as much as we hate them.  I always try to talk to users and get a feel for what works and what is giving them issues. 

Next generation.

I often experience the opposite  -  when joining a new client I'm now quite often the eldest.  Most youngsters think I don't know as much as they do and are frequently amazed when I fix the problems they have been struggling with for weeks / months.  I'm usually the last one standing in the pub and quite often the only one in the office the next day.  I've also done so much more then they have and they are amazed that I ride a fast sportsbike and have scuba dived all over the world.  We usually end up getting on quite well though.

Leon wrote: "As IT professionals, we need to remember that the next generation might lack our experience, but that doesn't mean they lack skills, intelligence, commitment, or even common sense."

They also have energy and stamina. I remember when I was in my 20's when I couldn't work smarter I would compensate by working longer and harder, sometimes longer and harder than everyone else. I put in the long hours, the double-shifts, the overtime, the grunt work... to impress the bosses and the veterans whose tutelage I was seeking.

Level 20

It takes good writers to make good movies.  I like all of the superhero movies and many have actually been written quite well.  People that aren't interested in sci-fi miss out on a lot!

MVP
MVP

Good points. I especially resonate with the getting out with the regular people.

I work in a medical environment and have to constantly remind the others on my team that it's OK if a doctor doesn't understand technology - we want him to do his job well. Some on the team struggle with that and will get frustrated when a doctor does something they consider stupid or they struggle to understand how a process works on their computer. I ask my team mates "If you're laying on the operating table do you want him to know his job or yours?"

Besides the doctors there's the general users that don't always understand - but I would contend that our job as IT is not to make them understand, but to make IT understandable to them. If you have to jump through hoops to accomplish something then the process needs to be changed, not the users.

Level 13

Good Article

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.