Smooth Operator


 An old friend and former teacher of mine had a saying that's stuck with me over the years...  "slow is smooth, smooth is fast."

His saying was meant for another, unrelated topic, but it's held true for a great many subjects.  And, I find that it's particularly applicable to being a miner and a mining pilot.

Recently, the crew of the HF Maggie have been spending a great deal of time in various asteroid fields, in search of quantanium.

As you may already know, quantanium is a highly valuable mineral that can generate a significant profit for those who can successfully mine it.  But, mining quantanium is quite risky and fraught with a number of potential hazards up to and including the destruction of your ship and loss of your life.  Accordingly, mining quantanium is not for the faint of heart.

And, in case you didn't know, quantanium is highly volatile; once you have it aboard your ship, you're on a countdown-to-destruction, unless you can return the material to one of the various refinery decks before it loses its stability.  However, one of the things many miners overlook is that quantanium begins to decay the moment you first crack the rock in which it's contained.  And, I do mean decay in the literal sense that it begins to lose its material value as a direct result of the energy the mining lasers impart to the rock from which quantanium is mined.

So, when you mine quantanium, you're up against two clocks.  One clock is a little less pressing, in terms of the loss of value, but the other clock is far more critical, in that you could lose your life if you don't move quickly enough.

And, this is where the idea of being a smooth operator comes into play.

My old teacher had a point in that if you practice your maneuvers slowly, methodically, and accurately, as you continue to develop your skills, that slow, smooth motion becomes smooth, fast motion.

The key is that it takes concentrated practice for the motions to become smooth, but that moving smoothly allows you to move more quickly with fewer errors.

If you think about this in terms of mining various ores or flying a given ship, the practice you develop at the slower speeds will help you become faster, especially when you need to be more fluid when you're under pressure...

It's especially important to be smooth with your movements when mining quantanium, as the volatility of the material means the miners must move quickly and efficiently, and the pilot can't be man-handling the ship or bumping into things, even incidentally, without risking the entire ship and her crew to the potential detonation of the ore.  So, operating the ship smoothly becomes even more important than with other types of ore.

That said, there are several ways in which miners and mining pilots can be more smooth in the way they operate the equipment.

The first is to learn the basic procedures to the point that you can anticipate what's next.  Once you can anticipate the next step, you're already in a position where you are prepared in a way that allows you to reduce the time it takes to complete a task.  Practising the transitions, slowly at first, enables you to move more smoothly through them.

For example, when mining quantanium, it's best practice to completely break down all of the chunks of the asteroid that can be cracked before collecting any of the mineral.  Now, while this means that you're already on the clock for the decay of the quantanium and the associated loss in value, it means that you haven't yet started the countdown-to-destruction that occurs once you begin collecting the quantanium.  So, in this, the miners need to be coordinated to crack the rocks quickly, so as to minimize the amount of decay, and then be ready to collect the quantanium as efficiently as possible soon after.  The crew may want to practice this technique on other types of minerals so that they work fluidly together and can make short work of the fracturing process.  The same holds true for extraction, knowing which miners are picking up materials from what part of the pile, to pick up everything as quickly as possible.  Communication is a big part of this and is also something that should be practiced for smooth workflows.

As a mining pilot, being fast means planning ahead and being ready to execute smoothly and quickly once the material is on board.  That means setting the destination while the crew is still cracking and picking up rocks, and pre-spooling the quantum drive, so the ship is ready to jump as soon as they finish their work.

It also helps if the pilot knows the station to which they're hauling the ore.  By this, I don't simply mean where on the star map the ship is being flown.  I also mean knowing which pads the station tends to assign for landing so that no time is wasted looking for the right place to land.

This is also the phase where the pilot must be smooth with the ship; herky-jerky control movements, or a slight bump against something on the station, even a hard landing can ruin everyone's day.  So, to avoid unexpected (and undesirable) outcomes, it's best that the pilot practice approaching the station, requesting assignment, establish a repeatable path to the landing pad, setting points of deceleration, and so on.  A smooth, repeatable procedure makes approach and landing uneventful for everyone.

While this seems like a lot to remember, the interesting thing is that it's easier than it sounds; if you simply establish a routine, a pattern, which you can execute slowly and methodically, repeatedly, you begin to do these things almost by instinct.  At that point, although it seems like you're moving slowly, it's more that you're moving smoothly through each of the tasks, and are able to complete the maneuvers more quickly because you're not wasting time and effort trying to re-think what should be the same procedure on each trip out and back.

If you're serious about being a miner of volatile materials, or a mining pilot hauling volatile materials, I highly recommend you give some thought to how you can be a smooth operator.

And, even if you aren't hauling volatile materials, many of these concepts can be beneficial to other types of activities, wherever you may go.

Now, if you have the song Smooth Operator, by Sade, stuck in your head, my mission has been accomplished.

Good hunting!

Neptune Recovery
Don't be afraid to ask for help!

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