Nuts About Data

Chapter 2

VERY FEW TALL, burly squirrels lived in Nutancia and Maq was one of them. He towered over most miners with his bulging muscles and presented a domineering figure, especially when he was mad. As Maq carefully scanned Groar’s nut mining operations center, he couldn’t help but feel proud of what he had created. Poetry in motion, he thought. From the unloading of newly collected nuts, sorting them into separate sections, and right until readying them for distribution, the whole process was a display of efficiency.

But this isn’t enough. Maq didn’t need reminding that times had changed. The maze’s old rules wouldn’t hold for much longer. He knew his miners would have their work cut out for them just to be able to maintain the same level of collection that they’d been amassing. Other clans looked to Groar as the standard in nut mining, but he wasn’t stupid to think that they could afford to rest on their laurels. We need to up our game.

Being the leader of Groar for many years taught him that nothing could be taken for granted when it came to nut mining. He didn’t need a reminder that like his predecessors, only one reason would continue to keep him at the helm: food.

He knew about the struggles of Gliff and, to a lesser degree, the other two clans. But why should he waste his time worrying about what troubles they were facing? Why don’t they just work harder? Success doesn’t come free.

He had only one goal. To keep his clan happy with his leadership by giving them the nuts they so craved. The more for Groar, the better.


Back in Moe’s burrow, Aly slumped into a chair that Moe had offered him, his paws dropping to his sides. What have I just got myself into? Never in his life had he made such a rash decision. In one of the most pivotal moments in Gliff’s history, let alone his life, he was banking on a clueless squirrel to turn an idea he had just thought of into a plan. He hasn’t even told me what the plan is!

Moe had also asked him for some time before they could see any results. Two weeks! At least?! That’s an eternity.

Moe appeared to hesitate before finally uttering, “Um, before I talk about my plan, do you mind if I first ask a few questions…?” He paused. “Actually, lots of them.”

“You don’t have to be so polite. Go ahead.”

“Thanks, appreciate it,” Moe said sheepishly. “First, can you tell me, at the end of each day, what do the miners report to their leaders?”

“The most obvious thing is, of course, the nuts themselves,” Aly said. “Each miner will pass the collection for the day to the leaders. Since we need to keep track of our reserve, for each miner, we weigh the nuts that they’ve collected.”

He looked across the table at Moe, who was jotting notes studiously in his notebook. He didn’t have a clue of what to expect but decided to trust Moe, at least for now. “And, as we want to keep the miners accountable every day, we also record the date. We keep these records in a simple table that we add to daily.”

“Okay, got it,” Moe said. “What about the mining itself? Can you tell me how the miners go about doing their work?”

“We have around one hundred miners in total,” Aly said. “Each of the other clans has almost double that number, so we have to be a bit more clever. We know that the maze is square, so we assign the miners according to zones in the maze.”

“How many zones are there?”


“And how do you decide which squirrels go to which zones?” Moe asked further.

Aly crossed his arms. “It’s based on experience. The miners would have different zones that they know best, so those are where they will be deployed. But even within their own zones, the maze is just too vast for them to cover. In fact, no single clan can cover the whole maze at one time, no matter how many miners they send.”

“What do you do about it then?”

“We just do our best, going to different parts of the maze each day. We also send less miners near the entrances of the other clans. They’re just too many and too fast, so they’d collect all the nuts by the time we got there.”

“Do you have a map of the maze?” Moe asked.

I saw that coming. “We don’t,” Aly said. “Our miners are the most dedicated and hardworking bunch I know. They’ve traveled to each and every corner of their zones, so the map is already there in their heads. They’ve never needed a map!”

“I trust that you know best,” Moe said. “But don’t you think having a map might be helpful?”

Aly drew a big sigh. “Of course we do. We just don’t know how much, though. It’s just one of those things that we’ve thought about and felt that it might be of some use, but just never had the time to do it. You know, every second of our miners’ time is valuable.”

“Is the maze open all the time?” Moe asked.

This kid has really been living in his own bubble, Aly thought. Is this all going to be worth it?!

“Yes, twenty-four seven,” Aly said. “The miners work in shifts and we’re there all the time. However, we’ve learned that there aren’t as many nuts in the maze at night compared to daytime. That’s why we don’t send as many miners during the night, and we know the other clans are doing the same.”

“Of course,” Aly continued, “it’s also a tougher place at night, being pitch dark, and our miners getting banged into by the other clans all the time. We’ve had plenty of injury cases due to that.” He stood up and peered through the window as he thought about the dangers facing the miners every single day.

“Okay,” Moe said, “let’s now talk about the fun part: the nuts.”

Aly sensed an air of confidence slowly seeping through Moe. “What about them?”

“When you gather all these nuts, do you take note of their types?”

“That’s a strange question. Why would we?”

Moe shrugged his shoulders. “I’m just asking if it’s something you’ve considered.”

Aly started to become annoyed at what he saw as a sign of flippancy bordering on disrespect from Moe. “You should know. The most important thing for us is to get enough supply of nuts to feed us all. That’s it. We just don’t have the luxury of choosing the nicer tasting types over the other. We just eat what we’ve got!” He shook his head, still smarting from that question.

“No, that’s not where I’m coming from,” Moe said. “I mean, could there be certain types of nuts that make us full longer than the others?”

“Oh, okay,” Aly said, realizing he was being a bit harsh. “Maybe there are. I’ve heard a few squirrels saying that, and probably you have as well.  But even if it were true, the difference wouldn’t be obvious. We wouldn’t be able to tell for sure.”

“What about the time it takes for them to go bad?” Moe asked. “Is there any difference between the types of nuts?”

Testing my patience again. “Listen, Moe,” Aly said. “We know nuts can last long. Maybe some, like almonds, last longer than the others, almost a year before they go bad. But for us Gliffs, it doesn’t really matter. We would’ve eaten all of them by that time!”

“I think that’s all for my questions. At least for now,” Moe said.

“Good, because I was about to tell you to stop anyway. Now let’s quickly get to the plan!”

“This is part of the plan,” Moe said.

“What do you mean?”

“See,” Moe said, “I may have an idea or even a solution. But if don’t understand the problem clearly, I won’t be able to make the idea useful. That’s why I need experienced squirrels like you who have the domain expertise and truly understand the problem that we’re solving.”

“Okay, that’s true,” Aly said. “I can’t disagree with that. But still, let’s move quickly.”

“I just wanted to mention one more thing,” Moe said. “It’s not exactly related to what we’ve discussed, but I’ve always had this in my mind.”

“What is it?”

Moe was fidgeting for a moment and said, “What if the nuts in the maze were actually enough for all of us? I mean, all squirrels from all the clans put together. What if there were even way more than needed out there?”

Aly rolled his eyes. “Here’s the thing, Moe. That’s a noble thought and I wish we could all be in that place right now. But we won’t. Never!”

“But, why not?” Moe didn’t seem to be satisfied.

“See, the miners have been in the trenches, for years,” Aly said. “It’s a pipe dream, and I know this for a fact. If the nuts were so abundant, we wouldn’t be here clutching at straws to come up with a half-decent plan.” Aly started to regret dragging Moe into this mess. He felt as if he were getting further and further away from a solution. The clock is ticking, and here I am listening to nonsense!

Aly couldn’t resist taking another swipe at Moe. “Let’s even allow wishful thinking for a second and imagine if nuts were that easy to come by. Do you think the likes of Maq and his miners would be kind enough to step aside and let us have those nuts?!”

“Sorry if that offended you,” Moe said. “I was just trying to think if a new truth were out there. But if it’s not the case, then I accept. You know best.”

“Okay then. What do we do next?”

“We’ll focus on our most pressing problem: How can we get sufficient nuts supply to keep our clan nourished and healthy, despite all our limitations?”

“Very well summarized, I must say. Now tell me more.”

“Aly, I know you won’t like this, but it’s been a long day,” Moe said. “All this has been a whirlwind to me and I’m still struggling to put my thoughts together. Can you give me tonight to go through these again? Tomorrow, I’ll talk to you about the plan.”

Aly gave a disgruntled look. He had wished to get the answers that same day. But then, he recalled what Moe had told him earlier. If we rush through things, we’ll end up going nowhere.

“Sure, we’ll meet again, same time tomorrow,” Aly said. This better be good.

“But can’t you at least give me some idea of what your plan is going to be about?” Aly asked just before leaving.

“Sure. It’s called data.”


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