“Like a zombie, it keeps on living”

I was bagging on the Washington Post the other day for letting itself bend to the government’s whim. I stand by that, but I also want to give the institution its due: their two-year investigation of the American intelligence industry is amazing, and terrifies me.

“When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them every day. The ODNI doesn’t know exactly how many reports are issued each year, but in the process of trying to find out, the chief of analysis discovered 60 classified analytic Web sites still in operation that were supposed to have been closed down for lack of usefulness.

Even the analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is supposed to be where the most sensitive, most difficult-to-obtain nuggets of information are fused together, get low marks from intelligence officials for not producing reports that are original, or at least better than the reports already written by the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency or Defense Intelligence Agency.

When Maj. Gen. John M. Custer was the director of intelligence at U.S. Central Command, he grew angry at how little helpful information came out of the NCTC. In 2007, he visited its director at the time, retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, to tell him so. “I told him that after 41/2 years, this organization had never produced one shred of information that helped me prosecute three wars!” he said loudly, leaning over the table during an interview.

Two years later, Custer, now head of the Army’s intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., still gets red-faced recalling that day, which reminds him of his frustration with Washington’s bureaucracy. “Who has the mission of reducing redundancy and ensuring everybody doesn’t gravitate to the lowest-hanging fruit?” he said. “Who orchestrates what is produced so that everybody doesn’t produce the same thing?”

After seeing it on LJ a couple times, I put some stuff from my blogs into the I Write Like tool. Different NFD entries came back as Stephen King, Douglas Adams and (oh God) Dan Brown. Anacrusis consistently gets tagged as Margaret Atwood.

I was prepared to disclaim this whole post, but I cannot argue with that at all. “The world’s longest-running Atwood microhomage” is a painfully accurate description of Anacrusis. You win, Mémoires.

More on transparency versus regulation

Aaron Swartz has a better essay than I could have put together on why transparency alone is ineffective and even harmful.

Attention requisition notice

Here are things that are great!

Work Made For Hire is a smart, clear, unbelievably valuable blog about negotiation and freelancing. If you have ever argued a point or signed a contract, you need to be reading it.

MANual of Style debuted at a perfect time for me, as I’m finally figuring out how to dress myself like a grownup–which is exactly what the blog is about. It’s written in a series of lessons, but it’s also interesting just as a window into trend versus classic in men’s clothing.

An author named Tony Buchsbaum proposed a ratings system for books because he was startled to think his thirteen-year-old son might read the words “cock” or (yes) “manpole.” I am curious as to how Tony Buchsbaum grew up without ever being thirteen himself (perhaps his parents considered it unlucky?), but it gets better: a thirteen-year-old named Emily takes his argument and, in two comments, completely dismantles it. It’s an Ebert-on-Schneider-level takedown.

Is the writer actually thirteen? Who knows (I don’t see any reason to doubt it), but she’s certainly much more familiar with the experience of being a teenager than the people who think they need to be sheltered from scary words. Ratings systems are harmful, and teenagers aren’t the only ones restricted by them.


Whoa, uh, remember that entry I wrote the other day about a 500% tax on corporate political contributions and campaign spending? Apparently Alan Grayson had the same idea. Like, exactly the same idea.

I sort of don’t think it will pass, especially with a figure as junior and divisive as Grayson sponsoring it, but hey! That’s pretty cool! There’s petition from Credo out there to show support for that and some others of his bills, which, y’know, is an Internet petition, but still.

It even stopped airing in spring of this year!

Wait. Hold on. Comedy Central has a pseudo-cinema verité show about a radio program? A radio program where one of the hosts is relatively grounded and knowledgeable and the other is the wacky, grating narcissist? And then there’s a new guest every week and things go poorly? And the jokes depend heavily on bleeped cuss words? And nobody’s ever heard of it?



Carrie Fisher blogs, apparently, and the evidence suggests that she’s been doing a bit of back-and-forth with the Internet in her own defense. Basically, people think she doesn’t look like she did in 1983. I will allow you a moment of shock.

On my west’ard migration a year and a half ago, while I was bumming around San Francisco on my own, someone–Sumana?–suggested that I take a night and go see a play. By happy coincidence, I was in town at the same time as Fisher, who was doing her show Wishful Drinking at the Berkeley Rep. So I got a ticket and went.

I learned a great deal about Fisher that evening (I hadn’t even known she was married to Paul Simon), and in the process saw probably the only good one-person show ever. I also laughed a lot. How can you avoid laughing at the image of Cary Grant calling up a teenage girl, at her parent’s slightly deranged request, to lecture her soberly about the dangers of LSD–twice? Or at a still from the bridge of the Death Star about which she noted that “I weighed about ninety pounds here, eighty of which I carried in my face?”

It’s one thing to know somebody is a writer; it’s another to see her perform in a self-written multimedia showcase that includes jokes about her own electroshock therapy. I liked Carrie Fisher before then, almost as much for her guest spot on 30 Rock as for Star Wars (and that was all before I knew she tried out for Han Solo). After that show, like became admiration, and she was elevated to the selective ranks of people who have secured my loyalty pretty much for good. Even if her blog posts are littered with unnecessary punctuation.

(In case you’ve noticed that I started dating a short girl with a screenwriting degree, a taste for wine and a sardonic sense of humor within months of moving to Portland: shhh.)

It’s not as if I think the people reading my blog are among those going “oh no how did princess lea get fat :(.” But I feel the need to state this anyway: Carrie Fisher rolls with my crew. And before you write a word against her, consider the fact that fuck you forever, and die in a hole.


This is why it is awesome to have awesome friends

I am unforgivably late in posting this, but Kevan sent along a photo of a one of those “morphing” lenticular Halloween images in which, as he points out, life imitates Anacrusis. (He asked whether it was a common image in the US or just a ludicrous coincidence; it’s been a few years, but I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.)

In other Battersea wonderment, I can’t tell you the secret reason why she discovered this, but Holly has alerted me that the Pharaoh of Exodus might have been (but probably wasn’t) named Dudimose.


His son was named Dudimose II.

Helpful Tips on Being a Man in Professional Software Development

  • First of all: relax. There are more men in engineering professions than ever before; you’re not alone. What’s more, some very well-known and talented programmers are men!
  • In preparing for a career in software, learn everything you can. If you went to a school like mine, you probably found the computer science program scanty and unable to address your needs. Apply yourself hard and do plenty of independent work to overcome this deficit.
  • Studies have shown time and again that the myth of men lacking mathematical or computational ability is a complete falsehood. Make sure to have the details of these studies memorized, or naysayers are unlikely to believe you.
  • When interviewing for a software job, appear confident but not brash. Look your interviewer(s) directly in the eye and use a firm handshake; study up and be ready to reel off technical jargon when your skills are questioned. If at all possible, resist the urge to giggle.
  • Your first few days on the job may be uncomfortable. Try not to bridle when a colleague mistakes you for an intern or an administrative assistant (but make the copies anyway–it may help ingratiate you later). Correct each mistake politely, and if you hear some muttering about how you only got the job because of a gender quota, just ignore it and keep your head high.
  • Keep in mind that your mistakes will receive extra scrutiny. If you run into a problem outside your area of knowledge, you can demonstrate independence by searching for a solution first before going to a female coworker for help.
  • Everyone gets caught in a mass-forward chain from time to time. Should you open up an email titled “hot pic of the day!!! =O” and find yourself once again staring at a coquettish Randall Munroe or a wet-shirted Idris Elba, just roll your eyes and hit delete. (Of course, you may have your own admiring comment to contribute–so much the better for you!)
  • When writing out use-case diagrams, resist the urge to refer to hypothetical agents with male pronouns. Chances are you’ll just be seen as “trying to make a statement,” and may gain a reputation for being outspoken. Stick with third-person plural, or, if you must, “she or he.”
  • Similarly, when the leader of a meeting addresses you collectively as “ladies,” let it slide. No one likes a nitpicker.
  • Should you decide to pursue a romantic relationship in the workplace, use extreme caution! Dating a superior will lead to suspicion that you are doling out “favors” in exchange for having your patches accepted or your issues escalated first.
  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Yes, we know you have some hilarious slogan t-shirts in your closet that can help you attract attention (and maybe even feel a little saucy). But that’s not the way to climb the ladder! A button-down, some pressed slacks and a hint of eyeliner will help ensure that your coworkers take you seriously.
  • The most significant challenge facing men of our generation is how to balance a career with one’s family and children. No one’s pretending it’s easy! But if you manage your responsibilities, take a hard look at your workload, and make out a detailed ten-year plan, you can almost certainly persuade your wife to abandon her dreams and do all the real work.
  • We all know that the pressure of being male in today’s workplace can be overwhelming. Many men have a tendency to lash out in frustration before considering the consequences of their words, especially when their testosterone levels are a little off-balance, and that does nothing to help our cause. No matter what kind of sarcastic, demeaning commentary comes your way, try to hold onto your sense of humor and your dignity. With a little luck, as long as you never lose your cool, your colleagues will eventually come to see you as just one of the girls.

Dear the entirety of the medium/genre formerly known as “performance art”

Thank you! That’s enough. You can go home now. You are, at last, demonstrably irrelevant.

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