Wednesday, March 21, 2018


This appeared in my spam folder yesterday. Clearly a variant on the Nigerian 419 scam, but interesting.

I have so many questions:

Who is Captain Stephen Laurence, and how did he get involved? (The email address is apparently one reserved by domain registries for 419 scams. Search on it and you’ll see what I mean.)

Does he—or Armet William—not think that a Gmail address looks just the teensiest bit skeevy for a United Nations account?

I understand that English is a second language for these guys, but investing in a bit of editing might lend an air of verisimilitude to their efforts. Perhaps they could hire all the copy editors that WaPo apparently laid off? That could be a good investment.

That first paragraph-as-run-on-sentence is quite the doozy.

What if I don’t have a cell phone? Does that mean I don’t get my $15M back? What if I don’t want to give them my cell phone number because I don’t want them texting me spam after I’ve received my $15M? Can I delay my reply long enough to buy a burner phone? One I’d only use for collecting $15M from the UN, Nigerian princes and others?

What’s their definition of nearest airport? Is it commercial? Or civil aviation—would that do? Do I give them IAD, which is close to home, or DCA, which is close to work? If I gave them BWI along with the burner phone number, would it make any difference? I’d be willing to drive to Baltimore to collect the ATM card to my $15M.

Actually, Union Station is the closest to me. Could the courier come to Union Station?

What’s the tip for the courier who brings you the ATM card for $15M? I don’t want to seem cheap, but I just don’t know.

Where’s an ATM that will disburse my $15M in one withdrawal? Please do not tell me I have to make 30,000 trips to the ATM to get my $15M.

Hope it’s not too tacky to ask, but how much, exactly, is the “delivering fee”? I mean, I’m sure it’s nothing in comparison to the $15M, but I’d still like to know.

Apparently Ban Ki-moon was sleeping on the job, and I didn’t even know this. Really glad that AntĂłnio Guterres is stepping up to the plate on making things right, and hope the atrocities are over.

I'm really relieved I'm finally getting my $15M back. I've really missed it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reprisals start at dawn

You know, with all the money that Jeff Bezos has to support the work of The Washington Post, you’d think that some of it could be spent on copy editors. But—as evidenced by their online presence once or twice a week—you’d be wrong.


And if they’re not going to cough up a few bob for copy editors, perhaps they could hold lunch ‘n learns to teach reporters the difference between reprise and reprisals.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Gratitude Monday: mundane beauty

A friend-of-a-friend on Facebook posts the most fascinating photos—shots he takes of things he sees on his morning walk to Peet’s Coffee (somewhere in Maryland, I’m a little vague on the particulars). Interesting patterns and textures—frozen puddles, shadows of tree branches and leaves against a wall, barely sprouting plants.

I always pause to really look at them, because they’re beautiful and mundane all at once. And they remind me that that beauty is all around us—if we care to look for it.

So the other day, as I was walking over to Whole Foods, mind chattering on at a rate of knots as usual, and paying no attention to the world around me, I stopped suddenly as a pattern of shadows penetrated my oblivion.

I looked, hauled out the camera that I used to deploy daily on my morning walks around The Valley They Call Silicon, and took the shot:

And then I looked beyond the stretch with the trees and saw a different pattern, just waiting patiently to be appreciated:

Today I’m grateful for the example of Barry and all his beautiful photos, reminding me that Maryland, Virginia, California—possibly even Iowa—there are wonders in the mundane, if I only choose to find them.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Future tense

Saw this yesterday somewhere between Chantilly and Herndon:

Not exactly sure what a PFR might be (possibly "proof"? or maybe "professor"?), but my guess is that anyone who can afford to drive a Tesla Model S has a good start toward anything.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Emergency preparedness

It’s probably a coincidence that my company—located in Downtown D.C.—scheduled what they called training sessions in emergency preparedness (in reality, just presentations by various representatives of local agencies) yesterday. Yesterday being the day of walkouts by elementary to high school students across the country highlighting the most recent round of mass shootings at schools and demanding that our leaders take action on gun control.

I mean, I’m sure the awareness sessions were planned some time ago, but in addition to the usual disasters—hurricanes, earthquakes, cyber attacks, bombings, floods—we had something new: what to do in the event of an active shooter in the building.

Turns out you’ve got three options: run, hide or fight, as demonstrated in this video we saw:

(My office door doesn’t have a lock on it, but I could jam my visitor’s chair against the handle. I also have a bottle of Virginia cabernet someone gave me, which would probably be my weapon should the shooter decide to try to enter. That’s assuming that I can’t get to the stairs and run down the nine flights to the ground, which would of course be my first choice of strategies. People in those open-plan offices so favored by the tech industry are stuffed.)

I suppose if our schoolkids have to undergo active shooter survival drills, we should, too. But it pisses me off that the NRA and its bought-and-paid-for GOPig stooges at every level of government are making us go through this instead of actually solving the problem of easy access to guns.

And I’m glad that the kids are showing more backbone than our elected officials.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Marketing projection

Not to flog the proverbial, but I was reminded yet again yesterday that I may well be too much of a round peg in a square hole on this project.

I should preface it by stating that one of my colleagues has made it as plain as can be (without actually speaking the words of one syllable out loud) that this is her project, and she’s the boss. In case I get ideas above my station.

Yesterday there was an exchange of emails about a project budget to submit to potential funding organizations. I raised the notion that the first-year figures for marketing and IT seemed low—the same as years two and three, even though those would be more maintenance than constructing. It’s my sense that neither of these components can or should be provided in-house, because this is a program unlike any to come out of the company so far, and it’s clear that this outfit doesn’t do “new” well.

My colleague—I’ll refer to her as JC—had just sent a reply that she’d “brainstormed” (her term) to the executive director two weeks ago a couple of things around IT needs, and I had to politely suggest that this sort of thing is really useful information to someone (e.g., moi) who’s putting together a business plan, so I’d really appreciate being kept in the loop. (Even though, of course, hoarding information is a classic behavior of someone engaging in a real or imagined turf war.)

But then JC followed it up with her take on marketing:

“What sorts of marketing do you think we’ll need? For context, I have already commissioned and received an email template, PPT template, letterhead, logos, etc etc etc. [sic] I did that all in 2017 because that was the last time it was offered [by the marketing department] for free. 😊 Oh and there’s a website and it’s finished, just needs to be vetted by legal and approved.

“I am sure I am probably missing key elements?”

Oh, honey. Yes. Yes, you are. If you think “marketing” begins and ends with free logo design, I just can’t even.

My reply: “Well, as I said, I’m sketchy on details [I’d pointed out earlier that a comprehensive marketing plan isn’t within the remit of the business plan], but it would be essentially what you’d expect for a product launch: go-to-market plan, launch campaign, events, webinars, raising awareness, etc.”

No reply as of COB. But I don’t think I’m going to ever fit in this square thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Slow day at library school

Alex Halpern first came across my Twitter radar in October when he took down a columnist for the New York Observer, who’d pished that libraries are anachronistic holdovers from an earlier time and should be shut down as pointless in the 21st Century. Halpern, finishing up a MLIS program in Portland and using the moniker The Angriest Librarian, took down Andre Walker so thoroughly that eventually Walker cried uncle and advised followers to donate to a library fund.

Since then, he’s kept it to a simmer, but his tweets are always worth a look. Yesterday he came out with this one:

I suppose it could be the 21st-Century update of Soupy Sales telling kids to send him the “little green pieces of paper” they’d find in their parents’ wallets. I mean, you’d hope that folks these days wouldn’t be so daft, but folks frequently prove that they are precisely that.

Here are the first few replies.

So far, no one has tripped the alarm that people SHOULD NOT GIVE OUT THIS INFORMATION. But early innings yet.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gratitude Monday: stay of execution?

In accordance with company…decree, I ran through a bifurcated performance review/goal-setting exercise last week with my once and future managers. It was a process only somewhat more crazy-making than the single shot that most people will have gone through, on account of the transition from once to future.

I won’t go into detail, but I’m taking it as good news that my new manager does not seem to view my employment on the team as ending with the Summer Solstice, which was the deadline for me turning in a business plan. The iffy news is that expectations beyond that point are…well, vague might be entirely too concrete a description for them.

It looks like it’s up to me to define what I’ll be doing once the business plan is approved, which might not be entirely a bad thing. Although when I look around a room and realize I’m the most organized person in it, I get decidedly uneasy.

However—I have been authorized to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing again this year, which is in October, so this gives me a bit more of an opportunity to enter into a serious job search. And GHC is prime hunting for that.

So, after the past weeks of uncertainty and dread, I’m really grateful for this respite.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A long way

As I mentioned yesterday, there’s been an International Women’s Day since 1908, but the reasons for considering the contributions women make to society have often been forgotten. I mean, aside from providing generations of men with socially acceptable sex and making sandwiches.

For some time after the Soviet Union led the way in extending the vote to women (in 1917), the notion of an entire day to celebrate women-in-the-world (as opposed to the little lady hidden away in domesticity) manifested itself predominantly in socialist countries until what you might call Women’s Movement 2.0—Women’s Liberation—inspired the United Nations to affirm it in 1975.

That would have been around the time that products and advertising were trying to capitalize on the new-fangled idea of the independent woman (kind of a 1970’s flapper) with more than an allowance from a husband to spend. So you got this campaign:

(Interestingly, only when I when hunting for images of these ads did I realize that all the models are anorectic. Way to drive home the brand, Phillip Morris.)

What that slogan trivialized was how much women had earned the right to more than a lady-cigarette that’s thinner than what the blokes smoke. (You’d think Pepsico might have taken that aboard when they announced their plans earlier this year to market lady-chips—Doritos that don’t make that oh-so masculine crunching sound. But that would be ascribing more perspicacity to junk food manufacturers.)

Since I’m a New Military historian, I’m going to skip over contributions like business acumen, scientific research and sandwich making, and consider how they supported the defeat of Germany and her allies in World War I, and the fight against global fascism in World War II.

The 1914-18 war saw them entering factories and taking over farm work in astonishing numbers. Women’s labor not only freed men to enter the meat-grinder of trench warfare, it provided them with the armaments, the equipment and the provisions to carry it on. And while they for the most part stayed away from the front lines (some extraordinary women did serve in field dressing stations, and many more drove ambulances, were nurses and even ran military hospitals) their work was not without danger.

Munitions workers were not only killed in factory explosions; they also died from inhaling the toxic fumes that surrounded them during their long shifts.

Uniformed services in the First World War dipped their feet into accepting women into their ranks (in addition to nursing), in very limited and strictly temporary programs. The instant the Armistice was declared, they were chucked out, although, in fairness, the services demobbed the men almost as quickly.

Come about 20 years later, we had to do it all over again. This time, women went into the offices, the farms and the factories in much greater numbers.

In the United States, women pilots weren’t allowed to join the uniformed services, so they performed “lesser” tasks—they ferried planes around the country and across the Atlantic, test flew new aircraft, performed training. One particularly dangerous job was towing targets behind them across the sky for anti-aircraft gunner training.

Think about that one.

(Women in the Soviet Union did not face those kinds of restrictions. They served in combat both on the ground and in the air.)

Women who did join our armed services mostly did administrative work here in the states. Except for nurses, they were forbidden to leave the continental United States; naturally there was no question of combat for them.

Some numbers were recruited from women’s and teachers’ colleges for incredibly stressful and very critical work in secret squirrel activities here in the District: they were instrumental in breaking German and Japanese military and diplomatic codes, both as civilians and in the Army and the Navy. Their work contributed to turning the progress of the war in both theatres.

The government chose women for cryptanalysis for a number of reasons: with very few exceptions, all able-bodied men were needed for combat; it was grueling, tedious attention-to-detail labor that people thought women excelled at; the education at the Seven Sisters and similar schools turned out intelligent women across a range of disciplines—mathematicians, scientists, linguists, logicians—that were all key to breaking codes; graduates of teaching colleges—i.e., teachers—were used to backbreaking work for low pay.

After V-J Day, once again the women in the factories were sent home and their jobs given to returning GIs. Those in the military were told to resign and the female units were reduced to barely-there numbers.

These days, we’ve got women flying combat missions, performing critical functions on warships and serving in combat units on the ground, with many more in support functions so close to the fighting that they’re getting shot at regardless of their designation. And—as of a year ago there’s a woman in the Rangers. Much more of this and we’ll catch up to the Soviets of 75 years ago.

You have come a long way, baby

Thursday, March 8, 2018

We're not going away

International Women’s Day first emerged during the height of the pre-World War I women suffrage movement. It was quite the radical proposition, that women should have rights, and that people (albeit mostly women) should talk about them. Publicly.

And 110 years on, it’s kind of surprising how many people still think this is genie can be jammed back into the bottle.

At the women’s marches held around the globe since the Kleptocrat was inaugurated, we shouted in our millions, “Women’s rights are human rights.” And that appears to have scared the bejesus out of those who believe it’s their God-given destiny to rule everything and everyone—from computer code to natural resources, to religion, to women and children and everyone not white. The backlash from that crowd has been as virulent as it is ugly.

In the past year we’ve seen the veneer covering those who consider themselves masters of the universe by virtue of an XY chromosome configuration start to peel. The first crack was probably the blog post by Susan Fowler, the Uber engineer who recounted the miserable year she spent there dodging sexual demands from her manager and documenting the company’s efforts to put her in the wrong for wanting to do her job without having to fend off advances or take on lesser professional challenges because her manager’s sensibilities might be affronted. Because: high performer.

(I’m only going back a year, but Fowler’s exposĂ© was built on the background of the seriously vile turmoil of Gamergate a few years ago. Those opposed to women in tech, women having opinions, women expressing opinions and any combination of the above deployed classic shut-down techniques, including rape threats, death threats and doxing to get the women to shut up.

(Another pre-Fowler case was the suit filed by Ellen Pao against VC firm Kleiner Perkins for discrimination—being passed over for promotion, being excluded from the bro-events, being told she was less-than. Throughout the trial, she was subjected to disgusting vituperation on every social media platform out there—she was a slut, she was incompetent, she didn’t have the stones to be a VC (irony not being fully understood in these circles). Pao’s suit was unsuccessful, and that may have been taken by other VCs as license to continue business as usual; in the past year many of them have been exposed as sexual predators holding out the possibility of investments in exchange for “dates” from female founders. If you’re an Asian female founder, you’re in even greater danger of being groped in a Sand Hill Road or SoMa restaurant.)

The Uber case was interesting, because its bro-culture was/is pervasive and a subset of its overall cowboy/anything goes/win at all costs mindset fostered from the top by its co-founder and now ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. But it went all the way up to the board, where at a public meeting following the exposure of this rotten core, board member David Bonderman told board member Arianna Huffington that women talk too much. Bonderman resigned, as did Kalanick (eventually; he still holds something like 29% of the stock), but there are plenty more under the rock from which those two slithered.

And then we had Harvey Weinstein. And Louis C.K. And Mario Batali. And James Franco. And Dustin Hoffman. And Matt Lauer. And Charlie Rose. And… Women you’d think must be sitting in the catbird seat—some even with their names above the titles—subjected to blatant or subtle quid pro quo demands for sex in exchange for not having their careers ruined. Some of them did lose work; all felt slimed and degraded. And on SoMe the women who came forward were vilified as being no better than they should be—because if they’d been virtuous, or talented, or some other thing, they’d have waved off the lechers (who, after all, are just doing what guys do) and continued on their merry way.

I won’t go into what women in the military or first responder services go through, other than to mention that barely two years ago a female firefighter with Fairfax County (right here in the DC suburbs) hanged herself after a campaign of lewd and harassing comments on a social media site. Do I need to specify that the comments were from her (male) comrades? They were.

What we’ve seen in the wake of all these revelations is the backlash from (mostly white) men: oh, gee—you chicks can’t take a joke! Such snowflakes! This is proof you don’t belong out in the big, bad business world. Women are biologically unsuited for [writing code, running a business, holding office, making films, having opinions] anything, basically, that doesn’t involve bearing children and making sandwiches.

To a certain extent, many of this ilk are taking their cue from the orange slimeball whose fat arse fidgets in the Oval Office whenever he’s required to pay attention to anything not focused on his own pathetic and inadequate self for longer than 23 seconds. They see him bragging about his ability to grab pussy whenever he wants, they metaphorically high five each other and they are outraged that they—or any of their ilk—should be thwarted in their God-given right to fuck anything they fancy whenever they fancy. And then get sandwiches.

(Affair with a porn star? Overlapping with another affair with a Playboy Playmate? While your third trophy wife is recovering from giving birth to your fifth kid? Dear sweet baby Jesus, yes—gimme some of that!)

It’s my belief that the #metoo, #timesup and other public movements calling attention to the fact that women are basically mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more, have stirred up the hornets’ nests of punctured (largely white) male privilege. They feel like the world was ordained as theirs by God, and they are utterly outraged that we’re claiming part of it. So all the pushback is their version of an extended Kleptocratic tweetstorm: vicious, violent flailing about and screaming that IT'S NOT FAIIIIIIRRRRRRR!!!

I also believe that it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. What we saw with Gamergate; with Pao v Kleiner Perkins; with Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayak exposing Weinstein; with Susan Fowler and Uber—those were the opening salvos. We’re working on Women’s Rights 3.0 (1.0 being the initial suffrage movement, and 2.0 being the Women’s Lib of the 60s and 70s), and there are more releases in this roadmap.

On International Women’s Day 2018, we need to celebrate how far we’ve come, but remember that progress is not linear. We go two steps forward, one to the side, one backward and one forward, like a dance. It's going to be a long, long dance.

And that genie? It’s never going back in the bottle.