What it means to be a bully

By | Comms | 3 Comments

I posted earlier about my experience reading Dame Veronica Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War. As the initial impetus to read it was Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay Wallenstein is Dead, I figured he was up next. I’ve been following Coates’ short work fairly consistently in The Atlantic, but this was the first time I’d read him in a longer form. The purpose of this essay isn’t to review Between the World and Me, so suffice to say that it affected me even more deeply than the Wedgwood, and the Wedgwood made me feel like I’d been hit by a bus. Between the World and Me is about a lot of things, but what it is most about is identity, not just the construction of the self, but the lies we must tell to maintain it. I was raised to self-awareness, and a lifetime on the therapist’s couch has taught me to tune my hearing to the internal tics that sketch out the…

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Show AND Tell – Rules for Writing

By | Comms | 2 Comments

This blog has been a lot of personal ruminations and discussions of day job stuff lately, so I want to talk for a moment about writing craft. A lot of writing blogs are focused on discipline, inspiration and other tangentials, and very few discuss nuts and bolts of how to write well. This is because art is incredibly subjective (the best definition I’ve ever read is “Any activity not specifically focused on survival or reproduction”), and therefore defies rules-based architecture and ontology. This makes teaching art problematic. When there is no “right” way to do a thing, it becomes challenging to relate how best to do it to others. Let me give an example here. My first source of writing “rules” was the Turkey City Lexicon. It’s a primer for SF writing workshops, and it presents a lot of hard and fast regulations for good writing, all of which are highly quotable, incredibly useful and totally wrong. The one here…

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For Ta-Nehisi Coates and the ghost of Veronica Wedgwood

By | Comms | 5 Comments

This one’s a little dark. Not a cry for help, just a reflection. At the recommendation of essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates, I went out and got myself a copy of Veronica Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War. It’s the kind of narrative history that I love, built on a strong foundation of primary sources, yet with a dramatic flair that keeps it from being a dry recitation. I loved this book. I’m onto her monograph on the trial of Charles I next. But reading it also left me feeling like I’d been run over by a train, and that’s what I want to talk about here. I’ve written a lot of . . . grapplings with what I did in Iraq. They’re here for public scrutiny because I write to communicate, but they’re also letters to myself, exercises to help me claw my way to some kind of understanding of this giant purple gorilla of a thing that’s stamped on history and…

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In which I solve all of the country’s cybersecurity problems in a single blog post

By | Comms | One Comment

Some of you know that I work in law enforcement in a cyber-related role. As such, I get particularly het up over issues of information security, which resulted in my rather candid indictment of Federal network defenders during the OPM breach. I try to cleave to William Golding’s brilliant essay on how to be a responsible thinker, the bottom-line of which can be expressed as “Don’t bitch about a problem unless you have a solution.” In that spririt, allow me to solve the United States’ cybersecurity problems in a single blog post. This will be more technical/procedural and less visceral than the last post I did on this topic, but after reading Weir’s The Martian, I’m starting to think that readers may have a tolerance for this level of unabashed geekery. The problem here is one of OODA loops. “OODA,” is a military acronym coined by Air Force Colonel “Genghis John” Boyd, and if you’re in the military, you certainly…

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We are the stories we tell ourselves

By | Comms | No Comments

Met up with my friend Daniel Polansky the other day. Our meetings usually involve a.) drinking and b.) bitching about one thing or another, but I guess I must have tipped the gripe scale even by our standards, because he turned a tipsy eye my way and said: “Spin in the other direction, Myke. We are the stories we tell ourselves.” We laughed and drank, and to be honest, I forgot what the hell we did after that, most likely because of the drinking. But the thought stuck with me. Because the truth is the story that I tell myself most of the time is one of uncertainty, and loss, and defeat. When friends call me on this, I’ll trot out the Defensive Pessimism (it’s a real cognitive strategy, folks) flag, or cover up with “Ah, it’s just griping, it doesn’t actually effect anything.” Except, you know, when it does. Writing is the dream of my heart. It’s the only…

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