Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Zaccheus, you come down! And the cold war.

My monkey little brother, climbing to the very highest places in Pfeffingen.

Ben and Dom, on our way to Storm the Castle and conquer the world. They're both kinda making funny faces here...

Castle successfully stormed; world more or less conquered.

Colmar, France, with Diana, Gina, and Daniel, who was kindly taking the photo. (My, what nice scarves we have, Diana!)

Thanks, Gina, for sharing your pictures!

Good news on the art front! It seems I will have two painting commissions in the very near future. Of all the kinds of work I do, from cleaning toilets to correcting people's sentences to writing executive presentations, this is one of my favorite paid activities.

I'm considering applying to become an Army historian in Virginia at the Army War College. Among other intriguing things about this job, it comes with top secret security clearance. I know people with top secret clearance are a dime a dozen, but sounds cool and entitles a person to read all sorts of interesting things. About half the jobs I'm interested in these days include security clearance, and somehow starting with that subject this week, Valda and I were discussing our relative potential as successful spies. I'd make a lousy spy myself. I'm a terrible liar, and worse than that, I'd probably just open right up and tell anyone who asked what I was doing. Valda, on the other hand, is a "worryingly good" liar when she wants to be, and loves extracting information. We both agreed that to be a good spy, she'd also need to maximize her aura of mystery and wear red lipstick. There's another reason I can't be a spy--red isn't my best color, and I hate the way lipstick feels. After that conversation, however, I got wondering about spies, what motivates them, and what distinguishes the successful from the unsuccessful, and spent an evening watching a documentary on youtube about Cold War spies. None of them wore red lipstick. Lots of them died. (Could there be a causal relationship here??) And as far as I can tell, the high possibility that a spy will be ratted out by someone else in counter-intelligence is the worst part of the job. The documentary is worth watching, though, and includes interviews with US, British, German and KGB people discussing their personal involvement in Cold War intelligence.


  1. US, British, KBG, spy, Army, War, security clearance, liar, top secret, worryingly, mystery, successful, died, relationship, Cold War,...

    haha, look at these keywords, I'm pretty sure that this blog post attracted the attention of pretty much every intelligence agency out there! I'm sure you'll get the job...
    I better post this anonymously :-P

  2. I say, if you can get someone to pay for you to get a top secret clearance, go for it! It's very handy to put on your résumé, I hear, and it has become very expensive to get. Like a green card, a company may be very anxious to hire you, but not willing to pay for the paperwork. So if you think you might want to be in a field where many of the jobs require such a clearance, starting with one that pays for you to get it could be a smart move.

    Or so I've heard. Your mileage may vary.

    If you don't have enough reasons to be glad you're not a spy, you could watch "Reilly: The Ace of Spies," a fascinating series about the man Ian Fleming used as his model for James Bond. For a number of reasons I can't recommend it wholeheartedly, but it's a really interesting glimpse of politics in the early 20th century.

  3. Ugh, as disterbing as Reilly: Ace of Spies was, it's much better than Bond! In fact, I enjoyed Reilly, even though I don't like him much as a person and found the movies quite scary and disterbing because of the subject.