If you’re not familiar with #AmtrakResidency, check it out here: http://blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency/
It’s basically a new program to give a number of people a chance to ride Amtrak for free and “write”. Since I was in high school I’ve been encouraged to go somewhere and write about my life for awhile (a high school guidance councilor even offered me an empty cabin in the woods once I graduated to do so – but it didn’t work out). I’m not sure I’m what they’re looking for, but maybe? Here’s what I submitted:
Why do you want an #AmtrakResidency?
I am a hacker, an educator, a writer, and an artist. I am a past and future vagabond, a drinker of Unicorn Tears. A high-school drop out, I was recently invited by name to a White House event. I’ve traveled the world, been to a cult gathering, and I just donated my house to charity because I could. An ex-altar boy, I’ve held a government security clearance while in jail in Los Angeles. From mansions to a trashy punk rock hacker compound, my only reliable home has been my backpack. I’ve lived a life ranging from “the pool is on fire” to “absolute corporate monotony” and a childhood coast-to-coast ride on the Amtrak Sunset Limited changed my life. In August, I’m giving up the life I’ve built for awhile to pick up my backpack and get back on the road and write about it all. I think the Amtrak Residency would be a fitting addition to the story and a perfect environment to help make it happen. I’d like to wander on a train again and I appreciate your consideration of my submission.
How would this residency benefit your writing?
While I do have concrete plans to get on the road in August – including a stint at a mega-hacker conference in Vegas, Burning Man, and an art project in Phoenix – those plans do not yet include a specific means of transportation (or even further destinations). I was just going to wing it. If I’m accepted to the Amtrak Residency, it will give me the time and space to collect my thoughts and frame my experiences into something I can share with the world. I have never been confortable too long in one place, but life on the road will offer few opportunities as peaceful, beautiful, and calm as a ride on Amtrak. Further, I think residency would make a compelling bookend to my teenage trip on the Sunset Limited and provide a strong foundation for the story I would like to tell. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, I have primarily been writing “business” articles and am hoping for stimulation to switch to a more creative outlet.
Writing Samples (They were better formatted in the actual submission!)
As I look
from this god’s eye view
I can feel the tides that pull at you
that tease your skin
the way they make you run
and crawl a million years
Angles fraught in silence
kisses on the edge of violence
weeping copper tears
delicate wrought past tense
I can feel the tides that pull at you
that break your bones
the way they leave you jagged
sharp to cut men open
As we fall
From this god’s eye view
(Written looking out at the U.S. Southwest Desert from a plane)
|Turning around and aroundwith light steps happy smiles
that cover the walls
and that plaster the doors
with a cracked-white-mask
that has fallen to the floor
staring up and around
with its cut-broken-eyes
looking up to the ceiling
that wants to be free
to dance and to twirl
and to smiile so sweetly
and to hope and to pray
and to believe! but not really
a cup of sugar
but I disagreed
as I spoke to the angel
who had risen above
from a crook in the wall
to the toys down below
burning for vengeance
they were never at all
said the horse to the mask
with his grin into pieces
rest never in (heh) peace
but laugh all you can
|he saida pinch of nirvana
closed in your hand
twisted and pouring
as the alligators ran
from three mirror windows
all shattered and burning
emerges a picture
of the world slowly turning
Today is the day of the rainbow bend
Where the months come to gather…
And the seasons share friends.
(Written while trying to graduate from high school after dropping out)
Not long ago, after a night of drinking, I came home and tried to throw my bed – both mattress and box springs – into the dumpster. I wanted them gone. I wanted to sleep on the floor. I needed the minimalism.
Luckily, I passed out before I could do any damage and a cooler perspective prevailed in the am. Still, this was part of a longer trend and a real enough impulse that if I had remained conscious, I really would be sleeping on memory foam alone now.
I can’t say when it started, but I have been shedding material possessions for some time and lately it’s reached a frenetic pace. At this point, in a two bedroom apartment, the only furniture I own includes:
1 mattress and box spring, 1 loveseat, 1 bookshelf, 1 small side table, 2 metal tv stands from IKEA, 1 small metal stand of drawers, a foldable chair, a treadmill, a treadmill desk, and a bowflex.
My kitchen pots and pans aren’t even that. I have one pot, one pan, a rice cooker, 2 spatulas, 2 cutting knives, and disposable utensils. I do not own a microwave.
My book collection has been reduced from “a hundred” to “tenish”.
The point is, I don’t have much stuff. Other than the exercise equipment, it could all conceivably fit into a studio apartment.
And I am having an absolutely outright panic attack over it. Still. After giving or throwing away thousands of dollars and thousands of pounds of stuff.
As my spring “event” approaches, I realize more and more that I’ve failed to control my environment and let it control me. I have abdicated throughout my life, whether through intent, accident, biology, or character flaws, control of myself. As I’ve allowed myself to be shuffled down the path of least resistance (perhaps in the manner of L’etranger ), I have put myself in a corner that I do not know how to get out of. And, in a nonsensical attempt to reduce this complexity enough to claw my way out of the corner, I’ve given myself a sort of Phobia of Stuff.
This might seen shrug-worthy to some, but it’s really not. Not to me. It’s just hard to explain the tight burning horrible ball of bunched up mental and emotional stress that “owning things” creates in me – or what it feels like.
I keep thinking that if I can get to a point where I can name, from memory, every single object I own, then maybe I’ll no longer feel crushed. At least not by the weight of this one aspect of my environment. My life choices at any given juncture will not be constrained by physical baggage. I will be more free.
Right now, though, I have a conundrum. I’m sitting on that 1 love seat (a beautiful white leather one) surveying my apartment and mentally listing all those things I must have vs those I merely think I want and it’s HARD. I mean, what the fuck do I really need with that ripped paper lantern I picked up in Vietnam? Or an electronic keyboard I’ve played 3 times in 5 years? I don’t. I have no need. But still, here we sit staring each other down.
It strikes me as curious that, although I’d been willing to give up these things to real death earlier on in my life, I’m still clinging to them now as I march on toward another kind of end. I don’t know why that is. But I do know that eventually I will let them go. If I can’t bear to give them, sell them, or trash them, then I will burn them. The detritus of my life will not be left to litter the future.
IGNORANCE IS BLISS (How cyber risk management succeeds)
I’ve seen people fly, I’ve seen birds fly, I’ve seen a horse fly, I’ve even seen a house fly, but I’ve never seen an organization fly. And, as silly as it might seem, this really does have significant implications for managing cyber risk – especially when we look incredulously at the many public compromises and wonder “why does it keep happening?”.
A good way of approaching that question is to look at where cyber risk management is “succeeding”. Succeeding? Yes! Cyber risk is, in fact, being managed – and quite well! If you doubt this, you might need to ask yourself important questions like “Which risks are being managed?” and, more importantly, “Which risks to *whom*?”
What I mean to say is that, while organizations can have an effect on the world around them, they can’t actually be seen or touched. They’re not tangible and they can’t…”fly”. Instead, they are the conceptual sum of the many varied decisions of individual people. These conceptual sums are inanimate; they cannot – and do not –feel risk. Instead, it is their executives, owners, employees, and customers who feel risk. Their soft squishy human hopes, dreams, passions, fears, biases, moods, and biochemistries ultimately drive organizational “risk tolerance” and we should never forget it. Here, it’s crucial to understand that people almost exclusively put risks to themselves ahead of all others (including an organization’s).
So, then, if the “collective” risks to individuals do trump all else, where do we look for ownership and resolution?
Well, some would say “users”, but do “users” (or “individual performers”) care more about meeting their boss’s expectations or saving the intangible organization from invisible adversaries and hidden costs without direction? Probably the former.
Further, while “the bosses” who set these expectations might see that the cyber problem exists, their primary risks resolve around meeting their own senior leadership’s expectations as well.
Ok, but isn’t IT Security key to cyber risk management? Not really. IT Security, like any other group, must align themselves with their senior leaders’ and executives’ priorities. Without that alignment they hold no sway or effect.
So, then, it’s on Executives. Senior leaders, what drives your risk appetites?
I ask because cyber risk management is a hard problem. Aren’t you safest if you follow best practices and “buy Cisco”? Ultimately, if you do and your organization gets compromised, what happens to you? Most likely very little – you did your best after all. Is it even in your best interest, then, to know cyber is a hard problem? If you’re aware that best practices have been failing like communism, aren’t you then obligated to come up with solutions of your own? Wow. No way. It’s best to believe the hype; best to buy Cisco; best to keep transferring the risk.
Intentional ignorance (or lack of “awareness”) isn’t just bliss, it also reduces risk to those people directing organizations and dictating the priorities of their human building blocks.