Archive for the ‘Navy’ Category

If I were a praying girl, I would be screaming “Amen and Hallelujah” from the rooftops today over the confirmation of Letitia Long as the new Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. But since I am not, let’s just discuss Long instead.

But if I may, can I comment on the fact that there are 16 Intelligence agencies in this country and we are only just now appointing a woman as the head of one? Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch, but it’s still akin to waking up today and feeling like it’s 1990 and not 2010. Baby, you’ve come a long way, but not long enough…

So who is Letitia Long? She is a longtime Navy-civilian professional entering the trade in 1978, where she worked in project engineering in the area of submarine acoustics, and climbed the ranks to join the Office of Naval Intelligence where she managed R & D programs.

From there, Long performed a dizzying rotation in the Senior Intelligence Executive Service while also serving as Director of Resource Management for the Office of Naval Intelligence in 1994. She then completed a hat trick by joining the Defense Intelligence Agency during this time where she eventually became the Deputy Director of Information Systems and Services in 1996.

Can you say “dayamm”? I’m tired just typing all of that.

Please let this be a lesson to everyone out there who is stuck in the belief that Intelligence revolves around poli-sci, history, and computer science. Long is a trained engineer. And let’s think about that: it involves design (establishing a requirement and refining it); building (collection, exploitation); testing (production), roll-out (dissemination); and checking (feedback when it’s given).

Engineers work in teams; they are often great collaborators. They require project engineers to manage them; someone to juggle the pieces and keep in mind the bigger picture. They require communication skills to dumb-down the technical terms for non-engineers (read: clients). And most importantly, they require sound, logical thinking lest the whole contraption falls apart.

A person who can accomplish honing all of those skills is a golden egg and it looks like NGA just got theirs.

imagesOkay, I’m sooo late to the game on this one, but after a recent weekend spent on the couch with a lame back, a friend loaned me seasons 1-4 of NCIS, and now, I hate to admit, I’m hooked. The upside is that I feel like I have gotten my proverbial blogging mojo back. And it’s mostly because of Abby…and my theory about her parentage…

I know Abby, forensic technician extraordinaire!, is supposed to be the hearing child of deaf parents, but I think it’s a cover. I think Abby is the quirky, overachieving love-child-gone-wrong of X-Files residents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully…who also got kicked out of reform school…and single handedly supports the local tattoo parlor…

See, while Abby’s hard science tradecraft is truly superb, like mama Scully, just like old papa Mulder she too wants to believe. The chick digs crop circles! And unabashedly believes in aliens! But despite all her science, Abby brings a dash art and a heaping tablespoon of philosophy to her dishes. She is a creative thinker and willing to use that occasionally big bag of crazy between her ears to explore alternative theories.

I liken Abby to the revolution that has been going on in industrial design for the last ten years. Companies have been hiring not only the very best engineers but artists as well. Artists who may not remember a thing about high school trig class, but that doesn’t mean they can not dream up a truly new and innovative way to make a stapler.

Sure the character lacks boundaries, and her who hero-worship of Gibbs is slightly odd (although I totally dug the whole Gibbs-Shrine thing as a coping mechanism at the beginning of season 4), and so is her devotion to Catholicism while she plays with voodoo dolls and parties in cemeteries, but darn it if the girl doesn’t get the job done each and every time.

Abby’s interest in, well, everything makes her the perfect poster child for the 21st century knowledge worker. And the fact that she is allowed her public weirdness makes her that much more effective. Personally, I could wouldn’t want to share lab space with person that into Death Metal, but I think Abby, for her stellar quirkiness, does all us adorable, tattooed freaks proud.

And yes, while you may not know me, I am visibly in-your-face-tattooed, and quite adorable, and I am known to perform some damn fine analysis…but I prefer late 1970’s punk to Death Metal. That’s where Abby and I part ways.

Grace Hopper

Posted: October 22, 2008 in First in Her Class, Navy, Technology
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Navy Rear Admiral “Amazing Grace” Murray Hopper (1906-1992) revolutionized the world and you probably didn’t even know it.

Lead inventor of the Harvard Mark I & II computers, largely considered to be the first computerized calculator, and inventor of the first compiler for a computer programming language, this gal changed life as we know it, from the PC sitting on your desk to how your toaster knows when your bread lightly done. I don’t think I need to enumerate how this affected the spy trade.

Grace was born and raised on the East coast, received Ivy-covered degrees in mathematics and physics from Vassar, went on to Yale for graduate degrees in more of the same, and eventually called it a day after receiving her PhD in mathematics. Hailing from a family with a military tradition dating back to the Revolutionary War, Grace joined the Navy in 1943. Grace bounced around a lot during her career usually holding more than one job all the while, but one thing remained consistent and that was her military service.

But back to the computer thing, here’s what this dame did to really set the world on its ear: she invented FLOW-MATIC, a computer language that is the proverbial mother of COBOL: Common Business Oriented Language, one the the very few original computer languages that is still in use today. Basically, Grace invented a way to take the English language and translate it into a mathematical language a computer could understand. This was back in 1959, think about it, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not even four years old.

Grace had a long and illustrious career in computers and the Navy. She served both until the day she died and upon the heaps and heaps of honors and accolades she received, the coolest has to be that the Navy named a guided missile destroyer (appropriately enough) after our gal Grace. The USS Hopper is one of only a handful military vessels named after a broad.

Amusing little fun facts about Grace: she coined the term “debug”, when you remove a glitch from a computer system, and the quote “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission” is attributed to her.

And my favorite: “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what the ship was built for”.