Yet Another School

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BUSES ARRIVING IN front of the Sleep Inn could mean one of two very different things: a field trip that might be the greatest day of a young Scout’s life, or the dreaded return to PATH, which meant you were getting bounced out of one shelter and moved to another. One prompted joy; the other served as a reminder that being poor meant having little or no control over where you would rest your head from one week to the next. Even if the decision to move families from one shelter to another wasn’t arbitrary, at the very least it seemed that the transfers were carried out with indifference. Someone somewhere—a caseworker or management at a hotel or in the Department of Homeless Services—had decided that it was time for people to pack up and move. Genesis, Brithani, and their mother and little sister were moved from the Sleep Inn to a more traditional shelter that had a regular-size refrigerator and a stove in each room so that families could make home-cooked meals. In their new space, Genesis was grateful to see her mother stirring pots, not only because that meant far better food than they’d been able to eat in a long time but also because the packaged lunches and dinners handed out each day at the Sleep Inn had been meals that could stretch to satisfy an empty stomach—filled with starches that could also exacerbate diabetes, which Genesis’s mother had developed. So having a stove and a refrigerator was good, because it meant healthier food. But the move came with consequences, too. Their new shelter was deep in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, about forty-five minutes away from the Sleep Inn. Genesis and Brithani had to start at new schools—again.

Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop That Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World by Nikita Stewart

Expensive Repeat

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This short-term response to long-term desires is alive and well in the corporate world also. A management consultant friend of mine was hired by a billion-dollar company to help it fulfill its goals and aspirations. The problem was, she explained, no matter the issue, the company’s managers were always drawn to the quicker, cheaper option over the better long-term solution. Just like the habitual dieter, “they never have the time or money to do it right the first time,” she said of her client, “but they always have the time and money to do it again.”

-Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek

It’s About the Rush

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Watters had spent his entire career working for money. Hackers, McManus explained, aren’t in it for money. At least, not in the beginning. They are in it for the rush, the one that comes with accessing information never meant to be seen. Some do it for power, knowledge, free speech, anarchy, human rights, “the lulz,” privacy, piracy, the puzzle, belonging, connection, or chemistry, but most do it out of pure curiosity. The common thread is that they just can’t help themselves. At their core, hackers are just natural tinkerers. They can’t see a system and not want to break it down to its very last bit, see where it takes them, and then build it back up for some alternate use. Where Watters saw a computer, a machine, a tool, McManus saw a portal.

This is How They Tell Me The World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, Nicole Perlroth

Tastes Like Poverty

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Inside the makeshift social services office at the Sleep Inn, there were hundreds of single-serve disposable plastic bowls of cereal, the kind with paper on top that peeled back like a sardine can. There were a few varieties to choose from, but the cereal was packaged for convenience and economy, and for parents and their children at the Sleep Inn, it was another reminder that being poor meant having fewer options. Someone somewhere had decided that a single small serving of cereal per day was good enough, and to many, each plastic container felt like a single serving of poverty. To experience homelessness was to live a life where everything, it seemed, was decided by the shelter staff, by the hotel staff, by the government. Every aspect of their lives was apportioned right down to the cereal.

Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop That Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World by Nikita Stewart

Decisions and Design

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There is a wonderful story of a group of American car executives who went to Japan to see a Japanese assembly line. At the end of the line, the doors were put on the hinges, the same as in America. But something was missing. In the United States, a line worker would take a rubber mallet and tap the edges of the door to ensure that it fit perfectly. In Japan, that job didn’t seem to exist. Confused, the American auto executives asked at what point they made sure the door fit perfectly. Their Japanese guide looked at them and smiled sheepishly. “We make sure it fits when we design it.” In the Japanese auto plant, they didn’t examine the problem and accumulate data to figure out the best solution—they engineered the outcome they wanted from the beginning.

Every instruction we give, every course of action we set, every result we desire, starts with the same thing: a decision. There are those who decide to manipulate the door to fit to achieve the desired result and there are those who start from somewhere very different. Though both courses of action may yield similar short-term results, it is what we can’t see that makes long-term success more predictable for only one. The one that understood why the doors need to fit by design and not by default.

-Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek

World’s Largest Attack Surface

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What had saved Ukraine is precisely what made the United States the most vulnerable nation on earth. Ukraine wasn’t fully automated. In the race to plug everything into the internet, the country was far behind. The tsunami known as the Internet of Things, which had consumed Americans for the better part of the past decade, had still not washed up in Ukraine. The nation’s nuclear stations, hospitals, chemical plants, oil refineries, gas and oil pipelines, factories, farms, cities, cars, traffic lights, homes, thermostats, lightbulbs, refrigerators, stoves, baby monitors, pacemakers, and insulin pumps were not yet “web-enabled.”

In the United States, though, convenience was everything; it still is. We were plugging anything we could into the internet, at a rate of 127 devices a second. We had bought into Silicon Valley’s promise of a frictionless society. There wasn’t a single area of our lives that wasn’t touched by the web. We could now control our entire lives, economy, and grid via a remote web control. And we had never paused to think that, along the way, we were creating the world’s largest attack surface.

This is How They Tell Me The World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, Nicole Perlroth

Impossible Shelter Rules

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At the same time Genesis was crying onscreen, Cori was sobbing outside the room. Her neighbor at the Sleep Inn had told her that a resident assistant was in her room packing up her belongings. Cori had done everything right—seeking permission and getting a letter from the Girl Scouts—but there had been a miscommunication or someone had decided that the letter was not adequate authorization for her absence from shelter for more than forty-eight hours. According to Childrens Community Services, Cori was in breach. So now they were kicking her out.

Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop That Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World by Nikita Stewart

Deeply Personal Actions

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For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal. They are less likely to be swayed by incentives. Those who are inspired are willing to pay a premium or endure inconvenience, even personal suffering. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people—supporters, voters, customers, workers—who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.

-Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek

Cyberwar Power Move

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There was no financial profit to be gleaned from turning off the power. It was a political hit job. In the months that followed, security researchers confirmed as much. They traced the attack back to a well-known Russian intelligence unit and made their motives known. The attack was designed to remind Ukrainians that their government was weak, that Russia was strong that Putin’s digital forces were so deep into Ukraine’s every digital nook and cranny that Russia could turn the lights off at will. And just in case that message wasn’t clear, the same Russian hackers followed up one year later, turning off Ukraine’s power again in December 2016. Only this time they shut off heat and power to the nation’s heart—Kyiv—in a display of nerve and skill that made even Russia’s counterparts at the National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, wince.

This is How They Tell Me The World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, Nicole Perlroth

A Name for the Nameless

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But this new troop was unique. It belonged to girls who did not know where they belonged. It wouldn’t make sense to use the numbers normally applied to troops in any of the five boroughs. Given that its members had no fixed addresses, wasn’t this troop of girls, no matter where it was located, really like a floating borough in its own right? Or even a shadow borough, because the rest of society was ignorant of or didn’t want to acknowledge its residents? At some point Girl Scout staff realized that the 6000s, designated years earlier for specialized troops, like those for girls with special needs, were no longer used. And so, the Girl Scouts of Greater New York settled on the name Troop 6000.

Troop 6000: The Girl Scout Troop That Began in a Shelter and Inspired the World by Nikita Stewart