Over at the Quantified Self blog, Gary Wolf wrote a fascinating post about ex-Senator Bob Graham's 30-year-plus-habit of writing every aspect of his day-to-day life in little spiral notebooks. The press likes to make fun of his obsessive note taking (he's filled almost 4,000 to date), but it comes in handy:
The CIA claimed that Pelosi had been briefed in detail about the torture, and didn't make any objection until long afterward. Therefore, if there is to be any kind of sanction for torture, it should hit the top Democrat who approved it as well as members of the Republican administration who ordered it. Pelosi, though, denies having been briefed about the torture.For some reason, it comforts me to think of the CIA as a bunch of bumblers.
Well, it turns out that Bob Graham was also supposed to have been briefed on these topics, and the CIA forwarded to him the dates of the meetings he supposedly attended. But the CIA records were inaccurate, according to his own personal records. Such was the respect for Graham's notebooks, that this line of attack was closed within 48 hours.
This is interesting for several reasons. First, it's worth noting that one man's spiral bound notebooks were able to accumulate enough credibility to defeat the records of an organization whose very reason for existence is to collect information, communicate it to trusted members of government, and keep records of these communications. Anybody who has been following some of the controversy about patient records can add this strange example to their list of favorite anecdotes. Personal data, kept by a dedicated and interested party, even using yesterday's technology, will trump large scale collection systems managed by bureaucrats.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects