Monday, July 22, 2019

Summer Trips

How's your Summer going? Doing anything fun?

On Thursday I'm riding my motorcycle down to Washington, D.C. to visit the International Spy Museum. The Museum just moved to a brand-new building which is much bigger than its last and has more exhibition space.

I've always been fascinated by spies and espionage. New York City has a decent spy museum which I visited last year (Spyscape). Its presentation is interactive; you get tested for spy abilities and at the end you're told which role you're best suited for (e.g., field operative, agent handler, analyst, cryptologist, surveillance officer, etc.). The NYC museum is fun.

I've never been to the bigger one in D.C. I hear it has innumerable cool things to see, like a lipstick-shaped pistol used by female Russian spies in the Cold War. (See picture.) The pistol is a 5mm single-shot weapon that delivers "the ultimate kiss of death." Secret agents also used hollow coins to hide microfilm. And listen to this -- in the 1960's, Romania's Secret Service stole an American diplomat's shoes, put a hidden microphone in his heel, and returned them to him and later listened to his confidential conversations. Wow...

Modern spy-craft centers on computers and hacking. Governments know how to secretly turn on microphones and cameras in smartphones/laptops to monitor and record people without anyone knowing it. The U.S. infiltrated Iran's nuclear weapons facilities by putting malware in seemingly-innocuous USB's used to transport critical software in computers that weren't connected to the Internet and thought to be impenetrable. Another way of breaching "air-gapped" (non-online) computers is to use high-pitched sounds (beyond human hearing) that instruct computers to furtively do things their operators are unaware of. Ingenious stuff.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote: "espionage offers each spy an opportunity to go crazy in a way he finds irresistible" (“Mother Night: A Novel”, p.191). Yup, that's me!


  1. Have a great trip and ride safely. Another museum that is worth a visit is the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and Museum located at the PNC on exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway. We went there on the Memorial Day weekend and it was very moving. Of course, nothing has the emotional hit of the Vietnam Veterans' Wall of names in DC but in NJ they have an outdoor circular area with 366 black marble panels. The 1500+ NJ kids who died in Nam fill all but nine of the panels. The memorial itself was designed by a Vietnamese refugee who was rescued by our Navy during the war on a small boat floating in the South China Sea. He was brought to the US and is well regarded as an architect.

  2. You have taken so many awesome trips so far- I love a summer full of traveling! We haven't gone anywhere just yet- thinking about a trip around Labor Day, but not sure where.

    Le Stylo Rouge

  3. I remember your visit to the NYC spy museum, which was rather fascinating. I'm sure the D.C. one will be even more so. Enjoy, and have a safe trip, Ally xxx

  4. We didn't go into the Spy Museum when we were last in Washington. There were so many other free museums to see we felt a bit overwhelmed.

    Have a great time!


    1. Yes, Washington is full of museums. I plan to go back several times to see others.

  5. I can't believe that's a pistol! What a neat exhibit; side note, didn't realize there was a spy museum in the city too. I have always been oddly fascinated by Cold War espionage

  6. Spy museum sounds super exciting! I can't believe all the spy stuff was actually there but it is! how cool is that! I hope you enjoyed it the fullest