How to Defeat Terrorists

I was having dinner with family and some good friends, one of whom is an engineer several scores my elder. One of the topics that came up was how engineers see the world differently. This can be a potentially prickly question, especially since engineers are often considered to lack adequate social skills.

I have always been a “glass is twice as big as it needs to be” kind of guy — neither optimistic nor pessimistic…things just are.

The Boston Marathon Bombing a month ago was a horribly tragic event. In the aftermath, I felt powerless. I was scared that I no longer had sufficient control or predictability in my life, that at any moment a bomb may go off and I would be the one killed.

As I let that sit, the conclusion my mind settled on is remembering that life is unpredictable. We can guess what will happen next with relatively good accuracy. And for everything else there is typically various forms of redundancy.

In the end, things just seem to work. Except when they don’t.

Redundancy provides a statistical reduction in probability of failure through investment. It could be considered a form of insurance since it’s a risk shift through payment.

Redundancy is not free, and may often go unused. Sometimes we misjudge the risk and bad things happen.

Bruce Schneier is one of my favorite authorities on system security and once again provides great insight:


It’d be easy to feel powerless and demand that our elected leaders do something — anything — to keep us safe.

It’d be easy, but it’d be wrong. We need to be angry and empathize with the victims without being scared. Our fears would play right into the perpetrators’ hands — and magnify the power of their victory for whichever goals whatever group behind this, still to be uncovered, has. We don’t have to be scared, and we’re not powerless. We actually have all the power here, and there’s one thing we can do to render terrorism ineffective: Refuse to be terrorized.

Empathize, but refuse to be terrorized. Instead, be indomitable — and support leaders who are as well. That’s how to defeat terrorists.

I disagree with Bruce on being scared, in my opinion feeling scared is valid, especially immediately after something like the Boston Marathon Bombing. What I believe Bruce is getting at is our long-term stance, and I agree that in the long-term we must choose not to be scared. We need to understand the bigger picture and choose to not be terrorized. Far to many of those whom we have elected (and continue to elect) are scared, even if they are only are only scared of losing their next election.

We must make better choices. We must choose to be indomitable. We must choose to support leaders who are not afraid. We must choose to make appropriate choices in the redundancy of our systems. We must not let the terrorist win.

Where Am I?

I feel like I haven’t written here in ages. Don’t worry, I’m still alive. Lots of things have been going on recently, some of which I hope to write about in the near future.

However, that brings me to something I’ve been pondering for a while (like, months). What is the purpose of this blog? Why do I write here? Over the last ten years or so, this little space I’ve carved out has morphed significantly. It was first a place to share things I loved in a very static form: LEGO’s, Star Trek, James Bond, etc. I made some pages, and I tweaked them as I saw fit. It wasn’t very dynamic.

Around 2002, I started keeping a log of the changes I made to the site. And although it was mostly technical and administrative in nature, it could be considered the start of my web log. During my senior year of high school, I started to do what many people would consider blogging.

I think a lot of why I started blogging at that point was in preparation for going to college. At that point, I knew I would be going to school out of state (I hadn’t applied to any schools in Washington) and I wanted to remain connected to people back home in Seattle, primary family and friends. Still, it was mostly talking about school.

Blogging for me formally started when I switched to WordPress, I think this was in the fall of my Freshman year of college. I blogged about everything. One of my New Year resolutions in 2005 was to blog every day…and I did it.

At some point however, this has become less of a blog and more of a journal — a journal for me1 but which I share with the world. I don’t do this out of vanity, but because I believe in truth and honesty2.

Of course, journals come with all sorts of rawness. Life isn’t a perfect venture all the time, and journals usually reflect that. It helped that most of what I was focusing on in school was relatively low risk, and hence this blog was pretty easy to write; I just had to get through classes, which while hard, was something that was feasible.

Life after school is something entirely new, it’s a beast. And in many ways, something I wasn’t quite prepared for. I’ve written more private journal entries this year than I have in any other year, even though I’ve been posting less overall.

At points I’ve thought about taking this journal and making it entirely private, or completely passphrase protected. I even thought about shuttering site completely, for real.

But dating someone and then breaking up have made me realize some very important: This is not a me question. This is not a problem I’m facing because of something I did (or didn’t do). The feelings I have, the issues I’m dealing with, the questions I’m asking are things that I believe many people my age are asking — maybe not out loud, but they’re asking.

I believe that many people are wondering who they are, what they’re doing, and where they should go. I believe that many people are wondering why they haven’t found that one person, or that one vocation, or whatever they need in order to feel complete in life. This is not a problem unique to me because I am an engineer or because I am a Christian, although that certainly plays into it.

I also believe that one of the best ways to work on these issues is to talk about them. And for me, that conversation starts here, with my journal. It’s a conversation I have with myself, that I share — or not (not everything is fit for sharing with everyone…which is another thing I’m learning).

Consider this your fair warning: Blogs can be about many things, this one is going to be my journal of sorts3.

And that’s where I am.

  1. It’s an important tool for me to reflect on later 

  2. Even if it doesn’t look good 

  3. This is not to say that there won’t be other things discussed here, just that most of what I write will be journal-ish