Reverse the Radicalization

I caught a good piece of journalism today from the NY Times by Mona El-Naggar, “From a Private School in Cairo to ISIS Killing Fields in Syria“. As the title indicates, this is a background piece on a promising young man who some how ended up joining ISIS. While the article focuses on the economic and political factors that lead to this particular individual’s radicalization, I am reminded that young men are often looking for a cause to take up. I read about this in The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge which goes into detail about the growth of a man through six stages. The “Warrior” stage is where a young man, often in his early twenties, is ready to fight for something that he believes in.

When a young man starts to become a “Warrior”, he looks for a cause to champion. Often, a father figure (or “King”) will help guide the young man through this stage, helping him make good positive life choices. But without a strong, positive leader in their life, the book warns, a “Warrior” maybe tempted by negative causes. This is what I am seeing happen to these young men across the world who are flocking to ISIS: they are being corrupted by demagoguery from influential, charismatic radical leaders. The NY Times article backs this with the assertion that a lack of positive causes (Economic, Political) lead these young men to look elsewhere for meaning in their life. This is spelling disaster for the disenfranchised youth, both internationally and in our own backyard.

So what are we going to do about this? In the short term, the measures being taken by western governments to secure our own backyard via monitoring of young people who are at risk of becoming radicalized and eventual arrest upon attempt to provide material support to terrorist organizations. However, in the long term we must look to the root cause here: these are lost young people who just need a positive cause worth fighting for. Perhaps once an individual is flagged as at risk, someone reaches out to their parents and community leaders to give them a chance to intervene before the young person gets too far. Many friends and family of those who have been arrested had no idea and no doubt would have made an effort to save their loved one.

Further, I believe we need more passionate leaders of moderate lifestyles to gain viability in today’s society. Moderate leaders seem characterized by compelling, intellectual arguments made by old men. This does nothing for the young man looking for meaning, looking for passion. He will find it from the radical leaders and speakers and we can’t allow the moderate, healthy, and positive way of life seem boring by comparison. 


I hate (your) computers

Over the years I have often been looked to as the “tech guy” for my family and friends. Have a computer problem? Ask Michael, he’ll fix it! In reality, I hate technician work. If one of my own devices stops working properly, I have to suppress a desire to use a hammer in very not so creative ways to destroy the offending item. How do you think I feel about yours?

I think its an often misguided belief that, because I am a programmer, I must love computers and just jump at any opportunity to tinker with them. Let me assure you that isn’t the case. To reference one of my favorite shows, Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is to Howard as software development is to IT support. I love being creative and thinking outside the box to solve problems, and googling computer crash errors for grandma is the polar opposite. That is why there are sites like Let Me Google That For You and tech support cheat sheets all over the internet.

To my family, I still love you. To my friends, I still tolerate you. Just please, don’t bother me unless your computer melted down into a pile of radioactive sludge. And only then so I can come take pictures.


My life as a PHP developer

Earlier I read The Life of a PHP Developer by Jon Kuperman. He points out that despite the hype around other language choices and the criticism of PHP, php maintains the greatest market pentiration and avaliablity of tutorials for begininers. This is exactly why I chose PHP as my language of choice when I started exploring back end development seriously.

Yet, I wish to point out that language is not a huge indicator of the quality of a program. A novice can code poorly in any language. Programming is just the manifestation of logic to solve a problem and every language I have worked with go about handling it in very similar ways. Recently I read a Nautilus article about Walter Pitts that said:

…the fundamental operations of logic, like the conjunction (“and”), disjunction (“or”), and negation (“not”), to link propositions into increasingly complicated networks.

Walter Pitt’s work studying how the brain arrives at any given conclusion is considered the foundation of computer science. The foundation for every programming language out there. Every language has a way to use the fundamental operations with which what we are capable of doing as developers is only limited to our creativity.