Security expert Bruce Schneier concisely describes our broken approach to airport security:

It’s not even a fair game. It’s not that the terrorist picks an attack and we pick a defense, and we see who wins. It’s that we pick a defense, and then the terrorists look at our defense and pick an attack designed to get around it. Our security measures only work if we happen to guess the plot correctly. If we get it wrong, we’ve wasted our money. This isn’t security; it’s security theater.

Read the whole thing at The New York Times.

Spain’s Blurred Cultural Divides (or how Newt Gingrich can’t even get xenophobia right)

The Alhambra, from Mirador San Nicolás

The Alhambra of Granada: Muslim Nasrid Fortress; Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's palace; Catholic churches and ex-mosques in view. Photo taken outside the Saint Nicholas church in the Albayzin "Muslim quarter" of the city.

Newt Gingrich states,

“The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.  For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term.  It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.” [Emphasis mine.]

I’ll overlook Gingrich’s gross overstatement of the historical facts (this excellent post by a medieval historian refutes his statements in detail) and get to the more glaring irony in his statement. Say hello to the “world’s third-largest mosque complex,” that symbolic victory over Christian Spain (which before the conquest was neither unified in religion nor statehood):

Yep, that just makes ya tremble in fear of Islamist conquerors, doesn’t it? Newt Gingrich uses Córdoba as an example of the Muslim destruction of Western or Christian culture, yet the very building in question stands today not as a mosque, but a cathedral. (Ironically, the world’s third-largest Christian complex lies a couple of hours’ drive away in Seville – a mosque converted into a cathedral after the Catholics conquered the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus.) Continue reading

San Francisco

Yesterday I got back to Colorado from my spring break to San Francisco. I spent the week visiting with Alan, whom I had only seen once since high school graduation. His apartment is downtown just blocks from the Embarcadero, so we had easy access to all kinds of stuff. I got to hang out with a lot of Alan’s and Carnegie Mellon alum friends- lots of rock band, cupcakes, and hot tubs were had throughout the week.

I posted a stream of the more interesting places I visited on my Foursquare account. I particularly liked walking around in the Mission (in the sun 😀 ) and checking out some of San Francisco’s, ahem… more eccentric cafés (that link is mildly NSFW).

Towards the end of the week, I got to do some more catching up. I spent a day in Silicon Valley with family: Denis and Shana and my cousins Anora and Quinn. The kids have probably grown a foot and a half since I last saw them, so it was really fun to get to play with them. Shana works in HR at Google and took Denis and I around the Googleplex, which lived up to its reputation as a geek’s utopia. I also had a chance to meet up with Jessica, another friend from high school; we all went to Tommy’s Yucatan Restaurant, which is famous for their top-shelf tequila and is where my stepdad proposed to my mom.

So I had really great time overall. San Francisco is my favorite city in the United States and I’d love to find a software job out there. It isn’t making the prospects of living in Boulder, Denver or Fort Collins any less attractive, though; I had a great time there and I’m sure I’ll be having a great time there again regardless of where life takes me.

Below are the photos I took while I was there. (Denis took a couple of them while Quinn’s wrestling skills had me incapacitated.) I should also mention that Alan is way more of a shutterbug than I, and also spends a lot more time taking pictures of actual people instead of my transfixion on architecture and the like. He has a couple of great galleries from my time there: [One] [Two]

2009 Travel Log

I just finished my last trip of the year. I just realized how much time this year I’ve spent sitting on some form of transportation, and there’s been a ton. Here’s every trip I’ve taken, ordered by transit method:


Granada-Morocco-Granada (60+hours on the bus in a week)
Granada-La Taha, Alpujarras

Spain-Morocco and back


Metropolitan transit:
Barcelona (way too many hours in the metro with 150 lbs+ of bags)
Fort Collins

I definitely got around, but I’m looking forward to a more… Stationary 2010.

On Yesterday’s “Terrorist” Incident

Airport security yet again failed to catch a person’s improvised weapon aboard a plane yesterday. Passengers yet again proved that they aren’t going to let shit happen on a plane in the first place. The cabin of a plane is no longer a viable place from which to carry out a terrorist act.

The American government responded by adding more “security” measures.

I’d feel a lot safer if my government focused on making less enemies in the world instead of treating us all as if we are the enemy ourselves. That isn’t the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy I like.