On Writing About the War on Terror. By Connie Atkinson

Yesterday, Tom and I had the good fortune to be guests on the Dan Rivers Show on WKBN in Youngstown, Ohio, about our new novel, The Brotherhood of Purity. It is the story of an American journalist pitted against an Islamic terrorist. We had a wonderful time talking with Dan who is a skilled and intelligent interviewer. Glad folks were listening and had a good response. Some listeners felt that we conveyed an impression of sympathy for terrorist causes. We felt that this was an important observation that deserves the most thoughtful of responses.

Tom and I are trying to tell a story. After 9-11 we asked ourselves innumerable times, like so many Americans, “What were those guys thinking?” We did much research in search of an answer and our findings illuminated that question in many unexpected ways. When we began writing, we decided to write the book as fiction to reach a wider audience. Also, we just wanted to tell a “romping good tale” as one of our beta-readers called it.

We believe it is important for America to think about how we conduct the War on Terror because, regardless of whether or not we feel safe at home, there are thousands of American military personnel who are dying and being maimed by this ongoing fight; there are many, many more dying every day by their own hands; there are still more who are homeless and unemployed and our country is not doing the best job of protecting them. We need to think about what we are doing and whether there is a better way to protect them as well as the folks on our shores. Lest we forget, Americans dying and being harmed on foreign soil is, nonetheless, Americans dying. In that sense, no, we are not safe and we add to this the erosion of our freedoms that is taking place day by day.

As long as Americans, anywhere, are dying and being harmed; as long as hundreds of billions of dollars are being consumed in the fire of war; as long as innocent people in the Mideast are also suffering death and injury at our hands which only seems to help terrorists recruit more suicide bombers and enemies who plot to destroy us all, don’t we have an obligation to continue to explore better ways of, not just ending war and avoiding future wars, but of creating lasting peace?

This is a story that took courage to write. We had to battle our own demons, and each other, a great deal. At the start, we just wanted to lash out at the terrorists and vent our own hurt and rage. But in the end, we realized that it was necessary to become detached from our own beliefs and just tell the story. The story took many about-turns as we were writing and started seeing more layers to the truth than we ever imagined existed. We think we wrote a book that many will find surprising and, perhaps, edifying.

The story, itself, never addresses the issue of whether, or not, the authors sympathize with terrorist causes, or not, nor should it. In the interest of integrity we just tell the story. In reality, we found that the story told itself as we were writing it. There is no purpose or advantage, in our eyes, in telling the reader what to think, but in showing many viewpoints and then letting folks come to their own conclusions. We hope that, like all good books, it will touch on some of our common human experiences and provoke a dialogue.

I’ll leave you with a short review by one of our NetGalley reviewers:

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the characters were engaging and believable. I applaud the aims of the authors, and look forward to more from this pair.” Alan Fisher

We would love to hear from our readers. Write us at http://www.thebrotherhoodofpurity.com and let us know what you think?


Software Lessons and the Big Bang

Watching the rollout of The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) one can clearly see the parallels from many other major software releases by the Federal Government: An exasperating, maddening experience for wearisome users, that will persist, for a long, long time. The best solution; roll back the ACA software now.

How do I know? Well, I managed several enterprise business systems and once tried the ‘Big Bang’ approach. That’s right, we launched all the functionality, for all the requirements, for all the users, in one vainglorious software release. The results were, to say the least, disastrous!

This did not deter us at the time. No, we soldiered on for weeks, working round the clock; slogging through two million lines of code to find the one offending bit. That is, until the suffering users screamed, our executives ordered a roll back and, my boss reminded me that, “It’s very hard to paint the wheels on a moving locomotive.”

Properly chastened, I learned a valuable lesson: everyone has a problem software release once in a while. So we adopted the soft launch approach and never looked back. All subsequent releases were deployed to a limited user base with a manageable feature set; we monitored production, listened to the users, for big issues we rolled back, but most of the time we just tuned the servers and tweaked the functions and user interface. The end result: a happy user population, and my weekends were mine again.

The point of this story is that The Affordable Care Act application is overloaded and each additional user’s click of the mouse is adding to a ‘denial of service’ attack from the software’s point of view. Thus I make the following suggestion, but first a disclaimer. I am only looking at this from an IT perspective and not commenting on the legal, political, or even the moral merits of The Affordable Care Act, or whether it will really lower healthcare costs as its name implies. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests it will not. Only time will tell.

So here goes. Lets begin by giving the common folks the same courtesy as was extended to big business and delay full implementation of The Affordable Care Act for one year while the “glitches” or “bugs” can be sorted out. For now, pick a ‘Blue State’ that will work to make it a success. Then pick another ‘Blue State’, then the next. Once demonstrated in these states, rollout the software to the total user population. The risk of course is the application doesn’t work or the advertised benefits don’t materialize.

Anyway, as an IT professional, that’s my two cents.