Two Is One and One Is None: What is your Single Point of Failure?

Two is One and One is None: What is Your Single Point of Failure?

Some technical difficulties range from “Wow, that was annoying,” to the type of events that can make you want to lose your religion.  The constant prompts to “listen carefully as our voice menu options have changed” annoy me, because I am constantly caught up in the spin cycle of man’s evolution for automated phone answering systems.  Compare that to having your hard drive fail on your laptop; this can bring you to the point of finding out whether you are as emotionally well adjusted as you think you are.

 Hard Drive

 So this past weekend was indeed spoken for despite our own plans to the contrary.  Reloading operating systems, finding drivers, reckoning the two whole months as “never happened” as far as family photos go, and on goes the list.  Just exactly how many double-face-palm moments can you rack up in a weekend?  I now fully appreciate the phrase that I picked up in a former occupation, “Two is one; one is none.”  In technical parlance it goes by the descriptor: SPOF (Single Point of Failure).  “A point in a system where, if a failure occurs, there is no redundancy to compensate for it: Not to be confused with a system that can fail at one point only” (Herman & Neumeier, 2008).  There is even a website named:

While this may all seem “funny” to me some day (not any time soon), it is certainly curable now because of the availability of cheap electricity, public internet access, and an electronics shop here locally that just happened to have a replacement laptop on hand (while my new hard drive is on order), etc.  In the absence of all of the things that I take for granted, what would I do?

It made me think of people whose preparedness stores consist of pallets of canned goods and just how many can openers do they have?  If the answer is “one,” then there is the Single Point Of Failure.  If the answer is “more than one,” now you have some kind of contingency plan.  If you are playing along with the home game here, remember: “Two is one, and one is none.”  This means that if I have two can openers and one can opener breaks, I still have a way to open cans.

Chaya made a missions trip to the Kalahari Desert in Africa with a Swiss Army® knife (lovingly packed by her then boyfriend—me).  She fared better then other students who later gave the following account of their method for accessing sealed food: beating a can against a rock, scooping up the spilled contents, and rinsing out the sand.

Beat, rinse, repeat.

Since eating will likely remain very high on my priority list, it makes great sense to own two of something—if in the absence of that (working) object I am completely without any means for success.  Couple that with the high availability of can openers at such low prices, hopefully you can now see this coming together.

Here is another Single Point Of Failure, how about drinking water?  I have heard some people credit the success of some British military campaigns to the adoption of the Berkey Water Purification System.  Statistically you are good for 72 hours without water, so why now pick up a filtration system?  Without any modifications, complicated assembly or electricity a Big Berkey water purification system can deliver 6,000 gallons of water–that is a lot of peace of mind.  I think that the Brits were on to something! Taken further, and you will have a purifying water bottle, travel system, or a Solarbag with you when you travel–you can always hope you won’t need it.  But if you do? Chaya has told you about the time we were on a trip to the greater DC area when a water main broke.  Sure, we had a system at home for clean water…but with a 2 year old toddler and being 6 months pregnant, she was at the mercy of the lady who grabbed the last bottle off the grocery store shelf.  She will never go anywhere without her own clean water source again.


I have been around plenty of “mall ninjas” in my time and they all seem to look at a grain mill as an air crew member looks at their parachute, “If I need it one day, I am glad it is there.”  In this case, the Single Point Of Failure is their knowledge set.  Successfully baking a loaf of bread from wheat berries to finished product is a long learning curve to-be-sure.

Magic Bread


I have seen the light, and I am definitely back on the straight-and-narrow for deliberately backing up my information much more regularly.  No one has perfect knowledge of every possible contingency, but some things are very obvious.  Here is something in the “obvious” category: the fact that the only two kinds of hard drives known to exist are those that have failed and those that have not failed yet.  Look for those potential hang ups in your preparedness items: a stone to sharpen an axe beats trying to “gnaw” your way through a log with a dull edge.  A spare tire and a can of fix-a-flat go a long way to getting you back home or leaving you stranded.  An extra can opener fits the definition perfectly of what my Dad used to call, “cheap insurance.”



Pro Deo et Patria


Herman, E., & Neumeier, B. (2008, August 25). Single point of failure. Retrieved from

 Photo Credits:

Hard Drive: renjith krishnan /

Bread: by digitalart /

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