Desierto norte de Chile

Friday, April 20, 2007

Online community and tribute

A rough count tonight shows that about 10% of my friends have changed their profile pictures to honor and remember the dead at Virginia Tech. (I changed mine, too.) The most common pic (and the one I chose) is shown at left, and it was often accompanied by a logo from my friends' home universities and a slogan similar to "Today we are all Hokies". I've been thinking how our youth culture of today is very different from our parents', and even more than our grandparents', but we definitely have several things in common: a need for community and a desire for joint expressions of grief. Just a few thoughts from tonight.

Two thoughts tonight

1. Reading another article about the VT shooting, I ran across a very interesting quote. Turns out that one of the guns used in the shooting was bought online ( When interviewed about the connection between his store and the shooting, manager Eric Thompson replied, "I just feel absolutely terrible that this tragedy even happened in the first place." How trite. Isn't it like the prostitute who apologies to her clients who confront her after contracting a STD? Or heck, like the tobacco farmer feeling sorry for smokers who suffer from lung cancer? When you peddle a dangerous good, sad consequences are to be expected, right? Which brings me to my point: guns are a dangerous good, and should be either heavily restricted or just outright banned (I know banishment would require either re-interpretation or appellation of the 2nd amendment, something not out of the question). Do guns ever bring safety? Seriously. Does gun ownership make one less likely to suffer?

Three points of thought: (1) If guns ownership was prohibited, I think that crimes involving guns would decline precipitously. You wouldn't be "protected", but the criminal would also be far less likely to have a gun. (2) Even if you do own a gun, if someone brandishes a gun during a criminal act against your person, you're not going to have time to go retrieve it. And if your aim is bad . . . (3) As Christians, what on earth would we want with a gun? Peter, one of the inner 3 of Jesus's circle, did carry a sword (interesting in its own right), but the only instance of his using it was rebuked by Jesus. Should we be more concerned with making peace than making war? (Note, I'm not saying be non-aggressive or passive; the previously-blogged question "what if an intruder threatens your home & family" deserves action, maybe a well-timed lunge or series of swift kicks. Again, see the point above about your spare time [maybe while said intruder goes to the bathroom] abilities to go and retrieve your firearm, should you have one).

Am I off here? What are your thoughts?

2. Overshadowed by events in Virginia, the past 2 days have been very deadly in Iraq. Over 200 people dead at the hands of extremists within Iraq. Seeing the images, like this one, makes my heart ache for Iraqis. If I haven't mentioned it before, I have a very strong compulsion to hug the first Iraqi man I meet. (Still waiting to meet someone from Iraq. Perhaps my closest chance was at the Climate Change conference in Istanbul. But alas, only Jordanians, Iranians, Palestinians, and Israelis. No Iraqis).

Earlier today, I was inspired by my friend Francine, who posted a copy of Psalm 11. I have included it below. May it be a reminder to you, as it was to me, of God's power in dark times and of his passion for justice.
For the director of music. Of David.

1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
"Flee like a bird to your mountain.

2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.

3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?"

4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men;
his eyes examine them.

5 The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence
his soul hates.

6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.

7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
upright men will see his face.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech prayer requests

This email came (via Alex Kirk) from Wes Barts, a staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at VA Tech. (I was pretty involved with IVCF at UNC-Ch back in the late '90s.) It is one of the ways I've been able to personalize the events of yesterday.

So many have asked how they can pray for us, and I am encouraged by the support of friends from around the country and the world.

Here’s some specific requests from our fellowship:

One freshman still has a roommate that is missing. We are hoping that she may have been only wounded, but we have yet to hear from her.

Thankfully, two of our students overslept and missed their classes in Norris Hall during the shootings. However, one of those students lost his professor, and four of his classmates were wounded.

One senior in our fellowship was actually in a classroom in Norris Hall during the shootings. With the help of some classmates, he set up a barricade to prevent the shooter from entering the room. The shooter fired shots at the door, but failed to enter.

One junior needs the most intercession. She is a resident advisor in West Ambler Johnston Hall and was a good friend to one of the victims who was murdered in this residence hall. The victim was a fellow resident advisor.

After an intense and painful day, we are in mourning. Fortunately, there were no students in our fellowship who were wounded or murdered. However, a number of students have friends, hallmates, and professors who lost their lives. On campus, I am deeply encouraged by the love and comfort that our students give to each other and their friends. The Body of Christ is truly at work here. Though it feels like a dark cloud is over Blacksburg, God is present. In this time of mourning, Christ is with us in our pain. In Christ Jesus we find our hope and refuge!
Thank you for your prayers and for sharing in our pain.

Wes Barts

Monday, April 16, 2007

VA Tech shooting

Been working on my research this morning and rather insulate from the news. I was quite shocked (as I guess just about everyone was once they heard) to read that 32 Virginia Tech students & faculty were shot & killed this morning on campus. It is easily the worst mass-shooting in U.S. history. I started thinking about OU, and the horrible impact that would have here. UNC (my alma mater) recently lost a popular guy cheerleader, and they are still mourning him. Imagine the multiple connections those 32 (33, including the shooter, who was also a student) students had -- to a huge majority of the campus. My prayers are with them as they deal with their loss and turn to celebrating the lives that were stopped short.

Hurray for warmth.

Spring is finally here. Yesterday's high in Norman approached 70 F, and today's high will be even warmer. With zonal flow aloft, the recent southward penetrations of arctic cold air will cease, and - lookout - by Friday, central Oklahoma could approach 80 F! :) Looking forward to the weekend, if ample moisture can (finally) make it up from the Gulf of Mexico, and if the wind fields can maintain their March-like intensities, severe storms appear possible in the body of Oklahoma (instead of south of I20 or way out in western KS and the Panhandles). Here's to an exciting, and warm, week ahead!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

2006 taxes

I just spent 2 hrs completing my federal 1040 and state tax forms. Fortunately, I am owed money by both the U.S. IRS and Oklahoma Tax Commission ($199 federal, $122 Okla). However, I recommend that no one earn any income abroad; figuring out Form 1116 was nearly impossible (and consumed a great deal of my time). The form is entirely unclear about several items (or chooses to use terminology with which I am unfamiliar), and the instruction manual does little to elucidate the question. Nonetheless, I think I've figured it out correctly. We'll see if I get a friendly letter from the IRS in a few weeks pointing out any fatal flaws. Unfortunately that is entirely possible given the complexity of the form - and my newness at this tax completion game. The other major downside (besides a ridiculously complex form) to having foreign income is that I am no longer eligible for the free e-file from H&R Block. So I had to use pencil & paper, the old-fashioned way.

Hope your tax-filing days were easier than mine!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Flurries, in Febru..., no wait, it's April!

Today, April 6, 2007, we have flurries (very light snow) outside the National Weather Center building at 3:00 pm CDT. Brrrrr. Where did spring go?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Guatemala - what a place!

This sequence of photos chronicles my time in Antigua, where Matt and I studied spanish in the mornings and worked with children at the Escuela Integrada in the afternoon. The photo captions are *above* the photos. Enjoy! (A later post will contain pics from the rest of our journeys, after the missional part of the trip was completed).

A view of the village of San Antonio, which is SW of Antigua. My teacher, Mrs. Nancy Lopez, lives in San Antonio. Our friend Manuel lives next to San Antonio, in the village of Santa Catarina.

A view of the main street heading south into Esquintla. Matt and I drove right through the main Saturday market, and it was very interesting dodging people, chickens, busses, vans, motor bikes, and the like. Driving in Norman will forever be a piece of cake!

Mmm. A roadside stand, where you can see your next meal wandering beneath your feet. Matt and I enjoyed a large chicken plate.
Don't drink the water. Or the ice.

Marlin and I at Escuela Integrada.

More children at the school.

Public transit in Antigua. This bus was heading to one of the outskirt barrios (neighborhoods), perhaps San Antonio.

Our bedroom at Casa de Patricia. My bed is on the left, Matt's on the right.

The kitchen at Casa de Patricia (where Matt and I stayed during our week in Antigua).

The central park in Antigua.

A view of the urban corridor in Guatemala (Guatemala City, the capital, is on the right side of the image). View looking north from the Pacaya volcano.

An active lava flow on the Pacaya Volcano.

Yup, that's about 10 feet behind me, just up the mountain.

View of Antigua (in the foreground) and the Agua Volcano in the background. Looking south. The barrio of Jocotenango is just to my right and its edge is in the foreground of the photo.

Matt, Manuel, and I at the Wienner's restaurant in Antigua.

My teacher at the Christian Spanish Academy (CSA), Mrs. Nancy Lopez.

The house of the giants!

Matt helping the kids with their afternoon craft.

Christian Spanish Academy in Antigua.

An old Spanish cathedral in Antigua.

An old Spanish arched cobblestone street in Antigua.

The path up to where many of the Escuela Integrada students live. We drove to the base and then hiked up the mountain above Jocotenango.

Following Wilson and friend up the mountain to deliver some food to his family.

The veranda at my homestay in Antigua. (Casa de Patricia, #14 2nd Ave South, Antigua).

Another view of the central courtyard of my house.

Antigua in the morning. Volcano de Agua in the distance. Antigua's elevation is ~ 1500 meters (~5000 ft), and Vulcan de Agua is ~ 3800 meters (~12,500 ft).

Antigua street in the afternoon.

Two nearby volcanoes, Vulcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire, shorter peak on the left), and Vulcan de Acatenango (taller peak on the right). Fuego was belching ash while we were in Antigua, although not when I took this photo.

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