Desierto norte de Chile

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A new Colossus no more

Tonight, while reading an article in the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer about the loss of used-car business due to North Carolina's new license requirements, I became very sad. And I think it's not so easy to be sad over the plight of used-car dealers (they rank up there with IRS auditors, defense attorneys, and pit bulls). Evidently since NC started requiring valid drivers' licenses to register cars (and the new required documents to obtain a drivers' license are an unexpired passport/visa or birth certificate, and social security number), Latinos in north Raleigh have stopped buying used cars. To the tune of 20-25% loss of business for the dealers.

But as sad as it sounds, the clincher for me came from the state senator who authored the bill, David Hoyle of Gaston County (which is near Charlotte).
Hoyle said he had no specific intent to target illegal immigrants. "But, you know, if you're illegal, I don't think we need to make it easier for them," Hoyle said. "If you're illegal, you're illegal."

This is exactly the problem today with us. Why can't we "make it easier for them"? Seriously?! What are we afraid of? Why this protectionist attitude? I'll say why: it's xenophobia wrapped up with greed, which is a terrible monster that has consumed our society. The "party-line" excuse is that immigrants bring crime, disease, wage depression, and poverty, among many other ills. My brothers, and especially my readers who profess Jesus as Lord, please tell me, who else deserves our compassion?!

I turned to one of our great poets from the 19th century for inspiration, and was shocked at her diagnosis of what we have become. You are probably familiar with her writing; it adorns one of the most iconic symbols of the United States, namely the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. I will let you read it first. In 1883, Emma Lazarus wrote:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

To where, o brothers, has that spirit vanished? "Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land." Who might that be referring to in 2008? Is there another country whose military is present and active on every continent?

"Mother of Exiles". Wow, sounds a lot like the biblical command to "welcome the alien in your midst." Today we resemble Ebeneezer Scrooge much more than a benevolent host!

"From her beacon-hand glows worldwide welcome." Alas, today we have 1000-mile fences, multi-year visa waits, and the behemoth Department of Homeland "Security".

"Her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame." Mild eyes? Can anyone who has ever entered the country from abroad describe that welcome as "mild"? And isn't it interesting that it isn't her strength that controls her economic might, but her demeanor? Humble service is not a new idea!

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp." Quick quiz: what is the first contemporary country that comes to mind when you think of "arrogance on the world stage"? (Actually, if you are American, here's another quick-quiz: can you name 4 countries in Africa? 3 in South America? But perhaps that's ignorance, not arrogance, an indictment of geography not pomp...)

And, finally, the full-on powerful gush of love, of pity, of hospitality, and of strength: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" You and I both know that this attitude, if it ever existed, has long since abated in the USA. It might as well be crossed-out and re-written to say: "We have enough problems without your tired, poverty-ridden comunas dirtying up our clean air and soiling our waters. Deal yourself with your homeless, your disaster-afflicted, for you obviously made them so. For I have my spotlight and shotgun and will leave no desert boulder unturned in your pursuit. Leave us alone!"


"Lord, your heart is especially keen for the sick, the troubled, the wounded, the weak. You even went so far as to declare them blessed and rebuke those who suggested that you came to Jerusalem to claim your kingship. Please change our hearts, away from selfishness and toward generosity. Remind us in powerful ways that all we have is already yours. Give us opportunities to love and welcome the alien in our midst. Thanks for loving us."

A great day for a barbque!

Yesterday the Geophysics Department hosted its end-of-year retreat at a local retreat/park (about 30 mins drive west/northwest of Santiago ... in the comuna of Maipu). The department rented out the park for our party, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Most of the professors and post-docs were there, along with a few of the MS students. Recall that in Chile, the school year runs March-December, with a few summer courses in Dec-Jan, and a full-on closure of the university in February. I still plan to work during most of Feb., but I don't guess that the trash will be taken out or the cafeteria will be open. I will probably take one week off and go somewhere in a bus.

We left Santiago around 10 a.m., and I played frisbee with Mark and Rodrigo in the morning. We ate a very nice lunch of bar-b-que chicken and beef, salad, and potatoes, and after lunch, we divided into teams and played soccer (the other team won, 8-6. If you know anything about soccer, 14 goals in less than 1 hr is far too many ... I guess our defense was lacking!) We went swimming in the pool to cool down (playing a kind-of keep-away), and then enjoyed grilled hot-dogs for a small dinner. I returned to my apartment about 8:30 pm.
Highlights of the day?
-- tossing the frisbee with Mark & Rodrigo. I really LOVE frisbee!
-- testing my abysmal soccer skills with the locals. My play was on-par with the middle-aged profs (actually I think they played much better than me!) But at least I could run around and pretend to have fun.
-- meeting the masters students. Because I arrived in Dec., I have not really met any of the dept's students (I guess most of them don't take summer classes and/or are not around in summer).
Here are a few photos!

Getting things ready for lunch. A Chilean bar-b-que would not be complete without plentiful drinks, including the local beers Escudo and Cristal, and wine.

Our frisbee, and soccer, field.

Preparing for lunch.

Gathering around the grill. This is a pasttime that transcends cultures.


Soccer, Chilean style!

Keep away in the pool.

After lunch.

Yes, there are palm trees in Santiago!

Group shot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hola Santiago!

Hello Santiago! I am back in my city after a six-day journey to the American Meteorology Society annual meeting, this year held in New Orleans, LA. Here are some photographs that I took on the last day. Captions are above the photo (or photo series).

A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without having an order of beignets (fried dough caked in powdered sugar) and hot chocolate at the Café du Monde adjacent to Jackson Square. Mmmm!

Gabe, Cory, David, and Brant after we chowed down on some beignets.

Jackson Square, looking back toward downtown.

Cathedral St. Louis

General Andrew Jackson

Inside Cathedral St. Louis.

The altar of the cathedral.

Definitely a "must-see" in New Orleans!

Typical of the festive mardi-gras atmosphere. FYI, we left New Orleans on Jan 24th, and Mardi Gras festivities culminated on "Fat Tuesday" January 29th. So we left just as the craziness was kicking off!

Several of my classmates from OU had a quite good time at Fritzel's jazz pub....

... and who wouldn't have a good time at a place that sells $3 hurricanes?

Of course the "original" hurricane claim belongs to Pat OBrien's.

As we were leaving Bourbon street on the final day, we encountered a parade!

And what is more appropriate than the "Rue Bourbon" sign with the Jester bar advertising Daiquiris (and pizza)?

I have a couple of photos from our last day there that I will post soon. I also owe pics from the hike I took two weeks ago. Stay tuned!

Until then, here is a great quote from C.S. Lewis's Narnia series, in "The Silver Chair." The excerpt was highlighted by Dwight Edwards, whose emails I am receiving as a gift from my former mentor, Bob Reed. Enjoy how Lewis portrays the lion (who represents Jesus Christ).
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion. "I am dying of thirst," said Jill. "Then drink," said the Lion. "May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. "Will you promise not to — do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill. "I make no promise," said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said. "I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. "I daren't come and drink," said Jill. "Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion. "Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then." "There is no other stream," said the Lion.
This week in the US was great to catch up with friends, attend a few talks, browse a few posters, and generally recall the American culture I had left behind since arriving in Santiago in early December. However, the week was weird in the sense that I really didn't engage the scriptures or spend any significant time praying. That is one thing I have loved about Santiago, namely, the chance to sit on my balcony and read through the gospels. So I am happy to be back here! After a few hrs at work, I'll stock up at the supermarket, go jogging in the park, and maybe even try to practice my spanish with my neighbors. Should be a fun weekend!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Two hundred ways to brighten your day!

Here's to my two-hundredth blog post ... and to two hundred more! Thanks, loyal readers and commenters!

New Orleans and global warming

Tomorrow (Sat 19 Jan) I leave Santiago to go back to the US for a week to attend the American Meteorology Society's annual meeting in New Orleans. I am not taking my laptop and am looking forward to a relatively technology-free week.

On a unrelated note, I was recently asked what my take was on global warming. I defer to the official World Meteorological Organization position, which I think explains things very clearly, in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is made up of over 1,000 scientists from most of the countries on the planet, and they have been studying climate change now for over two decades (some for much longer than that). Every four to five years, they gather to summarize the scientific research to that point, and in 2007 they had a series of meetings to compose the Fourth Assessment (the first assessment was released in the mid 1980s).

Basically the figures are a combination of observations and computer models to examine "How much have we warmed to-date" (and "Why?"), and "will we warm in the future?" The short answers are:
- warming has occurred globally since at least 1850, particularly in the polar regions.

- we cannot explain the levels of warming, using computer models, without incorporating man-made levels of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, etc.) (I.e., the computers cannot reproduce our current temp levels using only natural variability).

- the next 100 years should see more warming (even at an accelerated pace), with different regions (continents, states, islands, etc) experiencing different levels of warming. Coincident with the warming is also the threat of prolonged droughts / floods (i.e., an increased occurrence of extreme events).

- yes, both the computer models and the data used to verify them have errors and uncertainty. but the "signal to noise ratio" of the cumulative uncertainty is large enough to confidently ascertain the trends (see figure 2).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Texas and global warming

Texas has been labeled the most carbon-emitting state in the US. (Surprised?) But what really cracked me up was this quote from the "Public Citizen's Texas" officer, "Smitty" Smith. (Yes, if I lived in Texas, I would be proud to know that "Smitty" was hard at work representing my citizen interests.)
"Texans have long had their heads in the sand and now the sand is getting so hot that they're starting to pull it out and look around at what other states are doing," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office.

... also ...

Teri Kuester, a textbook consultant, drives a Toyota Tundra pickup around Austin. "We need the ability to go to Home Depot, to go to Lowe's and be able to haul stuff back," she said. "We need the ability to go to the nursery and bring back plants."
So if you are reading this and live in Texas, enjoy your next trip from your home in suburbia to WalMart in your SUV (or you can drive your full-cab pickup truck if you want). You never know when you just might need all that space to actually haul those giant trees you're buying from Lowe's to offset the gas you wasted driving around Austin! (Teri, seriously, how big are these plants!?)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Internet saga: The Game

** Want to play a game? I'm taking bets on which day my internet / telephone / cable will be installed **

Rules are simple: by which day do you suppose I will have functional telecommunications in my apartment? These are "Price is Right" rules: person who is closest to the actual date without going over. I.e., if you choose Jan 31 and they install on Feb 1, you beat the person who picked Feb 2.

One small hint: I will NOT be in Santiago Jan 20-26 (so don't choose those days!) The longer discussion of what actually is happening can be found below.

So after waiting over three weeks to have internet installed in my apartment, I was told today that the delay is caused by "no free numbers". I ordered the "tri-play" to be cost-effective (and to have one or two t.v. channels in english!), and one-third of the tri-play is a land-line. GTD Mancheque told me today that they no longer have any telephone lines available. But they are "looking" and will get back to me when they find one. And that will probably be after this week.

So, seriously, what is up with this! And of course, I have to rely on my generous colleagues to help me call the office and negotiate with their workers (my spanish is very basic, and I definitely do not know enough to describe my problem and ask them to solve it).

Thus, I am still waiting for internet (and phone, and cable tv) in my apartment. The initial request was made on December 26. The first follow-up phone call was made on Jan 8. They scheduled an appointment with me to come to my apartment and actually do the installation for Jan 14. That day came, and I waited 3.5 hrs, only for them not to show up. On Jan 15 (today), my colleague Ricardo called and got the run-around, eventually finding out that there are no more phone lines.

So, to keep my sanity, I'll guess I'll have to make this into a game. Email / reply to this post with your guesses. The winner gets a prize!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A great lesson for me!

Tonight, cross-linked from another blog I read (a suburban southern baptist / counter-culture pastor, Steve McCoy), was a great post about reclaiming purpose.

Nothing feeds my creativity and strengthens my Spirit like prayer on a long walk. What spiritual formation practices keep you from drying up inside with God?
I was immediately reminded of my last three months in Barbados, where I walked literally hours each day (20 mins to/from work, and either 30 mins walk/jog in the morning followed by the same in the evening, plus any walks to the Uni, post office, town, shopping, etc.) Oh how I miss those long walks and communion with God!

Here is the rest of the post. I've included the bare-bones highlights here for those who might not be so keen on click-throughs!
1. Spend less time writing sermons, more time listening
2. Spend less time reading-writing on leadership and more time walking with/mentoring young leaders
3. Spend less time planning the worship gathering - more time in silence before God
4. Spend more time with the children, less time programming "entertainment with pizza."
5. Spend less time in meetings, more time in the neighborhood. (This one was so good I thought you might want to read it all: This is a constant struggle for me. To me, the organization of the church should be located in the congregation, carried on in the gifts. We need gather only for a few meetings a year for accountability financially. I recognize several folk disagree with me. How do you go abouit managing necessary meetings? )
6. Spend less time in meetings figuring out details to make things work better, and more time in meetings where we ask "what is God doing?"
7. Spend less time trying to please Christians
8. Spend less time answering bizarre twisted questions about outlier doctrines
9. Spend less time worrying about numbers
10. Spend less time frantically trying to catch up with all the words I have to write

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

14 January: Internet, tv, and phone ?

After submitting the request online December 26 (which came after waiting 3 weeks to receive my RUT number, the Chilean equivilent of the U.S. social security number), I finally have an appointment to have internet, cable tv, and telephone installed in my apartment. They are, in theory, coming to visit me on Monday, January 14, after 6 p.m. If it actually happens, we can skype ourselves to death, and you can send me giant files and call me on my landline for really cheap! Stay tuned . . .

Monday, January 07, 2008

Happy 2008!

Happy 2008! In case you missed it, here are some significant "Bradevents" of 2007:

- Returned from Austria Jan 17th, and promptly moved into Kraettli Apartments on the OU campus (a 5-min bike ride from the National Weather Center, 10 mins from the student union [my other campus office], and 2 mins from the frisbee field)

- Took my final two courses for my ph.d., one in renewable energy and the other in global warming

- Attended Jason and Leslie Douglas's wedding in Durham, NC, in Feb.

- Enjoyed the first of two "Brad Christmases" with the Barretts in NC, opening my presents in Cary with my parents, brothers, and grandparents

- Said goodbye to Paw Paw in person in February

- Served the children of Escuela Integrata in Antigua, Guatemala, with Mission Discovery over spring break in March

- Explored northern and eastern Guatemala, and western El Salvador and Honduras, in a small rental car with Matt Haugland, after the spring break project ended

- Improved my ultimate frisbee skills by not only playing on Fridays with a new cast of characters, but also practicing regularly with Thaweesak on our "days off"

- Hung out weekly (Wednesday nights) with my roommate in what would become a great regularly-scheduled "roommate time" in Kraettli

- Narrowly missed a major (100+) tornado outbreak storm chasing in early May (day after the EF-5 ravaged Greensburg, KS) in southern Kansas. Saw a few mesocyclones that eventually tornadoed but missed everything.

- Headed west with Charles and Rebecca to explore LA, San Diego, Las Vegas, and my personal favorite, the Joshua Tree National Park. We even got into (and out of) the park for FREE by entering after 5 pm and not spending the night. Talk about a great deal! Of course, our real goal was to see one of the final episodes of The Price is Right with Bob Barker, but tickets were hard to come by

- Joined up with the OU club ultimate team in June and July and kept improving my skills

- Helped Chris and Emily Crowder's wedding guests find their seats at the downtown OKC Methodist Church in June (I was an usher for them. And Chris paid for the tux's. Wow. Of course this means I will likely not stay in touch with them... because of course the rule is if you are in someone's wedding, you have to stop talking with them within 3 months of the ceremony. Did that happen? ...)

- Enjoyed weekly bible studies / pot-luck dinners with my good friends from Thailand and Taiwan (and the USA too!) We ate lots of great food (I really love their Thai cooking, plus the fresh fruit of summer!) and studied the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 5. We capped the evenings off by playing hours of "Slave", a fascinating card game that involves both skill and luck (don't all card games involve both?)

- Went back to NC for 2 weeks for Paw Paw's funeral and family vacation at Emerald Isle

- Began writing my dissertation, in earnest, in July

- Joined in my absolute favorite time of the year, the "welcome back" week, in Norman, for year # 10 (yes this was my 11th year in University ... 4 yrs at UNC-CH, 3 yrs for my masters at OU, and 3.2 for my ph.d. at OU)

- Climbed the tallest peak in CO, Mt. Elbert, with Matt Shipe and Cory Mottice over Labor Day

- Buckled down and gave my final dissertation draft to my doctoral committee Sept 14, a full four weeks before my October 12 defense date.

- Celebrated my 28th birthday in style: a t-shirt at the Mont for lunch and dinner with my frisbee boys after our weekly contest

- Attended the OU-Texas game with my good friend, and former roommate, Xinan Li. He got us the tickets, even buying them!, and we enjoyed watching the Sooners whoop up on Texas. (Do not remind me that these are the same Sooners who later this year imploded against an outmatched West Virginia team)

- Successfully defended my ph.d. on 12 October 2007. Awkwardly dealt with people calling me "Dr. Barrett". It remains awkward!

- Prepared a manuscript for submission to Monthly Weather Review and submitted at the end of Nov. Again answered awkward questions from my friends when asked "why are you still writing? I thought you finished?", to which I responded, "the work of a scientist is never finished". :) Haha, okay, I don't think I ever said that exactly.

- Flew back east for 2 days to attend my 10-yr high school reunion on November 10th. D.H. Conley high class of 1997. Whoop! Had a nice visit with friends I hadn't seen in years, although before the reunion had to endure watching N.C. State whip up on my Tar Heels (okay, they won on a last-second goal-line stand). It was nice to have the entire family there at the game.

- Enjoyed a very nostalgic and heartwarming month long series of "goodbye's" with friends in Norman

- Packed up and drove a Penske moving van east Nov 18th. Dad flew west to OKC and helped me share the driving. 24 long hrs later, we arrived in Greenville

- Shared Thanksgiving and "Brad Christmas", part 2, with the Barrett family in Greenville and Cary. Had to endure another dreadful N.C. State football game, this time against Maryland, where the Wolfpack imploded for a 30-something-to-zero loss. Again, though, it was good to be there with family

- Packed my overloaded bags and headed south to Santiago December 2nd

- Have been learning spanish, trying to avoid the stray dogs, and figure out life in this city ever since!
Hope your 2007 was both significant and eventful! Here's to a blessed and prosperous 2008!!

My address and phone

For those wanting to visit or call (or send a package!), here are my address and phone:

Vergara 699
Dpto. 809
Santiago, CHILE

9 7924 2055 (my cell phone)

From the USA it is dialed like this (I think): 011 56 9 79242055. You could substitute 011 for + and might have to dial 09 instead of 9. So +56979242055. This works in Skype and Yahoo.

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