Friday, May 19, 2006

Last night, I closed in on the mountain to get a look at the lava. A group of students studying English at the school I’ve been attending offered to sneak me up to a spot about 6 miles from the crater. The outer edge of the predicted danger zone is 4 miles from the summit. The group was comprised mostly of Indonesian guys who like to play army with air rifles. Think paintball geeks, and you’ll have the right picture. On the way, we talked a lot about their favorite guns, and which American war movies are the best. Steven Segal seems to have a special place in their heart. The older English teachers prefer Apocalypse Now and Bridge over the River Quai. The younger ones like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. The M4 and AK series semi-automatics won the Best Weapon award among the group. It was an interesting connection to make – I can hold up my end of a conversation about war hardware in spite of my hippie parentage. I had a lot of ROTC friends in high school.

We had a really interesting bilingual discussion about each weapon’s merits, and the best squad tactics for taking a hill. I was surprised to hear that as passionate as these guys are about the military, they all agree gun ownership should be heavily regulated. They told me they thought it was crazy, reckless, and absurd that people can buy guns cheaply and easily in the U.S. They all have expensive remakes that look exactly like their deadly counterparts, but by law must to carry them in locked cases out of view of the public. I told them they could buy real guns and ammo at some supermarkets in the U.S. Their eyes grew in shock. But how do you know if the people can use the guns the right way? They asked. People would die from accidents and criminals! Yes, it happens, I told them. I told them many people want the right to defend themselves against their own government. It took me a few times to get the meaning of my question across. It’s not good thinking, they said. The government always has better guns.

Then I asked them, if they’d buy a real gun in the supermarket if they could. Oh, yes, one of them said. I’d buy a semi-automatic. A Kalishnakoff, if I could. And a sidearm. A Bulldog 44 magnum. Then he paused, and smiled to himself. But I’d be afraid to leave the house, because everyone else would have one, too.

(image via Hugo under creative commons license)
I filed a spot last night after the mountain coughed up another plume of soot and toxic gas. A part of the lava dome collapsed – it’s 1.3 million cubic meters in volume – anyone want to submit size comparisons? How many famous skyscrapers full of lava is that? In any case, the volcanologists say the dome’s structural integrity is the key to it’s pending eruption. If it all goes at once, it’ll be a big one. Monday’ and Wednesday’s explosions were caused by just a small part of the dome falling into the crater. So far, the spiritual watchers have remained cool about the state of the “mountain of fire”. So there’s still a lot of people up there, even though rivers of lava have been flowing out of the crater for several days. The royal volcano watcher still says it’s not going to erupt yet. The mountain erupts every two to seven years, and so far, his prediction rate has been a hundred percent correct.