Book Review: After Shock

It was apparent from his first book and has been reaffirmed in his second: Kent Annan is an honest man. In “After Shock” he describes the struggle of faith when faced with the suffering we can see not only in post-quake Haiti, but around the world and in our own neighborhoods and homes. The world is an unreliable, dangerous place. Women are raped, children die of preventable disease and tectonic places shift beneath the feet of hundreds of thousands of people in the poorest place in the Western hemisphere. It happens, yet Christians believe in a good God, faithful and true, who created this world. How do we reconcile this faith with the reality we are called to deal with on a daily basis?

“We don’t have to minimize either suffering or uncertainty. Our love for truth can help protect us from ourselves and from worshiping an untrue god that can’t survive the trial of this world. Let our faith too be nailed regularly to the cross of this world. Any faith that dies there was dead to begin with. What is resurrected is Life.” – p. 49

After Shock: Searching For Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken” is Kent Annan’s argument with God. More like a lover’s quarrel. He is a committed Christian, but one who isn’t content with the pie-in-the-sky spirituality and rose-colored glasses view of the world that popular evangelical Christianity often adopts and promotes. He recognizes in Scripture the voices both of praise and questioning. This book quotes at the beginning of many chapters from Psalm 13, which in the NIV reads:

How long, LORD?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Kent actually describes this book itself as a Psalm, in the closing chapter which he addresses to God: “This book is my psalm to you, clawing its way toward faith and gratitude.” The Psalms alternate between adoration, questioning and complaint…and so does this book to some extent.

Another aspect of this book, closely related to the personal honesty, is the insight into human nature in response to disaster. Many were eager – practically falling over one another – to help after the earth shook.

“On the plane with thirty four people,
circling in toward destruction.
Like angels (like vultures).
Why?” – p. 50

People wanted to go to help for many reasons, including their own egos.

“Some clamoring to get down are so transparent in their messages, and on Facebook and on Twitter, doing it for their own sake. Can’t you invite admiration more subtly, I think in disgust? You’ll blow the cover for the rest of us.” – p.51

Still, there’s a human/divine aspect that comes through in the giving and receiving of aid, even in small ways, after a disaster like the one that struck Haiti last year.

“This God who is distant comes close through … us. Practically when we’re clearing rubble, when we’re healing wounds, when we’re helping people create their own better future, when we’re working to overturn unjust systems and provide where there is need. Mystically because in this practical help we experience something of the transcendent God’s presence.” (p. 113)

In “After Shock,” Kent Annan has given us another painfully honest, soul-searching look at a world in pain and need, bound by both systemic and personal sin, yet being redeemed by the seemingly powerless but incredibly potent message of the cross (and resurrection). I recommend that if you haven’t read either of Kent’s books, that you pick up both his first book and this one and read them in order. Prepare to do some prayerful soul-searching along the way. Then, take action.

“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.”John 14:12 CEV

See Also:

Book Review: Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle (

After Shock: Kent Annan’s Presentation at New York Theological Seminary (

Poverty at the Gate (

The Diaspora Project

Last week Daniel Grippi and Raphael Sofaer from The Diaspora Project spoke to the monthly gathering of the New York Linux Users Group (NYLUG). This project benefited from a New York Times article that came out last year right around the time Facebook was revising (again) its user controls in ways that were perceived as compromising privacy. That gripe combined with the article gave them a boost in the form of a couple hundred thousand dollars of contributions to get their project going.

Diaspora is still in its alpha phase, and essentially utilizes a federated model that involves local “pods” or installations of Diaspora running and providing a social network for users logging in through that particular server. Frankly, it looks to me like at this point you have to be a geek to get a pod up and running, though what they showed us of the user interface appeared at least as intuitive as Facebook or Twitter.

Although I have no idea whether Diaspora has anything sufficiently attractive to ever compete with the likes of Facebook, the technology they are using is everything I like. An I mean everything. They use Git for version control, develop in Ruby on Rails and use Javascript for the front-end. The server is Nginx and the database management system is MySQL. Like I said, everything I consider good

To learn more about Diaspora, check out their website, have a look a the code and join the discussion either on IRC (#diaspora on freenode) or their Google Group.

Let me know what you think in the comments here.

After Shock: Kent Annan’s Presentation at New York Theological Seminary

Kent Annan, co-director of Haiti Partners and author of Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle and After Shock, spoke one evening last week for the Micah Global Justice Seminar. He shared from his most recent book and answered questions about the current state of Haiti, as well as what his organization is doing. What follows is a summary of the evening.

Lisa Sharon Harper opened the seminar with a reading of Psalm 13 (NIV), one that’s central to Kent’s new book:

How long, LORD?  Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

This was followed with an introduction and prayer from Dr. Peter Heltzel.

There was a lot shared about Haiti and the work there to improve people’s lives, and though I took notes I’m afraid I can’t share it all, or even put it in proper order. So here are some details in no particular order:

  • Haiti Partners works with schools for Haitian children.
  • For $30 a month a person can put a child through one of their schools.
  • The earthquake of January 2010 destroyed three of their schools, which have been rebuilt to meet government standards for both hurricane and earthquake resistance. This drove the cost of each school up to $120,000 (compared to what I understood the usual price to be around $30,000).
  • Haiti Partners sources local labor, not foreign workers or volunteers, in the construction projects. People need jobs!
  • One Laptop Per Child will be providing around 4000 XO laptops for the students in Haiti Partners schools.
  • There are several ways to help out, which can be found by clicking here.

One of the things that most impressed me about Kent from his first book (click here for the review) was his humble honesty. There was no sign of evangelical triumphalism or hint of missionary grandstanding. Instead, he simply shared in that book the challenges of life in Haiti, both for himself and his wife and for the Haitian people. As he said in the recent seminar, there is really nothing noble about poverty, and it isn’t right to say that the Haitian people have a unique ability to deal with suffering. They just have no other choice.

Buy a copy of Kent’s new book, Aftershock, and give it a read. I’m reading it this week and hope to have a review up in the near future.

See Also:
Book Review: Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle (

Haiti Partners

Kent Annan’s personal site

Daniel Grippi and Raphael Sofaer on Diaspora: Federated social networking

Rebloggled from the NYLUG Blog.

Daniel Grippi and Raphael Sofaer
Diaspora: Federated social networking
Wednesday, February 16, 2011 @ 6:30 -8:00 PM

This presentation will outline the different standards Diaspora is using to federate data between pods and how the core Diaspora team maintains its pod at The presentation will end with a section on how to get involved as a contributor to the Diaspora code-base.

More Information:

About Daniel Grippi:
Daniel Grippi is a 22-year old entrepreneur from Long Island, New York, and a recent graduate from New York University (NYU) with a major in computer science. Since graduating, Daniel has co-founded Diaspora in an effort to change how individuals do social networking online. Originally from Long Island, Daniel now works full time on Diaspora at Pivotal Labs’ San Francisco offices as a developer and as the front-end lead.

About Raphael Sofaer:
Raphael Sofaer is a programmer and entrepreneur from Palo Alto, CA. He spent two years studying Math and Computer Science at NYU, then co-founded Diaspora. Raphael now works full time on Diaspora from Pivotal Labs’ San Francisco offices as a developer and as systems lead.

After the meeting … Join us around 8:30 PM or so at TGI Friday’s
You may wish to join up with other NYLUGgers for drinks and pub food. This month we’ll be over at TGI Friday’s (677 Lexington Avenue & 56th Street, second floor, northeast corner), but we are also evaluating other options for the future and welcome your suggestions.

How to Install MySQL, Nginx and PHP on Ubuntu 10.10

It took several attempts with information cobbled together from different blogs and tutorials, but here’s how I managed to get MySQL, Nginx and PHP up and running on Ubuntu 10.10.

Step One: Install MySQL

sudo apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client

Step Two: Install PHP FastCGI

sudo apt-get install php5-cgi

Step Three: Install Nginx – (version 8.54 is the current stable)

add-apt-repository ppa:nginx/stable
apt-get update
apt-get install nginx

Step Four: Configure The Server

Create PHP 5 FastCGI start-up script:

sudo nano /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

Place the following in the file and save:


PHP_CGI_NAME=`basename $PHP_CGI`

start() {
echo -n "Starting PHP FastCGI: "
start-stop-daemon --quiet --start --background --chuid "$USER" --exec 
/usr/bin/env -- $PHP_CGI_ARGS
echo "$PHP_CGI_NAME."
stop() {
echo -n "Stopping PHP FastCGI: "
killall -q -w -u $USER $PHP_CGI
echo "$PHP_CGI_NAME."

case "$1" in
echo "Usage: php-fastcgi {start|stop|restart}"
exit 1
exit $RETVAL

Step Six: Make start-up script executable

sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi

Step Seven: Enable PHP5

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

uncomment out the following lines:

# pass the PHP scripts to FastCGI server listening on
location ~ .php$ {
fastcgi_index index.php;
include fastcgi_params;

Step Eight: Create a Test Script

cd /usr/share/nginx/www

sudo nano test.php

In the test.php code put:

Save the file.

Step Nine: Launch Server

Launch PHP:

sudo /etc/init.d/php-fastcgi start

Restart nginx

sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

Open an browser and visit

You should be able to see something similar to the image included below.

Launch at start-up:
sudo update-rc.d php-fastcgi defaults

Book Review: Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25 NIV

Following Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle surprised me for two reasons.

First, it isn’t a Scripture-laden, glowing account of a person’s ministry in an exotic foreign land. It is instead an honest account of Kent Annan’s struggle and sense of brokenness in pursuit of justice. The book is seemingly based on a personal journal, though not including specific dates and at times presenting material out of chronological order to elaborate on topics. Crossing the line from wealth to poverty while always knowing he can cross back again (an option others don’t have) is a significant theme. There is also his effort to be sensitive to the needs of a wife who isn’t 100% on board even as he seeks to remain faithful to his vision of ministry to the poor. Rather than focus on the work that was done in Haiti, the Kent recounts in this book what life was like in Haiti. It’s about dealing with the neediness, instability and deep poverty around him.

Second, I was unsettled more that the accounts of extreme poverty in Haiti caught me off guard than by the stories themselves. What I mean is that I’ve spoken with numerous people familiar with Haiti over the years and have followed the work of Salonique Adolfe in Haiti for years. I’ve heard tale after tale of woe and misery, and yet this book managed to give me pause and impress me with the deep, daily, grinding poverty that most Haitians experience.

The book closes with suggestions on how the reader can move forward, given that the reaction of most people is to ask, “How can I help?” These are:

  1. Confess and then turn away from what’s blocking you.
  2. Start on a personal journey – along with some other people.
  3. Help people nearby.
  4. Commit to a movement.

All excellent points upon which I hope to act immediately. Pick up a copy of this book and face what keeps you from taking action.

Update on Ruby Nuby

Over the past several months I’ve written a few times about Ruby Nuby, but in case you missed those posts, here’s a relatively quick overview to catch you up.

Overall Plan – From Ruby Nuby’s “About” page

The mission of Ruby Nuby is to provide an environment that facilitates immersive learning by a Community of Contributors™ who contribute, learn and succeed by collaborating, cooperating and supporting each other. We work to promote a path to success where equal access, social justice, equability, diversity and sustainability are embraced.

History of Ruby Nuby:

Since August 9th, we have taught Ruby on Rails programming classes that are free to all college students and $10 for professionals provided they pledge to help with our socio-economic mission. We teach our classes at NYU through a partnership with TECH@NYU. Our first wave of students are currently interviewing for jobs that pay $50-70k per year. Currently, we have 425+ members with hundreds of volunteer hours contributed by volunteers located in 6 states. See our page:

How it all works:

Currently, we are teaching those who transitioning careers. They will become our trainers and volunteers in the next phase which is below.

We target 9th graders as they enter high school and teach them throughout the year. At the beginning of their 9th-10th grade summer they attend a Ruby Nuby Camp. After attending this camp, they qualify for paid internships and part-time jobs which we arrange through partnerships with companies that use RoR. After 4 years of training with Ruby Nuby and using RoR in their internships and part-time jobs, they are hire-able as intermediate Ruby/Rails developers commanding salaries of $100k/year in NYC ($60k/year in New Orleans) without any college education or college debt. In order to get access to our students, companies have to pledge to provide full college scholarships to their new hires so they can work during the day and complete their degrees in the evening.

We teach the sponsored youths alongside professionals and students who pay for our courses, interview and “hire” the sponsored at-risk youths from a pre-screened pool of those who have demonstrated the desire and ability to bootstrap themselves. By empowering the paying students to select who they sponsor, they assume a stewardship role in the continued success of the at-risk youths as they “hired” them. By integrating the at-risk youths into the classroom setting with professionals, mentoring relationships can be formed and socio-economic bridges built. In the evenings of our camps, at-risk youths learn life skills (Conflict Resolution, Diversity, Sex Education among others) and attend cultural events.

We teach entrepreneurial skills and through our post-camp Startup Weekends incubate funded companies manned by a diverse gumbo of the world’s best RoR developers, would-be entrepreneurs who pay to pitch their ideas and at-risk youths who are sponsored by the professionals that want to learn RoR. The professionals may meet their next hire or the next generation entrepreneur who hires them!!!

To economically develop our culture, several of the slots in the Ruby Nuby Startup Weekend are sponsored for artists, musicians and chefs who have won a previously held idea competition. They are the file’ in our entrepreneurial gumbo:) (For those non-Cajuns, file’ is used to thicken a gumbo and to enrich it’s flavor)
Learn more about our socio-economic vision by watching a 2-minute video that is ranked #1 in the world with 30,000+ votes in a grant competition from British Airways.

Africa – An E-Mail Update from Malcolm Arnold to Participants

Hello Everyone,

Thanks to your support, Ruby Nuby won the grant it was competing for from British Airways. We finished 7th in the world with 31,000+ votes. Through our grant, Ruby Nuby will be in Uganda/Kenya from Feb 2nd – March 4th. Please donate your used laptops so we may seed our program there.

Ruby Nuby teaches Ruby on Rails(RoR) programming language, related technologies and entrepreneurial skills to at-risk youths who are sponsored by the professionals that we teach. Since Aug 9th, we have been teaching classes at NYU through a partnership with Tech@NYU. In December, we placed our first student into a career as a junior RoR developer.

In Africa, we will also focus on empowering women as we feel this will help make the region more peaceful and sustainable. We will spend a month in Uganda and Kenya to learn what they are doing with Open Educational Resources(OER), and the challenges the communities and the NGOs that serve them face. Through, the non-profit arm of Ruby Nuby, our Nubies will identify local/global problems they want to solve using technology. Nubies will partner/apprentice with more senior developers to build and/or integrate web applications that solve these problems. As part of our program, we hope to partner with,, and others that are using tech to address crisis situations and activism.

To seed our program in Uganda and Kenya, we are seeking donations of used, working laptops which have power cords. The laptops should be less than 4 years old and have USB ports.

Please email us if you are interested in:

Donating used laptops

Contributing or volunteering

Have contacts in Uganda and Kenya who may be interested in what we are doing.

You or someone you know wants to join us in Uganda/Kenya in Jul/Aug when we launch our program there.

Our temporary website:

Thanks so much:)


Malcolm Arnold
RubyNuby, Founder

Classes – The Plan Going Forward
The first run-through of the ended this past Monday. Classes will continue, though, as new people have joined mid-stream and students continue to be at all levels.  Snuggs will still be teaching. It is my understanding that classes for the near future will be ad hoc, dealing with issues brought by participants.

Although $10 is no longer being requested before each class begins, donations are still needed and can be made through the Ruby Nuby website (look for the donate button).

To attend class, simply sign up and register for each class you wish to attend through the Meetup page and then show up.

See also:
Ruby Nuby: Learn Ruby on Rails in NYC (
The Origins of Ruby Nuby (
Ruby Nuby: Promoting Ruby on Rails and Social Good (