Friday, December 23, 2016

Rome - Geneva - Rome

December 23, 2016 Peace and Good, I have been in Rome for these past couple of weeks for our definitory meeting. The meeting in December always seems to go on forever, and this year was no exception. It seems as if things develop over the fall, and they have to be decided before the end of the year. The meeting went well, but it was very, very long. As I have written before, every time one of us takes a trip, we give a report on it - so the discussion involves all of the situations all over the world. On Wednesday I took a quick trip up to Geneva to help write several documents for Franciscans International. In theory, this could probably have done by e mail or by skype, but I always find it best to do it face to face when that is possible. I have the notes now on what has to be in the documents, and I will be working on them over the next few weeks. It should not take all that long. I will be here in Rome until Sunday. That evening I fly out to London where I will overnight. (It is a frequent flyer ticket, so you have to take the connections they give you.) I will fly into Baltimore on Monday and will be in the States until January 5th. I have finished some books: How to Hatch a Dinosaur by Thomas Hayden This is a science essay which talks about the attempt of scientists to reverse engineer the chicken to develop more of its dinosaur characteristics. Very often the DNA necessary for various traits is still present, but it is being controlled by various stopper DNA which short circuits the ability of the organism to develop in a certain way (e.g. growing teeth). The scientists plan to cancel the effect of that blocker DNA to see how much like a dinosaur they can make the offspring of chickens. Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World by Thomas Evan This is basically a presentation of President Eisenhower’s years as a president. These were not easy years for Ike who much more preferred his status as a war hero. Yet, he managed to guide the US through some very difficult years, especially in regards to its atomic policies. Ike was an ardent card player, and he knew how to bluff. He would constantly talk tough (or use one of his underlings to play tough cop to his nice cop). Yet, he never revealed whether he would actually use nuclear arms. There are indications that he knew what a worldwide disaster their use would have been, but he allowed for their continued development (although he limited their growth which was being proposed by some rather paranoid members of the military and his advisors). This book also nicely covers the development of the U2 and its use and its being shot down. This is a very nice, fair portrait of President Eisenhower. Made in China by Tony Perrottet This is a travel essay on the attempt of various Chinese entrepreneurs to develop an industry of fine food and wine in China. The Chinese have managed to establish wineries and make wines that are capable of winning international honors. They are making fine cheeses (even though most of the Chinese population is lactose intolerant) and caviar. Many of their products are not yet accepted by connoisseurs, but they are slowly being embraced by both the Chinese and even outsiders. The Girl from Krakow by Alex Rosenberg This is the story of a young woman from Krakow who is Jewish. She studies law just before World War II. Even then, she suffers prejudice for being Jewish, but then when the Nazis arrive it becomes much, much worse. She is married and has a child, but things go very wrong. She also has an affair with another man and a woman. The tale is twisted and at times improbable. The gentile characters are often demonized a bit too much. I didn’t especially like this book. Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist by Br. Guy Consolmagno This is the story of an astronomer who works at the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gondolfo. He speaks of his vocation to the Jesuits and his choice to work at the Vatican. He strongly argues that the Church does not oppose science, but that faith and science each have their own territory. Nevertheless, science can lead one to faith, and God wanted us to discover this world as an act of praise to Him as creator. He speaks of his work with meteorites and especially the discovery of the source of many of them. He closes with his work on a sabbatical in Antarctica with others to find meteorites in the ice down there. The Long, Curious, Extravagant Evolution of Feathers by Carl Zimmer This essay speaks about the question of how feathers evolved. There are certain bud tissues that give rise to skin at times, and protrusions on the skin such as scales at times. Scientists ask whether they might be the source of feathers. Furthermore, Chinese archaeologists have discovered dinosaurs that seem to be covered by pin feathers, even though they do not seem to have been able to fly. Could that be a major clue as to how feathers evolved? Merry Christmas fr. Jude


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