Thursday, November 26, 2020

Ellicott City - Rome

November 26, 2020 Happy Thanksgiving I finished my doctoring and dentisting in the second week of my stay at Ellicott City. Unfortunately, the crown that was to be attached was not ready yet, so I will have to return for that at a later date. They put my temporary crown in with a permanent glue. The trip back to Rome was uneventful, but strange. My flight on British Air had been transferred from BWI to Dulles airport, so I had to take a shuttle out there. The BA flight from London to Rome was cancelled, so I had to fly AlItalia to get in. Dulles was all but empty. Heathrow in London had quite a few folk, but not as many as normal. Getting into Rome was no real problem, as long as I agreed to quarantine for two weeks (which we do in our friary anyway). I got back Sunday evening, and I am still feeling fine. I do take my temperature twice as day as recommended. The friars bring my meals to my door. I am spending the time editing the Lectors' Handbook that I do each year (for 2021-2022). The weather here is cool, but nice. I am able to take daily walks on the terrazza outside of my room, so I do not feel totally isolated. The whole house is under quarantine for before I returned, one of the friars came down with covid. He is doing better, but it was touchy for he is a brittle diabetic. At this point, I will be in Rome for some time. I do not yet know when my next trip will be. We have a definitory the week before Christmas. I finished some reading: The Tanks of the World Wars by Charles River Editors This is a study of the birth and development of tanks and tank warfare in the First World War, the interwar period, and especially during the Second World War. Baron Johann de Kalb by Charles River Editors This is a biography of one of the Europeans who travelled to the US during the revolutionary war to help the patriots. Unfortunately, de Kalb was not at first welcomed, and even when he was, he was exceedingly unlucky in terms of those with whom he served. He died in a poorly run battle in the Carolinas when Gates, the commanding general, first bungled the attack and then ran away from the battle in a cowardly way. Xerses I by Charles River Editors This is a short biography of the Persian emperor who invaded Greece and encountered the Spartans at Thermopylae and then whose navy was defeated at Salamis. Although he face defeat in the West, he was highly successful in holding and extending the borders of his empire in the East. Paradise Lost by John Milton I had always heard of this epic poem, and it was time to read it. The poem is very, very long, and the style is that of the 17th century when it was written. There are thousands of references to Greek myths and other esoteric topics as Milton describes the creation of humanity and its fall into sin. The poem was well worth reading, but I will listen to a Teaching Company course on Milton before I go into the next of his poems, Paradise Regained. The Battle of Nicopolis This is a tragic battle between the western forces and the Muslims in Bulgaria. The Western forces were divided and led by a group of young, arrogant nobles who would not listen to the advice of others who had already fought against the Muslims in previous battles. The result was a resounding defeat of the crusaders and mutual recriminations among the combatants as to who was at fault. The 13th Juror by John Lescroat The 13th juror is the judge who can either accept to set aside a death penalty verdict at a murder trial. This is the story of a woman accused of killing her husband and child. She had every reason to kill her husband considering she came from a family where there was terrible spousal abuse, and she was suffering from it herself. Yet, she firmly refuses to plead guilty and seek mercy because she was abused. The action is well presented, and this is a novel worth reading. The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming Fleming presents an inside look at the family lives and even some of the scandals of the founding fathers of the country. It is not a tell all book to denigrate the founding fathers, but rather looks at them with a realistic caution to show that while they were not perfect, they often tried their best. Washington comes across looking fairly good, while Benjamin Franklin falls quite short of what he could have been both as a husband and a father.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Chicago - Ellicott City

November 11, 2020 Peace and good, I am sorry that I have not written for a while, but I forgot to check in. These past two weeks I was in Chicago for a series of meetings. The first week was a zoom meeting with the General Definitory. This was a bit difficult because we had participants from Korea to Italy to the US. I was getting up to turn on the computer at 4 am, while the friar in Korea was going until 3 am his time. Zoom meetings are good, but they are exhausting. We found that you can really only go for about 2 hours before you have to take a break. Then, the second week, we had a zoom meeting with the major superiors of our federation (Australia, US, Canada and Great Britian/Ireland). The meeting went very well. One of the things that we are doing in launching an office to handle requests for assistance in our missions. Up to now, we have been able to get money for social projects, but we also need formation houses, education costs, etc. The friar in charge, fr. Valerio Folli, is a gem. He is from northern Italy, and has worked with a similar project in his own province for years. I was also able to film a series of blogs for our website on the concept of peacce in the Bible. Eacch is only a couple of minutes long, and I was able to finish about 35. I am now in Ellicott City. The past couple of days I have had a couple of small medical procedures - preparation for a dental crown (which fell off due to a Korean gummy bear) and a bit of skin cancer removed (Basil cell). I will head back to Rome a week from Saturday. That, of course, is if they still let people enter Italy. It seems that the rules change every five minutes. I have not had a flight in the past eight months that was not rescheduled or cancelled. I finished some reading: Earth’s Changing Climate by Richard Wolfson This is a series of lectures from the Teaching Company that looks at the phenomenon of global warming from a very scientific background (without getting into politics as much as possible). Wolfson gives the data, explains how the data does not produce an exact picture but rather does foreshadow certain strong possibilities, and outlines various projections as to what awaits the world if action is taken to lower Carbon Dioxide emissions (and other greenhouse gases) and what awaits if we do not. Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson This is the second book by Isaacson that I have read. The first was a biography of Leonardo da Vinci. Both books were excellent. In this book he deals with very esoteric scientific concepts, but he does so in a way that shows both he understands what they mean and in a way that helps the reader to understand. Einstein comes across as a complex figure who was a pacifist until the Nazi horror forced him to recognize the need to resist, a pacifist who nevertheless urged President Roosevelt to investigate nuclear fission as a weapon, etc. His family life was not always ideal, especially with his first wife. Yet, he does come across as a dreamy but also fundamentally humble character. Books that Matter: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire written by Edward Gibbons by Leo Damrosch This is one of the Teaching Company Courses. The professor gives a good overview of the various topics covered by Edward Gibbons in his masterpiece of the late 18th century, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Damrosch readily evidences the prejudices of Gibbons, but also complements him highly on his incredible research and arrangement of scattered information to give a logical timeline and a learned evaluation of causes and effects in the process. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell This is a book in a collection of significant books to read which is available on Kindle. I would have never read it, but it was the next in line. The author is writing about the difficulties of being poor in the midst of the industrial revolution in the manufacturing cities of England during the 19th century. The poor struggle to survive, while the captains of industry try to protect their privilege even at the cost of oppressing the poor. The book gives a sense of the religious faith of the people, heavily influenced by the Methodist movement. The action is a bit melodramatic, the style of the day in which the book was written. It was good, though, to go through a book of this period. Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic by Jill Jonnes This is the story of how the Pennsylvania Railroad managed to dig tunnels under the various waterways surrounding New York and build Penn Station at the turn of the 20th century. They were up against numerous physical problems, as well as political problems (for the Tammany was still very strong in New York City at this time). The account gives a good picture of those involved in the process, especially of the always honest and trustworthy president of the Penn Railroad, Alexander Cassatt, the brother of the famous artist Mary Cassatt. King George VI by Hourly History This is a short, well written biography of King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth. There is nothing shocking in the account. The low point in the abdication of his brother in order to marry the woman he loved. The high point is how George, who was never the most outstanding figure, stepped up to the bat to help lead Great Britain during World War II. A Tour of the Cell by OpenLearn This is a short treatment of the various elements and mechanisms of the cell (whether plant or animal). The course tends to be highly technical, so this course should not be considered for the casual reader. It would serve most for someone who was studying for an exam on cytology in medical school. Seeds of Hope by Jane Goodall The author of this book is the famous Jane Goodall who lived with chimps in Eastern Africa for so many years and produced important studies on their behavior. This book deals with the importance of plants (in a number of different dimensions). It speaks of the value of surrounding oneself with plants, of deforestation, of attempts at reforestation, of genetically modified plants, of industrial farming, etc. It is quite good, but at times a bit strident and pedantic. Keep Safe. fr. Jude