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


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