Monday, April 24, 2023

Torrance, Ca - Chicago

April 24, 2023 Peace and Good, I finished my visitation of the friars in Torrance, CA, and flew to Chicago. This past week we have had a meeting of the CFF. This is the English speaking federation for the friars, and all the provincials, custodes and delegates gather twice a year to establish a plan for the friars over the next several months (and to tell the truth, te next several years). The meeting went very, very well. I always like visiting Chicago. Our friary is on the north side of the city, two blocks from the Lake and three from Loyola University. The weather has been strange, but I got my walks in no matter what. Today I fly back to Rome where I will be until Sunday when I fly to London. I have a direct flight on American, so I do not have to change in London this time. The clock is slowly clicking down til I finish my assignment in Rome - 65 days to go. I am looking forward to see how this next stage of my life plays itself out. I finished some reading: Generals and Geniuses: A History of the Manhattan Project by Edward Lengel This is a course from the Teaching Company on the scientists and military men who organized the Manhattan Project which produced the first atom bomb. The presentation is well done, and it gives a good insight both into the difficulties that had to be overcome in this project and the personalities of those involved. It also gives insight into the continuing fear that Germany or Japan were working to produce their own nuclear weapons. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst Furst is one of my favorite authors. He write about espionage during the 30’s and 40’s, especially dealing with the Nazis but also with the NKVD of the Soviet Union. In this book, the hero is born in Bulgaria, trained to be a spy in the Soviet Union, ends up serving in Spain, France and Prague, and finally, after stopping in Romania, ends up on the docks of New York City. Although all of this sounds absurd, Furst makes it work. He has a way of enticing one into a hidden world. I recommend this book. Firestarter by Stephen King This is a tale of paranormal abilities which are exhibited in a young girl whose parents were part of a secret governmental drug trial. She is able to set fires, and a secret governmental agency wants to find her, control her, and if necessary destroy her. She and her father flee as long as they can from the agents seeking them, and then they have to use their powers to defeat the evil plans of that agency. Island on Fire by Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe This is the story of the explosion of a volcano on Iceland in 1783 named Loki. It had disastrous consequences on the people living near the volcano, but also on people all around the world because of the environmental consequences of the release of ash and sulfuric fumes which travelled around the world. This probably is what led to a famine in France which led to the French Revolution. The authors are able to draw together events such as this, but also to ask what would happen today if a similar event were to occur. The Solar Revolution by Steve McKevitt and Tony Ryan The authors of this short work speak of the energy crises the world is now facing, and proposes various possible solutions (and the problems inherent in those solutions) to the problem. This includes a discussion of solar energy, geothermic energy, hydropower, wind power, nuclear energy, etc. The study is short but well done and compelling. Odds On by Michael Crichton This is the story of a set of thieves who plan to rob a Spanish casino and its customers. The name comes from the fact that the founder of the gang has based his plan upon a computer program to measure probabilities. The book is OK, but not great. The Debriefing by Jeffery Deaver This is a very good story about two DEA agents who are injured during a capture of some drug runners. The title deals with the debriefing that they undergo by the police after they are taken to a hospital. There are a number of twists and turns in the story that make it compelling. Lithium by Walter Brown This is the history of the use of Lithium to treat people who suffer from Manic-Depressive (Bipolar) Disorder. The use of lithium was almost an accident, and to this day no one really knows why it works to treat and even prevent depressive episodes. The use of the drug was only gradual due to the danger of overdose with the use of Lithium. Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs by Barbara Mertz This is an overview of Egyptian archaeology and the history of Egypt from its earliest days to the days of the Hellenist Ptolemy regime. The author has a very entertaining, irreverent style that makes a book that would possibly be incredibly boring into a pleasant treat. I would recommend this particular book, not so much for the knowledge gained as for the joy of reading the book itself. Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon One of my favorite artists is Caravaggio. I love going to the Church of St. Louis the King in Rome where two beautiful paintings (including the calling of St. Matthew) are found. He is the master of the shadow and light technique that would be used by such talented later artists such as Rembrandt. Yet, his life is so sad, so filled with self-destructive violence. He so loved to empress the humanity and humility of discipleship, and yet he so profaned his own humanity through drunkenness, debauchery, and violence. Have a good week. Shalom fr. Jude


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