Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ellicott City, MD

December 7, 2023 Memorial of St. Ambrose Peace and Good, I have had a very good writing week. Last week I finished the text for my meditation book on sayings from Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Sirach and Qoheleth). I sent in the text and it is being typeset at this time. It will probably be a few months before it appears in print. This week I edited the Lectors' Wookbook for 2024-2025. It is basically the same text as that which I wrote three years ago with quite a few corrections and changes due to what I have read in the meantime. I am feeling well. The effects of my first lung operation did not last all that long. I have another lung operation on December 15, this time on the right side of my lung. There are two masses growing there, and they have to take them out. This time they might have to take out the upper lobe of the lung. They will only know for sure when they go in. I will be in the hospital for three to four days. I really don't like being in the hospital for I rarely sleep (due to all the various checks made during the night). The weather here is that of early winter. It is cool with lots of clouds and a bit of rain. I have finished some reading and listening: Animals at the extremes: The desert environment by OpenLearn This is an openlearn presentation on how desert animals manage to survive their most challenging environment. It especially speaks of adapting biological and behavioral changes that mark the desert animals different from the same species living in a more favorable environment. There is a lot of technical information in the presentation, so I would not recommend it for everyone. The History of Forensic Science by Elizabeth Murray This is a teaching company course of the birth and development of forensic science. The professor tries to draw stories from many different areas (e.g. murder, larceny, spying, etc.). She does get into the recent discoveries of forensics (e.g. DNA analysis, electronic means of gaining information, etc.). The course never really comes together, but rather is a series of interesting but disconnected presentations. People of the Century by Time Magazine This is an overview of 100 of the most famous and important people of the 20th century. At times, their names are simply mentioned with a line or two of what they did. At other times, there are extended overviews of their contributions to society (usually around 10 minutes or so on the audiobook recording). It does not go into depth with any of the figures, but it does offer a good, entertaining overview of the century. Sir Francis Walsingham by Derek Wilson Walsingham was the chief spy of Queen Elizabeth I. He was a puritan and rabidly anti-Catholic. He arranged for the death of Queen Mary of Scotland by enticing her and others into a plot. He was responsible for a vicious persecution against Catholics during these times. He also had to deal with a famously indecisive queen who could be vicious and stingy to those who tried hardest to serve her. The author sees Walsingham as a hero, and is always ready to defend him against charges of cruelty and deception. The Ancient Greek World by Jennifer Robert and Jeff Woodman This is a relatively short series of lectures about the history and culture of the Greek World. The presentations are well done, understandable, and told in a way that is lively and interesting. This could almost serve as an introductory course into ancient Greece. Conspirata by Robert Harris This is an account of the consulship of Cicero in the 1st century B.C. It is a novel, told through the mouth of Tiro, Cicero’s always faithful Greek slave. It especially deals with the failed rebellion of Catalina, a man from a noble family who loses all his fortune and decides to present himself as the savior of the underclass. It also deals with the rise of Julius Caesar. The book is tremendous, and one easily slips into the minds and the lives of the characters described. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord This is the account of the sinking of the Titanic (which was the basis of the famous film by the same name). Lord is a good author of narratives. This book includes as many details as possible of the struggle of the passengers to survive the disaster. It includes heroes and cowards. It speaks of the causes of the disaster as well as its aftermath (especially to the main figures involved in the disaster). Fearless Spies and Daring Deeds of World War II by Rebecca Langston-George This is a short outline of a few of the famous spies of the Second World War, both allied and German. It does not go into great details, but rather gives a ten minute outline of each of the figures covered in the presentation. India and Pakistan by Gregory Kozlowski This is a short history from ancient times to the time of independence from the British Empire of the nations of India and Pakistan. A good amount of time is spent on the Raj, the time with the British rule India, from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. It speaks of many of the famous historic figures who were so prominent in its history. It also deals with the Hindu/Muslim divide which still troubles this part of the sub-continent. Empire of the Black Sea by Duane Roller This is the story of the various kingdoms that arose around the Black Sea in the period before Christ, but it is especially the story of the greatest of the kings who ruled in those times: Mithridates VI of the kingdom of Pontus. This is a kingdom in northern Turkey, and he rules just as the other major empires of the area (Macedon, the Seleucids, and Ptolemy in Egypt) were weakening and Rome was on the rise. He fought a few wars against Rome, including one in which he sent word secretly around his empire to slaughter all Romans and Italians living in his kingdom on the same day (some estimate as many as 80,000 people). He was also known as the poison king, for he was very knowledgeable of poisons and took small doses of poisons each day to make himself immune to their effect. 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People who Lived There by Philip Matyszak This is a popularized account of how Romans lived in ancient times (c. the 2nd century A.D.). The author takes the time hour by hour and presents a story of what a particular person might have been doing at that time. Thus, one has 24 separate but intertwined accounts of life in ancient Rome. Unknown terms are well explained, and the presentation is both informative and entertaining. Attila: The Barbarian King who changed Rome by John Man This is a developed biography of Attila the Hun. The author does a good job of speaking about what was happening in the Eastern and Western Roman Empires at this time, who the Huns were and their points of view in terms of raids and plunder, the role that the leader of the Huns played, etc. Given the fact that the written records are all from the Roman side, the author nevertheless develops a good and fair portrait of who Attila was and why he did the things he did. Have a good week. Please keep me in your prayers. Shalom fr. Jude


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