Monday, I finished my text for the chapter on Medieval Cosmology, for an upcoming book on Medieval Science Fiction. In the process of it I kept having to deal with my despair at how little I really know about the subject, and how different it is to talk glibly about this stuff on a panel at a local SF convention compared to writing a text that other people may be citing as if I were an expert. Impostor syndrome never goes away. Well, the chapter is done. I hope I haven't told too many lies and that whoever does read it will appreciate the spirit in which it is presented...
Tuesday morning, the Medieval paper was sent off. Thud.
That night I was up until 2 am working with my co-author on the last bits of the ET book. I left him with ten pages to revise. He got those to me (with much weeping and teeth-gnashing) late Wednesday night. I made the changes, and left him a copy of the text for one last read-through on his part. Finally, he got those to me at 10 pm Thursday.
Since both of us had to be up to catch a 7 am train to Rome on Friday (he's off for his annual retreat, I had a meeting in Rome) it really had to be finished then. I skimmed over and accepted virtually all his suggested revisions. At about 11 pm, the text of Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? was dropped into an email, and sent off to my editor in New York. Thud.
Friday was spent in Rome, attending the first meeting of a scientific advisory council to a newly formed something-or-another on science and faith at the Vatican. I only understood about half of what we were doing there, and why, and that was *after* we switched to English. Met some nice people and got a good pranzo out of the deal, however.
Saturday (today) I was up at 5:30 am to meet a photographer from the Detroit Free Press, here to take pictures of Detroiters at the Vatican. She wanted the morning light. She got it. We drank lots of coffee and talked about the Tigers. All in all, a wonderful time, but I am ready to fall over asleep...
So, anyway, I wrote the first draft of a paper on that topic, which is now awaiting the comments of the other team members. I think it might make a small note in a specialist journal. The team leader wants to send it to Science or Nature.
But that meant that I got no writing done on my 12,000 word chapter about cosmology for the Medieval Science Fiction book… which I have known about for a year, but only started writing the Friday afternoon of the day it was due. (On the train home from Bern.) I told the editor I would have it to him on Monday.
Fortunately, concerning the text of Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial, my co-author hasn't gotten his comments on the manuscript back yet; if he had, I would be working on that book instead. Having missed our November 1 deadline, the manuscript is now due on December 1. (Which is... when? Tomorrow? Surely you jest.)
On a daily basis, I use what I learned in high school English far more than what I learned in high school science or math. If only I had learned to read a calendar.
What about more pleasant there-I-was memories?
Late summer of 1965, my brother (in high school, three years older than me, and the unspoken arbiter of cool for me, though I would never admit it to him) and I are in the car with mom, going down Eight Mile Road (in Detroit), coming home from the dentist's office. (We had moved to Birmingham but still went to our old dentist in Harper Woods.) My brother makes us stop talking, to listen to the new Bob Dylan song that they're playing on the radio. It's strange. It's rock. It's long! I always thought Dylan's voice was weird but someone you couldn't not listen. And now he's singing with an actual rock-and-roll band. Ha! Like my older sister, I was an unrepentant folkie and sneered at rock and roll; but my brother was willing to accept Dylan with rock. The words puzzled me... did Dylan really mean to imply that he wanted to be a member of the Rolling Stones?
The first weekend of June, 1967, we were up at our summer cottage on Lake Huron, and my brother (he was 18, just graduated from Seaholm high school) had just bought the new Beatles album. It was a cold, rainy weekend. We spent a lot of time indoors, listening to that record on my sister's cheesy portable stereo system. (She was still away at college.) It sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. And were The Beatles really changing their name to Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band? I was so confused. It was really rather frightening. But I wanted to hear it again...
A million years ago, beamjockey and K came to visit, and we had three intense days playing tourist in Rome. Never got inside St. Peter's, even. They are just going to have to come back and visit again! K left to get back to work, so Bill worked with me for three days (among other things, inventorying the meteorite collection; Bill got to handle a thousand space rocks, and I got to update our catalog!) Then we were off to Florence for a weekend, which he has reported delightfully about on his LJ.
I got back to Rome a week ago and immediately fell into the grand Vatican Observatory Foundation tour for some of our donors. This included guided trips to St Ignatius and Gesu churches and the rooms of Ignatius; tours of the Vatican Gardens, the Tour of the Winds; a private tour of the Raphael Rooms and Sistine Chapel; the papal audience on Wednesday; tours of the Swiss Guards quarters and the Mosaic school; and then transfer out to Castel Gandolfo for the last day of touring around here. I was on duty the whole time. Met some wonderful people, got to see some great stuff... but for a high introvert, an exhausting experience.
So today I hide in the cave.
Tomorrow, it's back to work on the final draft of the book we promised to deliver November 1. New due date is December 1. Plus a referee report of an awful paper -- those take the longest to write -- and a paper for Medieval Science Fiction that I haven't started yet. And work due the end of the month on geochemical constraints for interior models of Vesta.
Oh, and we now have 135 applicants for our summer school. I need to read them all and whittle them down to 25.
Don't expect to hear much from me until then...
I have a book due at the end of the month. The writer's block that had been affecting my co-author has burst, and I am now flooded with good stuff from him, which means reworking everything. The first draft is done and it is not too terrible, but the book is certainly not in any shape to show anyone yet.
Since it has significant theological content (the title is, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? ) and both my co-author and I are members of a religious order, that means that we have to be sure not to embarrass the order too much with what we say, so it has to go past someone higher up to check for theological howlers. (My last book garnered a comment that "the statement you make on page 213 was specifically condemned by the Council of Nicea". Well, I didn't know... I added the word "not" to that sentence.) But that means that we really need to have a working version of the book in shape well before the contract deadline.
I know, deadlines were designed to whoosh past and all that. If I admitted that to my co-author, I would get nothing out of him. And I have a zillion other things to write as soon as I get back to Rome, so it really needs to get done now.
As it is, this has been a very productive week. We are both in Tucson (for various reasons) and relatively free of the stuff we normally have to do when in Rome, so we've been able to go at it, great guns. We both leave on Friday morning, me for Rome and him for San Francisco (before returning to Rome).
So... having said all that... I just want to say that this was not a good week for Trade Secret, the latest Lee and Miller Liaden book, to be released (as an e-book). Bad timing. Bad. I do not have time to read it right now. Really. (Glad as I am to be able to purchase it while still in the US, mind you, as getting ebooks online from overseas is sometimes tricky.)
Well, at the very least, I ought to be able to hold off at least until I am on the plane on Friday...
- Current Location:Tucson
Just a brief note to thanks my birthday well wishers (something I am terrible at doing myself but appreciate when others are better at it than me). I was on a silent retreat that week but did celebrate with a chocolate malted shake!
After the retreat I visited and spoke at the Kilgraston school in rural Scotland outside Perth, with little internettivity. I am now on a trail to Launde Abbey in rural northern England for a week long astronomy based retreat. I will be retreated out by the end of this week! (I am directing this retreat not receiving it but it still will be an extensive time away from most contact. )
Hope to be back online in a week.
London, September 7-12
Scotland, September 26-27
I have one more night in London, on the Saturday (October 5) following the retreat.
My room in Tucson has a whiteboard (all labs have a whiteboard, ergo my room is a lab) which quickly got filled with my to-do list. I think I had lunch and dinner with nearly everyone I know in Tucson. I finally got around to proofing my Heat Capacity paper. (Elsevier has the most obtuse web site for submitting proofs, matched only by the absolutely awful design of Adobe Acrobat for annotating pdf files. I hate hate hate it... why can't we just scribble in red pencil on pieces of paper like in the good old days?) I bought some shirts and undies. (I do try to do that once a decade) And, oh yes, I did get the teeth drilled. That was remarkably painless... more painless than clothes shopping, at least.
I even remembered to water the plants in the house.
I bought a small flashlight for my next stop, which is the famous amateur astronomy/telescope maker's convention, Stellafane. I still have too much in my comet talk Saturday night, but I have been busy killing my darlings so that I should be able to get through it all in under an hour.
Right now I am in LAX waiting for the red-eye to New York. I plan -- indeed, hope -- to be awake most of the next few nights, so I may as well get started now!
- Current Location:LAX American Lounge
Part of it is the very flaky way I attend meetings. Where Emily Lakdawalla apparently goes into a talk thinking, "what do my readers need to know that's new?" my reaction for every talk is usually a combination of, "boy those are terrible slides... didn't Clayton present this same work in 1977? ... hey, that guy whose work she's trashing is someone I knew when I was a post-doc, I remember going to dinner at a meeting with him in Hawaii in 1980 where we had burgers topped with pineapple slices... how long is it until the coffee break?"
These are generally not thoughts worth tweeting. Indeed, most of them are better left unsaid. And usually it takes me a day or twenty before I can finally digest what I heard and decide what stuff seemed significant.
That said, there have been a couple of interesting results that my fellow planetary scientists might like to know about.
1. Mike Gaffey presented spectra of a handful of small asteroids near the 3:1 resonance that have bands very similar to 6 Hebe, which he has touted for years as the parent body of the H asteroids. Of course, with his technique of hand-crafting every spectrum with loving care, it will be another 20 years before he has a statistically significant number of these spectra.
2. Ed Scott, who usually has results that I find fascinating but infuriating, shocked me by presenting a paper on a controversial topic that I completely agree with. He thoroughly demolished the over-simple "onion skin" model of asteroid metamorphism by showing a number of different ways to estimate cooling rates in ordinary chondrite meteorites, all of which agree with each other and none of which correlate at all with petrographic class.
3. Several Grand Old Men in the Field gave talks on topics outside their field of expertise. The less said about them, the better. I am rethinking my ambition of becoming a Grand Old Man in the Field.
I am sure there are other talks I will refer to in the future that I am forgetting at the moment.
Meanwhile, at the banquet I went up to an old friend whom I hadn't seen since last year's meeting, to tell him some news I thought he'd find interesting. He listened politely, and then said, "When I see [redacted] I'll let him know." The person I was was talking to was a different old friend from the one I thought I was talking to. They are both bald, and both are people I had met in London, but the resemblance ends there. (The one I was talking to is about a foot shorter than the guy I thought I was talking to.) Maybe if I were a Grand Old Man I could claim memory loss...
- Current Location:Edmonton, Alberta
On Thursday, August 8. I head off to Stellafane, the annual amateur telescope makers' convention in Vermont. I haven't made a telescope (yet), but they want me to talk about comets. Not having much to say, my talk at present is merely twice as long as it ought to be...
The following week I spend at Cape May, New Jersey, where my Jesuit province owns a house on the shore for vacations. This will be my only visit to my province this year, and it was Strongly Recommended that I get back there at least once a year so they remember who I am (for when the time comes that I get to retire... which should be in about thirty years).
I'll be back in Rome on August 19, with an overnight in London on Sunday, the 18th.
Random thought of the day, while listening to the Velvet Underground's song "Sweet Jane"... the song, in case you aren't familiar with it, is about a young stylish couple back in the 1920s; there's a reference in the lyrics to riding in a Stutz Bearcat. That car stopped production about 45 years before the song came out, in 1969... which is itself 44 years ago.
- Current Location:Albano
- Current Music:Sweet Jane