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May 10th, 2011

Monday at the Specola

More day-to-day stuff, from a typical yesterday...

Monday morning, I stumble into the kitchen to make an espresso and have a little of the colombo pastry left over from Easter. I find that the last of the colombo has been consumed by someone else in the community, who has helpfully left behind the dirty plate full of nothing but crumbs. This is, of course, classic Jesuit behavior. (More typically, it's the guy who leaves three drops of orange juice in the pitcher so as to avoid being the one who finishes the orange juice and thus has to make up a new pitcher.)

I had worried, when I entered religious life in my late 30s, that I would miss out on the salutary effect of having a spouse to irritate me on a daily basis (and challenge my otherwise impervious sense of superiority and perfection) but living in a community of a dozen men, none of whom I selected to live with, has cured me of that. Especially as I realize that all the things that bug me the most about other members of this community, are the little things that I am most prone to do myself. In other words, it is just like any other family.

The superior asks me to go with him after 10 am coffee to pick up a car that was in the shop, but at the same time Sabino informs me that a number of his geologist friends were visiting and they wanted a tour of the meteorite lab. I give the tour, and David goes with the superior to pick up the car.

I spend a good chunk of the morning at my desk writing non-committal answers to a number of the odd (snail-mail) letters that have accumulated over the past three months. These are from folks who have seen me on TV and want to know my opinion about: a. ETs, b. the nature of Space and Time, c. their new theory that will put all our previous ideas of physics to shame. They are all very nice people, and deserving of polite responses. I have the wonderful excuse that, as a meteoriticist, I claim no expertise in whatever their theories are attempting to explain so of course I cannot possibly give them the kind of response they deserve. Sigh.

Upstairs from our offices are our community quarters. Community prayer in the chapel is at 1:20, pranzo at 1:30. (We have a wonderful Italian young woman to cook for us.) A bit of reposo (rest) after lunch, spent mostly re-reading an old Schmitz short story collection. 

At 4:00 pm, my Italian teacher arrives. I'm starting six weeks of conversation lessons, two 90 minute sessions a week; I know enough Italian to know how much work my Italian really needs. We spent the time in conversation, as she noted a number of my common mistakes and worked out a plan of where to go from here. One question she asks is what my reaction to Italy was when I first came here. I mention that Italy has changed a lot since I first got here, 18 years ago... does she remember what Castel Gandolfo was like back then? She replies, "well... I was only 15 years old back then."

After Italian, I skype with my Turn Left co-author in New York about the web site for our new edition, followed by another skype with my parents in Florida. Answer emails about a meteor-wrong that a friend had sent me, and about a gathering of Jesuits from my province who live in Rome and who will be coming out here on Saturday for Mass, drinks, and a dinner at a local restaurant. Read emails from other community members about a visitor from the European Southern Observatory who will be with us for the next few days, and about the arrival of the newly-blessed holy oil that our sacristan has gotten for our chapel. Off to bed, around 10 pm.

I wake up at 3:30 am, as is typical for someone my age, and while I am up I check my email. There is a note from a close friend from my grad student days, who lives now in California. He asks me to telephone him ASAP. I call California. I learn that he is going in next week for an operation for pancreatic cancer.

Prayers.

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