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August 14th, 2011

Where was Br. Guido?

Long time, no post. I've been busy...

Two weeks in Liverpool, first giving a series of talks and then on retreat. I got to see lots of the landmarks (including riding in a car where the driver got lost and suddenly said, "oh, look! There's Penny Lane...")  A woman at the parish where I was speaking pulled out a photo of a boy she used to babysit, describing how she'd taken him to try out for a part in a local college play -- the Daily Show comedian John Oliver.

The retreat was at Loyola Hall, a Jesuit retreat house near the village of Rainhill. That's the town where George Stephenson demonstrated this invention of his called "the Rocket" that used steam power to pull a line of cars down a flat track at an amazing speed... the tracks are still there (and still in use, albeit upgraded), as is a delightful little museum about the steam trials attached to the local library. My last day in Rainhill, waiting for the train to Liverpool, a somewhat more modern steam engine came roaring through the station (pulling cars of rail enthusiasts). Boy, those guys were smoky. And loud.

(Travel tip: on weekends, traveling from Liverpool to London on Virgin Rail, you can upgrade to first class via the internet for only a few pounds extra.)

This past week I've been in London for the annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society, held in Greenwich. The best part of the meeting, for me, was hearing the first results from the Dawn spacecraft at Vesta. I worked on the whole Vesta-meteorite connection business back in the 1970s, and it is both heartening to see my work still being quoted, and humbling to realize that I never did anything nearly as good after that!

We were mostly unaffected by all the stuff that put London in the news this week. As someone who remembers the riots in Detroit in 1967, my feelings were a mixture of too-many-bad-memories and "these are nothing compared to..." Considering that Detroit never recovered from its riots, I should hope that these do turn out to be relatively nothing by comparison. Others more knowledgeable than me have commented on them; frankly, I have nothing original to say. As I replied to someone at our meeting who was trying to pontificate based on her own political leanings, "I have a hard enough time doing my own job to tell someone else how to do theirs."

Yesterday's trip was to Bedford to see the small privately-run museum of the USAAC 306th Bomber Squadron, who were located at Thurleigh Field from 1942-1945. My dad was a part of that group. The fellow who runs the museum (open only on weekends) actually met me at the train station and gave me a ride to-and-from the museum; I was the only person visiting it at the time. Lots of dioramas and memorabilia, well laid out. Mostly, just being at the place about which I had heard so many stories from my dad was a thrill. It was a nice bookend to having visited, in 1995 with him, the POW camp in Germany from which he was liberated in 1945. I recorded a bit of the tour and took lots of pictures on my iPhone and shared them with my mom and dad that evening, chatting over the computer.

Where will Br. Guido be?

My schedule for Renovation:

Thu 13:00 (A03) 1 hr
People for the Ethical Treatment of Mars

Fri 12:00 (A01+6) 1 hr
Life, the Universe and Everything: A Dialog about Science, Science Fiction, and Religion

Sat 13:00 (A05) 1 hr
The Year in Physics and Astronomy

Sat 16:00 (E01) 1 hr
The Awesomeness of Space: A Discussion with Young Fans

Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

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