Home for the Holidays…

Well, not really.
I’m in Chattanooga, but I’m on Aged Parent Patrol.
I sorted a LOT of photos from this semester today while we waited between the doctor’s visit and the actual discharge — but forgot to ask for the WiFi password at the front desk so I didn’t post any. Give me a bit!

Legal liability for IMPRECISE science?

Seismologists Tried for Manslaughter.
Well, in Italy you can indict anyone for anything, but still. Advocates of social reorganization based on current consensus should take note — there could be class action suits on behalf of dairy or salt producers against the AMA, I think.
From the Guardian coverage:

The judge said the defendants “gave inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether smaller tremors in L’Aquila six months before the 6.3 magnitude quake on 6 April, which killed more than 300 people, should have been viewed as warning signs of the subsequent disaster.

Of course, the government minister who suggested people should just sit back with a Montepulciano doc was tactless, but really – if we moved out of our houses every time seismologists were worried, we’d all be living in tents.

First evening on the balcony

I was home this year to go out flower shopping with my friend Sandy — we have our boxes and a few pots planted. I grilled for the first time this season (which would certainly have happened earlier if I’d been home earlier!) tonight. Summer in the Finger Lakes has begun.

Gene Vance, R.I.P.

Sad news is bouncing around various listserves this morning — Gene Vance died Saturday. Linde Brocato and I were talking about him later that evening at the dance at Kalamazoo — wondering what he was up to. The answer was: flying small planes. Gene was always a swashbuckler. He sailed avidly, and when he moved to Atlanta, where the boat-sailing on local lakes wasn’t as much fun as the Atlantic off Maine, he took up windsurfing.
Gene was an emeritus professor at the University of Washington. It’s harder to believe that he ever retired than that he took up flying!
My thoughts and prayers are with his widow and family.
If anyone wants to get in on a joint Emory alum memorial gift (there’s a fellowship in his name already at U.W.) let me know.

There’s really no end of the things I will do / When I get back from Kalamazoo

This must have been the constant refrain in every household with a medievalist last week . . . and today I’m catching up. Today I have emptied all of my luggage from Italy and Michigan, run several loads of laundry, sorted all the books, stuff, receipts, and ephemera into piles for home and school, moved the home ones around, and restored MY arrangement of the kitchen.* I ran vinegar through the coffee maker — isn’t that virtuous!?
Why so domestic? Well, it’s rained off and on all day. There was little incentive to do anything else — and I have to be on campus all day later in the week anyway for a retreat, so the art department can wait.
But all this is recovery from a GREAT Kalamazoo! I saw friends, danced with old friends from Emory, gave a well-received paper, and got to hang around with Katherine Eggert, friend of my youth! She may be a Shakespearean, but she had reason to come to our medieval congress; I was happy to see her! It was even more fun to have her as part of the audience for my paper. Nice for once to have someone who knew pretty close to everything I was thinking about when I was 18 hear what I’m thinking about now that I’m just about 50.
So now I’m recovering – and putting my house in order.

*my subletter was great, but she needed space for her baking supplies.

I have an hour of free civic wifi

So should I answer email or blog?
I’ll answer email later.
Sitting on the Piazza del Duomo in Milan on a GORGEOUS day and I’m regretting my non-smartphone life, because i want to show you something. It will have to wait. Back to enjoying gothic beauty in the sunshine.

Lost in a crowd

Beatification of John Paul II -- banners at the end!
I really don’t like crowds much — DI sports events, political rallies, stadium rock — and tend to avoid them. The same goes for papal mega-masses. Yesterday I didn’t resist.
I first saw John Paul II in Poland, of all places, in the summer of 1979. I was traveling with a school music group and everywhere we went our official translators (who must have been junior trainees – what kind of official translator gets stuck with a bunch of high school boys?) explained how excited all Poland was with the impending papal visit. And when we got back to Warsaw, we were lucky enough to be there for one of the great parades. I saw the John Paul from about half a block down a crowded street. I don’t think I have ever or will ever again feel such a concentrated dose of shared joy spilling over into optimism. We didn’t need translators that day.
I’ve never been up front at a papal mass, but 23 years after Warsaw, I happened to be here (here here – I was staying in the same apartment I’m in this morning) in the June of 2002. No one in Rome that month could not have known about the canonization of Padre Pio, and I had certainly read posters and figured out the schedule from newspapers. Here I was a block from the Ponte Sant’Angelo — I had to go, if only for cultural interest. That was a big crowd — and because it was all so much in the open it felt bigger than Warsaw. Latecomer as I was, I was able to walk about a third of the way down the via della Conciliazione without breaking pace and then to work my way forward until I was about half way to St Peter’s Square. Luckily, the average person with a strong devotion to Padre Pio was an Italian grandmother, so I could see clearly.
The mass itself didn’t impress me with strong memories, other than the crazy communion distributed by a cast of thousands. More impressive were the blessings from the Popemobile — the pope drove down the via della Conciliazione blessing the crowd. The crowd began to thin out and the little clutch of Americans I had found myself attached to (you know, we tall ones picked each other out in the crowd) began chatting, congratulating ourselves on the full papal experience — and he came driving back from a side street! And then again a few minutes later! Triple blessings, which I felt much more strongly than Padre Pio. By that time I had been a Catholic for about 10 years and had read a fair amount of John Paul’s less abstruse stuff, so I respected him as well as honored him as pope.
Saturday Rome filled up with pilgrims. There had been increasing crowds all week, but the backpackers got here in force on Saturday. There were churches open all night for vigils (go see my pictures from yesterday to see some people who were feeling the vigil more than the beatification), there was a carefully produced vigil-spectacle at the Circus Maximus, and everywhere I went there were groups of people following not just the usual raised umbrella of the tour guide but pilgrimage banners — not all of them red and white Polish flags, but certainly a lot of them.
Yesterday morning I didn’t leave the apartment until 9. I knew that any time I was willing to get up and go would have been too late to get into good view, but the best I could do was the intersection of via San Pio X and Borgo Santo Spirito. We didn’t have a view of a GODzillatron, but the sound was great. There was a patch of shade around the corner, to which I retreated occasionally. I would have stayed there but the sound fell off sharply, and I would have had only the Polish coverage from the radios of a group of very tired pilgrims (go back to flickr to see the folks in red cloaks).
Still, on the level of mere emotionality, this mass moved me in a way that the mass for Padre Pio didn’t, and it moved me twice. The first time was early on, at the formal proclamation of blessedness. In the applause and cheers and flag waving I felt something I don’t feel in cheers and flag-waving at sporting events or political gatherings — I felt the Sense of the Faithful. Maybe it’s because I’m one of them — but it was there, that oceanic feeling. We agree.
The ordinary of the mass was in Latin (the few English readings were in Australian, which was a bit of a shock!). The Lord’s Prayer was really something. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised with the self-selected crowd, but out of the million (or million and a half – estimates have been rising since I last looked), many if not most of the people in that out-of-sight intersection said the prayer together in Latin. And that was something — not cheering our assent but praying in one voice.
And for someone who doesn’t like crowds, that makes it worthwhile, for once.