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An eventful week November 20, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, internet, music, news, personal, physics, science, social life, travel.

For a change (or is it) let me write about personal issues, i.e., about what I have been doing this week. I have been in the US for four days only, but it looks like a long time already… And I need a post of the kind “dear diary” to sort things out.

I arrived to O’Hare last Thursday at noon after a uneventful flight – the same route through Munich I’ve flown three dozen times in the last few years. This time I found some company in a colleague who was going to attend the workshop Peter mentioned the other day – we met on the lounge in Venice and traveled together.

Thursday was spent cursing myself for missing a toll on I-88 while driving out of the airport towards Fermilab. It so upsets me to have to lose time for silly things! I soon learned I could pay over the internet the .80$ toll charge, but once I went through the instructions I realized the procedure only works for US residents. I then proceeded to pretend I lived here, but got stuck at the last page of the web interface because my credit cards have an italian billing address and got refused. I then tried my american VISA debit card, and that one got refused too. At that point, after almost 40 minutes wrestling with the site and at the peak of frustration, I found out that my US account was blocked for inactivity – and 6 dollars a month had been charged by the kind people at CHASE because of that. I then proceeded to call the tollway office, but they told me I could not pay with a card, and I would have to send in the credit card information. However, sending a simple letter may become a difficult task if you have no stamps and you work day shifts from 8AM to 4PM every day.

On Friday I took service as a Scientific Coordinator in the CDF control room. The accelerator works 24/7 and each experiment has to provide three shift crews a day to attend data taking and care for our detector. I arrived impeccably on time, at 7.55, only to find frowned people staring at me, and I soon realized that on the first day of shift the incoming SciCo has to be there one hour earlier, to overlap with the one that did the owl shift and refresh his or her training.

Disappointing people is not an activity I particularly enjoy, but I soon forgot the incident as I started to sort out what I did not remember about the procedures I had to refresh. However, my attention was distracted by repeated attempts at finding out whether Mia, who had taken the written test for admission to PhD courses in Padova that same day, had done a good exam or not. I would only hear from her on Monday (! students have lost all their respect to their mentors, apparently), and fortunately she did pass the exam! So if all goes well at the oral test, I will enjoy her company doing research together in CMS for the next three years!

Friday evening was spent in a very uncommon way. I visited a person I had never met before, and with whom I had only played a game or two in an internet Bridge site. This lady was the late Riqie Arneberg‘s best friend, and I intended to meet her to hear Riqie’s story from her. We spent a lovely evening together, and we remembered Riqie. I think Riqie would be jealous if she knew – I know our mail and blog comment exchanges and our bridge games made her very happy, and I had promised her I would visit her next time I’d come to the US. Sadly, I could only fulfil virtually that promise, by spending the evening with the last person who saw her alive.

Oh, and I finally saw a few pictures of Riqie. What an interesting person she must have been. She had a tragic life, and she died quite young, but you could see the wit in her eyes from afar. I will collect in another post a few things she wrote in my blog, and if I find it in the wayback machine I will dig out her own blog, which she discontinued about a year ago due to a hacker attack.

Saturday was uneventful, but yesterday I had another very nice evening. I drove to north Chicago, picked up Vincent and Jadwiga – two dear friends of mine, an elderly couple who lives in a very nice apartment overlooking the lake on the north lakefront. I’ve talked about them elsewhere. We had a dinner in Evanston and then attended a chamber music concert by the Chicago Chamber Musicians. Here is the program:

  • Richard Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel, Op. 28 (arr. Hasenohrl):
    • Larry Combs, clarinet
    • Gail Williams, horn
    • Jasmine Lin, violin
    • Peter Lloyd, double bass
  • Franz Schubert, Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major, Op. 159 (D.934):
    • Joseph Genualdi, violin
    • Alan Chow, piano
  • Dana Wilson, Shallow Streams, Deep Rivers – world premiere
    • Gail Williams, horn
    • Joseph Genualdi, violin
    • Alan Chow, piano
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, n.1 (Razumovsky):
    • Jasmine Lin, violin
    • Joseph Genualdi, violin
    • Rami Solomonow, viola
    • Katinka Kleijn, cello

I especially enjoyed the new piece by Dana Wilson (who presented the piece himself). What a great composition! The three instruments fought at the beginning, retaining their own personality, to later merge perfectly into a single deeper stream of music. A very melodic piece, surprisingly balanced despite the presence of the horn.

And today was a really positive day for me. Because of the news about Mia which I already mentioned, and because I got good news about a friend of mine who is being treated with liver cancer and who feared his liver was not going to allow more radiation therapy. Instead, his doctor confirmed his bilirubin is within limits, which allows him to be treated with a third injection of radioactive microspheres in the liver artery, and there are good chances that the tumor will recede.

Life goes on. When one touches with one’s hand the fragility of human life, things get back in their place and the view is restored to a more meaningful perspective – we do not care too much any longer about the insolence of office or other silly incidents. I myself have recently been diagnosed with a relapsing carcinoma, but it does not seem a life-threatening condition – I hope. As soon as I get back to Italy I will be summoned to remove it surgically. After which, I will shrug my shoulders again and pretend to forget about my own vulnerability – something human beings have learned to do a bit too well. 



1. Tripitaka - November 20, 2007

Thanks for this post full of soul, reflecting on the way we often confuse the importance of things.. meaningless matters and others which are the essense of life (friends, music, beauty, memories)

2. Ed Darrell - November 20, 2007

O’Hare was my original assignment when I join American Airlines’ corporate real estate department, when the international terminal there was still in the discussion phases. I think I’ve missed nearly every toll booth missable in that neck of the woods at one time or another.

Welcome back to America!

3. google withme us - November 20, 2007

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4. Kea - November 20, 2007

Dear Tommaso, I really hope you are OK and can continue shrugging your shoulders for a long, long time.

5. dorigo - November 20, 2007

Hi Tripitaka, I am glad that not only physics posts are read here 🙂

Ed, thank you! O’Hare is a bit like home for me too. But recently, they have this I-pass thing that makes you likely to just drive on even if you should coast on the right and stop at the booths… I find it just too easy to miss it.

Kea, I especially appreciate your concern. I think I’ll be fine although I confess I am a bit scared.

Cheers all,

6. George Barouxis - November 20, 2007

Dear Tommaso, I do hope everything will turn out fine.

7. changcho - November 21, 2007

Tommaso, thanks for the interesting, personal post. Good luck with everything and especially your health.

8. Fred - November 21, 2007

T is for turkey,

I enjoyed reading about your evening with Vincent and Jadwiga, especially the very interesting music program offered at the concert. Schubert’s story and music are among my favorites of the classical composers, an incredible talent but dead at the age of 31. It seems there wasn’t a healthy cure for complications due to being promiscuous in his day. The only recording I have of Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel is a fine performance of Karl Bohm conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. For the quartet you listened to, I’m trying to imagine the violin and double bass carrying the entire weight of the role ordinarily played by the orchestra. Strauss and Bohm are tragically linked to the Third Reich with the latter obviously a strong proponent of the movement. But somehow, Bohm never paid any consequences for his demonstrative actions. I think Strauss is emblematic of those that remain silent to tyranny and subsequently embrace evil in an attempt to avoid the suffering and persecution of others. I share your sentiments concerning the fragility of human life. How are you spending Thanksgiving in the States? Here’s to your health.

Cheers, Fred

9. dorigo - November 22, 2007

Hi all,

Changcho, George, thank you…

thank you for your insightful comment on Strauss’ music. Indeed, the double bass had some weight in the arrangement, and the violin was really working overtime too.


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