Daily Update: Monday, March 30th, 2015

03-30  - Alaska Purchase

Today is Monday of Holy Week. This is yet another Saintless day, but on this date in 1867 the United States purchased the Alaska Territory from Russia.

The Gospel readings for Monday of Holy Week tell of how Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’s feet with costly ointment. When Judas objected that the ointment could have been sold to raise money for the poor, Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Turning to the secular world, the Russian government in the late 1850′s was in a difficult financial position and feared losing Russian America without compensation in some future conflict, especially to the British, whom they had fought in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856). While Alaska attracted little interest at the time, the population of nearby British Columbia had started to increase rapidly a few years after hostilities ended, with a large gold rush there prompting the creation of a crown colony on the mainland. The Russians therefore started to believe that in any future conflict with Britain, their hard-to-defend region might become a prime target and would be easily captured, so the Tsar decided to sell the territory. Perhaps in hopes of starting a bidding war, both the British and the Americans were approached, however the British expressed little interest in buying Alaska. The Russians in 1859 offered to sell the territory to the United States, hoping that its presence in the region would offset any dark designs of Great Britain. However, no deal was brokered due to the American Civil War. Following the Union victory in the Civil War in 1865, the Tsar then instructed the Russian minister to the United States, Eduard de Stoeckl, to re-enter into negotiations with United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, which de Stoeckl did in the beginning of March 1867. The negotiations concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 4 a.m. on March 30, 1867, with the purchase price set at $7.2 million, or about 2 cents per acre. It was not until 1868 that the Congress finally appropriated money for the purchase, more out of hostility to President Andrew Johnson than for any other reason. The purchase gained 586,412 square miles of new United States territory but it was not until the great Klondike gold strike in 1896 that Alaska came to be seen generally as a valuable addition to American territory.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, then gathered up the trash, and Richard put the trash can out on the curb. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once at the casino I called the Pharmacy and renewed a prescription. When we clocked in, Richard was on Pai Gow. I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow, almost broke a Blackjack table (it was being closed when I got there), and on my last two rotations I broke Mississippi Stud. I noticed early in our shift that I am coming down with a cold; my symptoms are a throat that feels a bit scratchy, and sneezing. When we clocked out, I found that our Pay Stubs were up on the employee computer system (more anon).

After work I went to the Pharmacy and picked up my prescription. On our way home I continued reading the January 2015 issue of National Geographic. Once home from work I ate my lunch salad and read the morning paper, while Richard went to get gas for the gas can and mowed the back yard and front yard. I then took a nap from about 1:30 pm to 4:15 pm. When I woke up, I watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, then I printed out our pay stubs and our accrued PTO computation from the employee computer system at the casino. (At present you go to the website, click on Payroll, click on Past Payroll History, then click on the date (currently 3-22-15, when the last pay period ended). The Powers that Be in HR take down the entire Past Payroll History on the week we get paid, and put it up again on Friday. This strikes me as being beyond dumb; I know just enough about weblog design to know that they could have it up all the time, and on the Thursday or Friday just put up a fresh date link for the current payroll. This week, HR didn’t have the Past Payroll History up on Friday, and of course they do not work on Saturday or Sunday.) For reasons I do not know, the system gave Richard three more hours than my computations indicate, and gave me three hours and fifteen minutes more than my computations indicate. Also, I have an extra hour more of accrued PTO. Since all of these discrepancies are in our favor, I’m not inclined to bring them to anyone’s attention (and the casino HR department does not read this weblog). Also, we got the official memo from the casino regarding the Loyalty Reward for not leaving the casino to work for the Golden Nugget in Lake Charles; we get one call-in or tardy taken off of our record for the current YTD on April 6th, and get two more call-ins or tardies taken off of our record in July, if we haven’t called in or been tardy from April through July. I also got an Email from Jeopardy! that the annual online test will be on April 14th, 15th, and 16th; I need to log on to set up which date and time I will take the Online Test. At 6:30 pm I went over to the church for the 6:00 pm Tri-Parish Penance Service that they always have during Holy Week; I said my rosary and did a good confession. When I got home at 6:45 pm, Michelle was here; she and Cody had a water pipe connection burst on them, and she came over to take a shower and to do her laundry. I talked with her and invited her to join Richard and me for crawfish on Good Friday after I get back from the Good Friday Service; she will check her work schedule and get back with me. I then got some cheese and came to the computer to do my Daily Update, and when I finish I will get ready for bed.

Tomorrow is Tuesday of Holy Week; we have no Saints to honor, but it will be César Chávez Day. We will go to work tomorrow, and we might sign the Early Out list. In the afternoon I will put up the palms behind the crucifixes (one per room), behind the Sacred Heart, and in our vehicles. And tomorrow evening our #3 ranked LSU Tigers Baseball team (they slipped two points in the current rankings) will play UL – Lafayette at a neutral site (Zephyr Field in Metairie).

Our Parting Quote on this afternoon of the Monday of Holy Week comes to us from Dith Pran, Cambodian photojournalist. Born in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 1942, near the Angkor Wat, his father worked as a public-works official. He learned French at school and taught himself English. The U.S. Army hired him as a translator but after his ties with the United States were severed Pran worked with a British film crew and then as a hotel receptionist. In 1975 Pran and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the Communist Khmer Rouge. Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave the country, but Pran was not. Due to the policies of the Khmer Rouge, which included execution of anyone with an education or who even looked educated, Pran hid the fact that he was educated or that he knew Americans and pretended to be a taxi driver. When Cambodians were forced to work in labor camps, he had to endure four years of starvation and torture before Vietnam overthrew the Khmer Rouge in December 1978. Pran traveled back to Siem Reap, where he learned that 50 members of his family had died under the Khmer Rouge, including his brother who had been fed alive to alligators. He was named chief of the village by the Vietnamese, but Pran escaped to Thailand on October 3, 1979 after fearing that they knew of his American ties. He coined the phrase “killing fields” to refer to the clusters of corpses and skeletal remains of victims he encountered during his 40-mile escape. From 1980 he worked as a photojournalist with The New York Times in the United States. He was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields (1984), and was portrayed in the movie by first-time actor Haing S. Ngor, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. In 1986 Pran became an American citizen with his then wife, Ser Moeun Dith, whom he later divorced; he married again, and divorced again. He also campaigned for recognition of the Cambodian genocide victims, especially as founder and president of The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project. He was a recipient of an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998 and the Award of Excellence of The International Center (died 2008): “I don’t consider myself a politician or a hero. I’m a messenger. If Cambodia is to survive, she needs many voices.”

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