Daily Update: Thursday, May 7th, 2015

National Day of Prayer

We have no Saints to honor, but today is the National Day of Prayer. Today is also the anniversary of the date when my mother died (1985).

As today is the First Thursday of May, today is the National Day of Prayer. On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer must be declared by each following president at an appropriate date of his choice. In 1982 a National Prayer Committee was formed to coordinate and implement a fixed commemorated day of prayer. In 1988 the law was amended so that the National Day of Prayer would be held on the first Thursday of May. A stated intention of the National Day of Prayer was that it would be a day when adherents of all great religions could unite in prayer. I will note that, although I support a National Day of Prayer (we need all the help we can get), I am not in support of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, chaired by Shirley Dobson, which has very strong ties to the evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family (run by James Dobson, the husband of Shirley Dobson), and which, in my humble opinion, actively seeks to make the National Day of Prayer into an Evangelical Christian event. The FAQ section of the National Day of Prayer website notes that “This government-proclaimed day is offered to all Americans, regardless of religion, to celebrate their faith through prayer. However, the efforts of the NDP Task Force are executed specifically in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs.” (I imagine the National Day of Prayer Task Force would not appreciate any participation by Thomas Jefferson, who was a lifelong Deist, and who sought what he called a “wall of separation between Church and State,” which he believed was a principle expressed by the First Amendment.) And today is the anniversary of when my mother died (1985), and I have been mindful of my mother all day in consequence. She died less than a month before her 56th birthday; I had gotten married in January 1994, and she was at the wedding, but she died long before I became pregnant with my first child (who will be 29 this year). In fact, she was buried in the dress she had worn to my wedding. I have lived long enough to see that first child (my son Matthew) get married, and if I live for at least another 16 days (approximately), I will see the birth of my first grandchild. What does all of this mean? I haven’t a clue, but howsoever long I do live (I’m aiming for immortality; so far, so good), I do hope I have, and will continue to have, a better relationship with my son and daughter than my mother had with me.

Last night Richard did run the Weekly Virus Scan for me on the computer. (Thank you, Richard.)

I woke up ahead of my alarm clock, at 8:00 am, and did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. Richard went to Donut Queen and got me bacon biscuits for my breakfast (again, thank you, Richard), and I did my Internet Devotional Reading. When the Acadiana Advocate arrived, at about 10:00 am, I read the Thursday papers.

Richard and I left the house (in the car) at 11:30 am. We ate lunch at D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse (he had a cup of gumbo, and I had the Chef Salad), then at the Hit-n-Run I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for Saturday night’s drawing. I then left Richard at our auto garage to pick up the truck (he also went to Wal-Mart and got groceries and my salad supplies), and I headed on to the Pharmacy and Clinic. At the Pharmacy I picked up all of my Blood Sugar Testing equipment (more anon), and then I had my 1:30 pm appointment with the Health Coach. She and I agreed that I will aim to drink less Diet Coke and more water, that I will aim for better snacks at the casino (rather than eat stuff out of the vending machines), and that I would try the My Fitness Pal app on my Galaxy S-4.  I then stopped at the Market Basket grocery in Kinder, and got a box of Special K cereal and some Zip-Loc containers (more anon). When I reached the four-lane on my way back home, I called Richard, and met him at the auto garage; we left the car off (they will check the Low Coolant light, and hopefully fix my cruise control) and arrived back home at 3:30 pm. I gathered up the aluminum cans and tossed the bag of cans in the garage, and fixed my lunch salads for tomorrow and Sunday. I then watched Jeopardy!; I got a text message from Liz Ellen that she is having an MRI on her knee tomorrow. I then came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update and to burn an audio CD for Richard while eating Digiorno’s Pizza for dinner. (I thought we still had left over bottled water from when Liz Ellen was visiting; if I had realized that we were out, I would have gotten some at the Market Basket.)

Tomorrow we once again have no Saints to honor. We will instead note that tomorrow is the anniversary of the day in 1794 when French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was also a tax collector with the Ferme Générale, was tried, convicted, and guillotined all on the same day in Paris during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution (a victory against the Ferme Générale, and a tremendous loss for science). Before we leave for work (for the start of our work week) I will set up a Zip-Loc container of Special K cereal to take with me. Before work I will request Time and Again by Jack Finney (my next Third Tuesday Book Club Book) from the Lafayette Public Library and call the Pharmacy to renew two prescriptions. On my breaks I will eat Special K cereal instead of vending machine stuff (you cannot call anything that comes out of a vending machine “food”) and drink water in lieu of drinking Diet Coke, look at the documentation on my Blood Sugar Testing material to see when and how to check my blood sugar, and start reading Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress for my Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club. Liz Ellen’s MRI is at 11:30 am EDT (10:30 am my time), and I will be keeping her in my thoughts. After work I will pick up my prescriptions at the pharmacy. In the afternoon I will go over to the Rectory to ask about baptisms. And tomorrow evening our #1 ranked LSU Baseball team will play the first game of a three-game home series with Missouri.

Our Parting Quote this Thursday afternoon comes to us from Colin Pillinger, English planetary scientist. Born in 1943 in Kingswood, Gloucestershire, just outside of Bristol, his father was a manual worker for the Gas Board. He graduated with a Bachelors in Science (Chemistry) degree from University College of Swansea (now Swansea University) in 1965, and three years later received his Ph.D (Chemistry) from University College of Swansea. Pillinger then became a Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bristol Department of Chemistry. He was involved in the Apollo Space program for NASA and analysed the lunar samples brought back by
Apollo 11. In 1974 he became a Research Associate at Cambridge University, and two years later became a Senior Research Associate, Department of Earth Science, at the University of Cambridge. He became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1981. Pillinger received an Honorary Doctor of Science (Chemistry) degree from the University of Bristol in 1984, and that same year he became a  Senior Research Fellow, Department of Earth Science, at Open University. In 1991 he was appointed Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Open University. In 1993 he became a member of the International Astronomical Union, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Also in 1993 his work with meteors was referenced in the movie Jurassic Park. Between 1996 and 2000, Pillinger was made Gresham Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College, a position once held by Sir Christopher Wren. He is credited with inspiring many people to take an interest in space science, particularly in Britain. He was responsible for training and supporting a large number of experts in the field as well as helping to unite the space science and industrial communities in the United Kingdom. In 2000 a main belt asteroid was named 15614 Pillinger after him. Pillinger’s studies on Martian meteorites could be considered as the basis of the bestselling 2001 book Deception Point by Dan Brown. In 2003 Pillinger was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to Higher Education and to Science. Pillinger is best known for being the principal investigator for the Beagle 2 Mars lander project, part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 2003 Mars Express mission. It was Pillinger’s wife who thought of the Beagle 2 name for the project, based on Charles Darwin’s ship the HMS Beagle. The spacecraft was successfully deployed from the Mars Express on December 19th, 2003 and was scheduled to land on the surface of Mars on December 25th; Pillinger enlisted British rock band Blur to write a song to be Beagle 2‍ ’​s call sign back home, and wrote the book Beagle – from Sailing Ship to Mars Spacecraft. However, no contact was received at the expected time of landing on Mars, with the ESA declaring the mission lost in February 2004, after numerous attempts to contact the spacecraft were made. A number of possible explanations for the failure were given by David Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science. The commission inquiring into the mission’s failure, however, apportioned some blame towards Pillinger’s management of the overall project as a contributing factor in the failure. In response Professor Pillinger highlighted a lack of support from key figures at ESA as a factor. A missing British Mars spacecraft was the subject of the 2005 Doctor Who Christmas Special. In 2007 he wrote Space is a Funny Place, and in 2010 wrote My Life on Mars – The Beagle 2 Diaries. He was the recipient of the Michael Faraday Prize in 2011. In 2014 a science destination for the Mars rover Opportunity on the western rim of Endeavour Crater was named Pillinger Point after him, in commemoration of his enthusiasm for the Beagle 2 mission. He patched up his differences with ESA and worked with the 2014 Rosetta Mission, which in November 2014 performed the first soft landing on a comet and returned data from the surface. Eight months after his death the UK Space Agency on January 13, 2015 confirmed that Beagle 2 had landed successfully on Mars on December 25th, 2003. Images taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) identified clear evidence for the lander and convincing evidence for key entry and descent components on the surface of Mars 5 km from the centre of the expected landing area of Isidis Planitia (an impact basin close to the equator) (died 2014): “As an organic chemist, turned geologist, turned astronomer who uses isotopic analyses to unravel the origins of life, our planet, the solar system and the stars, I hope I have something in common with the versatile men who were early Gresham Professors. The subjects which I research already enjoy popular interest; by combining them to produce a story of life told from the genealogy of its elements, my aim is to appeal to the widest possible audience, using an interdisciplinary approach to attempt to unravel the time-honoured puzzle, where do I come from?”

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