Daily Update: Sunday, November 29th, 2015

First Sunday of Advent and Dorothy Day

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the first day of the Catholic Church year. Today is also the Remembrance of Servant of God Dorothy Day (died 1980).

In the Roman Catholic church the celebrant wears violet-colored vestments on this day, and the first violet Advent candle is lit at Mass. Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. Christians believe that the season of Advent serves a reminder both of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians for Christ’s return. In recent times the commonest observance of Advent outside church circles has been the keeping of advent candles, with the appropriate candle or candles being lit each day from the First Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve. I personally object to commercial Advent Calendars; they invariably begin on December 1, and the First Sunday of Advent can be anywhere from November 27 to December 3, so this year the commercial Advent Calendars will be late by two days. The beginning of the Church Year also affects the readings at Daily Mass and Sunday Mass; the Sunday Mass readings are on a three year cycle (so this year, the readings are from the C section, mostly from the gospel of Luke), and the Daily Mass first readings are on a two-year cycle (so this year, the first reading is in the second, even-numbered-year section). Turning to our Servant of God, Dorothy Day was born in 1897 in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in San Francisco and Chicago by her Episcopalian parents. By 1913 she had read Peter Kropotkin, an advocate of anarchist communism, which influenced her ideas in how society could be organized. In 1914 she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a scholarship, but was a reluctant scholar; her reading was chiefly in a radical social direction, and she avoided campus life. She dropped out after two years and moved to New York City, settling on the Lower East Side, where she worked on the staffs of Socialist publications (The LiberatorThe MassesThe Call) and engaged in anti-war and women’s suffrage protests. She spent several months in Greenwich Village, where she became close to author Eugene O’Neill. Initially Day lived a bohemian life, with two common-law marriages and an abortion, which she later described in her semi-autobiographical novel, The Eleventh Virgin (1924), a book she later regretted writing. She had been an agnostic, but with the birth of her daughter Tamar in 1926 she began a period of spiritual awakening which led her to embrace Catholicism, joining the Church in December 1927, with baptism at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish on Staten Island. Subsequently Day began writing for Catholic publications, such as Commonweal and America. The Catholic Worker movement established by Day and fellow activist Peter Maurin started with the Catholic Worker newspaper, created to promote Catholic social teaching and stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s. This grew into a “house of hospitality” in the slums of New York City and then a series of farms for people to live together communally. She lived for a time at the now demolished Spanish Camp community in the Annadale section of Staten Island. The movement quickly spread to other cities in the United States, and to Canada and the United Kingdom; more than 30 independent but affiliated CW communities had been founded by 1941. In 1952 Day wrote her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. By the 1960s Day was embraced by a significant number of Catholics, while at the same time, she earned the praise of counterculture leaders such as Abbie Hoffman, who characterized her as the first hippie, a description of which Day approved. Yet, although Day had written passionately about women’s rights, free love and birth control in the 1910s, she opposed the sexual revolution of the 1960s, saying she had seen the ill-effects of a similar sexual revolution in the 1920s. Day had a progressive attitude toward social and economic rights, alloyed with a very orthodox and traditional sense of Catholic morality and piety. Day’s account of the Catholic Worker movement, Loaves and Fishes, was published in 1963. In 1971 Day was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. She was proposed for sainthood by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983, three years after her death, in a move regarded a bit ambivalently by the Catholic Worker movement; they would prefer that the money that it would take to promote her cause in Rome be used instead to promote her ideals within the Catholic Worker movement. Pope John Paul II granted the Archdiocese of New York permission to open Day’s “cause” for sainthood in March 2000, thereby officially making her a Servant of God in the eyes of the Catholic Church. If you know of any miracles that can be attributed to her intercession, please contact the Vatican and the Catholic Worker.

Last evening, in their final regular season game, our LSU Tigers beat the Texas A&M Aggies by the score of 19 – 7, giving our Tigers a season record of 8 and 3, and placing fourth in the SEC West. At the conclusion of the game, LSU’s Athletic Director Joe Alleva said that Les Miles will remain the coach at LSU. (While Alleva said that he was following standard school policy of waiting until the season was over to make his announcement, it does seem that the administration was waiting to see if Miles would lose four straight games before making any announcements.) We now sit tight and wait to see if our Tigers get invited to a bowl game.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the First Day of my Novena to the Immaculate Conception. Once we clocked in (on the last day of this pay period), Richard was on a Blackjack table, closed that table, then was on Flop Poker, then became the dealer on Macau Mini Baccarat. I was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat, Macau Mini Baccarat, and Pai Gow. (Our Macau players stayed today for the whole shift.) On my breaks I continued addressing Christmas Cards (more anon).

On our way home we got gas for the truck, and I finished reading the October 2015 issue of National Geographic. Once home I ate my lunch salad and read the Sunday papers, then took a nap. Richard came to bed at about 4:00 pm (he did not sleep much last night; I went to bed after half-time), and I got up at 5:00 pm. I set up my Advent Candles, put up the crèche, and put up my Nativity counted cross-stitch (putting my usual Last Supper counted cross-stitch up for the season). I then lit my first Advent Candle, then made my lunch salads for tomorrow and Tuesday. I then checked the date and time of the Lessons and Carols service at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette (on the Third Sunday of Advent, December 13th, at 7:30 pm). Our New Orleans Saints lost their away game with the Houston Texans by the score of 6 to 24; they will next play a home game with the unbeaten Carolina Panthers in a divisional matchup next Sunday in the 3:30 pm game. And our LSU Women’s Basketball team lost their away game with Maine by the score of 41 to 52; our Lady Tigers will next play a home game with Texas Southern on Tuesday, December 1st.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle (died mid- to late-first century), and the end of the 2015 Hurricane Season. Tomorrow is the start of the new two-week pay period at the casino. On my breaks I will do half of the Christmas Cards I have left the address, to the exclusion of doing anything else on my breaks. In the afternoon I will devote myself to cleaning some stuff out of my closet and cleaning out some of my books, with the view of taking a bag of stuff to the thrift shop on Tuesday. Once I finish cleaning, or while cleaning, I will start putting some Christmas decorations up. And our #22 ranked LSU Men’s Basketball team will play an away game with Charleston tomorrow evening.

On this Afternoon of the First Sunday of Advent our Parting Quote comes to us from Maurice Wilkes, British computer scientist. Born in 1913 in Dudley, Worcestershire, he grew up in Stourbridge, West Midlands, where his father worked on the estate of the Earl of Dudley. He was educated at King Edward VI College, Stourbridge and during his school years he was introduced to amateur radio by his chemistry teacher. He went on to read Mathematics at St John’s College, Cambridge from 1931 to 1934, continuing to complete a Ph.D. in physics on the topic of radio propagation of very long radio waves in the ionosphere in 1936. He was appointed to a junior faculty position of the University of Cambridge through which he was involved in the establishment of a computing laboratory. He was called up for military service during WWII and worked on radar at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), and in operational research. In 1945 Wilkes was appointed as the second director of the University of Cambridge Mathematical Laboratory (later known as the Computer Laboratory). The Cambridge laboratory initially had many different computing devices, including a differential analyzer. Wilkes obtained a copy of John von Neumann’s prepress description of the EDVAC, a successor to the ENIAC under construction by Presper Eckert and John Mauchly at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. He had to read it overnight because he had to return it and no photocopy facilities existed. He decided immediately that the document described the logical design of future computing machines, and that he wanted to be involved in the design and construction of such machines. In August 1946 Wilkes traveled by ship to the United States to enroll in the Moore School Lectures, of which he was only able to attend the final two weeks because of various travel delays. Since his laboratory had its own funding, he was immediately able to start work on a small practical machine, the EDSAC, once back at Cambridge. He decided that his mandate was not to invent a better computer, but simply to make one available to the university. Therefore his approach was relentlessly practical. He used only proven methods for constructing each part of the computer. The resulting computer was slower and smaller than other planned contemporary computers. However, his laboratory’s computer was the first practical stored program computer to be completed, and operated successfully from May 1949. In 1951 he developed the concept of microprogramming from the realization that the Central Processing Unit of a computer could be controlled by a miniature, highly specialized computer program in high-speed ROM. This concept greatly simplified CPU development. Microprogramming was first described at the Manchester University Computer Inaugural Conference in 1951, then published in expanded form in IEEE Spectrum in 1955. This concept was implemented for the first time in EDSAC 2, which also used multiple identical “bit slices” to simplify design. Interchangeable, replaceable tube assemblies were used for each bit of the processor. In 1956 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a founder member of the British Computer Society (BCS) and its first president (1957 – 1960). The next computer for his laboratory was the Titan, a joint venture with Ferranti Ltd begun in 1963. It eventually supported the UK’s first time-sharing system and provided wider access to computing resources in the university, including time-shared graphics systems for mechanical CAD. A notable design feature of the Titan’s operating system was that it provided controlled access based on the identity of the program, as well as or instead of, the identity of the user. It introduced the password encryption system used later by Unix. Its programming system also had an early version control system. Wilkes is also credited with the idea of symbolic labels, macros, and subroutine libraries. These are fundamental developments that made programming much easier and paved the way for high-level programming languages. Later, Wilkes worked on an early timesharing systems (now termed a multi-user operating system) and distributed computing. Toward the end of the 1960s Wilkes also became interested in capability-based computing, and the laboratory assembled a unique computer, the Cambridge CAP. He received the Turing Award in 1967, In 1974 Wilkes encountered a Swiss data network (at Hasler AG) that used a ring topology to allocate time on the network. The laboratory initially used a prototype to share peripherals. Eventually, commercial partnerships were formed, and similar technology became widely available in England. In 1980 he retired from his professorships and post as the head of the laboratory and joined the central engineering staff of Digital Equipment Corporation in Maynard, Massachusetts. He was awarded the Faraday Medal by the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1981. The Maurice Wilkes Award, awarded annually for an outstanding contribution to computer architecture made by a young computer scientist or engineer, is named after him. In 1986 he returned to England and became a member of Olivetti’s Research Strategy Board. In 1993 Wilkes was presented, by Cambridge University, an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In 1994 he was inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery. He was awarded the Mountbatten Medal in 1997. He was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours List. In 2001, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum. In 2002, Wilkes moved back to the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, as an Emeritus Professor (died 2010): “As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn’t as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. It was on one of my journeys between the EDSAC room and the punching equipment that ‘hesitating at the angles of stairs’ the realization came over me with full force that a good part of the remainder of my life was going to be spent finding errors in my own programs.”

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