Today is the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!). Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (died 1170). Today is the Fifth Day of Christmas (with Five Golden Rings, but wait, my pretties.) Today is the birthday of my kids’ friend JJ, one of the Assembled (1986). And tonight our #20 ranked LSU Tigers will play Texas Tech in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.
Today’s Saint, Thomas Becket, was born in 1118 in London, of Norman ancestry, and educated at Merton Priory, Paris, Bologna, and Auxerre, where he became a civil and canon lawyer. Upon his return to England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec, made Becket Archdeacon of Canterbury. He was the good friend of King Henry II, and was made by him Chancellor of England, in which position he served his King well. Upon the death of Theobald, Henry ensured that his Chancellor would become the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Thomas then resigned the Chancellorship and opposed the King’s interference in ecclesiastical matters; his opposition to King Henry resulted in his exile to France in 1164, where he developed a monastic spirituality. Upon his return to Canterbury in 1170, the King, upon hearing of the excommunication of several of his supporters by Thomas, said something along the lines of “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” The King’s irate outburst was interpreted as a royal command, and four knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, set out to Canterbury. While the Archbishop was at Vespers, the knights confronted him and killed him with their swords in his own cathedral. Soon after, the faithful throughout Europe began venerating Becket as a martyr, and in 1173 (barely three years after his death) he was canonised by Pope Alexander III in St. Peter’s Church in Segni. On July 12, 1174, in the midst of the Revolt of 1173–1174, Henry humbled himself with public penance at Becket’s tomb, which became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in England. Thomas is the Patron Saint of secular clergy. Today is also the Fifth Day of Christmas; the fifth day’s gift of “golden rings” refers not to jewelry but to ring-necked birds such as the ring-necked pheasant, which means that the first seven gifts in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are all birds. Finally, today is the birthday of my kids’ friend JJ, one of the Assembled (1986). The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl was formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, and is a post-season NCAA-sanctioned Division I FBS college football bowl game that was held for the first time in 2006 in Houston, Texas. The first bowl game in Houston was the Bluebonnet Bowl, played from 1959 through 1987. The AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl replaced the now-defunct Houston Bowl, which was played annually from 2000 to 2005, and has as their conference tie-ins the Big 12 and the SEC. (AdvoCare is a multilevel marketing company, based in Plano, Texas, which sells nutrition, weight-loss, energy and sports performance products. From 2009 until 2013, AdvoCare was the title sponsor of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 2016 AdvoCare will be sponsoring the Texas Kickoff and Cowboys Classic games.) And our #20 ranked LSU Tigers will be playing the Texas Tech Red Raiders; let us hope that we can win a bowl game for a change.
Last night our New Orleans Pelicans lost their away game with the Orlando Magic by the score of 89 to 104; our Pelicans will next play a home game with the LA Clippers on Thursday, December 31st. And our LSU Women’s Basketball team lost their home game to Samford by the score of 44 to 47; our Lady Tigers will next begin their SEC season with an away game against Alabama on January 3rd, 2016.
We woke up half an hour early, and I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. I put the LSU flag out, but the flagpole was very short, and I was not happy with the results, but it was not something I could fix at 1:00 am. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Fifth Day of my Epiphany Novena. We signed the Early Out list as the first and second dealers; however, there were five call-ins, and ahead of us on the list was a dual floor/dealer who had his birthday today (birthdays give you priority on the list), and a full floor. Richard was on Mini Baccarat, and I was on Pai Gow, and they only let the birthday dual floor/dealer and the full floor ahead of us out early today, so we did not get out early. On one of my breaks I signed the write-up for me having called in on Sunday (which brought me to four call-in points). However, I did get a start on formulating my 2016 Resolutions, which I will record on one of the pages in this weblog.
On our way home from work I got a text from my optometrist (who is in my Third Tuesday Book Club) letting me know that she had finished the book for January, and that I could pick it up at my leisure, and I read the January 2016 issue of Consumer Reports. At Wal-Mart I picked up Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt at the Wal-Mart Vision Center, and I got a new flagpole (just like the one I have for my American flag) and a ball of twine. Meanwhile, Richard got charcoal and supplies for our dinner tonight. We then got gas for the truck at Valero, and when we got home I set up my LSU flag on the new flagpole (using the twine) and put it outside; it looks great, in my opinion. I then ate my lunch salad and read the morning paper. Next, I took a nap.
I woke up from my nap at 6:15 pm (Richard slept off and on in his chair in the front room). Our LSU Men’s Basketball team is currently playing a home game with Wake Forest, that Richard is watching on ESPN, and he is cooking barbeque. I will finish this Daily Update, and be free to eat dinner and watch our #20 ranked LSU Tigers play the Texas Tech Red Riders in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl at 8:00; I will post the scores of the games in tomorrow’s Daily Update.
Tomorrow is the Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas (Alleluia!). We have no Saints to honor, so we will instead note that in 1903 the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago, Illinois caught fire, with great loss of life (and also leading to major changes in fire code laws). Tomorrow is the Sixth Day of Christmas, with more birds (geese) being given by one’s true love. (Personally, I prefer my birds one of two ways: fried or broiled.) And tomorrow is the birthday of our friend Deb in Colorado (1958) and of Richard’s nephew Greg here in town, the son of his brother Slug here in town (1970). I will do the Weekly Computer Maintenance and my laundry tomorrow, and I might get a haircut tomorrow (if the girl who does my hair is in at Fantastic Sam’s). And Richard has suggest us going to see a movie tomorrow.
Our Parting Quote this Tuesday evening comes to us from Julius Axelrod, American biochemist. Born in 1912 in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, he received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of the City of New York in 1933. Axelrod wanted to become a physician, but was rejected from every medical school to which he applied. He worked briefly as a laboratory technician at New York University, then in 1935 he got a job with the New York City Department of Health testing vitamin supplements added to food. He injured his left eye when an ammonia bottle in the lab exploded; he wore an eyepatch for the rest of his life. While working at the Department of Health, he attended night school and received his master’s in sciences degree from New York University in 1941. Although he became an atheist early in life and resented the strict upbringing of his parents’ religion, he identified with Jewish culture and joined several international fights against anti-Semitism. In 1946 he took a position working under Bernard Brodie at Goldwater Memorial Hospital. Brodie and Axelrod’s research focused on how analgesics (pain-killers) work. The research experience and mentorship he received from Brodie would launch him on his research career. In 1949, Axelrod began work at the National Heart Institute, forerunner of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He examined the mechanisms and effects of caffeine, which led him to an interest in the sympathetic nervous system and its main neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. During this time, he also conducted research on codeine, morphine, methamphetamine, and ephedrine and performed some of the first experiments on LSD. Realizing that he could not advance his career without a Ph.D., he took a leave of absence from the NIH in 1954 to attend George Washington University Medical School. Allowed to submit some of his previous research toward his degree, he graduated one year later, in 1955. Axelrod then returned to the NIH and began some of the key research of his career. Working on monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors in 1957, he showed that catecholamine neurotransmitters do not merely stop working after they are released into the synapse. Instead, neurotransmitters are recaptured (“reuptake”) by the pre-synaptic nerve ending and recycled for later transmissions. He theorized that epinephrine is held in tissues in an inactive form and is liberated by the nervous system when needed. This research laid the groundwork for later selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, which block the reuptake of another neurotransmitter, serotonin. In 1958 Axelrod also discovered and characterized the enzyme catechol-O-methyltransferase, which is involved in the breakdown of catecholamines. He won a share of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970 along with Bernard Katz and Ulf von Euler; the Nobel Committee honored him for his work on the release and reuptake of catecholamine neurotransmitters. After receiving the Nobel Prize he used his visibility to advocate several science policy issues. In 1973 U.S. President Richard Nixon created an agency with the specific goal of curing cancer. Axelrod, along with fellow Nobel-laureates Marshall W. Nirenberg and Christian Anfinsen, organized a petition by scientists opposed to the new agency, on the grounds that by focusing solely on cancer, public funding would not be available for research into other, more solvable, medical problems. He also lent his name to several protests against the imprisonment of scientists in the Soviet Union. Some of Axelrod’s later research focused on the pineal gland. He and his colleagues showed that the hormone melatonin is generated from tryptophan, as is the neurotransmitter serotonin. The rates of synthesis and release follows the body’s circadian rhythm driven by the suprachiasmatic nucleus within the hypothalamus. He and his colleagues went on to show that melatonin had wide-ranging effects throughout the central nervous system, allowing the pineal gland to function as a biological clock. He continued to work at the National Institute of Mental Health at the NIH until his death (died 2004): “One of the most important qualities in doing research, I found, was to ask the right questions at the right time. I learned that it takes the same effort to work on an important problem as on a pedestrian or trivial one. When opportunities came I made the right choices.”