Daily Update: Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

03-22 - Emerald Buddha

Today is Tuesday of Holy Week, with no Saints to honor today, but on this date in 1784 the Emerald Buddha was moved with great ceremony to its current place in Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand.

The Gospel reading for Tuesday of Holy Week has Jesus telling his disciples at the Last Supper, ”Where I go you cannot come.” Peter asks where he is going, and Jesus responds, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” When Peter asks, “Master, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you,”, Jesus answers, “Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.” Turning to the secular world, the Emerald Buddha is the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand, a figurine of the sitting Buddha, made of green jasper (rather than emerald), and is 19 inches wide at the knees and 26 inches high. Ancient legend holds that the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today’s Patna). It was taken across most of Southeast Asia over the centuries, mostly due to war and capture. In 1779 General Chao Phraya Chakri put down an insurrection and returned the Emerald Buddha to Siam, taking it home with him to Thonburi. After he became King Rama I of Thailand he moved the Emerald Buddha with great ceremony to its current home in Wat Phra Kaew on March 22, 1784. It is now kept in the main building of the temple, the Ubosoth. The Emerald Buddha itself is simply the Jadeite statue, but it is adorned with garments made of gold. There are three different sets of gold clothing, which are changed by the King of Thailand in a ceremony at the changing of the seasons – in the 1st Waning of Lunar Months 4, 8 and 12 (around March, July and November). The three sets of gold garments correspond to Thailand’s summer season, rainy season, and cool season. The two sets of gold clothing not in use at any given time are kept on display in the nearby Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Thai Coins on the grounds of the Grand Palace, where the public may view them.

I did my Book Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once at the casino we opted to sign the Early Out list. Once we clocked in Richard was on Let It Ride, and I was on Mini Baccarat. We got out at 3:15 am and headed home; when we got home at 4:00 am, I went back to bed.

I woke up (again) at 10:30 am, and finished reading The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O’Brian. I then did my Book Review for the book for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts. Then, in an excess of doing nothing but reading, I read The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’Brian, and did my Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for the book. At 4:30 pm I also watched Jeopardy! I am now finishing up today’s Daily Update, and once I f9inish with the computer I will climb into bed and do some more reading before going to sleep. Our #10 ranked LSU Baseball team will be playing a game with UL-Lafayette tonight, and our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing a home game with the Miami Heat; I will record the scores of both games in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is Wednesday of Holy Week, and the Optional Memorial of Saint Turibius de Mongrovejo, Bishop (died 1606). It is also the birthday of Richard’s brother Slug here in town (1943). There will be a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse tomorrow from 4:39 am to 8:54 am, and the Full Moon will arrive at 7:02 am. In the morning I will do my laundry and the Weekly Computer Maintenance, and in the afternoon I will go get a haircut. And at sunset the joyous Jewish holiday of Purim begins.

Our Parting Quote on this Holy Tuesday evening comes to us from Sir James W. Black, Scottish doctor and pharmacologist. Born in 1924 in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, his father was a mining engineer. He was brought up in Fife and, at the age of 15, won a scholarship to the University of St Andrews, where he studied medicine. His family had been too poor to send him to university and he had been persuaded to sit the St Andrews entrance exam by his maths teacher at Beath. Black had large debts upon his graduation from university in 1947, so took a teaching job in Singapore for three years before moving to London in 1950. Upon his return to Scotland in 1950 he joined the University of Glasgow (Veterinary School) where he established the Physiology Department and developed an interest in the way adrenaline affects the human heart, particularly for those patients suffering from angina. Having formulated a theory to annul the effects of adrenaline, he joined ICI Pharmaceuticals in 1958, remaining with the company until 1964, during which time he developed propranolol, hailed as the greatest breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease since the discovery of digitalis, which later became the world’s best-selling drug. During this time Black pioneered a method of research whereby drug molecules were purposefully built instead of being synthesised first and then investigated for their potential medical uses. At the same time Black was developing a similar method of treatment for stomach ulcers, but ICI did not wish to pursue the idea; so he resigned in 1964 and joined Smith, Kline and French for whom he worked for nine years until 1973. While there, Black developed his second major drug, cimetidine, which was launched under the brand name Tagamet in 1975 and soon outsold propranolol to become the world’s largest-selling prescription drug. Black was appointed professor, and head of the department of pharmacology at University College. London in 1973 where he established a new undergraduate course in medicinal chemistry, but he became frustrated by the lack of funding for research and accepted the post of director of therapeutic research at the Wellcome Research Laboratories in 1978. However he did not agree with his immediate boss there, Sir John Vane, and resigned in 1984. During that time he was made a Knight Bachelor in 1981 for services to medical research, receiving the honour from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Black then became Professor of Analytical Pharmacology at the Rayne Institute of the King’s College London medical school, where he remained until 1992. He established the James Black Foundation in 1988 with funding from Johnson and Johnson and led a team of 25 scientists in drugs research, including gastrin inhibitors which may prevent some stomach cancers.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988 for work leading to the development of propranolol and cimetidine. Black contributed to basic scientific and clinical knowledge in cardiology, both as a physician and as a basic scientist. His invention of propranolol, the beta adrenergic receptor antagonist that revolutionised the medical management of angina pectoris, is considered to be one of the most important contributions to clinical medicine and pharmacology of the 20th century. In 2000 he was appointed to the Order of Merit, of which there are only 24 members at any one time, by Queen Elizabeth II (died 2010): “I’ve been a fan of the New York Review of Books for many years. And, I remember one review of the novel Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and it was being reviewed by another novelist, Hilary Mantel, and the book is about recollections. And, Mantel says, perhaps there’s no such thing as memory, only the act of remembering, perhaps remembering is not about recollection but about reconstruction. And I think – well, the problems of this kind of thing I’m going through now is am I recollecting or reconstructing? And I guess I’m doing a bit of both.”

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