Daily Update: Thursday, November 10th, 2016

Leo the Grea and National Vocation Awareness Week and 11-10 - Marine Corps Birthday

Today is the Memorial of Saint Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor (died 461), and National Vocation Awareness Week continues. Also, today is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps and the birthday of my good friend Dago in Mississippi (1956).

Born about 400 at Tuscany, Italy, to the Italian nobility, today’s Saint and Pope was a strong student, especially in scripture and theology. As a priest, he was an eloquent writer and homilist. Elected Pope in 440, he was a significant contributor to the centralization of spiritual authority within the Church and in reaffirming Papal authority. In 445 Leo disputed with Pope Dioscorus, St. Cyril’s successor as Pope of Alexandria, insisting that the ecclesiastical practice of his see should follow that of Rome on the basis that Mark the Evangelist, the disciple of Saint Peter and founder of the Alexandrian Church, could have had no other tradition than that of the prince of the apostles. This, of course, was not the position of the Copts, who saw the ancient patriarchates as equals. At the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, Leo’s representatives delivered his famous Tome, or statement of the faith of the Roman Church in the form of a letter addressed to Archbishop Flavian of Constantinople, which repeats, in close adherence to Augustine, the formulas of western Christology. In 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, after Leo’s Tome on the two natures of Christ was read out, the bishops participating in the Council cried out: “This is the faith of the fathers … Peter has spoken thus through Leo …” In 452, when the King of the Huns, Attila, invaded Italy and threatened Rome, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys to negotiate with him: the two high civil officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, and Leo. The negotiation was successful, and Attila withdrew. The reasons for this choice have been debated among historians for centuries. Christian historians celebrated Leo’s actions, giving him all the credit for this successful embassy. Leo wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching his flock, many of which survive today; it is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574. National Vocation Awareness Week continues, and we pray, “God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as priests, deacons, religious, and consecrated persons. Send your Holy Spirit to help us respond generously and courageously to your call. May our community of faith support vocations of sacrificial love in our youth. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” Also, today is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps. On this date in 1775 the Second Continental Congress directed the Naval Committee  to raise two marine battalions at the Continental expense. The Naval Committee established a network of appointments for offices such as paymaster, commissions, procurements, equipment, etc., for establishing a future national corps of marines. Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, is regarded as the birthplace of the Corps, as it was the enlistment station for the first Marines to enlist under Commandant Samuel Nicholas. Since 1921 the Corps has celebrated this birthday with a cake cutting ceremony, the regulations for which have been in the Marine Drill Manual since 1956. Marines are reputed to celebrate the birthday, regardless of where they may be in the world, even in austere environments or combat; and my father (who had been a Marine in Korea) never failed to recall this date. Finally, today is the birthday of my good friend Dago in Mississippi (1956).

I woke up at 7:15 am in our room at the Inn at Lost Creek in Mountain Village, Colorado. I did my Book Devotional Reading, then we went down to breakfast. Back in our room I did my Internet Devotional Reading.

Getting down to some serious reading, I read But He Dies Not: The Life, Faith, and Sacrifice of Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur by Peter J. Guerra and Suzanne Doré Guerra, and then did my Book Review for the book for this Weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts. I then read (or rather re-read, as I found that I had read the book in January of 2007) For One More Day by Mitch Albom, and then did my Book Review for the book for this Weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts. I then read the October 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

At 6:00 pm we watched Jeopardy!, then ate dinner at the Poacher’s Pub. When we got back to the room I read the October 17th, 2016 issue of my Jesuit America magazine. And our New Orleans Pelicans won their first NBA game, beating the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 112 to 106; our Pelicans will next play a Home game with the Los Angeles Lakers on November 12th.

Tomorrow is the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop (died 397). National Vocation Awareness Week continues. It is the traditional date of Veteran’s Day, and, since tomorrow is not a Saturday or Sunday, it is also the date when Veteran’s Day is observed. Finally, tomorrow is the birthday of my kids’ friend Sheila here in town (1984). We will head down to Telluride and do some grocery shopping. I will do more relaxing and reading, and our LSU Women’s Basketball team will play their first regular season game as an Away game with the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters.

Our Thursday Evening Parting Quote comes to us from Gene Amdahl, American computer entrepreneur. Born in 1922 in Flandreau, South Dakota, his parents were immigrants of Norwegian and Swedish descent in Flandreau, South Dakota. After serving in the Navy during World War II he completed a degree in engineering physics at South Dakota State University in 1948. He went on to study theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and completed his doctorate there in 1952 with a thesis titled A Logical Design of an Intermediate Speed Digital Computer and created his first computer, the Wisconsin Integrally Synchronized Computer, WISC. He then went straight from Wisconsin to a position at IBM in June 1952. At IBM Amdahl worked on the IBM 704, the IBM 709, and then the Stretch project, the basis for the IBM 7030. He left IBM in December 1955 out of frustration with the bureaucratic structure of the organization, but returned in September 1960 (after working at Ramo-Wooldridge and at Aeronutronic). On his return he became chief architect of IBM System/360 and was named an IBM Fellow in 1965, and head of the ACS Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. At the AFIPS Spring Joint Computer Conference in 1967 he presented Amdahl’s law (or Amdahl’s argument) which gives the theoretical speedup in latency of the execution of a task at fixed workload that can be expected of a system whose resources are improved. Amdahl’s law does represent the law of diminishing returns if one are considering what sort of return one would get by adding more processors to a machine, if one is running a fixed-size computation that will use all available processors to their capacity. Each new processor one adds to the system will add less usable power than the previous one. Amdahl left IBM again in September 1970, after his ideas for computer development were rejected, and set up Amdahl Corporation in Sunnyvale, California with aid from Fujitsu. Competing with IBM in the mainframe market, the company manufactured “plug-compatible” mainframes, shipping its first machine in 1975 — the Amdahl 470V/6, a less expensive, more reliable and faster replacement for the System 370/168. By purchasing an Amdahl 470 and plug-compatible peripheral devices from third-party manufacturers, customers could now run S/360 and S/370 applications without buying actual IBM hardware. Amdahl’s software team developed VM/PE, software designed to optimize the performance of IBM’s MVS operating system when running under IBM’s VM operating system. By 1979, Amdahl Corporation had sold over $1 billion of V6 and V7 mainframes and had over 6,000 employees worldwide. The corporation went on to distribute an IBM-plug-compatible front-end processor (the 4705) as well as high-performance disk drives, both jointly developed with Fujitsu engineers. Amdahl left his eponymous company in August 1979 to set up Trilogy Systems. With over $200 million in funds Trilogy was aimed at designing an integrated chip for even cheaper mainframes. The chip development failed within months of the company’s $60 million public offering; thereafter, the company focused on developing its VLSI technology and, when that project failed, in 1985 Trilogy merged into Elxsi. In 1983 Amdahl was awarded the Harry H. Goode Memorial Award by the IEEE Computer Society “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the design, applications and manufacture of large-scale high-performance computers.” He was recognized as the Centennial Alumnus of South Dakota State University in 1986. Elxsi also did poorly and Amdahl left in 1989, having already founded his next venture, Andor International, in 1987. Andor hoped to compete in the mid-sized mainframe market, using improved manufacturing techniques developed by one of the company’s employees, Robert F. Brown, to make smaller, more efficient machines. Production problems and strong competition led the company into bankruptcy by 1995. Amdahl co-founded Commercial Data Servers in 1996, again in Sunnyvale, and again developing mainframe-like machines but this time with new super-cooled processor designs and aimed at physically smaller systems. One such machine, from 1997, was the ESP/490 (Enterprise Server Platform/490), an enhancement of IBM’s P/390 of the System/390 family. Since then, CDS has changed its name and narrowed its focus. As Xbridge Systems, the company now builds software to scan mainframe datasets and database tables for sensitive information such as Credit Card Numbers, Social Security and other government identification numbers, sensitive medical diagnosis information that can be linked to an individual, and other information such as that needed for electronic discovery. In 1998 he was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum “for his fundamental work in computer architecture and design, project management, and leadership.” In November 2004 Amdahl was appointed to the board of advisors of Massively Parallel Technologies. In November 2007 Amdahl was recognized with the SIGDA Pioneering Achievement Award  (died 2015): “We tend to think that the phenomenon of engineers and scientists being at the top of a company is something that started with Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak or Gary Kildal. But this just isn’t the case. Even back in the days when IBM was the single most important computer company, it was possible for one of its engineers to escape and make an impact that disturbed even Big Blue.”

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