Daily Update: Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Immaculate Conception by Francisco Zurbarán

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a Holy Day of Obligation. Today is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Mary, the youngest of the three daughters of his Sister Nita in Georgia (1994).

The feast of the Immaculate Conception was first known in the Eastern Church, and came to the Western Church in the eighth century as the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The first move towards describing Mary’s conception as “immaculate” came in the eleventh century. In 1854 Pius IX made the infallible statement Ineffabilis Deus: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” This Feast is a Holy Day of Obligation; since the Immaculate Conception of Mary is not dealt with in the Bible (although the conception of Mary is mentioned in the Protoevangelium of James), the Gospel reading for this Feast is that of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to advise her of the conception of Jesus. There are thus a certain number of under-informed Catholics who think that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus, rather than of his Mother. Under this title, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Patroness of Argentina, Brazil, Korea, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, the United States and Uruguay, and of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, which is the diocese where I reside. And today is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Mary, the youngest of the three daughters of his Sister Nita in Georgia (1994).

Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb, and also brought in the flag I had put out yesterday for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I woke up at 9:00 am and did my Book Devotional Reading; then I ate my breakfast toast and read the Thursday papers.

At 11:30 am I left the house, and I attended the 12:00 pm Mass at Church for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I then went to Wal-Mart; in the parking lot going in, I saw Richard’s brother Slug from here in town, and Callie’s mother Lisa, who said she is going to see the kids in South Carolina on either the 17th or the 19th (I forget which), then she will come back home. (I think that I will begin to use the words sympatheroi (plural), sympathera (feminine singular) and sympatheros (masculine singular) to describe my son’s in-laws; those words are from Greek, but are relatively easy to remember.) At Wal-Mart I got my salad supplies and also purchased an inexpensive Thermal Laminator, as I have some cards and items that I need to get around to laminating. At the Valero Corner Store I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for Saturday night’s drawing, and I ate lunch at McDonald’s while continuing my reading of the November 14th issue of my Jesuit America magazine.

I arrived back home at about 2:00 pm; I finished my laundry, ironed my Casino pants, apron, and shirts, make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday, and gathered up the cans and tossed the bag of cans in the garage. Richard went to sleep at about 3:30 pm, and at 4:30 pm I watched Jeopardy!, then lit the Advent Candles. And I will now get ready to go to bed; tonight our New Orleans Pelicans (7-15, 0-4) will play a home NBA game with the Philadelphia 76ers (4-17, 0-2), and I will post the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, Hermit (died 1548), and the Remembrance of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Bishop (died 1979). We will return to the casino for the start of our work week, and on my breaks I will continue reading March by Geraldine Brooks. In the afternoon I will start putting up Christmas stuff.

Our Parting Quote on this Thursday afternoon comes to us from John Glenn, American aviator, engineer, astronaut, and politician. Born as John Glenn Jr. in 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, he was raised in New Concord, Ohio. Upon graduating from high school in 1939 he studied Engineering at Muskingum College. He earned a private pilot license for credit in a physics course in 1941. Glenn did not complete his senior year in residence or take a proficiency exam, both requirements of the school for the Bachelor of Science degree. When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, Glenn quit college to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps. However, he was never called to duty, and in March 1942 enlisted as a United States Navy aviation cadet. He went to the University of Iowa for preflight training, then continued on to NAS Olathe, Kansas, for primary training. He made his first solo flight in a military aircraft there. During his advanced training at the NAS Corpus Christi, he was offered the chance to transfer to the U.S. Marine Corps and took it. Upon completing his training in 1943, the same year he married, Glenn was assigned to Marine Squadron VMJ-353, flying R4D transport planes. He transferred to VMF-155 as an F4U Corsair fighter pilot, and flew 59 combat missions in the South Pacific. He saw combat over the Marshall Islands, where he attacked anti-aircraft batteries on Maloelap Atoll. In 1945, he was assigned to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, and was promoted to captain shortly before the war’s end. Glenn flew patrol missions in North China with the VMF-218 Marine Fighter Squadron, until it was transferred to Guam. In 1948 he became a flight instructor at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, followed by attending the Amphibious Warfare School. During the Korean War, Glenn was assigned to VMF-311, flying the new F9F Panther jet interceptor. He flew his Panther in 63 combat missions, gaining the nickname “magnet ass” from his alleged ability to attract enemy flak. On two occasions, he returned to his base with over 250 holes in his aircraft. For a time, he flew with Marine reservist Ted Williams, a future Hall of Fame baseball player for the Boston Red Sox, as his wingman. He also flew with future Major General Ralph H. Spanjer. Glenn flew a second Korean combat tour in an interservice exchange program with the United States Air Force, 51st Fighter Wing. He logged 27 missions in the faster F-86F Sabre and shot down three MiG-15s near the Yalu River in the final days before the ceasefire.For his service in 149 combat missions in two wars, he received numerous honors, including the Distinguished Flying Cross (six occasions) and the Air Medal with eighteen award stars. Glenn returned to NAS Patuxent River, and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (class 12), graduating in 1954. He served as an armament officer, flying planes to high altitude and testing their cannons and machine guns. He was assigned to the Fighter Design Branch of the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (now Bureau of Naval Weapons) as a test pilot on Navy and Marine Corps jet fighters in Washington, D.C., from November 1956 to April 1959, during which time he also attended the University of Maryland. On July 16th, 1957, Glenn completed the first supersonic transcontinental flight in a Vought F8U-3P Crusader. The flight from NAS Los Alamitos, California, to Floyd Bennett Field, New York, took 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.3 seconds. As he passed over his hometown, a child in the neighborhood reportedly ran to the Glenn house shouting “Johnny dropped a bomb! Johnny dropped a bomb! Johnny dropped a bomb!” as the sonic boom shook the town. Project Bullet, the name of the mission, included both the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed (despite three in-flight refuelings during which speeds dropped below 300 mph), and the first continuous transcontinental panoramic photograph of the United States. For this mission Glenn received his fifth Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1958 the newly formed NASA began a recruiting program for astronauts. Requirements were that each had to be a military test pilot between the ages of 25 and 40 with sufficient flight hours, no more than 5’11” in height, and possess a degree in a scientific field. 508 pilots were subjected to rigorous mental and physical tests, and finally the selection was narrowed down to seven astronauts (Glenn, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, and Deke Slayton), who were introduced to the public at a NASA press conference in April 1959. Glenn just barely met the requirements as he was close to the age cutoff of 40 and also lacked the required science-based degree at the time. During this time, he remained an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, aboard Friendship 7 on February 20th, 1962, on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission, circling the globe three times during a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. This made Glenn the third American in space and the fifth human being in space; he was also the earliest-born American to go to orbit, and the second earliest-born man overall after Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Beregovoy. Perth, Western Australia, became known worldwide as the “City of Light” when residents turned on their house, car and streetlights as Glenn passed overhead. During the first mission there was concern over a ground indication that his heat shield had come loose, which could allow it to fail during re-entry through the atmosphere, causing his capsule to burn up. Flight controllers had Glenn modify his re-entry procedure by keeping his retrorocket pack on over the shield in an attempt to keep it in place. He made his splashdown safely, and afterwards it was determined that the indicator was faulty. As the first American in orbit, Glenn became a national hero, met President Kennedy, and received a ticker-tape parade in New York City, reminiscent of that given for Charles Lindbergh and other great dignitaries.Muskingum College also awarded him his college degree. Glenn’s fame and political attributes were noted by the Kennedys, and he became a personal friend of the Kennedy family. On February 23rd, 1962, President Kennedy escorted him in a parade to Hangar S at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where he awarded Glenn with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. In July 1962 Glenn testified before the House Space Committee in favor of excluding women from the NASA astronaut program. Although NASA had no official policy prohibiting women, in practice the requirement that astronauts had to be military test pilots excluded them entirely. The impact of the testimony of so prestigious a hero is debatable, but no female astronaut flew on a NASA mission until Sally Ride in 1983 (in the meantime, the Soviets had flown two women on space missions), and none piloted a mission until Eileen Collins in 1995, more than 30 years after the hearings. Glenn resigned from NASA on January 16th, 1964, and the next day announced his candidacy as a Democrat for the United States Senate from his home state of Ohio. On February 26th, 1964, Glenn suffered a concussion from a slip and fall against a bathtub; this led him to withdraw from the race on March 30. He then went on convalescent leave from the Marine Corps until he could make a full recovery, necessary for his retirement from the Marines. He retired on January 1st, 1965, as a Colonel and entered the business world as an executive for Royal Crown Cola. Glenn remained close to the Kennedy family and was with Robert Kennedy when he was assassinated in 1968. In 1970 Glenn was narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary for nomination for the Senate by fellow Democrat Howard Metzenbaum, by a 51% to 49% margin. Metzenbaum lost the general election race to Robert Taft, Jr. In 1974 Glenn rejected Ohio governor John J. Gilligan and the Ohio Democratic party’s demand that he run for Lieutenant Governor. Instead, he challenged Metzenbaum again, whom Gilligan had appointed to the Senate to replace William B. Saxbe, who had resigned to become Attorney General of the United States. In the primary race, Metzenbaum contrasted his strong business background with Glenn’s military and astronaut credentials, saying his opponent had “never held a payroll”. Glenn’s reply came to be known as the “Gold Star Mothers” speech. He told Metzenbaum to go to a veterans’ hospital and “look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.” Many felt the “Gold Star Mothers” speech won the primary for Glenn by 54 to 46%. After defeating Metzenbaum, Glenn defeated Ralph Perk, the Republican Mayor of Cleveland, in the general election. In 1976 Glenn was a candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. However, Glenn’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention failed to impress the delegates and the nomination went to veteran politician Walter Mondale. Glenn received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. In 1980 Glenn won re-election to the seat, defeating Republican challenger Jim Betts, by over 40 percentage points. Glenn also ran for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. Glenn and his staff worried about the 1983 release of The Right Stuff, a film about the original seven Mercury astronauts based on the best-selling Tom Wolfe book of the same name. The book had depicted Glenn as a “zealous moralizer”, and he did not attend the film’s Washington premiere on October 16th, 1983. Reviewers saw Ed Harris’ portrayal of Glenn as heroic, however, and his staff immediately began to emphasize the film to the press. Aide Greg Schneiders suggested an unusual strategy, similar to Glenn’s personal campaign and voting style, in which he would avoid appealing to narrow special interest groups and instead seek to win support from ordinary Democratic primary voters, the “constituency of the whole”. Mondale defeated Glenn for the nomination however, and he was left with $3 million in campaign debt for over 20 years before he was granted a reprieve by the Federal Election Commission. In 1986 Glenn defeated challenger U.S. Representative Tom Kindness to retain his Senate seat. Glenn was one of five U.S. senators caught up in the 1989 Lincoln Savings and Keating Five Scandal after accepting a $200,000 contribution from Charles Keating. Glenn and Republican senator John McCain were the only senators exonerated. The Senate Commission found that Glenn had exercised “poor judgment”. Glenn was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1990. The association of his name with the Lincoln Savings and Keating Five Scandal gave Republicans hope that Glenn would be vulnerable in the 1992 campaign. Instead, Glenn defeated Lieutenant Governor Mike DeWine to keep his seat, though his percentage was reduced to a career low of 51%. This 1992 re-election victory was the last time a Democrat won a statewide race in Ohio until 2006; DeWine later won Metzenbaum’s seat upon his retirement. During Glenn’s time in the Senate, he was chief author of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978, served as chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs from 1987 until 1995, sat on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and the Special Committee on Aging. Once Republicans regained control of the Senate, Glenn also served as the ranking minority member on a special Senate investigative committee chaired by Tennessee senator Fred Dalton Thompson that looked into illegal foreign donations by China to U.S. political campaigns for the 1996 election. There was considerable acrimony between the two very high-profile senators during the life of this committee, which reached a level of public disagreement between the five leaders of a congressional committee seldom seen in recent years, amid allegations that Glenn suppressed these issues prior to his subsequent Space Shuttle flight which had to be approved by President Clinton. In 1998, Glenn declined to run for re-election. Mary O. Boyle was the Democratic party nominee. She faced Republican nominee and sitting governor George Voinovich in the general election, which Voinovich won. Glenn returned to space on the Space Shuttle on October 29th, 1998, as a Payload Specialist on Discovery’s STS-95 mission, becoming, at age seventy-seven, the oldest person to go into space. According to The New York Times, Glenn “won his seat on the Shuttle flight by lobbying NASA for two years to fly as a human guinea pig for geriatric studies”, which were named as the main reasons for his participation in the mission. Glenn states in his memoir that he had no idea NASA was willing to send him back into space when NASA announced the decision. Glenn’s participation in the nine-day mission was criticized by some in the space community as a political favor granted to Glenn by President Clinton, with John Pike, director of the Space Policy Project for the Federation of American Scientists noting “If he was a normal person, he would acknowledge he’s a great American hero and that he should get to fly on the shuttle for free…He’s too modest for that, and so he’s got to have this medical research reason. It’s got nothing to do with medicine.” It was noted that Glenn’s flight offered valuable research on weightlessness and other aspects of space flight on the same person at two points in life 36 years apart—by far the longest interval between space flights by the same person—providing information on the effects of spaceflight and weightlessness on the elderly, with an ideal control subject. Shortly before the flight, researchers learned that Glenn had to be disqualified from one of the flight’s two main priority human experiments (about the effects of melatonin) because he did not meet one of the study’s medical conditions; he still participated in two other experiments about sleep monitoring and protein use. Perth, Western Australia, again became the “City of Light” when residents turned on their house, car and streetlights as Glenn passed overhead. just as they had done in 1962. Upon the safe return of the STS-95 crew, Glenn (and his crewmates) received another ticker-tape parade, making him the tenth, and latest, person to have received multiple ticker-tape parades in a lifetime (as opposed to members of a sports team). Just prior to the flight, on October 15th, 1998, and for several months after, the main causeway to the Johnson Space Center, NASA Road 1, was temporarily renamed “John Glenn Parkway”. Glenn helped found the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at The Ohio State University in 1998 to encourage public service. In 2001 Glenn vehemently opposed the sending of Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist, to the International Space Station on the grounds that Tito’s trip served no scientific purpose. That same year Glenn appeared as a guest star on the American television sitcom Frasier, as himself. In the episode, Glenn was seen telling a story about seeing UFO’s when he was in space, and when he learns his story had been recorded, insisting that the tape be destroyed. On July 22nd, 2006, the John Glenn Institute for Public Service and Public Policy merged with OSU’s School of Public Policy and Management to become the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, and Glenn held an adjunct professorship at the Glenn School. On August 4th, 2006, Glenn and his wife were injured in an automobile accident on I-270 near Columbus, Ohio, and were hospitalized for two days; Glenn was cited for failure to yield the right-of-way. On September 5th, 2009, Glenn and his wife dotted the “i” during The Ohio State University’s Script Ohio marching band performance, at the Ohio State–Navy football game halftime show. Bob Hope, Woody Hayes, Buster Douglas, E. Gordon Gee, Novice Fawcett, Robert Ries, and Jack Nicklaus and Earle Bruce are the only other non-band members to have received this honor. On February 20th, 2012, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Friendship 7 flight, Glenn was surprised with the opportunity to speak with the orbiting crew of the International Space Station while Glenn was on-stage with NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden at Ohio State. On April 19th, 2012, Glenn participated in the ceremonial transfer of the retired Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian Institution for permanent display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Speaking at the event, Glenn criticized the “unfortunate” decision to end the Space Shuttle program, expressing his opinion that grounding the shuttles delayed research.  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. After the death of Scott Carpenter in 2013, Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury Seven. In June 2014 Glenn underwent a successful heart valve replacement surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. In February 2015, it was announced that the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at OSU would become the John Glenn College of Public Affairs beginning in April 2015. On June 28th, 2016, the Columbus, Ohio airport was officially renamed the John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Just before his 95th birthday, Glenn and his wife attended the ceremony, and he spoke eloquently about how visiting that airport as a child inspired his interest in flying. During his career he logged some 9,000 hours of flying time, with approximately 3,000 hours in jet aircraft, and his boyhood home in New Concord has been restored and made into an historic house museum and education center (died 2016): “The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel.”

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