Daily Update: Friday, December 16th, 2016

Ember Days and 12-16 - Las Posadas

We have no Saints today, but today is the second of three Ember Days for this season of the year. Today is the last day of the first part of Advent. And today is the first night of Las Posadas in Mexico and other Latin America countries.

Today is the second of three Ember Days for this season of the year. Ember days (a corruption from the Latin Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073 – 1085) for the consecutive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (the feast of Saint Lucy), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday (Pentecost), and after September 14th (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. Today is the last day of the first part of Advent; since the first Sunday of Advent (four Sundays before Christmas), our days have been relative to each week of Advent (for example, today is Friday in the Third Week of Advent). But starting tomorrow, our days are relative to the calendar date (for example, tomorrow is simply December 17th). The first part of Advent had an eschatological focus (on the Second Coming); the second part will now focus on the upcoming Incarnation (Christmas). Turning to our secular celebration,  Posada is Spanish for “lodging”, or “accommodation”; it is said in plural (Las Posadas) because this celebration lasts for nine days. The tradition symbolizes the trials which Mary and Joseph endured before finding a place to stay where Jesus could be born, based on the nativity passage in the Gospel of Luke. Typically, each family in a neighborhood will schedule a night for the Posada to be held at their home, starting on the 16th of December and finishing on the 24th. Every home has a nativity scene and the hosts of the Posada act as the innkeepers. The neighborhood children and adults are the peregrinos (pilgrims), who have to request lodging by going house to house singing a traditional song about the peregrinos. All the peregrinos carry small lit candles in their hands, and four people carry small statues of Joseph leading a donkey, on which Mary is riding. The head of the procession will have a candle inside a paper lamp shade. At each house, the resident responds by refusing lodging (also in song), until the weary travelers reach the designated site for the party, where Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter. Once the “innkeepers” let them in, the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to recite prayers (typically, the Rosary).

Last night our New Orleans Pelicans won their NBA game with the Indiana Pacers by the score of 102 to 95.

Upon waking up to get ready for work, I did my Book Devotional Reading, then brought in the flag I had put out yesterday in honor of Bill of Rights Day. On our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the First Day of my Christmas Novena. Once we clocked in, Richard was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow; he also broke the second Mississippi Stud table once at the beginning of his shift. I spent my day on a Blackjack table; at one point my whole pit (three regular Blackjack tables, two Pitch Blackjack tables, and the Roulette Table) were dead, with no guests. On my first break I texted Liz Ellen bon voyage, and asked her to text me when she fetched up for the evening.

After work I picked up my prescriptions at the Pharmacy, and once we arrived home I ate my lunch salad and read the morning paper. I burned my November 2016 photos to a CD for Liz Ellen, and also burned the November 2016 photos to a CD for me. Our mail brought me a card & newsletter from my friend Lori in Wisconsin; however, my card to Melissa in Pennsylvania came back. I got on Facebook and Messengered her, and she gave me the correct address. Liz Ellen texted me that she and Widget (who is not a very good traveler) had stopped for the night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and that she expected to arrive at our house Saturday at 12:00 pm or 1:00 pm. (I hope she is early rather than late; more anon.) I then cleaned out my vanity area, which took me until about 4:00 pm. At 4:30 pm Richard and I watched Jeopardy! Richard and I then went across the main road to Rocky’s Cajun Kitchen, where we ate the very good fried seafood buffet (the fried oysters were excellent). When we got back home we lit the Advent Candles, and I came to the computer to finish tonight’s Daily Update. When I am finished I will get ready for bed. Our New Orleans Pelicans (9-18, 0-4) will be playing a home NBA game with the Houston Rockets (19-7, 4-1) tonight; I will record the score of the game in Saturday’s Daily Update.

We have no Saints to honor tomorrow, but December 17th begins the daily O Antiphons, which highlight the liturgy of the Church from now until December 23rd. Tomorrow’s O Antiphon is “O Sapientia…“, or “O Wisdom”. Tomorrow is also the third of three Ember Days for this season of the year. And tomorrow is Wright Brothers Day, celebrating the first successful flights in a heavier than air, mechanically propelled airplane, that were made by Orville and Wilbur Wright on December 17th, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Richard and I will work our eight hours at the casino tomorrow, and I will start reading Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry via Overdrive on my Tablet. Once we get home from work I will read the morning paper, and I hope that Liz Ellen will arrive (with Widget) before I have to leave for my Hour of Eucharistic Adoration at the Adoration Chapel, which is from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. And at 4:00 pm I will attend Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Our LSU Tigers (6-2, 0-0) will be playing a home College Basketball game with the Texas Southern Tigers (4-6, 0-0) late tomorrow afternoon.

Our Parting Quote on this Friday afternoon comes to us from Tim Cochran, American professor of mathematics. Born as Thomas Cochran in 1955, he was a valedictorian for his Maryland high school class of 1973. He was an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982. He then returned to MIT as a C.L.E. Moore Postdoctoral Instructor from 1982 to 1984. He was an NSF postdoctoral fellow from 1985 to 1987. Following brief appointments at Berkeley and Northwestern University, he joined Rice University as an associate professor in 1990. He became a full professor at Rice University in 1998. Cochran’s area of expertise was in topology, especially low-dimensional topology, the theory of knots and links and associated algebra. In topology, knot theory is the study of mathematical knots. While inspired by knots which appear in daily life in shoelaces and rope, a mathematician’s knot differs in that the ends are joined together so that it cannot be undone. In mathematical language, a knot is an embedding of a circle in 3-dimensional Euclidean space, R3. The original motivation for the founders of knot theory was to create a table of knots and links, which are knots of several components entangled with each other. Over six billion knots and links have been tabulated since the beginnings of knot theory in the 19th century. With his coauthors Kent Orr and Peter Teichner, Cochran (in his 2003 paper “Knot Concordance, Whitney Towers and L2-signatures”) defined the solvable filtration of the knot concordance group, whose lower levels encapsulate many classical knot concordance invariants. While at Rice, he was named an Outstanding Faculty Associate (1992–93), and received the Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award from the Rice Graduate Student Association in 2014. He was named a fellow of the American Mathematical Society in 2014, for contributions to low-dimensional topology, specifically knot and link concordance, and for mentoring numerous junior mathematicians. He died unexpectedly while on a year-long sabbatical leave supported by a fellowship from the Simons Foundation (died 2014): “Topology is like geometry, the study of the shapes of things. That’s very important in many applications. We don’t do applied math, but a lot of people do study knotted DNA and linking of DNA strands in order to derive information about the nature of the mechanisms going on in replication.”

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