Daily Update: Friday, December 23rd, 2016

O Antiphons - December 23, John of Kanty, Festivus

Our last and final O Antiphon is “O Emmanuel“.  Today is the Optional Memorial of Saint John of Kanty, Priest (died 1473), and today is Festivus, the great secular celebration made famous by the television comedy Seinfeld in 1997.

Today’s O Antiphon, in Latin, is ”O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.” In English, it is “O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 7:14): “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” The Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel (in Latin, “Veni Emmanuel”) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons in reverse order. The first letters of the titles (Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, Emmanuel), taken backwards, form the Latin acrostic “Ero Cras” which translates to “Tomorrow, I will come”, mirroring the theme of the antiphons. Today’s Saint, John Kanty, was born in 1390 in Kęty in Silesia (Poland); he was a brilliant student at the Kraków Academy, Poland. Becoming a priest, he became Professor of Theology at the university. Falsely accused and ousted by university rivals, at age forty-one he was assigned as parish priest at Olkusz, Bohemia. He took his position seriously, and was terrified of the responsibility, but did his best, which for a long time was not enough for his parishioners, but in the end he won their hearts. After several years in his parish, he returned to Kraków Academy, which would later be named the Jagiellonian University, and taught Scripture the rest of his life. He was a serious, humble man, generous to a fault with the poor, sleeping little, and eating no meat and little of anything else. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When warned to look after his health, he pointed out that the early desert fathers lived long lives in conditions that had nothing to recommend them but the presence of God. At the time of his death, John was so well loved that his veneration began immediately. For years his doctoral gown was worn by graduates receiving advanced degrees at the Jagiellonian University. He was declared patron of Poland and Lithuania in 1737 by Pope Clement XII, thirty years before his final canonization, and he is also the Patron Saint of Jagiellonian University. Finally, today is the great secular celebration of Festivus, made famous in the December 18th, 1997 Seinfeld episode “The Strike”, written by Dan O’Keefe, whose father, editor and writer Daniel O’Keefe (died 2012), was celebrating the holiday as far back as 1966. The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode and now celebrated by many, begins with an aluminum pole; during the holiday, the Festivus Pole is displayed unadorned. Other practices include the “Airing of Grievances”, which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal the “Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned. Allen Salkin’s 2005 book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us chronicled the early adoption of Festivus. In 2013 and 2014, a Festivus Pole constructed with 6 feet of beer cans was erected next to a nativity scene and other religious holiday displays in the Florida State Capitol Building, as a protest supporting separation of church and state. For the third year in a row in 2015, the same man, Chaz Stevens and his group, The Humanity Fund, was granted permission to display a Festivus pole, that year decorated with a gay pride theme and topped with a disco ball to celebrate the court’s decision on same-sex marriage, at state capitols in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington. Festivus! The Book: A Complete Guide to the Holiday for the Rest of Us by Mark Nelson was published in 2015.

Last night our LSU Tigers lost their College Basketball game with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by the score of 76 to 110; our LSU Tigers (8-3, 0-0) will start their SEC College Basketball games with a home game with the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6, 0-0) on December 29th.

Richard went to work today (for the start of his work week); he was the Relief Dealer for Mississippi Stud, Three Card Poker, and Let It Ride, then the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat and Pai Gow. He got out early at  5:45 am, and arrived home at 6:30 am. I woke up at 8:15 am, and posted to Facebook that today was Festivus. I did my Book Devotional Reading and ate my breakfast toast and read the morning paper. Liz Ellen and I left the house at 9:15 am. We picked up our satsumas (saying hello and Merry Christmas to Miss Frances and Mr. Floyd), then went to Wal-Mart, where I got Liz Ellen’s 12-hour Sudafed© for her (in even months I will get her 12-hour Sudafed©, and in odd months I will get her 6-hour Sudafed©) and eggs (more anon on the eggs). We then went to the Superette, where we got five pounds of boudin for Liz Ellen to take home with her, and two pounds of boudin for us to eat here.

We got home with satsumas and boudin, and I downloaded some music from Amazon. We soon left again (after I asked Richard if he would boil the eggs; thank you, Richard) for Lafayette, and stopped at the Wal-Mart on Ambassador Caffrey for mayonnaise and Christmas Cookies. We ate a very good lunch at Zeus Greek and Lebanese Restaurant on Ambassador Caffrey. We then went next door to Philippe’s Wine Cellar, but they did not have the wine Liz Ellen was looking for. Our next stop was Fresh Pickins on Kalie Saloom, where Liz Ellen got some lemons, apples, and garlic. We then headed back home, making a stop at the Cash Magic, where I lost $10.00 on Video Poker.

Arriving home at 2:30 pm, we had a Christmas Card from our friends Mike and Rosa in Arkansas. I organized the music I had purchased, burned a CD for Liz Ellen of the photos I had taken of her nursing home programs on Tuesday, and burned two CDS of my Miscellaneous Christmas Music for her (both are titled Miscellaneous S–t, which is what they are). Then Richard peeled eggs, and I mixed up the deviled eggs filling, and Richard filled the eggs for me (more anon on the eggs). I then called Fezzo’s in Crowley; they are open tomorrow until 2:00 pm (more anon). We watched Jeopardy!, and then we lit the Advent Candles. Once I finish this Daily Update I will go to bed; our New Orleans Pelicans (10-21, 0-6) will be playing a home NBA game with the Miami Heat (9-20, 3-4), and I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, a day with no Saints or Antiphons, as we await the ever-new Miracle of Christmas. Richard and I will head to work, him for the second work day of his week, and me for my first work day of the week (I will be mixed up in my days until Tuesday), and we will take the deviled eggs for the Graveyard Shift Pot Luck Dinner. When we get home we will go down to Fezzo’s to eat lunch; when we get back to town we will set out the Luminaria candles if rain is not forecast. I will also set out my Hanukkah candles. Meanwhile, our New Orleans Saints (6-8, 1-3) will be playing a home NFL game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6, 3-1). At 4:00 pm Liz Ellen and I will be attending Mass for Christmas; when we come home we will light the Luminaria Candles outside and the Hanukkah candle for the First Night of Hanukkah, which begins at sunset. I will then do my Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote this Friday afternoon comes to us from Alfred G. Gilman, American pharmacologist and biochemist. Born in 1941 in New Haven, Connecticut, the year he was born the classic pharmacology textbook Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics (nicknamed the “Blue Bible” of pharmacology) was published, written by his father, Alfred Gilman, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, and Louis S. Goodman, also at Yale; the infant was thus christened Alfred Goodman Gilman. He grew up in White Plains, New York, while his father worked at Columbia University and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Hoping for better education, in 1955 his parents sent him to The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, where he completed grades 10 to 12. The school was known for its sports activity, and he described it as “a strict, monastic, and frankly unpleasant environment in the 1950s: academic boot camp.” He studied science at Yale University, where his first research project was to test the adaptor hypothesis of Francis Crick. He worked in the laboratory of Melvin Simpson, where he met Kathryn Hedlund. He graduated in 1962 receiving a BA in biology with major in biochemistry. During summer break in 1962, he briefly worked at Burroughs Wellcome & Company in New York under with Allan Conney. With Conney he published his first two research papers in 1963, the same year he married Hedlund. He then entered a combined MD-PhD program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio where he wanted to study under Nobel laureate pharmacologist Earl Sutherland, who was a close friend of his father. It was Sutherland who had introduced the combined MD-PhD course, and invited Gilman to join course. But to Gilman, a seven-year program was like “an eternity in purgatory” and he preferred not to have a degree in pharmacology, so he refused. Sutherland later persuaded him by explaining that pharmacology was “just biochemistry with a purpose.” However, Sutherland was departing for Vanderbilt University, so Gilman studied with Sutherland’s collaborator, Theodore Rall. Gilman graduated from Case Western in 1969, then did his post-doctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health with Nobel laureate Marshall Nirenberg from 1969 to 1971. Nirenberg assigned him to work on the study of nerve endings (axons from cultured neuroblastoma cells), which he considered as “a truly boring project.” Instead, against the advice of Nirenberg, he worked on a new method for studying protein binding. After six weeks of working, he showed his result to Nirenberg, who immediately communicated it and got it published in 1970. The work was a simple and vital biochemical assay for studying cyclic AMP. G proteins are a vital intermediary between the extracellular activation of receptors (G protein-coupled receptors) on the cell membrane and actions within the cell. Rodbell had shown in the 1960s that GTP was involved in cell signaling. It was Gilman who actually discovered the proteins that interacted with the GTP to initiate signalling cascades within the cell, and thus, giving the name G proteins. In 1971 Gilman was appointed Assistant Professor of pharmacology at the University of Virginia, School of Medicine, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He became full professor in 1977. Gilman  served as one of the editors pf Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics from 1980 to 2000, first collaborating with, then succeeding his father and Goodman. In 1981 he became chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Gilman was given the Canada Gairdner International Award in 1984 “For elucidating the mechanism by which peptide hormones act across cell membranes to influence cell function.”. He was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. He received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research as well as the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in 1989 together with Edwin Krebs. He was one of the founders of Regeneron, a biotechnology company headquartered in Tarrytown, New York. He was also the founder and Chair of the Alliance for Cellular Signaling, a global collaboration for the study of cell signalling. He became its Director from 1990. He and Martin Rodbell shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discovery of G-proteins and the role of these proteins in signal transduction in cells.” Gilman played active roles in defending science education, and opposing creationism. He opposed the Texas state board of education in 2003 when the board tried to remove evolution from science curriculum. He was the leader of scientists of the US National Academy of Sciences, including Nobel laureates, to publicly criticize the board in The Dallas Morning News. He eventually became a member of the Advisory Council of the National Centre for Science Education. He also opposed the Institute for Creation Research on its application for certification of its graduate course.  In 2005 he was elected as Dean of University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, and between 2006 and 2009 he was Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. In 2005 he was appointed Director of the drug company, Eli Lilly & Co. He was also one of the signatories on the petition against the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008. He retired from the university in 2009 to hold the office of the chief scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. He, however, resigned after three years as he felt that the administration was under commercial and political pressures. His resignation was followed by seven senior scientists. He was elected Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research Academy in 2013 (died 2015): “[On getting the news that he had won the Nobel Prize] First I activated my receptor, then my G-Protein. I was obviously extremely excited. I think I secreted all the adrenaline I had.”

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