Running Rusty

greyhoundNostalgia is a powerful thing.  As people get older, they became teary-eyed for the “good old days,” especially if they think that life was better–and more moral–in the past than it is now.  While there’s no doubt our civilization isn’t what it used to be, growing up in South Florida was a lesson in just how immoral life in these United States could be.  It was (and is) a region fully equipped with the vices of the day — including all kinds of gambling such as jai-alai, harness racing and of course the dog track.  The only people who seemed to suffer for running gambling operations were the poor Cubans who tried to run a bolita (lottery) operation; after spending years jailing immigrants trying to make a living, the state of Florida (along with most states) does well with its own.

pbkennelAcross the lake from where I grew up was the Palm Beach Kennel Club.  Our family never went but when we watched the news every night we’d see Buck Kinnaird’s sports broadcast on Channel 5.  (Click here for WPTV’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration in 2004, which gives more information on the early years of the station.)  Dog races don’t take too long, so the film clip of that night’s race went by pretty fast.  (In truth, I think they always used the same film clip every night.)  The track operated a steel rabbit named Rusty.  When the race began Rusty was started just ahead of the dogs.  The dogs would race while chasing Rusty, and it was the objective of the track to keep Rusty just ahead of the dogs.  They usually succeeded in doing so; their occasional failure resulted in the inglorious end of the race.

Florida finally put an end to dog racing, but only for the dogs. For the rest of us too much of life has turned into a dog race where whomever we feel is in control of our situation is “running Rusty” in front of us.  From youth onward we’re motivated — pushed and shoved in some cases — to achieve goals which we may have had nothing to do with formulating and which, deep down, we really feel we neither want nor are able to accomplish.  If and when we reach these goals it seems that success is more elusive than ever because the “track owner” is moving Rusty faster than we can keep up by either making new demands or enticing us with new things to go harder for.  This is called “being challenged” and of course has its upside but in many cases it’s manipulation, pure and simple.

One of the promises of technology was to enable us to have more leisure time and more control over our lives.  Sad to say the real result is to turn our lives in to a 24/7 “on demand” race where there’s no escape from anything.  The more productive we become with our technological tools the faster “Rusty” is run and the more fatigued we get.

Fortunately the real “track owner” of this world never intended to run people in a perpetual dog race.  Jesus told us “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly-minded, and ‘you shall find rest for your souls’; For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)  His race is rather simple:

  • There is only one really important objective: “What good will it do a man to gain the whole world, if he forfeits his life? or what will a man give that is of equal value with his life?” (Matthew 16:26)  Our main objective is eternal life.
  • He has promised he will give us the strength to run the race:  “Why, then, do you now provoke God, by putting on the necks of these disciples a yoke which neither our ancestors nor we were able to bear? No, it is through the loving-kindness of the Lord Jesus that we, just as they do, believe that we have been saved.” (Acts 15:10-11)
  • He has run the race and won, so can we: “Seeing, therefore, that there is on every side of us such a throng of witnesses, let us also lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us, our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the Leader and perfect Example of our faith, who, for the joy that lay before him, endured the cross, heedless of its shame, and now ‘has taken his seat at the right hand’ of the throne of God. Weigh well the example of him who had to endure such opposition from ‘men who were sinning against themselves,’ so that you should not grow weary or faint-hearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Jesus Christ sets before us a simple race to run, a clear objective and a straightforward way to get there.  And that’s a lot more than people and institutions can claim these days.

For more information click here.

All New Testament quotations taken from the Positive Infinity New Testament.

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Built for the Crimea – Broken up at Charlottetown: The Long Life of the Steamer M.A. Starr — Sailstrait

Today warships are rarely converted for commercial use but up until 1900 many naval vessels were not much different in design from their civilian counterparts. One ship with a naval beginning was a regular sight in Charlottetown harbour for more than twenty years – and may still be resting beneath the harbour’s sand and mud. […]

via Built for the Crimea – Broken up at Charlottetown: The Long Life of the Steamer M.A. Starr — Sailstrait

Appeal for the Abaco Islands, and Mercy Chefs

Readers of this blog will know that my family goes back a long way visiting the Bahamas in general and the Abaco Islands in particular.  We had some exciting times, almost sending our ship to the bottom and riding out a storm.

1002_10-1966

The fateful 1965 cruise of the Pem-Don I, from the time it left the Port of Palm Beach until it hit the reef.

This beautiful paradise, which looked like this when we visited:

hope-town-harbour1

Hope Town harbour, 1965.

Now looks like this:

There are many people and organisations that are mobilizing to help with this, one I’m supporting is Mercy Chefs.

Mercy Chefs is led by Gary LeBlanc, who started out in the hospitality business as a bar tender at the Monteloene Hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  He started Mercy Chefs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and South Louisiana (another place I have family and business interest in.)  His mission is to set up a field kitchen (with South Louisiana calibre food) to feed first responders and those devastated by Hurricane Dorian.  He’s also working on getting water purification equipment into the Abaco Islands; clean water is essential for living.

I’m asking you to join me in supporting Mercy Chefs and their work in the Bahamas.

You can learn more about Mercy Chefs and donate here.

Sometimes It Pays to Give Your Professor a Little Attention

I was forced to broaden my horizons in my PhD pursuit.  That’s because, although I’ve done coding since I was eighteen, I had to acquire a deeper understanding for two things: linear algebra and numerical methods.  It’s no understatement to say that both of these are at the core of the advances wrought by computerisation, whether we’re talking about statistical analysis or (in my case) simulation.

After my initial boffo performance, I turned to my Iranian friends for more help.  So they let me use some of the books they found useful for study back in the “old country”.  One of those was a sizeable book entitled Applied Numerical Methods by Brice Carnahan, H.A. Luther and James O. Wilkes.  As was the case with their wedding video, the heart skipped a beat, because the middle author, Hubert A. Luther, was my Differential Equations teacher at Texas A&M, forty years ago this spring.

Applied Numerical Methods was, AFAIK, the first really comprehensive textbook which combined linear algebra, numerical methods, and coding (in their case, FORTRAN IV) in one text.  Although some of the methodologies have been improved since it was published in 1969, and languages have certainly changed, it’s still a very useful book, although a little dense in spots.  Many of the books on the subject that have come afterwards have learned from its mistakes, but still refer back to the original.

Dr. Luther taught me the last required math class in my pursuit of an engineering degree at Texas A&M.  It wasn’t an easy class, even after three semesters of calculus (which I did reasonably well at).  Although he was originally from Pennsylvania, he acclimated himself to the Lone Star State with western shirt, belt and string tie, the only professor I can remember who did so. The start to his course was especially rough; the textbook was terrible, he was a picky grader, the scores I got back were low.  I thought I was facing the abyss…until another one of those “aha” moments came along.

We (the engineering students) were standing outside our Modern Physics class, which came before Differential Equations.  I found out I wasn’t the only one having this problem.  But one of my colleagues, a Nuclear Engineering student who went on to become my class’ wealthiest member, had a simple suggestion.  Go visit his office, he said.  He’s lonely (he was nearing retirement) and likes the company.  Your grade will go up.

I wasn’t much for visiting my professors, but I was desperate enough to try anything.  I made a couple of office visits.  I’m not sure how helpful his advice was, but his grading became more lenient and I got through the course OK.

Today I’m on the other end of the visitation.  I spend a lot of time in the office with no student visits.  Part of the problem comes from scheduling, both theirs and mine.  But I’ve found out something else about student visits: the students that come to see you really care about what they’re supposed to be doing in your class.  Although there are still students who think it their duty to “tough it out” without asking questions, many others just want to get through in the quickest and least time-consuming way they can find.

I’m glad I took my classmate’s advice and made the office visits.  But there are two other lessons I have learned since that time.

The first is that I wish I had taken a numerical methods course taught by Dr. Luther, it would have prepared me for what I’ve been doing both before and during the time of my PhD pursuit.

The second is that, when I started my MS degree twenty years later, I took a course over basically the same material taught by a Russian.  I found out that there was a great deal I hadn’t learned from Dr. Luther, and that American math education leaves a lot to be desired of.  So sometimes making the way easier up front comes back to get you in the end.

Acolyte Order of St. Peter

We present the guide for the Acolyte Order of St. Peter at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church for three reasons:

  1. To give a historical view of acolytes in Episcopal churches in the era it was written (around 1968.)
  2. To help Anglican churches today in training their acolytes.
  3. To show how the “rich and famous” (or infamous) served at the altar.

If you use this in your own church, keep the following in mind:

  1. If you have problems visualising how this worked in its original setting, you can go to our video slide show on Bethesda-by-the-Sea for help.
  2. Keep in mind that this routine was for services conducted under the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. If you use another prayer book or liturgy, you will need to modify the instructions accordingly.
  3. Except for corrections in grammar and spelling (which were numerous,) these instructions are as they were written. They assume an all-male acolyte order, which is seldom the case today.

pmw-bethesda-jun-68The photo at the right shows some original members of the Order at their duties. If you see this photo elsewhere rest assured that it came from here first.


ACOLYTE ORDER OF SAINT PETER
Bethesda-by-the-Sea
Palm Beach, Florida

  1. Instruction for Acolytes
    1. Rise early in order to have plenty of time to prepare yourself both physically and spiritually for the duties you will perform. Always try to enter the Church aware of the fact that you are being given the privilege of serving God at His altar. Pray that you nay be worthy of this honor.
    2. Remember! A good Acolyte:
      1. Stands, kneels, sits, as appropriate, in an erect position and carries himself with dignity.
      2. Avoids nervous habits, such as squirming, kicking, playing with his hands or cross, folding or rustling paper, shifting weight from one foot to the other while standing.
      3. When not holding an object during the service, keeps his right fist held in his left hand, just above waist level.
      4. Follows the service in the Prayer Book and Hymnal.
      5. Pays attention to everything the Priest says – including the Sermon.
      6. Except when giving the Alms Basin to (or receiving them from) the Ushers, and lighting or extinguishing Altar Candles, never side-steps when moving from place to place, but turns and walks wherever he goes.
      7. Performs his duties naturally and easily: avoids stiffness and uneasiness.
      8. Is alert and sure of himself; knows his job.
      9. Behaves himself and avoids unnecessary talking and whispering.
    3. Dress:
      • If possible wear black -shoes (well polished), white shirt and dark tie – be sure that your hands and fingernails are clean.
    4. Before the Service:
      • Arrive twenty minutes before the service. This gives ample time to vest, receive special instructions and to light the Altar Candles.
    5. Lighting the Altar Candles:
      1. Proceed to the Chancel, with your Taper lighted, by the shortest route, advance into the Sanctuary, pause before the altar and reverence the Altar (Bow), then ascend the Altar steps.
      2. Light the Epistle Side (right) candle first, then the Gospel Side (left).
      3. Descend the Altar steps facing the congregation, turn, reverence the Altar (bow) and return to the Sacristy by the shortest route.
      4. Extinguish your taper and return it to its holder.
    6. Entrance and Service through the Epistle:
      1. Crucifers, flag bearers and torch bearers will precede the choir in entering the Church. Acolytes will follow the choir but precede the Clergy. All will halt at the Altar rail and step aside to allow the Clergy to enter the Sanctuary. All will then proceed to their appointed places – the Acolyte who will serve the Priest kneeling in the end stall on the Epistle Side inside the Sanctuary.
      2. Kneel to the reading of the Epistle.
    7. The Gospel and the Creed.
      1. At the words “Here endeth the Epistle” the Acolyte serving the Priest will rise, go to the center of the Altar, bow, and ascend the Altar steps on the Epistle Side.
      2. 8 a.m. Take the missal and missal stand – holding them firmly – descend the Altar stair and place missal and missal stand on the Gospel side of the Altar at a 45° angle, facing the Priest and return to your place.
      3. 10 a.m. In the event another member of the Clergy reads the Gospel, you will carry the missal and missal stand to him and re-gain holding the missal stand during the reading of the Gospel. After the reading of the Gospel you will return the missal find missal stand to the Gospel side of the Altar. Return to your place.
    8. The Offertory
      1. At the end of the Creed the Priest will read, one or more Offertory sentences (Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, etc.)
      2. When the Priest uncovers the Chalice you will rise and. go directly to the Credence table – if there are cruets (bottles) on the Credence table you will remove the tops.
      3. Pick up the Ciboriun (wafer box) and carry it to the Priest -remove the cover with your right hand – the Priest will remove the necessary number of wafers. Replace the cover and return the Ciborium to the Credence table.
      4. You will now take the wine cruet in your right hand and the water cruet in your left hand – if you are using the silver pitchers, be sure the handles face the Priest. Return to your place at the Epistle Side of the Altar.
      5. Bow and present the wine cruet to the Priest – as he takes it, move the writer cruet from your left hand to your right hand – receive bock the wine cruet in your left hand – after the priest has taken the water cruet move the nine cruet to your right hand – receive the water cruet in your left hand and return both cruets to their place on the Credence table. The Lavabo – Father Cary does not normally use the Lavabo but will tell you in advance if he intends to. When the Lavabo is being used – place the Lavabo in your left hand, and take the water cruet in your right hand – go to the Altar where the Priest will hold his fingers over the Lavabo – pour a little water over his finders -wait for the priest to dry his fingers on the towel – return his bow – go to the Credence table and return cruet, Lavabo and towel to their places,
      6. At this point the Alms Basins are presented to the ushers from the Chancel steps.
  2. The Communion
    1. You will kneel or sit during the administration of the Communion. Do not stare at the people receiving.
    2. When the Priest finishes administering Communion rise up and go to the Credence table.
    3. Remove the tops from the cruets – take the wine in your right hand and the water in your left.
    4. Go to the Altar – the Priest will hold the Chalice towards you and you will pour first a small amount of wine in the Chalice and then a small amount of water – Father Cary normally will use only the water; therefore, when assisting Father Cary you will only carry the water cruet for him – return the cruets to the Credence table and return to your place,
    5. After prayers you will stand when the Priest stands and leave the Sanctuary, preceding him in the Recessional.
  3. Duties of Crucifer
    1. A Crucifer may be used at all services. His primary duty is to lead processions and recessions. Two crucifers may be used at special services such as Christmas and Easter.
    2. Getting ready for Services
      1. Arrive at least twenty minutes before the time of the service and vest in your alb, sash and white gloves. Obtain the cross from its permanent holder and proceed to the point where the procession will form.
      2. The Crucifer will lead the processional – walking in a natural manner and as near in time with the Hymn as possible – hold the cross in a vertical position – the left hand should be around the staff just below the ball – the right hand a foot lower on the staff to steady the cross.
      3. Proceed with dignity into the Chancel and. halt before the Sanctuary steps, holding the cross without wavering
      4. At the conclusion of the processional hymn turn and place the cross in its holder, making sure it is properly placed and securely fastened.
      5. Move directly to your assigned seat,
    3. It is the responsibility of the Crucifer to coordinate the duties of the Flag and Torch Bearers. He will select the Acolyte to handle the Alms Basins.
    4. Closing Prayers and Recession:
      1. Upon announcement by the Priest of the recessional Hymn you will take the cross from its holder -make sure that the torches and flags are ready- and in position – walk to the center of the Chancel Aisle and, holding the cross in proper vertical position, stand facing the Altar at the Sanctuary step.
      2. Upon completion of the second stanza of the recessional Hymn, turn and lead the recession slowly down the center aisle.
      3. Walk with a natural gait reasonably adapted to the Hymn – proceed with dignity to the rear of the Church.
      4. Guide the recession to its “break up” point, then return to the Acolyte’s room – place the cross in its permanent holder – remove your vestments and hang them neatly on the hangers provided.
  4. Duties of the Torch Bearers
    1. Getting ready for Service
      1. Arrive twenty minutes ahead of the service time.
      2. Robe in cassock and cotta.
      3. Obtain your torch and matches – do not light torch until procession is ready to move.
    2. Entrance
      1. Hold your left hand above your right on the torch staff with the torch base on a level with your eyes. Take places either side of the Crucifer and about a half step in back of him.
      2. At the Sanctuary step, step to either side and face each other so that the Clergy may enter the Sanctuary – return to position facing the Altar after the Clergy has entered.
      3. At the conclusion of the processional Hymn extinguish the torches, place them in their holders and take your assigned seat.
      4. Following service, relight torches and join the Crucifer at the Sanctuary steps.
      5. When the Crucifer turns and faces the congregation, you will turn towards each other and accompany the Crucifer in the Recessional.
    3. C. After the Service
      1. Extinguish torches and place them securely in holders.
      2. Remove vestments and hang them neatly on hangers provided.
  5. Duties of the Flag Bearers
    1. Getting ready for Service
      1. Arrive twenty minutes before service tire,
      2. Robe in cassock and cotta.
      3. Obtain flags and go to the formation point.
    2. Entrance
      1. Flag Bearers follow the Crucifer and Torch Bearers, keeping a distance of about four feet between them. The American Flag is carried to the right of the Church Flag and the State Flag follows, in the center of the aisle.