First day of classes

My legs were tired on Saturday, so I took a bike ride on Saturday. They felt better on Sunday, so I let my legs rest. Today my legs feel only medium, who can figure any of this out? It’s a two-stairs-at-a-time day. Anyway, here’s a little bit of that Saturday ride. I like this portion of the route, because it is easy, and there are trees.

This morning I rode to campus and achieved a goal I’ve had for the last week or so. I wanted to make the trip without having to clip out of the pedals. There are a few tricky intersections to get through, and I benefited this morning from a school bus stopping behind me, and holding up traffic through the first one, a round-about. The second is a busy little intersection for a bicycle, and I timed it right, with a lull in the traffic. Later, I had a red light and a four-lane road to cross. Rather than try to track stand for the whole cycle (which I can’t do for that long) or I wheeled into an empty parking lot and did three donuts at the cell phone store until the light turned green. After that it was easy, a few hills, a left turn, a stop sign, and then … where did all of these people come from?

Oh yeah, classes. Today’s the first day of classes.

This did not sneak up on me. I am sure it snuck on some.

Oh, look, the itchy and scratchy crew are back for more work on the Poplars Building. They’re making good progress, too. You write one thing about them on Friday, and they’re pulling down more mid-20th century … whatever style of building that is all day Monday.

That 1960s dust and debris is probably what the big curtain is for, though today I’ve come to think that the crew is shielding the Poplars Garage from having to see what’s happening to the Poplars Building.

The parking deck will stay. It is currently closed, but — and here I will once again try flexing the power of this blog — we need it to re-open sooner than later.

Hear that, everybody?

It is time once again for the biggest hit of the site, the weekly visit with the kitties. They’re doing great. They just want all the pets. At least they take turns demanding attention, I’m not sure how they schedule that, but it is fairly considerate of them, alternating their neediness.

Phoebe will not share her toys.

Poseidon, meanwhile wants to come outside. Or wants me to come inside. Probably the former, but he’ll begrudgingly accept the latter.

It’s a funny thing, watching that loudmouth meow without being able to hear him because of the glass between. He will be heard, but I will not hear him.

I read Cartman Gareth’s We Rode All Day this weekend. It was a quick read, two short sittings got the job done. It’s about the 1919 Tour de France, the first Tour after the Great War. I don’t know anything of substance about the racing of the era, and then along came this most unconventional book.

It’s told in the first person. Gareth is writing for the voices of four racers and two organizers.

It isn’t my style of book, generally, but I found it growing on me because he kept it moving. Mostly, I want to learn more about those old races — this one was the second longest Tour ever, if I’m not mistaken. It was a different type of racing than the modern version, and in this book Gareth twice makes a point of saying the 1919 race was also altogether different than the rougher in the 19-oughts. An Englishmen writing, in English, for French cyclists using modern English colloquialisms. This must drive the French and Francophiles crazy.

It is interesting, and maybe worth reading, but I’m not sure if it was entirely satisfying.

Last night I started Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. After Rome fell came the Middle Ages. And in this pop history book we’re going to study some of the crossover between those times. Should be fun because, as Cahill points out, historians are experts in a period, but not in the transitions.

The idea is that some people on an island off Ireland saved literacy, the church, western culture and so on. Monks with silly haircuts living in stone huts, not too long after they’d figured out the written word themselves, really. It’s a part of the Irish mythos, but not talked about in the wider world, so here’s Cahill.

To understand what happened in the fifth century, and why Rome fell, he asks why the Romans didn’t notice the problems. What were they doing? To answer that series of questions, Cahill goes back a further century, introducing us to the poet and teacher Decimius Magnus Ausonious for reasons that aren’t yet clear to me. He says his verse is no more fresh than the modern day sympathy card. I’m not sure why it is important to pick apart a man that’s been dead for 16 centuries, but he’s having fun doing it.

So it’s a personal anecdote as microcosm. They did because they could. Resources and needs and distractions and all of that. Cultivation of crops allows for a social evolution, rather than foraging and hunting for your every meal. Cultures can emerge and can flourish and, apparently, write bad poetry.

Ausonious winds up tutoring the heirs to power, and that increasing his status a bit, as well. In times past, being named to one of the two consulships positions was a huge and important honor. By his time, though, it was all coming undone. It was civics, not suddenness.

At least so far. I’ll learn more tonight. Cahill has made this great point about Rome’s notable historians — Augustine, Petrarch, Machiavelli and Gibbon specifically — tending to view things through the lens of their time. (All different, all correct insofar as they go, proving once again that there aren’t often simple answers to complex longitudinal questions.) With that in mind it should be no surprise that something written at the end of the 20th century would see the fall of Rome as taking place with not a little ennui.

Which is precisely when you need some Irish people to show up. And I’m sure they will arrive in this book this evening.

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