The day that I enjoyed

There’s a little security guard hut between the road and the building I’m teaching in. A human sits in there, checks everyone’s parking pass and raises and lowers the arm. The gentleman that was there last night, as I made my way in for my evening class, was the talkative sort. Asked me where I was headed. I pointed to the right. Going to teach, I said.

What class?

“Journalism. Introduction to New Media, specifically,” I said, unsure if we were chatting or if he was challenging me.

Journalism is old media, he said.

“Yes it is …”

And I want to hold it in my hand!

So we were chatting.

He had a solid 45 seconds ready to go on the subject, and he delivered it in a steady way full of calm, fun conviction, the sort that lets you know he could do two, three, maybe five minutes on this if you wanted and didn’t mind a little roughness around some of his witticisms.

He was right about what he said. You couldn’t help but agree and laugh at his larger point. But, sir, I really need to get parked and go in and log into the 19 services I need to teach this class and …

Have a good one he said, as he pointed roughly in the way I was expected to go.

It’s a night class, so parking was a breeze. We were in the gloaming, but the building was still bustling with activity. I walked into the room and two students were already there. The rest flowed in over the course of the next 20 minutes or so. Owing to the holiday last Monday, and the late start hour of this class, this is the last first class of the semester. They knew it, too, and, by then, students are usually over all of the first day class experiences. Let’s get into this.

So we did. Course outline. Syllabus. The many policies. An icebreaker. Some jokes. A conversation about how we want this class to go — and they got a say in some of the key elements of that. And then I launched into a presentation about new media … I started with some works archeologists have uncovered that date back about 3,500 years. I like doing the history for context. I’m not sure if you need three-plus millennia of context, but it’s so interesting. Here is an Egyptian medical scroll, it isn’t even the oldest medical document we have. Let me tell you what this 65-foot document covered. And occasionally you flash forward. Maybe not to, but you bring it around. And then you jump to another part of the world, another period, and you talk about the story these cave walls told, or the meaning behind this Japanese tale, or the functionality of Ghana’s talking drums.

Then there are the various cultures that used knot-tying systems for record keeping, if not for storytelling. We know of four of them, at least, in various parts of the world, and they all seem unrelated. And so isn’t it interesting how people from different places and times, with different resources and problems, and different needs and degrees of ingenuity solve their problems. I mean, these drums talk. And certain varieties can be heard miles and miles away.

And then you get to a certain point in history, and some of these older technologies give way. Some stick around. Their uses entrenched traditionally, or just important cultural artifacts, or their purposes modified, but people in what we arrogantly think of as modern cultures all start gravitating to the same tech.

It’s a big lecture, and it all winds up with the Lutherans, somehow, because I found a great cartoon image to end the slideshow, making the point that, at least in the western sense, everything we know stems from this moment.

I think the biggest takeaway, though, is they probably won’t want me to lecture them late into the evenings. It’s going to be a group class, and it could be a good one. Thirty or forty percent of them were leaning into it on the first night. I’ll get the rest in due time.

Today, I worked on part of another lecture, which I will give twice on Thursday. And this is the rhythm of things through the end of the semester in mid-December.

I also went for a bike ride because I needed a break and folding laundry didn’t sound fun, comparatively speaking. I was going to do a quick square pattern, a route that I’ve established on four of the closest roads. It’s about nine miles. Do it twice, you can get in a good hour and then get back into whatever. I have a feeling I’m going to do that a lot, which is fine. They’re good roads.

But one of the things that should never be taken for granted about having your feet on two pedals on either side of two wheels is the ability to be spontaneous. Before I’d done the first mile I had a new idea. What about this other road? Where does it go?

It’s a road that we drive for some of our routine trips. Thing is, if it is part of the routine you only your part of the road. And, sure, I could look at that on a map later — and I do for some roads, but the real joy is in simply finding out first hand. So, I figured, I’ll go down that road until my bike computer says I’ve done 10 miles, then I’ll turn around.

When I’d gone three miles I had to amend the idea, because the road ended in a T-intersection. See? I didn’t know the road. Hadn’t consulted a map. If I turned left, I’d go down a hill pretty quickly, which just means riding up it later. But if I turned to the right, it was a gradual thing. So I turned right and found myself racing over some nice false flats, only to run out of that road pretty soon. OK then, I’m going to have to remember landmarks and such. Another right turn, and then another. I stayed on that road until I got to 10 miles — though even though it seemed like it took a lot longer than normal — and then turned around, retracing my route.

I had a brief conversation with a friend the other day about seeing things by bike. The speeds are different, of course, so you can see and appreciate more. For instance, I’ve driven on this stretch of road now maybe four or five times. I’ve never noticed this sign.

I shot this on the way back. I’ve also never seen this one, which is great, because how can I top the serendipity of the sun setting over the shoulder of the sun?

Near the very end of my little 20 mile ride I got behind a tractor. And the tractor got behind another tractor, this one which was hauling a trailer of fresh crops away from the fields. The second tractor passed the first. And then I passed him, too.

The first tractor had not been going particularly fast, but it disappeared somewhere, and I’ll probably think about that every time I’m on this road I explored today.

I just created three new segments on Strava for various parts of that road, meaning I’ll have to try to go faster next time I come through there. I also added a segment that is a commonly ridden road on the way back home. I could add segments for every stretch of every road that is becoming a part of the new habit, but I’d never know which ones to give a big effort, and where to recover. Segments are usually done going uphill, but I am, of course, much faster going downhill. All of the ones I’ve created, the Strava website tells me, are flat or downhill.

Go figure.

Tonight it was cleaning up a bit outside, watering a few plants, catching up on the Vuelta, writing this, plotting out the next few classes and … that’s enough, really. Oh, and listening to the rain tap on the walls, and the wind howling over everything. That really should be enough. After all, I’ll be writing more lectures tomorrow, and thinking up a good newspaper joke for that guy working the security hut.

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