House of the Vestals

Friday, for the first time ever, I got to go into the House of the Vestals (click to see a picture on my flickr stream of me standing in front of the courtyard). They opened the House AFTER I took my class to the Forum! I think I have to take them back . . . .

Really, it was a splendid day in the Forum and on the Palantine. A friend is visiting from Rochester, and his enthusiasm helped me get over the tiredness generated by the cold I’m fighting and go go go.

There was another first at the Forum – I’ll post that soon!

The Pantheon

Relieving Arches.JPG
We went to the Pantheon today. It doesn’t get much better than that. Look at those relieving arches showing through to the skin . . . each small one corresponds to one of the 8 great piers (which show up on the inside as solid walls with little shrines poking out) and each wide relieving arch corresponds to one of the places where the wall steps back behind a screen of corinthian columns (and the door and main apse). I hope the students got that! Such engineers, those Romans.
But here’s the odd thing – for a building we love and admire, the Pantheon was barely imitated in the ancient world — certainly nothing on its scale was ever built again. Wouldn’t we like to know why!?!

Heliographs on the distant horizon

I find the Wisconsin situation very interesting — and the possibility that this may be the end of public-employee unions very exciting. Everyone knows, I hope, that for their level of education (BA followed by the mickey-mouseiest of masters degrees), primary and secondary teachers are pretty well-compensated, thinking of compensation as a total package. Yes, they put up with very annoying management from above and children every day — but they chose the children part.
Please don’t think that I’m (just) a hoity-toity college professor spouting off – I taught high school Latin for 8 years in Atlanta and 1 in Cobb County, Georgia – pretty much all 9th and 10th graders. I understand a good bit of what they put up with — and a lot of the benefits of working at that other level of education. Luckily, Georgia was an open shop, so I didn’t have to join a union. I got to watch.
But the idea that a union can shut down schools for day after day — and, therefore, mess with the job security of parents who don’t have child-care lined up — without alienating a big part of the electorate is hilarious. Who IS their strategist? I am assuming that he/she is childless — or educated his/her child(ren) privately. Like quite a few of the public school teachers I knew in Atlanta.
And who thought that it was a good idea for the president to stick his oar in? Not that I’m not delighted to see the oar/wheel spoke interaction there.

Sorry – high work-load low blogging-drive

Lots of work since we returned from Naples – things are accelerating. Among other things, Nick and I took up student sketchbook/journals on Thursday and spent a lot of the weekend checking them, and we’ll be able to give them back with comments today. Busy!
I spent most of Saturday at Ostia Antica – MANY photos to follow. It was a gorgeous day to be there. Maybe luckily no one took me up on my offer to come along, so I got to do it alone — perhaps for the first time? I even made it to the synagogue!
Sunday was more sketchbooks, birthday party for small people, more sketchbooks, and some reading. This week we cover the Pantheon and the Campus Martius!

Quattro stagione – the pizza of Naples

OK – the first picture posted from the Napoli trip is totally eating a pizza that reminds me of all kinds of moments in my life. First stay in Naples with the Experiment in International Living. Second visit to Naples in the mid 80s with A.K. Wyatt. More pizza. Next visit to Naples in 2003. And now . . . well, I had a happy pizza!

Weekend in Napoli

Back from a weekend in Naples with 209 photos. I was too tired last night even to download them, let alone decide which to keep.
We had a GREAT time. I love Naples — it was my introduction to Italy more than 30 years ago (eeek! Dale?) and it’s always interesting to go back. The highlights are the best espresso in the world (really – and they pre-heat the cups), sfogliatelle, ministeriale, and pizza. Here for food links – low carb goes out the window in Italy, but especially in Naples. And the churches! And the museums! Check the flickr feed for pictures.

One for Mr. Baker

W.R. Baker of Ashland City, TN, is a great opponent of euphemisms. Here we have two. Most instructively, each language chooses to use a foreign language to talk about the plumbing.
I spotted this sign on a wall at the Museo Palazzo Massimo alle Terme this morning – I was previewing for next week (since we will be away as a group this weekend — Napoli and Ercolano). The euphuistry struck me:


Water is one of 13 words in my Dizionaria Oxford Minore under W – and it is invariable (doesn’t change – clear sign of a loan-word).
Water nm inv toilet, loo fam
Toilet, of course, is a similar loan word to avoid calling the plumbing . . . what? The plumbing? I don’t know what a direct name for this modern convenience would be!


Even a first day of success is encouraging! I chose to do something new this time with the architectural history course. I made lists of elements or themes to study for Rome, divided into five periods that span the work we’ll do this semester. I took my 14 students (yes, such luxury!) and had them draw numbers — everyone receives a set of elements/factoids to study.

So today at San Clemente, one of my favorite layered sites in Rome, various folks were on duty for:
Cremation / Burial / Sarcophagus (especially well done!)
Pontifex Maximus
Mithra and Mithraea
Early Christian Basilical Form
Pilgrimage / Indulgence
Crucifixes (the student with that responsibility did an excellent job with the one pictured)
Cosmatesque work
Four Orders and Spolia

Several people did excellent jobs, some people did good jobs, and a few people had to be pushed hard to get anything…but they’ll know what the group needs next time!

And since the whole process was spent inside San Clemente, I had a great time: 1st century walls, Mithraeum inserted in a 2nd century cyrptoporticus, early Christian basilica above that with lots of interesting frescoes (and one or maybe two tombs of St Cyril-as-in-Methodius), the 12th century basilica above with its mosaics, the early Renaissance chapel by Masolino da Panicale, a baroque wooden ceiling, 19th century plaques — everything up to a photograph of Pope Benedict XVI!

Gosh – old tech!

Have you watched Alien lately? I’m having a night of self-indulgence* and popped in a DVD. 1979. Some of that tech looks positively solid state. Remember when “solid state” meant “good”?
And here I was just complaining about my gigabyte folding SD memory card not working right!
*In honor of me and my birthday. Thank you, Mother and Daddy! We had a group dinner tonight (which means that I started early and finished late), and the organizers relented on the Dinner in Ancient Rome theme so that I could have chocolate for dessert! So no homework for me tonight.

Camera woes, in which I whine a little bit

But not much, because I am in Rome.
I have this great memory chip in my camera — it folds in half so that you can stick it directly into a USB port without cables or readers or anything like that. Except that it doesn’t seem to be working. There are 116 pictures on it and it won’d download them! And I really shouldn’t do anything about it today because I am already planning a visit to a technology shop tomorrow to help a student shop for a netbook to stand in for a computer she (eeek!) dropped onto a (yikes!) terrazzo floor.
So I’ll pick up something tomorrow.
Meanwhile, all those pictures I took last week are simmering on the memory chip.