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Final Thoughts



It’s September. Summer’s over, at least in terms of family vacations, days by the pool, and the myriad camps we send kids to: volleyball camp, basketball camp, band camp, campout camp … Regular school is back in session and Labor Day is past. (That is, unless you snapped up this AY and turned to this page before Sept. 5, in which case just kick back and give yourself permission to take it easy a little longer. Things really don’t get serious until after Labor Day, right?)

While Labor Day is the psychological end of summer, you wouldn’t know it by the weather, of course. Take heart, friends, I hear there’s a cool front on the way. Should be here around Halloween.

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Why is September the ninth month when septem is the Latin word for seven? And why is October the 10th month when octo means eight?
How these months got their names is a fascinating but long story. Here’s a mini-version:

Ancient Romans divided their calendar into only 10 months, each having 30 or 31 days, with about 60 winter days that were not included in any month. Some months were given names, some were given numbers. The first month was March, named after Mars, the Roman god of war; the 10th month was December, from decem, Latin for 10. The Romans later added January and February, the first named for another god, Janus, the second related to the Latin februum, meaning “purification” (that’s another story, the point today being that two months were added to the calendar’s beginning).

When January and February joined the mix, the other months kept their names but were moved two places. Later, Quintilis and Sextilis, which originally had been the fifth and sixth months, were renamed July and August after Julius Caesar and his grandnephew Augustus.

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You might recall that I walk a lot, mostly in my neighborhood. My walks are hilly and sometimes windy. I’m trying to develop an index to gauge the relative difficulty of each walk, factoring in wind resistance and street incline. I call this the wind-hill factor, as in “I walked 4.2 miles today, but with the wind-hill factor it felt like 5.” You could call that kind of exaggeration the cheat-index, but I lean toward the first term.

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Speaking of walking, the Two Rivers Bridge was completed this summer. Spanning the Little Maumelle River just upstream from Interstate 430, this makes yet another connection in the marvelous Little Rock-North Little Rock trail system.

The bridge reminds me of something one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, wrote about walking in the United States, compared with some other countries in which he’s walked. We have wonderful trails, but there’s an irony: you have to drive to get to them. That’s largely true with the twin cities’ river trails. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood bordering the Arkansas River, or in a neighborhood bordering a park bordering the river, getting to these trails can be a challenge.

Feeling my Wheaties a few times, I’ve walked from my home to the river. The shortest, least harrowing hike, one way, was a little over 3 miles — and I was nearly whacked only once, by a cell-phone-talking motorist oblivious to my presence in a crosswalk.

I’m grateful for the trails, but I would love to walk or ride a bike to them without putting my life on the line. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were feeder trails, thoroughfares limited strictly to pedestrians and bicyclists, radiating from the river? Maybe some streets could be converted to pedestrian- and bicycle-only use. I’m not optimistic about this, but I can dream, can’t I?
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Several months ago, a friend e-mailed me a list called “Adult Truths.” I’ve since found several versions of the list circulating on the “Internut.” Here are a few “Truths” I gleaned for my AY pals:

• You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

• Sometimes I’ll look down at my watch three consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

• Under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phones, and pinning the tail on the donkey but I’d bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from three feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

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