Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Tomorrow morning I will leave for work, prepared to deliver a final exam for what is likely to be the last course I will teach in California. I will be leaving behind a home piled high with boxes. After my students have finished their exams, and after I have graded them and submitted the course grades, I will return to a home with a lot of space. No boxes. No furniture. Nothing but a few morsels of food to get through the day and a smattering of essential toiletries. Friday, the drive from Los Angeles to the Seattle area will commence between 7 and 8, altogether too early in the morning for my particular constitution, but we do what we must.

I have been thinking for a couple weeks now how strange it is that we are told to measure our lives in certain ways, yet those ways are rooted in tradition that feels, for me, out of step with modern life in the United States. There are bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs. There are confirmations, quinceaneras, and sweet sixteens. There are driver's licenses, graduations, drunken 21s, marriages, careers, and the eventual series of funerals. These are the things we are told make up the milestones in our lives, and, to be fair, I agree that they are milestones. Still, I can't help but see my life principally in other terms.

I was born in Seattle, but before I turned one, I was living in Aalsmeer, Netherlands. By the time I began Kindergarten at age three, I was living in Chalfont St. Peter, near Gerrards Cross, England. I missed the bicentennial celebration here in the U.S. by less than a month and a half, and by the time the school year had started, my family was in the home my parents still own in Bellevue, a short drive from where I was born.

I have lived in the North End, in the South End, and on the Eastside, sometimes for little over a year in a single residence. When I moved to Claremont, California in early 1998, I lived in graduate housing, eventually residing in two different units. My wife and I got a place in Upland, later moving to Ontario (a little farther east) before boomeranging to Los Angeles and our (barely) current residence.

I measure my life more by where I have lived than what I have done, and I wonder now if that is not the legacy of the interstate system that turned 50 just last week. We have gone from a nation in which people lived and died within a 50-mile radius of where they were born. Between freeways and jumbo jets, though, we have become people who mark space rather than time, or so it now seems.

Feel free to point to Einstein and remind me that space and time are, together, space-time (I suppose I needn't be reminded since I have made that comment), but I will turn around and remind you that the reduction in prominence of one yields a corresponding increase in the prominence of the other. When space was less of a factor, we used time. Now that time, with the aid of modern medicine, has become, perhaps, less precious to society (if not always to individuals) than space, space has replaced time as a means of recognizing milestones. (Does that diminish, in a way, the value of "milestone" as a metaphor?) Am I totally off my nut on this one, or have any of you who happen across this too-long blather (and made it this far) felt the same thing?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Number 5,000

As he five thousandth visitor came and went, I thought to peer into the information of the user. It turns out that it was a Mac user in (or near) Belfast, which is kinda cool. The really fun part was that the user had googled "silly things," which served up one of my posts as the twenty-second result of 65.7 million results. Now I need to see how I feel about this.