Friday, January 30, 2009


It never occurred to me I'd reach a thousand this quickly, but now, looking back, it seems very predictable.

Obviously I don't mean blog posts. Every morning, I walk to work, roughly two miles and some change. The route takes me through Alton Baker park, past an off-the-leash dog run where I get to smile at dogs of every breed and age frolicking together, and over the Willamette River on an arcing footbridge. The trail has three or four short uphill stretches that make me lean into my stride, and it's quiet and peaceful enough that I get a good deal of thinking done. Once I get fresh air, (relative) peace and quiet, and a little extra blood to my brain, I tend to brim over with ideas, which is a tremendously exciting way to start and end the day.

So I take that walk just about every morning, and take it home again just about every evening, and by "every" I mean every. I come in to my office almost every Saturday, some Sundays, and even when I'm on vacation. Coming in to the office doesn't mean I spend the entire day behind my desk; instead, I frequently go wander downtown Eugene, doing this or that. My office is nicely located to serve as my base of operations for those expeditions. So, now that I've been here a full seventeen months plus about two weeks, I've done the walk to and from my office on just about five hundred days. If I haven't done it a thousand times yet, then I'm no more than a week or two away.

And next year I teach my one hundredth public speaking class. Some people rub their eyes and say that can't be right, but for a stretch of several years, back when I was at SFA, I taught nothing but public speaking: five sections a long term, two in the summer, and two extra as an adjunct at Angelina College. Keep up that pace for a few years -- sixteen sections a year -- and the double-digits just melt away, and it's no wonder that my public speaking odometer will roll its third digit during my fortieth year.

Forty. Wow. I turn forty this year. The Summer of Love, of the first human footstep on the moon, is two full generations behind us.

In a couple of my classes, we've been talking about communicative codes, and how they are a product of culture. This morning I was struck by the disproportionate layers of meaning wrapped around tens and multiples of tens. True, it's how many fingers we've got, unless our chromosomes did some wacky gyrating, and it's how many commandments God gave Moses while He was still clearing His throat, lexically speaking.

Multiples of ten are nice, round numbers, chiefly because they end in zero. And my brain could ricochet off and chase the concept of "zero," but I've read other people's take on it, and honestly, I've got nothing to add. But the niceness of round numbers tickles me, since it's precisely the round shapes that don't fit ordinary geometric operations. Yesterday, in my nonverbal class, I explained the difference between analogic and digital signals: first, I showed the visual light spectrum, the rainbow, stretching from red to indigo, followed by a huge box of hundreds of crayons. The unbroken spectrum is analogic, and the crayons are digital. Then I showed them an animation of a circle with an inscribed polygon inside it that grew more and more sides several times a second, and I explained how Archimedes approximated pi by that method. From those beginnings, we talked about the relationship between analogical and digital, about portability and convenience and imprecision and infinite vs. finite adjustment. Multiples of ten are good for ballparking, for stepping over the quagmirish details of a complicated number and just getting the nearest landmark in its neighborhood. How old am I? After July, I'll be in my forties. Nice, round number that lets people leap to conclusions about where I am emotionally, developmentally, philosophically.

And then I'll turn fifty, and that'll be ten times more ... well, I'm not sure of that. But it'll clearly be ten more.

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