It’s important to begin this with due proper credit. This is not my idea; I’m doing a bit of a riff on an idea that belongs to someone else. But it’s such a great idea that I think not only should it be shared but embraced. At the end, I will encourage you to do your own riff, your own version of the 960.
Science fans who spend a lot of time on the interweb (I’m sure there must be some who don’t) are familiar with Randall Monroe‘s outstanding über-geek web comic, xkcd. There is a lesser-known one, Abstruse Goose, that I think is in the same class and which has connected with me even more than xkcd has (which is to say: oodles). So far, for me no other web comics come anywhere close to these two.
This post is about 900+ little blobs, and it is an idea from Abstruse Goose.
I am ambiguous about the number, because in the Abstruse Goose original, the number is 936 (for a very specific reason). My version has 960 for no other reason than simply rounding up.
[Also because when I told someone about this comic recently (and got the idea I should write a blog post), I remembered the number incorrectly. I decided I like the “wrong” version (or just “my” version) just as much, so I’m sticking with it here.]
So what are these 900-some “blobs” you ask? “Ah!” says I, “You didn’t follow the links above, did you. If you’d read the comic, you wouldn’t have to ask.”
Here’s the link again; go read the comic.
For those of you who (admittedly, exactly like I) do not follow directions well, don’t like being told what to do, or just prefer to keep reading and follow the links later, the 900+ blobs are the months of your life.
The kicker is that, if you live to be 80 years old, you only get 960 of them.
This is the fullness of your life. This is the countdown.
Assuming you make it to 80.
If you’re old enough to drink (in the USA), at least 252 of the blobs have passed you by. Did you spend them well? You have 708 left.
If you’ve crossed the 30-year line (sorry, no first downs), you only have 600 blobs left in your account, and once you cross the 40 only half are left: 480.
As the Abstruse Goose says, “Last month went by pretty quickly, didn’t it? One month is not a very long time,…“
Not a very long time, indeed.
And they pass more quickly as you age; the countdown seems faster.
When we are 15 years old (180 months old), each month is just over a half-percent (0.55%) of our life. When we are five years old, a month is three times that: 1.66% of our life span (at that point).
When we are 55 years old (660 months), each month is only 0.15%, and by our putative 80 years, it’s pretty much down to one-tenth of one percent.
For my mom, who’ll break the 90 year mark this year (1080 months; broke 1000 — way to go, mom!), the percentage drops below the one-tenth mark (to 0.09%).
It seems the months speed by for no other reason than that, with age, each month is smaller and smaller a fraction of our life.
[There is also that your brain works slower as you age, so time literally does pass faster for you.]
960 months. That’s all you get.
It’s instructive to draw it out for yourself. So few blobs easily fit a single sheet of paper. (All the months of your life on a single sheet of paper. Makes you think!)
Fill in the key months with various colors. The month you turned 21. The month you graduated or became married or because a parent or a partner at work.
Or you could have some fun entertaining yourself by creating a fancy 3D model. (The bonus is that you can use renderings of it in a blog article, which — truth be told — was the actual reason for the model.) After a few false starts I got something that wasn’t too bad.
And then I got a little fancy.
This was scheduled for last Sunday, but I got wrapped up listening to music (and then in writing about getting wrapped up listening to music). [That post was exactly the sort of new ideas blog-blocking old ideas I wrote about recently.] At first I thought I might make the Sunday deadline, but in the early evening I decided to push it a week.
Which gave me the time to get fancy. I was able to add the Famous Person and Personal Milestone markers, for example.
[And spent hours tweaking the colors and camera angles. One weird “gift” the computer gives an artist is the ability to casually try thousands of — sometimes very minute — variations on a piece. If a 3D model was a physical machine, it would have hundreds of adjustment knobs. Imagine all the combinations possible by turning those knobs to various settings. Imagine the many hours you can spend exploring those variations. It’s a gift and a curse! If you’ve ever realized you just spent the last hour tweaking your desktop colors, you know what I mean.]
In my version, each row is 40 months long, which is three-and-a-third years. Three rows comprise a decade; there are 24 rows, so eight decades (80 years).
If you’re wondering why 40×24, it’s a bit of a nod to some early computer text display limits. (There was a time when 80 columns was a big deal! Then, for a long time after that, it was the max. Now it’s quaint.)
The months flow as English text does: left to right, top to bottom. The spring green (“freedom”) color begins the flow, runs uninterrupted through infancy, and then reappears every summer. The single red marker is the month I turned 21. The three scarlet ones mark my 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays (remember, three rows make a decade).
The orange (“Doritos”) sections represent the four years of High School, and the salmon sections stand for the five years of college (took a sabbatical fourth year to focus on senior project). Each school year is assumed to be nine months.
The big khaki section represents my 33 years at The Company. The steel-blue stones after are retirement months! The bright turquoise one is this month; the faint, see-through ones are future months.
Three yellow markers show the ages where (in order):
- Mozart writes his first symphony (8 years, 6 months)
- Einstein publishes Special Relativity (26 years, 6 months)
- John Kennedy was elected USA President (43 years, 8 months)
The blue pushpin markers show some major personal milestones:
- Move to California (from Minnesota)
- Life 2.0 — Discovery of my artistic side
- Life 3.0 — Introduction to Software Design
- Life 4.0 — Move back to Minnesota (and TC HQ)
In retrospect, the move to California should have been Life 2.0; it was a path turn as major as any of the others.
On the other hand, it represents the first rebirth, so perhaps calling it 1.0 is okay. That implies we begin at 0.0; works for me! Maybe everyone has a big early marker for when life really kicked off?
There is also a Life 5.0 (marriage) and 5.1 (separation) and 5.2 (divorce). Back in the day, MS-DOS version 5 was widely acknowledged to be the worst MS-DOS version. (By the way, its proper name is “MS-DOS” and not “DOS” because there are many other Disk Operating Systems.)
Most Star Trek fans agree the fifth movie was the worst. My version 5 started off as the best and ended up the worst. The whole thing wouldn’t quite fill three rows, and including it made the model too sad.
And finally Life 6.0.
As you see, I’ve put six months of retirement behind me now. The model is designed so that any time I render it, it should move that turquoise stone along and turn more retirement months to steel-blue.
If I make it all the way to 80, there will be a lot of steel-blue stones!
So, now, you, it’s your turn!
What does your 960 Chart of Months look like?