Check it out: Taking a good measure of time



"The Book of Times: From Seconds to Centuries, a Compendium of Measures"

By Lesley Alderman; William Morrow, 354 pages

“The Book of Times: From Seconds to Centuries, a Compendium of Measures”

By Lesley Alderman; William Morrow, 354 pages

It’s April already, and all I can think of is a line from the song, “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller: “Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future.” What happened to January and February? Who said it was OK to put March on speed dial? And supposedly Easter knocked on the door this past weekend, but I guess I didn’t answer it fast enough because it hopped on a bus marked “See you in 2014!” As I get older, the time/space continuum (that’s for you “Star Trek” fans out there) increases at an exponential rate. I really feel like I should be calculating my birthdays in dog years from now on. Bark, bark.

Since everything in life revolves around time, it makes sense that the measure of time continues to fascinate humans. That is the subject of this week’s book, and the content does not disappoint. As the subtitle indicates, stuff can happen quickly (in seconds) or slowly (in centuries), and humans delight in tracking it all.

Here are some tidbits to think about: The speed at which human hair grows — about an inch every two months — is a common enough factoid. But did you know that the human body produces two to three pints of mucus every day? Disgusting but true. In 10 months your fingernails grow an inch, and every seven to 14 days each taste bud is renewed. All of these bodily wonders happen without too much interference in our daily lives (well, the mucus events may cause a run on tissues), but hiccups that last 69.5 years, or a nearly three-year-long sneezing attack (true stories found on page 123) would definitely disturb one’s timeline.

Experience tells us that time heals all wounds (six-18 months for a stitched wound to heal, by the way). Read this book and you’ll find out how time impacts other areas of life such as love, work, money, and family. It’s no secret that kids today are more plugged in than ever before, but according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Foundation, older kids (ages 8 to 18) on average spend more than seven hours per day using digital media. I wonder if being connected — online, that is — minimizes or accelerates the sense of time passing? Perhaps this old dog can’t answer that question. Woof.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at