During our spring break we took the kids to Seattle, our first time going back as a family since we moved. We drove by our old house, which Zillow now horrifyingly ‘zestimates’ to be worth $1,194,500. It sure doesn’t look like a million-plus dollar home, because it is not by any measure aside from Seattle Housing Market Insanity, but it was interesting to see how it’s changed: very little, actually, except for an entire-ass chicken run added to the backyard.

The boys remembered almost nothing of the area, which was kind of hard for me to absorb. You mean you don’t remember the little park down the street from our house, where we walked so many times when you were so very small? No ping of memory from the still-shlocky Crossroads Mall, where we spent I don’t know how many restless afternoons? Not a single whiff of déjà vu from the Kelsey Creek farm and all its once-so-beloved animals?

Dylan has the better memory of the two, but he was awfully young when we moved. Well, they both were, really: it was eleven years ago! (Holy shit look at the tragic vibes in our Eugene house before we moved in.)

We did a lot of touristy things — rode up the Space Needle, marveled at the wildly disgusting Gum Wall, bought those addictive hot donuts at Pike Place, collected sea glass at Alki — and it really did feel like I was a full tourist. I don’t really know how to describe it: sights were familiar, but I had zero sense of belonging. I felt like a stranger in a strange land, no different from the people holding maps and peering around snapping photos.

But it felt weird to feel that way. Like, didn’t I live here? Did I live here? Did those years really happen? Why does it seem like that was a whole different timeline, a whole different universe? I picture all these different versions of myself and the places I used to go and the things I used to do and it feels so ghostly, barely-there dotted line outlines of moments that don’t really feel … real? Is it normal to feel this detached from your own past?

Also, the traffic. My GOD, the traffic. I was relieved to be on our way, to be honest.


I’ve been using ChatGPT as a writing tool for a little while now, and I find it to be surprisingly useful. For instance: I might ask it to come up with an introductory paragraph for an article on a specific subject (because I often find the first few sentences to be the most difficult part), or generate a bunch of SEO titles for something I’ve already written, or give me a bunch of examples that help illustrate a thing I’m describing. I never use what ChatGPT produces word for word, but it’s a great assist for getting past the blank-page bummers.

I’m not sure what I think about AI in general, except that I definitely dislike those cartoony avatar-generating apps that seem custom-designed to make people feel bad about themselves. We’ve certainly seen some dizzying advances incorporating AI into all sorts of systems in the last few years, and it’s hard to picture where it’s all going to go. Maybe AI is going to take humanity to an even darker place, and very very soon! Or maybe AI will lead us to incredibly valuable developments we would not have been able to achieve on our own! Or maybe what I actually think I’m experiencing in real life is just a simulation from a future when AI-run virtual reality systems can generate an entire fully believable existence when you tap the “49-year-old lady from Eugene, Oregon, with two teenage boys and an ill-advised number of cats” gaming lozenge that’s implanted near our pollution-straining gills!

I do know that when I first started hearing about copy-generating AI chatbots I was enormously resistant; I mean I really had a comically knee-jerk reaction to the whole concept. You take that job-destroying COMMIE WORD ROBOT and you shove it RIGHT UP YOUR— you get it.

It’s pretty interesting to be middle-aged in this time of rapid technological change. I’m somewhere between what I always used to be — a curious early adopter — and what I seem to be turning into, which is basically straight-up Andy Rooney.


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