Potpourri, June 18th (2017 edition)

Image: circa 1952, JES + Dad[Latest in the apparently annual June 18 tradition, of commenting about whatever the heck I want to…]

I damned near forgot what day it was… or, at any rate, that I typically do a blog post for the occasion! (The photo at the right was taken circa 1952, and celebrates another occasion — Father’s Day in the US.) I’m in a much better frame of mind this year than last (with the multiple-hard-drive disaster I’d been grappling with for months).

To get this rolling, here’s today’s strangely apropos poem of the day, from The Writer’s Almanac:

There Comes the Strangest Moment

There comes the strangest moment in your life,
when everything you thought before breaks free—
what you relied upon, as ground-rule and as rite
looks upside down from how it used to be.

Skin’s gone pale, your brain is shedding cells;
you question every tenet you set down;
obedient thoughts have turned to infidels
and every verb desires to be a noun.

I want—my want. I love—my love. I’ll stay
with you. I thought transitions were the best,
but I want what’s here to never go away.
I’ll make my peace, my bed, and kiss this breast…

Your heart’s in retrograde. You simply have no choice.
Things people told you turn out to be true.
You have to hold that body, hear that voice.
You’d have sworn no one knew you more than you.

How many people thought you’d never change?
But here you have. It’s beautiful. It’s strange.

(Kate Light)

I’m so glad that although Garrison Keillor no longer hosts Prairie Home Companion, he’s maintained his curation of the Almanac. I know at some point he’ll have to surrender that, too, and I know that he himself does not personally compile each issue; he delegates that to his staff. But for now, he still does the audio reading of each daily entry. Here’s today’s, read in full:

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Potpourri, June 18th (2016 edition)

1959ish, I'd sayIt’s been a few months of hardware madness here — and if you know my tastes in computer stuff, you know they lean towards the software rather than the hardware side of things. So I haven’t been entirely happy during that time…

Back in mid-April, my two-terabyte (2TB) hard drive abruptly failed. It took me several weeks — educational ones, to be sure — to admit that I probably could not resuscitate the thing. I replaced it with a 3TB one, and all went swimmingly at first…

…at least, until I installed Windows 10 on it.

Here’s how my computer at home has been set up, now going back maybe five-six years:

The hard drive is divided into two (main) partitions, running two entirely different operating systems: Windows in the first partition, and Linux in the second. This is called a dual-boot setup: when you boot the computer, you’re prompted to select which operating system you want to run for this session. The default for me is Linux, but I do occasionally (rarely, actually) use Windows for one specific program or another.

The Windows side has moved progressively from Windows XP to Windows 7 and then finally to Windows 10, via the automatic (i.e., forced) upgrade which Microsoft “offers” to users of older versions. When I installed Windows 10 on the new hard drive, I was actually restoring it.

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Potpourri, June 18th (2015 edition)

[This year’s Potpourri, I reckon, will be shorter than its predecessors. I’ve got just as much I could post about, and of course today’s the only day I can post a Potpourri entry, but The World Is Too Much With Me this time around. So I’ll just write, off and on, and hit the WordPress Publish button when the clock runs out.]

Apropos of nothing: I am really feeling anti-technology at the moment. Practically every program I need to use every day seems to be broken, and — at least on my work PC — some mysterious force prevents me from making the changes I need to make in order to get some of them running smoothly. Symptom: the error message which pops up informing me that I need permission from [username] to make the change (a simple file rename). Why is this a problem? Because I am signed in as [username].

If my PC here were trying to serve me donuts right now, I’d be walking away from the counter in disgust, shaking my head.

On the other hand: My recent adventures in site redesign have reminded me of both (a) the pleasure of getting my hands into the guts of a technical problem, and (b) the satisfaction of knowing that I (alone among the people I know really well, at least in real life) can solve said problem.

Oh, no no no — I’m not even close to done with this yet. Still, it’s good to feel (rightly or wrongly) that I can still do what I have been trained and have learned to do.

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Potpourri, June 18th (2014 edition)

JES, circa 19955 maybe?[Latest in the apparently annual June 18 tradition, of (as I said last year) commenting about whatever the heck I want to…]

Ongoing genre confusion: As a rule, readers of fiction tend to latch onto a favorite sort of fiction, to the exclusion of others. They may or may not read “literary” fiction, or that large, unclassifiable body of titles called “mainstream” — but they often return to mysteries, say, or romance, or fantasy, or science fiction, especially for “escape” purposes. They also do not in general read one or more of the other categories.

Which can be a problem, for certain writers anyhow:

Agents, publishers and retailers need to know how to optimize their pitches for a book. Readers who prefer a certain kind of SF, for instance, might be put off by a book cover featuring a man and woman dressed in gauzy lavender; a horror or Western fan, visiting Amazon or the bookstore or library for the umpteenth time, will tend to return to the same genre-based sections, over and over.

So you’ve got to know how to classify your fiction (which comes down to: you’ve got to know your audience, whether they’re book professionals or not).

For the past six or eight months, I’ve been enjoying writing something SF-ish — one long story and one (yet incomplete) novel, as of today. It’s real science fiction: adventures in space, technology, and time. But it also falls squarely into the mystery genre. Furthermore, and maybe worse, it falls into a particular mystery sub-genre. If you know the old Thin Man films, from the 1930s and ’40s, you’ll have the right idea: a charming, sophisticated, and (I hope) funny husband-and-wife team solve crimes which may involve blackmail, murder, and so on… but not crimes of the grisly action-packed thriller sort.

Oh, no: I didn’t even come close to inventing the mystery/SF blended genre, as even a fairly simple Google search will tell you. But modern readers — and the people charged with getting books to them — tend to have edgier tastes. “Nick and Nora Charles in space” does not seem a tagline likely to draw many readers.

…Sigh. It’s hard enough to write without worrying about all this. It’s one of the dilemmas which drive people to self-publishing: I’ll write whatever I want, they say, and I won’t waste time trying to win over professional go-betweens like editors and booksellers. Readers like good books, regardless of genre!

But I don’t really believe genre doesn’t matter, do I? Do I?

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Midweek “Music” Break: The Perhaps Non-Musical Sister

The perhaps non-musical sister and The Boy, early 1954For the last couple of years, I’ve been sort of walking backwards in time through my siblings’ birthdays, via Mid-Week Music Breaks. In 2011, I covered the Warren-Zevon-loving Kid Brother; and in 2012, The Musical Sister.

Which brings me to this year’s entry on the last of the three, although she was the first to arrive on the scene: the person whom (parents aside) I’ve known longer than anyone in my life.

Maybe I’ve known her a long time — she’s also the only sibling I’ve ever lived with once we’d moved away from home — but I don’t really know much about her musical tastes. Oh, I know she listens to music, at least sometimes; certainly back in the ’70s, we went to a number of concerts together for performers we were both into at the time: John Denver, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Sha-Na-Na (!)… She’s alerted me to unfamiliar music every now and then, too; I’d never even heard of pianist George Winston, for instance, until she gave me his December album (still one of my favorites to listen to, regardless of season).

But unlike the other three of us, she’s never really focused on music to any great extent. I don’t remember that she ever took lessons of any kind — not even dancing lessons — or ever expressed any desire to play music. I’ve never heard her whistle or hum. I have never been driven mildly nuts by her playing a particular album over and over and over. I think the only real preference she ever expressed in anything resembling (faintly) a musical debate was My favorite of the four is Paul.

Part of it, no doubt, is that she is (has always been) just one of the busiest damned people any of us knows. As a kid, she was one of those natural-born escape-artist busybodies who keep their parents’ nerves in a constant state of high alert, and she anchored a half-dozen student activities in high school while maintaining an energetic social life. Now semi-retired — after two careers in teaching and HR, which themselves bracketed a couple decades of raising three boys — she’s self-employed, travels a lot, keeps in touch with lots of old friends, coordinates a lot of family “events”… On long trips, she tends to listen to audiobooks rather than music while driving/flying and during idle periods — because (I guess) otherwise it would just be time wasted. (It exhausted me just to type this paragraph; it really needed to be presented, though, as a single unpunctuated sentence.)

So no, I don’t know what sort of music she listens to “recreationally,” if I ever did. But I do know that one sort of music she’ll at least sometimes talk about is music in the service of comedy. She used to love Mark Russell‘s political songwriting and performances on PBS, for instance. When we talk after she returns from a trip to, say, Chicago, she’ll tell me about some hilarious cabaret act she saw while in town. She laughed as much as any of us at Belushi and Ackroyd’s Blues Brothers routines.

And then there’s a whole sub-genre of comic music about things meaningful to us about growing up when and where we did…

Comedian Robert Klein‘s stand-up act as recorded on his 1973 album, Child of the ’50s, offers a few such musical treats. Klein must be something of an aspiring musician himself; he wrote and performed a couple of songs for the album, and even in the nominally non-musical bits he incorporated many musical touches — especially acting out musical instruments vocally.

In the clip below, Klein recreates the voices and the musical palette which underlay the old “Our Gang” comedies from the 1930s and ’40s. We didn’t see them when first released, obviously, but they were being shown quite a bit on television in the ’50s and ’60s, especially on kids’ programs (where they’d been repackaged as “The Little Rascals”), so they were hard to miss. I think we all sort of envied the unstructured, small-fry-adventurous lives which the Gang seemed to live.

I think I do remember The Perhaps Non-Musical Sister laughing at this routine. (Say it with me, in a straining-larynx little-kid’s voice: I don’t feel like goin’ to school today!) It took me a while to pull it together for inclusion here: I couldn’t find the album available as a set of MP3s for purchase. But I did manage to grab the whole thing online, as a single giant 50MB+ monster. From that, I pulled this three and a half minutes.

So happy (a few days belated) birthday, Sis. I know you don’t spend much time online — no! (pant) time! (pant) to! (pant) waste! — but maybe you’ll land here some day, some time. Probably then only by mistake, and probably for just the four minutes or so it takes you to read and listen to this post. But I’ll take it: those little such bursts of quiet are, for the rest of us, always worth waiting for. (Not just because all of us can finally take a breather, but yeah, that too.)

[Below, click Play button to begin Child of the ’50s: Our Gang. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 3:39 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Aside: For the first time, I just looked closely at that table in the photo. I’m close to 100% certain it ended up in the apartment the two of us shared in the mid-1970s, holding the Dracaena marginata plant I dubbed “Marge.”

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Midweek Music Break: The Musical Sister

I’ve always admired — been in awe of — families with a history of hands-on musical skills. I’m not talking here about famous musical families like the von Trapps, the Partridges, the various Hank Williamses, and so on. And I don’t mean simple (or involved) appreciation of the art.

No, I mean the families with casual stories like, well… Stories about taking violin lessons while growing up in Brooklyn, from a little old lady on the corner who lived next door to a little old man who gave trumpet and accordion lessons, etc. Or about singing in a church choir as a kid, and going on to a successful career in music.

Among the four of us kids (as we still think of ourselves, a half-century-plus later), none of us has ever shown much inclination to participate in music. My brother and I can rightly be considered fans of music, but — except for monkeying around with harmonicas — have pretty much held the practice of it at arm’s length. The Elder Sister? I honestly must say I know almost nothing about her musical tastes or interests. (In the car, she’s likely listening to a talk show or an audiobook.) It’s not hard to imagine her favorite musical sound takes the form of a fanfare heralding her entrance into a room. (He said, grinning-ducking-and-running.)

As for The Younger Sister: ah yes. In her case, maybe the appropriate title isn’t “the musical sister,” but rather “the musicals sister.” Because from the time she was only yay high (as we used to say), she has loved musical theater.

I’ve sometimes mentioned, here at RAMH, her childhood habit of listening over and over and over to the original cast album of My Fair Lady — how I’d learned every word of those songs, long before I ever really “got” the story. To that, though, one would fairly have to add:

  • Oklahoma! (and any other Rodgers & Hammerstein production)
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Gigi 
  • West Side Story
  • anything in which Shirley MacLaine danced (a Juliet Prowse phase also took up part of the timeline)
  • …and, well, really pretty much any production whose cast members sometimes burst into song and dance.

She visits RAMH fairly regularly, and I will confess to baiting posts occasionally to draw her attention. Mentioning Fred Astaire will do it. Ditto Judy Garland, or Gene Kelly, or… well, you get the idea.

But beyond music in comic (or tragic) scripted contexts, she also has fixated over the years on a handful of recording artists (Barbra Streisand, especially). I thought of this last week when I heard that Andy Williams had died; I’m not sure, but The Younger Sister may have had a distant crush on Williams. (I believe she thought he was cute, and/or had been charmed by his soft, slightly high-pitched laugh — never far away on his TV variety show.) Here’s a mini-playlist, about 10-1/2 minutes long, of some of Williams’s most popular singles:

  1. Emily
  2. Red Roses for a Blue Lady
  3. Days of Wine and Roses
  4. Moon River

[Below, click Play button to begin an Andy Williams mini-playlist. While audio is playing,
volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This mini-playlist is 10:24 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Boy — is that old-fashioned or what? The classic mid-1960s “easy listening” arrangements, I mean, complete with strings and backup singers.)

As a bonus, here’s another interpretation of “Moon River” — arguably the first interpretation — by Audrey Hepburn, accompanying herself on guitar, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I believe the tapping noise at the beginning is writer Paul Varjak — played by George Peppard — at his typewriter, about to be distracted, probably for life, by the thin, lilting voice of his neighbor on the fire escape.

[Below, click Play button to begin Moon River (Audrey Hepburn). While audio is playing,
volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 1:35 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Happy birthday, Sis. It’s not my fault it’s a day late; it’s your fault that your birthday came too early this year to be considered “mid-week”!

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This Year, Hallmark — Hands Down

Saying something like “This was my favorite birthday card this year” is a little like announcing you have a favorite son or daughter from among all your children. It seems like something one doesn’t do in polite company — certainly not in a public forum where family injuries may ensue.

Still… The message printed inside this card caught me completely by surprise; my younger sister, who sent it to me, wrote that she “laughed [her]self silly” when she read it. I had that reaction, too.

(One reason: this is a Hallmark card — not even from one of the off-the-mainstream product lines, like Shoebox. The punchline is completely unconventional.)

In the spirit of The New Yorker‘s weekly cartoon contest, anyone want to guess what this card says inside? (Note especially that it’s not specifically a birthday card. It’s not specifically a card for any occasion, in fact.)

I’ll eventually post the answer in a comment. In the meantime…?


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Potpourri, June 18 (2012 ed.)

[What I saw on Google’s home page today. (Almost certainly, YOU did NOT.) You rock, Google.]

On this day in history: The US declared war on Great Britain in 1812, initiating the War of 1812. So glad we got that out of our system, finally. (Well, declaring war on them, anyway. We’re still working on being satisfied with everybody else — although by now it feels absurd to add, “Give us time.”)

Speaking of the (more-or-less) British: Also, Canadian actress Linda Thorson was born on this day, in 1947. Thorson’s biggest career splash (well, so far) was her role as Tara King on the British light-action TV series The Avengers. (That’s her over there at the right, hamming it up with series co-star Patrick Macnee (who played John Steed).) Tara King replaced the outgoing Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). Mentioning (or remembering) Emma Peel still induces heart flutters among men of a certain age, but, alas for Ms. Thorson, mentioning (or remembering) Tara King has relatively no effect among that audience. Not her fault, I think. Those were very tough leather boots to fill.

The problem, honestly, was rooted in the character, not the actress. Audiences had been teased for years by the playfully flirtatious yet respectful on-screen relationship between her predecessor and Steed. In Tara King, the series producers opted for a sexy-cute character, nothing at all like Mrs. Peel’s sexy-dangerous. (And Patrick Macnee had obviously been given the message, too: Don’t just waggle your charming eyebrows and smirk your charming smirk. Hit on her, man!) Mrs. Peel had seemed like a step forward for women as action heroes; Tara King seemed to have wandered onto the set from the typing pool on a 1950s-era sitcom.

Speaking of women’s effects on men, and vice-versa: A good online friend is experiencing a rather prolonged, none-too-subtle online bullying from an acquaintance of the opposite sex. Guess which of the two in this scenario is a guy.

Yeah. Still.

Now, even those of us guys who imagine ourselves to be enlightened still have a good way to go. (See, e.g., the whole Emma Peel-vs.-Tara King routine above.) I don’t worry about my friend, who is tough in her own right, but being tough is not the same thing as being happy. Ironically, the guy she’s dealing with does confuse the words tough and happy, evidently imagining that (a) he’ll be happier the tougher he is, and (b) my friend is unfathomably weird for not operating under the same principle — and he must convince her! (Neither proposition is true… but since when does truth ever factor into human decision-making?)

Somehow, somewhere, sometime, and for some reason, the continuum of “normal,” balanced human psyches — from assertive to unassertive, each with its own virtues and dynamic — seems to have widened. Maybe it’s an effect of capitalism, according to which aggressiveness brings success (and reticence, failure). Or maybe it’s genetic, involving a particular combination of genetic markers (most common in men? dunno) suited for combat but not so much for, well, satisfaction.

Whatever the cause, this sort of swaggering can’t-you-take-a-joke aggression just oughta be laughed at and dismissed. Except, of course, that the can’t-you-take-a-jokers cannot under any circumstances “get” a joke which is on them. Sigh.

Speaking of this day in history, and British-American relationships, and sexy/cute vs. sexy-dangerous: It’s also the birthday of Paul McCartney (1942). Holy cow. SEVENTY.

At the height of the Beatles’ popularity over here, I guess you could say that McCartney was the sexy/cute counterpart of Lennon’s sexy/dangerous. In early photos, like the one at the left, I always thought the latter looked waaaay more convincing than the former in the James Deanish, black-leather-and-denim style they affected back then.

By the time they switched over to the “mod” look — matching suits, white shirts, often with dark ties or (later, the gods help us) Nehru collars — McCartney seemed the more comfortable.

(And, post-Sergeant Pepper, just before and eventually after they broke up, as they settled into solo lives and careers they showed us how they’d probably always have preferred to be: McCartney more like You just gotta love me, eh?, and Lennon settling into something along the lines of You don’t think I look like this for YOU, do you?!?)

…but, well, holy Matilda. SEVENTY?

Speaking of Paul McCartney: Here’s the song widely regarded as the best on his 1970 debut album, McCartney, although the album version (says Wikipedia) was never released as a single:

[Below, click Play button to begin Maybe I’m Amazed. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 3:49 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Finally, because I’m allowed to be self-indulgent today: Here’s the opening paragraph of the work-in-progress, a short story called “The Lift”:

Webster had never had to learn the rules of crowded-elevator etiquette, because they were Webster’s rules for every social interaction anyway. Don’t touch anyone. Don’t move if you can help it, because that only increases the odds of breaking the first rule. Don’t make any eye contact. If someone insists on getting your attention, continue not-making eye contact: acknowledge the “conversation” only with little nods and glances out of the corner of your eye. Don’t talk, and if you must talk for God’s sake say nothing of consequence, do say it only to a specific person right beside you, and say it, furthermore, in a low voice, chuckling softly afterwards in a way which suggests that if the hearer missed it, it doesn’t matter anyway so please don’t talk to me further. And finally, once you’re in it then the only thing that matters is getting out.

Thanks, always, for reading.

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Midweek Music Break: Warren Zevon

In a music-rich culture, how do you decide what (and whom) to listen to in the first place? And what keeps you listening to it, over time?

My kid brother and I have had this pervasive and often subconscious back-and-forth influence on each other ever since he arrived on the scene. (Well, that first year was sort of blurry for me. Kindergarten, y’know. (“You’re leaving me where? By myself?!?”)) He has numerous stories about borrowing my stuff, from wherever I thought I’d stowed it securely, when I was looking the other way (i.e., often); he claims that the music he found on these occasions influenced what he listened to. (The books supposedly influenced what he read and, no doubt, the whole thing influenced how he sneaked.)

For my part, I haven’t always had an easy time “getting” the music he listened to. Some of it, like Pink Floyd, came along just a wee bit too late to make much of a dent in my awareness. But even obvious greats with whom I should have been familiar — The Who, for Pete’s sake! — didn’t click at first.

I think the problem was that I’d early fixated on melody in music (although I couldn’t and still can’t explain what melody is). No doubt, the hearing thing played a role: if I couldn’t reliably make out the lyrics, I at least had to like listening to whatever-it-was, as background to whatever I was really paying attention to. (Hence, for example, my early Herb Alpert fascination.) Once I’d listened to it a few times, okay, then I could move on to the lyrics. But if the sound didn’t strike me right, I might never care about the lyrics at all.

The first honest-to-gods musical bull’s-eye which he scored in my consciousness was Talking Heads. Even with them, I remember saying something like: I really like their music, but none of their song titles ever appear in the actual lyrics. He stared at me for a beat before answering, as tactfully as he could, That’s not true. So much for trying to fake my way through an assertion about lyrics which I didn’t, like, actually know.

Then we have the case of Warren Zevon. It may be the one recommendation whose failure with me has most surprised Little Brother.

I sympathize. On the face of it, what a natural fit: the guy wrote witty, sardonic, outright mordant (and often macabre) songs. Just look at some of the song titles, and know that the lyrics fall into line behind them:

  • “Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner”
  • “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”
  • “Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School”
  • “You’re a Whole Different Person When You’re Scared”

Yet he also had a side capable of great tenderness. “Hasten Down the Wind,” anyone? And over the course of his career, he befriended and worked with some artists I flat-out loved: Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Brown, Neil Young, Bryan Setzer, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris — if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear the guy had been rummaging around in my head.

But somehow, a taste for the guy’s music itself always eluded me. Consequently, I’ve never listened to Zevon enough to “get” him. This breaks my heart as much as it may break my brother’s. (He’s been trying so long, and he’s so… so earnest about it, y’know?)

Well, Little Brother, tell you what. I’ll take this as a personal challenge, nay, mission: over the next year, I’ll commit myself to “getting” Warren Zevon. And I’ll check back with you about it in 2012.

In the meantime, here are a handful of Zevon selections that have already begun to grow on me, on the off-chance that some of the rest of you might not have encountered them.

Let’s start with “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” (originally from 1991’s Mr. Bad Example album; this is a solo acoustic performance in 1994):


Next, “Sentimental Hygiene” (from 1987’s  album of the same name):


Finally, a selection from 2000’s Life’ll Kill Ya (released a couple years before Zevon’s diagnosis with the mesothelioma from which he’d die in 2003) — “Don’t Let Us Get Sick”:

[Below, click Play button to begin Don’t Let Us Get Sick. While audio is playing, volume control appears at left — a row of little vertical bars. This clip is 3:04 long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Happy birthday, Little Brother — the family’s very own, our one and only excitable boy.

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Higher Mathematics (Department of Personal Chronology)

Too many years ago now to count, I once calculated my personal “magic number.” It was pretty stupid: all I did was gather my birthdate, my phone number, my address, my ZIP code, my Social Security Number — any numbers I could think of which applied to me — and added up all their digits. Then I added up all the digits in the result, and so on, boiling it down, until I’d reduced the whole mess to a single digit. The result: 6.

I don’t remember why I did this. (Note hidden, unsupported assumption that I in fact had a reason. Surely not because I thought I could somehow use the result to improve my life?!?)

And it was, as I said, pretty stupid. No matter what else I hoped to achieve — even assuming any vaguely touchy-feely mystical validity to the exercise — who among us knows or can even find out all the meaningful numbers in his/her life? If I’d used the digits in the current time, for instance, as soon as I wrote them down (using a twelve- or twenty-four-hour clock? and in which time zone?) they’d be wrong. At that point in my life, I had both a motorcycle and a car: why not include their odometer readings, and/or their engine displacements? (But, hmm, the motorcycle’s was expressed in cubic centimeters; the car’s, in cubic inches…) Et cetera.

So I was pretty obviously confused on the whole magic-number thing. I could’ve simplified the whole project immeasurably if I’d just stopped at my birthday.

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