April 30, 2006

Making Friends With 63

A couple of weeks ago I bought a book of Mind Performance Hacks which includes chapters on mnemonic devices, memory palaces, and mental arithmetic.

The last of these includes a discussion of making friends with numbers. For example, most of us are friendlier with powers of ten (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) than with multiples of 13. Making friends with a number involves getting to know its factors, whether it is a power of some other number, and so on. All of this makes it easier to handle the number if we are called either to memorize it or to calculate with it mentally.

For example, I knew the late Berkeley agitator and math major Mario Savio, and although Mario is long gone from this earth and I from Venice/Santa Monica, I still remember his telephone number, 396-4824, because when he told it to me he observed that it was a progression (48 is half of 96 and twice 24).

To make a long story short, yesterday was my birthday, on which I turned 63. 63 is an easy number to make friends with. It's on the 9's table, and is triple 21, so in a manner of speaking I am thrice a legal adult. 63 is also one less than 2 to the sixth, 64, so that it is written "111111" in binary numbers. My college class was that of 1963. Und so weiter.

My aunt, who is in her 80s, tells me that she is comfortable with the 3 part, but doesn't really believe the 6. I agree. Although I am a little hard of hearing and my hard disk is full, so that my search times for things like names is longer, most of the time I don't really feel as old as I am chronologically.

The reality of course, is that every day each of us is closer to death. My family doesn't like me to mention this fact. But part of the work of old age is preparing for this reality, as it inevitably approaches.

Skeptic that I am, therefore, I nevertheless say, "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."

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