NEW YEAR’S NOTIONS & NUMBERS

By NORMAN M. COVERT

 Looking back on events of 2011 is a notion that Leroy (Satchell) Paige said we should avoid. Chances are, he said, “the Devil may be gaining on you!” The late, great professional baseball pitcher knew from which he spoke. I, therefore, am forging into 2012 with optimism.

A retrospective does give pause that something good can happen with me and mine – and you and yours – these next 12 months. 

Times Square 2012, Mayor Michael Bloomberg counts down with Gadfly Entertainer Lady Gaga on stage right. (Bloomberg Photo)

With my medical fixes and new devices, you might compare me to my 1996 Saturn. This year it received a new water pump, battery and serpentine belt and nails were removed from two tires. Quality workmanship and parts promise fewer calls to AAA™ and Medicare.

Such optimism and renewed energy did not translate into dragging out formal clothes and reserving a table for two at a local New Year’s Eve gala. Our mission in recent years is less than exciting with our attempts to be awake when the Waterford Crystal Ball drops in Times Square. We made it this time and it was as festive an occasion as could be from the vantage point of my recliner.

I recall mother allowing me to stay up for the arrival of the new year when I was 11 years old. That occasion saw me try writing out the numbers 1-9-5-5 as a visual perspective of the occasion when a 200 pound aluminum ball was dropped in Times Square.

A strange number 1955, I thought, but I liked the double fives. I liked the double digits, too, in 2-0-1-1. I’m wrestling with the transition to the new digits 2-0-1-2.

Nick Diaz with fellow motorcycle rider Janet Joseph in Leesburg, Va. New Year's Day.

It took me long enough to figure out the “2-0-0” part while inscribing progressions through the fog of the past decade. I have made a mental note to be careful to avoid writing “2-0-0-1-2.”

Arithmetic was never my forte; my eyes glaze over and my brain goes into neutral. I once discussed this syndrome with a colleague Nick Diaz, who is a whiz banger at math; also a tutor, coach, educator and college trustee.

Prof. D shed his motorcycle leather while on the road Sunday in order to explain on Facebook™ that 2011 is a prime number (I didn’t see it that way, nor understand its significance). He says 2-0-1-7 also will be, or is, a prime number, I suppose boding well for the prospects in the future. He expressed this phenomenon as an arith-metic (sic) expression: “2^2*503.” (Sigh!)

Differences in this Algebra text and my '57 volume could fool me, but not Prof. D.

I’m confused, as usual, but certain he will explain it. Prof. D did opine that my angst with numbers was founded in not having been taught correctly. He should have met my ninth grade math teacher Mrs. Taback, who opened the windows of Algebra I for me – alas, the revelation lasted but a moment.

I did achieve greatness as a senior in high school when Mrs. Mary Beth Stokes challenged me with a semester of general math to earn an “A” and that critical graduation credit.

Later in life, I learned adults rarely have to figure “it” out, they cheat! Only top tier mathematics students and engineers understood a slide rule, which has been replaced by equally complex calculators.  I do sense a conspiracy but I’ve never suffered as a result of the esoteric phenomenon.

My well-worn Pica Pole for figuring text flow in publications.

You may agree with me that, for example, a broad assortment of charts has been available to assist anyone with a mathematical chore at work. My own digital computer, consisting of 10 fingers, is severely limited in its capabilities. When I became a sports writer I was required to figure won/lost records, games behind, batting averages, earned run averages and such statistics. It was made elementary by charts available from the right suppliers.

Slide rule adjusted to multiply by 2. Was an essential tool for engineers and designers until the calculator and computer made them obsolete.

I first learned about the cheat sheets while using the Peterson Scoremaster™ book to record a baseball game. The charts are inside the back page.

Some basic arithmetic and geometry (A = L x W) helped me later with newspaper and magazine layout and design. The mystery of working with photographs was a snap using the proportion wheel.  Yes, I did use some pencil and paper when working off variables of the equation and derivatives: X% of Y =? (or is it Y = X? [Sigh!]).

I do not demean the need to teach arithmetic/mathematics, etc, in secondary schools and universities. I am pleased that the multiplication tables are slowly coming back into fashion in local schools. When the batteries run out on the calculator and telephone device, you can’t beat a No. 2 pencil and scratch paper.

(GamblersSupply.com)

So Prof D, what are the odds that my cubes will roll sevens and elevens in 2012? I’ll just have to roll ‘em and see.

Best new year wishes, dear reader.–©Norman M. Covert 2012

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Another version of this commentary is availble at www.thetentacle.com and is used with permission of the author and The Octopus, LLC.