The Thinker: Rich Galen


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A Prime Number

Rich Galen

Thursday December 21, 2017

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  • Prime numbers (1, 3, 5, 7 and, ironically, 2017) as we all know, are numbers that are evenly divisible only by themselves and 1. 2018 is not a prime number because it is divisible by 1, 2, and 1009.

  • 71 is a prime number. It also happens to be my age, effective at midnight December 21, 2017.


    People say that 71 years old is the new 61. It is not. 71 is the new 70 years, 11 months and three weeks.


  • Not only is today my birthday, but December 21 is the standard date of the Winter Solstice. This year Winter (in the northern hemisphere) arrives at 11:28 AM Eastern time.

  • The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year. Today there will be only 9 hours, 26 minutes of daylight.


    Not only did I get gypped on an annual basis for Chanukah gifts ("this is for both Chanukah and your birthday") but I was 42 before I realized that "the shortest day of the year" had only to do with daylight. I got the same 24 hours as everyone else.


  • One time I had to be in Jakarta, Indonesia on a teaching assignment for the International Republican Institute (IRI). I was a last-minute substitute and they assured me they could have me home by December 20.

  • These were volunteer assignments - the IRI covered expenses, but no fees. I looked at a map and noted that the island of Bali was not far off and, more to the point, was eight degrees south of the Equator.

  • I said I would do it, but only if they paid for a flight from Jakarta to Bali and back so I could spend December 21 there. I would pay for the hotel (a Four Seasons, as I remember. I was not there to go camping), meals, and any other expenses.

  • And thus, for the only time in my life, I spent my birthday in a place where it was the longest day of the year.

  • Among the events that occurred on December 21 were:
    The Pilgrims landed at (on?) Plymouth Rock in 1620.

    A mere 371 years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union officially dissolved.

  • Some of the people who share my birthday are:
    Benjamin Disraeli

    Jane Fonda

    Samuel L. Jackson

    Frank Zappa

  • If "Baby Boomers" are defined by those born in the years following World War II, then I have been at the leading edge, having arrived in 1946.

  • As my mother used to think hilarious when I repeated it at family events like weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, and brisses:
    "I was born nine months, one hour and 57 minutes after my dad stepped off the boat following World War II."

  • Among other interesting things, December 21 (12-21) is a palindrome. It reads the same way backwards and forwards.

  • The absolute best thing about having December 21 as your birthday is you are on the cusp of being a Sagittarian (Nov 22 - Dec 21) and a Capricorn (Dec 22 - Jan 19).

  • I usually read the horoscopes for each, pick the better one, and promptly forget both.

  • Three years ago I leased a small Mercedes SUV - a GLK 350 for those scoring at home. The lease was up yesterday and the dealership has, with increasing enthusiasm, attempted to get me to lease another vehicle.

  • As a birthday present to myself, I bought the car.

  • My reasons? First, Mercedes doesn't make that style any longer and I like it; second, it is small enough to park in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia; third, and - most importantly - I finally figured out what all the buttons do and I'm too old to start the process over with a 2018 vehicle.

  • All in all, 71 may no longer be the prime of life, but when you consider the alternatives, being relatively healthy, mentally alert, and still enjoying the company of the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices, 71 is a pretty prime number.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to prime numbers, the Winter Solstice, and Bali.

    The Mullfoto is another in the brief series of signs in my local Starbucks.

-- END --

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