**“Assume 1 exists. Now prove 2 exists.”–**Thomas D. Hedden’s cynical concept of mathematics

Numbers always fascinated me. I remember going down to the Rogue River bed to construct numbers out of stones. I liked particularly the shape of 4. In fact, when I turn the TV off, I always leave it on channel 4. 4 has seemed to me the “perfect” number. And when I was a child, I wanted to see 4 and feel the stones that formed it. 3 has been a troublesome number; I had difficulty forming 3s in my writing and the oddness of the number disturbed me. The mirror twins of 6 and 9 were also troubling. I enjoyed looking at 1, but felt I didn’t understand it. 0 was a special number, but my multiplication cards somehow excluded it. I did my times tables from 1×1 to 12×12. There was no 13. I’ve felt there is something malevolent about 13, and perhaps the makers of the multiplication tables did as well. To this day, I mark all my checks that end in 13 VOID!, and shred them. My accountant doesn’t like the way I handle checks, but how can you deal with such an irrational person as I?

The cabins at Diamond Lake fascinated me. I would follow one cabin marked 12, and try to construct the whole number sequence. I remember looking through bushes, circling trees and hills, in an effort to complete the sequence. 78 record albums were also a source for numbers. In my grandparents’ home at Amesbury near Griffith Park, I recall seeing records of *South Pacific* on the floor. I saw 5, 9, 10, 4, but the others were missing. I was quite disappointed. However, I made up for the loss when Grandma bought me the complete Columbia album of *South Pacific *many years later. Motels, of course, often proved an exercise in futility, because some would start with 100 or some other number. Still, I considered the number of the motel I stayed at quite special and have the key with its number to one of them!

Multiplication by 0 was intriguing; What is President Obama x 0? But division by 0 was even more bewildering. Common sense tells us that if we divide an object by nothing, we are not dividing, so the result should be the object unchanged. Look! I will divide this chocolate cake by nothing. See this knife! I will hold it up in the air. Now everyone, dig in! But in mathematics, if 5/0=5, then through cross multiplication, 5×0 should equal 5, but that contradicts the way we originally defined multiplication by 0. What can we do? Simple! We’ll take the easy way out and say that division by 0 is undefined. I must admit that multiplying a chocolate cake by 0 is something I cannot fathom!

**Xs and Ys hurt my eyes. Ys and Zs no more please!– **childhood verse about algebra

I remember algebra only too well. The subject inspired my first story, *The Tale of the Brilliant Xaquenta Qualzifaz Xitg and the Birth of Algebra*. Xaqenta falls in love with Yakshwe Reginald Yorkes and they meet at a special place called the origin. At that point, they decide to form a family. There was a communicative law, so that all members could recognize one another better and an associative law to improve family relations. The eternal optimist, a small man on stilts called absolute value, was never far away. But the story faded into fractal dust, and so it has remained. At the time, I decided there were other worlds to explore. And so, armed with my protractor and a straight edge, I was ready for whatever shapes and symbols I might encounter.

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