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All my life, I have been both blessed and cursed by numbers. They are omnipresent in my life; they follow me around, stick in my brain, claw their way out when I'm tired or sad or ecstatic. They manifest themselves in many ways:

  • Tiles or bricks, especially square ones. In my shower, there are perhaps 7 green tiles interspersed randomly among about 50 white ones. Every morning in the shower I stare at them as I wash and make patterns. I don't do it consciously; most of the time in the shower it's early in the morning and I'm sort of phased out, tired, and then I start seeing the patterns, counting the numbers...
  • Clocks. As a child, I taught myself addition and subtraction, then multiplication and division, and finally exponents and simple algebra using the numbers on the clock. I would just rearrange the numbers, add a variable, put in an equals sign, a division sign, anything, and look for the answers. Today, just a glance at a clock will usually result in subconsciously running through all of these different functions.
  • Statistics and Probability.This is a little less subconscious, because I have to actually gather data, like, "What color shirt is everyone wearing?" or "How many times does the teacher use a red pen instead of a black pen?" Then I calculate the probability of people wearing a green shirt tomorrow, or the teacher using a black pen to write up the homework. However, this isn't totally voluntary; the most famous example was when, driving home from rehearsal at 11:00 pm I started to count the probability of hitting a red light. Instead of going home and getting some much needed sleep, I just drove around for over an hour, not paying attention to anything but the number and color of the lights. (Later reasoning said that this was a stupid idea; if I wanted to calculate the probability of a certain color for a light realistically, I would have to stick with one light and drive through it over and over, because depending on traffic flow and location the light will stay green longer on one side than on another...)
  • Finally, and this is the worst, Letters. This is a little hard to explain, so let me try by example. In the sentence "I can't run fast" there are 12 letters. I counted those letters before I was even done typing it; I've been doing this for so long that I can count the number of letters in any sentence within seconds. Now, 12 is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12. The only really desirable numbers there are 3 and 4 (not too big, not to small), so now I take the sentence and get "Ica ntr unf ast." and "Ican trun fast." I do this constantly. Signs on buildings, license plates, node titles, anything. Sentences, phrases, or words that are divisible by 3, 4, or 5 are the best, although numbers as big as 11 are feasible. Sometimes when I'm writing I will spell a word differently-- colour instead of color, for instance-- to avoid having a prime number of letters. One sign that I see often-- "Right lane must turn right" is terrible because it has 22 letters, and yet I divide it every time I see it into "rightlanemu strunright."

Now, where do the blessing and the curse come in? For one thing, I can do math in my head very, very well, especially simple things like addition, multiplication, etc. I was always the winner in drills during elementary school and today I still don't use a calculator for anything but graphing or The Calculus. Also, when I'm bored I always have something to do; in a boring class I'll just keep glancing at my watch, figuring out new ways to configure the numbers. Recently I've started turning them into polynomials (for instance, 7:55 becomes 7x^2 + 5x + 5) and then integrating and deriving them. BUT when I'm tired, or trying to focus on something difficult, I have a hard time doing anything but finding patterns and playing with numbers. I've read entire pages of books dividing by 5 and not understanding any of it; I've stared at physics problems on final exams and rearranged the words alphabetically or in order of how many letters are in them, all while the clock ticked away the minutes.

So, why do I tell you all this? It's an interesting phenomena, certainly, and I wanted to have a catalogue of it, I suppose, but also I wanted to know if other people do the same thing. Do you lie in bed at night and try to put everything in your head into a pattern or stare at the clock until it seems to bleed numbers?

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