Thursday, March 8, 2012


Everybody has a favorite something, if not many favorite somethings, often for reasons known only to themselves – whether it's a favorite restaurant, a favorite color, a favorite person, or what have you. Some people have favorite numbers. Not that many people, maybe, but I'm one of them.

My favorite number is 128. Why? It's complicated. Numerous things have happened in my life in conjunction with that specific number.

I did a little research, and apparently the number 128 holds some degree of significance in history and popular culture as well. But I'll get to that in a minute.

First, I'll tell you about the number 128 as it relates to me personally.

The first really bad storm I remember that hit the area where I live happened when I was about six years old. The string of tornadoes tore through my town on January 28th (1/28/84). Whole neighborhoods not that far from my house were destroyed. It was terrible. As my parents drove me through the hardest-hit area some time later, I remember seeing forests with jagged lines of downed trees where a tornado had wended its way through with such great force and power. I remember traveling down one street in particular, and seeing that one house was destroyed, the next was fine, the next was destroyed, the next was fine, and so on. I had never seen anything like that. It was confusing to my six-year-old mind. I've never forgotten it.

The next year on the same date (1/28/85), I lost my first pet. The first three cats I ever had were Sherry, Blackie, and Tom. We adopted them as newborn kittens when their mother was struck by a car right in front of our house. The air-conditioner repairman who was working on our outside unit had found the kittens and kept them safe until my parents and I got home from work and school. Sherry lived a long time and sired (yes, he was a he!) many, many cats in the coming years. Tom lived a good long life too, and was about the size of a small dog – no wonder, since he liked to eat squirrel meat that my dad would feed him after particularly successful hunting trips. Blackie only lived about two years. On January 28th, 1985, Blackie, like his mother before him, was struck by a car and killed. It was horrifyingly sad to my seven-year-old heart. And I've never forgotten it.

The next year on January 28th (1/28/86), my second grade class was gathered around a television set to watch the space shuttle Challenger take off, carrying (among others) the first school teacher to ever become an astronaut. Shortly after takeoff, we all watched in horror as the Challenger exploded into flames, killing all seven astronauts aboard. To this day, I don't remember how well or how poorly our teacher – watching the events unfold live before her very eyes – handled explaining that tragedy to our young, impressionable minds. I just know that I felt profoundly sad. Over the coming months, I would become obsessed with learning more about the crew members of the Challenger, and about NASA and space in general. In spite of what had happened, or maybe because of it, I too wanted to become an astronaut and fly to outer space. That too was a day I've never forgotten.

Other incidents where the number 128 has played a role in my life are scattered and of far less importance. I can't even give too many specific examples. Usually, it has been coincidental things, but rather creepy ones nonetheless. For instance, I'd wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, and look at the clock by my bed to find that it was 1:28 AM. Stuff like that. Weird but not life-changing.

Somewhere along the way I noticed these coincidences (or whatever they are) concerning me and this random number, and I adopted it as my favorite number. Sure, it's tied in to some pretty gruesome memories, but all of them are a part of who I am. I'm not into numerology, or anything like that. A number is a number is a number. To me, it's just something interesting to think about, so I decided I would also write about it. Hope you don't mind.

Now, what significance – if any – does the number 128 have to the world in general?

Quite a few things actually...

1)  Mathematically Speaking.  I don't understand most things related to math, but for those of you who do, here goes something (whatever it means). According to whoever wrote the Wikipedia article for it, the number 128 is 2 to the seventh power. It is also "the largest number which cannot be expressed as the sum of any number of distinct squares. But it is divisible by the total number of its divisors, making it a refactorable number." But wait, there's more. "The sum of Euler's totient function over the first twenty integers is 128." Okay, if you math geeks are satisfied with that explanation, I'll move on, 'cuz I didn't understand a word of it myself.

2)  Let's Talk About Cars.  Just for a second, 'cuz I'm not one of those people who enjoys talking about cars. Mostly because I don't know what I'm talking about when I do talk about them, which makes me feel stupid – and I don't particularly enjoy feeling stupid. But I digress. Again, according to Wikipedia, from 1969 to 1985, Fiat made a car called the Fiat 128. There's a picture of that car below – ugly little sucker if you ask me. Also, apparently there is a BMW 128i convertible also (included below the Fiat), which is a much nicer looking vehicle in my opinion. And probably a lot more expensive too.

3)  In Literature.  The number 128 occasionally surfaces in literature as well. Take William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 128" for example:

How oft when thou, my music play'st
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds,
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

4)  In The Bible.  There are quite a few "128" or "1:28" occurrences in the Bible, referring to specific verses, chapters, or chapters and verses. But I'll narrow it down to just five:

Psalm 128 ~ A Song Of Ascents
"Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vines within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD. May the LORD bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life. May you live to see your children's children – peace be on Israel."

Psalm 119:128
"...And because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path."

Luke 1:28
"The angel went to her [Mary] and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'"

Romans 1:28
"Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done."

I Corinthians 1:28
"God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are."

5)  The Year 128.  Like the current year, 128 A.D. (or whatever initials they're using for years these days) was a leap year. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Calpurnius and Libo, which is as good a name for a year as anything I could come up with, I suppose. That year, Hadrian's Wall (commissioned by then-current Roman emperor Hadrian himself) was was completed, as was the Pantheon in Rome. Apparently, it was a good year to be in construction! In the Korean peninsula, King Gaeru of Baekje succeeded to the throne. Good for him, I know he had been really hoping that would happen soon. Unfortunately, King Giru of Baekje had to die for Gaeru to get the job. Oh, well...

6)  January 28th In History.  Other significant events that happened on 1/28 in history include, but are not limited to, the following:  the Diet of Worms began in 1521 in Germany (it's not what it sounds like -- Google it!); Henry VIII died in 1547, succeeded by his son Edward VI, the first Protestant ruler of England; Horace Walpole coined the word "serendipity" in a letter to Horace Mann in 1754 (possibly the most significant letter in history between two men named Horace); Pride And Prejudice was first published in the United Kingdom in 1813; the world's largest snowflakes were reported in a snowstorm in Fort Keogh, Montana (they were 15" wide by 8" thick!); the U.S. Coast Guard was created in 1915; the first municipally owned streetcars took to the streets in San Francisco in 1917; and Elvis Presley made his first U.S. TV appearance in 1956.

Sharing a birthday on January 28th were, or are: Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225); painter Jackson Pollock (1912); actor/director Alan Alda (1936); televangelist Creflo Dollar (1962); singer Sarah McLachlan (1968); and baseball player Jermaine Dye (1974), among others.

 7)  128 Café.  Apparently, there's a whole restaurant named after my favorite number. I can't believe I missed this place when I visited Saint Paul a couple of years ago! If I ever get back up that way, I'll have to check it out. Look at those ribs!

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