Thursday, January 10, 2008

Magical Thinking, Or Communication From The Ether?

Driving to Green Acres this morning (don’t worry, just pinch-hitting there for a few days) I was listening to the iPod, set on “shuffle”. At one point Susan Warner’s song “Petaluma Afternoons” came on. I have about 600 songs on the iPod; “Petaluma Afternoons” is the only one which has lyrics referencing the Doobie Brothers (“Troubles fade into the distance / The Doobie Brothers on the radio…”)

After that song, the iPod shuffled itself and came up with: “South City Midnight Lady”, the only Doobie Brothers song on the iPod.

Now, what are the chances? This is not a rhetorical question; it is a question with a simple answer. The chance of the only song referencing the Doobie Brothers being followed by the only Doobie Brothers song is 1/(600x600), or 1 in 360,000.

To put this in human terms, it is a once-in-a-lifetime (or less) event. If I commute 20 minutes each way to work, listening to the iPod the whole way, and songs average four minutes long, the above Doobies-event would (statistically speaking) happen once every 150 years*.

So what does this mean? Is it just random chance, same as the way venomous snakes developed poison and hollow fangs to deliver it just by random mutations? Or is someone, or something, trying to tell me something? If there is a Great Spirit, and it wanted to communicate with us in these latter days, wouldn’t an iPod be a likely portal (burnable bushes being so rare in the city these days)?

"Tell me if I should believe!", I thought to myself, "Show me a sign!" I figured if there was to be a sign, it would logically be in Doobie lyrics or song titles. Lo! Right in "South City Midnight Lady" itself is this phrase: "I thought there was no reason / For all these things I do / BUT the smile sent out returned with you." (emphasis added.) This clearly pointed the way! There seems to be "no reason" for "these things", BUT THERE IS!

The rest of the song, however, is just mushy giberish about alcohol detox, sleepy sunny eyes, and ladies. So I figured the next clue would be elsewhere in Doobie discography. With shaking hands, I lit up my last cigarette and Googled "South City Midnight Lady Lyrics", expecting revelation.

Things got exciting. In the first Google hit, following the lyrics to "SCML", were links to other Doobie tunes. The first title: "Listen to the Music". Yes! That's what I am to do, listen carefully to Doobies music for the message! Onwards, next title: "Jesus Is Just Alright". Okay, so I've never really understood the meaning of "JIJA" (i.e., is the author empasizing that Jesus is A-#1-OK in his book, or empasizing that Jesus is "just", merely, alright, and nothing to write home about?) but I figured we were getting somewhere-- the messages at least were leading in the direction of a Higher Power or deity.

Then the final two titles in the Doobie song list were: "How Do Fools Survive?" and "What A Fool Believes".

So what now?

* I know readers like to check my math, so:

Chance of “Doobie Event” per year =
(Chance of Doobie Event per song) x (# of songs per year) =
(1/360,000) x ((# of work days per year) x (# of songs per work day)) =
(.00000278) x ((48 weeks x 5 days per week) x (40 min per day / 4 min per song)) =
(.00000278) x (240 days x 10 songs per day) =
(.00000278) x (2,400 songs per year)=
.0067 =


Anonymous girltuesday said...

i love the math posts. and i never check the math (mostly because we all know i can't do math). the rest of it though . . . whew. still trying to wrap my head around.

1/10/08, 11:52 AM  
Blogger Johanna said...

I'm not as nice as girltuesday

"The chance of the only song referencing the Doobie Brothers being followed by the only Doobie Brothers song is 1/(600x600), or 1 in 360,000."

Chance of Doobie brother following Susan Warner song when Susan Warner song already playing: 1/600.

Chance of those two songs coming on back-to-back, 1/360,000. Thus, semantics police says math would only be correct if phrasing was:

"the chance of the only song referencing the Doobie brothers coming on and being immediately followed by the Doobie brothers song is 1/360,000"

1/10/08, 8:11 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

Good grief! This level of semantic pickiness from someone who does not even have English as her first language?!? (You're absolutely correct, of course.)

1/10/08, 10:46 PM  
Blogger Claire Colvin said...

And here's me thinking, "you get four weeks' vacation a year, nice!" Unless you included stat holidays in that figure in which case my three weeks off is looking pretty good.

I, too, enjoy the math posts, and that's not a phrase I get to use too often. There does seem to be a plethora of people who's iPods appear to take on personalities and whims. Could be something there. Revelation is almost always accused of madness first.

1/11/08, 2:20 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

Well, four weeks was just a round number. Being self-employed now, I get as many weeks of vacation as I want-- but not a nickel of income for any minute I'm not in the office, talking to a client.

"Revelation is almost always accused of madness first." Well put. Problem is, in the reverse, generic madness often feels subjectively like revelation... and the former is, alas, much more common than the latter.

1/11/08, 2:27 PM  
Anonymous 26 said...

Who are the Doobie Brothers?

1/11/08, 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the ipod random shuffle precludes the same song being played twice in a row, then I think the correct math would be 1/600x 1/599=359400, no?

1/12/08, 10:36 PM  
Blogger Turboglacier said...

Oooh... you're absolutely right, Anonymous. I hate it when my grammar AND my math are flawed in the same post!

1/14/08, 9:36 AM  
Blogger Silliyak said...

As an actual denizen of Petaluma, I invite you for a visit. It's a great place to live, although not as good as "it used to be" since the developers have had free reign for a few years.

1/14/08, 9:09 PM  

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