Horoscopes: It's the Law!

Pisces (2/19 – 3/20):  I read about Benford's Law in my Grapes of Math book, which says that the leading digit in a number is most likely to be one.  At first I thought duh, you have to get through the ones to get to anything else -- you can't have two of something before you have the one of that thing.  But that's just me, not understanding Benford.  Here's what it says:  in any set of numbers, say, the population of all US cities - about 30 percent will have one as the leading digit, half as many begin with two, and so on, so that nine is the least common first digit.  Crazy!  Why do we care about this, Pisces?  I'm not sure I can put it into words, but we do!  I mean, there are applications -- detecting fraud, for example.  But what makes me so happy is that there's this invisible force that directs how numbers act.  Right?  Do all the US cities have to get organized to make sure their population fits in?  NO!  It just works out that way.  I guess I love the invisible things that we don't even know about, and they march on, being an organizing force.  I know you'll agree, Pisces, that there's something good in that.  Doesn't it make you wonder about all the other things we don't know about?  Oh Pisces, the magic of it all.  

Aries (3/21 - 4/19):   Speaking of forces governing the world, one thing that makes me irritable, and I've probably ranted about it in the past, is when people try to organize a potluck.  If I were a real researcher, I would have discovered something called Odinger's Universal Law of Potlucks that would prove that this behavior is unnecessary.  And annoying.  People will bring what speaks to them, and there will always be enough.  There will be one or two people who create exquisite offerings out of things they've grown or raised lovingly and then slaughtered, there will be a few people who grab a bag of chips on the way to the event, and there will be a bunch somewhere in the middle - recipe followers, who have some or all of the relevant ingredients.  It's a law.  You can tell all the people who's names start with A-L to bring a main dish, just like you can tell water to run uphill, but it just creates bad juju, like damming a river.  The river will find its own way, and you can pretend you have control but we know better.  Give a potluck a thousand years, and the potluck equivalent of a new canyon will be forged.  Freedom from tyrannical potluck organizers!  Let the people choose!  (I think that was in the original Federalist papers, before the aliens came down and altered them. Oh wow, I've really strayed off into the weeds here.  Sorry, Aries.) 

Taurus (4/20 – 5/20):   Speaking of laws, Zipf's law, I learned from Dr. Language, is a baseline for everything the linguists do. The law says that in any given text, the most frequent word occurs twice as often as the next most frequent word, and three times as often as the third most frequent, and so on, so that a graph looks like this. Ok, it's slightly more complicated because there's a constant involved, but I don't want you to leave me just yet, Taurus.  Don't go! Again, you're wondering why you should care about Zipf and his law. (Whatever it is, isn't it legal in WA anyway?)  You should care, Taurus, because it's a mystery!  Why does it do that?  How is it that someone can take The Dubliners, cut it up and sort the words, and it follows this rule?  Doesn't that intrigue you?  I spent about, oh, way too long (which equals 4 hours) taking various blog posts and other writings and graphing them, and yup, it's the law.  I'm awestruck.  Go for awestruck when you can this week, Taurus.

Gemini (5/21 - 6/21):  The seahawks.  Sheesh, there's a lot of hoopla about that.  It feels  like religion or patriotism, where it's best not to admit out loud that you don't believe in god, or you think the war is a bad idea.  I hear so much, 

 "No, even you would have loved the last game!  Really! It was amazing!"  

Um, no, I wouldn't have.  I agree with Ty Burr, who said that he prefers his popular culture served up with a tincture of irony, and American football exists to stomp out irony wherever it lifts its effete little head."  I'm happy that all the humans are so excited about something, but really, I'm just not interested in watching a bunch of overpaid guys, immersed in a culture of misogyny, run around after a stupid ball.  And the whole twelve business confounds me.  Maybe because the twelves are proud of decibel level, and I'm spending my life on a mission to promote the inside voice.  Sorry, all my lovely friends who are fans.  I'm glad your team is doing so well, and I'm happy for all the rallying and revelry, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it creeps me out.  The cheerleaders don't even make minimum wage?  Seriously?

Cancer (6/22 – 7/21):  Ok, and another thing?  I'm not so interested in what Marshawn Lynch has to say.  Seriously.  If we're in the biz, as a culture, of fining people for not talking, um, there are so many others I'd be interested in hearing from, like,oh, how about Emily Bazelon?  But as a general guide, shouldn't we take someone at their word when they say they have nothing interesting to say?  It pretty much blows me away, that we fine people, actually charge them money, for not talking when they don't have anything to say.  This, my dear Leo, is how boring-ness is perpetuated.  

Leo (7/23 – 8/22):  This kind of freaked me out.  Soon we'll be housing lactating women in over-crowded feedlots and selling their milk to bodybuilders.  No, that will never happen.  Nothing bad ever happens when women of childbearing age have something testosterone driven men want, right?  Oh Leo, sorry if I sound a little out of sorts.  Keep on bodybuilding without the supplements.    

Virgo (8/23 – 9/22):  Bergmanns Rule says that, in general, larger creatures are found in cooler environments.  Kind of a duh, and not exactly a law.  When it's cold, it's good to have a large mass compared to your area of skin, so heat doesn't leave as easily.  It's starting to make me believe that temperature is the most influential ingredient in the world.  But here's something that the bees do:  they keep their thorax warm by beating their wings.  They let the abdomen stay cool, so as not to waste calories on heating it, much like I do with my house.  (If my house were a bee, we'd call the upstairs the abdomen.)  But if they want to cool down, say, because they're fuzzy little people flying around in the hot sun?  Capitalize on that cool abdomen.  Such a slick design, Cancer.  

Libra (9/23 – 10/22):  I had the privilege of giving a little talk about blogging the other day to some college students, and someone asked why I only update my blog about once a week.  I had to explain, um, well, it's not really a plan, it's just that I don't get out much, and it takes me a while to gather material, even the tiniest little bits of material. Even pocket lint, Libra, takes a while to accumulate.  If I were to ride the bus more, or just tangle with the humans, I'd update more.  So there you have it, Libra.  The truth.

Scorpio (10/23 – 11/21):  I'm reading the most fascinating book about bumblebees now, and one thing I've learned is that a full-bellied bumblebee will die of starvation in 40 minutes.  Which is not unlike the paycheck-to-paycheck life that many of us lead, me especially (without the paycheck part).  But picture it:  you're flying around, gathering nectar, moving your little wings fast enough to keep your body warm, your belly is full, but in less than one hour you're dead if you don't keep going, endlessly seeking flowers, more flowers.  Scorpio?  What do we make of all this?  

Sagittarius (11/22 – 12/21):  Speaking of invisible laws, I've been trying to understand gravity for a while.  I made this a while ago and haven't really figured out much since then.  

Capricorn (12/22 - 1/19):  Speaking of hidden forces -- it's the stuff that happens whether we understand it, whether we acknowledge it, whether we believe in it, that what makes the world worth it.  Love, for example.  There is love that's so pure that it needs nothing, no evidence, no action.  Like the ocean, expansive and complete, even if you never visit, you haven't seen a starfish in years or gotten your pants accidentally soaked up to the knee with brine.  The ocean doesn't change for you, it just is.  Hold onto that, Cap.

Aquarius (1/20 – 2/18):  Ok, I have this neighbor who leaves for work super early, like I think it's 5:30, and before that he/she cooks bacon.  I know this because I sleep with all my windows wide open, and the aroma wafts in at 4:30.  Bacon is not just a normal smell; it has super powers.  It feels like a message travelling from the deceased pig directly to your nose with the command, "COME FIND ME."  An olfactory seance.  None of the other smells do that.  You smell lavender, or woodsmoke, and think, oh, pleasant.  You don't think, I MUST GET OUT OF BED RIGHT NOW AND GO TO WHERE YOU ARE.  Do you think there's a secret message to be decoded, maybe some way to save the planet?  See what you can learn, Aquarius.


  1. Wonderful stuff. The only thing missing is a slide rule.

  2. What did Tom Robbins say about the smell of cooking bacon in Still Life With Woodpecker? Something about a vegetarian who woke up every morning to that smell, both nauseated and ravenous. I should re-read that book.

    1. Yes, I wonder how that book would go down at this point in your life. Let me know!

  3. That book on bumblebees looks delightful. I read all the sample pages allowed by Amazon and was hooked. Betsy, you enrich yourself AND us with the breadth and depth of your mining for knowledge. You don't fool me with your once-a-week posting schedule ... each post is crammed with so much good stuff it can feed a person's mind for way more than a week; one needs only to follow the breadcrumb links you so kindly leave behind.

    1. Oh, thank you Jennio! I hope you read the bumblebee book; it's truly lovely.

  4. So the uber-rich are perhaps bumblebee in thinking? They alway want more, more, more.
    And I'm with jenny_o. Your posts are packed full of interesting information!
    Any my daughter, former vegetarian, says that bacon is the gateway meat for vegetarians.

    1. Well, I'm not sure -- the bumblebee really NEEDS more or they'll die. In 40 minutes. The uber rich have a little bigger cushion....

      Yes, a gateway meat, I believe that! As always, thanks for reading.

  5. Ok, I read the whole Verlinde powerpoint and I'm so happy you had Einstein in there with his tongue out. I feel that way often, except for the genius part. I mean, sticking your tongue out is a type of 'signal' for others that says, " Hey, only kidding about gravity and the laws of relativity". I do think he'd look better with his tongue out and wearing a squeaky rubber clown nose.

    BTW. I like apples a lot. You forgot to mention the life saving properties of apple cider vinegar but that's OK. I'm watching out for you, but not in a creepy way.



    1. Phew, thank you for watching out for me in a non-creepy way!! It's not even 27 days anymore because I took so long to comment. Details, please! xo


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