Monday, April 7, 2008

O, the Power of None

You buy an appliance with an on/off switch. It has two mysteriously simple symbols on it. One resembles a 1 and the other a zero. Or perhaps they are an I and an O. Which symbol indicates on, and which indicates off?

You think for minute about binary code. Okay, I think for a minute about binary code. Binary code is composed entirely of zeroes and ones. Our world of computers...make that our world binary.

One means yes--on, positive, point gained. Zero means no--off, no points, nuttin' honey.

Here's the cruel joke: The line and the circle look like numbers, but are not numbers. They also look like letters, but are not letters. They are symbols. Mysterious. Simple. Almost 2 simple. Yet too complex to include in a blog page without knowing some HTML.

Here's how my mind works, and why the symbols confuse me to this day: the line symbol looks closed, like a sea otter's nostrils underwater. The circle symbol looks open, like a sea otter opening its nostrils to take a deep breath. Big O, open. Open wide. Spread out your arms and give me a hug. Oh that feels good. In XO XO, the X's are the kisses and the O's are the hugs. In France I'm guessing the O's are the kisses. The X's I don't even want to think about.

The circle means on, oui?

No, no,'s not an O. It's an empty circle, a circle with nothing in it, a vacant, empty hole. It doesn't even count for zero, because zero is a number and it's so nothing it doesn't even count for the only number that counts for none. It is the symbol for none. Hence, the circle means off.

Using the process of elimination, the line symbol means on.

Why can't I get this?

Because it's just wrong. Otters cannot breathe underwater.

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