I'm still mostly on blogging vacation. This is just a little postcard from Synchroni City.
On the night of Saturday, April 23, I had a dream in which Kanye West had released a new album, in collaboration with two of his children. Not wanting to take unfair advantage of his name recognition, they had used some forgettable pseudonym like "the Williamson Family" or something, but everyone knew it was actually Ye. The name of the album was N'EGO: The Negation of the Ego.
In the morning, I made a quick note of the dream and then went about my day. At around 4:30 in the afternoon, I happened to come out of a shop just as two people went past on a scooter. One of them recognized me and, without stopping, waved and said, "William!" I waved back to be polite, but actually I had no idea who it was I was waving to. They went by really fast and were both wearing full-face helmets.
I then got on my own motorcycle and headed for home. Before long, I had to stop at a red light. I noticed that the guy on the scooter in front of me had a huge white rabbit on the back of his T-shirt, so -- the white rabbit being a recent sync theme -- I pulled out my phone and snapped a quick photo for future reference. When the light turned green, I turned right and the white rabbit continued on straight.
Several minutes later, while I still on the road, I thought, "Didn't that white-rabbit guy have NEG on his license plate and then some numbers? I wonder if the NEG was followed by 0 or 15 or something." I was thinking of the "N'EGO" in my dream, of course; O looks like zero and is the 15th letter of the alphabet. When I got home, I checked my photo:
It's not 0 or 15, but NEG is followed by four digits of which the sum is 15, so it still encodes NEGO. What are the odds?
Assume a license number of the form ABC 1234, which is the most common format in Taiwan. In theory, the probability of getting NEG is 26-3, or 0.0057%. However, my impression is that one sees the same letter combinations recurring much more often than would be expected if all 17,576 possible three-letter combinations were assigned with equal probability. I think the government probably uses only a small subset of the possible strings, so to err on the side of being extremely conservative, let's say the chance of getting NEG is 1%. The chance of the numbers that follow encoding O is much higher than you might expect. The first digit could be 0 (10% chance); the first two digits could be 15, or could add up to 15 (5% chance); The first three digits could add up to 15 (6.4% chance, when overlap with the first two cases is excluded); or all four digits could add up to 15 (5.58% chance, excluding overlap). The total probability of any of these being the case is 26.98%.
Surprised it was so high, and wondering if I had made a mistake in my arithmetic, I did a quick empirical check by having random.org generate 100 truly random four-digit numbers. Of these, 22 met one of the conditions listed above. More surprisingly, one of the numbers it gave me was the very same four-digit number that was on the license plate! The odds of that are not astronomically low, though: 1 - 0.999100, or 9.52%.
Normally, in estimating the probability of a license-plate sync, I would have to take into account the number of license plates I see every day, a figure which is likely in the hundreds. In this case, though, it's not just that one of the hundreds of plates I see every day happened to encode NEGO; it was one specific plate, one which I had photographed for reasons entirely unrelated to NEGO.
Later that day, I was thinking about the people that had gone by on a scooter and shouted my name, trying to think who they could have been. I thought, Oh, maybe it was so-and-so! (an acquaintance I only see a few times a year). That night, I happened to be in so-and-so's neighborhood; there was a small parking area across from their house (shared by them and some neighbors), and there was a scooter parked there with a NEG license plate! Had that been them? When I saw the rabbit T-shirt and snapped a photo, had I unwittingly been taking a photo of someone I knew but didn't recognize from behind?
No, actually, this was a different NEG plate:
Recall what I had asked myself earlier: "I wonder if the NEG was followed by 0 or 15 or something." Well here was a different scooter which had NEG followed by 15 and 0. What are the odds?
Several minutes later, I just had to go back to their neighborhood and double-check. I must have seen something wrong. It must actually been the same NEG plate. So I went back and looked more carefully at the five or six scooters that were parked there. I had seen it right -- but this time I noticed that just across the street from that scooter was the one with the other NEG plate I had photographed before. (Sorry about the photo quality, but it's documentation, not art.)
Now that I had reason to believe that it was so-and-so, I sent her a message the next day, and she confirmed that she had been the one who passed me on the street and said hi, and that she had been with someone wearing a white rabbit T-shirt.
So that's a coincidence of four things: The scooter with the rabbit T-shirt I photographed (1) belonged to an acquaintance who just happened to go past at the moment I came out of a shop (2) and had a license plate encoding NEGO, a nonsense word I had just dreamed about (3), and which was also encoded by her neighbor's license plate (4).
That was all on Sunday. Now an epilogue from today (Wednesday, April 26).
Last night, I had a dream in which I did not appear as a character but simply observed the story as if watching a movie. It was about a man who had decided he wanted to visit a place "where the ocean empties into a river" (sic) because of all the amazing things you could see there -- "Imagine, you could see sharks, octopuses, all kinds of things -- in a river!" So he was walking off to a place like that, with a female friend tagging along rather unenthusiastically. She asked if they were going to Africa, and he said, "No, Michigan. It's a bit north of Africa, but the ocean empties into a river there, too, so it's just as good."
They were walking through a swampy area with lots of tall reeds and rushes, and the woman was complaining about how far they had to walk. "We can't complain about that," said the man. "Don't forget, Jesus himself used to walk everywhere -- more than 30 miles a day, and that was in a hot desert!"
I jotted down the dream and went to work.
This morning, I met with an adult student who studies at home with a magazine intended for English learners and sometimes brings it to class if she has questions about anything she has read. She had given me a copy of the magazine, but I hadn't read any of the articles before today's class.
Today we looked at two consecutive articles. The first was called "Across the Mojave Desert on Foot," about a geologist named Nick Van Buer who did what it says on the tin, and it synched pretty remarkably with my dream of last night.
The dream, as you will recall, was about a man who was hiking through tall reeds and rushes to get to a place in the US where the ocean empties into a river, and who told his companion she shouldn't complain because Jesus used to hike more than 30 miles through the desert every day. The page I have photographed has a man hiking 31 miles ("more than 30") through a desert in the US and -- unexpectedly for a desert hike -- going through reeds. It also has the words river and ocean juxtaposed, and even includes the number 150, a figure which was significant when I saw it on a license plate on Sunday night.
After "Across the Mojave Desert on Foot," the next article was called "The Right Way to Deal With Criticism," and it featured this illustration:
Recall the name of the Kanye album in my Saturday night dream: N'EGO: The Negation of the Ego. Come to think of it, it's also a bit of a sync with last night's dream, which, unlike the vast majority of my dreams, "left my ego out of it" by not even including me as a character.
One final sync wink. More than one commenter has compared some of my more extravagant sync posts to one of those "evidence boards" used by detectives and paranoid schizophrenics on TV, the kind with all the string. Check out the magazine's table of contents:
There it is, right next to the two articles I clipped for my own crazy wall.
Also notice the lower right corner: "Biggest Myths About Traveling to Africa." According to the guy in my dream, the biggest such myth is that you need to go all the way to Africa when actually Michigan has everything you need.