A customer came in looking for charts of the Periodic Table. The Poster Queen found several for him. Then I helped him find number lines. “You have to go right back to the number lines,” he muttered. “The problem is that people don’t realize that zero is a number. It’s the most important number.”
I considered a light remark about the history of the discovery of zero, but this was not the direction his thoughts were taking.

“You know where you see numbers most?” he demanded.
Before I could come up with a suitable answer, he answered himself. “On the telephone keypad.”
I couldn’t imagine what sort of life he led, that he saw numbers more on the phone keypad than anywhere else, but I was beginning to think he was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I smiled and walked back toward where there were other people.

He followed me. He pointed out the arrangement of numbers on the telephone. “You see? It makes people think that 0 comes after 9.” He began counting for us, very intently, beginning with zero. I smiled in a non-committal way and started bustling around. Sometimes that works.

Not in this case. He pointed to the computer keyboard. “See? See? Here, too, 0 looks like it comes after 9. That has to be changed!”

While we consider what to do about this problem, we can sing “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.”


I should warn you that the midi file at this site has a strange, robot-like quality. Well, even more strange and robot-like than usual. I was not able to find a better one, and I did not want you to do without this charming song just because of that. You can learn the tune from it and play it in this foot-stomping way if you want, or extrapolate to something more lyrical if you prefer.

I learned this song when I attended a small country church. The first time we visited, I and my two small daughters, we heard an ancient lady singing and playing the piano. She favored the old closed-throat style of singing, so she sounded like an arthritic crow. My daughters couldn’t imagine why she was allowed to make noises like that in church. Later, I had the opportunity to sing in a quartet with her. She sang bass, an octave above, and wanted me to sing tenor, an octave above, which I could not do without sounding a lot like her. There were two others, a man and a woman. Together we sounded like some kind of exhibit of the range of possible human voices. Blending was not an option. Nonetheless, we enjoyed singing together, and I got to learn how to sing that sort of shape note-cum-bluegrass music that you hear in small Southern country churches. An enjoyable kind of singing.

In my family, we like to sing this song pretty, but take your pick. If you have a fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, or standing bass, then pull ’em out. The song was written by Adger McDavid Pace and R. Fisher Boyce sometime in the 1940s, and has been recorded by Emmy Lou Harris, Patty Loveless, Chanticleer, and the Judds, among others.

The Fair Isle is in progress. I am resisting the temptation to pull out this version as well. I am trying to give it a fair shot. At the same time, I’m wondering what made me think I would grow to like variegated yarn, especially in a Fair Isle. The idea is that, in a few more inches, it will change from being a sort of muddled stripe into a wondrous muted pattern in which all the subsidiary patterning makes the overall design richer. It works for quilts.

I am doing more writing of Christmas cards and baking and cookie making for Christmas baskets, than I am knitting. And I am getting to the gym every day instead of cleaning house. Priorities…