Good fortunes

Recall my Wednesday post last week: I had talked about a few Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes, and related to how accurately they described me. Although those quizzes are intended for entertainment only, they can be surprisingly accurate.

Another thing that I found, which is intended for entertainment only, but may also have surprising accuracy, is the fortune cookie. Let’s consider a few salient ones for me.

When I was younger (i.e., between the ages of 4 and 9), the fortune cookies would frequently be “Confucian” proverbs (e.g., the one in the image below), and my siblings and I would always ask our parents to translate said cookies, from English to elementary-school English. I cannot recall any of the fortune cookies from that time, but they have changed in the last several years.

Photo credit: StudioTempura / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

A few fortune cookies or situations involving fortune cookies have had flashbulb memories.

In 1996 or 1997, my family had just eaten at KiKi’s (a Chinese buffet across from Gateway which is now Sakura China), and the fortune cookies, in addition to the fortune, had Lucky Numbers on the messages. After dinner, when we drove home, we stopped at the U-STOP on 56/Highway 2 for gas, and Mom and Dad bought six Powerball tickets for jollies, entering in the Lucky Numbers from each cookie (this was before Quick Pick was common). In some sense, it was an applied introduction to probability, and if you spend a small amount of money on a ticket mostly for amusement purposes, it’s not a problem. (I am glad that Mom and Dad had introduced us to various venues of gambling long before we were 21, and stressed that it is entertainment, rather than an investment.)

A few years later, I liked watching Saturday morning cartoons on Kid’s WB. In a promo for the show Jackie Chan Adventures, Jade opens up a fortune cookie, and it reads, “Danger lurks in your future.” Jackie scoffs, but of course, foes are about to attack. After his inimitable martial arts to dispatch them, the grandfather slaps Jackie and says something along the lines of, “Trust the cookie.”

Let’s now fast forward to 2006, right about this time. (I had very good timing in thinking about fortune cookies!)

The day was Thursday, July 20, 2006, during the summer after my freshman year of college. I was working in the physics lab at UNL (had been doing this as a job since I graduated from high school), and had been struggling over the summer with some of the experimental techniques and figuring out what was going on. I went to lunch that day with my advisor and a few of his graduate students, and ate at Imperial Palace in the Union. My fortune cookie read: “You will soon pass a difficult test that will make you happier.”  How predictive it was!

Later that afternoon, there was a group meeting, and then my advisor came in, seeing my struggles with the experiment, tried something, and showed that the idea was bound to fail. He then called me into his office.

The meeting there was us agreeing that I was in over my head at that point with the work, and so I was offered a chance to resign.  At the time, I was pretty devastated (though didn’t go into any sort of meltdown mode), but after talking with Mom and Dad at home, they realized that I would be better off… that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A good thing about that evening: we had company, and this topic was not touched.

And what was the test? Finding a new academic position. I applied for the Math Resource Center, and found during the school year that this was a LOT of fun to do, and it solidified my base knowledge in single-variable calculus.

Furthermore, doing this made me realize how much I can like teaching. THIS may have been the spark toward my pursuit of a Ph.D.!

Interestingly, later that winter, I was eating at a Chinese restaurant with Grammy (z”l), before I drove to the Qwest Center to watch the Huskers beat Stanford for the 2006 NCAA volleyball championship. I don’t know if there was any difficult test either of us found in the near future, but I found it interesting that fortune reappeared. (I have not seen it since, but if it shows up in my eyes for a third time…)

For fun, two more fortunes I will read.

The one which made me think, “I should write about fortune cookies!” was the one from Wednesday, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So true! Your mind is the most powerful tool for affecting your mood and happiness. This is why the placebo effect is true!

And, there’s one other “fortune” that Levi once got, that I just had to laugh about, because it seemed like a cop-out:

You love Chinese food.”


Stout Pad Scout: 7 days.

NABC: 20 days.

Menomonie: 28 days.

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