Can I help it if I come after 665?

Sure, this is about as useful as complaining about the weather, but allow me to rant for a minute about the numerical magical thinking that’s loping nonstop through the press.

February 29 seems like the most appropriate day for it, after all. On this date, inserted to make the yearly count of days match up better with astronomical reality, let’s reflect on the arbitrary measurements with which we must reckon our lives, and take a quick look at a couple of the meaningless “meaningful” numbers hollering in the wind.

Yesterday the Dow closed over 13,000 for the first time since 2008. OK, it’s good that the market’s up. But how is 13,000 better than, say, 12,997? “A psychologically key number,” they call it, and yes, numbers like this have psychological effects – but the movements of the stock market are heavily dependent on psychology anyway. The board shows a round number with lots of zeros, so people are suddenly in the mood to do something different with their or other people’s money? Nice.

Today Apple’s market capitalization topped $500 billion. That’s a big-ass apple-barrel full of money (not even actual money, in spite of the dollar sign – it’s the hypothetical construct known as “value”). Does $500 billion mean anything different than $499 billion? Only a lot of bytes loaded and ink spilled. (Including a demonstration that AP writers don’t understand the grammar of singular and plural – “a mountain peak where few companies have ventured — and none have stayed for long.” Thanks, Apple. Well, if you love somebody, set them free.)

Meanwhile back on the stock market, the Nasdaq peeped over the 3,000 mark today. Awesome, dude! Except that the death toll in Syria has reached 7,500, according to the UN. Well, I guess now it’s time to do something about that.

There’s no way around this. Every year is the year of magical thinking, whether it has a February 29 or not.