Archive for July, 2005

Nanofiction #1: A Simple Error

July 28, 2005
A Simple Error
(a nanofiction by Ryan Hackel)

The contractor stared in dismay at the blueprints. He thought the
dimensions were in feet, but they were in meters! No wonder the house
was so small! How was he going to ever sell such a building? Reuben and
Emily paid top dollar for it. Their family of midgets has lived there
happily ever after.

An insight about wedding expenses

July 24, 2005
Thanks to Evelyn, I had an interesting revelation was to why
restaurants charge so much per plate for wedding receptions. Consider
this, normal restaurant patrons come in, they eat a meal, then they
leave. Wedding guests will also eat a meal, but they linger for
partying and dancing, so they stay for a few hours. In that same time,
the restaurant could have used that space to serve two or three batches
of patrons instead. So a wedding reception denies the restaurant staff
the ability to handle a large number of patrons. So wedding meals must
be three or four times as expensive to cover the cost of denying the
restaurant those hours worth of potential business. Wedding meals are
expensive not because it is of higher quality, but because the wedding
meal takes up the space of three or four other meals that the
restaurant missed the opportunity of.

Change must be changed!

July 16, 2005
Here’s a small experiment you can do:

1) Look in your purse or wallet for dollar bills of any denomination, the more bills the better. Look for the date printed on it, usually near the base of the portrait to the left or right. What is the oldest bill you have?

2) Now gather up your small change, whatever coins you happen to have at the time. Look at the dates on those, too. What is the oldest coin you have?

In most cases, the oldest bill is about five years old, but the oldest coin is easily 20-25 years old. Clearly, coins remain in circulation far longer than a bill can survive, meaning the coin currency gives many more years in service than paper money. So if coins are more cost-effective than bills, why does the federal government waste its time printing $1 bills? Dollar coins last far longer, and they have already made the castings for them! If the Sacajawea (or any other dollar coin) replaced the dollar bill, the Treasury would have to make far fewer of them every year. This would create a savings for the government, and thus help lower the operating cost. Think of what the money currently wasted on replacing dollar bills could be used for: paying down the national debt, reducing the annual budget deficits, increased funding for education and social programs, funding for homeland security, or simply lowering taxes!

But Ryan, aren’t coins easier to counterfeit than bills?

Let’s be honest here: why would any counterfeiter bother with the $1 bill or coin? The gains of making counterfeit $1 coins wouldn’t make up for the cost of making them. The time would be better spent on the $10, $20, or $50 bills, which are indeed relatively secured against counterfeiting. After all, if it were cost effective to counterfeit $1 coins, counterfeiters would be making fake Susan B.’s and Sacajaweas. They already have $1 coins to forge, and the Treasury must not be too concerned with a flood of illegitimate $1 coins. So the idea that $1 bills still exist for security reasons is bunk.

Besides, wouldn’t vending machines and toll booths benefit from common dollar coins? Wouldn’t you rather add a few coins than feed a crinkled dollar bill into the soda machine scanner? Imagine, there would be fewer people in line at the train or bus station waiting on slow machines to dispense tickets. Bill readers wouldn’t jam as often, or reject *all* your bills. And for deciding by random chance, it gives you a more majestic coin to flip.

Is it just me, or did the U.S. Mint pitch the Sacajawea dollar coin as the replacement to the dollar bill? It appears that the new coin has simply replaced the Susan B. (which was a terrible design being as similar as it is to the quarter), and I am gravely disappointed. I was looking forward to a new era of dollar coins, and so far I only get them at the post office and LIRR ticket booths. Hopefully the government will wise up and make the $1 coin standard.

After all, isn’t $1 treated like pocket change already?

Neat things

July 12, 2005
Evelyn and I went on a 15-mile walk into old town Alexandria last weekend.  We were hoping to see a concert and the fireworks, but we arrived in time only for the fireworks. However, we did stumble upon the music of Jamey Turner. He is an accomplished glass player with over 25 years of experience. Evelyn and I were drawn into the crowd that had materialized around him, and were curious about the ethereal sound he was making. Sixty glass goblets were strapped onto a hole-riddled table, each glass a different size, and each containing a partial amount of water. With deft use of a baster, Turner tuned his glasses to the desired pitch. The breadth of his musical knowledge was vast; he was familiar with many 18th century classical glass compositions by Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner, and he also knew ancient ethnic melodies from Korea, Hungary, China, and Peru.

During Mr. Turner’s performance, in which he gave many amusing anecdotes about his life and the study of his art, I was curious as to the purpose of three large wrenches he had brought. I asked, and he eagerly obliged my curiousity. Each wrench, he explained, was an instrument that accompanied a glass tune he knew. When suspended by a lanyard and struck with a small mallet, the wrench produces a tone superior to that of finely crafted bells (in the opinion of philharmonic percussionists). I was handed the largest wrench, a two-and-three-sixteenths, and was told, "Now that wrench there is a solo part." With only three seconds of training, I delved into an improv melody, which Evelyn describes as "crazy", striking the wrench in various locations to achieve different tones. Anyone who’s dropped a wrench on a workshop floor knows how well they ring!

We caught the fireworks shows in both DC and Alexandria this year. The DC fireworks were spectacular (then we went home and watched them twice more on PBS).

We also found another DC square marking stone, right outside my bank! Now I’ve seen four of them!

Evelyn has helped me playtest a geocaching-themed card game I have developed. The goal is to create a fun and simple game that adults and children can play, and I can leave free copies of it in geocaches. So far, it plays well, though there are few major decisions to be made. It has a lot of work to go, but we like playing it.

We attended services at Adat Shalom. They do liberal things in conservative ways. The service was almost entirely in Hebrew, and nearly every male attendee wore yarmulke and tallit. The services were a struggle, with a stimulating discussion on the afterlife that almost redeemed the tedium of the two hours of Hebrew readings. Evelyn and I felt very lost during the prayers. They had a nice oneg afterwards, in a cafeteria setting. Adat Shalom has strict rules about the kosher quality of any food served there, and Evelyn was pleased to see a mostly vegetarian palate. Overall, the congregants were very friendly and studious, and Evelyn senses that the community is very liberal (though not to a fault).