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Making Change

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6 Responses

  1. “I confess I cannot help but feel, for a moment, contemptuous of people who have no compelling excuse: they are not impaired in any manner, and they seem to be natives of this great nation of ours.”

    Have you seen the state of public education in this “great nation”? Just to pick one city at random, check out the wikipedia page for the Detroit (your hometown, right?) public school system. What exactly should the reasonable expectations for graduates of these schools be?

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    I don’t know if it’s still true, but when I travelled in Europe 10 or 20 years ago, I recall getting cold stares from vendors if you did *not* make an effort to make the change round out to fewer coins or bills. A few would imperiously start grabbing change out of your hand if you were slow at the math.

    Contrast that with the Staples clerk who, when informed that the register total of around $11 for 4 small items totaling about $9 was incorrect, looked at us suspiciously and asked, “How could you know that?” I think she was surprised not at our ability to do rough estimates in our head, but at the very concept.

  3. Moz says:

    I agree. People who use commonly available tools instead of doing the work themselves are fools. Starting from the natural raw materials and doing everything ourselves is the only respectable way to achieve anything. It’s idiots like them with their “internet” and their mass-produced “computers” that have destroyed people’s ability to make their own vellum and handcraft proper illustrated manuscripts. How could I respect the opinion of someone like that, helpless in the face of something as trivial as a power cut?

  4. katie says:

    How do you know they’re not impaired in any way? Impairments aren’t always immediately obvious, especially in the kind of interactions that come up with a cash register.

    It’s also worth remembering – on the change, at least – that people in restaurants are often working long hours for little pay while being screamed at by imperious customers and managers (not you, I’m sure, but odds are some of the customers who came before you). It’s understandable that many of them would get frazzled and not be able to do math correctly by the end of their shift especially when it gets into people trying to get the maximum number of quarters.

    The Washington, D.C. thing is perhaps a bit less understandable.

  5. Jimbino says:

    I remember a grizzled engineer I worked under as a youth in 1966 who, when faced with calculating the power produced by 20 mA at 20 volts, whipped out his sliderule and said, “399.95, let’s call it 400″ mA.

    The interesting thing to me is that he had calculated in his head the approximate size of the result, since otherwise he wouldn’t know where to put the decimal point. Since the demise of the sliderule in favor of the calculator, you’ll commonly find folks who multiply 19.97 mA by 20.2 V and tell you, “403.394″ Amperes, or something worse.

    More amazing to me, however, is the ease at which folks who give lipservice to science still pray and talk about the “power of prayer” when a simple scientific experiment will show that it doesn’t work at all (or in the case of football matches, exactly half the time).

  6. Jimbino says:

    I remember a grizzled engineer I worked under as a youth in 1966 who, when faced with calculating the power produced by 20 mA at 20 volts, whipped out his sliderule and said, “399.95, let’s call it 400″ mA.

    The interesting thing to me is that he had calculated in his head the approximate size of the result, since otherwise he wouldn’t know where to put the decimal point. Since the demise of the sliderule in favor of the calculator, you’ll commonly find folks who multiply 19.97 mA by 20.2 V and tell you, “403.394″ Amperes, or something worse.

    More amazing to me, however, is the ease at which folks who give lipservice to science still pray and talk about the “power of prayer” when a simple scientific experiment will show that it doesn’t work at all (or in the case of football matches, exactly half the time).

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