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Department of Statistics

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Brett Presnell
Associate Professor
225 Griffin-Floyd Hall
(352) 392 1941
FAX: (352) 392 5175
presnell@stat.ufl.edu

Office Hours
MWF: 11:45am–12:35 pm

[FSF Associate Member]

Gripes

A few things that annoy the heck out of me. I should probably remove this page, or rename it "lost causes," but I'll leave it for now. No offense intended to anyone.

U.S. Coins and Bills

Since 1857, when the half cent coin was discontinued, the smallest U.S. coin has been the one cent coin, the penny. According to the inflation calculator, that 1857 penny was worth 23 cents in 2009 dollars.

When I was a young child in the mid-sixties, candy bars and packs of chewing gum were a nickel (I remember when they jumped up to a dime); now they're nearly a dollar. Back then we could buy small, individual pieces of candy for a penny, so pennies at least made some sense in a six-year-old's economy. But a February 2010 penny is worth less than 15/100 of a cent in 1965 currency. Trust me, no child feel the need of a 1/10 cent coin back then.

A February 2010 dollar is worth slightly less than 15 cents in 1965 dollars, so a 2010 dime is worth less than 1.5 cents. The dime is the new penny. (More precisely, the dime is the new 1947 penny, since that how far you have to go back to get exact equality using the consumer price index of February 2010.) Or, if you go back to 1857, when the penny was already our smallest coin, then the quarter is the new penny.

So we should at least get rid of the penny and the nickel, and possibly replace them with two dollar and five dollar coins, meanwhile getting rid of the dollar and five dollar bills. But if you think about it, having dimes and quarters but no nickels doesn't work very well. We could also drop the quarter (effectively replacing it with with the 50 cent piece), but it might be better to drop the dime, leaving quarter, half dollar, dollar, and five dollar coins. Given how hard it is to get the coinage changed, you certainly want to get ahead of the game when you do it, and this would put our coinage in about the same the situation that it was in in 1857 when the penny first became our smallest coin.

However, I think that the best system that has any chance to be implemented in my lifetime would replace the six coins currently in common use (penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, dollar) with coins of denominations $0.10, $0.20, $0.50, $1.00, $2.00, and $5.00, taking us back roughly to the mid-1960s in terms of the value of our smallest coin. And the size of the coins should increase as their value increases, avoiding the current situation in which our $0.10 coin (the dime) is much smaller than our $0.05 coin (the nickel).

Need more convincing? It costs us 1.7 cents to make each penny. The cost of handling a penny in a transaction exceeds the value of the penny. Pennies, nickels, and one dollar bills are relics. Let's get rid of them. Our inability to fix this is equivalent to hanging a huge sign on the Statue of Liberty saying "America is on the decline and cannot do even the simplest thing to right her ship." Except that the sign would be far less expensive to maintain.

Finally, here is a great video rant on this topic. That is not me in the video, but I'm a lot like this when I think too much about the issue — it drives me completely around the bend.

UPDATE: There is a petition on the White House web site about this, and President obama actually responds here.

Language Peeves

It's "play a role", not "play a factor" (think about it, and stop saying "play a factor").

And impact is not a verb. I suppose that we can allow, e.g., "a meteor impacted the Earth", even though it sounds slightly pretentious (what's wrong with "hit the Earth" or "struck the Earth"?). Similarly, you might say that the Earth was "impacted by a meteor," and you might have an "impacted tooth". Otherwise you should stick with "A affected B" or "A had an impact (or an effect) on B." Who started this business of replacing the verb "affect" by the non-verb "impact" anyway? Is everyone trying to sound like Al Haig?

Colorblindness

Like 7 to 10 percent of males, I'm red-green colorblind. This isn't really a gripe (although as a joke I used to gripe at my mom for passing the gene on to me), but it would be nice if people who make graphs and maps and other things that use color to carry information realized that many of us are missing the picture. There are sites and even programs to help, like this one.

By the way, if the background of your powerpoint slides is white, we probably can't see the dot produced by your laser pointer.

Numeric Dates

This isn't really a gripe either, but both the American (e.g., 2/27/2013) and the European (e.g., 27/2/2013) methods of writing numeric dates are terrible (especially if you ever have to sort data by date). XKCD explains how it should be done:

xkcd comic on numeric dates

xorg.conf

Another non-gripe, because X11 has been my friend since the 80's. Still, if you know what this comic refers to, you will understand the sentiment (there was a time when I had similar feelings about sendmail.cf):

xkcd comic on xorg.conf

HTML Email

Speaking of lost causes ...

Please stop sending HTML email, it's evil, and whenever possible you should turn it off! Here are some instructions on how to configure your email client to sent plain text only (no HTML).

MS Word Attachments

... and another lost cause ...

Please leave off the MS Word attachments as well: save the file as plain text before sending it (preferred), or, if you really do need to preserve some fancy formatting, save the file in an open document format, such as pdf or the Open Document Format, not the proprietary MS Word "doc" format. For more on the weakness of MSWord as a document exchange format, see MS-Word is Not a Document Exchange Format.

   
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