Posted tagged ‘coins’

“Whoever snatched my formerly reliable, sharp short-term memory: I’d like it back now, please.”

January 24, 2017

Last night it poured. I fell asleep to the pounding on my roof and to the tremendous wind. It truly howled. This morning I woke to another dark, rainy day. It will be warm. Right now it is 49˚. The low will be 40˚. Winter has gone on hiatus for a few days.

When I was a kid, I did my homework at the kitchen table every day. I remember memorizing the times tables, spelling words and the Baltimore Catechism. “Who made you?” “God made me.” Questions and their answers from that catechism are still lingering, unused and unneeded, in my memory drawers, but the times tables and spelling words are part of my every day. Sometimes I had to do written homework, often worksheets. Mostly they were arithmetic lessons. The one I remember the most was a sheet to practice using coins. I had to add or subtract nickles, dimes or quarters.

I was never good at numbers. I used to hide my fingers under my desk so I could count. The nuns kept sharp eyes for finger counters so I had to be sly. The spelling words were easy. Every week I had to learn 20 new words for a test on Friday. I think I always got a 100, not a boast but evidence of a good memory. If I spelled the words out loud a few times, I learned them. My memory always saved me. That’s not so true anymore. As I get older, pulling answers from memory drawers gets more and more difficult because I can’t find them, but I have learned to compensate. I use my mother’s technique of going through the alphabet a letter at a time hoping one will jog my memory. I also use mnemonics. The funny thing is that often out of nowhere the answer jumps unexpectedly into my head long after I had searched for it. I hate not finding it, but I get comfort knowing the answers are still there.

“Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual worker.”

March 24, 2016

We’re back to dreary and cold. I had put away my flannels only to pull them out this morning. I’m even wearing socks. I spent a couple of hours earlier with my neighbor, the one who became a citizen. We just chat, my way for her to learn better conversational English. She is still having trouble with has and have. I don’t speak any Portuguese beyond please and thank you so I am quite amazed with her grasp of English, a language with weird rules and odd spellings.

I remember workbooks from elementary school. We had one for arithmetic and one for English.  My most vivid memory of a math page was the one on coins. It had a line up of a reasonable facsimile of each coin. I had to figure which coins and how many I needed for something like 35 cents. The answer had to be the smallest amount of coins. A quarter and a dime would get me a check; three dimes and a nickel would merit an X. Dollars were self-evident and didn’t appear in my workbook. We’d do a page or two during the lesson, and sometimes had to finish at home.

The English workbook was filled with things like contractions, subject-verb agreement, singular and plural words and verb tenses. There were pages filled with sentences which had one blank. You had to choose between he or him, she or her and all the rest of the pronouns. I’ve come to believe that many people were either sick at home or sleeping in class and subsequently missed that particular lesson. TV dialogue is rife with errors. I hear things like, give the book to him and I or to her and I, and it makes me cringe. I’ve been told that’s the way people talk now so I should accept it, but what’s wrong is wrong as far as I’m concerned.

I think music and language are similar. If someone plays or sings a piece of music off-key, people don’t find that entertaining. They cringe. They don’t say that’s the way people sing now. I wish language was given the same respect.

I find language beautiful. The right words strung together can fill you with love or longing. They can make you laugh or cry. They have the power to hurt, to cut. Our memories are images described in words.

I accept new words and I know old ones disappear from lack of use. Language is fluid, but the form doesn’t change. A name is a noun. An action word is a verb. The object of the preposition is objective case. It’s him, not he. It’s me, not I. That’s all I’m asking.

“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra. ”

September 8, 2014

The weather today is perfect. The morning is cool, the sun bright, a breeze stirs the air and the sky is brilliant blue with just a few clouds, small and wispy. It is a read on the deck day. I have a new book, and my dance card is empty.

I remember learning about coins. It was a kind of neat when I realized that a nickel was the same as five pennies and the dime was 2 nickels or ten pennies. I gave up the notion that the bigger coin, the nickel, was worth more based on its size. The worksheets had pictures of groups of coins and two different kinds of work problems using the pictures. The first sort of problem was to figure which coins to use to reach a given amount of money and the second was to add up the coins and figure how much they were worth together. I did all the problems, even the ones with quarters, though I seldom had a quarter, a rare amount of money for any kid in those days, the days when pennies had value.

One year we learned Roman numerals and did math problems using them. Mostly we added and subtracted. It was fun to learn ancient numbers though I never expected to need the skill, this recognition of V or X or D, but Roman numerals have never disappeared and pop up in the unlikeliest of places. Luckily I can still translate the numerals because every Super Bowl has a Roman numeral designation. I went looking and found out why: because the playoffs occur in a different calendar year than the regular season, the league can’t have the Super Bowl identified by year, like the NBA Finals or World Series. It’d be too confusing. For example, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014 but are the champions of the 2013 season. It’s easier to say the team won Super Bowl XLVIII, but there is now a glitch. For Super Blow L in 2016 they are ditching the L for the equivalent 5o because the NFL thinks the L by itself would be too confusing for the average person. The next year, though, we’ll go back to the tradition for Super Bowl LI. I guess average people understand two numbers.

A totally useless skill I learned was how to read and notate Gregorian chant. I liked making and coloring in the square boxes, but I have had no occasion to use it since.

Algebra, though, still remains two years of wasted time. Why I had to take algebra at all or even worse Algebra 2 or II is one of life’s mysteries. I haven’t ever used it. I know it has applications. I even found descriptions of a few. At the playground if you knew the weight of a person at the top of the slide and you knew the height of the slide you could roughly calculate how fast you would be traveling as you exited the bottom of the slide. Why would I care? What if the slide is sticky as some are? Then there’s dropping a rock off the roof of a house and wondering how long would it take to hit the ground. If you didn’t get caught climbing on the roof and somehow dropped a second rock 100 times as heavy off of the same roof of the same house, how long would it take to hit the ground? Then there’s the never going to happen part of the application which is used mostly for effect: If you somehow brought a bulldozer up to the roof of the house and dropped it, how long would it take for the bulldozer to hit the ground? Now you get to use your algebra and you’ll have the answer in no time.

“Coins always make sound but currency notes are always silent, so when ever your value increases keep yourself calm and silent.”

January 16, 2014

Yesterday was lovely with sun and unseasonable warmth. Gracie and I had some errands, but first I wanted a bit of fun shopping. The store, though, was closed as was the candy store beside it where I could have salved my disappointment with a bit of chocolate, my panacea for any ills or low spirits. Sadly I was left with utilitarian shopping for dog food, cat litter, bread and eggs. I did buy a cupcake, a chocolate cupcake, which raised my spirits.

Today is dark and damp, the air perfectly still. It is not the sort of weather which tempts me to go out or even to get dressed. I will make my bed and pay my bills and consider it a day well-spent, yup, well-spent.

I remember learning about money. The worksheet had drawings of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I guess the 50 cent piece wasn’t important or the nuns thought we could figure it out by elimination and, if that didn’t work, by reading the coin. The worksheet was filled with math problems using money. What coins would you use to add up to 12 cents, 28 cents or 30 cents? I, who never liked math, enjoyed the coin problems. They were more like a puzzle. What coins would you give back if the person gave you a quarter for a purchase of 17 cents? Even though that was real math, subtraction, you still had the puzzle of which coins. For a long time after that I always counted out my coins one at a time from one hand to the other. I’d say ten cents for the dime then eleven cents, twelve cents and on and on when I added pennies. When I was older, I got an allowance of 50 cents a week, always a single coin.

Most birthdays I got a dollar in my cards from my aunt and my grandmother. That opened up a whole new can of worms. Counting money got just a bit more complicated