Statistics Saturday: Some Outcomes of Coin Tosses

  • Called tails, came up heads
  • Called heads, came up tails
  • Called tails, coin bounced out of control and rolled under Dig-Dug
  • Called heads, came up heads
  • Called tails, coin flopped onto shoe and got lost in the laces
  • Came up heads before anyone could finish calling
  • Called heads, came up tails, swore they called heads instead
  • Called tails, cool friend snatched coin out of the air
  • Got into argument about who gets to call and who gets to toss, get into heated round of rock-paper-scissors to decide tossing and calling order.
  • Called tails, came up heads, agreed to extend this to three-out-of-five
  • Called heads, two-tailed fox emerges from video game to ask what your problem with him is
  • Called heads, came up tails, swore they called heads instead; a brawl ensues
  • Called heads, landed sideways when it got caught in a crack in the floorboards, had temporarily the power to be Dick York and also read minds
  • Called heads, power blipped out mid-toss and couldn’t see the coin
  • Called tails, came up heads, agreed to extend this to four-out-of-seven
  • Called tails, noticed was two-headed coin, causing accusations of cheating; a brawl ensues
  • Called heads, tossed coin, never came down because you forgot you were on top-secret spaceship flying to Mars
  • Called tails, tossed coin, never came down because you forgot you were on top-secret spaceship flying to Mars
  • Called heads, came up it was the Mount Rushmore national-parks quarter so arguably both sides are heads and it isn’t even a cheating coin; a brawl ensues
  • Called heads, came up tails

Reference: Computers In Spaceflight: the NASA Experience, James E Tomayko.


I imagine my love and I aren’t alone in following the news about that giant Canadian coin stolen from that museum in Berlin. If you missed the news, a giant Canadian coin was stolen from this museum in Berlin. Here “giant” refers to the coin. It was a solid gold piece with a denomination of one million Canadian dollars. It’s worth, at current gold prices, of over four million Canadian dollars. (This suggests a great money-making scheme, wherein if we get enough money together it’ll be four times as much money. Joke’s on you. We’ve all bought into the scheme and called it “the economy”.) The Canada was the normal-size Canada as far as I know. What’s a little enchanting about this is that the coin denomination is bilingual. On one half it reads “1 Million Dollars”. On the other it’s “1 Million de Dollars”. I love the old-fashioned sound of “a million of dollars”. It redoles of gilded-age finance. I know “redole” is not a word. I mean “it’s redolent of” but I’m trying to avoid passive constructions.

The theory of how this 21-inch-across, 220-pound coin got stolen is that the thieves dragged it through the museum, out a window, and down along the railway track. My love pondered what a hobo walking that line would make of seeing a giant gold coin being rolled down the way. I know what I would do in that circumstance. I would bug out my eyes, reach into my hobo jacket, pull out the whiskey flask, dramatically pour out the contents, and toss the empty canister over my shoulder. I have seen too many stupid movies. It’s affecting my behavior in hypothetical situations.

The Royal Canadian Mint made five of these million-Canadian-dollar gold coins “because we can”, according to its web site according to The New York Times. That’s a fair reason. It beats “because we can’t” or “because the alternative is to be licked by an opossum” or “because otherwise we have to paint the basement”. At least it’s a fair reason to make the first one. You can’t really prove you can do a thing unless you do the thing, or do something close to the thing. Like if they minted a 975,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. If they ever did that I’d entertain no doubts about their ability to make a million-Canadian-dollar gold coin. But it looks like they skipped right to the million one. Maybe they were confident after the success of their 925,000-Canadian-dollars gold coin. Or maybe out back they have a bunch of test misfires. Coins that came out as spheres, say, or that swapped the locations of the English and the French denomination inscriptions. Or that time they put gold into the machinery and a bunch of cheeseburgers came out and they can’t explain that.

I don’t know who the other four million-Canadian-dollar were made for, or why. At least one was put on display in some Berlin museum. I guess that’s better than leaving it in the Stray Stuff drawer in the front desk, along with the rubber bands that break when you try to band things together and that couple of pound coins you swore you were going to spend the last time you went to Britain and then didn’t. But what purpose do the others serve besides proving your annoying lefty friends correct about the moral imperative to grind up the rich for bone meal?

The Royal Canadian Mint will make more, in case you want one and are willing to risk the Revolution not coming anytime too soon. That’s got me wondering how much it costs to get a million-dollar coin minted. At least a million dollars seems likely. But how much more on top of that? And can you get it FOB? This is a very funny joke to people who remember that mention of railroad tracks earlier and who also get lots of stuff delivered by the Railway Express Agency, which folded in 1975, which is why I’m a humor blogger and not a successful humor blogger. I wonder if you get a discount if you bring your own gold. I’m imagining now showing up at the front door of the Royal Canadian Mint, at I’m guessing 1867 Mint Street, Canadopolis, Canada K1A 0G8, with a wheelbarrow full of ore and asking where the service counter is. (Alternatively, “où est le counter de service?” which is pretty good French considering how long it’s been since I took a class.) I bet they have a pamphlet showing the way. Mints like that always have more and more specific pamphlets than you could imagine.

Also the million-Canadian-dollar gold coin is merely one of the world’s largest gold coins. A correction to the New York Times article reads:

While it was the world’s largest gold coin when it was issued, in 2007, that distinction is now held by the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin, minted in 2011.

I shall be very disappointed if the Australian Kangaroo One Tonne Gold Coin is not the most dangerous gold coin in existence. I know what a dangerous ecosystem finance is, and Australia’s got to have the most dangerous. I bet it’s highly venomous and prone to exploding when threatened.

And now I’m wondering, what if it was just someone from Giant Canada that picked it up? Thought it was loose giant change in the giant drawer? I’d go ask Giant Canada but my voice isn’t loud enough for them to hear me at that height. I suppose it isn’t something I have to resolve, anyway.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Trading dropped three points before dissolving into just a mess when someone brought up that recent Family Circus from a little while ago where they use the phrase “on fleek”. And we never knew “on fleek” was a thing, but blast if we’re going to let Family Circus be more in-touch with the pop culture than we are. And yeah, that “on fleek” has gotten to where it’s appearing in the comic strips that don’t admit they’re reruns of decades-old strips sometimes with a little new art means the phrase has to be completely dead and maybe two years away from an ironic revival but sheeesh no, we can’t have this at all and now we’re going to have to look up that David S Pumpkins thing that everybody was giggling about back in October right before the world ended?


Statistics Saturday: What We Found In The New 2015 Penny

'You won't believe what we found inside the new 2015 penny', it claims. This picture is from 2015.
Clickbait artists are poor judges of what I find believable. Warning: do not click!

I admit the clickbait ad above made me curious. So I checked. Here’s what was inside the new 2015 penny:

2004 Penny Struggling To Escape Capture; Merengue; Trilithium Resin; Poise, Gallantry; Wood Pulp. Also some fan fiction and some chocolate 2-Euro coin wedges. And a kind heart.
Oh, yeah, and there’s something about zinc.

When The Car Wash Changed Management

I was passing one of those self-service car wash stations and noticed its sign proclaimed it was “BACK UNDER OLD MANAGEMENT”. Possibly it declared the back-ness to be proud. That’s the normal emotional tone to put on that sort of declaration. But I was busy with driving and all that, and then wondering: those things have management? It’s a self-service car wash, just a concrete overhang and a bunch of coin-operated hoses of varied content. Having management at all seems to risk over-administrating it, even if all you do is stop in once a month to confirm the place isn’t currently on fire in important ways.

But there must be management at all, if nothing else to make sure that once every two months the sign proclaiming this to be a self-service car wash is turned off for four hours, thereby establishing that the sign isn’t some public feature just there to light the way but rather a private service that can be turned off at will or when the bulb burns out. So I guess that’s where management comes in at all, and can get changed, and go on to mess things up so badly that the old management coming back is worth crowing about. Still I’m imagining how the new management’s failure unfolded.

Surely new management began optimistically, with a sign proclaiming “NOW UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT”, though probably not saying who the new management was, since that would add an embarrassing personal touch to the place’s existence. New Management probably declared optimism and good cheer and maybe even an amnesty for people who abandon one-quarter-filled McCafe cups on top of the vacuum cleaners. That showed how poorly New Management understood the community, that they would interpret as slight littering their clientele’s ongoing public art project about consumerism and Shamrock Shakes. The customers wrote hurtful things about New Management in the local art journals, not ignoring the irony that since they had no idea who New Management was, they might be sharing a line at McDonald’s behind someone who’s somehow making buying a small coffee a difficult transaction, all jollily sharing one of those inexplicable confusing things about life.

Perhaps then New Management tried to make amends, rotating the concrete planters so as to show a slightly less moldy side to the street without actually putting any plants out to die in them. And the clients responded with tentative friendliness, especially when a rumor went around that the machines were now taking Canadian coins. Due to a programming defect that manifested itself with a new firmware update, because surely we’re in an age where self-service car wash change boxes need firmware updates, the machines were indeed taking Canadian and all other kinds of coins, sneaking into the patrons’ backseats and sometimes sending out remote units from the vacuum cleaners — those flimsy plastic heads detach for good, alarming reasons — to take any suspicious coin or coin-like items that the patron might have any dealings with. That would get sorted out in a weekly bug fix, but not before the community had lost literally several wheatpennies and a token for a Dance Dance Revolution game from a family fun center just outside Saginaw, Michigan.

Sure, a mis-step, but really the blame falls on whoever missed an obvious car-wash-automated-kleptomania bug in the firmware code update. Nobody knows who the programmers were or why they missed it. They might have been distracted by the weirdly slow line at McDonald’s. New Management tried restoring peace by setting the machine that dispenses greasy thin cloth towels for “drying” the car on free for a couple of weeks, then stopped. New Management tried drawing people back to the place by adding the scent of that thing they use to make medicines taste like cherry into the water. This would finally give patrons with sore throats a socially acceptable context to lick their side mirrors, as they’d be fresh-washed, but the plan goes wrong when new cars are attacked by swarms of coughing bees. At this point Old Management came back around, sighed, and offered to swap the self-service car wash place for something more New Management’s speed, like a disconnected telephone booth.

New Management agreed, and went to get a small McCafe coffee to feel better.

A State Of Constant Change

I want to talk about something I think we’ve lost, but I don’t want to sound like I’ve come down with a case of being old and cranky so I’m going to start off with what I like about the change. And it’s about change, like how there’s varying patterns now in pennies and nickels and the whole State Quarters series. Although at this point it isn’t really State Quarters anymore. They’ve moved on to pictures of National Parks Plus Other Park-y Things because they couldn’t think of national parks that are in some of the states out there. And then there were State Quarters for places that aren’t states, like the District of Columbia, Guam, New York City, Munchkinland, and Paris. But I don’t know how to group all this into a single name so I’m going to call them State Quarters and if someone wants to tell me that Arches National Park isn’t a State, they can come up where I can credibly threaten to poke them in the eye.

Anyway the State Quarters and other stuff project has been fun because it’s encouraged my tendencies towards coin-collecting. I don’t have any good reason to collect coins, except that they are shiny things that can be put into piles of things, and when you look at it that way it’s a wonder anyone does anything besides coin-collecting. The habit offers the obvious benefit that whenever I get change in any transaction, for fifteen years now, I’ve had to examine every single coin, adding a quick touch of suspicion and wondering whether I’ve got enough Commodore Perry Victory Memorial coins. (This is a surprisingly tricky question: I’ve been to Lake Erie, and there’s Commodore Perry Victory Memorials every 46 feet of shoreline, at least on the United States side of things. I haven’t been to the Canada side of the lake but imagine they’ve got a couple Throat-Clearing Followed By Explanations Starting, “You Have To Understand” Monuments along the Ontario shore.)

And eventually all this coin-collecting will really pay off when someday, presumably, I will die. Then whatever poor soul is tasked with the job of cleaning out my junk will get to bring stacks of coins into the coin shop, bringing a moment of sadness to anyone in the strip mall who catches sight of them, and learn that all these carefully collected State Quarters can be turned into a whole $22.50 in cash. It should be $25.00 — Philadelphia and Detroit mints, of course — but the coin shop charges a premium for counting out 100 quarters, after all, and they’re pretty sure it’s supposed to be ‘Denver’ mint anyway.

Now, I don’t want to get too cranky about the way things used to be, but I don’t see how kids growing up can appreciate how weird it is that they keep changing quarters five times a year. I grew up when coins were done the correct way, in that they were almost all the same except now and then you got a Bicentennial Quarter. It was stable. Oh, there was a bit of excitement when they changed the penny from being copper to being a copper-painted lump of high-fructose corn syrup in 1982, but the only kind of exciting penny was the one that was stuck as if glued to the tile right beside the toilet and was turning horribly green and who knew what kind of horrible things might befall the person who touched it but it was a whole penny and if you had that and 124 more of those you might buy a paperback collection of Hagar the Horrible strips next bookmobile day.

Today even the penny isn’t perfectly stable, and you can’t do the trick of offering to flip a penny and pick ‘the side showing Lincoln’s face’ because you can’t count on the tails side being the Lincoln Memorial and having a teeny tiny little Lincoln face inside there. You never could, but if you were the kind of kid who dreamed of someday being in an Encyclopedia Brown story you were sure you could pull that fast one on somebody, eventually, someday, and even that promise is lost. Encouraging these piles of coins to last after you die is great, but think of what we’re giving up.

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