On coins and the greenback

May 6, 2012

I flew over to the US today, New York then on by train to Washington for a two day run of the new advanced course.  I lot of fun on the train from Penn Street with Michael Cheveldave (who is co-teaching with me) talking about the content.  He had pulled out some old papers with material that was a little too advanced at the time, or didn't work out exactly the way we wanted.  ABIDE for example which works like ASHEN (more on that this week); its a mnemonic for Attractors, Boundaries, Identity, Diversity and Environment and was designed to allow people a better focus on what can be managed in a complex system.  Its remained in use with some practitioners in the network (Joseph Pelrine and Viv Read come to mind but there are others) but I have not really done much with it until recently.  Either way more on that after its being taught this week.

Since the Airtrain arrived at JFK I frequently come to DC via New York.  It means I can fly on American Airlines which means upgrades!  Its also an easy transit to Jamaica, then into Penn Street and on.  Penn is not the best of stations, no where to get a decent coffee for example and the nearest Starbucks too far away if you have luggage.  The transit at Jamaica always puzzles me.  You can't buy a ticket in the terminals, so everyone queues at the limited number of ticket machines.  There are only two if you want the Long Island Railway option which is about the fastest routing.  Then there is the change.  I bought a ticket for just under $12 with a $20 note and my change came in dollar coins – the Presidential series so I have James Garfield and Franklin Pierce.  No one wants these coins and the dollar bill, grubby, stained and creased through too many transactions is preferred.  Its not a hostility to coins per se as quarters, dimes etc. remain usable.  But if you hand over a coin you get that look, rather like trying to use a Scottish or Northern Irish note in England, but with more studied indifference.

I discovered on wikipedia that the Presidential series were abandoned on cost grounds.   I suppose its rather like the debate in the UK to abandon the penny.  When it costs you more to produce the currency item that said item is worth I suppose its time to think.  But why does the US not move over to coins for the one and five dollar bills?  Or if the obsession with notes is there, move over to the plastic used in Singapore and Australia?

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