When I was in high school, my brother and I got into one of those arguments that only teenaged boys get into, and I grabbed one of his coin-collecting books and tossed it out the back door. He made a fuss and my mother came running. He told her what I had done and she went to slap my face. Of course, I put my elbow up to deflect the blow, and Mom hit it, hard. With her hand in pain, she then tried to kick me. She was wearing deck shoes, which didn’t have much substance, and almost broke her toe. She spent the next week limping around with a big bruise on her hand. My brother and I thought it was hilarious.
One of the first examples they use in a Probability and Statistics class is tossing, or flipping, a coin. If the coin is a fair one, the odds of getting “heads” are 1 in 2, or 0.5. We then progress to rolling a standard six-sided die, for which the probability of rolling any one of the numbers (assuming it’s a fair die and not “loaded”) is 1 in 6 (or 0.1666666…). It gets a little trickier when you move to two dice, or three, or five (I once tried to figure out the probability of a Yahtzee on a single roll of the dice and about drove myself crazy). And don’t get me started on the dice used in many role-playing games.
But anyway, back to the coins. I picked up a book on the I Ching when I was in high school, thinking that it might unlock the secrets of the universe or something. They said that it was possible to use a handful of coins to create the hexagrams, after which you look it up in the book and it tells you something you can’t understand. I decided to have a whack at it, and used fifty pennies to do my divining with. Of course, tossing that many coins over and over makes a racket, and it drew my mother’s attention.
“What are you doing?”
“Casting the I Ching, Mom.”
“The I Ching. See?” I showed her the book.
“Oh, for God’s sake. Clean your room.”
So much for figuring out the secrets of the universe.
By the way, I have been listening to the sound of a laundromat, also known as a coin-op laundry, while I’ve been writing this. I use the site MyNoise.net, which has a million sounds (or at least fifty). Check them out.
Stream of Consciousness Saturday is sponsored by Linda Hill.