Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2006 Election

The election this year is becoming exciting.  In the US, we vote next Tuesday.    Electoral-Vote.com, which was a really cool site to track the 2004 election, is up and running again with polls for the senate and house races in 2006.

My prediction is that the Democrats will take both the house and the senate, because many Republicans may choose not to show up while at the same time many Democrats are angry and motivated to get out there and vote.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Old $20 Found

(sorry for not updating for a while... here is a silly/nerdy story for you).

Something strange happened the other day. I used the Bank of America ATM at the MIT Student Center to withdraw $60. I received the money as 3 crisp $20 bills. The strange thing is that it was one 1950 bill and two 1969 bills. I was a little surprised because it's been a long time since I've seen the old "small head" design of the 20. I immediately started to wonder where the bank came across these old bills in crisp condition. Did someone find a stash of cash when their grandfather died? Was this part of some Mafia breakup? Are these fake bills printed in North Korea? The old US currency is one of the easiest to confereit, or so I hear.

There is a second cool thing about this. The bill from 1950 says:

This means that this 20 dates back to the Gold Standard, which meant that you could switch your $20 bill for $20 worth of gold or silver. Pretty cool? I wonder if I could still do it, because the bill says I can. ( I doubt it).

This brings up one more little known fact. This bill does not say "In God we Trust". The words "In God We Trust" were not always on US Currency, like so many people believe. They were added all over the place in the US during the cold war to show that we are not a "godless country" like the evil communists. This is not the whole story though.. According to the wikipedia article, these words were added to coins dating back to the civil war. Also according to the wikipedia article, replacing the words "redeemable in lawful money" with "In God We Trust" is a subtle irony... which I found to be subtly funny.

My personal opinion is that these words are a clear violation of the principle of the separation of church and state. The words imply that the whole nation, "we", trust in God. I interpret this as a command from the government to the people. This is saying, if you're really one of us, you must believe (trust) in god. There is no need for this on our currency. In my opinion it should be taken to the Supreme Court and found unconstitutional, but no one is willing to challenge religious sentiment these days.

Just one more thing... for the curious, $20 in 1950 is worth $168 in today's dollars accord to the consumer price index. This means that whoever stuffed a crisp stack of these $20's in a safe was probably very wealthy. If this $20 had been invested (and returned to circulation) instead of stored somewhere, it would be worth $300 at 5% interest or $6900 (wow!) at 11% interest (the approximate historical return for the stock market since then...). Lesson: Don't stuff you money in a box....Unless you are trying to excite a nerd (me) someday...