## Tuesday, August 3, 2010

### Number Crunching

Today, class, we're going to talk about "real" and "imaginary" numbers (Yes, those are actual math terms, but don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to define them....or add/subtract/multiply or divide them! Consider it more of a philosophical discussion...)

For our first example, consider this very Blog. Those of you who are counting--and I know that you are, right?--are aware that this is the (pause for dramatic effect) two-hundredth post! Now, I'm sure you're thinking the same thing I am: Jeez Louise, that's a LOT of babbling from one woman! But whatever your opinion about my random scribblings, (can we even say that anymore? what's the keyboard equivalent? random tappings? just doesn't have the same ring...where was I? oh, yeah...) that number represents a concrete, measurable result, achieved by sitting exactly where I am right now (in a chair in my bedroom, with my laptop and a cold drink, for those of you who were wondering), twice a week for the past almost-two-years, an hour or so at a time. (Wow...200...what does that mean? apparently, I have an endless supply of silliness and like to hear myself talk...but that's a topic for another time...)

Then we have what I think of as "phantom numbers". At least in my world, these increasingly show up in relation to money.What used to be known as "cold, hard cash" has become "swipe the card" or even "enter the number on the website" followed by "pay the bill at the end of the month" (also online, of course). No dollars or coins are actually exchanged. The transactions consist entirely of two parties accepting numbers on a piece of paper or a screen.  Don't get me wrong, in some ways, this is a beautiful thing. Not only can I skip the visit--during regular business hours only, of course--to the brick-and-mortar bank for cash, I don't even have to drive by the ATM machine anymore! And I was recently able to open an online CD by transferring funds from one bank to the other, all from the home PC. I did stop to wonder: was there ever an actual person who handled the actual money involved? Beats the heck out of me. All I know is: I clicked a few times, some totals changed, and I have faith that if I ask politely for it someday, someone will give me some currency that I can hold in my hand. (By then I might not know what to do with it anymore, we'll see...) But my personal favorite has to be those mystical "reward dollars" that are placed in my sons' future college fund every time I use that credit card. Pure magic, I tell ya. Where does that money come from? Who knows! No one's ever really seen it, but my computer screen tells me it's there, so I believe! Yes, Virginia, there IS a Credit Card Santa Clause!

But (you were waiting for the BUT, right?) the Cyber World of Finance can turn around and bite you in the...tushie...sometimes. Like this morning, when I logged on at 8 a.m. to check email and found a message warning me that "fraud had been detected" on my account. (How? I was asleep!) Apparently, some villainous hacker-person bought a few items from an online catalog overnight using our credit card number, and the bank pounced on it (which makes me really grateful that evidently they don't sleep!) Since both of our cards remained firmly in our wallets, Royce and I are stymied as to how this happened. (ie: who's peeping into our computer activity? cut that out, you creepy scary person!) But thanks to the vigilance of Big Brother Bank, the problem was shut down right there, before it could get any worse. Of course we're not responsible for the fraudulent charges, but we had to...cut up our cards! (she says with a gasp and a heavy sigh)  So until the new ones arrive, it's going to have to be strictly Real World spending for me, but I hope to rejoin the Virtual Economy very soon! And I also pray I can remember my PIN number for the ATM!