## Crunch Time for School

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up tomorrow, so I am rushing to finish my school assignments so the day can be free and dedicated to celebrating.

It’s funny, but in the beginning of the school year, Severe Weather was the tough course. Now, it’s Statistical Climatology.

Tonight, doing some homework necessary for a quarterly test, I worked for a half hour on a problem only to realize the data was split between two pages, so I had left half of it out. This problem had dozens of individual little steps. And, after a point, everything became dependent on what you had previously calculated.

When I realized how long it would take to redo everything, I went a little crazy. If only I knew how to do it on a spreadsheet!

I tried getting my friend Bob on Instant Messenger. He’s Mr. Meteorology (actually Dr. Meteorology) and a math wiz. Nothing. So, a quick call to Paul in California who has used spreadsheets for years to do budgets… but never stat work and never using any functions other than add, subtract, multiply and divide. I needed to do square roots and other obscure functions.

As I was hearing about Paul’s limitations, Bob answered the IM call. I hung up on Paul and phoned Bob. In two minutes I had accomplished as much as I had before I discovered my error earlier!

I don’t want to sound like George HW Bush at that Grocery Convention a few years back&#185, but I have no experience with spreadsheets. They were, after all, the first ‘killer app’ for computers – beginning with Visicalc. I should have a working knowledge.

It is astounding what I was able to do, accurately, and in very short order. And, to do the simple stuff was fairly easy. I should be able to go back without trouble.

I am using the spreadsheet built into OpenOffice.org, which is a Microsoft Office look alike/work alike… and it’s FREE! I would like OpenOffice.org more if it was supported by books. There are dozens of books on Microsoft Office but hardly anything to buy on OpenOffice.org.

With the homework now finished, tomorrow I can take my tests (actually, later today).

&#185Today, for instance, [Bush] emerged from 11 years in Washington’s choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket.

Visiting the exhibition hall of the National Grocers Association convention here, Mr. Bush lingered at the mock-up of a checkout lane. He signed his name on an electronic pad used to detect check forgeries.

“If some guy came in and spelled George Bush differently, could you catch it?” the President asked. “Yes,” he was told, and he shook his head in wonder.

Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.

“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”

Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the President in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.

Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.

From The New York Times