Scientists have estimated the probability of you being born at about one in 400 trillion. Those odds are ten times greater than winning the Powerball and four thousand times greater than being hit by lightning. (As for winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning together, well, our math skills don’t reach that far.)

It turns out the amount of available DNA is so vast that the chance of it combining in the certain specific pattern to form the person you see in the mirror is virtually impossible. No scientific chance whatsoever. And yet, here you are.

But the news gets more amazing — since those odds of one in 400 trillion against don’t take into account the chance of your parents meeting, finding each other attractive, consummating their relationship, and having a single sperm and a single egg unite in joyous conception. We are now up to one in 400 quadrillion. (Even more if you add in surrogates.) And in case you’re wondering how big a quadrillion is, think of it as 1,000 trillions. In other words, a f***ing huge number.

Are we finished? No, not yet. Factor your ancestors going back four billion years, all the variables that could have prevented them from ever meeting, dating, mating, and so on …well, by the time you add up all the coincidences in this long tail scenario, the chances of you being here are one in ten to the power of 2,685,000. So the odds that you exist are basically zero. But because you do exist, and you’re now aware of how precarious that is, you’re the big winner today in the jackpot of life.  Even if all you’re doing right now is eating a chicken burrito with extra hot sauce.

That makes today a “fall on your knees, cry-tears-of-joy” kind of day.  Dancing is an appropriate response to this news. So is finishing your burrito and thanking the server for the extra hot sauce. Congratulations on that too.

Having a special number that has sacred meaning for you is something that’s simple to do, but offers invaluable strength when facing daily challenges like deciding what PIN number to program into your ATM card.

One case in point: the number four (“4”) is sacred to the Zia Indians, as this digit embodies the powers of nature – the four directions of east, west, north, and south, the seasons, and the ages of man. 4 was also Babe Ruth’s number, a fortunate choice as he powered the Yankees to 7 world championships and hit 714 homers aided only by hotdogs, not steroids.

Of course, the Chinese would disagree. 4 is a dreaded number in their view. This is because it sounds similar to the Chinese word ‘si’ which means ‘death’.  The Sultan of Swat died at age 53, so they might have a point.

For your number, you may want to reflect on the best year of your life thus far. Then again, you could just pick a number out of a hat and immediately tattoo it on your chest in a sign of “letting go.” Whatever you decide, choose a number that means something to you.* Write it down and place it in your wallet for easy referral.

Use your new number as often as you can. If you’re drafted by a professional sports team, request the number on your jersey. When asked how many silver dollar flapjacks you want at breakfast, request this number.  If you customize your license plate, use it after your nickname, or “go big” and legally change your name to a number as our extremely successful friend 834,216 did.

May your number prove to be a winner in all areas of life. Good luck to you!

*If want to get esoteric about it, you could ask a numerologist to “do your numbers” for you. Among them are your life path, your destiny, your soul urge, and your inner dream.  Some swear by it. Some swear at it. It’s entertaining, whatever your view.

Opening Day is normally associated with the beginning of the major league baseball season, bringing a sense of hope that at the very least, sub-freezing temperatures are behind us and spring has finally arrived.

But we see no reason why the pastime should only be relegated to balls and strikes. Here are some suggestions for celebrating opening day outside of a ballpark, tavern, or Best Buy electronics store.

Open a window. Not only can open windows boost mood by letting in some fresh air, the very act can be good for the environment. Indoor air pollution has been described by the EPA as a primary environmental health problem. In addition, the American College of Allergists states that 50 percent of all illnesses are caused by polluted indoor air. So grab that sash and fling wide the windows. You’ll be glad you did.

Open a jar of sauerkraut.  In addition to going great on a hot dog (the classic opening day meal of baseball enthusiasts), sauerkraut has amazing health benefits that might actually negate the harmful qualities of the frankfurter.

Open your “third eye.” Known as the ‘Ajna chakra’, the third eye is a source of intuitive wisdom and has the potential to lead you to the highest form of intelligence. Try some third eye meditation, with eyes closed, focused on the area between your two actual eyes. Once you start seeing a bluish-white light, you’re halfway there to healing your chakras and getting in touch with a further dimension of existence.

Open your browser and search for “Smead Jolley”.  There’s nothing more enjoyable than discovering arcane knowledge about some of the more colorful players of yesteryear, Smead being one of them. Jolley was an outfielder in the 1930s who once committed three errors on a single play.* But did Smead let his ineptitude in the field get him down? No! After getting dumped from the majors due to his poor fielding skills, he spent the rest of his career hitting the cover off the ball in the Pacific Coast League.  Back then, the PCL paid their established players in a manner commensurate with the majors, so Smead did okay for himself.  Not only that, he was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame in 2003.  Oh, and his nickname was “Smudge.” You can’t ask for more from a ballplayer.

*First he let a ball roll through his legs in the outfield. After allowing it to carom off the wall, the ball rolled back between his legs in the opposite direction. When he finally recovered the ball, he heaved it over the third baseman’s head and into the stands. **

**Although the ump took pity on him and only scored it two errors.

 

Whereby we examine why some people don’t vote, and offer remedies for this situation, including one utilized by none other than the first president of the United States.

While the cable news networks argue that the coming midterm elections are “the most crucial in our lifetime,” it’s still likely that a vast swath of registered voters won’t bother to show up. This despite a plethora of well-meaning public service announcements, editorials, cold calls, and celebrity tweets. Even if the turnout is high for a midterm, we can anticipate 40% of the electorate missing in action.

For those of us who will cast a ballot on November 6th, it’s easy to feel morally superior to the no-shows (especially if their votes could help our favorite candidates emerge victorious). But rather than look down our nose at our fellow citizens, perhaps we should examine why so many people fail to exercise their constitutional right — and then do something to improve this situation.

First off, election day isn’t a holiday, but it should be While white collar urban professionals need only walk a few blocks from their doorman buildings to their polling places, many of the working poor must travel a good distance to cast their ballot.  When you consider that many are working more than one job to feed their families, taking a few hours out of a day is not an option.

This is on top of the costs associated with voter ID requirements. A study from Harvard Law School estimates that when everything is tallied up, the cost of voting can run between $75 and $400.  Free country, you say?  Not for the 99%.

How can we rectify the injustices of our current election system?  Perhaps we should take a cue from our founding fathers and mothers. In the early days of our democracy, they respected the effort it took for farmers, laborers and townspeople to trek to the ballot boxes.  Political candidates would offer voters food and drink, evenhandedly giving “treats” to opponents as well as supporters.  A barrel of flour or a live pig could also used as an enticement.

Perhaps you believe such “pay to play” activity is morally wrong. Certainly George Washington did when he refused to supply free booze during his first run for office. But after he lost his bid for a state seat in Virginia, he earmarked a tidy sum for refreshments for his followup campaign.  Needless to say, he was more successful the second time around.

Another option is to take the grog out of the hands of the candidates, and put it into the restaurants of the people. Again, back in the 1700s, quite a few polling places were located inside saloons. And why not? Showing up to a cold, cavernous public school, library or town hall doesn’t exactly send the spirit soaring.  We could just as easily tap our local pizza establishments and barbeque joints to host election day.  Simply produce your ballot stub and the first pulled pork sandwich is on the government!

If offering sustenance to voters still makes you uneasy, how about combining the act of voting with the chance to win a large cash prize? Say, institute a national lottery which offers every voter who casts a ballot the opportunity to win a few million bucks. It’s not as outrageous as you think; this very notion was on one state’s ballot in 2006. The “Arizona Voter Reward Act” proposed that one lucky voter would claim the grand prize every time there was a major election. Proposition 200 would have provided the money by transferring unclaimed lottery winnings into a separate Voter Reward Fund, to be overseen by the Arizona State Lottery Commission.

Alas, the measure was defeated, 67% to 33%, thanks to the naysayers who wished to protect “the integrity of our elections.”  They argue that inducements such as lotteries and giveaways would get more people who are ill-informed to participate in our elections. But ill-informed according to whom? Sean Hannity?  Rachel Maddow? A law professor from ASU? And what of the large sums of cash given directly to candidates by the well-heeled, the corporations and their lobbyists? Are we to assume that’s a fair way of buying an election, but a free meatball hero at the polling station is verboten?

Let’s sidestep the sanctimony, and put the fun back into fundamentals of democracy.  If we start the campaign now, we can look forward to a 90% turnout in 2020!

*At the very least, making it less onerous to vote would be a step in the right direction.  Many countries, including Sweden, Germany, and Chile, make voter registration automatic for every citizen.  Take the time and expense of travel out of voting would also be welcome. Oregon, Colorado and Washington have instituted vote by mail systems and in the last midterms, turnout in these three states was 65.7%, vs. 48% nationally. (They also save their taxpayers millions of dollars by doing it this way. Which could be put towards the lottery idea.  Just saying.)

 

Many people put $2 in an office pool each time the lottery rises above a certain number…say $100 million. Then, after many, many months of not winning, they start to question the practice. “Christ, I’m out $200 already with nothing to show for it. Maybe I should stop playing.”*

There are two major problems with that statement. First off, you do have something to show for it — hope! For the next several hours, you get the opportunity to fantasize about your instant fortune and the dreams it will finance.  That’s enough to make the expenditure worthwhile; even a double espresso can’t jack your spirits any higher.

Give yourself ample time to reflect upon your new life.  Being the selfless giver you are, you’d give half of it away to deserving non-profits. That still leaves you richer than Croesus.  Maybe you’d buy an island. Maybe you’d start a biker gang and buy everyone matching Indian motorcycles. Stretch your imagination: you’ve paid for the privilege!

Furthermore, each time you enter the office pool, you increase the odds of your group winning. The more tickets, the better.  Not just for you, but for everyone. So you’re helping others as you help yourself.

But the biggest reason to continue to play the office pool? Knowing what will happen the day you don’t play the office pool.  They’ll win, and you’ll be watching everyone celebrate while staring into the abyss.  This will lead to chronic depression, sickness, problem drinking, even death.  $2 not to contemplate dying alone in an SRO while your former office mates are driving by in their Maserati Sport Convertibles? Well, that’s the greatest gift of all!

Here are a few numbers that came to us while we were putting together this post.  We offer them to you with our compliments. Naturally, we welcome your generosity if they come in.

*Doing a quick search on “odds of winning the lottery” only confirms ambivalence as the rational response.  At any average of 180 million to 1, you have a better chance of being eaten by a shark**, knocked into the next world by a meteor impact, or being offed by flesh-eating bacteria. Still, you can’t win it if you’re not in it.

**Please refrain from swimming if the lifeguard is away from her station.

While recent events don’t point to an improvement in the mental health of the American people, we can take heart that the good folks in Nevada are on the upswing.

In fact, a recent survey showed that of all 50 states in the union, only Nevada showed a decline in their suicide rates.  And that’s cause for celebration!

To what can we attribute this positive development amidst the collective angst being experienced in the U.S.? Could it be the easy access to casinos? The legalized prostitution?  Well, sure!  But there’s more! The SuperOptimist has done some informal research, and among the advantages to bringing your personality disorder and bipolar tendencies to Nevada are the following:

  1. No state income tax.
  2. 300 sunny days a year.
  3. Short winters.
  4. Beautiful scenery.
  5. World class skiing.
  6. Las Vegas Aviators minor league baseball.
  7. Cheap flights in and out.
  8. Legal marijuana.
  9. Good star-gazing.
  10. Second highest percentage of UFO sightings in country.
  11. No fault divorce laws.
  12. Burning Man nearby.
  13. Snickers bars made here.

Feeling better now?  Just remember, if you do move here, you need to pronounce the name of the state correctly.  It’s Nev–AD–uh, not Nev-AH-duh.

See you there!

*One thing to be aware of: Schools rank dead last in the nation. So don’t come to Nevada looking to raise your IQ or hoping your children will become Rhodes Scholars. On the plus side, if you’re a good teacher you can really make a difference here!

 

As Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”  He never let the naysayers prevent him from approaching the plate with a swagger and a smile.  Yet plenty of people wanted to see him fail, and fail he did.  Not only was the Babe called the “Sultan of Swat,” he was also known as the “King of Strikeouts.” In fact, he led the American League in whiffs five times, and accumulated 1,330 of them in his career. If he had been afraid of getting beaten at the plate, he never would have launched 714 dingers over the outfield fence.  So take a tip from the Big Bambino; dare to fail, and laugh about it when you do.  Then get back in the batter’s box and see what happens next!

Ever hear of George Yantz? Born in Louisville, Kentucky, George was a professional baseball player who appeared in only one major league game.* He is one of thousands of ball players who made it to the majors for a “cup of coffee,” a very brief stint that sometime only lasted a single at bat. Of the 18,000 or so players (and counting) who’ve run up the dugout steps and onto a Major League field, 974 have had one-game careers.

Some might say it’s a tragedy that the fates allowed George only the briefest of glimpses before he was sent packing. And yet, how many of us would give half their 401Ks to be able to say we had been a major leaguer at one point in our lives?

So even if you’re like George and have the shortest of stints at the top, and are then summarily replaced by someone younger, smarter, and more nimble than you, take pride in that one gulp of pure oxygen. You might just appreciate the experience more than Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Pete Rose combined.   Plus people will continue to buy you coffee (or something stronger) just to hear you recount the one time you stood at the plate facing high heat.

*George was able to say he hit an astounding 1.000 for his career, going 1 for 1 with a single on the one day he played. September 30, 1912. You could look it up.