Posts

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.

It’s only human to want to amass a fortune, and the quicker the better. Anyone that says they’d prefer to scratch out a living and barely make ends meet is what Italians call “un bugiardo.”

Investing in the stock market is one way to attempt the speedy accumulation of wealth, although as with casinos, it seems the house always wins. We are repeatedly humbled by forces beyond our control, and timing the market only works for government officials, corporate insiders and that neighbor who smugly claims they got out “just before the crash,” even though they’re still driving a 2003 Impala.

Playing the lottery can also provide a windfall — though the odds of winning are smaller than a neutrino.*  Granted it does promote daydreaming as you imagine the possibility of a better life. But you have no control over those little numbered balls vacuumed from the basket; your two bucks are better spent at the racetrack, where at least you can tear up your ticket while seeing the beauty of horses in full gallop.

Which brings us to an activity that is affordable, offers you exercise and plenty of fresh air, and gives you the opportunity to add to your net worth.  And that’s the search for buried treasure. Finding old coins, jewelry and relics from past generations is a heck of lot healthier than sitting around staring at a stock ticker. Why, a 1936 Buffalo nickel is worth more than 100 times it’s value today, and is sure to keep going skyward.*

All you need is a sense of adventure and the visual acuity to spot the precious items in your path. Of course, you’ll have a lot more success if you deploy your own metal detector!We recommend a lightweight model that’s easy on the back, with enough features to make your search a fortunate one. Having done the research, we prefer the Garrett AT Pro. It’s an all-terrain detector that has 40 different settings to help you uncover various types of ferrous metals. And like the more expensive CTX 3030, the AT Pro is fully submersible up to 10 feet.

Venturing outdoors with your metal detector is a reward in itself, leading to aerobic fitness, healthier heart, improved circulation and flexibility, and increased vitamin D levels. Even if you find nothing, you’ve found nature — and she’s the greatest teacher of all.

So take a couple bucks from the clutches of Wall Street and invest in a metal detector. You’ll be glad you did.

*Neutrinos are the smallest massive particles currently measured and catalogued. The average characteristic size is r2 = n × 10−33 cm2 (n × 1 nanobarn), where n = 3.2 for electron neutrino, n = 1.7 for muon neutrino and n = 1.0 for tau neutrino.

**Remember to consult with a numismatic expert before polishing your treasures to a gleaming shine.  The value of the old coins you uncover can be destroyed with too much scrubbing and scratching. 

 

 

 

 

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.