Office Lottery Pool

I participate in the office lottery pool. I know better. I work in analytics and I understand statistics. Lotto max consists of 7 numbers each of which can be 1-49. This leaves some 85 million possible combinations. However, they say because you have three chances to play the odds are 1 in 26 million.

That is bad statistics.

I know that but I still play. Really because if my office ever won the pool and I didn’t play I would be crushed as my co-workers celebrated.  But it brings up an interesting topic.

Why are we so bad at statistics?

There is a case in the UK where a woman had a child die of SIDs, the chances of which are about 1 in 8,000.  Later she has another child die of the same condition.  At her trial a doctor testified the chances of having two children die of SIDs was 1 in 64,000,000.  Again, bad statistics.  We don’t know what causes sudden infant death.  It could be genetic, or it could be environmental.  We don’t know.  When they say the chances of your baby dying of SIDs is 1 in 8,000.

What they mean is for every 8,000 births one results in death from this syndrome. However if you meet the conditions, your chances could be much higher.  You may have 1 in 10 children die, it’s just that only 1 in 8000 of the general population actually do. Thankfully the woman was exonerated during her appeal, but imagine what an ordeal it was to first lose two children and then get tried for murder.

We continually run numbers in our heads.  We estimate chances, and studies show we are terrible at separating risk and emotion. This is why some charities such as breast cancer make huge money, but only affect a few people while other dangers such as heart disease, which is a leading killer of men and women, receive proportionally minute attention.

We also fear things that are flashy.  Terrorism is an example of a greatly exaggerated threat.  They are loud and flashy and spectacular but really, auto-accidents puts them to shame in terms of sheer body count. And you are much more likely to be killed by your dog than a shark, but sharks are flashy and scarey.

How good is your grasp of risk?

  1. What’s more common in the United States, (a) suicide or (b) homicide?
  2. What’s the more frequent cause of death in the United States, (a) pool drowning or (b) falling out of bed?
  3. What are the top five causes of accidental death in America, following motor-vehicle accidents, and which is the biggest one?
  4. Of the top two causes of nonaccidental death in America, (a) cancer and (b) heart disease, which kills more women?
  5. What are the next three causes of nonaccidental death in the United States?
  6. Which has killed more Americans, bird flu or mad cow disease?
  7. How many Americans die from AIDS every year, (a) 12,995, (b) 129,950, or (c) 1,299,500?
  8. How many Americans die from diabetes every year? (a) 72,820, (b) 728,200, or (c) 7,282,000?
  9. Which kills more Americans, (a) appendicitis or (b) salmonella?
  10. Which kills more Americans, (a) pregnancy and childbirth or (b) malnutrition?

Click here to see the answers on Psychology Today.

Back to the lottery, 1 in 85,000,000 is outside of our realm of understanding and everyday experience so we focus on the jackpot.  When it gets up to 50 million more people play. The more people play, the higher the chance you will need to share the pot, even though your chances of picking all 7 numbers remain the same.

There is also the small pots and near miss rules coming into effect.  Small pots are the free play and minor payouts like $5 and $10 dollars.  People win these and think, just one more number and the payout would have been larger. plus it puts money back in their pockets.  They remember the few wins, and ignore the many losses.

By just barely missing a big payout, say choosing 13, 24, 41 when numbers 12, 25, and 42 are picked will make players feel they were close.  In actuality they were no closer than if 1,2,and 3 where chosen.

The media also contributes to this by splashing the winning ticket buyer’s photo across media. They don’t show the millions of people who lost money, or even the 70% of winners who spend all their winnings in 5 years.

Still I will continue to play with the office, but I don’t buy on my own anymore.  This way I get the thrill of playing, don’t have to worry about being upset if other win and didn’t participate and there is a good chance the win would be modest and not radically change my lifestyle.


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Je suis Charlie, Je ne ai pas peur

Charlie Hebdo published it’s cover amid  world wide attention, and it’s largest run ever – a million copies. The cover depicting Mohammad with the phrase “All is forgiven” shows the French resistance to anything smacking of tyranny.

BN-GK083_Charli_JV_20150112182529Canadian publications including the Star, the Globe and Mail and the CBC have refused to show or republish the cover. The reasons for this reticence is varied but all equally cowardly. While many support Charlie Hebdo they have no desire to become the next one. 

Many have stated staff safety as their priority. Some have stated they can support CH without having to publish the comics. And the weakest of the lot have used the excuse they don’t want to publish material some people may find offensive.

These arguments while understandable are weak hearted.  It is reminiscent of Chamberlain’s appeasement of the Nazi. The fear of violence is so strong that we’d rather give up a fundamental right and rationalize that fear than risk physical harm.

The extremists claim it is revenge for the prophet or some such nonsense. Like their religion is so fragile a cartoon could shatter the whole thing.  By extension they claim “don’t publish this and we won’t have a reason to kill you.”  But that is only for now.

Extremists will find any reason to impose their own crazy version of Islam on the world.  Yesterday it was comics, tomorrow it will be something else;  music, television, internet, the color blue. Who knows,  they’re insane. Which is all the more reason to not give in to their demands.

Their violent brand of Islam doesn’t mean we should capitulate, rather quite the opposite.  Muslims, or anyone for that matter has the right to be offended by the cartoons. People can get offended by anything they like. But that doesn’t mean we have to care, agree or even respect their indignation. Offense is taken, not given.

Every publication in the world should say  “No.  You don’t dictate what we publish and such ridiculous violence will be counter-productive.”  Yes, some people may die because of it.  I may die for republishing the cover. They may attack other newspapers, or bloggers, or T.V. station but you know what? They are going to attack someone anyway.  They are extremists,  that is all they can do.

George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

I don’t know about you, but if I am to be led to the slaughter,  I want it to be kicking and screaming.


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Dream coming true

I have frequently thought that one day I would become a potter.  I remember working with clay back in high school and loving it.  That was 25 years ago.  It’s funny how long some things take.

This Christmas I received a potters wheel and kiln from Zuimei.  I am literally going from zero to 100 in terms of supplies.  Most people never get their own studios, they go to workshops and classes to satisfy their creative desire. I will make dishes for his restaurants.  It would be a nice way to pay him back and put the ceramics to good use.

He worked with our friends David and Sayumi to make it happen, and it was a total surprise for me.  David is going to join me on this pottery journey.

I am so excited.  I found this excellent blog full of great information.  He seems to be a real scientist about ceramics which I am hoping to adopt.  I would like to bring my extensive knowledge of paint and pigments into the process.

If this video doesn’t get you excited for pottery nothing will.


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Some days I have to remind myself that recovery is a process.


And for the days I can’t, I just try to be like this bull.


Fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all.


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Winter Cometh

We got our first taste of a Newmarket Winter this morning. My slog in the early morning hours to catch the train.

20141211_064345    20141211_064408

A brave dog owner forged a path ahead of me. Will get out the snowblower when I get home tonight.



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Top Posts of 2014

I didn’t write as much in the past year.  It was probably one of the toughest years I have ever faced and for awhile I wasn’t sure I could keep it together.

Dealing with the results of a PSA the year before I had a biopsy on my prostate and then had to wait for the results. I was diagnosed with “a little bit” of prostate cancer in February, and needed to deal with all the stuff that comes along with.

Despite all that, I am very open about it.  I firmly believe “joy shared is doubled, sorrow shared is halved.” I know a lot of people have an almost shame reaction to getting cancer, like they’ve done something wrong. I think we need to drag this stuff into the light. I just sent an email to my urologist suggesting filming a biopsy for patients so they know what to expect. I know when I was researching what to expect for a biopsy it was by a video of a urologist talking to a camera, not really as informative as it could have been.

I also was recovering from my accident and then needed a second surgery in August which was a bit of a set-back. Despite all that I know how lucky I am.  I survived and feel like I have come out the other side.  I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going”.

Now that I am feeling more together I began posting about other issues than myself.  I think that is a good sign.



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