January 13, 2013

Lotto Apophis

Late last year I started buying lottery tickets again.  An interesting email, my thought that it may as well be me rather than some other dude that wins, my desire to free myself from the need to work, and the fact that it is a cheap $2 or $5 dream are all reasons why I have taken up the habit.

Chances are, sadly, that I'll never win. By the way....you won't either.

The chances of winning the jackpot in the $2 6/49 lottery are 1 in 13,983,816.  The $5 Lotto Max has an even harder to grasp 1 in 28,633,528 chance of producing a jackpot winner.  Nevertheless on a regular basis someone in Canada wins and so all us ticket-buyers buy...and hope.  The odds are minuscule but we are often reminded in the newspapers that someone does win.  It is a probability that we wish for, hope occurs and will spend money on.

On January 9 all seven billion of us on Earth participated in another lottery.  Call it the Apophis Lottery.  On that day a rock with a diameter of 325 metres flew by Earth.  No concerns existed as it was 15 million kilometres away.  Earth thankfully did not win the jackpot.

The good news is that this recent fly-by also eliminated the potential of a jackpot in the 2029 draw of the Apophis Lottery.  It has not, however, completely removed the possibility of a winner on the April 13, 2036 (I love the coincidence of that date) draw.  According to the odd-makers at the Universal Lottery and Gaming Corporation (aka NASA) the odds of the eight or nine billion of us winning the lottery on that day are 1 in 10,989,000.

There is no need to remind me that only one Apophis lottery ticket is produced on each draw date compared to the millions of tickets sold for the 6/49 or Lotto Max.  Luckily the Apophis Lottery also does not occur twice a week!  I still find a comparison of the odds of these two lotteries to be an interesting one.

On the one hand, Canadians spend $14 million or so twice a week on a 6/49 ticket (that is $1.5 billion a year!) to win a lottery that has a 1 in 14 million chance of making us richer than we could imagine....eliminating, we believe, all our concerns.  Superficial concerns really.

On the other hand you have the "Apophis Lottery".  We Canadians spend a heck of a lot less than $1.5 billion a year trying to avoid winning this lottery - a lottery that presents much better odds of "winning".

The consequences of winning Apophis, (the elimination of most, if not all of human life) make the elimination of our superficial concerns very, well, superficial.

Maybe it is time to spend more money on Apophis than on 6/49.  More helpful might be a realization that we should re-evaluate our concerns.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

December 27, 2012

Nice Envelope!

Over the last few weeks I have thought about how gift-giving has changed over the last few decades.  In some ways I find that the act of giving has become more virtual, generic and risk averse.  As a result exchanges have lost some of their mystery.  They've become less tangible somehow, less memorable.  They relay less about the personalities of the individuals doing the giving and receiving.

As I child I used to go to my grandmother's house for Christmas. All my aunts, uncles and cousins were there. With so many of us present the presents spread out way beyond the shade cast by the fake silver tree.  Wrapped boxes with surprises waiting to be discovered were stacked all the around the back of the tree.  While some of the boxes did a poor job of masking their contents others were generic cubes.

My cousins and I were especially fond of music and so many of the gifts under the tree took the shape of a flat, square record sleeve. We were left having to guess whether it was an album from Supertramp, Styx, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Cars......  (I remember that we'd use a key or our fingernails to slit the sleeve open, careful not cut ourselves.)  In addition there were some gifts that clearly looked like Tintin or Schtroumpfs comic books.  The rest of the wrapped gifts would hide board games, play cars and airplanes, jewellery and clothes...or some other object.

These last gifts were always the wildcards as you'd never know how one would react to the sweater, its colour or its style.  Would the earrings match the recipient's personality (long-dangly and wild, stubby and conservative)?  Would the gathered relatives react positively or negatively to the giver's interpretation of this person's likes and dislikes?  What would be the intended person's reaction?

All of this added to the mystique of the exchange.  The uncertainty around the content, the choices made, the reactions.  As there were so many people and gifts, and since we followed the rule of "one-gift-opening-at-a-time" - so that all could stare, comment, take pictures and poke fun - it would take a lot of time to unwrap all the gifts.  Words, looks and thoughts circulated between aunts and uncles as we all watched the person unwrap their surprise.

We all left my grandmother's house with arms full.  Things have changed.

Most of what my children had on their wish lists this year either was, or required, some sort of iDevice, game console, etc. This got me thinking...

Today books, movies, music, games are all downloadable. They do not come in a box but come down over the internet and get loaded onto an iPod, iPad or Kindle.  What does one wrap-up and place under the tree? An envelope with a print-out of the "cover" of the book, movie or album.  Clothes are no longer given nor asked for.  Instead this has been reduced to the requesting and giving of a gift-card for a favourite chain (Garage, H&M, Abercrombie).  One might know a sweater is wished for but the wrong colour, size or style might be purchased.  Embarrassment avoided.

A crowd favourite seems to be plain old cash or VISA gift cards.  The giver no longer needs to even worry about where to by an item.  "Just go buy what you want.  I did not know what you wanted anyway."  What flexibility!  The recipient can buy whatever they want away from the stares of the gathered family (which by the way has shrunk considerably).  We avoid the need to call, write, phone and exchange words or lists with the intended recipient.  What efficiency!  In fact those cards are so convenient that they can be given with no thought whatsoever!  What ease and convenience!

The result is that one ends up with a bunch of envelopes and the potential for one lame exchange.

"What are you going to buy?"

"I don't know yet."

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook

The Sandy Hook tragedy has sparked many comments from all kinds of people. Journalists, politicians, left leaning, right leaning, city slickers, country bumpkins, seniors, children, parents, the educated, the uneducated.....you get the picture.  Human beings of all colours, beliefs, ages, regions and backgrounds have commented either publicly or privately.

Whether or not an audience read or heard our thoughts it is likely that, in the grand majority of cases, we all reacted with instinctive emotions - shock and sadness.  In the end, those instincts, the ones that unite us all as a species, shows an amazing amount of unity among the seven billion humans on Earth.

Unfortunately, as the minutes passed from the time we heard the horrible news, our initial reaction of shock and sadness gave way to that other uniquely human characteristic - our ability to think, recall and imagine.  And so our divisions started showing.

The need to defend.  The need to protect.  The need to ban.  The need to arm.  The left, the right.  The liberal, the conservative.  The city, the country.  Them vs us.

It is often said that we should stick to our instincts when we are making decisions.  That if we listen to them, if we are conscious enough to feel them, we'll make the proper decisions.  This is a time where all of us, regardless of background, should take the time to think about how we felt when we heard the news, before the imagination and thinking kicked in.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

December 15, 2012

A Series of Events

Hello there. A set of coincidences over the last few days has brought me back to the editor page on Blogger, the site that hosts this blog.

Ideas have started popping up again over the last week.
Today I watched a movie....The Magic of Belle Isle.
While I was watching the above movie I received notification that one of my oldest friends had just liked my Ideeahs page on Facebook.
When I logged on to Facebook to look at my Ideeahs page there was a picture of Morgan Freeman, who happens to play in The Magic of Belle Isle, attached to a post attributed to him and commenting on the Sandy Hook tragedy.
That event has really stirred my desire for expression.

Good enough for me. See you tomorrow and hopefully for a good and long run.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

August 29, 2011

Bring Back Small

Small is slowly disappearing. In our rich world small realy does get a bad wrap. Oh, to be small. Tall, grande, large, even medium is better than small. Anything but small.

Today this was proven yet again. I read this morning that Tim Horton's, a doughnut chain in Canada, had decided to eliminate the small-sized drinks serving and replace them with the medium-sized. So I guess that in theory small still exists.....it just got bigger.

It's been sometime since I wrote in my blog but this story has given me the itch again.

Consumption is king in our society and "more for less" is seemingly the law that guides consumer spending and thus the actions of corporations who seem to just blindly accept this law.

I believe I have already written about the pizza ordering episode I once had to endure. I simply wanted to order a medium pizza for delivery. I was told by the nice girl on the other end that I should rather get the special which not only gave me a second pizza for an extra buck or two but also a free two litre bottle of pop and an entire chocolate cake. All I wanted was a medium pizza and it seemed that I was really breaking one of the basic laws of physics. That law was one that the clerk definitely remembered from their physics 101 class because she simply could not understand how a customer could refuse - I did. She succeeded in making me doubt my decision by the way.

This change in Tim Horton's drink sizes also reminds me of how the small drinks at McDonald's are now the same size as the large drinks I used to buy there as a child. It reminds me that you have to know that Starbucks had something called a "short" to now order a short. They'll still serve it...it just is no longer on the menu.

Then we wonder why North Americans waste so much food. I go to most restaurants and feel sick at the end of a meal having pigged out so as not to leave any food on my plate (good boy always finishes his plate). Many people would gladly pay as much for a portion they could actually finish (ie. a smaller one) than leave half of the food on their plate. I know I would. Wouldn't you?

It is time for us to think small is beautiful again. Timmy should not fall for such a brainless law and grow up.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

March 7, 2011

North American Trains

I have really tried hard to avoid writing about this. If I look at the draft articles I have written for this blog and kept in draft, no less than three in the last eight months, touch on the subject I am going to breech today. I wanted to avoid the subject, as I tell two of the guys I regular commute with, because I really wanted to believe in the train system and support it. I did not want to whine about it. Today, unfortunately, I just can't hold back and I will be hitting publish on this article - an amalgam of the drafts.

Let me sum it up very simply....trains in North America are terrible. Unreliable and aging they trudge along their lines achingly. Some recent examples from the last ten days...yes only in the last ten days:

A week or so ago I went to Toronto. Rather than drive or fly, I thought I'd try the VIA Rail train that runs between Montreal and Toronto. I arrived at the station thirty minutes prior to boarding, as recommended. At the designated time of departure we got notice that the train was delayed by twenty minutes. Twenty minutes later we were told that it would be another twenty minutes. This was repeated a third time so that we were now one hour late. Finally we were advised that the train had mechanical problems and that it was being pulled out of the yards and would be at the station in twenty or so minutes. Finally we left, approximately two hours late. Mechanical problems.

The same day my wife and children were leaving, via the Amtrak service, for New York City. It is bad enough that this trip normally takes eleven hours (driving takes seven - you really have to want to take the train from Montreal to New York). This particular trip took sixteen. Twice shortly after departure the train had to reverse to, first, go around another broken down train, second, for some unspecified reason. They were one hour late leaving. Then about ten hours into their journey they were advised that the train had hit a fallen tree and that it would have to be towed back to Albany, New York where all passengers were to transfer to another New York City bound train. Mecahnical problems and track maintenance.

Example three. On my ride home from the above mentioned weekend in Toronto I was seated in car 9. This car was the first behind the locomotive. From there the numbers dropped off to one which was, presumably, the last car of the train. (I would have reversed the numbering scheme....but that's just me!) One lady boarded the train with her mother, an elderly woman, and asked where car 10, the car indicated on her ticket, was. Good question! She was informed that car 10 was - get this - a bus!!! Yessir. She was justifiably flabbergasted by this response and told the attendant that she was not leaving the train as her mother was seated in car 9 and, having booked two train tickets for her mother and herself, she did not intend to leave her mother alone while she took a bus to Montreal. Terrible logistics and customer service.

Example four. Today it snowed in Montreal. Yes, it snowed a fair bit (about 15 cm or so) but this is not unusual given the location of the city in Canada. It snows here OK? Let's just say that trains have been running in these conditions, in this country, for well over a century - they have had time to perfect the system. My twenty kilometre commute took two hours. Another mechanical problem was to blame - this time a switch. This switch problem seems to be a recurring issue on these commuter lines as I have had numerous delays caused by frozen, defective switches.

So listen to me. I have really tried to avoid bitching about the reliability of train service in Canada but I simply could not anymore - not after today's marathon commute. For you doubters, those who are thinking that I am complaining for no good reason, I may just hit publish on one or two more of my drafts. Just to drive the point home.

It is time that some investments be made in decent passenger train service in North America. Let's join the modern age folks.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!

March 6, 2011

BBs from Chile

At 2:30 pm this afternoon I cracked open the plastic container that contained some plump blueberries I had bought a few hours before at the local supermarket. My mouth was watering thinking of the tasty sweet blue fruit that I was planning on combining with some strawberries, granola and some vanilla yogurt. It was going to be great.

As I started rinsing these BBs I started getting annoyed. Many of them - too many! - were mouldy and soft. I was literally throwing money away and I was annoyed with these fruit and with their seller. How could they sell me such garbage? Such low quality produce?

After about one minute of these thoughts, as I started rinsing off the strawberries, I realized that the annoyance should be directed at a different target - myself. How foolish of me, really, to expect fresh, high quality BBs in Canada during the winter season. How could I expect fruits that were picked who knows how long ago, some 8000 kilometres away, to be fresh when they reached the store shelf in this suburb. After being picked, packed, driven, flown, driven (and who knows what else?) how foolish I was.

More frustrating was that this person, me, had debated - for a few seconds while standing in front of the fruit stand - whether or not to spend the coin. Clearly part of me did think it was a pretty foolish purchase.

So my lesson is this, and it should be an obvious one to all....do not buy fruits when they are out of season in your area of the world. At the very least do not buy fruits that are out of season in your hemisphere!

I should have stuck to the local apples that keep well.

Let me know what you think about what you have just read. Please and thanks!