January 31, 2007

Two Bucks Down The Toilet

Category: Life — Cranky @

Each week I wager a few dollars in the hopes of winning millions in the lottery. I’m not alone – millions do the same. I don’t buy any of the endless varieties of instant-win tickets, and when I see somebody fork over twenty dollars for a stack of them I can’t help but wonder what their financial situation is like.

I can afford the two dollars per lottery ticket for the big prize, but I’m not unrealistic. I know with certainty that I will never, ever win it. I know I’m essentially throwing that money in the trash. A couple times per year I win $10, and I use it to buy the next five tickets. I don’t call it reinvesting, because that implies it might appreciate.

Based on two draws per week, and assuming a match of 6 numbers needed for the win, my odds of winning in the next 67,000 years would be 50%. In other words, to approach a 100% chance of winning, I would have had to have started buying tickets roughly 50,000 years before the first hominids began to wrap animal skins around themselves for protection.

When I was in my teens, a lottery ticket held promise. I eagerly awaited the draw, hoping for the win, and I was briefly crushed when the riches failed to materialize. It was a short-lived rollercoaster. Now when I check the numbers and lose I feel… nothing. It’s the expected result, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

And so goes the death of innocence. Realizing the lottery win will never come is a marker on the road of life. It signifies your acceptance that in the eyes of the world you are one in billions, and the laws of the universe (and of probability) make no special allowances for you.

Eighteen years ago I worked at a convenience store for a few months, and I remember thinking that in a very real way the lottery is a tax on the poor. After all, the people most likely to buy tickets are the ones who can afford it the least. I can throw away two dollars and not notice it’s gone, but for many people that lottery ticket is a silent, desperate plea for help. It’s no different than a guy putting his last $20 on a single roulette number, hoping for the $600 jackpot – except that roulette odds are far, far better (with a correspondingly smaller jackpot).

It’s a fool’s game, but I play it anyway. I guess I’m just a fool.


January 23, 2007

Cranky's Rules of Compliments

Category: Life — Cranky @

As we travel through this life, we receive a great deal of feedback from those around us. Sadly, the most effective feedback is negative feedback. We tend to internalize the crap much easier than the gold. In fact it’s perfectly normal for many of us to go weeks at a time without any positive feedback whatsoever.

Some people are compliment camels. Tell them they look good and they go on believing they look good until somebody tells them otherwise. Others have to stay near the oasis, because if the compliments aren’t renewed periodically they begin to believe that they have lost whatever they had that elicited the feedback. “My boyfriend hasn’t told me I’m pretty in two weeks – maybe I’m not pretty any longer.”

The problem is that compliments, while few and far between, can be negated by prior actions, circumstances and perceived motive. So without further ado, here are Cranky’s Rules of Compliments, as laid down nearly a decade ago.

1. If you are thinking something positive (and inoffensive) about somebody, go ahead and say it out loud. Let them figure out how to take it.

2. A compliment should be specific and verifiable. “You’re cute!” is useless. “Between your red hair and your freckles, you are just amazingly cute!” is much better.

3. Never, ever give a compliment you don’t mean. If they catch you being insincere your compliments will fall on deaf ears in the future.

4. Don’t dwell on the compliment. Move on, physically or conversationally. Don’t turn your words into an obvious come-on, or you’re being insincere.

And that’s all there is to it. Follow these rules, be discrete, and don’t look like you’re “only after one thing”, and you can really brighten somebody’s day.

Shortly before I wrote these rules I was driving to lunch with a close female friend. I said to her, “You look very nice today.” I hadn’t yet come up with rule #2. She looked out the window and said, “I look terrible. I couldn’t get my hair to work at all today.” She was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “You really think I look good?”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking just now. I think that women reach the peak of their beauty at different times. Some look the best they’ll ever look at 18, and some women grow into their beauty at 40. I’ve known you for what… six years? And you’re prettier now than when we first met, and you were pretty then. I think you’re just starting to hit your stride. You’ll be stunning.”

She looked blankly at me for a moment, and then burst into tears. I would learn over lunch that she was having relationship problems, and she was feeling neglected and less than attractive. That compliment worked because we had a foundation of trust between us, and because it could be taken at face value. And it was powerful.

One final point: When you are presented with a compliment, never minimize it. “Your hair looks terrific” shouldn’t be met with, “It’s hideous. I can’t do anything with it.” The proper answer is, “Thank you!”


January 16, 2007

Banana Issues

Category: Entertainment — Cranky @

I walked by the office of a coworker yesterday. He was sitting at his desk, eating a banana.

I wasn’t aroused in the slightest.

Now that’s very strange. In the past, the eating of a banana has elicited a strong response within me. There have been several people I have known in the past that I could watch eat bananas all day. Jennifer, Roxanne and Trina come to mind. Roxanne in particular… man, that girl would savour the banana. It wasn’t just eating for the sake of eating – she made a gloriously happy, slobbery production out of it. If anybody was made for banana-eating, it’s her.

And yet as this guy ate the banana, I couldn’t possibly have cared less. In the past I’ve always assumed I harboured some strange fruit-based fetish, and that bananas were the immediate manifestation of it, but clearly there’s some other factor at work in my psyche. I wonder why my banana-based reaction is subjective? What is the mystery variable that eludes my realization?

I wonder what people would think if I offered them a banana on the condition that I watch them eat it? As participants in a purely scientific experiment I’m sure they would be amenable. It might take a little explaining, but perhaps in the end I might convince Trina to allow me to record the process for later… study.