Archive for category Revelations

Gambling and the Slot Machine

Slot MachineSo we took a trip this weekend to our local Hotel and Casino. It was just an overnight trip to get away. I took some time to reflect on the trip, and came away with some knowledge about myself, which is always a good thing.

Maybe it’s just my age, but I have decided that I am against me gambling. Notice I didn’t say I’m “against gambling”. I said I’m against “ME gambling”.

First of all, I have never been a big gambler. The only time I ever sat at a real casino table was playing blackjack just for fun. It was a slow night at this casino, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I lost $35 in less than two minutes.

I stopped.

Now I’m not saying someone can’t make money at gambling. It’s just that the odds are against you. Some people get a thrill from that sort of thing.

Dangerous thrill, but whatever.

I’ll leave the analysis of high stakes gambling to the big dogs. I’d rather go a bit more small time and talk about the Slot Machine. I have decided that the slot machine is one of the most ingenious god damn inventions on the planet.

Think about it. People willingly put their hard-earned money into a slot, lose their money, and, here’s the kicker: they are OK with it.

That’s fucking ingenious. I mean, they aren’t buying tangible goods and services, they’re buying into an illusion.

I decided to look up “Slot Machine Probability Statistics” just to do some research for this and sure enough, appropriate to the topic, the internet is clogged up with slot machine scams.

So, I’m not going to link your computer to the unfortunate mess of online slot machine scams. You’ll have to trust me on this one. If you really want the link from which I draw my data, I will be more than happy to disclose. I had to comb through a lot of shitty data to find the real scoop on slot machines. I am no mathematician, but here’s some basics about what I found, and I am sure that many of you already know this, so I’m not expecting this to be groundbreaking information. Looking at the math, though, I find it interesting:

  1. Every slot machine has what’s called a “lookup” table with mathematical weights corresponding to each symbol in the reels, the higher monetary value symbols have lower weights. That means the higher the monetary value of the symbol, the lower the probability they will align. This is perfectly legal and does not break any US laws.
  2. The historical payout of the slot machine makes no difference whatsoever. A machine in which you put your first coin is just as (un)likely to payout a jackpot as a machine you’ve been playing all day.
  3. There is a built in psychological “mind trick” to slot machines with the way the reels are organized. They are situated in a way that gives people the illusion that they “almost” hit a jackpot or higher payout. For example, someone might get a reel that is one symbol off from winning 20 credits as opposed to 2 credits, leading them to falsely think they “almost won” for that spin. The idea, of course, is that this will get said player to keep playing under the pretense that the next spin will increase their odds of winning. This is an illusion. Once again, perfectly legal in the US.
  4. The “payout” on slot machines, even including jackpot payouts, on a per user basis can be anywhere from 86% to 97%. What that means is for every dollar you spend, considering all factors, you will get anywhere from 86 to 97 cents back. But, that is statistics according to the Casino, not on a per-outing basis, which means that one visit to the Casino does not guarantee this “return” (emphasis on the quotes). One outing you might lose all your money, the next may be up by $40 for that visit, whatever. In other words, you should expect to lose 3 to 14 cents overall per dollar spent on total visits to slot machines. Sure, you might indeed hit a jackpot and be one of the few people who actually win something life-changing, but considering all factors, it is a losing proposition, tantamount to playing the lottery. Odds are you will be out money. The odds of winning a full jackpot are anywhere from .00004 to .00007 percent, according to my “research,” for what it’s worth.

They don’t put slot machines in casinos for nothing. They are profit-making machines like anything else. But what is ingenious about it, is that they are exploiting human psychology. It’s one thing if you buy tangible goods, but putting money into a slot machine like that, it’s just too damn easy for them.

You might say it’s great for the free booze, but that’s all part of the loss as well. You are certainly more likely to spend more money if you are inebriated than if you are not. I don’t think I need to quote statistics on that.

Me? I’ll keep my money, thank you.

If anyone finds a flaw in my analysis or math, please make a comment below. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no mathematical genius. Just please be gentle. :)

* Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina via Flickr

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How We Spend Money in America

Everyone has something they spend their money on, and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is our American super-human ability to spend money on shit we don’t need.

Now before you cry “pot calling the kettle black” I will be the first to admit that I am guilty as charged. I have a penchant for cigars and scotch. My $120 Humidor full of $200 worth of cigars and the $80 bottle of scotch adorning my liquor cabinet are testaments to that. Everyone has something they spend money on, and like it or not it’s part of our American way of life. My brothers ride dirt bikes; my dad has a motor home; my father-in-law is into ham radios; my thing is cigars and scotch. “One man’s trash is another’s treasure,” as the old saying goes.

My wife’s thing? Coach purses.

We took a trip to our local Coach Outlet store recently. As we walked in, there was a greeter conveniently giving out “20% off” coupons.

Anytime that happens, I ain’t getting out of there without her buying something. My wife’s a sucker for a sale.

Anyway, I’m looking around the store. The “trash vs. treasure” theme was apparent early on, when I spotted a $120 men’s wallet.

HELL NO!

I’d never spend $120 on a wallet. That’s fucking ridiculous. It had better be made of gold, or spontaneously spit out money on its own, or give me the occasional hand job while it’s in my pocket, or fucking something for $120. But people buy them all the time. There was a guy who just happened to purchase one while we were there.

My wallet? $12. Had it for 3 years and counting. Pisses me off that I actually have to go through the pain of buying one every so often.

But, remember we all have something we spend our money on. If you don’t, well then consider yourself lucky.

But the Coach saga gets worse.

I spotted a bin full of pink, heart-shaped plastic bags a bit larger than the palm of your hand. They were heavy and full of sand.

I held it up to my wife and asked her “What the fuck is this?”

My wife shook her head. She had no idea.

One of the Coach attendants overheard me and politely responded with, “It’s a paperweight.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s a paperweight.”

I looked down at the price of this paperweight.

$19.

It’s a plastic bag full of sand.

And then the attendant says “We have a sale on that and the matching heart-shaped Coach mouse pad.”

I look down at the price of this mouse pad.

$29.

I smiled and responded with my usual smart-ass sarcasm, “Well, you know, I can get paperweights for free. I got connections. A good rock will do. Those are free.”

She smiled and said “Well, it’s for the girl who already has everything.”

Indeed.

I guess what I’m saying is that everyone in America has something, a “vice” as it were on which they spend their disposable income. “Disposable” is a very appropriate word, because that is exactly what we’re doing.

So the next time you want to criticize someone for throwing their money away on something that makes them happy, take a look at your own expenditures and be sure you’re not the pot calling the kettle black.

Let the (Sort of Related) Rant Begin:

And, on a more serious note, you should feel fortunate you live in a place that gives you the opportunity to spend your money on shit you don’t need. There are a lot of people in this world who don’t have that luxury. I mean, we live in a country where we have TV shows about other people buying a house, called House Hunters and call it entertainment. That show makes me sick.

I’ve seen third world conditions first hand, and to hear those people complain about their kitchen “not being as quaint as we’d like it” makes me want to stop them from procreating.

That’s why the rest of the world hates us. Oh. That, and because we’re idiots.

See you next time.

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My Dainty Wife – Cherish Mundacity

Love is weird. . . . a good weird.

Last night, while staring at my wife, in what would otherwise be a mundane moment, an overwhelming thought came over me.

She, in her dainty way, held the menu for the pizza place down the street, trying to decide what she wanted. Her elegant fingers held it with both hands, as she sat cross-legged, head tilted to the side ever so slightly in that way of hers.

The thought that came over me was that there is nothing more precious than my wife. How is it that a moment so mundane can place your mind into such a serene place? You’d think it would be when she’s dressed in some sexy way, but it isn’t. It’s the mundane moments that make love grand.

Just like Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting says:

. . . that’s the shit I remember: wonderful stuff you know? Little things like that. . . . The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that’s what made her my wife. Oh she had the goods on me too, she knew all my little peccadilloes.

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Finding Fideism (Fuh-day-ism)

I recently finished Martin Gardner‘s “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener”.

Gardner is a Fideist, which describes anyone who uses faith to come to certain truths. William James, John Dewey, Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegard, were considered to have some Fideist tendencies

I am of the opinion that there are two ways of interpreting the world around you: either through faith or through logic and reason. I am way on the side of the “logic and reason” part of the spectrum. I don’t believe in ghosts, angels, the Lost City of Atlantis, heaven or hell, or the vast majority of conspiracy theories.

The book was intriguing to me because I don’t use faith in my life, for anything except trustworthy mundane information that sane and reasonable people accept on faith. For example, I do not doubt the existence of the city of Paris, France even though I have never seen it. That I accept on faith.

So since this book was a description of the use of faith in life, I approached the book with some healthy skepticism.

All in all, for the most even-handed description of our existence in this universe, this is the book for you. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I can understand how it’s possible for reasonable people to take certain things on faith, or at least treat some of “the unknowable” with some healthy consideration or agnosticism.

Gardner does not give any credence to the God of Abraham or any man-made gods. He is a Fideist. He believes in God, but that this God does not really have any real interest in human affairs. God is simply out there, and there is wonder in considering the possibilities of the unknown. His writing is very matter-of-fact and states that we have to know that our understanding of the universe has limits, and therefore a healthy consideration of a world we cannot access is possible. And that this consideration should not turn you into a raving lunatic.

I’m talking to you, Fundamentalists.

I should point out that Fideists assign a high value to science and reason, but consider the possibilities. There are no faeries, no angels, no ghosts to a Fideist, because those things are supposed to be observable in the “natural world”. Fideists (or at least Gartner) go beyond that natural world and say that there may very well be a world beyond this one that we simply don’t know, or can’t know, and is at least worth considering.

What I got from the book is that I am more agnostic about the unknown than I thought. For example, I believe that when we die, man, that’s it. You rot and turn to dust. No Pearly Gates or fuckers playing harps on clouds. No “standing before God or Jesus [or enter deity of choice here] for your judgment”. That’s it, auf wiedersehen, good-bye, sayonara, it’s the end, close the book and all that.

I still hold true to that belief, but according to Fidesim, you can’t say that definitively. I still believe it, but I think a Fideist might say that life after death is “unlikely, but possible”.

I can respect that, provided one keeps a healthy sense of indifference to whatever one considers. One should not waste their time on fanciful hopes such as life after death.

Make this world a better place.

Next book: Lost Christianities by Bart Ehrman.

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Andy’s New America

A few days ago, I was at my local gym, fooling myself into believing that I was really pushing it on the treadmill while watching an episode of “The Verminators” on the little treadmill TV. (The guy who combined TV and exercise should really get a  Nobel Prize.) Anyway, during a commercial break, my paradoxically short attention span caused me to start looking aimlessly around the gym when I noticed a guy working out in a Star Trek shirt. There was no mistaking it – the blue shirt – black collar – the Federation symbol displayed proudly over the heart. Majestic is its own sort of way.

Now, one would not be wrong to argue that the real story here is the fact that I was actually in a gym. Normally I would agree, but this is a special story – a story about how far we have come in America. And it’s a story about America’s redemption and how we have come to finally embrace our past.

You see, not all that long ago, anyone caught wearing a Star Trek uniform within a hundred yards of a gym would find themselves walking home with an Atomic Wedgie.  The irony here is that at one point in time, America itself was the little nerd – at least on a global sense. The British with their powder wigs, ruffle shirts, and big buckle shoes were the cool guys. They got off on pushing us around and making fun of our coonskin caps and silly accents. In fact, most people don’t realize that the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” is actually an allegorical recounting of the American Revolution. The Nerds represent the Americans with the Alpha Betas as the British, the Omega Mu’s as the Hessians and Lamar as the French. And just like in the movie, America stood up to the big bully British and took over the Greek Council. But unlike the movie, we didn’t embrace ourselves as nerds. We were embarrassed and ashamed so we bulked ourselves up, got addicted to processed meats, and became the world’s big man on campus.

But that has started to change. Just as we have made progress in terms of sexism, racism, and a wide range of other hang-ups, we have also made progress in the acceptance of our Nerdism. The evidence of this change can be seen everywhere around us. On television  the SyFy Channel  blares out Dr. Who and Battlestar Galactica 24 hours a day. And even old stodgy CBS has a series called “The Big Bang Theory” that centers on the lives and dreams of a group of nerds. (This show truly is the “Will & Grace” of the nerd revolution.) At the movies we have sequel after sequel of Harry Potter while the new Star Trek movie grossed almost 400 million dollars.  Finally, if you need more proof – William Shatner has become some type of neo-hipster.

So, all of this brings me back to that brave guy at the gym in the Star Trek shirt. There he was, lifting weights and sporting a healthy cardiovascular system, and most importantly, not being judged. As my attention span waned yet again, and I went back to watching “The Verminators” tangle with some angry honeybees, I felt a renewed sense of pride in being an American. Sure, times may be tough now, but it’s going to be alright. Live Long and Prosper America.

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