My father was a student of the lottery.  Growing up, I remember him sitting in the kitchen every night, assiduously reviewing data amassed from years of weekly draws, every set of winning numbers carefully transcribed in a  set of dedicated books.  He would pore over these like a cryptanalyst seeking out hidden patterns, looking to identify elusive numerical biases.  When he passed away, among the things he bequeathed his loved ones was a set of lottery numbers my sister has since played on a dedicated weekly basis going on thirteen years now (along with a second set of potential winners that, mysteriously, came to ME in a dream some five years back).

I remember working on a show many, many years ago when, during a snack break between scenes, I got into a conversation about sin taxes — taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.  “How about a tax on stupid people?” offered the office P.A.  “They already have one,” replied the first A.D.  “It’s called the lottery.”

According to “the experts”, the chances of your winning the lottery are significantly longer than the likelihood of you:

  • Being killed by a meteor!
  • Being struck by lightning – twice!
  • Winning an Olympic gold medal!

Which is incredibly sobering and all until, really, you stop and ask yourself: When was the last time you heard of someone being killed by a meteor?  Or being struck by lightning twice?  Compare this to the number of times you’ve heard a lottery winner announced.  Also, I don’t have the statistics at hand, but if one were to tally up all of the Olympic gold medal winners and all of the big-prize lottery winners over, say, the last fifty years, I’d hazard that the number of lottery winners is more than “slightly higher”.

Hey, that’s not to say playing the lottery is a smart move.  The odds against you are astronomical (though, clearly, much better than being killed by a meteor, winning an Olympic gold medal, or being struck by lightning – twice).  Someone once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  And, while I think the clinical definition of insanity differs somewhat, I can see the logic in this.  Why would you keep playing the lottery if you never won?

Why was my father so captivated by the lottery that it became an almost obsessive hobby for him, keeping such meticulous logs, studying past winning number combinations with a single-minded commitment usually reserved for cancer research?  In short, why did my dad keep playing the lottery? Oh, that’s easy. Because he won.  Once.  And I’m not talking a free ticket or a couple of hundred bucks.  It wasn’t much in today’s dollars but, back then, it was twice what he and my mother had paid for their first home.  They used the money to pay off their mortgage, clear their debts and set aside a modest sum for a rainy day.

For one crazy draw, he defied those seemingly insurmountable odds.  And then tried to do it again because, I suppose, statistically, you have no less of a chance of winning a second lottery than you would a first.

As for me, I’m not much of a lottery guy, preferring to pay the equally long odds of trying to land a TV show.  Still, whenever I see the grand prize inch past 50 million, I am tempted.  After all, I may not know any gold medal champions, but I have first-hand knowledge of at least one lotto victor.

Over to you…

Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery!  What will you do with your winnings?

19 thoughts on “On Meteor Aand Lightning Strikes & Lottery Wins!

  1. Maybe they’re calculating those lightning strikes, medals, and meteors based on the number of people actually attempting/exposed to those things? I don’t know. To be fair, we probably don’t hear about every lightning strike/meteor.

    I remember back in Statistics class in university calculating the Expected Loss/Gain for the 6/49 lottery. We worked out that *over time*, given a win of $1M once, the expected LOSS in total would be about $15M. In other words, statistically, you would have to spend $16M in tickets to win once. Granted, *somebody* often wins, but statistically it won’t be you. But it could be of course, the probability is not zero, and that’s the appeal. Also, as you mentioned, the lottery pays out smaller sums in order to keep people interested. Random positive reinforcement is an extremely strong form of training. It’s even effective when teaching pet tricks – animals are much more motivated to perform when the likelihood is not certain, because the next time COULD be the big payoff!

    If I won that kind of money, I’d be pretty boring – pay off the debts, set aside an amount to live comfortably, some more for some travel on a few big trips a year, and if there’s any left it would go to charities.

  2. Well, Mega Millions is over 300Mil. I would see if I could buy/lease the rights to the Stargate franchise from MGM and make movie, or limited series. I would keep 20Mil for myself.

    MGM sent me a letter denying me the right to make a fan made short. I guess it just takes a few $$$.

  3. Depending on when I won the lottery & how much I won my use would change. I’d retain a financial advisor & attorney. I’d put the money into a trust. From that point I’d begin evaluating comfort of life, general time expected to remain on planet to make sure I have a regular draw of support. After these essentials, I’d assure my only child was provided for to certain standards of education etc.
    The remaining?
    I do have some family that need basic substantive care. It would be cautiously partitioned.
    I know some friends facing a few human hardships. They are imnediate friends not old missing ones or new ones from the woodwork.
    I have some political/charitable causes that matter to me that I may create an endowment for.
    I may create a foundation dealing with ethics, scientific method, thinking & discussing complicated polarizing subjects. I think the U.S. needs to have more of that.

    Beyond that even?
    I’d probably buy a Tesla.
    I would do some travelling to see with my own eyes a world that’s previously only been in National Geo & the internet.
    I’d seed money towards a few creative projects/ investments.

    Am I incredibly wealthy? Maybe I’d replace Syfy with a much better competitor.

  4. If I won the lottery, (I won’t because I’m too lazy to stop each week at a store and buy tickets), I would give away a lot of it. I would secure my future first, help family second, church third, then I’d get an assistant to plow through all the requests for money. Get in line!

  5. We can’t play the lottery in Utah, but now and then my husband will drop $5 on a mega millions or Powerball quick pick when he’s in Idaho. Not much, not even once a month. Hey, lightening strikes sometimes. Can’t win if you don’t play.

    Take the lump sum, pay taxes. Don’t tell anyone. Small amount, pay our debts, and set enough aside so Larry can retire and we can travel. More? New house. Lots more? Two houses, one somewhere warm and beachy. Family? Not a dime, although maybe a couple limited scholarships for the great nephews and nieces if it’s a big win. Charity? Nah, mostly. Maybe fix up the local Buddhist temple. Burning Man art grants or Burners without Borders. Buy the fuel for fire tribe. Honestly, I am pretty done with being tapped for help as it is. We aren’t rich, but we have more than most of the family.

    Maybe just vanish to a private island.

  6. Somebody once said, “Lotteries are for people who are bad at math” and I tend to agree with that.

    I’m not a gambler. When people tell me they’re having a night out at the casino and have $100 to spend at the roulette table I tell them, “Why not just give me the $100? The result for you will be the same and I’ll be $100 richer!” That never seems to go down very well.

    One time my sister and I took our grandmother out for lunch at a local pub. My sister decided to have a go at the slot machine (we call them poker machines or pokies here in Australia). The very first spin on a $1 bet netted her a $20 win. She said she can see now how people can become addicted to it. Then she hit the pay out button and pocketed her winnings.

    If I won the lottery? Pay off the mortgages, buy an Aston Martin, build my dream house in the country and if anything is left over give some to my family. Oh, and retire. Work sucks!

  7. I had a $20 winner once, about 25 years ago. I used it to buy sodas for my samba drum group.

    As for the big prizes: I’d probably look to start a charitable foundation.

  8. A friend’s statistics professor was on a radio show talking about odds of winning 6/49. We were listening to him as the host asked him various questions. There were two that stand out”what’s your favourite way to explain the odds to a layperson” – and he said “imagine laying out cigarettes end-to-end across the country and being asked to pick one.”

    The last question she asked was “knowing the odds, have you ever bought a ticket?”

    The answer: “Every week.”

  9. I sold a ticket that won $100,000. Does that count? A guy I used to know won $1,000,000 the day he retired. I think that’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to winning.

    But if I did win a huge jackpot, I’d share with friends and family, pay the bills, travel, maybe set up a charitable trust (depending on just how much I won). As for the “old friends” that come out of the woodwork, they can suck it.

  10. Depending on the amount won, do whatever is needed to get Dark Matter seasons 4 & 5. Of the things I think I really want, Dark Matter may be the only viable choice.

  11. My favorite tv series got cancelled after one season. I’d be happy to pay for S2.

  12. Years ago, I watched a Spin the Wheel” in which people who had a “winning” ticket got to spin for anywhere from $ 10,000 to one million. A lady with six kids and a pile of debt spun and won,,,$ 10,000.00,,, a guy with his own multi-million dollar company, who said he’d just invest any winnings in his company,,,spun the wheel and won ,,,one million…luck appears to favor those who don’t need it…

  13. Find out what I really enjoy doing with my time and get to work. Because life is really boring without good work. I’d also buy a flat, because it’s nice to have a home. Luckily I’m healthy so nothing to do there.
    And then just go on living.
    Unfortunately I’m not playing 😉

  14. I just emailed my sibs last nights dream numbers even though I never win powerball. I do win at those scratchers, but once I win my 5 or 10 bucks I trade it for more scratchers. I had a good 5 visit streak of winning a few bucks at the scratchers, but my last try netted a total of $2. If I won I’d clear my siblings debts and mortgages, and put my own cash in the bank and travel until I find the perfect little house.

    I’m still recovering from last night’s Preacher, just bonkers and beautiful.

  15. I would retire, and open a no-kill dog shelter with my wife. With room for hundreds of dogs. That’s the dream, anyway.

    By the way, no pickles were made this last weekend. My produce guy said the Kirby cucumbers looked like crap. So maybe next weekend.

  16. I play, I lose. I play, I lose. So now I’d rather spend that money on a good book, a good meal, a good wine, and hope my friends who do play will take pity on this poor soul when they win.

  17. A cruise…or ten. A visit to every Major League ballpark at least once.
    Consider this: For that $1, 2$, or $5 you spend on a ticket you get to dream of what it would be like to have that money. For however long that dream lasts that’s entertainment, and that’s what you really spent your money on.

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