Friday, March 30, 2012


There's Gold in Them There Tickets. GOLD!

Did you buy your winning lottery ticket yet, or are you afraid it will ruin your life? Why!? Certainly YOU are different. YOU are the one who will beat the odds, in more ways than one. YOU will win the lottery and things will get better.

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the lottery: a tax on those who cannot do math.



Among the people who understand the math involved and save a few dollars by never playing, the number who actually win the lottery is 0.

Among the people who don't understand the math involved (or don't care) and actually do play, the number who actually win the lottery is greater than 0.


@atipofthehat I LIKE THOSE ODDS


@wearitcounts $1 towards improbability every couple of years is a lot cheaper than all all others vices. Also it's a fun way to fantasize and escape your life a little. Cheaper than those $10 new-fangled movies.


Thank you so much for such a great post@y

The Lady of Shalott

I know that the lottery is not going to pan out for me. (Ha!!!) I know that it is mostly, a tax on stupid people. I know that I am not going to win big in the Lotto-649 or Set for Life or whatever, but, but....but....

part of me still dreams about what I would do if I really made it big. (Pay off my parents' house and finish all the renovations they want to make. Sock some away in a high-yield investment fund for the future. Put some away to live on if I ever get to do my Ph.D. Put some in a savings fund for a rainy day. Buy a car. Then maybe, MAYBE, after all that, I would go on vacation somewhere tropical.)


@The Lady of Shalott $1 is such a small price for the luxury of daydreaming about the ways in which you would improve life for yourself and your loved ones, no?


@The Lady of Shalott I play on occasion too. I don't even want to win the big prize, hell even $1000 would be awesome! But I have a habit of picking no right numbers at all.


@MoonBat This is how I feel. I mean, there are worse things I spend $1-5 on. And that small tiny itsy-bitsy chance that I could win big? Worth it.



"So you're telling me there's a CHANCE!?"


@atipofthehat "What was all that one in a million talk?"

Lily Rowan



@Lily Rowan "Hey, you never know!"


@The Lady of Shalott I have never played the lottery (except for scratch off tickets in Christmas stockings) but I won $1000 in a sweepstakes in December and it was fucking awesome. I always thought "No one ever really wins this stuff" but I did. So it could happen to you!


I don't buy lotto tickets. I prefer to think that if my friends win the lottery, they will be incredibly generous with free meals/stuff.


My parents won a (small-ish, much less than $1 million) lottery when I was a child. It helped us buy a new house, pay off their debts, sock away some money for college, etc., but didn't make us rich or anything.

But now I imagine it's more or less cosmically impossible for me to ever win a lottery.


@Emby I think anyone who got to live in a house of their own with both parents who weren't frightened sleepless over how they were going to pay off the mortgage, and who knew that their kid was going to college-is pretty damn rich.


@Emby That's how I feel when I see a convenience store that advertises "$[AMOUNT] winning lottery ticket bought here in [YEAR]!". It just makes me think, what are the odds that this random little store would sell another winning ticket? I mean, technically it doesn't change the odds at all but I agree it does make it less cosmically possible.


@Myrtle No... no, I'm pretty sure "rich" means something quite a bit different than "solidly middle-middle class." But thanks for the moral. Appreciated!


@Emby I think Myrtle meant it as, wealthy isn't a measure of money, but as freedom, in this case from worry!
Which is perfect, seriously. Enough to free yourselves from the insecurity of a mortgaged home, not so much that new worried and problems are created!


@Emby perhaps "rich in comparison to oneself" would be a better way to describe it. I personally would LOVE to be rich enough to do everything you described, yes I would, and I would consider that to be quite wealthy.


@iceberg I'm sure, but to me, it came off as a bit of a patronizing "tut-tut, now, count your blessings!" Especially since now as an adult, I'm nowhere near that level of financial security. So maybe that's my own sensitivity.

Apologies for the response.


@Emby Oh I understand : )

I grew up in almost the same sort of circumstances as you (minus the lottery, but my parents did own the house) and now I'm what *I* consider to be extremely poor but even thoguh we constantly worry about being able to pay all our bills and buy all the food we need, I have a (mortgaged) roof over my head and a (leased) mini-van, so me decribing myself as poor would i'm SURE be annoying to someone who is legitimately poor. It's all relative is what I'm saying.


@Emby No worries, we're all with you on this one. Much love, and Happy Friday!!!

Lily Rowan

@Emby That kind of winning is sort of my actual dream -- life-changing money seems terrifying, but life-easing money sounds perfect.


@MoonBat "wealthy isn't a measure of money, but as freedom, in this case from worry!"

I'd direct you to any number of bankers and brokers crying to the press about how "you don't understand, a million dollars a year doesn't go nearly as far as you think it does!" in order to demonstrate that just because rich people can be phenomenally bad with money doesn't make them not rich-as-fuck, but our collective blood pressure probably doesn't need the spike.


@wharrgarbl Shhhhh.....don't be all fucking up my Friday with your annoying logic and shit.


I spent the last hour of my workday looking at real estate on sotheby's website, setting the price gauge to show only places >$5M. So the answer you're looking for is a resounding yes.


@ihatesomuch Me too! there is a "Private Island" search option.


When I was a child, I won a grand total of twelve pounds on a television bingo show hosted by a drag queen. It was brilliant.


@Decca I won somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100 in a rubber duck race when I was around 8 years old. A lot of money for a kid! Not as cool as winning it from a drag queen though.

Oh, squiggles

I once found a $100 bill. Literally did a happy dance.


@Decca I won a $100 gift certificate to Toys R Us when I was five in a raffle. BEST EVER.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional I found a $20 bill in the ocean once! For some reason, everyone is instantly doubtful when I tell this story ("A $20 bill? In the ocean? That didn't happen.").


@anachronistique My grandma bought me a gold coin for Christmas one year as a kid, when the cost of gold was low. I forgot about it, obviously preferring dolls and books to "investment" gifts.

Fast forward to my junior year of college where I'm relatively broke, working as a part-time telemarketer so I could have beer money, when my parents remind me about the coin and the fact that the price of gold is up. That $900 felt like winning the lottery!

sarah girl

The lottery/gambling just makes me angry and sad. I cannot believe that our states fund what is mostly exploitation of people who are poorly educated, addicts or desperate for money.

This is also why I don't plan to ever go to Las Vegas.

sarah girl

@Sarah H. Argh my browser isn't letting me edit my comment, but important caveat: I'm not saying that all people who play the lottery/gamble are poorly educated or addicts or anything like that! I'm just saying that those groups are the ones that suffer the most.

Oh, squiggles

@Sarah H. The lottery contributes money to public education...


@Awesomely Nonfunctional That's true, but wouldn't it be great if the state could fund public services without having to rely on this narrative of "It could be you!" that directly targets the lower-paid and vulnerable in our society?

Oh, squiggles

@Decca Is it really directed at the lower-paid an vulnerable? I have always been pretty middle class, and have occasionally played the lotto. Also, I know of a multi-millionaire (who worked very hard, invested carefully over the course of many years) who would play occasionally. I kind of think this is a fun way of getting people to contribute money to education. They could just abolish it and raise taxes, but is that as much fun?

Also, I am holding adults responsible for their own actions. No one made them buy a lottery ticket. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. If I am struggling to pay for food one month, I don't go and spend my money on entertainment, which is what the lottery is.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional Yeah, maybe it happens (i have literally no stats on this so I could be waaaay off base) but honestly I can't imagine that people who struggle to keep the lights on have spare money to throw at lottery tickets...

Lily Rowan

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I'll just say, the people I see buying shitloads of lottery tickets on the regular never look like people who actually have that extra $100 to lose.

Maybe they would not be poor if they were not gambling addicts, but I could not say.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional The lower-paid and vulnerable in society are the people who think they have the most to gain by playing the lottery. I'm sure plenty of middle-class and wealthy people also play, but what seems like a fun way for you to spend a few dollars on public education, for other people it's seen as a direct line out of poverty. There's a load of info here about the demographics of people who pay the lottery and how it affects them. Some really depressing stuff, actually. And no, taxes are not fun, but they're necessary and (shouldn't, if they're applied correctly) hurt those of lower income disproportionately. Also, gambling is an addiction, and an insidious one. I don't think the state should be sponsoring the cultivation of that habit.

Oh, squiggles

Again, I just think people should hold themselves more responsible. I'm not sure gambling is really an addiction, so much as it is someone who struggles with compulsive behavior. And while I have sympathy for them, that doesn't mean that all games of chance are bad or evil. Just as alcohol is not bad or evil. If some people abuse it, due largely to impulse control, should everyone be required to do without?

You have to be an adult to play, and as an adult, you are responsible for your own actions.

So often in life, blind chance comes along and blindsides you, and frequently not for the better. So what is so bad about taking part in an activity where you already know the results of blind chance, and are willing to accept any result happening to you?
1. I lose, and there goes my $1.
2. I win, but only a small amount (I have one amounts of $2, $3, and $10 before) Yay!
3. I win big, get enough money to actually be able to do something amazingly good for other people. Bigger Yay!

And all options result in money going towards public education.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional (Who knew I cared so much about the lottery?!)

I do take your point, but I don't know if it's as simple as saying " people should hold themselves more responsible". Societal pressures play a huge role. I was lucky to grow up in a relatively well-off household where my parents never had to worry about where the money was going to come from for food or shoes or schoolbooks. I don't know what it's like to be crippled by poverty. But people are crippled by poverty, and some of those people continue to spend their money on lottery tickets because they hold onto the tiny chance that it might be the solution to their problems. It's terrible and I might feel angry and baffled by someone who chooses to buy a ticket instead of a loaf of bread, but I don't think turning it around and saying "You should be more responsible" is necessarily the correct response.

And alcohol isn't analogous. It doesn't offer the promise of a better life.

Oh, squiggles

@Decca I do know people who spend all their money for the month, and are then left without food. And while I have tried to help them be more responsible in their spending habits, in the end, I had to accept that it is their decision. They know the consequence, and choose to spend their money that way. Does this mean that everything they irresponsibly spend money on should be made unavailable to protect them?

I think alcohol is analogous in that it is something that can be abused, and it doesn't seem necessary to ban it because some people abuse it. That analogy was addressing the addiction aspect. Now a days, people can be addicted to anything. But are we going to ban sex, shopping, entertainment, ect?

I think one of the best ways to combat poverty is education, which the lottery helps fund.

I really don't see playing the lottery as a societal pressure...

If an adult chooses to make a bad decision, do we take away their ability to make a decision at all? Yes, I hold them responsible for their actions, because that is what having freedom and free will is about. I don't tell poor people to "be more responsible"

And yeah, I never thought I would be defending the lottery this heavily!

In the end, I don't believe that the lottery is contributing to making poverty worse. Poverty exists, whether or not the lottery does. Hawaii doesn't have a lottery, and is #5 on the poverty list.


@Decca I knew a guy who thought like that. He'd play even while he was declaring bankruptcy because he couldn't think of any other way out of poverty. It definitely wasn't a game to him anymore, but he wasn't addicted, either, it was just a source of hope.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional I don't think that you should have to try help people you know who are irresponsible spenders; I think that's the role of the state. Therefore, I don't think the state should continue to endorse gambling.

I think you know I'm not arguing for the banning of shopping or sex or alcohol! I just don't believe that people make their choices in a vacuum, free from any societal constraints or pressures. Of course the state shouldn't immediately ban any possibly addictive product or activity, but the onus is on the state to be responsible and to protect its citizens. For example, I'm speaking from an Irish context. Our Advertising Standards Authority has very strict rules regarding, say, advertising for alcohol. You're not allowed insinuate that drinking alcohol will improve your mood or to depict pub crawls in advertisements. As well as rules like those, the Irish state puts out its own ads about moderation in drinking, against drink driving, etc. I don't know whether it's similar in the USA, but to my mind, that's the correct way to go about it. I'm not arguing for Big Brother at all, but I think the state should be a responsible body.

Yes, lotteries fund public education. This to my mind almost makes them worse. Public education should be funded regardless, by taxing the wealthy. Not by a system which - it has been proven - affects the poorer in society.

Oh, squiggles

@Decca I don't know that should be the role of the state...it gets into tricky territory, where people's freedom and choices become limited. I would be very upset if the law decided when and where I was allowed to spend my money...

Well, I believe education is very important, and actually improves society for everyone, therefore everyone should contribute. And the lottery is not solely responsible for funding education! It just adds extra, which is good! And hopefully, that added funding would help teach children how to budget and spend responsibly!


@Awesomely Nonfunctional But surely there's a difference between the state dictating where you can spend your money and the state structurally endorsing gambling? I don't think the state should ban alcohol, but nor do I think the state should open its own bar.

I also believe education is very important and that everyone should contribute towards it, by paying taxes proportionate to their income bracket. I do concede that the lottery is not the sole funder of public education though! But for me, the fact that the proceeds for the lottery go towards education doesn't mitigate the more negative effects of it.

Oh, squiggles

@Decca I don't think the state endorses gambling. It regulates it, in the form of the lottery. I think that is actually the only legal form of gambling in Virginia. And in Virginia, the alcohol is sold in state run shops, so that it can be regulated.


@Decca There's also the theory that if these things are going to have a societal cost, the government should be making the money off them, not businesses. In Canada, we're not too far from the government opening their own bars. Province-run liquor stores distribute much/most of the alcohol sold, and make huge amounts of money from it.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional To me, the state operating a gambling system is an endorsement, even if it is regulated.

And @MilesByMountains, that's a really good point.

I guess whatever the reasoning for them, I'm still very uncomfortable with the idea of a lottery. Good discussion though!

Gracefully and Grandly

May the odds be ever in your favor.


I went in with a bunch of people from work. It was worth it for us to be able to make jokes with each other about how we're going to quit en masse and rent a cruise ship. Honestly, if I won any money I'd use it to pay off my loans. (Well, most of it.)

New Commenter Name

@area@twitter Ditto - in the office lottery pool here. It would make such a good news story if we won, as we are all being laid-off soon from our jobs.


@Curiouser and curiouser Our office is doing it too! I have to go get cash for it, though, or have someone spot me. Which probably means if we do win, my coworkers will use that as an excuse to not give me my share.


@area@twitter Also went in with my co-workers. It's the only time I play and I do it mainly because I would be SEETHING with jealousy if all my co-workers got to jump ship and I was stuck dealing with the residual bullshit.


@klaus Yeah, I think we have a group pact set in place now so that we'd all leave together with our boss sobbing and clutching at our ankles as we exit. It's a nice dream even without the money.


@area@twitter Us too, with a written winnings agreement and everything. Pretty sure my last words as I left were "See you guys when we're not poor!" Ha, ha.


@klaus Yes, I also did the office pool. I find the potential for seething jealousy a good motivator, as I have never bought a ticket on my own. But, god, to watch my co-workers win?! Would not be able to stand it.


I will not be buying a lottery ticket because I had no hours at work this week and the paycheck I got for last week's work isn't enough to cover both my phone bill and my credit card bill (a total of maybe $70), and the state is holding my tax return "for review."

Is there a lower-stakes lottery where you can get like $20 to hold you for a couple of weeks? I'd buy a ticket for that.

Oh, squiggles

Okay, I play the lottery, and I am not stupid, nor am I incapable of understanding math and statistics. Also, the lottery helps fund public education. So yeah, I play (emphasis on play) a game, that funds public education, on the very slim chance that I might win a prize. But just like with all games, I don't play a game just because I know I will win. I play for the act of playing.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional I like to play on "special occasions" - like, when my brother and I got too old for happy-meal-toy style stocking stuffers, my mom would buy maybe $40 worth of scratch tickets instead, and we would scratch them off on Christmas morning. That way, it's more like a fun thing you do, and less like an investment that you'll be sad doesn't pay off.

Oh, squiggles

@SarcasticFringehead I liked scratchers more when I was little. Now I like to avoid the mess they make :P


@Awesomely Nonfunctional There is that. Plus, now that I never use cash, it's actually harder than I think it should ever be to find a coin to scratch them with. I still like the excitement that comes from just needing one more number, even though I never get it.


"YOU will win the lottery and things will get better."

I could finally start my own monkey knife-fight business! All my dreams would come true! My dreams of doing something interesting with some of the money in order to make up for the stone-cold boring shit I'd do with the rest of the money!


I could pay the taxes on Tara! And then Ashley would have to come back - I know he'd come back. He can't care for that mealy-mouthed little thing, not really. I'll do it, and then I'll buy the lumber mill. And I'll hire convicts! They're cheaper! Oh, hush, you old Frank Kennedy. Isn't it time you went home and took your medicine?


@melis HAH. Ashley you cannot have, you cannot even pry him from my cold, dead hands.
*Disclosure: I was born in Georgia and named for your Ashley's one true love. You horrid tramp.



She's more of a scratch-off player, though, don't you think? The kind that buys 25 cards at once, still linked like sausages, and bends over and squints and scrubs at them furiously with an old brass button from a brave dead soldier's uniform?


@MoonBat Why Mellie darling, you silly little doll, if it came down to all that I'd just saw your hands off and ask Dr. Meade to have them removed later.


@melis I'd expect nothing less of you, dahhhhhling!


I went to buy tickets for myself and my BFF, who I often call my sister, and got interviewed by the local news about it! So now we are really, truly sisters, because the news said so, and the news never lies.

I did appreciate that they used a quote from me about just using random numbers, and not the quote where I said that the first thing I'd do is pay off my student loans, because HOW BORING AM I.


We've $10 invested in the lottery fantasy. I think we were spurred on by watching that Lottery Changed My Life show on TLC. That show's got to be funded by state lotteries to drive up the fever, because it totally worked on us. Even the sob stories are compelling.


I literally have never bought a lottery ticket, and yet I still fantasize about what I would do if I won... is that weird?

Oh, squiggles

@iceberg Not at all! The fantasizing is the best part of playing, and you can get it for free! Buying a ticket just makes the fantasy that much more exciting.


@iceberg I AM THE SAME! And yes it is weird. But also cheap?


@iceberg Nope! I'm in the same boat. I think it's kind of a useful exercise to think about what you'd change in your life if you came into a sudden windfall.

We kind of get into mental patterns where your everyday-normal seems immutable, but considering what you'd change immediately if you had the financial ability can help you look at it from a different angle, especially since a lot of the time a version of what you want doesn't really need eleventy billion dollars to do.

Oh, squiggles

@wharrgarbl It might actually be a good exercise. If you consider all the possibilities are open, then you can see what you fantasize about, and in turn, discover what is really important to you.


@wharrgarbl Ok so can I have your eleventy billion dollars if you win?


@MoonBat Of course you can't! If I had a shot at becoming an actual supervillain instead of having to settle for terrorizing HOA members with stray treehouses and shrubs over regulation height, I'd take it in a heartbeat.

Oh, squiggles

@wharrgarbl Terrorizing HOA members should be considered a viable career path.


@wharrgarbl I drive by the lottery billboard every day on my way into work, and I'll occasionally drift off into a daydream along those lines. It is useful, to see what you'd do if money was no object; kind of helps you figure out where your priorities are so you can figure out what you want to save for.


@Awesomely Nonfunctional It kind of is? I mean, basically, you get your arbitrary-and-vindictive power trips, but instead of getting "One million dollars!" every time you threaten to pull some crazy sci-fi bullshit, you get a really crap paycheck every two weeks. On which you must pay taxes. You know who doesn't get a statement of FICA deductions and income tax withholdings on their checks? Supervillains.

Because if you're an actual supervillain, and you get your $1,000,000 check from the US government in exchange for not blowing up the Hoover Dam, and you see $76,500 taken out for Medicare and Social Security, you can sigh heavily and pinch the bridge of your nose a little and then lose your supervillain shit, all screaming "Why do you make me do these things?!" while pushing the button and shooting henchmen and upsetting the cat.

Oh, and you typically do not have to deal with performance reviews that always, without fucking fail, include the phrase "disturbing (sometimes described as evil) laughter something of a drawback" in the "needs improvement" section when you are an actual supervillain.


@iceberg See my comment earlier this week about my Fat Shame Fairy plan. I still haven't bought a ticket.


@iceberg No, I'm the same! My fantasies are boring, though (pay off student loan, give some to my parents and sibings, choose charities to donate to, and keep enough for a nice house one day+decent savings).


I have won money at the track. And at the tables.

Can we initiate a Hairpin card-counting plot to win big at blackjack?

(You'll be able to buy the estate jewelry, among other things!)


@atipofthehat I know you're not talking about a heist, but I just envisioned us all getting together Ocean's 11 style (except way more people), and I think that would be the most amazing crime ever. It would be so clean! We could use creepy dolls as decoys! We could use the proceeds not only for estate jewelry, but for tiny houses to put the jewelry in! With the collected wisdom of assorted Dudes, Ladies, Pigeons, Spiders, Coils of Rope, and Bowls of Hummus, we would be unstoppable!



...and with a certain mysterious, long-fingered frog to open the vault?



I bought in with my co-workers to be a good sport, but I would've also just ceremonially set five bucks on fire, if that's what they were into. I mean, I didn't spoil Broom Day either, and that was way sillier.


@frenz.lo Your comment has motivated me to be a better sport at work. The monthly themed potlucks and group movie trailer viewings (???) and I thank you.


I like the idea of a lottery. To me, it represents a truly equal playing field.

I guess, it may not be about actually winning the lottery, but the belief that you have as much of a chance as anyone.


I heard "blah blah lottery jackpot up to blah blah" this morning on NPR in the car ride to work (it's hard to hear the radio over the noise of my buddy's old Volvo) and I starting thinking about a This American Life episode where they talk about how winning the lottery usually ruins people's lives and then I thought about how I would keep a couple mil for myself and the rest would be doled out to EVERYONE I know and that would be a lot of work in itself but I would totally do it fairly and everyone would benefit so much, and then you posted this and my comment is a marathon of a run-on sentence.


@whizz_dumb I haven't listened to this one yet, but I was just thinking about the TAL episode where the cast of Riverdance plays the lottery and they get SO PUMPED while focusing on winning that they dance the best show of their lives.

Jane Marie

@klaus i was just thinking of that tooooo! what a good story.


I've never bought one myself, but I used to get them in my stockings/at Easter sometimes. I think I won $25 bucks once.


The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 26th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.

oh! valencia

@Decca The Worst/Best Seventh Grade English Period.

oh, disaster

I chipped $2 into the office pool with about 50 other people, so I'll probably end up as an anonymous face in the back of the giant check group shot.


Sometimes it's nice to let myself believe in possibility, rather than probability (swirls cape around, disappears in a puff of sparkling fog that smells of a summer afternoon).


i buy tickets every week, have been since law school started a year and a half ago, and therefore my odds of winning this week are greatly increased...right? #lawschool=badatmath #FAITH


I didn't/won't buy a ticket, but I did allow myself a very long and elaborate WHAT I WOULD DO fantasy yesterday on my drive home from work.


I buy a lottery ticket once every few years, so yeah, I put three dollars down on the mega millions. I know that I will most likely not win, but I do not know FOR SURE that I won't. Three bucks ain't much. I can't even get a gallon of gas for $3. The man at the gas station wished me luck, so that's gotta count for something, right?


I bought my first ever ticket today! Yes, math, but also yes, daydreams about giving 99% of it to Planned Parenthood or something and being the most beloved (by a certain segment of society) philanthropist ever.


@hallelujah I have similar dreams to donate gobs of cash to PP and the Guttmacher Institute.


@hallelujah Privately funded abortions, housing subsidies and college educations for undocumented immigrants, straight out of my backyard


I feel like the thing to do when you win is 1) give money to family 2) give money to charity 3) let yourself buy something really like a house or a car or student loans or a closetful of Louboutins, and then 4) hire someone to invest all of your money and send you a check every week (or deposit a certain amount in your checking account every morning) so that you still have lots of money to play with all the time, but you don't have ALL of it at your disposal every day, and you'd still have to "save up" for stuff so you can't buy 10 cars a day like a crazy person.

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