Unfavorable odds…

Every time one of the big multi-state lottery jackpots gets up towards record territory, there’s a flurry of reports decrying the whole concept of state sanctioned gambling. I can tick most of the main arguments off by heart: They’re a tax on the poor; They’re a tax on those who don’t understand math; They divert funds that people should use for long term investment; They destroy the lives of the people who win. The list goes on and on and on and on… but you get the gist. 

Like most other activities in life, there’s no end to people who want to tell you why you shouldn’t do something and why you’re an idiot if you do. I tend to fall more in line with the “let people enjoy the things they enjoy” school of thought. Deciding to buy a $2 Mega Millions ticket, even if it’s your last $2, literally doesn’t hurt anyone else. You buying a ticket doesn’t impact me in any way. In this country we’re all free to bankrupt ourselves in any way we’d like. 

With no hand wringing at all, I’m happy to throw a few dollars every week at various games sponsored by the Maryland lottery. I’m putting plenty back to care for myself in old age, it’s not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, or a roof from over anyone’s head, so why the hell shouldn’t I take a flyer on fabulous wealth? It’s a happy dream that costs next to nothing.

Now if anyone needs me between now and Friday night, I’ll be over at Country Life getting a read on what English country homes are heading to market in the near future. A billion dollars probably won’t buy me a peerage, but it’s more than enough to live like it did.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

IMG_7893.JPG1. Canned goods. The media is currently filled with pictures from Texas of shoppers with carts piled high with canned goods, cases of water, and the usual list of hurricane supplies. I’m always struck when I see these pictures that so many people who live in an area historically frequented by natural disasters don’t have a week’s supply of food and water already laid on. Keeping a few extra cans of beans around for just such an occasion feels like something you should just do automatically even if you’re not in an area prone to high winds and water. Keeping yourself and your household alive in the immediate aftermath of whatever very bad thing hits your community feels a lot like something that you should take on as a personal responsibility instead of waiting for the Weather Channel to tell you you’re going to need water… and then bitching about the government not getting to you fast enough after the storm passes.

2. Powerball. Some woman in Massachusetts won my $758.7 million jackpot.

3. Suffering fools. We live in a polite society where it’s considered inappropriate to look someone in the eyes and ask them directly if they’ve always been stupid or if they have just been struck in the head by a blunt object. The result is no matter how stupid someone is, we’re not supposed to call them out on it. Look, I’m not expecting everyone to be a rising Einstein, I’m more than aware of the moments when my brain has locked up when trying to do or comprehend things that should be simple… but honest to God when the sum total of human knowledge is available to everyone on the device they spend most of their day staring at, there’s just no excuse for so many people to be so incredibly dumb.

Fact check…

I’ve seen a couple of posts banging around the interwebs today that claim if we just gave every American a slice of the upcoming Powerball jackpot, everyone would get about $4.33 million and we could dispense with poverty forever. It’s a fun idea, except for the part where the math is utterly wrong.

With a estimated cash payout of about $868 million and about 300 million Americans that works out to $2.89 per person… or enough for everyone to get themselves a extra large coffee from Dunkin Donuts. While I’m not theoretically opposed to the everyone-gets-coffee scheme, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s a long way from “curing” poverty.

It’s a stone fact that for a handful of people in the next few days life is most likely going to take a radical departure from its current trajectory. It’s not going to lead to a chicken in every pot, although that makes for a nice little story on the internet.

Unfortunately it also illustrates nicely why fact checking shouldn’t just be for history majors.

The big one…

$636 million is a seriously big hunk of cheese. I sit out most lottery drawings these days, but I’m just sucker enough to take a swing at this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to win “just” a few million bucks, I’ve got my targets set on getting the big, “Fuck You” kind of money. If my numbers come up tonight this old boy is just going to disappear quietly in the dead of night like a Mayflower truck full of football equipment. I’ll turn up eventually in some far flung outpost of humanity looking like Panama Jack, but before I do that, I’ll want to spend a significant amount of time getting to know my giant stack of cash.

It’s all a happy fantasy, of course. Statistically, I know there’s probably a better chance of getting hit by an asteroid, struck by lightning, and run over by a bus simultaneously than there is of winning tonight’s “big one.” Still, for a buck? I’m in. If there’s no post tomorrow, at least you’ll know why.

Jackpot dreams…

A disturbing number of things I say every week start with the phrase “When I hit the PowerBall…” Usually that’s leading to some discussion of buying an island somewhere in the South Pacific and doing my best to ignore the rest of the world. It occurs to me that my needs are really much more mundane. Sitting here tonight, I suspect I could be bought off with much less than a full-blown lottery jackpot. Sure, the island or a well fortified Montana compound would be a nice touch, but I suspect I’d be perfectly happy just sitting here on the porch with the dogs at my feet and my nose stuck in a good book. I think I could potentially entertain myself like that for years, as long as I didn’t have a tiny little voice in the back of my head reminding me that I have to get up at first light tomorrow to go sit in a cube for eight hours. It seems the better the weekend, the heavier the weight of Sunday night bears down. Bugger all.

A modest proposal…


I realize that some of you do not to purchase lottery tickets or engage in gambling activities because of your religious convictions. I absolutely respect and support your decision. In light of tomorrow’s $540 million Mega Millions jackpot, I have come up with an idea that will help all of us. I’ve already bought my tickets for the drawing so don’t worry, that sin is all on me. I’ll do my best to account for it when my turn comes to meet my maker. In the meantime, what I need from you, my friends, is just a little prayer that my numbers match up with the drawing on Friday night. No fuss, no muss, just a kind word from your lips to God’s ear.

If I can count on your help in bringing this bounty home and sharing it with your favorite charities, just mention me and the Jeffrey D. Tharp Charitable Trust to the deity of your choice tonight… and maybe again in the morning… and possibly for a third time after dinner tomorrow night. When my six numbers match and just as soon as I can get the Jeffrey D. Tharp Charitable Trust up and running, I’ll be happy to make out a sizable check in your name to the charity of your choice just as my little way of saying thank you for keeping me in your prayers tonight.

Don’t forget to click “like” so I know I have your support (and I can figure out where to send the checks!).

Warm Regards,