Thursday, December 24, 2009

J'lm Marathon Training #10

Thursday, 23 December 2009

Injury.

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Here's the story:

Delay after delay, I was unable to leave the house until 10pm, an hour after my scheduled start. This could not possibly be good. But despite that, I began well, getting into the rhythm, finding a good breathing pattern, and running at a good pace.

After exactly 11 minutes I reached the daunting incline of HaYarden Street. I sucked it in and pushed my way upwards. Reaching the top, I was surprised to realize that I was in very good shape - no stitch, no ache, plenty of energy. I decided that for the rest of the course I would go for it - If I tried, I was in a good position to smash my time and reach my medium-term goal of "10km in 55 minutes" sooner than expected.

Reaching just over the half-way mark, the clock rolled its digits to 29 minutes. I was going to have to put the pedal to the metal on this one. But I felt good. I was going to make it.

My body knew that the 1.22km HaYarkon Street was coming up and fought to reserve its strength, but I strode out and gained speed. A stitch began to creep up the side of my torso and I altered my breathing - short inhales and forceful exhales.

35 minutes into the run the stitch shrunk to near insignificance and I looked up. Before me lay a long upward challenge. I felt great and decided that since I had come this far, I may as well take it to the limit. 55 minutes was a real possibility.

Halfway up HaYarkon I began to slow down. My body said no but the stopwatch said yes. I fought harder. I stretched out longer. The muscles strained. And it was good.

Reaching the top of the 1.22km road I looked down at the watch. I had done HaYarkon in under five minutes. A brilliant effort after already running about 6km. And then, disaster.

My left knee sang out - like a broken-voiced teenager scraping his fingernails on a blackboard. Assessment: the coming 2.5+ km were mostly flat, with two short uphills. I could ride out the pain. In fact, on the flat parts, I hardly felt a thing, but up Refaim, the knee ached so much I began to limp. If only the pain would wait until after the 10km, I could break the 55, I knew I could. Alas, the Refaim hill caused pain that was too powerful and I slowed to a painful, agonizing, gimpish pace.

As soon as I hit a flat piece of road, I was on my way again, telling myself that I could still beat 55. Yet, even the slightest uphill was torturous. I was done for.

I thought back to one of my first blogs after I started training, where I wrote: Discipline also means knowing when to stop. Maybe I should heed my own advice? Balderdash! I'm less than 2km from the finish line and I refuse to give in! I shall not give up!

Dolev came none too soon. It's ever-so-slight downhill was refreshing and I picked up some pace, especially towards the end as the increasing severity of the downhill encouraged me to a more respectable speed. The knee refused. It argued. Loudly. But the watch said 52 minutes, better than my previous time. I had to finish strong.

Ignoring the searing pain, my left leg reluctantly followed my right at a more vigorous gait. Turning into Sorek, the slight uphill jabbed needles into my knee. I protected myself with a protracted wince, as if baring my teeth to the oncoming wind could extinguish the burning fire in my leg.

The finish line appeared surprisingly soon and as I watched its rapid approach with the detachment of a disinterested bureaucrat, my body lunged itself forward, breaking the imaginary tape at 56:05 - besting my previous time of 56:43.

I hobbled the 300m home, smiling inwardly at my manly disregard for pain, while outwardly cursing myself for my stupidity.

No more running until, at least, next Monday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Channukah 2009: Karp-Style

Jl'm Marathon Training #9

This post includes 3 entries - the latest appears last.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


During the course of the day I neglected to psych myself up for running, like I usually do. In fact, I almost forgot that I was to go for a jog in the evening. I didn't prepare by drinking water during the day, although I did keep to a light lunch and no snacking in the afternoon - but that's become the norm, rather than the exception.

At about 7pm I remembered that I was supposed to train that evening. I had that niggling feeling in the pit of my stomach that it really isn't a good idea. I should put it off. But I forced myself to go. Discipline must prevail.

Certain that I was not going to do well, I set off at about 9pm. I started off just fine, but a stitch had me in its evil clutches for approximately 4km. It was tough, but I kept working at altering my breathing patterns and doing the other breathing tricks I learned about on the wise Internet. The stitch eventually faded, but it had worn me out and I struggled to find rhythm.

Luckily for me, I self-motivate and I pushed myself at the end, increasing my speed until I built myself up to the pace of an energetic geriatric with a walking frame. Sprinting to the finish line was painful, but I still managed a personal best of 57:04 over 10km (not 10.3km)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

This time I was ready for the 10km. I did all of the mental and physical preparation I could during the day. I worked myself up to a state where I wouldn't be able to rest until I had completed the course.

Then I made a mistake.

During my warm-up stretches I parted from my normal routine and did some lunges, thinking they would stretch my thigh muscles. Being enthusiastic, I did quite a few, reasoning that the more I do, the better I'll feel schlepping myself up the hills. The only result I could see was that my thighs hurt from before I set out until the day after. I won't be doing lunges anymore before a run.

The self-inflicted handicap did not help as I really felt awful during the entire 10km. I fought off a stitch that came, went, extended up my arm, duplicated itself on the other side and then went around again for seconds. But once I had the finish line in my sights, I dug deep for the last reserves of strength hiding in the folds of my leg muscles. Sprinting home, I managed a personal best time of 56:43 over 10km. A great result considering it was an ugly run.

A Momentous Occasion

I did it. I signed up and paid my registration fee. I am now an official entrant in the Jerusalem Marathon 10km event. I was the fifth person to register. I have now put my money where my substantially sized mouth is. And I get a free T-Shirt (that I paid for with the fee.)

Now that there is real money on the table, this is serious.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #8

I have been dieting really hard, sticking to my no-sweets, no-beer, no-junk food diet with the fervor of a religious fanatic who, very (very) occasionally sneaks a peanut butter sandwich.

I have not been training as hard as I should. On average, I do my 10.3km run twice a week, instead of my planned three-times a week. But I am improving. In fact, I completely slashed my time tonight, as you will read in the remainder of this post, which I call:

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Good

I completed my 10.3km run in a record 58:34. This puts me right on track to complete the Jerusalem marathon 10km event before the organizers finish packing up.

I felt absolutely fantastic the whole way (save for a stitch or two, which I worked through and overcame). I ran solidly, and I took on the tough uphills with gusto and determination (I would have taken on the uphills with zeal, as well, but he was too busy flirting with passion and spirit.)

How did I manage to finish the 10.3km in only 58:34?
  • I discovered that registration for the Jerusalem half-marathon and 10km even has opened, and the details of the event are posted on the Internet: http://hmarathon.jerusalem.muni.il/
  • I used an actual stopwatch, courtesy of my son, Zvi, who patiently showed me how to use the thing. The only problem is that I don't wear my glasses when I run, and so I can't see the time on the watch. I only know my result when I finish and have no idea of how I'm doing during the run.
  • I worked really hard on not eating donuts, latkes and other oily foods (only 1 donut and 2 latkes, despite the heavy temptation) - "carrot sticks are yum, carrot sticks are yum"
  • I have been drinking plenty of water (mixed with coffee, milk and sugar, but sometimes just by itself)
  • I am a self-motivated, goal-oriented, success-driven, fanatical-fitness-freak (it helps)
Now I have a new record to beat. Bring it on, baby!

The Bad
My MP3 player stopped working. How is that possible? It's almost brand new. But it might not be so bad.

Perhaps the music was holding me back. Maybe the earphones were slowing me down? Could the beat of the songs have limited my stride?

The bad might not be so bad after all, although I still have no MP3 player.

The Ugly
My Brooks Adrenaline GT9s - comfy as heck, but as ugly as an inside-out monkey.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Blood

Here is my latest short story. I entered it into a competition where the requirements were:

- No more than 1,500 words
- Any topic
- Must be bold, brilliant and brief

Here it is:

www.ploni.net/NewBlood-YossiKarp.pdf

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #7

Motzei Shabbat, 28 November 2009

As promised I went for a short run this evening. I wasn't going to go, though. I had decided that I wouldn't and was looking forward to settling down to some relaxing activities, like putting away the dishes.

Turns out that my son, Shimi, remembered that I told him he could come along with me on a run. He would bike and I would shlep myself behind him. How could I give up quality father/son time?

So we plotted out a route that didn't include so many hills and we set off at about 8.30pm. I pushed myself harder than usual and I did a bit of sprinting, which is something I don't do on a 10km run. I enjoyed the time and Shimi was great.

4.5km and 28 minutes later I put the pedal to the metal and powered on home. I don't think I've ever run as fast as that. It only took me about 20 minutes to recover. The time was a bit disappointing, but I put it down to cholent.

Oh, and when I finally recovered, I did put away the dishes ;-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #6

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I must be a masochist. I decided that my previous route, which involved running a particular course and then backtracking, was too boring. If I was running on a treadmill, the scenery would be the same. But since I'm running out on the street, why see the same thing twice?

So on Wednesday evening, I sat down in front of Google Earth with my eldest son and we planned out a new course, according to these guidelines:
  • At least 10km
  • Avoid running through certain communities
  • Not too many long downhills
  • Include the killer Nahar HaYarden uphill
  • Include the 1.22km Yarkon uphill
  • Avoid backtracking as much as possible
The route we came up with is very complicated, but fulfills all criteria. It is actually 10.3km and involves only a few short backtracks. It is also about 80% uphill! OK, I exaggerate, but there are a lot more uphills than in my previous routes.

I completed the course in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, although I'm not entirely sure because I had a technical problem with the stopwatch along the way.

I was absolutely buggered after the run, although I did manage the 100m sprint to the finish line, which was extremely satisfying. All my muscles ached, but at least I didn't injure myself (go Brooks Adrenaline GT9s!)

I'm thinking of doing a quick 5k run on Motzei Shabbat, followed by this new course on Sunday. It is very challenging, but hopefully not too challenging.

If anyone has advice about training for a competitive running event (I know, 10km is not a marathon!) in hilly Jerusalem, please write them in the comments!

Here is a picture of my new route. Obviously, I start from the Home marker and end the run there. Follow the red arrow, but when the route brings you back almost to the beginning (the first turn), follow the blue arrow. As I said, there is some backtracking, but not a lot. Also, most of the backtracking is on the opposite side of the street, so the scenery is still a bit different.

The yellow writing is probably too difficult to read. The yellow writing at the top of the picture says "Massive HaYarkon Uphill" and the yellow writing at the bottom of the picture says "1.22km Yarkon Uphill". Those are my two most challenging uphills, although there are many more shorter uphills along this course.

Click on the image for a larger, clearer view.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #5

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I went out for my first run in over a week. The flu kept me indoors, but I was itching to get out there again.

I did my first big 10k run, which included nearly 4k of hills, some of them pretty steep. I completed the route in 1:10:00.

I didn't start out well. I got a stitch in the first three minutes and my hamstrings decided to make themselves heard just as I headed off. Things settled down in short order, but the niggling pains at the beginning were a little disconcerting. I guess it was the body's way of waking up after a long vacation.

I thought that it was a relatively solid run, albeit a bit slow. So far I have been concentrating on distance. I think I've got that. Now I need to challenge the clock.

Despite the minor muscle complaints, one thing was for certain: my feet were well taken care of. This past week I purchased a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9s. They are by far the most comfortable running shoes I've ever worn - no chafing, no bleeding toes, no sore arches. It was like running on soft, fluffy cushions the whole way. Well, sort of.

The shoes really are great, although they are as ugly as a box of blowflies. Doesn't matter, I want to step in them, not frame them. Although, for the price, one would have thought Brooks could put a little more effort into the exterior design. The Adrenaline reminds me of 1980s Reeboks mixed with a bit of 1970s night-club-silver. Sort of makes me want to do the boogie instead of the 10k!

This photo was taken after the shoes' maiden voyage. I'm looking forward to taking them out for a spin again. They certainly beat the all-purpose Nikes I was using before. I think that with a proper pair of shoes I'll have a better chance of doing well in this event.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #4

Really Early Morning, Friday, 13 November 2009

Set out on a jog in the wee hours of the morning at 12.20am. I decided to run a more challenging route than my usual 6 times around Dolev, AKA "The Peanut".

The route I took ended up being only approximately 7.66km, but it was very hard:
1. From my home to the corner of Ayalon and Kishon (about 0.83km - mostly downhill)
2. From Kishon/Yarkon to the corner of Yarden (approx 1.22km of solid incline)
3. From corner Yarkon/Yarden to the corner Kishon/Yarden (total approx 1.78km - lots of ups and downs plus one huge downhill)
Then turn around and do it in reverse (that huge downhill becomes one killer uphill).

I did it in just over an hour and five minutes. I'm pretty happy with that, given the difficulty of the terrain. It's a very challenging course, so I hope to improve next time.

But my biggest accomplishment so far is that I didn't get eaten by a jackal on the way.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #3

Tuesday, 10 November 2009
I needed a day's break to recover from the 10km I did on Sunday. In retrospect, I should have gone cycling, which is a great cross-training activity. But I didn't.

Going out this evening was difficult. I started the run at 10.15pm. I had a stitch for the first 4kms - a minor one, but it niggled at me. I started grunting at around the 3km mark. That's not good. I usually don't start grunting until somewhere towards the end. My feet started to hurt at around 5km - turns out my two smallest toes on my left foot were bleeding. I guess that means its time to hunt for better shoes. I'm certain that all these factors caused me to slow down considerably. But I had to overcome these setbacks and finish the 10km no matter what. I managed my breathing, corrected my posture and rallied over the last few kms to make the run worthwhile.

I made sure that, no matter how tired I was feeling, I powered up the one hill on my route each time I reached it. Strange, but I sprinted up that hill faster each time, rather than slow down, as you would expect. I think that I was psyching myself up for it on every rotation. I was also fortunate that either the cars on the road forced me to quicken my pace at that particular spot, or the music playing in my headphones reached the inspirational points that spurred me on up that hill. I'm beginning to enjoy the hills - at least this one.

My final sprint home over the last 200 meters was blistering fast. I could feel every muscle straining as I powered through the fatigue. I felt like a thousand people were standing by cheering me as I crashed through the winners tape. Despite that the only spectator to my incredible finish was a cat who had its nose stuck inside a tuna can, it was an awesome end to my late-night run.
I completed the 10km course in 1:08:00 (approximately). I realize it is not much of an improvement on my original 10km - I'm sure I can go faster. I just have to try harder and push myself a bit more.

I am far from having conquered the Dolev circuit, but I'm not sure I can motivate myself to keep going around in circles. I'm already planning another 10km route that includes varied scenery and terrain. For the moment, though, I have to follow through with the current mini-challenge to do the Dolev circuit easily and in much better time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #2

Wednesday, 4 November 2009:
As previously blogged, I decided to ditch the treadmill and run out on the road. I was advised to go for distance to build stamina, rather than time, at this stage (thanks, especially to Chaim and Rafi of the Beit Shemesh Running Club - I still intend to join up, I would just prefer to wait until I have a chance of keeping up a little bit with you guys!)

I took a leisurely jog to Rechov Nachal Dolev (getting there and back cost me 1.7km). Dolev is a 1500m circular street in Ramat Beit Shemesh (well, it's actually peanut-shaped, but you know what I mean) and is relatively flat, with one hill that goes for about 30m-50m. I thought that I'd take it easy on my first time out. I completed my initial lap easily and was getting into the groove when I started my second. I debated with myself the whole third lap and decided to go for a fourth. Why not? I stumbled out of Dolev after four times around and jogged back to my apartment. The 7.7km ordeal took 50 minutes.

When I arrived home, I discovered that I couldn't speak properly. I had trouble remembering words, I couldn't put a sentence together and I had difficulty thinking of the street I jogged on, even after my wife repeated its name for me numerous times. Thankfully, this lasted only as long as it took me to collapse into bed. By the morning I was fine.

Here's what I learned:
  • Hydrate properly before going on a run - sticking to a "hydration plan" throughout the day in preparation for a run is ideal
  • Even if it is cold, don't run in track pants and three layers of t-shirts - I was unwell that week and was paranoid about exacerbating my cold
  • Discipline includes knowing when to stop
I was too tired (read: scared of hurting myself) on Thursday and Friday to go for a run, but I went on a 45 minute walk (each way) to and from the boys' school on Motzei Shabbat for parent-teacher interviews. So at least that was something.

Sunday, 8 November 2009
Well, today was a milestone (literally). Record this date in your diaries and celebrate each year - today, for the first time in my life, I ran a full 10km. I prepared properly, I dressed appropriately and I jogged confidently. It took me 1hr and 10m to run approximately 10.7km (from my place to Dolev and back is about 1.7km + 6 times around Dolev, which is 9km.)

I initially aimed to do 4 laps and then see how I felt. When I went through my system check (legs, breathing, stitch status, etc) during lap 4, I was amazed to feel exactly as I did when I first headed out. That being the case, I decided to go for lap 5. Towards the end of lap 5, I could feel my legs starting to complain, but not enough to make me give up the big 10km.

And I feel good. I didn't get a stitch the whole time, but my calf muscles hurt. I stretched them a lot before setting off, and again when I cooled down, but I can still feel tightness. It isn't painful, so I am not worried.

Here are some observations:
  • It is much more difficult to run on the road than on a treadmill - my feet feel heavier, for some reason, and my running style seems more ungainly (oh, and there are potholes...)
  • Running on the road is more exhilarating than running on a treadmill, but shouting "Come on you lazy good-for-nothing!" in the middle of Dolev is not tolerated as much as doing so in the gym...
  • Drivers are, surprisingly, very courteous to joggers
  • Dogs are not very courteous to joggers
  • One of the joys of a 10km run is the final sprint to the finish line
I think I'll try to replicate this run one or two more times, without focusing on improving my time. Then I'll choose a different route with more inclines - I can save Dolev for the days I do my "easy" 10km runs (never thought I'd hear myself say that!)

Looking at my times and distances now, I sometimes wonder if I will ever get to March doing 10km in a more respectable time, but I think I am on my way.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jl'm Marathon Training #1

Jumblerant (good one, Mr. G.) challenged me to post about my progress with training for the Jerusalem Marathon 10k event in March 2010. So here we go:

Sunday, 1 November 2009:
Started training.

Knowing that I have never run 10k before, I decided to concentrate on distance rather than speed. My usual run is 4.5k and I wanted to start with something easy. I ran a comfortable 5k at a constant speed of 13km/h.

I got off the treadmill and felt really good. I figured that next time I'll go for 6k and build up from there. I also decided that 13km/h is a good pace so I'll try and maintain it, even as I increase the distance.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009:
I hit the treadmill at about 9.20pm. I was tired and fighting a cold. I read on a website today that to start seriously training for a 10k race you have to be able to run 30 minutes without stopping. I had previously promised myself to run 6k, so I decided not to alter my plan - I psyched myself up all day for the 6k and I didn't want a last-minute change to ruin my motivation.

The first 5k was relatively easy, but the last kilometer was hard. Breathing became difficult (I think because of my cold) and I struggled a bit through the last 500 meters.

I reached 6k in 28:08 and then slowed down to a fast walk. At first I was disappointed because I felt so exhausted after the run. After running 5k with absolute ease, I didn't think that 6k could be so difficult. Despite the voice in my head begging me to slow down, I kept to a steady speed of 13km/h (not including the short warm-up before the run). After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I had never run 6k before, that the time I did it in is quite good, and that 6k is only 4k off my target distance, and I'm over half-way there.

I also started working on my abs. I read on the Internet (so it must be true) that runners need to really work on their abs. So I did 2 sets of 15 stomach crunches, as advised by the gym supervisor. The crunches nearly killed me. So I plan to do this exercise every day. Hopefully they will become easier.

Tomorrow I think I'll do a short run on the road, maybe 20 minutes to half an hour of slow jogging on relatively flat terrain, depending on the weather. All the websites say to follow a hard run with an easy one. I'll let you know how I go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

60th Post Bonus

For my 60th Blog Post I thought I'd give you all a bonus.

Here is a story I submitted to a competition. The story is called "A Talented Man."

I won't know the result of the competition until March 2010.

http://www.ykarp.com/Fiction/ATalentedMan.pdf

Enjoy,

Yossi Karp

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quit While You're Ahead

Why don't people quit while they're ahead? When the late-great Michael Jackson was the King of Pop in the 80s, he should have hung up his glove and become an accountant or something. Look what happened to him. Not to mention Elvis Presley and Judy Garland, among others.

What makes people so ambitious that they feel it necessary to attempt to revive their glorious past? Unless you are Rocky Balboa, comebacks are rarely successful. Tastes change and the competition gets younger, more agile and more energetic. There comes a point where you have to say, "Look buddy, don't push your luck. You've had a good run, you've achieved fame and fortune, you've given it your all. Now go and do something else."

In an amazingly unprecedented feat of brilliance, last week I smashed my 4.5k record of 20:00, running the distance in 18:31. That's an average of 14.6km/h. About seven months ago I started out running 4.5k in 30 minutes, so reducing it to 18:31 is an amazing achievement.

You'd think I would be happy with that. But an athlete's ambition is an unquenchable thirst.

I'm not going to quit while I'm ahead. I'm not going to take my own advice and fade off quietly into the abyss of anonymity. I'm not going to rest upon my laurels. I'm not going to sit on a couch and watch others take the fame, fortune and glory.

I'm going to train for the 10k Jerusalem marathon. My new aim is to do 10k in 45 minutes. That's about an average of 13.3km/h. I'll pound the pavement and wear out the treadmill until I reach my goal. Then I'm going to find out what the times were for the top 100 people in last year's race and I'm going to aim to match it.

Then I'm going to enter the mid-March 10k race and give it all I've got, pushing myself to beat my personal best. It will hurt, the pain will yell at me to stop, my senses will shout at me to slow down. But I will not capitulate to imaginary voices. My muscles will burn, my legs will ache and my lungs will gasp, but I will settle for nothing less than magnificence.

And once the race is won, when the fans have returned to their homes to compose poetry of my greatness; when the chants of "Yossi! Yossi! Yossi!" have finally melted gently into the circling Jerusalem clouds, I'll sit on my balcony, drink ice-cold beers and dream of the next race in a year's time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I Know About Baseball

I had an email exchange with a co-worker today about Aussie Rules football. I have worked with him for over 5 years and so it wasn't a surprise when he replied to one of my jargon-filled emails "I even understood some of that".

He then asked me if I would like to learn about baseball. I replied with a list of all I know about the great American game:
  1. Create a World Series competition and only invite North America.
  2. Wear tight-fitting, striped, knee-length pants.
  3. Eat peanuts and crackerjacks.
  4. Sing the American anthem.
  5. Cover yourself with padding, wear a vision-obscuring helmet, and signal rudely to the pitcher.
  6. Shout "Strike One!", "Ball!" and "Safe!" at random moments during the game.
  7. In a gravelly voice, saliva spitting from your mouth, yell the words "you're" and "out" so that it sounds like "YEROUT!" while pointing to any player.
  8. Wear one oversized glove.
  9. Chew gum, spit generously and swear at the umpires.
  10. Hit a round ball with a round bat (something like a caveman's club).
  11. Run around a diamond that covers only a small portion of the entire playing field.
  12. Steal bases, but leave them behind afterwards.
  13. Run home, which is the place you started from.

Not bad for an ex-pat Aussie, eh?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Placebo Buttons

A placebo button is a button that, when pushed, does nothing other than make the button pusher feel like he has effected change.

A famous example is the "close door" button in an elevator. Does pushing it actually close the doors, or do the doors close according to their programmed cycle, anyway? Certainly, pushing the button makes you feel like you have done something, but whether you actually have or not can only be determined by experimentation.

The Museum of Hoaxes blog busts the myth that all cross-walk buttons are placebos. Some are, some aren't, some never were but are now.

This whole thing got me thinking: What other things do we do that are really just placebos, dummy deeds we do to make ourselves feel in control? Just how much of our lives is rigged? Are we all being manipulated? Is there some great super-governmental force out there giving us the illusion that our opinions count?

Here's a few things that might really be placebos:

  • Half the operations we do in MS Windows:
    Ever tried to force a "hanging" program to close using the task manager?

  • Filing papers at any government office:
    It's a fun exercise, but do they do whatever they want, despite your requests?

  • Voting in an election:
    Aren't they all rigged?

  • Paying taxes:
    You pay a certain amount of tax. Your tax money doesn't go to schools and hospitals. Someone else's does. Your money goes to fitting that new executive bathroom in some fancy government building somewhere.

  • Ordering a steak at a restaurant:
    You order rare, it comes out well-done, but you felt decisive and powerful telling the waitress exactly how you would like it.
So how much control do we have over our own decisions, and do they mean anything? To test this theory, I've spent the last month making random choices, spur-of-the-moment, sometimes illogical decisions about lots of different things. The idea was to see whether any decision I made would ultimately lead me to the same end, proving the theory that everything is placebo and your choices don't matter, or whether my decisions actually had an effect on things.

Without going into too many details, Hugo Chavez is still in power. I ate raw dog meat in a Chinese restaurant. I filed the requisite forms and am now receiving financial assistance from Aboriginal Business Canada. I know the names of prison guards in four different African countries. I owe money to an Atlantic City loan shark. I don't have any clothes aside from those I'm wearing, but I do have all of my fingers, some of which are in an ice-pack in my rucksack.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Witticisms

I've been spending my time collecting witty phrases to share with you. Some are from the Internet, others I made up. Enjoy:

  • This device is cuter than a box of puppies
  • The back seat is harder to get into than MIT
  • Cheaper than pirated software
  • If your tumor were any more minor it would need a hardhat with a light on it
  • The engine guzzles more than a college student at spring break
  • It's uglier than an Elton John outfit
  • It's sexier than a 1973 Porche
  • He's more washed out than a room full of Maytags
  • He's as washed up as an oil-covered duck
  • As useless as a chocolate kettle
  • He's brighter than Hiroshima
  • He's as dim as a 40 watt bulb
  • The grinding noise it makes is louder than an American tourist
  • More persistent than a tabloid journalist
  • This perfume smells worse than a political cover-up
  • This supermarket has more isles than the Hawaiian Archipelago
  • More distracting than a teenager with a cell phone
  • This thing has more wires than a coathanger factory
  • A heater that beats cold weather like global warming
  • Greener than Al Gore
  • The sky is bluer than BB King
  • The color is redder than China
  • It's thinner than a Presidential excuse
  • It's faster than a nightclub gigolo
  • The price is steeper than the Andes
  • It's hot enough to boil an entire monkey
  • It's hotter than Satan's backside

Have you got more?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Eating While Driving

Wired's Autopia Magazine quotes a study by insurance.com that lists the top 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving (I like no.9 the best!):

1. Coffee. It's hot. It can spill. That's bad. That said, we're guilty of this. So are you. Admit it.
2. Hot soup. It's hot. It can spill. That's bad.
3. Tacos. Very messy.
4. Chili. It's hot. It can spill. That's bad. And it's very messy.
5. Hamburgers. Greasy hands and a steering wheel do not mix.
6. Barbecued food. Um, that should go without saying.
7. Fried chicken. You think burgers are greasy?
8. Jelly or cream-filled donuts. Ever bitten into one and not had it squirt all over the place?
9. Soft drinks. Big threat of spillage, says Insurance.com, and unacceptable risk of "fizz up your nose." Huh?
10. Chocolate. It melts on your fingers, which makes a mess on the steering wheel.

A while ago I presented a list of foods most likely to make you flatulate.

Keep the roads safe. Don't combine the lists.

Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mid-Life Crisis

I just want to know when I am entitled to have a mid-life crisis. Is it possible to actually calculate how long I am going to live and then time my crises to occur exactly at middle age?

According to Wikipedia:
Middle age is the period of life beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span of human beings.
So I looked up the average life-expectancy of males and found that in Israel, that age is 76.46, at least according to the CIA World Factbook Estimates, 2008, as quoted in Wikipedia. So that schedules my mid-life crisis at between 38-57 years old.

I don't know if I can wait that long. I'm quite stressed out now and only 35. Actually, it's worse than that. Since I am from Australia, where the average life expectancy of males is supposed to be 77.8 years, I shouldn't have my mid-life crisis until I'm between 39-58 years old.

So this begs the question: what if I move countries? Do I take on the average life-span of males in that country, or am I stuck with the average life-span of my birth country? I'm guessing that since the average life span is a product of genes, environment and diet that it is a mixture of both. However, for the sake of argument, let's suppose that when you move to another country you adopt their average life-expectancy. It's only fair since you are also adopting their climate, health care system and crime-rate.

If I wanted to have my mid-life crisis earlier, I could move to any number of countries with lower life expectancies than Israel. New Zealand, UK, US, France and China all fit that criteria.

Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy, meaning that I could have had my mid-life crisis from when I was 15-23 years old. A bit early - I was married at 22 and hadn't even had the time to build up to it. I don't know how I would have managed to cope with a mid-life crisis at 15. That's just cruel. But according to the CIA, my next opportunity will be in Rwanda or Sudan, both of which will allow me to succumb to the pressures of life before my next birthday. Joy.

But what happens when you overshoot the average life expectancy of your country? By that stage you have already had your mid-life crisis, albeit too early. That could be a problem - what if you wanted another one? If you are still cranky between the ages of 47 and 71, does that automatically mean that you are going to live to be 95? Such questions should be left to the philosophers of the world. I undertook an extremely unscientific study of philosophers and found that the majority were German males who probably only have 75.96 years to figure this out.

But it really is comforting to know that I have the option to choose when I am going to break down under mountains of stress, and when I am not. Think about it, how much easier is it now that you know that you have a few years to save up for all of those expensive therapists? You don't need to spend time on the couch now, wait until you are close to the third quarter of the average life expectancy of people in your country and then pay a shrink to watch you go to pieces. Very economical.

But, of course, as long as you are at an age below the third quarter of your life expectancy there is nothing stopping you from practicing. Anything above that and, sorry, but I can't help you.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Things That Make You Go Boom

A non-exhaustive list of flatulence-causing foods. Add more in the comments! Looks like nothing is safe!
Source: The Internet

Apricots
Artichokes
Asparagus
Baked beans
Bananas
Bagels
Bean salads
Beer
Beets
Black-eyed peas
Bog beans
Bread
Broad beans
Broccoli
Brussel sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cereals
Cheese
Chickpeas
Chili
Corn
Cucumbers
Dressings
Eggplant
Field beans
Fruits
Garlic
Ice cream

You fall within the normal scale if you produce between 1 to 4 pints of gas per day.

Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce
Onions
Parsley
Peppers, sweet
Seeds
Lentils
Lima beans
Mung beans
Peanut butter
Peanuts
Peas
Pinto beans
Most individuals release a little burst of air through the rear quarters approximately 14 to 23 times each and every day.

Potatoes
Pretzels
Prunes
Raisins
Red kidney beans
Sauerkraut
Sodas
Soybeans
Barley
Breakfast cereals
Granola
Oat bran
Oat flour
Pasta
Pistachios
Rice
Rice bran
Rye
Sesame flour

Cows actually burp and toot so frequently that they are responsible for about 15 percent of all the methane gas produced worldwide. This would mean that they are really not very environmentally friendly critters.

Sorghum, grain
Soy milk
Split-pea soup
Stir-fried vegetables
Stuffed cabbage
Sunflower flour
Tofu
Tuna
Wheat bran
Whole grain bread
Whole wheat flour

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hairdressers and Taxi Drivers

Everyone tries to be smart. Everyone wants to be clever. Everyone wants to get ahead. So you read newspapers, magazine articles and blogs to get to know what the pundits are saying about the latest economic data. You study the consumer reviews to make sure that you buy only the best value; and you work hard to obtain the right information to make the most informed decisions possible.

You just want to get that edge over the rest of the crowd.

So the name of the game is to keep all good ideas to yourself. Here's an example: Last time I went to vote I had to wait in line for a really long time. A friend of mine hobbled up next to me on his crutches. I was number 688 and he was number 734. Since they were only up to number 465, we both had a long wait ahead of us. Not so. Once they saw his crutches, Dave was given VIP Gold-Club, Presidential treatment. He was in and out of the voting booth in about five minutes. Next time they hold elections, I’m going in with a pair of crutches.

Look what I just did -I gave away my idea! At the next elections 300 people will turn up with crutches! Silly me. Now my brilliant scheme isn't worth the pixels it's written on.

Makes you wonder about all that information out there. Take the wall Street Journal, for instance. Here is a newspaper with a massive readership. Most of the world reads the Journal. So if the Wall Street Journal publishes an article in which they announce that investing in Brazilian offal exports is the next sure thing, you can bet your bottom dollar (and you just might) that they are misinforming you big time.

How so?

They say that those who can, do; those who can't, teach; those who can't teach, administrate (click here for the whole spiel). Like stockbrokers, if these supposed "experts" were any good at their jobs, they would be multi-millionaires. Why would they bother writing 2000 words about the latest financial Garden of Eden, when they could keep all that information for themselves and away from the hungry masses?

I'll tell you why: Hairdressers and taxi drivers.

Once Bob the taxi driver passes on the tip that stock in Paradise Ferrets is hot, it's too late. They don't mind telling you because once that info hits the papers, the opportunity is long gone. The financial analysts have already plundered that investment. There will be nothing left for you except the dregs. And the next time you let Pierre prune your mop, you'll find out that it's best to sell right now - everyone is doing it! By this time the price has dropped like polonium-filled potato and you've committed the ultimate sin of buying high and selling low.

So how do you get ahead of the game? What's the winning formula? I know the secret, but that would be telling, wouldn't it?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Relaxing, the Hard Way

In the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" [sic] the protagonist describes a period of his life as "Riding the Bus", where he seems to constantly be going somewhere on the bus or chasing after it as it pulls away from the curb.

Right now I am writing this blog while on a bus. And I am also running up against a deadline - my battery is only at 17% and I have to finish this before the battery light flashes orange and the short, determined beeps signal an imminent shutdown.

But is forcing a shutdown so bad? Sometimes, during the hectic life I seem to lead, it is good to "shutdown" once in a while. By that I don't mean collapsing in a heap on the couch, unable to move because every bone in your body aches. Nor do I mean the type of shutdown that comes at the end of one's life. I'm talking about the type of shutdown that is followed by a "restart".

Thinking about it, it is probably a good idea to turn off, once in a while; to detach yourself from life for a short period of time - recharge your batteries, if you will.

13%

I do that sometimes by watching movies. Just sit back, relax and watch other people run around the screen, solving the problems of the world. But actually, that type of relaxation is not entirely beneficial. Heart-racing thrillers, intense drama, suspense-filled action - movies that leave you breathless until the last scene. It doesn't seem so relaxing now, does it?

10%

So how can you safely switch off from the world? How about renting a yacht and sailing into the deep blue? Extricate yourself from the world, disconnect from all forms of external stimulation. Sound idyllic? Not really. What happens when the ocean swells suddenly overtake the boat - or you run out of food and have to spend all day fishing with a broken line and a single Doritos for bait, just to stave off hunger? What if you are overrun by pirates who steal your compass and so you end up sailing to some unfriendly country where they strip you of your yacht and sell you to wealthy landowners who use you as a whipping boy for their recalcitrant child? How relaxing could that be?

7%

Here's an idea - stay home. You can spend your time sleeping, and hope you don't get a cramp from not moving enough. Or you could sit and play online games against strangers in another country who will ask no questions before violently slicing thorough your avatar with magical swords. Or you could just sit on your balcony and hope that you don't get skin cancer from the UV rays that apparently shine through the clouds, only to penetrate deep into your cells.

3%

So it seems that the only real way to relax without any negative consequences is to-

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Hairy Situation

As you can see from my profile picture, I used to have a beard. It was a good beard. A thick, solid, bushy thing. That beard and I spent many years together. It kept me warm and was an amusement for children. But now it is gone and I am beardless.

It was a snap decision that I mulled over for a number of weeks. One morning I decided to trim my beard and then I just couldn't help myself - I went too far and there was no going back. Everyone says that I now look 20 years younger. Someone mistook me for my younger brother. My daughter's friend didn't recognize me. It's like a new lease on life.

They may say that the clothes maketh the man, but I think it's the facial hair. In fact, it may be so fashionable to "mow the lawn" that some don't stop at the face. They keep going north.

According to Wikipedia, "Head shaving is much more common among men. It is often associated with religious practice, the armed forces and some competitive sports such as swimming, running and extreme sports". I thought the armed forces and competitive sports are religious practices...

But being clean-shaven isn't a sure-fire recipe for success.

Bruce Doule, an iconic Aussie Rules Football player used to sport a beard. Take a look at his picture and you will see why he was nicknamed the "flying doormat". Doulle was a half-back flanker for the Mighty Blues and, despite his scraggly appearance, was considered a very accomplished player.

Not a full beard, but Robert DiPierdomenico ("Dipper") has a trademark mustache that makes him instantly recognizable, on and off the field. Here's a great photo of Dipper, looking nice and unkempt. Dipper was also considered a champion Aussie Rules footballer in his day and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

According to The World of Beards, the greatest bearded sportsman of all time was Sergio Batista, "Sergio Batista is the only man to have held the [Soccer] World Cup aloft his facial furniture and therefore unrivaled as the World of Beards greatest sportsman". Yeah, but he wasn't an Aussie footy player.

And there are those to whom beards are sacred.

If you have a beard, you might want to make your way to Santa Barbara on 23 May 2009 for the Annual World Beard and Moustache Championships (not sponsored by Gillette). If you think your beard or Mo can stand up to the competition, you might want to sign up for Beard Team USA. Here's one member, Eric Brown from New York, NY, who will probably win, if they can find him under all that hair.



The World of Beards, which I must say seems more like a support group for hairy men, reports the following:
Each year King Williams College on the Isle of Man quizzes its pupils with possibly the hardest quiz ever devised by man. This Christmas the school has asked its pupils a number of questions about BEARDS! Clearly the future leaders of the country are being prepared for a life where a facial companion is a friend that will bring power and influence.
Perhaps beards are in and smooth faces are out. I should have done my research before putting shaver to face. I'm clearly out of whack with facial hair fashion. At least on the Isle of Man.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Man from Down Under Goes Down Under

I went kayaking the other day. Although the circumstances around how the boat capsized may be entertaining, I will keep them aside in my dubious collection of heroic stories to tell my children and grandchildren.
video
But the truth of the matter is that the kayak overturning took me completely by surprise. One moment I was quite happily paddling along in a boat with a crew of four and the next moment I found myself under the water. Thinking back on that event, I realize that when accidents happen you really are quite unprepared for them.

Let's analyze my little dip in the river. Firstly, I remember very clearly that the boat was suddenly no longer underneath me, the place where it was supposed to be. In a few microseconds my brain processed the fact that I was under water and so my eyes shut automatically, like "shields up" on the Starship Enterprise. I held my breath and I kicked my legs, expecting to surface. I shot myself upwards, my head colliding with the upturned boat. That's when I started panicking - I was under the water, stuck under a boat. Looking back, I would have expected my life to flash before my eyes. Perhaps some last thoughts or images of family or a prayer or two would skim across my brain.

Not so.

In that moment of panic, a big red flashing sign lit up in the electric pathways that comprise my brain, which read, "Survival Mode!" All thoughts, subconscious processes and unessential activity instantly snapped closed like a safety switch to a short circuit. All energy was immediately routed to the parts of my mind and body dedicated to getting me out from under that boat.

Using the palms of my hands, I pushed up against the capsized boat, propelling myself further underwater. I scrambled to the left. My eyes were shut tight and I was aware of, but could barely hear, my fellow boaters flailing similarly beside me. In a matter of seconds I had cleared the obstruction above. My head broke through the surface of the water and my arms worked overtime to free me of the current that had seemingly wrapped itself around my legs, still trying to pull me down.

And then the flashing light stopped flashing. Power was restored to all parts of my brain, which was now functioning within normal parameters. The electrical signals resumed their usual course through the gray matter. Eyes open, I could finally take stock of my situation and once again use rational thinking and logic to plan my next move.

I almost want to do it again just to see if I would react differently the second time around. Life-jacket, anyone?

POSTSCRIPT: 6 May 2009
I just heard on the radio that Israel kayaking champion, Yasmin Feingold, is recovering after a serious accident on the Yarkon river. We all wish her well. See this Jerusalem Post article for more information.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Soft Sell

I remember that when I was a kid we were honored by a visit from an encyclopedia salesman. One evening he came to our house and sat himself at our dining room table. I remember thinking that he was a young fellow, or at least he seemed so. Clean cut, jacket and tie, pearly white smile and shiny black brogue shoes. I also remember that he was a smooth talker.

He was a great salesman. Pitching the Encyclopedia Britannica couldn't be easy, but it was the 1980s and Wikipedia didn't yet exist. He spoke with great honesty about all the benefits of the 20-volume set to a family with teen and pre-teen kids. "And what would you use it for?" he asked me as I leaned awkwardly against the piano, fidgeting the way a 9-year-old does. "For school work, I guess". The salesman smiled and spread out his hands, palms open, gesturing at the children. He beamed.

I'm sure that my parents didn't hear the spiel. I'm positive that they were oblivious to the salesman's statistics of how many of his customers ended up as Nobel Laureates. I think their mind was on the price.

I don't remember the going rate for the set, but if you take the current price of $1,200 and convert it to Australian currency (which is where I am from), it would be approximately $1,675AU. According to McCrindle Research (pdf), the average wage in Australia in 2008 was, conveniently, $1,000AU per week. Rounding it off, that makes the cost of the encyclopedias about 1.675 weeks salary. According to the same study, the average weekly Australian salary in 1983 was $324AU, making the cost of the set approximately $543AU. So that would be my guess (see "Creative Journalism").

When the salesman left the house, I wondered why our bookshelf was not adorned by the 20 magnificent volumes of the famous Britannica. My parents most likely breathed a sigh of relief. The salesman was good, but not that good.

Today I answered a knock at the door. It was an encyclopedia salesman. I almost called the Israel Antiquities Authority to make sure this guy is put in a glass box on display in some museum. I just could not believe that they still existed.

My salesman was not as smooth as my parents' was. My guy was dressed in ill-fitting navy blue track-pants, a plaid shirt and a coat that, from its length, looked more like a bolero than anything else. Sporting a bushy moustache, he breathed out heavily through his nose after each sentence. And he never stopped talking. One sentence ran into the other and I couldn't understand what he was saying half the time.

All of a sudden the price dropped by 30 shekels, and I hadn't said a word. I decided to keep mum, maybe I could bargain him down some more. I just looked at him as he kept jabbering on. After he dropped the price by another ten shekels, I decided to put the guy out of his misery. "After all," he sputtered, "I'm selling this at a loss".

Unlike my previous experience, this time when the salesman walked away, I didn't have to eye the empty space on the shelf. We bought a ten-volume set of the childrens' encyclopedia. They are actually very good and come with nice glossy pictures. Just my style.

Encyclopedia salesmen are a rare species. How could I refuse a bushy moustache and a jovial, albeit, unshaven face? The swanky suit and tie, smooth-talking thing was unnecessary. All through the sale I had no idea what he was talking about, but I smiled respectfully, looked concerned as appropriate, and laughed heartily when he laughed as I handed over my credit card.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Name Game

Let's say that you wanted to open a new business. Whatever name you choose for your business will have to say a lot about it in only one or two words. For example, choosing a name like "Nik's Cakes" does tell consumers that you sell cakes, but why is "Nik's Cakes" better or worse than "Bob's Cakes"? It's boring, unimaginative and not very sexy.

Go to http://www.biztrek.com/articles/Naming%20your%20business.htm and you will get lots of good advice about choosing a business name:

Curl Up and Dye may sound cute now, but after six months, you and your customers will become very weary of the joke.

Yeah, especially if you sell cakes.

If choosing a name for your business is hard, how difficult it must be to choose a name for yourself. Imagine that you had just ratted on a mafia boss and were taken into the witness protection program. You get to live in a new location with a new job, new life and, of course, a new name. What are you going to call yourself? Bob Smith? I think not. How about something more interesting, like "Alfonzo de la Cruz" - perhaps that's a little over the top, especially if you are a Hassidic Jew. It's hard. Your name is your identity. How much does it say about you?

Actually, not much.

Do you really think that Bobby Blacksmith is really a blacksmith, or that June Tailor is really a tailor? She isn't, her father wasn't and her Grandfather doesn't know suede from silk. It's just the name she was born with. Nothing more and nothing less. Anyway, it's probably easier to inherit a name than have to choose your own.

But if you have to choose a name, why not go with the most popular? If everyone is doing it, why not you, too?

According to the 1990 US census, the following is a list of the top four most common surnames:

1. Smith 2,772,200
2. Johnson 2,232,100
3. Williams 1,926,200
4. Jones 1,711,200

It seems the Jones' couldn't keep up with the Johnsons'.

If you have to choose your own name, settling for one of the classics could just be tiresome. However, if you wanted to disappear into the sea of Smiths or Johnsons or Williams, well, it's probably not so hard. And blending in with the crowd could be just what you need when dodging the mafia. It's got to be harder to find a "John Williams" than an "Alfonzo de la Cruz".

Then again, if you have ever watched a movie where someone joins the witness protection program, you will know that inevitably the mafia sniffs them out. The witness invariably takes a bullet in the head while executing a hairpin net shot in badminton, or when about to perform a Zwischenzug (look it up) in a pool-side game of chess. So you may as well give yourself an interesting name. Spice up the headline news a little for the readers:

Last night, Alfonzo de la Cruz, the Jewish Hassidic owner of the famous "Curl Up and Dye" bakery, was gunned down by an unidentified mafia hitman. "Mr. de la Cruz played it bravely and valiantly, despite being in a difficult position," said his protector, Detective Bob Johnson. "Our investigations so far have found that he would have been check-mate in two moves, anyway".

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Creative Journalism

I am the first to admit that my level of mathematics is not top notch. Numbers make me dizzy. I once had to be quietly escorted out of a 67th floor elevator. The night-janitor found me curled up in the corner in the fetal position, softly calling for Mamma. All those buttons. All those numbers.

So when I posted my last blog, I didn't really look too carefully into my sources. In fact, as soon as I saw numbers and formulae, my eyes began to glaze over. Digits danced before me in a hazy cloud of fog. If the author says there is a 2.5 billion to one chance of winning the lottery, then that is good enough for me.

Subsequent to that post, I was made aware that I should have done the math myself. It seems I could have increased my chances of winning by 720 times. I was told that if I had read my source's entire article, not just the one paragraph, I would have come to a different conclusion.

I didn't have the patience or the inclination to delve into the intricacies of the matter. Face-value was good enough for me. You see, it's not whether or not the facts are correct, it's whether they are plausible enough to seem correct. Standard journalistic practice.

"Never let the facts get in the way of a good story" is more than a motto; it's journalism's guiding principle. This quote, attributed to either Frank Dobie or Delbert Trew (according to this article, at least) has sold more newspapers than I'd care to count*. Just ask any Fleet Street executive.

The University of Toronto actually has a course called "Creative Journalism":

Creative Journalism uses new and provocative forms of style and content to challenge and change the contemporary media.

In other words, they learn how to mix creative writing with real journalism to make the news more pallatable, exciting and entertaining than it actually is. To do so, they study high-quality publications such as "Rolling Stone, Pitchfork Media, and alternative weeklies". A passing grade is only achieved if your articles begin with "Once upon a time..."

So forgive me for not reading through my source's entire article. Forgive me for not searching for corroborative evidence. Forgive me for not checking that 1+1 does, in fact, equal 2. When it comes to informing the public, 1+1 can equal whatever you want. And why not? If it weren't for creative journalism, we'd be forced to find entertainment in the rivetting fiction of the the stock market results.

*No. I did not obtain any source for this statement. Just believe me, it's easier.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Playing With My Mind

G-d is playing with my mind.

A few months ago my wife and I decided to buy a lottery ticket. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. What irked me was knowing, not so very deep in my heart, that I was flushing money down the drain. I mean, what are the odds?

According to this site on Lottery Math,
The odds of a "Lotto" style lottery can be found with the formula: n! / (n - r)! r! where n is the highest numbered ball and r is the number of balls chosen. This is called in math a combination. An easier way to think about it is if there are 40 balls and 6 are chosen, there are 40 possible numbers that can come up first, leaving 39 that can come up second, then 38, 37, 36, and finally 35 on the final number. To find out how many numbers that is you multiply 40 ×39 ×38 ×37 ×36 × 35 = 2,763,633,600 making the odds 2 and a half billion to one.
Two and a half billion to one?! The money spent on the ticket could easily have gone to purchasing at least one bottle of beer with a 100% chance of satisfaction, assuming sufficient saltiness of the pretzels, sunflower seeds or peanuts.

But we hadn't yet read this site that says there is a better chance of dying from flesh-eating bacteria (1 million:1) than there is of winning the lottery (2.5 billion:1). So we played.

We won...

..our money back.

"Alright", said G-d, "I'll let you get away with it this time. Next time buy the beer".

Not too long ago I experienced another weak moment. I bought a lottery ticket, letting the machine pick the numbers so I could have someone to blame. I put the ticket in a drawer at home and forgot about it.

Yesterday, while searching for something else, I came across the lottery ticket. The vain hope of fortunes beyond my wildest imagination coaxed me into putting it in my pocket. Later on I found an excuse to wander down to the shops. I did a few errands, purposely eying the lottery store from across the way. Eventually, I found the wherewithal to actually enter the store, knowing that in a few moments a teenage service rep would shatter my dreams with a dismissive shake of his head.

He scanned the ticket.

We won...

...our money back.

G-d is playing with my mind.