Showing posts from April, 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

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 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 goin

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 ma

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% c