Friday, June 26, 2009

Investing in gambling

Further to my recent rant about gambling, today's newspaper features the following letter (emphasis mine):
Share it around
Now that Oz Lotto has reached the absurd surplus of $90 million, isn't it about time it considered taking divisional prizes that have not been won and spreading them down through lower divisions in the same draw?
That way, those who have invested in a particular draw can enjoy a proper share of the prizemoney.
David Dolphin Summer Hill
Despite the fact that His Honour often refers to buying a lottery ticket as "Financial Plan B", it is not, in fact, an investment of any sort. It is, purely and simply, gambling. If David Dolphin doesn't like the odds, he should "invest" in something more likely to give him a return, such as hiding his money under his mattress.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hyperbolic crochet

I've been busy crocheting hyperbolic coral for the exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in August this year. Here are some of my contributions, just using up scraps of yarn that I had accumulated.
The hyperbolic crochet project was all started by a mathematics professor in 1997, who worked out that it was a simple way to demonstrate complex concepts. It was taken to new heights (or should that be depths) by Australian sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring. There is a great tutorial on the IFF website about hyperbolic space if you want to know more.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Overheard on a bus

As I took my seat on the 310 to Circular Quay last week, I couldn't help but overhear one end of the mobile phone conversation of the woman who twisted and squirmed in the seat opposite. She was dressed in faded black jeans and a brown hoodie jacket, with a bubble-gum-pink knitted beanie pulled down over her lank, mouse-brown hair. I'd estimate her age at around 30, although her skin showed the sallow, wrinkling effects of a nicotine addiction.
Having described at some length the state of her pet cat's digestive problems and toilet habits, I heard her say to her interlocutor:
"Yes, you'll see me at the pokies tonight."
"Someone is going to sit with me and show me what to do..."
"...yeah, I really need it. I only had $10 to live on last week."
At this point, she leapt up and got off the bus, dashing across the road to catch the tail end of the traffic lights. All her movements were jittery and rapid, as though she were a bundle of nerves.
It made me really sad to think that the best financial advice her friends could give her for making $10 last a week was to feed it into a poker machine. I wonder how long it will take her to learn the hard way that she'd be better off using the money to line her cat's litter tray, because at least then she wouldn't have to buy the newspaper as well.
I know that there are lots of people who can afford to put $10 through the poker machines and walk away thinking, "you win some, you lose some". His Honour regularly splurges on Lotto or Powerball tickets, saying "it's a cheap way to buy a dream for a few days". But if your dream is just to have money for enough food, and the lights of the poker machines are winking at you and promising fun and riches, what happens when all you get is eyestrain and an empty belly?