Neil Peart
Neil Peart

The Lottery Winner

Did I win the lottery? I can name a few people that would be very keen to know if I did. I used to play but recently stopped. Would you stop buying Powerball tickets after you won? I would. Stop, that is.

I would stop for other reasons, too. Being a curious person, I wanted to find out how many drawings it would realistically take before the jackpot was in hand. They tell you the odds but that’s not very meaningful to me, or to most people.

Tell someone there are a trillion stars in the sky and they’ll believe you, but tell them the paint is wet and they’ll still touch it to make sure.

Being a software developer (programmer) by trade, I decided to write a simulation program to find out how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop Jackpot.

I looked up the rules for payouts on the Powerball lottery game and wrote a web-based program in PHP to simulate drawings. The simulation is simple. You specify how many drawings you want to simulate, it assumes you spend $2 per ticket, and it conducts random drawings, tallying the number (and dollar amount) of wins along the way.

My simulation presents not only how many times you’ve won, but also how much money you won minus how much money you’ve spent.

What did I find out? After running a few hundred million simulated drawings, you will have a winning ticket roughly 0.04% of the time, your winnings will be roughly 12% of what you spent (that’s an 88% loss), and your average win per ticket will likely be around $6.08.

Try my simulator here to see for yourself.

They say the lottery is a tax on those who are bad at math. They’re right.

The Ghost Rider

On January 10th, 2020, it was announced that Neil Peart passed away a few days before (Jan 7) of brain cancer. This crushed me more than I expected.

I have always looked up to Neil more for his qualities as a person than for his amazing ability as a drummer (for the band Rush, for those who have no idea who he is). He was an author and a long-distance motorcycle rider as well as a drummer.

It was my dream to run into Neil in some small diner in a tiny rural town while on a motorcycle trip. Based on his writings, I can confirm that he and I have ridden many of the same roads and even stayed in some of the same motels. We just never did it at the same time.

Neil was famous for being shy in the spotlight. He was more than happy to talk to strangers when he was out and about “just being a guy,” however. I had thought that if I ever did run into him, after chatting about our bikes or destinations or the weather, I’d sign my autograph on a paper napkin and hand it to him with a wink, then say, “I’m glad you got to meet me.” I don’t know if he’d find the humor in it, but considering the fact that he was a genius (estimated IQ 155+), he’d probably get the joke.

Neil, you will be missed for decades.

Oh, and by the way, his last name is pronounced ‘peert’, not ‘pert’.

The Author

This is a quick update on my current project, a contemporary fiction novel titled Second Citizen. I’ve been working on primary composition for several weeks now and I’m currently on chapter 10, roughly 37,000 words. I’m ahead of my usual schedule, as I typically don’t start writing until the first week of January.

I still haven’t found an editor, but I haven’t been looking, either. I’ll worry about that when the manuscript is finished.

Meanwhile, I’m very happy with how the story is coming along. I outline quite thoroughly before primary composition, so I always have a clear idea of where the plot is going to go and what will happen.

Considering this is my first contemporary fiction piece (I have previously only written fantasy), it will be interesting to see how this turns out.