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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Imagine a magician standing on stage. He plucks you from the audience and asks you to think of a number between 1-10. He then instructs you to multiply that number by 9 and to add the digits together to make a single number. (For instance, if your number is 47, you would add 4+7 to get 11.)  He tells you to subtract that number by 5. This will be your new number. He asks you to convert that number into a letter of the alphabet where A=1, B=2, C=3, etc…and to think of a country that begins with your letter. (If your number is 1, you may think of Albania.) Now he asks you to take the second letter of your country and think of an animal that begins with that letter. (If the country was Albania, you might choose a lion, since the second letter is “L”.) Now imagine the color that typically goes with that animal. (For my example, I would say a yellow lion in Albania.) Got it?

The mentalist stares at you intently, as if reading your mind. You try to project your carefully chosen phase into his head. He places his hands on your temples and receives your “vibes”. An image comes to his mind. He tells you that he now knows what you are thinking but finds it very odd,  “considering…there are no grey elephants in Denmark!” Your mind is completely blown. The audience applauds and you go back to your seat wondering how he was able to read your every thought. With so many choices, how could he have possibly known what you were thinking?

Obviously, there is no magic involved. It’s just a silly math trick. Adding the digits of any multiple of 9 between 1-10 will always equal 9. Any number you choose would have resulted the same way. 09, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90…they all equal nine when the two digits are added together. The rest is just a roundabout way to get you to think of the letter D by creating an equation that results in the number 4. The more choices you “make” the more you are led to believe you have free will in the matter. The truth is, as long as you did the math correctly, you will always end up with the letter D. Denmark is the obvious country. Elephant is the predictable animal to choose. The rest is just showmanship on the part of the mentalist, how well he sells his “mind reading”.

Tricks like this work because most people don’t stop and question the process. If greater inspection were given, one would see that the game is rigged from the very beginning. The outcome is always predetermined. It’s a lot like the election of 1912. (more…)

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I ended up appearing on the Wheel of Fortune pretty much by fluke: one night, while agonizing over our finances, I told Jana that I wanted to get on a game show. I didn’t really care which one; I just wanted to make some money. And so I searched online looking for applications and casting calls. I filled out an application for WoF but never dreamed I’d make it on, and because I actually wasn’t very good at the game, almost hoped I wouldn’t. I tried out for a game that was more up my alley called “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” but failed the written test to get to the audition stage. I taped some questions that were used on the show but never won any money. I really wanted to get on “Lingo” but, as far as I could tell, it wasn’t taping anymore. Then, much to my surprise, I got an email a year or so later informing me of a tryout for WoF and, even more surprising, I actually did alright at the tryout and got a letter that I was going to be on the show.

I say all of that to make clear that my appearance was in no way born out of a great ability to solve word puzzles. I never got the “toss-up” puzzles before the contestants when watching the show and rarely figured out puzzles before anyone else. I could count on one hand the number of times I figured out the bonus puzzle. When Jana and I would watch together she would routinely figure out the puzzles well before me, sometimes before I’d even figured out a single word.

Once I knew I was going to be on I studied the game carefully, watching it every night and trying to uncover strategies that might help me. I suppose I got a bit better in the process (and learned to really appreciate the show, something I wrote about here), but I still felt pretty shaky about my abilities. I figured that I had no chance on the toss-ups (I told myself that if I solved even one I would consider my appearance a massive success) but reasoned that, if I could land on a big dollar wedge, guess a good letter and solve one or two puzzles, I could have a respectable appearance and maybe win $3 or $4K. It is, after all, the Wheel of Fortune.

I never dreamed that fortune, or more appropriately misfortune, would be my undoing. I solved 5 out of 7 puzzles, including (inexplicably) all three toss-ups (my reaction after the first toss-up was telling- shock mixed with euphoria and pure adrenalin). By the time I was done solving all of the first three puzzles, I had effectively shed any trace of stage fright and was completely in my element, and it was evident that my skills were not going to be a problem. Then, the prize puzzle came along and, like clockwork, Gentry (one of my opponents) landed on $3500, guessed a letter of which the puzzle had three (for $10,500 in one turn), solved the puzzle (which was worth over $7000, since it included a trip to Hawaii) and was sitting at more than $20,000 to my $4200, all without me even getting a turn. In other words, she had the kind of turn that I assumed was my only chance at decency. I solved two more puzzles after that and won a trip and ended with a cash and prize total of $13,900 (which is one of the highest second-place finishes I’ve ever seen, and a total that would have won quite a few games I’ve seen since then) but it was not enough to catch Gentry, who ended up solving one more puzzle and totaling over $27,000 before winning even more in the bonus round.

I’ve pinpointed two crucial missteps that I’d love to reverse: guessing an “I” in the last puzzle (which wasn’t really a mistake per se, just a wrong guess, though it was perfectly logical) when an “o” would have unlocked the puzzle for me. My less forgivable mistake came when I realized the answer to the final puzzle I solved. I called out “k” because it was the first sure letter I thought of, and all I could think about was solving (and securing a trip). But I could have called “p” or “g” or “b” (there were two of each of those)- a $600 gaffe. Some people have given me a hard time about that and also told me that I should have been slower to solve and spun more, but I’m not letting them get me down because I know just how low my expectations were and how insanely well I played by comparison. And I realized that, no matter how well you play “The Wheel,” you are always at the mercy of that fickle lady fortune.

P.S. I am working on getting my episode up on youtube, but given my technological ineptitude, it’s slow moving. One of my students told me that he saw it on www.surfthechannel.com though, so you might be able to see it there if you’d like. If anyone would like to assist me in getting this thing online please let me know.

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Welcome To Josh

CAI is continuing to staff up… and our most recent addition is new writer, Josh.  Josh jumps right into the game with his first post, Suckers At The Table. Be prepared for Josh to try and enlighten you to what’s been going on behind the scenes that you may not know about.  Why don’t you welcome him to the scene with friendly agreement, or devastating debate!  Glad to have you, Josh.

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I realize there was a shooting involved in this story… but it was a dog.  I see at least 3 cop cars and enough yellow tape to seal off a whole town.  However when my neighbor’s house was broken into while she was home and she was confronted by the burglars – who then went on to immediately try and break into my house while my wife and baby were home and then my other neighbor’s house who was also home – only one officer arrived (after 10 minutes, and they were long gone) and he interviewed only my neighbor for a few minutes but not my wife or other neighbor who saw the thieves.  What gives? Do you really need a forensics team on the killing of an animal?  Where were they in our neighborhood situation?  Not interested in tracking down witnesses of actual crimes… just rabid dogs?

Get your s*** together.

photo credit: Samuel Lippke

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Ran across this post today about a boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles.  Very interesting to say the least.  Check out the post to read more, and view the video below for a trailer about the project.

Added bonus… the guy who made the trailer and is on the boat filming has a film company in my hometown of Long Beach, and it looks like he’s been filming some cool stuff.

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Attention all CAI readers… you can now update your bookmark for this blog to criticismasinspiration.com so that we can all seem cooler by being on a site without wordpress in the url.  (more…)

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Release the penguins!

Ironically, my brother Greg was writing a post on our Uncle John at the same time I was.  However, as he is an infinitely better writer than I am, I would suggest you check out his post over at Lost In the Cloud.

Our uncle was a reclusive, witty, and highly intelligent fellow who has become a bit famous posthumously because of his wit and absurd composition ability.

RIP uncle John.

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