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The Write Way

4 November 2005

Want to Bet?


We've just lived through another Melbourne Cup out here (yes, I know I've mentioned this event a number of times in the past: here  and here  and here  and, yes here ...) but it's one of Those Days, and it seems to get bigger each year.

Melbourne Cup Luncheons

There are lots of luncheons on Melbourne Cup Day, in fact, every noshery this side of the Black Stump puts on a Chicken and Champers do and charges a fortune for it. 


But we have never yet succumbed ... Yesterday, we took the portable telly out onto our deck and sat out there, enjoying a cool breeze from across Moreton Bay while we watched the shenanigans of the Beautiful People and quaffed our Champagne in comfort. (You've read the story of our deck, now see the pictures.)

Over the years, I've developed a very scientific system of choosing my horses in these situations ... I always back those with three words in their name. And what horse came second in this year's Cup, boys and girls? 

'On A Jeune,' that's who! 

I rest my case ...

Gambling has definitely loomed large for me this week ... I was watching the BBC production of Casanova on the weekend, and I was fascinated by the reference to Casanova's role in popularising the lottery! 

"This must be a bit of a furphy," I thought, "just to see if the audience is awake." 

So off I went to my mate google, and look what I found! It seems that not only was Giacomo Casanova a bit of a ladies' man, but he was also quite a respectable statistician, and he introduced the Italian form of lottery to France in the 1750s!

"He didn't invent the lottery but he helped sell it. He was a great salesman. I think that may account for some of his actual successes in love.

"When he presented this lottery to the Government's finance ministers there initial reaction was, 'No, what would happen if someone were to draw the winning ticket or too many people were to pick the winning numbers? The King would lose money.'

"It was his role to help them understand that while the King could occasionally lose money on the whole, the king would make very large sums of money and to understand that you had to run risks in order to reap profits. Once he was successful in selling that idea the lottery took off."
(Stephen Stigler, Distinguished Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago, and President of the International Statistical Institute)

So, old Jack had brains as well as other bits!

I didn't realise that lotteries have been around for so long, but then, given human nature and our penchant for betting on two files crawling up a wall, I shouldn't have been surprised. It seems lotteries have been relieving us of our spare change for thousands of years.


And have you ever really stopped to think about the odds against you when picking Lotto numbers?

"Let's take a look at how to calculate the odds of picking the right number for a typical Lotto game. In order to win our example game, you have to pick the correct six numbers from 50 possible balls. The order in which the numbers are picked is not important; you just have to pick the correct six numbers.

"The odds of picking a single correct number depend on how many balls have been chosen already. For instance, let's say none of the six numbers had been picked yet and you had to guess just one number correctly. Since there are 50 numbers to chose from, and since six balls are going to be picked, you have six tries at picking the number correctly. The odds of picking one number correctly are 50/6 = 8.33:1.

"Using a similar calculation, we can determine the odds of picking another number correctly after one number has already been drawn. We know there are 49 balls left, and that five more balls will be drawn. So the odds of picking a number correctly after one has been drawn are 49/5 = 9.8:1.

"Now let's say five numbers have been picked and you have to guess what the last number is going to be. There are only 45 balls left to choose from, but you only get one shot at it, so your odds are only 45:1.

"In a similar manner, we can calculate the odds of picking the right number when two, three, four and five balls have been drawn. You know the odds of a coin toss resulting in heads are 1/2 = 2:1. The odds of two consecutive tosses both resulting in heads are 1/2 x 1/2 = 4:1. The odds of three consecutive tosses all resulting in heads are 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 8:1. The odds of picking all six lottery numbers are calculated the same way -- by multiplying together the odds of each individual event. In this case:

50/6 x 49/5 x 48/4 x 47/3 x 46/2 x 45/1 = 15,890,700:1"

Read more

If you're so inclined, it's definitely better to have a little flutter on the GGs (or the footy or tennis or two flies crawling up a wall) ... after all, you only have to choose one winner out of a maximum of about 20, don't you? Let's see now, 15,890,700:1 or 20:1. Hmmm ... the odds are a lot better than lotto!

Now I know what you're thinking, that this has naught to do with writing. Right?

Well, right and wrong ...

You know that I'm always on the lookout for ideas to prompt you to start writing, so what about a story set on the race track, in a casino, around a card table? You can even introduce an historical theme! 

I'm also always ever-vigilant against any Bad Habits you might pick up. Hence my civic-minded reference above to the hopelessness of winning the Lotto! 

No, of course it's not going to stop you buying a ticket ... Me neither!

This week's quiz:

Here are some terms to help you tell the pointy end of a horse from the blunt end:

filly, horse, mare, hopped, colt, gelding, stallion, dam, sophomore, stud

1. mother of a thoroughbred 

2. an entire male 5 years old or older 

3. male horse used for breeding 

4. three-year-old horse 

5. castrated male horse 

6. male horse under 5 years of age 

7. female horse up to and including the age of 4 

8. a horse that has been illegally stimulated 

9. entire male horse 

10. female horse 5 years old or older 

And here are a couple of stories Daphne sent me yonks ago (See? It always pays to keep things!)

1. Riding the favourite at Cheltenham, the jockey is well ahead of the field. Suddenly he’s hit on the head by a turkey and a string of sausages. He manages to keep control of his mount and pulls back into the lead, only to be struck by a box of Christmas crackers and a dozen mince pies as he goes over the last fence. 

With great skill he manages to steer the horse to the front of the field once more when, on the run in, he’s struck on the head by a bottle of sherry and a Christmas pudding. Thus distracted, he succeeds in coming only second. 

He immediately goes to the stewards to complain that he has been seriously hampered.

2. A young jockey and his stable lass girlfriend make the decision to get married. Everything is planned and the couple intend to honeymoon in Italy for a week. 

The marriage goes without a hitch and the couple set off on their honeymoon. While checking in, the lady behind the desk says, "We have two suites available for you, would you like the bridal?" 

"No thanks," says the jockey, "I'll just hold her ears till she gets the hang of it!"

Last week's quiz:

bobolink, gossamer, asphodel, myrhh, cerulean, halcyon, mignonette, damask, chalice, luminous

1. a rich patterned fabric of cotton, linen, silk, or wool; fine, twilled table linen - DAMASK (also Damascus steel; the wavy pattern on Damascus steel, from which it takes its name) 

2. emitting light, especially emitting self-generated light;  full of light; illuminated - LUMINOUS (From the Latin luminosus 'light')

3. of a deep somewhat purplish blue color similar to that of a clear October sky -CERULEAN (This is form the Latin cæruleus 'blue, dark blue, blue-green')

4. migratory American songbird - BOBOLINK (this bird gets its name from "Bob-o-Lincoln," the imitative of the call of the bird)

5. a soft sheer gauzy fabric; something delicate, light, or flimsy; a fine film of cobwebs often seen floating in the air or caught on bushes or grass - GOSSAMER ( explains that this word comes from Middle English gos 'goose' and somer 'summer' and was probably coined from the abundance of gossamer during early autumn when geese are in season ...)

6. any of various chiefly Mediterranean plants having linear leaves and racemes of white or pink or yellow flowers - ASPHODEL

7. a bowl-shaped cup or goblet - CHALICE

8. calm and peaceful; tranquil: prosperous; golden - HALCYON (This lovely word comes from Greek halkuon 'a mythical bird, kingfisher')

9. Mediterranean woody annual widely cultivated for its dense terminal spike-like clusters greenish or yellowish white flowers having an intense spicy fragrance - MIGNONETTE (This is from Old French, mignon 'lover, dainty')

10. an aromatic gum resin obtained from several trees and shrubs of the genus Commiphora of India, Arabia, and eastern Africa, used in perfume and incense - MYRHH (This has also been used has been used in the manufacture of dentifrices ... or tooth pastes)

Never-Ending Story

Dr Morgenes and his mob have their very own blog here Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

Map of the World

Make your Mark on the World. Then stop by our Map of the World and read the messages. (Just click List) and add your mark: here  

A Little Something Extra

If you're writing a book about characters with problems, you need to get your facts straight, so this week's Little Something Extra has links to sites that can give you the facts!

Gamblers Anonymous:  here 

Alcoholics Anonymous: here

Self-help groups in the UK: here 

And this one has lots of articles about different forms of addiction: here 

And to help your book on its hazardous journey from your little grey cells to paper (or your 'puter screen), try this.

Word of the week: Furphy (n) a false report or rumour; an absurd story; an irrelevant or minor issue raised to specifically divert attention away from the real issue

This t'riffic word started life as Australian slang, but has proved so useful in recent decades that it's now become all respectable. 

The original furphy was a water tank, used extensively during the First World War to carry water to soldiers on the front. It was the forerunner of the water-cooler and became a place where soldiers could share gossip and swap rumours of what the crazy generals were planning next. 

So you can see why we've embraced it and now use it when discussing our politicians and their antics! 

You can still buy a furphy from the family company that produced the original water tanks here. Click on the Water Carts link to see photos of the original furphy.)

Oxymoron of the week: winning bet

And this week's Latin phrase presents us with an interesting question .... Just why do we pay out our hard-earned money for bits of paper with little numbers on them?

Res tantum valet quantum vendi potest (A thing is worth only what someone else will pay for it)

Kind regards,


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