Considering the odds

Weird convergence on how we distinguish work vs. labor that slices into entirely new territory when merged with sports gambling:

There is a way to make money, or at least not lose money, gambling on sports, and people who do it. That work involves crunching numbers, diversifying risk, seeking out small inefficiencies; it is, more or less, a job. A friend I spoke to for the story made a bunch of money betting the under on steals for various defense-deficient NBA guards. It’s not glamorous, it’s not juicy, it provides no mondo paydays. It’s barely fun at all. Again: it’s work.

Sports gambling apps do not want people to gamble like that. What they want bettors to do is put money on parlays. Apps push them in that direction constantly, even offering “no-risk parlays” to whet a prospective gambler’s appetite for the harder stuff. When I mentioned slot machine gambling to Dr. Fong, he immediately mentioned the same-game parlay. It’s an inevitable winner for casinos that also looks and feels good for the casual gambler.

In Addiction by Design, Schüll talks to slot machine designers about the process of making an effective slot machine. (They’re all from Australia, for some reason.) They tell her that it’s mostly a matter of feeling—finding a way to build in enough winning to maintain hope in the player, but also enough losing to make it profitable for the casino. It’s pretty nauseating; reading about otherwise sane people succumbing to sophisticated Skinner Boxes is dispiriting, and terrifying.

Here is one way that could all look: You watch a game with the app open. It gives you a personalized stream of quick, ever-changing, algorithmically generated bets. It also tracks what you will bet on and what you won’t, and then adjusts to create something akin to a personalized slot machine; the idea is to create an experience that feels good to you. If you are even a little bit inclined toward problem gambling, this will bury itself deep, and it will take your money; it will all be, as it currently is in 30 states, legal. And you can play like this until the government or a medical professional intervenes, or doesn’t. Everyone with any skin in the game—every business interest that sees its fans as a renewable resource—wants that to exist.

Turnip-truck green mixed with $$$-green produces no great good but a whole lot of parting.

2012, R.I.P.

Look back, look ahead. It proves difficult to do with much accuracy, or honesty. We reach for the rose-tinted glasses first, and in this way have learned well.

Humans are fragile, vulnerable, to wreckage of the physical body but vulnerable also to flattery, then to the higher beliefs in our better selves (let’s call them b.s. for short). In part we owe our fellows at least that, and it smoothes the way for beauty, when and wherever it may arise. But it also lays us low for the wiles of corporate propaganda and short-term myth, professionally designed to appeal not to our better selves but the rosier view of our b.s.

When, in the course of human events (love the poetry of that assumption), the consequences of which we now must absolutely extend to the planet, this rosy view becomes the prime facilitator to the shattering – of our environment as well as our human decency – wait: have you ever experienced the horrifying if inconvenient search for glasses that were simply and already perched upon your head? Glasses you may be already wearing can be similarly [mis]placed.

The point is, and it is here somewhere, that we must first realize that we’re wearing the glasses. That is, most of what we see, we view through this filter. Hence appall waits beyond our grasp for a host of terrific insults on our way to the store. How far we had to drive, what we bought, how much it costs, what we do with it, the packaging it came in and what we do with that… the list goes on and on from that one simple trip and much is required to secure the lid that keeps all these questions from ruining our trip. If you cut down on any aspect of the errand, the insults change somewhat. There; we felt the glasses for a moment. Maybe it was enough, maybe I’ll let them slip, even take them off for a while, and re-adjust my vision toward my own, actual b.s.

All the best to you in the New Year, including a sustained view in the direction of your better self.

Los Teens

Bienvenu, Hwan Yeeng and welcome to the teens.

The faster the tech wheel spins, the more screens you watch, the more rings you hear, the more scores you check… the more you find out what? Quite a bit, though much of it trivial – not as in pursuit, but ft-lbf, the volume of things you allow to get in between you and whatever idylls you once upon a time you associated with, before all these devices intervened. Remember to remember, as the man said:

If the idea that your son must become a killer as well as a provider is abhorrent to you, if you believe that death-dealing weapons should not continue to be manufactured, even if never used, then make a new world in which killing will be unnecessary. Concentrate all your energies upon that, and that alone. If you had a home which you were fond of, and it were suddenly invaded by rats, would you not set everything aside to eliminate the pest? War is the greatest plague that civilized man has to contend with. And what has he done in all these thousands of years to grapple with the problem? Nothing, really. With the passage of time he has devoted increasing effort, ingenuity and money towards aggrandizing the horrors of war, as though pretending to himself that if war became too horrible it might cease of itself.

But the faster the wheel spins, the slower the revelations fly: because illumination is but one-speeded. A perfect vehicle for the flatlands, but nice for coasting in the mountains, too. Cover up with blanket endorsements and pretend you are yourself a signal, giving off indications, accepting messages, reacting to your own commands, creating a personal sense of application. Just yours. And it’s okay if its rhymes. Or is happy. Or new. Or even takes a year. Or five.

All you ever have or can give is a little bit of time, anyway. And now 1-1-11. Cut the feed. Nourish instead.