Friday, April 24, 2015

Why I hate wheel of fortune.

Why I hate Wheel of Fortune

Wheel of Fortune is by far the worst game show to have ever been on TV. I’d rather watch someone do sudoku on the screen for money rather than this game show. The highest prize is a million dollars, which is sandwiched between bankruptcy wedges. I’m actually ok with that part, because I like my game shows to live on the edge. But let’s take a look at the rest of the board. Each value is somewhere under $400, and you get that for each letter that appears in the puzzle. At first, I honestly thought, “Man that is some easy cash to make.”

It is odd that your Wheel of Fortune winnings get banked if you win the round. This is contrary to every other game show. Jeopardy, The Price is Right and Who Wants to be a Millionaire all make you carry over your money. So if you win $5,000 in the first round, you are sure as heck better start round two with that $5,000. Statistically, this makes the game frustrating, because close rounds mean absolutely nothing for the contestant that comes in second.  A solid second place finish means nothing in Wheel of Fortune, which hurts the later rounds of the game.
It also has the highest risk ‘reward’ compared to all the games. In Jeopardy, if you guess an “answer,” it does not have a “lose all your money” phase (of course there is the Daily Double, but that’s a gamble the contestant chooses to take). Who Wants to be a Millionaire also lets you opt to end the game, and has brackets that guarantee a prize once you hit certain checkpoints. With The Price is Right, you still have a lot to play for even if you lose the first round. You get to spin the wheel (which is a life goal of mine), and if you win the wheel you move onto the Showcase Showdown.

The issue with the car.
What bothers me most about Wheel of Fortune is how it treats the value of a car. Neither Jeopardy nor Millionaire bother mentioning a car, probably because they are not shameless promotional shows. However, Wheel of Fortune does give you the chance to a win a car, but get this: it’s nearly impossible. You can only win half a car at a time, and you only get to ‘keep’ half of the car if you win the round. So you have to not only land on two car wedges in separate rounds, but you also have to solve the puzzle in each of those rounds. This is absurd, considering that on The Price is Right, it is actually possible to win three cars on the show. You can win one during your turn, and then win two more in the Showcase Showdown. Think about that for a second: one gameshow allows you to win three cars, and one makes it nearly impossible to win a single car. In fact, The Price is Right accidentally gave out a car, and no one blinked. They actually laughed about it.

Adjusting to technology.
Another gripe I have is that they have Vanna White on this show just for the sake of it. Ever since the invention of digital TVs, there is no need for Vanna White. Bob Barker knew it was his time to sit down, so he retired. Come on Vanna -- learn from the great. Vanna White is basically a jobs program for once good-looking models. I mean seriously, what else would Vanna White do? Would she go on speaking tours telling people about how terrible the show is?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NYC a farewell

∑if = I. This is a formula I used to be obsessed with, and I thought it was the math formula that equaled life. The sum of “if”s creates the person that I am (or rather the people we are).

I’ve written about this before; that every choice we make in life, based on my option, is one of those ifs. What I’m updating on this topic is that sometimes you mess up on those ifs. Isn’t hindsight 20/20? I try to live by the Chvrches motto: “Make me blind so that I never look back.” It’s nice to look back and learn, but to regret is pretty useless. Making decisions are hard, some you will get right and nail it out the park, others you will miss really poorly. Most will act as a learning experienced boiled in with unexpected results.

That being said, I think I’ve lost to NYC -- the “Big Apple.” (I was always a strawberry kind of guy anyway.) Every time I think about this statement, and just typing it now, I think it’s the dumbest thing to say. How does one lose to a city? Like what kind of point system are we talking? What inning did NYC start to take the advance, and where did things go wrong?

I think it’s fair to say that I’m quitting NYC, and that it wasn’t for me. I’m sure it is the place to be for tons of people -- about 9 million of them. I often wonder what the other 9 million people love about this city. Is it the arts? Is it the job opportunities? Is it the polar vortex? I truly do not know, but I’m not a hater, and I probably won’t be. I think the fairest statement is that it just was not for me. However, if we are assuming I’m quitting NYC, and that NYC won again, beating me out of the city, we are going to need some kind of score card, some kind of metric to figure out why I lost to such a powerful city.


Happiness is such a hard metric. It’s a thing, but measuring it and optimizing it is hard. Making data decisions on emotions is also really hard. Emotions are not numbers, they are feelings. I wrote a while back about how I live my life in this Bayesian sense, that if something is not working, something is going to have to change. Sometime a few months ago, I came to the realization that New York was never going to get better for me, or at least not in the foreseeable future. Sometimes you have to just make emotions binary, and take the sum of those binaries to see if your average is good enough. If it isn’t, you need to make a few of those things ones instead of zeros. As much as sad emotions are hard to measure, good ones are just as hard to measure. For some reason, (ok I truly know why, but that’s besides the point) I love reality television shows. There is just something about that fake built up drama that gets me going; but that does not mean I should just sit around and watch reality TV all day (trust me, I’ve done that). Emotions and decisions require balance, and finding that balance is living life.

In economics there is a term called sunken cost: regardless of how deep you are into something, if it isn’t working, you shouldn’t do it. The not so real life situation is that I’m at a slot machine, I’ve already lost £100 and in order to make that back, I need to spend another £100 so that I can win £300. This happens all the time in life: if I just give it another month, things will turn around. I found myself saying that the entire time I lived in NY, and at one point I just listened to the sunk cost. This wasn’t easy: I have a great job, with great co-workers, my apartment is nice and I have a good core group of friends in NY, but I just failed to execute all those great things at once. Sometimes all the data can be right, but you can still make the wrong choice. However it is up to you to change that.

When I originally wrote this post, it was quite hard. Trying to figure out where I failed, and what I did wrong really made me think.Only after giving my notice to my current employer, and talking to people, did I started to realize one thing, you are always affecting people. It was when the guy I sit next to, who has worked there for only 2 weeks mentioned he will miss my energy and excitement that it hit me. Yes, I set up these really hard goals for myself in NYC, and that I wanted to basically be a rock star. Even though I didn't reach my personal goals, I still accomplished a lot here. I've impacted a lot of peoples lives, and have made countless friends over the time I've been here. Sometimes you have to take a step back a look at things from a distance to realize what you've accomplished.

So if you live in NY, let’s get one final drink (for now), and for those that live in DC, let’s get our party hats on for when I come back.

note: Thanks to all my editors over the years, especially the editor of this one

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Proper Ratio

Some housekeeping before you read today. I’ve finally launched my own website,; and the blog address will now be Visit both, and let me know what you thoughts.

For the record, I love dogs. I love dogs a lot, and act like Christmas has arrived when I see a dog on my side of the street. Two of my best friends just got a French bulldog, and I’ve already sent that thing two care packages (they have only owned her since October). Of course people always say ‘Oh just get a dog, why don’t you have a dog?”, my answer is simple “I’m not ready for that kind of commitment”, which is true. Getting home by six to let the dog out seems like a novel concept to me. But since I can’t have a dog, I find other ways to satisfy my dog needs.  Sometimes I’ll walk by dog parks just to see what is going on over there, with the subtle hope one breaks lose and I have to return it. Upon the return I start chatting up the owner who lets me into the inner dog circles (obviously sans dog, but come on people details details). There are some dog parks that wont even let you in without a dog (understandably). I also have a general rule that I wont do a presentation unless I can sneak in a dog into my presentation, but to be fair that has become my niche. I was all ok with this until recently; a co-worker sent me an instagram dog account to follow, and then it hit me, am I following too many dog accounts?

Enter exhibit A, the graph of  instagram to dog instagram ratios. The red line, titled ‘Full Blown Crazy’, really should be titled ‘Do you understand instagram’. Like clearly there are other instagram accounts, and if you only follow dog accounts, you clearly do not understand instagram. I mean, there is more variety like : Coffee, Cats, reposts from reddit and pictures of people eating food. The next level is ‘pretty crazy’ think of this as the cat lady style instagraming. If your feed is full of dog accounts, you need to spice things up, you clearly have too many dogs in your life. If there are ten pictures in your feed, more than two of them should not be dogs.  Kinda Crazy was dangerous range. If you get carried away, and just start following all the dog friends of your dog accounts you will easily slip into this range, guys (and gals) don’t do this. A rule I like to follow, choose your dog accounts wisely, because there is such a thing as too many. Normal is considered three accounts for every ten, seems pretty normal to me. The final category is just as important. A person who follows NO dog accounts is one of two people. He/She is either a cat person, and we all know how cat people are, or he/she is probably a serial killer (do note, not mutually exclusive). I mean who seriously does not like dogs, and does not like the occasional picture of a dog. I think my new friending feature will be the dog check, is this person following at least one dog account? If yes, you may proceed, if no, please try again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Cost Benefit Analysis of Fighting a Ticket

If you ever visit NYC, there is a little hidden surprise when you take the six train.

A passenger can remain on the train as it turns around in order to view a stop that has not been in operation since 1954. The old ‘City Hall’ stop is a huge hit amongst tourists, but here is the problem: the turnaround is debatably legal. Despite many signs, blog posts, news reports and people telling me that it is legal, a friend and I recently received tickets for making this journey. The tickets were $50 each, and I was really upset because it is in fact not illegal to take this journey. I fought the case in the Transit Adjudication Bureau (TAB) court and you guessed it, I lost! This post isn’t about whether riding the six train around the turnaround is legal or not (since we know it is legal), but whether the cost of fighting a ticket is worth your time and money.

Time Is Money

Let’s assume you, like me, think you are going to win this ticket. You are so sure, that the probability of winning the ticket is I P(Winning) = 1. Winning in this case means you do not have to pay the ticket, so your total fine cost = 0. However, you do have to sit in the misery (and boy do I mean misery), of the TAB offices for three hours while you dispute your case.

So EVEN if you know you are going to win, it is still going to cost you:

     Loss = 0 + 3*[Hourly Rate].

If you wanted your loss to be less than the cost of your ticket, you could solve the equation and your hourly rate would need to be less that $16 just to fight the ticket knowing you are going to win.

But what if you don’t, then how much would need to make?

How to read this graph: it is only beneficial if your salary is below that black line at that probability. So if you are 75% sure you are going to win the case, your hourly rate would need to be less than $12.

If you are say 50% sure and make minimum wage, it is not worth your time. Of course, I’m assuming you would be working from 9-3 (the only hours of operation for TAB), and that you are using your Paid Time Off as a factor. 

In a strictly cost-benefit analysis, the cost of fighting a ticket is rarely worth it. So if you are a rational human being, just pay the ticket and move on. But if you want to prove a point to the system (like I did), then go ahead and fight it. Right?

Freedom and Democracy Will Prevail

When I fought the ticket I knew I was going to ‘lose’ money (as in time), but what is the cost of Justice and knowing that the court system got it right? I mean sure, the colonists threw a lot of tea in the ocean that day, but that tea represented the price of freedom and democracy, and that really does not have a price.

The sad part is, the TAB court system was not accepting of these ‘point-makers’ or freedom fighters. The room holds about 250 people, and it was packed. It gave me the sense that the judges do not really care about the cases: they are simply doing their jobs. They are only safety nets so that you don’t sue the TAB for being unconstitutional. They have this system in place because they have to, not because they are trying to change the world. Sadly, when you fight a ticket, you are just one person in a sea of humans. The time within the office is very formal. Though you are attempting to fight your case as an injustice, you are treated as if you are begging them to not fine you.

Sometimes We Do Win

Occasionally people decide to hop over subway turnstiles in order to avoid paying a fare. In NYC you do not need a card to exit the system, only to enter it. Some people know that it is actually smarter to risk a ticket than to pay the fare. The maximum ticket a TAB officer can give is $100 - normally the penalty for jumping the turnstile. The cost of a ride is $2.50, so again the simple math is

                                                     Loss = cost*risk
                         100 = 2.5(#times jumping)

As long as you only get caught once every 40 times, it is actually smarter for you to jump the gate. That means if you get caught about once a month, it may be smarter to risk it and jump the turnstile and not pay the MTA machine. (Can you tell I’m bitter yet?)

Why The MTA SHOULD Ticket

The MTA almost surely has a cost benefit to this: what is the amount of tickets they can issue before the government gets involved? If the MTA keeps their ticket processing capacity the same, but issues more tickets, it means less people would be willing to wait longer and longer hours at TAB just to fight a $50-$100 ticket.

                             Hours to wait = #tickets*(Processing time per judge)

The processing time per judge would likely remain the same, but if the number of tickets issued increases, so do the hours of wait time. The graph above is based off my single sample of 3 hours, but what if that time went up to 4 hours? That would mean even if I was 100% sure I would win, it would only be worth my time if I made less than $12.50 per hour. So the MTA should increase the number of tickets they issue, thus increasing the hours to wait at TAB, and then decreasing the probability someone will fight a ticket.

This is a fine line though, because if the MTA sets the ticket-issuing number too high, the government (hopefully) would come in and regulate the system by enforcing a swifter trial or by making the ticketing rules stricter and thus decreasing the number of tickets issued.


If you ever get a ticket, just pay it. Or at the very least, fight the ticket and blog about it. Maybe I actually got something out the ticket (which I’m finally going to pay). I have a story to tell at bars, coffee shops, and most importantly, on my blog. This post is pretty cynical and critical of the MTA, which it naturally should be. I actually don’t mind the subway too much. Sure it smells like pee 90% of the time. It also manages to remain 110 degrees under ground despite it only being 60 degrees outside. Sure there are something like 113 track fires per year, but running the MTA is not easy, so I’ll be kinder next time I take that six train around.