Monday, September 15, 2008

Here's Luck

Whenever I have a fifty/fifty chance of getting something right, I get it wrong ninety percent of the time.

(possibly) someone famous

Does luck have a universal constant, like pi, from which you could - if given enough data - derive a formula to calculate, according to your own variables, your own luck quotient (L.Q.)?

The traffic lights on the intersection of Belair and Princes St are green for longer in favour of Belair Rd. I know this because I've timed them. Yet they turn red almost invariably upon my approach along Belair. Similarly Transport SA maintains a train permanently around the bend from the Wattlebury crossing, lurking in case I venture forth.

That is the only possible explanation as, statistically, in off-peak only four trains an hour pass the crossing. Each passing takes around two minutes; so asuming the north/south trains don't cross at the same time (thus increasing the odds in your favour) you have a two in fifteen chance of having to wait for a train if you use that crossing in off-peak time. Yet I seem to catch them all the time. Unless I'm actually trying to catch one of course. People that know me will confirm this statistical anomaly. I don't make this stuff up. Mostly.

So if statistics can't explain it, does that mean that there is some luck factor, and I don't have it? Certainly as far as transportation goes anyway, I'm very grateful for my luck in other respects.

Let's just assume that there is. Can you change it? Does the whole universe have a fridge like setting (but this one goes up to eleven) that we could just crank and suddenly everyone wins the lottery and no-one has to work every again and Dr Phil falls into a burning sack of rabid weasels?

Say it was recalibrated for 10% luck across the board, would that mean bank robbers would be 10% more likely to get away with it, or the coppers 10% more likely to catch them? I suppose it would come back to the original L.Q.

Until scientists et al stop wasting time on the whole cancer thing and actually solve this great luck swindle; I propose a trading scheme. I'm willing to offer a percentage of my coin toss winning and not bumping into old annoying class mates luck, for an equal share of someones no red light or trains luck.

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At September 15, 2008 at 11:53 PM , Blogger franzy said...

Okay, the reason you are so convinced of this is as follows:

The human brain is hard-wired to recognise, recall and react to differences. This helps us remember who our families are by recognising genetic similarities in the faces of our kin so we know whom to protect, fight and fuck. You know that all of the round green things which grow on that tree are edible, but not the brown shrivelled one. You remember this information because you remember what happened last time you ate a rotten apple or bravely fought off that guy who looked just like your grandad who lived in your grandad's house (*third example omitted for taste*). You also remember the good feeling of using your recognition and recall instincts to your advantage.
Here's the sad bit:
You are not stopped by those lights or the train any more often than is within the realms of statistical likelihood. But since you are convinced that you are, you are much much more likely to notice and remember the occasions when it does happen and use this information to feel good about yourself. ie.
'This light stopped me three times last week! I'm so unlucky!'
(But it didn't stop you the other seven times - assuming you are using it going to and from somewhere in a typical working week).
Likewise the train:
'Sitting here again! It takes ages! I'll always getting stuck!'
(But you don't notice or recall the times you didn't get stuck because you cruised right over the empty crossing without stopping to marvel at your amazing good fortune).
Eventually you become convinced that you are unlucky and only notice the times you are delayed and add them to the slowly mounting evidence of your integral misfortune. And then you start blogging about it and further adding to your growing personal catalogue of fate's little jokes at your expense.
The news becomes worse.
Studies have recently shown (no, I can't bloody find them - but I did read it on boingboing or The Age or somewhere) that people who believe that they are lucky actually tend to have more good luck and then, of course, those convinced they are unlucky do actually have tendencies, if not towards outright misfortune, then definite avoision of good luck.
May I site a personal example:
I, my father and my aunt always find excellent car parks. Right outside, a stone's throw, The Rock Star.
My grandmother does not. The reason is because Grandma is convinced that, upon entering any parking situation that she will NOT find a good park and therefore tends not to seek them. She always finds a park very far away and hence, has a lot of time walking a long way to where she is going, thinking about how she NEVER gets a good park, everywhere is too crowded, etc.
Her offspring however, remembering all those years of excellent parks, always drive straight to the front door (the parks there not being statistically any likelier to be occupied than most other parks) and more often than not, end up parking there, or very near, leaving only a few metres to walk, but a lifetime of having G'ma shaking her head in disbelief at how incredibly lucky we all are.

Want luck? Think lucky. Next time you roll through that light, shout 'Awww YEAH! Ride 'em Cowboy! Outta my way, fools!'
Trust me, it will start happening more often.

ps. Thanks for letting me blog on your blog here - the single sentences are putting the pressure on somewhat ...

At September 16, 2008 at 8:17 PM , Blogger Kath Lockett said...

Geez - a top blog, and one where I am more than willing, Myninj, to give you my rather good luck at dodging red lights and trains for your good luck in avoiding unwanted school chums and could I raise you those annoying daytime, 'Guess what Mrs - pause - Lok HART, you have won an entry into our - pause - sensational Sunshine Coast timeshare portfolio' calls?

And Franzy - keep it up buddy, both here and on your blog. Surely there's an intellecto-comedic novel in you just bursting to bust through your clogs?

At September 16, 2008 at 8:28 PM , Blogger myninjacockle said...

A well thought out argument, and I suspect you're probably right when it comes to the train. I just like trying to work out probabilities using the little that remains of my high school math education.


Not the traffic light. I'm not an unlucky person, certainly had more luck than I've deserved in life (not that I believe in Karma - despite watching My Name is Earl).

I agree that people creat their own luck to a certain extent. The expression 'the harder I work, the luckier I get' is a truism; and I know people that sabotage themselves time and time again and can't see their own role in their supposed bad luck.

This fucking traffic light is different. As I said; I've timed it to confirm that it is green more than it isn't and so should favour the Belair rd traffic. (incidentally - or maybe relevantly - I don't have the problem entering from Princes street, where the light should be working against me)Yet I definitely note the times that it is green because I'm so friggen astounded that I didn't get caught.

Maybe their are other variables that I'm not accounting for - like heavier traffic moving more slowly or someone that hates me controlling the traffic lights.

But I stand by my statement.


Incidentally, car parking has caused many an argument for Knickers and I. I tend to take the first one I see, figuring that walking is good for you and what, maybe it'll take you an extra thirty seconds to get where you're going? Knickers will dive to the front and then slowly circle out. Each of our actions infuriates the other.

At September 16, 2008 at 10:38 PM , Blogger franzy said...

Step aside Ninj, I'm runnin' this blog now ...

Heh ... ahem ...

Anyway - Kath, I'm hoping the next novel will be funny, rather than just a catharsis for all the things I did in high school.

You, Ninja - I want controlled studies!
I actually know the Princes light very very well because it lay between me and my mate's house during a time when I spent more there performing troubling acts than I did volunteering at the local nursing home. I almost always got the green light to turn left onto Princes from Belair because I had timed it such that turning onto Belair from Cross on a green arrow and then proceeding without delay at 65km/h resulted in a nice tight little corner through the green arrow at Princes and into the Mitcham Shopping Centre chicane, one hand on the horn, ready to scare the superannuated fuck out of any dodderers rolling out of the car park.
The only times I didn't make it was because someone would pull up in the left lane with no intention of turning left, intending instead to proceed straight ahead and in doing so, block the nineteen young hoodlums behind them who were carefully noting their make and number plate for a good egging, or, in my case, urinating on their door handles at 3am on the way home from the pub.

I never did that.

At September 16, 2008 at 10:41 PM , Blogger franzy said...

I used to go out with a girl who deliberately chose the furthest parking space, purely so she could get the exercise.


At September 17, 2008 at 10:58 AM , Blogger squib said...

Did someone say persecution complex? haha I hear you Rob and I tell you every time I try to pull in to an empty service station, I get there and somehow all these cars have got there before me. It's like they have teleported there

Also restaurants/cafes. We seem to have a celebrity head sign on our heads that says "please lose our order/ forget we are here/ don't take our order for two hours/please stuff up everything as much as possible"

At September 17, 2008 at 11:57 AM , Blogger Kath Lockett said...

I hear ya, Squib. I'm the Angel of Death when it comes to being a restaurant or cafe patron. Forgotten, an hour after everyone else's, salmon instead of beef or waitresses too cool to entrust me with the pepper shaker - it's all there.

At September 24, 2008 at 9:51 PM , Blogger Miles McClagan said...

God, this has given me a lot to think about - I always subscribed to the 50-50 theory of chance, either something happens or it doesn't (therefore my chances of getting a red or green light are the same chance as me playing in the NBA - 50-50 - it either will happen or it won't).

The people with their 1 in 6 dice theories are my sworn enemy...

At October 28, 2008 at 12:30 PM , Blogger franzy said...

Sooo .... when's the next blog coming out?


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