Gini's blog

The New Lottery Give-Away

Being lucky in winning the lottery may not be so lucky after all. In fact, it might be a downright disaster, as I’ve discovered in reading about the bad luck lottery winners.   Only the latest account is the sad saga of Urooj Khan, an Indian businessman from Chicago, who was poisoned to death with cyanide, presumably at a family dinner, the night before he was going to pick up a check for his lottery winnings. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/12/urooj-khan-death-family-q_n_2463614.html). Initially, he was buried after what seemed like a sudden illness, but a suspicious relative called the police to investigate, and since then a story of family quarrels has emerged that hint at possible motives.  Now the police plan to exhume his body to determine how he was poisoned and who might have done it. It’s a real who-dunnit that will probably turn up as a feature on the 48-Hours mystery series (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/48hours) or at your local movie multiplex.   But Khan is only the most recent lottery winner whose life fell apart after winning.  There have been many dozens of such victims, even from the early days of the lottery.  For example, a 2006 USA Today story, “Lottery Winners’ Good Luck Can Go Bad Fast,” (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-02-26-lotteryluck_x.htm#) described how William “Bud” Post, who won $16.2 million in the 1988 Pennsylvania Lottery, had a brother who tried to have someone kill him for the inheritance, and later Post spent all his winnings and was living on Social Security when he die in 2006. Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won the $31 million Texas Lottery in 1997, committed suicide two years later, after a...

The Benefit of Not Becoming Rich and Famous

Recently, I’ve been reading about the trials and tribulations of the very rich and famous, and realized the aspiration to be part of that elite may not be so great as it’s cracked up to be. One reason is that becoming rich and famous may turn into more of a curse than a blessing, so maybe it’s time to appreciate NOT being rich and famous. A second reason is that the rich and famous live in a publicity glass cage, like prisoners of their fame, where they are continually onstage, like characters in a modern-day soap opera, in which the sagas and scandals of the rich and famous are like modern-day morality stories. While these stories help reinforce our social values of right and wrong, or at least get a dialog going about this, the rich and famous individuals at the center of these stories are under a public microscope and subject to the slings and arrows of public opinion.   The recent stories that led me to think about these issues are the international fight over Edward Snowden, who became a sudden celebrity after he leaked the evidence that NSA was collecting information about just about everyone from our phone records and the Internet, leading to a national debate about whether he is a traitor or hero for revealing the extent of government surveillance on private citizens. Wherever he ultimately ends up and whether he is indicted for crimes by the U.S. government, his story has triggered a debate over the nature of society in an information age facing threats of terrorism. In effect, his story has turned...

The New Middle Ages

Today, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, it seems we are approach a new Middle Ages in America, as inequality increasingly spreads through the land.  It is as if the superrich are like the new royalty and the top 1% are living in mansions like the old castles of kings in the kingdoms that eventually melded into Europe and the U.K.  Meanwhile, the media wields the power of the medieval church, placing its blessing on those with wealth and celebrity, who are protected by their retinue of publicists, handlers, lawyers, chauffeurs, and servants. They are much like the landed nobility who were part of the king’s court, who formed a protected and privileged enclave far removed from the much larger class of peasants who worked their land and paid their taxes, which supported the royalty and monarchy in their grand style.   I began thinking of this comparison after a friend emailed a link to a video that has been circulating on the Internet – Wealth Inequality in America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM, at the same time that I have been watching some TV series set in the Middle Ages – Monarchy http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431550, about the history of the kings and queens in England, starting in 400AD with the warring feudal lords who were united into a kingdom under Alfred in 871, Borgia, about the growing power and wealth of the papacy under Rodrigo Borgia, who became Pope Alexander VI and his family, in the late1400s, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1736341; and World Without End, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1878805,  about the struggles of the peasants in England in the 1300s, during the reign of King Edward...

How a GPS Can Get You in Hot Water

  After reading several articles about how people religiously followed their GPS to disaster – and knowing many people who got lost following their GPS to my house in the Oakland hill,  I thought of a new slogan for GPS – Gullible People are Stupid! At least that’s what I thought about after I reading the latest story of how  people sometimes let their GPS override their common sense and lead them astray.  In this case, in a story headlined: “Man Allegedly Follows GPS Directions to Wrong House; Shot Dead,” http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57566488-71/man-allegedly-follows-gps-directions-to-wrong-house-shot-dead, a man in his early 20s, Rodrigo Diaz, was picking up one more friend to join a skating party.  But after Diaz followed his GPS into a driveway, 69 year-old Phillip Sailors peered out of his window and came out with his gun blazing, since he was afraid of a home-invasion robbery.  Though Diaz tried to drive away, he was unfortunately shot fatally in the head.  Maybe Sailors overreacted since Diaz was already trying to leave – but the GPS led Diaz to the wrong place at the wrong time – so boom!   In another “how could she be so stupid case,” a woman from Belgium who was trying to go to a Belgian railway station 90 miles away ended up driving 900 miles to Zagreb in Croatia, because she kept following where her GPS told her to go.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57563958-71/gps-sends-belgian-woman-to-croatia-810-miles-out-of-her-way.  You would think as she passed road signs in different languages – first French, then German, and finally Croatian – she would have thought something was amiss.  Or perhaps she might have wondered why she was going...
The New Lottery Give-Away

The New Lottery Give-Away

Being lucky in winning the lottery may not be so lucky after all. In fact, it might be a downright disaster, as I’ve discovered in reading about the bad luck lottery winners.   Only the latest account is the sad saga of Urooj Khan, an Indian businessman from Chicago, who was poisoned to death with cyanide, presumably at a family dinner, the night before he was going to pick up a check for his lottery winnings. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/12/urooj-khan-death-family-q_n_2463614.html). Initially, he was buried after what seemed like a sudden illness, but a suspicious relative called the police to investigate, and since then a story of family quarrels has emerged that hint at possible motives. Now the police plan to exhume his body to determine how he was poisoned and who might have done it. It’s a real who-dunnit that will probably turn up as a feature on the 48-Hours mystery series or at your local movie multiplex.   But Khan is only the most recent lottery winner whose life fell apart after winning.  There have been many dozens of such victims, even from the early days of the lottery.  For example, a 2006 USA Today story, “Lottery Winners’ Good Luck Can Go Bad Fast,”  described how William “Bud” Post, who won $16.2 million in the 1988 Pennsylvania Lottery, had a brother who tried to have someone kill him for the inheritance, and later Post spent all his winnings and was living on Social Security when he die in 2006.  Billie Bob Harrell Jr., who won the $31 million Texas Lottery in 1997, committed suicide two years later, after a spree in...
The Assault on Writers by Internet Pirates

The Assault on Writers by Internet Pirates

Professional writers are under attack today from all sides. Not only are they being buried by millions of writers writing books and articles for free, celebrities with million dollar book deals, reduced royalties from publishers under siege, and automated software writing simple books and articles, but now book pirates are earning millions from their work. So more and more writers are becoming a dying breed.   I became aware of the problem when I was doing a routine search to see where my name was showing up, since I was up to about 100,000 results on Google. Lo and behold on the fourth page was the link announcing after my name: “download free. Electronic library. Finding books. 15+ items.” When I went to the link, I discovered 18 of my books, and with one exception that indicated “link deleted by legal owner,” all of them could be downloaded as PDFs.  The website owner didn’t even remove them after I wrote to their support email, stating in the strongest terms: “You do not have my permission or my publisher’s permission to upload any of my books and offer them for free.  Please be advised that I am making a copy of your pages, and this is to request that you immediately remove any of my books from your site.  You are interfering with my ability to make a living as a writer, as well as with the other writers whose books you have copied on your site and are offering for free.  I am also bringing this to the attention of members of ASJA (the American Society of Journalists and Authors)...