It’s the semi-annual Powerball Frenzy, or the Festival of Moloch if you prefer. The jackpot is worth an estimated “half of what you think you’d get if you won,” and is guaranteed by the hands of fate to ruin your life if you get it.

Or so we’re told. Everyone thinks they’d handle the money well. How hard can it be to not screw up the possession of $250 million dollars? If you’re the second or third generation, sure, your screw-up is practically guaranteed, and if you don’t waste it all and end up in the gutter with every nerve ending fried by expensive drugs, you’ll be despised by your peers for floating through life with effortless elan, your quiet cheerful mood of self-possession all the more irritating for your sense of humility and gratitude. You don’t give anyone money, that’s the problem. You refer them to your Foundation, which handles these things on a basis of need. That’s why everyone hates you. Just because it’s your money doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be their money, too.

To console yourself in advance, Here are 15 cautionary tales of people who had their lives ruined by the lottery. Number one is ol’ Jack Whittaker, who took just four years to run through $315 million. There’s a word for that in psychological circles: a frackin’ idiot.

Time calls these stories “tragic,” but really, no. Here’s an example taken from Bill Post’s cautionary tale:

In the two weeks after he received his first annual payment of nearly $500,000, he had already blown two-thirds of it, purchasing a restaurant, a used-car lot, and an airplane.

Poor impulse control, in other words. Post blew through $315 million in three months, possibly by sitting home watching “Brewster’s Millions” over and over while setting fire to great bales of cash, Joker-style. Then there’s the Lotto Lout, an English fellow who sums up everything that’s just marvelous and outre and non-conformist bout today’s parasitic class: he squandered $15.5 on hookers and blow, then settled back to a nice life of welfare-collection. “The party has ended and it’s back to reality,” Carroll told the Daily Mail in 2010. “I haven’t got two pennies to rub together and that’s the way I like it. I find it easier to live off £42 dole than a million.” Which comes as a grand consolation to the taxpayers, I’m sure. Poor dear; those riches were so hard on him

It’s not the money that makes people unhappy. It’s just a tool.

It’s simple. When you win, do the following: purchase a new phone for yourself and every member of your family, with pay-as-you-go plans. Disconnect all other phones. Go downtown, find the most expensive office building, find the law firm that has the most floors, go up to the front desk and say “I just won the Powerball. I need a lawyer.” Even if that’s not their thing, they’ll help, and because it’s a good firm they’ll be interested in leaching off you for years instead of cheating you up front.

Find a pay phone. Call all your friends and close relations who need to know these things, tell them you’re fine, and you’ll get back in touch.Tell them that you will be setting up a trusts for their children that will cover education or small-business start-up costs, as well as a one-time disbursement for the adults. Pack; go to Hawaii; arrange a 100-day world cruise. That should give you time to figure out the rest.

Oh, who am I kidding? The winner will buy everyone houses and six gold BMWs and invest $125 million in a business that sells cheap internet access to Nigerian spammers, or something. Good luck, everyone.


SPACE One of the most unnerving features of the universe is the Hexagonal Storm on Saturn’s North Pole. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie. If there was an anti-Santa devoted to cosmic evil, this is where he’d live.

Topping the list of “Things you don’t want to see when your control panel says ‘’Thrusters Off-line'":





Well, the Cassini probe snapped another picture of the storm, and Good LORD:





Each side of the hexagon is several times larger than the earth. This is the quality of stuff we get after less than a half-century of poking around outside our backyard; imagine what's yet to come when we start landing probes on the moons out there. Speaking of which, what did Curiousity discover? Days after they said they'd found something for the history books, no news, no details. Everyone always thinks it's "life" or "fossils," but it always turns out to be "a type of quartz we really didn't expect!" Stay tuned.


TERRORISM UPDATE Security theater at the TSA checkpoint just got a bit more complex:

Last summer snow globes got a reprieve when the Transportation Security Administration relaxed the rule that banned the water-filled tchotchkes from carry-on luggage. But in the clear-eyed cold of winter, it's small comfort - very small comfort - as the holiday season approaches.

Snow Globe Central of Denver points out the TSA allows only snow globes that appear to "contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size.)" But the most popular snow globes are bigger, and carry much more liquid.

Relly? Most? The snow globes I’ve seen in gift shops were either classic old-style plastic models or the small glass balls on pedestals, which feel much more solid. The enormous elaborate ones obviously won't pass TSA screening; after ten years of saving lives by taking off your belt and shoes, this sort of detail ought to be obvious to all.


In related snow-globe news:


The little girl who wanted Jimmy Stewart to save a special flower has just added another distinctive collection to a museum that preserves the legacy of "It's A Wonderful Life." Karolyn Grimes, perhaps better known as Zuzu Bailey, the child in the 1946 film classic starring Stewart and Donna Reed, has put a number of snow globes featuring scenes from the beloved holiday movie on display at the Seneca Falls "It's A Wonderful Life" Museum.

She’s still around? Somehow that makes the requisite annual viewing of the movie even better. Although if they could make a version where that guy doesn't say "Hee Haw," I'd pay a few dollars extra.