The Final Bet

On Sunday evening, Portugal beat France to take home the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship title. I didn’t watch the match, but from the headlines I’ve read, it was a match that led to more yawns than celebrations of football as splendid entertainment. After the match, French football “fans” did their best to burn down Paris, and Philippe Wojazer shot the awesome picture I’ve shamelessly used without permission above.

But this entry is not about riots, football or the poo-lice throwing tear gas canisters, it’s about my bi-yearly betting spree. How did I fare this year? Well, according to my profile I didn’t have much luck. After I revealed my bullet proof way to get rich quickTM three weeks ago, I lost 11 bets and only won 4. Now that the championship is over, I’m looking at a loss of NOK 189 (~$22).

But that number isn’t entirely correct. Thanks to Unibet‘s bonus trickery, and their many attempts to lure their players into spending more money than they have, I’m actually NOK 15 ($2) in the black! That won’t buy me anything anywhere, but I’m still in the black. But what to do with the money? I can’t just let the NOK 515 (~$60) stay untouched in my Unibet account, and transferring them back into my bank account would probably cost me the entire profit in transfer fees.

Since the European championship is over, I’m not placing any more bets this year. But there are other options on Unibet for people who want to part ways with their hard earned cash, and one of the most effective ones is probably the roulette table. One of the items on my infamous list of 100 things to do before I croak is item number 49: Try my luck at the roulette table. I went to Las Vegas in 2012, but since I’m a risk averse pussy, I never sat down at one of the many, many tables in the city.

But now is the time to strike item number 49 off the list! Should I put everything on red? Or black? Oh, man, the pressure!

Bulgaria Goes Open Source

The Republic of Bulgaria has a problem: When the government needs a piece of software, or a new website, they get on the phone to a software company that makes a custom solution, created based on the current needs. The result is often an expensive, buggy mess, that is painful to maintain, hard to modify when the needs change, and it usually has more security holes than there are craters in your average Swizz cheese. Soon, the software is abandoned, and often replaced with new and even more expensive software that has exactly the same problems as the abandoned piece of poppycock.

So, are Bulgarian software companies particularly crappy? Probably not. This is not a problem that is unique to Bulgaria. I’ve seen the same thing happening here in Norway, and I can’t imagine that those are the only two countries that struggle with low quality code finding its way into government software solutions. Those involved in project management often believe that a more fine-grained level of control solves the problem of expensive and failed projects. This, in turn, usually leads to more bureaucracy, more reporting, more meetings, more documentation, and a lot less time for making high quality, maintainable code. The time to market increases dramatically, and the projects deliver even less value for the end user at a higher cost than before.

Now Bulgaria has decided to try an unorthodox approach in the pursuit of great software and websites: Every custom line of code that’s made for the government has to be open sourced.

A Pilot in Denial

I’m still heavily into podcasts, and one I listen to regularly is Freakonomics Radio. The quality of their shows are usually top notch, and while it feels like they are pulling more and more shows up from the archive for rebroadcasts, most of what they air is fresh (although a tad sensational and click-baity, from time to time).

On June 1 this year, they ran an episode called Why Does Everyone Hate Flying? And Other Questions Only a Pilot Can Answer. The episode features Patrick Smith, author of Cockpit Confidential, and the man behind the site Ask the Pilot. Patrick Smith might be Big in America, but I’d never heard of him, his book, or his site before he got interviewed on Freakonomics Radio, so good on him for getting some international exposure1).

One of the more interesting questions the show’s host, Stephen J. Dubner, asked Smith, is this:

I do know that autonomous cars are a potential reality. […] So talk to me for a moment about why I shouldn’t expect and fully demand all my planes be flown by robots and computers?

Autonomous aircraft means that there’s no need for pilot Smith in the cockpit, which in turn means that he’ll be demoted to serving drinks in the back of the plane. So he reacts as you’d expect to the question: He gets defensive, and pretty much dismiss people who even suggest such a outrageously crazy idea as people who have no idea what they are talking about.

I’m one of those people, and while I don’t have a “good grasp of the operational realities of commercial flying”, as Smith so correctly puts it, I’d still try to argue that making an autonomous aircraft is easier than making an autonomous car.

"11/22/63" by Stephen King

'11/22/63' by Stephen King.“11/22/63” (or “1963-11-22” as it should have been titled if people wrote dates in a proper way) is Stephen King’s novel about Jake Epping, a divorced high school teacher who travels back in time from 2011 to 1958. Jake’s time machine is a time bubble, hidden inside the pantry in his friend Al’s diner. Unlike other time bubbles you might have read about – and I assume you have thorough knowledge about how other time bubbles work – the one in Al’s pantry has some peculiar features:

  1. When you enter, you’re always transported back to September 9, 1958, at 11:58 a.m.
  2. Not matter how long you stay in the past, only two minutes have elapsed when you return to the future through the time bubble. You will have aged the time you stayed in the past, though.
  3. The future can be changed. Hello butterfly effect.
  4. Objects can be transported through the time bubble. Al used this feature to buy dead cheap meat in 1958, which he took with him back through the bubble and used to make very affordable burgers – so affordable, there were rumors going around he used cat meat.
  5. The bubble resets every time you go through it. This means that if you return to the future and realize you changed something in the past that had a horrible impact on the future, you can simply go through the bubble again, back to 1958 and the future is reset to its “original” state.
  6. The future doesn’t want to be changed, and will do it’s best to try to prevent it from happening. The resistance is proportional to the magnitude and historical significance of the change. Trying to prevent someone from killing is wife and kids? There’s a good chance you’ll come down with a massive migraine with a touch of explosive diarrhea.

What's the Chance of That?

We’re nine days into the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship, and it’s time for a short betting retrospective. According to my profile, I’m currently looking at a 68 NOK (~$8) profit. While it isn’t an impressive amount – it’ll buy me a beer at a half-posh restaurant in downtown Oslo – it’s still a profit. It’s also a 5.54% return of investment, which is a hell of a lot more than you get with the money in the bank.

This year’s betting adventure didn’t start out too well, with three quick losses in a row. The money I put on the first bet – Romania to beat France in the opening match – was refunded, though, courtesy Unibet, and their “one bet without risk”-campaign. Then I had a win on low-paying odds, and another loss because Portugal’s superstar Cristiano Ronaldo can’t hit a barn door from a distance of 11 meters. But he is pretty good at participating in taking selfies on the field.

Including the last loss, I’d placed bets based partly on the odds, partly on my female intuition, and partly on gut feeling. Then I realized that my female intuition and gut feeling didn’t matter. I know absolutely nothing about football. Placing bets on high-paying, thus low possibility and risky odds, was plain stupid as long as I didn’t have any knowledge about the teams, players, referees, the pitch, and the weather to know something that would make it more possible than the odds indicated that I’d win a particular bet. Besides, the people deciding the odds know everything there is to know about what can influence the chance of a win or a loss – that is, after all, how they make their living.

So the question wasn’t whether or not I thought I’d win a bet, the question was what kind of risk I was willing to take.