Cover image for Life : the odds (and how to improve them)
Title:
Life : the odds (and how to improve them)
Author:
Baer, Gregory Arthur, 1962-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Gotham Books, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
xiii, 252 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781592400331
Format :
Book

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Central Library HQ2039.U6 B34 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is an entertaining book that succeeds despite its author's missteps as a humorist. In presenting the odds of all manner of events both possible ("Dating a Supermodel") and improbable ("Becoming a Professional Athlete"), Baer (The Great Mutual Fund Trap) is clearly emulating the Worst-Case Scenario books, which have turned studying extreme real-life events into a cottage industry. Baer knows and expertly uses statistics and probabilities: it is fascinating to learn, for example, that the chances of dying by being hit by an asteroid are three times greater than dying in a train crash or an earthquake and are 250 times greater than dying from a shark attack. He also provides some revealing sidebars on certain topics, such as his look at how the odds of celebrity divorce are even worse than the already horrible odds of divorce for newly married couples ("about even money, 1 to 1"). Baer sometimes interrupts his statistical analyses with attempts at Dave Barry-style one-liners, but they fall flat, such as when he insults the livability of Cleveland or comments on the looks of Prince Charles's paramour Camilla Parker Bowles. Because of its range of topics, this book should gain some word-of-mouth praise, however, and will likely improve water-cooler conversations. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Forty-four short chapters use statistical probability to determine the chances of achieving or surviving certain life events. The subjects range from the commonplace-sharing a birthday-to the (hopefully) far-fetched-destruction of the Earth. Each section explains the situation, runs the numbers, then tells how to improve the odds. The main purpose of this book is humor, not 100 percent true cause and effect, so the actual conclusions drawn aren't necessarily, and don't claim to be, entirely guaranteed. (For example, if you don't want a marriage to end in divorce, simply moving to Massachusetts, the state with the lowest divorce rate, isn't necessarily going to help.) But the process does explain probability and other statistical concepts in a lighthearted way. Baer uses tables, graphs, pie charts, and narrative to reach his conclusions. The facts and research are well documented and often contain links to Web sites that further explain the issues at hand. Most of the subjects covered have real teen interest, such as "Getting into an Ivy League College" or "Becoming a Professional Athlete," while "Being Poorly Endowed," about penis size, is sure to cause some snickering. The author does use some clunky one-liners that are bound to elicit groans, but the book's real strengths lie not in the dumb jokes but in the facts and statistics, which are interesting enough on their own.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

INTRODUCTION ìNo tears, no hugs, no learning.î These were the immortal words used by Larry David, the co- creator of Seinfeld, to describe the animating premise of the showóthat when people turn on the television in the hopes of having a few laughs, the last thing they want to see is characters undergoing emotional, spiritual, or intellectual growth. There will be no danger of that in Life: The Odds. Instead, the muse for Life: The Odds will be Michael, the People magazine writer portrayed by Jeff Goldblum in the big-screen classic The Big Chill. Asked about his job, he explains to his fellow dysfunctional baby boomers, ìAny article for People can be no longer than the average person can read while taking a crap.î Wise words indeed. There is every incentive to introduce this book by explaining how tragically uneducated the public is about probabilities and odds, and how the goal is to advance our understanding by making learning fun. Such an introduction would allow the author to explain to his kids that really the book was written for them, and for all the other folks out there who need some help with this important subject. Kids, Daddy wrote the book for the money. Nonetheless, there remains some danger that you might learn something by reading Life: The Odds. Directly, youíll learn the odds of all manner of events that concern, interest, or amuse usó everything from surviving cancer to winning a Rhodes Scholarship to being possessed by Satan. Youíll learn how to calculate whether itís safer to drive or fly on your next trip. More important, though, you might indirectly learn to appreciate how to value and weigh the odds of improbable events. So the next time youíre wondering whether a smallpox vaccine makes sense for you, or whether the government should be spending more on counterterrorism or auto safety, or whether you wish to assume the rollover risk of an SUV, or whether itís really that strange that you and your brother-in-law have the same dentist, you can think more rationally about the odds.* You will not find many chapters devoted to the subjects most of us readily associate with odds: lotteries, sports gambling, and casino gambling. First, with respect to lotteries, hereís all you really need to know: ï The odds are lousy. ï Everyone knows the odds are lousy. ï People buy lottery tickets anyway because a lottery ticket is their only hope of getting rich, and hope is important to people. There would inevitably be tears and learning involved, so there will be no lottery discussions here. As for other types of gambling, there is no shortage of books on these subjects, and no desire to repeat them here. In any event, the odds are generally posted, and the house always wins. That said, two casino gamesókeno and blackjackóare * Consider, for example, the odds that your name is Greg Baer, and that you have only met or heard of two other people on earth with that name, both of whom are writersóGreg Bear in the science fiction world and Greg Baer, M.D., in the self-help world. (Please note that the Greg Baer at www.gregbaer.com whoís talking a lot about crying, hugging, and learning is that guy.) Consider the odds that you learn of Greg Baer, M.D., because he is signed by the same editor at the same publisher in the same week. examined in detail. Keno, because the odds are horrendously bad, not posted in any meaningful way, and universally underestimated. Blackjack, because itís the only casino game where the player can control the odds, and thatís very cool. But generally, the focus of Life: The Odds will be outside of Las Vegas and Monte Carloóon the world where most of us live, where there are clocks on the walls and we have to pay for our own drinks. Here, we worry whether a large asteroid could be hurtling toward Earth; we wonder if thereís any chance of bowling a perfect game during next weekís league night; and we dream of one day climbing Everest or exploring space or, at the very least, writing a best-selling book. So letís boldly go forth on our little adventure. A BRIEF NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY Odds are expressed in the form of, for example, 3 to 1. If the odds are against a particular outcome, as they frequently are, then the first number (3) represents the chance of failure in relation to the total (4); the second number (1) represents the chance of success in relation to the total. So if the odds of an outcome are 3 to 1 against, then the chance of it occurring is 1 in 4, and the probability of it occurring is .25, or 25 percent. (Conversely, odds in favor equate to a 3 in 4 chance and a probability of .75, or 75 percent.) In this book, where the odds are almost exclusively against, weíll refer to the odds ìofî an event, and assume the odds are against, unless otherwise noted. So, if you see that the odds of writing a New York Times best-seller are 220 to 1, then assume that the chances are 1 in 221, with a probability of .0045. Note also that when we speak of the ìoddsî in a given bet in gambling, that does not equate to the probability of winning. Rather, odds in the gambling context are what the casino or racetrack will pay you in the event that you win. The house makes money precisely because the two are different. PART 1 LOVE AND MARRIAGE Dating a Supermodel Determining the odds of dating a supermodel begins with two vexing questions: how does one define a supermodel, and how many are there? Most experts (including a lot of very strange, lonely men who have established websites for this purpose) identify the factors that allow a regular model to claim supermodel status: ï an exclusive contract with a major beauty company like EstÈe Lauder (a position held by Elizabeth Hurley, and now by Carolyn Murphy) ï regular appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (the bikini-clad Elle McPherson, Paulina Porizkova, and Kathy Ireland) ï regular cover shots in the major fashion magazines ï a regular, prominent role in the Victoriaís Secret catalogue (the very naughty Stephanie Seymour, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum) By most estimates, there are approximately twenty-five supermodels operating at any given time. These are the models who invade the publicís consciousness, are profiled in ìbehind the scenesî cable television shows, and give disastrous performances in movies. While race, hair color, height, and general ìlookî may vary, there are two constants among the crËme de la crËme of the modeling industry: they are all thin, and they are all vapid. (Of course, you would be vapid, too, if you had dropped out of school at age fifteen and spent all of your time in makeup rooms, airplanes, and nightclubs.) But for many men, anorexia and vapidity are a good place to start, so the search for supermodelis ignoramus is a common dream. The Odds What are the odds? On the most elemental level, letís assume there are twenty-five supermodels, all of whom appear to be heterosexual or at least bisexual, and also there are 110 million adult men in America (as of the 2000 census), and that each supermodel will ìdateî five different American men per year (some fewer, and some dramatically more), and that the average male will be searching for a supermodel for ten years. The odds then work out to around 88,000 to 1. Improving the Odds These odds are misleading, though, as they assume that all men are equally well positioned to date a supermodel. In fact, occupation and geography skew those odds wildly. Supermodels tend to date only certain types of men. To determine which types, the author conducted a search of the established supermodel literature (the tabloids) and was able to track the dating habits of forty-four supermodels, past and present. The occupation of each boyfriend or husband was identified. Obviously, one- night stands were not reported or recorded, but it is a fair assumption that the cohort of one-night stands would have a similar distribution of occupations as the cohort of boyfriends and husbands. Here are the results: As the chart shows, actors, musicians, and athletes represent a majority of supermodel boyfriends and husbands. Leonardo DiCaprio himself represents a cottage industry in supermodel dating. But he is hardly the only actor to make the listóMickey Rourke, Johnny Depp, Jason Patric, Sylvester Stallone, and even some guy named Norman Reedus have dipped their toes in supermodel waters over the last decade. Rock singers (Axl Rose, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Ric Ocasek of the Cars) are not far behind. Yet there is still hope for those who bothered to get a graduate degree. At least one lawyer and one doctor have broken through to the chamber of supermodel secrets. It also helps to put forth a little effort. One gentleman founded the Fashion CafÈóand ended up with supermodel Daniela Pestova. Photographers do well, as one might expect. Wealth doesnít hurt either. A ìgallery ownerî named Tim Jefferies has dated Claudia Schiffer and Elle McPherson, as well as porn star Koo Stark. Occupation alone is not determinative, however. As with real estate, supermodel dating is heavily dependent on location, location, location. Practically every supermodel lives in one of two places: New York or Paris. You might have expected to see some California supermodels, but California is too far away from Europe, where most fashion shows are held.* So, if you arenít in one of the chosen industries and are looking to meet a supermodel, think about flying first class on Virgin Atlantic or one of the other transatlantic luxury airlines. (Surprisingly, given the travel required of supermodels, there is no record of any supermodel ever having dated a pilot.) Adjusting our odds a bit, itís fair to say that if you are a star actor or the front man for a band based on the East Coast, then your odds are probably closer to 10 to 1. If you drive a truck in Minneapolisówell, keep on truckiní. * California, however, is home to the pornography industry; while there are no hard data on the subject, the odds there presumably are better. Being Poorly Endowed (or Romantically Linked to Someone Poorly Endowed) Ask any man the three declarative sentences he most fears hearing, and the answer will always be the same: 1. ìBend over, spread your legs slightly, and cough.î 2. ìI think youíre starting to lose some hair.î 3. ìYouíve got a small one.î Of these three, the last one is the harshest and most enduring. Even the clumsiest proctologic examination eventually comes to an end, and recedes from memory. For hair loss, there is the Hair Club for Men. But there is no Little Penis Club for Men; there is no cure; there is no hope. To illustrate the importance of this subject, consider the three declarative sentences a man most wants to hear: 1. ìMy, thatís a big one.î 2. ìMy sorority sisters tell me you have a big one.î 3. ìAnna Kournikova told me you have a big one.î What is important, though, is not really absolute size, but size relative to other men. Some may remember a wonderful episode of the sitcom Just Shoot Me, where Finch (played by David Spade) is observed by his coworkers in a locker room. When they marvel at the size of his manhood, he expresses surprise, saying, ìIt doesnít look any bigger than the others Iíve seen.î ìSeen where?î they ask. ìWell, you know, porno,î he replies. So, for our purposes here, the key questions are: What is average? What is noticeably above average? What is noticeably below average? and What are the odds of each? (We could go on to ask, Does it really matter? but letís not kid ourselves.) The Odds Determining average penis length (and girth) is a difficult undertaking. The first major study of penis size was conducted by researcher Alfred Kinsey in 1948. Kinsey determined that the mean length of an erect penis was 6.21 inches, with standard deviation of 0.77 inches. (A brief statististical refresher course: Standard deviation is a measure of how tightly grouped around the mean the data are. A low standard deviation means that all the results are about the same; a high standard deviation means that they vary greatly. In a normal distribution, one standard deviationóplus or minusócovers 68 percent of results, and two standard deviationsóplus or minusócover 95 percent of results.) Thus, according to the Kinsey data, 68 percent of penises were between 5.44 inches and 6.98 inches; 95 percent of penises were between 4.67 inches and 7.75 inches.) Kinsey, however, can be justly accused of making the greatest possible mistake in penis-size studies: HE LET THE GUYS MEASURE THEMSELVES! Talk about book smart and common sense stupid. Try to picture some guy being handed a postcard (the Kinsey methodology) and asked to go off to a room to measure. (The private room was necessary because all measurements had to be at erection, which is not so easy with Dr. Kinsey staring at you.) Given that arrangement, do you think maybe subjects are going to be rounding up a little when they return to report results to Dr. Kinseyís cute little research assistant?* Not likely. Now, hereís an interesting thought: there is one group of people with a keen financial interest in making certain that an accurate gauge of penis size is obtained: condom manufacturers. Sure, for marketing reasons theyíre going to label each of their products, regardless of size, with some flattering title: the ìGargantuan,î the ìMonster,î the ìICBM.î But at the end of the day, they do need to get the size right. Sadly, the major condom company studies used an even more flawed methodology than Dr. Kinseyís, and obtained similar results. Durex conducted an Internet survey and received responses from 2,936 men in seventeen countries. There was no effort to verify the data. Thus, this study suffered not only from the natural tendency to exaggerate in Dr. Kinseyís study** but also from a self-selection problem: poorly endowed men were certainly far less likely to be reporting penis size over the Internet than well-endowed men. (The opposite phenomenon would be expected if the survey only included ex-wives.) Not surprisingly, under the Durex * In truth, the appearance of the Kinsey assistants is lost to history, but itís not hard to picture, especially in a 1940s nurseís hat with the front three buttons of the white blouse casually unbuttoned, but we digress. ** Actually, in the Durex study, with data being reported anonymously rather than to the hypothetical cute reasearch assistant, the incentive should have been to understate penis size. Why? Because when the aggregate data were reported, any given participant would have ended up looking relatively better if the reported mean size were smaller. Because men are stupid and shortsighted, however, we can be confident that no such analysis actually occurred, and that the subjects simply went with a ìMine is huge!î ethos. methodology, average penis size ìgrewî to 6.4 inches, with a wider standard deviation of 1.1. (The wider standard deviation is consistent with the subjectsí engaging in exaggeration.) Most recently, though, the company Ansell (the folks who proudly bring you LifeStyles condoms) conducted a study where measurements were conducted by the researchers them- selves. Each measurement was conducted by two nurses, supervised by a doctor. How do you arrange such a study? Well, you head down to CancTMn, Mexico, during Spring Break and get a bunch of drunk guys to drop their drawers. This particular study included 401 men who happened to be at the Dady Rock nightclub. (The actual survey size was 300, though, since a rather surprising 101 of the participants were unable to produce the erection required for the measurementóan implicit tribute to the quality of the tequila at the Dady Rock, or welcome comfort for Bob Dole and all those other middle-aged Viagra users.) The Ansell/LifeStyles study probably suffered from self-selection bias, as your better endowed Dady Rock patron was probably more likely to hop off his barstool and head to the LifeStyles tent. Still, at least the measurements were accurate. The result? Average penis size drooped to 5.88 inches, with a smaller standard deviation of 0.83 inches. There is, of course, a more reliable methodology that has never been used: asking Madonna. But absent a comprehensive study of that sort, itís probably safe to assume that the average penis size is closer to 5.5 inches. That means that you have 2 to 1 odds of having a penis between 4.7 and 6.3 inches. You have 19 to 1 odds of having a penis between 3.9 inches and 7.1 inches. Beyond that, youíre looking (staring) at a serious outlier. AND NOW FOR THE LADIES. . . We know Barbieís measurements. Adjusted to the size of an average woman, her measurements are 38-18-34. But is that normal? In common parlance, the ideal female measurements are 36-24-36. Is that normal? Well, according to the National Textile Center (the folks who do research to make sure clothes fit), the average female measurements are 38-32-40. But weíll focus on the first numberóthe breasts. According to the fun folks at www.sexualrecords.comówell worth a visit if you want to know, say, average hymen thickness or average erection angle*óthe average breast size is 35.9 inches, yielding an average bra size of 34B. Cup sizes break down as follows: A=15%; B=44%; C=28%; D=10%, with the rest (3%) outliers (Twiggy, Dolly). Breasts have been growing in recent years due to improved diet and the increased use of birth control pills. Of course, women with tiny breasts have a surgical option unavailable to men with tiny penises. And big breasts are in! According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), there were 216,754 breast augmentation surgeries performed in 2001. On the other hand, there were 114,926 breast reductions performed the same year, so the net number of breast-size increases is only 101,828. (Oddly, breast reductions are frequently covered by insurance, but breast augmentations are not.) Of course, breast augmentation is just the tip of the cosmetic surgery iceberg. According to ASAPS, there were 8,470,363 cosmetic procedures performed in 2001óa 48 percent increase from the previous year, and a 304 percent increase from the annual trend over the previous five years. What explains the meteoric rise in the occurrence of * 0.05 to 0.10 inches and 15 degrees above horizontal, respectively, in case youíre curious. plastic surgery? Three words: Botox, Botox, Botox. The newest and most popular cosmetic procedure is Botox injections, with over 1.6 million procedures. Trailing close behind are chemical peels (1.4 million) and collagen injections (1.1 million). Forget breast augmentationócosmetic surgery has moved above the neck! You may assume that your odds of opting for cosmetic surgery are larger if you do not live in Hollywood or the surrounding California area. You would be wrong. According to ASAPS, which analyzes statistics by region, the thirteen-state mountain and western region, which includes California, accounted for only 27.5 percent of procedures. The botox was flowing far faster in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, which account for 37.0 percent of all procedures. Marrying Royalty The castle, the title, the money, the loyalty of oneís devoted subjectsóyes, itís nice being Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney. But Mr. Eisner is married, so if you want all those things and more, better odds lie in seeking out a royal marriage. And in the twenty-first century, with most European royalty long forgotten and Middle and Far Eastern royalty running for their lives, the only royalty really worth marrying into is English. Weíll have to define our terms here a bit, though. Strictly speaking, royalty connotes only those members of a royal family. In England, this means the Windsor clanósmall in numbers, big in ears, except for those demigods William and Harry, who favor their mother and do not lack for attention. Given the limited options and stiff competition for the palatable ones, youíll need to broaden your search a bit to improve your chances. The Odds Oneís best odds come with seeking a member of the English peerage or baronetage. The concept of the peerage dates back to the fourteenth century and King Edward II, who kept a fixed list of those members of the landed gentry who were eligible to attend meetings of parliament. In past centuries, leaving oneís castle for government service had been seen as an annoyance and imposition, but under Edward II it came to be seen as a privilege (akin to voting). Furthermore, when Edward II and his successors decided that the right to attend meetings would be inherited, the honor of being a member of the peerage grew in importance. Today, a ìpeerî refers specifically to certain persons who hold a title of honor (or, as the British would say, honour), including duke, marquess, earl, viscount, and baron. Peers qualify for membership in the House of Lords, with the House of Commons generally limited to commoners.* While a peerage would certainly be ideal, a baronetage should also suffice. A baronetage is also a hereditary title of honor, but just short of a peerage. While membership in the House of Lords is not part of the package, other good things are. Besides, time saved traveling to London for governance is more time for shooting, horseback riding, and sumptuous banquets. One should probably draw the line there, however. A knighthood is certainly impressive, but only for the holder, not the spouse. Knighthoods generally are conferred for the knighted oneís lifetime only. (Think Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Sean Connery.) While a knight gets a title (the ìSirî or ìDameî part), the spouse gets nothing, and the spouseís children inherit no title. Plus, people who are routinely referred to as ìSirî start to get a little too big for their britches, and quickly cease taking out the garbage and putting down the toilet seat. (As the toilet seat analogy suggests, analysis here is lim- * This gets a bit complicated. For example, while peerage is generally synonymous with membership in the House of Lords, not every lord is a peer. Every peer, however, is a lord (except, perhaps, dukes, who are so significant that they are not generally referred to as lords, though they are in fact lords). But for marrying purposes, matters are relatively simple. You know from birth who the peers are. Those achieving lordship through less traditional meansófor example, extraordinary achievement or high officeóoften do so too late in life to be a practical alternative. Plus, they tend to be poorer. mited to the odds of a female finding a male peer or baron, as matters get even more complicated the other way around.) Of course, while to some extent a peer is a peer, some peers are of higher rank than other peers (even though that sounds oxymoronic). So, if you get invited to a shooting party, and there are two guys standing by the bar, each looking equally dapper, it pays to know which one is of higher rank. Here, the ìorder of precedenceî should be your guide. For this purpose, ìprecedenceî governs the order in which you are seated at dinner, listed in a roster of those attending a function, march at a royal funeral (with most important to the rear), and share in any number of other royal bounties. The order of precedence is not the same as the order of succession, since it includes persons ineligible to wear the crown, but there is considerable overlap at the top. In the most senior ranks, the list does not discriminate by sex, but below the top twenty-nine peers, the order of precedence is determined by the man in any couple; women have a separate list, in case unaccompanied. So, for example, the sovereign is numero uno (seated and listed first, marching last). The sovereignís uncleís wife (currently, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester), is 18th; the Archbishop of Canterbury is 30th; the lord Privy Seal (who knew that was a person?) is 38th; and Marquesses in the peerage of Ireland created before the Union of 1801 are 57th. The list hardly stops there, though, with Eldest sons of Knights of the Garter (too easy) seated 137th, and younger sons of Knights Bachelor 171st. And then itís time for the ladies. Lest you think itís all about royal blood, the Master of the Horse (if not a peer) comes in 90th, well ahead of the average Knight. With these rules in mind, oneís indispensable reference is Burkeís Peerage and Baronetage, first published in 1826 and listing all the royal houses, from Abdy to Zouche. For one in a hurryósay, a lady has met a gentleman at a party, and just has time to pop out to her Land Rover for a quick peek at the copy of Burkeís on the backseatóthe latest edition contains an index listing all 120,000 living persons of noble heritage. Obviously, your odds are going to be best living in the United Kingdom, where these folksówell, theyíre not really folksótend to live. With roughly 60 million inhabitants, the odds of finding royalty there are around 500 to 1, with women having a much better shot than men. In the former colony, the United States, the overall population is larger, the peers are fewer, and the odds are far longer. Improving the Odds Those seeking to identify British royalty are fortunate indeed that the latest edition of Burkeís, its 106th, was published relatively recently, in 1999. The 105th was published in 1970. So if you were, say, a Fox producer looking to cast Who Wants to Marry an Earl? circa 1998, you were stuck with either doing your own research or settling for some decidedly long-in-the-tooth contestants. Now, with the 106th edition, itís open season once again. But if one is really set on finding royalty, one can expand beyond British royalty. You probably donít want to be marrying into the Shah of Iranís clan, but the latest Burkeís has been expanded to include Scottish and Irish chiefs, and Scottish and feudal barons. There is even an edition now devoted to ancestors of the American presidents. So, todayís social climber can look to multiple ladders. Marrying a Millionaire There are many ways to turn yourself into a millionaire. Pursue and succeed at a high-income or stock optionñrich occupation. Earn a steady salary, invest wisely, and live frugally. Or, of course, marry someone who has already done these things or, better yet, who simply inherited his or her millions and thus is not worn down by toil. The Odds The good news is that the number of millionaires is increasing. Estimates are that there will be 5.6 million millionaires in the United States by 2005. Furthermore, with more women joining the millionaire ranks, new options are opening up for male gold diggers. Unfortunately, while there are thus more millionaires than ever before, very few of them are single. According to Thomas Stanleyís The Millionaire Mind, 92 percent of those millionaires are married, 2 percent are divorced, 2 percent are single and have never been married, and 4 percent are widowedómeaning that 8 percent of our 5.6 million millionaires, or 448,000 millionaires, are single. As of the 2000 Census, of the 221 million Americans age fifteen and over (which is roughly marrying age in most states),* 60 million (7 percent) * Most states allow marriage with parental consent at age sixteen or seventeen. You will be unsurprised to hear that the age falls to fourteen in Alabama, Texas, and Utah. But the shockers are Kansas (fourteen for males and twelve for females), Massachusetts (same), and New Hampshire (fourteen and thirteen). had never been married, 22 million (10 percent) were divorced, and 15 million (7 percent) were widowedóa total of 97 million singles. In other words, the odds that the person youíre dating is a millionaire are 215 to 1. Improving the Odds From an analytical perspective, improving your odds of marrying a millionaire consists of four steps: (1) locating a millionaire; (2) attracting the millionaire; (3) dating the millionaire; and (4) getting the millionaire to the altar. But how to move from step (1) to step (4)? For advice here, itís best to rely on the experts: scheming women who have used every possible artifice to date rich men and acquire their lifestyles. Thankfully, at least two such women have written books: Lisa Johnson, author of the comprehensive How to Snare a Millionaire, and Ruth Leslee Greene, author of the hard-hitting How to Marry Money. Qualified? You bet. Ms. Johnson is described on her book jacket as ìa multimedia journalist and food criticî who ìhas dated many men of wealth, most of whom have proposed to her.î Ms. Greeneís biography is not mentioned anywhere in her book, and is not discoverable on-line; there is a good chance that the authorís name is not even Ruth Leslee Greene. But is the fact that the book was written by a pseudonymous author a reason not to take it seriously? To the contrary, it may well have been written by a woman who wishes to hide her scheming secrets from her incredibly wealthy husband or his suspicious family. (Three words: Anna Nicole Smith.) In any event, standing on the narrow shoulders of these social climbing giants, we proceed to think through the spotting, pursuit, and conquest of the rich. Locating Your Millionaire Obviously, some places are much better for spotting a millionaire than others. Among the hot spots that common sense and our expertsí wise counsel identify as good places to explore are yacht clubs, Episcopal churches, polo matches, art auctions, and charity functions. Equally important, though, is avoiding places where you are unlikely to ever run into a millionaire, and thus are wasting your time. Ms. Johnson, in How to Snare a Millionaire, contributes a comprehensive list, including: ï Laundromats ï Wal-Marts ï tractor pulls ï Dennyís ï adult magazine shops ï professional wrestling matches ï cosmetology school ï auto parts stores Of course, spotting oneís quarry is in some ways the easiest step. The true skill comes in what follows. Moving in for the Will Approaching millionaires must be done carefully, as they are nervous creatures prone to flight. Generally, your approach will need to vary with the situation, but Ms. Greene, in How to Marry Money, offers some tried and true approaches: ï On a cruise, wait until your quarry leaves his deck chair to get a drink or use the facilities, and then occupy it. When he returns, first quarrel over the chair, then apologize, then flirt. ï Determine the brand and number of tennis balls your quarry uses. Buy identical balls, and occupy the court adjacent to his. Gradually, steal all of his, and insist they are yours. (While Ms. Greene is too sweet to describe the method as such, at this point one might note that you have him by the balls.) Then, according to Ms. Greene, ìAfter being such a bitch, the very least you can do in apology is invite him for some refreshment.î ï Buy a dog and walk it in wealthy neighborhoods. Teach the dog to bite whomever you designate, and point it toward preselected millionaires. In the course of offering apologies and first aid, strike up a conversation. If you use these methods wisely, you have the chance to make that all-important first impression, and entice him to ask you out. Now the gameís afoot! Dating and Beyond Once you have a millionaire smitten, the job is to keep him interested. First date. The first date will be crucial. In How to Snare a Millionaire, Ms. Johnson offers comprehensive advice on what you should say and do on the first date, with the prime directive being to ìestablish common interests, and express great enthusiasm for them.î Equally important, though, are things to avoid on that first dateófor example, Ms. Johnson counsels against: ï insisting that your children come along ï asking him to help you out with your ìfinancial difficultiesî ï chewing tobacco ï expecting him to empty your garbage ï inquiring about the beneficiary of his life insurance policy If you feel you may have a hard time navigating this minefield, you may wish to write these down, or pick up a copy of her book. Inviting him into your lair. When your millionaire visits your apartment or house to pick you up for a first or subsequent date, you will need to present an attractive lifestyle. Here Ms. Johnsonís book again provides some keen insights. You may wish to have on display art prints, an espresso machine, an inviting couch, and big fluffy towels. Items that Ms. Johnson counsels avoiding: fuzzy toilet seat covers; crossword puzzle books; an abundance of medication sitting around; and a ìzooî of stuffed animals. You will not wish to look eccentric or needy. Closing the Deal Once hooked, your millionaire needs to be brought on board promptly, without time for reflection. Ms. Greene counsels strongly for elopement, thereby minimizing the potential for familial disruption. Failing that, she offers this sage counsel: Try to tie the knot in a very small church or registry office so you wonít have to invite your embarrassing cousins or old friends among whom your improved fortunes have triggered cupidity and envy. Detach from them without rancor, and adjust to the rarefied atmosphere of your new rich life. A small price, really, for such a large success! Really, that says it all. D-I-V-O-R-C-E In this chapter, weíll quickly dispose of the tedious main topicóyour odds of getting divorcedó and then move on to the more interesting sidebaróthe odds of celebrities getting divorced! The Odds As for boring old you, the odds are a bit in dispute. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the odds are 1.3 to 1 that a first marriage will survive without separation or divorce for fifteen years. (Put another way, the probability of divorce or separation within fifteen years is 43 percent.) The study was based on the National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative sample of women age fifteen to forty-four in 1995.1 According to the Census Bureau, however, your odds are not as good. The Bureau believes that the odds of divorce for newly married couples are about even money, 1 to 1. Why the discrepancy? Determining divorce odds is actually very difficult, because divorce patterns vary significantly by generation, and there is always a significant lag in the data. Thus, itís difficult to predict how the present generation of couples will behave. The most meaningful illustration of divorce rates is presented by the Census Bureau: Percentage of First Marriages Reaching Stated Anniversary Sex and year Anniversary of marriage 5th 10th 15th 20th 25th 30th 35th 40th Men 1945ñ49 95% 91% 87% 83% 79% 76% 73% 71% 1950ñ54 97% 91% 85% 80% 77% 74% 71% 67% 1955ñ59 94% 86% 79% 74% 70% 66% 63% NA 1960ñ64 94% 82% 74% 67% 73% 59% NA NA 1965ñ69 91% 76% 66% 61% 57% NA NA NA 1970ñ74 88% 72% 63% 58% NA NA NA NA 1975ñ79 86% 71% 62% NA NA NA NA NA 1980ñ84 87% 74% NA NA NA NA NA NA 1985ñ89 88% NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Women 1945ñ49 95% 90% 86% 81% 75% 70% 65% 59% 1950ñ54 95% 89% 83% 77% 72% 66% 61% 56% 1955ñ59 95% 88% 79% 72% 66% 62% 58% NA 1960ñ64 93% 82% 72% 64% 59% 55% NA NA 1965ñ69 90% 76% 65% 59% 44% NA NA NA 1970ñ74 87% 71% 62% 56% NA NA NA NA 1975ñ79 85% 70% 61% NA NA NA NA NA 1980ñ84 86% 73% NA NA NA NA NA NA 1985ñ89 86% NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), 1996 Panel (marriages ending in death excluded from calculation) As the chart shows, long-term divorce rates can be calculated, by definition, only for couples who were married a long time ago. So we canít calculate the odds of a marriage from the 1990s surviving a lifetime, or even twenty years, because we havenít had sufficient time to measure. The best we can do is calculate the five-year or ten-year odds; compare them to those odds from earlier times; determine if there has been an upward or downward trend; and then assume that any such trend will hold true over longer periods. Thus, what is significant about the chart is that for just about every anniversary that can be compared (with the fifth anniversary being the one that can be compared for the most five-year groups), the percentage of surviving marriages is in steady decline, with only a slight uptick for those married in 1980ñ84. Thus, for example, the percentages of male first marriages surviving until a fifth anniversary declined steadily from 95 percent to 88 percent between 1945ñ49 and 1985ñ89, and the percentage of marriages surviving until the twentieth anniversary declined from 83 percent to 58 percent between 1945ñ 49 and 1970ñ74. Thus, the pessimistic Census Bureau estimate for todayís married couples is based on the assumption that the percentage of marriages surviving forty years likewise has declined appreciably since 1950ñ54 (the last available data set), when it stood at 67 percent. Declined all the way to even money odds. Improving the Odds There is no shortage of books providing advice on how one can have a successful marriage. Most of the leading indicators, though, are outside our power to control. For example, the fact that your parents were divorced is a particularly bad sign. But you canít divorce your parents (and, even if you could, that would probably be a leading indicator, too). And while numerous studies and books tell us that the greatest chance of divorce comes in the first seven years of marriage, thatís hardly a great reason to remain togetheróìHoney, I know you despise me and are sleeping with my best friend, and I shouted obscenities at you on the Ricki Lake show, but statistically, if we could just hang on until the second quarter of next year, our odds of divorce will decline appreciably.î One surprisingly predictive indicator of divorce that you can control is geography. Divorce rates vary considerably based on the state where you live, as shown in the following table: Divorces per One Thousand Residents Rank State Rate Rank State Rate 1 Massachusetts 2.4 27 Utah 4.7 2 Connecticut 2.8 28 Delaware 4.8 3 New Jersey 3.0 29 Montana 4.9 4 Rhode Island 3.2 30 Missouri 5.0 5 New York 3.3 West Virginia 5.0 Pennsylvania 3.3 32 North Carolina 5.1 7 Wisconsin 3.4 Colorado 5.1 North Dakota 3.4 34 Georgia 5.2 9 Maryland 3.5 35 Oregon 5.3 10 Minnesota 3.6 36 Texas 5.4 Louisiana 3.6 37 Alaska 5.5 12 Illinois 3.7 38 Washington 5.6 13 D.C. 3.9 39 Mississippi 5.7 Iowa 3.9 40 Kentucky 5.8 15 Nebraska 4.0 Arizona 5.8 Vermont 4.0 42 Florida 5.9 17 Michigan 4.1 43 New Mexico 6.0 18 South Dakota 4.2 44 Idaho 6.2 South Carolina 4.2 Alabama 6.2 Hawaii 4.2 46 Indiana 6.4 21 California 4.3 47 Wyoming 6.5 22 Maine 4.4 48 Tennessee 6.6 New Hampshire 4.4 49 Oklahoma 6.7 24 Ohio 4.5 50 Arkansas 7.1 25 Virginia 4.6 51 Nevada 9.0 26 Kansas 4.7 Source: www.divorcereform.org; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics. As the chart shows, divorce rates vary significantly by state. The divorce rate in Massachusetts is half that of Delaware and about a third of that in Arkansas; Nevada, not surprisingly, is the divorce capital of the Nation.* So what explains the wide variation in states? Cold weather states seem to keep people together a little better, though Hawaii does well (18th) and Alaska poorly (37th). Wealthier states seem to do somewhat better, though not universally so. The best indicator of a stateís divorce rate appears to be politicalóthough surprisingly, the left-leaning states have far lower divorce rates than the conservative, ìfamily valueî states. If you look again at the chart, youíll see states that were won by Al Gore in bold. These include nine of the ten states with the lowest divorce rates, and only one of the ten states with the highest divorce rates. So, if you renounce that estate tax repeal, sell the SUV, and pick up a copy of Earth in the Balance, the odds are youíll start racking up the anniversaries! THE ODDS OF CELEBRITY DIVORCE Read the tabloids and youíll hear every week about celebrity divorces, with the emphasis on divorce recidivistsóthe Elizabeth Taylors, Kelsey Grammers, and Lisa Marie Presleys. But is that an accurate picture? Or is the silent majority more like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, happily yet quietly married for decades? Well, because we thought you had a right to know, we conducted a comprehensive first-of-its-kind study of celebrity divorce. The study focused on Golden Globe award winners, who should fairly represent celebrities as a whole. (The Golden Globe categories include both tele- * To be fair, the data are by state of occurrence rather than by state of residence, so if a Massachusetts resident gets a quickie divorce in Nevada (which certainly happens more than the reverse), the divorce counts against Nevadaís record. vision and motion pictures.) All 2001 and 2000 Golden Globe nominees and winners in the acting categories were included in the database, for a total of 151; due to multiple nominations and awards, the final yield was 127 unique celebrities. Of the 127 celebrities listed, 68 percent had been married at least once. Billy Bob Thornton takes the honors of having the most marriages with five (as well as the most divorces, also with fiveóof course, by law it had to be at least four divorces, but you never know with Billy Bob). Of the celebrities who had been married, the average number of marriages was 1.4, while the average number of divorces was 0.65. The probability of a celebrity marriage surviving is only 35 percent, so the odds are 1.9 to 1 against the marriage. As bad as these numbers look for celebrity matrimony, they are almost certainly biased significantly downward. Most Golden Globe recipients are younger celebrities, some of whom have yet to ditch their loyal first wife or husband for the trophy wife or boy-toy husband befitting their newfound stature. (Jennifer Garner, a Golden Globe winner for her role in Alias in 2002, ditched her husband within a year. No word on a replacement.) Conversely, they have yet to suffer the inevitable descent into prescription painkillers (or worse) that tends to coincide with the cancellation of their hit show, which inevitably ends with a divorce and quick remarriage to a drug counselor, key grip, or other ìstand by your celebrityî type. (Bear in mind: Jennifer Garner turns forty in nine years.) So, assuming that the odds thus far have been akin to what we saw at the tenth anniversary mark in the Census Bureau table, then the odds of a celebrity marriage surviving for a lifetime are probably 3 to 1. Now arenít you glad nobodyís ever heard of you? Excerpted from Life: The Odds:And How to Improve Them by Gregory Baer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
A Brief Note on Terminologyp. xv
Part 1 Love And Marriage
Dating a Supermodelp. 1
Being Poorly Endowed (or Romantically Linked to Someone Poorly Endowed)p. 5
Marrying Royaltyp. 11
Marrying a Millionairep. 15
D-I-V-O-R-C-Ep. 20
Part 2 Climbing The Ladder Of Success
Achieving Sainthoodp. 29
Secular Sainthood: Being Awarded the Congressional Medal of Honorp. 35
Getting into an Ivy League Collegep. 39
Winning a Rhodes Scholarshipp. 44
Writing a Best-selling Bookp. 48
Going into Spacep. 55
Winning an Academy Awardp. 60
Growing Up to Be Presidentp. 66
Part 3 Really Bad Stuff
Dying by Accidentp. 75
Being Struck by Lightningp. 85
Being Possessed by Satanp. 92
Destruction of the Earthp. 98
Destruction of the Universep. 102
Part 4 The Sporting Life
Catching a Ball at a Major League Gamep. 109
Reaching the Summit of Mount Everestp. 115
Hitting a Hole in Onep. 119
Bowling a Perfect Gamep. 127
Becoming a Professional Athletep. 133
Part 5 Medical Matters
Getting Hemorrhoidsp. 139
Being Killed by Your Doctorp. 143
Dying of the Plaguep. 148
Beating Cancerp. 152
Part 6 The Human Condition
Being Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon (or Anyone Else)p. 157
Sharing a Birthdayp. 162
Being Overweight=and Losing Those Unwanted Pounds (For Good)!p. 168
Being Alone in the Universep. 173
Giving Birth to a Girlp. 179
Part 7 Violence And Trickery
Getting Away with Murderp. 187
Murder=Being a Victimp. 191
Having Your Identity Stolenp. 195
Part 8 The Color Of Money
Avoiding an IRS Auditp. 203
Striking It Rich on Antiques Roadshowp. 209
8 Winninge at Kenop. 212
Winning at Blackjackp. 219
Starting a Successful Small Businessp. 228
Part 9 Random Good Fortune
Your Whole World Waiting Behind Door Number Threep. 235
Guessing Heads or Tailsp. 239
Looking Over a Four Leaf Cloverp. 243
Endnotesp. 249
Acknowledgmentsp. 251

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