Maximum Possible Win on Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! Board

“This is Jeopardy!” Or at least, this is the Jeopardy! board as it appears at the beginning of the game. And for a long time, I’ve wondered what the theoretical top score would be. The average winning score tends to be in the $20,000 range. But I figured the theoretical score would be substantially higher. But I had no idea just how much higher.

As you can see the board above, the maximum amount you could make if you got all of those “answers” right would be $18,000. The “Double Jeopardy” round doubles those amounts: $36,000. So your total after two rounds could be $54,000. And then you could double that to $108,000 in “Final Jeopardy.”

Of course, there is a major wrinkle in the game: the “Daily Double.” When a player uncovers the “Daily Double,” he can risk as much money as he has (or $1,000 if he has less). There is one “Daily Double” in the first round and two in the second.

Just how lucrative the “Daily Double” is depends upon how much money that player has when he gets it. So clearly, the best time to get it is at the end of the board under a $200 square. So in the first round, the player would win $17,800 when he selects the last $200 square to reveal the “Daily Double.” He would then risk it all because he is unstoppable. That would give him $35,600 at the end of the first round.

The second round would go the same except that there would be two $400 squares left, the player having added $35,200 to his existing $35,600. So for the first “Daily Double,” he has $70,800 to risk, giving him $141,600. He would again double in the second “Daily Double” for $283,200 at the end of “Double Jeopardy.”

In “Final Jeopardy,” our perfect player would again double his money for a total of $566,400. And that’s not bad for 22 minutes of work!


I have found that I am as good at Jeopardy! if I vaguely listen as I am if I concentrate. I believe this is how the computer does so well. All you have to do is listen for keywords and you rarely go wrong. If the “answers” weren’t filled with hints, the show would be much harder. And less popular.

Republican Shame on Medicaid Expansion


The way politics is right now, it seems pointless to even discuss it. There are lots of parts of this, but the main thing on my mind is the Medicaid expansion. The current status with roughly half of the states not expanding Medicaid is just cruel. The best you can say about the politicians who are blocking expansion is that they are placing theoretical concerns about government accountability ahead of practical concerns about poor people dying because of lack of healthcare. But a more clear-eyed view of it would be that they are purposefully hurting the working poor for the sake of political gain. It is shameful.

Ed Kilgore wrote two articles today that looked at some numbers related to this. The first was, Medicaid Expansion and the “Socialized Medicine” Underground. Most of the article is about what appears to be an obsession with him: the fact that Obamacare approval numbers appear much worse than they are because of people who say they don’t like Obamacare because they want a single-payer system. Republicans like to note the polls that say that far more people dislike Obamacare than like it. But if you include the “I want single payer” crowd in the “supports Obamacare” group, the program is actually quite popular.

But what I took for the article (actually just a two paragraph post) were the numbers of people who supported the Medicaid expansion. He quotes a Public Policy Polling survey of Texans who think the state should expand Medicaid by an overwhelming plurality: 49-35. A Georgia College poll found that Georgians were for it by a huge majority: 60-30. So even in these bright red states, the Medicaid expansion is popular. The people are not demanding the stonewalling that the Republican Party is giving them. Again: shameful.

The second article was, Medicaid Expansion: Deal Too Good To Refuse Getting Better. It is based upon a new Congressional Budget Office report that finds that the earlier extremely generous federal government funding of the states will be even more generous. He quoted Edwin Park at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as saying, “CBO now estimates that the federal government will, on average, pick up more than 95 percent of the total cost of the Medicaid expansion and other health reform-related costs in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) over the next ten years (2015-2024).” That means that states would pay just 1.6% more than they now pay for Medicaid and CHIP to insure far more people. Shame, shame, shame:

I really wonder what these people tell themselves. I’m sure there is a whole lot of cognitive dissonance going on. But I wonder what they will think in ten years when more practical people finally give in and expand Medicaid. Probably nothing. It will be like global warming. If we’re lucky, we’ll get an, “Oops!” But more likely, they will never think about it. The press will be too polite to say anything. And they will never come face-to-face with anyone who was harmed by their shameful behavior. And remember: these are mostly people who consider themselves Christians. What would Christ do? Heal the sick. What would Christians do? Grumble about all the free healthcare Those People were getting.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Deuce, Douche, and Blinded by the Light

Blinded by the LightLike many people, I have a great love of misheard lyrics—especially my own. My favorite is in the Janis Ian song “At Seventeen.” One line toward the end of the song is, “In debentures of quality and dubious integrity.” I can probably be forgiven, because I had no idea what a “debenture” was. For those of you similarly in the dark, it is, “An unsecured loan certificate issued by a company, backed by general credit rather than by specified assets.” But I heard what I think is a better line out of context, “But death insures equality and dubious integrity.” It is only at the end of the verse that Ian pays off the metaphor with, “Their small-town eyes will gape at you / In dull surprise when payment due / Exceeds accounts received…” That’s one of the reasons that Janis Ian is a great songwriter and I’m just a guy with a knack for appreciating great songwriting.

But by far, the best lyric mishearing is from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s version of “Blinded by the Light.” The original version by Bruce Springsteen doesn’t really have the problem for a couple of reasons. One is that he doesn’t pronounce “deuce” as “douche” the way that Chris Thompson does in the Earth Band. But also, the original line makes the meaning clear, “Cut loose like a deuce.” What meaning? No meaning, just a pleasant rhyme. In the Earth Band version, it is supposedly “Revved up like a deuce.” But of course, everyone hears, “Wrapped up like a douche.”

What’s brilliant is that we humans are so great at finding meaning in meaningless things that doubtless millions of people have given those lyrics some meaning. And admit it, you’d believe me if I gave you some lame meaning for the line. How about this one, “The deuce, of course, was short for the Chevy 270, straight-6 engine popular among drag racers in the 70s. So the song is about hesitating at the start of race when the light changes color. But more broadly it’s a metaphor getting on with your life and getting out your hometown.” In addition to everything else, you’d believe me because that is what most people think the meaning of every Bruce Springsteen song is.

“Blinded by the Light” also has that “Hooray for Hollywood” problem. The opening lyrics are so engaging that most people forget what happens afterward. The melody is what matters anyway. But while “Hooray” is a very funny song with much to say that is even more true today than in 1937, “Blinded” really has nothing to say. So why not douches or Chevy 270 engines?

All of this is grist for comedy. And indeed, toward the end of my years in graduate school, I came upon this skit from a very short lived sketch comedy show The Vacant Lot. The skit involves four friends playing poker. One of them starts singing “Blinded by the Light” with ridiculous lyrics. The others make fun of him. But then it turns out that their lyrics are at least as ridiculous. It ends with one of them cracking and setting everyone straight. Except that his lyrics aren’t quite right either. I’m not sure if that is supposed to be part of the joke, or if the writers themselves are suffering from the same problem. Watch:

Springsteen said during a VH1 Storytellers that the song was just him playing around with a rhyming dictionary. So what does anyone expect? Certainly, Springsteen doesn’t seem to care. I’ve heard him joke that “douche” was a better line given how much better the Earth Band version did than his own. (I think it is more a function of production.) Regardless, I’m sure that Springsteen was happy to cash all those royalty checks from the megahit.

Republican Actors?!

Republican LL Cool J: Who Knew? Not him!It’s been over two years since I wrote, Conservative Rock?! It was about an article in National Review that listed the supposed 50 greatest conservative rock songs ever. Perhaps the most charming thing that conservatives ever do is try to claim that that are cool. Because they aren’t. I remember Bill Maher noting that it wasn’t always wrong to vote for a Republican because sometimes you need an angry old man to watch your money. Now that’s actually not true. Republican politicians have shown themselves to be the true spendthrifts throughout the last half century. But that image of Republicans is right: angry old white men who care only about money.

So it was with some relish that I came upon an article in Republican Reader, 15 Actors You Might Not Have Known Were Republicans. Such headlines are great click bait, because for me at least, I always think, “No. I’ll bet not one of the actors will surprise me.” Although in this case, some of the actors did surprise me—because I didn’t know who they were or because they weren’t Republicans.

It reminded me a lot of that photo collage, “It’s Okay to be a Republican!” It is filled mostly with pictures of African Americans from long ago when the Republican Party was actually the liberal party. But it also has Martin Luther King Jr in the collage and he was never a Republican. As I discuss in the article, Martin Luther King Sr was a Republican. Or at least he was until 1964 at which point he was a prominent Democrat. But you can’t blame the Republicans for trying. Or maybe you can.

The Reader first offers up Vince Vaughn. I don’t know how he made the list given just how prominent he’s been in his support for Ron Paul. And I’m sure he’ll be a big supporter of Rand Paul. It’s kind of low brow political thought from a low brow actor.

Next up: Dwayne Johnson. I’d always assumed he was a Republican. But I haven’t actually been able to find confirmation. I figure he is. He’s a testosterone fueled ex-wrestler.

The list continues with a genuine surprise to me: James Earl Jones. And in his case I absolutely don’t know. A lot of Republicans claim him as one of their own, but I can’t find any documentation of it. What’s more, in an article in Mediaite, Jones talks about the racism of the Tea Party and how he watches MSNBC all the time. So if he is a Republican, he’s pretty quiet (and moderate) about it.

The next one made me laugh out loud: Sylvester Stallone. Who in this nation does not know that Stallone is a Republican? They would have to have missed the Rambo films and Rocky IV and pretty much everything else he’s done in the last twenty years. After reading this one I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, the writers probably figuring that the readers are so ignorant as to have missed a Republican governorship. Thankfully, Arnold did not show up on the list. But had there been 16 instead of only 15, who knows?

And then there is Bruce Willis. Again: I thought everyone knew this. But maybe they shouldn’t have, because when I looked into it, it seems that the presidency of Bush the Younger kind of cooled him on the party. But he is still conservative and doubtless still registered as a Republican. But it says a lot about a party that its biggest supporters are not very big supporters.

Heather Locklear is reportedly registered as a Republican. I barely know who she is. And other than allegedly being registered, she doesn’t seem to have much to do with the party. No big booster she.

At last: Robert Duvall! An actual Republican who has been substantially involved with the party. But just like Clint Eastwood, he’s more of a libertarian and holds his nose in his embrace of the party. Last month, Duvall told The Daily Beast that he and his wife are probably voting Democratic or at least independent because the modern Republican Party is “a mess.”

Shannen Doherty is a Republican. I don’t actually know who she is. But again, she doesn’t seem to be that into it.

Now we come to what is undoubtedly the most hilarious pick on the list: Stephen Baldwin. He is a Republican! And he is nominally an actor. And I think everyone knew he was a Republican because he’s a whacked out conservative Christian. But I think it is funny as hell that the Republicans are in effect saying, “Sure, you have Alec Baldwin, who is a bonafide star. But we have Stephen!” But I guess we are all just glad that Stephen got off drugs.

According to the Reader, LL Cool J is a Republican. LL Cool J is not a Republican. But the Reader claims he is because he said that people shouldn’t assume that he’s a Democrat. The article does not quote what he said right after that, “I’m an Independent, you know?” This is so very very sad. Perhaps the article should have been titled, “15 Actors Who Didn’t Even Known They Were Republicans.”

I don’t know who Kristin Chenoweth is, but she is supposedly a Republican. All I could find is a quote from her in which she claimed that her parents were “right-wing Republican Christians.” The Reader, of course, misquotes her to say that she is also a right-wing Republican Christian. Which she probably is. After all, in 2012 she sustained a serious head injury.

Because I’m really old, I remember who Jaclyn Smith is. And she may be a Republican. According to the Reader, some people say she is. And she once gave money to Bush the Younger’s campaign. But she wouldn’t be interviewed for Rated R: Republicans in Hollywood. So whatever.

Tony Danza is apparently registered Republican but doesn’t talk much about it.

James Caan is a Republican just like everyone already knew. But even if this weren’t well known, you can tell that he’s kind of dim-witted.

The last Republican is Adam Sandler. That one surprised me a bit, only because he’s Jewish. But the fact that he donated to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 campaign doesn’t actually say that much about him as a Republican, given that’s all we know.

I don’t begrudge the Republican Party their actors. But you would think they could do a better job of finding actual proud Republicans. I understand: artists of all stripes tend to be liberal. That’s especially true of actors who need empathy for their trade and empathy pushes against supporting the Republican Party. But artists are also often iconoclasts. So it shouldn’t be that hard to find actual Republican actors that aren’t well known as such but would like to be. And the fact that even the Republican supporters seem to have cooled to the party in the last decade speaks very poorly of the current status of the party.

Today Is Not Shakespeare’s Birthday

XXXWilliam Shakespeare was not born on this day in 1564. Or at least we don’t know if was. He was baptized on 26 April 1564. And it was conventional for people to be baptized three days after they were born. So what the hell, why not say that he was born today? After all, Shakespeare isn’t a man, he’s a myth. Also: he died on this day in 1616, so what the hell. It’s Shakespeare day!

The truth is that we know shockingly little about him. We actually know more about Christopher Marlowe because he lived a more colorful life. And we know loads more about Ben Jonson because he wrote so much about himself. Plus, he had the good sense to live his whole life in London and not go scurrying off to a backwater like Stratford-upon-Avon.

I have deeply mixed feelings about the immortal bard. On the one hand, I really do like a great deal of his work. On the other hand, he was hardly the romantic writing hero that I would prefer. There’s no doubt that Cervantes would have written regardless of its earning potential. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Shakespeare. It seems that writing and the theater more generally was just a way to make ends meet. Not that it really matters but it is clear that we all think a great deal more of his work than he did.

But as much as I like his work, it is wrong to place it above the other work at the time. If you just look at the poety—the work on the micro-scale—it is not different from what other people were doing. And that’s clear enough in the fact that work thought to be Shakespeare’s has turned out to be collaborations. He just wasn’t the Wayne Gretzky or even the Michael Jordan of Elizabethan poetry.

Still, given how much the British Empire managed to cram Shakespeare down our throats, we all know him. Even people who have never seen a play can quote at least some Shakespeare, even if they are unaware that they are doing it. And so watching or reading Shakespeare is very much like taking a nice warm bath. It’s comfortable and pleasant. And it is endlessly fascinating what actors and directors manage to do with the work.

The following very short video is funny. And despite itself, it gets to the pleasures and annoyances of Shakespeare: I absolutely don’t believe that Shakespeare invented all of those phrases and words. But even the ones he did coin are only considered impressive because they are now widely used. And why are they widely used? Because of the literary imperialism of the British Empire. There’s a tautological element here: Shakespeare is great because Shakespeare is great. It’s similar to Facebook, which is popular only because it is popular; if there were only six Facebook users, it wouldn’t be very usual and thus popular.

Happy birthday or death day William Shakespeare!