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Spin Control: By any name, it’s a very hopeful scene

OLYMPIA – ’Tis the night before Christmas, plus about 18, and all through the statehouse not a creature is stirring with complaints about how Washington is waging war on the holiday.

Thankfully.

The Association of Washington Business Holiday Kids Tree went up in the Capitol Rotunda on Monday. Gov. Jay Inslee flipped the switch for lights on Friday and the Capitol Building is suffused with the smell of noble fir that almost obscures the aroma of bacon cooking in the basement café most mornings. It may be a minor Christmas miracle that no one has resurrected the complaint that if it looks like a Christmas tree and it smells like a Christmas tree, it by gosh by golly ought to be called a Christmas tree.

A Living Nativity was scheduled for nearby Sylvester Park this weekend, courtesy of a local Lutheran church, a Menorah will go up there later this week, and throughout the month various school bands and chorale groups will perform carols beneath the dome in the Rotunda, where acoustics, if not great, are at least interesting.

Perhaps the national pundits seeking battlefields in the annual denunciation of the war on Christmas will give Washington a pass this year. If not, they should consider that some legislative committees were filling in for Santa Claus in recent weeks, listening to the wish lists of various groups for things in the upcoming biennium during “work sessions.” Instead of children in their photogenic best, agencies were dressed in business attire, with PowerPoint presentations instead of hand-scrawled notes.

State agencies will have to leave their stockings hung by the chimney long past Christmas, possibly until June, to see what a budget deal puts in them.

More Powerball to you

Whenever a jackpot in one of the nation’s state-sanctioned numbers games, officially known as lotteries, approaches the stratosphere, reporters are asked to explain the odds of winning. Being notoriously bad at math, we often find some college professor to explain the formula then turn it into a simile, such as “it’s like being attacked by a grizzly and struck by lightning as you hit a golf ball for a hole-in-one.”

What we try to say, without actually spelling it out: It’s pretty much a sucker’s bet. Washington and other states, however, have extensive campaigns to convince people that they could beat the odds by plunking down a dollar or two.

So the Washington Lottery Commission must be ecstatic about Lisa and Everett Quam, who live near Auburn but could have come straight from Central Casting. They won the $90 million Powerball drawing the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Lisa Quam, who insisted she’s not a lucky person and had never won much more than a couple of concert tickets in a radio promotion, made a trip to the store on Thanksgiving for some pumpkin spice and a newspaper. They occasionally buy tickets for the family at holidays and birthdays but had never bought Powerball tickets before. When they got to the checkout and were talking about buying tickets, the checker suggested Powerball and they let the computer pick the numbers on their two tickets.

She stuck the tickets on the refrigerator, went out to the Black Friday sales the next morning and didn’t even check the numbers until Sunday, the day after the drawing. She found out her first ticket was a winner.

The family managed to keep it quiet until Thursday when they arrived for a news conference-slash-party at lottery headquarters, where more than two dozen lottery employees had donned special $90 million Powerball T-shirts and arranged for two cakes, banners, and of course the obligatory oversized check. A bit over the top, but it was the state’s first Powerball winner.

The Quams, who had just notified their employer they were retiring early, hadn’t figured out whether to take the lump sum or the yearly payments, but Lisa said she has picked out a new car, a Subaru SUV, and will get her first smartphone.

Unfortunately for the family, most of her Christmas shopping was done before she checked the numbers. “I went out at 5 a.m. to buy socks at Fred Meyer’s for half-price,” she said.

It’s a great slice of life. But if all this makes you think of plunking down hard-earned cash for a Powerball ticket the next time you are at Rosauers, think of the odds of you hitting it big as being the second person on that golf course this week to be attacked by a grizzly and struck by lightning while hitting a hole-in-one.

Spin Control, a weekly column by political reporter Jim Camden, also appears online with daily items and reader comments at www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol.

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