Tag Archives: herd

A chip off the olé otle

Output from a Culinary Institute of America graduate.

Output from a Culinary Institute of America graduate.

I received a $25 gift card to Chipotle Mexican Grill for a birthday gift. Now I don’t know Chipotle from a hole in the ground but, ostensibly, it still seemed like a reasonable gift. I knew it was a chain restaurant of some sort so I figured I’d get a meal of out the deal.

At the time we’d been in the big city for six months. I had never seen a Chipotle. Luckily, a check of the internet maps revealed there were nine to choose from within a 10-mile radius. We chose the closest and embarked on a big city adventure.

The adventure really took off in the parking lot. It was tinier than a postage stamp’s sphincter and, wisely, allowed cars to enter from both directions at the same time. So I was in a really good mood by the time we entered the eatery. (I will deliberately eschew the word “restaurant” for the remainder of this review.)

Although we waited for a space, a car pulled in and assumed it was theirs, not knowing that we had waited six hours. It was an honest mistake but the angry look on the dude’s face did make for awkward times a few minutes later when they stood six inches behind us in the line.

That brings me to the next feature of this diner: The Line. We walked into the place and the most prominent feature, the thing that really captured your attention was the humans in a queue. I looked at my wife. She looked at me. We shrugged and said the same thing. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

All in all not a bad first experience.
Continue reading →

The Urinal Problem

urinalToday we study a particular variation of the classic so-called Urinal Problem. For millennia great thinkers like Socrates, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Bill Gates and others have pondered the great mysteries of gentlemen’s restroom etiquette. Now it’s my turn to take the problem out for a spin.

The classic definition of the problem, of course, involves an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of urinals. It’s easy to see how a problem like that could humble even the greats. In a flight of hubris, even I once made the attempt, and was left humbled and feeling flushed.

For simplicity, we will closely examine a three-urinal subset of n and attempt to fully solve the problem variation.

Abstract. A man walks into a men’s room and observes n empty urinals. Which urinal should he pick so as to minimize his chances of maintaining privacy, i.e., minimize the chance that someone will occupy a urinal beside him? In this paper, we attempt to answer this question under a variety of models for standard men’s room behavior. Our results suggest that for the most part one should probably choose the urinal furthest from the door (with some interesting exceptions). We also suggest a number of variations on the problem that lead to many open problems.

Source: Springer Link – The Urinal Problem. The complete paper is available for purchase.

It was easy to theorize a solution for the three urinal-subset based on the process of elimination (no pun intended). This is also known as The Vizzini Gambit. (See: The Princess Bride.)

Clearly you should not choose the urinal in the center as the next visitor must choose one of the adjacent urinals. Thus, it is obvious that the solution must be one of the end urinals. But which one? Elimination only gets us so far.

As is often the case, field research is required to test theoretical constructs. And that’s where the shit hit the fan. (The results of that experiment are beyond the scope of this article.)
Continue reading →

Gerbil rampage

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry

Occasionally my gerbil research affords me the opportunity to observe other interesting individuals within the herd. I’d like to introduce one notable gerbil today.

This gerbil is not my own, but I’ve been able to observe him for some time from the safety of my gerbil blind. He has most if not all of the gerbil characteristics previously identified during my research.

Additionally this gerbil is male, about 24 years old, unemployed, living with his parents, father to a baby, and heavy drinker and drug user. His plumage of choice is marijuana plants grown under the family garage. When the plants are threatened this gerbil becomes extremely territorial and aggressive.

I was able to document some extraordinary behavior on the part of this particular gerbil last Sunday.

The gerbil took his baby with him to a friend’s house to watch the Super Bowl. At the end of the game, the gerbil dropped off the baby with his mother. (The gerbil’s mother, not the baby’s mother.) The gerbil wanted babysitting services until the next day. Mom said okay (gerbil acquiescence), but he’d have to return by 7am and pick up the baby because that was when she’d be leaving to go to her full-time job.

The next morning the gerbil actually showed up on time. However, when he learned that mom didn’t actually have to leave until 8am (she had changed her plans slightly) the gerbil became enraged. Why? Because the gerbil realized he could have slept in another hour. The gerbil had been inconvenienced. The gerbil responded to his innkeeper by showing his teeth, growling, and exhibiting many other classic signs of hostility and aggression.

By this point mom had finally had enough. She informed the gerbil that the free ride gravy train days were over. It was time for the gerbil to go.

This sobered the gerbil a bit, but he was still defiant. “I can’t go,” he said.

“Why the hell not,” mom wanted to know.

Wait … for … it …

“It’s your fault,” the gerbil quipped. “You didn’t raise me right.”

Sadly, this is the true factual record of my research. It has not been embellished or exaggerated at all to increase the impact. This is exactly how it happened.

It’s too late for the gerbil parent featured here, but if you find yourself with a younger gerbil, there may still be time to avoid this inevitable fate. You may need to seriously ask yourself:

Is it time for a gerbil intervention???

Gerbils in the Mist – expedition field notes

Night vision goggles capture a gerbil in standard nocturnal mode

Editor’s Note: This report filed by shoutabyss is the fourth in a series of our ongoing team coverage of False Empty Nest Syndrome (or FENS). If you’ve missed our previous coverage, “gerbil” is the term we’ve come up with to describe a youngling who fails to leave the nest, thus triggering the onset of “False Empty Nest Syndrome.”

When we last caught sign of gerbil spore, four cans of overpriced and over-hyped energy drinks had mysteriously appeared in our refrigerator, so we knew the gerbil was close. Sure enough, the next day we flushed the little fellow out in the open. It was mostly a peaceful encounter. Still, one must already remember to tread with caution.

At times, the gerbil can be an extremely elusive animal, and indeed, we saw little sign of the gerbil for a number of days. Then I was informed there had been another sighting, this time by Mrs. Abyss. She said later that very day the gerbil would be preparing our evening meal.

This can be one of the most rewarding and perplexing aspects of gerbilology. You never know what they’ll do next. They are remarkably surprising animals. In this case the gerbil had actually approached us and voluntarily offered to make dinner. (Tortilla soup.) Extraordinary. But, the one thing you mustn’t ever do is underestimate the gerbil’s ability to disappoint. Yes, the evening came and went with no sign of gerbil. Just a cryptic text message that said, “working late.”

In fact, as of now, we haven’t seen the gerbil for several days. We foraged for ourselves that evening and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of the beast ever since. We’d almost suspect that the animal had finally moved on to a new nest and host organism …

Except …

There have been subtle new signs that the gerbil is close, but, for reasons unknown, is choosing to remain just out of sight. It was such a dramatic shift in behavior that I almost missed the signs.

Normally the gerbil is very much a nocturnal animal, choosing to eat, play and engage in reproduction practices at night, then nesting during the day. This is a naturally evolved defense mechanism that allows the gerbil to avoid daytime dangers like responsibilities, chores, and nagging and comments from nest-mates that the gerbil would very much prefer to avoid.

This time something was different. I arrived home from work at the normal time and nothing seemed amiss. However there was a very strong smell from the bathroom. My tracking skill told me a gerbil had been there, probably on a deuce run. (Previously documented behavior where the gerbil visits the nest for the sole purpose of depositing wastes then immediately flees before being detected.) The very next day the deuce run pattern was repeated and my suspicions were confirmed.

The gerbil had switched to daytime nocturnal mode.

“Daytime nocturnal” is the etymology I’ve developed to refer to this newly discovered form of gerbil behavior. The gerbil can be a very clever beast. It learns the patterns of the nest, which allows it to select “safe” times for visiting which will minimize the chance of contact, thus minimizing the previously mentioned threats that are viewed as keen dangers: Conversation with the innkeepers (those who maintain the nest for the gerbil), discussions of money, chores, responsibilities, the status of job hunting efforts, odors emanating from piles of dirty laundry, and much much more. Gerbils have developed a sixth sense for avoiding dangers like these.

The signs of daytime nocturnalism are fairly familiar and include: missing food, freshly used restroom facilities, kitchen appliances left on the counter, food debris, empty beer and energy drink cans in the garbage, dirty dishes, empty food containers left on the counter, missing possessions and more.

Follow-up Report: Energy drink ritual exposed (rare photograph)

A rare image taken from within a gerbil herd gathering

Gerbils are known to travel in herds. One aspect of behavior that is seemingly of paramount importance is the consumption and display of energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster. In fact, cans of these beverages function as a form of plumage form the gerbil (which has no naturally evolved plumage) in both peer situations and during mating when trying to earn the attention of suitable females for reproduction rituals.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that gerbil plumage includes other items, too, such as cigarettes and other tobacco products, alcohol (especially beer in cans), illegal drugs, expensive coffee drinks, vehicles, electronic devices and, of course, cell phones and text messaging devices. Cans of energy drinks, however, seem to be, by far, the most coveted within gerbil culture.

This rare photograph, which was taken by a gerbil within a herd gathering and then stored to my computer, illustrates the importance placed on a can of Monster energy drink by the herd. Other images from the same stores prominently feature cigarettes and cans of beer. The gerbils take an incredible amount of care to feature energy drinks, cans of beer and cigarettes in the composition of the photography, usually in the foreground, thus expressing much better than words ever could the significant and spiritual role such items play within the herd gathering.