Tag Archives: mathematics

The calculus of NaNoWriMo

The Romans had their Coliseum. The sick bastards over at The Office of Letters and Light have a little something known as NaNoWriMo.

That stands for National Novel Writing Month.

Letters and Light? Are you kidding me? Euphemism much???

So yeah, obviously they get off on pain and humiliation. It’s a two-pronged approach. How does it work? A little something like this.
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Me and Jessica Alba

jessica alba 2007_034Here’s a disgusting piece of unfinished shit. No, not Jessica Alba. I’m talking about another unfinished flotsam from my Drafts folder. See how much I value you, the loyal reader? I’m still suffering a severe case of writer’s block so this is what happens.

Thus we launch yet another meme here on the blog. This one is called “Tales from the Drafts Folder.”

Just for the hell of it, I decided to calculate the odds off me and Jessica Alba hooking up. It could happen.


  • Population of Earth: 7 billion (rounded up from 6.75 billion)
  • The population is about 50/50 by gender
  • There is only one Jessica Alba
  • There is only one precious and special snowflake known as “me”

Complicated mathematics formulae go here.

Q: Assuming a random “getting jiggy with it” between one male and one female on planet Earth, what are the odds it would be Jessica Alba and Tom B. Taker?

A. One in 12,250,000,000,000,000,000.

Unfortunately, that number is so big, I don’t even know what it is called. Probably something like a bouillon. So we’ll just use our poetic license and say the odds are about one in 12.3 bouillon.

That’s like winning the Powerball lottery 62.7 billion times. So I’m hopeful.

Theoretical thoughts of theological tsunami truths

Thinking About Glenn Beck's AmericaNo, Glenn Beck. I haven’t forgotten about your recent douchebaggery. Not by a long shot…

Remember the earthquake in Japan? The one that led to a tsunami that caused problems with nuclear power plants?

Oh wait, that’s not quite over yet, is it?

I still remember what Glenn Beck had to say about the earthquake. It was just a little over a month ago circa March 15, 2011:

I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes. Well — I’m not not saying that either. What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this: whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus — there’s a message being sent. And that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it.

Corn SnakeI decided to try to think logically about the sneaky assertions in this statement. (I’ve already written about the snarkiness of phrasing crapola in the form of a question, unless one is playing Jeopardy.)

His little statement packs quite a wallop. I will try to break it down:

  • There is a God
  • God caused the earthquake
  • The earthquake was a message
  • The “messages” will continue until and unless we change our evil ways – the aforementioned “stuff we’re doing”

Remember, though, he presented most of this in the form of questions. We can stipulate he fervently believes the first one. Either that or he’s the best faker of all time, something decidedly not outside the realm of possibility.

The first assertion is one I ponder often. I tend to think of it in binary terms. It’s a true/false proposition. I believe it is something that is either true or false. To me, that seems fairly axiomatic.

One of my favorite lines of reasoning goes: “If there is no God then a lot of people are sure flaming assholes.” Mostly the ones who run around telling everyone else they are going to Hell, cashing in on religion, and stuff like that. On the other hand, there are a lot of devout and good people who truly believe, too. I can’t really find it in my heart to fault anyone for trying to live the best moral life they possibly can. Just as long as they aren’t flaming hypocrites about it, they’re fine with me.

No one can prove there is a God, nor can they prove there isn’t. Thus, I suggest we look at the probability of each possible outcome (true/false) as equally likely. (Personally, though, I’m certain there isn’t a God. But that’s just a belief.) So, in mathematical terms, the odds of each outcome is 50 percent. It’s just like flipping a coin.

Heads. There is a God. Tails. There is no God.

Let’s consider the next statement. God caused the earthquake. Again, I suggest we look at this as true/false, with each outcome equally likely. That means to get to Beck’s position that there is a God and God caused the earthquake we have to flip a coin and get heads twice in a row.

Next, we add another true/false condition for the earthquake being a message.

Lastly, we add on final true/false condition for the idea that the messages will continue unless we stop being evil. I assume this means stuff like fornication, homosexuality, etc. He’s a little vague about what “stuff” he’s talking about.

What we’re left with is a model a four true/false possibilities in a row. You can break down the odds of acheiving a particular chain of outcomes like this:

  1. 1 in 2
  2. 1 in 4
  3. 1 in 8
  4. 1 in 16

In other words, the odds of flipping a coin and getting heads four times in a row is 1 in 16.

This probability of this can be represented mathematically as: .5 x .5 x .5 x .5. That equals .0625 which is exactly what you get if you calculate 1 divided by 16.

If you look at it this way, there’s only a 6.25 percent chance this particular serpent’s statements are correct. In my book that’s what we call a long shot. Or maybe “snake oil” would be a better term.

This is my “T” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

The Abyss 2010: Year in Review

Click image to buy your own Geek Alarm Clock

2010 was much like any other year. Like many others in the media today, we now endeavor to “review” the year.

This is an appropriate activity that is seemingly enjoyed by humans when our most favorite planetoid has completed yet another circuit around our most favorite star.

Depending on IQ, if it is low enough, most will celebrate by crashing pots and pans at what they incorrectly deem to be “midnight.” Others will blow things up and shoot their guns in the air.

Because I’m cursed with intelligence all I can do is write this post and be in bed by 8:30.

2010 started like most any other year. Jan. 1, 2010 at midnight (GMT) was the first second of the year. In “epoch time” that is also known as 1262304000.

Epoch time, also known as Unix time, is a system of used by computers to keep track of the date and time. It counts the number of seconds that have elapsed since midnight Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of January 1, 1970, not counting leap seconds. (If you really want to blow your mind you can read the Wikipedia article on Unix time. It will make your head feel funny.)

A “second” is a unit of time most of us are very familiar with. It was originally defined as 1/86400 of a “solar day.” There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours a day. So if we multiple those values, 60 x 60 x 24, we get 86,400 seconds. Viola! Therefore, 86,400 is the number of seconds in a day. Don’t believe me? Count to 86,400 and see how much time has gone by. Go ahead, try it! It’s fun!

But wait. It turns out that the rotation of the Earth, known as a day, is not always exactly 86,400 seconds. It turns out that the solar day is 1.7ms longer every century due mainly to “tidal friction” and “glacial rebound.” I don’t know about you but that scares the shit out of me. Our planet is getting slower!

The year will end on December 31, 2010 at 11:59:59 pm (GMT). This is 1293839999.

Now that we know the starting and ending epoch times of 2010, we can do the math. Simple subtraction on those two time values shows there were 31,536,000 seconds in 2010. That translates to 525,600 minutes, 8,760 hours and 365 days.

Wow, when you look at it that way, what an exciting year! I hope you all enjoyed those 31.5 million seconds as much as you possibly could.

Two scoops of poop

RoboScoop says, "Here, kitty kitty."

I recently found myself at a Native American gaming facility. (Is that preferable to “Indian Casino” or does it make a difference?) After parking my keister in front of an idiotic machine for a few hours of “entertainment” I walked away with a 10 percent increase in my net worth. (No, I didn’t make a mistake here. I didn’t mean to say “bankroll.” I literally mean my net worth.)

In other words I started with $20 and and ended up with $22. Now that is ROI, baby. Woot.

The penny slot machine I was playing would pay about $1,800 if you hit the “progressive” jackpot while playing at least five lines. That’s five cents a spin. A little rich for my blood but I tried it for a while. And to cut any sense of drama short, no, I did not land a “jackpot” for the first time in my life.

To win the jackpot one must score the special symbol on all three wheels and on the same payline at the same time. I naturally found myself curious about the odds.

That wheel looked big. The don’t tell you exactly how big so I can only guess. I estimated that it might have 20 to 100 locations on it. Yes, the blank spots between the artwork count, too, those snarky bastards.

If the wheels had 20 spots I calculated the odds of a jackpot at one in 8,000. No way. That’s way too low.

How did I calculate that? It’s easy. Just multiply 20 (the estimated number of spots per wheel) by itself three times (the number of wheels). 20 times 20 times 20 equals 8,000. Viola!

If the wheels have 50 spots the odds jumped to 1 in 125,000. Now we’re getting somewhere.

If the wheels have 80 spots the odds are an astronomical 1 in 512,000. That’s approximately one jackpot in every half million spins. In other words, if I visited the casino and did 3,000 spins per day, it would take me, on average, about 170 days to get a jackpot. Since I only go to the casino about four times a year, that works out to be about 42 years at my current rate of play.

I’m not holding my breath. 🙂

By the way, the calculations above assume that the slot machine is “fair.” In other words, that the odds of the special symbol showing up is really the same as every other space on the wheel. I have no idea of knowing if that is true or not. Something tells me that in this era of computer-generated outcomes on gaming machines that the mathematics won’t work out just like that. Shouldn’t the operators of gaming machines be required to tell you the odds?

Here comes the awkward segue…

I have two kitty cats. I’m in charge of scooping doody duty. We initially bought a plastic scoop. It turns out that thing is literally a piece of shit. If I could somehow find the people who made that thing (AKA the people who got my money) I’d have a thing or two to tell them. I imagine I might find them in China.

Anywho, we decided we had gone cheap on the wrong household tool. The plastic scoop was literally falling apart. My wife and I tried, during the span of a few months, to hit the local pet store when we were out on the town. The store was always closed. Nothing ever seemed to work out.

Yesterday, however, we went in our separate ways. Later in the day when we met back in the house, we both had a shiny new metal scooper. After months of wanting one somehow it worked out that we both bought one on the very same day.


I found myself thinking, “What in the hell are the odds of that?” Assuming there are 363 days in a year (the pet store is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas) and there are only two of us, the equation to calculate these odds is: 365 times 365 = 131,769.

Something tells me instead of a damn pooper scooper we should have purchased lotto tickets yesterday.

Update: Math at work

Here’s a quickie update.

First, the good news: I turned in this project – in full – a day early and half an hour before the end of my shift. Note: This is actually bad news in disguise. Since I was able to pull a rabbit out of my butt, the boss will naturally tell himself, “See? I just have to challenge my workers and they’ll surprise themselves. Next time I’ll have to ask for even more.” BULLSHIT!

Now, the bad news: Any task between manager and employee can be misunderstood. That’s why I, as the humble employee, always take proactive action to increase the odds of success. I don’t wait on the manager to do anything about it. That would be dumbass.

Since this was a BIG project, I did a sample for the boss and sent it to him for approval before continuing.

The boss signed off on the sample saying, “This is perfect.” I still have the email.

This morning the boss hunted me down and informed me that it turned out to be, in fact, a little short of perfect. In fact, two columns of data on all 29 reports were not what he wanted at all.

Naturally I’m sitting here wondering why he approved the mother fucker if it wasn’t what he wanted.

My Mr. Spock personality informs me, “There are only two possibility, Captain.”

  • The boss is too stupid to understand the report and/or what he is saying.
  • The boss never bothered to actually look at the sample before approving it.

For a guy who is oh-so-worried about “efficiency” and how I spend my time every day, you think it would behoove him to take such a small step to ensure I didn’t waste hours upon hours of effort simply so they could be flushed down the drain.

Highly illogical.

Math at work Remember in school when they forced those damn story problems down your throat? It made you angry, right? Because you just knew shit like that would never apply to your life. What a monumental waste of time. Maybe not. I woke up this week and somehow summoned the force of will to slog my pitiful self down to The Shithole. Not long after I clocked in I began to analyze the scope of the day that lay before me. Mondays are never good. The shit piles … Read More

Math at work

Remember in school when they forced those damn story problems down your throat? It made you angry, right? Because you just knew shit like that would never apply to your life. What a monumental waste of time.

Maybe not.

I woke up this week and somehow summoned the force of will to slog my pitiful self down to The Shithole.

Not long after I clocked in I began to analyze the scope of the day that lay before me. Mondays are never good. The shit piles up fast and customers are out in the world pounding their redial buttons on our voice mail until they get a human. When the phones roll over at 9am The Big Fist of Life says hello to your butt. Mondays are wonderful.

I was grappling with this sort of reality when the boss stopped by for a little chat. It’s never a good thing when you on one of the first things on his plate.

“Ummm. Yeah. I’m gonna have a little task for you. I sent it in email. If you could just go ahead and make that a priority that would be great. Thanks!”

Yes, for me, the movie Office Space is an autobiography.

The email delineated the boss’ needs for the day. It seems the so-called “management retreat” is coming up and the boss wants a little information in the form of some reports. This is so they can make the Big Decisions. You know, like the one’s they made at last year’s Management Retreat that got us deep inside our current pickle. It sure feels good knowing these brainiacs are in charge of the company’s destiny.

Anyway, I digress. The big retreat is Wednesday. He needs his reports no later than Wednesday morning. OK, let’s see what he’s asking for.

The boss wants 29 reports. Each report will contain monthly data (that will also be summarized) for 19 months. That is the 12 months of 2009 and the 7 months in the books so far for 2010. So that is 19 monthly reports for each of the 29 different category reports.

I need a calculator. I can’t do this in my head. 29 overall reports each containing 19 monthly sets of data that will need to be pulled. That’s 29 times 19 which equals … Five hundred and fifty one reports!

Motherfucka! Now that is a real life application of a story problem.

Not satisfied, though, I quickly extended that data out into some real-world numbers. Let’s assume each data set took me one minute to pull, copy and format. That would be of a minimum of 551 minutes for this task. 551 divided by 60 minutes per hour equals 9.2 hours! And my boss has thoughtfully provided lead time of two work days to get this done. Nice.

Here’s a little chart I made to estimate this task:

1 min per data set = 9.2 hours overall task time
2 min = 18.4 hours
3 min = 27.6 hours
4 min = 36.7 hours
5 min = 45.9 hours

Yes. If it turns out that it takes an average of 5 minutes to pull a data set then I only have to get 46 hours work of work done in the first two days of this week.

Presumably the boss has an actual “need” for these reports. (Laughable concept, I know.) That’s why this guy who walks around the office calling himself the “super genius” is so damn smart. “I know,” he wisely said to himself. “I have a 46 hour task for something I really need. Therefore I’ll give my ass monkey two work days to get ‘r done. Good thing I knew about this retreat months ago.”

I was supposed to be pulled from other duties yesterday to work on this all-important task. Yeah, right. We all know how that works. Employees disappear and then come to me and beg me to do their duties. “I’m busy. Can you take the order for this guy on the phone?” Also, “get out on the floor and wait on those customers.” And this was after the boss had told them to leave me alone! LOLZ! It was a typical Monday with the phones ringing off the hook. For added bonus we had a record number of in store customers who hit the doors the moment we opened and never stopped all day long. The other employees, who all have pressing tasks just like me, took the brunt. The boss doesn’t feel that we need dedicate personnel to cover the floor so when employees are out there for hours their other shit (like shipping orders) is not getting done. A lot of orders didn’t get shipped yesterday.

Oh yeah, Monday was a good day.

So I busted my ass, did what I could in the time allotted, and completed 12 out of the 29 major reports that he wanted. That’s only 41% progress on day one. I’ve got one day left. And I concentrated on the easiest reports first. This project ain’t getting done.

Guaranteed failure and putting your ineptness on display is a great way to demoralize and destroy your employees. Well done, Mr. Lumberg.