Tag Archives: proximity

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.)
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Into the Bowels of the Bowl

This is what they mean by “taste the rainbow.”

I was flushed with excitement when I made the team. I almost flipped my lid. Not one to fly off the handle, I was resolute and went about the business of doing my job. This consisted mainly of navigating a dinghy about a very small body of water. I’d sing as I tackled the task. “I sail the ocean blue and my saucy shit’s a beauty. I’m a sober man and true, and attentive to my doody. Ahoy! Ahoy!”

For I had set my sights high. I was the man lucky enough to know his own destiny. One day, if I worked hard enough, my teammates and I, as members of the Pack Ten conference, would play in The Toilet Bowl. Perhaps not the bowl sponsored by Tostitos but at least the one that had Ex-Lax, Preparation H and Beano.

And we made it, too, quite literally by the seat of our pants.

[/end of dream sequence]

Blob “Constas” Pation here, and today we take a look at the storied career of Tom B. Taker, a man so dedicated to his crap craft that he has worked the last 11 years within spitting distance of toilets. It’s a story ripped from the anals of history. We caught up with the man as he set out to maintain this blistering pace and go for the world record of twelve years in a row.
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Proximo has got to go

Shipping Containers

Wow. I can see my office from here.

Imagine, if you will, a workplace that is roughly the size of a shipping container.

Oh yes, oh yes. Another good time work post is upon us now.

I previously reported on my discovery, the 666 equilateral triangle. It’s a place where dreams go to die. In short, it works like this. I sit six feet away from cow orker. Cow orker sits six feet away from the boss. The boss sits six feet away from me.

Technicolor? Bah! Imagine Fart-O-Vision where you get to experience the subtle nuance of every biological function of your neighbor. Good times, indeed!

It’s enough to make one go barking mad, but I, of course, resist that with all my might. That’s why I’m still completely sane.

So, in honor of Friday, the most deceitful day of the week, I merely have a quick question to ask.

In this post I’m going to refer to my boss as Proximo, mainly because, as he interfaces with my existence, he is so proximous.

The first part of the agony is a function of time. I spend more time at work than doing anything else in my life. (Source: This nifty little graph.)

That only communicates part of the story, though. The other half of the misery equation is one of proximity.

I’ve thought about this and realized that my current situation is truly unique. At some jobs the boss didn’t even work in the building. It would be a big deal when the boss stopped by (almost always by “surprise!”). All the employees were like, “Oh shit. The boss.” It changed the feel of the environment. My last asshole boss lived a mile away from the office, worked from home, but liked to jaunt over unexpectedly quite often, even though he didn’t like being there very much. I guess the necessary evil of fucking with the employees outweighed his distaste for being in the shithole. He’d usually flee as fast as possible after he had made his point.

At one place where I worked for 16 years and over 1,000 employees, the CEO liked to stroll around as part of tactic to be seen as accessible to employees and interested in every part of the operation. I knew the guy because we’d been on some committees together and had worked on a few projects. He’d stroll by and say, “Hi, Tom.” I knew I wasn’t about to get fired but it still somehow felt like it. The CEO walking by and saying your name wasn’t something that happened all the time.

Or the boss worked out of sight in an office around the corner or across the floor. The boss would occasionally stop by from time to time but certainly wouldn’t stay there all day long, day after day, every single day of your life.

I literally spend 40 hours a week six feet away from the boss. He seldom, if ever, leaves that space. It’s his clubhouse, his sanctuary, his home away from home. It is where he goes to escape his wife. It is the one part of his existence where he is the boss. His word is law. (Unlike his home life.) So he just loves and adores being there.

His wife will call him and try to make plans. It’s pathetic to listen to him tell her how busy he is (he’s not) and how he has to work late. He loves to work on Saturdays, too, and bitches when a holiday comes along and forces him to spend more time with his family.

Me? All I think about is escaping that fucked up place and spending every other precious moment of my life with my wife. Another thing I realized lately was that I would never trade places with my boss. (Is that like a positive thought?)

Our workstations are L-shaped so that I can’t see him unless I turn around (thank God) but he can view me and my computer screen without me being aware. My computer is in his line of sight. I know that arrangement is no coincidence. Six feet from my office chair is his office chair.


A great decorating idea for the office restroom.

Here’s a nice little bonus. When he gets up off his ass and goes to the restroom and sits on the toilet, he’s still exactly six feet away. You see, my workstation shares a wall (decidedly not a soundproofed one) with the office bathroom. But I think I’ve already expounded about that enough in the past. (For the curious, research my posting history if you want to know more about what the boss in the restroom is like. Bring a strong stomach.)

So yeah, I’m within six feet of the boss for just about 40 hours a week, every week. It’s like clockwork. I don’t even get a break from him when he goes to the bathroom. And I realized that sort of boss proximity is completely unprecedented in my experience. Does anyone out there have anything even remotely like this?