Tag Archives: humor

The Most Important Problem in the World — Solved!

Toilet Seat Problem

Should the toilet seat be left up or down after use?   I decided to undertake a rigorous investigation of this critical issue.   Every woman I asked knew the answer: leave it down.  Every married man also knew the answer:  do what she says.   The truly domesticated men did one better:  leave the cover down too.  I stood in awe of their sheer servility.

Sadly, nobody seemed to feel any need to investigate further.   But, like Galileo, Einstein, Anthony Bourdain, and Stalin I was not  deterred by the disapproval of my peers.   In fact, it invigorated me.   Anything worth doing is worth doing wrong, I say.

Given a man and woman living together, the goal was simple:  introduce an unwanted technical innovation that was sure to drive the marriage apart.   Specifically, I sought a strategy which minimizes the average number of toilet seat flips per use of the bathroom, subject to the constraint that everyone sees the same average.

As with any straightforward problem I choose to examine, the universe immediately rewired its laws to require a lot of math.   Hence this important paper.  Too important for Nature, Science, or The Journal of Advanced Computational Potty Talk.   The only venue worthy of its publication is this very blog which, entirely by coincidence, I own.

Surprisingly, the result turns out to be neither trivial nor obvious.   It seems  the universe actually has something interesting to say about toilet seats and fairness, even if I do not.

Click on the link above or below to view the PDF paper.

Toilet Seat Problem

Trash Talk

These days, every minor institutional faux pas draws a melodramatic fawning apology utterly devoid of a modicum of self-respect and expressed through the metallic insincerity of boilerplate buzzwords . By now, one or more generations have grown up bombarded with such nonsense. We  only can imagine what they must be like at home…


Hey Bob, listen, it’s no big deal, but could you take out the trash when it’s your turn? It’s really been piling up.

I’ve heard you loud and clear.

Fantastic.

My top priority has been fostering a community which values inclusiveness, mutual respect, and constructive engagement. A place where all perspectives, values, diverse viewpoints, and lifestyles are cherished.

Um, ok. Sure.

I realize I’ve fallen far short of my high ideals in this regard, and promise to do better.

Great. So … you’ll take out the trash?

But it’s not enough to be sorry. I know there has been an inexcusable breach of trust, and that my actions have caused deep hurt and lasting anguish.

If you feel bad, you could, like, take out the trash.

I can do better. I will not be complacent in the face of such a challenge. This is an opportunity for reflection and learning, to grow into a better version of myself.

Really, it’s not that big a deal. You just take the trash and put it in the bin.

Change is necessary, and the first step toward such change is to understand the scope of the problem.

That’s easy. The schedule is on the fridge. Just, you know, do it.

Toward this end, I have identified several important steps.

There’s really just one.

First, I enrolled in a sixteen-week sensitivity training course, mandatory for me, myself, and I.

Is that the reason you didn’t do any other chores for the last sixteen weeks?

I also hired an outside firm to thoroughly investigate my past behaviors and recommend a path forward. You may have noticed them here and there recently.

You mean that guy who crashed on the couch and ate all my Doritos? I thought he was a friend of yours.

After a rigorous investigation, we have concluded that all policies and procedures were followed and there was no misconduct.

You’re not going to take out the trash, are you?

The repercussions of trashgate are ongoing, and I will not rest on my laurels. I can do better, and I will do better.

Can part of your “not resting” involve moving trash from the kitchen to the bin?

That I did not intend my actions to be offensive is no excuse for the anxiety and pain they have caused.

It doesn’t smell great, and can attract roaches.

Nor do those actions reflect who I am as a person.

Pretty sure they do.

However, in the face of the continuing public reaction, my involvement can only serve to distract from our community’s valuable mission.

I think I know where this is going.

In consultation with myself, I have concluded that the best way for us all to move forward is for me to step down from my trash removal responsibilities.

You know, you could have just refused up front.

Although my formal role has diminished, I will remain active in other aspects of our vibrant and innovative community.

In other words, you’ll continue to use the foosball table.

I only hope these steps can bring some small measure of closure to those who have suffered through my thoughtless actions.

The only closure we need is of the trash bin.

How to Get a Patent in 2 Easy Steps!

1. Expedited Process: [Note: if your name is not Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, or Oracle, skip to step 2]:

Scribble a drawing in crayon on a napkin, write ‘for, you know, stuff’ and drop it off at the Patent Commissioner’s house when you have dinner with him and his wife. On the off-chance it isn’t accepted the next day, be polite but firm. The assigned examiner may be new or overworked. Bear in mind, he is NOT your employee. He serves several other large corporations as well.

By the way, don’t forget that the Patent office is running a special this month: you get every 1000th patent free!

2. Standard Process:

(i) spend several months with a team of lawyers (paid out of pocket) carefully researching the state of the art of your field, fleshing out your idea, researching potentially related patents, and constructing unassailable claims of your own. In the course of this, learn a new language called “legalese,” which bears only a superficial resemblance to English — much as its speakers bear only a superficial resemblance to humans.

(ii) assemble a meticulously crafted and airtight application — one which no sane person can find fault with, because it has no fault.

(iii) get rejected by the examiner, who clearly did a sloppy google search for some keywords. He cites several patents which have nothing in common with yours, except for those keywords.

(iv) reply to said patent examiner, patiently explaining why a simple reliance on keyword similarities is insufficient evidence of prior art, and that modern linguistic scholarship has shown different sentences can have words in common.

(v) receive a reply with “final rejection” emblazoned in huge letters, and in what appears to be blood. An attached notice explains that any further communication regarding this patent will result in a late-night visit by three large fellows with Bronx accents. Your lawyers dismiss this as boilerplate, and explain that “final rejection” actually means “we want more patent fees.”

(vi) battle your way through 50 years and $1,000,0000 of appeals and rejections as the examiner displays an almost inhuman level of ineptitude, an apparent failure to grasp rudimentary logic, infantile communication skills, and an astonishing ability to contradict himself hour to hour.

(vii) Suspect your patent examiner is planning to run for Congress, where his skills would be better appreciated. Encourage him to do so. Maybe his replacement will be better equipped, possessing both neurons and synapses.

(viii) Eventually you reach the end of the process. There has been one of two outcomes:

  • You passed away long ago, and no longer care about the patent.
  • Your application finally was accepted. Because an accepted patent is valid from the original date of application, yours expired decades ago. But this does not matter, since the idea is long obsolete anyway.

Either way, you should feel privileged. You have participated in one of the great institutions of American Democracy!