Tag Archive: Musing

Toilet Seat Mathematics

The complaint you always hear is that men leave the toilet seat up, while women would prefer it be left down. Well, let’s crunch a few numbers to determine the total effort required by each party in the two cases. I’m going to ignore the lid in the following calculations:

With the seat up, men need to:

  1. Nothing.
  2. Lower it before, raise it after.

Women need to:

  1. Lower it before, raise it after.
  2. Lower it before, raise it after.

So the seat up yields a number of operations of 2 for men and 4 for women.

With the seat down, men need to:

  1. Raise it before, lower it after.
  2. Nothing.

Women need to:

  1. Nothing.
  2. Nothing.

So the seat down yields a number of operations of 2 for men and 0 for women.

The conclusion here is that, to men, it makes absolutely no difference whether the seat is left up or down, while women do less work with it down. The interpretation goes both ways: It could be viewed as selfish of women to want to do less work, or it could be viewed as selfish of men, as it makes no difference to them.

A second level of analysis makes the situation clearer. Considering that everyone (unless I’m strange) finds themselves in situation… uh… 1 more often than 2, if my meaning is carried, we find that men do more work with the seat down. Let’s go with a conservatively average estimate of three 1’s and a 2 each day. We find:

  • Seat up: Men have 2 operations each day, women have 8.
  • Seat down: Men have 6 operations each day, women have 0.

We now see the emergence of the complaint. Men do much less work with the seat up, Women do none with it down. As a unit, a couple does less work with the seat down. But the true conclusion here is that couples argue about this because people are greedy.

If the couple does indeed prefer the lid down, I’ll give the totals. The assumption I’ll make is that lifting both the lid and the seat together counts as one operation. A fair assumption.

  • Seat and lid up: Men have 2 operations each day, women have 8.
  • Seat down, lid up: Men have 6 operations each day, women have 0.
  • Seat and lid down: Men have 8 operations each day, women have 8.

The only conclusion we can definitively draw is that the toilet lid belongs up.

We could continue with an expected value calculation (assigning negative values to sitting on a closed lid, peeing on the seat or even the lid, or the infamous “falling in”), but we won’t. I’ll end this with a synopsis: The toilet lid should be up (at some point, even absent), and beyond that, I might say the seat should be left down for the greater good, but the argument exists for a reason.


Dear Wisconsin

A brief post about the union-smasher bill that I’ve heard just passed in Wisconsin today.

The main issue I have is that, thanks to this, our children will now be dumber. So dumb, in fact, that they may continue to think things like this bill are a good idea.

The five states (before today) without collective bargaining for teachers rank 44th and 47th-50th in standardized test scores. Wisconsin is currently (I believe) 2nd.

The Governor had previously said that this is all about the budget, the budget, the finances. When he realized (that is, was told, but didn’t know, because Wisconsin’s Governor did not graduate from college) that he could pass the non-financial provisions of his bill without a quorum, he stripped it of the elements geared toward the budget and ended collective bargaining anyway. Guess it wasn’t about finances.

As a Wisconsin native and an educator, I can really say only two things. 1) I am very thankful to have come from a state where the education was so good. 2) I am sad that I may be part of the last Wisconsin generation who can say that.

Ending A Semester

Semester is ending soon. The first semester I’ve completed since my diagnosis.

2 homeworks due Wednesday. Another homework and a paper due next Thursday. Finals to give and grade next Tuesday and Wednesday.

I’ve already started applications for next year. Atop the list is Binghamton (formerly SUNY Binghamton). I will also be applying to Ohio State, and a few other places as well. The applications are unreasonably expensive, but it has to be done.

A semester gone by. I haven’t gotten to the gym but a few times. The one thing I can do to put off my illness as long as possible is be in the best shape I can be. I don’t have time. My other priorities are weighing me down. But, if I take time to go to the gym, I don’t get my work done. What good would it do to be in better shape if I get kicked out of school? I can’t do everything.

I feel like my life is running itself in circles.


Does anybody remember the last major hurricane to make landfall and do serious damage before Katrina?

Does anybody remember the last terrorist attack made by a non-American before 9/11?

Does anybody remember what happened the last time we declared war on an idea?

Don’t be surprised when this stuff happens, friends. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.


I wish I could still run. Of course, that’s no surprise, but really, I do.

I wish I had run more back when it was something I could do. In high school, I played soccer and tennis, which I loved, but aside from that, I didn’t ever run just to… run.

If I woke up tomorrow and could run, I would take off and run for the rest of my life. I miss it.  I would be one of those people who doesn’t shut up on their facebook, twitter, whatever, about running all the time and how amazing it is and how superior they are to everyone else. Enjoy it.

I get a little angry now at lazy people. I think, if you knew what it was like to want to run and not be able to, you’d do it. But I can’t get too mad. Back when I could run, I was one of those people.

Hindsight is actually 20-10.

Take a memo:

I wanted to win a Nobel Prize when I was a kid. Then I learned there is no Nobel Prize in mathematics (supposedly, though I believe this to be myth, because Alfred Nobel’s wife had an affair with a mathematician). I also learned that we mathematicians have our equivalent, known as the Fields Medal. They give it out every four years, and you have to be under 40.

I won’t win a Fields Medal. I’m good, but I’m not that good. However, I’ll probably live past 40, so in this sense my illness has not affected the fact that I may never get what I wanted as a child.