Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, January 09, 2006

Me and Wendelin

I have been tagged (twice) to list/describe 5 weird things about me. With 2 tags, and coming from a family where if someone calls you normal, it's treated as an accusation, I figured I'd better respond.

One of the most frequently noted weird things about me is the fact that, with a couple of minor exceptions, I don't eat vegetables - at all. But this isn't really news to longtime readers so I don't think it is fair to count that.

Instead, here's something else about me and eating. I like to save the best part of a food for last (again, with a couple of exceptions). I know, that sounds pretty normal, but I take it a little further than most people. For example, when you're eating a hamburger, quite clearly the bites on the outside are inferior because you're either dealing with too much bun or not enough bun. Not to mention the possibility of not getting any cheese or bacon! So I always eat around the outside of the burger first and then eat the middle. The only exception is when I am worried I might not be able to finish, in which case I eat straight across from one side, so that if I get full, the part left uneaten is the far edge. Similarly, hot dogs are eaten taking alternating bites from either end.

One exception to this rule is pizza. Obviously the part of the slice which is cut from the center of the pizza is superior to the crust, but pizza is just too awkward to eat crust-first.

OK, something else weird. The department from which I got my undergraduate degree was known of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization (C&O for way shorter). No wait, that's not the weird part. OK, yes I acknowledge it is weird, but just let me finish. Anyway, as I was saying, the weird(er) part is how thoroughly I have integrated both of those concepts (Combinatorics and Optimization) into my life.

Take optimization for example. Now, most people intuitively realize that if you are planning to walk one block forward and then turn right and walk one block, you could save time by cutting across diagonally, but I can tell you that if the block is a perfect square, cutting a perfect diagonal is just over 29% shorter (1-sqrt(2)/2). OK, anyone who remembers the Pythagorean theorem could tell you that, but the point is, I didn't need to look that up, or do the math in my head - it's just memorized.

Similarly, if you are trying to walk somewhere on a downtown street grid (with traffic lights at most intersections), the optimal strategy is to choose a route which maintains a relatively equal number of blocks to go in either direction. For example if your destination is 6 blocks North and 3 blocks East, you want to go North when given a choice of direction until the number of blocks left in either direction is equal. This is beneficial because it increases the chances that no matter what the situation is with the traffic lights, you can cross in at least one direction. My girlfriend knows what I mean, when I say we should go a certain way to 'preserve the diagonal' (and yes, she does roll her eyes).

And it's not just a walking around thing. For example, common sense suggests that when the grocery store has a bunch of blocks of cheese (I don't eat vegetables so I eat more of everything else - especially cheese) all selling for the same price even though they are slightly different sizes, it makes sense to grab one of the bigger blocks. But is it really worth the effort to spend a few seconds to find one of the biggest blocks? Typically you might see blocks of cheese roughly 500g in size being sold for $5 each, with it taking about 10 seconds to find a bigger block, which is usually only about 20g larger. So if you figure that cheese costs $0.01/g and 10 seconds of label checking yields an additional 20g or $0.20, then the rate of return for this activity is roughly $1.20/minute, or $72/hour, so yes, it's worth it.
I do that sort of 'is it worth my time' calculation for lots of stuff. Anyway, I'm sure you get the point.

What else, well, I don't think it's really a weird thing to have various idiosyncratic personal superstitions and habits, even for an atheist like myself, but at the same time, each person's little superstitions are all weird in their own way, so here are couple of mine. Before I leave a basketball court, my last shot has to go in without touching the rim (this is normally referred to as a 'swish', but I'm usually playing on a beatup schoolyard which is lucky to have a rim, never mind a net, so the sound of the ball not hitting the rim is kind of hard to reproduce in print).

Another habit of mine is to always touch all the steps in a staircase. My legs are fairly long so I tend to climb two steps at a time, but I typically drag my back leg so that it just brushes against each of the steps that I'm skipping.

Next weird item: when playing video games, I prefer to play as a female character. I mean, let's face it, I can be a guy anytime. This is probably on my mind at the moment, because the game I've been playing lately (instead of blogging) doesn't allow you to play as anything other than the default male character. In fact, now that I think about it, the game ('Pirates!) is pretty sexist in general. All the authority figures are male, with women reduced to being barmaids or love interests (to some extent they've retained the typical video game sexism, and managed to add some typical hollywood sexism, but this aside could probably turn into a whole post (or graduate thesis) of its own, so I'll leave it at that). Aside from that though, it is quite good, and I'd recommend it (I know, if you're into that kind of game, you're probably busy with Civ 4 right now).

And the final weird thing about me, perhaps the weirdest of all, I write a blog ... about politics ... about Canadian politics - enough said.

I'll tag, Tall, Dark and Mysterious, Canadian Cynic, Odd Thoughts, Andrew Coyne and Gen X at 40

The usual dismemer applies to these tags: This tag does not constitute a formal or informal obligation or contract of any kind. Failure to comply with this tag will not result in any civil or criminal penalties or in the invocation of any well- or little-known curses to bring physical or financial harm or misfortune upon you, your immediate family or your descendants.

Always consult a physician before responding to any tags or beginning any blogging program. Anything you write can not and might not be held against you in a [kangaroo] court of public opinion. By accepting this tag you accept and agree to abide by all real and or imaginary foregoing or aforementioned conditions.


  • I thought this was a really funny look at your personal life, and it resonated. I do similar stuff when walking, though I'll admit to never considering it as thoroughly as you have. I also have this thing similar to your foot-dragging idiosyncracy where I'll try and have each leg be the first across an equal amount of breaks in the sidewalk.
    The cheese point was interesting, I never thought about that.
    gab, aka lecentre, of Centrerion (

    By Blogger lecentre, at 4:01 PM  

  • I'll get to this as soon as I think of some quirks that will have people laughing with rather than at me when they discover what a freak I am. If you don't mind me asking, when did you get your C&O degree? Because we share an alma mater - I was there from 1996 until 2001 - and now I'm wondering if we might have crossed paths in the Comfy Lounge or the C&D. Small world, in any case...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:38 PM  

  • lecentre - thanks. I've abandoned most/all of my childhood sidewalk quirks due to a sheer overabundance of sidewalk in my urban existence.

    ms - what makes you think you know which school I did C&O at? OK, never mind. I graduated in 1998, I'm sure we must have crossed paths a few times (depending on the streams) - even when I took the extreme measures of taking the back route from MC over to engineering I still ended up crosing paths with people I knew - although my prime comfy lounge/C&D hanging out days were more 1994/1995.

    The world is big, but the country is small.

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:19 PM  

  • Ah, well, I'm sure that we are separated (offline) by at most two degrees, in any case...some of my best friends were C&O students. (In retrospect, I wish I'd taken more courses from that department.)

    The world is big, but the country is small.

    Now you've reminded me of a Texan who sat next to me on a plane a few months ago, who asked me, in all seriousness, "what's the weather like in Canada these days?"

    By Blogger Moebius Stripper, at 10:00 PM  

  • Most of my friends were in Actsci (ugh) and I tried to maintain as few acquaintances as possible, but you're probably right about the degrees of separation all the same.

    So how did you answer the Texan?

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:00 PM  

  • I told the Texan that it was cold and sunny, mild and rainy, and dark 24 hours a day, depending where you were. My seatmate seemed satisfied, if surprised, by my answer. Maybe she thought that in addition to socialized medicine, we also have socialized weather in this country, which protects the northerners against getting too cold this time of year.

    By Blogger Moebius Stripper, at 5:18 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home