Bathroom Break

Sadly, we don't seem to have made much progress here. (Photo credit: Tomasz Kuran via Wikimedia Commons)
Sadly, we don’t seem to have made much progress here. (Photo credit: Tomasz Kuran via Wikimedia Commons)

We’ve had indoor plumbing for what, 200 years now? More than that if you go back past the Middle Ages and into the Greek and Roman eras. So why are modern bathrooms so poorly designed?

If you’ve stayed in any number of hotels lately, you know what I mean. Public access bathrooms aren’t much better; indeed, they’re sometimes worse if they don’t have staff dedicated to checking them frequently for cleanliness and supplies. What’s so wrong with these facilities? Let us count the ways:

So Close And Yet So Far — Apparently no one has ever done a study to determine the optimal location of toilet paper relative to the toilet. Or if they have, no one who builds bathrooms ever refers to it. Thus, toilet paper will be: 1) So far in front or off to the side that you practically fall off reaching for it or 2) So close as to almost be behind you, resulting in the need for a yoga maneuver that should not be contemplated even when fully clothed, much less when half dressed.

Will Someone Get The Light? — The lighting in most bathroom falls into two categories as well. There’s Old and Tired, which is guaranteed to make everything in the room, especially you, look 40 years older and 30 pounds heavier. (Please note this is the same light used in clothing store fitting rooms). The opposite is Stage Floodlights, the same kind of lighting used on Broadway, which is clearly perfect for those three a.m. visits to the loo.

It’s Curtains For You See — Shower curtains have to be one of the worst inventions ever. They inevitably billow inward during a shower and stick to you. They get mildew in about 2.5 seconds. If not carefully tucked into the tub, they actually help to guide more water *out* of the shower and onto the floor than if you’d had nothing around the tub at all. And they don’t provide an end to end seal, so there’s always a cold draft coming in from one end or the other.

So Close And Yet So Far Redux — I have yet to find a bathroom, in a hotel or public space, that actually allows you to get up close to a mirror. Either the vanity is 2.5 feet deep and runs the entire length of the mirror, or they have a smaller sink and the toilet shoved up underneath the mirror. This is not just a woman’s complaint either — I like to see to put on my makeup, but most guys I know like to see to be able to shave too.

Off The Shelf — Hotel owners everywhere: Who’s clever idea was it to locate the linens shelf *in the shower* so that all of your towels, facecloths, and hand towels are permanently damp? Also: shelves located over the toilet sound like a brilliant, space-saving idea… right until you drop the bottle of aspirin into the bowl.

Fan Club — Bathroom fans, the kind meant to remove steam build-up, seem to have two speeds. There is Your Mirror Is Going to Fog Up Anyway and Turbo Fan. The former is obviously useless; the latter has this kind of supernatural ability to remove steam from a room before the water has even realized it’s going to become steam. You’re in for a frosty shower.

There are other issues of course. Like constructing tubs out of metal, which conduct heat rapidly, leaving you with cold bath water in about three minutes. Or lining floors with ceramic tiles — surely only Teflon would provide a slipperier surface?

I realize that in the grand scheme of world problems, these are but petty complaints…

… on the other hand, perhaps if our world leaders weren’t always half-frozen by poorly designed showers, concussed by falls on slippery floors, and/or hadn’t cut themselves shaving, perhaps we’d have some of those bigger problems fixed by now!


Tough to Moove

I told you homeboy u can't tip this. (Photo Credit: Bene16 via Wikimedia Commons)
I told you homeboy u can’t tip this. (Photo Credit: Bene16 via Wikimedia Commons)

We all lead busy lives and I know it’s hard to keep up with important, cutting edge news. I consider it my duty to keep you informed, so, this just in: You cannot tip a cow.

Margo Lillie, a doctor of zoology at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and her student Tracy Boechler conducted a study on the physics of cow-tipping. Using parameters like the weight and height of an average cow, the cow’s centre of gravity and the angle of the attempted tip, the pair determined it would take at least two if not four people to tip a cow over. Their calculations also assume the cow would allow itself to be tipped.

“We are relieved to hear that someone has taken this matter seriously and produced a study,” said Mooshe Patterson, head of “Be Herd!” a cattle anti-defamation society. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to stories about intoxicated young men sneaking into a pasture late at night, trying to tip over one of my friends. Maybe now that there’s a bit of science involved, people will stop trying.”

Mooshe continued, “It’s a very serious problem that’s caused a great deal of misunderstanding between our two cultures. For instance, I bet you believe that ‘hoof and mouth’ is a disease cattle get. In fact, it’s actually hoof IN mouth, and it’s what humans get when they attempt a tip.”

“And let’s talk about mad cow disease,” said Cowtney Smith, spokescattle for Bovine Betterment International. “That one clip you saw played over and over again on the news of some poor cow staggering into the barn? That wasn’t a sick cow, that was a cow that had spent the night trying to avoid cow tippers. The local pub had been offering pints for a dollar all evening and she was absolutely exhausted.”

Smith seemed affronted by the notion that cow physics was somehow ridiculous. “You humans have this perception of cattle as stupid and slow,” she said. “Cattle science and math is quite advanced. Haven’t you ever heard of cow pi? Or cowculus?”

Bullgess Jones agrees: “It always seems like it’s in one ear and out the udder with people,” he said in a telephone interview earlier today. “You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that research involving cows is extremely important, and it touches on your daily life.

“But in the interest of making hay while the sun shines, I’ll give you an example,” he continued. “We cattle eat a lot of vegetation. Forgive me for being indelicate, but that gives us a lot of wind. For centuries, your kind has thought that ‘moo’ was just a funny noise we made, when really it was us trying to moan to you about our tummy aches. It’s only now, when you realize that cow belches contribute to global warming that you want to do something about it.”

Jones is referring to a study by UK scientists which saw an additive added to cattle feed which reduced their methane output by up to 70 percent.

How do cattle cope with the misunderstandings and prejudice? “The strongest of us rely on our great philosophers, people like Johann Herder or the Baron de Moontesquieu for guidance. Their words can provide great comfort,” Jones replied.

“The rest of us, well…” he said, “we just drink a lot, you know, to dull the pain. And that’s not good for humans either, because when we drink to forget, we end up producing milk of amnesia.”

Spring Forward, Fall Back

spring forward
Tax day hasn’t improved with time. (Image credit: Pieter Brueghel the Younger)

Ah, spring. [Cue the music from Beethoven’s Pastorale.] The snow is melting, the birds are chirping and [cue the horrible sound of a symphony grinding to a halt] your taxes are due.

Here in Canada, we are being inundated with cheery television advertisements showing us how easy and fun (fun!) it is to file our taxes. According to these ads, all you need to be able to complete your return is:

1) A shiny new computer, which you will not be allowed to deduct.
2) A super fast Internet connection to the government web site, which, if you live outside metro Toronto, you won’t have until the government uses some of your tax money to provide one for you.
3) A cute 9-year-old daughter who will sit on your lap to demonstrate both family values in Canadian society and also explain the Internet to you.

Okay, really, for most people, filing taxes is fairly easy, mainly because their employers do most of the work. Deductions are taken off your paycheque all year ’round, and then at the end of the year you take the papers the employer hands you to an accountant and they figure out the rest.

For the self-employed though, there is just one word that accurately describes the tax process, and it is: AARGH!

This is because it is one of those immutable laws of the universe that tax law can never be simple. Historically, any country that has ever attempted to enact a simple “tell us what you made and send us X percent” rule was immediately invaded and stomped out of existence by hordes of marauding tax specialists bearing WMD (weapons of mass deduction).

Indeed, speaking of laws of the universe, there are an astonishing number of similarities between tax laws and our theories of how the universe began. (Which means that theoretical astrophysicists are just tax specialists gone horribly wrong). Consider:

Big Bang: What we think our universe started with. Also the noise your brain makes when you find out how much you owe the government.

Inflationary theory: Theorists believe that our universe is expanding, and that the stars and planets are moving farther and farther apart. Your tax bill typically expands, when the government denies that deduction for the wild toga party, and your target retirement age will seem farther and farther away.

Big Crunch: Some theorists speculate that the universe will end in a big crunch, when everything collapses in on itself. Your tax bill will also lead to a big crunch, as you attempt to pay it and your regular bills off.

Assuming you have a rudimentary knowledge of quantum mechanics then, it is possible for the self-employed person to work out his or her own tax return. However, even following the letter of the tax law precisely can get you into trouble.

For example, where I live, self-employed people have until June to file their return. However, your actual taxes are due in April. This means that the minute you work out what you owe, you’re already two months late and now owe even more, thanks to a concept called “interest.” [Cue the big bang noise in the brain.] That is, the government takes a great deal of interest in someone who is late in paying their taxes.

Even worse, the government here has taken to sending out notices to self-employed people that say, “We notice you made X of dollars last year, and that your current tax bill is Y. If you think you’re going to make X again next year, you must also start paying Y again. Now.”

To which I always want to reply that I’m probably not going to make X next year, because I’m too busy trying to pay off Y. Unfortunately, it is one of those great cruelties of life that taxes are not, in fact, tax deductible.

Yes, they say that taxes are the price of civilization, and if that’s the case, things are going to be very, very civilized here this year.

Mainly because we can’t afford any more of those toga parties.