Monday, January 4, 2010

The Packing Problem ...

Warning: This post has some geeky undertones, possibly even overtones, but most likely it's just all geeky.

You all know it, you come home from grocery shopping with a car load full of bags (most likely because you heard on the radio about a coming snow storm with several feet of snow, but didn't notice that the storm happens halfway around the globe, let's say in the Sahara dessert), and now it's time to fit all the good stuff into your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Should the turkey be the first in freezer, or the pints of ice cream, and what about the (left) half of a cow your butcher talked you into (after all there is a big snow storm coming your way).

Welcome to the world of mathematics (yes, kids, you may not know it, but life is full of math, so pay attention what the teachers talk about). What you just experienced is called the packing problem, and generally involves fitting a given set of items into a fixed space.

In case you haven't noticed yet, math was my major in high school (the other being business and economics, because it was the easiest, and I am totally lazy, which you may also not have noticed yet, but rest assured, I am).

Back to the real world (and another packing problem). I spent the entire morning agonizing about how to fill the gap in the bar floor. Aside from the obvious problem of having a limited supply of floor boards, and their varying sizes and lengths, I tried to figure a way to make it look like the floor was intended this way from the first day, the house was built, and not just a patch job.

By noon I was so frustrated that I went and harvested the last two rows of floor boards in the garret, which is now without a floor. Afterward I gave it another try, being more systematic this time, writing down lengths and widths of boards, spacing between floor joists, and so forth.

After looking at the numbers and the floor for a long time, mentally playing with various scenarios, I started to get a sense on how it could be done without looking like a ten times patched bicycle tire (though it will be more of a patch job, than virgin flooring). We'll see if I still like it by tomorrow.



lindaingeborg said...

Aha! I beat you in laziness cause I chose languages in high school. One year of math only! But I have since become an advanced Tetris player and fill a dishwasher more efficiently than most. James would love to meet that butcher BTW that will talk you in to half a cow cause he's just looking for an excuse to buy a freezer for the basement. Hope you guys are good!

Team 17 said...

Good stuff Dirk...and Sounds just how you developed a system, never patch work, always solid from the foundation up!