My Funky Boyfriend


(At McDonald’s)

Me: Aaaargh! You slop ketchup right onto your fries rather than using a separate ketchup serviette!
Alec: Yeah, why not?
Me: Because your ketchup doesn’t get equally distributed across the fries that way.

Alec: But why does it have to be equally distributed? Using my way, I get 2 possible distributions across the fries. The binomial distribution determines whether a fry gets ketchup or not. And then if there is ketchup, the amount of ketchup the fry gets is in a normal distribution. I’m fine with this.
Me: ……
Alec: What?


(In a conversation about stag parties)

Alec: I don’t have any objections to lap-top dancing.


  1. haha! well it seems to make sense though it is arguable as to whether the number of fries constitute a sufficiently large sample size for binomial or normal approximation – one more good reason to upsize your meals lol.

  2. i think the reason to use a ketchup serviette is so that you won’t get ketchup on your fingers the way you get cheese your fingers when having cheesy fries.

    i don’t take ketchup btw.. i’m more of a chilli person.

  3. I would think a medium-sized pack of french fries would contain enough fries to constitute a sufficiently large sample size to use a binomial or normal approximation (i.e. n greater than or equal to 30).

    That being said, Alec, would you mind if I hire you to do my CFA Level I exam in December? I think you’re far better equipped for the Quantitative Methods section than I will be by the time the exam rolls round.

    And I would never put ketchup right on my fries. All of my fries need to have ketchup on them. I’m such a ketchup person that I even put it in my tomato soup. Touch my ketchup on pain of death.

  4. Benny: Ketchup? Overrated? Never! Them’s fighting words!

    One of my friends used to eat fries with salt, pepper and chocolate ice-cream. I’m not sure what camp that falls into.

  5. Virgin_Undergrad:

    Why go for the banal choice of normal approximisation to the binomial when instead you can rock out and apply a compound binomial distribution with ketchup amount being normally distributed. Oh ya, I rock.

    I agree that there is an issue of statistical credibility. I frequently find that I lack cred. In future experiments I’ll just have to upsize.

  6. You know, if you used barbecue sauce, you wouldn’t need a napkin for the sauce, and you’d be hard pushed to squeeze it on anything. Why they don’t put ketchup in those little dipping things I’ll never know.

  7. I just remembered. Napkin is a British word, isn’t it?

    Some travel advice for the uninitiated:

    A napkin is a tiny sleep-nymph. It is the English equivalent of the Irish leprechaun, crossed with a touch of the sandman. Sometimes English people offer them to each other as gifts, but as they are mythical, it is more of a traditional gesture than a genuine offer, and it is always polite to turn them down. Instead, ask for a serviette, which has become a modern substitute, and a further part of the tradition. The idea is that the serviette is entirely functionless and inexpensive, but you don’t insult your host by turning down their gift entirely. English people will look indignant if you ask for a serviette instead of a napkin, but this is part of the tradition, as they have to feign disappointment at your refusal to accept their sleep-nymph gift. And English people spend a lot of time looking indignant anyway.

  8. Matt: Ketchup is sub-optimal in the little dipping things because if you have a long fry, you then have to contort it multiple times just to get it into the little top opening in the attempt to ensure a satisfactory distribution of ketchup along its length.

    Squeezing ketchup onto a serviette spreads it over a larger surface area, and therefore allows more efficient ketchupping of long fries (of which there are usually many).

  9. I just don’t understand why anyone would need ketchup in McDonald’s when they offer what may just be the best chilli sauce in the world.

    … and what about mayo [in lieu of chilli]

  10. I think serviette users are inconsiderate. Because of you, the internet very nearly didn’t work, because the instructions were all dirty!

    Conversely, fi they’d used little dippy packets, perhaps they wouldn’t have had the serviette to write it all down. It’s anyone’s guess really. Click here to have the faintest idea what I’m blathering about.

  11. Tamara: Totally valid point, “ketchup” was just used with this blog’s international readership in mind as a shorthand for all packet sauces usually consumed with fries.

    My usual practice is to squeeze out ketchup and that awesome chilli sauce next to each other on the serviette, thus giving me two tastes on the same fry!

    atreidai: Dude, I can’t believe you don’t like McDonald’s Singapore-style chilli sauce. It’s one of the most amazing things this nation has given the world! (Annabel Chong aside.)

  12. Napkins…?




    ..on chips?

    Royale with Cheese…?

    I think we can all agree on one thing..

    The Deep fried Mars Bars will end the fast food wars that have dogged a generation and bring world peace in our time!!

  13. I believe that since the Bernoulli probabilities under your compound binomial distribution are quite high, you would get a relatively normal approximation. Of course, this relationship might be quite far from approximating normal.

    Another problem is that a normal distribution might accurately reflect the amount of condiment per fry if you were sprinkling salt, it would not work for ketchup. Ketchup is goopy. You tend to get either a lot of it on the fries of a particular location, and then very little of it on the fries in the periphery. Hence your distribution will be skewed to the right – something like a reverse power law distribution (bounded on the right.) The result – quite a few chips with the maximum level of ketchup possible, but a considerable proportion of them with very little.

    In any case, the real issue is that Michelle wants a uniform distribution of ketchup. And given that the average consumer is risk averse and favours averages to extremes, I can’t argue with the wisdom of that.

  14. Marcus: Yes, Alec lives in Singapore now. :)

    Benny: I use the chilli-pepper combo for my hash browns. It does indeed rock!

    Brian: “3 billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare…the war against the Deep Fat Fryer Machines…”

    Russ: Actually, my dead dog’s cock told me your grandmother’s special sauce was pretty nasty… (To everyone else: it’s a private joke, I’m not really this crude.)

    Dom: I’d love to make an intelligent witty reply to your comment but I didn’t go further than A’level maths. It all sounds right to me though!

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