## A Fluid Dialogue

“You know the convenient thing about the 32-ounce size?”

“It’s not so intimidating as the 40-ounce size?”

“And you aren’t paying one penny more for the freedom from intimidation.”

“It seems to me that it also has the advantage of being twelve ounces more than the 20-ounce size.”

“I wouldn’t go that far. What if we didn’t make a 20-ounce size?”

“Then you wouldn’t have any way of getting the 40-ounce size except buying the 40 ounces.”

“You haven’t anyway: there is no 40-ounce size. If you want 40 ounces you’ll just have to make do.”

“Maybe for now I can avoid wanting 40 ounces.”

“The other grand thing about the 32-ounce size is that it’s over 32 ounces more than the zero-ounce size.”

“That’s a size you can’t really have too much of.”

“And at zero ounces they fly off the shelves. We need to ballast them against even slight breezes. We tried surrounding them with a fine mesh, but that created a fine mesh — that should be fine mess — that even got into the News of the Mildly Interesting Yet Not Excessively Weird. Too many people mistook them for a bee enclosure.”

“Apiary.”

“No, more Reuters-ish.”

“What would I make do if I wanted 40 ounces?”

“Use two 32-ounces and an empty seven-ounce bottle. It’s a traditional puzzle. It dates back to the Mayans, who never figured it out because they didn’t know what an ounce was.”

“You can’t get to 40 ounces from two 32-ounces and taking away seven ounces at a time. You get to 50 ounces instead.”

“How can you get 50 ounces if you don’t have 40 ounces first?”

“You come from the other direction.”

“It’s a six-ounce bottle you need.”

“Just curious but what is it 32 ounces of?”

“Are you wondering what comes out of it or what goes into it?”

“Let’s start with what goes in and see where that get us.”

“It gets us into the 32-ounce size.”

“Only if we’re ingredients. We’re not unless it turns out the bottles are inside-out and we don’t suspect it because it’s only revealed in the last minute.”

“No, if we were ingredients we’d have heard something along the lines of `let us out’ or maybe `we’re not ingredients’.”

“So we’re not ingredients?”

“Now that you’ve said that, it could turn out we were all along. Thanks for messing up a good bit of confusion.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’d hope so.”

“What got the Mayan worried about forty ounces?”

“They liked things in twenties. In retrospect, the 20-ounce size could have been a great seller to Mayans of the seventh century. Have you ever felt better for knowing what the ingredients of something were?”

“There are times I’ve felt growing appreciation for whatever is meant by ‘sorbitol’.”

“And have you ever liked what you knew about what went into something?”

“No, but it’s left me awake all night, steadily unsettled.”

“That sort of feeling you can’t put a price on, unless you count student loans.”

“You can do it with seven ounces. Start with three 32-ounces and take seven ounces out eight times over.”

“You get there faster with eight ounces seven times over.”

“Yes, it’s so much more scenic taking the local roads.”

“It’s mature to restrain yourself from wanting the 40-ounce size.”

“We all have our difficulties to overcome.”

“The 32-ounce size would be a 40-ounce size, if it came with eight ounces free.”

“If the eight ounces were free they wouldn’t come with anything. They’d have to be bottled and rigidly constrained relative to the 32 ounces.”

“They might associate of their own free will.”

“Is the 32-ounce size larger than a breadbox? If not, is it bigger than a bread loaf?”

“No, but I realize I don’t know what a loaf of bread weighs. I just thought of it as weighing one loaf, slightly less for denser loaves.”

“Then we’ve expanded the boundaries of your ignorance?”

“Yes, but marginally.”

“Delighted to be of service. Don’t worry. This is covered your normal monthly charge.”

## Not To Start Anything But Yes, _Mary Worth_ Is Being Weird And Creepy Lately

I’m not looking to start any trouble. But, for those who’ve missed it, the current storyline in Mary Worth is in its eleventh week. It’s been entirely about Mary Worth visiting New York City, where she’s been taking little Olive out and about to Broadway plays and museums and shopping and everything. What’s Mary Worth’s relationship to Olive? Nothing really. In a story a while back Olive had a tumor, and she was scared of the surgeon. Mary Worth got Olive’s parents to listen to Olive’s fears, and it turned out the surgeon was on The Drugs so she was right and that’s it.

So this looked like a nice, unusual follow-up story of the kid and her parents after they went back home. Except you know how every Mary Worth story is about people who have an exceedingly simple problem that they can’t figure out until, ideally, some people finally obey Mary’s orders to get married? Writer Karen Moy forgot to include a problem this story. It’s just been Mary poking around taking the kid on a tour of Manhattan, where the kid lives, and talking in ways that straddle the line between “kind of creepy” and “might be coded messages to foreign agents”. It doesn’t reach Apartment 3-G-esque levels of inhumanity — nothing could — but it’s still dazzling.

The past week they’ve spent shopping for each other, with Sunday’s installment a fair representation of what’s going on, although the body language just keeps getting funnier. Special high points: Mary’s hunched-over, guilty, ready-to-flee look in the first panel of the second row; her far-off “and this is why I gave humanity the invention of warp drive” look in the first panel of the third row; and the shopkeeper’s “wait, where is every object in relation to every other object?” gaze in the final panel.

Anyway, I know what you’re really here for, and that’s a bit of gentle pleading to read my mathematics blog and its comic strip discussion there. It features electronic brain action, if you like that. (Who doesn’t?)

## In Which Our Rabbit Explains Windows To Me

“You’re making an awful noise,” our pet rabbit said, in his most scolding of tones.

I stopped swinging the rubber mallet and let go of the putty knife. “Yes, I know, but it’s for a good reason.”

He poked his nose between his cage mesh, almost close enough to nibble at the knife’s handle. “I don’t think you understand. It’s you and you’re doing that thing where you make noise.”

“I’m sorry, but there isn’t another way I’m going to get this window open.”

“Windows don’t open,” he said, and crossed his paws together. “Hasn’t anyone ever explained that to you?”