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.”

“Thank you; please come again.”

Statistics Saturday: Ingredients List For Libby’s 29 oz Can of 100% Pure Pumpkin


Ingredient: Pumpkin.
Ingredients label for a 29 ounce can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin. That of the 15 ounce can of Meijer’s store-brand Whole Pumpkin is similar, but lists it as ‘ingredients’.

  1. Pumpkin.

I don’t know why, but this brings me a great sense of comfort in these confused times.

Since the above picture is kind of a flimsy thing to build a whole Statistics Saturday post around, here’s the same picture given a Photoshop filter to look kind of like a fresco and then spun around more or less around the word “pumpkin”. Don’t read while operating heavy pies!

Spinning Ingredient: Spinning Pumpkin.
Ingredients label for a 29 ounce can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin made harder to read thanks to Photoshop!

Statistics Saturday: What We Found In The New 2015 Penny


'You won't believe what we found inside the new 2015 penny', it claims. This picture is from 2015.
Clickbait artists are poor judges of what I find believable. Warning: do not click!

I admit the clickbait ad above made me curious. So I checked. Here’s what was inside the new 2015 penny:

2004 Penny Struggling To Escape Capture; Merengue; Trilithium Resin; Poise, Gallantry; Wood Pulp. Also some fan fiction and some chocolate 2-Euro coin wedges. And a kind heart.
Oh, yeah, and there’s something about zinc.

Why I Shouldn’t Be Left In The Kitchen


So I picked up a box of paczki from the Quality Dairy convenience store. I’d had to pop in for cash anyway and they had so many boxes of so many doughnuts that it felt like a mercy to buy some. Plus I was thinking of my father, who can’t appreciate them considering the state he’s in (South Carolina). On the box’s side is a paragraph of information titled The Paczki Tradition, provided I guess in the charming belief that Americans might require some coaxing into eating doughnuts that are slightly thicker than usual.

The paragraph, by one Herbert A Holinko, “Recipient of the Cavalier’s Cross, Poland’s highest civilian award”, explains that they’re made of the finest ingredients and covered with several types of sugar or glaze, and was traditionally made “to use up the ingredients in our households” before the Lenten fasts. I hope he means using up doughnut ingredients. If we tried to use up all the ingredients in our pantry ahead of Lent we’d be making paczki bulging with rice, dry spaghetti, six different bottles of vinegar each with about a quarter-inch of liquid we assume to be vinegar in them, packets of mee goreng-flavored ramen noodles, and a bin of those Boston Baked Beans candies that we only tried for the first time like a month ago and it turns out they’re pretty great. I cannot say what kind of pastry this bundle of ingredients would produce but I imagine anyone eating it would fall back on the oft-used “Frankensteinian” adjective before fleeing our house, never to return.

Holinko also explains “Our German neighbors to the west call them Berliners and our Austrian friends to the south celebrate with the Krapfen”. This is, I believe, the kindest thing any high-ranking Polish person has said about Germans or Austrians since 1683, when Jan Sobieski said, “You know, I like these coffee shops Vienna’s got all of a sudden, and this bagel thing seems like a good idea if we just added some salt or garlic or maybe chocolate chips and blueberries to it. Anyway, good start, maybe needs just a little work or cinnamon jalapeno cream cheese”.

I got to a little bit of work on a bagel yesterday when I realized we’d forgot to take any out of the freezer and wanted to have one as breakfast. Rather than give up on the bagel idea, maybe having the ramen instead, maybe carving a hole out of the center of a potato and smearing enough cream cheese on it that nobody would care about the difference instead. Since I had already gone plainly mad — it was a salt bagel, not a plain, anyway — I tried defrosting it in the microwave.

The microwave has got a defrost setting, I assume, somewhere in that collection of neglected buttons showing pictures of potatoes and popcorn and pizza and whatever other foods whose name starts with the letter ‘P’ they could think of. So I tried setting it for sixty seconds on fifty percent power and the microwave went to work on a sixty-minute cooking cycle and that is not me comically exaggerating, that is me somehow failing to press ‘6 0 Power 5 Start’. And here I need to point out that while it is technically true that I hold a doctorate in mathematics from a very well-regarded university, microwave oven button use constitutes only a very small section of one course in Functional Analysis and it’s not like you remember everything you get to in a course like that.

So I got that straightened out and the bagel down to defrosting for two minutes, at the end of which … it was piping hot and soft and, when I sliced it open, warm and flaky, with little clouds of steam rising and I’m not certain but I believe that an angel rose up from its center and gently brushed my cheek. I have known harder croissants, not to mention firmer clouds of water vapor, and I’ve been feeling guilty ever since that I committed some gross offense against the laws of bagel-preparing. I wouldn’t have had this problem with ramen; there’s very little need to defrost that, most of the time.