Seven Ate Nine

I've noticed lately a strange recurrence, one which - like a watermark on the ceiling or a coworker's webbed feet - is easy to miss, then impossible to ignore.

Everyone's familiar with the two-by-four - it's the stud you're aiming for when you hammer a nail, the lumber you picture when you picture lumber, the familiar building block of our rectangle-based dwellings. It's hefty, but maneuverable. Reassuring, but cheap. The 2x4. Bearer of loads, spanner of gaps, poker of foreign objects. But to accomplish all these tasks it requires *three* dimensions, not two. There is a third measurement of each and every two by four - which are not actually two inches by four inches at all, ever, by the way - and that measurement is eight. Eight feet. If you need a two by four by ten, or a two by four by six, you better specify, buddy, because if you just sidle up to the lumber desk and ask for a bundle of two by fours you're getting eight-footers, by God.

How come? It's because walls are eight feet tall. And walls are eight feet tall because people are between five and six feet tall, and eight leaves enough room over our heads that we don't feel claustrophobic or smack our heads on the light fixtures. You see?! Eight!

Furthermore, three dimensions are the only dimensions worth caring about if you ask me. Two is theoretical, four is hypothetic. You got a thing, you got three dimensions on it. Length, width, and height. Take a three-dimensional box measuring two inches on every side, and you know how many cubic inches are in there? Oh yes you do!

Eight is how many fingers and toes you have, if you don't count thumbs and big toes, which you shouldn't. Eight is how many legs spiders have, and I don't have to tell you how effectively creepy that is. Eight is the number of hours in a shift. Eight is zero with a belt. EIGHT IS ENOUGH.

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