# Math dream! Math dream!

I dreamed I was working on a math problem called the C-rice problem. The name was a pun on "dream rice"1. There had been a factory where they were trying to manufacture a type of candy called "dream rice bars", and at each stage of candy production, the chocolate being used had to be at a different temperature and consistency. Each stage also had to be timed properly so that the candy wouldn't be ruined, and the C-rice problem was to optimize all of those things, given a certain amount of chocolate. Or something. Heh. The reason I was working on it was because I had heard that Sam Rebelsky had assigned it as homework. I was nervous because I hadn't done computer science homework in a long time. I looked up "C-rice problem" in the index of a few textbooks I had. In one, it was actually listed as "rice-C problem", but I had no problem finding it anyway. C was the name of a constant, not the programming language C, even though all of the implementations in the books were in C. One of the books was written by John Walker, and he threw a lot of off-the-wall remarks into his textbook. In the discussion of the C-rice problem he made a big deal of the answer being a small number and how mathematically significant that was, although he didn't define what he meant by "small".

Before I started to work on the problem, I had been breaking into a clothes store at the mall. It wasn't an ordinary clothes store, but one designed to help people solve their clothing problems. There were no racks of clothes, just a wall with piles of items labeled "sweater", "pants" and so on. You took the top item from a pile and tried it on. Then you would go back to the wall and say too big, too small, too frilly, or whatever, and the wall would magically rearrange that pile and move something else (supposedly something more appropriate) to the top for you to try on. Actually, I think that the store clerk was supposed to be there in order to make the magic happen, but it seemed to work just fine for me, alone in the store. I wasn't really there for clothes, though; I was there to try and get the magical wall to give me a desk or the pieces to build a desk. (Maybe I needed the desk so that I would have a place to work on the math problem.) The wall gave me the desk pieces and I assembled my desk there in the middle of the store. I kept turning on lights in the store, since I thought that having lots of lights on would be less suspicious than having a single light on, but it still looked dark and I worried about getting caught. I was proud of the desk, though. It was very large and took up most of the store. While I was building the desk, someone -- my dad, I think -- kept trying to give me advice about how to do the C-rice problem, but I wasn't able to pay attention because I was concentrating on the desk. Then, once I had the desk built and sat down, my dad asked me if I wanted to know the history of the problem, and I said sure. So he began to tell me the history, which was long and interesting, but I wasn't able to pay attention then either because then I was actually trying to work on the problem itself. Our timing had been off.

When I worked on the problem, I at first brought in the value of C from a different, unrelated problem. It seemed like a good idea at the time. When I solved the problem, I got the answer 20. I spent a while trying to decide if 20 qualified as a "small" number by John Walker's standards. I decided that it did, but then it dawned on me that I was taking the wrong approach anyway. I started over with a clearer idea in mind of what I was supposed to do, but it was hard to concentrate because my dad was talking to me.

1. I was looking at tastethedream.com earlier. I love my brain.
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