1762: Moving Boxes
Title text: Later, when I remember that I'm calling movers, I frantically scribble over the labels and write 'NORMAL HOUSE STUFF' on all of them, which actually makes things worse.
Randall talks about moving boxes and not labeling them until he forgets what's in them. Since he doesn't know what's in them, he writes silly things on the boxes as a joke. Some things are unusual/unlikely (e.g. sand, hydrants, peat) and some are abstract/impossible (e.g. elves, taupe, dark matter). Several of the categories overlap confusingly; for instance, "sand" and "silt" and "dark matter" are all generally considered as "particles"; "membranes", "edges", and "shawls" are all kinds of "manifolds"; "hooves" are part of "bison"; "fog" contains "water"; and "triangles" consist of three "edges". Another way to interpret this comic is that Randall actually has these items (or at least some of them) in the boxes and has simply forgotten which boxes contain what.
According to the title text, when Randall remembers that he is calling movers, he frantically scribbles "Normal House Stuff" on all the boxes. He says this makes the situation worse, possibly because the movers see the scribble and become suspicious. Alternatively, labeling every box with the exact same phrase will make it even harder to figure out what they contain and where they should go in the new dwelling.
Explanation of boxes
|Grids are mathematical drawings; they would be constructed by drawing them, not stored in a box (though graph paper might be). May refer to a classic snipe hunt where a hazing victim is tasked with finding "a box of grid squares".
|Bison, sometimes mistakenly called buffalo, are large animals that would probably not fit in the box.
|The tabletop gaming boards on which one plays Checkers. It is also the name of the corresponding pattern and thus can be interpreted as an abstract term like many other "objects" in this comic. Note that a checkerboard could be considered a grid.
|Fog is essentially low-lying clouds which, being gaseous, are hard to box using only cardboard.
|Beacons are devices designed to draw attention to themselves, for various reasons. From the generic term "beacon" this could mean anything from electronic GPS locator beacons to miniature replicas of naval lighthouses. Or, alternatively, it could be like what is referenced in the 7th panel of 921: Delivery Notification, which is used to summon elves (which happen to be in the same box).
|Elves are a fictional race (or rather, many, many fictional races) of human-like magical creatures.
|Sand grains are fine particles of rock. While it's not unheard of for people to need to store sand, it's usually not stored along with your personal belongings on moving day.
|Hemoglobin is the protein found in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. This may be a solution of hemoglobin protein, but one human generally would not need a full box of it.
|As with sand, it's not unheard of for, say, a laboratory to store water samples for testing. But again, these wouldn't be stored along with your personal belongings on moving day. And if this is meant to be drinking water, it would be a waste of effort; it's taken as read that any house you're moving into has its own plumbing. Unless, of course, they insist on drinking bottled water (which some people do).
|Hooves are possibly best known as horse and cow 'feet'. This could also be read as a compound word, Water-Hooves akin to water-wings.
|Also known as Waders, these are an order of birds that wade in literal waters. Stuffing them in boxes would also be a bad idea.
|This could mean anything from cooking oil to petroleum; either way, most of a box full of oil bottles is unusual, but for different reasons (that's a lot of cooking oil, a lot of motor oil and a comically small amount of crude oil).
|Vectors are properties with magnitude and direction, such as velocity, momentum, acceleration, etc., but can depend on the context. In any situation, they are not physical objects, so they cannot be put in boxes. Alternatively "vector" could mean a carrier of a disease, such as ticks or mosquitoes, but while more possible to box they would still not be practical to keep with common household goods and the intent of moving them as such would be dubious at best.
|Material between sand and clay size-wise. A sediment. See sand and water above for why this is unusual. Randall has a special place in his heart for rock particles of various sizes; see What If #83.
|Delicate thin pliable sheet or skin of various kinds. Usually fragile or cut easily. Not something you would expect to be packed with something sharp, which shards are likely to be, although these labels are incorrect.
|These are broken pieces of smooth and hard objects, e.g. ceramic, glass, crystal. Something you would normally expect to be thrown out, rather than packed up for moving house.
|Shawls are a simple item of clothing, worn loosely over one's shoulders. Also being of rectangular shape, they are supposed to be worn in colder weather.
|Glucose is possibly best-known as the sugar plants produce for energy, but can be manufactured.
|A kit is any set of tools, supplies, and/or instructions for a specific purpose. These could be first aid kits, software development kits, bomb-making kits, sewing kits... It can also refer to juveniles of some mammals, such as foxes or rabbits (it is not very likely that such animals would be packed in a box - though compare 325: A-Minus-Minus). Alternatively, this may be a compound word "Glucose Kits", diabetic assay tools to help the patient regulate their blood sugar.
|Fire hydrants are likely too big to fit in boxes and are also simply odd objects to be packing into a box.
|As almost all matter is composed of particles, it is hard to find exceptions. Thus, this is very vague.
|Knots are things tied in ropes; they can hold things or just be there. This would be hard to put in a box without rope. Could also refer to knots in a piece of wood, which are hard to put in the box without the rest of the wood. Knots could also refer to the unit of speed, usually used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation which would be impossible to box as it is not a physical object.
|Graphite is a crystalline form of carbon, where the atoms are arranged in sheets. It is found in some household products (pencils and lubricant oil), though in either case the name of the end product would be a more likely box label. Graphite is also a color.
|Taupe is a dark tan color in between brown and gray, again, not an object. May be a reference to Gliese 581f (a.k.a. Taupe Mars) from xkcd #1253.
|This could refer to field lines as used to depict electromagnetic fields, or possibly to the lines painted on an athletic field to mark the boundaries of play. The former is a visualization tool rather than physical objects; the latter consists of streaks of paint on grass or artificial turf, and thus neither kind of field line is the kind of physical object that could be packed into a box.
|May be a reference to 'My house is full of traps' from What-If #34
|An edge is a line segment joining two vertices. Even though physical objects do have edges, you cannot store edges themselves as they are just mathematical constructs.
|Tribe is a social group of people, tribes existed before states were formed. It is impossible to store a group of people in the box.
|Dough is a thick, malleable, sometimes elastic, paste made out of any grains, leguminous or chestnut crops. It is used in the process of cooking, but it doesn't make sense to pack it while moving.
|Dark matter is what is believed to be a big part of the mass of galaxies, but we have never observed it, so it is not possible to pack it. Alternatively, if all dark matter were permanently packed in boxes like this, it would explain why it has never been observed. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of the uncertainty principle, dark matter may both be in the box and somewhere else in the universe until somebody opens the box.
|In topology, Manifolds are spaces with certain "nice" properties (i.e. they are locally Euclidean). This is yet another mathematical construct that is impossible to pack into a box. Manifold could also refer to a pipe or chamber branching into several openings, for example, an engine exhaust manifold. While physical, it's unlikely that multiple are put in a box for moving.
|Within the context of this comic, the reference is likely to the shape. On the other hand, it would not be unusual to pack one or more triangles into a box.
|Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation that forms in wetland bogs, moors, mires, and swamps.
|These may be royal crowns or may be the coin worth five shillings in UK pre-decimal currency.
|A scroll is a roll of papyrus, paper, or parchment that contains writing. It is a common item in fantasy games (as elves and traps).
- [A bunch of cardboard boxes stacked up, each labeled]
- [Caption below the panel:]
- I always forget to label my moving boxes until they're sealed up and I've forgotten what's in them.