Morning Explorations, 5 December 2021

It’s interesting to trace a stream of morning activity, if only so that I might be able to get back to sources too briefly examined, and of course it’s useful to dip a toe into the slipstream of my Attention from time to time.

I’ve been reading Mark Arax The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California, on the recommendation of Robert Glennon, and got wondering about all the concrete that went into the aqueducts, then recalled reading a New Yorker article about sand (May 22 2017) … which inevitably led to the google for other bits of the Tale of Sand. Here’s some of what I found:

Silica sands – Supply shortage, 2022 demand outlook

High-quality sand is in short supply

Sand Shortage 2021: Is The World Running Out of Sand?

Sand shortage: The world is running out of a crucial commodity

Sand and Sustainability (pdf of the 2019 UN Environmental Program report)

Vince Beiser – black market sand (author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization, now queued up on the Kindle)

The truth behind stolen beaches and dredged islands

The world is ‘running out of sand’, and it’s fuelling murders, mafias and ecological devastation

The world is running out of sand — there’s even a violent black market for it


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And then along came this: Visualizing the Accumulation of Human-Made Mass on Earth (via Bruce Sterling’s blog)

…the mass embedded in inanimate solid objects made by humans that have not been demolished or taken out of service—which is separately defined as anthropogenic mass waste.

Global Biomass: the dry weight of all life on Earth 1120 Gt

Anthropogenic mass: “everything the human population has created since 1900, to 2020” — 1154 Gt, incremented by 30 Gt/year

549 Gt Concrete
286 Gt Aggregates (clay, sand, gravel)
92 Gt bricks (ca. 15 billion bricks/yr; 85% from Asia
65 Gt Asphalt
39 Gt Metals
23 Gt Other (wood, glass, plastic [8 Gt of that]…)

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…and that led to further exploration of the Visual Capitalist website, which offered Visual Capitalist: Maps, full of enticing rabbit holes…

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And so a bit of cleaning up of recent explorations, consequent upon recent reading of Termination Shock and The Ministry for the Future, it occurred to me to wonder about the current state of The Aleph: an analysis of Borges’ masterpiece

In September 1945, the short story “The Aleph” was published in the Argentine journal “Sur”. It is written by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges to narrate his fictionalized character’s experience as he saw the Aleph, a point in space where all points in the universe can be seen. Reprinted as the title work of Borges’ 1949 collection “The Aleph and Other Stories” … a matter of literary craftsmanship to explore “infinity”. With its varying theme, the literary piece argues that the universe is ineffable, time is inexorable, experiences shape perception and rationality. … According to the narrator, the Aleph is a “small iridescent sphere with unbearable brilliance” where all places on Earth can be seen from every angle without distortion or confusion, simultaneously.

…the Aleph or “Alef” is the Hebrew alphabet’s first letter and in Jewish Kabbalah, it is the “En Soph” that signifies the nameless being called “YHWH” who created the world.
(and/or)
In his first set theory article in 1874, Georg Cantor outlined that the Aleph is the representation of transfinite numbers.

…Aleph is a representation of how unpredictable, indescribable, and unconscious life can be for the human-animal as unseen forces move him/her.

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And quite by chance a couple of links to our sort-of neighbor when we lived in Lexington VA, Sally Mann:

“I Pick Up Whatever’s Around”

and from Fresh Air 2015

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and this, from email from Lapham’s Quarterly:

“What do you know about this business?” the King of Hearts asks Alice during the trial at the end of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “Nothing,” she replies. “That’s very important,” responds the king. The scene continues: ” ‘Unimportant, of course, I meant,’ the king hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, ‘important—unimportant—unimportant—important—’ as if he were trying which word sounded best.

Some of the jury wrote it down “important” and some “unimportant.” Alice could see this, as she was near enough to look over their slates; “but it doesn’t matter a bit,” she thought to herself.

At this moment the king, who had been for some time busily writing in his notebook, cackled out, “Silence!” and read out from his book, “Rule forty-two: All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”

Everybody looked at Alice.

“I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.

“You are,” said the king.

“Nearly two miles high,” added the queen.

“Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,” said Alice, “besides, that’s not a regular rule; you invented it just now.”

“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the king.

“Then it ought to be number one,” said Alice.

The king turned pale and shut his notebook hastily. “Consider your verdict,” he said to the jury in a low, trembling voice.

“No, no!” said the queen. “Sentence first—verdict afterward.”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”

“Hold your tongue!” said the queen, turning purple.

“I won’t!” said Alice.

“Off with her head!” the queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.

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And finally, a very high tide at 11 AM today!

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