January 21st, 2005

krazy koati

Surrounded by stories surreal and sublime

I engage in many strange behaviors and have to guess later at my motivations. For whatever reason I decided to take all the books in my apartment and pile them up. I think I was curious how big a pile I could make. I knew it would be taller than I am, but how much -- would it reach the ceiling and if so, how many times? My estimate is two and a half times. The far right piles are all Peanuts. There's a few books not pictured because they were in my office, and I don't include the comics, and all the stuff (the overwhelming majority) in storage on another continent is obviously excluded.

The goal to make a single pile was foiled by a curious phenomenon: a pile of paperback books is reasonably stable up to about four or five feet high, but in the next foot it suddenly becomes very unstable, prone to tipping over without provocation. I'd love to figure out the dynamics; obviously some eigenvalue passes a critical value. I don't know the limit for hardcovers; I've got so many different sizes I probably couldn't make a fair experiment. I think I'm going to rationalize this behavior by attributing it to spring cleaning. I did get to clean out the study and throw away a lot of junk.

Trivia: Five trading ships sailed from the United States to China in 1787. Source: A Pocket History of the United States, Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager.

Currently Reading: The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune, Richard Kluger.