The Symbolism Survey

From The Paris Review:

In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?

McAllister had just published his first story, “The Faces Outside,” in both IF magazine and Simon and Schuster’s 1964 roundup of the best science fiction of the year. Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren’t lying beneath the texts they read like buried treasure awaiting discovery.

His project involved substantial labor—this before the Internet, before e-mail—but was not impossible: many authors and their representatives were listed in the Twentieth-Century American Literature series found in the local library. More impressive is that seventy-five writers replied—most of them, in earnest. Sixty-five of those responses survive (McAllister lost ten to “a kleptomaniacal friend”). Answers ranged from the secretarial blow off to a thick packet of single-spaced typescript in reply.

The Sewage Trucks of Dubai

Today I learned all of those huge hotels in Dubai are not connected to any sewage system:

Amazingly, Dubai doesn’t have a sewage infrastructure to support its skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Drivers said they’d been queuing for three days! [watch above video]

Unsurprising then, that many dump their loads into storm drains that lead directly to the open sea. Tourists are warned of the risk of contracting serious illnesses like typhoid and hepatitis if swimming on Dubai beaches. Wikipedia on sanitation in Dubai.

When I saw the Burj Khalifa in real life I was truly stunned. The tallest skyscraper in the world defies belief. Today I learned something that also defies belief: all the poop produced there has to be removed by trucks.Let’s do the math here. The Burj Khalifa has 163 habitable floors. It’s designed to hold 35,000 people at any given time. Now, humans produce 100 to 250 grams (3 to 8 ounces) of feces per day. Let’s say 200 in this case, since these people are well fed. That’s 7,000,000 grams per day. Seven tonnes of poop per day. Now, add human-produced liquids (pee, bathing, cleaning their teeth…) and the water to push the poop down its miles of sewage pipes. I think a very conservative total would be 15 tonnes of sewage per day.