Monday, March 17, 2014


Book of I by Dan Waber
(logolalia, Lancaster, PA and Hong Kong, 2013)

The U.S. National Debt by Dan Waber
(logolalia, Lancaster, PA and Hong Kong, 2013)

Teaching myself how to use Processing's and Processing.js' PDF features (wow, super easy), I whipped up a visual representation of a million. Ever seen a million of anything? Want to? This is a link to a PDF file (117MB) with a million instances of letter "i". It's also interesting to note that my computer was able to create this file in about two and a half minutes. Pretty fast for a million! So then I thought (in my very human inability to imagine very large numbers) I could make The Book of I that has one "i" for every person on the planet. Hah, yeah right. Here's the math on that.

One million took 150 seconds and made a file 224 pages long, that was 117 megabytes in size. The population of the USA is around 314 million as of July 4, 2012. That took my computer a little over 13 hours to produce. The file was 70,336 pages long and about 36GB in size. To do the full Book of I would mean approximately 7,080,000,000 instances of the letter "i", which would take my computer 295 hours (that's 12.29 days for those of you keeping score at home), and would generate a file of 1,585,920 pages that would be around 828GB. Anybody want to download an almost Terabyte-sized PDF file? 

Didn't think so. But it did give me some real insight into the size of our National Debt, currently 16.8 trillion (world population is 7.08 billion, a trillion is a thousand billion). If I were to do a single letter "i" for every dollar of the US National Debt that would be a PDF 3,763,200,000 pages long, 1830.61 TB in size, and would take my computer almost 80 years to generate.

As a result, both books -- the full Book of I and The U.S. National Debt are invisible in reality and exist only in theory. 

Dan Waber is a poet, playwright, publisher, and multimedia artist whose work is almost always language-based. A web search on his name (in quotes) will produce a veritable cornucopia of literary oddments, amusements, and geegaws. Things he’s made have landed themselves in The Art of English, The Poet’s Craft, Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 1, Drunken Boat, Iowa Review (Web), in books, broadsides, anthologies and ephemeral publications, in mailboxes, on stage, in a puppet theater, online, on buses, on gallery walls, and at the Library of Congress. He has also written more sestinas than there are particles in the known universe. The hub of his online activities is

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