It's worth fighting about tiny things


My wife and I recently took a vacation to an idyllic small town in Florida, where all troubles vanish and it seemed there wasn't a problem in the world. However, the local newspaper described a community that was distraught with an issue that pitted neighbor against neighbor.  The past few winter’s tides had eroded the beach and expensive new sand was being imported to replace (“nourish”) what had washed away. When we arrived, the planned sand was part of the land.

But their soil was spoiled and the community was roiled.  Apparently there is an enormous difference in quality between grains of sand of .25 microns versus those of .29 microns. The debate raged; the sand was evaluated by no fewer than six consultants and sub-consultants.  Said the Town Council President, “Test results… at the State Department of Environmental Protection... show the mean grain size... exceeds regulatory permit requirements.”*  State Department – EPA – Presidents – Sub-consultants – WOW! – I needed to see for myself. I streaked to the beach in question.  Would I notice mean grain size differences?  As a visitor, could I speak my mind?

Damned if I'm spammed – this man's a bland sand fan!  

I definitely felt differences in the replacement sand.  And as a tactile tester of textiles, I realized that sand and fabric are similar in a key way:  a small, teeny difference adds up to be hugely noticeable when the differences are multiplied millions or billions of times.  A sheet is noticeably different (and the differences can be tested) when it’s yarns are a few percent finer, or woven a few percent tighter, or washed a few percent longer at a few percent hotter temp.  Small differences add up.  Miniscule measurements matter.

As I returned to my luxurious vacation percales, I realized our sensitive skin is registering zillions of tiny differences all night long.  (In the textile trade, we summarize these differences in describing the "hand" of a fabric.)  So, like sheets, I can say that sand has a hand – and bland sand is grand!
* Grain Expectations: New sand is up to par (Palm Beach Daily News, April 17, 2015)



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