August 11, 2013

The metrication complication

PEOPLE KEEP ASKING ME to explain the metric system to them, especially as it relates to boats. Well, actually, that’s not quite true.  Only one person has asked me to explain the metric system, and that request was in no way related to boats.

So, you may well ask, why should I devote a column to the metric system when I should be writing about boats? The answer is simple.  Most people who like to read about boats don’t necessarily want to read about boats only.  Sometimes they also want to read about beer or sex or other interests that engage their active minds, including the metric system.

It so happens that I have had years of experience explaining the metric system to newspaper readers, in a biased sort of way.  I make no bones about it.  I don’t like it, and as a columnist I tried to get it banned. I was not successful and that did not make me happy.  I still harbor a grudge against the authorities, the governments and scientific bodies, who thwarted my gallant efforts.

Nevertheless, and I say this with a heavy heart, there are occasions when the intricacies of the metric system need to be translated for the benefit of Americans who have so far avoided contamination by this frivolous method of measuring one thing against another.

So here, for the benefit of those who are luckily not conversant with Le Système International d’Unités , are a few sample conversions that will explain why I spent all that time and effort trying to stamp it out:

Ø  1 Mainsail foot = 5 metric toes

Ø  1 Yardarm = 3 footarms

Ø  1 Backyard = 36 back inches

Ø  1,000 Catalina 30s = 30 megayachts

Ø  1 Inchworm = 2.54 centipedes

Ø  8 Dry pints = 1 parched gallon

Ø  1 Microchip = 2/3 French fry

Ø  1 Foot pound = 16  kilosandals

Ø  1 Lady Giga = 0.5 tinaturners

Ø  1 Fluid Oz = 6 sober Poms

Ø  1,000 painful rpm = 1 hertz-like-crazy

Ø  454 Grams = One pound of grampas

And for the benefit of those of you who are wondering if I’m off my meds again, let me say no, I’m not.  It’s the hot weather. And the beer. And the stupid metric system.

Today’s Thought
 We have become a people unable to comprehend the technology we invent.
— Association of American Colleges, Integrity in the College Curriculum, NY Times, 11 Feb 85

“You really have an outstanding intellect,”  the lawyer told the witness in a fit of sarcastic exasperation.
“I’m sorry I’m under oath,” replied the witness, “otherwise I’d say the same for you.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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