11 August 2010


Just a random thing that came up in today's web-surfing: Some children produce vaguely letter-like symbols before they learn to write properly. Here is a Google search that produces various articles which mention this phenomenon: children+pseudowriting

01 August 2010

systems of measurement

begin rant

On the net one often encounters people who advocate preserving and revitalizing endangered languages, but who advocate abolishing the colorful Anglo-American system of measurements and replacing it with the metric system.

I submit for your consideration the idea that these are contradictory wishes. If we should help the Lakota people, for example, keep their language and culture alive, why should we fight the American people who want to keep inches, Fahrenheit and pounds alive? You cannot drive in two directions at once. Either you are in favor of letting localities keep their own culture, or you are in favor of a dumbed-down Euros and kilometers culture for all 7 billion of us everywhere including those in orbit.

By the way, the strongest argument in favor of keeping pounds and ounces, inches and feet, is the very argument often brought up in opposition to them: the math is harder. Yes, it's harder to add seven and seven eighths inches plus two and a third feet, THANK GOD. Stop thinking about sex and TV and Facebook for a minute and use your f--king brain for something other than a head-implosion-preventing placeholder.

end rant

For con-culturing I like to think of units of measurement based on things that are readily available. Why not a unit of length based on the height of the average human adult, and a unit of liquid volume based on average bladder capacity? And naturally these units have to be subdivided into halves, quarters, 8ths and so forth, rather than 10ths. When you are out in the real world it is much easier to fold a piece of paper into equal halves and quarters, than it is to fold it into 10 equal parts. And if you know that piece of paper is 1/6 of a human-height length-unit tall, you can use it to measure things.

Likewise you can divide a quantity of liquid into halves by pouring it alternately into two equal-size containers. Easier than dividing it into 10ths. You see, 8ths and 16ths are natural, like tropical rainforests and dolphins. Units that divide into 10ths are unnatural, like coal-burning power plants and nuclear weapons.