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Today’s post is brought to you by the number 25.4

I’m amazed at the way people get strung out over units of measurement. I regularly swap between inch and metric sometimes even within a project, I have swapped units on a dro on a mill when I was doing a specific bolt circle. This is not complex. Good machinists do this all the time. Tool and die makers very often receive prints that have enchant metric dimensions. When I was the owner of an old school Land Rover I often had to deal with inch metric and Whitworth form at the same time as well.

The imperial system is very organic and grew up as a very organic system. The finer the dimensions had to be the more accurate the measurement devices had to be. When you’re making a piece of furniture and you need something to be a little over 14 inches but not quite 15 in there’s 14 and 1/2 in. When you find that it needs to be a little over 14 and 1/2 but not quite 15 that’s 14 and 3/4. This kind of insanity went as far as 64th but below that it’s almost impossible to read on any kind of a ruler. At this level of precision people needed something a little tighter and people made dividing engines capable of providing very fine accuracy. Somebody determined that if you can accurately cut a thread that has 40 threads per inch, each full revolution of that thread equals 0.025″, and the micrometer was born. Divide the symbol of that micrometer into 25 equal divisions and you can very accurately measure to a thousandth of an inch.

The origin of the imperial system? Yeah it was completely arbitrary. But once it was established it became a reference of course. And people stuck with that reference. This meant that everybody could do the same thing and get the same work done.

There’s no question the imperial system is more complex. But our brains adapt relatively easily to complex systems.

The metric system was intended to be a more logical system – and it is. But it is no less arbitrary in its origin. Originally the meter was defined as one ten millionth of the distance between the equator and the North Pole on a line drawn through Paris.

Okay tell me who has a tape measure that long so they can actually measure that and figure out what that distance is. I’ll wait.

The answer of course is nobody. You can’t physically measure that, you can pretty accurately approximate it, this is what geometry and mathematics are for, however it’s based on the idea that the Earth is a perfect sphere and it’s not. And the idea that doesn’t change and plate tectonics tells you that it does. And oh let’s back up a second.

Earth.

This dimension is only meaningful on earth. This dimension has no meaning for anybody else anywhere else. If aliens come and land on our planet they are not going to be using metric measurements because metric measurements rely on distances established on this planet. The same is true of our temperature measurement. Fahrenheit was supposed to be a measurement of human body temperature with 96 being the norm as measured-get this-by a thermometer stuck under fahrenheit’s wife’s armpit. The story I heard was that when that temperature was established Fahrenheit’s wife had been ill and had a lower body temperature. Which is why the body temperature is more like 98. Fahrenheit incidentally established zero as the temperature it took to melt ice in a bath of water using salt.

Yes these are odd and seemingly quite arbitrary measurements but they are or at least within the ability of his experimentation seems to be repeatable.

Celsius, or Centigrade (which literally means 100 graduations)
Attempts to clean this messy system up by establishing a scale that is 100° between the freezing point and boiling point of water.

At sea level

On Earth.

Once again we are establishing a measurement that can only really be reproduced on this planet and even then under only certain circumstances.

We cannot claim to have established a universal measurement when that universal measurement relies on features and conditions that can only exist on a specific planet in a specific solar system in a specific Galaxy in a specific universe.

And this is as exactly true of the metric system as it is of the imperial system. It is based on completely arbitrary measurements. The idea that the length of a royals pedal extremity is any less arbitrary than an imaginary measurement that can never be physically verified is ludicrous. Once that number is nailed down and a standard is established it works fine but the origin is still arbitrary. This is so much the case that at one point they had physically measured that the American inch was 25.4000508 mm long, but just decided to truncate that to 25.4 because it was easier. So there’s how important your sacred metric system is, they rounded it off for convenience.

No if you are going to establish a meaningful system of measurement, you’re going to have to do so based on things that should theoretically be the same anywhere in the universe regardless of location. We do maybe have one of those numbers although I’m not enough of a physicist to be sure of this. That is 0° kelvin. Absolute zero. The coldest any shit can ever get. And we have another one of those numbers although again I’m not enough of a physicist to know how accurate this is but I would suggest that the temperature at which a fusion reaction takes place is a potentially meaningful standard. The current measurements of temperature are based on human experience. Even that is arbitrary. Nailing down a temperature scale that goes from absolute zero to the temperature of nuclear fusion is arbitrary only in that it exists in this universe. And should theoretically be the same at all points in the universe.

We also know the speed of light. So the scale from no motion to the speed of light is another non-arbitrary scale that we can establish.

Having a meaningful scale for temperature and a meaningful scale for distance we can extrapolate other things. We have the ability to measure the vibration of a hydrogen atom and if we know what that frequency is we can say to ourselves, we are going to establish as a measurement of time, a round number of vibrations of the hydrogen atom. Let’s call it 1,000 vibrations of the hydrogen atom is the new second. And the new measurement of distance is the distance light travels in that second. Start that as a whole number and divided into pieces like the meter is. Then take those numbers and use them to extrapolate all of the other dimensions.

I sometimes feel there is a good deal of science especially physics that is hiding from us because we have settled ourselves with these arbitrary and frankly archaic measurement systems. I always wonder if we managed to establish a measurement system based on the laws of physics and not completely arbitrary BS that we have made up that pieces would fall into place and a lot more things would make sense. But I’m just a guy yapping on the internet. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain who is telling you that the metric system is the superbest.

Welcome to stupidity land

The lesser of two evils is still evil!

If you ever wondered what it was that was the dumbest thing a human being could say this is probably it. Certainly it’s in the top 10.

This was something that was commonly applied to Trump but also I remember people saying this thing about Bush.

Listen people if your candidate is not actually Jesus Christ then he’s still evil or capable of it. So if you voted libertarian because it was a better choice than Trump, you have defined ignorance.

In elections no matter what they are you have to vote for the best choice. Every best choice is a compromise. It is not particularly difficult to make that best choice, you need to select the candidate that most represents the values you share and it needs to be somebody who has enough support to actually win the election. Your aunt Mabel might be the best possible president of the United States but let’s face it she’s not going to get elected. Neither is in any libertarian candidate probably not in our lifetimes anyway. and that’s a really good thing.

Let’s talk for a minute about why that is a good thing. In order to be a candidate for election, it’s necessary to be a lot of things. For the president you’re supposed to be a natural born American citizen.

There are other qualifications for other offices, there are qualifications that change from district to district and area to area. But most likely the most important qualification is, you must be a human being.

The moment a human being gets elected to public office the opportunities for corruption and destruction of his character are very common and very frequent. To imagine that a libertarian party candidate would never succumb to the opportunities presented by public service is to presume that the candidate is superhuman in his integrity. Let me assure you whoever it is they are not.

Oh sure you might be able to point to a specific example and say this person or that person has not outwardly a succumbed to anything but you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors anymore than I do. And I can pretty well assure you that even the best intentioned electors are going to elect human beings who are by their nature flawed. Can we choose less flawed people? Certainly. But we have to nominate them first. And if we intend to get them elected we have to do so within the obviously rigged and flawed system. Those who are going to survive that rigged and flawed system are going to be people who are flawed themselves in very specific and interesting ways. Deal with it. You can disagree but you’re wrong.

Here’s the simple fact. People are flawed because humans are flawed by their very nature. It is impossible to choose anything but the lesser of two evils unless one of the available candidates is Jesus Christ. Perspective alone allows intelligent people to realize you make the best choice. Stupid people say shit like the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Political parties in this country probably began as people with legitimate attitudes about specific things that presented alternatives to the voting public. It does not take much reading of History to realize that no matter how good a candidate or a group of candidates was a very rapidly devolved into the power and influence and money seeking people we have today. We may be at a higher level of that now but it is same as it ever was. I’ve actually heard people talk about the stupid party the evil party and the free cake and ice cream party, as if somehow libertarianism was some magical thing that was going to fix everything in the world. The people who would say something like this have no actual understanding of human nature because it is a foregone conclusion that the only reason the libertarian party has not abused the reins of power is because they have not had them in there. And the mass of the libertarian types have exactly the same Battle cry as the commies. It hasn’t been tried yet! Thank god. I cannot imagine living in a world where libertarianism holds sway it is, for anybody who can think, a horrendous nightmare for the human race. If you’re anxious to explain to me why I am wrong, you demonstrate the facts of why I am right. For communism or libertarianism or anyism to work it requires one simple thing and that is not better organization or better control or better candidates it requires improved human beings. We are not likely to get that anytime soon. We can point to small. In time where many human beings were better than a lot of them are now, but those are anomalies. Yes there is a higher likelihood of more moral and more decent people if they are educated more thoroughly and grow up surrounded by an atmosphere of decency and morality, but even innocent and Simon pure Beaver cleaver had Eddie Haskell.

Our founders got some things wrong, but they weren’t to know. They lived in a time where a man’s word was his bond as a general rule and they expected people to act responsibly which is always disappointing. There are a few things that they got very right, and one of those things is the rule of law; the idea that the same laws apply in the same manner to everyone. There have been stumbling blocks on our way to where we are but the rule of law is really the most sacred principle and the further we deviate from it the worse our nation becomes. That people can do things now without consequences is our biggest problem. That there are sheltered groups of people you are protected from the consequences of their actions is horrendous.

Instead of trying to create another party of what will always end up being the same old same old, instead of trying to abandon the system thinking that somehow or another it will just fix itself if you do, instead of fantasizing that flawed people can be moral and effective servants of the public, the critical path is to return to a state of accountability. Politicians under the lens of scrutiny will hopefully be less likely to stray from their mission. Individuals removed from the protected classes will certainly be less likely to misbehave if the consequences for their behavior are returned to the table.

You’re not going to fix the human race by putting more humans in charge. It’s just not going to work that way. And no matter what human you choose they’re going to be flawed. And if you have some bizarre and twisted fantasy that makes you think that a specific group of humans are going to be better than other groups of humans have been in the past I’m confident that the right type of therapy and possibly medication will be able to help you.

I’ve become a literary hermit

Just about 23 years ago I met somebody in real life that I had met online for the first time possibly a year earlier. We became pretty decent friends. He had a storied military career and a lot of legitimately interesting and personal experiences. He was great at telling stories about them and most of them were fascinating to me. I got to meet him and his girlfriend/later wife because I happen to be doing a job in the area and it was convenient to visit with him.

We stayed in contact for a long time and it was an enjoyable correspondence for us both I feel.

So nobody was happier than I to discover that he had written his first book. I could not wait to put my hands on a copy and read it. He was actually kind enough to send me an autographed first impression, and I literally took a day off work to sit down and concentrate on reading the book.

I read a great deal, and I approached this with a completely open mind and also a clear impression of who he was and what kind of storyteller he was.

By the second chapter my disillusionment was pretty much complete. I slogged my whole way through this book hoping that at some point the sparkling conversationalist I knew would shine through, or that the fictional story would begin to have the wonderful flavor of his real life experiences but nothing like this ever happened. It was poorly written, it was poorly edited. The plot was poorly constructed and predictable, and the book was scattered with little vignettes of which each was its own little self-contained disaster of mediocrity.

He called me a couple days later and asked me if I had enjoyed it. I made excuses that I had gotten very busy at work and had not been able to even crack the book open. Eventually he stopped contacting me and I stopped talking to him all together.

This is a disappointment to me in a number of ways. First because I myself lacked the conviction to be honest about my feelings about what he had written. I didn’t have any desire to harm him or cast aspersion on his work.

Second because somebody who I knew to be an excellent storyteller told a story that frankly was unreadable.

Third because I lost a valued friend.

As a result of this specific experience I have a kind of a personal problem. I have any number of friends and acquaintances who have made the effort to write what by all accounts are excellent stories. And I am unable to read them. I am fairly confident that at least in a couple of cases these are well written and wonderful works. But I cannot bring myself to take the chance on losing another friend because I cannot face them after having read what they wrote and not liked it.

It isn’t as if I set a particularly high bar. I have read and even enjoyed the Wayfarer by Dennis Schmidt, possibly the most horrible science fiction novel ever inked on paper.
So I can enjoy just about anything. But I value friendships as much as I value honesty and if I read something somebody had written and found once again that it was horrible I would stop talking to them all together rather than be honest with them about what I felt for fear of hurting their feelings.

This is in some ways a real tragedy because I feel that I may be missing some really great reading because of this wall I have built for myself.

I’m not going to take a chance though because the friendships I have hold a value to me that I am not willing to easily relinquish.

So if you have written something and I have not read it, this is why. Please do not take it personally, it is a failing of mine and not yours.

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