This Modern Life

Old Internet Article About the Metric System Nails it

Metric is useful for certain things, but Imperial is more human.

Then I start to realize that for length there is a similar problem in the metric system, in that you can’t divide a meter continuously by 2 without getting fractions. In the English system, the rulers are divided by quarters and eighths and 16ths, but the metric ruler is divided into units of ten, so any fraction of that you just have to guess. It is IMPOSSIBLE to divide a meter by three, because you get 0.333333333 etc meters; using the metric ruler, a third on a metric meter doesn’t exist! So then I start to think, hey, THAT’S why there are 12 inches in a foot, you can divide all sorts of ways, by 2, by 3, by 4, by 6, no problem! Cool!

We have this friend who is a carpenter, and I see him, and I say, “Hey, Freddie, when you have a board a meter long, how do you divide it into 3?” And he sort of gives me a funny look, and says why would he want to do that. And I say, well, “How does that work? Because in the metric system, a third of a meter isn’t marked on your ruler so what do you do? Don’t you ever have a board of one meter that you have to divide by three?” And he says, “No.” And I’m sort of crestfallen, and then he adds, we don’t buy boards by the meter, the standard lengths they sell are in 120 centimeters.

Americans are often castigated for not using the metric system. But we do. Where it’s more useful than the Imperial system. Where it isn’t, we don’t.

The “Dear Burrito Guy” Essay, and Why Irony Does not Translate

Over on Medium, a fellow referring to himself as “Lucky Shirt” (twitter handle, I’m assuming), just penned (it just sounds better than “typed”) an amusing rant about his poorly made burrito.

View profile at Medium.com

It’s funny in that over-the-top-rage way that the Internet loves to love; most of the joke is in how ridiculous it is to summon this much dudgeon over a burrito, while acknowledging that we all get hacked off from time to time at lousy customer service. The rest of the joke is in how wittily he does all that.

But the part that interests me is the appendix, added later:

Angry about the tone of this post?

It was a joke. The tone of it is most of that joke. I would never actually get this angry about anything. I hope nobody would. And it makes me sad that I even have to explain this.

Ah, but you do, good sir. You do.

Because working yourself into a towering rage over something unimportant: people do that. People take to the internet to issue jeremiads over how poorly mixed their smoothies were. It is an assumption to think otherwise.

And the worst of all assumptions is that everyone shares yours.

Irony – and indeed, all humor – is based on shared assumptions of what is rational and what is absurd. None of them are global. All of them are contextual. This is why we say “you had to be there.” This is why gags that tickled your parents’ collective ribs seem utterly tired and lame to you. And it is why the Beastie Boys spent the rest of their career denying that they were anything like the guys in “Fight for Your Right to Party”, to no avail.

This doesn’t mean that people who don’t “get it” are stupid, mind. It just means they aren’t in on the gag. Either because they haven’t been introduced to it, or they are confused by the assumptions inherent therein. So, the more over-the-top your irony, the more obvious it is to you that no one could take this seriously, the more it needs a disclaimer warning against exactly that.

Because IRONY DOES NOT TRANSLATE TO MASS MEDIA. Irony is a wink. Mass media is a bullhorn.

The Passing of a Dog

James Lileks says good-bye to his beloved Jasper, and as someone who still remembers fondly the dog of his youth (McGee, Bane of Moles, Scoffer at Chain-Link Fences), I was moved beyond the capacity to write anything useful in response. And what’s the point anyway? Everyone who’s had a dog understands; no one else could fathom. So I’ll let C.S. Lewis do it for me:

Is that not how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human’: that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end.

Mere Christianity, Chapter 7

Megan McArdle on the Choices Women Make

Good article, as one expects from McArdle, even when you don’t always agree with her. Never having been to business school, nor any kind of school at Harvard, I can’t dispute anything she discusses here.

But on average, the women I talk to just aren’t nearly as willing to sacrifice close friendships, and family relationships, for the sake of their jobs.

We can say that they shouldn’t have to, of course, but the sad fact is that there are trade-offs in this world. In your 20s you can finesse them — work super hard and also have a roaring social life — because you have boundless energy and no one depending on you. This is the age at which young women write furious articles and Facebook posts denouncing anyone who suggests that women opt-out of high pressure jobs for any reason other than the rankest sexism.

As you age, your body refuses to cooperate with your plan to work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and then hang out with friends. Your parents start to need you more, if only to lift heavy things. And of course, there are kids. You start having to make direct trade-offs, and then suddenly you look up and you haven’t seen your friends for two years and your mother is complaining that you never call. This is the age at which women write furious articles defending their decision to step back from a high-pressure job and/or demanding subsidized childcare, generous paid maternity leave and “family friendly policies,” a vague term that ultimately seems to mean that people who leave at five to pick up the kids should be entitled to the same opportunities and compensation as people who stay until 9 to finish the client presentation. These pleas usually end (or begin) by pointing to the family-friendly utopia of Northern Europe, except that women in Europe do less well at moving into high-test management positions. Whatever the government says, someone who takes several years off work is in fact less valuable to their company than someone who doesn’t.

It would be interesting to know where she got the statistic to back up the claim about women in Europe, but otherwise this rings true. And not because it gets men off the hook; real, actual sexism is still out there. But because it’s a simpler explanation than “systematic conspiracy of harassment.” I’ve been working for a long time, and the vast majority of my bosses have been women. Which is pretty well meaningless to me: the boss is the boss. But it can’t be heresy to point out that women differ from men, they tend to value different things, and this tends, in large groups, to lead to different choices and different results.

Now, if you accept that, that men just value “money” and “success” more than women do, one has to wonder: what’s the plan with all that money and success? What’s it for? Obviously, on some level we all — men and women — vie for status in the tribe. But when you hit that status, what’s next? The men McArdle writes of aren’t going to work from 7 to 11 for the rest of their lives, either. They’re eventually going to want a life, a wife, some kids. They’re just going to put if off later, because they can. Which is kind of a flimsy reason, and perhapss self-defeating. When you’re in your 20′s, and your life is chaos, anyway, kids can actually provide some kind of structure, because structure is what they require. Plus, you’ve got the energy to handle it. If a man waits until his late 30′s or beyond to settle down, he’s going to have a harder time adjusting to it not being about him all the time.

Or, maybe he’ll be ready for it. Trade-offs, trade-offs, trade-offs.

When I Drink Whiskey, I Drink Whiskey

Amusing post by the Washington Free Beacon about Why You’re Drinking Whiskey Wrong. What caught my attention was the last bit:

8. It’s fine to shoot flavored whiskey.

If the owner of a whiskey bar thinks it’s OK to take shots of Fireball and honey whiskey, it’s probably OK. “I’m not going to sit with it on the rocks, but it’s just fun to shoot,” Simoneau says.

Look, to each his own and all that. But if you’re shooting these and I catch you do it I’m going to mock you mercilessly and we might stop being friends. You’re not in college any more. Act like a f—ing grownup.

I’m in no position to cast stones, at least insofar as my college years go. I used to mix creme de menthe and milk for God’s sake. I might as well have had footie pajamas on.

Some liquors are meant for mixing. Rum, certainly, and vodka. But whiskey is meant to be enjoyed as whiskey. Cinnamon whiskey is for noobs. Honey whiskey is for teenage noobs. If you want all your alcoholic beverages to taste like candy, there’s a million varieties of marshmallow vodka to appeal to your stunted taste. Stop ruining perfectly good whiskey.

Jagger and the Supremes, Blues on the Scene

What’s all this then?

The Supreme Court trolls us again, with a brace of decisions designed to irritate everyone. First, DOMA gets smacked down, on what seems like a federalism basis, but which Justice Scalia assures is us not. Then, the plaintiffs in California’s Prop 8 case get told they have no standing to sue, and instructs the appelate court to dismiss on that basis.

What else? Mick Jagger, who’s always had an ear to the shifting grounds of cool, announces to the world that it’s now all right to make fun of Obama. Of course, they booed him. The Divinity of Caeser shall not be question.

I don’t care. I’ve joined a gym and put the finishing touches on a novel. Or what seems to be finishing touches. Perfect PDF’s develop errors on the way to the online print-check. You know the drill. This one has been in embryo for a while, has actually been out for notes from various friends in an initial draft form. I’ve reached that delicate point where I am satisfied with it. It is what it is and does what it does. Personally, I think it’s great, and if it sells, there might could be a sequel. Might could.

The Title: Solar System Blues.

Also, enjoy a rather silly track I slapped together with the Yellofier:

That’s all. Enjoy the heat.