# My commitment to being boring is unflagging

Teaching is done for the day. All student appointments cleared from my calendar. Next up: I have to polish up another exam I’m handing out in intro bio tomorrow, prepare a little learning exercise for the students, and then dive back into grading exams and lab reports.

But first! The sun is shining, it’s 17°C out there, and I’m going for a walk. I’ll probably come back. Probably. That pile of papers will just draw me back, I’m sure.

Of course, if I find a big colony of spiders I might instead turn feral and move in with them.

1. fergl says

Your a good man Charlie Brown.

2. dorght says

Wow 17°C not 63°F. Has Minnesota become the bellwether of modernization and finally gone metric? If so I hope the trend spreads rapidly and puts the coup de grâce to the antiquated imperial system.
I wonder how much of metric anxiety by the US population is caused by the majority of teaching involving converting between systems rather than just getting people adapted to measuring everything in sensible units?

3. blf says

@2, Here it’s 12℃ & cloudy with a thunderstorm warning, or 16℃ & cloudy, depending on the weather app — at c.21h30 (South of France). As far as I work out, neither app uses an immediately-local station for reporting, which has always stuck me as a bit odd since the village is a Mediterranean harbour and so surely must have a station.

Amyways… re “I wonder how much of metric anxiety by the US population is caused by the majority of teaching involving converting between systems rather than just getting people adapted to measuring everything in sensible units?”
Good question !
I was educated in the States, and whilst I did learn the metric system in science classes (mostly, as I now recall), pre-University, it did always strike me as the conversion teaching rather missed the point. Indeed, when I returned to Europe, it was fairly easy (for me) to “fall into” using metric without trying to convert, to the point now where — with one exception — I’ve been known to fumble around trying to understand what such-and-so “imperial” units is (notwithstanding the additional confusion of USAian and British measures sometimes being different or even unknown (unique, like stones)).

That one exception is I still have is — weirdly — a problem guessing-by-eye a few number of centimetres (up to perhaps 0,5 metre). No idea why. My guesses in inches are better, but I suspect that’s because the “4in = one hand” rule-of-thumb works well for me. My mental conversion cm↔in is weak, but (excepting km↔statute miles)† is about the only one I can now do.

It should also be noted the official US Metric Board — long since disbanded — was basically useless. There is also a US Metric Association — which I didn’t even know existed until checking this comment, sort-of suggesting they are also useless, or at least, to-date, ineffectual.

† Many yonks ago in teh “U”K, I was asked to provide a distance for compensation purposes. So I sent the value in kilometres. I got back a note saying please use normal units. I replied with the distance in Roman miles using a favourable-to-me modern estimate of its length. From possibly faulty memory, I pointed out this was about as “traditional” or “normal” as one get, predating the Jutes, Normans, and Vikings. (I don’t now recall now the “dispute” was settled, other than receiving the compensation.)

4. Tethys says

That sounds like a great plan. The sun feels fantastic, the birds are singing, and it is very enjoyable to get outdoors after the last few weeks of cold and dreariness.

I have a pair of Pholcid spiders in between my kitchen window and the exterior storm window. The presumptive male has spent about ten minutes approaching the presumptive female. When he got close enough to touch her he stopped and carefully cleaned several of his legs and feet before gingerly proceeding to make contact. She shifted to present her back, and for the past several minutes they are sitting motionless, touching one leg almost as if they are holding hands. I would happily give them to you, as they will be getting evicted when I can finally get the annual window washing done.

5. PaulBC says

blf@3 Metric length, weight, and volume are intuitive to me. They are widely used on food packages, for one thing. Sometimes I need to do a mental conversion, like from floor area. I can picture 100 sq. ft., but 9 m^2 just seems way too small even for a jail cell, even though it’s about the same with rounding.

I lived in Europe for a year and tried to get accustomed to Celsius. It never really took. Instead of using the formula, I used 10C=50F as a landmark and went up or down by 10 and 18 respectively. Since translation isn’t really the point, I tried to imagine it: 0: wear a coat, 10: a light jacket, 20: long sleeves, 30: short sleeves, 40: even Baltimore almost never gets that hot. It was never really intuitive though.

Then I moved back to the US and got annoyed at the effort I had gone to for nothing.

6. blf says

[I]f I find a big colony of spiders I might instead turn feral and move in with them.

Considering that most humans are rather larger (dimensions and mass) than most spiders, shouldn’t that be a “colony of big spiders”? Or is this a plan for a Gulliver’s Travels situation (Lilliput or Brobdingnag?)?

7. PaulBC says

Or is this a plan for a Gulliver’s Travels situation (Lilliput or Brobdingnag?)?

I’m picturing PZ bound like Gulliver, except by spiders with silk threads. Anyone up for fan art? (Sadly, I lack the skills.)

8. ANB says

Apropos of nothing, I just got a new job and a nice place to live on the Mendocino coast to live. You’re welcome to visit. Yeah, rubbing it in, but the offer is sincere. And I’m an educator, so, summer.

We have spiders too.

9. PaulBC says

ANB@9 Lucky you! The Mendocino coast is incredible if you can actually find a job there. It’s one of my favorite parts of California.

10. birgerjohansson says

…So P Z is unlikely to be accepted as a member of Pet Shop Boys.*
(you need to be of a certain age to get the joke).
* But he has more hair left, so screw them.

11. Pierce R. Butler says

PaulBC @ # 5: … Celsius… never really took.

Most other measures are arbitrary-according-to-purpose, but temperature is ambient.

Daniel Fahrenheit reportedly took his new invention, the thermometer, to someplace as cold in the winter as he could get (Denmark? Sweden?), and made a little mark on the tube at the lowest it reached. In the summer he went to the hottest place readily accessible to a European Christian circa 1700, namely Sicily, and made another little mark at the peak temp.

Voilà! Interpolate a scale of 100 degrees, and you have a human-relevant framework much more relevant to human life than the boiling/freezing points of water. Alas, the French Academy worked under a mandate to produce measurement systems unlike any already existent, so human-scaled divisions all had to go.

12. DLC says

Temperature in Celsius x 9 divided by 5 plus 32. 10C x9 = 90. 90/5 = 18; 18+32= 50. it’s a bit laborious but not hard if you remember. Perhaps some generation after mine will do deg C without having to worry about clunky Fahrenheit conversions.