Jon Pratt this week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Today in Paris, the kilogram will be redefined in terms of the some universal constants instead of a chunk of metal kept under (several) glass jars. Its a bit step forward and one that future proofs the measurement.
For those that use imperial measures, there will be change soon as well. Under the 1957 US-UK “Greenwich protocol on weights and measures” the imperial foot has been defined based on the size of the King of England’s feet. However as the UK currently does not have a King they default to using a measurement based on the size of the US President’s feet (the idea that there would be a reigning queen in Britain and simultaneously a female president being preposterous).
Early in his first term Donald Trump had his feet measured to set the new standard for the foot (which incidentally shrunk a bit as his feet, like his hands, were smaller than average).
On the death of his mother, one of (King) Charles first tasks will be to take off his shoes and socks to be measured, and allow this important standard to be reclaimed by Great Britain from the USA.
As I Iook at the collapse of the UKs credibility and reputation as a result of the shambles that is Brexit one of the things I would get most angry about is that these shameless manipulators will dodge most of the responsibility to the harm they have done.
One of my guilty pleasures is reading reviews of really bad films. It can be fun to see professional reviews unload in as inventive a way as possible to describe the steaming heaps of manure they were forced by their jobs to give up some hours of their life to.
But I think that pales in comparison to the invective written about Brexit. Anyone with more than a passing knowledge of reality can see how much of a catastrophe this is – a really bad idea to start with, now being executed with jaw dropping incompetence. It’s small comfort as we approach the catastrophe, but stuff like this does bring a little smile to my face.
This is one of the coolest maps that floats around on the internet. It get re-tweeted and shared regularly.
It shows the parts of Ireland and the UK that pronounce scone to rhyme with “cone” and those that pronounce it to rhyme like “gone” (the poor deluded fools).
IMHO this has to be the pinnacle of the internet. But it rarely gets a citation for where it came from. I discovered that it is from a University of Cambridge study on the decline of regional dialects. There are a few interesting things in there including – like differences in pronouncing the “r” in “arm” exactly correspond to the Scottish-English border. The researchers reckon they can place where you are in the UK to within 35 miles based on how you pronounce certain words.
For me the main use of the excellent “scone” map is to identify where to prioritise the location of the compulsory re-education camps for when I come to power. Together we will end the use use of the blasphemous “gone” pronunciation.
It is a (lengthy but) amusing video about how Apple gets away with manufacturing defects that other laptop makers would not. And worse their customers excuse them and then keep paying the premium for these poor experiences.
I have been using a MacBook almost exclusively as my work machine for about 6 months now. A later post will talk about how that has gone for me. Right now though I want to talk about “The Apple Test” – my way of deciding whether it is worth your while having a debate with someone.
The test came about when I was having a chat over a beer with a long time Apple product user. It was good natured, but the guy, who did not have a technical background, didn’t accept my technical explanations for why other products might be better. Eventually I asked him:
“What would it take to change your opinion of Apple stuff”
His response was that there was nothing that would change his mind.
That is when I realised I was wasting my time. If your position is that no argument will change your opinion, then you are a zealot. And it is pretty pointless engaging such people in a debate.
I now use the same standard with a lot of other discussions. Lets say I have someone strongly attached a a position e.g. Trump, Global Warming is a hoax, Brexit. Rather than butt heads trying to shift the immovable – ask them the question – what is the thing that might change your mind?
Worst case they will make it obvious you are wasting your time having a discussion with them.
Best case they will have a think themselves about what it would be. And then maybe they will be more open to persuasion?
Rather than come across all holier-than-thou I accept I am as bad as the next person. There is a strong instinct to reflexively reject an argument that is against a position they you hold strongly. Ask yourself the same question from time to time – what would change my position?
And the other important thing is – be open to shifting what you think. It is important you do this regularly. It is a sign that you are receptive to different opinions, different evidence. You want to find the best answers.
Here is a question for you. What is the last thing you changed your mind on? 🙂
I have a confession. I have a twitter crush on Dr GIllian Kenney aka MedievalGill. She is one of a number of historians I follow there – probably an expression of my thwarted desire to be a historian. She specialises in “medieval sex magic women” (her description). I have not read her academic work, but her presence on Twitter is a joy.
The reason I am mentioning her now is because I was reminded about one of her pieces of writing from the time of the Irish gay marriage referendum. Back then (summer 2015) she was annoyed by all the people talking about “traditional marriage” in the narrow selective terms of the last 100 years or so. As an expert in the area (she has build her career on this) she instead wrote a great on what “traditional Irish marriage looks like when you go back 1000 years.
I can’t find the original one now, but a version of it is available on History Today.
There is a great section in it that I keep referring people to:
“The idea of family was thus dynamic and prone to change. In addition to engaging in multiple marriages and divorcing at will, the widespread use of fosterage meant that people could belong to much bigger family units than a nuclear one. Children could have parents who had been divorced. There were stepchildren, foster children, children born to concubines and raised in a wife’s household, children raised in religious establishments (perhaps raised by many mothers) and so on.”
When I look at the country around me, and my own situation I feel happier knowing that there is no normal!