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the pandemic inspired tom to invent some new measurements



A few weeks back, The New York Times ran an article about how the long-simmering (and often rancorous) feud between surveyors and normal people over the length of a foot. (The Daily Star, picking up on a local angle, ran a similar article a couple Sundays ago.)

I know, a foot's a foot, right? Except it isn't. The International Foot is defined as 0.3048 meters. That's what we all learned in school, unless, of course, you went to an Arizona charter school back in the 1990s, in which case you were probably taught that "foot" is the past tense of "food." Meanwhile, the U.S. Survey Foot is defined as 0.3048006096 meters. The difference between those two comes to 2 parts per million. In a measurement of one million feet, the difference is two feet. So you can see why them's fightin' words!

It brings to mind the story of the college student sitting in a 100 level Astronomy class. The T.A. says, "So, in a billion years or so, our Sun will burn out and all of the planets in the solar system will be swallowed up in the collapse."

Suddenly, from the back of the room, the student screams, "What?!"

After the T.A. repeats what she had just said, the student says, "Whew! I thought you said a million years."

Getting back to the battle over the Foot, I guess if I squint hard enough, I can see what all the hubbub is about. After all, one million feet is actually less than 190 miles. That's about the distance from Phoenix to Yuma, which is a horrible example, because those are two places that nobody wants to go to EVER, so having the road be off by two feet really wouldn't matter a whole lot.

Still, measurements are a part of the real world and it's important that they be accurate and standardized. (Did you know that later in his life, Sir Isaac Newton saved the British economy by waging a ruthless battle against counterfeiters, one of whom he had hanged for treason? You should look it up.)

Anyway, while most measurements are standardized these days, some aren't. For example, we have:

• The Force of a Moving Electron: The electron rest mass (which is kinda silly because, according to quantum mechanics, electrons cannot be stationary) is said to be 9.109 time 10 to the negative 31 power kilograms. That's really small; so small, in fact, that Jared Kushner could probably lift one...once. Now, Newton's Second Law (him again!) states that Force = Mass times Acceleration, so an electron would have to be going mighty fast to generate any real force.

• Doug Ducey's Force: Imagine an electron going two meters per decade. That might actually be too much. For some reason, Doug Ducey sees himself as a player on the national stage, when, in fact, he's actually just a scrub here in Arizona. Oh, he can fly to Washington whenever he's summoned by the Turd In Chief and he can sit there, basking in Trump's toxic runoff, but he's really a non-entity.

The problem is that he's not a leader. He doesn't lead, he just reacts. Sometimes his reactions are okay, but they mostly just serve to mitigate the damage done by his not having acted earlier.

• Liquid Ounce: An amount of fluid equal to 1/128th of a gallon

• Martha McSally Ounce: About all she's got left after pissing away what was once a promising political career. A decorated combat fighter pilot, she started off as a moderate Republican and had enough political juice to fill a swimming pool. But then she vies for a vacant Senate seat against strange bird Kyrsten Sinema and chooses as her winning strategy tying herself to Donald Trump.

So she loses to Sinema and then gets the break of a lifetime when she is named to fill the seat of John McCain, who passed away. And what is her strategy for holding onto the seat? She doubles down on Donald Trump!!

Come January, she's going to be sifting through the ashes, contemplating whether to run again in 2022. It's doubtful that the Republicans would nominate a two-time loser, but if they do, McSally already has a strategy in place—four-ple down!

• Pint: 16 ounces of liquid

• Raul Grijalva's Pint: Two pints

• Decibel: Among other things, a unit for measuring the relative loudness of sounds

• Kerry Walsh Jennings' Decibel: A deafening roar announcing her tone-deaf dumbness on mask-wearing during a pandemic.

Walsh Jennings is one of the stud Olympic athletes of all time. She and her partner, Misty May-Treanor, won gold medals in beach volleyball in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympics. (Jennings, with a different partner, won Bronze in 2016.)

But last week, Jennings posted on her Instagram that she conducted "a little exercise in being brave" when she "went shopping without a mask on." She used as her motivation for having done so an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the true meaning of which had obviously escaped her. When the backlash came, hard and fast, she fell back on the non-apology apology ("Oh, I'm sorry that you didn't understand me...").

Dude, we get it. Masks suck. We all hate wearing them. But you're an athlete. Show a little discipline and teamwork and maybe we can soon make the masks go away.


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