Saturday, October 27, 2007

Paris commentary #1

Sorry it's been so long, but first I was in Paris, and then I came back from Paris sick as well as having to catch up. But I am now going to be a total bore and present pictures from my trip along with commentary--not all at once, mind you, as I took photos everywhere, but from time to time and on different themes. Dogs of Paris, for example. Or war memorials. Or food. Or decorative chard. But here, just to get started, is a photo of a wall of a building just across from the Jardin du Luxembourg: (unfortunately, this is not my photo as mine wouldn't stick on the blog, but it looks almost identical)

OK, I realize it doesn't look like much. But talk about revolutionary! This is a meterstick, mounted on the wall. When the meter was announced as the standard of measure during the Revolution (and I want to know how that happened, exactly), people of course had no idea what a meter length was, so they had these standard meters posted all over the city. This is the only one left in its original position.

What is also interesting--to me, at any rate--is that divvying things up by 10 was completely foreign to people. If you had a piece of string for measuring something, you could divide it in half or fourths or eighths--but tenths? I'm not used to thinking of measuring instruments being hard to come by.

It also makes me realize how hard it would be to get the US to change over completely to metric. I think we would have to do it (as we have been doing it) in a very gradual and somewhat underhanded way. Get used to seeing 2 liter bottles, for example. Use metersticks in schools so that kids become more used to that unit of measure than inches. But a complete change will be difficult unless done by fiat with the threat of heads rolling, and I don't see that happening any time soon.

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