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Should BPL go metric?
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Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Americans and metric on 01/31/2008 14:33:22 MST Print View

I'm a Canadian - so I am already metric. It would be great to see the US come on board with the metric system. It really is a good system.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Attitude on 01/31/2008 19:25:51 MST Print View

All week the news here in Japan has been debating what to do about the influence of the bad American economy. Japan, China, India, and quite a few European countries are seriously considering pulling out a lot of their investments in the States and establishing their own accounts independent of the States, so that the US economy will no longer have such a strong effect on their own. If things go as they are there is a strong likelihood that Asian countries will form an economic bloc like the EU and this time not allow the US to bully them into accepting the US as one of its members (as it did with ASEAN). If that happens, well, the world had better watch out... just in manpower no other place in the world will have a chance economically. Until now it has always been the divisions and ancient quarreling that has kept Asian countries from uniting, but this time around economic realities and a sense of identification stronger than ever is making Asians rethink their positions in the world. Here in Japan most Japanese no longer look up to or admire the States any more. Just yesterday when my wife and I were discussing where we should consider moving next she adamantly refused to consider the US. "I will try anywhere, but I'm sorry I have absolutely no desire to go to the US." Twenty years ago it was every young Japanese's dream to live and work in the US and marry an American (well, the women at least). No longer. Walk into any movie theatre today. Just six years ago every movie on the list was American... today they are nearly all Japanese, Korean, or Chinese... the Japanese less and less want to watch anything from America.

What does this have to do with the original discussion here? Well, one of the things I'm pretty sure a lot of the international members (I just find it funny that I am considered one of the "international members" while, from my point of view, Americans are not local and therefore "international" in my eyes) here feel is that so often Americans talk among themselves, even when there are non-Americans present, often being unconsciously dismissive or downright exclusive. The whole measurement system discussion is one such example. Have you noticed that the international members here automatically talk with one another as one group, with the understanding that we are all in this together, whereas many Americans talk as if America is somehow separated from everyone else? The thing is Americans are just as much a part of the world community as everyone else. Speaking of America as "greater" than everyone else is not only insensitive to everyone, but also truly has a distasteful flavor to it... just imagine if you were sitting at a dinner table and there was one rich guest there boasting about how much "better" he was than everyone else.

What the international members and advocates of the metric system are trying, in part, to say, is that it does everyone in the community a lot of good if everyone would try to adopt a system that would make things easier for everyone, instead of just throwing in a spanner to mangle up the works. Sure preserving your cultural identity is important, but so is cooperating. Why do you think other countries gave up their local systems and adopted one that would work with the rest of the world? Or do you [Americans] think that people in other countries are less proud of their own heritage?

Just to set the record straight... I use both the metric system and the imperial system (and even some old Japanese systems, like the "tsubo") with equal facility, so I do understand what those who like the imperial system are advocating...

Edited by butuki on 01/31/2008 19:43:24 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Attitude on 01/31/2008 19:36:49 MST Print View

Enough of the anti-american rhetoric. Get over this thread and move on with your life ; )

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Re: Re: Attitude on 01/31/2008 19:44:26 MST Print View

Anti-American? Hah! My family is almost all American! New York and South Carolina, born and raised! (^J^)/"

Edited by butuki on 01/31/2008 19:46:35 MST.

doug colacicco
(fangtooth) - F

Locale: ventana wilderness
metric on 01/31/2008 20:05:02 MST Print View

i have used both for years me thinks its good for the brain to be able to handle both keeps yer pencil sharp

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
Metric System on 01/31/2008 20:19:54 MST Print View

Patriotic or not, as a scientist I wish we (the USA) would use metric units. Conversions can be a pain in the...

The only unit I'd advocate keeping is the pint!

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
The Metrix, coming soon at.... on 01/31/2008 23:28:37 MST Print View

When I was young we used Roman numbers because we were N1 and everybody else was inferior to us, or so we thought. Eventually we had to recognize that the Arabic system , including using a zero, was better.
For what's going to happen next, I think that Miguel has the right idea. But of course we could always have a nice war to slow the process a bit.

Seriously I prefer to ask for a pint of beer than for half a liter, but for most other things metric is easier.


Of course the Arabic numerals came from India and the Roman version from the Etruscan, but that is another story.

I find it peculiar how some take discussing a system of measurement as a personal or national insult.

Peter Craumer
(craumerp) - M
Should BPL go metric? on 02/01/2008 00:07:09 MST Print View

Franco, if you ever find yourself 15596 km from home in Miami, I'd like to buy you a half liter, or 500 ml, or even a pint, whichever you prefer.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Metric pint on 02/01/2008 00:57:24 MST Print View

Hey thanks PC, if you are in Melbourne I'll buy you one. After two ( my limit is three...) I will likely propose. I drink Steinlager, we all know that it is the best lager in the world, but I am partial to Pilsner. In London I drunk Colt 45 mostly because it was "American". Of course usually we drunk Guinness and that stuff they call "bitter". Those were the good old days before Foster infected the pubs.
Franco MMVIII v II

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 01:16:41 MST Print View

Miguel, your characterization of "Americans" as en mass being "insensitive to "internationals" could very easiy describe the "insensitivities" that I've personally observed "internationals" (including other Americans) to exhibit by their criticism toward "Americans", both here on BPL forums and when traveling outside the USA.

But I know that massing people of a particular nation, any nation, under one label is not only unfair but pretty much always inaccurate. The world is made up of individuals.

Which brings up the question:

What does rhetoric alleging "insensitivities" by an entire class of people toward other entire classes of people have to do with whether a parallel reference for measurement at BPL is preferable versus having only one system or another?

Answer: Must be an abundance of free time, or maybe just a lack of opportunity to hoist the pack and hit the trail.


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 10:09:06 MST Print View

Miguel, your characterization of "Americans" as en mass being "insensitive to "internationals" could very easiy describe the "insensitivities" that I've personally observed "internationals" (including other Americans) to exhibit by their criticism toward "Americans", both here on BPL forums and when traveling outside the USA.

Dear JRS,

With all due respect, please read my post again. I was very careful when writing it not to blame all Americans. I used words like "often" and "many Americans" with the express intention of talking only about those who do not join in the conversation. And we are talking about the metric versus imperial measuring system, are we not? Therefore this can only become a conversation about Americans, since no one else is debating the issue. And since using the metric system and the problems with using the imperial system here on BPL seems in great part to stem from the frustration that those who use the metric system have with American unwillingness to budge, what else besides a debate between American thinking and that of people who use the metric system will ensue?

I'm pretty sure everyone here would call out the frustration of dealing with any other national whose influence in the world is wide and yet uses the imperial or other system no one else uses. I don't think I am singling out Americans for any vendetta or sense of dislike (why does criticism always seem to equal "hate"?), just analyzing why it is that Americans don't join the rest of the world in so many things. The metric system is just one. And it's an important debate. American refusal to use metric affects everyone else in everyday things; it is not just a rhetorical argument.

I can't tell you how irritating it is to buy an American bicycle here in Japan, have inner tube valve break and then have to search any number of bicycle shops for a replacement that will fit in the rim hole without having to drill a bigger, metric-sized hole (I won't go into the further adventures of having to deal with the difference between British bicycle Imperial sizes versus American, and then the further adventures of FRENCH bicycle parts sizing!!!). What I'm getting at is that for things like industrial design and scientific measurement it is quite necessary to have a round-the-table standard so that everyone doesn't have to spend so much money on converting things or building extra parts just to please one set of customers.

And if you know anything about design you will know just how hard it is to get things to work together when they aren't standardized. Take a sheet of Letter-sized paper (which also isn't standard in the world) and then try to fit it to a desk drawer the is designed for A4 paper. It is too big, so you redesign the table in that other country to fit the Letter-sized paper. But then the table's dimensions change and no longer fit in the standardized work station that is supposed to fit in the standardized modular office unit, that is supposed to fit in the standardized building beam constructions that is... you get the point. Everything has to be redesigned, which is very expensive, and so people who would normally export something to the States now don't both because they can't afford to change everything back home and also because the American side can't use the original products. It is a butterfly effect.

Of course, I am also well aware that this whole debate here is not in the least going to make an inch of difference in convincing anyone to convert.

Here are some other people arguing the need to convert:

NASA Urged to Go Metric

Edited by butuki on 02/01/2008 11:03:21 MST.

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 12:15:00 MST Print View

Hehe... "Of course, I am also well aware that this whole debate here is not in the least going to make an inch of difference in convincing anyone to convert."

Well said Miguel...having not read this whole post because of the fact I am at work, but for now I will say that I wish that the United States of America would switch over. I know that this would entail a learning curve and it would cause the citizens of this country to wonder why the hell they had to change their ways, but for the simple reason of making things clearer and easier in the long run, I see no reason not to. No reason at all.

This may change after catching up on this thread later.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Attitude on 02/01/2008 12:24:48 MST Print View

Obviously, there's a myriad of reasons why the US won't switch to metric: history, habit, pride, laziness, sheer scale and expense involved, etc.

But bottom line, there is really ONLY ONE REASON: no government mandate. If we all have to, then we would have.

Now, if our US government favors "bottom up" market type decision making rather than "top down" government dictate -- then for the life of me -- I can't figure out why the government that won't force us to go metric is also the same one that's forcing all of us -- and I mean all of us -- into buying a new digital TV (or a digital converter thingee) -- or be totally cut off by 2009? What's the deal? How much did the industry pay to get this stupid law on the books?

Edited by ben2world on 02/01/2008 12:30:10 MST.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Re: Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 19:28:44 MST Print View

Miguel, I don't see any particular anti-American rhetoric in your post, but I routinely see digs and snipes at the U. S. throughout this site, particularly from certain Canadian and Australian members. This is the only one of half a dozen sites where I see such comments much at all, and certainly on a fairly regular basis.

Sometimes, I'm really tempted to fire back. The thing that restrains me is that virtually every Australian and every civilian Canadian I've ever backpacked with (or even met) have been cordial, outstanding people. That doesn't stop me from being irritated by some posts, but it does help me stay grounded in the real world instead of the easy flames of the internet.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 20:09:28 MST Print View

Ben, at least Japan is giving everyone here until 2011, but it's all happening here, too. All digital by 2011. My wife and I were taking a look at the new digital TV's the other day; we couldn't find one under $1,000! Since we hardly watch TV there is no way we're going to pay $1,000. Like you I can't think of any reason for this but some under the table dealing by the big industries. I think it is a real scam when so many people have spent so much on computers and computer monitors all these years. So many things that do so much for community have gone or are set to go the way of the Dodo... libraries, radio, public transportation, the post office (the Japanese system just went private... their autumn ads criticised people for not sending more holiday cards!), even highways here have all gone private, and buses no longer ply the countryside, so that if you don't have a car it is impossible to go to many of the rural areas that used to be easily accessible here.

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 21:03:54 MST Print View

"Obviously, there's a myriad of reasons why the US won't switch to metric: history, habit, pride, laziness, sheer scale and expense involved, etc."

Well yeah, besides these obvious reasons ;) I appreciate you typing them up because as I said, I was at work and could not take the time, but yes, it is sad these reasons get in the way. It would be better for everyone if we switched.

Also, I agree Shawn that there are some comments made about the states that I find silly. Yeah yeah, we've heard it all before and it does get annoying. I just bite my tongue and realize the people that make those comments make many negative comments about a lot of things so I consider it a personality trait.

Edited by arichardson6 on 02/01/2008 21:06:20 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Re: Attitude - Ben and his TV reference on 02/01/2008 21:23:02 MST Print View

Hi Ben,

The Government isn't going to force me to buy a new digital TV - I don't watch TV - not ever in my home.

I also don't own a cell phone and have never talked on one.

I also have Never! used an ATM machine.

What I can do is work in Metric and/or whatever it is called that we use.

And last when I was living in a different country and went out to buy something I made sure "first" that I was going to be able to get parts for it without a lot of trouble.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 21:27:02 MST Print View

Richard, Shawn, et al,
To be sure, some of the comments are silly. But, do you ever analyze the comments and find that some of them are worth taking to heart and not just the product of some neurotic personality with too much time on its hands? I will make a general statement here about my fellow Americans: They are dangerously disconnected from the rest of the world and dismissive of them when they express criticism of anything American. Same goes for Americans who dare to criticize same. Some of the criticism is valid, IMO. It would be well to keep Thomas Jefferson's famous dictum in mind about going forth in the world with "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind".

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
reason for US not metric on 02/01/2008 21:35:57 MST Print View

For anyone who wants a really detailed explanation for why the US is not metric, read the book "Measuring America" by Andro Linklater. It's actually quite an interesting story that spans several centuries of failed effort. I've forgotten much of the details, but measurement inaccuracies plagued the old and new world for centuries, and multiple groups tried unsuccessfully to create a unified system, including benjamin Franklin. The most interesting tidbit was a story of one man in colonial America who had convened several European nations to agree on a consistent set of measurements. On his way to promote the idea to the US Congress his ship was attacked by pirates. He escaped many years later but by then so much of America had been measured using the Imperial system that it was far too cost prohibitive to re-label the hundreds of thousands of plots of new land that had been mapped and sold.

If I remember the facts correctly, towards the end of the book the author speculates that the cost of converting all of America today to the metric system would be in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Edited by jcarter1 on 02/01/2008 21:44:28 MST.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Attitude on 02/01/2008 21:41:55 MST Print View

I dont think Americans are any more disconnected than anyone else. The international population only knows about the US through our tv and its a completly infintile fantastic and ridiculous representaion of the values and lifestyle of Americans. America is a big country with a lot of different reginal cultures and values. To sum up America by some economic "tidbit" someone read is stupid.
And ya .. We we look out for our "own" intrest just like every other country and I dont belive for one second that other nations only do whats good for the so-called international 'community"