Until he retired, my father spent a good part of his life as an engineer with the Australian subsidiary of General Motors. He didn’t design cars, he designed the plant that made the cars. All 3D drawings of equipment, piping, electrical circuits, etc. Very interesting. He had lots of reminders for me that in the real world, things don’t work out the way they do in theory. He had dozens of stories.
One trivial example is the time his boss decided to change the spec for the motor that was going to move something between buildings; his boss wanted to save money. They installed it and two hours later it was dead. It had the same power rating as the original motor my father specified. Any guesses? Well, you’d never know unless you’re in the business, but heavy motors can only start so many times per hour or they burn out.
Another example from my own life is when I helped a neighbor run some computer cabling on an old house, down in Norfolk. The only path to the upstairs bedroom was outside, under the eaves. At one point, it had to go under a short run of steel on the roof and then into the outside wall and on to the bedroom. Well, a roof can get hot and heat increases electrical resistance. So, when the sun came out the cabling couldn’t pass data as fast as on a cloudy or cold day. Took me a while to figure that one out…
The title of the post refers to an off-the-cuff comment made by my dad as he was showing some drawings and I asked about the units. He said that different engineers used different units sometimes and they were always the most useless, for example furlongs per fortnight. (I’m wondering how many US-based reader of this blog have heard of either unit…)
When my runaway wife (thanks SG!) left, she took the electric kettle. The cheek!
In summer, I have less tea in the mornings, but I still need my Earl Grey sometimes. Tonight I was on Amazon.com looking for a replacement that matches the other appliances in the kitchen. (For something so simple, there are a *surprising* number of electric kettles with crappy reviews.) I was trying to compare the Top Sellers and here are the units they offer to ‘help’ me compare sizes:
– 1.8 quart
– 17 ounce
– 10 cup
– 1.7 liter
(They come in different sizes, like 48 ounces, 7 cup, etc.)
The acronym WTF was devised specifically for situations like this.
I say bring on the metric system right now. Or least sometime in the next 2 to 4 hectares.