Excuse me….

But why

The acre, one of Britain\’s historic imperial measurements, is to be banned from use under a new European directive.

The measurement, which will officially be replaced by the hectare, will no longer be allowed when land is being registered.

After being agreed last week, the new ruling will come into force in January 2010.

What is the point of this?

33 thoughts on “Excuse me….”

  1. 1) Having one measurement valid for legal registration purposes is more sensible than having several, to avoid confusion/fraud/the other reasons why all government for at least the last 1000 years have legislated for a single consistent set of weight and measures.

    2) It’s easier to use something that’s consistent with the other measurements that we use (and that’s consistent with measurements used by *everyone else in the entire world except the Yanks*) than some arbitrary multiple of chains, hogsheads and rods which makes no sense to anyone under 45…

  2. john b –

    With our wonderful new technology the problem of conversion for the purpose of recording data shouldn’t be a problem at all.

    It should be becoming easier, not more difficult, to output or compare the data for whatever purposes you need to do that.

    In the database I’m working on at the moment, all dates are represented internally in a way we’d never expect humans to use – and it copes with US-style dates, UK-style dates and hosts of others too.

    Why should we bend to the machine when it takes the machine no effort to bend to us?

  3. The reason that it ‘doesn’t make sense to anyone under 45’ is that it hasn’t been taught to anyone under 45.

    The description of ‘arbitrary multiples of chains’ and so forth reveals a person who doesn’t actually know what he’s talking about. Gunter’s chain (the basic measuring tool for the Imperial system of land measurement) is actually a superbly-developed unit of land measure and surveying, at-least-as logical as the ‘metric’ system, if not more so. Please learn a little more about what you are so-quick to deride.

    You wrote:

    ‘Having one measurement valid for legal registration purposes is more sensible than having several . . .’ and I agree – so why change the one you have for another, completely different system which has no logical or arithmetical connections? It doesn’t make sense to do this.

    The metric system is nothing more than a tool of cultural hegemony, and nothing illustartes this more-clearly than the fact that it has to be imposed by force of law. If it were really so superior, people woul adopt it voluntarily and with enthuisiasm – and sometimes they do. Nowhere is this more-clear than in the US, where ‘metric’ measure has been legally defined and -valid for trade since 1856,. Some trades and undustries use it, some don’t, just as it suits their purposes best – and the world’s largest economy seems to rub along just fine that way.

    Emerson wrote that ‘ a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds’ and nowhere is this more-true than in the matter of ‘metric’ measure. The only people that this benefits are bureaucrats, because it’s an endless make-work scheme for them.

    llater,

    llamas

  4. “and the world’s largest economy seems to rub along just fine that way”

    Yeah, until they try to land a probe on Mars using furlongs per fortnight.

  5. “If it were really so superior, people woul adopt it voluntarily and with enthuisiasm”

    Explain the QWERTY keyboard then.

  6. Kay Tie wrote:

    ‘“and the world’s largest economy seems to rub along just fine that way”

    Yeah, until they try to land a probe on Mars using furlongs per fortnight.’

    Let’s not forget that NASA put a bunch of men on the moon, and they did it entirely in Imperial units.

    The Mars lander fiasco (and it was a fiasco) was caused by something just like the instant case – someone decided, for no really-good reason, that the system of measurement should be changed. The introduction of the ‘metric’ system invariably leads to this sort of mistake – Google ‘Gimli Glider’ for another absolutely-typical example of what happens when you impose a different system by fiat instead of by consensus. So what’s the compelling reson for doing it, again . . . ?

    Incidentally, both the furlong and the fortnight are completely unknown units in the US.

    llater,

    llamas

  7. An acre is easy. It’s the size of a football pitch. You don’t need to be over 45 to know that.

    A hectare is 100m x 100m, now we all know roughly how long a 100m running track is, but it is difficult imagining that squared. So f*** hectares, say I.

  8. “…that’s consistent with measurements used by *everyone else in the entire world except the Yanks*..”

    Ah, I suspect we’ve found the crux of the matter here. If the hectare was suddenly adopted by the US, john b would be screaming “No, no, change it back!”

  9. Damn these p*ss-ant Chiclet laptop keys. I apologise for my terrible spelling.

    Anyone who has actually delved into the history of land measurement can hardly fail to be amazed by the stunning simplicity and effectiveness of the ‘imperial’ system of chains, rods, acres and so forth. It is incredibly-easy to use, has a complete internal arithmetical and geometric consistency, and because it is infinitely scalable in both linear and area measure, it can be used to accurately and completely survey a tiny plot or a complete nation.

    That’s because it was developed for one purpose and one purpose only, which is measuring land. For building an airplane, or brewing beer, or designing a printed-circuit board, it is completely useless.

    And – who cares? There are perfectly-good systems for doing those things, which have been developed in similar ways, just as it suits those trades the best. If there was one unified system that actually worked for any and every trade, everyone would voluntarily adopt it by next Thursday. But there isn’t. The ‘metric’ system is a pretty-good system for doing many things, not-so-good for many others. It’s no better at being a ‘universal’ system than any other. And so it becomes clear that the mandatory imposition of one system to the exclusion of any other is actually not about systems of measure at all – it’s about control.

    I’m an engineer with almost 30 years experience of mechanical design. I use both systems, every day, interchangeably. I know that in my work, neither system has any advantage whatever over the other. There is absolutely no benefit in mandating either system to the exclusion of the other.

    In other trades, it may be different – so let people decide what is best for them to do, just as it suits what they are trying to do. Let governments set precise and referrable standards if they must, but otherwise let people decide what works the best for them. The market will soon weed out those who make poor choices.

    llater,

    llamas

  10. “but it is difficult imagining that squared”

    Here’s a tip: Imagine a 100m running track. Then imagine a square, with each side equal to the length of that track.

  11. “Incidentally, both the furlong and the fortnight are completely unknown units in the US.”

    As are the gallon and the pint. Unless you mean American gallons and American pints. And American miles per gallons, which are of course different to ours, which few people know when they yack on and on and on about American gas guzzlers.

  12. “With our wonderful new technology the problem of conversion for the purpose of recording data shouldn’t be a problem at all.”

    Great – so let’s record things at the national land registry using a single unit, perhaps one which is consistent with the way in which we record most other things – and then we can display the results for our own purposes in acres, square furlongs, double-decker-buses, football pitches, or whatever else we choose.

  13. “and then we can display the results for our own purposes in acres, square furlongs”

    So far there has been little freedom in dual units. Partly through dogma, I’m sure, but also through weights-and-measures practicalities. A publican isn’t allowed to sell beer in 500ml glasses, even if he gives the price per pint information, because the glasses haven’t been certified with a crown mark and a line.

    Mind you, I suspect the niggardly booze measurements came from the days when it was taxed to buggery and back and even the height of the meniscus was financially significant. With both the Left (“we must do something about alcohol!”) and the Right (“stop the hoodies drinking!”) unified in making booze expensive again, we’re going back to the grim ’70s.

  14. John B. wrote:

    ‘Great – so let’s record things at the national land registry using a single unit, perhaps one which is consistent with the way in which we record most other things – and then we can display the results for our own purposes in acres, square furlongs, double-decker-buses, football pitches, or whatever else we choose.’

    I agree – with one minor alteration.

    Let’s leave the national land registry alone, using the units it has used for centuries, and let’s display the results for our own purposes in hectares or megaPascals per microFarad, or whatever else we choose.

    It’s not the units that make the problems – it’s the change, and especially the mandated, exclusive change.

    I find it vaguely-amusing that many people who tout the ‘metric’ system over the ‘imperial’ system, since they never seem to have any substantial criticism to make, always end up making fun of the names of Imperial units. At least Imperial units, for the most part, are relatively content-neutral, unlike the ‘metric’ system, where virtually all units are named for dead, white, European males, and all the multipliers are based in ancient languages that nobody speaks anymore. As I said – a tool of cultural imperialism.

    llater,

    llamas

  15. John B:-

    you say, ‘Great – so let’s record things at the national land registry using a single unit, perhaps one which is consistent with the way in which we record most other things’

    But my point was that the *internal representation* of data is something you shouldn’t have to be bothered with. All you need to know is that you can enter data in whatever format you please and get it out in whatever format you need.

    Like, as I said before, dates and date representations in large databases.

    This should be getting *easier* not more difficult. Why the hell *ban* anything?

  16. My question is why is this news? The switch to hectares was first mooted in Directive 80/181/EEC back in 1979, and the decision to switch entirely to hectares in the UK and Ireland confirmed last September (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2007:0510:FIN:EN:PDF) because – I quote:

    “of changes in administrative procedures in both Member States”

    This isn’t the EU forcing the change, it’s the British government adopting the change all by itself. Why? Who knows – but the switch to metric started long before Britain joined the EEC.

  17. Does this mean that we’ll have to abandon the acre per annum as the favoured unit of kinematic viscosity?

  18. “Here’s a tip: Imagine a 100m running track. ”
    Right, that’s about 28 feet longer than a 100 yard track.
    Imagine a tape measure with metric and imperial units on either edge. You can choose how to measure the distance. Freedom is so illogical sometimes.

  19. “If it were really so superior, people woul adopt it voluntarily and with enthuisiasm”

    Explain the QWERTY keyboard then.

    Presumably meaning that the Dvorak keyboard, supposed to be superior, is not voluntarily and enthusiastically adopted. But in fact the Dvorak keyboard is not superior, and so is not adopted, as specified.

  20. “Presumably meaning that the Dvorak keyboard, supposed to be superior”

    No. I’ve never used a Dvorak keyboard. Even if I had, I still wouldn’t be using it, or any other keyboard. Yet QWERTY is bloody awful, worse than all the rest, but we use it because it’s the one that everyone uses. Like Windows: sodding awful but we use it because it’s what everyone uses. We are caught in a ‘sub-optimal minimum’, where any changes make things worse before any later benefit is seen.

    “Imagine a tape measure with metric and imperial units on either edge.”

    If you can do that, you can get rich playing Blackjack. What are you doing here? Off to Vegas with you, Rainman.

  21. When Science adopted SI units, we ended up with a system of less than pristine purity. Since it is a truth universally acknowledged that chemists are too dim to be trusted with arithmetic, the litre survived – after a fashion – and the mol. We also have the absurdity of writing kg for an base unit when elsewhere “k” means a thousand of the unit in question (e.g. kW), and the layman writes Kg for kilogram whereas K means Kelvin (temperature) in SI. Observe too “g” surviving for gram (or, strictly, I suppose, one thousandth of a kilogram) when it also represents one of the most-used physical quantities, the acceleration due to gravity. I don’t really see why the pantswetters don’t complain about how illogical it all is.

  22. Kay Tie wrote:

    “Yet QWERTY is bloody awful, worse than all the rest, but we use it because it’s the one that everyone uses.”

    Funny how many people can do so much with a tool that’s so ‘bloody awful’.

    “Like Windows: sodding awful but we use it because it’s what everyone uses.”

    Funny how so many people can do so much with a tool that’s so ‘sodding awful’.

    “We are caught in a ’sub-optimal minimum’, where any changes make things worse before any later benefit is seen.”

    Both the QWERTY and Windows examples quoted are not ‘awful’ – they are ‘less than ideal’, which is not quite the same thing. But the seearch for the perfect (in anything) will be both long and fruitless. In something so complex and multi-facted as a system of measurement, the search for perfection is likely counterpoductive in the ned, because one single, unified system that encompasses every possible field of human endeavour most-likely creates as much inefficiency as it saves.

    llater,

    llamas

  23. “Both the QWERTY and Windows examples quoted are not ‘awful’ – they are ‘less than ideal’. But the seearch for the perfect (in anything) will be both long and fruitless.”

    I’m not after ‘perfect’, I’m after ‘much better’. Most things are better than QWERTY, but the barrier to adoption renders us with an awful solution (and, as keyboard layouts go, QWERTY is about as bad as it gets: actually designed to slow you down).

    Oh, and Windows is awful. If you deny that one more time, then I shall force you to say the words “Gordon Brown is not an awful Prime Minister, he’s just less than ideal.”

  24. Well, if QWERTY is so awful – why does it persist, when there’s not-a-few alternatives freely available, which all claim to be so-much better?

    Answer – because it’s good enough – and often good enough is all you need.

    Windows is not ‘awful’. People who say that tend not to have had too much to do with what came before. If you want ‘awful’, they what you’re looking for is spelled F-O-R-T-R-A-N.

    That will bring coals of fire down on my head, because there are those who claim, even today, that FORTRAN was the most-perfect langauge ever invented.

    Windows was/is a quantum leap forward in user interfaces. Is it perfect? No. It’s just better than just-about anything else.

    Exclamations that Windows is ‘awful’ are more expressions of tribal belief than they are sober assessments of its real impact on computing, technology and everyday life. For most of the things it does, Windows is so stunningly effective that claims of its ‘awfulness’ actually ring rather amusing and lacking in a proper sense of proportion.

    llater,

    llamas

  25. ““Imagine a tape measure with metric and imperial units on either edge.”

    If you can do that, you can get rich playing Blackjack. What are you doing here? Off to Vegas with you, Rainman.”

    Thank you for allowing me the opprtunity to be gratuitously rude to you, Kay Tie. If you can get your head out of your arse I’m sure you will see that tape measures have metric units on one edge and imperial on the other.

  26. FORTRAN really was awful – at least to anyone who had to learn it after they had previously used a decent language.

  27. “Windows was/is a quantum leap forward in user interfaces.”

    No it wasn’t. Windows 1 and 2 were unspeakably, unusably crap.

    Windows 3.0 was a quantum leap forward in user interfaces shipped with IBM-compatible Intel-based PCs by default to large corporates. It was inferior to already existing GUIs such as MacOS, RISC OS and AmigaOS, but none of these were shipped with IBM-compatible Intel-based PCs by default to large corporates.

    Just like QWERTY, it was a standard that wasn’t much cop but that people adopted for external reasons – and that has remained the standard because the cost to most individual firm or agents of switching standards is far higher than the benefits they can derive.

  28. “Well, if QWERTY is so awful – why does it persist, when there’s not-a-few alternatives freely available, which all claim to be so-much better?”

    Because if you’re a QWERTY touch typist you end up literally puking with frustration trying to use anything else. If I was learning from scratch, hunt-and-peck style, I expect ABC would be quicker (which is probably why the TomTom products default to the ABC layout for address entry). But I’d still have to be pretty obtuse to use anything other than QWERTY because it would rule out using a net cafe, a friend’s computer, a work-provided laptop, etc.

    If you want to get a feeling for what it’s like to try a different layout, then go to France or Germany and use a net cafe.

    “Answer – because it’s good enough – and often good enough is all you need.”

    Anything is “good enough” if it’s the status quo – by definition. Rather like the Spike Milligan joke about whether he was paid a living wage or not. He was living, ergo it was a living wage.

    “Windows is not ‘awful’. People who say that tend not to have had too much to do with what came before.”

    I’m very familiar with computing back to the ’70s. I worked in the industry before Windows. Before DOS, in fact.

    “If you want ‘awful’, they what you’re looking for is spelled F-O-R-T-R-A-N.”

    Yeah, and in its day it was “good enough”, especially if you were a scientist and needed the NAG libraries.

  29. A football pitch is not 1 acre, and if you’ve been using that comparision you’re rather off. An acre is only just over half the size of a standard international football pitch, a bit more for the smaller pitches that are allowed in non-international football. In fact it’s nearer being a hectare – in the premier league they range from 77% to 89% of a hectare. If you imagine that with the bit around it you’ve got your hectare.

  30. Whoops, read the wrong column – 0.71 hectares is the standard pitch size (1.75 acres) – the ones in the premiership range from 62% to 74%

  31. Many of these complaints about how Windows, for example, is ‘sodding awful’, are actually relative. It may well be that Windows is ‘sodding awful’ when compared to (enter name of preferred solution here ) for performing (enter name of task of interest here).

    What that actually says is that there’s really no way to design an operating system that will provide absolutely optimal performance to tens, maybe hundreds of millions of users. It will serve many, perhaps most, very well, but there will always be a substantial set of users who are heavily under- or over-served.

    In other words, a one-size-fits-all solution is neither possible nor desirable if the need is to service a vast population having an incalculable range of different needs and interests. And people should have the ability to select what works for them.

    Wait – isn’t this where I came in?

    llater,

    llamas

  32. Windows was/is a quantum leap forward in user interfaces. Is it perfect? No. It’s just better than just-about anything else.

    GUIs are good for some things, but their main problem is that they do not scale. What works OK for 10 files doesn’t work for 10,000 files. A good command line interface (not DOS) like Unix shells or cygwin is still vastly better for handling large and/or complicated tasks.

    “If you want ‘awful’, they what you’re looking for is spelled F-O-R-T-R-A-N.”

    Yeah, and in its day it was “good enough”, especially if you were a scientist and needed the NAG libraries.

    Heresy!! Fortran is still a great language for what it was designed for – scientific/numerical computation. It’s simplicity makes it much easier to write code that runs efficiently. The language itself is still being developed, and is very different from that in use in the ’70s.

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