2021iv2, Friday: Mixed measures and madness.

16 ounces. 8 pints. 32 degrees. Really? And thought-provoking writing on persuading the unpersuadable.

Short thought: I think in mixed units.

For long distances (and speeds) it’s miles (and mph). Being a Brit, all our roadsigns are in miles, so that’s simply how I know it at gut level. I can convert easily, but it’s always a conversion.

For short distances, it varies. Inches for anything between my thumb and my shorter than my arm. Metres for longer; centimetres or millimetres for shorter.

For almost everything else, though, it’s metric. I know I’m several kilos overweight. I can recognise a pint, but it feels like about half a litre.

Which means I can understand those people older than me for whom metric still feels alien. But I also recognise that for almost everyone under the age of, say, 25, who’ve lived and breathed metric their entire life, imperial is simply incomprehensible. 16 ounces to a pound. 14 pounds to a stone. 8 stone to a hundredweight. 20 fluid ounces to a pint. 8 pints to a gallon. 12 inches to a foot. 3 feet to a yard. 1,760 yards to a mile.

Let’s not even talk about the fact that the only other jurisdiction in the world which is a metric refusenik is the USA. Whose measures of volume are completely different to ours. Blessed inconsistency, indeed.

Compare that to the straightforward scaling by three orders of magnitude, from mm to m to km, from g to kg to tonne, from ml to l, and I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want - for any reason other than a blunt, brain-free determination to turn the clock back - to compel the use of imperial measures.

Unless, of course, it’s all just yet another dishonest weapon in the so-called “war on woke”, which so often translates into the determination of those with power to keep it.

I’ll leave it to the reader to examine the front page of Wednesday’s Daily Mail in the above context, since it managed to combine the use of fahrenheit (which, to her credit, my daughter described as “simply insane” when we tried without success to find a canonical reason why water froze at 32 degrees and boiled at 212) with a story on the latest race relations report which seems to have been designed by the government to provide fuel to “own the libs” rather than actually reduce discrimination or improve equality or equity. I’m sure there’s no connection. Not even in a Mail editor’s mind.

Someone is right on the internet: Adam Grant is fantastic. His book Give and Take wholly changed my view on how productive professional relationships function; a change which, I believe, has worked wonders for both my success and my happiness at work.

This piece is characteristically thought-provoking. Instead of looking at why a business leader makes decisions, he looks at how a leader’s mind can be changed. Specifically Steve Jobs, generally seen as not only one of the most successful, but also the most stubborn, arrogant and rude, businesspeople in recent decades. (I say that as a lifelong user and appreciator of Apple products. I can love what’s done by the house that Jobs built, and mourn his early death, and still criticise the man himself.)

Why pick this? Well, as an advocate, I spend my life trying to make a case for something. Mostly, judges are nothing like Jobs - not in their intelligence, which is sometimes breathtaking, but in that they’re neither arrogant nor stubborn. (Rude? I’ve been lucky. I know many that haven’t.) But if you can think through how to persuade someone who’s not inclined to listen, it’ll help you hone your points to razor-sharpness, and make your case take that critical leap into seeming the only sensible reading of the facts.

Well worth a read. As, indeed, is what Grant writes in general. (Yes, there’s a newsletter. But it’s only monthly.)