Posted by: scribe9 | November 20, 2009

Going metric–or not

This week one of the local papers ran an article about a new business that’s remodeling an old space. On one of the walls, one day in 1943, four people had recorded their heights, which the paper reported in centimeters. Highly unlikely. New Zealand didn’t start metricising measurements until the seventies.

In part out of tradition, and in part because of America’s size and wealth, metres and litres and kilograms are only 99.44% of the measurements here. (I’m in favor of the metric system, but I’m only putting the r’s before the e’s because they do that here, not because I think it’s a good idea. And Brett Favre should pronounce his last name Fahv-ruh. End of digression.) Photos are still printed in inches–4×6, 5×7, 8×10. Bars still serve Imperial pints (20 fluid ounces) of beer. The toolbox we got—made in China—has both metric and English measures. Pyrex (made in the US, readily available in any housewares shop here) sells plenty of measuring cups (and bakeware), with both types of measures on it. I also bought dry measuring cups. The smaller ones are consistent: ¼ cup is 60 ml, ⅓ cup is 80ml, and ½ cup is 120 ml—but the one-cup measure is 235 ml, which more closely approximates the American cup. It probably won’t make any difference in what I make, since I’m not planning on exacting baking; the ingredients themselves will be the biggest challenge.

At the top of the west coast of the North Island is a long, straight stretch that was, decades ago, named Ninety Mile Beach. Turns out that it’s only about 55 miles long (was the person who named it tired and so overestimated the distance?)—but it’s close to 90 kilometres! (88, actually).

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