By Randy Bancroft
I had great hopes for Dimensions of the Cosmos in its first edition. It seemed like a book that is fully metric, explains the metric system’s use, and presents interesting anecdotes that might be of interest to the general public. I contacted somewhere around 1000 literary agents (the net makes this possible) over around four years or so. I had a few nibbles, but no real interest. One took some interest, but wanted me to write a completely different book, and finally revealed her familiarity with a contemporary anti-metric author. When I demurred, the title was attacked, and the reaction was “you’ll never have lunch in this town again.”
I have managed to get technical books published, but the latest edition of my best known textbook is published by a non-profit publisher. Two metric people I know suggested I self-publish. They claimed self-publishing this is not the realm of losers anymore. I was very much against it, but after some persuasion, I chose a self-publisher who is nearby. I went through a bunch of hoops, and a lot of money, only to realize this publisher does not have the best reputation. My results were consistent with this. At the time, I did look into their reputation, and there was little negative feedback online.
When the book was originally announced, a number of people immediately asked where they could get it for free. I had hoped I would make up the financial outlay for self publication with a small number of sales. This did not occur. I still believe the book concept is good, and continued updating it over the last 4 years. I have added about 100 more pages. It is clear that in the current publishing climate, and American zeitgeist, a book of this type is as welcome as thorn bush in a nudist colony. The other aspect of our current cultural climate is that if something is free, it has no merit. Certainly my release of Death By 1000 Cuts chapter-by-chapter over the last year-or-so only served to emphasize this truism, and pass judgement on the work’s merits. (Shout out to C.Z. for being the singular exception).
Reform that promotes the general welfare in the US, is, in my view, non-existent. People like myself are derisively called “organized do-gooders” by long-time American “progressives” such as Frank Mankiewicz, or worse by “futurist” Stewart Brand, who did their best to block any metric reform, and succeeded spectacularly. Personally, I think this country has enough organized do-badders, and could use some real reform, but no democratic mechanism for this to occur seems to exist.
Worse, I would think that I would take my own advice. When I first looked into what existed on the web about the metric system about ten years ago, I found a very up-beat person in the bay area (San Francisco) who wanted to start and organize a metric group, and seriously push for US metrication. He sent out emails, tried to drum-up interest, and set up a meeting at a local library to form the group. The organizer was bereft when no one showed up. I could watch the sadness and disappointment mount in his posts as he realized he could not find one other person to help form a group. I tried to keep track of his web presence, but soon he disappeared into never-never land bit bucket of cyberspace. I thought he was very naive, I knew there was no chance, and even trying convert the US to metric was a waste of time.
Around that time, I found Pat Naughtin, and was very pleased at his useful discussion and promotion of the metric system. I signed up for his newsletter and was appreciative someone was promoting metric. When he passed away, I was very upset. There was no one else promoting metric. I didn’t want Pat’s efforts to die. I spoke with Sven, and started the metric maven website, despite knowing what happened to the now unknown person in San Francisco. I did not take my own advice, and began writing metric blogs, with well over 200 published thus far. It has been seven years, and I still hear calls for “voluntary adoption” by “metric proponents,” and realize there is no real constituency out there for metric reform.
I had written Dimensions of the Cosmos with the hope that the second edition might find a publisher. I no longer suffer from that unrealistic hope. With the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is probably even less likely I could find a publisher. I’m planning on releasing it, chapter-by-chapter, with the hope of a person on a desert island placing a note in a bottle, and tossing it into the ocean.
It has not been professionally edited, but I have done my best to proofread it.
Here is the preface and Chapter 1 of The Dimensions of the Cosmos The Metric System
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Here is an email I received from reader J McClellan on 2020-07-16:
Howdy Maven –
Just thought I’d share this with you. I certainly know I don’t have to sell you on the power of SI, but perhaps you can use this visual aid when educating the recalcitrant American on the ease and practicality of going metric.
I am NOT a handyman, though now I see I don’t have myself to blame when the shortcomings are obviously that of being forced to use a barbaric “system” of measure I’ve NEVER been able to wrap my American head around.
Behold, 2 tiled floors – One hewn in the good kings foot, one using 500 mm tiles and the precision of the mm.
After much exhaustion and hoop-jumping, I was able to acquire a metre stick and 500mm tiles for the second bedroom
Cutting and fitting these tiles in “16ths”, “8ths”, stopping and adding fractions ended up with the typical American – “close enough” mindset and the quality of the end product is quite evident. And I promise, I tried!
The second picture was the master bedroom, using the mm.
I guess I’m not so bad at this handyman thing after all.
Keep doing what you do, you are making a difference!
GO METRIC, AMERICA!
The World Is Waiting…