The Spekboom
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The Spekboom

Measure Twice, Cut Once

And, don’t fool yourself.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

I spent the last day of 2020 setting up a portable, above ground, pool with my son, as a defence against the heat. Now, it ain’t setup right, and we’ve got to do it again. But the experience reminded me that measuring twice, and cutting once, is one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given.

First off, and for the record, I didn’t want to set a pool up on New Year’s Eve, and neither did he. However, the boss insisted, and picked the spot. It was slightly sloped, and we had to move sand, lots of it, with a wheel barrow, in order to level it out. So, lathered up with sunblock, on a nice hot day, we started the process. And, it just kept going, more sand required, more sand required…

“Are you sure that spirit level is correct?” He asked at one point in disbelief. We kept measuring. It was clearly not level, the air bubble pinged to one end.

“Let’s get four more barrows.” Dig, dig, dig, fill, fill, move, flatten. Not level. “Okay, another four.”

We did this for another two hours while pouring out sweat: In Durban, in the summer, the weather is both hot and humid.

He had had enough, and so had I. “Alright, let’s set the pool up. It’s almost level.”

We were lying to ourselves, we hadn’t done a good job, and measuring by eye, ignoring our spirit level, was not a good idea.

And, so, we filled it up and, lo and behold, the water slid to the lowest point. Now the kids laughed, “Well, there is a shallow and a deep end.”

Anyway, in the sober light of rainy New Year’s day morning, we had a look at it again. It’s not level, and the distribution of water is not that even. There is a distinct tilt, and the pool is rather egg-shapped. Filling up the pool, was a complete mistake.

“Alright, measure twice, cut once.” I say to him. It’s a good lesson, and we chose the wrong day to take on this job. So, tomorrow we’ll need to fix-it. “What do you say?”

Measure twice, cut once — imagine the implications for environmental management, economics, and geopolitics. Measurements and metrics define our world view in a massive way, and for a long time we’ve been measuring things that don’t matter an iota to the quality of human life, and neglecting the things that do.

It’s time that we thought differently about what to measure, and how to measure it. What are the metrics that truly matter, and will matter in 100 years time?

Measurements and metrics (environmental and economic) are my core focus for 2021 — more to follow.

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Viroshan Naicker

Viroshan Naicker

Token Engineer | Mathematician

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