A a perpetual student of science I find myself wondering about a fairly standard “human” thing to do.  We measure everything. Sure this is critical for science, engineering, medicine, architecture and a host of other endeavors.  But should we do it every day to Every Thing!?  Should we measure the things we do for fun?

Inches, stones, millimeters, pounds, grams, Miles, seconds, bushels, pecks, hours, degrees, angstroms, dollars, increments galore!


imagesI am not wearing a watch for this trip.  Somehow I wake up every day.  The sun seems to bring me around most often, but even foiled windows at a bright parking lot don’t keep me sleeping.  We’ve found when we leave campsites in relaxed fashion after a good breakfast and cleanup, it is almost invariably 10:00 AM by the clock in Marfa.  We are noticing the sun more, tracking the distance and time we can safely hike or pedal before sunset by “feel”.  Only for the longest or most arduous treks like into a canyon do we note the take off and midway times/points for safety.


We have a nifty borrowed device from John, a hiking GPS that can track, then display every step or ride we take, then plot it out on a topographical map.  Even play the trip back in fast motion, three minute time-lapse to show the “track”, the speeds, and the elevation profile.  It would probably even show little detours for drinks, snacks or sneeky bathroom breaks.  Then we can compare maximum speeds, means, and every detail for recreation or relocating a place.  We have used it for a few hikes and a few rides. Another friend Richard, showed us his “smart phone” app that would do the same for every training ride.  You can include a heart rate monitor and track every calorie burned.  We could track and measure every inch, every experience of this whole trip.


We don’t want to.  I am beginning to feel one of the forces that drags people down is measurement applied in unnecessary ways.  I don’t measure music, art, love or any of the natural joys.  I don’t measure a sunrise or sunset.  I don’t measure the compression felt in a ski run, or the sweeping glee of twisting on a trail.  I don’t measure my cat, nor my meals or squeals.

As a machinist I measured the thickness, diameter, length etc of parts in thousandths of an inch.  For function, parts need to fit together and be interchangeable.   A human hair is ~.003″, or about three thousandths, paper is also about that same thickness.  In the right positions we can easily feel this thickness, one page of a book slipped back can easily be felt by your fingertips.  A hair in the wrong place, like your eye, seems like a log.  But it is just these innate measurement capacities that eliminate the need for a tool to measure every thing.

We have a general idea how far we have driven at the end of a day.  Should traveling less make us feel it was not a good travel day.  Mountain biking is notoriously slow compared to road biking.  We typically spend over two hours to ride ten woods miles, including breaks and pictures.  Just because I could ride 30 miles on the road in the same time, is it wasted time?  Certainly not.  In fact, now that we are alternating hikes and rides so gloriously frequently, I want measure less and less.

See if there are areas where measurement lessens your joy and throw the bum out.  We’ve even had numerous events where trying to “get a picture or capture the moment” detracts from the actual moment.



18 responses to “Metrics

  1. I feel your pain…. in food! The joy of eating is long gone now that I know that a single bagel is 260 calories (depending on the size of course), 10 grams of protein, 20% of your RDA of iron, 60 grams of carbs (more or less depending on the size), and 3 grams of fat. Gone are the days of simply “eating” and sometimes I miss that! Every morsel of food is analyzed and “measured” for nutrient density before it hits the taste buds and I’m finding myself eating less-than-normally-desired food (kale!) over french fries simply because it has more nutrients and is “better for you.” ARGH! Sometimes I wish I could just get a Whopper and be happy.

    • Jill, Wow, I sure am glad food doesn’t hit me that hard. Its one of my only addictions and though I mostly eat the good stuff, earlier posts testify our indulgences. Ice Cream and baked goods slip in also. As for the rest, we like Kale too, the bumpy leaf, dark green kind. Enjoy what ya can. We hope to trek up Lykens way this Summer or Fall (when we’re back to weekend trips).

  2. You may not have wanted to try to “get a picture …” because it would have “detracted from the actual moment,” but for THAT last photo I am sure glad you did! Reminds me of the sunsets in the Outback in Australia….. 🙂

    • Nancy, OH YEAH! We love the camera! We love bringing it back home to all of you. The sky is a beautiful miracle and pictures from seconds apart look completely different at times. Thanks for enjoying, it makes it worth all the time and effort. Heal well.


    our senses and cerebrum are also tools. faith and intuition are methodologies. science and man made measuring equipment are just another set of methods and tools. a memory is a form of photograph. let’s invent a way to get memories onto a printer or chip/card. How’s that for an invention?

    • Vince That would be something. I’ve imagined lens that track what we see and are easy to “snap”pics….something like built into glasses, always ready, aimed forward (I guess that’s GoPro), but simpler, maybe fiber optics from a smaller pocket device? But seriously, measurement is crucial. It can just be a perspective changer.

  4. Funny, Zach is working on units of measure in third grade. I’ll remind him tonight to enjoy the ruler in other ways too. Maybe a catapult!

    • Curt, Zach is lucky to have a creative mommy and daddy. In my third grade (approximately) they told us we’d be changing to the metric system, but that’s another topic!

  5. Last photo – beautiful. The skies in the west are amazing and ever changing. I don’t think I could ever tire of the views!

    • Ingrid, thanks! we sure love those views too. Lately when we share our love of home and the East, some Westerners say they feel closed in, “can’t see anything”, don’t have any views. “There’s no horizon” One guy was almost having a panic attack in a cab after he left a North Carolina airport, driving through woods…

      • We have that same feeling when we return to IL to visit family. Afrer living in the west for 20 years we could never move east of the Mississippi….enjoy!

  6. I agree–measurement can sometimes act like parsing out the goodies…way too much tracking can “suck the joy” out of life and learning, if artistry, common sense, intuition and moderation are disqualified. Tools are tools.

    I’ve been thinking about this lately as I work with children in the classroom(s)

    • Ahhh children. They seem to instinctively take joy as it comes. We tend to teach the comparison shopping into them I think. Those comparison skills, of course, are crucial survival skills for hunter gatherers…
      Now “we” have been exploited into shopper creditors I think.

  7. I love what you two are becoming: true livers of life at its most basic and most beautiful.

    • We were asked by a “bystander”, how our perspectives had changed. I replied, “check back a few months after we return to Baltimore”. I have to say I have thoughts and will await action follow-through before defining the new me! lol
      We do love the water, electricity, resource management we’re learning…among other things.

  8. Your observations remind me of the fellow who counted in “the little prince” – time for me to reread it. I will say it is helpful to do time calculations during a bike ride to make sure you don’t end up scaring a skunk in the dark. Then again, maybe one misses all of the unusual, surprising memories by doing the calculations?

    • Debbie, we generally do some of those time “guesses”, but like on the Allegheny Passage, stopping, smiling and enjoying sometimes lead to darkness.. Haha. That Skunk sure was cute; looking like the pompom on a marching band hat…leading us along the railtrail before we even knew him. See ya soon.

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