How one thing leads to another! With my glory days as a globe-trotting big-shot recording engineer behind me (for now at least), I earn my daily crust in a small cubicle in midtown Manhattan, writing C++ code for a medium-sized global corporation. It is now 9:15 P.M., and as is so often the case, I am still here in the office (whence all but I have fled), trying to get some software to work.
Earlier today someone mentioned Donald Knuth, the great programming pioneer and all-round Renaissance man, and as I sat at my computer just now waiting for my compiler to do its work, I looked him up on Wikipedia to see what it had to say about him. I discovered that among his many distinguished achievements, he had even written an article for MAD magazine back in 1957, on the “Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures” (which, as I also found out, is an available system of units in Google Calculator).
All this led me in turn to Wikipedia’s List of unusual units of measurement and List of humorous units of measurement, where I learned about such useful quantities as the beard-second, the attoparsec, the microfortnight, and my favorite of the lot, the Sheppey, which is “A measure of distance equal to about 7⁄8 of a mile (1.4 km), defined as the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque.”
Hey, the compiler’s done, and no errors! Gotta run. Back in a few millifriedmans.