January 25, 2008

Kilos and pounds, meters and feet

scales and measures
I never learned the metric system, except to know that a liter is approximately a quart − thanks to Coca Cola − and that a meter is approximately a yard.

During our house construction, I became a lot more familiar with meters and centimeters because the house plans and many of the materials are sold that way. I was forever translating meters to feet and then back again with adjustments for the house plans.

I still don't feel comfortable enough with metrics to guess at a conversion. If it is something important and needs to be very accurate, I usually have to convert it online or by calculator to be really comfortable with it.

Interestingly, a conglomeration of US and metric type measurements are used in Honduras. Some make it easier for me, others are downright confusing.

Here is a list of the measurements used in certain products/areas:

Fabric - yards or pounds (! how do you know how many pounds of curtains you need?)
Meat and vegetables - pounds
Beans and rice, prepackaged - kilos
Beans and rice, in the market - pounds
Carton of eggs - 15 or 30 (although it is possible to buy one egg at a time)
Gasoline - U.S. gallons
Milk - liters
Distance - kilometers and meters
Wood - feet
Metal - meter
Metal caliber measurements - both metric and inches
Cheese and deli meats - pound
Temperature (climate) - Celsius
Temperature (oven) - Fahrenheit, but recipes frequently give temperatures in F but designate them as C. For example, bake cake at 350°C ?! (662°F)
Land - varas, meters, hectares, and manzanas

Recipes in newspapers and magazines are really a hodgepodge. Ingredient measurements are generally given in metric measurements (grams, liters), but flour is almost always defined in pounds, while sugar is usually in grams. I've seen many recipes which include ingredients in pounds, cups, ounces, liters, and grams − all in the same recipe.

I can't get used to thinking in metrics. I know the formula for converting temperatures in Celsius to Fahrenheit, but it is enough for me to know that 30°C is hot and 20°C is cold to this tropical climate-adjusted body. We rarely get outside of that range in La Ceiba.

Science Made Simple has a quick to use measurement converter. Online Conversion is another good one, with conversions for some not so common measurements.
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