The politics of policing part two: the mayor of Austin pushes back against the governor’s call to take a pledge not to defund police. Coming up our conversation with Austin mayor Steve Adler who says characterizations of major cutbacks in the Texas capital city’s police funding amount to GOP politics as usual. We’ll hear more Also, changes to the sex ed curriculum in Texas, LGBTQ students say proposals are woefully inadequate as social conservatives push an abstinence only message. And the threat to a burgeoning industry, Texas wineries teaming up. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
As many Texans struggle to make ends meet in a pandemic, politicians debate what sort of relief to offer. We’ll talk with Senator John Cornyn. Also, among the biggest cities in the US, residents of Houston appear to be facing the toughest challenges when it comes to personal finance and health. We’ll have details from a new survey by NPR and Harvard. Plus the politics of medicine amid a pandemic, how college campuses are trying to curb the spread amid rising COVID-19 numbers, the Fed changes its position on curbing inflation, what that might mean from most everyday folks and more today on the Texas Standard:
Residents of the northern part of the Texas gulf coast prepare for the worst as Hurricane Laura approaches, gathering speed. Overnight, hurricane Laura intensified 70 percent, approaching category 4 as it neared the coastal border of Louisiana and Texas. Many cities have been evacuated, we’ll be checking in with the mayor pro-tem of Galveston, who says residents there are bracing from a storm similar to Hurricane Ike. Also a major beef between Harvard and Texas A&M as the two institutions engage in a public food fight over the safety of eating meat. Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
This week on In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson, Jr. presents a conversation with the late George E. Curry, formerly Editor-in-Chief of Emerge Magazine. Curry was a staunch champion of the Black Press until his death in August, 2016.
By W. F. Strong
Shakespeare told us that “some have greatness thrust upon them.” Such was the case for Oliver Smoot. He was born in Bexar County, Texas, and there was nothing in his formative years to predict the events that would push him into international prominence.
Oliver was a fine student and his academic strengths got him into MIT in Boston. It was there that he was pledging a fraternity and his pledge class was given the ridiculous task of measuring Harvard Bridge, which connects Boston to Cambridge, in some new way. The bridge was half a mile long.
His group of pledges decided fairly quickly that since Oliver was the shortest among them, five-foot-seven, they would use him as their “ruler.” Late one night, they laid him down on the sidewalk of the bridge and moved him slowly, one body length at a time, making a mark on the sidewalk at his head every time they moved him. Took five hours because the police dispersed them and they had to sneak back later.
Once completed, they totaled all the times they had moved him and it came to 364.4 times – plus an ear. They decided to immortalize this new unit of measure as a smoot, after Oliver’s last name. Thus the bridge was 364.4 smoots (and an ear) long. You can even see the smoot measurements on the bridge today, no doubt pleasing MIT that Harvard Bridge is eternally branded by the university and pleasing to me that a Texan was used to do it.
Even when the Continental Construction Company reconcreted the sidewalk in 1987, they made the slabs in smoot lengths to commemorate local lore. It’s wonderful to see Work that into a conversation that everyone can work in harmony for a common cause when they want to.
In the category of truth is stranger than fiction, Oliver Smoot eventually became the Chairman of the American National Standards Institute and President of the International Organization for Standardization. He was in charge of weights and measures. How’s that for a perfect fit?
The crowning compliment to the glory of the smoot as a measurement was when the fun-loving geeks at Google, no doubt many from MIT, decided to include the unit of measure in Google conversions. It’s true – try it. In the Google search window you can get any distance converted to smoots.
Distance from Cut n’ Shoot to Dime Box: 112,913 smoots
It’s 5,640,000,000 smoots from Texas to the Moon.
You can even determine how far you boot scooted to George Strait at the dance hall last night. Convert your steps into smoots.
I think it is also fitting to have this relatively new unit of measure – now legitimized in many dictionaries, including the American Heritage Dictionary and the Urban Dictionary – brought to us by a native Texan. After all, Texas itself, as I’ve noted before, has long been a unit of measure. For instance, you could fit 25 Massachusetts into Texas. And, in case you were wondering, Texas has a total area of over 240 trillion square smoots. today.