God's Word for today

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bureaucrats ... gotta love 'em!

I have spent most of my life dealing with some or other form of bureaucracy, ranging from parental (Mom: "Ask Dad" - Dad: "Ask Mom"), to school and university, to places like the South African Revenue Service (painful at times), the Johannesburg Metro Call Centre (impossible most of the time).

Naturally, being the size and complexity that it is, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa is no different. Anyone who has tried to get a building project approved will have experienced what it is like to move from proposal stage among the society stewards, then to the church council, then the Circuit Quarterly Meeting, and if everyone hasn't bolted through the doors like gibbering idiots by then, onward to the District Trust Property Committee. Finally, if it manages to squeak through there, the proposal then heads off to the Presiding Bishop's office for final approval. Any flaws picked up anywhere in the process results in the whole thing being sent back, and with the various meetings being held on a quarterly basis, if one doesn't get all the "I"s dotted and the "T"s crossed, such a process can take a very, VERY long time!

But when I received this through the e-mail, I was heartened to learn that ours is by no means the worst bureaucracy around!


The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England and English expatriates built the US railroads.

Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever.

So the next time you are handed a Specification / Procedure / Process and wonder 'What horse's ass came up with it?' you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' asses). Now, the twist to the story:

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRB's. The SRB's are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRB's would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB's had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRB's had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass. And you thought being a horse's ass wasn't important? Ancient horse's asses control almost everything... and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling everything else.

Aren't we glad that in Christ there is no bureaucracy involved - we have direct access to God! Thank You, Lord, for always being there for us.

1 comment:

Fat Prophet said...

This is exceptionally good and very educational. Thanks for sharing it.