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3.141569 or Pi Day

Yes. It’s Pi Day—March 14—3.14

[editor’s note: Even while I was saying the words out loud … three point one four one five NINE, I was typing three point one four one five SIX. If Vick hadn’t made a comment I don’t know when I would have caught the mistake. This will teach me to go to bed at 10 P.M. and not write a post at 1 A.M.]

I used to work as a draftsman. (I never felt comfortable calling myself a draftswoman because it sounded contrived, but “drafter” was even worse.) As an old-fashioned board draftsman, there were many opportunities for me to use a variety of formulas in my job, which included calculating acreages and right-of-ways— usually for pipelines or utility companies. And sometimes in conjunction with land developers, who loved to lay out massive sweeping curves—think shopping malls—which meant so many calculations using Pi that my head would spin.

I greatly disliked those developers for platting curved property lines. Duh. Use straight property lines, and CURVED curb lines. But all those pretty curved lines looked good on the show-and-tell drawings, and were carefully designed to appeal to the money-lenders and investors. To amuse myself when figuring square footages, I always calculated Pi to five decimal points.


This is not an image of the comptometer that I used, but it’s close enough. Mine was big and black, with a steeply angled keyboard. Circa 1940.

To run out the survey elevations on a parcel of land, I used a comptometer. It was fast and easy, even though we had programmable Hewlett Packard calculators right at hand, but those calculators were fussy and annoying with tiny keys. That comptometer had gravitas (and now you know how old I am!).

I also used an IBM engineering typewriter, which had a carriage large enough to feed a whole large drawing into (up to 36″ wide), so you could type directly onto the drawing instead of hand-lettering or using Leroy lettering. The IBM used proportional spacing, which was dandy if you always typed forward, but if you had to back-space to correct a mistake it was crazy. Then you had to remember that all the characters on the keyboard used one to four “spaces” per character. M and W took four spaces. But 1, I, and the ” and ‘ marks used only one space. The letter J took two spaces and the other letters and numbers (straining my memory now) used three spaces.

The engineers I worked for were enormously relieved that I figured out how to use the engineering typewriter, because the other draftsmen (males!) absolutely refused to touch it. I wanted to touch it—with a 3 lb. shop hammer, but I never did. Actually, it taught me a lot about proportional spacing, which was most valuable when I took up sign painting on the side.

potd_pi-pie.jpgOK. I’ve digressed completely from Pi—3.141569. So listen: you need to eat pie today—the round kind, with a crust on the bottom and maybe the top too, in celebration of the third month and the fourteenth day. I might bake a pie for Larry. Chocolate. Or pecan. We have delicious home-grown pecans in the pantry, that Larry’s mother and second father harvested from their own pecan trees. You can’t get better than that.

Happy Pi Day!

2 thoughts on “3.141569 or Pi Day

  1. Yesterday it was 3.14, so when the time was 1:59, THAT WAS PI MINUTE

  2. Vick, I’m glad you left a comment, or I would not have caught my mistake.
    I should have taken a Pi minute before I posted 🙂

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