Measuring Your Robot with a Ruler

For many years, we didn’t even own a TV. When the one we had started smoking (pre-digital age) we got rid of it and never looked back.

We had one for my daughter to watch videos, but we’d eliminated cable TV since she watched nothing that wasn’t on VHS or, later, CDs.

But at some point, when access to the internet required at least some form of cable or fiber optic connection, we acquired a TV. Not through direct purchase but through an incentive at a furniture store where we bought new furnishings for a recent move.

We’ve since used the TV primarily to watch British detective series or BBC shows. I only wish I could get Mrs. Brown’s Boys on a more regular basis. Now that is funny stuff. If you’ve never seen the “waxing” episode I will put the link here as long as you promise to watch it and then come back here, not go down the web-search rabbit’s hole..

(Click for laughs here)

Now, with our soon to be duplicated grandson, we have more opportunities to watch such things as Peppa Pig and Sesame Street. Hard to believe Sesame Street is fifty-four years old, yet the magic it weaves for children is, well, magical.

The other day, there was a musical segment called Measuring Your Robot with a Ruler. A couple of things jumped out at me. First, it sounded like the title of a science fiction novel or one of those book titles that bears almost no connection to the content of the book.

But there was another aspect to the segment I found confusing. This is a digital world. Schools no longer teach cursive writing. Laptops are required for lower grades. Printers are the tools of production. Even textbooks and required readings (but none of those books) are all Kindle or Nook based.

We were watching the show on a Kindle Fire device!

Yet the Sesame Street piece chose—along with the ruler—crayons, a straw, and, inexplicably, erasers to measure the robot.

Erasers are evolution’s fossil predecessor to the delete key. When was the last time you used one? I barely recognized them, although they brought back nightmares of when teachers could hum one of these with remarkable accuracy at an offending miscreant’s head and not worry about being shot, indicted, or held liable for the costs of trauma therapy.

Chalk was also a teacher-launched cruise missile, but only for the most dire of situations. The pinpoint accuracy of most teachers led me to believe one of the required courses for a teaching degree was Special Forces level marksmanship. Some of them had the range of a nuclear warhead.

blue office eraser orange
Photo by Pixabay on

But I digress.

It is just strange to me that Sesame would use such an archaic object to teach children alternative methods for measuring things.

It would make about as much sense for them to teach them things like using fathoms to figure out the depth of the pool. Although they could use the phrase “Full fathom five thy father lies” in the appropriate context.

Of course, I might make the argument that teaching Shakespeare is an equally wasteful effort. I mean, if you’re not going to bother learning how to write with a pen (or eraser equipped pencil if you like) how can you ever appreciate the effort by the Bard to compose such masterful prose and poetry?

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest.

With all the useless skills I was required to learn in school, to borrow the words from Paul Simon’s Kodachrome “When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school…,” at least the skill of detecting and avoiding an incoming eraser served me well as a police officer.

One should never underestimate the benefit of having the ability to duck thrown objects. Maybe if Sesame Street had Oscar the Grouch throw erasers at Big Bird and Elmo to teach them to duck it might be a more practical life lesson.

Come to think of it, maybe this is the solution to school shootings. Pass a law permitting teachers to use erasers as a disciplinary measure on a regular basis thus preserving the skill. Then, equip them will special ballistic erasers that can incapacitate any would be shooter.

If kids go to school living in fear of the sting of a well-placed eraser maybe the nightmarish memory will be enough to make those who compensate for their inadequacies by acquiring guns choose another target. Not a perfect solution but a step in the right direction.

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