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09 June, 2014

One Seventh

Seven Slices Make a Wheel

Geez. The last two up-to-date posts were depressing, so here I am regressing to nostalgia.

Someday, I'll get around to the post about reinventing the wheel, a popular 20th Century pastime, but for now I' happy just to post a pic of a wheel. Behold yon wagon wheel. Rims of steel (maybe iron) round hub and circumferance of wood (I know not which species).

Look close, and you'll see that the 14 spokes radiate to seven sections of wood, each 51.42857 degrees of a circle. Sure, it would have been easier to go with an even half dozen 60-degree arcs, easy to mark, nothing more than a radial length required if you know the trick, calculation rendered superfluous.

But at what cost? The wheel divided by six is a wheel divided in half, prone to buckling, vulnerable to folding when you hit that rock cockeyed. Divide the wheel into sevenths, and opposite each joint is a solid stretch of strong wood grain. There is strength in oddness.

Do you see?

Maybe not. In which case, I draw to your attention the seven-sliced pie (sorry, no photo). I grew up hearing the legendary prowess of my grandmother, who could slice a pie into even sevenths. Any fool can do eigths, and sixths are pretty easy too, but the seven-sliced pie requires a keen eye. No zipping the knife all the way across; she had to know the center, the 51-point-something angle. Each cut depended on confidence in the face of chaos, each slice an expression of asymmetry that would add up to: symmetry.

The seven-slice pie was not a matter of neccesity. It was a luxury. She had a family of six. The extra slice was for the hard worker home after a long day (her, often enough, because not only granddad went to the mill), the kid who excelled, the neighbor whose kindness merited recognition. Or, he-hee, the cook whose hand made it. Number seven was the extra. They were not rich, grandma and grand-daddy, but they could still live large. 

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