Monday, July 15, 2013
Measuring the Metra Mess
This is one of those start-one-place-and-end-up-somewhere-completely-different kind of columns, beginning with a dollop of fractal theory, then commenting on the conflict between speed and significance in news, and, finally, wading into the Metra brouhaha, almost as an afterthought, which it was — I got the first two subjects out of the way and had a little room left at the end. Any of the three themes could easily have been teased out into an entire column. But people are busy, and want some bang for their buck, so I try to cram a lot in there and not just hobbyhorse on a single subject. I hope people enjoy skipping from one idea to the next, as opposed to being, oh, annoyed and confused.
How long is the shoreline of Chicago? That’s a more complicated question than it sounds. If you eyeball it on an AAA map, using the distance key, it looks about 24 miles from Rogers Beach Park, at the far north, to Calumet Park, at far south.But the more accurate answer—as anyone who is mathematically savvy could tell you—is that when calculating the shore of Chicago, or any coast, the final length depends upon the unit of measurement you start out with.
What does that mean? If you took a 10 yard piece of string and walked the beach, you’d get one answer. And if you took a foot long ruler, measuring every outcropping and inlet, you’d get another, bigger figure. And if you took a measuring stick an inch long, following every bump and notch along the sand, you’d get a third, even longer distance.
None of them is “correct.” All depend on how finely you focus. Which has an echo with the news industry, as I was reminded Friday, when two concurrent events took place.
First, I was talking to the governor’s press secretary about a story that should be published this week.
To read the rest of the column, go to:
Measuring the Metra Mess (This link is broken; apologies).