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The Trickle - Math

February 9, 2011 - Brian Ferry
Most journalists hate numbers. Except for statistics they don't have to think about because they are provided by a source and look good in a story. As far as I know, every journalist likes that stuff. I admit to that. However, I go well beyond enjoying the numbers that make my stories seem cooler. Before I was a grammar/word geek, I was a numbers geek. It probably started when I was about 7 years old and couldn't get enough baseball and football statistics. So, I like numbers. I like math. I'm even quite good at it compared to 98.93 percent of journalists. Being a grammar geek means I get annoyed when someone says 'further' (which I fully admit sounds better) when they mean 'farther' - a distance. Further is an extent or degree. One can further one's education. If you're walking/driving/kayaking, unless you're talking about expanding your experience, you're going farther. Pet peeve. (I'm enough of an English geek that upon re-reading my blog, I noticed that my second "sentence" is nothing of the sort. I'll leave it that way for purity's sake.) On the Times Observer Web site today, I noticed something that bugged me as a math geek. An ad for a car (maybe a Kia) indicated that the starting price of the base model was $19,690. The usual "nicely equipped" model shown was $26,690. I don't have a problem with that. What I didn't like was the superscripts someone decided had to be added to the numbers. If they had put asterisks next to the prices to indicate there was some note to follow, that would have worked fine for me. Instead, each price has a superscript 3 after it. I'm not even going to be apologetic about it. No base model car is worth $19,690 cubed - $7,633,736,209,000 ($7 trillion and change). And, unless one of the options is "settling the national debt", no car of any sort is worth $19,012,781,309,000.


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