Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Playing the Numbers Game

Math excluded, it's a lot of fun to waste time on a boring Monday afternoon by playing around with numbers. When Matt Carroll gave my reinventing the news class a presentation on databases, including those on's "Government Center," I realized I had a new medium of entertainment available to me. Of the many databases available on the site, these three were of most interest to me.

Dunkin' Donuts Database

I'm pretty sure that the first thing that struck me when I visited Boston for the first time in 2004 was the absurdly high number of Dunkin' Donuts locations in the city. Alongside Bank of America, it seemed like every other establishment in the city was a Dunkin' Donuts store. I'm not the only one who feels that way, as all of the people from back home that have come up here to visit me have commented on the plethora of Dunkin' Donuts. Fortunately, this database exists for people who want to find out just how many stores Dunkin' has in the greater Boston area (for the record, the city of Boston has 67). I'm not a fan of donuts, muffins, or coffee, so I guess I'd have to move to one of only 17 cities in the area if I wanted to avoid what appears to be a Boston institution.

Employees Who Walked to Work Database

When I began living in Boston last September, adjusting to like without a car took some getting used to. The more I've spent time here, the more I don't miss having a car. I love walking all over the city, even on the coldest of days. Judging by the number of people I pass each day on the streets of this town, I'm apparently not alone in my feelings on using my feet for transportation. I like this database because it reveals the number of people, per 1,000 residents, who walk to work in cities throughout the state. The fact that 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work each day in Boston was fairly surprising to me, although I'd have to believe that number is much higher than what can be found in my hometown of Houston.

Deaths Caused by Heart Disease Database

Finally, in sticking with this health and fitness theme, the final database I looked at has to do with the number of people (per 10,000 residents) that died from hear disease in Massachusetts cities in 2005. It was interesting to compare this database to the one regarding the number of people who walked to work in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the cities that had more people walk to work had less people die of heart disease. For example, 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work in Boston and 15.5 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease. On the flip side, 3.2 residents out of 1,000 walked to work in Tempelton, while 30.7 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease in the city.

As demonstrated by these databases, numbers alone can be the basis for an informative newspaper story. I feel like the most interesting story that could be taken out of these three databases has to do with what I began talking about in the description of the deaths caused by heart disease database. I would enjoy writing a story based around the fact that residents who don't heavily rely on cars tend to be healthier than those who are forced to drive everywhere. Nothing groundbreaking there, but interesting nonetheless.

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