Tomfoolery and Gerrymandering

This post was prompted by a recent US Supreme Court decision, but it also brought back some memories.

For 111 years, Burkard Polster and I wrote the weekly Maths Masters column for Melbourne’s Age newspaper, writing a total of 11111111 columns. (The title wasn’t of our choosing.) Our column began in print, as part of VCE Express in Monday’s education lift-out, which soon moved online. While in print, we were instructed to write “about 350 words”, just enough to say hello to a topic and then good bye. Once the column went online, however, we were granted a lot of license and took more: we would routinely submit well over a thousand words, illustrated with a number of Burkard’s beautiful graphics. It was also standard practice to be emailing drafts back and forth at midnight before the morning deadline. (Burkard: “Here’s the graphic I spent an hour on.” Marty: “It doesn’t work.” Burkard: “… Back in an hour.”) The payment for each column remained amusingly low; it was reminiscent of Calvin Trillin’s story of the Nation‘s editor offering to pay him in “the high two figures”. But of course we did the column as best we could as an end in itself. It was great fun to do, until it wasn’t, and it was exhausting. Continue reading “Tomfoolery and Gerrymandering”