Sunday, August 1, 2010

Making a Subway Map X

[ I started writing about the new version of my subway map in progress here in Making a Subway Map I in May. ]

The diagram is stalled.

I mentioned last time about radically compressing the distances on the suburban railroads. I implemented the idea for Westchester and Long Island and started on New Jersey. But I'm not satisfied with doing it, and I stopped so I could think about it.

Here's the diagram as it stands now, and below it is a satellite image from Google Maps, rotated to the same orientation as the diagram.

The inner circle on the satellite image is the area I need to cover for a subway map. The center is at Grand Central, and the outermost location is Far Rockaway. Half of the Staten Island Railway is beyond the circle.

The outer circle includes all of Staten Island. It's also the approximate area of inner suburbs that I would like to include. The outer edges, clockwise from lower left, would be approximately Perth Amboy, Metuchen, Plainfield, Berkeley Heights, Madison or Morristown, Boonton, Ramsey or Suffern, Spring Valley, Tarrytown, White Plains, Port Chester, Oyster Bay, Hicksville, and Freeport.

To do this, I will need to go back to a square format, and shrink it by a little more than 50% if I ever make prints on 18-inch wide paper. I think that will work.

I have just decided on this today (Sunday), so I haven't done anything about it yet. That's all I have this week!

There are stages in projects where you have to spend some time thinking about what to do. It ends up looking like you didn't do much, but you did. A few weeks ago I made tremendous progress drawing lines and circles, but that was because I knew what to do, and all I had to do was do it. That's easy. Thinking is hard.

I had one of these moments on the job last week. We wanted to know, in general, what mail systems our students, faculty, and staff use. We had lists of each category of person and a list of where everyone's mail went. We had about twenty-two categories of persons and four categories of where mail could go (the two systems run by central IT, others on campus, and others outside). But since mail could go to more than one place, four categories made sixteen combinations. All I had to do was write a script that iterated through all 70,000 persons and counted the sixteen totals for each of the categories of persons. So I thought for a while about ways to loop through everything. In the end it was a pretty short script, and it runs pretty fast. I spent much more time thinking about how to do it than I did typing it out. That's how it usually goes.

The stories I've written for the blog are like that too. In many cases I put together almost the whole story in my head while out walking and running, over the course of several days, without writing any of it down. I'll tell myself the story, and change things in it, until I think it's about right, and then I type out the whole thing. It will still need editing. And sometimes I come up with a great idea at the last moment, but that rarely happens while I'm typing— it comes to me afterwards.

Don't worry, I will not delay the subway diagram till 2011. That's not going to happen. I'd love to get it out the door by the end of August.

Continued: Making a Subway Map XI.

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