Archive for January 13, 2020

Truth, Lies, and Math in Portland

The city that I now call home — Portland, OR — is the most beautiful city in the country. With views of Mt. St. Helens to the north, Mt. Adams to the northeast, Mt. Hood to the east, and powerful rivers through the middle of town, it’s hard to look in any direction without having your breath stolen.

As it turns out, Portland is also the smartest city in the country. This fact is irrefutable, per the following data.

Book Sales
Book Sales
per 100,000
New York32120.01.6
Los Angeles15813.31.2
San Francisco1434.73.0
Washington, DC1236.22.0

Although the data suggests that Portland might only be the second-smartest city in the country — Portland lags slightly behind Boston in per capita sales of Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks — Stumptown leapfrogs Beantown because not a single person in Portland deigns to root for the Patriots.

The exemplary intelligence of Portlandians is only one of the many things I’ve discovered since moving to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve also learned that Portland is a beer Mecca; that, despite its reputation, the weather in Portland is far from terrible and, in fact, quite to my liking; it has some cool parks; and, Portland has a lot of bikes and a lot of bridges.


As a beer lover, I was ecstatic to hear that Portland had the most craft breweries of any city in the world.

Unfortunately, that was an old statistic, and Portland, OR, currently ranks #8 nationally in terms of craft breweries per capita:

  1. Portland, ME
  2. Asheville, NC
  3. Bend, OR
  4. Boulder, CO
  5. Kalamazoo, MI
  6. Vista, CA
  7. Greenville, SC
  8. Portland, OR
  9. Pensacola, FL
  10. Missoula, MT

The “other Portland” garners the top spot on the list. But it seems to me that if the list were culled to show only those cities where people actually want to live, the real Portland would again be near the top. (Asheville and Boulder absolutely give Portland a run for their money. But Kalamazoo and Vista? C’mon, now!)


Portland is known for gray skies and rain. But compare Portland to my previous hometown, Washington, DC.

The graphs below show that DC is warmer and wetter in the summer, but colder and drier in the winter.

But let’s dig into those numbers a little.

The average temperature in the two cities is remarkably similar, with Portland averaging 54.5°F and Washington, DC, averaging 55.7°F. But the hottest days are hotter in DC, and the coldest days are colder in DC. The temperate oceanic climate in Portland explains the cooler summers, the warmer winters, and the incredibly high number of homeless people.

Admittedly, Portland has more days of rain than Washington, DC — 156 to 115, in fact — but it receives a significantly smaller amount of rainfall — 36.0″ to 40.8″, a difference of nearly five inches.

Portland trails in hours of sunshine by roughly 10%, with 2,341 hours compared to DC’s 2,528. But Portland also has fewer days of snow per year, just 2.2 to DC’s 8.0, and much less accumulation — 3.0″ in Portland to a whopping 14.5″ in the nation’s capital.*

But rain, snow, sun, and temperature aside, there may be one statistic that is more important than all the others: Washington, DC, has significantly more days of Donald Trump, averaging over 300 per year since 2016; but since becoming President, Trump has spent nary a minute in Oregon.


Portland boasts Mill Ends Park, which holds the Guiness World Record for smallest park on the planet.

The smallest park in the world, Mill Ends Park in Portland, OR

With a diameter of just 24″, the total area of Mill Ends Park is exactly π square feet, or approximately 0.000 072 acres.


Portland has 94 miles of neighborhood greenways, 162 miles of bike lanes, and 85 miles of bike paths. That’s 341 biker‑friendly miles, which explains why more than 22,000 people ride their bikes to work every day. Over six percent of Portland’s commuters bike to work, which is twelve times the national average.

The joke in Portland is that, when you step off an airplane at PDX, they hand you a rain jacket and a dog. But if they really want folks to fit in, they better start doling out bikes, too.


The Willamette (pronounced wuh-LAM-it, not WILL-uh-met) River separates the east and west sides of Portland, and it’s spanned by twelve bridges. When the Hawthorne Bridge was built in 1910, it was one of the first vertical-lift bridges anywhere in the country; now, it’s the last one still in operation. The Tilikum Crossing Bridge was the country’s first ever multi-modal bridge that accommodated light rail, streetcar, buses, and pedestrians — but not private automobiles. And the St. John’s Bridge, known for its 400-feet high, twin Gothic-style arches, previously held the records for the world’s longest pre-stressed twisted rope cables as well as the tallest reinforced concrete pier in the world. 

St. John’s Bridge in NW Portland

Every morning as I cross the Sellwood Bridge, I look north to the smartest, drunkest, rainiest, most beautiful city in the country, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

* Every Portland resident who has relocated from some other part of the country will make a similar comparison between the weather in Portland and the weather in the city where they used to live. This is nothing more than rationalizing the decision to move to a city that only gets 144 days of sunshine a year.**

** Every Portland resident will also tell folks in other cities how bad the weather is, in an attempt to discourage others from moving to this amazing city. In short, they don’t want you here. I suspect, in fact, that they didn’t (and maybe still don’t) want me here. But too late, I’m staying. You, on the other hand, shouldn’t even think of coming here. I promise, you’ll hate it.

January 13, 2020 at 7:46 am Leave a comment

About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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