Happy holidays

Apparently don’t expect to be too happy on the first day of your holiday:

An article on holiday happiness, based in part on this study from which comes the chart above, offers these other bits of advice:

Take more short trips rather then a few long ones

… 2010 study concluded that two- to six-day vacations are the most beneficial to our well-being.

Don’t return on a Sunday

A study published in the Journal of Leisure Research shows that if we return on a Thursday or a Friday, we can insulate ourselves from the shock of job demands and prolong the holiday happiness boost


Having a good war

I was at a lecture at LSE today where this data was presented on a slide:

The GDP setback lists the equivalent earlier year that each country’s GDP had been reduced to by 1946. I was surprised that not only had the UK’s GDP actually risen over the course of the war, but at how few deaths there were. Estimates of number of WW2 dead vary widely, and I think the number given in their table is just for military deaths. But even adding in civilian deaths, less than 1% of the UK population were killed in a war in which 50+ million died.


The excel geek in me thought this was cute

Crowded House

This chart came up in my blogs today regarding average home sizes around the world:

It reminds me of a statistic that was given in The Economist some years ago. If you put all of the houses in the UK together, with no stacking (i.e., no flats, apartment blocks, etc) what area of the country would be covered? From memory there are some 25m households in the UK. Let’s round-up the 76 sq m to 100 to allow for some garden space. 25×10^6 x 10^2 = 25×10^8 sq m in total. That’s a square of side 5×10^4 metres, i.e., 50km.

In other words, all the households in the UK would fit into a 30 mile square, which is about the distance from Manchester to Liverpool. Maybe the UK isn’t so crowded after all. (Newspaper stories and articles about Britain having the highest population density in Europe typically leave out Malta, Monaco, and a few others, and then give the number for England only).

Evolving wealth

I would have excluded Turkey as well as the US as outliers in plotting this graph (and therefore modelled it with a linear regression.) Plus it’s a shame that more countries aren’t included. But still, I’m not surprised to see a positive correlation between the two variables.


Chart of believe in evolution v GDP per capita



Is that a big number?

An article discussing India’s shrinking production of food per person was linked to in a blog I read today with the eye-catching extract that

[India] wastes…more fruits and vegetables than the UK consumes.

It sounds big at first, but considering the population of India is 20x that of the UK that’s only really saying they have a 5% rate of wastage, and that’s before you get into any adjustments for an Indian diet containing relatively higher amounts of fruit and vegetables.

Between 1997 and 2009, an estimated 200,000 Indian farmers committed suicide, buried under mountains of rising debt

Again, a big headline number, but once you start to divide out by the time period, and the 1.2bln population – a greater proportion of which would be farmers relative to Western countries – it no longer stands out. Let’s say 0.5% of the UK’s population are farmers*, and that India has only 10 times as many farmers (I’d guess that’s conservative). Converting the suicide rate into British terms, it would be the same as saying 1 in 5,000 British farmers commit suicide each year**. I suspect that is the national suicide rate, give or take.

There were some interesting observations in the article though.

The average farm in India is now smaller than five acres, 50 per cent less than in 1947

One reason being land is split into parcels and passed onto several sons in the next generation. With diseconomies of scale like this, the thrust of the article that India now produces less food per person than it did at independence is reasonable.


updates, now that I’m online:

*This source counts 300,000 farms in the UK, so I’m quite happy with my 0.5% estimate!

**wikipedia lists the UK and India as having broadly similar suicide rates of roughly 1 per 10,000.

Geek varieties

To the amusement of my friends, I was called a “fit geek” in an interview on BBC radio recently. Normally, I’m just a regular geek.

This idea for productivity improvement came up in one of the blogs I read a short while ago:

Go find a geek. Someone who understands gmail, Outlook, Excel and other basic tools.

Pay her to sit next to you for an hour and watch you work.

Then say, “tell me five ways I can save an hour a day.”

Whatever you need to pay for this service, it will pay for itself in a week