Posts Tagged happiness

Costa Rica — the happiest place on Earth

Life-sustaining Costa Rican “broccoli” tree towering over rain-forest trail on the slopes of the Arenal Volcano.

The latest issue of National Geographic awaited me upon my return from a wonderful vacation in Costa Rica.  Based on my pleasant encounters, it was no surprise to me that this Central American country came first on the feature article about “Happiest Places”.  Costa Rica also ranked #1 on the Happy Planet Index (HPI).  See the Today.Com video here for the heads-up on what distinguishes Costa Rica and other joyful places around the world.

It seems to me that the recipe for happiness varies quite a lot, but one aspect of Costa Ricans that I like is them living “pura vida”—the pure, or simple, life.

“What I argue for are statistically driven things you can do to optimize your environment so you’re more likely to be happy for the long term.”

– Dan Buettner, Minnesotan author of The Blue Zones of Happiness (Source: The “A Lazy Person’s Guide to Happiness”

P.S. The top 25 happiest USA cities are ranked here — the hometown for Stat-Ease came in at #22. 😊

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Average American works 3.5 hours a day

This headline statistic makes it seem that Americans are slackers. However all this work is being done by only 60% of our population and on weekends to boot. An alarming downward trend in sleep-time is being counteracted by increased proportion of work being done at home. Based on how I’ve been laboring later and later at my home office, I think these two statistics may be inversely correlated—more work means less sleep. For more details, see this Wall Street Journal briefing on the statistics released by the Labor Department last Tuesday. It includes data on how much cooking and housework the men do versus women. I’m taking a hands-off position on that. ; )

P.S. Bloomberg Business recently reported that Europeans work an hour less a day than Americans. See their statistics here. We really need to take cue from our colleagues across the Atlantic and take more vacation. Also, Europeans retire earlier than Americans. Here in the U.S. more people are working past 65 than at any point in the past 50 years. This strikes close to home with me turning 64 this month and still working full time. However, I like to keep busy and enjoy my work (and the pay), so I cannot complain. Also, I am thankful not to be forced into retirement. But one of these days…


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Reject love at first sight until you achieve sufficient sample size

Ok, this headline is a bit misleading. It’s not how quickly you fall in love that’s the problem, according to statisticians, it’s falling for the first potential mate that comes along. In other words, they calculate that only fools rush in. ; )

The optimal process for finding the love of your life is this:

  1. Estimate the number (“n”) of people you will date in your life.
  2. Take the square root (√) of n. This is your minimum (“m”).
  3. Keep records on the first m people you date and rank them by attraction—this is your benchmark (“b”). (I advise a 1-9 scale—the odd number allowing for those who are so-so, them being rated a 5.) Dump every one of them.  (Statisticians have no heart when it comes to algorithms like this.)
  4. After you dump m dates, settle down with the first one who exceeds b. Ideally they will rate 10. (Yes, I know this goes above the scale but that is true love.)

I credit the Wall Street Journal last Friday (Feb. 10)* for alerting me to this recipe for finding a soul mate. However, this 2014 article by Slate breaks it down a bit better, IMO. They report that out of a choice of 10 people (n), the √n method (dictating you dump the first 3-4 potential partners) will get you someone that’s three-quarters (75%) perfect. Not good enough? Then go for 100 candidates (ditching the initial 10 suitors) and increase your score to around 90 percent.

Still not satisfied? Revert to the original benchmark of 37% rejection (the reciprocal of Euler’s number e—the base of the natural logarithm) based on the first calculations for the marriage problem that came out in 1960. However, I suggest you make it easier on yourself (and those who desire you but have no shot) by opening up your search sooner by the square root rule. Just keep reminding yourself after settling down that it could have been a lot worse if you had been a fool by rushing in on your first love.

“If you end up marrying the second best person, life is probably not going to be rotten.”

– Neil Bearden, Decision Behavior Laboratory, University of Arizona, author of “Skip the Square Root of n”, Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 9 June 2005.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

* “In Love, Probability Calculus Suggests Only Fools Rush In”.

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Scary statistics about Halloween

I am torn whether it will be scarier to dress up as the nightmarish Freddie Krueger from Elm Street or as a statistics instructor.  Which would you rather be locked in a windowless room with?  Hmmm… best you not answer that.

Anyways, here are some frightful facts about the upcoming holiday reported in yesterday’s USA Today:

  • 171 million Americans plan to partake in Halloween festivities. Crazy!
  • On average, women will pay double for “non-sexy” Halloween costumes. The “sexy” costumes cost on average around $30, while the demure ones (boo!) go for near $60.
  • Witch and pirate are the first two costumes of choice, followed by Trump and Clinton. Hmmm… is this a case of perfectly opposite correlation?

Happy Halloween!

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Fewer kids, more pets—what this world is coming to

NBC’s Today show posted this album yesterday of an Australian dog named Humphrey posing as a newborn baby.  Unbelievable!  This is what the world is coming to—far fewer children and many more animals being welcomed to families.

The latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek tells this story of a German pet store with a quarter of a million animals—the world’s biggest—to meet the ever-growing demand of empty nesters. I cannot decide what fascinates me more, the video of 32 weird animals for sale, or the “They Never Talk Back” graphic showing how many countries everywhere have increased per capita spending on pets. The United States leads the way with an arrow point well past $120 per person spent on their loved ones, that is, household animals.

“After food, clothing and medicine, the fourth item is cosmetics and the fifth is pets. That’s serious.”

–Pope Francis

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Achieving a good group photo in more than a blink of an eye

This summer has featured a number of occasions where I got roped into a group photo, always enduring an annoying number of “just one more” shots.  With this in mind, a retrospective in September’s Popular Science on the 25th anniversary of the Ig Nobel awards caught my eye by calling out the 2006 Mathematics award.  This honor went to two Australian researchers who calculated that, for group photos of 20 or fewer people, you must divide the count by three and take that many photos to ensure that everyone’s eyes will be open.Old-historical-photos-bikers

Check out what to do if there are more than 20 in your group, noting that things become hopeless beyond a count of 50, and the underlying statistical calculations detailed in “Blink-free Photos, Guaranteed,” Nic Svenson, Australasian Science, August 2006, p48.

Upon accepting the award for frivolous research, the lead scientist, physicist Piers Barnes, said that

“We are proud to have made a gross simplification of complex physiological and psychological factors backed up with no empirical data. Like many other theories, if enough assumptions are made, we are confident that our expression holds.”

(Source: This press release.)

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Research on happiness encourages smiles

Laine & ArcherThe American Society of Quality did well by bringing in Harvard researcher and best-selling author Shawn Achor in to keynote their World Congress for Quality Improvement in Nashville this May.  I was happy to hear him reinforce my practice of smiling at people whenever I think of doing so—this being a great way to generate good feelings all around.  Often I make a little game of this by seeing if I can get a smile back.  When I am really on a roll, especially when just taking a leisurely stroll, I also give a cheery “Hello”.  Of course, some curmudgeons neither smile nor reciprocate with a greeting.  That gets me trying even harder the next time to get some positive feedback for my joviality.

Achor noted that top-rated hotels require their staff go by the 10-5 rule—giving their lodgers a smile at 10 feet and a greeting at 5—in the process generating far more goodwill than they would do by just going about their work.  He is working to get hospitals going 10-5, thus lightening up greatly what otherwise can be a very depressing environment.

If I really need to upgrade my smiling game, I take my granddaughter Laine along with me on my walk.  How can you not give a grin back to this sweet seven-month-old (or big brother Archer pictured hugging her)?  If you can keep a straight face looking at Laine, then I advise you take up poker for a living.

Here are some other nuggets that I gleaned from Shawn’s presentation:

  • Don’t follow the “cult of the average” by trying to rope in the positive outliers—those individuals who are exceptional performers. I’ve seen this happen in schools where a teacher (not a good one!) gradually wears down a superior student to the norm, this being the easiest course rather than making any exceptions to the curriculum.  On the other hand a conference presenter from Crayola found from their statistical studies that one of the workers packing boxes did so with abnormal precision.  By studying this positive outlier they were able to revise their process so it produced far less defects in inventory control.
  • Seeing potential problems is not pessimism, it is “rational optimism”. Along those lines a fellow whom Achor had just pumped up with his talk about happiness decided that he needn’t wear a seat belt anymore.  Perhaps it may not be right for person to be painted as a pessimist when they call out risky actions like this.

The only downer on this whole deal is that it remains obscure why some people are just naturally positive, while others tend to be gloomy.  Based on a sample size of 6 for siblings and 5 for offspring, I believe that everyone has a natural set-point for happiness.  However, perhaps I am being overly optimistic (for the cheery sorts) or purely pessimistic (regarding those who seem to be always out of sorts).

P.S. On the topic of happiness, I wish this aplenty for all you moms for tomorrow’s Mother’s Day.  As my grandson Archer explains, “My Papa is Mark, my Nana is Karen [my wife], my daddy is Ryan, and my mommy is Mom.”  That puts everyone in the proper perspective.

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Minnesota town tops nation for highest median wage after cost of living adjustment (COLA)

Take a look at this intriguing report by NPR’s Planet money on How Far Your Paycheck Goes.  Being a native and resident of Minnesota, our town of Rochester caught my eye atop the right side of the graphic on incomes.  My guess is that the dominant employer—the Mayo Clinic–pays a lot of money for its medicos, who then get a lot of bag for their buck being in a relatively rural region.

On the other side of these “what it feels like” income-comparisons Washington DC fares very poorly after the COLA.  Based on these economic statistics it seems that the optimal strategy for a job seeker would be to get a federal-government job, for example—working on–allowing the work to be done at a distance and then take up residence in Danville, Illinois where money goes a long way in comparison.

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A lot to love in new release of software–v9 is mighty fine!

Here’s a shout-out for Valentine’s Day that there’s a lot to love in the new release of Stat-Ease software-see the major improvements here  Consultant Wayne Adams put v9 to fun use by developing equations that produced the 3D response surface renderings of the  heart and number 9.  Geeks rule!  (No offense, Wayne, I am one.)9_Model Graphs of R1-9(Equation Only) Heart_Model Graphs of R1Heart (Equation Only)

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85 people have as much money as 3.5 billion

The 3.5 billion poorest people who account for half the world’s population can barely scrape up enough money to match the 85 wealthiest, according to the international relief organization Oxfam.  I await verification on this statistic but, if true, it really boggles my mind.

Oxfam teed this attention-getting shot up in prep for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.  Let’s hope this convocation brings out the gnomes from Zurich who manage the gold from the hive of the weighty eighty-five.  Perhaps a few coins might trickle out from the greedy to the needy.

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