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Originally (= 10 minutes ago), I was planning to write something on the Human Development Index (as the term itself somehow bothers me) or the Gini Coefficient (which I like because of its mathematical simplicity), but then I came across the Happy Planet Index.

This is not a joke. In fact, it is highly interesting to look at as it tries to challenge established measures of “how well is a country doing”!

The index was conceived by the New Economics Foundation and tries to measure the happiness of people in a country, rather than then amount of money they have. To quote from the official website:

“The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.”

How is it computed? The Wikipedia page says:

“… conceptually it approximates multiplying life satisfaction and life expectancy, and dividing that by the ecological footprint. Most of the life satisfaction data is taken from the World Values Survey, but some is drawn from other surveys, and some is estimated using statistical regression techniques.”

What’s also interesting: such a number could be computed on a per-person basis (though I’m not saying that it should). You could every day ask yourself: “How satisfied am I today with my life?” Additionally, you’d probably have to measure your CO2 emissions and your waste production. Do this on a daily basis and, just before you think you’ve finished your job on this planet, you can compute your very own “Happy Person Index” to see how you did in your life.

Probably not very meaningful on a personal level, but still a whole lot more meaningful than looking at your bank account.

Handball is, after soccer/football, probably the most popular team sport in Germany (and, in case you happen to care, Germany is currently the “reigning” world champion in men’s handball, with the women coming 3rd in the recent world championship).

I’m not a big fan of the sport, but at least I knew that Germany had a professional handball league called “Handball Bundesliga“. Now it doesn’t exist anymore.

Instead, “we” now have a TOYOTA Handball-Bundesliga.

I wonder if the NBA will also be replaced by the DAIMLER-CHRYSLER-National-Basketball-Association. Or how about ministries? “The following statement by the secretary of state is brought to you by Lockheed Martin. Secretary of state – we never forget who we’re working for.”

PS: Just to “explain” the sarcasm above (in case you’re not familiar with all the evil companies on the planet): Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor and THEIR slogan is “We never forget who we’re working for.”

Pumpkins – aren’t those these big orange things that people use on Halloween to carve various things out of?

True. But legend has it that they can also be eaten and, among other things, serve as a great base for a soup. So, thanks to these alleged  culinary qualities, pumpkins have been exempt from various taxes, just as other kinds of food in the US.

But fairy tales can hardly be taken as evidence when it comes to levying taxes and so clever bureaucrates in Iowa decided to set the record straight and to finally classify according to their predominant use: as a decorational item. If you do decide to worship some occult deity and to actually eat them, then you’ll have to fill out a form to be exempted from the tax.

I’m not sure what to make of this. At first I simply found it absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. But, when you think about it, the authorities might be right in their own sick way. Worst of all, our culture can apparently afford to produce significant amounts of food for purely decorational purposes. This somehow leaves a very strange flavor in my mouth, and I’m not sure if it’s pumpkin.

… but the thing that impressed me most was not the performance in the Circus Knie but the [free] photo exhibition outside.

I’ve never seen such a density of amazing animal photography before in my whole life. It was almost to much to stomach as you were tempted to just stare at each image for at least half a minute, but as there were at least 60 of them this would have taken too long. So it was a bit like reading a whole poetry book in half an hour. Much of the sensation was lost.

Fortunately, the pictures are also available online.

Unfortunately, online you don’t get to see the accompanying “message”. The pictures on display outside the circus all had one or two sentences with shocking statistics (relating to the deterioration of the environment or conflicts worldwide) about humankind. This juxtaposition of the horrible doings of mankind (in cold statistics) and the amazing beauty of nature (in fantastic photographs) created a perturbing tension … which lost part of its effect as one was simply overwhelmed with the density of the exhibition.

That’s the tariff of a dentist in Swiss. I just found out this morning when I went for a regular check-up (required by my insurance).

Our institute enjoys a modern, spacious interior design. The central core of the building is made up of a solid 6 floor of nothingness. Well, almost.

There are some “real” plants, a couple of meters high, spanning the first two floors. They create a nice atmosphere and would certainly be missed.

Today over lunch I was told that the maintenance of these plants costs € 10,000 per year. A postdoc at our institute earns about €25,000 per year (tax free). At first we were thinking that this is certainly far too much money to spend on a couple of plants (really not that many) and that more should be spent on the researchers. But then, when we considered the real world impact of most of our work (namely none), we quickly realized that it was actually the plants who are underpaid. At least the produce oxygen, rather than using it up. 🙂

Another brilliant proposal suggested by one of my colleagues (and inspired by my latest tendency to often wear white) was to strongly advocate wearing white as a global fashion. If everybody was wearing white, people would be less inclined to start wars as this would create horrible stains. For this ingenious idea alone he certainly deserves being paid more than our plants. 🙂

Later edit: To prove that he’s serious about this idea, the very same colleague just told me that he bought himself a pair of white pants last weekend.


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