Saturday, September 29, 2012

By The Numbers

In spite of the oft quoted maxim "there are lies, dammed lies and then there are statistics," management by the numbers is a proven technique. After all, the thinking goes, if you can't measure it, you can't see how things are going. And so as a business exec using that skill set in the public arena, Michael Bloomberg has released his annual "Mayor's Management Report." A compendium of all things municipal, it seeks to quantify everything in the Big Apple so all can see where things stand. From library card holders (up 23% in Brooklyn, but down 10% in New York) to trees removed by the parks department (up 15% from 2011) to pay telephones inspected and deemed inoperable (25%, up from 23% from the prior year), no area is too mundane for the cold cruel light of accounting.

In that vein, I thought I should try and quantify my own pedestrian world, and see where I measure up and where I need improvement. Using a September 1 start date over the past two years, I looked at the books without cooking them: you be the judge as to the implications and trends.

Garbage cans taken to curb: down 2%. While there were the same number of weeks in the prior year in question, it seems I managed to be out of town on more Fridays this year, contributing to a modest decrease in this category. Note this does not factor in garbage taken from the kitchen to the cans themselves, a statistic better left unexplored.

Charges in our household ledger assigned the category labeled "stuff:" up 9%. As opposed to obvious categories like "mortgage" or "doctors," this category contains things I can't seem to figure how to assign. It can be dietary supplements for joints from the Vitamin Store (perhaps better slotted in "Drugs?" "Food?" "Hope?") to a charge from the Pink Cloud Gallery (no idea what we bought there) to a myriad of ones from Target and Kohl's, each encompassing a gaggle of other categories. So "stuff" it is.

Dishwasher unloaded: up 7%. Normal practice in our house is for my wife to load the dishwasher, while I unload it and put the clean dishes away. On most nights, the cycle finishes somewhere in the vicinity of 9PM. And this being a year with a lot of political news, I find it that to be the perfect time to cruise MSNBC and Fox, and listen to them yell about the other. As such, I'm in the kitchen with the clicker anyways when the little light signifying "I'm done" pops on. However, after a continuing burst of activity culminating in the election, I expect this category to drop in the upcoming off-year, as I find myself taking more naps before bedtime and forgetting to uphold my half of the bargain.

Checks Written: down 26%. In the continuing effort to reduce the amount of paper flowing over my desk, we pay more and more stuff online, by direct transfer or through Paypal-esque lke services. I can go three weeks without finding a new entry in the book. When there is one, it's usually a check to someone for a Birthday (up 3%), a reimbursement for a shared lunch or gift (down 4%) or taxes (no change: the number of checks written, not the amount).

Number of ways to waste time cruising the internet at home: up 66%. I used to have a computer, a small netbook in the family room and my phone. Then I got an iPad. While I liked the idea, it was too big to take with me. So I got a smaller tablet to carry in my backpack. But I didn't give up any of the others. So at any given time in the house, I can have my computer on in my office, my phone in my pocket, the iPad setup at the kitchen table and my little tablet upstairs. Oh, and the netbook set up to stream music. Thankfully, at home the cable company doesn't charge me by the megabyte (up 73%).

Those are just a fraction of the metrics available. Others include naps (down 13%), books read (up 19%) and walks taken(up 27%). Of course, there are others, though my "Socks with Holes" and my wife's "Shoes Bought" tallies are better left unpublished. You see, the numbers don't lie. And sometimes the truth won't set you free, it will just make for an unpleasant topic of discussion.


Marc Wollin of Bedford writes his column 100% of the time for The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and for

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