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Monday, 8 March 2010

Fun, Fun, Fun

How do you spend your days? If I’m asked that question I’d be hard put to give anything other than the broadest of answers.

Lots of sleeping, quite of bit of eating, massive amounts of looking at a computer screen, bits and bobs of this and that; that’s it really. Oh no, I spend time at the allotment, playing squash, chatting on the phone and cooking; that’s right I spend time cooking and doing the washing and filling the dishwasher. That’s about it really. Hold on; I forgot the TV and then there’s the time I spend shopping, and driving (and paying parking and speeding fines(see Pie Man 70). Now I come to think of it, I pack quite a lot of bits and pieces of activity into my day.

A stunning interactive graph on the New York Times' website breaks down into fascinating detail how Americans spend their days. It splits the population into male/female: employed/unemployed: white/black/Hispanic: young/middle years/later years: level of education and whether you have kids or no and how many. What it doesn’t do is mix and match; so it won’t tell you how a female/unemployed/Hispanic/40 something + with a Ph D and 2 kids spends her time, but otherwise it is a revelation.

For example did you know that American men  spent 39 minutes a day on personal care. That compares with 54 minutes for women. Why am I not surprised.  Comparing blacks with whites we find that blacks spend 56 minutes on personal care compared to 45 minutes for whites. There must be some deep social message there; if only I could find it. Except in this survey “personal care” includes 54 seconds spent on personal and private activities like “having sex”. At this point I begin to think of this wonderful interactive graph as fun rather than serious social research. For example, to take this survey seriously, I expect to see a category “grumbling in general and about your aches and pains in particular.” for the age group 64+.

Finally there is a category called “can’t remember”. At anytime during the day 1% couldn’t remember what they were doing at that time (Couldn’t recall having sex? not surprising if it only lasted 54 seconds).

The graph's  linked to an article about what to do when you’re unemployed. One in ten Americans are currently unemployed and this is extremely traumatic for a nation having spent 70 odd years trying to get over the Great Depression. It’s also hit those who thought their jobs were unemployment proofed. The article’s message was simple – if you’re unemployed: keep working. The author makes the obvious point that if you lose your job you don’t lose your skills, your experience and knowledge. What you lose is identity, motivation and compensation (pay to us Brits). And his experience was it’s not work that dries up; it’s the money. I think this is rather simplistic myself but as far as his general thesis is concerned he’s right. You still have those skills etc which you used in your work. Apply them elsewhere – even if you don’t get paid. What have you to lose; you’re keeping you skill sets oiled; you’re more likely to keep your social and work networks intact – primed and ready for that paid job that's just around the block. The article goes on to give useful tips on how to search for work in a down turn, including a website called – so bloody optimistic!

My instinctive reaction to all this is: “And allow some employer to get me on the cheap or for nothing.” In effect I’m prepared to cut of my nose to spite my face. It’s a nonsense; and I wonder if  my instinct is grounded in our class system and history of industrial strife. Do the Americans have a greater belief in personal salvation through their own efforts? If that means helping someone else who you may not normally want to: so be it. If it gets you what you want.

This is all much too serious. The next bit of fun is simplicity itself.

The London Tube map is world famous. It’s inspired the nonsense game “Mornington Crescent” and its schematic form has been copied all over the world. Now someone has come up with the human body as a tube map. It’s brilliant. The network is called the Underskin and with the recognisable type face and logos it’s the real thing. I haven’t tried it but I’m sure you can map across many of the London Underground lines and stations.

Now, oh where oh where is Arsenal?

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