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21 July, 2009

Scrapping the Scrabbling

This could be called "Pursuing Our Passions: Part 1.5" but I thought that would be boring.

I vowed on Facebook the other day that I will stop playing online Scrabble. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it's an obsession. Second, it's a waste of time that could be spent doing something more useful, such as pursuing a concrete goal in the real world. It might be true that I can note, among my accomplishments, the fact that I played BRAINIER for 140 points. But that, and $3.75, will not get me a 2% Vanilla Latte at the corner coffee shop.

The Scrabble is like a bucket into which I am dumping life. Hours that could be spent exercising, working, sleeping, hanging out with people, working on songwriting, practicing guitar, pursuing a new hobby, watching a movie. Instead, I am sitting and placing letters on a board. It's no different from World of Warcraft, which I previously swore off. In the end, it is simply this: "Sitting alone, and clicking buttons, while watching pixels change color on a screen". It may be true that I am learning some new words. But I am not, or rarely, bothering to learn the meaning of those words! I just learn the words! It's like when I went to Hebrew School and they taught us how to pray, but never taught us what the prayers meant! Sure, I am developing a type of skill. I am developing the oh-so-valuable life skill that is called "Playing Online Scrabble". It's not even the same skill as playing real Scrabble, because you don't have to know the words. You can just keep guessing until you find something that passes their dictionary.

These are the hours of my life.

I once spent them playing Moria, a D&D-based computer game. Then I spent them playing Diablo. Then I spent them playing Diablo II. Then I spent them playing Morrowind. And then, damn the creators, I spent them playing World of Warcraft. If WoW is heroin then, certainly, Scrabble is no more than Tylenol with Codeine. But ask Rush Limbaugh if that's a big deal or not. Plus, Tylenol will kill your liver. Seriously.

For some reason or another, I am always looking for a new psychological addiction to eat up my hours, and keep me from facing any of the stuff that's real. Is it stress relief? Do I really have that much stress that I require massive periods of disconnection to cope? Or is it just avoidance? Whatever the case, I am, as you have read in previous posts, questioning the meaning of my life, and questioning how I spend my time. And I am once again at a crossroads where I am looking for meaning.

The problem right with stopping Scrabble is that I have so many games going with people, I feel like I need to finish them, to be polite, but just not start any new ones. The truth is, I don't really need to finish them. I could forfeit all of them right now, and be done with it. Or I could not forefeit them, and still be done with it. To keep playing them to completion is like saying, "I am going to stop drinking, as soon as everything in the liquor cabinet is gone". It's a little different because it's more like each bottle of liquor is also being shared with another person, who may or may not wish to quit drinking, or may not even have a drinking problem. And this metaphor is falling apart really quickly.

I need to stop. I deleted the Scrabble application from my iPhone, which is sort of like removing the cocaine from your 8-ball and thinking you've kicked the addiction. But then I added it back again, because I thought I would be able to get through all those games more quickly if I could make moves when I was away from a computer.

There's really too much thought being put into this. I realize. And, on the one hand, ironically, it's throwing more money down the well, instead of doing meaningful things. But, on the other hand, if one of those meaningful things I was planning on doing is writing and self-reflection, then I guess it's all good.

19 July, 2009

Pursuing Our Passions: Part 1

Sometimes things happen for a reason. You saw my earlier blog about happiness, and the pursuit thereof. I had a few conversations with a few friends about the topic over the past several days. Coincident with that, I was conducting a study at work, testing a feature in our software that enables users to create "forms" which are basically surveys that will port the data into a spreadsheet for you. That got me interested in conducting a survey of my own. So I decided it might be interesting to conduct a survey about people's pursuit of their passions. So I did. The survey had only 5 questions on it, which I will paraphrase for you here:

1. Do you have any passions/interests you pursue actively?
2. What are they, if you want to share?
3. Do you have any passions you'd like to pursue but don't have/make the time?
4. How often do you watch television?
5. How often do you browse the internet?

I created this survey, and sent it to a bunch of people on Facebook. And then I found out that my survey was broken, and was not collecting data. It had been overwritten with a blank survey. I would have to recreate and resend it. And I didn't want to do that, because it felt like I am an idiot, and I was spamming people. So instead I deleted the survey. Then I got mad, and almost deleted my Facebook account entirely.

But then, I calmed down, and realized that sometimes things happen for a reason. The issue in my life right now was that I was trying to figure out what my passions really are, and how I can go about pursuing them. And asking a bunch of other people questions about this is not going to get me any closer to having meaning in my life. It's just an exercise in mental masturbation. It's just a bunch of useless information. At best, or at worst, all it does is tell me that there are some people just like me, who also don't pursue their passions, because they waste their time on idle pursuits. And if not that, all it does is tell me that there are plenty of people who pursue their passions. Maybe I learn a little about what people's passions are. Maybe I make one or two people think about what they are or are not pursuing themselves, that they'd like to be. But, by and large, it does nothing to address my original goal, which was to get somewhere.

So, upon this further reflection, I realized that the demise of this survey was perhaps the best thing that could have occurred. I don't need to know why you do what you do. I don't need to know what you want to do, that you are not doing. I need to start doing what I want to do.

Clearly, blogging is one of those things. But there are others. And there is more than ample time to be pursuing some of them, if I reallocate my time strategically. Shouldn't be too hard.

14 July, 2009

Choices

About 10 years ago, a little more, I made a choice. It was not a good choice, at the time. But it has led to everything that has happened since then, obviously, and I think things turned out quite well. I was working at a small company as an applications engineer. I was the only applications engineer at that company, and I provided a much needed, and reasonably appreciated service. In addition to having that specialization, I also was the only person at the company that had become skilled in circuit board layout using a particular custom piece of software. I was the go-to guy. And I was 28 years old. I'd only been out of school for about five years. And it was a decent place to be, in that company. There had already been one attempt, by a major corporation, to buy the company, which the CEO had refused, because he suspected his business was worth more than the several million that had been offered. But after two years at this company, I'd become impatient with my career growth. I felt that others were being treated better than I was. I felt like others were the "golden children" and that I was just sort of an underappreciated afterthought. I felt that I would never be recognized. Particularly, I felt that I would not be financially recognized. I even felt that my manager was receiving some of the credit for work that I was doing.

So, I gave them an ultimatum. I told them that I thought I should be promoted to senior engineer. And I told them that I thought I should be earning a certain amount of money that was about 40% more than I was earning at the time. It would have been almost unthinkable to give me that much of a raise, but that's what I had in my head. The review came, and I did not get what I wanted. The CEO told me that he felt I still had some growing to do. They did give me a 22% raise which, when you think about it, is pretty significant. But I turned my nose up at it. I immediately began looking for another job, and I found one that paid me what I wanted, and gave me the title that I wanted. And it was at a big company with a good reputation.

I walked in to the CEO of my company and told him about the offer, expecting him to counteroffer. But I should have known better. He was not one to be put into corners. He told me that he was disappointed to hear that I was leaving, and that he thought I was making a mistake, but he respected my decision. That was it. No negotiation. I was worth what I was worth, to him, at that point in time.

I left the company in 1998. The company went public in 2005, and quickly rose to around $18/share. It peaked at around $50 and is now at $33. Most of the senior designers, who would all be around 50 years old now, have retired, millionaires. People who were in the middle tier, like myself, who eventually left the company, cashed in their stock for tens or hundreds of thousands.

The job I took that gave me the title, and paid me more, sucked. It was boring as hell, and I never had anything to do. I was so bored, in fact, that I decided to stop being an engineer altogether, and change careers. And that's how I ended up deciding to study biology. I figured, "If more money didn't make it better, then I guess nothing will". I wasn't necessarily right in that assertion. I think that's what we call "throwing the bathwater out with the baby". But I had it in my head that I needed to make a change. So I did.

I cannot say I regret anything that I did, but I learned something. I think I learned something good, and something bad. One good thing that I learned is to not think short term, and to be more patient, and to see the big picture. I also learned that money isn't everything, because I went on to become much happier, in a less materialistic lifestyle. But the bad thing I learned was to shun certain types of risks. Career moves. I did take a risk by going back to school. True. And I did take a risk by abandoning, or at least forgoing, my graduate degree to work in a loosely related field in industry. But I do feel very hesitant and sheepish about career decisions after that hasty one back in 1998.

The upside is that maybe the worst thing that happens when we make these decisions is that we find ourselves in interesting and unexpected new places years down the road, all having stemmed from those seemingly precarious choices.

10 July, 2009

Just give me a cell phone that does everything I need it to do

Thesis Statement:

There is no cell phone that does what I need it to do

Here's what I need:
  1. I need a phone that has a keyboard, and preferably a small compact keyboard that is easy to type on. I do not want a phone that has only a touch screen, because I cannot type well on them. I was fast as lightning on my old HTC Shadow. Now, I am completely hobbled on my iPhone because of typos. This requirement rules out the iPhone and a handful of other models.

  2. I need a phone that connect to my work email and calendar easily, without using a web browser to do it. That basically means I need Microsoft Exchange Server support. This requirement rules out the Blackberry which, from the sounds of it, is challenging at best to configure, and not sure if calendar or meetings is possible at all.

  3. I need a phone that has good signal in my neighborhood. This requirement rules out T-Mobile as a provider, because they've got basically no signal in my part of town.

  4. I need a phone that has navigation, maps, and web browsing, i.e. a Smartphone. This makes the list of choices short.
If those 4 things were all that I cared about, the decision would be, of course, to buy a Windows Mobile device, such as the Samsung Jack or Samsung Propel Pro. But in addition to the things I need, there are also things that I want.
  • I would prefer a phone that has a 3.5mm headphone jack so I can use the phone as my music player, with my good earbuds. Oops, that requirement rules out all of the Windows Mobile devices that AT&T carries which met my other requirements! The Samsung phones both use a stupid proprietary headphone jack and would require an awkward dongle to use my regular headphones.

  • I would prefer to be able to connect my phone as a music player to my car stereo. Only an iPhone seems to do that. I could not get my Zune to work, and I could not get any other mp3 player I own to work either, unless I use the radio tuner route, or the audio input directly, which is workable but inconvenient.

  • I would prefer the phone to have easy access to things like Facebook. This doesn't seem to rule out any of the options, but Blackberry and iPhone do it better than Windows Mobile
The bottom line is that, no matter which option I choose, especially with AT&T, I am hosed in one way or another. I love the iPhone in some ways. It gets all the little things right. But some of the big things it gets very wrong. Call dropping is an issue. Battery life is an issue. And typing, which I do a lot, is abyssmal. The latter is the reason I am on the verge of dumping my iPhone. But there needs to be a better option, and both Windows Mobile and Blackberry have Achilles' heels that, right out of the gate, I suspect will make the experience worse. Especially when you consider that they both lack nearly all of the bells and whistles the iPhone possesses.

There's really no winning. Perhaps the way to win is to say the hell with the Smartphone and go back to the Dumbphone?

08 July, 2009

Happiness... all depends where you live?

In my previous post, I was discussing the pros and cons of socialized medicine or, for that matter, socialized democracy in general. I have a somewhat idealistic view that things are better in other places, particularly Europe, than they they are here. I realize that I could be mistaken. The times that I have visited Europe, I have indeed felt that things made more sense there in a lot of ways, but I recognize that's a limited experience of "vacation" which is not the same as living there. Nonetheless, I did wonder, "Are people happier in Europe? Or are people happier elsewhere?"

I decided to do a little online research into happiness. Specifically, how does the happiness of people vary from nation to nation. Of course, it all depends how you define happiness, too.

I found a couple of good research projects that take different looks at the question.
  1. Subjective Well-Being Index
  2. Happy Planet Index
The SWB appears to be just that. A questionnaire that measured self-report of happiness throughout the world. The results were not particularly earth-shattering. You should take a look at the link above for details and references, but I'll paste the rankings list (SWLS = Satisfaction With Life Scale):

Nation SWLS


DENMARK 273
SWITZERLAND 273
AUSTRIA 260
ICELAND 260
BAHAMAS 257
FINLAND 257
SWEDEN 257
BHUTAN 253
BRUNEI DARUSSALAM 253
CANADA 253
IRELAND 253
LUXEMBOURG 253
COSTA RICA 250
MALTA 250
NETHERLANDS 250
ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA 247
MALAYSIA 247
NEW ZEALAND 247
NORWAY 247
SEYCHELLES 247
ST KITTS AND NEVIS 247
UAE 247
USA 247
VANUATU 247
VENEZUELA 247
AUSTRALIA 243
BARBADOS 243
BELGIUM 243
DOMINICA 243
OMAN 243
SAUDI ARABIA 243
SURINAME 243
BAHRAIN 240
COLUMBIA 240
GERMANY 240
GUYANA 240
HONDURAS 240
KUWAIT 240
PANAMA 240
ST VINCENT AND THE 240
UNITED KINGDOM 237
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 233
GUATEMALA 233
JAMAICA 233
QATAR 233
SPAIN 233
ST LUCIA 233
BELIZE 230
CYPRUS 230
ITALY 230
MEXICO 230
SAMOA WESTERN 230
SINGAPORE 230
SOLOMON ISLANDS 230
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 230
ARGENTINA 227
FIJI 223
ISRAEL 223
MONGOLIA 223
SAO TOME AND PERINI 223
EL SALVADOR 220
FRANCE 220
HONG KONG 220
INDONESIA 220
KYRGYZSTAN 220
MALDIVES 220
SLOVENIA 220
TAIWAN 220
TIMOR-LESTE 220
TONGA 220
CHILE 217
GRENADA 217
MAURITIUS 217
NAMIBIA 217
PARAGUAY 217
THAILAND 217
CZECH REPUBLIC 213
PHILIPPINES 213
TUNISIA 213
UZBEKISTAN 213
BRAZIL 210
CHINA 210
CUBA 210
GREECE 210
NICARAGUA 210
PAPUA NEW GUINEA 210
URUGUAY 210
GABON 207
GHANA 207
JAPAN 207
YEMEN 207
PORTUGAL 203
SRI LANKA 203
TAJIKISTAN 203
VIETNAM 203
IRAN 200
COMOROS 197
CROATIA 197
POLAND 197
CAPE VERDI 193
KAZAKHSTAN 193
MADAGASCAR 193
SOUTH KOREA 193
BANGLADESH 190
CONGO REPUBLIC 190
GAMBIA 190
HUNGARY 190
LIBYA 190
SOUTH AFRICA 190
CAMBODIA 187
ECUADOR 187
KENYA 187
LEBANON 187
MOROCCO 187
PERU 187
SENEGAL 187
BOLIVIA 183
HAITI 183
NEPAL 183
NIGERIA 183
TANZANIA 183
BENIN 180
BOTSWANA 180
GUINEA-BISSAU 180
INDIA 180
LAOS 180
MOZAMBIQUE 180
PALESTINE 180
SLOVAKIA 180
BURMA 177
MALI 177
MAURITANIA 177
TURKEY 177
ALGERIA 173
EQUATORIAL GUINEA 173
ROMANIA 173
BOSNIA & HERZE 170
CAMEROON 170
ESTONIA 170
GUINEA 170
JORDAN 170
SYRIA 170
SIERRA LEONE 167
AZERBAIJAN 163
CENTRAL AFRICAN RE 163
MACEDONIA 163
TOGO 163
ZAMBIA 163
ANGOLA 160
DJIBOUTI 160
EGYPT 160
BURKINA FASO 157
ETHIOPIA 157
LATVIA 157
LITHUANIA 157
UGANDA 157
ALBANIA 153
MALAWI 153
CHAD 150
IVORY COAST 150
NIGER 150
ERITREA 147
RWANDA 147
BULGARIA 143
LESOTHO 143
PAKISTAN 143
RUSSIA 143
SWAZILAND 140
GEORGIA 137
BELARUS 133
TURKMENISTAN 133
ARMENIA 123
SUDAN 120
UKRAINE 120
MOLDOVA 117
CONGO DEMOCRATIC 110
ZIMBABWE 110
BURUNDI 100

I highlighted some ones that I thought were of interest in red. Mostly because of their absence of high placement on the list. Although the US is not that close to the top of the list, the difference between the US and the top is small enough, that they could generally be considered to be high on the list.

One has to wonder how reliable self-report of life satisfaction is. There are most definitely cultural biases that must play into one's tendency to report happiness or unhappiness. This scale was reported as being valid and reliable. But being valid and reliable does not necessarily mean that it is "true and accurate". Validity implies that it correlated well with some other accepted scale of similar measure. And reliable implies that the results are repeatable. Or something like that. I should be more rigorous if I am going to start defining things for you. But the bottom line is that we can't know that the people in the United Arab Emirates are exactly as satisfied with their lives as the people in the USA, just because their scores were similar. It does seem reasonable that countries with extreme strife, famine, war, and unrest would be appearing near the bottom of the list. And it makes sense that countries with much of the necessities provided by government, little strife or poverty and, not surprisingly, little diversity, are happier. Diversity creates much opportunity for conflict and for dissatisfaction. I make no value judgment on this, but it is worth noting that many of the nations near the very top are fairly homogeneous populations. I must confess, I know nothing about the population of Bhutan.

The second study, the Happy Planet Index, takes into account a series of factors in rating each nation. These include Life Expectancy, Life Satisfaction (which probably maps most closely to the SWLS above), and the big bonus item is the Ecological Footprint, which measures the consumption in the country, and thus, the impact on the planet. This is an added indication of sustainability of a particular lifestyle.

Their results, which were heavily colored by that ecological measure, were quite different from those seen in the first study listed. EF = ecological footprint, and HPI = the happy planet index. I have highlighted some countries in red. You'll notice the US is very far down the list, because of our insanely high ecological footprint.

Countries Life Sat Life Exp EF
HPI






Costa Rica 8.5 78.5 2.3
76.1
Dominican Republic 7.6 71.5 1.5
71.8
Jamaica 6.7 72.2 1.1
70.1
Guatemala 7.4 69.7 1.5
68.4
Vietnam 6.5 73.7 1.3
66.5
Colombia 7.3 72.3 1.8
66.1
Cuba 6.7 77.7 1.8
65.7
El Salvador 6.7 71.3 1.6
61.5
Brazil 7.6 71.7 2.4
61.0
Honduras 7.0 69.4 1.8
61.0
Nicaragua 7.1 71.9 2.0
60.5
Egypt 6.7 70.7 1.7
60.3
Saudi Arabia 7.7 72.2 2.6
59.7
Philippines 5.5 71.0 0.9
59.0
Argentina 7.1 74.8 2.5
59.0
Indonesia 5.7 69.7 0.9
58.9
Bhutan 6.1 64.7 1.0
58.5
Panama 7.8 75.1 3.2
57.4
Laos 6.2 63.2 1.1
57.3
China 6.7 72.5 2.1
57.1
Morocco 5.6 70.4 1.1
56.8
Sri Lanka 5.4 71.6 1.0
56.5
Mexico 7.7 75.6 3.4
55.6
Pakistan 5.6 64.6 0.8
55.6
Ecuador 6.4 74.7 2.2
55.5
Jordan 6.0 71.9 1.7
54.6
Belize 6.6 75.9 2.6
54.5
Peru 5.9 70.7 1.6
54.4
Tunisia 5.9 73.5 1.8
54.3
Trinidad and Tobago 6.7 69.2 2.1
54.2
Bangladesh 5.3 63.1 0.6
54.1
Moldova 5.7 68.4 1.2
54.1
Malaysia 6.6 73.7 2.4
54.0
Tajikistan 5.1 66.3 0.7
53.5
India 5.5 63.7 0.9
53.0
Venezuela 6.9 73.2 2.8
52.5
Nepal 5.3 62.6 0.8
51.9
Syria 5.9 73.6 2.1
51.3
Burma 5.9 60.8 1.1
51.2
Algeria 5.6 71.7 1.7
51.2
Thailand 6.3 69.6 2.1
50.9
Haiti 5.2 59.5 0.5
50.8
Netherlands 7.7 79.2 4.4
50.6
Malta 7.1 79.1 3.8
50.4
Uzbekistan 6.0 66.8 1.8
50.1
Chile 6.3 78.3 3.0
49.7
Bolivia 6.5 64.7 2.1
49.3
Armenia 5.0 71.7 1.4
48.3
Singapore 7.1 79.4 4.2
48.2
Yemen 5.2 61.5 0.9
48.1
Germany 7.2 79.1 4.2
48.1
Switzerland 7.7 81.3 5.0
48.1
Sweden 7.9 80.5 5.1
48.0
Albania 5.5 76.2 2.2
47.9
Paraguay 6.9 71.3 3.2
47.8
Palestine 5.0 72.9 1.5
47.7
Austria 7.8 79.4 5.0
47.7
Serbia 6.0 73.6 2.6
47.6
Finland 8.0 78.9 5.2
47.2
Croatia 6.4 75.3 3.2
47.2
Kyrgyzstan 5.0 65.6 1.1
47.1
Cyprus 7.2 79.0 4.5
46.2
Guyana 6.5 65.2 2.6
45.6
Belgium 7.6 78.8 5.1
45.4
Bosnia and Herzegovina 5.9 74.5 2.9
45.0
Slovenia 7.0 77.4 4.5
44.5
Israel 7.1 80.3 4.8
44.5
Korea 6.3 77.9 3.7
44.4
Italy 6.9 80.3 4.8
44.0
Romania 5.9 71.9 2.9
43.9
France 7.1 80.2 4.9
43.9
Georgia 4.3 70.7 1.1
43.6
Slovakia 6.1 74.2 3.3
43.5
United Kingdom 7.4 79.0 5.3
43.3
Japan 6.8 82.3 4.9
43.3
Spain 7.6 80.5 5.7
43.2
Poland 6.5 75.2 4.0
42.8
Ireland 8.1 78.4 6.3
42.6
Iraq 5.4 57.7 1.3
42.6
Cambodia 4.9 58.0 0.9
42.3
Iran 5.6 70.2 2.7
42.1
Bulgaria 5.5 72.7 2.7
42.0
Turkey 5.5 71.4 2.7
41.7
Hong Kong 7.2 81.9 5.7
41.6
Azerbaijan 5.3 67.1 2.2
41.2
Lithuania 5.8 72.5 3.2
40.9
Djibouti 5.7 53.9 1.5
40.4
Norway 8.1 79.8 6.9
40.4
Canada 8.0 80.3 7.1
39.4
Hungary 5.7 72.9 3.5
38.9
Kazakhstan 6.1 65.9 3.4
38.5
Czech Republic 6.9 75.9 5.4
38.3
Mauritania 5.0 63.2 1.9
38.2
Iceland 7.8 81.5 7.4
38.1
Ukraine 5.3 67.7 2.7
38.1
Senegal 4.5 62.3 1.4
38.0
Greece 6.8 78.9 5.9
37.6
Portugal 5.9 77.7 4.4
37.5
Uruguay 6.8 75.9 5.5
37.2
Ghana 4.7 59.1 1.5
37.1
Latvia 5.4 72.0 3.5
36.7
Australia 7.9 80.9 7.8
36.6
New Zealand 7.8 79.8 7.7
36.2
Belarus 5.8 68.7 3.9
35.7
Denmark 8.1 77.9 8.0
35.5
Mongolia 5.7 65.9 3.5
35.0
Malawi 4.4 46.3 0.5
34.5
Russia 5.9 65.0 3.7
34.5
Chad 5.4 50.4 1.7
34.3
Lebanon 4.7 71.5 3.1
33.6
Macedonia 5.5 73.8 4.6
32.7
Congo 3.6 54.0 0.5
32.4
Madagascar 3.7 58.4 1.1
31.5
United States of America 7.9 77.9 9.4
30.7
Nigeria 4.8 46.5 1.3
30.3
Guinea 4.0 54.8 1.3
30.3
Uganda 4.5 49.7 1.4
30.2
South Africa 5.0 50.8 2.1
29.7
Rwanda 4.2 45.2 0.8
29.6
Congo, Dem. Rep. of the 3.9 45.8 0.6
29.0
Sudan 4.5 57.4 2.4
28.5
Luxembourg 7.7 78.4 10.2
28.5
United Arab Emirates 7.2 78.3 9.5
28.2
Ethiopia 4.0 51.8 1.4
28.1
Kenya 3.7 52.1 1.1
27.8
Cameroon 3.9 49.8 1.3
27.2
Zambia 4.3 40.5 0.8
27.2
Kuwait 6.7 77.3 8.9
27.0
Niger 3.8 55.8 1.6
26.9
Angola 4.3 41.7 0.9
26.8
Estonia 5.6 71.2 6.4
26.4
Mali 3.8 53.1 1.6
25.8
Mozambique 3.8 42.8 0.9
24.6
Benin 3.0 55.4 1.0
24.6
Togo 2.6 57.8 0.8
23.3
Sierra Leone 3.6 41.8 0.8
23.1
Central African Republic 4.0 43.7 1.6
22.9
Burkina Faso 3.6 51.4 2.0
22.4
Burundi 2.9 48.5 0.8
21.8
Namibia 4.5 51.6 3.7
21.1
Botswana 4.7 48.1 3.6
20.9
Tanzania 2.4 51.0 1.1
17.8
Zimbabwe 2.8 40.9 1.1
16.6

I am not sure how fair it is to look at this scale as a reflection of happiness, because individual happiness at a given point in time does not depend on sustainability of that happiness. According to this scale, people in countries like Luxembourg and the USA are "not as happy as they think they are" because their lifestyle depends on behaviors that are simply not sustainable. So it's got something to do with the reality of future unhappiness. Of course, that is on the assumption that countries do not radically change their behavior long before the unhappy time comes.

I was interested to see if there is a correlation between the HPI's Life Satisfaction sub-measure and the SWLS from the first scale, because I think that would provide some form of validation. Looking across the 140 countries for which both measures collected data, the correlation was 76% between the two measures. Not too shabby. I wanted to look at the outliers from this data; i.e. the countries where one index had a very different result than the other. To do this, I normalized both indices to their respective mean values, and then took the ratio of the two indices, Life Sat from HPI divided by the Self-Report SWLS measure. The chart below shows only the outliers. Out of the 140 countries, 109 of them had a ratio of the two measures that fell in a plus or minus 20% from unity. The chart below has 31 countries on it. The ones in red were ones where the HPI was more than 20% higher than the SWLS (16/31), and the ones in green were ones where SWLS was more than 20% higher than HPI (15/31).


I wonder what can be said about these differences? For the most part, it appears that it is African countries that were disproportionately higher on the SWLS measure. And it appears to be largely former Soviet or Eastern European and Middle East countries that were disproportionately higher on the HPI Life Sat measure.

It would be fun to dig into these differences, in terms of the questions or metrics used, to see if there's a good explanation.