From Iceland — Life in Numbers

Life in Numbers

Published January 11, 2008

Life in Numbers

I have never been particularly interested in mathematics. However, I am extremely interested in numbers and statistics. So much so that at times it borders on obsession. I like to keep track of all numbers, major and minor. Despite this I haven’t really been good at feeding the obsession. But thanks to the digital age making things a bit easier and my new year’s resolution of 2007 to keep a detailed account of my life in numbers, I can now present to you my life in 2007 in digits. Fascinating stuff I promise you.

I’m on the internet almost 24/7. I surf relentlessly. Almost all my digital consumption comes from the internet: music, movies and what not. My internet service provider measures my download from servers outside Iceland. Last year that totalled 153.29 gigabytes during an 8-month period. That’s a whopping 19 GB average per month. Most of the bigger stuff (movies for example) comes from Icelandic servers so I think it’s safe to assume we can triple that amount. That’s 57 GB a month or 57,000 megabytes. Like that guy said: Man, there is a lot of porn out there. To accommodate this enormous amount of zeros and ones I added a 500 GB hard drive to the family server space. That didn’t cut it. This year I’ll need to add an additional terabyte of storage. Somewhere, something needs to be cut down and simplified.

When I’m not scouring the internet, I’m talking on my mobile phone. During my 8 months in Iceland in the year 2007, I sent 1098 sms messages. I received 1308. That is a surplus of 210 messages. I suspect that most of the surplus is on account of my bank reminding me of the money I owe them. They seem really keen on sending me a message at 5 pm each day containing the total of my debt. Even so, this is a part of my life where, at least it appears, I’m winning.

When it comes to banking, however, I’m losing faster and faster each month. The debts on my apartment total around 7 million ISK. They are divided into two loans, one which was originally for 700,000 and another for 6.3 million. In January 2007 the monthly payment (number 5 of 480) for the bigger loan was 28,974 ISK. At that time it would have cost me 6,072,501 ISK to pay up the loan. January 2008, the same monthly payment was suddenly up to 30,560 ISK and the loan now stands at 6,373,335 ISK. That means that my monthly payments have increased by 1,586 ISK and the loan (despite my diligent, on time, payments) has inflated by 300,834 ISK. Obviously, this is one game where I cannot win. This loan will continue to expand, making money for some people, somewhere. I can understand the laws of inflation and interest, but I cannot see the justice in this monetary system. But then again, who can?

To pay for this, and all the other stuff that comes with being a highly successful person, I work for the Nursing Faculty of the University of Iceland in a 50% position. For that I have been paid (over 8 months) a massive 738,683 ISK. It is all gone. Another score for the market economy. After all, consumption drives this society and I take my role in it very seriously. One part of this consumption is drinking my coffee at Hressingarskálinn, where a cup of coffee Americano costs 320 ISK. My (slightly incomplete) fiscal measurements show that I’ve paid for this commodity of hot water and coffee grounds at least 92 times, again over an 8-month period, totalling around 30,000 ISK. There were some times when somebody else picked up the tab so let’s round off the number of Americanos to 120. To keep my sanity I’ve decided not to calculate the amount spent on beer and cigarettes at the various establishments around town. After all, if I am going to keep contributing to this market carousel, I must turn a blind eye to at least some of my spending. Otherwise I might be tempted to cut down and that might spell bad things for bar owners and staff alike.

Perhaps you are wondering why my fiscal year is 8 months and not 12 like everyone else’s. For the first 4 months of 2007 I was travelling around Southeast-Asia, visiting 4 countries (6 if you count Stansted airport in the UK and Dubai airport). During that time I travelled on 8 different planes for a total of 25,752 km. The CO2 emissions from my travels are, loosely calculated, around 4466 kg of CO2. Maybe if I cut down on the coffee spending I’ll be able to plant some trees this year to make up for this horrific number. Don’t bet on it though.

At the beginning of my journey my personal weight, sans accessories, stood at 78.3 kg. At the end of the trip, after living on the finest Asian cuisine for 4 months it was 76.2 kg (measured on a highly dodgy set of scales in a Bangkok back alley). By the end of the year my likeable self had inflated to 79.5 kg. It seems I inflate in relation to my debts. This is despite my personal definition of myself as a runner. You see, back in 2003 I trained for and completed a half marathon. That’s 21.1 km. It took me 2 hours and 9 minutes of waddling. Since then I regularly deceive people who ask me about my work-out habits (which, I must admit, happens much too often, probably due to my inflating physique) by telling them that I’m an avid runner – on par with the best Kenyans. In the year 2007 I went running 7 times for a total distance of 23.23 km. This is abysmal and must be rectified this year if I’m not going to resemble the Michelin Man at the end of this year. On the bright side, I managed to climb 1 mountain, that’s 1 more than in the year 2006. It was a climb to 649 metres, the total walking distance 7.04 km, which took 2 hours. I see a Mt. Everest ascent on the horizon.

But let’s not dwell on personal defeats. The victories are much more fun. During the year I managed to add to my tattoo collection 2 times, both works inked in Bangkok, Thailand. I donated blood 1 time, in a run-down blood bank in Shianoukville, Cambodia, and managed to survive my 4-month trip without ever putting on a pair of socks. It’s the small numbers that give the most satisfaction it seems. This year will bring many more of these small victories, I predict. At least I’ve made it my mission to document the year 2008 in numbers far more thoroughly. For instance the running total of times I’ve shaved this year stands at 1. Tonight I’ll add 1 more, trudging along to a happy and prosperous, numerical year.

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