Monday, March 16, 2009

Minutiae Quotients

It feels like so much time gets spent on doing things like filling out tax forms and figuring out how to fix a mistake made by someone in a bureaucracy somewhere. It makes me wonder. Let's say I want to define a number. Start with the total hours in a year a person spends filing papers for the proper authorities, getting tax forms in, figuring out which health insurance plan is the best for you financially, making sure you have a proper visa for where you are going, meaningless meetings, applying for grants, etc. Divide that number by 48 for forty eight full weeks a year doing work (I figure holidays and vacation time at about four weeks). Then divide that number by forty hours of work a week (I know, that estimate is often laughably small). Then we get a minutiae quotient. This is the portion of your working life wasted with what is essentially crap. Take a large number of minutiae quotients over a number of people in a given field, say physicists. Then you can get an average minutia quotient and a standard error on that average. I wonder how that average physicist minutiae quotient would compare to other fields. I wonder how it would break up depending on what country you lived in. It would seem ideal to find the situation with the lowest minutia quotient - other than unemployed which I guess has no minutia quotient by definition. It just seems like the most rewarding jobs would have the smallest minutia quotient. Certainly it seems the reverse is true. People who work for the government, say filing and taking care of tax returns never seem to be happy and by my definition, everything they do is minutiae - implying a minutiae quotient of one. I wonder if there is a job whose minutiae quotient has a zero in it, like .05? You could count the awesomeness of a job by the number of zeros before a nonzero digit in the minutiae quotient. It would be bragging rights. "My job's minutia quotient has three whole zeros. Count 'em, three whole zeros." Wouldn't it be great to be able to brag about that?

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