Friday, April 3, 2020

My life by the numbers

I'm the mathematician, but my husband is the numbers guy. 
(Or maybe I should say, "I'm the mathematician, and so my husband is the numbers guy".   Theoretical mathematicians don't really care about numbers so much as we care about patterns.  In fact, in grad school when I heard there was a class called "Number Theory", the other math grad students saw my face and said, "Don't worry; there's not really any numbers in the course!")  
No, it's my husband who keeps spreadsheets on all sorts of esoteric quantitative aspects of his life.   In fact, just the other day he asked me if I knew where he'd put his spreadsheets with his bike mileage from 1997. Um, no, honey; no clue.

Sometimes, though, I use numbers because going analytic gives me a way to Vulcan-destroy the jitters.  Right now, for example, I've started a daily tally of COVID-19 cases in our city and our state, and I do the computations.  When I started, the daily growth factor was 1.4 (doubling every 2 days), but now it's down to 1.28 (doubling every 3 days, so better?).  The spreadsheet is eerily accurate: it predicted my city would have 201 cases by now (we have 203), and that my state would have 7271 cases (we have 7268).  When the world is going kinda crazy, I find weird solace in knowing that math still works.

More often, though, if I do turn to numbers it's because they tell a story or paint a picture.  For example, here's a partial paint-by-numbers picture of my life in February through mid-March. During the 5 weeks my husband was overseas,
  • I used the car 5 times, for a total of 28 miles.  
  • I ran the coffee maker twice (once with a pot he set up before he left, and once so I could make Brazilian chocolate coffee cake).
  • I did 1 load of laundry in the washer, and 0 in the electric dryer.
  • I generated 1 bag of trash (paper bag, like the kind from a grocery store).  
From this small number-snippet, you can see that there's something about having my husband around that makes me more normal.  I'd really slip deep off into the eco-crazy end without him, I think.

On a related topic, we (I) decided mid-March that the looming crisis meant it would be a great time to start thinking about solar panels.  I've wanted to do this; we have the money, so why not try to support a local construction business just as people are starting to lose work?  (It was in 2008 that we had our previous house energy-wrapped and sealed, so apparently I have penchant for big home improvement projects during economic downturns).  

So here's another little peek into my life in numbers, via conversations with the solar contractor we (I) decided to hire.  

Solar contractor:
We'll need to see a year's worth of electric bills to estimate how much energy you use.

[Explains we don't have a year's worth of data in this new house, but I look through the bills myself to do some analysis]. Since August, here's the stats on our energy usage:
max: 426
median: 272.8
mean: 243

Solar contractor:
Thanks for the kWH usage info an email! If your average kWH use for the year is 272/ month then there is definitely enough space on your roof to offset this amount, even with the trees in the back. It seems like a pretty low amount though, let me know if you expect your use to go up or not.

This year has been unusual, not just because we moved, but also because my husband has been out of the country a lot. My husband is a fairly typical American, but he happens to be married to a wife who's a total eco nut. I sorted our usage by the days he was in the country (when we used an average of 10 kWh/day) and the days he was gone and I was running the house (when we used 4.84 kWh/day).

If my guy were to abandon me, that 270 would be way high for this house. But because he loves me and is likely to stick around -- even more now that traveling is banned for a while! --- we should probably bump that "270" up to "330 kWh/month", which is probably a more reasonable estimate for our home in the future.

So, solar panels.  (At least, once things start moving again. Solar Contractor says "You’re right that right now everything seems to have slowed down. Not only are we limited with site visits but utility processing and building permits seem to have slowed down significantly as well.").     Maybe once we get these babies up and running, we'll have a whole new set of numbers to keep track of.   I'm guessing it'll be my husband, though, who takes that on.

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