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Mar
26

The Bower Factor

My good friend John Bower came to visit this weekend.  Although we’ve known each other for almost 35 years (we are sitting next to each other in our sixth grade “graduation” picture), living on opposite coasts means we don’t see each other too often.  Like many people, we rely on electronic forms of communication to stay in touch.

John is an engineer’s engineer.  He has an intuitive sense of how everything works.  Whenever I can’t figure something out, which happens often since I take most things I own apart, I can always rely on him to explain where I screwed up.  While my engineering expertise has been relegated to twiddling bits and bytes, John has explored how one creates machines out of solid chunks of metal and how to attenuate beams of high
frequency light to explore the inner workings of stuff.  Geez, I feel small.

But I digress.

In high school, John and I spent way too much of our time locked in the garage of my family’s home taking cars apart.  For the most part, we had no idea what we were doing, but we learned quickly.  During our destruction and reconstruction escapades, John made the observation that it seemed that no matter what we estimated for the time it took to complete any one car repair task; the actual time to complete the task was roughly 10 times longer.  In mathematical terms:

Tactual = Testimate X 10

This became known among a small group of people (John and me) as The Bower Factor for self-automotive repair.  Now, since I’m not a big believer in universal constants, I refused to believe that this would hold up over time.  Oh, how wrong I was.  I have years of empirical evidence to show that The Bower Factor for self-automotive repair is, in fact repeatably, 10.

As Einstein said, “God does not play dice . . .”  Automotive repair is not the only category of proven, repeatable Bower Factors.  Here are some that still apply to my life:

  • For dealer automotive repair = 2.0 (how often is
    your car ready when they say it is?)
  • Kids’ homework = 2.0-3.0 (depending on your kids’ the constant only applies to individual kids, not kids as a group)
  • Board meetings = 1.25-1.5
  • Getting to the airport with family in tow = 1.5 (why is it that traffic is always worse with the family in the car?)
  • Doctors appointments = 0.8 (while it takes a long time to get into the physician’s exam room, the time with him/her is shorter than expected)
  • Catching up on email/blog feeds in the morning = 1.5

The bottom line is that no matter how you try to avoid it, or believe that time will somehow change it, The Bower Factor is a part of the order of the universe and cannot be defeated.  Accept it as part of your life and peace will be yours.

Great to see you again, John.

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 March 26th, 2006  
 Will  
 General Business, Misc Thoughts  
   
 6 Comments

6 Responses to The Bower Factor

  1. Of course, this brings up the question of how to apply the rule.  Since you *know* about the Bower factor, does your expectation of how long it will take *include* the Bower factor?   For some time I’ve spouted a rule, based more on what I’ve seen friends (including you) experience than what I’ve done myself, that any home remodeling or building project takes two months longer than you expect, even if you take into *account* the rule.  So if you expect it will be done on, say, July 9, then it will be done on September 9, but if you pad for the two months (e.g., if you plan to move into the house in mid-September) then it won’t be done until November 9.

  2. Of course, this brings up the question of how to apply the rule.  Since you *know* about the Bower factor, does your expectation of how long it will take *include* the Bower factor?  

    For some time I’ve spouted a rule, based more on what I’ve seen friends (including you) experience than what I’ve done myself, that any home remodeling or building project takes two months longer than you expect, even if you take into *account* the rule.  So if you expect it will be done on, say, July 9, then it will be done on September 9, but if you pad for the two months (e.g., if you plan to move into the house in mid-September) then it won’t be done until November 9.

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  4. Reminds me of Weizenbaum’s Principle, which states:
    Software will always take longer to complete than estimated, even if the estimate had already factored in Weizenbaum’s principle.

    Weizenbaum, author of Eliza, the “Doctor Program” with turned out to be the first “AI” application, died 14/March/08, at the age of 85.

  5. Reminds me of Weizenbaum’s Principle, which states:
    Software will always take longer to complete than estimated, even if the estimate had already factored in Weizenbaum’s principle.

    Weizenbaum, author of Eliza, the “Doctor Program” with turned out to be the first “AI” application, died 14/March/08, at the age of 85.

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