How my Dog (almost) learned a Lesson about measuring Project Velocity

by Dirk Schreckmann

The sun had been down about an hour and a half.  Clover, the ranch dog, was sleeping in the back seat of the ol' JavaRanch pickup truck, and we'd just got on the highway headed back to the ranch.  She was tired!  It had been a long, fun and exhausting day of running around, making sure all of the different animals on the ranch played nice.  I just about fell down myself, I was so worn out watching Clover chase after that cat and those mice playing that shifty game of theirs.  Yep, Clover was dead to the world in the back of the truck.  My head was feeling a bit numb, as well.

We'd only been driving a few miles, when we were suddenly surrounded by bright flashing lights.  Everything around was lit up all blue, red, and white.  It wasn't the aliens this time, though.  We were in luck - it was Officer Vick!  I pulled the truck right over and waited eagerly.

Me: "Howdy, Officer Vick!  What can we do for you, tonight?"

Officer Vick: "You got any idea how fast you were going back there?"

Me: "Well, no sir.  We weren't really paying that much attention.  I know they say we should be, but I'm just not sure how that all -- "

Officer Vick: "Save it.  I've heard the excuses before.  Too many folks around these parts just aren't paying attention to what's important.  Ya'll just don't know how, and you must not understand how this information is useful."

Me: "OK then, Officer Vick, how does this measuring of our velocity work?"

Officer Vick: "It ain't too tough, really.  Let's say you want to get from here on down to Pleasanton.  If you look at your map, you'll notice that the trip has about forty or so different legs.  Now, how long you think it would take you two to get there?"

Me: "Shoot, I don't know.  How many miles are we talking?" I asked as I got out my road map.

Officer Vick: "Miles, nothing.  Ain't much you can tell from the number of miles.  If them's freeway miles, it's a whole different ride than if they're ol' unmarked backcountry dirt roads."

Me: "Too true."

Officer Vick: "Now, here's what ya gotta do.  Don't try to guess how long the whole trip is going to take.  You haven't driven down all of these roads before.  You just don't know enough to estimate the whole trip very well.

"As I was saying before, this here trip has about forty legs.  What you should do is consider each leg, one at a time, and estimate about how much effort that leg will take you to complete."

Me: "OK, that should be easy enough.  This first leg, I'd guess it'll take about fifty minutes."

Officer Vick: "No, dang nabbit!  Forget time measurements.  Like I was saying, you ain't never driven down most of these roads.  Your time guestimates are gonna be about worthless."

Me: "Well, how should I measure then?"

Officer Vick: "What do you got a lot of sittin' around the ranch these days?"

Me: "We just piled up a bunch of feed bags in the barn, the other day.  Gettin' ready for -- "

Officer Vick: "Feed bags will do just fine.  We'll do the estimating in feed bags.  Here's what you do.  Consider an average leg of the trip to require about three feed bags of effort.  Then a super easy leg should be about one feed bag, while the really hard parts would take up to five feed bags.  Of course, the stuff in between 'really easy' and 'average' should be estimated at two feed bags, and the stuff in between 'average' and 'really hard' would be four feed bags."

Me: "Well, OK.  If I look at this planned route, and say I estimate that it'll take about a hundred and twenty feed bags of effort, just what good does that do us?"

Officer Vick: "Perhaps not much at first.  But soon after you get underway, you're gonna start to get a pretty good idea of things.

"About how long would you say can Clover back there go before she needs a watering stop?"

Me: "Two hours, I suppose."

Officer Vick: "That'll work just fine.  Now, every two hours along your trip, while Clover is out helping the local plant life, you'll want to add up just how many feed bags you completed since your last watering stop.  After a couple of stops, you should have a pretty good idea of how much ground ya'll can cover during each two hour period.  That's how fast you're going.  With that information, you'll be able to estimate how much time you'll be needing for the rest of the trip, as well as for any new parts of the trip you decide to add.

"Next time we meet, we'll get into a bit more about figuring how fast you're moving during a particular two hour period when compared to other periods, and a bit of the details on using all of this estimation information for figuring out things on your trip.  Until then, let me leave you with one piece of advice to keep in mind.  Pay special attention to your five feed bag estimates.  Many a times I've seen that these 'really hard' efforts should really be considered as more than one effort.  What I mean is, if it makes sense to break a five feed bag leg into more than one part, perhaps a two feed bag leg and a three feed bag leg, then do it.  Sometimes you'll even find that the different parts should be estimated a bit higher, perhaps as two three feed bag legs, thus improving your overall estimating.

"All right.  Now, take care ya'll and drive safe."

Me: "Good night, Officer Vick.  Thanks for the lesson!"

I turned 'round and asked Clover if she'd got all what Officer Vick had just taught us.  I think she might have snored or something.  Probably dreamin' about chasing after cats and mice. She was still out cold.