Hofstadter’s Law: Why the Dude’s Projects Always Take Longer Than Planned

Douglas Hofstadter

Douglas Hofstadter

The Dude has been on a slow blog roll for a couple weeks.

A week or so ago I mentioned that Mrs. Dude has me working a 2nd job as a painter, and the sun room painting project has been consuming my extra time. Hence the slow blog roll.

In that post I said, “We should be able to drop the brushes soon and get back to life without painting.” Nice and vague Dude, good work.

I didn’t anticipate this lack of commitment to a deadline and getting “back to life without painting” would still be dragging on almost two weeks later!

Why do Dude projects always take longer than expected?!

Turns out I have an answer to this question. Hofstadter’s Law.

Hofstadter’s law, conceived by the cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, goes like this: any task you’re planning to complete will always take longer than expected – even when Hofstadter’s law is taken into account.

Yep, sounds like every project the Dude takes on.

Here’s a quick read about Hofstadter’s Law from the Guardian. It’s worth 5 minutes to read (although, I’m sure I’m underestimating how long it will take :)), but I’ll pull out a couple quotes I dig…

  • How to get around Hofstadter’s Law? – The unlikely trick is to plan in less detail: avoid considering the specifics and simply ask yourself how long it’s taken to do roughly similar things before. ‘You’ll get back an answer that sounds hideously long, and clearly reflects no understanding of the special reasons why this task will take less time. This answer is true. Deal with it’
  • Better yet, where possible, avoid planning altogether. Use the “ready, fire, aim” approach, and correct course as you go along.
  • Sometimes, the secret to getting things done is just to do them.

So, as I spend my kid-free Saturday inside painting rather than enjoying the summer sun, I’ll keep Mr. Hofstadter’s Law firmly in my mind to help me remain realistic.

I’m going to finish today – says the painter who will finish sometime next week…maybe. 🙂

PS – The image included here is from an article/interview Hofstadter had in Wired magazine…also worth a quick read. This Hofstadter dude seems like a cool cat.

It Takes More Than Rock n’ Roll

I’m no carpenter, but I think Starship is full of it.

Saturday was the day of reckoning for the stairs.  They concussed Mrs. Dude, so Rex and I decided we needed a little retribution (that and the stairs were 26 years old).

Down with the stairs!

As a humorous side note, when the Dude was growing up, we moved into a new house, and this new house had a cheesy cowboy/ranch style fence surrounding the front yard.  Included in this fence was an obnoxious entryway that extended over the entrance to the walkway leading from the driveway to the front door.  I was in third grade at the time, so I don’t have a clear memory of how tall it was, but apparently the previous owner built it to fit his elfin size.  A short time after we moved in, my Dad arrived home from work, and began to walk to the house from the driveway.  In full stride, he stepped under the entryway and was knocked flat on his back when his head made direct contact with the low hanging wood.  Clearly not enough room for a 10 gallon hat.  He marched to the basement, pulled out the extension cord, grabbed the saw, and after two cuts the entryway was lying in the yard.

This mission has a similar feel to it.

As I started the demolition, while Rex was off on his first trip to Home Depot (It’s a given that projects always take more than one trip to the Depot.), I kicked on some tunes.  The Black Keys to be specific.  While I can assure you this was some serious rock n’ roll, these tunes did not help build the stairs one bit.  I have no idea how Starship built an entire city on it.  I’m calling BS.

We put in a 12 hour shift knocking down and replacing the stairs.  We finished up under the lights at 10:15PM.  But, we finished in one day, and the stairs are awesome.  I’m not sure if they are any less slippery when wet, but they are amazingly sturdy.  And it’s pretty cool to build something.

This Little Piggy

Mrs. Dude is crafty.

The Princess asked if she could play “This Little Piggy” with my toes the other night.  Of course the Dude abides and agreed to the Piggy journey, and the Princess’ version of “This Little Piggy “ is a journey full of random princess activities.

It began with “This little piggy went to bunny’s nail shop, and this little piggy got cupcake’s, and this little piggy ate ice cream.”  Innocent enough.  But, it ended with “This little piggy went to the store to get fans.”

Fans?!  What little piggy goes from bunny’s nail shop, to the cupcake bakery, to the ice cream parlor, to Home Depot?!

I know who’s behind these mind games.  I’m on to you Mrs. Dude.

I get it, we need a couple new fans for the house.  Did you have to turn the Princess loose on me?


Happy Anniversary. Let’s Go to Home Depot.

Dude and the Mrs. celebrated their anniversary a couple weeks ago.

A great day had by all; a few hugs, a couple high-fives, some thoughtful gifts, a carefully crafted breakfast including flowers from the Dude, and a trip to Home Depot of course…no anniversary would be complete without a giant hardware store.

As the Dude of the house, the responsibility falls on me to repair those things that require repairing.  This includes repairs that are beyond the Dude’s scope of expertise.  Most repairs fall into this “beyond the scope” category, but that never stopped McGyver (or McGrubber), so scope of experience does not preclude almost any repair requirements.  After all, the alternative is to demonstrate a lack of Dudeness…and pay someone else to handle the task at hand, which is never a good option for a self-proclaimed Dude.

So, as the dishes were being rinsed after the anniversary breakfast, Dude recognized a sound under the sink, a sound that sent his Dude instincts aflutter.  The sound of water under the kitchen sink.

Normally, water and the kitchen sink seem to go together pretty well, but this water was not of the friendly variety.  It was of the “I’m going to steal your anniversary because you know nothing about plumbing” variety.

Sweet.  A leak under the kitchen sink.

Awesome.  The Dude has no experience with plumbing…unless, of course, you consider adding Drano to a clogged shower valuable experience, but it was clear Drano wasn’t fixing this (don’t think it didn’t cross my mind).

After a careful inspection, the problem was evident.  The nut (no clue if this is the correct term) connecting the drain to the sink was broken.  And, when I say “the problem was evident,” I really mean the nut was loose, and when I tried to tighten it, I snapped it.  At any rate, the issue was diagnosed, and the plumbing expertise was growing by the second.

Dude Loves Plumbing

Dude Loves Plumbing

Dude Loves Plumbing

Dude Loves Plumbing

After diagnosis, the next step in most of the Dude’s projects is a trip to Home Depot to gather the random parts that will allow a truly McGyvered solution to come to life.  So, with the Mrs. and the Princess in tow, the Dude was off to the Depot.

Luckily, the trip was uneventful, the parts were gathered successfully, and the fix was pretty straight forward.  The Dude strikes again!

However, in true Dude fashion, one repair usually leads to another, and as I was giving Marley a celebratory belly rub in the kitchen, he rolled (more like giant flop) over and snapped the cabinet door in two.  Thankfully super glue is always on hand in copious quantities for Dude projects.

One Job Leads to Another

One Job Leads to Another

Dude's Favorite Tool

Dude's Favorite Tool

Happy anniversary.