Which is an anecdote
Yesterday evening, G called. He's planning to spend a few weeks in some Arctic European country, and needs warm clothes. Our ski jacket and pants, turtlenecks, mucho cool Hugo Boss Wall Street type outfit, and sexy leather gloves have been gathering fungi for the last 3 years, so we thought we'll foist them on G. He said he's going to come over today to borrow them.
A bit of background. G and Ludwig used to work together. G is a software architect type who operates in the rarefied atmosphere of design and specifications. Ludwig used to muddle around trying to get a small team to build stuff. Both of us were on the hook to deliver stuff to the powers that be, and of course had to "set expectations" on when stuff could be delivered and so on. If you've done this sort of thing before, you know how it works.
Developer Boy looks at the 6 things on his plate, factors in such things as time spent on Orkut, table tennis, and those vast tracts of unproductivity that show up in the middle of our day and says it will take x days to finish.
Seen It All Team Lead looks at x's estimate, mentally goes "Yeah, right." (1) and puts 1.5x in his schedule.
I Rule Microsoft Project Product Manager sees Seen It All's estimate, applies the same factor of safety. This continues recursively until the CEO or VP or whoever has a "Beta Duryodhan, yeh kya ho rahaa hai?!" moment.
But that is all beside the point. The point is we hedge our bets when we make these estimates. It turns out that once you start doing this, it really seeps into real life. Case in point, G and Ludwig trying to arrive at a mutually convenient time for handover of said winter paraphernalia.
G: Hey, so when should I come by your place tomorrow da?
Ludwig [Mental calculation: Going running in the morning and will be back by 8, and have that meeting in the evening at 4:30]: I'll be at home between 9 and 3.
G [Mental calculation: Yeah, right.]: OK, I'll come between 10 and 2.
L [Mental calculation: I'd better be at home for sure between 11 and 1.]: OK.
He's probably going to show up at noon.
P.S. The wisdom of children...
1. We owe this nugget to G.
Linguistics professor: It is a strange truth about language, that a double negation ends up with a positive meaning. For ejjampul, "Putting your finger in the socket and turning on the switch is not unsafe if there's a power outage."
See? Double negative, means positive. But a double positive can never mean something negative.
Bored voice from the back of the class: Yeah, right.