Caveat: This proves that I used to have too much time on my hands. Moreover, I must proclaim that I am, have always been, and will always be, a big-time data lover! This story also proves conclusively that I am diligent in my data recording, even over many years (see my other post regarding my ongoing 12-year, kid height project). However, please don’t judge me for these quirks because if you are reading this, and I mean really reading it and appreciating the effort it took me to record this data, you will realize that you, too, are probably just as big of a data lover as me!
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OK. Here is the story offered to you, even at the risk of propelling myself into the archives of the biggest data dorks known to mankind.
I was in my early 30’s and I was getting a new car. It was a nice car, a 1996 Nissan Maxima SE, a manual 5-speed, black on black leather, 3.0 L engine that purred as smooth as any engine ever created. I’m not kidding. In retrospect, I only remember feeling the engine running one time, at a stop light, and the engine blipped ever-so-slightly. I saw the tachometer jump just a little. I felt the perturbation for a microsecond. Other than that, I never felt the engine running – ever. I couldn’t hear it, couldn’t feel it. I always had to check the tachometer to see if it was running. If I accidentally popped the clutch and the engine stalled, I couldn’t tell it. I simply had to check the tachometer to find out if it is running! Even at over 130 mph, it was as smooth as any baby’s skin you have ever felt. OK, enough reminiscing. Now back to the story.
With only 1% of Maximas being produced with a 5-speed manual tranny, I figured it would be a great project to record every drop of gas burned, every dollar spent on gas, every mile traveled, every location visited during fill-ups, etc. for as long as I owned the car. What? I know that you are saying: “Are you mad?” Why would anyone want to do this?
First, to do this, you have to establish a plan and have in-mind a database structure. You have to know what you want to record from day one. You can’t get this project right without thinking about the plan beforehand. I admit, this was pure premeditation. It wasn’t premeditation in the cunning, murderous way, but rather, it was scientific premeditation. Since I was (and still am) quite scientific, it made perfect sense to me. I thought that one day I’d publish the data, sell it to Nissan, have a great commercial made out of it,… Of course, none of that happened because (1) I didn’t have access to Tableau at that time, (2) the internet didn’t exist like it does today, and (3) I couldn’t figure out who to send it to at Nissan. Granted, I did try to get someone at Nissan to pay attention to my long-term, scientific automobile performance study, but frankly, no one gave a damn.
When I think about about that time, I remember that no one could believe that I was actually recording this much information on my own time. I was ridiculed by my friends, scolded for being a dork, told that I needed to find better things to do with my time. After a few years, I retreated from this verbal lashing and became a reclusive data collector. I no longer told anyone about my grand plan and fantastic database. I was clandestine in recording the data – rather than whipping out my Maxima journal like I did in the early days, I secretly recorded the mileage and other info on the back of the gas receipts since they already had the number of gallons purchased and the total price paid. Later on, I slid that information into the database when nobody was looking. In fact, this project went on for so long that people forgot I was doing it! Ultimately, nobody cared that I was able to keep a spreadsheet around through years of computer hard-drive failures, through a myriad of fill-ups in states across the US, through rain, snow, hail, and near-miss tornadoes.
In the end, when I sold the car, the project came to a decisive and instantaneous halt. The data recording stopped. The statistics stopped being calculated and accumulated. The spreadsheet died on 10/5/2005. The project lasted for a total of 3,102 days, 8.49 years, 444 fill-ups, 152,796 miles driven, $8,485.82 in gas. Sadly, data withdrawal lasts to this day.
Lucky for you, I thought about this file when I awoke this morning and even better for you, I was able to find it without too much effort. Now I can complete my original vision! I have Tableau. I have the internet. I have this blog. Nobody can call me a dork. Nobody can stop me from telling my story. Maybe Nissan will be interested. Maybe a commercial will be made (well, I know that is stretching things, but you never know since marketing departments have big budgets!) Somehow I have managed to carry this data along with me for another 2,819 days, or the past 7.7 years, bring the total experimental duration up to 6,333 days, or 17.3 years! This data sat in hibernation, waiting for this day to be UNLEASHED. Never before has Tableau seen the likes of a data set like this. Trust me when I tell you that you will enjoy the visual feast that I am going to create for you. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until I can find time to create Part 2 of this story. I promise it won’t take another few years for me to finish my masterpiece.
Before I go for today, I have two offerings for you:
First: Inside of Car
Here we are on Dec 16, 2000, driving in the Maxima on a stormy day. This photo was taken with a Kodak (remember them?) DC240 digital camera, resolution 640 by 480 pixels (.3 Megapixel), cost = about $300. Car mileage at the time = 82, 500. Memories = Priceless.
Second: Outside of Car
Here is the car set-up for camping. The previous summer we took a big vacation to Colorado in this car. With the Thule transporter on top, the bike rack on top and the rear bike rack, were were able to take 2 adults, 2 kids, and 4 bikes across country with all the camping gear needed to have a great time. This picture was taken with a Nikon E3100, 1600 by 1200 pixels (3 Megapixels), cost = about $300. Car mileage at the time = 135,950. Memories = Priceless.