An oldie but a goody that came across the transom…

And I failed, because the scheduler didn’t schedule… LOL


You walk into a room and notice that a picture is hanging crooked.  You…

  1. Straighten it.
  2. Ignore it.
  3. Buy a CAD system and spend the next six months designing a solar-powered, self-adjusting picture frame while often stating aloud your belief that the inventor of the nail was a total moron.

The correct answer is “C” but partial credit can be given to anybody who writes “It depends” in the margin of the test or simply blames the whole stupid thing on “Marketing.”


Engineers have different objectives when it comes to social interaction.  “Normal” people expect to accomplish several unrealistic things from social interaction:

*Stimulating and thought-provoking conversation

*Important social contacts

*A feeling of connectedness with other humans

In contrast to “normal” people, engineers have rational objectives for social interactions:

*Get it over with as soon as possible.

*Avoid getting invited to something unpleasant.

*Demonstrate mental superiority and mastery of all subjects.


To the engineer, all matter in the universe can be placed into one of two categories:

(1) things that need to be fixed, and

  • things that will need to be fixed after you’ve had a few minutes to play with them.

Engineers like to solve problems.  If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.  Normal people don’t understand this concept; they believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.

No engineer looks at a television remote control without wondering what it would take to turn it into a stun gun.  No engineer can take a shower without wondering if some sort of Teflon coating would make showering unnecessary.  To the engineer, the world is a toy box full of sub-optimized and feature-poor toys.


Clothes are the lowest priority for an engineer, assuming the basic thresholds for temperature and decency have been satisfied.  If no appendages are freezing or sticking together, and if no genitalia are in plain view, then the objective of clothing has been met; anything else is a waste.


Dating is never easy for engineers.  A normal person will employ various indirect and duplicitous methods to create a false impression of attractive-ness. Engineers are incapable of placing appearance above function.

Fortunately, engineers have an ace in the hole.  They are widely recognized as superior marriage material: intelligent, dependable, employed, honest, and handy around the house.  While it’s true that many normal people would prefer not to date an engineer, most normal people harbor an intense desire to mate with them, thus producing engineerlike children who will have high-paying jobs long before losing their virginity.

Male engineers reach their peak of sexual attractiveness later than normal men, becoming irresistible erotic dynamos in their mid-thirties to late-forties.  Just look at these examples of sexually irresistible men in technical professions:

*  Bill Gates.

*  MacGyver.

*  Etcetera.

Female engineers become irresistible at the age of consent and remain that way until about thirty minutes after their clinical death.  Longer if it’s a warm day.


Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships.  That’s why it’s a good idea to keep engineers away from customers, romantic interests, and other people who can’t handle the truth.  Engineers sometimes bend the truth to avoid work.  They say things that sound like lies but technically are not because nobody could be expected to believe them.  The complete list of engineer lies is listed below.

“I won’t change anything without asking you first.”

“I’ll return your hard-to-find cable tomorrow.”

“I have to have new equipment to do my job.”

“I’m not jealous of your new computer.”


Engineers are notoriously frugal.  This is not because of cheapness or mean spirit; it is simply because every spending situation is simply a problem in optimization, that is, “How can I escape this situation while retaining the greatest amount of cash?”


If there is one trait that best defines an engineer it is the ability to concentrate on one subject to the complete exclusion of everything else in the environment.  This sometimes causes engineers to be pronounced dead prematurely.  Some funeral homes in high-tech areas have started checking resumes before processing the bodies.  Anybody with a degree in electrical engineering or experience in computer programming is propped up in the lounge for a few days just to see if he or she snaps out of it.


Engineers hate risk.  They try to eliminate it whenever they can.  This is understandable, given that when an engineer makes one little mistake the media will treat it like it’s a big deal or something.


*   Hindenberg.

*   Space Shuttle Challenger.

*   SPANet(tm)

*   Hubble space telescope.

*   Apollo 13.

*   Titanic.

*   Ford Pinto.

*   Corvair.

The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something like this:

RISK:   Public humiliation and the death of thousands of innocent people.REWARD: A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame.  Being practical people, engineers evaluate this balance of risks and rewards and decide that risk is not a good thing.  The best way to avoid risk is by advising that any activity is technically impossible for reasons that are far too complicated to explain.  If that approach is not sufficient to halt the project, then the engineer will fall back to a second line of defense:

“It’s technically possible but it will cost too much.”


Ego-wise, two things are important to engineers:

*   How smart they are.

*   How many cool devices they own.

The fastest way to get an engineer to solve a problem is to declare that the problem is unsolvable.  No engineer can walk away from an unsolvable problem until it’s solved.  No illness or distraction is sufficient to get the engineer off the case.  These types of challenges quickly become personal—a battle between the engineer and the laws of nature.

Engineers will go without food and hygiene for days to solve a problem.  (Other times just because they forgot.)  And when they succeed in solving the problem they will experience an ego rush that is better than sex— and I’m including the kind of sex where other people are involved.

Nothing is more threatening to the engineer than the suggestion that somebody has more technical skill.  Normal people sometimes use that knowledge as a lever to extract more work from the engineer.  When an engineer says that something can’t be done (a code phrase that means it’s not fun to do), some clever normal people have learned to glance at the engineer with a look of compassion and pity and say something along these lines:  “I’ll ask Bob to figure it out.  He knows how to solve difficult technical problems.”

At that point it is a good idea for the normal person to not stand between the engineer and the problem.  The engineer will set upon the problem like a starved Chihuahua on a pork chop.


TBT… — 17 Comments

  1. Very true.

    I have been accused of resembling the above people.

    I once worked for chinese lady who employed a fair number of engineers. Her basic method was to ask for a solution, toss skittles and beef jerky into the room periodically (we had coffee and a soda vending machine already) and check back once a day. Then she’d show up a few days later and declare the deadline was passed and we needed the item finished…And Marketing had claimed it couldn’t be done on time….

    She generally got her product when she needed it.

  2. An engineer friends once told me, “An engineer can only be absolutely right, or absolutely wrong”.

    I accused him of being an optimist.

  3. I’ve spent decades dealing with engineers. From my perspective, around 1% are exceptional, 5 % are really good, 25 % are likable, if not weird, the rest either cheated through college, or knew somebody important.

    If you ask an engineer where they stand in my perspective above, all will say they’re the 1%. They can’t help it, they were born with an ego larger than their cranium.

    • Better an engineer than a “university professor”. Engineers are notoriously honest. How do I know? ‘Cause I are one:)

        • To teach Math, Engineering, Shop, Economics (some at least), requires an actual brain that uses it’s neurons.
          Unlike most feel good teachers who can’t think their way out of a paper bag.

          I knew a female teacher who couldn’t put gas in her car.
          I shit you not.

  4. Another oldie (you decide if it is a goodie):
    Q: How do you identify an extroverted engineer?
    A: The extroverted engineer looks at YOUR shoes when he is talking to you.

    I turned out to be not suited for engineering. Things were fine in my undergrad days at Midwestern University, but I couldn’t take the social (rather “asocial”) aspects of MIT. Sigh.

  5. How is the right answer C at the top, the options are 1, 2, 3…….


    I cant even some times. 😛 /sarc

  6. Hey Old NFO;

    I got a good laugh out of those and I know a few people that would fit the profile…

  7. I was at West Point (Automotive Engineering Major) when the Challenger blew up. A classmate asked our ME 401 professor why he didn’t give partial credit. The reply: “Do you think NASA gave Morton/Thiokol a 93% on the booster rocket design? Minus 7, O-rings.”

  8. Guilty as charged.
    I would say we avoid excessive risk. Yes, I have an engineering degree, but I was born & bred a hillbilly & I love old fast motorcycles. (Part of having an engineer’s mind is figuring out how to make old motorcycles faster.) Risk is just another calculation, often made on the fly (not literally flying, unless you suddenly discover that you’ve miscalculated, which sometimes occurs).

  9. Some people are optimists – they see the glass as half full.

    Other people are pessimists – they see the glass as half empty.

    Then there are engineers – they see the glass as having 100% redundancy in capacity, in other words it’s twice as big as it needs to be.

  10. Sorry I’m late. I’ve been engineerening all day with a call to do it some more at a sister plant in the morning.
    They even say they’ll pay me for it!