A little humor to start the week…


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

(2)  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 (with Firestone 500 tires).

*   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.

Enjoy your week! 🙂


Snerk… — 21 Comments

  1. As and Engineer, I find all these self evident 😉

    Thanks, now that I am done laughing and gasping for air, can type again.

  2. Oh good grief. “…. the kind of sex where other people are involved” almost choked me… Excellent!!

  3. The engineers have hairy ears
    They live in caves and ditches
    The engineers, the engineers
    Those hardy sons of bitches

    – anon. officer

  4. Are you sure that’s not “starving Chiweiner on a porkchop”?

  5. You forgot to mention their selective hearing. Having married one and birthed two engineers I have witnessed this countless times. They have the uncanny ability to detect the slightest rattle in any mechanical devise but are totally deaf and deny ever being told we are going to a family dinner. Even if you stare them right in the eye and tell them not to make any plans for a certain day. The day will come and they will be walking around in a confused state asking you why you are preparing to go out?

    • This one drives my wife crazy. I can hear a problem with the pump coupling in our boiler from two floors away. But plans are always a surprise to me.

  6. OMG, so funny!

    I was just a lowly fix-it guy but inside me beats the heart of an engineer. Explains so much about my so-called life…

  7. I have an engineering degree, and work in a technical field. I can verify the veracity of all these.

  8. This is an interesting post.

    Viz. I turned to my my friend and asked him, “Do you like my new blazer?” He replied, churlish, “No, I don’t.”

    I fixed that fella right in the eye and said, “Well you bloody well should do.”

    We left it at that.

  9. Hey, I resemble that remark!

    Now that I’ve cleaned up the coffee, thanks for the laugh!

  10. Engineers must be genetically related to meteorologists.
    They’d predict the worst possible weather hoping you’d not fly, so they didn’t have to ask question at the accident investigation.

  11. Hey the Pinto issue was a bean counter problem, not an engineered problem. And I miss my pinto. 🙁

  12. Though funny, this description is not far off the mark. I have my undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Systems Engineering. I was raised by an Engineer so it must have rubbed off and may also have been passed along genetically since my brother did not end up as an engineer.

    A good explanation is in this Dilbert video “The Knack”.

  13. I’m pretty sure I read this in a Scott Adams book when I was young.

  14. Contractor engineer seeing crooked picture. Writes change to contract to rebuild the building slanted so the frame looks right, but cost overruns, construction delays triple original contract bid.

  15. As an Electrical Engineer working in Telecom for all my life. I would say most of this is accurate. I not sure of the Corvair since my BF had one in HS and I never found any of the problems that was hyped by Nader. My wife met me at UCLA and was in Finance. My Wife’s boss said many times that things I said were the same as her husband as he was an Engineer. My advance degree was in Management.

  16. I maintain that all your examples of “Bad Press” for Engineers are in fact examples of poor management decisions. If management would just listen to us engineers, there would be a lot less lawsuits.

  17. Many of these are true. Except the dating one. When I went to college (technical, and approximately 4 males to every female), I figured that the upperclassmen would be hitting on all the freshman women. So as a freshman, I dated a sophomore and married her.
    Problem solving, right?