A little humor to start the week…
ENGINEER IDENTIFICATION TEST
You walk into a room and notice that a picture is hanging crooked. You…
- Straighten it.
- Ignore it.
- 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.
FASCINATION WITH GADGETS
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.
FASHION AND APPEARANCE
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 AND SOCIAL LIFE
Dating is never easy for engineers. A normal person will employ various indirect and duplicitous methods to create a false impression of attractiveness. 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.
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?”
POWERS OF CONCENTRATION
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.
EXAMPLES OF BAD PRESS FOR ENGINEERS
* Space Shuttle Challenger.
* Hubble space telescope.
* Apollo 13.
* Ford Pinto.
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.
Y’all have a good week!!! 🙂
I’ll object to the inclusion of the Titanic. That was down to the user who exceeded design parameters and ignored safe usage
as they say in Belfast ‘It was fine when it left here. However when the English got their hands on it…’.
As was Challenger. The engineers warned them not to launch at those temperatures and they were overridden by management. I remember the phrase “Go Fever” being used a lot in the aftermath.
Amy REAL engineer has a long-standing and intimate acquaintance with Murphy. They just like to pretend that he doesn’t exist in THEIR projects.
In every project there comes a point at which it is necessary to shoot the engineer and begin production.
As the designated family fixer I have learned to ignore things like, “You probably can’t fix this……”
My wife has learned to simply say, “This is broken. Can you fix it?”
Why is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
not on that list.
beaucrates decided to save money and not put in the wind holes.
Because Scott Adams is a comedian, and was writing partly for an audience less likely to know about the Tacoma Narrows. A lot of the early famous failures that shaped the development of the art are now known mainly to the students of the art’s development.
Like the Parable of The First Boiler Explosion
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away, an engineer was designing a boiler, perhaps feeding an engine, and built in a safeguard of a whistling pressure relief valve.
The operator did not like the noise of the whistle triggering the valve all of the time, and so closed it off.
Then eventually boom.
This was the information passed on to me.
Couple of conclusions I draw. One, the engineer’s design did not pay enough attention to desired operating range, a safeguard that would not be constantly triggered during ordinary operation, and towards instructing the operators. Two, perhaps the institutional understanding by the work force was not yet really to the point of reliably learning safe operation.
Much truth there.
And I speak as an Engineer.
Thanks for the humour, a good way to start my week.
It reminds me of this joke:
A mathematician And an engineer decided to take part in an experiment.
They were both put in a room and at the other end was a naked woman on a bed. The experimenter said that every 30 seconds they could travel half the distance between themselves and the woman.
The mathematician stormed off, calling it pointless. The engineer was still in. The mathematician said “Don’t you see? You’ll never get close enough to actually reach her.”
The engineer replied, “So? I’ll be close enough for all practical purposes.”
Given options (1), (2), and (3), one chooses (c)? Huh?!?
I guess I should have been an engineer, but life pathways kept me from being affected. Actually, I never thought about studying for that field. Therefore, I don’t know a compass from a protractor, but I identify with some of the descriptions above.
The Corvair was a great car, once Chevy got the bugs out with the 1965 model.
“Unsafe at Any Speed” was based on Ralph Nader’s seeing a Ford military vehicle with similar suspension do bad things when driven unsafely.
All VW models before 1968 had the same rear suspension design as the Corvair, and never got the bad press.
My Pinto was one of my favorite cars.
As an Electrical Engineer I can agree to most of the humor. I met my wife at college and was lucky enough that she made me “adjust” through the years and when business growth allowed for change and movement she was willing to change. It also helped her background in college was Finance and we have both retired.
The other thing engineers do in conversation is: If they are designing something really cool but they get held up suddenly and need just one fact or figure to get back going, they will do a mental radar sweep, with the people in their organization or personal network who might know the fact-oid appearing as scatter until a the first strong BLIP appears. They will then bee-line to that person, stepping over social conventions and scheduled appointments. They will then cut through the sports banter as
quickly as possible and ASK the QUESTION. If they get the missing puzzle piece, it’s “Thank you,” and a bee-line right back to the work station.
One of my Favorite ‘Engineer’ stories is “SCE to AUX”
On the other end of the spectrum, we had square-corner hatch openings on Liberty ships and square windows on the de Havilland Comet…
Another lesser-known, but terrible failure:
The design failure was exacerbated by X-ray technicians getting into the habit of skipping past a ‘MALFUNCTION’ warning (!)
Lastly, Engineers know the unique loneliness of being right while the crowd is wrong: NASA engineer Robert Ebeling warned about low temperatures before the Challenger shuttle launch but was over-ruled by higher-ups at Thiokol and drummed out, and though he testified and was correct about not trusting the o-rings to function, over the rest of his life none of the jobs he had ever paid as much or rose in the scope of responsible charge. No one wanted to hire an ethical technician who was not a “team player.”
When $WeBuildScales bought/merged with a UK company that seemed to EVERYTHING by going up a chain, waiting, going down a chain, they were ASTONISHED that such was simply ignored and if Person A knew Person B could help, just walked over or maybe just called and to Hell with silly ideas of restrictive chains… and wow, the response time was… almost ZERO?
Speed isn’t about doing things fast. Speed is about NOT slowing things down for stupid reasons.
Highway left lane ramps. Looks great on paper, in practice, not a good.
All- Thanks for the comments! Guy- I remember the SCE to AUX as that was broadcast real time! The Therac situation is just sad… And a commentary on testing and verifying both software and hardware.
Engineers know Mother Nature is a bitch and will kill you given half a chance. She doesn’t care about being Woke/DEI, controlling costs, or anything other than strength of materials and the *laws* of physics.
My favorite engineer friend had a subtle sense of humor wearing plaids,stripes, and checkered clothes at the same time. He started at Boeing on the B-47 and ended on the 777. Slide rule to cad-cam. Speaking of slide rules, he had an enormous one in a holster that he enjoyed using in front of the new engineers.
Another Boeing engineer was terminated. He had designed a cannon to shoot birds into windshields. The uproar was the use of live fowl. His defense? “They are dead when they hit”.
things that will need to be fixed after you’ve had a few minutes to play with them
My day today. I was beginning to regret the effort until it finally all worked the way I wanted it to.
Nobody else would ever notice the results, but the code no longer offended me.
“But it already works.”
“And it’s a [FREAKING] miracle that it does. You want me to maintain it? I make it so it CAN be maintained.”
Exactly. An understood.
Ed- And that’s a win!
Orvan- How many times… sigh…
In short ‘Thou shalt not ASSUME’.
A friend of mine once used the phrase ‘because it’s not good engineering practice’ and the customer ACTUALLY BOUGHT IT!
His boss was quite proud.