Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ted Stevens

It seems Alaska senator Ted Stevens's tube might be coming to an end. Ballot counts are showing that the incumbent was defeated by a margin large enough (1%) that anyone with a background in math would declare the election over. So in memory of his terms as a senator, here is Ted Stevens's series of tubes.

Why geeks turned the most accurate part of his diatribe into their battle cry against the technologically-neophytic senator, I don't know; I'd call it a web of tubes, but from a practitioner of the legal arts who wasn't versed in graph theory, close enough. There are plenty of other gems he spewed—"personal Internet" (what is this, an HP ad featuring alleged insider trader Mark Cuban?), "Internet was sent" (only if you're Google)—but engineers are left to troll the internet and letting pedantry ruin hateboys' fun. Sure, engineers hate his ignorance, but what's better than a tech punchline waiting to happen?

Photo by wheresmysocks

Monday, November 17, 2008


Engineers hate sports.  They hate them so much that company off-sites are planned to avoid mandatory activities requiring more physical exertion than a trip to the break room.   This hatred has been with most engineers for most of their lives, probably due to a combination of high school and a practical lack of gross motor skills.

But then there's Foosball.  Not only does it exclusively use engineers' college-hardened fine motor skills, it also attracts coworkers and classmates who actually enjoy sports, namely Europeans and Central/South Americans who grew up in cultures devoted to its field-based cousin.  It's this black and white cookie of the sports world that brings engineers and athletes together as equals in competition.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Facial hair

Watching the Nova documentary Battle of the X-Planes with my mom and aerospace-engineer brother, we noticed a fashion sported by a solid 50% of the Palmdale CAD jockeys: the mustache (which gives a male-to-female ratio of roughly 15:1, but that was expected).

Part-time engineer Leonardo da Vinci, physicist Albert Einstein, communist and Linux fanboy Richard "Che" Stallman, and libertarian gun-nut Eric Raymond all have various forms of facial hair, and why not?  It saves time, prevents nicks and razor burn, and even enhances engineers' natural female-repellent abilities.

For those not ready to go all the way, there's the hipster beard—stubble—5-o'clock shadow for the olds.  It's not really something real engineers opt for, instead finding its way onto poseurs like Justin "I'm a Mac" Long and Kevin Rose.

Kevin Rose photo by MR "(O)"

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Civics and Corollas

Visit the parking lot of any company that employees engineers and you're bound to run across swaths of these cars and their mid-sized siblingsall stockparked between Beamers and Porsches belonging to managers (and lucky engineers) compensating for shortcomings.

What engineers like about Honda and Toyota's compacts isn't something that Detroit can superficially duplicate; it's much deeper than that, rooted in Japanese corporate culture's respect for workers and good engineering.  These are companies that think like engineers: practically; they value quality, efficiency, and price, believing that, in the end, consumers will choose a good product over a multi-generation marketing campaign.

At the end of the day, we're all stuck in traffic, only engineers pay 4 times less than their upperlings for the privilege of going home at 10 mph.

Photos by Ian Muttoo and nnecpa

Thursday, November 6, 2008


On the surface, what engineers love about Ikea might just be from their neotenous world where the distinction between college life and corporate life is subtle (at best), but there's more to it than that. Ikea is a company known for its obsession with efficiency. Its utilitarian, almost dystopian, styled furniture and decor always value function over form, all while being cleverly marketed as "European." Even the stores themselves are a triumph of industrial (imaginary) engineering, realizing the true meaning of "big box retailer" while turning what other stores might label a "shopping experience" into an meandering two-floor assembly line.

But that doesn't mean the merchandise is assembled, and there's nothing—save for every entry on this blog—engineers like more than "assembly required," instructions optional—the very essence of engineering.

Photo by Effin See

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

You might be an engineer if...

  • ...you hear "pie" and think π.
  • ...showing up to work at 10:00 is "early."
  • ...you use Firefox.
  • ...you still use IRC.
  • ...getting your mail counts as "going out."
Photo by laihiu

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Greek characters

No, not anyone from My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Uncle Jesse from Full House, I'm talking about glyphs (or "letters," for the linguistically challenged). Engineers love using symbols that normal people can't understand, and not because Greek characters make engineers feel smarter than everyone else; Greek characters remind engineers that they are smarter than everyone else—same with lawyers and Latin legal terms.

Learning new characters is no small task for Engineers. Not only does it strain their already poor language skills, they have to remember that when a foreign professor says "fee," he might mean φ, but this is just the price of superiority.

If confronted by an engineer spewing Greek characters like blather from a drunk, mention archaic English letters like Þ and Æ. Either his head will explode out of confusion or he'll ignore you—a win-win in my book.

Photo by shonk