After the earth dries out, Noah tells all the animals to 'go forth and
multiply'. However, two snakes, adders to be specific, complain to Noah
that this is one thing they have never been able to do, hard as they have
tried. Undaunted, Noah instructs the snakes to go into the woods, make
tables from the trunks of fallen trees and give it a try on the tabletops.
The snakes respond that they don't understand how this will help them
to procreate whereupon Noah explains: "Well, even adders can multiply
using log tables!"
An engineer dies and reports to the pearly gates. St. Peter checks his
dossier and says, "Ah, you're an engineer -- you're in the wrong
place." So the engineer reports to the gates of hell and is let in.
Pretty soon, the engineer gets dissatisfied with the level of comfort
in hell, and starts designing and building improvements. After a while,
they've got air conditioning and flush toilets and escalators, and the
engineer is a pretty popular guy.
One day God calls Satan up on the telephone and says with a sneer,
"So, how's it going down there in hell?" Satan replies,
"Hey things are going great. We've got air conditioning and flush
toilets and escalators, and there's no telling what this engineer is going
to come up with next."
God replies, "What??? You've got an engineer? That's a mistake --
he should never have gotten down there; send him up here."
Satan says, "No way. I like having an engineer on the staff, and
I'm keeping him."
God says, "Send him back up here or I'll sue."
Satan laughs uproariously and answers, "Yeah, right. And just
where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"
People who work in the fields of science and technology are not like
other people. This can be frustrating to the non-technical people who have
to deal with them. The secret to coping with technology-oriented people is
to understand their motivations. This chapter will teach you everything
you need to know. I learned their customs and mannerisms by observing
them, much the way Jane Goodall learned about the great apes, but without
the hassle of grooming.
Engineering is so trendy these days that everybody wants to be one. The
word "engineer" is greatly overused. If there's somebody in your
life who you think is trying to pass as an engineer, give him this test to
discern the truth.
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
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 or
mammary glands are swinging around in plain view, then the objective of
clothing has been met. Anything else is a waste.
Engineers love all of the "Star Trek" television shows and
movies. It's a small wonder, since the engineers on the starship
Enterprise are portrayed as heroes, occasionally even having sex with
aliens. This is much more glamorous than the real life of an engineer,
which consists of hiding from the universe and having sex without the
participation of other life forms.
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
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
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
* 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
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
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.
* 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 a 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
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.
THE ENGINEER SONG
(Sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies)
Come and listen to a story 'bout a man name Jed,
A poor College Kid barely kept his family fed
But then one day he talked to a recruiter,
"They'll pay ya big bucks if ya work on a computer",
UNIX that is . . . CRT's . . . Workstations;
Well the first thing ya know ol' Jed's an Engineer,
The kinfolk said "Jed move away from here",
They said "Arizona is the place ya oughta be",
So he scarfed down some donuts and he moved to Ahwatukee,
Intel that is . . . dry heat . . . no amusement parks;
On his first day at work they stuck him in cube,
The fed him more donuts and they sat him at a tube,
They said "Your project's late but we know just what to do,
Instead of 40 hours, hey, we'll work you fifty-two!"
OT that is . . . unpaid . . . Mandatory
The weeks rolled by and things were looking bad,
The schedules they did slip and managers were mad,
They called another meeting and decided on a fix,
The answer's really simple, "Hey, we'll work him sixty-six",
Tired that is . . . stressed out . . . no social life
Well, months stretched to years and his hair was turning gray,
Ol' Jed worked real hard while his life just slipped away,
Waiting to retire when he aged to sixty-four,
Instead he got a call and they kicked him out the door,
Laid-off that is . . . Debriefed . . . Unemployed . . .
A Programmer and an Engineer are sitting next to each other on a long
flight from LA to NY. The Programmer leans over to the Engineer and asks
if he would like to play a fun game. The Engineer just wants to take a
nap, so he politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few
The Programmer persists and explains that the game is real easy and a
lotta fun. He explains "I ask you a question, and if you don't know
the answer, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question, and if I don't know
the answer, I'll pay you $5.". Again, the Engineer politely declines
and tries to get to sleep. The Programmer, now some what agitated, says,
"OK, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know
the answer, I'll pay you $50!" This catches the Engineer's attention,
and he sees no end to this torment unless he plays, so he agrees to the
game. The Programmer asks the first question. "What's the distance
from the earth to the moon?" The Engineer doesn't say a word, but
reaches into his wallet, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the
Programmer. Now, it's the Engineer's turn. He asks the Programmer
"What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down on four?"
The Programmer looks up at him with a puzzled look. He takes out his
laptop computer and searches all of his references. He taps into the
Airphone with his modem and searches the net and the Library of Congress.
Frustrated, he sends e-mail to his co-workers -- all to no avail. After
about an hour, he wakes the Engineer and hands him $50. The Engineer
politely takes the $50 and turns away to try to get back to sleep. The
Programmer, more than a little miffed, shakes the Engineer and asks
"Well, so what's the answer?"
Without a word, the Engineer reaches into his wallet, hands the
Programmer $5, and turns away to get back to sleep.
There was this male engineer, on a cruise ship in the Caribbean for the
first time. It was wonderful, the experience of his life. He was being
waited on hand an foot. But, it did not last. A Hurricane came up
unexpectedly. The ship went down almost instantly.
The man found himself, he knew not how, swept up on the shore of an
island. There was nothing else anywhere to be seen. No person, no
supplies, nothing. The man looked around. There were some bananas and
coconuts, but that was it. He was desperate, and forlorn, but decided to
make the best of it. He decided that he had to make the best of it.
So for the next four months he ate bananas, drank coconut juice and
mostly looked to the sea mightily for a ship to come to his rescue.
One day, as he was lying on the beach stroking his beard and looking
for a ship, he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye. Could it be
true, was it a ship? No, from around the corner of the island came this
rowboat. In it was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen, or at least
seen in 4 months. She was tall, tanned, and her blond hair flowing in the
seabreeze gave her an almost ethereal quality. She spotted him also as he
was waving and yelling and screaming to get her attention. She rowed her
boat towards him.
In disbelief, he asked, "where did you come from, how did you get
here"? She said, "I rowed from the other side of the island.. I
landed on this island when my cruise ship sank" "Amazing",
he said, "I didn't know anyone else had survived. How many of you are
there? Where, did you get the rowboat? You must have been really lucky to
have a rowboat wash-up with you?" "It is only me", she
said, "and the rowboat didn't wash up, nothing else did. "Well
then", said the man, how did you get the rowboat?" I made the
rowboat out of raw material that I found on the island, replied the woman.
The oars were whittled from Gum tree branches, I wove the bottom from Palm
branches, and the sides and stern came from a Eucalyptus tree".
"But, but, asked the man, what about tools and hardware, how did you
do that?" "Oh, no problem, replied the woman, on the south side
of the island there is a very unusual strata of alluvial rock exposed. I
found that If I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted
into forgeable ductile iron. I used that for tools, and used the tools to
make the hardware. But, enough of that, she said. Where do you live?"
At this man was forced to confess that he had been sleeping on the beach.
"Well, let's row over to my place, she said." So they both got
into the rowboat and left for her side of island.
The woman easily rowed them around to a wharf that led to the approach
to her place. She tied up the rowboat with a beautifully woven hemp rope.
They walked up a stone walk and around a Palm tree, there stood an
exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white. "It's not much, she
said, but I call it home. Sit down please, would you like to have a
drink?" "No, said the man, one more coconut juice and I will
puke." "It won't be coconut juice, the woman replied, I have a
still. How about a Pina Colada?" Trying to hide his continued
amazement, the man accepted, and they sat down on her couch to talk.
After a while, and they had exchanged their stories, the woman asked,
"Tell me, have you always had a beard?" "No," the man
replied, "I was clean shaven all of my life, and even on the cruise
ship". "Well if you would like to shave, there is a mans razor
upstairs in the cabinet in the bathroom." So, the man, no longer
questioning anything, went upstairs to the bath room. There in the cabinet
was a razor made from a bone handle, two shells honed to a hollow ground
edge were fastened on to its end inside of a swivel mechanism. The man
shaved, showered and went back down stairs..
"You look great," said the woman, "I think I will go and
slip into something more comfortable." So she did.
And, the man continued to sip his Pina Colada. After a short time, the
woman returned wearing fig leafs strategically placed and smelling faintly
"Tell me," she asked, "we have both been out here for a
very long time with no companionship. You know what I mean. Have you been
lonely, is there anything that you really miss? Something that all men and
woman need. Something that it would be really nice to have right
"Yes there is," the man replied, as he moved closer to the
woman while fixing a winsome gaze upon her, "tell me: Do you happen
to have an Internet connection?"
One night when his charge was pretty high, Micro-Farad decided to seek out
a cute coil to let him discharge. He picked up Milli-Amp and took her for
a ride on his Megacycle. They rode across the Wheatstone Bridge, around
the sine waves, and stopped in the magnetic field by a flowing current.
Micro-Farad, attracted by Milli-Amp's characteristic curves, soon had
her fully charged and excited her resistance to a minimum. He laid her on
the ground potential, raised her frequency, and lowered her reluctance.
He pulled out his high voltage probe and inserted it in her socket,
connecting them in parallel and began short circuiting her resistance
shunt. Fully excited, Milli-Amp mumbled, "OHM-OHM-OHM."
With his tube operating at a maximum and her field vibrating with his
current flow, it caused her shunt to overheat, and Micro-Farad was rapidly
discharged and drained off every electron.
They fluxed all night trying various connections and sockets until his
magnet had a soft core and lost all of its field strength.
Afterwards, Milli-Amp tried self-induction and damaged her solenoids.
With his battery fully discharged, Micro-Farad was unable to excite his
field, so they spent the rest of the night reversing polarity and blowing
each other's fuses.
Never use direct references to anything ever. Bury everything in
macros. Bury the macros in include files. Reference those include files
indirectly from other include files. Use macros to reference those include
Never include a comment that will help someone else understand your
code. If they understand it, they don't need you.
Never generate new sources. Always ifdef the old ones. Every binary in
the world should be generated from the same sources.
Never archive all the sources necessary to build a binary. Always hide
on your own disk. If they can build your binary, they don't need you.
Never code a function to return a value. All functions must return a
pointer to a structure which contains a pointer to a value.
Never discuss things in concrete terms. Always speak in abstract. If
they can understand you, they don't need you.
Never complete a project on time. If you do, they will think it was
easy and anyone can do it and they don't need you.
When someone stops by your office to ask a question, talk forever, but
don't answer the question. If they get their questions answered, they
don't need you.
Load all sentences either written or spoken with alphabet soup. When
someone asks you out to lunch, reply:
"I can't because I've almost got my RISC-based OSI/TCP/IP client
connected by BIBUS VMS VAX using SMTP over TCP sending SNMP inquiry
results to be encapsulated in UDP packets for transmission to a SUN 4/280
NFS 4.3 BSD with release 3.6 of RPC/XDR supporting our ONC effort
Never clean your office. Absolutely never throw away an old listing.
Never say hello to someone in the hallway. Absolutely never address
someone by name. If you must address someone by name, mumble or use the
wrong name. Always maintain the mystique of being spaced out from
concentrating on complex logic.
Never wear a shirt that matches your pants. Wear a wrinkled shirt
whenever possible. Your shirt must never be tucked in completely. Button
the top button without wearing a tie. This will maximize your mystique.
Once upon a time, in a kingdom not far from here, a king summoned two
of his advisors for a test. He showed them both a shiny metal box with two
slots in the top, a control knob, and a lever. "What do you think
One advisor, an engineer, answered first. "It is a toaster,"
he said. The king asked, "How would you design an embedded computer
for it?" The engineer replied, "Using a four-bit microcontroller,
I would write a simple program that reads the darkness knob and quantizes
its position to one of 16 shades of darkness, from snow white to coal
black. The program would use that darkness level as the index to a
16-element table of initial timer values. Then it would turn on the
heating elements and start the timer with the initial value selected from
the table. At the end of the time delay, it would turn off the heat and
pop up the toast. Come back next week, and I'll show you a working
The second advisor, a computer scientist, immediately recognized the
danger of such short-sighted thinking. He said, "Toasters don't just
turn bread into toast, they are also used to warm frozen waffles. What you
see before you is really a breakfast food cooker. As the subjects of your
kingdom become more sophisticated, they will demand more capabilities.
They will need a breakfast food cooker that can also cook sausage, fry
bacon, and make scrambled eggs. A toaster that only makes toast will soon
be obsolete. If we don't look to the future, we will have to completely
redesign the toaster in just a few years."
"With this in mind, we can formulate a more intelligent solution
to the problem. First, create a class of breakfast foods. Specialize this
class into subclasses: grains, pork, and poultry. The specialization
process should be repeated with grains divided into toast, muffins,
pancakes, and waffles; pork divided into sausage, links, and bacon; and
poultry divided into scrambled eggs, hard- boiled eggs, poached eggs,
fried eggs, and various omelet classes."
"The ham and cheese omelet class is worth special attention
because it must inherit characteristics from the pork, dairy, and poultry
classes. Thus, we see that the problem cannot be properly solved without
multiple inheritance. At run time, the program must create the proper
object and send a message to the object that says, 'Cook yourself.' The
semantics of this message depend, of course, on the kind of object, so
they have a different meaning to a piece of toast than to scrambled
"Reviewing the process so far, we see that the analysis phase has
revealed that the primary requirement is to cook any kind of breakfast
food. In the design phase, we have discovered some derived requirements.
Specifically, we need an object-oriented language with multiple
inheritance. Of course, users don't want the eggs to get cold while the
bacon is frying, so concurrent processing is required, too."
"We must not forget the user interface. The lever that lowers the
food lacks versatility, and the darkness knob is confusing. Users won't
buy the product unless it has a user-friendly, graphical interface. When
the breakfast cooker is plugged in, users should see a cowboy boot on the
screen. Users click on it, and the message 'Booting UNIX v.8.3' appears on
the screen. (UNIX 8.3 should be out by the time the product gets to the
market.) Users can pull down a menu and click on the foods they want to
"Having made the wise decision of specifying the software first in
the design phase, all that remains is to pick an adequate hardware
platform for the implementation phase. A Pentium with 32MB of memory, a
2GB hard disk, and a SVGA monitor should be sufficient. If you select a
object oriented language that supports multiple inheritance and has a
built-in GUI, writing the program will be a snap. (Imagine the difficulty
we would have had if we had foolishly allowed a hardware-first design
strategy to lock us into a four-bit microcontroller!)."
The king wisely had the computer scientist beheaded, and they all lived
happily ever after.