You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you politely ask your wife to quit gushing about the “gorgeous waterfall” you are visiting on your vacation so that you can complete estimations in your head on the volume and rate of water flow and to run some preliminary calculations on how much electricity could be harnessed from this resource.


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It may not be true of all engineers, but for many of them the number 2.5 is an important number to remember. Actually, it may be more important for the family members to know this number.

When a project needs to be done around the home, like building a porch, or a subfloor for the basement, the average person will take a certain amount of time called X. Multiply that value of X by 2.5 and one arrives at the amount of time it will take the average engineer to get this project done. This is certainly not because the engineer is slow. Rather, the engineer is methodical, taking in consideration all options, running the numbers on cost and service life, calculating and recalculating the number of components – from boards to bricks to bolts – and quantifying all this in a spreadsheet, which includes at least three quotes on price for each component.

At work, the engineer is at the mercy of the timetable of the client. But at home, the engineer is the client, and, well, he is somewhat lenient with the contractor, who also happens to be himself.

A great deal of marital friction could be eased if, when dealing with a home project, the engineer’s wife understands this 2.5 factor. This is particularly critical since the engineer will typically state at the beginning of the project that the time it will take him will be X, the amount of time it takes for the project to get done by the average person.

Calculations Yet To Do


I recycle. My favorite thing to recycle is aluminum cans. This is because I get money for them.

When I am at work, at times I will drink a soft drink from an aluminum can. Sure, I can throw it in their recycling container, but then I wouldn’t get the money for it. Instead, I keep the cans and take them home once in a while. However, this has bothered me  because I also know that adding the cans to my commute home adds weight to my vehicle and, therefore, decreases the mileage, the number of miles per gallon of gasoline.  By how much? I haven’t done the calculation yet. But if the cost of transport is higher per can than the amount of money I will get for that can, it doesn’t make sense to take the can home, and I might as well recycle it at the office and, grrrrr, have someone else get the money for it.

This is a calculation I have yet to do….

(Am I the only one to think about things like this?)

In the interim, I have derived a simple solution to the dilemma. The solution is to only bring the cans home on days that I am a passenger in my car pool and my car is not being burdened by aluminum. Then the additional cost due the extra mileage is not encountered at all (by me).

Engineers ARE Left-brained

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A few years ago I worked in an office where one of the people that worked there had some creative side to her, singing or playing an instrument or something. Since I also have a part of me that some consider to be somewhat creative – although I am an engineer and very much of an engineer and think like an engineer – my coworker and I would talk at times about our creative interests. This led to what I will only call – the email.

She sent me an email about something dealing with work, and then at the end of it, she made mention that it was good to have another right-brained person in the office to discuss things that were not so much of a technical nature. What? Me? Right-brained?

I went home that Friday, told my wife about this insult my coworker leveled on me, and spent the weekend sullen and vexed. I went in on Monday and composed an email back stating that she was obviously misreading my mental state. Speaking of which, I wrote it my emai that I had to talk about this “right-brained” comment at length with my wife, and, possibly embellishing a little, discussed the depths of depression and intensity of professional counseling I endured over the weekend due to this comment.

Just as I was about to hit Send, the left side of my brain caught the problem, analyzing it thoroughly and keeping me from actually sending the email. Why? Because if I did send an email that complained and whined about a little comment and the counseling is caused, then that would only prove her point that I was right-brained.

I deleted the email. For what it is worth, I felt better doing that.

Engineers are left-brained. They think logically, and with reason and pragmatism. And that is needed when insulted by careless coworkers.

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you have taught, or at least tried to teach, your child all the factors that goes into the cost of running a car, including replacement rates and cost over time of at least 17 main components, only to get back a statement like, “Yeah, whatever, I still think the only cost is the gas.” (That child will not become an engineer.)


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0.68 may be an important number to an engineer. Or it may be 0.67, or 0.69, or 0.70. Why are these numbers, bunched up in this area of the number line important to engineers. It comes down to one word: pace.
Engineers, moreso ones that are in the field frequently, sometimes have to measure distances by pacing. The pace is simply how far one goes with each step is taken, or the pace length. 0.68 is a typical distance, in meters, that an engineer may take in a pace, so that if that engineer were to pace off a field and take 88 paces, then the length of the field is approximately 88 x 0.68 = 59.84 meters, or about 60 meters. Sure, the pace may vary due to slope, wind, slickness of the surface, amount of clothing, etc., but many engineers know their pace length and will use it if ever forced into a situation when a distance is needed and no good measuring device is handy. Fortunately, the pace is always handy (which is ironic considering one uses the foot).

When you see an engineer seemingly walking along and it looks like he is counting, please do not ask what he is doing, nor ask him the time, or how far it is to Albuquerque, or anything else that will take his mind off the task. Let him pace and allow him the joy of measuring a long distance without the use of a tape measure or wheel or GPS device.

Spreadsheets R Us

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Once again, it does not surprise me.

My wife has a friend who is married to an engineer. This friend has been wanting a new car for a long time and her husband, an engineer, has been seen as dragging his feet on the issue. This is not the case. Now, I don’t ever want to get into the middle of a marital disagreement, but the fact that her husband is an engineer means a few things.

1. He understands that any present car they have, though over 10 years old, is paid for. It is not costing them monthly payments or a huge chunk of a savings account.

2. Only when the repair rate of the older car reaches that of the rate of all the costs of a new car is it worth buying a new car.

3. New cars cost more in insurance.

4. New cars cost more in registration taxes (if the state has it, ours does).

5. It will take a while to develop the spreadsheet of features, dealers, makes and models, car reviews, mpg rates, repair records, cargo space, safety ratings – to name just a few.
It is this spreadsheet that will take the real time. The old car will rust out faster than it takes to create, test, and tweak this spreadsheet. The old car may break down numerous times before the spreadsheet is complete. But, here is the important thing to remember. Once this spreadsheet is done, the decision will be a well-reasoned one and, geologically speaking, a quick one.

They should have a new car by this time next year. Or the year after.

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