Who Gets Life?

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Here is a perfect example of why engineers generally don’t do theater, especially serious dramas.

I had the opportunity recently to hear a scene from Our Town. Emily, the main character speaks first and then the Stage Manager, sort of an involved narrator, responds. It goes like this:

Emily – “Does anybody ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”

Stage Manager – “No. The saints and the poets. They do some.”
Thornton Wilder, Our Town


I have been through this play numerous times but it wasn’t until the other night, hearing these lines, that it struck me how anti-engineer, and wrong, this thinking is. All right, we will let the saints part of the line to stay uncontested. But poets? Do poets realize life by providing clean water for people? Do poets realize life by harnessing electricity to raise our standard of living? Do poets realize life when they develop, design, and build engines that allow us to move around this country through numerous modes of transportation? No. No. and No.

Engineers realize life as they provide things that enables the public to enjoy life. Engineers make life so efficient and liveable.

We should rewrite that line to:

Stage Manger – “Not many. The saints do some. Engineers – a lot!”

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– you have spent more time shopping for a TV, and comparing all the features, than actually watching it in the first year of owning it.


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While engineers generally (meaning constantly) shun movies or shows with too much emotion, they are not unreasonable about it. An engineer may decide that he can respect a story that is about the deep emotional things of life if it contains at least some calculations. Case in point, Rent.

The engineer will likely not get or desire to get the deep emotional angst, or hope that the show has to offer. But he can appreciate that they have calculated the number of minutes in one year, AND they made an entire song out of it!

Calculations are good for movies or theater and the engineer.

The Odds of Going to a Movie

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For an engineer, while there are some movies on their list, many movies are simply not viewable. Here is an equation to determine whether an engineer will go see a movie.

M = (T * At * L)/(E * R)


M = the Movie rating, how likely the engineer is to go to this movie

T = Technology rating, how much technology is used to develop the plot (the plot is actually not essential)

At = the amount of Advanced Technology, mainly things that haven’t been invented yet, like phasers and trimogrifiers. These are not simply magical devices, but have some root in science, only somewhat fiction (so, I guess, science fiction)

L = Logic of the story and actions of characters. Characters doing stupid, illogical things are simply not appealing.

E = Emotional rating. How likely is it that a date or significant other will actually start crying like they are watching Downton Abbey?

R = Romance level. More romance, less likely.

One sees that T, At, and L are in the numerator. These are good. The more of them, the better. The E and R are in the denominator. The more of them, the more likely it is that the engineer will be home calculating a better way to entertain the family.

Engineers Critique Movie Genres

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As I look at the movies that are out now, it makes me think about what engineers think of the different movie genres. Here are a few genres, with recently or soon-to-be-released examples, and the thoughts of an engineer.

Musical (Les Mis, Pitch Perfect) – Way too artsy.

Action (Zero Dark Thirty, Jack Reacher, Skyfall, The Last Stand)   OK. Most of those characters were the type that used to beat up future engineers in school. But an action movie would be really good if the weapons had lasers or phasers or anything else -asers. Bond movies come close.

Historical (Lincoln, Argo)  OK. The more accurate the better. Also, would be great if the movie was about an engineer.

Sci Fi (upcoming Star Trek)  No question. Yes. Cool gadgets and technology and no need for a good plot to get in the way. Also, this type of movie is the most likely to have an engineer as a major character.

Comedy (Here Comes the Boom, Movie 43) Again, OK, but these movies would be so much better if they used engineering humor  – like on engineeringdaze.com.

Engineers – The Fun Ones in Life

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Many people may have the mistaken impression that engineers are not fun people. This far from true.

Here are a few examples of quotes from college civil engineering websites that prove engineers are fun!

From the UCLA ASCE web page:  “It’s super fun mixing and patting concrete and you get to hang out with all the cool ASCE people.” This is in reference to joining them for a concrete canoe casting.

From the University of Alabama in Huntsville ASCE web page, they extol the pleasure in concrete canoes by stating, “… it remains a fun way of learning to explore the potentialities (and limitations) of concrete.”

And from the Case Western ASCE web site, students are quoted as saying things like: “…many ASCE activities are just plain fun.” and “the competitions are some of the most fun times you will have in college.” and “Being active in ASCE, the Concrete Canoe team, and the Steel Bridge team helped me learn time management, leadership skills, and especially the fun side of engineering.”

There you have it. Fun, fun, fun! Engineers are cool. Their competitions are fun. It’s all on the internet. It must be true.

And all this is only from civil engineering. Can you imagine the rootin’, tootin’ blast a mechanical engineer or, dare I say, electrical engineer would have in their association meetings?

You Might Be an Engineer If…

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– while at the midnight opening of the latest Star Trek movie, you did calculations on your time to enter the theater based on your place in line and entering people per minute, then took 15 minutes to determine the best seat available with the angle of viewing. (But since all the other engineers were doing the same thing, you didn’t lose any “good seats” in that time.)


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This week, we take a look at the engineer and entertainment. Today’s post is about the number 0.0010342%. This represents the percent of movies in which an engineer plays a major role. Notice that this is a percent and it means that in a little more than one out of 10,000 movies, an engineer is given significant billing. Not top billing, of course. That percent is much, much lower. But, there you have it. Engineers provide Hollywood with electricity, clean water, wastewater disposal, engines, sound expertise, computer wizardry, and the list goes on. What does Hollywood give to the engineer in return? A few lines in every 10,000 movies. And most of the movies with engineers are science fiction, so the engineer is usually “out there” socially.

I guess it could be worse. At least not too many engineers are the bad guys.


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In a recent post, I mentioned that at times engineering publications turn to very non-engineering people for very non-engineering quotes as supposed motivation for engineers.

At engineeringdaze.com, we are here to change that. We will be supplying the engineering world with quotes from and/or about engineers, if only we can find any. Ha, just kidding. Engineers throughout history have made many noteworthy statements. The first one we will tell you about comes not actually from an engineer, but from a person who talked so positively about engineers they named a great engineering masterpiece after – Herbert Hoover. In speaking about engineers, Hoover stated:

“Engineering is a great profession. There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings homes to men or women. Then it elevates the standard of living and adds to the comforts of life. This is the engineer’s high privilege.”

Hoover also is rumored to be the person the vacuum is named for, and, possibly, a president of the United States.

Read the quote again. It glows with enlightenment of what engineers do, and who engineers are. Now that is motivating. A little wordy, but motivating.  We have high privilege.

Yet Another True WWTF Story

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Recently, I got talking to a non-engineer wife of an engineer that I know. He is involved in an engineering association and she frequently goes along with him to conferences and meetings in order to visit places, but also, I believe, to commiserate with other non-engineer wives.

She told me that she was not going with her husband on the next trip and that this had some fascinating repercussions. Because she was not there, another engineer who was bringing his wife along, a friend of the woman with whom I was talking, signed his wife up for the conference field trip. He wouldn’t have signed her up if other non-engineer wives were at the conference, but this engineer was a thoughtful type, not wanting his wife to be without friends and left out. The field trip was, you guessed it, to the local Waste Water Treatment Facility!

As for this wife who was forced, make that, given the opportunity to tour the WWTF, I am uncertain how long she will hold a grudge against the wife who did not go, but likely it will be at least as long as the memory of the sludge drying beds lingers.

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