A Baseball Story for an Engineer

Leave a comment

(engineeringdaze.com has some wrap-up thoughts on baseball, now that the World Series just finished the season.)

The best baseball story I have heard recently that most any engineer will appreciate is Moneyball. I have not seen the movie, but I went through the book a few years ago and I am still impressed by the logic and sheer emotionless decision-making that was introduced by the Oakland team. These are qualities that engineers admire.

One may say that these were really math nerds or statisticians, and to some extent that is correct. But considering the level of application of mathematic principles to solve a real-world problem, I would say that these people acted much more like engineers than mathematicians.

Whether a math guru or an engineer, it is good to point out that Brad Pitt is not typical of the way these numbers geeks look, but I’m not complaining. It’s good press.

Getting There First

Leave a comment

(Tork, caveman engineer, the first engineer in history, make that pre-history, returns for this week on engineeringdaze.com, however, due to Tork’s lack of understanding of time, his escapades are spread over two weeks .)

Tork, caveman engineer, was like other cavemen. He wanted to be the first to the inlet of water in the morning. No one went out before it was light, all leaving their cave at sunrise. This often created a traffic jam of sorts on the paths the cavemen had worn down in the jungle.

Tork realized that different paths took different amounts of time when different numbers of cavemen were on the paths. He calculated, with a few experiments, how to best navigate the paths to get to the water pool first. He could not run the fastest, but he understood traffic, and peak traffic volumes and alternate routes. He would have really benefited from sensors, traffic algorithms, and a telecommunications network, but Tork was just pleased to get to the water before Zonk relieved himself upstream. Next on Tork’s agenda was building a good wastewater treatment facility, or at least educating the Zonk’s of the world about proper “dewatering” procedures.


Leave a comment

It is election season. The candidates are campaigning and debating. But one thing is missing. The perspective of the engineer. And, since engineers serve society by providing such wonderful services to the public, their perspective should be heard.

We should have someone ask the candidates two basic questions:

1. Where do you stand on the general state of disrepair of our country’s infrastructure?  – I will say, each candidate will say he is for it. Being against good highways, or water treatment, or electrical grids is like being against puppies. They will always be for them. (How to pay for it may be more tricky.)

2. Where do you stand on the metric system? – This is an issue which they usually keep away from on the campaign trail. Why? It makes too much sense.

I guess it is obvious that they have never asked me to moderate or even ask a question at a debate, because they know, like you know, where I would take it….

A Poem for Parents

Leave a comment

For all the parents whose child carries a calculator around, takes apart appliances, puts appliances back together, or always want to visit Radio Shack, this limerick is for you:

“This algorithm should prove it!” he stated,

Their son’s penchant for numbers inflated,

They could not change this course,

The parents lost to the force,

To an engineer’s life he was slated.

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).

METRIC SYSTEM – How Far to Swim


This week on engineeringdaze.com, we will pull together in one week some of the posts that were written to inform and to promote the metric system, an incredibly obviously superior system of measurement to the one we here in the United States use. This post was written during the first week of the summer Olympic games this year.

Hoping you all are sensible, intelligent, insightful, and reasonable thinkers. Then you all would be pro-metric…

Well, as an engineer, and an avowed supporter of the metric system, watching the Olympics is much less difficult to do than most spectator events. All the distances are in metric. Next week, when track and field cranks up, the distances people run will obviously be in metric, and even the distances people jump or throw objects are announced in metric, until the announcers convert it to feet and inches for the non-engineering, American audience.

I did figure out some people who would have like the Olympics in the archaic English system of measurements – the men’s swim team. I have tried to avoid comments about specific athletes, but will have to break with that norm for once. So, think about this: if the distance Michael Phelps would have swam in the butterfly would have been in the English system instead of metric, he would have gone 200 yards, not 200 meters. 200 yards is 182.88 feet. At that point in the race, Phelps was another meter or so, make that a few feet, ahead and would not have gotten barely beat out at the end.

Here is something to consider. A few nights before, the Americans were beat out in the last few meters, make that feet, for a first place in a relay. If the race had been in English, and not metric, the Americans may have won. But, they got beat out by the French team. Where did the metric system get introduced in 1799? In France.

It is a good thing that engineers are not, by and large, conspiracy theorists, and that they are supporters of the metric system. Otherwise, we couldn’t enjoy the Olympics. The rest of the USA can fret and watch gymnastics.

Algorithms To-Do List

Leave a comment

All engineers have, whether in their head or written down somewhere, a to-do list of algorithms. This is a list of things that will make life easier, more efficient, and, well, just plain fun to live, if he, the engineer, would only be able to develop an algorithm to explain and better understand that thing on the list. The key is to use his engineering skills to improve his life.

Here are five of them that are common to engineers. Listed are the topics and then some haphazard notes that the engineer has made to help get this algorithm running smoothly.

In no particular order:
Algorithm To-Do List

1. Optimize commute to and from work – need to collect traffic and signal timing data for all streets within 10-mile corridor or normal commute route; have to purchase and run traffic modeling software

2. Efficient car packing for vacation – measure all luggage to .1 cm; get accurate height and weight measurements of all family members; need precise measurements of interior of car, model in 3-D software and optimize packing

3. Temperature of house vs. complaint level/rebellion of family – get more thermometers; create measurement scale for family member axis; conduct summer and winter temperature trials; plot

4. Efficiency of excuses to avoid time with relatives – brainstorm and/or google list of excuses; rate; utilize top 5 excuses with promise at least 3 times each; chart results

5. Understand wife – what does she want; clueless here; move to long range algorithm goal


Leave a comment

If an engineer goes out to the store with his non-engineer wife, there are a few things the wife has learned (hopefully) never to ask. They could be considering the purchase of a car or computer or a set of dish towels, it does not matter.

She likely has learned not to throw these questions out there from experience – long, slogging, arduous experience. Here are a few of the key questions not to ask. We will call them anti-questions.

Doesn’t that color look pretty?

What do you feel about this?

How about we splurge a little?

His wife might as well be speaking some Sumerian. The engineer will have no idea how to respond to the first two, and will easily respond to the last question with a resounding, “That would not be wise use of our funds.”

Engineeringdaze.com brings marital help to all engineers and their spouses.

You are welcome.

Top V Thoughts of Torkitus, Roman Engineer

Leave a comment

This week, we will introduce another engineer from the past: Torkitus, Roman Engineer. Torkitus lived in the first century BC, when the Roman Empire was forming out of the Roman Republic.

These are the top V (5) thoughts of Torkitus, as a travels around Rome:

I.  I must remind the aqueduct contractor that water flows down grade, so looking at my design drawings backwards is no excuse.

II.  Why does that beautiful woman care more about the triceps on that soldier than my triangulations of the perfect location for the latrine?

III. I hope the emperor does not find out about that 1.4% increase in the cost of the arch bridge and have me wrestling lions again.

IV.  I could build a huge open stadium, a coliseum, and construct it so it could last C (100) years. That would be something!

V.  I should develop an entire system of weights and measures based on the number X (10), but with my luck, the entire world would adopt it except for the Roman Empire, the strongest country in the world.


Leave a comment

The word “aesthetic” is not one most engineers will care to use. Aesthetic is the concept that something is visually appealing. From dictionary.com, the definition can include: pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality. So, get rid of your mind and feel it? I don’t think so.

Sure, a few engineers like to use this word and the concept in order to sell their design to the owner of a building or bridge or wastewater treatment facility, but for the most part, “aesthetic” is not part of the engineer’s vocabulary. Words like “sensible”, “functional”, and “efficient” are great words for engineers to use.

Another of the endless projects of mine is to develop the engineer’s non-dictionary or anti-dictionary. This would be a compilation of words that either are not in an engineer’s vocabulary or ones that the engineer wishes would never have been invented. “Aesthetic” will be one of the first words in it, not only because it starts with an “a”, but because if what it represents. It will be right up there with “artsy” and “feelings”.

Older Entries Newer Entries