Nerds and Engineers

Quotes

Cyberterrorists may be difficult to capture in the act, but from what I know about people who are highly skilled with computers, they should be easy to beat up.

–RNA, quoted by JWB.

Anyone who would go to sea for pleasure would go to hell to pass the time.

Kneel before Zog
           -- Zog
Zog before Neil
           -- Neil
–RPW

Engineers and Programmers

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 winks.

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 somewhat 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.

Bill Gates At The Pearly Gates

Bill Gates dies in a car accident. He finds himself being sized up by God.

“Well, Bill, I’m really confused on this call; I’m not sure whether to send you to Heaven or Hell.

After all, you enormously helped society by putting a computer in almost every home in America. Yet, you also created that ghastly Windows 95. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to let you decide where you want to go.”

Bill replied, “Well, what’s the difference between the two?”

God said, “I’m willing to let you visit both places briefly, to see if it will help your decision.”

“Fine, but where should I go first?”

“I’ll leave that up to you.”

“Okay then,” said Bill, “let’s try Hell first.” So Bill went to Hell.

It was a beautiful, clean, sandy beach with clear water and lots of beautiful women running around, playing in the water, laughing and frolicking. The sun was shining; the temperature perfect. He was very pleased.

“This is great!” he told God. “If this is hell, I REALLY want to see heaven!”

“Fine” said God, and off they went.

Heaven was a place high in the clouds, with angels drifting about, playing harps and singing. It was nice, but not as enticing as Hell.

Bill thought for a quick minute, and rendered his decision. “Hmmm. I think I’d prefer Hell,” he told God. “Fine,” retorted God, “as you desire.” So Bill Gates went to Hell.

Two weeks later, God decided to check on the late billionaire to see how he was doing in Hell. When he got there, he found Bill shackled to a wall, screaming amongst hot flames in dark caves, while being burned and tortured by demons.

“How’s everything going?” God asked Bill.

Bill responded with his voice filled with anguish and disappointment. “This is awful! This is nothing like the Hell I visited two weeks ago! I can’t believe this is happening! What happened to that other place with the beaches and the beautiful women playing in the water?”

“Oh, that was the Demo,” replied God.

A Boy and his Frog

A boy was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess”. He bent over, picked up the frog and put it into his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week”. The boy took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I’ll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want”. Again, the boy took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, “What is the matter? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess, that I’ll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won’t you kiss me?”

The boy said, “Look, I’m an engineer. I don’t have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is cool.”

Road Rage

I was riding to work yesterday when I observed a female driver who cut right in front of a pick-up truck causing him to have to drive on to the shoulder.

This evidently pissed the driver off enough, that he hung out his window and flipped the woman off. “Man, that guy is stupid” I thought to myself. I ALWAYS smile nicely and wave in a sheepish manner whenever a female does anything to me in traffic and here’s why.

I drive 38 miles each way every day to work, that’s 76 miles, of these,16 each way, is bumper-to-bumper, most of the bumper-to-bumper is on 8 lane highway so if you just look at the 7 lanes I am not in, that means I pass something like a new car every 40 feet per lane. That’s 7 cars every 40 feet for 32 miles. That works out to be 982 cars every mile, or 31,424 cars.

Even though the rest of the 34 miles is not bumper to bumper. I figure I pass at least another 4000 cars. That brings the number to something like 36,000 cars I pass every day.

Statistically half of these are driven by females, that’s 18,000. In any given group of females 1 in 28 are having the worst day of their period. That’s 642.

According to Cosmopolitan, 70% describe their love life as dissatisfying or unrewarding, that’s 449, according to the National Institutes of Health, 22% of all females have seriously considered suicide or homicide, that’s 98, and 34% describe men as their biggest problem, that’s 33.

According to the National Rifle Association 5% of all females carry weapons and this number is increasing. That means that EVERY SINGLE DAY, I drive past at least one female that, has a lousy love life, thinks men are her biggest problem, has seriously considered suicide or homicide, is having the worst day of her period and is armed.

No matter what she does in traffic, I wouldn’t DREAM of flipping her off.

Who Wants to Marry a Software Engineer?

Hot on the heels of the success of the show, “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?”, welcome to “Who Wants to Marry a Software Engineer?”, Silicon Valley’s newest game show.

Here’s your contestant questionnaire ...

  1. What quality do you value most in your partner?
    1. A sense of humor.
    2. Emotional maturity.
    3. High bandwidth.
  2. When you get home at the end of the day, you like to:
    1. Turn on the Silicon Valley Business report, and eat dinner.
    2. Hook up to your ISP, and check out the hit count on your web page.
    3. Recharge your cell phone, laptop, and wireless modem, change batteries on your pager, and resynchronize your Palm Pilot and home computer.
  3. Your ideal partner is:
    1. Interesting and attractive.
    2. Emotionally mature and understanding.
    3. Extensible and polymorphic.
  4. In spiritually difficult times, you often turn to:
    1. Dilbert.
    2. Kernighan and Ritchie.
    3. comp.lang.c++
  5. If go over to your partner’s place and think its a mess, you would:
    1. Complain to him/her, and tell them to tidy up.
    2. Call a maid service.
    3. make clean
  6. What kind of car would you like to buy next, and why?
    1. A BMW, because people will see that I am rich and successful.
    2. A Jeep, because it’s youthful, rugged, and won’t break down.
    3. A Honda, because the engine control computer can be hacked for more horsepower.
  7. Name the 4 essential food groups:
    1. Fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy.
    2. Coffee, chocolate, takeout, ice cream.
    3. rec.food.cooking, rec.food.veg, ba.food, alt.food.chocolate
  8. You like to travel with your partner because:
    1. You share new experiences together.
    2. You learn about each other in different situations.
    3. You get more use out of your wireless router.
  9. How would you describe your attitude towards religion?
    1. “I’m not particularly religious.”
    2. “I believe in emacs, but can use vi.”
    3. “I think emacs can be configured as a full IDE.”
  10. You think a relationship is ready for a permanent commitment because:
    1. You’ve successfully struggled through several years of good and bad times.
    2. You’re already living together, so you might as well tie the knot.
    3. You finally got your local network configured just right.
  11. If you and your partner got married, you would want to:
    1. Keep your last name.
    2. Change your last name.
    3. Combine your names with a hyphen.
    4. Combine your names with an underscore.
    5. Register a new domain name with both names included.
  12. You and your partner think it’s time to have children when:
    1. Your stock options are vested.
    2. You’ve agreed on the requirements and design.
    3. You’ve come up with a good naming convention.
    4. You really understand the use of multiple inheritance.

Engineers Explained

People who work in the fields of science and technology are not like other people. This can be frustrating to the nontechnical 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.

ENGINEER IDENTIFICATION TEST

You walk into a room and notice that a picture is hanging crooked. You...

  1. Straighten it.
  2. Ignore it.
  3. Buy a CAD system and spend the next six months designing a solar-powered, self-adjusting picture frame while often stating aloud your belief that the inventor of the nail was a total moron.

The correct answer is “C” but partial credit can be given to anybody who writes “It depends” in the margin of the test or simply blames the whole stupid thing on “Marketing.”

SOCIAL SKILLS

Engineers have different objectives when it comes to social interaction. “Normal” people expect to accomplish several unrealistic things from social interaction:

  • Stimulating and thought-provoking conversation
  • Important social contacts
  • A feeling of connectedness with other humans

In contrast to “normal” people, engineers have rational objectives for social interactions:

  • Get it over with as soon as possible.
  • Avoid getting invited to something unpleasant.
  • Demonstrate mental superiority and mastery of all subjects.

FASCINATION WITH GADGETS

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 features yet.

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.

LOVE OF “STAR TREK”

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 function.

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 engineer like children who will have high-paying jobs long before losing their virginity.

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 technical professions:

  • Bill Gates.
  • MacGyver.
  • Etcetera.

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.

HONESTY

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 truth.

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.”

FRUGALITY

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?”

POWERS OF CONCENTRATION

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 of it.

RISK

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.

EXAMPLES OF BAD PRESS FOR ENGINEERS

  • Hindenberg.
  • Space Shuttle Challenger.
  • SPANet(tm)
  • Hubble space telescope.
  • Apollo 13.
  • Titanic.
  • Ford Pinto.
  • Corvair.

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 project, then the engineer will fall back to a second line of defense: “It’s technically possible but it will cost too much.”

EGO

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 nature.

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.

Are You Stupid?

One day a college professor of Psychology was greeting his new college class.

He stood up in front of the class and said, “Would everyone who thinks he or she is stupid please stand up?”

After a minute or so of silence, a young man stood up.

“Well, hello there sir. So you actually think you’re a moron?” the professor asked.

The kid replied, “No sir, I just didn’t want to see you standing there all by yourself.”

Gendercide

An English professor wrote the words, “woman without her man is a savage” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly.

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.”

The women wrote: “Woman: Without her, man is a savage.”

More On Bill Gates

Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Al Gore were in an airplane that crashed. They’re up in heaven, and God’s sitting on the great white throne. God addresses Al first. “Al, what do you believe in?”

Al replies, “Well, I believe that the combustion engine is evil and that we need to save the world from CFCs and that if any more Freon is used, the whole earth will become a greenhouse and we’ll all die.” God thinks for a second and says, “Okay, I can live with that. Come and sit at my left.”

God then addresses Bill Clinton: “Bill, what do you believe in?”

Bill Clinton replies, “Well, I believe in power to the people. I think people should be able to make their own choices about things and that no one should ever be able to tell someone else what to do. I also believe in feeling people’s pain.” God thinks for a second and says, “Okay, that sounds good. Come and sit at my right.”

God then addresses Bill Gates: “Bill Gates, what do you believe in?”

Bill Gates says, “I believe you’re in my chair.”

Air Traffic Control

Here are a few little stories to show you that the stodgy air traffic controllers and the flyers they serve can have a sense of humor:

The controller who was working a busy pattern told the 727 on downwind to make a three-sixty (to do a complete circle, usually to provide spacing between aircraft).

The pilot of the 727 complained, “Do you know It costs us two thousand dollars to make a three-sixty in this airplane?

Without missing a beat the controller replied, “Roger, give me four thousand dollars worth!”


A DC-10 had an exceedingly long roll out after landing when his approach speed was just a little too fast.

San Jose Tower: “American 751 heavy, turn right at the end, if able. If not able, take the Guadeloupe exit off of Highway 101 and make a right at the light to return to the airport.


It was a really nice day, right about dusk, and a Piper Malibu was being vectored into a long line of airliners in order to land at Kansas City.

KC Approach: “Malibu three-two-Charlie, you’re following a 727, one o’clock and three miles.”

Three-two-Charlie: “We’ve got him. We’ll follow him.”

KC Approach: “Delta 105, your traffic to follow is a Malibu, eleven o’clock and three miles. Do you have that traffic?

Delta 105: Long pause followed by a thick southern drawl, “Well, I’ve got something down there. Can’t quite tell if it’s a Malibu or a Chevelle though.”


Unknown Aircraft: “I’m f...ing bored!”

Air Traffic Control: “Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!!”

Unknown Aircraft: “I said I was f...ing bored, not f...ing stupid!”


Tower: “Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7.”

Eastern 702: “Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure ... by the way, after we lifted off, we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.”

Tower: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff. Contact Departure on 124.7; did you copy the report from Eastern?”

Continental 635: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff roger; and yes, we copied Eastern. We’ve already notified our caterers.”


O’Hare Approach Control: “United 329 Heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o’clock, 3 miles, eastbound.”

United 329: “Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this... I’ve got that Fokker in sight!”


The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one’s gate parking location but how to get there without any assistance from them.

So it was with some amusement that we (a PanAm 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747 (call sign “Speed bird 206”) after landing:

Speedbird 206: “Top of the morning Frankfurt. Speed bird 206, clear of the active runway.”

Ground: “Guten morgen! You will taxi to your gate!”

The big British Airways 747 pulled onto the main taxi way and slowed to a stop.

Ground: “Speed bird, do you not know where you are going?”

Speed bird 206: “Stand by a moment ground. I’m looking up our gate location now.”

Ground: “With some arrogant impatience, “Speed bird 206, have you never flown to Frankfurt before?!”

Speed bird 206 (cooly): “Yes, I have, in 1944... But in another type of Boeing... I didn’t stop.”


I was a Pan Am 727 Flight Engineer waiting for start clearance in Munich, Germany. I was listening to the radio since I was the junior crew member. This was the conversation I overheard (I don’t recall call signs any longer):

Lufthansa: (In German) “Ground, what is our start clearance time?”

Ground: (In English) “If you want an answer you must speak English.”

Lufthansa: (In English) “I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?”

Beautiful English Accent: (before ground could answer) “Because you lost the bloody war!”

Nerd Season

A truck driver hauling a tractor trailer filled with computers stops for a beer. As he approaches the bar, he sees a big sign on the door reading, “Nerds Not Allowed – Enter at Your Own Risk.”

He enters the bar and sits down. The bartender comes over to him, sniffs him, says he smells kind of nerdy, and asks him what he does for a living. The truck driver says he drives a truck, and the smell is just from the computers he is hauling. The bartender says okay, truck drivers are not nerds, and serves him a beer.

As he is sipping his beer, a skinny guy walks in with tape around his glasses, a pocket protector with twelve kinds of pens and pencils, and a belt at least a foot too long. The bartender, without saying a word, pulls out a shotgun and blows the guy away.

The truck driver asks him why he did that. The bartender said not to worry, the nerds are overpopulating the Silicon Valley, and now they are in season.

“You don’t even need a license,” he said.

So the truck driver finishes his beer, gets back in his truck, and heads back onto the freeway. Suddenly, he veers to avoid an accident, and the load shifts. The back door breaks open and computers spill out all over the freeway. He jumps out and sees a crowd already forming, grabbing up the computers. They are all engineers, accountants, and programmers wearing the nerdiest clothes he has ever seen. He can’t let them steal his whole load. Remembering what had happened in the bar, he pulls out his gun and starts blasting away, felling several of them instantly.

A highway patrol officer comes zooming up and jumps out of the car screaming at him to stop.

The truck driver says, “What’s wrong? I thought nerds were in season.”

“Well, sure,” says the patrolman, “but you can’t bait ‘em.”

version:6
date:5/9/09

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