PSALM TO AN ENGINEER'S SWEETHEART
This poem appeared in Ann Lander's Column on November 20, 1993. I
think it is hilarious, although I don't entirely agree with the
overall theme. But, I must admit, some of it sounds mighty familiar!
Verily, I say unto ye, marry not an engineer; for an engineer is a
strange being and possessed of many evils.
Yea, he speaketh always in parables, which he calleth formulae. He
wieldeth a big stick which he calleth a slide rule. And he hath only
one bible, a handbook.
He thinketh only of strains and stresses, and without end of
He showeth always a serious aspect and seemeth not to know how to
He picketh his seat in a car by the springs thereof and not by the
damsels. Neither does he know a waterfall except by its horsepower,
nor a sunset except that he must turn on the light.
Always he carrieth his books with him, and he entertaineth his
sweetheart with steam tables.
Verily, though his damsel expecteth chocolates when he calleth, she
openeth the package to discover samples of iron ore.
Yea, he holdeth her hand but to measure the friction thereof, and
kisseth her only to test the viscosity of her lips, for in his eyes
shineth a faraway look that is neither love nor longing, but a vain
attempt to recall formulae.
Even as a boy, he pulleth a girl's hair but to test its elasticity.
But as a man, he deviseth different devices. For he counteth the
vibrations of her heartstrings.
And his marriage is a simultaneous equation involving two unknowns.
And yielding diverse results.
Verily, I say unto ye, do not marry an engineer.
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a
particularly slow group of golfers.
Engineer: What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15
Doctor: I don't know but I've never seen such ineptitude!
Priest: Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with
Priest: Say George, what's with that group ahead of us? They're
rather slow aren't they?
George: Oh yes. That's a group of blind fire fighters. They lost
their sight while saving our club house last year, So we let them play here
anytime free of charge!
Priest: That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them
Doctor: Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy
and see if there's anything he can do for them.
Engineer: Why can't these guys play at night?
There were three people ready to be executed by guillotine back in
medieval days: a farmer, a blacksmith, and, an engineer.
The first was brought up to the platform and the henchman ask if he had
any last words. The farmer said yes, that he would like to say a
prayer. After kneeling down and praying, the henchman had him put his
head through the opening in the guillotine and he pulled the chain. The
blade came crashing down but stopped 2" from the man's neck. Everyone
gasped and said for the henchman to let him go. This must be a sign
from the gods. So, the guards let him go.
Next was the blacksmith's turn. After being asked if he had any last
words, he too wanted to say a prayer. The same thing happened. When
the chain was pulled, the blade came crashing down and stopped 2" from
the man's neck. For the same reason, the guards let him go too. And as
did the farmer, he high-tailed it over the mountains.
Lastly, the engineer was brought up onto the platform. When the
henchman asked him if he had any last words he said "no", but pointed
up to the top of the guillotine and said "there's a kink in the chain"
You Might Be an Engineer If...
- you have no life - and you can PROVE it mathematically.
- you know vector calculus but you can't remember how to do long division.
- you chuckle whenever anyone says "centrifugal force."
- you've actually used every single function on your graphing calculator.
- you think in "math."
- you've calculated that the World Series actually diverges.
- you have a pet named after a scientist.
- you laugh at jokes about mathematicians.
- you can translate English into Binary.
- you consider ANY non-science course "easy."
- you assume that a "horse" is a "sphere" in order to make the math easier.
- your spouse sends you an e-mail instead of calling you to dinner
- you need a checklist to turn on the TV.
- you have more toys than your kids.
- you can't write unless the paper has both horizontal and vertical lines.
- at Christmas, it goes without saying that you'll be the one to find the
burnt-out bulb in the string.
- everyone else on the Alaskan cruise is on deck peering at the scenery and
you are still on a personal tour of the engine room.
- you can type 70 words per minute but you can't read your own handwriting.
- you find yourself at the airport on your vacation studying the baggage
- you have a habit of destroying things in order to see how they work.
- you have used coat hangers and duct tape for something other than hanging
coats and taping ducts.
- you rooted for HAL.
- you think Sales and Marketing are Satan's children.
- your favorite James Bond character is "Q," the guy who makes the gadgets.
Then there was the story of the three engineers in a bar having a couple of
drinks and brooding about what kind of engineer God is. "Of course God is a
Mechanical Engineer", says the Mechanical Engineer," sure look at the human
skeleton it's a marvel of joints, linkages, support and it gives such
free movement of the body." "No way, God's an Electrical Engineer", piped the
Electrical Engineer," think about the brain and the nervous system, it's an
incredibly vast and complex electrical masterpiece!" "You're all wrong", said
the Civil Engineer,"God's a Civil Engineer, what other
engineer would run a waste water line through a recreational area?"
Three engineers and three accountants are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three accountants
each buy tickets and watch as the three engineers buy only a single ticket. "How are three people going to travel on
only one ticket?" asks an accountant. "Watch and you'll see," answers an engineer. They all board the train. The
accountants take their respective seats but all three engineers cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.
Shortly after the train has departed, the conductor comes around collecting tickets. He knocks on the restroom
door and says, "Ticket, please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The
conductor takes it and moves on. The accountants saw this, and agreed it was quite a clever idea. So after the
conference, the accountants decide to copy the engineers on the return trip and save some money (being clever
with money, and all that). When they get to the station, they buy a single ticket for the return trip. To their
astonishment, the engineers don't buy a ticket at all. "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one
perplexed accountant. "Watch and you'll see," answers an engineer. When they board the train, the three
accountants cram into a restroom and the three engineers cram into another one nearby. The train departs. Shortly
afterward, one of the engineers leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the accountants are
hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."
Everyday Engineering Problems
Answers are at the end.
- One day Ruth celebrated her birthday. Two days later her older twin
brother, Jim, celebrated his birthday. How come?
- Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?
- A man went to a party and drank some of the punch. He then left early.
Everyone else at the party who drank the punch subsequently died of poisoning.
Nothing was added to the punch after his departure. Why did the man not die?
- A man died and went to Heaven. There were thousands of other people there.
They were all naked and all looked as they died at the age of 21. He looked
around to see if there was anyone he recognized. He saw a couple and he
knew immediately that they were Adam and Eve. How did he know?
- A woman had two sons who were born on the same hour of the same day of the
same year. But they were not twins. How could this be so?
- A man walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The
barman pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man says `Thank you' and
walks out. What's going on?
- At the time she went into labor, the mother of the twins was traveling by
boat. The older twin was born first early on March 1st. The boat then crossed
the International Date line (or anytime zone line) and the younger twin was
born on February the 28th. In a leap year the younger twin celebrates her
birthday two days before her older brother.
- A square manhole cover can be turned and dropped down the diagonal of the
manhole. A round manhole cannot be dropped down the manhole. So for safety and
practicality, all manhole covers should be round.
- The poison in the punch came from the ice cubes. When the man drank the
punch the ice was fully frozen. Gradually it melted, poisoning the punch.
- He recognized Adam and Eve as the only people without navels. Because they
were not born of women, they had never had umbilical cords and therefore they
never had navels. This one seems perfectly logical but it can
sometimes spark fierce theological arguments!
- They were two of a set of triplets (or quadruplets etc.)
- The man had hiccups. The barman recognized this from his speech and drew
the gun in order to give him a shock. It worked and cured the hiccups - so the
man no longer needed the water. The is a simple puzzle to state
but a difficult one to solve. It is a perfect example of a seemingly
irrational and incongruous situation having a simple and complete explanation.
There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company
loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later his comapny contacted him regarding a
seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multi-million dollar machines. They had
tried everything and everyone else to get the machine fixed, but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the
retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.
The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day
he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and proudly stated, "This is where
your problem is." The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again.
The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized
accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly:
One chalk mark......................$1
Knowing where to put it........$49,999
It was paid in full and the engineer retired in peace.
The Recommended Practices Committee of the International Society of
Philosophical Engineers' Universal Law for Naive Engineers
- Law #1: In any calculation, any error which can creep in will do so.
- Law #2: Any error in any calculation will be in the direction of most harm.
- Law #3: In any formula, constants (especially those obtained from
engineering handbooks) are to be treated as variables.
- Law #4: The best approximation of service conditions in the laboratory
will not begin to meet those conditions encountered in actual service.
- Law #5: The most vital dimension on any plan drawing stands the most
chance of being omitted.
- Law #6: If only one bid can be secured on any project, the price will be unreasonable.
- Law #7: If a test installation functions perfectly, all subsequent production units will malfunction.
- Law #8: All delivery promises must be multiplied by a factor of 2.0.
- Law #9: Major changes in construction will always be requested after
fabrication is nearly complete.
- Law #10: Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will
- Law #11: Interchangeable parts won't.
- Law #12: Manufacturer's specifications of performance should be multiplied
by a factor of 0.5.
- Law #13: Salespeople's claims for performance should be multiplied by a
factor of 0.25.
- Law #14: Installation and Operating Instructions shipped with the device
will be promptly discarded by the Receiving Department.
- Law #15: Any device requiring service or adjustment will be the least
- Law #16: Service conditions as given on specifications will be exceeded.
- Law #17: If more than one person is responsible for a miscalculation, no
one will be at fault.
- Law #18: Identical units which test in an identical fashion will not
behave in an identical fashion in the field.
- Law #19: If, in engineering practice, a safety factor is sent through the
service experience at an ultimate value, an ingenious idiot will promptly
calculate a method to exceed said safety factor.
- Law #20: Warranty and guarantee clauses are voided by payment of the
- Law #21: The rule for engineers: "Change the data to fit the curve."
Q: What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?
A: Mechanical Engineers build weapons, Civil Engineers build targets