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What meetings are like for engineers

The sole engineer meets project managers, designers, and marketers. Love it!

H/t to Eric Worrall.

One commenter on another site:

BY Merlin5by5

 

Boy, have I been there. The engineer is just lucky they have not already sold those 7 lines
to the public, with a deadline of yesterday, and a cost of $1. That’s what I always get.



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Rating: 8.8/10 (69 votes cast)
What meetings are like for engineers, 8.8 out of 10 based on 69 ratings

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101 comments to What meetings are like for engineers

  • #

    Good to see that he finally became a team player!

    /sarc — obviously.

    180

    • #
      Andrew McRae

      Thanks for telling me how it ended. I only made it halfway through and had to stop the video out of sheer frustration.

      60

    • #
      Eddie

      Unless you’ve been trained in ‘doing meetings’, Engineers should avoid them like the Plague.
      Meetings have one purpose. That’s to dump on well natured but hapless individuals who come unprepared.

      80

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      Alcohol was invented to calm engineers before meetings such as these…..

      Its so painful its beautiful.

      This is why social media is so big, but we have massive underlying issues with our Infrastructure.

      00

  • #
    Yonniestone

    Hilarious and disturbing at the same time, is this the true description of insanity?

    180

    • #
      D. J. Hawkins

      I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s the perfect illustration of the term “kafcaesque”.

      00

  • #
    the Griss

    Someone has been sitting on way too many high school staff meetings !!!

    150

  • #
    Diogenes

    Griss
    yep – its like yesterday’s technology committee meeting bangs head on table

    80

  • #
    Bulldust

    Fantastic – not that it was overly funny, but it is a perfect allegory for a project I am currently enduring. I say enduring because I and a few colleagues are the “engineer” and we are getting input from many others with unrelated experience. Can’t begin to describe the frustration.

    190

  • #
    scaper...

    I did not find it amusing at all. New age educated idiots are less worthy than telephone sanitisers. Oh well, explains why society is in decline, I suppose.

    160

  • #
    handjive

    It does not compute!

    New Photo Of Professor Chris Turney’s Boat Trapped In An Algorithm Error

    “It turns out that the growth in Antarctic ice was just an algorithm error.
    This is excellent news for professor Chris Turney who now knows that his multi-million dollar entrapment was a simple software bug.”

    Algorithm This!
    (via stevegoddard who is having too much fun!)

    And tomo(July 24, 2014 at 1:46 am) in comments:

    “I see that Bombala, a town in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia, got over 3 inches of algorithm errors.”

    http://www.bombalatimes.com.au/story/2436044/snow-blankets-district/?cs=12#slide=1

    120

  • #

    oh god, this is every day for me..

    100

  • #
    Leonard Lane

    Yup, all too common. This often happens when a manager knows nothing about the work nor how it is done. The myth that a “Good manager” can manage any project or any company without knowing anything about the content of the project/company’s product have added untold $trillions to consumer costs and even more taxes to their incompetent government ‘managers’ as they jump from one job/department chasing promotions and power. I saw this happen when a civilian employee of the Navy jumped to a very senior position in the Dept. of Agriculture just for a higher position with more money and power. I bet you all know what happened.

    150

  • #
    RoHa

    Just read Dilbert.

    110

  • #

    Say, just imagine if this guy was in the room.

    New Renewable Power Proposal

    Tony.

    160

    • #
      Bones

      Tony,we use some of the lines from this video(when applicable)to explain to mechanical morons who read too many road test,what is wrong with their vehicles.VERY useful

      10

  • #
    Andrew

    Is this what happens at the IPCC. We want the model projections in red ink, and the real temperatures in transparent ink., in the shape of a drowning Polar Bear.?

    311

    • #
      Hasbeen

      Andrew, it looks like you have upset someone, by cutting far too close to the bone.

      100

    • #
      James Bradley

      More interesting will be the IPCC meeting to decide who takes the fall when it all turns to worms – you know the meeting where you sit down and look around the table to figure out who the bunny is, and if you can’t, that means it’s you.

      40

  • #
    OzWizard

    Clearly, to get away with the telling of a blatant lie, you must have three things going for you:

    - You must be beautiful/handsome/gorgeous looking;
    - You must be able to SMILE like your life depended on it; and
    - You must exude a feeling of absolute confidence in your own ability to delegate responsibility to someone else.

    Was that film shot in Canberra, by any chance; or is it from an episode of “The Hollowmen”?

    170

  • #
    Mark F

    I had a boss like that once. At least he would accept facts after the third baseball-bat strike across the forehead. Like a billygoat.

    50

  • #
    bobl

    I really love it when you lay out a plan and show where the costs are and after I’m finished some junior manager says “you can have half that”. To which I usually respond, ok then what part of the engineering of that thing do you NOT want us to do? Or sometimes (in my government roles) – OK so when the lawsuits hit the CEO square in the middle of the forehead, and he is called up in front of the Senate to explain, I can tell him that it was your decision right?

    150

  • #
    Bob in Castlemaine

    Engineers, no imagination, no vision. Ain’t it the truth(!).

    42

  • #
    Joe V.

    If the Engineer wasnt so hung up on his geometry he’d have realised that a ‘red’ line is a simply a metaphorical device for a limit which you are being dared not go beyond or to cross..

    Invisible red lines are even better as the victim has no way of knowing if or when they have crossed, while in a geometrical sense it can be anything because no one can see it to disagree.

    Behold my invisible, perpendicular red lines. All seven of them.

    140

    • #
      David

      Barak Obama is good at drawing red lines. They should have just gone to him.

      On second thoughts.

      70

    • #
      OzWizard

      That engineer would probably also want to change every
      sign which says:

      “NO SMOKING BEYOND THIS POINT

      to read, unambiguously,

      “NO SMOKING BEYOND THIS PLANE

      (Other engineers might understand …)

      20

      • #
        Mark D.

        to read, unambiguously,

        “NO SMOKING BEYOND THIS PLANE”

        I should think a sign like that would cause absolute mayhem when placed at airports.

        10

      • #
        Matty

        Like getting around the acceptable use policy on logging onto the works computer which says:- “by clicking Accept to proceed you agree to be bound by this Policy”, so I don’t. Just hitting return lets you proceed as well.

        00

    • #
      Grant (NZ)

      Clueless engineer. He was thinking two dimensionally. He could easily have a third line perpendicular to the first two. The other 4 I am having trouble imagining, but there are there somewhere. And the transparent ink will do it.

      00

  • #
    ExWarmist

    I immediately figured that the 7 perpendicular lines were obviously meant to be drawn in 7 dimensions.

    I would suggest using a computer to draw the 7 lines in an abstract 7 dimensional space and then flattening it out into a 2 dimensional space for final rendering of the image, in the same way that a cube can be drawn on a page.

    I have been there – in that sort of meeting – twice.

    The first time I left the company I was working for, and got a pay rise and a promotion and another pay rise at the next company.

    The second time I was fired 5 days later.

    It can be really disconcerting, and I mean really disconcerting, when you realise that everyone else in the room is operating in a paradigm that is entirely “perpendicular” to your own.

    180

    • #
      Andrew McRae

      Ditto to the high dimensional space, where mutually perpendicular lines occur quite often when doing Nearest Neighbour searches in product descriptor data for recommendations in marketing, or in sampling the plenoptic function over time in computer graphics.

      As for fighting against stupid…
      You have to live in your own skin in the end. Having the courage to jump and having the CV to get hired again is not easy. Certainly helps to actually be right about the issue on the day.

      70

    • #
      OriginalSteve

      You mean they are dumber than a pile of house bricks?

      10

  • #
    ianl8888

    The clip is exaggerated of course, to highlight the satirical point

    But the point is real. As an example, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, knocking out the infrastructure (obviously including the power) and stranding hundreds of thousands of people, there were many people here in Aus who seriously said: “Why can’t they just use their mobile phones to get help ?”

    How people can be so ignorant, unobservant and lacking in perception will puzzle me to my grave. I really cannot understand it

    80

  • #
    Hasbeen

    Watching this reminds me of the TV adds for XXXXXX university, the university for the real world.

    Some of the subjects of the promotion make me think they have been trained for just such a meeting.

    60

    • #
      Andrew McRae

      I think I know what you’re talking about. The stupidest one was the Cooooffeeeeee advert. Actually the real one on TV/cinemas was even more annoying than that extended version on their YouTube channel.

      20

      • #
        Matty

        Aside: I don’t think that was the coffee advert ?

        10

        • #
          Andrew McRae

          As I just told you, the one on QUT’s Youtube channel is NOT the same one that was on TV or in cinemas. However most of the footage in the TV version is in that youtube video, same lady, same degree, same location, and she even says “coofffeee” twice while practicing her New York accent.

          Which brings me back to the point of Hasbeen’s comment, which is that the advert was all about pretence and vagaries and nothing to do with authenticity or precision, just like the Marketing meeting video above.

          If you or Hasbeen are talking about some other “university for the real world” then it would be best to identify it, to save further confusion.

          20

  • #
    Matty

    That’s just dumb but harmless. You might find this one more troubling though, on
    Feature Creep

    40

    • #
      Andrew McRae

      That is awesome. The side-effects are probably more obvious in hardware than software. But it still happens in software.

      Example from the web: LinkedIn has tried too hard to be social while trying to remain a business tool. Compare LinkedIn with Facebook. Facebook defines the connections between people as being “friends”. LinkedIn does not define what the connection between two people represents, it’s just a “connection”. So some people treat it like friends. Other people treat it only as a sign of trust between business colleagues that they have personally worked with. And other people treat it like a general purpose mailing list in which anybody and everybody should be a connection. Because LinkedIn is trying to be everything, there is no clear protocol over when one person should or shouldn’t accept a connection request from another person. And so you end with flame-out incidents like this one, where one woman had her career (IMO unjustly) ended because she thought permitting a connection was an endorsement and the younger woman thought getting a connection was just a way of sending an email. People are looking at that incident and blaming the older woman for having obsolete social attitudes, but the incident would never have happened if LinkedIn had just been clear from the beginning about what a connection was supposed to mean. It’s a side-effect of software trying to serve multiple purposes and not doing any of them very well.

      30

      • #
        Robert

        Part of the issue is “error handling” which in this case means eliminating misunderstanding of a programs or sites purpose by the users.

        I read the 6 or 7 comments on your link, here is an excerpt from one of them:

        So this woman pushing 50 who just graduated from college is taking a 26 year old to task for networking as it was intended.

        Lets look at the errors here.

        1 – Mistaking the older woman as the “just graduated” party.
        2 – Claiming to know how networking was “intended” to work.

        Intended to work where? According to whom?

        Clear documentation on purpose could resolve the matter for some, but when the person that particular excerpt is from couldn’t comprehend from the article that it was the younger 26 year old who “just graduated” not the 50 year old why would I expect them to read AND comprehend any provided documentation?

        This is the reason anything I program for use by anyone besides myself breaks down, more or less, as about 2/3 of the code being for error handling. I can’t cover every eventuality but if it dies it should do so gracefully and not take out the system it is running on and, as much as possible, shouldn’t let users do things with/to it that it wasn’t designed for.

        Error handling in the overall design of websites is too often neglected. It is just as much a part of proper documentation, i.e. eliminating potential errors by being clear on purpose, as code to trap exceptions.

        30

      • #
        Eddie

        She must have been on something to write as spitefully as that.

        One of the pitfalls of Instant Messaging. Everyone but you can see who’s p|$$€d at the time.
        They should come with a compulsory delay filter. Overnight should be enough.
        An outbox that let’s you sleep on it.

        Fortunately I’m so easily distracted that I rarely finish a message before having to come back to it hours later, by which time the potential for damage and misunderstanding is more obvious.

        20

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        People can be plain old stupid.

        10

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      Feature creep.

      Have I ever been there! Ain’t nuthin like getting a project all approved, the design all done and coded ready to deliver only to find they suddenly want some new bell or whistle that your design can’t even support because you didn’t know about it until too late.

      This is how so many software projects end up broken. You bend and twist everything to pound each new feature into it with a hammer and before long you’re where they all end up — so many problems you can’t fix them. And of course, no one wants to take the time to redesign properly to accommodate the new bell or whistle, least of all the poor software engineers.

      I have one like this hanging over me if they want to push it. The request is in the database and I have no clear idea how to satisfy it without redoing large parts of the project to an extent so great I haven’t even an idea how I would go about it.

      40

  • #
    ossqss

    That was painfully entertaining. The only thing missing was the environmentalist. Thanks, I think…..

    30

  • #
    PhilJourdan

    We have ALL been there. And for those who might not have, I have drawn the 7 perpendicular red lines, using green ink, but all are transparent.

    You will just have to trust me – I am an expert. ;-)

    40

  • #

    And the thought that always followed these meetings was; “Who are all these people? Why are they necessary? And most importantly; why are they all being paid three times what an Engineer makes?”

    70

    • #
      Lionell Griffith

      Management gets paid more because they make the pay decisions. Yes, that is a conflict of interest but they decided that didn’t matter. They universally believe it is the decision that matters and that reality is irrelevant. Hence, it is obvious to management that they have done all of the really important work and should be paid accordingly. The engineer merely has to make it work on time, on budget, and on spec without complaint or demand for anything other than what was decided, by management.

      Solution to the video project:

      Considering the surface for the line drawing was unspecified, it is up to the Engineer to select the appropriate surface upon which to draw the lines. The solution is as follows:

      Create a sphere with an equatorial line and two mutually perpendicular meridian lines in green and call them red lines. Then add three transparent lines on top of each of the first three lines. Add the last remaining transparent line on top of either of the two meridians. Place the red balloon inside the sphere and inflate it. Project is done on time, on budget, and on spec.

      What is not said in a project specification is as and sometimes more important than what is said. Think outside the box that management thought they were building around you. Management still won’t like it but they can’t argue with your solution. You delivered exactly what they asked for.

      Don’t fight with pigs – you will only get dirty and the pigs will enjoy it. Either deliver precisely what management asks for or find another job. That they get paid three times what you are paid is simply the cost of doing business. It wasn’t your money anyway.

      10

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        Management still won’t like it but they can’t argue with your solution. You delivered exactly what they asked for.

        Nay! Not so. Management can and does argue with the solution and lay blame on the poor engineer when he delivers exactly what was asked for instead of what management wanted. It’s even worse if the management is several levels above the engineer. And god help you if the specs came from a customer.

        The disconnect between those who make the requirements and those who have to implement them can be extreme sometimes.

        20

        • #
          Lionell Griffith

          Management attracts power and control obsessives. They cannot be worked with. It is best to be someplace else doing anything else but futilely attempting to make them happy. Even if you deliver exactly what they say they want, they will still find that it is your fault and define it a failure. This even if it is exactly what they really need.

          You are expected to be telepathic, clairvoyant, precognitive, and to be able to perform magic. Can’t be done. Your only viable alternative is to find other employment. That is why I have a very long resume. I usually left just in time.

          10

          • #
            Roy Hogue

            Magic is an understatement, Lionell. Miracles is more like it. And if you can walk on water it also helps.

            Of course, most of us are lucky we can drink water without drowning. But I’ve had a long and mostly enjoyable career, 47 years, in spite of the things that were one kind of problem or another along the way.

            And now that I retired I let myself get talked into doing some part time work for the company as a contractor. That’s a move I may regret. But at least I’ve tossed my resume and don’t have to worry about that anymore.

            10

  • #
    Chuck Nolan

    You’ll notice he started off sounding like some flake denier with all those facts and negativity. He finally figured out reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and if he wished hard enough he could draw those red lines using the transparent blue blood from his unicorns.
    2+2 equal 5, you can see that, can’t you Winston?

    I’ll draw the lines…Where’s my oil money?

    20

  • #
    peter

    Too funny-

    True story- I was once the sole engineer with our customer and sales and the customer wanted faster satellite coms failure detection than 50 milliseconds given the satellite was in geosynchronous orbit a change in the speed of light would have been required :)
    while not quite as bad as that video it certainly had many similarities :)

    60

    • #
      Joe V.

      Don’t I make that about 120 ms, at the present speed of light ? The satellite up & down link adding about 1/4 of a second to a telephone call.

      10

  • #

    Reposted here http://classicalvalues.com/2014/07/rational-engineering/

    With this comment:

    Fortunately I mostly worked in aerospace and this sort of thing was kept to a minimum. But I did work with some college trained commercial engineers once who were convinced that rubber springs had no hysteresis. And another college guy who thought that drawing power in pulses caused no additional losses compared to DC. So I guess in fact I have been to that meeting.

    50

  • #
    Joe V.

    Here is a real exchange that took place by Instant Messaging (MS Lync) this Monday evening between an Engineer & a Manager ( who used to be an Engineer, but they do seem to forget very quickly).

    Manager:-
    Joe, just a reminder as I need to talk to you tomorrow morning.

    Could you please remind me to talk to you if I forget… shared responsibility… ;)

    Engineer:-
    … and what will you want to say ? (in case you forget ;)

    Manager:-
    Will talk in the morning… J

    Engineer:-
    I might have an answer by then, if I knew the question J

    Manager:-
    Oh, the question you asked the supplier about the enquiry you have opened with them about the difference between the old and the new circuits (what the difference is or what values are used).

    The answer is they used the values as requested by you, if you still remember… ;)

    You wanted them to copy new values to the old circuit or the other way around – cannot remember right now…

    Engineer:-
    Yes, I know – but I was testing:- What it is that they actually Did.

    “What you asked for ” , not being an objective response.

    Manager:-
    They listened to you – Andy will confirm it the precise values.

    Although they may ask you to use their new concept and see if that will make any difference – if you remember we are using our unique market Values….

    Engineer:-
    Yes of course, you mean the ones that we’ve carefully developed, fine tuned and optimised over the past 25 years ?

    Manager:-
    Well yes, but we have get with the new ways.

    Engineer:-
    You mean with the harmonised Global standard that means everyone’s transmission can sound as bad as each other’s, instead of the quality our Customers used to enjoy ?

    Manager:-
    Talk in the morning.

    The next morning didn’t bring any meeting of minds or further enlightenment, but at least the Engineer now knew what he was up against and another time wasting meeting was successfully averted.

    70

  • #
    Roy Hogue

    What a howler! The disconnect between those who make specifications and the reality for those who have to deliver to those specs couldn’t be better illustrated if this had been contrived just to show it.

    Oh! Wait a minute, Roy. It was contrived just to show it.

    But 7 red mutually orthogonal lines ought to be well within an engineer’s bag of tricks even if one is shaped like a cat, don’t you think? ;-)

    30

  • #

    A pen loaded with green ink that reacts with the clear ink in the other pen to produce red is used. The lines are all simple circles of different sises drawn inside each other. At any point a line will be perpendicular to the line at a point on any of the other circles.
    The circles can be replaced with curvy kittens.
    Get a tradie who can either use or be Engineer!

    20

    • #

      Oh and either ink could react with the surface to produce red. This to solve the “some with” part of the specification.

      20

    • #

      With either this solution and the ballon I forgot or Lionell’s solution above on the table then the reason the specifications were deliberately difficult may begin to emerge. Especially if sudden changes and additions are met with “Oh that will make it easier” and an sms to an assistant has a working prototype or off the shelf unit arrive before the meeting ends.

      10

  • #
    Wally

    A few people comment here seem to think this is sarcasm. Or greatly exaggerated.

    I’m an engineer, and I can tell you that this is NOT 200% over the top, its about 1% exaggeration of reality. I’ve been in meetings like that.

    And these days when I’m in one I tend to just mutter “7 red lines” when asked to break the laws of physics.

    70

    • #
      bobl

      Yes, it’s surprisingly common to be asked to break the laws of physics isn’t it? I find it only slightly less common than being asked to break the law, particularly some aspect of the health and safety act, (which is pretty much a daily occurance).

      “I don’t care what the customer said, I can’t do that, it’s not legal” grr how many times have I said that in my career!

      Oh the response from the manager is usually “You’re not being a team player” – show of hands, how common is that phrase.

      Anyone ever done 360 degree assessment, have you ever looked at the behavioural objective of that? That is the abject stupidy of trying to drive a group to a similar set of shared ideals, of course noting as every Engineer would uderstand that this results in consensus set of shared ideals converging on the centroid of the group… I call it the drive to mediocrity!

      20

    • #
      PeterS

      They should seek the advice of Stephen Hawking. He breaks the laws of physics as though it’s normal.

      10

  • #
    Joe V.

    They clearly didn’t want 7 Red Lines, perpendicular or otherwise.

    Either someone told them they did or they just liked the sound of it.

    Language is part of the problem here. What did they really mean by 7 perpendicular red lines ?

    What did they actually want ? Had they any idea ?

    If the Engineer doesn’t seek to understand why they want them or what they want them for then there is never going to be a meeting of minds.

    Sometimes the Engineer speaking direct to the Customer without the two interlocutors sent along to mind him, is the best way to get to this.

    When a colleague asks me question the time taken trying to extract from them the question they should have asked is usually time well spent. Non-technical people are often no better at formulating questions than at expressing their ideas.

    10

    • #
      the Griss

      What the engineer should have done is get out the butcher’s paper, give them a lead pencil and ask them to provide a sketch of what they envisage.

      They are the designers, afterall,

      … and watching these sort of people actually try to put their ideas down on paper can be humongous fun. !

      Works well with architects, too ;-)

      What you say is.. “if you can sketch it, I can probably find a way to build it, ..

      given enough money”

      50

      • #
        the Griss

        ps… butcher’s paper really plays their game !

        maybe even suggest a “brain-storming” session, then text a mate to call you away on urgent business (down the pub).

        30

  • #
    PeterS

    Such lunatic team management practices are not just limited to IT and engineering. It occurs everywhere to some degree to another. That’s how the AGW debate developed and went out of control. People actually believed we could reverse climate change simply by taxing something. Most environmentalists and leftists politicians still believe that. They really belong in an insane asylum.

    60

  • #
    Matty

    Shouldn’t they have brought in an Artist and not an Engineer ?

    20

    • #

      Salvador Dali is very expensive. Besides he is dead.

      30

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      A climate scientist might have been even more appropriate than an artist. The climate scientist would have swiftly made the whole meeting moot with predictions of doom and gloom so dire that everyone would run home and hide. End of meeting. End of project. End of problem.

      But I bet Salvador Dali could have made those lines look real good.

      10

  • #
    Joe Born

    Okay, I guess someone has to be the contrarian.

    I’ve been the lawyer in the meeting and had to tell the engineer or scientist that his math or physics or computer logic was wrong. Imagine how diplomatic one has to be to pull that off successfully.

    20

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      Joe,

      OK, I’ll bite. How does a lawyer know if the math or physics is wrong? I know the legal aspects of software pretty well, particularly the wisdom of never offering or even appearing to offer a warranty of any kind and also how to protect software by copyright. I had the benefit of working with a patent attorney on the patent for a device that was run by code that I wrote. And I got a lot of useful information while documenting how the thing worked to the standard needed to get it patented.

      But what math or physics could be “wrong” for legal reasons?

      00

      • #
        Joe Born

        It wasn’t for legal reasons that it was wrong. It was just incorrect physics or math or computer logic.

        Say a deal is based on optical system’s getting a resolution that my analysis showed wasn’t possible. I’d be performing a disservice if I declined to speak up just because I’m only the lawyer.

        20

        • #
          Roy Hogue

          Gotcha! Thanks. I was looking at it from a different perspective. Sometimes it pays to ask the question.

          10

    • #

      If you were another engineer you would just have blurted it out. No finesse expected from engineers.

      10

  • #
    Pete

    I think the most interesting meetings are ones between the scientists and the engineers (and nobody else).

    I worked on one program where all the data suggested that “output” was possible and the engineers thought it was possible too. so then we began designing the machinery and testing

    designing the machinery and testing
    designing the machinery and testing
    designing the machinery and testing
    designing the machinery and testing
    designing the machinery and testing
    designing the machinery and testing

    7th time we got it right. And hey presto “output” for everyone.

    Now of course you have a meeting and suits, accountants, lawyers, HR, advisors, advisors advisors, all pack into a room.

    and the engineers and the scientists ? They’ve thankfully moved on

    00

  • #
    crosspatch

    And THAT video, ladies and gents is EXACTLY a day in the life of a silicon valley sales engineer.

    I have never seen anything so realistic in my life. That meeting probably happens 200 times between 8am and noon in Santa Clara County, California on any given weekday.

    00

  • #
    crosspatch

    I’m not sure many Americans will get the “Walter” joke, though. (Wally)

    00

  • #
    Dr Burns

    Every engineer should know that 50% of the population are below average intelligence (median roughly = mean for IQ).

    00