An Architect, a Hooker, and a Windows Programmer

An architect, a hooker and a windows programmer were talking one evening, and somehow, the discussion turned to which profession was the oldest.

“Come on, you guys! Everyone knows mine is the oldest profession,” said the hooker.

“Ah,” said the architect, “but before your profession existed, there had to be people, and who was there before people?”

“What are you getting at, God?” The hooker asked.

“And was He not the divine architect of the universe?” The architect asked, looking smug.

The windows programmer had been silent, but now he spoke up. “And before God took on himself the role of an architect, what was there?”

“Darkness and chaos” said the hooker.

“And who do you think created chaos?” asked the programmer.

Good Engineering Lasts Forever!

There has been the contention that the US railroad gauge is NOT the same as the English, but the story is still very humorous.

The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That is an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were built by English expatriates. Why did the English build them that way? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did “they” use that gauge? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

So why did the wagons have that particular odd spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that was the spacing of the wheel ruts.

So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? The ruts in the roads, which everyone had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first formed by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The U.S. standard railroad gauge of 4 feet-8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back end of two war horses.

Thus we have the answer to the original question. Now for the twist to the story. When we see a space shuttle sitting on it’s launching pad, there are two booster rockets attached to the side of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRB’s. The SRB’s are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRB’s might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRB’s had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses’ rumps.

So, a major design feature of what is arguably the worlds most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass!

Don’t you just love engineering?

Why Engineers Don’t Write Recipe Books

Chocolate Chip Cookies:


1) 532.35 cm3 gluten
2) 4.9 cm3 NaHCO3
3) 4.9 cm3 refined halite
4) 236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride
5) 177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11
6) 177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11
7) 4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde
8) Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein
9) 473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao
10) 236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)

To a 2-L jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation. In a second 2-L reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous. To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor

#1. Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction.

Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316SS sheet (300 x 600 mm). Heat in a 460K oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnston’s first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25C heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

Knowing It All

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 the company 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 (again) in peace.

Maintenance Complaints

Here are some actual “Red Card” items (maintenance complaints) submitted by US Air Force pilots and the replies from the maintenance crews.

Problem: “Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.”
Solution: “Almost replaced left inside main tire.”

Problem: “Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.”
Solution: “Autoland not installed on this aircraft.”

Problem: “The autopilot doesn’t.”
Signed off: “IT DOES NOW.”

Problem: “Something loose in cockpit.”
Solution: “Something tightened in cockpit.”

Problem: “Evidence of hydraulic leak on right main landing gear.”
Solution: “Evidence removed.”

Problem: “DME volume unbelievably loud.”
Solution: “Volume set to more believable level.”

Problem: “Dead bugs on windshield.”
Solution: “Live bugs on order.”

Problem: “Autopilot in altitude hold mode produces a 200 fpm descent.”
Solution: “Cannot reproduce problem on ground.”

Problem: “IFF inoperative in ‘Official’ mode.”
Solution: “IFF is supposed to be inoperative in OFF mode.”

Problem: “Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.”
Solution: “That’s what they’re there for.”

Problem: “Number three engine missing.”
Solution: “Engine found on right wing after brief search.”

Are You Kidding?

Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Person asked a young Engineer fresh out of MIT, “And what starting salary were you looking for?”

The Engineer said, “In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

The interviewer said, “Well, what would you say to a package of 5-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years – say, a red Corvette?”

The Engineer sat up straight and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?”

And the interviewer replied, “Yeah, but you started it.”