If you own one or more white short- sleeved dress shirts, your wristwatch has more buttons than a telephone, and you thought the real heroes of the movie Apollo 13 were the mission controllers, you might be an engineer. Or so says an engineering joke list circulating via the Internet. Engineers can be quite funny people, and not just when it comes to their wardrobes. And because they often work and play in cyberspace, engineering humor sites are popping up all over the Web. Here are a few of the better ones.
The Tech Side
The ups and downs of an engineering career are in the spotlight at The Tech Side, which features animated cartoons based on ideas submitted by site visitors. The site, recently expanded to include the "Create a Co-Worker" game (similar to Mr. Potatohead) and other diversions, is a fun spot for a quick break from office doldrums.
George Goble Home Page (Burn BBQ Burn)
Need to light a barbeque grill in just three seconds? George Goble, a senior systems engineer in Purdue University's electrical engineering department, mastered the task using three gallons of liquid oxygen, 60 pounds of charcoal, and a lit cigarette. This site has photos and video clips of Goble's effort, as well as the rather understated warning, "Don't try this at home."
Goble's accomplishment received extensive press coverage, including a mention in humorist Dave Barry's syndicated column, and earned Goble the "Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry" from the Annals of Improbable Research, an international science humor magazine (www.improb. com). It also garnered him a warning from the local fire department that repeating the experiment would be considered a criminally punishable "use of explosives."
"Is Engineering Humor an oxymoron?" This site, maintained by the Wyoming student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, attempts to answer that question. The definition of an oxymoron, the site introduction continues, "is an atom with an atomic weight of 16 and a single charge." If you "get" that, then you'll probably enjoy the site and its links to various other engineering humor sites.
Promoting itself as "a full service criminal computer hacking organization," DigiCrime is actually a satire page dedicated to information security issues. Page author Kevin McCurley, a mathematician and computer scientist, calls the site "a satirical attempt to point out some of the potential threats we face."
DigiCrime's "services" include electronic money laundering, airline rerouting, computer file theft and replacement, Internet eavesdropping, stock price manipulation, political dirty tricks, and the Internet Shoplifting Network—all based on actual security snafus. The subject matter is definitely heavy, but if you can appreciate some of the absurdities bred by the Information Age, you'll enjoy this site. Just be aware of McCurley's warning: "Nothing on the DigiCrime page should do any damage to your machine, but it may damage your confidence in your machine."
The Microsoft Lexicon (or Microspeak Made Easier)
The Microsoft Lexicon is an outsider's guide to "Microspeak," the particular and peculiar slang used on the software giant's Redmond, Washington, "campus." Compiled and edited by Microsoft employee Ken Barnes, the list provides hilarious and sometimes unsettling insight into life under "billg" (Bill Gates' in-house e-mail address).
Uninstalled: Fired, canned, dismissed.
Zero Bug Release (ZBR): Not, as you might suspect, a version of a software product that's error-free, but (in an Orwellian twist) a release with the major bugs eliminated, retaining plenty of less significant problems.
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Vicky Hendley is senior editor and Web editor of ASEE PRISM.