I Said GLU-lam!

George Bernard Shaw famously said, "The single best problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

I've worn out countless red pens marking up engineers' memos so they actually say what the engineer thinks it says.  It's like there's a crystal clear picture of exactly what the engineer's thinking in an imaginary bubble floating over his head as he writes.  Unfortunately, that picture can get lost in translation and there may be an entirely different picture in the imaginary bubble floating over the head of the person reading it.  When this happens, you get situations like these (click here).

One helpful rule of communication I learned at home as a kid:  "Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt".

Computer Modeling

There are a lot of good reasons why we humble engineers aren't necessarily known for our charisma or our good looks, but we do have a lot of modeling experience.  Every day we make computer models of buildings, and we place these models under high wind and earthquake forces so that when the building is built and an actual earthquake or wind storm hits, the building will stay safely standing.

Some engineers also go on a lot of model walks.

And you could say that this guy's a model engineer - three pencils at the ready in his chest pocket, thick glasses to see every detail, a physique made for long hours sitting behind a desk, and his left hand in his pocket is probably holding a calculator.  

June 2016 Wright News

Try Plotting at a Smaller Scale

If only it was this easy!  It reminds me of the carpenter who cut twice and it was still too short.

...and the related story my dad used to tell of the new guy on the construction crew who cuts the board too short so his boss sends him to the superintendent to ask for a "board stretcher".

...or the electrician who instructs his apprentice to "wipe up the voltage drops".

...or the engineer who's told his design is an ID 10 T solution.

...or the new attorney who's sent to fetch a stack of "verbal agreement forms".

May 2016 Wright News

I Need Expert Advice

Like the old saying goes, you don't have to be crazy to be in this industry, but it helps.
I feel like I can relate to this guy - especially when I'm in Lowes or Home Depot (my favorite stores) browsing for seemingly unrelated parts for some creative new home improvement project (one of my favorite things to do).   Once, and only once, I made the mistake of trying to explain to a helpful Lowes employee what I was doing.  "So you're gonna take this electrical conduit and pound the ends flat and bolt it to this thing and use it as a what?" The more I tried to explain, the more perplexed he became.  It didn't take me long to realize that whenever anyone asks me if I need help, the best course of action is to quickly say, "Nope, I'm good thanks", and then go back to talking to myself.
For another cartoon relating to the mental health of design professionals, click here.

Too Much Stress

After a lifetime in the construction industry, both as a structural engineer and as a builder, I've learned that there's always more than one way to solve a problem - and often the builder has the better idea. 
...but I'm not so sure about this guy.
Other brilliant things I've learned:  measure twice, cut once; the north arrow does not mean "this side up"; the boss may not always be right, but the boss is always the boss; treat people how you want to be treated; and all's well that ends.

You Think These Things Grow on Trees?

From the time I was about age 11, I spent a good part of summer vacations at the construction site building houses with my dad who had a small construction company.  One day we were framing a house and had just nailed down the plywood over the floor framing.  Dad told me to go down and throw up some studs so we could start framing the walls.  After waiting a few minutes and no studs, he walked over to the edge to see what was the hold-up.  As soon as he appeared over the edge of the house, I bent over and began retching and heaving loudly as if I was trying to vomit.  Finally I looked up and said, "Dad, I've tried and tried but I just can't 'throw up' any studs".  We had a good laugh, and then it was back to work.
Unlike this guy, we never had a crane to lift our trusses.  Instead, we hefted them up by hand one at a time.  It was always a relief when the roof trusses were all safely standing in place.