Reindeer Games

I've seen enough Christmas shows to know that Santa's elves are always studious and hard at work making toys in the workshop, but the reindeer?  They have nothing to do except for one night a year.

With all that time on their hands, they've got to do something to keep themselves entertained.

A "Ninjaneer"

Credit for this one goes to Tye Havey, our partner who oversees Wright Engineers' two Arizona offices.  Here's the email exchange:

Tye: Cartoon Idea:  Sometimes I walk quietly  - or come in through a back door - or forget to tell someone when I'm coming or going.  We've started calling me a 'ninja-neer'.  Seems like it could be adapted for a good cartoon somehow.

Me: (with cartoon attached) The fruit of your inspiration.  He does sorta look like you.

Tye: I love it.  And yes, it looks a lot like me in my pajamas :)

All I know is I wouldn't want to mess with an engineer with serious "plan"-chuck skills.

Inspected and Special Inspected!

Last month's cartoon showed a high schooler sandwich inspector proudly serving up a BLT.  This time it seemed like a good idea to add a special inspector.  After all, if one inspection is good, two's gotta be twice as good, right?  Especially if it's a designer gourmet sandwich - no way you can trust the plain old inspector to make sure it's whole grain bread and real mayo.

As a structural engineer, I certainly appreciate the need for special inspection on critical elements of a project (and since we offer special inspection services, I'm very glad it's required) - but I can't help feeling a bit bad for the plain old inspector.  Do we not trust him?  The way things are going, one day the poor guy'll be out of  a job unless he becomes more... well, special.

And if you think it's bad for the plain old inspector, consider the poor mason.  Unless his masonry work is inspected by BOTH the plain old inspector AND a special inspector, his work is trusted to be only HALF as strong as it could be.  Talk about a lack of confidence in your work.  It's a wonder they all don't have a complex.

For all the abuse the inspector gets, though, he can hold his head high knowing that in a very real way he's helping to make his community a better and safer place.  All you have to do is read about the horrific death toll due to collapsed buildings after almost every earthquake in a third-world country to appreciate the quality construction the inspector is enforcing.  He or she deserves a hug.

For more cartoons having fun at the expense of our inspector friends, click here.


I'm a believer that the best way to make sure a job is done well is to build quality into every system and process.  That prevents most problems from ever occurring.  An inspection to catch mistakes after its all done is good, but it's much better (and cheaper and faster) to not make those mistakes in the first place.

This cartoon reminds me of Sunday dinner at my house.  Most Sunday afternoons, all 17 of our kids and grandkids gather at our house for dinner.  As the little ones play, the adults assemble in the kitchen to prepare the meal.  I personally provide so much "quality control" while we're cooking that sometimes I'm no longer hungry by the time the meal's finally ready.

I thought it would be fun to show a high schooler proudly delivering a fully "quality inspected" sandwich to his customer.  At least he can personally attest that it is delicious.

For more inspector cartoons, click here.

What Are You Thinking?

Occasionally builders complain (and sadly, sometimes justifiably so) that an engineer or architect they know can draw pretty pictures, but he doesn't have a clue how to actually build anything.  And it's worse when that engineer doesn't know he doesn't know and insists that the builder just "build it how it's drawn." 

...and it's even worse if the engineer can only communicate in "engineerese".

On the flip side, it's not uncommon to hear an engineer gripe that the builder on such and such a project needs a lot of "hand holding", or that he fires off dozens of "duh" RFIs which the engineer could answer with, "Did you not even look at the drawings?"

It's a love-hate relationship.  Depending on the day, mostly love.

It IS An Emergency!

You can't blame the poor guy.  He's got his trailer onsite and his crews and equipment ready to go.  All he needs now is the construction drawings so he can git 'er dun. 

Unfortunately, the design team is still revising the revised version of the last revisions that will now need to be revised once the owner stops changing his mind.  ...again.

For more "It's an emergency!" cartoons, click here or here.

Here's My 2 Weeks Notice...

Good thing this guy's giving those 2 weeks notice - he sure wouldn't want to leave his employer in a bad spot.

...and he's got to stay on good terms just in case his new job doesn't work out.

Who can blame him for at least partially mentally checking out after giving notice, but...

I see the problem

No doubt this poor guy's an engineer. 

...or an architect.

We just can't help ourselves, though - we love to solve problems, even when it's not necessarily in our best interest.  It's one of the things I love about design professionals.  It's also one of the things that drive me crazy, especially when engineers that work for me (or architects we work for) are so focused on solving the client's problems that they forget a minor little thing like sending out a bill so we can all get paid.

Going Manual

These days, if the computer's down, nothing gets done.  Thankfully, there's Etch A Sketch - the pioneer in flat panel monitors.  ...and they're sleek and energy efficient!  Besides, if you're doing a piping diagram, it looks a lot like Etch A Sketch anyway.  

This guy's like the solitaire-playing receptionists who had to "go manual" with actual playing cards since their computers were down. 


Sometimes you need some "gray hair" on your project.  After all, they've supposedly already seen it all, done it all, and made all their mistakes long ago - on someone else's project.

Gray hair is hair you can trust - and having lots of it (or for some, at least remnants of it) can be an advantage for us humble engineers.  I was "blessed" with enough gray hair in my mid- twenties that I could easily pass for someone ten years older.  More than 20 years later, I still claim to be in my "late, late twenties".  It must be a genetic trait (the age claim I mean) - my mom still turns 21 again every March 6th.

This cartoon was inspired by a project with a particularly cantankerous owner's rep who insisted we put "more gray hair" on his project - after all, how could some young whippersnapper with a full head of "immature" hair, an engineering degree, and "only" a decade of experience with similar successful projects possibly be trusted?

Good news for that owner's rep:  dealing with him caused the young whippersnappers to sprout a few gray hairs of their own.