Friday, January 28, 2005

Herbert Hoover on Engineering

A quote by Herbert Hoover on the profession of engineering:

"Engineering is a great profession. There is a fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge, through the aid of science, to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs home to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comfort of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.

"The great liability of the engineer, compared to men of other professions, is that his works are out in the open where all can see them. His acts, step by step, are in hard substance. He cannot bury his mistakes in the grave, like the doctors. He cannot argue them into thin air or blame the judge, like the lawyers. He cannot, like the architects, cover his failures with trees and vines. He cannot, like politicians, screen his shortcomings by blaming his opponents and hope the people will forget. The engineer simply cannot deny he did it. If his works do not work, he is damned...

"On the other hand, unlike the doctor, his is not a life among the weak. Unlike the soldier, destruction is not his purpose. Unlike the lawyer, quarrels are not his daily bread. To the engineer falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science with life, comfort, and hope. No doubt, as the years go by, the people forget which engineer did it, even if they ever knew. Or some politician puts his name on it. Or they credit it to some promoter who used other peoples’’ money. But the engineer looks back at the unending stream of good."

Quoted from the 1999 Christian Engineering Education Conference

A bit ironic in light of the Hoover Dam!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Deprivation Experiment

My wife and I are trying a little experiment this week. I'm (trying) to give up Internet surfing (i.e., reading FoxNews, Slashdot, and multiple blogs) and she's giving up having the T.V. on randomly. Just for this week. I confess I'm not doing so well. I went to Wikipedia to look up something for work, follow a link or two, and find myself reading up on the Apollo space program (which is absolutely amazing and inspiring to this engineer, by the way).

In fact, making this post might not pass the test. Oh well.

My intention is to cut back on ways that my wife and I spend our time that don't really accomplish much, or at least don't accomplish goals for ourselves and our family. True, I may learn something new from Slashdot, but probably not. I can get my news from the newspaper. I feel like there are so many other things I ought to be doing - especially so many books I want to read.

I am probably (as usual) too hard on her, but I hope that this week will wean us away from all the surfing and make us more thoughtful about how we use our time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Stephen Pictures

Here's Stephen:

He'll be 3 months tomorrow, though this is a picture from about 2 months.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Engineering = Overcoming the Effects of the Fall?

I've often pondered over the idea of how a Christian specifically brings his faith to engineering. If we are to do whatever we do to the glory of God, how does an engineer do this? We can think of some things that should be true for any vocation: honesty and integrity in everything, excellence in performance, etc. But what about engineers specifically?

(not a non-sequiter) I visited my sister's special ed class recently and talked to her students about engineering. My definition of engineering for them was: Engineers design things so people can live better lives. Ultimately that is the goal, right? Yes, efficiency and performance in our designs, but ultimately those are so people can live better lives. Isn't that a noble goal for a Christian?

A major aspect of this for me is to think of engineering as overcoming (some of) the effects of the fall. We design structures to protect us and our things from the elements, methods of communication to overcome separation, better agricultural tools for increased food production, etc. In human factors, we work to design for safety (since we can be hurt and killed) and usability (to overcome frustration and hopefully increase the ease and pleasure of work).

So perhaps that is one specific focus for Christian engineers - working with a view to overcoming the effects of the fall.

I don't even know where to start reading to see if someone else thought of this already (most likely, "nothing new under the sun" and all that).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Well, I finally gave in and made a blog. I have no plan for what to do with it, but that's not unusual. I've often failed to follow my father's advice of "look before you leap." If you're reading this, I hope you enjoy.