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If a scene like the one to the left were to present itself at your office, a few things might cross your mind. Your fellow co-worker is a lazy bum. Or perhaps he pulled an all-nighter last night. Or maybe he’s dead. But this scene is one that is quite common here in China. Literally, sleeping on the job, right in front (and sometimes on top) of one’s laptop is quite the norm. Not the whole day, mind you, but for about half an hour’s worth after lunch. Some schools here even impose a mandatory nap time after the lunch break. I wouldn’t mind taking a little nap myself, except decades of cultural training in Canada has left me incapable of sleeping at the office. First, I’m too self conscious. Second, I don’t have that internal clock well trained enough to wake myself up after 30 minutes. I may end…

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***If you’re seeing this text on the front page of EB and cannot see the video, please click on the title of the post to see the individual page with the video.*** I sure hope so because the content of this post is all video! [tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gif8HRp2JWA[/tube] I turned off the YouTube comments (because I already have enough stress in my life), so be sure to drop a comment below if you have any feedback!

I’ve been casting occasional glances at other potential jobs recently and one in particular caught my eye – in the woodworking industry. Now if we were making small talk at a party, and you were being polite, you’d say that there’s plenty of engineering to be done with wood, of course – then you’d smile wanly and wander swiftly on to the canapés, thinking “hmm, engineering, indeed.” Normally, I’d be with you on that one, but in this case, there’s a peculiarity involved that I haven’t yet shared with you. The job is in Austria. Let me start again. I’ve been casting glances (etc, you know the drill by now) – in carbon fiber engineering and one position in particular caught my eye. The company designs and builds custom or low-volume parts for the automotive industry. All very high-tech, as I’m sure you’d agree. Except the job is in Austria.…

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My husband sent me a link to an EDN page featuring a video covering dating advice for engineers.  I want to start by saying that the video was very amusing, so the following is in no way meant as disparaging.  However, it was also very guy-centric, and I wondered what sort of dating advice might be useful for female engineers (which, the video says, are hypothetical…like Bigfoot). So my advice would be: Ignore any guy who says that female engineers are unattractive.  He’s just bitter because he can’t find a date.  It’s karma.  He’s probably also an engineer. You’ll probably want to date another engineer, or maybe a scientist.  Otherwise you won’t have anything to talk about.  (Well, maybe if you have hobby in common.  HAM radio, anyone?)  And saying things like “Higgs Boson” will be just fine. You’ll probably want to date another engineer because, given your salary, you’re…

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Although I don’t officially start work until tomorrow, I am in the office a day early to take care of some urgent matters. My first official order of business is to present a counteroffer to a team member who has just tendered his resignation. He has accepted an offer from some other giant multi-national to do analog design. I like to think that it isn’t an indictment of my management skills, and given the short amount of time I’ve managed the team, it shouldn’t be. Still, it kinds of nags at me at a semi-subconscious level. The IC design landscape in China is quite like Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom. Job hopping is common and unrealistically high salary expectations are the norm. Of course, what makes it the norm is that giant multi-nationals are willing to pay those sort of raises. In this particular case, we are providing a…

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We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15” which refers to the average 15 pounds a college freshman puts on when away from home for the first time. Finally on your own and free to eat unlimited quantities whatever you want, possibly on a college “unlimited” meal plan. There’s also a lot of change happening at this time in life with a new home, no more high school and new people. All of this stress can trigger overeating. The Freshman 15 is similar to the “Office 25”, which is a term that I just made up, but refers to an average 25 pounds that an office worker will put on in a sedentary job. Sedentary, like engineering. There is no typical engineering job; some are in factories, some are on assembly lines, some have excessive travel and some are in front of a computer. But as a generalization, I think it…

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A very happy fourth of July to my American friends, colleagues, and readers. On this most patriotic of patriotic days in the US of A, I am going to write a very patriotic-themed post on … Canada. The reason is simple. Tomorrow, I will leave this hockey-loving, maple-syrup-drinking, igloo-dwelling nation for one that produces no hockey, no maple syrup, and no igloos. Living and working in China will of course be very different than living and working in suburbia Canadiana. But more than lifestyle and cultural changes, a question that has come up in my mind is whether I should be working for “the enemy” at all. After all, China is seen by many in the West as their primary adversary on the international stage. One that sells cheap crappy goods. One that sells unsafe toys. One that unfairly manipulates its currency to maintain an economic advantage. And one that…

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I think most engineers are optimizers. Many times, this works to our advantage. In the case of a project, it means you might try and squeeze out the last bit of efficiency out of a part in your system. Or in the office, it might mean coding up a bit of software that will make your job a little easier and automate mundane tasks. But what about when it doesn’t work? What about when you have a non-optimal solution? I was dealing with this in my personal life this weekend, and I felt my engineering brain kicking into high gear. I’m going to try and replay the stream of consciousness for you below. I don’t think it will quite capture all of the thoughts that went through my head, but I think it will be enough to recognize the feelings if you have ever had them. The situation occured when…

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As a new faculty member on the tenure track, I don’t have the luxury of saying no very often. It’s not that I can’t say no at all, but rather, I’m worried that if I don’t say yes, it will be misconstrued that I don’t play well with others. That could potentially damage my case for tenure when that comes up or make it more difficult to work with certain folks because I will seen as being in the camp of one faculty faction instead of another. A lot of the advice you read on the interwebs about this topic is that you should say no as often as possible because you need as much time to advance your research as possible. When offered other committee positions or responsibilities (journal editor, conference organizer, etc), you’re supposed to avoid those like the plague for as long as possible. I can totally…

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of human motivations, suggesting that once certain needs are met, people are not satisfied with the present condition, but instead develop new, higher order needs and try to satisfy those. At the bottom of his hierarchy are the staunch basic – food, water, shelter, etc. The next level of need is to secure basic safety, a job, and so on. After that, people look for love and to become part of a group and to satisfy needs for friendship. The very highest level of need focuses on artistic values –  the need for morality, creativity, spontaneity, and self-actualization. Engineering, in a sense, has an analogous hierarchy of needs and developmental milestones. At the very basic end, when engineering is closest to science, the question is “can we make it work?” After that, the question becomes, “can we make it affordable?”  then “is it portable?” and…

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