Sunday, September 12, 2004

Plaid pancakes

Oldfan's comment is reminding me of my undergraduate days at engineering school. I was young and broke, but I had a scholarship. Women's enrollment had been growing, so I wasn't a pioneer. As luck would have it, I was geeky enough to fit in. (This was when computers mostly spoke to us in ones and zeros.)

In my quest to maintain confidentiality, I haven't named the school, but someone might recognize it. A yearbook from that era suggests Dilbert in his formative years. "...the first waffle iron was just one Scottish man's attempt at making plaid pancakes..."(this, from the Industrial Engineers, in a discourse on the history of technology). From Mechanical Engineering, a plea: "Look, I just want you to get a feel for the concepts before you start designing amusement park rides." From Electrical Engineering: "At this point, while we're solving this equation, let's remember the right-hand rule: take the eraser in your right hand and go to work..."

Have those lines been passed from one generation of engineers to the next? For me, they will always evoke a time and place etched deeply in my mind. Later, in med school, I found that the engineers had trained me well in basic sciences. I had learned about hard work, problem-solving, and nerdy giggles. I could focus on other, how to be a doctor.

Here's more from Industrial Engineering: "...(next) we have the invention of the electric toaster. The first designs were rather crude, consisting merely of a baker sitting in a micro-wave oven with a loaf of bread under each armpit....The electric popcorn popper (was) quickly devised as a fast and more viable alternative to setting an entire cornfield on fire to bag some popcorn for the ballgame." "The first electric clothesdryer appeared in 1815 about 500 feet out back from Mother Murphy's Flophouse, where she hung the laundry on a nearby telegraph line. The full enclosure feature was later added to keep the birds out. The much later tumbler dryer had a reputation for bouncing aimlessly about the house...."


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