Engineering Advice for the Star Wars Dark Side

I’ve just seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I really have some questions for the Dark Side about how they construct their bases. Look, I like science fiction and fantasy. I am willing to look over the fact that the Laws of Thermodynamics and the Laws of Physics are routinely violated. What I have trouble overlooking is that the Dark Side designs their bases in bizarrely unsafe and inexplicably useless ways.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Dark Side is completely incapable of learning from its mistakes. It’s called redundancy by design. Your enemy should not be able to find one thing to destroy and take down the entire base. So stop putting the same flaws in base designs. Also, for goodness sakes, get better computer network security.

No, what I really want to talk about are the catwalks. The Dark Side has completely inexplicable, unsafe catwalks installed in their bases. I am ignoring the huge, unused, exists-for-no-reason chasms that always seem to be in the bases. Most bases are about using all the space they have. Good to know the Dark Side has space to waste. Anyway, those chasms always seem to have one or possibly two catwalks. The catwalks don’t seem to exist for productive reasons because if so, there would not just be one when the chasm is something like 50 stories high. You would want to move people or things on more than one level. Also, the catwalks are about the width of one person. They never seem to be wide enough for two people to pass. That is fairly stupid design. If it was a narrow chasm, then that might make sense, but when the chasm is a hundred times bigger than the catwalk, surely you can make the catwalk a little wider.

Now let’s talk safety. Yes, I get it. These are bases, so they are not designed for children, disabled, or comfort. That doesn’t mean you can’t have handrails, safety rails, safety cages for your wall ladders, etc. Safety is not just to protect stupid people, although that at times is a big part. People trip. People are holding something (like a prisoner, say) and can’t completely see where they are going. Don’t try to tell me survival of the fittest. From what I can tell, the Dark Side seems to most appreciate Storm Troopers who just follow orders and don’t think for themselves. They are prime candidates for people who need safety rails. People who blindly follow orders are prime for lemming-like activities. [Although lemmings don’t actually do that mass suicide thing that many people think they do, but I regress.]

If you have the resources to build the most amazingly large and destructive bases in the universe, then you have the resources to put in proper safety rails and catwalks wide enough for two people to pass.

Is there an Intergalactic Building Code? Does the Dark Side follow it? Does the Dark Side have licensed Professional Engineers? How did they get building permits? Were there inspections? Does the Dark Side have any common sense? Any engineer who approved these designs should have the license revoked. Any organization that can’t learn from its mistakes to deserve to have their stuff destroyed over and over again.

One more thing I have to say as an environmental engineer. Has the Dark Side heard of recycling? I don’t just mean because it is good for the environment. I mean why waste perfectly good resources, like I don’t know all the leftover resources on a crashed battleship? Use old resources when rebuilding, especially when you keep rebuilding the same thing over and over again.

Decipher This Warning Sign

I saw this warning sign today by creek near my office. I know what the sign is trying to warn people against, but the drawings struck me as a little weird. I tweeted the photo out with my interpretation of two of the drawings, and then got some more hilarious interpretations. I have listed them below. Submit a comment with your interpretation if you can do better.

Water warning sign

Water warning sign

1. Person standing above water drinking from glass:

Me: Humans, no standing on top of water.

@Ilovebraaains: No standing on top of bacon

@marginfades: and yet, no admonition for walking on water.

2. Person leaning over water with huge water droplets.

@MGhydro: No crying in the water.

@MGhydro: No crying over bacon! Unless they’re tears of joy!

@fMRI_guy: Caution: Windy. While you are washing your face, your towel may just fly away & you’ll be naked

3. Person swimming

@Swansontea: No punching water while in the prone position

4. Person washing car

@MGhydro: No throwing dog poop over cars.

@fMRI_guy: Don’t use your car as a barrier in a snowball fight. That’s just rude.

5. Dog running above water

Me: Dogs, no swimming on top of the water

6. Hand above water with bottle and banana peel (why is it always a banana peel?)

@MGhydro: No picking up trash from the water.

@fMRI_guy: Also, don’t pick up bottle messages.

Me: No sending messages in bottles

@lockwooddewitt: Garbage and bacon: Gotta keep’em separated


Totes McGotes, Too

In December 2013, I wrote a very silly blog post about the phrase Totes McGotes that I heard in a Sprint commercial with James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell. Amazingly, the writer of the commercial commented on my very silly blog post, or perhaps I should say my Totes McGotes silly blog post. Totes McGotes has continued to be a favorite phrase with my friends and I, and as far as I can tell with many other people. Then again, I continue to be unhip, so it is possible everyone else has moved on to a new more hip phrase. When I Google search the phrase Totes McGotes, my blog post is on the first page of results, but I admit I can’t be completely positive that it would be if any other person ran the search, or if it is tied to my Google account. However I continue to see the phrase used in memes and on photos with goats.

BeJ0WSGCQAA4vAK totes-magotes

Seriously, how can you not love the phrase especially when paired with photos of cute goats? Then again, these photos make me wonder if goats are particularly portable in totes. Are they just the perfect combination of size, docility, and shape that make them so popular to tote in a tote bag? How long has goat toting been a thing? Do goats just not mind being toted? Are goats in tote bags the new small dog in a designer purse? Anyway, my wonderful friends are always happy to tag me when sharing one of these wonderful photos. Another friend has now shared with me this wonderful shirt, which now I must have. No doubt in ten years, I will be laughing at this phrase as so silly and stupid, well I already think it is both, but still I enjoy using it now. Please friends, don’t stop sending me links to the goofy Totes McGotes stuff, especially with the cute goats.

Very Model of a Modern Engineer-Scientist

This is one of those times, where I have a very silly conversation, and then I take it even farther than it really should go. I can’t exactly explain how it started, other than Biochem Belle from Twitter, noted she was waiting for the song Modern Major Scientist from Chemjobber. I chimed in with a few lines from “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” only one of which did I manipulate for a scientist. I realized that about half the lines of the song would not have to be altered for a scientist as opposed to a military person. So here is where I take it too far, with apologies and great respect to Gilbert and Sullivan.

I am the very model of a modern Engineer-Scientist,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kingdoms taxonomy, and I quote the sci papers historical
From The Lancet to Ecology, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Engineer-Scientist.
I know our engineering history, Imhotep and al-Jazari;
I understand acoustics, I know all types of VOCs,
I quote in equations all the laws thermodynamical,
In conics I can graph ellipses, hyperbolas, and parabolas;
I can tell undoubted amethyst from fluorite and lepidolite,
I know the croaking chorus of the Xenopus laevis!
Then I can name a chemical after I’ve seen its mass spectrum chromatograph,
And calculate its concentration with an internal standard added.
Then I can design a incinerator for hazardous waste destruction,
And tell you ev’ry detail of exposure risk reduction
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Engineer-Scientist.
In fact, when I know what is meant by leukotriene and histomine,
When I can tell at sight a purine from a  pyrimidine,
When such units as furlong and stones I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by ANSI hard hat,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern technology,
When I know more of statistics, microbiology, and toxicology –
In short, when I’ve a smattering of hydrogeology –
You’ll say a better Engineer-Scientist has never sat a gee.
For my science knowledge, because I’m nerdy and geeky,
Is never enough and I must always satisfy my curiosity;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Engineer-Scientist.

Weird Sign


I saw this weird sign today that I am hoping someone can explain to me. I know it is a joke, but I am fairly sure I am not fully grasping the joke. I know Agapanthus is derived from Greek to mean love flower, and I know it is a genus of flowers that includes what is commonly called the lily of the Nile. Thus clearly, Agapanthus is not going to be attacking anyone. I still feel like I am not fully getting this joke. Can anyone elaborate on it?

Edited to add: This has been proposed as a possible explanation. If anyone can confirm or knows something different, I would love to hear it.

Totes McGotes

There is a series of Sprint commercials that have been running recently that I really enjoy. They star James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell, and they are essentially acting out completely ridiculous telephone or texting conversations or social media interactions. I think they are completely hilarious, partially due to the gravitas these two skilled actors bring to the goofiest of scripts. Then again, I would probably watch either of them, but in particular James Earl Jones, whom I adore, read my grocery list.

Anyway one of the commercial has them acting out the telephone conversation of what can only be teenage girls using language that probably only teenage girls can understand. I was once a teenage girl, but I honestly don’t think I ever talked like that, and I certainly don’t understand fully what the conversation means now that I am older. The conversation revolves around them talking about a particular boy and how hot he is. He being the “hottest hottie that ever hottied.” He evidently is that hot. It is not clear if they achieved statistical significance on verifying just how hot he is. They further agree that he is Totes McGotes, which is let’s be honest, a completely ridiculous but very fun to say phrase. Now while I have never been hip, I know that men are sometimes referred to as McDreamy, McSteamy, and such, all of which I think originated with the tv show Grey’s Anatomy. However what exactly is a McGotes? In Gaelic, the Mc or Mac prefix of a family name means “son of”, so McGotes would seem to mean that he is the son of a goat, with goat spelled incorrectly (although the only way I know that is how it is spelled is because that is the name of the commercial). This honestly doesn’t seem like much of a compliment to me, although I personally think goats are cute. I have never seen a goat that I would call hot. Now on a few occasion I have used the word totes in jest of sorts, and I think it is always used as a slang for totally. Thus it would seem that both of these girls agree that the “hottest hottie that ever hottied” is totally the son of a goat. Again, is that a compliment? They seem to believe it is. Is being Totes McGotes only a compliment if you are a teenager? Or do you simply have to be hip to know that being Totes McGotes is a compliment? I’m curious how far spread this phrase is.

The scientist in me now wants to flirt with a guy and call him Totes McGotes and see how he reacts. Call it a social science experiment of sorts. Is calling a girl Totes McGotes a compliment, or is it only for guys? Is it only appropriate to use the phrase if you are young? To any guys reading this, how would you react if a girl called you Totes McGotes? Ladies, would you call a guy Totes McGotes? If I find a guy to call Totes McGotes at a bar or wherever, I shall run my experiment and see what happens. We will have to see if he buys me a drink or throws a drink at me.