Engineering Terrorists

I had at first thought of writing about something else today, but seeing that I came across this gem of an article, I thought that I’d write about this instead. According to the article, an engineers’ personality traits make them excellent field operatives (i.e. on the ground terrorists). When I read the quote below, I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult.

Engineers ideally make excellent strategic planners, and they make excellent field operatives. They think differently from how other people think

Regardless, I was very interested in what these special personality traits were that set us apart from normal people. So, I looked around and found a very interesting definition of an engineer. For this, I will just quote an excellent definition from a letter published by the Institute of Engineering & Technology here. It goes like this:

It may be easier to define an engineer by what he or she is not. An engineer is generally not a scientist, but takes scientific discoveries and applies them to the real world. An engineer is not a life scientist. An engineer is not a mathematician, but can do sums better than any accountant. Some engineers display excellent art capabilities – but they are not artists.

Engineers are creative, imaginative, capable and resourceful. Engineers make things work and bring ideas from the drawing board to real tangible entities. In Victorian times, engineers built big things. Now, while engineers still build big things, they also create things based on that great 20th Century discovery – electronics.

It’s easy to see that engineers created the canals, roads and bridges, the boats, cars and lorries. But engineers also created and operate telephone networks. Engineers bring the TV signals to you and designed the TVs in your house. Engineers made the rockets that flew man to the Moon, launched satellites that keep the world talking and designed and built the satnav in your car.

Engineers designed the medical equipment that allows you to see inside your body. Engineers created the radar and avionics systems that allow planes to land safely. Engineers designed the chips that are at the heart of everything ‘electronic’.

Engineers can be infuriating because they have an innate intuition about all things mechanical and electrical. To quote a delightful Dilbert cartoon – we have ‘the knack’. We are not without fault, though. We never read instructions and before spell check we could not spell. We don’t suffer fools gladly, we may be insecure – which explains why we take the lid off just to see what’s inside, we may be a bit ‘nerdy’ and we hate being told what to do!

When I give this message to teachers who are responsible for bringing on the next generation of engineers, I remind them what was said about Thomas Edison when he was at school. He was told that he was too stupid to learn anything, that his mind was ‘addled’. His inventions are too many to mention here, but you would not be reading at night or making phone calls without his engineering discoveries.

Charles Curry FIET
Ross-on-Wye

That, I think, is a wonderful definition of an engineer. I guess that being people who hate being told what to do, it makes us natural rebels. Then, being slightly insecure, makes us easy targets for conversion. Finally, being creative, imaginative, capable and resourceful, makes us ideally suited to independent field work.

So, it isn’t inconceivable that we would actually make good terrorists. The fact that we know how things works on the inside, does help when you’re trying to figure out how to take it apart. It doesn’t mean that all of us have suicidal tendencies though!

PS: I can totally relate to the part about not suffering fools gladly! d:

Beautiful Siti Nurhaliza

Her voice is a thing of beauty.

I do not discriminate against any language when I listen to music. So, I have listened to many singers from many nationalities and of them all, I still find her singing to be the best. The only other singer that I’d put in the same class would be Jacky Cheung, and that’s saying something. But she is different from him. She has a sound that is very unique and different from other commercially successful singers. I am truly awed. If I was a man of God, I would think that He put her here with us so that she can sing to us and remind us of the beauty of Heaven.

But she has one flaw, that is she can only sing in Malay. In recent years, she has attempted to sing some English and Mandarin songs, to hopefully introduce her voice to a new audience. It’s usually a duet with some established foreign artiste. However, her struggle with the lyrics is obvious and she is unable to deliver the proper emotions to the song, even though her voice still delivers. This ultimately limits her main audience to the few SEA countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.

This is not to say that music cannot transcend geographical and language boundaries. But, retailers don’t really care about the quality of the artists as long as they help move merchandise off the shelves. So, if they wanted to sell her in any other country, the record label would have to throw in serious marketing dollars to push her albums or you would be hard pressed to find any of her albums on the shelf. Ultimately, I don’t think that anyone believes enough to do it.

Which leads me to a rather confounding problem. I tried to google for an online store that may carry her DVDs but I failed to find any. I was hoping that YesAsia or some of the other stores might carry her songs. I even tried looking for her songs, at some rather unsavoury sites, with many dodgy popup ads but I still failed to find any useful ones either. So, the only channel left for me to whet my appetite for her songs, is YouTube, which is also where I find most of the other Malay songs that I like to listen to.

Oh, and if anyone is wondering why I like listening to Malay songs, the reason is because I feel that the language is a very beautiful one, much like French. It isn’t my mother tongue, it isn’t even my second language. Malay is my third language but I speak it well enough to pass off as a native. So, I just love it when it’s put to song, more so than English or Chinese songs. Don’t ask me how or why, but there is just a very poetic and lyrical feel to the language. If it were to take on physical form, she would be it, totally and purely.


This video is from part of her concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. She was invited to sing as part of the Royal Albert’s programme on Asian artists. If the Wikipedia entry is correct, this concert was also the first time that the London Symphony Orchestra accompanied an Asian singer on stage. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend at the time. Otherwise, I would most certainly have gone.


This video is an excerpt of a longer song, also from the same concert. That’s a very nice kebaya, by the way. Did I happen to say that she’s not too bad on the eyes either? Obviously, that has not affected my judgement on her singing in any way whatsoever. It doesn’t change the fact that she has a beautiful voice.


More of her, from the same concert.


And just to show you that she’s not all about lovey-dovey balads. Jom Joget! This song’s melody and rhythm is probably quite close to being traditional Malay music. You may have noticed that the scale is not so regular.

April Fools

Today is one of the days that I dislike the most, in the year. It’s the 1st of April, which is widely celebrated as April Fool’s Day in many countries. It is also the day in which, my information filters have to work over time trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff. The Internet is already bad enough on most days, but is made worse today when people try to go all out to disguise pranks as real news.

Some companies like to go all the way, and release fake products, on this day. When I say, “all the way”, I really mean all the way. They would create mock screen shots, websites, trailers and even user reviews, just to make the story look real. Just look at the amount of effort that they put into making this year’s hoaxes:


From our heroes at Blizzard, we have The Bard Hero and Molten Core. They actually drew up really good looking concept art and videos.


From our geniuses at Google, we get Google Custom Time and Virgle (you’ve got to see it to believe it!). They even managed to rope in Richard Branson into the prank!


But this one takes the cake. Legend of Zelda Movie! Seriously…

Nuff said.