Monday, August 6, 2007

Department of Communication Disorders, indeed!

Disgruntled Julie has become linguistically isolated from her family, due to too much time twiddling cell cultures in the lab.

Twenty two years ago, when I was an engineering student, I worked at my school's Department for Communications Disorders, wiring the Psychoacoustics Lab, and maintaining the computers and other electronic equipment used in the lab's basic research.

Mike was an engineer who returned to school to get his Ph.D. in Audiology. This was a bit unusual, as most of the graduate students in the department did not come from a technical background. He shared an office with Mary and Elaine, two 'normal' (i.e. non-geeky) students.

One day, when a series of intermittent noise problems were messing with my network, corrupting data and distorting waveforms, I went to whine and moan about it discuss it with Mike.

ME: I'm having a world of noise problems on the bus. Everywhere I look there are transients. The bus is overcome with transient noise..

MIKE: Did you check to see if the bus is grounded?

ME: I'm trying, but I can't I didn't see any shorts on or near the bus. There are transients all over the bus. If I could just find a way to reduce the noise to an acceptable level... If it were less noisy, I think I'd be okay. The question is, how much noise can the bus stand?

MIKE: (joking) I think you have a poltergeist.

ME: It's so frustrating. I can't figure out how to get rid of this persistent transient noise.

(Throughout this conversation, I noticed that Mary and Elaine were taking an unusual interest in our discussion. They both turned their heads left and right, as if watching a tennis match. )

MIKE: Have you swapped bus connections? What about swapping busses?

ME: Yeah, I've looked at getting different connectors, but I'm convinced it's a systemic problem. I have to try something more drastic. If the bus is blown, I'm in for a world of trouble. {sigh}

I probably should just get rid of the bus now, and hope that the transients disappear. It's not clear what's causing the noise. I wish I knew where it is coming from. The transients might be coming from elsewhere in the system. Swapping busses is probably not worth the effort...yet. It's a good idea, though. Thanks, Mike, I'll keep that in mind.

As I was leaving the office, Mary and Elaine shared a pointed look.

MARY: (alarmed) What are you going to DO?!

ME: (resigned) I'm going to do whatever it takes to get those transients off the bus and stop the noise.

At this point, Mary, Elaine, Mike and I all looked at one another in confusion. Eventually we figured out that while Mike and I were discussing interference from fluctuating unwanted voltages on the wiring for the lab's computer communications network, Mary and Elaine thought we were talking about mounting frustrations with unruly homeless people riding public transportation.

I can only imagine how this would have been received if it had happened today, post September 11th!

9 comments, so far. Add yours now!

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EthidiumBromide said...

Haha. Scientists and engineers really need to be permanently separated from the rest of society!

SephardiLady said...

LOL. We've got engineers galore in this family. I'm the "normal" one. :)

Juggling Frogs said...

Ethidium Bromide,

Society often concurs!

Sephardi Lady,

Please be patient with them. We can't help but talk the way we do.

Anonymous said...

ROTFL -- this is hysterical!!! Thanks for the best laugh I've had all day.

I'll add an anecdote of my own:

As a newly-minted software marketing manager, I once sat through a long discussion about the relative merits of thin clients versus fat clients.

And I wondered -- why does anyone care how much the customer weighs as long as they are happy with our product?

(I did, eventually, figure out what they were talking about!)

Jay said...

Oh, that is just too good!

Luckily, I married a computer programmer so I can talk as geeky as I want.

She got out of the career pretty shortly afterward...I think it was a case of being able to take it at work or at home, but not both.

myminivanisfasterthanyours said...

My husband is a self-described "technologist" and whatever language he's speaking at times I can tell you is even far more complicated than Pig Latin!

Thank you so much for the blogroll! I'm having so much fun reading your archives :)

Anonymous said...

My car's transmission self-destructed on the freeway. I called in to work to tell them I wouldn't make it in "because I blew my tranny." Laughter all around from the netadmins.

Jeanne said...

Ha! I'm a self-proclaimed Speech Geek myself (got my M.A. from UMass in Speech-Language Pathology). I probably would've been one of those women in the office staring at you with mouth agape and trying to figure out just exactly what you were talking about!

However, I do have an engineering/computer geek DH so I've learned quite a bit over the years from him!

One weird thing that I've noticed - there are a high percentage of Speech Language Pathologists who marry Engineers!

marye said...

LOL! that is hysterical.

If you liked this article, congratulations! You have great taste. Please brew yourself a cup of coffee.
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