The Supplier's Fault?

I don't know where this tale originates, but it is worth retelling:

A young family lived next to a vacant lot. One day, a construction crew started building on the lot. The family's 4-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in the activity going on next door and spent much of each day observing the workers.
Eventually the construction crew, all of them "gems-in-the-rough," more or less adopted her as a kind of project mascot. They chatted with her, let her sit with them while they hadbreaks, and gave her little jobs to do to make her feel important.
At the end of the first week, they even presented her with a pay envelope containing ten dollars.
The little girl took this home and her mother suggested the girl take her "pay" to the bank and start a savings account.
When the girl and mother got to the bank, the teller asked the girl how she had come by her very own pay at such a young age.
The girl proudly replied, "I worked last week with a real construction crew building the new house next door to us."
"Oh my goodness gracious," said the teller, "and will you be working on the house again this week, too?"
The little girl replied, "I will, if those a##holes at the supply yard ever deliver the f##king drywall!"

In addition colorful jobsite speech, the tale also describes other conditions found on some construction projects:

  1. Underpaid laborers.
  2. Work done off-the-books.
  3. Scheduling problems are always the supplier's fault.

(Graphic from

Be careful what you say

I don't know who created this. But is is too good to pass up. 

Cross-Cultural Marketing

Taking a product from one market into another with a different culture can be fraught with challenges. Consider the following story:

A disappointed salesman of Coca-Cola returned from his assignment to Israel.

A friend asked, "Why weren't you successful with the Israelis?"

The salesman explained, "When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make a good sales pitch. But I had a problem. I didn't know how to speak Hebrew. So I planned to convey the message through three posters.

First poster : A man lying in the hot desert sand totally exhausted and fainting
Second poster : The man is drinking Coca-Cola
Third poster : Our man is now totally refreshed
"And then these posters were pasted all over the place."

"Terrific! That should have worked!" said the friend.

"The hell it should have!" said the salesman. "No one told me the Israelis read from right to left!"

Thanks to Alan Glassman for sharing this with me. Do you know original creator?

How many architects does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

According to Coffee with an Architect blog, the answer is "21".
Louis Poulsen “artichoke” luminaire.
One to sketch out the concept;

One to model it in Revit;

One to question the concept… “Does it have to screw?”;

One to write an addendum informing the contractors;

One to find the spec section and ASTM standards for screwability;

One to fill out the LEED paperwork for said lightbulb;

One to suggest a “stainless steel” lightbulb;

One to suggest a skylight instead of the lightbulb;

One to research alternate methods of screwing on the internet (Don’t google that while in the office);

One to suggest having a charette to brainstorm ideas about screwing in lightbulbs;

One (intern) to build a chipboard model of the lghtbulb;

One to suggest recessing the lightbulb;

One to issue addendum # 35 to have the contractor reverse the swing on the door in the room so the light switch for the lightbulb can be relocated to the other wall;

One to ask the design principal in charge to call the client to let them know we’re screwed;

One to call the structural engineer to see if the beam running through the lightbulb can be moved;

One to render the space showing a Louis Poulsen “artichoke” lamp instead of the lightbulb;

One to ask: “what the lightbulb wants to be?”;

One to discuss Le Corbusier’s use of lightbulbs throughout Villa Savoye;

One to google “Snohetta / lightbulbs”;

One to remove the boundary between the interior and the exterior of the lightbulb;

     And finally;

One turn off the light while muttering “less is more…”
The answer above was written by an architect.  Otherwise, the answer might have been:
"None". The architect depends on a contractor to realize the design intent.
The site also sells tee shirts. Here is my favorite:

5-Minute Management Course

Lesson 1:
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings. The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.  When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.
Before she says a word, Bob says, 'I'll give you $800 to drop that towel..'
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.  The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, 'Who was that?'
'It was Bob the next door neighbor,' she replies.
'Great,' the husband says, 'did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?'
Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.
Lesson 2:
A priest offered a Nun a lift.
She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.
The priest nearly had an accident. After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg..

The nun said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'
The priest removed his hand But, changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again. The nun once again said, 'Father, remember Psalm 129?'

The priest apologized 'Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.'

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, 'Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.'

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3:
A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.
They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.' 'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.'  
Puff! She's gone.
'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.'
Puff! He's gone.
'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager. The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'
Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.

Lesson 4:
An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.
A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, 'Can I also sit like you and do nothing?'  
The eagle answered: 'Sure, why not.'
So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. 
All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Moral of the story:
To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.
Lesson 5:
A turkey was chatting with a bull. 'I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree' sighed the turkey, 'but I haven't got the energy.' 
'Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?' replied the bull. They're packed with nutrients.'

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.
The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.
Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.
He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.
Moral of the story:
Bull shit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there..

Lesson 6:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.
While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.
As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.

A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate..
Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Morals of the story:

(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend..
(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

I don't know the author, but appreciate the wisdom.

Humor Educates... and Sells

A ceramic tile promotional group has, for years, been using a cartoon series to educate contractors and specifiers. It is model other building product manufacturers and promotional groups can emulate. The group's website explains:
"TileWise cartoons were developed under Donato Pompo's leadership for Club '84 (Ceramic Tile Action Group). Club '84 was a non-profit organization of accomplished individuals from all segments of the ceramic tile industry. The group's mission was to develop and distribute educational aids to educate, train and bring quality awareness to the distributors, specifiers, installers, and consumers of Ceramic Tile.
"The TileWise cartoons were created to communicate issuses and concerns in the business of using ceramic tile for all segments of the industry. The objective was to educate to promote the quality use of ceramic tile. In each cartoon the screen exagerates what you shouldn't do or emphasizes an issue or concern, then George the Bucket (named after CTI founder George Lavenberg) says what is correct. The cartoons ran for twelve years in each issue of the Tile Industry News, a major industry publication, published by the Ceramic Tile Institute until 1999 when it ceased
"Use these cartoons to educate your customers and employees to help avoid potential problems, and to promote a positive image of your company through newsletters, posters or mailings.
"We hope you can put these cartoons to good use to help your industry and your business, and we know you will certainly benefit from them if you do. Good Luck!"

Good Humor

A good joke can lubricate even the toughest situation.

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude! The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greenskeeper. Let's have a word with him." "Hi George. Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?" The greenskeeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime." The group was silent for a moment. The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later the company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multimillion dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine to work but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past. The engineer reluctantly took the challenge.

He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day, he marked a small "x" in chalk on a particular component of the machine and stated, "This is where your problem is". The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again. The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his service. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges.

The engineer responded briefly:
One chalk mark $1
Knowing where to put it $49,999

It was paid in full and the engineer retired again in peace.

A Department of Transportation maintenance crew packed up the truck early one morning and drove out to a construction site where they were to work that day. The crew started to unload the gear when one of the workers noticed that they had forgotten the shovels. Panicked, the crew chief called back to the crew supervisor. "We forgot the shovels back at the shop, boss. What are we gonna do?" The supervisor thought a minute and said "stay calm, just lean against each other until we get someone out there with the shovels."

An engineer died and was instantly transported to pearly gates. Saint Peter met the engineer at the gates of Heaven. Peter looked through his records to see if the engineer was listed in "the book" of souls that should go to heaven. Peter looked once, furrowed his brow, looked again and finally said, "I'm sorry, but your name is not on the list. Usually engineers are a cinch to get in to Heaven but since your name is not on the list you'll have to go .... below." The engineer was, of course, disappointed but he took the elevator down to Hell.

A couple weeks later Peter called down to Satan in Hell. "Hello, Satan?" "Yeah, its me, Peter. Whatayawant?" "It is about that engineer I sent down a couple weeks ago." Satan answered, "Oh yeah, that guy was a real find. He's great. He has gotten a heat exchanger working so that it is now a nice comfortable 68 degrees, he has piped in cool running water, he has got a ventilation system going to get rid of that sulfur smell. He made this place into a paradise."

There was silence on the line for a moment and then Peter said "well, we made a mistake. He belongs up here. There was a record keeping glitch but I want you to send him up right away." "No way are we giving this guy up," said Satan, "he is the best thing that ever happened to us down here." Peter responded, "Well that is just too bad, he belongs up here and that is that." Satan, unmoved, said "no can do, Padre -- he is staying here." Peter, exasperated, said "well, if you don't send him up right away, we are going to sue."

The line was quiet for a moment when Satan sneered "where are YOU going to find a lawyer?"

Why Engineers Don't Write Recipe Books
Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1.) 532.35 cm3 gluten
2.) 4.9 cm3 NaHCO3
3.) 4.9 cm3 refined halite
4.) 236.6 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride
5.) 177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11
6.) 177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11
7.) 4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde
8.) Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein
9.) 473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao
10.) 236.6 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)

To a 2-L jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of about 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two and three with constant agitation. In a second 2-L reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous. To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor #1. Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction. Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316SS sheet (300 x 600 mm). Heat in a 460K oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank Johnston's first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25C heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

Five Surgeons
Five surgeons were taking a coffee break and were discussing their work. The first said, "I think accountants are the easiest to operate on. You open them up and everything inside is numbered." The second said, "I think librarians are the easiest to operate on. You open them up and everything inside is in alphabetical order." The Third said, "I like to operate on electricians. You open them up and everything inside is color-coded." The fourth one said, "I like to operate on lawyers. They're heartless, spineless, gutless, and their heads and their butts are interchangeable." Fifth surgeon said, "I like Engineers...they always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end..."

The Balloonist
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a man below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man below replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet about the ground. You are between 42 and 44 degrees north latitude and between 83 and 85 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the man, "but how did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost."

The man below responded, "You must be a manager."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "how did you know?"

"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are exactly in the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

One morning a contractor called an architectural firm and asked to speak to an architect regarding a particular project.

The receptionist, with a voice full of regret, said, "I'm sorry, sir, but the architect recently died a slow, agonizing death out on a project site." The contractor stated his condolences and hung up.

About an hour later the same contractor called back and asked to speak to an architect regarding the same project. Again, the receptionist gave the contractor the bad news: "I'm sorry, sir, but the architect recently died a slow, agonizing death out on a project site." As before, the contractor mumbled his regrets and hung up.

This pattern repeated itself each hour throughout the morning, until, at last, the receptionist recognized the contractor's voice, whereupon she said to him, "Sir, why do you keep calling here when you know I'm going to say the architect has recently died a slow, agonizing death out on a project site?"

The contractor, exploding with long-suppressed maniacal laughter, gasped, "Because I love to hear you say it!" 

Quantum Business Start-Up
This cartoon brilliantly captures a quality that is essential to anyone starting a business or launching a new building product. Before the first spade of earth is turned to build a factory, for example, one has to be know that the project is a total success; even if it can't be observed yet.

Evolution and Building Products

I have developed a new theory to explain how bipedal humanoids evolved from lower orders of primates that walked on all four limbs.

My theory is based upon recent findings that apes "show engineering skills when building", in the words of the BBC. According to the research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America:
Nest-building orangutans demonstrate engineering know-how to produce safe, comfortable beds

Nest-building orangutans must daily build safe and comfortable nest structures in the forest canopy and do this quickly and effectively using the branches that surround them. This study aimed to investigate the mechanical design and architecture of orangutan nests and determine the degree of technical sophistication used in their construction. We measured the whole nest compliance and the thickness of the branches used and recorded the ways in which the branches were fractured. Branch samples were also collected from the nests and subjected to three-point bending tests to determine their mechanical properties. We demonstrated that the center of the nest is more compliant than the edges; this may add extra comfort and safety to the structure. During construction orangutans use the fact that branches only break half-way across in “greenstick” fracture to weave the main nest structure. They choose thicker branches with greater rigidity and strength to build the main structure in this way. They then detach thinner branches by following greenstick fracture with a twisting action to make the lining. These results suggest that orangutans exhibit a degree of technical knowledge and choice in the construction of nests.
So how does this explain the evolution of humans that walk on the ground instead of climbing in trees?

Simple -- How else could a sales rep deliver samples if the rep had to use all four limbs for climbing.  ;-)
Artist Unknown
Abstract:, accessed 2012-Apr-16, 

Authors: Adam van Casteren, William I. Sellers, Susannah K. S. Thorpe, Sam Coward, Robin H. Crompton, Julia P. Myatt, A. Roland Ennos

Friends with Posts

Wouldn't it be great if this was part of a promotional campaign by a light pole manufacturer!

Image found on Facebook, creator unknown.

Where Young Architects Learn

I recently discovered Architexts, a cartoon published at by two young architects that tell it like it is.

Most of the strips deal with the frustrations of CAD, interoffice politics, and the difficulties of making a living as an architect. Some of their cartoons, however, contain insights that are valuable for building product sales and marketing people. 

I plan to  occasionally repost some of the strips and offer my comments about them in this blog. 

There is a lot of truth to the strip above. To a large extent, architectural schools teach theory, and architectural practices focus on production. This educational vacuum creates opportunities for building product firms to build their brand and get specified by providing training to young architects

Good building product sales reps, for example, take time to answer questions from young architects. Continuing education programs - both in an architect's office and in other venues -- are also excellent tools.

Your website, print collateral, articles in industry publications and online, and other marketing communications play an important role, too.

An educated, trained customer is more likely to appreciate and stick with better quality products.

 Published February 2nd, 2010,
Creative Commons License Architexts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
This means you are allowed to download our work and share it with others as long as you mention
Architexts and link back to us. You can't, however, change it in any way or use it commercially.

The Optics of Advertising

I recently had a little lesson in the power of visuals in advertising.

I had knee surgery, and was surprised to learn - afterwards - that I would not be allowed to walk at all on that leg for 4-6 weeks.  This required some fast re-arranging of my life.  Hobbling on the other leg with crutches or a walker quickly produced more collateral damage than I found acceptable.  I realized I needed some kind of mobilized transport.

I picked up a used 2-wheeled electric Razor scooter, a model with a seat.  It's about a yard long, and can maneuver around in the house reasonably well, but it looks like a toy.  Standing on one leg, I can just manage to lift it into the back seat of my car.  However, I was concerned about going abroad with it, specifically, about being thrown out of stores if I tried to ride it inside.  Would I look like a person with a disability and a legitimate reason to ride into Home Depot?  Or would I look like an arrested-adolescent joyrider, worthy of the disapproving sniff, or perhaps even the bum's rush?

I decided it was an advertising problem.  It needed the quality that all good advertising needs in the information-overload age: The Fast Read.  I needed to convey to store personnel and other shoppers - at first sight - that I wasn't stepping over the line, because I couldn't walk.

I took off one shoe.

(I was wearing white socks that first day, which made it even better.)

When I rolled into OSH, two employees parted before me like they were auditioning for the roll of The Red Sea in the remake of The Ten Commandments.  One of them blurted, "Nice!"

(I might add that when I go places with a walker but wearing both shoes, I get some doubtful looks.  Which is to say, ineffective advertising can hurt your credibility.)

Effective advertising talks about the one thing that's most worth saying, and finds a way to say it with maximum efficiency.  Often, that is visually.   Sometimes, it's just a few words.  A single ad can't carry the whole sales pitch; it's the all-important foot in the door, where the sales pitch can begin.  Pick the right thing to say, and the best way to say it.

You have got to be kidding!

A sense of humor is a great asset for a building product sales rep. A good joke can help thaw a cold prospect, defuse a tense negotiation, and salve your wounds.

I have found an excellent trove of jokes about engineers at Most of them work just as well if you exchange "architect" or "contractor" for "engineer."

Here are a few examples that I hope you enjoy:

A New Element Discovered!
A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. This new element has been tentatively named "Administratium."

Administratium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 111 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by a force called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Administratium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Administratium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Administratium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay but instead undergoes reorganization. In fact, Administratium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization causes some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Administratium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "critical morass." You will know it when you see it...

An enthusiastic but somewhat unscrupulous salesman was waiting to see the purchasing agent of an engineering firm. The salesman was there to submit his company's bid, or price quote, for a particular job. He couldn't help but notice, however, that a competitor's bid was on the purchasing agent's desk. Unfortunately, the actual figure was covered by a juice can.

The temptation to see the amount quoted became too much, and the salesman reached over and lifted the can. His heart sank as he watched thousands of BB pellets pour from the bottomless can and scatter across the floor.

How to Find the Height of a Building
An engineering student, a Physics student, and a Mathematics student were each given $150 and were told to use the money to find out exactly how tall a particular hotel was.

All three ran off, extremely keen on how to do this. The Physics student went out, purchased some stopwatches, a number of ball bearings, a calculator, and got some friends. He had them all time the drop of ball bearings from the roof, and he then figured out the height from the time it took for the bearings to accelerate from rest until they impacted with the sidewalk.

The Math student waited until the sun was going down, then she took out her protractor, plumb line, measuring tape, and scratch pad, measured the length of the shadow, found the angle the building's roof made from the ground, and used trigonometry to figure out the height of the building.

These two students bumped into the Engineering student the next day, who was nursing a really bad hangover. When asked what he did to find the height of the building he replied: "Well, I walked up to the bell hop, gave him 10 bucks, asked him how tall the hotel was, and hit the bar inside for happy hour!"

Not Obsolete Yet...
John was well respected for his engineering knowledge. When a new computer system was put in to help with the engineering duties, the brass at the company was given a demonstration of the new systems abilities. To give the computer as test, the brass asked the computer a solve a difficult engineering equation. The computer promptly responded back with the perfect answer, "Ask John."

Building a Fence
An engineer, a physicist and a mathematicians have to build a fence around a flock of sheep, using as little material as possible.

The engineer forms the flock into a circular shape and constructs a fence around it.

The physicist builds a fence with an infinite diameter and pulls it together until it fits around the flock.

The mathematicians thinks for a while, then builds a fence around himself and defines himself as being outside.

Arguing with an Engineer
Arguing with an engineer is a lot like wrestling in the mud with a pig. After a few hours, you realize that he likes it.

Common Sense

During the heat of the space race in the 1960's, NASA decided it needed a ball point pen to write in the zero gravity confines of its space capsules.

After considerable research and development, the Astronaut Pen was developed at a cost of $1 million. The pen worked and also enjoyed some modest success as a novelty item back here on earth.

The Soviet Union, when faced with the same problem, used a pencil.

The Guillotine
Three men are sentenced to death for various crimes against a mythical and oppressive state. One is a priest, another is a drunkard and the third is an engineer.

The first to face the executioner is the priest. When asked if he wanted to lie face down or face up on the guillotine, he said, "I'll lie face up! I have nothing to fear. The Lord is on my side!" So he lay on his back and faced the razor-sharp blade. When it was released, the blade fell half way and stopped. The executioner exclaimed, "This must be divine intervention. You are pardoned, and you may leave."

The next was the drunkard. When asked the same question, he chose to lie face up like the priest, saying, "I'm a drunk, not an idiot!" So he lay on his back too, facing the sharp blade as the sun glinted off its keen edge. Again, the blade fell only half way and stopped. The executioner exclaimed, "The Lord is generous today. You are pardoned, and you may also leave."

Finally, it was time for the engineer. He also chose to lie on his back. After all, it seemed that was the lucky thing to do that day. He lay on his back looking up at the heavy blade tensing against the rope. Just before the blade was let loose, he shouted, "Wait! I think I see the problem!"

Efficiency Expert
The efficiency expert concluded his lecture with a note of caution. "You don't want to try these techniques at home."

"Why not?" asked someone from the back of the audience.

"I watched my wife's routine at breakfast for years," the expert explained.

"She made lots of trips to the refrigerator, stove, table and cabinets, often carrying just a single item at a time. 'Hon,' I suggested, 'Why don't you try carrying several things at once?'"

The voice from the back asked, "Did it save time?"

The expert replied, "Actually, yes. It used to take her 20 minutes to get breakfast ready. Now I do it in seven."

The next one lets the engineer be the hero, and give marketing consultants like Chusid Associates a once-over.

Sales and Marketing Experts
A group of Sales and Marketing experts were given the assignment of measuring the height of a flagpole. Wearing suits and ties, they marched out to the flagpole with their ladders and tape measures, falling all over themselves to get an accurate reading.

An Engineer comes along and sees what they're trying to do. He walks over, pulls the flagpole out of the ground, lays it flat on the ground, measures it from end to end, gives the measurement to one of the so-called experts, puts the pole back vertically into its slot in the ground and walks away.

After the Engineer has gone, the sales guy turns to a marketing guy and laughs. "Isn't that just like an Engineer?" he says. "We're looking for the height, and he gives us the length!"

Add your favorite joke in the comments, below.

Digital Asset Management

Chusid Associates has recently entered the field of Digital Assets Management (DAM). We have invested in a new piece of DAM software to help us do our DAM job. This is a DAM-useful piece of software that simplifies many DAM projects. Its Graphics On Demand (GOD) capabilities allow us to quickly and easily produce a ### DAM slideshow, webpage, or presentation. If you would like us to help organize your DAM assets, let me know. Chusid Associates – We give a DAM!

Underestimating our Future

Michael Chusid will be a keynote speaker at the CSI West Region Conference to be held in Spring 2012. His presentation will be during a Vendor Appreciation Luncheon. With both design professionals and sales reps in attendance, any guess who picks up the bar bill?

Here is the write-up on announcing the event:

Underestimating our Future

It's been said, "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." (Bill Gates) With that in mind, Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, ACI, CWA, SCIP, EIEIO*, fearlessly prognosticates a decade into the future to help us reimagine the next few years. He interprets auguries about building design and construction, material science and product trends, and whether sales reps and specifiers will, at last, find true love and commitment with each other.

Michael is author or ghost writer of over two hundred published articles about architecture, building products and marketing, and publisher of As president of Chusid Associates (, the leading marketing and technical consultant to the building product industry, he has seen untold numbers of innovations crash and burn, yet is adamant that his predictions will be just as wrong as those of anyone else. 
While the tone is lighthearted, the topic is crucial for construction industry professionals in a changing market.

* For those uninitiated, the author is parodying the CSI practice of making liberal use of professional credentials following names. EIEIO is a group for individuals with more than five sets of initials after their name.

A handy visual guide to modern architecture

To help start your week off right, enjoy this nice infographic summarizing the styles of several well-known modern architects:

Modern Architecture 101

The Lighter Side of Concrete - an occasional series


Concrete is the most heavily used building material in the world.  In many applications, there seem to be no practical alternatives.  But concrete, like every other material, is being re-evaluated in terms of its environmental impact.  The concrete industry is working on ways to green its products.

In the meantime, I would like to suggest a widely available, rapidly-renewable-resource-based concrete alternative: oatmeal

The possibilities of this product were suggested to me late one night during World of Concrete, in the bar of one of the lesser-known Vegas hotels. I awoke the next morning with the question pounding in my head: Could it really be as simple as adding a heating element into the mixer of a concrete truck?

The purpose of this article, then, is to examine the feasibility of converting the North American readymix industry to construction-grade oatmeal.

The Material
Construction grade oatmeal should not be confused with the more common, wimpy "rolled oats" materials such as Quaker Oats (which are only acceptable for stucco and other non-loadbearing applications), nor Instant Oats, which are more suitable as a drywall-mud substitute.  Only steel-cut oats, frequently sold as "Irish Oatmeal," achieve sufficient structural properties to be considered a true concrete alternative.

The similarities are obvious.  Both materials are mixed into a viscous slurry that can be placed with a shovel, poured, or pumped (although pumping requires very high pressure equipment in the case of Irish Oatmeal).  Both contain a combination of a cementitious material and hard aggregate (if you've ever chewed Irish Oatmeal, you know about the aggregate.)  Both harden into an artificial stone within a few hours, and keep hardening for weeks or even years.

Vive La Difference!
To the casual observer, they seem like almost identical materials.  The differences are significant, however, and should not be overlooked.

First and foremost, portland cement concrete is a setting-type material, whereas oatmeal is a drying-type material, achieving hardness as its internal moisture evaporates.  This means that, as long as a cover is placed on the ready-mix truck to prevent evaporation, the oatmeal mix never gets too old to be used, no matter how bad traffic delays get.  In fact, due to the normal cooking time of oatmeal, any mix younger than 45 minutes is probably not ready for placement.  In some of our more congested cities, oatmeal may soon be the only viable readymix product.

Water can be added freely at the jobsite to keep the oatmeal workable without compromising ultimate strength.  This is in stark contrast to concrete jobs, where adding water is sometimes the stuff that lawsuits are made of.  In hot, dry regions, where concrete is often negatively affected by high placement temperatures and premature drying, oatmeal just becomes a rapid-hardening material at a bargain price.
Admixtures are sometimes used with concrete to accelerate or retard set-times, or to make the mix more workable; none of these are necessary (or useful) with oatmeal.  A common oatmeal admixture is CSH (cinnamon, sugar and homogenized milk), which actually functions both as integral pigmenting and additional cementitious material.  All three constituents are rapidly renewable resources, so that while the admixture is making the product more brown, it's also making it more green.
Fiber is sometimes added to concrete to enhance tensile strength and control cracking. Fiber is already naturally present in oatmeal, not only improving strength but, according to some studies, possibly lowering cholesterol.

Another important difference is mix design.  The strength of concrete is determined by controlling the ratio of water, cementitious materials, fine and coarse aggregate.  A high cement ratio yields stronger concrete, but cement is also the most expensive ingredient.  This gives both contractor and producer an economic incentive to use the lowest-strength mix acceptable, to save on cement costs.  Oatmeal includes both cementitious material and aggregate premixed, and all excess water evaporates, so the only strength-determining factor is how long it's cooked.  Any strength-related economic incentive, therefore, revolves around cooking-energy consumption.  Undercooked oatmeal releases an inadequate amount of cementitious material, so the mix lacks strength.  However, overcooked oatmeal breaks down the aggregate, also compromising strength.  As The Three Bears told you long ago, medium cooking is optimal.  It could be standardized throughout the industry, allowing equally high strength for every batch, with no financial disadvantage.

It is worth noting another difference.  Cement hydration in concrete releases heat, which increases after placement, sometimes creating cracking problems.  With oatmeal, the heat is put into the material during mixing, and gradually drops from then on. 

Oatmeal does undergo considerable drying shrinkage.  However, it is less of a problem than with concrete, since additional wet oatmeal can be added subsequently, and it will bond fully with previous pours.

Supply is an issue.  North America has vast amounts of land suitable for oatmeal agriculture.  However, in many regions, suitable aggregate for concrete is becoming more scarce, and price is on the rise.

It can be readily seen that oatmeal offers numerous advantages over conventional portland cement concrete.  Probably, the slowness of adoption is only due to the industry's notorious suspicion of new technologies, and the general tendency towards caution among the institutions that promulgate building codes.

The one possible downside to oatmeal is that it can be vulnerable to moisture.  Large quantities of water will tend to soften it (although, if you've ever left the pot to dry overnight and then tried to clean it, you may doubt this claim).  This means that oatmeal may be unsuitable for some extremely moist environments such as the Pacific Northwest, the ocean floor, or along the Gulf Coast.  In some of those places, however, it may offer an unexpected plus: a homeowner wiped out by flooding won't starve, since his family can always eat the foundation.

For the previous installment of this column, click here.

The Lighter Side of Concrete – an occasional series

Concrete for the Holidays

With the continued economic slowdown, each of us ought to be looking around, close to home, to see how we can contribute to the recovery.

Construction has been particularly hard hit, since its downturn began a year in advance of the overall recession.  The concrete industry, makers of the world’s most commonly used construction material, has obviously been heavily impacted.  It employs many people, all over the country, and is a worthy target for a little concerted goodwill to help out neighbors and kickstart the economy at the same time.

Here’s my proposal: Concrete for the Holidays.

Since all concrete is local, buying concrete means Buying American and supporting people in your community.  Instead of spending your holiday dollars on ephemeral foreign-made gifts, decorations, etc, why not use concrete?  Here are a few suggestions how you could support your neighborhood readymix producer without any real changes to your traditions.

House & Garden

One obvious place for concrete is your front lawn. A concrete snowman is durable and attractive. If you use photo-catalytic additives, your snowman will not only be white but self-cleaning. It’s not subject to the vagaries of the weather, either.  This is an equal opportunity snowman, well-suited to both Bismarck, North Dakota and Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s comforting to know that, even if you don’t get a white Christmas, Frosty will be there lending a cheery atmosphere to the yard and (if properly positioned) protecting your house from a ramming attack by a truck full of ammonium nitrate. And best of all, you can use it year ‘round. (In fact, good luck trying to get rid of it.)

There are many other décor possibilities.  In the absence of snow, you could place a light fall of concrete all over the lawn.  (This will save you the expense of watering in the summer, too.)

Some caution should be exercised when substituting concrete for traditional décor materials, however.  A concrete Christmas tree, for example, might be less than practical, even assuming the floorboards could support it.  If it dropped a needle on you, it might break your toe.

Beyond 'Tickle Me Elmo'

The holidays are, more than anything else, about the spirit of giving.  Why not give the gift of concrete?  It’s such a versatile material, anyone can use some.  Who wouldn’t appreciate 2 or 3 yards of fresh, creamy concrete, delivered right to their door, to use in any way they choose?

Contact your local ready-mix supplier about getting a concrete gift certificate. Then the lucky recipient can choose whether they want a pool, a driveway, or just a cozy little bunker to ride out possible nuclear holocaust.  And for stocking stuffers, think about additives.  Everyone can use a little high range water reducer to help deal with the post-Christmas slump.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

If you celebrate Chanukah, you may be uncertain whether there’s an appropriate response to your neighbor’s elaborate Yuletide light displays.  Perhaps this is the year to build the giant concrete lawn-menorah you’ve always dreamed of, the one with the propane-powered candles spitting four-foot jets of flame into the sky and emitting a roaring, grating noise that teaches all your neighbors how to pronounce the “Ch” in Chanukah. In one simple gesture, you can advance interfaith understanding, help light up the entire neighborhood to deter prowlers, and help out your local concrete industry.

Putting a little more concrete in your holidays will not only help the economy, it’ll work right in with your New Year’s resolutions, too.  What better way to get more exercise in 2011 than breaking up all that concrete?