Author Archives: Joy

Chinese Red Eggs

Piece
H: Because the infant death rate was so high, people used to celebrate the baby’s birth after one month, so one month is actually their birthday. If they can, there is a big party and everyone gets red eggs. Ah-ma’s family was too poor to have a big party, but they give red eggs to the neighbors instead.
J: Why red eggs?
H: They’re a symbol of good luck and fortune. Also chicken eggs and chicken are a special treat in Taiwan. So the eggs are chicken eggs and red is for good things. [pause] You give them to people for other birthdays too, particularly for older people. Grandparents. Parents. Like 50 or 60. You give them red eggs too. You make red rice cakes stuffed with red bean. Anything with red bean paste. Mold it and make it the shape of, umm, the word doesn’t come out, a, a turtle! The rice cake in the shape of a turtle to symbolize long life. And if the person is older than you, you bow to them. When it’s their birthday, you bow to them.

Context
The informant learned this traditon from their mother who was born in Taiwan where this was a practice in their village and aided in throwing the red egg party for their neice.
This story was shared upon request by the collector when asking about various cultural traditions.

My Thoughts
I vaguely remember a red egg party for one of my first cousins. We dressed in red, fancy clothes and brought gifts. We ate red eggs and many other delicious foods and treats. Everything was red from the paper banners to the tablecloths to the food.
While red being a good color in Chinese culture is nothing new to me, I was surprised to hear at least some of the reasoning behind the eggs. In America, chicken is pretty cheap and easily available. Yet, for the informant, having chicken or chicken eggs was special and for celebratory occasions only.

Fail Faster

Piece
On my robotics team, we follow the saying “fail faster”. Starting from our first meeting, to our last match at champs, our design mentor always tells us to fail faster. By failing faster, we innovate faster. Failing faster encourages us, regardless of subteam, to think outside the box; to think big. When we know that something doesn’t work, we reflect off of it. What went well, what didn’t go well. This reflection helps us find a design or a plan of attack that works best for our team needs. We pass down the motto of fail faster both through mentors and students. Mentors always encourage us to fail faster, but so do the students. Like mentioned before, we encourage students regardless of subteam to think about side the box. Have a crazy design for a climber, or a new idea for an outreach event, let the team hear it.
Context
The informant shared this via an electronic platform of individuals who participate in the international robotics program in a conversation about team mottos. The informant is a student on their robotics team where the motto has been passed down from student to student and shared by older students and the team mentors. The motto “fail faster” is not the official motto of the team, but is the one that students are familiar with and feel the team works by. It has also become a motto for the students as they become engineering students and adults.
My Thoughts
This is an unofficial motto of my own robotics team, though less so than the informant. I have heard it in other teams as well as in some start-up level engineering companies and SpaceX. The idea is that if you just get something out and see it fail, you’ll move faster towards the right solution than trying to iterate in theoretical space until the design is perfect. This motto encourages members of those teams and companies to see failure as a learning opportunity more than anything. It tries to build a collaborative culture that pushes for innovation because they are okay if the mechanism doesn’t work. This motto can then overflow out of the workplace as individuals become more willing to take chances in life and try something new. They are taught to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and to make the most of it is coming up with a new solution or way forward. Furthermore, encouraging failure promotes inclusiveness. New members don’t have to be afraid of giving an idea because failure is something everyone does and experiences and the faster they get around to doing it, the more they will learn.

Order of Operations Mnemonic Device

Piece
PEMDAS- Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally
Context
The informant was introduced to this mnemonic device in late elementary school and middle school as a method to learn the order of operation: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. When solving a mathematical equation, the order that one performs the operations is important to reach the final answer. The students were taught “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally”; however, the informant and many other students in the class would change to simply say “Pemdas”, a made-up word, but one they could still remember. The phrase was less appealing to the informant and their peers as it was long and required them to break down the phrase into the first letters of each word to get the actual desired content.
My Thoughts
The students were taught the phrase “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally” by their teachers, but instead made their own mnemonic device to better match their preferences. The shorter device may point to a desire for efficiency in those who use it as they prefer a more straight-forward learning method than one that might be seen as ‘creative’.

Engineering vs. Arts Degree Joke

The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?” The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?” The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?” The graduate with an Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”
Context
In a group discussion including college freshmen and high school seniors over what major the students were studying or thinking about studying, one high school senior said they were trying to decide between being an engineering major versus an art major. One of the college freshmen then shared the joke. The group was comprised of students and alumni of the robotics program, so all were at least thinking about pursuing STEM majors.
My Thoughts
This is a commentary on the massive pay difference between the average engineering (most STEM) majors and arts majors. It is a way for the rivalry in high school between those who are more STEM minded versus the arts-minded to poke fun at one another. The joke can mean a couple of different things. One, it can be a reminder to students who have interests in both fields that a job in the arts is less stable and guaranteed paycheck wise than a career in engineering. The second is to feed the ego and feelings of superiority that many want-to-be-engineers have in the pre and early college years (and beyond for some).

Engineer’s Rounding Joke

Piece
“pi=10, it also equals 3 and e=3 so pi=e!”
Context
When talking about safety factors, the informant, an engineering student, shared the joke. Because engineers are always concerned about the safety of the users of their products (because getting sued is no fun) and like to account for the things more difficult to account for, one way to introduce a safety factor is to make pi equal to 10 in all calculations. This massive rounding then prompted the follow up of simply rounding e (~2.718) and pi (~3.14) could simply be rounded to 3 for simpler calculations and that error would be accounted for with the safety factor.
My Thoughts
This joke has some practicality to it by reminding engineers to have large safety factors to ensure the safety of their designs, it is also a joke on the rather flippant view of numbers that engineers have as it doesn’t always need to be precise but simply overkill enough for the application. I also relate this to the idea that engineers are lazy and so create processes and machines to ensure they can be lazy at the desired times. Multiplying or dividing by 10 is about as lazy as it gets in math.