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Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists
philip.greenspun.com ^ | 2003 | Philip Greenspun

Posted on 10/02/2003 3:29:44 PM PDT by A. Pole

Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists

by Philip Greenspun


Site Home : Careers


Chainsaw Juggler; Venice Beach, California.

"We dangle our three magic letters before the eyes of these predestined victims, and they swarm to us like moths to an electric light. They come at a time of life when failure can no longer be repaired easily and when the wounds it leaves are permanent ... "
-- William James, "The Ph.D. Octopus", 1903

Aid to Evaluating Your Accomplishments

If you are one of MIT's 25 Nobel Laureates, or in CS at MIT, Stanford, or CMU, at the MIT Media Lab, or if you are in any department at Harvard University, please click here or here.

If you'd like to know the value that members of the opposite sex put on your advanced training, try playing The Game.


Market Street, San Francisco

I am fascinated by the 30-year decline in the relative salaries and prestige of engineers and scientists that has been accompanied by 30 years of statements by politicians and university administrators that there is a shortage of engineers and scientists.

Could the source of negative stereotypes be conditioning of youth by toy manufacturers? What about the thoughtful critiques of Artificial Intelligence research that have appeared in the media?

Naturally, the ever-expanding MIT Administration does its best to ensure that there isn't an oversupply. They've spent twenty years, for example, trying to increase the number of "underrepresented minorities" in MIT graduate school. Perhaps it is the dignified manner in which the MIT Faculty comports itself.

Of course, many computer science graduates have happy experiences, but on the whole you may be better off staying in graduate school.

[Note: I hope you don't feel, after all, that you chose the wrong college major.]



The first Two Commandments of Computer Science


Serious Stuff

Not So Very Serious Stuff

THIS IS YOUR EDUCATION, THIS IS YOUR SALARY

! $50K! ! ** ! ** * $40K! ** * Any Questions? ! ** * ! ***** * $30K! **** * ! **** * ! ***** * $20K! ***** * ! ***** * ! *** * $10K! *** * !** * ! * 0 +--------+----------+-----------+------------+---------+--*--------->

no high some Bachelor's Master's Doctor high school college Degree Degree of school diploma Philosophy diploma


Achievement Gallery

Portraits of people who are putting their advanced training to good use.

Rachel, PhD Biology UCLA 1992, enjoys the wealth of material comforts that she has accumulated during 10 years of hard work in science.

(click on the photo for a 500x750 JPEG; click here for a 1000x1500 screen-filling image)

Though the Superconducting Supercollider project was never finished, many of its research teams have stuck together in their new careers. At the upper right is a team of high-energy physicists, still hard at work on their discretized version of Quantum Chromodynamics. At the lower right, medium-energy physicist Dr. Albert Meyerstein notes that, "I miss working with Dr. Gerald Abelson on more efficient sources of pulsed spallation neutrons but I'm glad that we can continue our collaboration on the polymeric properties of automotive pigment in a detergent-rich environment."

Physicists working on Quantum Chromodynamics

Chip, PhD Chemistry Princeton '90 says "I never thought I'd be writing papers for the Journal of Root Vegetables (Fried) This career is so exciting!

Note: "Root Vegetables" is a registered trademark of the MIT Media Laboratory; not affiliated with the Journal of Root Vegetables (Steamed).

Joe, PhD Physics Stanford '86, and Mike, PhD Biochemistry UC Berkeley '88, have become entrepreneurs in Times Square.

Albert, PhD Electrical Engineering and Computer Science MIT '84 relaxing on 15th Street in New York City. "I had a tenure-track position at Carnegie-Mellon but after seven years they said it was unfair to keep me from the great opportunities outside the university."

Bob, PhD Physics University of Chicago '65 working on 5th Avenue and 20th Street in Manhattan. "The experience I had publishing in Academia has been very helpful in my new career, distributing information to the public." Of course, it was pretty tough to land any sort of position at all until I took advantage of a PhD expunging service.

Vijay and Rama find that the teamwork that got them their Harvard PhDs in astrophysics continues to pay off as they work together in the "real world".

"Ten years of graduate school is more formal preparation than is strictly needed for most musical careers, but I find the PhD gives me the confidence I need to perform before large audiences in important venues," John, Mechanical Engineering PhD. Purdue '93

Hearst Magazine Building.  New York.

David, PhD 1985 Artificial Intelligence MIT notes that "while my knowledge engineering skills don't seem to be worth much in today's C-hacking world, I'm learning Java and hanging out around the big New York publishers. I'll be a multimedia developer soon."

Java Monkeys

Stammbach, Eduard. (1988). "Group responses to specially skilled individuals in a Macaca fascicularis." Behaviour, 107 (December 1988), 241-266

Does the staggering wealth of particular engineers and programmers mean that there is any chance for nerds to rise socially?

Stammbach worked with a colony of longtailed macaques. In the paper cited above, the running header is "Responses to Specially Skilled Java Monkeys." Stammbach took the lowest-ranking macaque out of the society and taught him to operate a complex machine and obtain food. When the nerd monkey was reintroduced to the society, the higher ranking macaques stopped kicking him out of the way long enough for him to complete operation of the machine and obtain food for the community. I.e., society cooperated to create the conditions under which the nerd could toil for them. However, the monkey who acquired these special skills and provided for the society did not achieve any rise in his dominance status.

The Last Word

"A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate."

-- Unabomber Manifesto, Ted Kaczynski

Other Internet Resources

Arbeit Macht Frei.  Gate to Dachau Concentration Camp, just outside Munich, Germany



Text and pictures are copyright 1990-1998 Philip Greenspun


philg@mit.edu


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Political Humor/Cartoons; Technical
KEYWORDS: economy; free; freemarket; freetrade; jobs; market; outsourcing; recession
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1 posted on 10/02/2003 3:29:44 PM PDT by A. Pole
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To: Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; Jhoffa_; FITZ; arete; FreedomPoster; bwteim; ...
Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists

Might be useful.

2 posted on 10/02/2003 3:30:33 PM PDT by A. Pole ("Is 87 billion dollars a great deal of money? Yes. Can our country afford it?" [Secretary Rumsfeld])
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To: A. Pole
Oh, piffle. I know an engineer who's cleaning up. A Sanitary Engineer.
3 posted on 10/02/2003 3:32:21 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: All
We're On A Mission From God
Help us make our 4th quarter fundraising goal in record time!

4 posted on 10/02/2003 3:32:48 PM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: A. Pole
LOL


PhD in CS with a 6-figure salary & countin' my blessings BUMP.
5 posted on 10/02/2003 3:36:47 PM PDT by WOSG (DONT PUT CALI ON CRUZ CONTROL & VOTE YES ON 54!)
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To: A. Pole
Now I know exactly what the problem is -- too many people on this list have advanced degrees from prestigious schools.

I'm busy as hell here in my corner of the engineering world, but I will never hire someone with an advanced degree from a prestigious school.

6 posted on 10/02/2003 3:36:54 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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To: A. Pole
Is "Move To India" on the list?
7 posted on 10/02/2003 3:38:38 PM PDT by AntiGuv (When the countdown hits zero, something's gonna happen..)
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To: A. Pole
Thanks for posting. Many of my classmates will be graduating in a year or two and will have to make the choice of whether to go on to grad school full time or take the first job offer from industry and go to school nights.
8 posted on 10/02/2003 3:41:28 PM PDT by RightWhale (Repeal the Law of the Excluded Middle)
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To: Billthedrill
Seriesly, what sort of jerk hates topology? Idiots.
9 posted on 10/02/2003 3:50:59 PM PDT by patton (I wish we could all look at the evil of abortion with the pure, honest heart of a child.)
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To: A. Pole
Step 1: Change majors.
10 posted on 10/02/2003 3:57:10 PM PDT by Wolfie
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To: A. Pole
Massive shortages of engineers and scientists- another untruth foisted on the gullible public to get cheap workers for the military industrial complex. Engineers need an organization like the AMA to limit the number of engineers coming out of school and drive salaries up.
11 posted on 10/02/2003 4:01:17 PM PDT by Rockitz (After all these years, it's still rocket science.)
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To: Alberta's Child
How does a BS in Ocean Engineering from Rhode Island sound? I don't want to be sleeping in the street...
12 posted on 10/02/2003 4:02:07 PM PDT by zoso82t
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To: A. Pole
I have to stop spending so much time browsing the listings on Monster.com, careerbuilder.com, dice.com, and the threads at FreeRepublic.com and work on my novel.
13 posted on 10/02/2003 4:08:22 PM PDT by Alouette (Neocon Zionist Media Operative)
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To: A. Pole
bump
14 posted on 10/02/2003 4:12:35 PM PDT by VOA
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To: zoso82t
How does a BS in Ocean Engineering from Rhode Island sound?

How often does the ocean need engineering?

15 posted on 10/02/2003 4:14:55 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
Oil platforms in a deepwater environment need enormous amounts of engineering.
16 posted on 10/02/2003 4:17:57 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: A. Pole
I've got a high school diploma, three years of college basically majoring in history, and a career in networking that I just started five years ago at the age of 45. I'm racking my brains trying to figure out how I've managed to earn a decent living when all these highly-educated people are standing idly about for want of work.

17 posted on 10/02/2003 4:24:30 PM PDT by Agnes Heep
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To: A. Pole
You're just trying to piss me off, aren't you?

Did I relate the story about the job as an electrician that I had two years ago?

My boss got paid $120 per hour for my services and that of my helper (he paid me $14 and my helper $8), so he always had us dig trenches by hand rather than renting a trencher - he got paid more that way.

So one day my helper and I were digging a particularly difficult trench through rocky soil, and we got to talking. Somehow it came up that I had earned a BSEE in the sixties. He suggested that I was probably into the drug scene back then, to which I responded, "No, I was studying ten hours per day so that someday I could have a good job like this one".

After we stopped laughing, he got more serious. He told me, "Myself, I dropped out of high school. I moved furniture and drove 18-wheelers all my life. I have been in jail several times. But look, here we are doing the same job!"

18 posted on 10/02/2003 5:19:02 PM PDT by snopercod
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To: zoso82t
Sounds pretty good, but I wonder if your degree isn't too narrowly focused. I usually recommend a more general degree like civil engineering or electrical engineering at the undergraduate level. What exactly does "ocean engineering" involve?
19 posted on 10/02/2003 5:26:24 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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To: snopercod
Sounds like you should charge $100 per hour for your services, $80 per hour for your assistant's services (while paying him $35 per hour), and drive your old boss out of business.
20 posted on 10/02/2003 5:29:09 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("To freedom, Alberta, horses . . . and women!")
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To: zoso82t
How does a BS in Ocean Engineering from Rhode Island sound? I don't want to be sleeping in the street...

Even if you got your BS in Long Island Sound, in this economy you may still be sleeping in the street.

21 posted on 10/02/2003 5:36:06 PM PDT by The_Media_never_lie
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To: snopercod
As a BSEE of the University of Washington, I recently got to work as a landscaping digger on my alma mater. I was making $8.63 an hour as a temp, and I only get work about half the time. I was working alongside an illegal immigrant making $13/hr under the table (which is like $18 an hour above the table) and who got hired his first day as a temp (even though that's probably a violation of the rules of his temp agency . . . but he'll never tell!).

Actually, 'working alongside' is a misstatement. They hired me because the weather was really hot and the work was really hard and they couldn't hire an illegal immigrant willing to do it. So basically, at age 47, I was doing the work that illegal immigrants won't do.

22 posted on 10/02/2003 5:36:10 PM PDT by JoeSchem (Schwarzenegger for Guv: Winning is everything, and character doesn't count!)
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To: A. Pole
In Business 2.0 is this article:

The Coming Job Boom

Forget those grim unemployment numbers. Demographic forces are about to put a squeeze on the labor supply that will make it feel like 1999 all over again.

I read this article while waiting at my son's dentist office. Out of the Top 10 jobs that will be in demand, 8 of them (if I recall correctly) are in the tech sector.

23 posted on 10/02/2003 5:41:40 PM PDT by NotJustAnotherPrettyFace
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To: A. Pole
Philip Greenspun is an interesting case. He hung around MIT for a while and then set up a company call ArsTechnica. He figured out how to develop Web sites using relational databases as back-ends. He wrote a cool book about it, said he didn't want to do business the usual way (i.e., taking venture capital), sold out to Red Hat at the peak of the dot-com bubble, totally pissed off Red Hat, and retired with millions, leaving all his programmers trying to find jobs in "Dot-Com Winter".

He also has a cool Web site, an interesting travelogue Travels with Samantha, an online version of his book Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, and an interesting lawsuit.

24 posted on 10/02/2003 5:49:36 PM PDT by AZLiberty
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To: NotJustAnotherPrettyFace; A. Pole; Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; Jhoffa_; FITZ; ...
Demographic forces are about to put a squeeze on the labor supply that will make it feel like 1999 all over again.

And what demographic force might that be . .

Too many over 50 applicants and not enough young ones?

25 posted on 10/02/2003 7:06:46 PM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: AZLiberty; NotJustAnotherPrettyFace; A. Pole; Willie Green; Wolfie; ex-snook; Cacophonous; ...
and retired with millions, leaving all his programmers trying to find jobs in "Dot-Com Winter".

You know, it occurs to me that such success stories must always be a minority of the population.

Because were everyone to be a billionaire--they would all be competing for the same goods, so the price of those goods would rise until no one is rich, even though they're each worth billions.

Now were one to argue that everyone could be be worth billions and still be rich if we lived in a world where the cost of producing goods was so low, that everything is made by self-replicating solar-powered robots for free.

But then, most people would not be able to have more than the next guy, which would make them not "feel" superior.

And so that would be a nightmare world for the majority of the wealthy who seek to accumulate money as means to assuage their feelings of inferiority.

So it would appear that no matter how much we try, money will never really make us happy--only less miserable at best.

26 posted on 10/02/2003 7:18:52 PM PDT by Age of Reason
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To: A. Pole
Oh, and another thing - us old propeller-heads know stuff the young 'uns will never get to learn. I'm keeping my COBOL skills up to date for Y3K, for example. Gonna be rich.
27 posted on 10/02/2003 7:22:24 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: A. Pole
Vijay and Rama find that the teamwork that got them their Harvard PhDs in astrophysics continues to pay off as they work together in the "real world".

Vijay and Rama need to move back to Bangalore. They may end up living in a mud hut, but they'll be on the cutting odge of computing evolution.

28 posted on 10/02/2003 9:06:11 PM PDT by Euro-American Scum
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To: A. Pole
Question for the free-trade/borders types that might read this thread:

Are high wages (excepting doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, and real estate agents, of course) bad for an economy? If so, how can you still call yourself a supply-sider?

29 posted on 10/02/2003 9:42:00 PM PDT by sixmil
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To: hollywood; harpseal; Myrddin
Ping
30 posted on 10/02/2003 11:09:28 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Alouette
I have to stop spending so much time browsing the listings on Monster.com, careerbuilder.com, dice.com, and the threads at FreeRepublic.com and work on my novel.

Sounds like a plan to me.


31 posted on 10/02/2003 11:12:16 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Dog Gone
"Oil platforms in a deepwater environment need enormous amounts of engineering."

Not when the democRATs keep blocking offshore drilling.

32 posted on 10/02/2003 11:28:16 PM PDT by nightdriver
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To: NotJustAnotherPrettyFace
Through Google I found a link to the Business 2.0 article that doesn't require a subscription:

The Coming Job Boom.


33 posted on 10/02/2003 11:53:43 PM PDT by AZLiberty
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To: JoeSchem
I can relate. But you should prepare yourself for more good news.

Once you hit 50, nobody will hire you as an engineer. Your only options will be to go into business for yourself or get out of engineering altogether.

34 posted on 10/03/2003 3:04:26 AM PDT by snopercod (Once, I built a railroad...)
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To: nightdriver
The Gulf of Mexico is a very large place. In addition, other countries don't ban offshore drilling, and those facilities are designed here, not in places like Angola.
35 posted on 10/03/2003 7:15:56 AM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
".....other countries don't ban offshore drilling, and those facilities are designed here, not in places like Angola."

I'm all for it. Hope there is a lot of activity in that area.

36 posted on 10/03/2003 8:04:09 AM PDT by nightdriver
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To: snopercod
"Once you hit 50, nobody will hire you as an engineer."

'Fraid you're more right than wrong. Not only won't they hire you, they won't even bother to reply with a decent "get screwed" letter.

37 posted on 10/03/2003 8:08:29 AM PDT by nightdriver
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To: AZLiberty
Greenspun's book definitely contained some good advice (especially considering when it was written) but his attitude and focus on only one best way to do things didn't help. As I explained to a young genius I once worked with, smart people may know more than other people but if they show contempt for those who aren't as smart as they are, those less smart people won't want to deal with them.
38 posted on 10/03/2003 8:22:57 AM PDT by Question_Assumptions
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To: nightdriver
I sent out sixty resumes for engineering jobs last year, and only got ONE rejection note or e-mail. The rest didn't waste a stamp.

I gave up on engineering and am working as an architectural designer now, basically doing stuff I learned in high school drafting. My career has gone full circle.

39 posted on 10/03/2003 8:28:38 AM PDT by snopercod (Once, I built a railroad...)
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To: rdb3
might be of interest, sir
40 posted on 10/03/2003 8:32:48 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
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To: snopercod
"...My career has gone full circle."

We're in the same boat, buddy. Just as I have the experience and knowlege to avoid all sorts of pitfalls in engineering projects, I'm considered worthless.

Whata surprise.

41 posted on 10/03/2003 8:34:52 AM PDT by nightdriver
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To: JoeSchem
As a BSEE of the University of Washington, I recently got to work as a landscaping digger on my alma mater. I was making $8.63 an hour as a temp, and I only get work about half the time.

I can't believe this. I graduated as an ME in '84 although I've never worked as one (by choice). I remember that EE's could write their own ticket back then. My how times have changed. I also remember that EE was very, very tough. It has to be tougher than med or law school.

42 posted on 10/03/2003 8:52:15 AM PDT by Aquinasfan (Isaiah 22:22, Rev 3:7, Mat 16:19)
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To: clamper1797; sarcasm; BrooklynGOP; A. Pole; Zorrito; GiovannaNicoletta; Caipirabob; Paul Ross; ...
Ping on or off let me know
43 posted on 10/03/2003 9:07:31 AM PDT by harpseal (stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Travis McGee
Ah yes the American engineers are out of work or no longer in engineering so we can give experience to foreign engineers primarily from India and China in the latestest and greatest technology.
44 posted on 10/03/2003 9:08:42 AM PDT by harpseal (stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: A. Pole
hmmmmm....

BTW, I am a Mechanical Engineer.

45 posted on 10/03/2003 9:44:37 AM PDT by sauropod (I love the women's movement. Especially walking behind it.)
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To: Alberta's Child
It's hard to say what it involves, because there's a piece of everything in there. I do structural/civil type stuff for offshore structures and coastal landscapes, mechanical aspects of ocean-going systems such as pumps, also electrical when it comes to instrumentation and acoustics. Basically, it's every kind of engineering rolled into one degree, all based on aquatic applications.
46 posted on 10/03/2003 11:39:17 AM PDT by zoso82t
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To: harpseal
It's either the worst treason or the worst stupidity in history, or both.
47 posted on 10/03/2003 2:02:46 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: Travis McGee
Since the people doing it are supposedly brilliant managers I think we have the evolution of the term Free Traitor for them.
48 posted on 10/03/2003 3:05:41 PM PDT by harpseal (stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: harpseal
"Free Traitor!" I love it, did you come up with that?

Classic libertarian capitalists who sell rope to Lenin, or rockets and nuke designs to the Chinese.

49 posted on 10/03/2003 7:12:58 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- www.EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com -----)
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To: A. Pole
Career Guide for Engineers and Computer Scientists

1. The best shopping carts are at Safeway's. Wal-mart's shopping carts are trash.
2. Refrigerator boxes make a nice instant private bedroom.
3. Beg for quarters and spend it on day-old bakery goods. You won't starve.

I've changed my career direction from getting a Ph.D. in computer science to getting a Ph.D. aimed at doing medical research.
50 posted on 10/03/2003 7:18:44 PM PDT by Nataku X
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