back to article 'I feel violated': Engineer who pointed out traffic signals flaw fined for 'unlicensed engineering'

Last year, Mats Järlström was fined $500 for revealing troubling flaws in the mathematical formula used to govern the timing of US traffic lights. Järlström, a Swedish electronics engineer who has lived in America for more than two decades, realized there was a design fault in traffic systems after his wife got a ticket from …

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Bureaucracy

He shouldn't have used math. It makes governments nervous.

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Coat

Re: Bureaucracy

Weapons of math destruction! That's terrrarism!

Mine's the one with the terrorbyte disk in the pocket.

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Trollface

Re: Bureaucracy

No, it's American culture. Years ago I read a voyaging journal by a young French sailor of considerable renown. (Damn, I wish I could remember more... but anyway) He had encountered bureaucracy around the globe, and got along just fine. Until the Panama Canal, controlled by the Americans. I remember vividly his statement, "When it comes to bureaucratic hostility, pettiness, and obstruction, the Americans are without equal!" (Thats paraphrasing, as close as I can remember.) It stuck with me. I'm a Yank, and I've lived with our native-born bureaucrats.

Oregon is NOT the exception. In all areas of bureaucratic practice at all levels in the U.S., it is more the rule. We pride ourselves in rigid, unbending enforcement of "the rules."

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Black Helicopters

Re: Bureaucracy

"If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won't." - Admiral Hyman Rickover

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Re: Bureaucracy

And the US elites can not understand way the us lower life forms despise them. They wil use any means to stifle debate that shows they are incompetent monkeys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bureaucracy

Oregon is NOT the exception. In all areas of bureaucratic practice at all levels in the U.S., it is more the rule. We pride ourselves in rigid, unbending enforcement of "the rules."

Unless, apparently, it involves an orange billionaire who can break every rule on self enrichment, nepotism and active collusion with a foreign government to rig a vaguely democratic election process.

Just out of interest, does Oregon have any DIY stores then, or are they reserved for people who can prove they're licensed engineers? Are ballpoints, or is it still strictly a goose feather and parchment environment? Do they check at the State border for contraband such as unlicensed wrenches and hammers with their serial numbers filed off?

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Re: Bureaucracy

Way back in the mists of time, Engineers were people (usually men) who designed bridges, roads, towers, etc. Then the industrial revolution came and suddenly those who designed cars, airplaines, etc. were getting engineering degrees. The "old line" Engineers just don't believe these upstarts are engineers.

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Re: Bureaucracy

Engineers were people (usually men) who designed bridges, roads, towers, etc. Then the industrial revolution came and suddenly those who designed cars, airplaines, etc.

Generally those are referred to as "civil engineering" and "savage engineering".

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Re: Bureaucracy

What is the diffrrence between a civil engineer and a mechanical engineer?

A mechanical engineer builds weapons. A civil engineer builds targets.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bureaucracy

""When it comes to bureaucratic hostility, pettiness, and obstruction, the Americans are without equal!" "

When I started work as a young R&D engineer* my boss had spent considerable time in both the Soviet Union and the US, and he warned me before I went to the US about the bureaucracy. He said that he had been astonished to discover that Soviet bureaucracy was a lot easier to negotiate than US bureaucracy. I found this hard to believe. And then I experienced US bureaucracy.

*I don't live in Oregon so I couldn't be an engineer.

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Re: Bureaucracy

(shamelessly lifting somebody's comment): "In Canada, he'd be considered a crank by some, a prophet by others. That would be his Free Speech. The difference seems to be that he backed up his arguments with Mathematics rather than bluster or bullster. Mathematics is Truth, so Free Speech is OK so long as it isn't true? Say it ain't so, Galileo."

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Happy

Re: Bureaucracy

"Soviet bureaucracy was a lot easier". Well perhaps, you give them something and in return they give you something. See the problem, what a topic, I think we all know when it starts to smell with or without gifts.

And I think that as soon as we start this "they are all like that" and "those are all like this" then we are speaking a lot of "this" and "that", generally rubbish.

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Trollface

Re: Bureaucracy

Nice.

I already knew one reason the French and Americans have a tetchy relationship with each other - an innate conviction that they are each the start and end of civilization and God's gift to others on the planet. Whom all others should emulate.

You can now add they _both_ have head-up-the-rectum bureaucrats aplenty.

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Re: Bureaucracy

"Generally those are referred to as "civil engineering" and "savage engineering"."

I prefer the term "parallel engineers". Since most of what they design involves straight, parallel lines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bureaucracy

"They are each the start and end of civilization and God's gift to others". Only an Englishman could claim that, disturbed by competition.

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Big Brother

'rigid, unbending enforcement of "the rules"'

It's not so much the rigidness as the rule itself that's so appalling.

Suggesting a better traffic lights timing algorithm is a criminal offence?

America is off-the-charts insane.

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Re: Bureaucracy

It seems French Culture involves making a Sport of mocking and criticizing anything American.

At a Technical meeting Breakfast table in Germany, the French Delegate spent nearly half an hour criticizing Americans for their Inferior grasp of Logic. Much of his Tirade involved our failure to universally adopt the Metric System. He didn't know that I understand the French and German that he spoke exclusively in.

As courtesy, all the German Host Delegates spoke English.

When he decided to Shut Up and Eat, I gave my Host my card, and told him, "Tell Henri that they may ONLY call me AFTER they Make Their Verbs Regular".

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Re: Bureaucracy

"A mechanical engineer builds weapons. A civil engineer builds targets."

I'm a civil engineer. Before that, I was an artillery man. I know how to build hard targets.

---

SERGIUS [gravely, without moving] Captain Bluntschli.

BLUNTSCHLI. Eh ?

SERGIUS. You have deceived me. You are my rival. I brook no rivals. At six o'clock I shall be in the drilling- ground on the Klissoura road, alone, on horseback, with my sabre. Do you understand ?

BLUNTSCHLI [staring, but sitting quite at his ease] Oh, thank you : thats a cavalry man's proposal. I'm in the artillery ; and I have the choice of weapons. If I go, I shall take a machine gun. And there shall be no mistake about the cartridges this time.

(G.B. Shaw - Arms and the Man)

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Re: Bureaucracy

Oregon is very much exceptional in this sort of abuse and misuse of authority.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bureaucracy

@Graybyrd - "Oregon is NOT the exception. In all areas of bureaucratic practice at all levels in the U.S., it is more the rule. We pride ourselves in rigid, unbending enforcement of "the rules."

Not Texas. In Texas, we call Oregon the "Soviet Socialist Republic of Oregon" for a reason. And west coast companies and population are flocking to Texas for a reason.

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Re: Bureaucracy

Damned right, sir. US bureaucracy in my experience is a lot simpler to navigate than the French system. US bureaucracy is brutally up front & efficient with obtuse rules; French bureaucracy wonders why you think it shouldn't be so obstructive; and British bureaucracy would like you to come back tomorrow.

For all its faults, at least the US government is all searchable. This "engineer" rule in Oregon was very much known about beforehand. I've read similar nonsense before. The only reason French and British bureaucracy can be navigated at all is because someone somewhere took pity on you and maybe bent the rules a little. It's because those countries' rules seem to be that the license is the law. Once you have something, it's yours to keep. In the US, the rules *always* apply. An improperly issued privilege can be revoked.

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Holmes

Re: Bureaucracy

r-types (Rabbit-like people) often can't perceive risk, and can suffer "triggering" mental pain when the risk becomes damage, K-type (Wolf-like people) can easily perceive risk, so prevent/avoid it, but the r-types blindly assume that everyone else is risk blind, so push redundant regulations instead of the more rational solution of having K-type people identify risky situations. This, gangster-like protectionism and other stupid/corrupt people is why there is so much harmful bureaucracy and harmful safety nets.

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Holmes

@Oh Homer -- Re: 'rigid, unbending enforcement of "the rules"'

"America is off-the-charts insane."

You just now figured that out? Most of us that live in the States figured that out decades ago. See icon.....

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Re: Bureaucracy

Why are you constantly banging on about r-types and k-types in your comments?

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Re: Bureaucracy

Years ago, when spending some time as a draughtsman (pre CAD days too) I had it explained to me as

A Mechanical Engineer designs to the nearest thousandth

A Structural Engineer designs to the nearest 1/16th

An Architect designs to the nearest field

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Re: Bureaucracy

You're saying a FRENCHMAN said that????? My experience is that French bureaucracy is the most rigid and petty of all.

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Re: Bureaucracy

An American? Talking about regular verbs?

HINT: Dive is a regular verb whose past participle is dived, and dove is a type of bird

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Not regulated?

Actually you have to have studied engineering and get a degree in order to be allowed to call yourself an engineer. You know, like it should be. And in the civilised world it is.... ;)

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Facepalm

Re: Not regulated?

Not in UK and Ireland were any delivery person to living room, service technician, dish / aerial fitter etc is called an "engineer" even if they only did a H&S course and orientation course to know which is the pointy end of a drill.

It's demeaning to real engineers that had to get a bunch of A Levels, do a 3 to 4 year University degree and in some cases nearly a year of work experience before they are called an Engineer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

So the E in an MCSE is bollocks?

I always suspected.

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Re: Not regulated?

>in some cases nearly a year of work experience before they are called an Engineer.

That's because engineer is a generic term - in the UK, Chartered Engineer is probably what you're looking for.

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Re: Not regulated?

"you have to have studied engineering and get a degree in order to be allowed to call yourself an engineer"

From TFA "In Sweden, Järlström studied electrical engineering"

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Re: So the E in an MCSE is bollocks?

Dug up from Ye Register archives:-

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/11/12/microsoft_mcses_are_bogus_boffins/

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/11/15/i_am_an_engineer_you/

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Happy

Re: Not regulated?

Actually you have to have studied engineering and get a degree in order to be allowed to call yourself an engineer. You know, like it should be. And in the civilised world it is.... ;)

I don't give a damn about job titles. It is what the person actually does that counts. There are plenty of people who don't have degrees in engineering, or degrees at all, who actually do real engineering. Generally by physically making stuff like boats or buildings or writing software.

And if having the legally protected title of "engineer" stirs the same feelings of admiration, veneration and respect that it does for "solicitor" and "accountant", then I'll give it a miss.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

That's why there are European designations (EurIng?) and titles for qualified engineers, surely?

Even in the UK, someone who doesn't have the formal qualifications used to have alternative routes to getting Chartered Engineer status. After a physics degree and thirty years engineering work I came very close to getting formal CEng status a few years back, but my then employers attitude to CPD made me think again.

I'm sure the Institute of Engineering and Technology is looking after the interests of professional engineers in the UK. Not.

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He'd have been OK if he was a train driver

'Tis true. What we describe as "train drivers" the Merkins call "engineers." So if he'd been a train driver he could call himself an engineer quite legitimately.

Probably wouldn't pass Oregan's rules, but could still call himself an engineer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

The E in MCSE stands for "Experanced". The other letters stand for "Must", "Call", and "Someone".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

Well my company has given me the title 'Engineer' and I've got a music degree.

Go figure.

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Re: Not regulated?

"the civilised world it is"

The civilised world doesn't let some professions hijack parts of their language never mind enforce it with legislation.

Anyhow, just another twat who thinks the time and money they spent in university ought to be worth more than it is. Nowadays a degree only slightly over qualifies you to fill supermarket shelves.

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Trollface

Re: Not regulated?

Next up: racket manufacturers jailed for racketeering!

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Re: Not regulated?

My father was employed as an Engineer in Oregon without a college degree (but with a few decades of experience in large plant automation).

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Re: He'd have been OK if he was a train driver

Because steam engines really needed engineers to operate. On a steam train you could tell who the operator was by the whistle, as one of the first tasks that a new engineer was given was to design a train whistle, which they switched out every time they took over a train.

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Re: Not regulated?

That's why many years ago when IBM and Novell software & network Engineers ran into the problem they changed the E to mean Expert.

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Re: Not regulated?

The term 'Professional Engineer' over here means someone who passed a PE exam and is considered qualified to approve designs to a specific disciplines in most states. In many states one of the qualifications to sit for the exam is a technical degree; a BS in Chemistry or Physics qualifies. The entire point of the professional licensing is to insure the practitioners are competent enough to not routinely endanger human life. However, in many places, this has mutated into a guild scheme to limit the number of practitioners to increase the rates for those in the guild. Oregon's PE law seems to have gone to this extreme.

In GA, if you do not have a PE license you can not call yourself a 'Professional Engineer' nor can approve certain designs as suitable for construction. However, you can call yourself an 'engineer' without any issues.

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Re: Not regulated?

Well my company has given me the title 'Engineer' and I've got a music degree.

Well, it's better than being a DJ who thinks he's a musician (says I who is a drummer)

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Re: Not regulated?

If you're engaged in engineering, by definition, you're an engineer. Formal study be damned.

Caveat Emptor.

Personally I adopt the term technician when dealing with telephone wiring and faults, because I did not complete the communications engineering exams. But I DID do the course, and passed the mocks. So... why would engineer be a restricted term?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

The E in MCSE stands for "Experanced"

I thought it should for "Eradicated", as in "Microsoft Computing, Security Eradicated". Better update my dictionary then.

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Re: Not regulated?

"I'm sure the Institute of Engineering and Technology is looking after the interests of professional engineers in the UK. Not."

It's way, way too late for that, at least in terms of the use of "engineer". In the UK at least, "engineer" became the guy who operated the then static steam engines at the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

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Re: Not regulated?

"That's because engineer is a generic term - in the UK, Chartered Engineer is probably what you're looking for."

Unofficially, the capital E is allowed for a shortened form of Chartered status - "Engineer", "engineer" is for the others.

In IT, I generally think of people who call themselves engineers as those who have managed to stop themselves from licking the keyboard. Engineers will at least have had the presence of mind to initiate some sort of health and safety or HACCP investigation before they start licking the keyboard or they will go for the screen instead. Anyone licking the mouse is obviously a user and not an engineer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not regulated?

"The civilised world doesn't let some professions hijack parts of their language never mind enforce it with legislation."

Precisely .... as my mother found out talking to an Academic in Cambridge, When she said her husband was a Doctor she was asked what his specialism was and she said he didn't realy have a specialism as he was a GP ... there was then a frosty silence followed by the comment "Oh, I see, you mean he's a Batchelor of Medicine"

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