Finding extraordinary engineers for exceptional clients


October 7th, 2011

By Judy Talley

I am a person of habit.  If at all possible, I like to start my morning slowly with a tall mug of freshly brewed Kona coffee and the newspaper.

I’ve read that newspapers are going the way of the wing-window on the automobile.  This is evidenced by the fact that each day my local paper becomes thinner and thinner, and the news becomes less news and more commentary.  But, that is the topic of another blog.   As long as there is a puzzle section, I will pay my monthly subscription, and shuffle out to the street each morning, rain or shine, (and in Seattle there is lots of rain) to find my paper.  Why?  Because, I am a self-confessed SUDOKU junkie – and there is a SUDOKU puzzle in the newspaper every day.

For my readers who don’t play SUDOKU yet, and I emphasize, “yet”, it is a superb game of logic!  The newspaper version is easiest on Monday, presumably because one needs a break on Monday, and steadily becomes more difficult as the week progresses.  By Friday the SUDOKU is virtually impossible to solve without writing hints in the blocks which will be erased as the answer becomes evident. 

When I first started doing SUDOKU, I tried to do them in pen, as I often do crosswords.  What a disaster!  What a marked-over mess!  So, out of desperation, I sharpened up some # 2’s.  Very quickly I remembered why I had given up the pencil as an inferior writing instument at some early time in my scholastic history.  They were never sharp enough, often seemed too light to read easily, and the erasers smudged on the newsprint. 

I must have grumbled loudly; because, one day my husband, bless his heart, surprised me with an entire pack of disposable Papermate Sharpwriter #2 Mechanical Pencils.  Now, I know my Engineer readers will be stunned at this revelation; but, I honestly had rarely used a mechanical pencil.  I have a vague memory of using my Father’s once or twice as a young child, as he was a mechanical pencil devotee, but gave up pencils altogether, except for sketching, by the time I was seven or so. 

Imagine my surprise when I took the Sharpwriter in my hand.  The weight, diameter, balance and texture of the Sharpwriter #2 seemed –  perfect, absolutely – PERFECT.  No ridges!  The graphite was just the desired texture – not too thin, not to thick, and the eraser easily capable of cleaning up all of my numerical hints on newsprint with ease!  There was even a clip to slip over ones pocket-protector – if one was a pocket-protector kind of guy or gal!  Of course, I don’t need a pocket-protector in my robe and pajamas.  I fell in love!

I have five of these pencils sitting next to me on my desk as I write.  I pick one up and turn it over in my hand – and there it is – the piece d’ resistance, the cherry on top, the cream in my breve latte!  “U.S.A.” is stamped boldly and proudly on the side! 

Who designed this wonderful tool?  I imagine a group of Engineers sitting in small gray cubicles, in close proximity to one another, making design decisions.  “What type of graphite should we use? John, you do the study on that.”  “What diameter should the pencil barrel be?  Carol, you come up with the specs on that.”  “What kind of casing material shall we use – light yet sturdy?  Jeff, your specialty is plastics.  Bring us back a recommendation.”  “What kind of eraser material – soft and clean?  Darrell, you spend more time erasing than anyone else – you take the eraser.”  I can see it all so clearly. Kaizen!

Did anyone win a design award for the Sharpwriter?  They should have.   

 Someone once said, “It’s the simple things in life” that make us happy!  Yes. But let us never forget. So many of those simple things, the ones that just work the way they’re supposed to, have engineering thought and engineering skill behind them; or like designer Darrell,  just have lots of experience – erasing.

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