Porch Knitting

La Vie Est Belle (Dieppe) shawl pattern by Isabell Kramer in Avalon Springs Pendragon worsted yarn, which I purchased from the online Maryland Sheep and Wool festival.

MDSW2020 has been a rare pandemic gift for me: the opportunity to attend a festival that I’d always wanted to visit in person but never quite prioritized. The community that popped up around the event has been lovely, too. La Vie Est Belle, indeed.

Library Loot: Blue Books??

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Two ebook holds came in this week and they both look kinda the same…..

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace – pirates, princesses, mermaids and magic – yes please!

Shiner by Amy Jo Burns – from the author’s website: “modern female myth-making in a land of men” – sounds great, so long as the Appalachian setting and themes don’t end up plowing too close to the corn for me.

Did you pick up any books this week – blue or otherwise?

Review: The Making of a Manager

I stepped away from this blog four years ago, and in the intervening time, I was suddenly and very unexpectedly made into a manager. There has been little support and absolutely no instruction manual, so this book was an amazing find.

First, it appealed to me because it is written as narrative nonfiction, rather than the dry sort of management book often abandoned in offices between job assignments.

It also helped me beyond just providing tips and instruction, by showing me that (1) it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unequal to the job, and (2) I’m actually doing very well in a lot of ways.

The biggest change I’ve made from reading this book is to implement 1:1 meetings with my direct reports, WITH the stated purpose she lists in the book. I copied it directly in my email to them, but to paraphrase it here, I want my reports to bring whatever topics they need to discuss to the meeting – it’s about them, not me, and it’s not a status update.

I currently have it checked out as a library book, but plan to buy a copy for continued reference… and as-needed comfort reading.

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

I participated in various memes during my previous two runs at blogging, but this was the one I missed the most, and the one I looked up when I came out of the reproductive-drama-and-baby, moving-twice-in-a-year-with-toddler, new-manager – fog that has permeated the last five years. So glad The Captive Reader is still blogging and still hosting this one.

My library is still closed and has just started offering pickups, but for now, I’m on ebooks. Here’s what is on my Kindle this week. Oddly enough two nonfiction books. Looks like my fiction choices are languishing in holds for now.

The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou – loved this, review coming

How to be Fine by Jolenta Greenberg – about self help books. I unfortunately can’t remember who recommended this and why I wanted to read it, but maybe it’ll be a nice change of pace.

And for the littles…. Paddywack by Stephanie Spinner. Super cute story of a pony and his girl. The pony has a realistic dash of pony-evil so it won’t rot your teeth.

Garden and Table

Harvested today: 1 lovely purple turnip, 1 bowlful of lettuce, 1 mess of green beans just right for a small family in which I am the primary green bean eater, 1 mess of turnip greens which may or may not get eaten depending on whether I have the gumption to make pintos and cornbread to go with.

Also, hubs masked up and braved Lowe’s to bring me 4 healthy pepper plants which I planted alongside my weaklings.

And we have removed the layer of brick at the base of the rabbit fence which the rabbits were using as step stools.

With those successes from my lovely little suburban garden, I made up a meal plan for the coming week for the first time in quite a while.

Lunches for work: Lemony artichoke and quinoa salad 
Sunday – Burgers with green beans and sliced raw turnips 
Monday – Spaghetti (Frozen sauce) with salad (lettuce from garden) 
Tuesday – Grilled pork chops (hubs) with turnip greens and Crock pot scalloped potatoes (never tried this before but have several recipes) and maybe cornbread but probably not 
Wednesday – BLTs or other breakfast food with bacon (use 2 slices in turnip greens prev day) 
Thursday -Pizza

There’s not much in the way of new recipes for my readers, but it’s summer. Here’s my recipe for you: keep it really simple and enjoy what’s in front of you.

Comfort reads in uncomfortable times

Like so many of you have already reported, I have been reading a lot of, um, very light fiction lately and enjoying it heartily. I am now on book 10 of the Fiona Buckley Elizabethan mysteries. I’m reading that in tandem with the Jane Austen mystery series I cooled off on a while ago. Picked back up the Naomi Novik Temeraire series as well, but zzzz’ing on the nautical stuff. Definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”, Ms. Novik, as I love everything else you’ve written including the first book in the series.

Just read a Rhys Bowen YA mystery, much like In Farleigh Field, about a young woman who becomes a chef at the turn of the last century – it’s a lovely mashup of romance, mystery, travel, and food writing but avoids being trashy nonetheless. It’s called Above the Bay of Angels and I am just realizing I have no idea why.

I have also been reading some mid century English novels which always have me reaching for a cup of tea. I read Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (Super cheap on kindle right now!) which was especially sweet, and High Rising by Angela Thirkell which was set a little earlier, maybe late twenties/early thirties, with people always getting influenza which was oddly resonant … dipped my toe in a few others but those were my favorites. Absolutely nothing weighty and nothing qualifying for any sort of Read Harder qualification so far as I can tell.

And that, my readers, is my triumphant return to blogging after 4 years. No fanfare and no graphics, but very satisfying on my end nonetheless. What are you reading these days?

Purpose in Engineering

IMG_0265It’s all about the money.

One of my engineering co-workers received a survey from his alma mater. They were having an unusual problem with their engineering students: either while working on internships or in the first years of employment, they were becoming disillusioned with the profession. This statement– “it’s all about the money”– along with others like “nobody believes in the product” and “I want to help people” was being fed back to the university as students left for medical school and other professions perceived as being more service-oriented.

I couldn’t have been more surprised. So while I didn’t receive the survey (not my university), I’ll answer here, to engineering students and recent grads anywhere who feel like their purpose is diminished to just making money for a large corporation.

First, it is about the money. Part of your responsibility to your employer and its owners or shareholders is to make them money, whether that’s by finding efficiencies, designing a high-return product, or solving problems. Each one of those  tasks represent a puzzle, with economics as a scorecard.

But it is not ever only about the money. The real beauty in being an engineer — absolutely my favorite part — is that you have a responsibility to improve safety, protect the environment, and protect the public all while meeting financial objectives. Now, it’s a multidimensional puzzle. This is why we have professional licensure for engineers, and why we take a pledge that promises in part  “to place service before profit, the honor and standing of the profession before personal advantage, and the public welfare above all other considerations”.

Any bozo can build a project; engineers optimize their solutions for all of those objectives. And that’s a beautiful thing.


 photo courtesy Bart McGuire, Flickr

Thursday Quotables: A Quiet Heroism

It’s a quiet sort of heroism, the making and keeping of books.

You don’t get medals for sitting in the library each day, scratching away, writing it all down. Still less for dusting the shelves. But it is what civilisation is made of: the collective memory, passed on, passed down.

— Katherine Swift, The Morville Hours


Thursday Quotables is a weekly event hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies!

Quick Lit: A Flight for Career Change

I didn’t do it on purpose.24968034

I’m the sort of reader who has several books going at once. I’d been on a slump, so I ordered a few based on recent recommendations. Picked one or two off my bookshelf, too.

They all came in at once and I dove in. That’s when I discovered I had accidentally put together a book flight for career change.

  1. The Professor. Charlotte Bronte attempted to publish this slim novel before reaching success with Jane Eyre. A disgruntled Englishman works for his abusive brother before deciding to take his fate in his own hands and move to Brussels, where he becomes an English teacher. For such a slim novel, the author spends a lot of time at the beginning on the psychology of why people stay in bad jobs.
  2. The Undomestic Goddess. Sophie Kinsella’s hilarious take on what happens when a London Biglaw lawyer flips out, runs off into the countryside, and becomes a housekeeper. Pure fantasy about leaving it all, finding your hot gardener, and taking your destiny in  your own hands after all.
  3. Biglaw. Clearly a debut novel, but with first hand insight into New York biglaw.
  4. Garlic and Sapphires. Memoir about a food critic who moves to New York, finds and loses herself as THE food critic in the NYT. The driving force of this narrative is career change and the many disguises we all wear. (It’s also fabulous as an audiobook.)
  5. Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day. I hated the movie, but this was a fabulous and refreshingly modern little book about a tired old babies’ nurse who becomes a ladies maid – no, housekeeper – no, friend, and reinvents herself in the process.

I’m on a roll! What other books have you read with themes of career change?


What an Engineer Looks Like (on the inside)

IMG_0191The ILookLikeAnEngineer buzz this week has been amazing. If you’ve missed it, here’s the short version: An engineer (young; female; pretty) is featured in a job recruiting campaign in San Francisco. The local community reacts by saying she “doesn’t look like an engineer”. In response, engineers everywhere, of all gender, race, age and background, respond with selfies tagged #ilooklikeananengineer.

What I’ve noticed most of all, though, is not the pictures. It’s what the engineers choose to include on the signs they’re holding. As it turns out, not only do engineers all look different – we have different interests and personalities, too.

For me, the assumptions about who I am and what I should enjoy are potentially more damaging than the assumptions about what I should wear and how I should look. So in that spirit, here’s what I “look like”, as an engineer:

  •  I’m a runner,
  • a backpacker,
  • a volunteer,
  • a Christian,
  • and a writer.
  • I crochet. I like to crochet while waiting for economic models to converge.
  • I love shoes, but I don’t like wearing anything that makes me prance at work.
  • I don’t love makeup. My face melts if I have to go out in the plant.
  • I’m not really good at math, but I can do it.
  • I AM really good at patterns.
  • I get bored doing one sort of thing for too long.
  • I’m more productive in late afternoon / evening.
  • I’m an introvert.
  • I’m also the social planner in my group.
  • I love pedicures.
  • I hate manicures.
  • I do not wear dockers and polos to work.
  • I am still figuring out what I do wear to work.
  • I’m also an MBA. I’m good at economics.
  • I love being outside.
  • I’m an organizer and a coordinator.
  • I’m a collaborator and a teammate.
  • I’m creative.
  • I love projects: serious work ones and silly home ones.
  • My ideal place: a library with a coffee shop inside.
  • I love books. Physical books. Especially when they’re smelly.

Do yimage_medium2ou notice that the usual high school guidance counselor criteria, “loves science and math (and – subtext – star trek)” are not on my list? Yet I can’t imagine any career that would suit my personality better than engineering.

Readers: Any surprises in the above list? For my STEM readers — how do YOU look like an engineer?