Princess Engineer Poster Pack

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It seems that you all love princesses and engineers as much as we do!  So much so that we have just passed 50k views of A Hedy Journey!

Due to popular demand, we have made a printable poster pack of our princess engineers available for download from Sellfy

Get Posters Here

Thank you for all your wonderful comments and suggestions about our original post!

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“Let’s Talk!” National Women’s Health Week

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If you are someone who is uncomfortable with thinking about the fact that I, and a large number of other women, periodically expel their unused uterus linings, please stop reading now.  You have been warned.  There will be blood.
This week is National Women’s Health Week.  Their slogan is “Let’s talk!” and their logo is a delightful pink elephant in the room.  As if I needed any more of an excuse to get behind an event…  They had me at pink elephant!
I wanted to write about periods and working as an engineer because I when I was younger and more self-concious this was the type of topic of conversation that would have been useful to me, but the thought of bringing it up with anyone put my social anxiety into hyperdrive.  But my mind was full of questions such as:
Is anyone else dealing with trying to change a tampon underground where there are a scattering of portaloos and your fingernails are caked in lead?
Does anyone else care that there are no sanitary bins for 40km?
How do you survive your day of walking around the middle of nowhere when you just want to curl up in a ball in your shower?
This was a continuation of my preference for not asking awkward questions and just making assumptions, and is the kind of thing which made 10 year-old Yvette dread growing up because she thought that grown up women had their period continuously for the rest of their lives (that is, without the three week blood-free gap).  There was lots of teaching about getting your period but nothing about it stopping or it starting again after the next month…
Now that I’m more ballsy (ovary-y), I talk about whatever if I think it’s worth it.  And I’ve been encouraged by some of the other awesome women I’ve met (shoutout to Betty Lovecat and Vivien Victory!) that there’s no such thing as TMI when it comes to women’s health.  And now even Olympic swimmers talk about cramps on international television!
But, one thing that I was concerned about when highlighting that there are some women who don’t feel 110% for 5 to 7 days of every 28, was that this would give the patriachy yet another reason to discriminate against the “weaker sex”.
But basically, if you haven’t cottoned on by now, my mission in life it to prove that princesses make great engineers. And some princesses get PMS.  And they deal with it incredibly well.
However, I might be getting defensive all too soon.  Statistically it seems that succumbing to period-related presenteeism (rocking up to work even when you aren’t 100%) doesn’t even feature in the top twelve medical reasons for presenteeism (according to this article).  Despite the hype, such as this article about period leave being a thing, a worker is significantly more likely to be underperforming due to depression, allergies or hypertension, than a visit from Aunty Flo
Put this together with the fact that the female engineering population is tiny, chances are having a watercooler conversation about having a tough period is probably going to be a rare occurrence.
So if you do happen to be a female, and a female of reproductive capacity, and a female who is adversely affected by her cycle, and you want to hear about how some other engineeresses have made their lives a little easier each month, read on.
We will be using the Engineering Hierarchy of Controls to examine this topic each day National Women’s Health Week.
Just a note that some of the health and medical things discussed here aren’t the right solution for every one and your doctor might have some really good reasons why it won’t work for you (like, you might have a stroke), so treat this information as if it were a casual gossip with a girlfriend and not tailored medical advice.

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When I mentioned to an engineeress friend of mine that I was thinking of writing about life hacking my “moon time”, she gave me a look that said “way ahead of ya, sister” and revealed that she’d avoiding periods by taking her combined oral contraceptive back to back for years.  (This is listed as a solution for period pain on the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health site.)
Theoretically, you can also do this with other types of combined contraceptive like Nuvaring.  (The Nuvaring is one of the coolest medical gadgets I’ve come across recently.  Imagine a colourless glow stick bracelet, filled with hormones, which is inserted somewhere you should never insert a glow stick.  Because the location is so close to the target, the dosage can be smaller.  Nuvaring is to combined oral contraceptive as Implanon is to mini pill.  I can’t express how much of a difference not having to remember to take a pill has made on the quiet enjoyment of my life, while still knowing when crimson tide is nigh.)
Periods eliminated!
Tomorrow, we’re looking at Substitution!

Celebrating Gin and Visitors

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Here’s something I posted last week for a good friend of mine who was celebrating World Gin Day in proper style, with a Gin Week on her blog!

As an oompa loompa of science I find the world of distilling and brewing quite fascinating.  Basically Chemistry class for adults!  So to celebrate Gin Week and a couple of visitors from home I headed to Edinburgh’s first gin distillery in 150 years Pickering’s, situated in Summerhall in Edinburgh’s south.  I had unfortunately missed out on Juniper Fest over the weekend and had already visited the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, so was keen to learn what made Pickering’s special.

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This way to gin!

Pickerings gin is based on an original Bombay recipe dating back to 1947 and kept as a family secret until it resurfaced in 2013 when Matt and Marcus began distilling at Summerhall.  The tour begins at the Royal Dick Bar in Summerhall, also home to one of Edinburgh’s breweries Barney’s Beer, with a G&T to sip throughout.

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Great way to start a tour, G&T with a slice of pink grapefruit

From the bar you are taken past the Mens room, then the ladies, through winding corridors and over uneven ground to what used to be dog and cat kennels. They have since been repurposed with some of the kennels used to store raw ingredients, gin and boxes.  But how do they make their gin?

A neutral grain spirit with 96%abv is piped into one of two copper stills on site, one called Emily, the other Getrude after Matt and Marcus’s great-grandmothers.  In the still the 9 botanicals are added and the spirit left to steep.

The 9 botanicals that go in to making this tasty drop are juniper, coriander, cardamon, angelica, fennel, anise, lemon, lime and clove.  The two stills have an ingenious custom-designed bain marie heating system that provides a gentle simmer able to coax out their subtle, soft, highly drinkable flavours.

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With their 9 Botanicals

After steeping this bain marie system is used to heat the spirit to vapour.  As the heating begins this vapour is trapped in the ‘onion’ of the still, condenses and travels back down to the heart of either Emily or Gertrude.  This process of vapourising, condensing and travelling back to the spirit can occur up to 16 times before the spirit is warm enough for the vapour to bypass the onion and travel through the swan neck to the neighbouring condenser.

The condenser uses water that is stored in a local underground well to cool the vapour back to a liquid.  Similar to whisky distilling, the potable alcohol the distiller wants to capture has a boiling point of 78.2OC, with the first vapours to boil off being more volatile and known as the ‘heads’. The hedas include chemicals such as acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), acetone ((CH3)2CO) and esters (pretty sure I learnt about those in chemistry back in the day!). Once the desired boiling point is reached the ethanol liquid is called the heart and piped through copper piping to one of three vats.  The heart will be ethanol. The tails are left, containing water, carbohydrates and less volatile alcohols, all undesirable. The tails will consist of 1-propanol (CH3CH2CH2OH), butyl alcohol (C4H10O), amyl (Isobutyl carbinol) and acetic acid (CH3COOH) to name a few.

The copper in the still and piping is very important as it helps produce an even, smooth flavour and impurities are left on the inside of the copper piping thereby keeping the spirit pure without excessive filtration.

Once stored in the vats the distillers will monitor the temperature and density of the spirit, regularly taking temperature and density readings and adding water until the desired alcohol content is arrived at.  Pickering’s Gin has 42%abv, slightly more than the required 37.5%abv to qualify as a London Dry Gin.  It is a particularly high tech process at Pickering’s, adding the water by hand in smaller and smaller quantities, stirring using a oar bought from an outdoor shop and taking individual measurements with thermometer and hydrometer then double checking them in a large book full of tables.

This is a one-shot method, only mixing their end distillate with water to cut it to bottling strength, compared with larger distilleries who use more base spirit to stretch their distillate before cutting with water.

When the desired alcohol content is achieved then it is piped in copper pipes to the room next door where it is bottled by hand.  It is also stoppered and waxed by hand.

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If you’ve ever seen a bottle of Pickering’s you’ll know the bottle isn’t square which makes attaching labels by hand consistently rather difficult.  The distillery is housed in part of Summerhall, an old Veterinary Hospital that is now home to many community groups including Edinburgh Hacklab.  This hacklab is a space for people to mess around with technology for fun so Pickering’s asked them to come up with something they could use to attach the labels, as they were worryingly close to their launch date and had a few hundred bottles to label.

The resulting machine is quite something, and is still going well considering it was designed to be used on a few hundred bottles and has now been used on over 60,000.

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What a beautiful machine

Once labels are attached, and the stoppers are waxed the bottles are boxed up and stored in the old dog kennels.  Throughout this whole process it s evident that everything is done by hand by a very small team, and it is definitely a labour of love.

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Dog kennels being used as an excise store for gin

The original 1947 recipe was altered as they were creating a gin that goes perfectly with tonic, and it seems they have hit the nail on the head.  They also produce a Navy Strength gin, as official partners of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and have also created a gin using the original 1947 recipe which is a spicier, sweeter and more intense spirit.

Their most recent release has its beginnings in a trip around Scotland to the iconic whisky regions in search of the best casks they could find.  They then age their Original gin in one of five ex-Scotch malt whisky casks, and the result is truly something!

Well that’s all from me today. I hope you feel a little better informed about the process of creating one of my favourite gins. I definitely believe a greater understanding of something leads to a much deeper appreciation of its beauty. So next time you sip that G&T ask yourself what botanicals are in it, how they affect the gin, whether it is a one or two shot distillate, and never forget how much love and care has been put into your handcrafted gin.

If you want some wonderful ways to cook with gin, don’t forget to head to Kitty’s Storecupboard and have a look at all her wonderful Gin Week posts.

Are you proposing today?

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I’m proposing that my boyfriend and I complete 5 Munro’s over the next 12 months.  And that we drink slightly less beer, and finally, officially, move in together.  But I’m definitely not popping the question, ‘that’ question.

Today is February 29, the only day in four years women are traditionally allowed to get down on one knee and propose spending the rest of your life together with the one we love.  But these days, during our fight toward proper gender equality, is this tradition valid anymore?

It dates back to the mid fifth century where Saint Brigid of Kildare, who was sick of waiting, beseeched Saint Patrick for a day when women could propose marriage to longtime suitors.  She could almost be called an early feminist, but why did she only ask for one day in every 1461?

If we want true equality, then both men and women should be able to bring up matters like these with no reproof, and discuss them in that often elusive “safe space”.  Equality is a two way street.   While marriage no longer has as many of its advantages, we should empower women, and men, to discuss marriage in an open and honest manner, before signing up for a lifelong commitment.

The Woman and The Car: A Journey to CEO

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Earlier in the week we looked into the amazing contribution to the safety of the automobile made by three ladies, who were also actresses, inventors, authors, real estate developers, the list goes on!  Today we follow this story further, and investigate the growing contribution of females in this industry.

1921 – Dorothée Pullinger: The woman who built a car for women

We have mentioned Dorothée before on our Facebook page, but no list would be complete without her so we’re including her just in case you missed her the first time!  Starting work as a draughtswoman at a car manufacturer  based in Scotland Dorothée was given an opportunity during World War One and put in charge of female munitions works in Cumbria where she was eventually responsible for 7,000 workers.

After the war she moved back to Scotland and became manager of Galloway Motors at its factory near Kirkcudbright.  Though originally built to manufacture aeroplane parts in the war, as an automobile factory Dorothy was able to keep the business open and provide employment to local women.  Galloway Cars seemed like quite the place to work, adopting the colours of the suffragettes, providing two tennis courts on the roof for employees and it was host to an engineering college for women.  Whilst working for Galloway, Dorothée managed the production of the Galloway Car, “a car built by ladies, for those of their own sex”.  In a nod to Dorothy Levitt I’m sure, the Galloway was one of the first automobiles to introduce a rear view mirror as standard.  Unfortunately, by the end of the 20s these cars were no longer produced as times were tough for independent car makers.

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Though she became a founding member of the Woman’s Engineering Society, Dorothée left the car manufacturing business as she eventually became fed up with people telling her she was taking a mans job.  After this she opened a laundry business and served her country during the Second World War before moving to Guernsey where she passed away in 1986.

Only 4,000 Galloway Cars were ever made but if you ever find yourself in Glasgow then get yourself along to the Riverside Museum where you can find the only publicly displayed model in the UK.

1943 – Helene Rother automotive designer (interior)

Though not an engineer, Helene Rother is an important part of the contribution of women to the automotive engineer as the first female automotive designer in Detroit, joining General Motors in 1943.  Born in Leipzig, Germany, Helene spent her early life studying art, designing jewellery and hat pins and fleeing Nazi-occupied France.  Helene and her daughter found safety in New York City via northern Africa, where Rother’s first job was as an illustrator for Marvel Comics.

A year later she joined the interior styling staff of General Motors in Detroit, responsible for upholstery colours and fabrics, lighting, door hardware and seat construction.  The significance of her position was downplayed at the time but she was earning three times the average wage of a man in Detroit at that time.  As the Automotive Hall of Fame puts it “She was one of the few women to succeed in a man’s job during an era when the vast majority of women couldn’t even see a glass ceiling-it was hidden behind steel doors”.

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Her experience at GM enabled her to establish her own design studio specialising in designs for automotive interiors, furniture and stained glass windows.  Not one to shirk her CPD responsibilities, she regularly participated in Society of Automotive Engineers conferences and published a technical paper asking “Are we doing a good job in our car interiors?”.  Her work advocating women in the industry was recognised in The SAE Journal in 1949, she was the first woman to address the SAE in Detroit and thanks to her work styling their interiors Nash Motors was awarded the Jackson Medal, one of America’s most sought after awards.

Her contribution to automotive design was important and is often overlooked, and though she was not the first woman to work in styling “she was an early pioneer and one of the best”.

2015 – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

The final lady of note is Mary Barra, who after the retirement of Dan Akerson from General Motors became the first female CEO of a major automobile company (GM).  Mary studied electrical engineering at General Motors Institute, followed by an MBA at Stanford in 1990.  A great example of hard work paying off, she started working at GM at the age of 18 as a co-op student and held various engineering and administrative positions eventually working her way to Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering in 2008.  In 2011 she was named Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, with responsibilities including design, global purchasing and supply chain.

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She has survived a harrowing first couple of years, facing revelations that faulty ignition switches contributed to at least 74 deaths and 126 injuries, million car recalls and lower returns to shareholders than expected.  However under Barra GM is also becoming more financially disciplined, as she is willing to make tough decisions like pulling out of countries.  Named Fortune’s Most Powerful Woman in 2015, we shall definitely be keeping an eye on her work at GM.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about these inspiring women as much as I have.  Do you think we may have missed someone?  Has this made you think twice about a career in the automotive industry?  Don’t hesitate to comment below and let us know!

Vanilla Madeira Cake – CPD enabler

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A firm family favourite which is so simple, even a humble sparky can manage it without too much hassle! The cake will be in the oven for approx. 1.25 hours, however the preparation is just a ten minute process.

While the hour-long baking time may put you off, why not use the time to catch up on some CPD and polish your site boots? When the timer pings, you’ll not only have accrued some valuable professional development points and have a tasty reward fresh from the oven, but you’ll be the envy of everyone on site the next day.

Ingredients:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour (sieved)
  • 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • vanilla extract

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Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the eggs along with a small amount of flour.
  2. Mix in the vanilla essence then fold in the remainder of the flour.
  3. Place the mixture in greased 18cm cake tin – a spring form version is handy, but not essential. Bake for 1.25 hours at 180 degrees C.IMG_20160210_221647
  4. Once baked, remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Time to put the boot polish away, stick the kettle on and make yourself a cup of your favourite tea, cut a slice and enjoy!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that on the face of it this is a rather plain cake, but that’s where its genius lies: switch out the vanilla extract for whatever essence you prefer; mix some cherries or sultanas into the batter; drizzle with a thin icing mix; serve up a slice with ice cream and fresh fruit; spread a slice with your preferred jam or preserve…the options are limited only by what’s in the pantry really.

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N.B. Now, as you can see in the photos, my cake is rather shallow. This is a result of being a bit eager for cake and using the wrong diameter of cake tin…if an 18cm tin is used, the final result will be considerably taller and be a lighter shade of golden brown.