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Sigh.  Although my students do the best they can with the background they have, I continue to be stunned at the low requirements of the American education system. A sizable portion of college and university classes here are basically remedial high school. I’m getting lots of people in their second or third year in a four-year engineering program who have never had any statistics at all. They will have to take one stats class before they graduate, but it’s not prerequisite to many other classes so they tend to take it late in the program. It seriously limits their tools and understanding.

Let’s compare:

Requirements to graduate from Polytechnique of Montreal:

  • Need to have enough high school math, physics and chemistry to take the 2-year Pure and Applied Sciences program at a CEGEP (junior college)
  • There, 3 physics classes, 6 math classes, 3 chemistry classes, 1 bio class, plus 4 PE classes, 4 philosophy classes, 4 French classes, and some English (60 units total).
  • Polytechnique: 120 units of solid, wall-to-wall engineering.  No relief from any GEs or electives.

Requirement to graduate here:

  • No requirements on high school classes, though math, physics and chemistry are recommended.
  • 27 units of GE
  • 106 units of sciences and engineering including the same math, physics, and chemistry I had to take in junior college.

Conclusion: Canadian engineers graduate WAY more prepared.  I cringe when I hear people talking about how difficult the program or a class is.

2010 was a difficult year for most people I know, and for me personally.  I was sick, our car was stolen right out of our driveway, I lost a beloved cat to illness,  I had unexpected (and unentertaining) expenses, work has been very slow, etc.  I stopped writing on my blog early in the year, and we might as well count 2010 as a write-off in terms of blogging.  Even on my more personal journal I hardly wrote anything except to share a few links.  So here’s to hoping 2011 is better for all of us, especially all my unemployed or underemployed friends.

A couple of good things did happen, particularly my starting to teach at Humboldt State University’s Environmental Resources Engineering Department again.  I taught a Solid Waste Management class in the fall, and I was lucky to have a very good group; I really loved my students.  The days I was teaching became the days I most looked forward to in the week.  (But I’ll tell you, teaching brings in very little money for the amount of work it requires.)

Still, I enjoy it and it provides for diversity of income.  I was offered two classes for the spring semester, and I lucked out again by being offered two of my favourite topics.  I will be teaching an Environmental Impact Assessment class and a Water Quality and Environmental Health class, both of which I am very familiar with.  It’s going to be a great big load of work, but what great subjects!  I thought I would take the opportunity to blog about some of the issues we cover because I think they are of general interest.

I’m also going to try to vary my approach to lectures.  I’ve been relying a lot on slides, handouts, prepared lecture notes, etc., but I would like to try more discussion and less “bullet points”.  So I’m revising the notes I’ve used before; the material is still fine, but I want to present it more dynamically.  That said, I will still post the occasional slide presentation for discussion.

This month’s job openings at SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc.:

  • Consulting Biologist (CEQA Expert) (Eureka)
  • Senior-level Civil Engineer, California PE (Redding)

Get ’em while they’re hot!

This month’s job openings at SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc.:

  • Consulting Biologist (CEQA Expert) (Eureka)
  • Materials Testing Laboratory Manager (Willits)
  • Mid-level Civil Engineer, California PE (Willits)
  • Senior-level Civil Engineer, California PE (Redding)
  • Temporary Field Botanist/Wildlife Biologist (Eureka)

Good positions, good benefits, fun company to work for, great co-workers, wonderful area to live in.

Cooking

My husband gave me a local cookbook for Christmas, “Locally Delicious”, which was just published about a month ago. I’ve been talking about cooking more often (he does most of the cooking)and we’re both partisans of the idea of eating locally grown or produced food, in season. I was raised that way — my mom always goes into cooking overdrive during the successive harvests of strawberries, string beans, corn, tomatoes, raspberries, etc., and still buys locally produced beef, chicken, bread, cheese, etc.

This weekend I tried three recipes from Locally Delicious: the cross rib roast (Humboldt grass-fed beef cross rib was on sale!), spicy roasted beets, and oven rosemary potatoes. Everything but the rosemary, salt and pepper was locally produced. (OK, the olive oil was regional, from Sonoma County.) All three recipes were keepers and quite easy. I liked that I was able to prepare everything in advance in the morning and leave it in the fridge until I was ready to pop the dishes in the oven.

I like “slow food” and I detest most instant, frozen, highly prepared foods (with some exceptions for brands like Casbah, Newman, and Oetker). I like a seasonal menu that reflects the changes around us. I like restaurants where the dishes taste a little different every time you go because they’re made in small batches by a cook, not an industrial assembly line. I like planning a menu based on what looks fresh. I like the rich flavours of produce and meat that have not had to travel more than a few hours to reach my kitchen. I like encouraging our local producers.

There are resources online for people trying to find out more about their local food chain. A good, food-lover’s book explaining our alimentary systems is Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

This month’s job openings at SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc.:

  • Consulting Biologist (Eureka)
  • Materials Testing Laboratory Manager (Willits)
  • Mid-level Civil Engineer, California PE (Willits)
  • Senior-level Civil Engineer, California PE (Redding)
  • Temporary Field Botanist (Eureka)

If you or someone you know is interested in applying on one of SHN’s open positions, or wants additional information, please visit www.shn-engr.com or speak with Taylor Marie Baker, HR Manager.

Help us continue to provide quality-driven services to northern California and southern Oregon!

The Foodie Shuffle

Recent news for a couple of good eating places in Humboldt:

(1) Curley’s Grill, formerly in Ferndale and chased out last fall by sky-rocketing rent costs, just re-opened at 320 Main Street, Fortuna last week.

(2) Cafe Nooner in Eureka just started this week will start in a few days offering breakfast items in addition to its customary lunch.  I can’t wait to try it this Sunday.

These are two quintessential “comfort food” places in the area, quality served with pride but without pretention.

(3) In addition, I’m awaiting with curiosity the re-opening of Go Fish, the fish & chips cafe on 1st Avenue in Eureka, at the corner of Commercial Street.  A sign was recently posted, announcing the upcoming opening, but giving no date.

(Edited 12/20/2009.)