Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve been saving bacon fat for a while – specifically, I cook the bacon in the oven and save the drippings in a mason jar in the fridge. This is awesome, for a lot of reasons : you can make bacon fat fried/scrambled eggs at any point without having to make bacon (though, who’s complaining about making bacon?).

My little jar of grease was getting full the other day so I decided that I’d make some cookies. Specifically bacon fat chocolate chip cookies.  I followed the recipe on Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chips but subbed out some of the butter for bacon fat. I use the Trader Joe’s applewood smoked, thick cut bacon because it’s delicious, and Kerry Gold Butter – happy cows make happy butter (and it’s amazing how much good butter changes your baked goods!) Look how pretty the cookies turned out!

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup softened butter
  • 1/3 cup melted bacon fat
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine Flour, salt and baking soda in bowl and set aside. Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, softened butter, bacon fat and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto non-greased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies


The Feels

Oh my gosh, so many feels after this week.

A week ago, I found out my friend Ed had cancer. You can read more about it on his GiveForward page. And we’ve raised $32,000 for him in under 5 days. That’s incredible.

So I spent Thanksgiving visiting Ed in the hospital for a bit, and hosting a “Misfits Thanksgiving” – 5 people came over and we ordered Chinese food and it was awesome. While that might sound depressing, and certainly unconventional – it was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Two of my really good friends from college, KristiLynn, Stephanie from #TeamEd, and Ed’s friend Josh all came over and we laughed and ate food and it was exactly the speed I wanted it to be. Especially after 2 friendsgivings, non-traditional was fine.

It’s been a crazy year, in a really awesome way, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the people in my life and the things I’ve been able to do this year. A short list, and my memory is awful, so I’m probably forgetting some awesome highlights.

  • New Years Day Brunch at Tessa’s with Mal and Andy and Tim (crazy that that was a year ago)
  • Alixa moving to Chicago in January
  • NYC for some of Frankie 100 and Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig with Jim and Grace
  • Hawkeye in Iowa City
  • 2 weeks in Ireland and going to Caragh and Nick’s wedding
  • Visiting friends in England
  • Swing dancing in Ireland
  • Nevermore in St Louis
  • Really having a solidified group of swing dance friends that hang out and do more than just dance
  • Meeting Matt Smith and Lily James and teaching them how to swing dance (at Honky Tonk in Pilsen, of all places)
  • Lindy Hoppers Got Game
  • GenCon
  • Friendsgiving x2
  • Performing a dance routine in front of 300 people
  • Awesome people to learn and perform said routine

And that’s just the highlights! It doesn’t count the just random Mondays at Fizz, laughing so hard I cry, the karaoke nights and the parties. So much to be grateful for, and so much to look forward to!


On Gender and Gaming

I spent the weekend at GenCon… and it was awesome. I’m honored and extremely grateful to have such amazing friends and to be able to spend 4 days with them laughing and playing games. (For those of you that don’t know, GenCon is a convention all about gaming – I go for the the board gaming, but there’s a lot of other stuff happening there).

This was the third year I’d attended GenCon, and as usual our car ride home brought up some conversations on gaming and gender. I’d gotten a couple of “Awesome dress” comments from one of the four women I hung out with throughout the weekend (out of a group of 15 or so people).

I’d mentioned that I almost made a point of wearing non-cosplay dresses (just how I normally dress, even though “normal” dress for me also includes nerdy t-shirts and jeans), because you don’t see a ton of women that aren’t either “nerdy” uniform of a black t-shirt with some nerd quip or pun on it, or cosplay where the women have their tits up to their chins. Not that there’s anything wrong with tits-out cosplay, just a shame that there isn’t more of a presence of the range of women you’d see walking down the street in any American city, particularly at a convention that kicked off with a couple of comments by the primary organizers along the lines of “Don’t forget to shower” and “Cosplay is not consent”.

This is especially true when it seemed like the gender ratio of the children attending the con was MUCH more gender balanced than amongst the adults. Having worked with some 12-13 year old girls in the past that likely would be interested in this kind of con (and likely cosplaying an anime character) it’s especially a shame because those girls were wickedly smart and creative… and often got bullied at school for being smart and having “weird” interests. GenCon could be their home, and the example we’re giving them is a very limited version of what a woman can be. The two examples seem to be “I don’t care much about my health/hygiene/appearance”* to “hyper-sexualized”.

*I hesistate to say this because I know it will offend someone – let’s be clear here that these nerds are MY people and caring about appearance is NOT important, but GenCon is full of overweight white males that had to be reminded to shower during a 4 day event and the women that willingly associate with them. I do enjoy my nerd shirts and take pride in having gotten an “awesome shirt” comment from someone random in the hall for my “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” Mario shirt.

And then we discussed that it’s sort of a chicken and egg problem… it’s hard to have more women designing games (whether art or actual game play) until there are more women enjoying the game play itself… and it’s hard to get more women playing games if they haven’t been designed to also appeal to women.

And on that note… it’s been a long weekend of gaming and I have an early morning meeting. Off to dream about board games!


The ListServe Replies

So many people replied (about 47). Not to mention the twitter follows and the sheer number of people that are also in Chicago. 

And my world is still really really small. 

Here are some links and some stories and some words that were sent back in response: 

Links Sent to Me:

 

Crazy Stories:

Wow, it is a small small small world! I love your Listserve email, and I admire and appreciate that you used this forum to promote such great causes – and to spur others to examination and action in their own lives. You rock!🙂

In terms of the small world comment, as soon as I read your email, I felt certain that our paths had crossed at least once. And indeed, that seems to be the case. I’m good friends Misha Shemyakin and his wife, Alison – Misha and my boyfriend (Michael Baron) are close friends from their college days at Notre Dame. I also know Lisa Russell – she is my cousin Marc’s fianceé. I’m guessing that you also know Anna Tarnoff from your work at the Ounce of Prevention fund – she and I were both on the board of the Chicago Net Impact Professional Chapter. There are probably many more connections in Chicago and beyond. I moved from Chicago to Pasadena, CA, last September after spending the past three years in Chicago, and then living in Nashville for eight years before that. I’ve spent most of those years working in the nonprofit and public policy sphere, and I’ve volunteered with United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee. So many mutual activities, work connections, and definitely similar passions for making a difference in the world and moving beyond our own “bubble” of middle-class America.

Awesome post. I’m originally from Chicago, went to Illinois and also work in crowdfunding at Indiegogo. Much respect for the social justice cause. Not sure when you graudated, but I have a friend from U of I who has taken a very similar path. He’s about to quit his job at Accenture after two years to join Startup Bootcamp. I’ll send him your listserv, but would love to connect you both.

 

My mom was in AAUW and the Methodist Church, my dad was in,

get this!– the University YMCA – Champaign, IL

Really. I think you can find his name on a donor’s plaque on the hallway. He was there from 1934-’38 undergrad and in law school 1938-’41.

 

Do reply. Inspire me more. And let’s talk on how we can improve the focus of technology.

I’ve been subscribed to the Listserve for close to two years now. In those years, I’ve received hundreds of emails from complete strangers, two from people I actually know, and just one, yours, from someone I’ve never met but to whom I am undeniably connected.

 

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I, too, am an Alternative Breaker. I went to Vanderbilt University where I went on some 12 trips in 6 years as a student and an OACS staffer. I spent a couple years on the exec board at Vandy (with two of your fellow BOD members!), attended the ABCs, and all that jazz. I even worked with BA on the Intel for Change project last spring and this time last year, I was living in the Break Away house while recruiting at Emory and Georgia State. Hell, Jill wrote me letters of recommendation for grad school.

Happy Upcoming Birthday

and many many more.

I was extremely impressed with your ListServe post.

The world truly needs a whole lot more people like you.

Kind regards,

I wanted to email you back and talk with you about your interest in helping others.  Since I’ve been little, I’ve always wanted to help people and make a difference in the world.  In December, I graduated with a teaching degree in English that extends 6-12th grade.  

I feel that you’re experience and your willingness to help others is one of the the most valuable things our world has (that many people don’t share equally).  I am emailing you today because helping kids is one of the biggest problems/passions in my life.  I am currently teaching in East Chicago, Indiana.  

I felt that responding to your email would give me the opportunity to extend help to you and your organization(s) in any way that I can.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help from over here in East Chicago.  Thank you and good luck in all your future endeavors!

I loved your listserve email. Social justice is very important and it looks to me with the amout of work you do for this cause you are making up for a lot  of people that don’t make the effort to even make small donations. I tip my hat to you.

 

For sharing your inspiring story of contributing your heart and making an impact.

 

Thank  you for being awesome

 

We actually share the same birthday, and I have been lucky enough to visit Chicago two years ago. It is a lovely city. I hope you get to visit Australia one day (if you haven’t already).

 

Second, I admire you for pursuing social justice. Startup Institute’s partnership with Give Forward is actually one of the main things that drew me to the program because I want to be part of a team who develops technology that helps people who really need it. It’s people like you and companies like Give Forward that give me hope and inspire me to try to make the world a better place.

 

Even at your very young age, it would appear you’re wll on your way to a life well lived.

Gives a bit of hope to old timers like me.

Good on you , girl!

I wonder if your “clone-able”?

🙂

 

FREAKING OUT READING YOUR EMAIL LAUREN! I worked with Break Away last year on my NYU Wagner Capstone project to help y’all create the community impact assessment system. Totally drank the Kool-Aid and love your organization, students, culture, staff, Jill, Shannon, Keith etc. Thrilled that you used your Listserve email to talk about Break Away! Thank you for dedicating your time to their board.


The ListServe

I recently won “The Listserve” – the opportunity to send 600 words to 25,000 people around the globe. I’m buzzing so hard at the feedback I’ve gotten from it, so that will have to be another post, but here’s what I chose to say :

The Next Whats for Lunch App

I often get asked why I pursue social justice.  My mother was super involved in extra-curriculars (PTA, Girl Scouts, etc) but we never volunteered as a family. I’ve always been internally motivated – I found Alternative Spring Break my freshman year at University of Illinois.  ASB is an organization that sends service learning trips for college students over academic breaks. The focus is more on education and changing the individuals on the trip than on service. I went on 7 trips in 5 years,  issues ranging from Hunger and Homelessness to Youth Literacy to Environmental Issues,  served on the planning board, and made friends that I can’t imagine life without. I’m still involved in  by serving on the Board of Directors for Break Away, overseeing the national movement of service learning trips and building lifelong active citizens.
I get frustrated when so many smart brains spend their time building the next “What’s for Lunch” Apps – so many people only see “First World Problems” and spend a ton of time, money, and smarts solving  non-problems. (That’s not to say I won’t pay $.99 for that Whats for Lunch app. A girl’s gotta eat.)
After graduating with a degree in General Engineering and a minor in computer science, I went to work for Accenture. I spent most of college thinking I would join Teach For America; I felt like I was selling out when I joined. Post Accenture I served as as IT manager and eventually Interim VP of IT for the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a non profit focused on early childhood education in the US. It turns out the skills I picked up at Accenture working for “the man” are incredibly invaluable in the non-profit world – an industry that drastically needs data and technology help and smart brains to solve big problems.
I currently work at a startup called GiveForward – we are a crowdfunding platform for medical expenses. If you know anyone that has Medical related expenses (even pets! or travel related to medical procedures) check out GiveForward, start a fundraiser, and email me about it – we’ve raised over $90 million dollars for individuals in the US. We have a collection of amazing stories –   Pat and Jess that were injured in last year’s Boston Marathon Bombing and Lacey Holsworth, an 8 year old girl that befriended a Michigan State Basketball player. We we share stories amongst our staff that will have you crying at your desk – sometimes tears of joy, sometimes genuine tears of sadness.
I have a few asks for you :
  • I’d love to hear the causes/big problems you care about. Find me on Twitter @Lnhaynes or email back here! 
  • Learn a little bit about Human Centered Design (there’s a course by Ideo and Plus Acumen that’s free) and find a way of  identifying and solving a real problem.
    • My birthday is April 28th. For my birthday I’m raising money to help Break Away build out it’s website – the website cost was about 3x what we expected it to be, $15,000 in total. If you’d consider checking out my campaign, that would be awesome. To find it, go to Razoo and search for “Lauren’s Birthday – Give Break Away a New Website”
  • Check out these other  organizations I love :
  • Dance For Parkinson’s
  • University YMCA  – Champaign, IL
  • United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee
      • Splash – Seattle, Washington
  • 2nd Story Chicago
  • Streetside Stories, San Francisco, CA

Women in Tech

I had a few thoughts left over from when I posted my nerd story that weren’t really part of “my” story, but though they  were worth writing about.

  • One of the things that was really interesting at Accenture was the curve of women – the higher in the ranks you get, the fewer women there are. When this happens, your examples of “success” and “work life balance” are skewed towards those few examples and those few women – it’s not a representation of ALL options that could be made to work for you. The other thing here : a lot of women  at Accenture left early on, that had the soft skills that would make them more valuable as the move up the ranks and in to management. Accenture, and a lot of tech in general, is set up so that there is a “technical gauntlet” the first few years – if you don’t live and die by code or by testing or some of the more nitty gritty technical tasks, you don’t succeed at those early levels. I actually think Accenture was better about this than many other companies and rewards softer skills earlier on… but there still is a bit of a gauntlet.
  •  I still think taking Data Structures and Algorithms required course for my CS Minor in France, in French, was easier that had I taken the class at my home university. But I’m extremely grateful that my lab partner was a woman – not to say there weren’t male students out there that would have been just as gracious, but there were plenty of male students that wouldn’t have waited through the language barrier to actually hear what I had to say about the assignment.
  • Computing is important. I think it should be taught the way physics is taught – it’s important to understand enough about computing to understand the world around you. A programming class goes a long way in helping understand the basics of computers to be able to process how the modern world works. Do I need to understand gravity  or acceleration or forces to function in the world? No, but a basic understanding does help process and understand the world around you. I think computing should be looked at in the same way.
  • And then there’s the definition of computing. I think too often we say “everyone needs to learn how to code” – while I don’t necessarily disagree, I do think the definitions between “Someone who does computing” “someone who codes” and “someone who hacks” get thrown together interchangeably in a way that scares people off. Does everyone need to be a master hacker? No. Should they understand basic principles of software? I think it helps in the world. Starting with computing makes increasing diversity in tech easier – “computing” is much broader – including jobs like product management that are crucial to large companies and while knowing how to code helps, it’s not always necessary. I would say coming out of the TechLabs many of us were hackers, though not in the “breaking into computers” way so much as the “MacGyver” kind of way – again, hacking is another word that we use to mean a lot of things that cover a wide range of skills and people.
  • A lot of programs aimed at increasing the number of women in tech talk about lowering their standard to get more women in the door. Lowering your standards is not where it’s at – it should be about removing barriers for the folks who are just as qualified, if not more qualified. Hacker School and Etsy had it right when they offered scholarships to women (though this would increase diversity across the board, not just gender diversity) – New York is expensive during the time of their program. Conferences like Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing offer options at the conference that include Daycare – having reliable access at the event allows more women to attend. In many cases it’s not about the skill or intelligence required for coding – it’s all the other barriers and lack of resources that keep someone from even applying for the programs. These resources also include time and comfort level.

 


My Nerd Story

I was a nerd from birth. It probably has something to do with being the daughter of a Professor of Entomology, but there you go. 

My childhood was spent reading, I could tell you the difference between an independent and dependent variable by age 8,  and we played board games (Survive!). I won science fairs, and was captain of the academic team in elementary school, the only girl on a team of 4 guys. 

Image

The first computer at home that I remember was one with the black screen with green print on it. I grew up on AOL Instant Messenger, with Reader Rabbit and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Math Blaster, and Furcadia. I bought Everquest but never played it – our computer couldn’t handle it – that alternate universe where I’m a world famous MMORPG player is probably closer than is comfortable.  I went to Marine Biology camp in the 7th grade. 

I started computer science as a Senior in High School because I had an awesome Calculus teacher, who encouraged me and 3 of my closest female friends that if we could handle the logic for Calculus we could handle CS. 3 of the 4 of us became engineers. Can you tell? 

Image

I grew up with the internet – Facebook came out my Freshman year of college, so I’ve “lived” on Facebook longer than I’ve lived anywhere else I’ve had a choice in. I majored in General Engineering – at first I thought it was the equivalent of Engineering Undecided, but when I found out it was a major that focused on engineering + business I was hooked. I never really considered Computer Science as a major – I didn’t think I wanted to look at code all day, but I did get a minor in CS. After a class in Principles of User Interface design I discovered and decided to specialize in Human Computer Interaction, which, along with Design Thinking, is part of my core skill set to this day. I spent a lot more of my time in college volunteering with Alternative Spring Break than I did coding outside of class, but I did have a paper published at a Computing conference as an undergrad.

In the professional world, I usually say I like computers a whole lot but people a lot more, finding my self in Business Analyst/Consulting/Product Manager roles. After internships at Kimberly Clark and BJC Healthcare, I ended up at Accenture in the Technology Labs. I was essentially a Flex programmer for 2 years, and had presented to CIOs of Fortune 100 companies by age 26. While at first I worried about being “too young to be an expert” – I realized that I probably had a decade more experience with Knowledge Management and Collaboration than many of the people in the room. My time at the Tech Labs was definitely a time of hacking – take a business problem  and a new technology and make something that would demo the solution. While we might not have been building things that would scale, we were building things that worked. Coolest thing I’ve ever built? A 10 by 7 foot tall interactive wall for the High Museum of Art with content based on art from the Louvre. 

By age 27, I was interim CIO of a $50mil/year non-profit (I still kind of have to tell myself this was real everyday). I had to hire a lead engineer, and recruiters would send me developers with Computer Engineering degrees that couldn’t do a simple FizzBuzz problem – forcing me to rethink whether I considered myself a developer or not. (I do, now, though I may not have written code for years). 

 

I’m currently the product manager at GiveForward, a social enterprise startup, where we’ve helped thousands of individuals raise over $78mil for individual medical expenses. My job involves translating between the tech folks and the non-tech folks to come up with a solution that is both technically sound, friendly and useful for our end users, and meets the needs of our business stakeholders. 

When I started college, I didn’t think I needed networking groups like Women In Engineering – I’d spent my whole life being the only girl in a group of guys. General Engineering was about 33% women, while Computer Science was less than 10%. By the time I graduated, I realized how important that mentoring is – a higher percentage of women drop out of engineering than men in those early years (high performers get their first C, women internalize their failures and drop out, while men externalize and push forward – everyone needs to read Unlocking the Clubhouse ).  At Accenture, the group started out around the 30% mark, but once you hit the Consultant level women role models were harder and harder to find (I was lucky to have some amazing female mentors that I’m still close with to this day). It’s not that the female role models aren’t out there – it’s that when you have one example, you don’t have the diversity in the different paths and options that might be right for you to find balance in your life. 

From the original #mynerdstory post

So what now? If you’re a man, please share this on the social media platform of your choice. Women are half as likely to be retweeted as men. Want to do more? Ask a woman you admire to tell her story. If you’re a woman, write up your nerd origins and share it with the hashtag #mynerdstory. The 13-year-olds of today need role models from every racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The adult women need role models, like Melinda Byerley who learned HTML and CSS at 42 so she could hack on her startup’s website. We need to hear your story, too.

P.S:  I wear the ring of the Order of the Engineer because I believe in the social mission behind the ring (even though I’m not, say, building bridges – this is me to the core “When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good.” ).There’s a Pledge of the Computing Professional now. I can get behind that.


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