Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Anthony Thomas Candy Factory Tour

My brother John flew from Philly to spend a couple days here to visit and to assist with adding a bunch of lighting to my kitchen. I have always been a bit upset with how little light there is in my kitchen, doubly bad because I do a lot of cooking. John and I spent two days on the kitchen and now there are tons of lights. I will show them off in a future post.

I am between jobs this week, so I have more free time than usual to do interesting things. I have watched more movies than normal, done some cooking, and worked on cleaning the house. Today John and I headed over to the Anthony-Thomas Candy Company for a factory tour. The factory is about 10 miles from my house and they are the source of many of the buckeye candies we eat during college football season. The company has been around since 1952.

The factory tour lasts about an hour and largely consists of walking on a high catwalk over the production floor. Today was a bit of a slow day in the factory, but we did see the making of peanut butter easter eggs from the mixing of the peanut butter dough to the final packaging. The factory is clean and packed with big machines. Lots of chocolate is around on various pallets waiting to be packaged. They do not allow photos inside the factory, so unfortunately I can not post any action shots.

Me with what may be the worlds largest buckeye candy. It is 235 pounds and can be yours for only $3,500.

From the website, "Walk along our comfortable, glass-enclosed suspended "Cat-Walk" and observe eight lines producing 25,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Our experienced tour guides explain each process step-by-step, from our kitchens to the final packaging. View interesting sights such as our huge copper kettles where the centers are created, and our unique silver wrapped pipes that carry liquid chocolate throughout the factory. The tour finishes in our beautiful 2,500 square-foot retail shoppe. Our free Open House Factory Tours are every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 am. to 2:30 pm. "

Monday, February 16, 2009

Onwards and Upwards

I have recently decided to leave my job with Ernst & Young. It has been a difficult process, but it feels like the right move for me right now. The economic crisis changed my job along with just about everything else, and I did not like all of the changes. I have accepted a position with Hexion Specialty Chemical as an Internal Audit Manager. This is a good job with a great company and I feel lucky to have landed on my feet.
I never took my job with Ernst & Young for granted, I worked hard every day and I always tried to give more than I received. They treated me very well and there are many people I will miss working with. I made a lot of friends and I benefited from being around some really smart, focused people. I saw my career and capabilities blossom with Ernst & Young. It has been a great place to work and I am certainly leaving on good terms.

When I think over the last five years, I have a few favorite memories and events that come to mind:

- Participating in interviewing college students in the same little rooms at the University of Pittsburgh that I had interviewed in eight years before, in some ways I felt like I had come full circle

- Realizing I had just worked an 18 hour day (fully billable)

- Leading my first training that I developed from beginning to end

- Watching people I mentor grow and develop and get promoted

- Chili competition at my house

- Big carrot cookies and 50 cent every day at 3pm with the Federated audit team

- Walking through Brussels Belgium, living a dream I never thought I would achieve

- Achieving American Express Platinum, Sheraton Platinum, Hilton Gold, and Marriott Gold all in one year (how can you do this? Live in hotels for a year!)

- Getting the chance to live in Uruguay for three months and making the most of every second

- The cafeteria at Washington Hospital

- Living it up at the Skihut in Rotterdam

- Being promoted to Audit Manager, something I never really expected I would accomplish

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lessons From my Experience in Uruguay

On the plane flight back from Uruguay I jotted down a few of the larger lessons that I learned in my time out of country. I have added a few items to that list in the subsequent month. They are as follows:
  1. Do work I am interested in and can be passionate about.
  2. I have so much in common with people I have nothing in common with.
  3. Teamwork is so important - both professionally and personally
  4. Everyone matters. The importance of valuing each person can not be overstated.
  5. Value an employer that gives you opportunities to try new things.
  6. Pack light and remain flexible.
  7. A positive attitude is everything.
  8. Wear and be proud of the "T Shirt". The T Shirt can represent your employer, organizations you are part of, etc.
  9. You have to put the hook into the water to catch the fish.
  10. When you are unsure how to proceed, talk to people.
  11. A solid relationship on the home front is the foundation for all else.
  12. Take care of yourself, do not be a burden on others.
  13. Develop the capacity to self-manage yourself
  14. Creativity is very important, learn how to lead brainstorming.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A New Toy for the New Year

Elly surprised me this Christmas with a Soy Milk Maker. This is simply a machine that makes soy milk in the comfort of your home. These machines are relatively unheard of in much of the world, though in Asia are much more common.

I have been a loyal soy milk drinker ever since an allergy developed in my teens forced me to find an alternative to cow milk. I love soy milk and it is one of the mainstays of my being. One of the biggest hardships for me of travel for work is the lack of soy milk for my cereal. While my allergy has largely gone away, I have continued drinking soy milk because I consider it much healthier

I have tried many different products over the years, though recently I have been buying the generic soy milk at Trader Joe's and the unsweetened Silk variety available everywhere. The new soy milk maker has meant that I have not purchased soy milk since December. All you need for the soy milk machine is water and soybeans. Soybeans are readily available in the asian market near my home at a price of $0.69 per pound. One pound of beans is enough to make approximately five to ten gallons of soy milk. You start by soaking a cup of the beans overnight in water. The water gets drained from the beans and they are now ready to use.

The beans are then dumped into a small metal basket.

This basket locks onto the bottom of the machine, where there are small blender blades.

The next step is to fill the bottom section with clean water up to a designated line.

The top half containing the beans in the metal basketis then placed on the bottom section containing the water. A simple push of a button gets the whole process going. It takes about 15 minutes to make two quarts of soy milk.
What does it taste like? It is an acquired taste, being more bitter and beany than Silk and nothing at all like cows milk. I think it makes great soy milk with none of the nasty additives at a fraction of the price you pay in the store, so it is a hit with me. For those of you not used to soy milk, I would encourage you to buy a carton at a local store to see if you like it before committing to the large cost of a machine. For those of you who already know you like soy milk and have some extra space in you cabinet, this is probably a very good investment. I recommend the Veg Gourmet Soymilk Maker http://www.healthytraders.com/gourmet-automatic-milk-maker-p-3222.html

Monday, February 2, 2009

Columbus Area Boardgaming Society

I was never the athletic, cool type in elementary school. I didn't play any sports and at recess my main sport was being invisible so as not to be beaten up. I am older and wiser now, I know how to stand up for myself and I like to think that I have been more successful than most of those schoolyard bullies. But there are holdover interests of mine that make it clear I was/am a geek. I did well in school, I like to read, I am an accountant. Perhaps most significant of all is my active involvement in the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society (CABS).

From the CABS website "The Columbus Area Boardgaming Society is a club of boardgamers dedicated to bringing the gamers of Central Ohio together to increase their gaming pleasure. We meet on the odd Fridays of the month and many last Saturdays on the month as well at the MOSSL office on Lakewood Plaza Blvd in Worthington, Columbus Ohio (USA). In 2009 we have OVER 200 paid members already signed up."

"The games we play range from the abstract boardgames, traditional boardgames, the new Eurogames, the historical wargames to the whimsical fast play fun card/board games. Some of us have been gaming for decades, others only for a short time. The majority type of game played are ones called "Euro Games" - these are family strategy games. If you view the website photo section then you have looked at the pictures of us playing games and you have seen the typical games we play. Anyone who loves playing games will love Euro Games ... Many people are not really interested in "playing" games but are more interested in the social aspects in that, that is what they perceive what game playing is about. In other words, Party type games and Trivia Games are more social occasions than game occasions. For us the game play is the focus and the social interaction with our friends is the reward."
On a good Friday night over 100 people show up for gaming. There are large closets full of hundreds of games. Anyone can pick any game that looks interesting and usually can find someone else to play. It is a great way to be introduced to new games without making a big time or money commitment. After a short while you usually find a stable of favorite games that you can gravitate towards. Some people like to play the same games each week and some people like to constantly try new games. This is a great way to meet likeminded people. If you are ever interested in coming, drop me a line and I will be happy to meet you there.