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Author Archives: Tom Marks

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#ChiliThoughts – Cooking up a Project

Recently I was preparing an entry for Avanceon’s annual Chili Cook-off (recipe below), and I started thinking about how engineers tend to make good home chefs. The analytical mind craves to understand how things work; this can include cooking techniques and ingredient combinations. Two of my inspirations in the kitchen are Alton Brown (host of Good Eats) and Kenji J Lopez Alt (editor of Serious Eats). Both offer more than just recipes; they provide data driven insights into the cooking process. They explain much more than the how, and dive into the why that I need. If you’re a food nerd like me, I highly recommend checking them out.
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#PlantLife – The Mobile Office

As an automation engineer at Avanceon, I spend a lot of time visiting customer facilities. These visits include a wide range of activities: sales visits, site inspections, project meetings, commissioning, etc. Because of the frequent time spent away from the Avanceon headquarters, my laptop bag has become my mobile office, packed with everything I need on or off site. Here are some of the items that I always keep in my bag, to be prepared for whatever #PlantLife throws at me:
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Work Hard, Play Hard

What makes a great company culture? At Avanceon, we have a defined set of fundamentals that reflect what is truly important to us as a company. These core values form the bedrock of our company culture. While each of our fundamentals is important to the overall culture of our company, my personal favorite is: “Work hard, play hard.”
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Programmer Humor: How to Write Unmaintainable Code

Recently I saw a humorous guide on GitHub titled, How To Write Unmaintainable Code. GitHub is primarily a repository for open source software, and therefore serves as a bastion for programmer humor. The author of the guide is claiming to be “passing on these tips from the masters on how to write code that is so difficult to maintain, that the people who come after you will take years to make even the simplest changes” so you can “Ensure a job for life”. While the guide is geared towards Java programming, most of the “tips and tricks” apply to all realms of coding. As an integrator the maintainability of the code is equally as important as functionality, so several of the points (listed below) particularly resonated with me.
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#PlantLife – To Beard, or Not to Beard

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must grow a beard. Within Avanceon I primarily work within the food and beverage business unit, but since Good Manufacturing Processes frown upon exposed body hair, a conflict with the aforementioned call to the wild presents itself.
 
So why beard? To some, facial hair is more than a style; it is a rite of passage. To others it is an act of self-expression. The act of not shaving also saves precious morning minutes. Above all else, though, it keeps my face warm during brutal winters. I’ve been growing an annual winter beard for the 3 years I’ve been at Avanceon (a previous employer disallowed any facial hair, blasphemers). I typically like to grow into a lightly manicured lumberjack beard, just enough insulation to protect from icy gusts of wind while not long enough to be mistaken for any cast member of Duck Dynasty. The perfect balance.
 
So why not beard? Good Manufacturing Practices must be executed while working in food and beverage facilities, which requires proper PPE, hair nets, and for those with facial hair to don a beard net. Beard nets, while protecting the quality of the product, can be irritating. Unlike the hard hat/hairnet/safety glasses, you never forget that you’re wearing a beard net. On more than one occasion I’ve sat down for lunch at a restaurant while wearing my safety glasses and hair net, simply forgetting that they are on. Such is not the case with the beard net. Other cons of the beard include food crumb accumulation, babies pulling on them, and the one month embarrassment period known as the “proto-beard”.
 
In the end, it’s all a matter of preference. Personally, I get more benefit from the warmth giving of the beard during winter months, so I tolerate the beard net. Once the weather warms up I reject the beard net and sport a naked face. How do you beard?