Smokin' Ladies Cigar Club - Knoxville, Tennessee
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2017 - a whirlwind year!
Looking Ahead to 2017
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
The New Year
Random Thoughts
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Have Cigar Will Travel

2017 - a whirlwind year!

So we all find ourselves asking the question - where did the year go? I can honestly say, I do not know where this year went. It seems like only last month I was at home recovering from a total knee replacement (which happened nearly 1 year ago now). This year has been a true whirlwind, but definitely fun! So what has happened?

The mobile manufacturing experience is continuing to gain traction. We actually have been sponsored to bring the classroom to the Work Truck Industry Expo in March 2018. Turns out work truck manufacturers are having the same challenges as other manufacturers across the US. They just can't find enough skilled workers. When they heard about what we are doing, they couldn't wait to get our classroom to a central venue where we can inspire the next generation to consider careers in advanced manufacturing. 

I also had a great opportunity to be part of a presentation at the United Nations regarding our waste-to-energy approach for developing countries. That was just an amazing experience to now be on record with an innovative approach using proven technology to provide sustainable power while cleaning up the waste that is impacting environments around the world!

My work continues to take me to the DC Metro area, which is also AWESOME. My network continues to grow for providing information technology and information management services for the federal government. And it doesn't hurt that being in that area allows me to visit family more often!

As for my passion for cigars, I continue to make new friends along my journeys, They are always amazed at the diverse selection of cigars with which I travel, but also my love for wine, beer, bourbon, scotch and whiskey. This is probably one of the things I love most about my travels is meeting new people, making new friends, and inspiring so many along the way.

I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store!!!!

Looking Ahead to 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, there is much to look back on both personally and professionally. I didn't have the opportunity to travel back to Ghana as we originally wanted. However, I continue to see funding for the work we want to implement there and am hopeful that 2017 will be the year that we successfully obtain the resources and begin to implement our waste-to-energy project in Akropong.

The Mobile Manufacturing Experience that I manage for Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities had the opportunity to impact the lives of nearly 500 students this year. One of the most exciting events was our Manufacturing Days event at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville. More than 300 high school students had the chance to learn about 3D scanning, 3D printing, laser cutting, machining, and robotics. It was awesome to see their reactions as they played Henry, Denso Robotics Connect4 robot. 

I also have continued to grow in my role as Vice President of Business Development for an IT services I've reconnected with many I've known over my career, and making some great new connections, which I know will prove fruitful with awards in the new year! 

Personally, I continue to be so grateful for all of the opportunities that have been presented to me. It makes me smile every time I read the article and watch the video that the Knoxville News Sentinenl ran on our activities at Austin-East. Seeing how our efforts truly impacted so many is such a great reward! I only pray that I can continue to have such an impact in 2017.

For 2017, I simply want to be able to continue to give to others and help my employer and my clients continue to grow and succeed. To all of my family and friends, thank you for being in my life. I may not see you much with my travels, but you are with me everywhere I go, in my heart and soul! I love you all and wish you all a happy and healthy 2017!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Yes - planes, trains, and automobiles - I have checked off a bucket list item, which was to take a long-distance train ride. Okay, it wasn't a cross-country trip, but it was 38-hour trip from Chicago to Richland, WA. I had one of the roomettes in the sleeper car, and it was probably the most relaxing and productive trip I've been on. I was actually able to get quite a bit of work done without any disturbances.

So why was I in Chicago and heading to Richland? Chicago is the headquarters of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), which is one of the institutes in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The non-profit for which I'm the Executive Director, Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities, is a Tier 4 member of the institute working with them on their workforce development initiative. We are developing some concepts to promote advanced manufacturing as a viable career path. We are actively seeking funding and support for our outreach efforts to inform individuals around the country about the educational and career pathways in advanced manufacturing. So I have been traveling there at least every month or two to continue our efforts and build the support we will need to help the institute achieve its goals. So there I was in April attending the DMDII Workforce Development Advisory Council.

From there, I boarded the Amtrak Empire Builder, and set out for Tri-Cities, Washington (Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick). It was the most amazing and relaxing trip I think I have had taken. I purchased the small roomette, comprised of two seats facing each other, that then fold out into a bid. Traveling by myself, this was a perfect amount of space. So I was able to enjoy the sites while getting quite a bit of work done. I can actually say I have stepped foot in the state of North Dakota (a first). But probably most amazing was seeing the southern edge of Glacier National Park at sunset. See some of the pictures below.

When I arrived into Tri-Cities, one of my best friends and her husband picked me up and we enjoyed a great early morning breakfast. After that, I set out for my annual visit to work with a local winery in Benton City - Cooper Wine Company. About 4 years ago, I got my server's permit so that I could help him out in the tasting room. And for 4 years, I have been serving during Spring Barrel tasting. It is so much fun to share Neil's wine and his story with so many (and of course, his wines are wonderful). And this year to top things off, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a business colleague I hadn't seen in a couple years. By true chance (or design), he was out in the area on vacation (he lives in Ohio) and decided to do some wine tasting, stopping in at a winery with which he shares the same name. It was definitely meant for us to reconnect, because he now has some new technology and partners that could truly improve our offering for Ghana and other developing countries.

After a great weekend of wine tasting and visiting with friends, it was time to head back to Washington, DC for a few days (by plane), and then drive back to Knoxville for my birthday weekend.

All-in-all, an absolutely wonderful, motivating, and inspiring trip by planes, trains, and automobiles.


The New Year

My apologies to those who have been following. It has been way too long since my last post and there is much to catch up on. Let me start by saying, I'm still definitely enjoying my cigars - check out my Twitter feed (@CigarLady2012) for some of what I've been smoking. I am also enjoying my wines, bourbons, scotch and whiskey! In fact, for those who want something a bit different - look for the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof - it is amazing!!!!

Now on to my travels, since that is what this is about. Since my posting in August, I have been to Minnepolis (and more than just the airport), back to Ghana, throughout Mississippi and Alabama, Chicago (several times), and Washington, DC - just to name a few. So let's get started.

Mobile Classroom - In October, to celebrate Manufacturing Day and Manufacturing Month, we took our mobile classroom to Camp Shelby National Guard Base (Hattiesburg, MS), Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School (Montgomery, AL) and the US Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL). In total, I hosted more than 850 "kids of all ages" from as young as 4 years old to grandparents. It was so enjoyable and inspiring to see how many lives we touched and interested in manufacturing. A few pictures are included in the library below.

Waste to Energy in Ghana - The Ghana project continues to get support from stakeholders to government representatives. Only thing holding us back right now is funding and I'm working hard to get that in place! We have the location, a land-lease agreement, and MOU for a public private partnership. Now for the funding to kick off a demonstration project to prove that the systems we've identified actually work in Ghana (we know they work, but everyone wants to see in-country). We are also designing a mobile library/classroom to promote better literacy and educate on the importance of recycling and upcycling waste materials.

Information Technology - my newest endeavor is managing a contract vehicle called Alliant Small Business, trying to drum up more opportunities under it. I'm rebuilding my IT network and starting to find some strategic partners. This effort is what finds me in DC the most.

So Where to Next? This year has a lot in store for me. I have already been to DC, Chicago, and San Francisco/Livermore. Next up is Chicago (as I sit here waiting for my flight).then Pittsburgh, to start planning for a visit with my mobile classroom sometime in the spring. Following that will be Las Vegas for a Healthcare IT conference, Phoenix for an waste management conference, then quick trip to DC before heading to San Antonio for the first time ever!

Mobile Classroom
Mobile Classroom
Epilog Laser Cutter in action
Mobile Classroom
Mobile Classroom
DENSO Robot - 'Henry" - plays Connect 4
Mobile Classroom
Mobile Classroom
HAAS CNC Control Simulator
Mobile Classroom
Mobile Classroom
Airwolf 3D Printer (thanks to Wagstaff Applied Technologies for the funds to acquire this 3D printer)
Mobile Classroom
Mobile Classroom
Creaform - Handheld 3D scanner

Random Thoughts

Well, I realize now that it has been way too long since last I posted anything here. So today, I'm just going to share lots of random thought from where I've been, what I've been smoking, and what I've been up to. So since my last entry in March, I have been from ocean to ocean, sharing insights on the use of modeling and simulation to increase awareness in manufacturing in Newport News, VA, to hosting an open house in the mobile classroom at Camp Pendleton, CA. I have also been to Zurich, Switzerland; Markdorf, Germany; and back to Accra, Ghana. And today, as I write this, I find myself in Montgomery, AL.

Mobile Classroom - I have shared some insight into the mobile classroom. I am serving as the Executive Director for a new non-profit organization called Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities. We are working to increase awareness in education and career opportunities in manufacturing targeting under-represented populations around the US. We just completed our first road show, starting at Camp Pendleton, CA, as part of a Hiring Heroes job fair, to Livermore, CA and finally a stop at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, CO. Be looking for us on Manufacturing Day...logistics are in the works now.

Probably one of the coolest things for me, because my dad really was a Rocket Scientist, is gearing up for World Space Week in October (October 4-10). I went to the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs and learned about this great activity to increase interest in the space industry. My classroom is a perfect venue to support this, especially from a manufacturing perspective, given that there is a 3D printer on the International Space Station.

The reception has been amazing and justifies the niche that we are trying to fill. Manufacturers across the US say that they are struggling to find skilled workers, manufacturing technicians. Educational institutions have great programs for this career pathway, but individuals are just not signing up as quickly as many would think. One of the challenges is that many do not even realize what manufacturing looks like today.

So our classroom provides visitors a chance to see what manufacturers are doing here in the US, and actually see some of the tools and systems that are in use. It is no longer the dirty, dull and dangerous job it was once. Manufacturing is really cool and offers a great career choice. Check out our website (www.vcfsc.org) for more information. If you are interested in supporting our efforts, you can use the contact form here on Smokin' Ladies Cigar Club, or on www.vcfsc.org. Either one will reach me. We are looking for equipment, from virtual welding machines, to laptops, as well as funding to help move the trailers.

Waste to Energy in Ghana - this initiative is moving along well. We are now starting to seek potential investors and funding opportunities so that we can implement the first set of systems. This second trip included meetings with the community leaders in Akropong and with regulators. We also had a chance to see the great work done at Life Center since our last visit.

And What Have I Been Enjoying - Well this is the fun part. Probably the best part was turning 50 - yes, 50 and I'm not afraid to admit it. I have celebrated around the country with beer, wine, and whiskey, and of course, lots and lots of great friends!!!!!

I've had some great cigars and drinks along this last journey. Most recently, I toured New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, and Stranahan's Whiskey Distillery in Denver. I also FINALLY went to the Stanley Hotel and enjoyed some great rye whiskies at the haunted bar there. For cigars, well, you know what I had when I was in Europe. But I have found some new ones to enjoy here in the US. Check out Camacho's American Barrel Aged, aged in whiskey barrels. For those like me who enjoy a good whiskey and a cigar - well worth it!!!!

So What is Next? My travels will continue for the rest of the year....stops in Huntsville, AL (love the U.S. Space and Rocket Center); Montgomery, AL; Chicago, IL; Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; and Washington, DC are just a few of the places that are on the list.

Providing Energy and Opportunities in Ghana

This will be the first of many posts on this topic. I am fortunate and blessed to be involved with a project to provide systems to convert waste to energy in Ghana. We have been on this journey for nearly 2.5 years, when I was first approached by someone inquiring about these systems. Since then, we have been diligently working on our business plan and earlier this month had the wonderful opportunity to travel there.

The experience was beyond words, and I am looking forward to returning. The best description I can give this is "life changing." When I started my career nearly 30 years ago, I never imagined traveling the way I do, and I definitely did not imagine embarking on this type of a journey. It was eye-opening, amazing, wonderful...I could go on. But I think what most impacted me was that everyone we saw was smiling. Regardless of their situation, they were smiling and founded on their beliefs.

So, this first post I am going to share photos from some of the places we visited. First up is the Aburi Botantical Gardens in the Akwapim District, built in 1890. The gardens were beautiful and so many unique plants and trees.

Life and ResilienceLife carvingsGhanaian military's first helicopterCocoa plant
We visited these gardens following a meeting with the municipality of Akropong, in which we will likely implement our first set of systems - as a demonstration project to prove the systems' capabilities. The municipality greeted us with open arms, inviting the entire general assembly leadership to join our meeting. We plan to implement a set of small-scale systems to treat municipal solid waste, waste water, and medical waste. Follow my blog to learn more as this journey continues.


Looking Ahead to 2015

As the new year approaches, I am getting very excited by what is in store. I have mentioned in a couple posts about a non-profit that I am helping to set up. We just filed the paperwork to obtain 501(c)(3) status with the IRS and now I can start seeking contributions. Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities (VCSC) has two primary missions:

  • Mentor small businesses to build their infrastructure so that they can pursue and perform work
  • Provide workshops and coaching through mobile classrooms on industries that are in need of resources, such as manufacturing and transportation

It has been such a great pleasure to be working on both of these important endeavors, but the second one is now growing rapidly. My most recent travel has found me in Manhattan, Kansas - home to Fort Riley Army Base, as well as home to Kansas State University. While I never imagined spending significant time in Kansas, I can honestly say that I am enjoying it! We are part of a consortium that is focused on aligning the transitioning military to career and educational opportunities in manufacturing, as well as in transportation (trucking). This is just the first of what will be several locations that this initiative is implemented. VCSC will provide mobile classrooms equipped with systems and tools representative of the manufacturing industry, providing educational workshops on what the future of manufacturing looks like. I am in the process of setting up a crowd-funding site to assist in raising the monies necessary to equip the trailer appropriately.

The second major effort I am working on is one for alternative and renewable fuels in West Africa for one of my clients. I am excited to say that I will actually be traveling there in the very near future to learn more about the needs and about how the systems can be implemented. Be on the look out for pictures and postings about this effort as it moves forward.

Pairing Cigars

As I shared in a previous post, cigar bars are a great place for networking. The conversations are always vibrant and varied. One of my most recent visits to one of my haunts in San Francisco (The Occidental) found me in a conversation about pairing wines and cigars. I was tasting a new pinot noir that they had just brought in when one of the patrons came up for a drink. He made a simple statement - "I would not have imagined that wine would go with cigars."

There has also been on ongoing thread on Cigars and Professionals on LinkedIn on just this topic. And the comments are varied - the constants are bourbon, scotch, and whiskey. But it was interesting to hear from those who enjoy beer as well.

From my perspective, it's just like the cigar you choose - it's what you enjoy. For me, I have had cigars with beer (mostly ales, porters, or stouts as I'm not an IPA fan), cider, red wine, port wine, champagne, and of course, bourbon, scotch and whiskey. I am often asked what I usually drink with cigars, and I really don't have a "regular" drink. It depends on my mood, the cigar, the bar's libation selection, among other things. But a few that I tend to go to include:

  • Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
  • Templeton Rye
  • High West Double Rye
  • The Balvenie Caribbean Cask
  • A good Tawny Port

Back to the comment that was made, red wine actually pairs very nicely with cigars. Personally I prefer cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, petite syrah, or zinfandel - especially since I tend to smoke full-bodied, spicy cigars.

But the key is - pair with your cigar your drink of choice - it's all about what you like!

Bringing Manufacturing Home

It has been awhile since last I posted. As I mentioned before, I am going to start sharing some of the initiatives that I have the pleasure of working on with my clients. Two big efforts have opened up a whole new world of opportunities:

  • Visionary Center for Sustainable Communities - a non-profit that will provide mentoring for small businesses and education and outreach, specifically in manufacturing, for communities across the United States
  • Visionary Fabrication and 3D Design - a new entity that will provide additive manufacturing services, primarily in metal

My most recent travel found me in Chicago, IL for a week for the International Manufacturing Technology Showcase (IMTS), a conference and tradeshow for the advanced manufacturing industry. It also showcased additive manufacturing, more commonly referred to as 3D printing. Here, I had the opportunity to meet with major players in the additive manufacturing world. Check out the conference website for more information (www.imts.com).

My father went to University of Chicago for his PhD in chemistry. He'd often talked about the architecture, as did my mom. So I finally got a chance to see it. My first trip, back in December 2013, was a bit on the cold side, and very quick, so I only got a chance to see a small portion of the Magnificent Mile. The second trip, just a few weeks ago, found me wandering along the riverwalk down to the Navy Pier, where I had a chance to enjoy the Tall Ship Windy. 

This past week showed me the areas of Gold Coast and Old Town, both enjoyable locations for food, wine, and cigars. I do have to say that the McCormick Place, which housed the IMTS conference, was HUGE!!!! If you have a conference in this venue, be sure to have on some good walking shoes, as there is a lot of ground to cover.

But back to food, wine, and cigars (oh, and beer)... I had the pleasure of visiting two tobacconists while in Chicago - Up Down Cigar, which is a icon in Chicago. It has a great "hometown" vibe and inside its doors is a wonderful selection of very fine cigars. Pull up a stool inside to enjoy one, or head out back to their quaint patio area! The second one is Biggs Cigar Emporium, which just opened a few weeks earlier inside the old Biggs Mansion. The shop is in the basement and offers cigar lovers a number of great cigars to choose from. With pub chairs and TVs, one can definitely kick back and relax!

Cigar Bars - a great place to network

A lot of folks wonder what it is I've been doing and what has me on the road so much. The best way to describe what I'm doing these days is truly "business development" - helping my clients to develop and build their businesses and their offerings. One of the most recent endeavors involves the creation of a new non-profit entity that is focused on building sustainable communities around the world. In this new endeavor, we will work to implement mentor-protégé programs, providing training, counseling, and coaching to small businesses and individuals. We will offer these services to target a variety of industries in local communities, but we will have specific programs tailored to some of the up-and-coming industries including additive manufacturing and alternative and renewable fuels.

As part of all of my travels, I am always looking to network for opportunities to partner. One of the best places I have found to do this is indeed in cigar bars. I have made more connections sitting in cigar bars and enjoying cigars and scotch, bourbon, whiskey. wine, and other libations. It is one of the few locations where I know I can always make a new acquaintance.
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