Traffic Report

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The one thing people from outside of LA ask me about living out here is the traffic.  To be honest, that makes y’all a little boring and due to your lack of creativity.  This area is the entertainment capitol of the world, why not ask if I started dating a C or D-Level actress, or met the guy who knows the guy who handles the dog from Modern Family.  Why don’t you ask if I have been to one of the lesser amusement parks, like Spleen World or Notts Dairy Blarms, or Disney’s California Adventure?  Instead, you ask me how the traffic is.

I get it.  Most of you want to think I am spending eight hours a day parked on an Interstate.  Picturing me blaring my horn at some jerk who cut me off.

Well, I hate to break it to you, my commute is not bad.  In fact … it is quite awesome.

To explain it all to you, let’s get out a map alright?  I am currently living in Burbank, specifically just off of Downtown Burbank.  I work at JPL (like you hadn’t heard me say that before) which is on the Northern-most point of Pasadena, and splits with La Cañada-Flintridge. To get between the two places, I actually go on five different interstates:
I-5 South out of Burbank
CA-134 East thru Glendale
CA-2 North
I-210 South
There really isn’t a direct path between the two places, because the two cities are separated by the Verdugo mountains, a short range but still impassible directly.  As a better description — Burbank is inside the San Fernando Valley, and Pasadena is in the San Gabriel Valley … and two valleys have to be separated by something.  This is important, so remember that point.

Traffic much of the time in any place is all about finding the trend of where commuters are going.  My route counters that trend.  The I-5 Route is the only part that doesn’t since it is the main route out of Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley and High Desert – so I go in the same direction as those folks (but that’s just for 2 miles).  By CA-134, I am countering the flow in and out of Glendale by seemingly heading into where everyone else is leaving.  CA-2 is … well … I don’t get CA-2.  It’s five lanes in each direction, but I rarely see more that four or five cars on that patch of road.  It’s free and clear.  Then I-210 just seems to be a steady pace right through to the end.  I have city streets getting to JPL, so with that in context the 15 mile drive takes me between 18-20 minutes on the way in, and (due to I-5) about 20-25 getting home.  Not to bad is it?

Well, here’s the good part .. and the real payoff.  You know that mountain pass I have to cross to get between valleys?  Have you ever driven through a mountain pass and said “wow, that’s boring”.  CA-2 is that stretch.  It’s a climb, there is a 600 foot elevation change between Burbank and La Cañada, and I know neither city is at the peak of that pass. The road gives just a bit of a wind to point out the crests and hill tops around the two valleys.  At night, coming over the top and head down towards Glendale/Burbank allows for the lights of the valley to come alive.  In the mornings, as the sun breaks through and casts its light upon the hills, you get a new glow where the orange meshes with the rough colored slopes.  But with all this rain, we get fog or low hanging clouds – those thinner, dynamic clouds that aren’t sure if they want to just create a haze, drop it’s rain, or just burn away.  In short, the views on that route are absolutely gorgeous, and is one of the contributing factors to pushing me to consider living in Burbank / Glendale … just to have the opportunity to see those views daily.

People give me an odd stare when I say I am happy about the traffic out here.  A drive that length in Boston would have taken me about 45 minutes at the same times of day.  The other drivers would be more nasty and more difficult to deal with.  And the best views would be of the water dripping in the tunnels making new holes that would lead to them shutting down the big dig.  So yeah, I’ll take this traffic … I’ll take it any day of the week.

Crymea River

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It rains all the time in California.

At least, that is the assumption one can make if they only lived in California from late last December until now.  Since I am the one specifically who had made that moved and lived here in that period – and we all know every observation I make is a 100% correct – it rains all the time.

The drought is just a figure of everyone’s imagination.

For serious, it has rained a lot here.  According to the National Oceanic & Atomospheric Administration (NOAA), the 28 days I have spent in California has seen at least a trace of rain 14 days or approximately every other day.  The data suggests that there has been as much as 8 inches of precipitation that has fallen in the last 30 days — which for you snow birds is the equivalent of nearly 50 inches of snow in that same time period.

According to the news reports from weather nerds (which so happens includes quotes from a guy from JPL), what’s going is that California is seeing what is described as Atmospheric Rivers.  These are troughs of pressure differences that suck up water from the Pacific Ocean, then streams in a line in-land slowly making it’s way south.  Many times, these start from the area near the Hawaiian Islands and get the more colorful (i.e. less nerdy) name of a Pineapple Express.  Some of the ones we have seen these last few weeks have been real toad chokers.  Some of these can carry as much water as what flows through the mouth of the Mississippi River … and then 14 more Mississippi Rivers.

For the most part, it isn’t heavy rains.  It’s drizzle and light showers and general wetness .. but all day and all night.  I guess it wouldn’t be so bad, but with the size of the lab, I am walking all the time to meetings — and I can guarantee you that it will be raining the hardest when I have a place to be.  It’s gotten so bad that we had to reschedule meetings that were supposed to be outside to places on the inside.  I KNOW … It’s Rough!  Do you know what its like to have meetings inside?

Life is so rough here, I tell you what.  I mean, yeah, I could be shoveling snow in Boston right now but … I’m in California.  It’s supposed to be warm beautiful and awesome.  Not wet, wet, and … wet.

 

PS … who got the joke in the title?  Come someone … Get it?  Crymea River?  Cry-Me-A River?  See, I can be funny.

Updates and ‘The Question’

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This is going to be one of those posts that seemed to be way more common back in the Alaskan days, but is all the more necessary today.  Just randomness.

I mean, there is stuff to talk about, lots of blog worthy stuff.  But there are specific things going on that just need updating and rather go on and on across multiple posts, I thought I would just throw the quick pointers out for y’all.

For starters – big news – I accepted an offer for my Boston condo.  It was a little under my asking price (at just about 98% of asking); and that bugs me because I made a point to price it at well below what I wanted.  Still, it’s off the market, and with a closing date of Feb 17th, I will only have to carry a second mortgage / rent check one month.

With working in Pasadena, I had a few questions on if I went to the Rose Bowl Parade and/or game.  No and No.  Not that I didn’t want to, but that is a little bit more work to make happen than I was aware.  It’s a pretty busy place on Rose Bowl day, getting places to watch the parade fill up the night before and folks sleep on the sidewalk to save a spot.  Parking is non-existent.  Maybe by next year I will actually have a plan.

I entered my fourth week at work today as well … which I did by taking New Hire Orientation.  If you are wondering why I wouldn’t have gone through that, say, my first day … well … turns out on my first day I was the only one hired.  And they didn’t bring on anyone else since then.  So I joined 15 other people starting today as the ‘expert’ in the room.  Just in case this makes you believe JPL isn’t hiring that much, they have 46 people coming on board next week, and likely another 30 by month end.  So … little bit crazy.

Good news was the orientation came with some more official tours and meetings with some of the big names on lab.  So we got a good amount of stories, history, and background to certain things.  Enough that it gave me a few blog worthy posts for the future for those interested.  But for today … just the updates.

One thing that was difficult in that orientation and when meeting people generally since my arrival is answering a question that should be much easier than it is.
“Where are you from?”
To clarify, its a different question to me than ‘where are you coming from’, but just saying ‘Boston’ is not something I like to say either, because then I get Boston questions.  I could say Alaska, but I ‘lived’ in Boston for longer than I lived in Alaska (by only a few weeks, but still); and there have been two moves since then.  I sometimes tell people I am from Wisconsin, which is where I grew up and probably what they were asking about.  Heck, I should say I am from Kansas, since the longest part of my adult life was there.  But even that sounds distant and wrong these days.  It’s a hard fact that I have been really from nowhere for a while.  It’s hard to convince people you are stable along that lines too – since of course, recent history suggests otherwise.   Probably this is all because I want to say I am from Alaska still … It always leads to the better conversations and cooler stories.  I even sneak it into other topics just to talk about it.  Like put it out there like this.
Them:  Is your dog full breed?
Me: Yes, I actually got him from a breeder in … well, before I say, just know this is totally going to change topics … I got him when I lived in Alaska
Them:  Wait, you lived where?

But other than that tough question, things are going well.

Blog more when I get a chance.

 

Reason to Be Over Optimistic

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The Who’s rock opera has a song called ‘1921’; which follows a couple of the main characters discuss the new year, 1921, ahead of them.  The main lyrics run through my head today saying: “I’ve got a feeling twenty one is going to be a good year”, and “I have no reason to be over optimistic”.  I keep thinking about that song today because, simply, I have a feeling that seventeen is going to be a good year.

But I would be wrong if I didn’t mention that after those first few lyrics, 1921 goes all Milhouse (remember this theory:  Everything’s Comin’ Up Milhouse).  The two characters kill a third, then convince the boy Tommy (who saw it all) that he didn’t see or hear anything, and do such a good job Tommy ends up ‘deaf dumb and blind’ – thus creating the tragic incident that drove the entire rest of the rock opera.

Kinda puts a stick into being overly optimistic, doesn’t it?

What’s funny is that I checked out my Facebook which includes posts I made on this day the last few years.  Repeatedly I kept saying “So long 20XX I’m glad your over; and I am excited about 20XX”.  It becomes almost laughable how routinely I was sure the next year was going  to be better.  Hindsight says ‘overly optimistic’, definitely.

So now I am saying goodbye to a difficult 2016; a year that needed chapters to be closed.  But going into 2017, those chapters are closed – and new chapters are already starting up.  I literally have reason to be overly optimistic.

There is the well reported new job; and just a few shorts week into it I am excited about what it will be.

There is the new life in a new state.  I already am connecting with new friends and new things to do.

I already have a potential offer on my Boston condo (I am going to counter, so nothing to announce there yet).

I already have some good leads on places to live here.

To me, what is really different this year is that I am not relying on blind hope for the year to come.  It’s not like I am saying “there is no way this year will be worse than last year”.  The proof is out there.  I can see what may happen.

And for what I can see, I have reason to be over optimistic.

However you are or did celebrate,
Happy New Year!
See you in 2017

 

Habitation Master Plan

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I’ve lived in my temporary housing for a quarter of the time I’m allotted, so I am starting to sneak into the period where I need to get serious about something far less temporary.  Specifically, executing the ‘Habitation Master Plan’, or finding a place to live … which more directly means that it is the ever changing and ever tentative plan to find a place I can live.  Since this is my third major move in the last four years, you would think I have a more solid plan than that, but if you think that way … you don’t know me very well, right?

Besides, this move is full of tougher challenges and harsher realities.

In general, my master plan follows two steps:
1) Find a rental to live in for awhile until such time I figure out where I really want to live, and find a house I really want to live in
2) Buy that house
The real intention of the master plan is that it opens up options for me.  So many times, when you go looking for a house to buy, it isn’t as much about finding that ‘perfect house’, it’s about finding that ‘house that is as perfect as it gets at the time I am looking‘.  For instance, when I was in Boston, the condo I ended up getting was the best on the market at that time – not my favorite place, but I was so time bound with getting out of my current residence that when issues came up during inspection, I couldn’t back out of the offer unless I was going to literally be homeless for two months.  There are always tons of great places in any area you want to look, you just have to commit to being patient until it comes along.  Thus … renting first gives me the time to look.

So … Step One is the priority, find a place to live.  But I tell you what, it sucks.  It sucks a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, there are nice places to live, it’s just that I threw three criteria that severely limit the options.

First — I want to live near where I work. Specifically, I don’t want to commute more than 30 minutes one way.  That cuts me off to a lot of areas.  Basically, that leaves me looking at: Pasadena, Not very far to the East of Pasadena (Temple City, Monrovia, maybe Azusa), a little farther to the west of Pasadena (La Cañada, La Cresenta), Glendale, or Burbank.  My hotel is currently in Burbank, which is a top contender for me – but then again Pasadena is a pretty cool place.  There are good options throughout these areas, if it weren’t for the other criteria.

Second — I want to live with Auggie the Doggie.  That sounds like a “erm … DUH”; but it’s not that simple.  If I get a rental, it has to be a rental that is “Pet Friendly”, which on any apartment sight that button is easy to find.  The problem is the sliding scale of what it means to be “Pet Friendly”.  For starters — it turns out “Pet Friendly” can mean, Cats Only.   It can also mean, Small Dogs under Auggie Size only.  The worst though is that many rental properties enforce breed restrictions.  Auggie is a Stafforshire Terrier, which by many people are considered to be an ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’ breed.  I went off on this a couple of years ago in one of the cutest blogs I have ever done (How Could You Pass A Law Against This Face?).  The guts of it is that many people have a prejudice against specific dog breeds; not because they are aggressive, but because they are perceived to be more aggressive than other (and sometimes notoriously aggressive) breeds.  The thinking is that these breeds are dangerous to other dogs or humans, regardless of their training.  While there has been good effort the last few years to keep breed specific laws off the books, private businesses – like rental management groups – can still have their own restrictions.  As a result, I am finding about half of the rental properties who say they are “pet friendly” are more aligned with the “pet friendly, but only to those pets we don’t carry a prejudice against”.  Even those that wouldn’t say no to a face like Auggie’s falls under the third tough criteria.

Third — I have to afford living there.  This may ultimately be my downfall.  Rentals around here are expensive.  Like … holy cow expensive.  I’m not looking for a grand housing choice here folks, I just prefer to have a place where the pup can be stupid and I can hang a TV on the wall.  But a rental property smaller than my Boston condo rents at nearly one-and-a-half times what my mortgage was.  I am not kidding you – the last time I rented an apartment was in Milwaukee in 2000, and that rent was 12% of my high limit I am putting on my search.

The search may get better next week as we pass through the first of the month.  I worry I will get to a point where I say ‘beggers can’t be choosers’ and stick myself with someplace I don’t like much.

But if that happens, well, it just means I have to stick with the Master Plan … and start looking for a forever home.

I’ll try to sneak in another blog before the end of the year, but if I get lazy … as we know we do …

Happy New Year everyone.

XMAS Letter 2016

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It is a standing tradition to write an annual letter with Christmas Cards … and I’ve extended that tradition to an open letter to all you Bear Feeders out there.  Enjoy.

 

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Once again, it’s come time for me to share with you the year that was.  The challenge this year isn’t for me to try to summarize the whole of last year – but to at least talk about something other than what has happened in the last couple of weeks.  I have to tell you, that’s just going to be tough.  It all starts with the really big news in my career:

Last week I started a new position at the NASA – Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) as a Procurement Quality Assurance Engineer.  Now, there is a good chance you have heard of JPL – I mean, don’t tell me you didn’t see The Martian with Matt Damon, cause that movie was kinda awesome (best film ever about growing potatoes) – but if you haven’t … JPL is contracted as the primary source of unmanned space flight for NASA.  Any unmanned program you can think of going into space for the USA likely came through JPL including:  Viking, Voyager, Cassini, Juno, and Every Mars Rover Mission ever!  That’s who I am working for now.

This new job meant that I had to move to California.  JPL is in Pasadena, CA (literally just up the street from the Rose Bowl).  While the new job requires travel, I will still be based here and worked out of the lab when in town.  Where exactly I will live, well that is what is in the air.  It’s going to be a bit before I find a permanent home, while I am in the transition for the new job and selling my old place.  I am writing this letter from my temporary home, a place that is so temporary that it actually is a hotel in Burbank.

Ironically, to portray the previous 11 months, ‘temporary home is a hotel’ is about the best way to describe it.  The job I left had me traveling a lot.  In 2015, I was little shocked to find out that I stayed in hotels for 226 nights.  Well – 2016 will be 267 nights.  That’s 73% of the year I was staying in a hotel.  In truth, I felt like I was home a lot this year – but that was mostly because I spent a good part of the summer home on the weekends, and the fall was nearly a full month and half at the condo.  Still, it added up, and was a driving factor to throttle that back to something closer to 25% of my time.

I did get a few chances to do some fun things along the way.

In June, I was able to work in some time in England, the first time I have been there in about four years.  It’s always fun for me to visit London, and I was able to get a full week and a weekend in the big city.  Along the way I got to take a walk around Hyde Park, see some of the sites around the city, and catch couple of shows.

In August, I caught up with my brother and nephew when they spent a couple of days in Gettysburg.  After they left, I got a couple days there myself.  If you haven’t heard me say it before, Gettysburg is a great place for me to visit to help me relax and enjoy.  Even when I got there with family, I seem to love those moments walking the battlefields or strolling through the old Civil War era city.  So it was good to get back again.

On the downside, most of the first eleven months of this year were focused on work – sometimes intensely and unrelentingly.  I spent January thru March based in California working through some projects; having driven cross-country to get here.  The return trip that required a lot of visits and stops to work issues, took nearly a whole month.  Then the next few months were an tough run of projects and audits to work through with the old job.  Hindsight, I am proud of the work I did with my old job, but it took a lot out of me, and pushed me to some of my breaking points.

It’s just that there isn’t much to fill in for the gaps between work and ‘not being in a hotel’.  I mean, I got to spend some quality time with my friends The Creeds in the Temecula, CA wine country a few times.  I attempted and got through another year doing the National Novel Writing Month in November.  And I continued to blog on the good old Bear Feed (find it at bearfeed.net). But for the most part it was getting through the year with my best pup by my side.

But that of course is now behind me, and that, more than ever, is the reason why this season of hope and happiness, is just a source of me bursting with happiness from hope.

Like I said, this letter was hard to write because I don’t want to focus on the year behind, I want to focus on the year ahead.

So while I don’t believe it is possible, I hope you are looking forward to a greater 2017 that I am.  Let us see what the world will be and the world will become.

 

From Auggie & Mitch

Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year

Christmas Street

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Last night, I experienced a great event – LA Zoo’s LA Lights.  The zoo, opened after nightfall, was lit up with loads of holiday lights.  The place felt magical, with the hint of joy and celebration about.  The night was cool, rain threatened, and the air had the chill that reminded you what time of year it was.  The pathways were filled with young and all, and there wasn’t one that wasn’t happy to be there.

It reminded me of an album I keep on my phone just for this time of year.  A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keiller’s “It’s Christmas Again”.  Rather than try to steal the concepts, I will give you a few lines stolen directly from the album.  Mostly from the track fittingly called “Christmas Street”.

It’s Christmas, and our hearts are open
to the time when all ages and all times meet as one.
We’re the parents, and we are the children
Childhood was the country we had to leave behind,
and at Christmas, we get to go back and try to speak our first language.

We aren’t so emotion, God’s frozen people is who we are
But on Christmas Eve we sit in church with bows of pine in the candlelight
And the choir sings from in back
And we lean forward
And we cry, if we have it in us

Christmas is when we gather up everything good in our life
all the warmth and the light and all the good memories
and we draw it close
and enjoy it
as much as we are able to

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, it’s cold – but then again it’s Christmas
Anyway, cold is a stimulus to sound thinking, you know that.
There is nothing like cold to bring you back to reality, and the reality is …
we are very lucky