Compliance on the Brain


My parents pointed out that I have been a little quiet on the blog front.  Well there is a reason for that … and no, it’s not some executive order.

All this week, I have been on what is officially my first week of travel for my new job.  It’s a massive, long distance 40 miles down the road from Burbank – specifically in Anaheim, CA.  Before you get all excited about the possibilities that may come with a vacation-esq week close to the home Mick and Doofy Moose, or see if I can spot a Mighty Duck … don’t be.  I am here for a week’s worth of training.  Specifically, Lead Auditor Training on AS 9100 Rev. D.

Sound exciting?

Well.  Let me go way more into detail, then I will ask again.

Let me frame it out like this.  My job with JPL, as was my job with BP in Alaska, as was my job for most the time I was with Cessna in Wichita; is a supplier quality auditor.  That means, I am to go out to companies that do work for us (either through contracts or other procurement activity) and make sure they are doing their job right.  In a way, you can compare that to an IRS auditor or other types of Financial auditor, but they tend to split hairs on data.  Quality auditors are more about identifying the situations where issues may occur so that the risk can be assessed and corrections can drive towards improvement.

Now let me restate that in a way that doesn’t sound suffocating … I look at folks to tell them how they can get better so we get better stuff from them.

So you maybe asking yourself why I need training if I did this before.  NOW we get to the boring.

Basically, anytime you meet someone who is a part of an auditing function needs to have a basis to start from.  IRS has tax laws.  Health Inspectors have codes.  Stuff like that.  For most of manufacturing throughout the world, the fundamental code that is used is a standard called ISO 9001.  You may have even see it listed on random stuff or business as you drive down the street.  ISO 9001 is a brilliant standard in that in about 30 pages it outlines all the key functions of a good manufacturer down to the key areas that they should control for good quality product – but does so in a way that is applicable to any company that does anything.

That being said – certain industries say “that’s all good … but we have some other stuff that would be good too.”  Medical devices, automotive, food services, test houses; they all have their own standard.  So Aerospace said, we need one too.  Enter AS9100.  Now, Aerospace was at least smart enough to figure out ISO 9001 is a good starting point – so they didn’t throw out ISO 9001, just add stuff to it to make AS 9100.  Now I’ve worked with AS 9100 since 2005, so it’s not new to me.  But a year & a half ago, ISO 9001 issued a major revision.  Because AS 9100 is an ‘additional too’, it revised as well last year to Revision D.  So — my training is keyed on the new revision.  It also will classify me (at least in the eyes of the industry) as a “Lead Auditor” … meaning, I am more important than the rest of you.

This training, though, is pretty grueling.  It’s 40 hours shoved into 4-1/2 days.  Early mornings, late afternoons, and occasional homework.  There is lectures, role playing, activities, and tomorrow we wrap it all up with a two hour test.  I’ve spent so much of the last four days in this standard, I have compliance on the brain.  I’ve questioned my intentions, followed conformance trails, and asked more interview questions on things that aren’t real than anyone should have to in a week.

But it all wraps up tomorrow.

Then the weekend comes.


At least I think the weekend will come by then … I haven’t seen the objective evidence to substantiate the statement of fact given to me by the manager of weekends.  So I will need to see that by the end of the audit, or any other retained documented information address both the plan for (and the effectiveness of) said days off.  If you have competency records (i.e. retained documented information on training) I will need to see that or the maintained documented information on the means to plan said competency.  If not, walk me through your process on improvement, specific to the measurements used and the awareness of your organizations’ impact on product safety.

Or something like that …


Everything’s Coming Up Manhattan


I can proudly say that I have officially executed the first step on Habitation Master Plan, I have found a place to live.  Now granted, that may not sound like a huge deal … then again, it maybe is a huge deal.  Either way, it is a huge-er deal to me than you probably think it is.

For those of you who didn’t read the Habitation Master Plan (either because you don’t like me, or you are just plain lazy … cause that is the only reasons I can think of to ignore my brilliant blogs) what it really consists of is how I intend to settle into life in Southern California.  Specifically, move into a rental for a few months as the first step – then find a ‘forever home’ to buy.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Well it wasn’t.

The problem was that most rentals in this area don’t allow dogs, and only a small minority of those allow ‘aggressive breed’ dogs that poor little Auggie the Doggie officially was categorized as. I can’t even exaggerate how isolating that situation made this search.  Let me play this out by the numbers.  Looking specifically at Pasadena, CA, and specifically in the area that lumps in Downtown – Hotpads (a ‘reputable’ apartment search site) shows there are currently 211 listings for available rentals.  Of those, only 24 (or 11%) accepts dogs of any kind.  And of those 24, only 1 would accept my dog.  1 Rental Property out of 211.  I know that as a direct fact because I contacted each of those 24 properties that directly stated they accepted dogs personally.  While some of those never returned my contact, it was only that one that did.  Keep in mind, Hotpads is only one of a number of sites, I was checking Craigslist, Apartments dot com, Apartment Lists dot com, West Side Rentals, just to name a few.  I had real estate agents working with me, help from title companies, and friends of friends.  I even blew the cover on three apartment scammers who were trying to get people to submit their personal data for identity theft or to agree to rent a property that they didn’t own.  I wasn’t just looking Pasadena, I was looking at Burbank, Glendale, North Hollywood, Eagle Rock, Arcadia, Altadena, and the Canada of the south, La Cañada.

The point I am trying to make is that finding a place to live was becoming an all consuming task.  I was spending hours each day searching for available rentals.  Contacting up to ten to fifteen locations a day.  Every time asking the same questions.  Every time getting the same shut downs.  My options were so limited that I only got to the point of looking at available rentals at two places in the last month; neither of those working out.

A week ago, I was starting to believe I wouldn’t find anything at all.

That’s when I found two places.

Well, three actually.  Maybe three and a twin.

I came across a house in Burbank.  I didn’t like it, too expensive, right on a main street, cramped.  But they would take me and the dog.  So I started to draw up plans, but didn’t give up the search.

Then the condos came up.  It started on a hint that one of the properties I was looking at was a possibility was another scam.  The price was good, the place was good, the contact was iffy.  It was in a condo block, so I did a search of other properties in the block and found that it’s neighbor was a rental open for a new renter too, if not for a little higher price.  Playing a verification on both, I found both to be legit, and both willing to accept Auggie.  Good news.  Except it wasn’t perfect.  No yard, condensed area, and still a little on the high side.  Still,

But there came Manhattan, so named for the street it is on.  I will tell you right now, if any of you see this place you won’t like it.  It’s kinda dumpy looking, but then again … so am I.  It’s a house that currently is under plans to have major renovations.  The owner intends to take the main building and expand it, then take the garage and expand it – turning it into two rentals on one plot of land.  The thing is, the permits aren’t ready. So he is renting it for six months, and maybe month-to-month afterwords.  Which according to my Habitation Master Plan is perfect, right?  It’s a house, small, but as much as I really need.  Good location in Monrtose, a small older community that is literally less than 10 minutes from work.  Most of all, big fenced back yard, with all the room for Auggie to run, be stupid, and poo.  That … and great price too!

I got so excited about the place that within 24 hours of physically seeing this place, I was ready to sign a lease.  It’s the mad rush to get myself set-up that I hadn’t even settled down to think what could go horribly wrong with the whole thing.

This is not like me.  I analyze, over analyze, and regret.  Not get excited and make an emotional decision.  So it’s just odd.  It’s like the post I did a while back about Everything’s Comin’ Up Milhouse; except this is on Manhattan.

As I sat in the agent’s office tonight signing the lease, the agent told me they were pretty happy I came along.  Her words: “We’ve been waiting a long time for you.”  And here I am.  Ready to be no longer homeless.

I move in after the first of the month, pending when I can get movers to show up.  By that time I can share with all who want to send fruit baskets and doggie goodies the address.

Traffic Report


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


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’


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.