Everything’s Coming Up Manhattan – Part 2


Sometimes you got to think “Things Were Meant To Be”.  I’m seriously living that today in big ways.  In short, I am back in escrow on a house, a new one.  This after just cancelling my escrow on a house in Pasadena just last week.  I will tell you right now, I think we have a winner, a big winner, and Everything’s Coming Up Manhattan (again).

So, to catch up you newer Bear Feeders (or more likely, just those who don’t live and die on every little detail of my life); here’s a quick summary on what I kept calling the Habitation Master Plan …
Got a Job at JPL … moved to California … need a place to rent … no one likes my dog … found a place to rent … need a real house now … found one … no I didn’t … monkeys.
A key element in there is the rental.  It took forever to find one, and when I did it seemed to literally drop on my lap.  Running of the Simpson’s line that has come to mean when optimism blinds you from major problems (Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse), I used a similar tag based on the street I am on.  Namely:  Everything’s Coming Up Manhattan. Key thing to remember is “it just seemed to fall in place” and it was on “Manhattan Ave.”

So, now the real news.

Two weeks ago, I was facing a hard decision on the house in Pasadena. Short story long, the seller didn’t want to pay for repairs, and was sticking me with the a lot to cover.  The night I started considering cancelling the agreement I was faced with the fear of having to go back out and find a new home … something I wasn’t really sure I could do with the time I had left in my current rental.  But being the practical kind of guy I thought, “you haven’t looked at what has been on the market for a few weeks, just see what’s there … maybe you will find something.”

And … I … Did!

The house in question was literally just down the street from me.  Four blocks to be exact, and still on Manhattan Ave.  Though in this neighborhood, four blocks is still nearly 3/4 of a mile, but its the same neighborhood.  Compared to the house I would be walking away from, this one was much smaller but more reasonable for the dog & I.  It also looked to be in better condition, and … well … cheaper.  I knew I would have to get into a bidding war, but the asking price allowed me to have the money to go to war.

The next day, I put a ‘best & final’ on the repairs of the first house and went to an open house on the new one.  Before my ‘best & final’ was officially ignored at the end of the weekend, I had an offer in on the new one that would surely get me into a counter position.  The counter came back, I upped my price, and …

BAM!!  I’m in Escrow.

What’s shocking is how quick all this went down.  The house has been on the market for 2-1/2 weeks.  It took about a week an a half from the time I made the offer to the acceptance of the counter; but then things sped up again.  The main inspection is done, as is the termite inspection & sewer line inspection.  It’s not even 24 houses since the offer was accepted!!  Tomorrow a foundation guy is coming out, I should have an electrician there the next couple of days, and hopefully it will get appraised by the weekend.  There’s issues in the inspection, but already it is a better position than the other place.  Honestly, the kitchen will need a redo, and but at the rate I am going the funds will be there for that.

Heck, this happened so fast, I am still officially in escrow on the old house.

In all honesty, it feels way different this time around.  The other house, while nice and a good investment made me as excited as the words “nice and good investment” could make anyone.  This new house … its nice … it’s a good investment … it is beautiful … it has a killer view … it is a great size for me … it has an incredible back yard … its gonna be awesome.  And that is a reserved reaction from me.  This house screams “I am going to love living there”.

So forgive me if I go blindly into this new place and happily say




On This Day


One of those dumb little things on Facebook I like is clicking the ‘On This Day’ button to look at what I posted through the years.  Part of that is not just to see what I was doing, but how I was going public with what I was doing.  If you been watching this blog for a while, you know that announcements come along way too frequently – but also those are the kinds of announcements that are weeks in the making.  I don’t make a statement of a major life change the day it could possibly happen – I only do it after everything is set in stone and the right people are notified first.  That being said, I do love a good set of hints.  That’s why today’s ‘On This Day’ made me giggle and reminisce; because the real story is pretty awesome. I made the post on June 26, 2013 tagged to a location in Berlin, Germany.  The post read:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls – I have officially taken stupid to a whole new Latitude

I was with Cessna at the time in Germany for a Nadcap meeting, an business meeting that took up a fair bit of my attention and work in part because I just inherited a chair position on a major task group.  But additionally I had something else weighing on my mind.  We had just finished the day, and I went to dinner at a nice traditionally German beer garden along a quiet street.  With me were two good friends and my boss.  As we were just ordering beers, my phone rang … with a 907 area code (that would be an Alaskan code).  I excused myself, having a feeling what the call would be about, and stood on the street corner.  I remember vividly the thin trunked tree I leaned against while I listened to the call, the chewing gum on the grate near the trees roots, the random cigarette butts.    I listened, and when the man on the other end finished, I took all of a couple seconds to reply with a very official “Alright, I accept your offer.”  There was no negotiation, no space to think, just my quick response.

Standing outside of this German Beer Garden, I was offered a position that ultimately had me leave Kansas and sent me to Alaska.  As I stood under that little tree, my life changed.

And I was changing it from seven time zones away from my home.

I wasn’t scheduled to be home for another week.

Heck, I wasn’t scheduled to be back in the office for three weeks.

You would think I would have at least enough sense to sleep on it, think about it a little bit … but I knew what my answer was going to be regardless of what the offer would be.  I had been courting that position for nearly 10 months, had a feeling that I would get an offer at any time.  Even had a call come in the night before, but by then the Beer Gardens had been open for a while.

When the call was over with, I went back to the table.  I couldn’t say anything because it was a verbal agreement only at the time and, with my boss sitting there, any thing I say could be thought of as turning in my notice.  So, I gave hints to my other friends, and made that little Facebook post.

I think I went mostly public on the announcement by the end of that week.  I did talk to my boss while we were still there in Germany.  It was a classic conversation as well – since it started with me telling him I was leaving (which seemed upsetting to him), then continued with me saying where I was going to … and then the whole rest of the time we talked about all the cool stuff I would have to do when I moved to Alaska.

But on this day, way back in 2013, I couldn’t help to think how taking stupid to a new latitude started with the a simple little phone call on a quiet Berlin street.


Two Monkeys


Apologies to you Bear Feeders whom aren’t so in love with me that you don’t follow my Facebook, but I had an announcement there that I forgot to let the rest of you know.  Honestly, I was hoping that the news would change when it first came up, then got tied up with trying to survive a week in the Boston area, then … just got lazy.  The announcement was about two monkeys, one I lifted off my back, the other was the new one (or old one) that replaced it.

As what seems to be the general trend of late, this is basically an updated to the Habitual Master Plan – or the quest to find me and my pup a place to live.  A month ago, I was excited to announce I was officially in Escrow with a property in Pasadena.  It seemed like a relationship that went sour with time.  The long term of the property was the biggest upside, since it was in an improving community and could be an invest with a lot of return.  At first glamoured with the “what ifs” of the place, doubt started to grow.  It was a really big house, way bigger than I really needed.  It was priced high for what I could afford as well.  It needed updating, and it would be a while before the community it was in would improve.

Part of the problem was I constantly fought to get consistent support from my agent.  Because I’ve been though this home buying thing a few times — and I have had a lot of help from The Dr. Heather ‘Lola’ Creed (unsolicited shout out to her clinic – State of Eight – if you are ever in the Temecula area, check it out) — I knew what generally was needed to make the escrow go through.  I used the seller’s agent, expecting that her involvement on both sides would mean easy mediation.  That didn’t happen –  when I needed an agent to support me, I wasn’t getting that support.  Appointments were missed, communication broke down, and negotiations were one sided.   Things turned when the inspection reports came out.  The house had a deteriorated sewer line, a leaking roof, 30+ year old water heater, underrated electrical, and plumbing with just a couple of years left in it.  What’s normal is that when things like this are found, a negotiation takes place on covering the cost.  The seller only agreed to cover the cost of repairs mandated by a city inspection – which was just making sure smoke detection was working properly.  I adjusted my ask twice, but the seller still wouldn’t budge.  When I disclosed I was backing out – I angerly wrote to my agent:

“There is $40k in repairs needed, much of it is needed immediately.  I’ve agreed to cover nearly three-quarters that.  He’s agreed to change the batteries in the smoke detectors.”

Officially, I am still in escrow … because this high performing agent has failed to submit an official cancellation, five days after letting them know.  Which wouldn’t be a problem unless … I’ve moved on.

And I have.

I am waiting to hear on a counter offer from an offer I put in on another property.  This one now in Montrose, literally a few blocks down the street to my rental house.  They are Montrose blocks, which are crazy long, so when the pup and I walked there on a steamy 90 degree night he about died … plus he is lazy, which is saying something coming from me.  But the new house is everything the last one wasn’t – move in ready, beautifully maintained, high in the mountains, great views, perfect size for me, and just comfortable.  I’m in a full on battle to get this place, the price already $30k above asking, but it’s still within my affordability range.   Even if I don’t get it, this new place says to me “You still have time, you still have options, you still have a chance.”

So, the new monkey fits well.  He’s been there before.  Yes it means I have to spend the weekend on house tours and open houses, but I no longer feel suffocated by what feels like a bad decision looming.

California Problems


This past week, I rounded the halfway pole, kinda.  It marked the 6 month anniversary since my move to California and my start at JPL.  It almost passed unnoticed to me, because to say things have been complicated this past couple weeks is like saying ahi tuna makes a good sashimi.  For one thing, it’s been really hot, in the 90s here.  Without air conditioning in the house, it’s been a challenge keeping the pup and I cool.  We aren’t even getting the usual mountain winds blowing off the San Gabriels to at least push cool through overnight.  Since I don’t have good outdoor furniture, I am stuck trying to sit on folding chairs and hope the pup doesn’t dry out from trying to eat leaves.  It came on so quick that I didn’t have enough white wine chilled, but I have a heck of a lot of reds.  I spent a fair bit of time in traffic during the week too, either on the 110 from LAX coming back from a day trip to San Jose, or parked on the 405 and 91 running around Orange County.  The ongoing challenge of home buying has become even more challenging and ongoing this week, that honestly deserves its own blog post – but I am waiting for things to change soon.

If none of that made sense to you … chances are you aren’t California.

Quite simply these are California problems.  Problems that last year at this time I wished I had.  Problems I wished I had six months and a couple weeks ago.

Unlike Boston I have yet to have to shovel my car out of snow drifts taller than the car itself.  Or have I sat outside my place and hear gunshots.  And while I did get a parking ticket once when I didn’t feed the meter enough for a haircut in Pasadena, its nothing like the my weekly orange slip I used to find on my car from the City of Boston (also known as a Boston Greeting Card).  Unlike Boston, I have new friends, get out often to do things, and even feel like I am fitting in around here.  And that’s the stuff I am willing to talk about that isn’t like my life a year ago.

Oh yeah, and I love my job too.  Weird, huh?  Who knew you could love your job.

So yeah, six months in there are still problems.   But I’ll take these California Problems.

Not Not Complaining


I’m am trying not to complain.

No, seriously, I am trying not to complain.

Like, really trying.

Not my usual “sorta funny, sarcastic comments that don’t completely sound like complaining but deep down … it’s complaining”.    This is actually me trying not to complain.  Seriously, how do you people who don’t complain get through life.  This is really hard.  But here it goes …

I’m doing a lot of traveling with this new job.  Like, a lot.

This week I am on my fourth out of town trip in the last six weeks.  Two more to do before the end of June.  That’s six trips in eight weeks.  I’ve performed out of town audits for three-quarters of the months of May & June.  Before you sarcastically ask what I was doing those two weeks I had off … local audits, so shut it.

In fact, I am on a mad crazy auditing pace.  Loyal Bear Feeders know that through most of my career, I’ve been a supplier quality auditor – this is in fact the third job I have directly held that role (fourth if you accept I sat on the other side of an audit too).  Before I lost what my total auditing count was, I did capture that the most audits I did in a calendar year was 45 way back in 2005.  I am sitting at 12 for 2017; which doesn’t sound as competitive until I tell you that I was only released to begin auditing in mid-April.  I am on pace to do over 50 audits this year … 50 in just under 8 months.

Part of the trick to this all is that most are coming at us quicker than we can plan for.  Currently, JPL is deep into the full onslaught of getting assemblies put together for the Mars 2020 rover; as well as other projects hitting critical points in their development.  It’s at those points where developers realize that a supplier is needed, they need to get working in short order, and before that – some bozo needs to get out there to give them the thumbs up by faking like he knows something (or, you know, sending someone smarter than me).


Truth is, we doubt this pace will continue.  Already we are trying to shift that workload.  I am doing a bunch in part because when I started I had the time to get trained in a new area our other auditors didn’t have the time to do – and that area blew up on us.  So when they get trained that workload will reduce.  Plus we are looking to hire a couple more people to audit, some of which are actually knowledgeable in the fields I keep finding myself faking it in.  Legitimately, my travel schedule and auditing schedule should back off significantly by the fall or early winter.

Of course in the meantime, I have to be ready to do all this traveling.  New York this past week, San Diego the week before, Colorado the week before that.  This next week a day trip to San Jose.  Week after a couple days in New Hampshire (yeah … that will be new and different).  Then a little bit of a break so I can close on the new house before heading out to San Jose & … wait for it … Iowa.  By that time, I am sure I would have had a slew of new stuff to go do.  Fingers crossed I can manage it.

But one thing we know for sure … I will probably complain about it.