What I Really Bought

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So guess what, I’m in my new house.

Yeah, whoopedeedo, right?  I mean, I haven’t stopped talking about this new house in these blogs for a bit but come on, this is one of those ‘we made it’ posts.

Friday, the movers came and shifted me over to the new place (FYI – was a bit more than I suggested, cause never trust your own estimate, I guess).  Friday night, I spent the first night in the house.  Saturday was getting things in order to actually get a dog to live in the house.  Sunday, picked up the dog and he got the feel for the new digs.  Last night was our first night together … which was a bit rocky in part because someone had to get up a couple of times to growl at something … not sure what, because the windows in the place aren’t low enough to see anything.

The thing is … whenever you buy a place, you really don’t know what you bought until you get in there.  You can have all these grand plans, but some of them, if not all of them get thrown right out the window as soon as you get in there.

My main worry was if the pup was going to enjoy it.  He never really was happy in Boston, but then again, neither was I.  The pup, though, seems to be pretty happy with the place so far.  The back yard is smaller than the rental house, but he did get a little bit of stupid running around.  He likes the decks, and likes running up and down the thing.  There’s grass for him to eat, because he seems to like eating the grass for some dog reason despite me yelling at him not to (and despite him coughing it up right away).  He gets a bit of jump whenever the AC turns on, but definitely prefers it — one time he begged me to take him out to do his business, it was the heat of the day, and he couldn’t get the job done and back inside fast enough.  He’s not a huge fan of the all wood floors, since he gets no traction getting around corners (but that is probably the best part of wood floors in my opinion).  He’s scared of the toilet … there’s a reason for that, but it’s funny as hell to leave the statement “he’s scared of the toilet” without any explanation.

For me, getting in there made me acutely aware how much work I had to do.  There’s a lot of work ahead this week, and a heck of a lot of money to be spent too.  I mean … I have way too much stuff for this house.  Seemingly every nook and cranny was stuffed with cardboard boxes.  The trouble with this is that means you have to create routes and paths to get to things.  Like … a bathroom … or my underwear.  On that subject, I am in a bad way when it comes to putting clothes someplace.  The closet in the room I am using as a bedroom is hard to get into regularly since the (queen) bed is a little too big for this room to open the closet door completely … and before you ask, no I am not getting a smaller frickin bed, it’s not worth it for this closet.  The other bedroom has a much easier to access and bigger closet … but no shelves.  The hanger pole is also buckling from the weight of my wardrobe too.  The solution will require a trip to IKEA … which will be the fourth for something for this house (and believe me, will be a blog on itself).  It means building all that too, but with four pieces of IKEA things built already, and six more to go when it isn’t too hot outside, I should become a pro of Swedish engineering soon enough.

That and I will need a kitchen at some point.  I mean, I have a fridge.  I have a microwave … that is not aging well.  I don’t have a stove.  And I will not last without a dishwasher.  So, that debt will come along sooner rather than later.

In the end, though, this is all logistics.  It’s all steps towards making a house a home.  The purpose of which is to figure out why I want to be here, and I had a moment Saturday morning.  Sleeping in, I got up around 7am, just as the sun breached over the San Gabriel Mountains and cast it’s golden glow onto the Vedugo Mountains no more than 5 miles in front of my house.  I know the sun did this, because I watched it.  Surrounded in all those boxes, unassembled furniture pieces, and not enough motivation to get to work … I enjoyed the first of what I expect to be hundreds and hundreds of beautiful sunrises.

Maybe that’s why I had such a productive weekend .. I could see for the first time what I really bought, and it was more than just closets and walls and AC and grass.  It was that view that I will get to see for a long long time.

From One Procrastination To The Next

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Tomorrow marks the last great step towards fully locking myself down to California.  Somewhere between 8 and 9AM a moving two guys & a truck show up at my house in Montrose, those two guys put the stuff in the truck, and then the truck & two guys come with me the four blocks to my house in La Crescenta so they they can take the stuff from the truck into said house.  I mean, I could have said “Two Guys & a Truck” are moving me, but that just sounds like an advertisement for a moving company (that I just happen to be using).  Bear with me, this all sounded a lot funnier in my head. I mean … this is funnier if you folks know common names for moving companies … but then again … … I give up, I’m tired.

People tell me how stressful moving is.  I’d believe them if it was stressful for me.  But since this is about the fourth move I did a household move in the last 5 years, I think I would know if I get stressed or not.  Each time seems to get a little less stressful, because I think each time I get a little bit lazier.  If you want to know my secret to being so low stress on a move, it comes down to two things:

  • Hiring Movers
  • Procrastination

Hiring movers is the big thing.  First of all, you don’t have to cash in a single favor from someone with at truck.  I mean, if you ever wanted to test a friendship, tell someone you need them to haul furniture.  Sure they may say ‘beer and pizza’ but for one, how do they keep the beer cold if the fridge is moving, and for two guess what happens when the guy needs to go pick up the pizza – that’s right, you keep working.

Besides, movers just do everything faster, easier, and better.  I’ll probably end up spending about $300 for the work they will do tomorrow, but I don’t have to lift anything.  I don’t have to carry anything.  I don’t have to sweat about breaking anything.  It all just goes zip zip zip and into the truck, and zip zip zip out of the truck.  It would be more awesome if I made them pack and unpack everything but I didn’t even unpack everything from when I moved in this January.  Seriously, if you ever had to move, consider getting movers to do everything for you — you may think you can do it better and cheaper, but I am telling you — ever ten dollars you spend will seem like getting an hour of your life back.

Procrastination … well, that’s part me being funny, but there is madness to my method.  The worst part about moving is the ‘endless in-between’.  Trying to decide what to pack and when.  I mean, if I put my microwave into a box last week, how would I be able to cook my hot pockets all this week?  Or more importantly, how was I going to get stupid drinking $40 bottles of wine if I packed up my Red Solo Cups already?  Waiting as long as possible to do my packing meant I literally had all the comforts of home, in my home.

Now, that does mean I am going to have a long and difficult night getting everything ready tonight for the move.  It won’t help that I will have the pup in boarding to not get in the way of anything … won’t help because a) I need to make the round trip to get him to boarding in LA rush hour traffic, and b) I won’t have him waking me up at 2, 3, or 4 am to look at the raccoons outside, so I will probably fall asleep early and oversleep tomorrow.

I’d like to say by Friday night I should be ready to settle into the new home without a care in the world but … well … Brewers are playing the Dodgers tomorrow, so I am putting off unpacking for baseball.

So yeah … from one procrastination to the other.

Top-Ish Lists: Early Overrated Eclipse Photos

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You would have had to been in a coma or something to miss the big celestial event that happened yesterday.  Across North America, a total solar eclipse darkened our skies on a pretty much incredible day practically everywhere it could be seen.  I watched the event at work, but JPL was well south of the totality – we had about 60% coverage by us.  Still, since we are a NASA center there was some interest.  Out on our Mall (the large open area in the center of the Lab) the crowds gathered and stared skyward with our flimsy paper glasses and a few solar telescopes.  JPL’s research tends not to be solar (with most of what we do looking at either Earth or Mars); so we weren’t the big attraction for the event.  Still it was a good time, and a happy place to experience everything.

What I did love was all the great pictures that are out there from all over the country.  From shots by amateur astrologers to great photos from NASA itself, there was so much out there that in the early hours to love.  In a race to share with you, I thought I would make a Top-Ish list out of them.

The rules, because there are always rules – this time its more about covering my own ‘eclipse’ then establishing boundaries, you’ll get what I mean:

  • I don’t own these photos.  I pulled them from public locations and sharing them at no cost to you.  If you look for a given photo and it doesn’t show up, it’s likely because I got in trouble for sharing it.
  • Only those photos I can verify the source for are included
  • They have to be from the yesterday’s eclipse.  So, no ‘artist renderings’ or shots from some other eclipse event at any other time or location.
  • This is based on my rash decisions as of 24 hours after the event … not sometime in the future when possibly other cool pics came out

So here we go … in order of ‘None of your business what order it is in’ here is:

The Top-7ish Aug 21, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Photos Mitch Found on the Internet Without Much Searching

1) Great Ball of Fire

Credit: NASA SDO

Eclipses remind us all not just that the things that swirl in space can move across one another every so often, but reminds us what is behind those things.  The sun, with all it’s simple gifts of light, heat, and an awesome tan … is a furious ball of fire.  In the early moments of the transits, NASA picked up this shot.

 

2) Last Glimmer of Light

Credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA

One of the things that always intreagues me about eclipses and other celestrial events is that as much as we understand these things, people of old didn’t.  The way the sky grew errily darker.  The way the sun seems to shift and change just because something is in the way.  This shot embraces that idea.  Taken over Madras, OR as the last bit of the moon moves in front of the Sun, it seems like there is a fight to show one last hint of something before it all goes dark.  I can see those from simpler times reacting to this, and changing everything they know and believe.

 

3) View From Above

Credit: NASA

Taken from the International Space Station, this shot is of the shadow the moon cast on Earth.  That black spot?  That’s what happens when something blocks out the sun.  From up here you can see how much of the planet was covered by that shadow, how many people could see it.  It was just that big!

 

4) View From Below (aka Orbital Photobomb)

Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA

The last photo was taken by ISS, this one is taken OF ISS.  A composite of multiple exposures, the line of black dots going across the sun is none other than the International Space Station.  You get up close and you can see the solar panels & structure clearly against the sun.

 

5) Across The Sky 

Credit: Bill Ingalls/NASA

Speaking of composite images, this is a series taken over Ross Lake, in Northern Cascades National Park, Washington.  The progression nicely shows how over time the sun goes away and comes back.

 

6) Panorama

Credit: NASA Langley, Harlen Capen and George Homich

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Better in it’s full spectrum, this shot helps to see how the sky is affected, and how awesome the eclipse can look at the right angle.

 

7) Totality

Credit: NASA

Totality in an eclipse is defined as the moment when the moon completely blocks out the sun.  In as such, all that can be seen is the massive solar corona.  In more poetic terms, it is the point where the moon seems to be burned alive leaving the blackness of it behind.  This is the totality as witnessed over Idaho Falls, ID.

 

I am sure we will see more great photos to come out in the weeks and months to come.  As folks get their hands on Photoshop, they surely will either enhance this great event – or ruin it by turning it into a meme.

Regardless, I hope you had a chance to experience the eclipse, and it was an enjoyable event for all.

Pupdate — The Vermin Watcher

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Movers will be arriving next week to make the official transition back into homeowner status.  To be honest, I’ve been putting off work to make that transition.  In part because it is easy to wallow in that ‘buyer’s remorse’ mindset when you got a fair bit to do to make the move (without having loads to do that is).  Yet I am going to be ready to make the move just to get the pup there; more than anything, I am ready to get that little jerk someplace new.

Over the seven months we have lived in Montrose, I have seen good things develop in Auggie the Doggie.  Early after our move, he struggled a bit, and acted out in ways that made me wonder if he was really adjusting well.  Having all the travel I had scared me a little, but it actually was a good thing.  While boarding, he is around other dogs, their smells, and their noise.  While he doesn’t interact with them directly (legal reasons), just having exposure to humans who are me and strange dogs (who surprisingly aren’t me either) seems to have calmed him some.

That’s to say, it hasn’t been a smooth ride in the rental house with the pup.  The front room of the house has two sections of floor-to-ceiling windows, one set having slat windows to open up and let air in.  The pup loves hanging there to watch the world go by.  The slatted window especially because anything comes near gets a good sniff.

Problem is, Montrose, it turns out, is a vermin-friendly town.  More like, there is a high number of little creatures walking around outside.  It’s not uncommon that folks let their cats roam free, and … well … of course … dogs and cats are like dogs and cats.  Also, racoons frequent the neighborhood too.  I think possums may come around, but I can’t always tell.  Regardless, there is a very popular dividing wall between my house and the next one over.  It’s perfect for any creature to crawl up to make it to the next street full of garbage cans and yummies.  This wall, just also happens to be no more than two feet from the slatted window.  So … let’s say Ricky Raccoon is out for his nightly crawl around, and moves up the wall.  Auggie the Doggie notices him and gives a friendly … erm … more like ‘bat-sh*t crazy’ … hello.  Since this is night time, and I’ve usually fallen asleep on the couch with a glass of wine in my hand, you can guess my reaction to the pup’s observations.

Thing is, he would head over there anytime he smells something.  So let’s say he is out and about at 2AM; guess who he wakes up in the effort to give that friendly hello.

Not just that, the rental doesn’t have air conditioning.  It’s been well over the 90s for most of the summer, and when the wind isn’t blowing (or I have to keep the damn slatted window closed because I don’t want him tearing through the screen to get at whatever is out for a walk), the house stays hot for most of the night.  I don’t know about you, but it can be very difficult trying to sleep when a panting dog is doing a vulture impersonation watching for vermin at the edge of the bed.

So I have had to kennel up Auggie at night more often than not these last few months.  This is something he generally puts up with, but he has his limits – especially when I am around (even if I am sleeping).  When he decides he has had enough of the kennel, he’ll start to whimper, and won’t stop until I let him out or he whimpers himself out (which can take sometimes two to three hours).  I’d like to say he only does this when I am trying to sleep in … but more typically we are talking 2 or 3AM.

Like today.  Not only did I have to deal with him ‘saying hello’ out the window at 11PM, the whimpering got underway at 2:30am … and I’ve been up since 3am.

When we get into the house, there are no low windows for him to yelp at things.  There is air conditioning for him to sleep easily.  And there is all the reason for the pup to make it through the night without waking daddy.  Maybe that means he won’t get the vermin interaction he’s had the last few months, but dangit … I’m ready to get a little shuteye.

Best Day of the Year

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While I am writing this, THE Laura Sherman just messaged me with a “Ugh I don’t know anything about bandy things… Post more stuff about Augs, football, snow, curling….something I understanddddd!!”  Many of you Bear Feeders catch this blog on Facebook … and for those of you who watched my page yesterday (Aug 10), I’ll just start with … erm … sorry.  Yesterday was just the Best Day of the Year for the ‘bandy stuff and drrruuummmmsssss’ as Laura called it; and sometimes … well … you just got to share.

If you have at all followed this blog for it’s 5 years of existance, you may have heard me mention my affiliations with Drum Corps, Marching Band, and the Pageantry Arts community.  Yesterday, in my not-very-humble opinion, was the best day of the year for all that stuff.  Thus of course, containing that not-very-humble opinion was hard to hold back.

I am at the Drum Corps International World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana.  For those involved in the activity, this is considered to be the top level of the top level.  All summer long, some of the most talented kids in the country have been performing their tails off leading up to this week-long event.  It all culminates in the crowing of this year’s World Champion on Saturday night … but that isn’t the best day of the year.  For the record (and this get’s to be important later), this is the ‘World’ Class we are talking about denoting the top of the top groups.  Earlier in the week they crowed the ‘Open’ Class champions which are the more developing groups.

Yesterday was the “Prelims”.  It includes every corps performing this week, whether World or Open class.  For the top corps competing for the world championship, this is their first of three meetings to battle it out for the finals on Saturday.  The top 25 from yesterday make it into today’s Semis, and the top 12 from there make it to the finals in Saturday.  They are generally in order by how they have scored this year, so the newer and struggling groups start the day, and those who are fighting for the crown go on at night.

But don’t lose the fact that Every Corps Performing is at this Prelims.  There were Forty of them.  40 Performances.  The first one stepped off at 9:00am.  The last one at just before 11:00pm.  That’s 14 hours!!!!  Heck, we still had most the corps to go when they took the dinner break in late afternoon.  All of this was happening in Lucas Oil Stadium — an NFL domed stadium capable of putting 50,000 people in a spot to watch the performances.  Now granted, there were well below 200 at 9:30 yesterday morning, but it was well over 20,000 by the end of the night.  So all these groups that have been playing in high school stadiums to small bleachers filled with fans got the whole of the grandstands to shower them with love.

So what makes this the best day of the year?   40 performances.   40 corps each with their own designs, their own massive group of kids, their own volunteers; all ready to put their show on the big stage and lay it out for the rest of us.  If I go to a Prelims, you won’t catch me being that guy who shows up for the last four or five … no sir, I am there for all 40.  While it may sound like a selfless thing to do, to be there for all those groups and to sit there through all those groups who will never come close to winning it all … I have to say it is completely selfish.  All that work all those groups do still make for a very entertaining show.  My first goosebumps of the day happened half-way through the first corps … when a little little French-Canadian girl belted out ‘You are Always On My Mind’ by Willie Nelson.  Groups played Nirvana, Beyonce, Simon & Garfunkle, and Frank Zappa.  You get runs of shows that seemed to be around the same theme – like the ‘crazy’ portion of the day where four corps did shows based on mental illness in one way or another.  There was the irony of a corps taking us through a beautifully performed Catholic Mass, only for the next one to be about witchcraft & started the show with a pentagram.  I lost count at 25 the number of true ‘goosebump’ moments, but I was nearly moved to tears at least 3 times.

All of this time sharing the moments with good friends, and old friends.  We posted, we texted, we messaged, we hung out, we discussed, we argued, we judged, we complained, we drank beer, we remembered, we shared we reminisced, and we Loved … We LOVED!

So I beg your forgiveness for being so relentless with all of what I shared and communicated.  If this isn’t your thing, I get it.

But this is my thing.  My long, beautiful, selfish thing …

and it was the best day of the year.

 

Shared Arrivals

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This past Sunday marked a key anniversary for folks here at JPL.  On August 5, 2012 at 10:32PM Local Time, the Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the rover Curiosity, landed safely on the surface of the red planet.  That landing on that day is  unofficially considered to be the greatest feat of JPL’s history (more on that in a bit).  Over the last couple of months, it started to bother me that as much as I am a fan of this place even before I came here, why I didn’t remember this landing.  Only as this anniversary came up did it hit me why.

On August 5, 2012, while Curiosity was preparing for it’s arrival on a foreign place far from anything it had ever experience … so was I.  That day was my first day of employment at BP Exploration – Alaska.  You could say I missed that landing because I was a little too much into my own planet at the time.

Curiosity’s landing was an incredible engineering marvel; especially when you align all the challenges they faced.  For one Mars’s atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s, but it still exists.  So you can burn up if you don’t slow down, but you can’t rely on parachutes to get you there.  You can use thrusters, but Mars is so dusty that doing so will tear up your instruments before they even turn on.  Unlike the smaller rovers, Curiosity was the size of a car, and you couldn’t just bounce it in a beach ball without wrecking everything inside.  Then with every possible idea you have to get you slowed down, you have to come up with a way for the other things to not wreck what you tried to avoid.  What they came up with a stepped process — heat shield to make the initial decent, parachutes to get it below supersonic, thrusters to avoid the parachute & align for landing, a crane to avoid the dust, then shock absorbers on the wheels.

Now take that, and do it without any means for a human to adjust on the fly.  Any signal from Mars at that time took about 14 minutes to get to Earth, which means a return takes just as long.  No step in this process could wait a half-hour for a decision – it had to be done in seconds.  So the the whole of the process was automated, it had to be!  In fact, it took 7 minutes for it all to happen.  So get this … when the engineers got the message that the landing sequence started, at that specific moment the landing process (if successful) would have been completed for 7 minutes already.  It could have be alive, or dead, and they wouldn’t even know it.

The whole thing was captured in a video that was so aptly named:
7 Minutes of Terror  <— That’s a link to it, by the way

Earlier that same day, I spent about 7 minutes waiting in a lobby to be called into a room to begin my orientation.  It wasn’t terror filled.  More just ready to get things going.  I think about the time Curiosity landed, I was walking home from Humpy’s where I terrorized myself with the first taste of Salmon & Chips (which wasn’t half bad … halibut & chips was better there though).  I had the terror of having a 5am teleconference the next morning … like seriously, second day on the job and I had a 5am teleconference.

Regardless, knowing now that I shared the arrival up in Alaska with our distant buddy on Mars makes me feel a little better it went right over my head.

Let’s just hope I don’t miss the next one.

I’m Calling This 200

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I am a sucker for milestones.  Like, a big sucker for them.  For some reason, I think the only reason to count things is to embrace the milestone that comes with it.  Milestones give you a chance to celebrate something, no matter if it is something important (like the time I went a month without shaving for a good cause) or something stupid (like the time I went a month without shaving for a … reason … don’t ask, please).   The real challenge to holding a milestone is ensuring the count is pure.

My job is a Quality Auditor.  I know there are few people out there that are reading this that are also auditors.  Maybe those auditors aren’t reading this, because … let’s face it reading isn’t a prerequisite to doing this job (that’s a joke for the rest of you, just saying).  I’m just mentioning that, because in the time that I have known myself to be a quality auditor and known others that are as well, it’s become pretty clear over time that I do a few more audits than normal.  I am even willing to pull out the word “prolific”.  As in, I am a Prolific Auditor.  As in, the amount of audits I have done in my career tips between “loads” and “a s**t ton”.  The reason for that is that I seem to have fallen into certain technical areas that don’t require a s**t ton of time.  Many quality audits can take 2 to 3 to 5 days.  Back in my Cessna days, I did a lot of special process audits that you were turning over in less than a day. Here at JPL I do a lot of Electrostatic Discharge audits, that can be as short as a couple hours.  Being the smart person I am, I try to take advantage of locations and time by jamming a bunch of these together.  Meaning, I can crank out an bunch of audits in a very short time.

Back when I worked at Cessna, I took the time to count the number of audits, and it just emphasized the prolific nature of the auditing I was doing.  Especially in my first year.  Somehow, I cranked out 45 audits in 2005 – and that includes time for me to transfer between departments and waiting until I got trained & approved as an auditor.  While I could break-down what that meant from a travel time to training to all the other junk, what it really meant is that about every other working day I spent on an audit (and that meant the rest of the days I spent writing reports for said audits).  That number diminished, and rapidly, but … did I mention the word ‘prolific’ in this paragraph, yet?

I do remember, at some point, while I was at Cessna that count broke the 100 audit mark, and I even kinda celebrated it at the supplier.  All they cared about was that they had findings, so it didn’t matter to them all that much, but still.  It wasn’t just before I left, but I kept ticking away the audits after.  When I left, I made the mistake of not scratching up that count … and that is a count that is now lost to time.

When I moved to BP in Alaska, I kept up my auditing — but it went from ‘prolific’ to ‘almost non-existent’.  Two years there, I think I did five or six audits.

When I worked for Bodycote these last two years, you could say I didn’t do any audits … but then again, you could say I did s**t tons.  Our plants were audited constantly, so a lot of my job was doing unofficial internal audits to survive that mess.  It was a different result, a different approach, but it was still auditing.

Point being, there is no count … not an official one at least.  Somewhere during my BP days, I stopped bragging about “doing over a 100 audits” to bragging about “doing over 150 audits”.  I did that in part because, chicks dig a high audit count.  Truth was, I had no idea what the count is.  I still don’t.

All I know is that I got approved to perform audits at JPL in April, I have performed 22 audits … up until today at least.  If 2005 was my record year of 45 audits, I am on pace to break that record, with not counting a single audit for 1/3 of the entire calendar year.  It’s a term I have used a lot today but … that is a “s**t ton” of audits (and you thought I was going to say ‘prolific’).

Still — without an accurate count, I can’t celebrate a good milestone.  So you know what?  I am going to make one happen.

Today I did an audit in Manteca, California.

I am calling this “Audit #200”.

Yep, I will now get to tell those chicks, ‘I’ve done over 200 audits’, because chicks dig an audit count.

Truth is, there is a lot of pride I can take from my audit count.  #1 audit … the first audit on my own … happened in Switzerland.  Since that time, I’ve audited in 8 countries and 31 US States.  I’ve seen massive steel mills to shops shoved into garages doing incredibly intricate things.  I’ve audited in the middle of the night of a shift-change going to the graveyard, and I’ve audited in the middle of 40 days of darkness in the Arctic Circle.  I’ve had a great audit with 40+ findings, I’ve had a horrific audit with just 1 finding.  Sometimes, I’ve had such a breeze I felt like I wasted a couple hours of the supplier’s lives, and sometimes I’ve hit on something so important that I know I am leaving that company bettered for all of time.

So today, in what we jokingly called ‘Meth Valley California’, I am going to call it Audit #200.  I knocked it out in just over 2 hours, with enough findings that makes my feel like I earned my paycheck (which for auditors is a joke … and kinda not).

With luck, I won’t hit 250 until next year.  With lots of luck, it will wait until 2019.  But from this point on the count will be a little more accurate.