X-Mas Letter 2018


It is somewhat of a tradition that every Christmas with cards to friends and family I write a letter on the year in review.  To my Bear Feeders out there, here’s yours to read and enjoy.


Happy Holidays

It is that time of joy and remembrance.  Of looking back at all the ups, the downs, and the somewhere in-betweens.  Every year at this time, I sit down and summarize the year and share with you all that has gone on.  While it seems harder every year to sum up the last 12 months, I think I can do 2018 justice in only three words:

Actually, Quite Boring

This December marks my second anniversary of moving to California with my fuzzy buddy Auggie the Doggie by my side.  At that time, I started as a Procurement Quality Assurance Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab (a NASA Center) located in Pasadena which I still continue to hold.  I currently live in La Crescenta, a neighborhood of Glendale, just a short drive from JPL  Back in 2017, I bought a house overlooking the Verdugo Mountains and a short drive from beautiful Downtown Montrose – all of which a short distance from all things Los Angeles County.  Basically, the status quo.

Working at JPL remains entertaining and exciting, but with not much to show externally yet.  JPL has had some obvious excitement this year including the launches of at least seven programs ranging from Mars Exploration to Earth Science to International Space Station experiments.  Because the work I do tends to be at the front end of hardware builds, nothing I have actually been involved with of any significance has launched yet (and likely won’t in 2019 either).  Two years in, however, I am no longer a newbie and what I am involved with feels like I am a part of something grand and beautiful.  So, just wait.

I did travel a heck of a lot for work.  In fact, for the first time in six years, my flight miles exceeded the criteria on American Airlines to reach a Platinum (50,000 miles) limit.  Back when I used to get that level regularly, I was going overseas two or three times a year.  This year, it was all domestic.  The travel, though, came with little extra time.  For one thing, having a dog to get home to kind of tightens my travel plans, but in all actuality, there was little downtime.  I did get a great weekend in Austin, TX and had a lovely day in Washington DC, but in hindsight, there wasn’t much in my travels that led to a great time off.

Heck, even my vacations were boring.  The longest was a week over Independence Day I intended to do some day trips or drives around Southern California.  Then on Day 1, Auggie came down with a bone chip in his shoulder, which meant that ten days was spent me watching him like a hawk as he mended.  I did go back to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, but that’s not really anything different than I have done since College.

Well, except for one  In April, I made my long-awaited return to Anchorage, Alaska – the first time since moving away in 2014.  I came back on a whim to join in a curling tournament (or Bonspiel).  In many ways, it felt like I hadn’t left; yet it was always apparent that what really changed is that I am no longer there.  It was, however, refreshing to be around all the people that were such good friends in a place so beautiful and so unique that you remember how good life can be.

Changes that did happen are more related to my ‘extra-curriculars’, though even they were more of the same.  I continue to judge marching band competitions in the fall as I have for over twenty years.  This year marked the second that I was in a California organization, and this year included judging a ‘Super Show’ at UNLV marking now 16.  This past Winter and continuing next month, I train to judge Winter Guard – and indoor color guard & auxiliary competition – which should not only improve what I currently do but expand into new opportunities.  If I pass the training that is.

Writing has become a more significant part of my hobbies as well.  Many of you are aware of my way too infrequent blog (www.bearfeed.net), and that continues when I can.  This year, I got more serious about fictional writing.  I joined a critique group, where people bring their own work for others to give feedback on.  This is a fairly big deal as it isn’t an easy process – I have never shared this much of my own work with anyone, let alone people I just met for purposes of telling me how bad or good it is.  This is also the first step towards serious consideration for publishing.  The first of many many many, mind you, but it’s not writing for my own personal enjoyment.

Otherwise, there isn’t an overwhelming list of great things that have taken place.  Then again there were tons of little things.  Like visiting the Hollywood Bowl (for the first time ever) to watch the LA Symphonic perform the score to Star Wars as the film played on screen.  Like visiting Vandenberg Air Force Base and walking through what would have been the West Coast Space Shuttle Assembly building.  Having sushi just a few seats over from the actor James Franco.  Little things that are even smaller out of context, like sitting in a courtyard in Temecula with some good wine, like watching a webcast hockey game in Florida with my cousins, or just sitting out on my back patio with friends waiting for fireworks.

So yeah, this wasn’t a year like 2012 when I moved to Alaska, hiked the Appalachians, or visited friends I knew for years and never met.   Or 2010 when I found myself in Singapore and Rome just months apart.  Or 2005 when I watched Tour de France, met Brian Denehey, and almost got blown up by terrorists (that was actually only 3 days).  No, 2018 was far more mundane, but that’s okay.  Because it was still a good year.

A good year is all I wanted.

From Auggie & Mitch

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year


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