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Brandin’s Year-in-Review 2017

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As promised, here comes round two. To avoid being somewhat of a repeat from the previous year, I’ll focus on some new happenings and changes. For some reason the 7’s of each decade have become significant points marking the end of one era and the start of another. Here’s how…

The beginning of the year started along the southern Oregon coast (as you read) visiting my grandmother, followed by a quick trip down to the San Francisco Bay Area to take care of “shareholder meetings.” Yes, I have a lot of ties still up there. It’s turned into an annual trip now. Not much has changed in my career at iHerb. We’re just continuing with the growing pains and trying to deal with the onslaught of people joining the company. There are more distribution centers on the way! iHerb sent me to Las Vegas to attend Amazon’s annual Re:Invent conference with a whopping 42,000 other people in attendance that covered six different hotels and conference centers. Insane!

Back in the sport of collegiate rowing and then some, the year saw me out in Knoxville and Sacramento again, including a little birthday surprise in Gainesville, Georgia. My A/V tech team was invited to head to Boston once again to work at the 53rd Head of the Charles, the largest two-day regatta in the world. It’s hard to describe how intense the two weeks were prior to departure, working with shipments, staff changes, and a big engineering change, after things were shipped! It can’t be done without such great friends who I am blessed to have. There were a lot of new things we pulled out of the hat, including our partnership with a production company in Los Angeles. Along with volunteers already in Boston, we brought the most coverage of the regatta to date. There are too many people to thank, those on and off the water. Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement.

Grandma & gramps turned 80 years young this year. We are blessed to have good health in the family. We are starting to hear several facts from the past, some which my own parents didn’t even know. My grandpa’s shop, where a lot of my tinkering has been conceived, still to this day, consists of old army barracks that came over from the former Santa Ana Army Airbase (now Orange Coast College and the Orange County Fairgrounds) with a roof built on top and other things around it. Now it all makes sense! Another fact we have uncovered involves my great-aunt, Dr. Gita Labrentz, my grandpa’s step-sister. Many years ago, probably the mid 1970’s while she was teaching at Stanford University, guess who came in to crash the class? Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs! If you think that was a surprise, she was then offered the role to translate the manual for the first Macintosh Computer to the German language in 1983. I’m sure there was no connection at all to the previous encounter! She still brags about the legacy we all have. And then they all look at me, being the only biological grandson. Go figure!

In spite of all the positive upkeep and developments this year, there were also some parts of my life that I lost.

On Labor Day weekend, Newport Beach lost a long-standing icon of the Balboa Peninsula Fun Zone that had been around since the 1940’s, The Bay Arcade. Many of the Ohlhaver cousins (mom’s side of the family), including myself, took summer jobs here and then some, having known the long-time owners of the place, the Maddy family. You would think that an arcade should have been out-of-business some time ago with the evolution of video games and entertainment, but the Balboa Fun Zone had its own unique market, especially with the summer and holiday tourism. Sometime around 2007, the Maddy family sold the business but kept the property, so the arcade kept going. But sometime last winter, we learned that the property was sold to a new owner. The only story we were able to piece together was that a bakery in the area was kicked out of their building and was looking to open up again close by. In the years after the Maddy family sold the business, the new management was not taking care of the place. The decision was made back in April to not renew the lease to the arcade, and then the place deteriorated even more. Half of the machines didn’t even work, half of the lights were dysfunctional, and the place was staffed by lazy “Newport Harbor High School Boys” who didn’t care much for the place. The Ohlhaver cousins did so much better back in the day. It probably didn’t help that they knew closing day was coming for several months. Bay Arcade is now a bakery and I have yet to see it. The closure made headlines in several news outlets in the area. Bay Arcade was my first job, only to be remembered by all of us now. I managed to save a strand of prize tickets and laminated them.

On November 16th at 1:00pm, Entercom-owned classic rock station KSWD 100.3 “The Sound” went silent as the acquisition by Educational Media Foundation concluded pending the mega-merger of Entercom and CBSRadio. Entercom was obligated by FCC rules to divest a station. Entercom’s acquisition concluded the next day as their CEO rang the closing bell on Wall Street. Watching it on the news, I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. They now own six other stations in Los Angeles. The Sound’s longest-standing DJ, Andy Chanley, played side two of The Beatles’ “Abby Road”. At the end we heard, “This dream will self destruct in 3, 2…” There was 20 seconds of silence, then a legal ID for KKLQ, then another 20 seconds of silence before K-LOVE entered the air. 100.3 is now a Christian contemporary station. Los Angeles has four other Christian stations. I’m Roman Catholic, but I have to say, “What is going on here!?” For the last month and a half in operation, The Sound had what is a very rare opportunity to say goodbye to its listeners. Their office was covered in messages from its listeners.

I did not grow up in the 60’s or 70’s. I never acquainted myself with the music of my peers. Today, I am not afraid to show it off. I first discovered The Sound in 2008, a time when I was on my own, off at college, and eventually became the captain of the rowing team. I think that The Sound’s music was an excellent companion to the scruffiness of that sport. It just works and it got me through all the blood, sweat, and tears from morning practice all the way to a national championship. Today I usually find myself drowning in technical research, tinkering with things at night, maybe pulling my hair out on something. Whether I was in grandpa’s shop or my lab, I always had The Sound on late at night. The music and the voices fit so nice together. Where to others The Sound helped them through hard times, The Sound to me was an extra push of motivation, to figure that last thing out, or make something better. There’s no doubt that the DJ’s loved what they did. The Sound had a perfect combination of both music and people, something you can’t find on the Internet and satellite radio too much. Their Program Director, Dave Beasing, quoted it perfect. “The credit goes to the most incredible team of FM rock DJ’s, ever assembled.” The Sound’s departure marked the end of a certain type of radio in Los Angeles, a type that cared for its listeners. I blame The Sound for tripling my own music library over this time. God bless them.

In the spirit of changing winds, I have something changing as well. Over the last three years, I have turned much of my focus in the sport over to USRowing, first obtaining my referee license and then escalating through the plenary examination as a chief regatta official. On top of this, a rather unexpected but gratifying effort in broadcast media of this sport has been on the rise, almost more than I am able to keep up with. I am blessed to have many friends who have followed. With both of these efforts I have had the opportunity to travel around the country, and soon, maybe the globe, seeing different venues and meeting such great people in this sport, some who don’t even row. The potential problem is that I am wearing too many hats. After much deliberation, I made the decision to focus on these other activities in the sport. The 2017/18 academic year will be my last as the Director of Outreach for crew projects with the CSU Long Beach Foundation, ending June 30, 2018. We have entered into an 8-month transition to hand over duties going all the way back to my involvement as Team Captain, through General Manager, and into the position I have now. Whether or not someone else takes the actual position is still to be determined.

As I write this, I can’t help to say that I’m somewhat sentimental of the past decade of service to this team and the Foundation’s efforts. I still shed a tear with that time whizzing through my mind. I have to admit that I’ve been blessed to work with such wonderful people all over the country, some who aren’t even part of the sport. This was something completely unexpected during my tenure at The Beach. I have to admit that while focused on my studies, I learned so much more outside the classroom than I did on campus. It’s probably why former CSULB President, Dr. Robert C. Maxon, quoted, “If the only thing you do in college is go to class, then you have not had the full college experience.” Meeting so many people over the team’s past 60 years, all the way back to our co-founder, has been nothing short of inspiration. This sport relies so much on community, no matter how big or small your institution may be. Having seen so many other collegiate teams across the country, I can say that the association is in good hands and that Beach Crew is fortunate to have this community. I can remember all of the challenges of its infancy and the difficulty of reuniting 50 years of athletes at the time. We may not have always agreed on how to make things work, let alone becoming acquainted to the needs of today’s athletes, and wanting to see things in different light. It also wasn’t easy being the youngest one in the room. But that is what’s so intriguing to the matter. We all have a story, we found a way, and I am grateful for what we have. I will always have a spot in my heart for Long Beach State and this decade-long effort we spent. We will always cross paths. Perhaps someday down the road after a successful career I will return to serve such a noble cause.

On the contrary, the invitations to travel around the country are already flowing in for 2018. My entire spring has been planned in a matter of a few days, kicking-off as the Chief Official on February 10 in Alamitos Bay. Oh yeah, something has come to my attention that I want to share, but I ran out of room to write this. That and I have an ambitious project that may never end. Maybe it’s more appropriate for next time, or, maybe you’ll figure these out before then. 😉

I feel it is only right to end with a word for the wise…

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

Until we meet again, stay gold. ~Brandin

Brandin’s Year-in-Review 2016

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Nope! The times of receiving and giving are not over until I say so! You receive this in January on purpose, to give all of you the last surprise. I also need to confess that I did not send out the previous year’s letter on time, so you’re getting two this time!

I hope this finds all of you well. I started writing this from the redwoods of the southern Oregon coast near the state line as I return to this location after ten years ago (2007) to visit my grandmother. It’s a place to reflect on things without all the hype. I keep finding myself wanting to contribute to so much with little time to do it. But one thing I found deeply grateful for in the year was the following of good friends, colleagues, mentors, and family, that I can count on. Here’s why…

Life at work is compelling. iHerb.com celebrated their 20th year in operation, with our new warehouse in Perris, California, in full operation and our old one in Moreno Valley was decommissioned. Our Hebron, Kentucky, warehouse is up and running. Needless to say, the Development Operations Department has experienced some growing pains. Working between the software developers, security engineers, system engineers, and our network technicians, having a diverse understanding of our business logic is ever important. This year, I headed our expansions in Frankfurt, Germany; Sydney, Australia; and Tokyo, Japan, without having to even travel there. Our department has doubled in size and has been a challenge to keep moving along in projects as I train several engineers and write documents of our process. Our operation is now fully 24/7 staffed and am somewhat relieved by this accomplishment of the company. One thing is for sure, a process changes every few months and we may not even know about it. That’s the fun of a 24/7 E-commerce operation. Our CEO is the most generous guy you will ever meet and is thankful of this hard-working team. I can’t complain about that.

My non-profit work with the CSU Long Beach Foundation continues as we support the operations of Long Beach State Rowing and our alumni base of over 50 years. Our team returned to their national championship regatta in Gainesville, GA, after a five-year hiatus and we funded a majority of their cost. I closed out just over $15,000 of gift-in-kind efforts for all sorts of equipment, not including a new racing shell that was dedicated to John Cashman, a U.S. National Team member form the 1980’s. But something else even greater happened. Our association was a pioneer of the efforts to dedicate the Alamitos Bay Bridge, a portion of California State Highway 1, more popularly known as the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, to the late Joan Lind Van Blom. A year ago August, we lost Joan to an aggressive form of brain cancer if you recall from my last writing. Joan was the first woman to win an Olympic medal in rowing at the 1976 Montreal Games. We were successful through the help of the university, local authorities, and State Senator Janet Nguyen, in pushing through Senate Concurrent Resolution Bill (SCR)102, signifying all of Joan’s accomplishments. The association’s efforts were credited in text of the bill. The resolution was approved on the opening day of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio this last year. “Joan’s Bridge” dedication ceremony is scheduled in March. The camaraderie continues to be strong, time spent that I don’t complain about at all.

I was involved with a massive project this last year at the Pete Archer Boathouse of Long Beach, replacing the security system over the course of the summer. While the building resides on park land, it is privately operated, including CSULB as one of the tenants. My team crawled through dirty attics, dusty hideaways, and over rusty pipes to run wires all around the building and underground conduits. In just under three months of operation, Long Beach Police requested evidence of two incidents, one involving a marine radio stolen from a Lifeguard vessel, and the other involving an attempted theft of one of CSULB’s outboard motors on the docks. It’s scary what things happen in the middle of the night.

My duties as an official for USRowing continue to escalate. We saw the sport hit the big screens of NBC over the summer as the Women’s 8+ claimed the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio. One of my colleagues in our southwest region was selected to officiate at the event. Being selected to do that is equivalent of winning the Nobel Prize. Of course, we are all looking at the 2028 Olympics coming to Los Angeles. So far the rowing/kayak venue will be Lake Perris (really?). In 1984 the venue was out at Lake Casitas. All the way back in 1932 the venue was in Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay and Marine Stadium, where the waterway remains, but has had significant residential development and bridges constructed since then. Who knows where it will be. The International Olympic Committee has a decade to decide.

And now for something that was quite challenging. Apparently my fellow colleagues thought it was time for me to progress through the ranks of officiating. By surprise, I was handed a written exam two weeks before I was scheduled to be at the western college championships (WIRA) in Sacramento, on top of testing a new timing system I had been working on, still in the works. Apparently I passed and was going to be scheduled for an observation at the regatta. Great! Now I have several things to worry about at the same time! The weekend was exhausting, starting from having to “code” in the car on the way up to prepare the timing equipment, handing off video equipment to another person to deal with the broadcast, then worry about those watching my every move and those who were working under me. Well, I passed, and am proud to be a plenary official. The weeks in preparation for this regatta was not an easy journey. Having three big tasks under my plate and running out of time to get everything done made me pretty nervous running into this event. Somehow by the grace of God I pulled it all off. I have attended WIRA either as an athlete, chaperone, candidate, or assistant referee since 2007. Working at this regatta gives me a sense of nostalgia of the good ol’ days and a chance to do the things I love, sometimes more off the water than on, to spread the heritage and camaraderie of this sport. I want to personally thank my examiners for believing in me, and to all who make this regatta special, too many to mention. You know something is up when you are suddenly paired with several experienced officials at these events. Now I know why.

Something was brewing while I was out at the national college championships in Gainesville, Georgia. As you probably know this is where I’ve been involved with a national broadcast of the event for the past few years over Memorial Day weekend. A guy came up the finish tower and wanted to talk to me. I was approached to run the broadcast for the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Massachusetts, the largest two-day regatta in the world. The first thing that came to my mind was how much more I can take on. This isn’t my job you know. It turned out that I wasn’t doing any of this work in the fall season, so I took them up on the offer to come out and observe the course just before Labor Day weekend. The game was on, and I have less than two months to assemble a team, get them trained, take care of the logistics, and figure out what else I had to build and/or acquire. I hate having to go back to the drawing board, but when an offer like this comes along, they make the R&D possible, which in return can improve the other events I do this stuff at. The event came and went and I have to say I have never seen the amount of preparation and people involved at a regatta, anywhere else in the country. I could talk for days about what’s involved, but I’ll let the broadcast speak for itself. In lieu of pulling my hair out at times, my friends started calling me, “oh fearless leader,” when my answer was needed. I thank them all for coming along and being a part of this journey. I don’t know where we’re going with this, but we are having fun, our viewers are happy, and we’re turning heads.

In honor of this “fearless leader” that everyone is claiming me to be, I leave you with this that I find intriguing.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decided to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

On to the next page?

~Brandin

 

Link to Brandin’s Year-in-Review 2017

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