Brandin’s Year-in-Review 2014

Happiest of greetings to you my friends and family! I’m relieved to getting this out to you in a timely manner this year. I hope that this finds all of you well. I don’t make resolutions. Instead I end up planning the year ahead. It would be best to talk about each part of my life rather than chronologically explain it as I’d be jumping all over.

In 2014, my career took me all over the place and settled with something that is more up my alley. From January to March, I was still wearing many hats as the Lead Tech Engineer at what is now called Shots Mobile, Inc. (formerly RockLive, Inc.). In late 2013, the company moved from Balboa to the heart of the tech sector in San Francisco, right at the end of Market Street. I became a frequent traveler between John Wayne Airport (SNA) and San Francisco Int’l (SFO) every other week. I’m now a part of TSA-PreCheck! It was nice simply walking through security lines without having to take things off and out of carry-on bags. After two-and-a-half years with the startup company that once started in a little garage in Mission Viejo, I decided to move on. The company came a long way since the early days and I got a lot out of it. I hear that the average time someone spends in their position of my industry is barely two years. At least I’m above the average. I remain a good friend of the company and still retain stock in case a bigger outlet, such as Twitter or Facebook, take notice. From mid-march until the summer, I was a part of a pretty big project in “sports broadcasting” which I will get into in a bit. It was nice to have a little fun for a change. After returning from my annual tech conference in Portland, OR, in July, I landed a new position with the GDR Group in Irvine (Greenberg, Dorse, and Redwitz; I work for Greenberg!) as the Senior Development Engineer, working directly with the CTO and project managers. GDR is a local IT services group that has been around for 18 years and works with several companies in the Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose metropolitan areas. While every job takes time to get your feet wet, it didn’t take long to figure out the shoes I was going to fill, about 17 years worth of work that had to be investigated. The fall months were very ambitious, having to carry the burden of dependance that our customers rely on to keep their business rolling. For the new year, there are some big changes coming with my newly staffed department. It’s the people I work with that keep me motivated and positive.

Now for the part that doesn’t bring home the bacon but keeps me out of trouble for the most part. By this time last year, I was in the middle of my examination to obtain my referee license with USRowing. After having completed several observations at regattas throughout 2013, I’m happy to have been granted the license, and am in high demand throughout the southwest region. There’s actually a shortage here in Southern California due to referees retiring. There is a “Young Referee Corps” of people around the nation trying to mitigate this problem. While I’m not actively involved with that effort, I did manage to grab another rower from my Coast Crew (Orange Coast) days. The observations are done, but he still needs to take his exam. I guess I did my part by now. Next month, the NCAA is sponsoring me and my long-time middle-school buddy, Richard Lund, out to Sarasota, FL for USRowing’s Basic Referee College. All of this continues to be Richard’s fault, first getting an oar in my hand, then making me wear these blue polos, khakis, blazers, and screaming into a megaphone. The camaraderie with these clowns in the referee corps is prodigious. While they are eager to get me up the ladder to then obtain my Chief Referee license, I’m giving it time, at least three years before I consider it. At the time I write this, Boston just won the US bid for the 2024 Olympic Games. We’ll see what the olympic committee decides.

Back on the homefront, there has been a lot of progress with my involvement at the CSU Long Beach 49er Foundation. Since last January, the board of crew alums have raised several issues with the athletic department in support of the rowing teams. There’s something to be said about alumni who end up knocking on the doors of the campus leaders, so much to the point that action has to be taken. After a long time coming, we were able to get priority class registration restored for crew athletes. We also regained access to the Bickerstaff Academic Advising Center. According to the enrollment center, crew athletes continue to have a very high average GPA among all of the sports offered on campus. Starting this year, the team will be working with the Kinesiology Department to undergo a biometric scan of each athlete. From that, a personal training and nutrition plan will be created for each athlete. You know the beauty of all this? I had very little to do with any of this. This is the result of seven years of hard work making the movement a reality. As much as I want to see and hear all of these great things in the works, there’s better credibility of what the association is trying to do when others get involved. This was also the year we hosted a new college regatta in Alamitos Bay and the Marine Stadium of Long Beach. Combined with my duties in USRowing, you can guess that the fall season very involved on this event. After all of this was over, we finished the year with a new record in the bank. Two new racing shells are being dedicated this spring. And yes, my German Bootswerft Empacher racing shell, “KillaGrams” (KG), is still going strong. Lastly, over the summer, a long-awaited milestone was about to make its final sprint to the finish. Since its inception all the way back in December 2010, the $50,000 catamaran project is now behind me. Initially addressed in a 2010 report to the alumni association and friends, the coaching staff was put in tricky situation. There’s a problem when your coach can’t keep up with the crew, let alone a referee trying to chase a race. With a run on “coaching launches” at the Long Beach Rowing Association, the team was faced with a difficult challenge to get a better fleet. With most west-coast manufacturing operations of powered catamarans heading east, the options were limited. We pretty much had to build them ourselves. It took a while to gather the support of several sources after I discovered a clever builder in Lake Elsinore, CA, who had our answer. With the additional help from Mitchell Brothers Machine Works in Buena Park and Tradewind Inflatables of Santa Ana, we made the best of what we had, which ended up working out for the betterment of the coaching staff. The first of four catamarans arrived in January 2012, the second in April 2013, the third, which bleeds the true “Black and Gold” of the university, arrived in August 2013. After the three were delivered, the project got into a bit of a shortfall after some of my funds got diverted to an emergency the team had to deal with. The final of four vessels arrived on August 30, 2014, and was named after Nancy Jezak (Grgas), wife of former association president, Victor Grgas, who got the project back on track. Nancy passed away earlier in the year due to breast cancer and is survived by her husband Victor, kids Steven and Jeff, and several grandkids. May Nancy guide the crews for years to come.

Alright, I’m not done talking about this sport just yet. Why am I doing more off the water? I should be rowing. Something is wrong here. Somehow I became a reactant to a catalyst in this next thing. I have to ask myself why I’m digging in deep to these things. It must be in my blood. Back in February, while I was working up in San Francisco for a week, I received a request from a fellow alum (and friend) who is at med school in Boston. The annual SoCal Opening Day Regatta was in Long Beach at the end of the week, which was going to be my first official regatta as a licensed referee. He wanted to watch the regatta from Boston. What does that mean? Put cameras all over the course? Get a TV crew? Precisely. While the alums talked about doing this eventually, we were no where near ready to undertake something like this at our events. While having lunch with a friend who was working near our NorCal office, he convinced me to just podcast the event from an iPad. So we did. As rudimentary as it was, it satisfied the viewers. But then this caused the dominos to collide. Here came the “What ifs” and “Can yous.” It really started to flood when my other alma mater, Coast Crew, asked for me to do the same thing for the annual Newport Regatta that next month. What did I get myself into? At this point, I found myself rushing to the standards of the big boys like ESPN and Fox Sports West. I scrapped up every piece of equipment and person that I could, spending many late nights in my grandpa’s shop, building up what looked like funny contraptions that convert electricity from one thing to another. The amount of research this took was cumbersome. This isn’t like filming an event at a football stadium. Everything floats on a lake, river, or in a harbor. The logistics are off the wall. Never did I see myself getting into sports broadcasting. Things took another turn as soon as the Newport Regatta was over. It turned out that my former coach, Larry Moore, was sitting poolside in Miami enjoying his retired life, watching the whole event on his phone. What a good feeling. Then the event caught the attention of the President of the American Collegiate Rowing Association (ACRA), whom both my teams compete in for the national championships. I was then getting sent out to Atlanta, GA, at the end of the spring racing season to witness the course of the 1996 Olympic Games at Lake Sydney Lanier. The rumor you hear about southern hospitality is true. I have never seen such strong effort by people who love this sport be so helpful to me. I had the time of my life, while pulling my hair at the same time. I ran into a few snags that never occurred on the west coast, such as my equipment overheating, but these awesome people came up with a solution for me right away. I left the event with a renewed interest to keep this going, but to get others involved in the process while I remain a coordinator or consultant. The ACRA had over 15,000 viewers from around the nation. My wishes are stay as a referee. Believe me, doing both at the same time does not work. I can’t wait to see what the coming spring racing season has in store.

Enough of rowing. Here’s something that only happens once every decade. It was ten years ago that I graduated from Newport Harbor High School and people are starting to freak out about that fact. We had our ten year reunion at the Balboa Pavilion, right on the 10-year mark of graduation day last June. Since the mainstream social media was in its infancy back in 2004, there was a lot that remained unpublished from our years in high school. I took all of the old unused photos from the yearbook production and submitted them to the former ASB media producer, Amanda Boyer. She kept all of the videos of the monthly rallies. With both of these combined, the event was a sure success. Talk about nostalgia. I have no hard feelings that ten years have gone by. Enough has happened since I walked across Davidson Field. In fact, I now meet or talk to people on a regular basis from the good ol’ days.

Wherever the year takes you, take some time to look around and be sure that the impact you leave has a positive outreach. Pay it forward or whatever makes sense. Then maybe the chaos won’t seem so bad. The day will come where the impact pays off. The reward won’t be tangible, but rather emotional and least expected. If you never see or hear from me, you know why. Be good now! 🙂