How are you? I promise that this was written before January 31, 2016! Blame the post office if you get this after that day. My printer also ran out of toner as I sent these out. Yes, I have legitimate excuses. Trust me! Now I can say Happy New Year to all of you as we charge through the inevitable complication in life I like to call, progress. But this letter does the exact opposite as it brings joy to the people throughout my life by the way of a good old mailbox.
I’m going start off with the boring part, my work life, as I don’t think technical jargon would be a interest to most people. As the time I write this, I have begun my new opportunity with iHerb in Irvine, CA, as a Network Operations Engineer. Think of them as the Amazon.com of herbal products (not illegal!). They are headquartered in Perris, CA, in one of the new massive distribution facilities that have been built. They also have an operation back east in Hebron, KY. Most of what I do is dealing with publishing all of the new developments (software) of the company, watching for what is broken, and what could potentially be a problem for the user. It’s a fairly new role in my industry. Think of me as a gatekeeper I guess. I also deal with a lot of “ethical hacking” or at least having to clean up after a malicious one tries to break in to our stuff. Sound fun? That’s part of technical forensics for you. It intrigues me. Onward…
Here’s a part of my life that I can’t escape from, largely because of great people and the hard work we do. 2015 was my first full-year since I obtained my referee license with USRowing. If some of you don’t know, I rowed competitively in college, and the camaraderie never leaves you. But if you can’t commit your life to coaching every morning, you can get the best front-row seat in a race by following or officially calling the finish. Back in February, the NCAA sponsored my way to the USRowing Basic Referee Skills College in Sarasota, FL. While I already had experience in managing regattas, now here we were running them. Here’s a fact. In most sports, such as football and basketball, a referee stops a game to take corrective action. In rowing, unless it’s a life-threatening situation, the race continues and we must correct the action. Not many sports do that. There are exceptions, but I’m not about to pull out the rule book on you. Besides the sport, it’s great being able to travel around the country and meet everyone, especially when someone else is paying for it! I don’t know what I’ve got myself in to, but I’ve never seen an organization take such good care of volunteers. In May, I had my best regatta to date at the western region college championships (called WIRA) up at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. Of course, there’s push to move me up the ladder, but there are times I need to slow down. I’m getting too many invitations to travel! I am, however, inspired by my peers, especially seeing one of the referees in our region on her way to officiate at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. A lot of us are watching what happens for the Los Angeles bid to host in 2024. That could be our time to shine.
Related to this, I’m finding myself in a conflict of interest here, but nobody seems to care because it’s a good thing. It’s a good bridge between my techie life and this sport. I see this as a 2-for-1 hitter, the most I can do in the least amount of time. Since the previous racing season, I caught this bug, or so to say, “a reactant to a catalyst.” It runs in the family. I have found myself heavily involved with the audio/video operations at these bigger regattas, especially regional and national events. One thing is for sure, this sport ain’t cheap for the athletes. Moms and dads put a lot of effort into their kids. Athletes work hard all year long to get to an event like this, especially when the schools don’t have tons of money. Promoting this sport has been lackluster at best, only seeing a broadcast during the Olympics or on an occasion on ESPNu. Somehow I figured out how to get these costs down in producing a quality production for moms and dads back home. When all the magic happens, I have been astounded by the effort of volunteers to make all of this happen while I take the helm. One of the biggest productions I am involved with is the American Collegiate Rowing Championships in Gainesville, GA. When the event was all over, I didn’t want to go home. We’ve spent countless nights of R&D figuring out how to do this. With that behind us, this has become something that once pulled your hair out to something that is just plain fun. We had so much success that my alma mater awarded my name on this ridiculously heavy bronze trophy called, “The Oarsman.” I’m the youngest recipient to date.
My philanthropy work with the CSU Long Beach 49er Foundation continues running the outreach operations for the rowing teams and our alums that go back to 1956. I still remain the youngest on the board of alums. Our annual fall regatta in Alamitos Bay continues with mostly western region colleges in attendance. I’m one of seven referees at this event, usually running the finish line operations. This year was quite different with the foundation because I had no major in-kind capital projects in the works as most of the efforts in 2015 were cash-based. However, something even more challenging came up. There are times people say I make a good PR person and that I should ditch the technical world. I must be good at fostering a community, especially a complicated one like this. One of our most prestigious alums, Joan Lind Van Blom passed away in August after a two-year battle with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Joan was credited with being the first woman from the U.S. to receive an Olympic medal in the sport of rowing at the Montreal games in 1976. She went on to get even more. By no doubt, she and her husband John, are in the school’s Hall of Fame. Long Beach State lost a legend, only to be remembered by her endless prowess for success and as an ambassador to the sport of rowing. Forget just being a role model, to many, she was a hero. She was a fierce competitor, but also passionate of promoting Physical Education throughout her 35-year career with the Long Beach Unified School District. She has quite a story that I’d love to talk about, but you can find it yourself online. Just search for my name and her name. The article should come right up. I remember the day it happened. Getting that article out was like nothing I had ever done. I wasn’t impacted by her death that much until I started receiving phone calls. They were her friends, crying. I was more hit by this from a third-person perspective. I never went to bed that night. I scrambled around trying to find all the information I could about her as the news was going to spread around the world in less than 24 hours (check out who copied my article!). I was messaging all night with one of her old colleagues, Jean Strauss, who is releasing a video documentary celebrating Joan’s life this spring on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Montreal games. Besides getting people to hand over official photos, I had to then inform the school about what happened. Our campus president, Dr. Jane Conoley, and athletic director, Vic Cegles, showed their support. Before morning, I received another phone call from our local “on the water” reporter, Jo Murray, at the Long Beach Gazettes who proposed an idea “to get this off our minds.” All but one of the bridges that surround Alamitos Bay, our team’s home base, have dedications or names. That one is a state highway. Jo started the hunt with local leaders to propose that it be named in her honor. She really knows her way around, because as of last week, Senate Concurrent Resolution 102 was introduced in the state legislature to designate that portion of State Highway 1 (better known as Pacific Coast Highway) in her name. We will see what happens. Joan was remembered during the biggest celebration to date at the Pete Archer Rowing Center on October 10 with 500 people in attendance, some who even came overseas to see everyone. The event was also televised (you can find that too). Absolutely crazy. I still mourn over that day, not just about Joan, but about the impact she left all of us. The foundation was lucky enough to get her official interview with her husband on record and dedicate a racing shell in her honor before her death. I have never hugged so many of our alums until these events. All of this work paves my way to truly “bleeding black and gold” in our school’s pride.
To sum up these events, the Stämpfli 24x Express, “world’s longest racing shell”, was on its world tour and made a stop in Long Beach in December (see picture). It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind, mostly a novelty as it’s very hard to maneuver. My mother joined me this day and it was her first time ever in a rowing shell. This was a fund-raiser honoring the Joan Lind Van Blom Women’s Sculling Endowment, launched by the National Rowing Foundation.
For the past several years, since 2010, each July would bring me to Portland, OR, for my annual “going back to school” techie conference showing off the latest in my industry. As a coincidence, I found out that my distant relatives (paternal mother’s side) up in the Willamette Valley were hosting a family reunion in Harrisburg the weekend before the conference. I had not seen many of my distant cousins up here since 2001, so this was special 2-for-1 trip I pulled off. Since I was used to traveling each year, getting a rental car at 1:00AM in PDX was easy as I headed south of Portland to the pitch-black farmland of Halsey, between Salem and Eugene, where my parents were staying with friends of the Dodd family. My great-grandparents, Martha and Ferris Dodd’s, “twin-buttes farm” is still in the family, and can be seen off in the distance east from Interstate-5. We are the descendants of Daniel Dodd, who I can’t even begin to describe how many generations he goes back. I can say that the family tree drawn out is too big to even follow. The reunion was at the Harrisburg Area Museum, which has train cars, old farm equipment, and several historical buildings that were relocated for preservation. My great uncle Ellis has a lot of influence at this facility. Back in 2001 I didn’t have as much awareness or even cared to remember who everyone was, but now I pull them into this publication. Many of them still use flip phones you can barely send a message with, so this is a good way to get the word out. Back in Portland, after the conference, I stopped by the annual Oregon Brewer’s Festival with an old college friend. Yes, I had some friends outside of rowing. Ever had a strawberry beer? I don’t normally drink beer, but when I do, I don’t prefer an IPA. I guess I’m picky. I’m more of a wine person, so there. On my way home, I was informed that the conference will be moving to Austin, TX, in 2016 during the month of May. So after a six year run, I’ve decided to take a break to focus on regional conferences back at home. I promise I won’t leave Portland behind. Keep Portland Weird, right?
Huntington Harbour (yes, it’s spelled the english way) continues to be my stopping ground when I’m not traveling around the country. It’s between work, my old college ‘hood, and the places I grew up. That’s good enough for me. I got a new road bike over the summer, a Specialized Alez Sport. I ride at least once a week, but mostly on weekends.
I leave all of you with a quote. “Working hard for something we don’t care about is stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” -Simon Sinek
Until next time, or when I see you, stay gold.