Brandin’s Year-in-Review 2015

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 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.


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! 🙂


WWDC14: Apple, Inc’s WWDC is all about the D: Developers


Check out Daniel Eran Dilger’s article about WWDC, which kicks off tomorrow. The event has been sold out within seconds for the past three years. Most of the content is online within hours of the presentation. The famous keynote is live on the web.

Some have asked if I’m still going to this event. My six year run since 2008 with the event has come to a close for now to focus on the industry that is related to my field. This is why my focus is with O’Reilly’s OSCON event in Portland, this July. Maybe someday I’ll return to WWDC. I thank Apple for giving me a scholarship to this event in 2008 & 2009 and even giving me a VIP keynote pass for the last two years. I also can’t forget the wonderful people I’ve met over the years. Only about half of them are attending this year.