Category Archives: ALSA Golden West

The Wrong View

When last we left our plucky hero, he was at a business “meet & greet” on the 20th floor of a huge skyscraper in downtown LA. The view was great!

The instructions to get to the event were detailed. Someone I described them to said it was like being in a Bond film.

Enter the parking garage here, here, or here. Park on this level. Take the elevator down to this level, not that one. Walk out into the center and take the second escalator up. There’s a relatively obscure, unmarked door next to this store. Security will let you in when you show them your ticket with the QR code. They’ll send you up on the elevator.

Okay, whatever. It’s a secure building. I follow the instructions, park, elevator, escalator, see the well-marked store in question and the unmarked door next to it with security. Security lets me in but never asks to see the QR code on my phone – whatever. 🚩 There’s a table set up there with folks with a list of names and a stack of markers and name tags. I give them my name, they give me a name tag to fill out, then they send me to elevator H. There are about a dozen elevators, but they have no buttons for up, down, or any of the floors. There’s a card reader, so if you work in the building it will let you go to your allowed floor, but if you’re a visitor you go to wherever security has programmed “Car H” to go.

The doors open and I step out into a party, just as expected. I spend the next three hours schmoozing, swapping stories with folks, taking a tour of their very nice, very new office. I have a couple of Diet Cokes (I’m driving, no booze) and a couple of “things on sticks” – shrimp, meatballs, and so on. I tell everyone I talk to about our mission at The ALS Association Golden West Chapter, and I listen to what they do. It’s a civil and structural engineering firm, big projects like the new SoFi Stadium, new terminals at LAX, hospitals, skyscrapers, and so on. 🚩 I hand out business cards, have several people interested in getting a team together for our LA Walk on November 12th. There are a couple of people who have family or friends who have been afflicted by ALS. I was a social freakin’ butterfly. I had fun.

I was invited to the event by our banker, who I talk with on the phone all the time, but largely because of COVID I’ve never actually met in person. All night I’m peering at everyone’s name tag – no sign of her. 🚩 And I thought that there were going to be speakers or guests with some talks about the economy and non-profits. At first I didn’t think anything, figuring we would be social for a while and then have the speakers, but it never happened. Whatever. 🚩

Finally it’s wrapping up and winding down, so I go looking for where the parking validation is. I figured they would mention it because the detailed instructions were quite clear that our expensive parking would be validated. But the couple of folks I talk to don’t know anything about that. 🚩 Maybe it’s at the table by security downstairs. It takes forever to figure out how to call the elevator so I can go back down, but when I get down there the table is deserted. Okay, whatever. I follow my trail of breadcrumbs back out from the unmarked door, down the escalator, across the plaza, into the elevator, back to my car. I pay for parking and figure out how to get on the freeway home.

About 45 minutes later, just as I was getting off the freeway near home, my brain goes “click!” (I could actually hear the sound.)

No! That can’t be!

I get back home and the email invitation is still on my computer screen. Park, elevator, escalator, store, unmarked door. QR code, speakers, offices on the 33rd floor.

Oops. (When did you figure it out?)

I’m glad I had a good time! I’m glad I was a social butterfly and handed out business cards and chatted and ate things on sticks! But I was at the wrong freakin’ party. I had crashed someone’s “new office open house” instead of going to the bank’s meet & greet with a side serving of economic talks.

On the one hand, it’s almost hilariously funny. The Long-Suffering Wife wants to know if I’m going to have a side hustle crashing parties. My boss agreed and thinks I should go crashing random parties downtown and handing out business cards. Our banker thought it was the funniest thing that she’s heard all week. Everyone agreed that the story made their day.

On the other hand, it’s been a while since I’ve felt this stupid 🥴 and embarrassed 😳. I’ll live.

In retrospect, how many red flags did I miss? But while there were several, they all happened separated by time, noting to connect them necessarily, with none of them being sufficient by itself to force a “stop, wait, something wrong here!” moment.

I’m familiar with the concept. There have been a number of aircraft accidents that happened in a similiar way, a series of small mistakes which added up. None of them enough to cause an emergency, but when several folks make mistakes, misunderstandings, with no one having the big picture, all of a sudden they all combine to have someting catastrophic happen. (Look up the “Gimly Glider,” Air Canada Flight 143, an early 767 that ran out of fuel while cruising at 35,000 feet over Canada in 1983.)

This wasn’t catastrophic by any means, more a comedy of errors. Still, it’s a good warning to listen to those odd little warnings and 🚩 instead of passing them off with a “Whatever!”


Filed under ALSA Golden West, Los Angeles, Paul, Photography

Money, Money, Money, Money

Being Finance Officer of the CAF SoCal Wing I spent a good part of this weekend counting cash. This led to a most curious observation.

Here’s the situation. We have a number of sales sources around our ramp. Some of them (PX with T-shirts, toys, hats, patches, and so on – and the beer/margarita stands) generate a decent amount of sales but it’s mostly electronic, or $10s, $20s, $50s, and $100s if it’s cash. But most of the others (tips, candy, chips, snacks, sodas, water, and especially the aircraft tours) are simple and charge $1. Simple, just drop a dollar bill in the bin and off you go!


Someone has to count all of that. And to count it you have to unfold and stack and put it all in a format where you can go through it. It’s tedious, it’s time consuming, and it’s a pain in the ass when you can hear the planes flying and the “bombing” explosions and action going on outside.

But here’s the thing.

Having my desk covered with a mangled, messed up, mish-mash of $1 bills (with the occasional $5 or $10), almost everyone coming through the office wants to ooooh and aaaaah and just drool over “ALL THAT MONEY!!!” It’s like Scrooge McDuck frolicking in his hidden lair full of gold coins.

Only these aren’t gold coins. While everyone else is looking at it and obsessing over “CASH!!!” I’m seeing $100, maybe $125. Max.

And the majority of those with that attitude were pilots. Pilots who work for the airlines are are making $200K/year or more, sometimes a LOT more. This money lust that’s taken away their common sense is about what they would pay for dinner with their wives, OR LESS, yet they act like they could use it to go buy a new Ferrari.

It struck me as odd and a bit amusing, so I’m sharing. It’s what I do. Well, that and spend hours unfolding and stacking dollar bills until my hands cramp.

Meanwhile, if you’re tired of being obsessed with the mountainous stack of $1 bills, pull up a chair and start unfolding, stacking, and sorting. I give it fifteen minutes, tops, before you never want to see a $1 bill again.


Filed under ALSA Golden West, CAF, Paul

Your Promised Mystery

It’s been a really, REALLY busy time at work (budgeting, Board meetings coming up, quarterly closings, all of those other joys of running an eight-figure accounting department) so in the interest of brevity, a few days ago I posted a “no context for you” picture and teased that there was a mystery because of something that wasn’t there.

(By the way, yesterday was my work-anniversary, one year with the ALS Golden West Chapter. For those who might conceivably be interested, while it’s almost always “really, REALLY busy” and that comes along with some “aggressive” deadlines and an “interesting” workload, I’m truly enjoying working there. I’m part of a wonderful team, we get an amazing amount of work done to help people who need it as well as funding research, my boss is the best I’ve ever worked for, and I’m very glad to be there.)

Then, the next day, I posted some pictures with a hint that it might be related to the mystery.

So here’s the mystery.

Two Sundays ago, after doing the usual “get groceries and pick up breakfast” routine, I noticed something out in the back yard. I was looking out the kitchen window as I am wont to do (it’s a nice view!) and there was something out there that hadn’t been there on Saturday. In fact, I was trying to figure out if I remembered seeing it earlier on Sunday morning, and I couldn’t remember seeing it. So, what was it and where did it come from?

First thought was that it might be a dead critter – god knows we get enough of them around alive, some of them might meet their fate out there. But it wasn’t.

Upon seeing it up close, I wondered if it might be something left by the gardeners, who are fighting an infestation of gophers that are ripping up the yard.

Did they fill something with bait or poison and drop it down the hole and the gophers just kicked it back up? Probably not, since this was a little big for that.

It’s bigger than a baseball, but smaller than a softball. It’s very hard rubber or some kind of synthetic material. There’s a hole going through it, and there was something plugging the hole in the center.

The stuff inside looked like a piece of granola bar or candy. Which made me think that this might be a dog toy or something.

While that might make sense as to its nature, how it got here was a mystery. The neighbor on one side has a little yapper dog, but everyone in that household is elderly and we almost never see them out, let alone out playing with the dog. I didn’t see this coming over the fence by accident from that direction.

Down the hill is a younger couple with a big, younger dog so it might be theirs, but again, how did it get up here? It’s a very steep hillside, multiple fences, covered with pine trees and debris (and I don’t even want to think about how many rattlesnakes), a good 60 to 70 yards from their yard up to ours. In my youth I might have been able to chuck this thing up that hill, but only after multiple deliberate tries. It wouldn’t be getting up here by accident.

My thought at the time, which I didn’t think to try to verify at the time, was that it might be a “Kong” dog toy, designed to have a dog treat stuffed into the middle and being semi-indestructible so that big dogs can go nuts on it to get the treat out and not destroy the toy. In processing this last picture for this post, I noticed the writing on the ball. If you flip it and enhance (think of me as Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner…”):

Yep, it’s a Kong ball. But how did it get here?

With all of that in mind, look at that “no context for you” mystery picture, taken on Monday morning, the next day:

The gopher holes are still there, as is the grass. The Kong ball is gone.

No one had been out in the back yard to my knowledge. The backyard gates were all locked. I had just left the ball there. So where had it gone?

First thoughts were that it might have actually been one of the neighbors, either climbing that steep hill while climbing over those fences (and then going back down) or else the octogenarians were climbing over the bushes and chain link fence on the side and retrieving it for the little yapper dog. Both were unlikely at best – why wouldn’t they just knock and ask for their dog toy back if somehow it landed here by mistake?

None of it made sense.

Then, a couple of days later, The Long-Suffering Wife reported that she had seen something weird in the back yard. A big squirrel had been other there, carrying some sort of big black ball around in its mouth. It had run across the lawn and headed down into the trees.

I think we have our suspect!

I’ll bet that there’s a thief squirrel in the neighborhood who grabbed that Kong ball out of someone’s back yard and carried it up to ours. It might be from the folks down the hill from us, but there are plenty of other folks with dogs around. It could have come from any of them within a block or so. The squirrel giveth on Sunday, and the squirrel taketh away Monday morning. But it’s still working on that treat, not going to be happy until it gets it all, and that may take a few days.

I don’t know if that’s a “mystery solved,” but it’s plausible enough so that I’m not going to be losing any more sleep about it!

Leave a comment

Filed under ALSA Golden West, Critters, Photography

Work Related

Another long, long day at the home office. I think my first email to be answered was at about 07:45 or so this morning and I just finished up a big document revision that I’ve been working on for days and fired it off. Once I get this done I probably need to get some deposits coded and uploaded because I’m a couple days behind there and there’s a Board Meeting coming up…

It’s important under these circumstances to maintain a certain goofiness at times. Not always. Not at an inappropriate time. But sometimes…

Yes, this is a work-related photo. Maybe someday I’ll share the circumstances. But probably not.

And look! My hair is growing back! AS THE PROPHECY FORETOLD!!

Leave a comment

Filed under ALSA Golden West, Photography

Things I Learned On My Morning Commute

If I’m fooled by the fact that it was relatively easy to get on the freeway… (Going past several schools and into a TERRIBLE intersection that gridlocks in a heartbeat means that a normal 6-7 minute drive to the freeway normally takes 12-15 on a good day and has taken as much as 25 minutes.)

And then I’m disappointed by the fact that the freeway was clogged and jammed and slow… (Once I get ON the freeway in the morning, it’s almost always been wide open, “maximum freeway speed” all the way to the office.)

And my head is distracted by a dozen different things… (There’s a lot going on!)

And the route to the new office is the same one as to the CAF hangars… (The old job was to the east, where the new job is to the west out on the 101 Freeway, just about half as far as Camarillo is.)

If I’m not paying attention it’s very easy to be sitting in the #1 lane, cruising along at 75 mph (“maximum freeway speed”, as opposed to the 65 mph speed limit) as I suddenly realize that the overpass I just went under was my exit to the office.


Fortunately, there are exits every mile and I know the area well, having run it all repeatedly when training for the 2011 LA Marathon with a Road Runners group. Take the next exit, double back, five minutes wasted, a lesson learned.

That should have been the biggest problem I had today!!

Leave a comment

Filed under ALSA Golden West, CAF, Distracted Driving, Freakin' Idiots!, Los Angeles

New Job

Those of you who follow me on FaceBook and/or LinkedIn might have seen something posted late last Friday night, a status update of sorts, but I’ll make a note of it here for the rest of you, since it is something that I post about at times – after almost four years with Homes for Families, I’ve left to take a new position. Beginning today, I’m the Director of Finance and Administration for the ALS Association Golden West Chapter.

This was not a move that I made lightly or without a great deal of soul searching. I loved the work that H4F has done and continues to do. Just look back at some of the posts that I’ve done here, for the Builder’s Ball, the WE Build, going Over The Edge, and the recent “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” build, among others. I have many friends there and I truly wish nothing but the best for all of them and for the company.

But when I was contacted by a recruiter I thought it a prudent move to at least be aware of what other options might be available. When I found another organization with a fantastic mission helping people, and organization that truly went out of its way to not just see whether or not I was right for them but if they were right for me, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t in good conscience pass on.

The move explains a great deal of whatever discombobulation you might have seen on this site in the past five or six weeks. This was not an easy decision, and I’ve been putting in a lot of time to tie up as many loose ends at H4F as possible before my departure. There’s been some lost sleep…

Now I’m diving in at the Golden West Chapter and after one day I’m spinning, but in a good way. As expected, there are a gazillion new things to learn, people to meet, names to remember, and last but not least, the lock code to the men’s room to remember!

So far, so good.

It’s adventure time!


Filed under ALSA Golden West, Homes4Families