Reflections and Expectations: Keeping It Local

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“Temp”-ing fate, indulging the sweet tooth yet again and battling summer boredom. Join me in a look back at the last few months that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

July to September 2017

Anything Goes Summer – An unofficial tagline to describe my summer 2017.

I am still somewhat reeling from the fact that I am not a coach operator right about now. I always wonder how different things would have been had I become a bus driver for VTA. It’s difficult to tell how I would have fared and how long I truly would have lasted. Nevertheless, I learned to move on from this short-lived endeavor while not ruling out another try in the future.

Since then, I have taken on roles as a temp for a few tech companies in the Bay Area, doing administrative-level work. This is all temporary while I still look for full-time work back in a more administrative realm of transportation. I’m still figuring out a way back in to the industry, which includes exploring roles beyond marketing and public affairs for which I could theoretically be qualified to serve.

In addition to temping during the week, it was in late August when I began working on weekends as a tutor at a tutoring center in Cupertino. I specialize in writing and reading comprehension for grade school students. I was recruited into the role by a chance encounter with the director of the tutoring center earlier in the summer, where I successfully made the case that my academic and professional background that predominantly involves writing could be valuable in this role. So far, I’m enjoying this opportunity to lend my talents in a more educational setting. The students I work with are wonderful people, many who come in to the center with an eagerness to learn each Saturday and Sunday I’m there. For as long as it’ll last, I hope to achieve something great out of this experience.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, Sept. 9 – For the third year in a row, I attended this annual chocolate-oriented event in San Francisco. I’ve been attending this event every year since I moved to the Bay Area in October 2014. There was a mix of new and returning vendors, many of whom served up some fantastic chocolate candies, pastries, ice cream, beverages among other delicacies. What makes this event even better is that proceeds from the admission fees always go toward Project Open Hand, a local San Francisco non-profit that serves meals to senior citizens and the disabled. Indulging in all sorts of treats and helping out a good cause at the same time? Sweet.

Anything Goes Summer, continued – Sadly, this will be the first year since 2009 without a major trip planned for anywhere and the first since that same year where I won’t be traveling out of state. In lieu of traveling, I’ve taken to exploring low- to no-cost alternatives closer to home including trying out new Mexican restaurants and ice cream parlors in the South Bay (all but one of the Mexican restaurants were worth revisiting). I’ve also taken to discovering new radio shows and podcasts.

I’ve been listening to Thom Hartmann on SiriusXM Progress since the spring. Even though I’m a liberal, I wasn’t all that into the historically less-dominant left-wing talk radio until after the current administration took effect in January. It’s probably indicative of a recent, broader trend among progressives turning to left-leaning media outlets in greater numbers as Democrats are currently out of power. I like Thom as he presents a more civil, intelligent and rational approach to talk radio that is absent in the dominant right-wing talk radio shows, which I still don’t and can’t listen.

I’ve also discovered a few new podcasts, a realm of the media that hasn’t truly resonated with me until recently.

  • The David Feldman Show injects politics and comedy into each episode. His show involves fascinating conversations with guests of all walks including comedians, politicians, academic figures among others.
  • The Phil Hendrie Show – I’ve been listening to Phil Hendrie on and off since 2002, when I was 13 and growing up in Los Angeles. Back then, Hendrie was in the syndicated terrestrial radio market before moving his operations over to the podcast realm in 2014. He is known for voicing all of the characters on his show, both in-studio and over the phone. Even its archival content seems less dated and is a gold mine for laughter when warranted.

October to December 2017

    • New horizons – I’m set to start a new job in early October. It’ll be a temporary one although it’s a role that guides me back to my roots in the marketing realm of the civil engineering business. I plan to make the most of the short time I’ll have there.
    • High-school reunion – 10 years since I graduated from El Dorado in Placentia. I’ll have to figure out how to condense a decade’s worth of life stories into about 30 seconds for that three-hour event in early November.
    • The holidays – I hope to cap off this interesting year with people I value most. The only notable highlight of 2017 is that I learned how to drive a transit bus for six weeks but that was all there was to it.

Let me hear your stories. How was your summer? Looking forward to the holidays ahead? Share your thoughts below in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

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Reflections and Expectations: Short Turn

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What an interesting last few months it has been. Join me in a look back at these last three months in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

April, May and June 2017

Birthday, April 4 – I turned 28 that day. That was pretty much about it.

Relay for Life of Mission Viejo, June 3 to June 4 – For the second year in a row, I participated in this local American Cancer Society-sponsored event to support the Canedy family — friends I’ve known for almost seven years.

Each year, the event raises money for cancer research in a variety of fun ways put on by the dozens of teams that participate. I was part of the Green for Bean team that the Canedy family has had going for more than a decade — taking turns walking laps around the track at Saddleback College, raising money for our own team and supporting others as well. I’ve financially supported the team since 2011 before finally being able to join them in the annual event last year. It’s always a great feeling and a great time being there.

MTI convocation ceremony, June 17 – This year, I attended the graduation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. I was in attendance to cheer on my former classmates graduating after me, as I officially graduated last December. I already had my turn at last year’s ceremony, even though I had to return in the fall semester to finish out one more course. Still hasn’t hit me that I’m an alum of this program. I’d give it some more time.

VTA coach operator training, May 3 to June 13 – For a six-week period, I was among the class of initially 30 students who were training to become coach operators (bus drivers) for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). This intensive nine-week program is conducted a few times each year, preparing students to become part of the next generation of bus drivers to fill vacancies created for any number of reasons (retirements, deaths, terminations, promotions among the common reasons).

During week six of this nine-week program, I was dismissed. That brought the number down to 27 students who remained standing as of that day I was cut (two students before me left on their own volition weeks before this).

This opportunity was months in the making. The recruitment process opened up for applications in late January, initial written exams took place in early February and interviews in early March. I spent the remainder of March and April obtaining a Class B driver’s permit, getting fingerprinted, submitting to a physical exam among other administrative matters before officially being on-boarded in early May.

I always knew this would be a challenging endeavor, perhaps the most challenging of my lifetime. But it was one I very much anticipated and looked forward to taking on once that day came. In my interview and throughout the training program itself, I often talked openly about how my lifelong experience and appreciation for taking transit would be an asset in this capacity once — and if — my roles reversed from passenger to operator. I went into this program with a genuine interest for the work at stake, even though I possessed no previous professional experience as a commercial vehicle driver.

When it was all said and done, I progressed as far as I did but not enough to the point where I could have become a full-fledged coach operator. I truly did give it my best shot in this expectedly challenging program. I learned a lot from this experience, some of which could be applicable in other areas of my life and career as well. 

I am heartbroken and disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it all the way through and possibly beyond. Nevertheless, it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I’m grateful to VTA, its training personnel and my former classmates for making this experience one that I will never forget. Hopefully not before long, I’ll get to see some of my former classmates welcoming me onto their buses one of these days. I’ll look forward to that.

July, August and September

Job search – That last item made this the third time in the last year and a half where I lost a job. Where will I go next? God only knows.

It’s summertime – No big plans yet. It’ll probably be a series of small things to keep me going. I’ll go find some more books to check out at the library. Yes, I started doing that again recently. First time in years, really.

Let me hear your stories. How have you been in these last few months? Any fun summer plans ahead? Share your thoughts below in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: A Different Turn

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Starting with this edition, Reflections and Expectations will go from a monthly series to a quarterly series.

Four editions will be published each year with new posts at the end of each March, June, September and December. That way, I hope to highlight all of my personal developments and achievements on a more occasional basis. For those of you who have been following along with these monthlies for a while, thanks for doing so and I hope you’ll stick around even after this change in frequency.

Join me in a look back at these first three months of 2017 in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

January, February and March 2017

Women’s March, San Jose, Jan. 21 – The day after a certain businessman was sworn in as the new leader of the United States, I joined tens of thousands of people in Downtown San Jose for the local Women’s March.

As part of the parent march in Washington, D.C., I took part in this mass demonstration to show my support as a male ally of women’s rights issues. This was the first time I participated in this kind of demonstration which, like other sister events throughout the country, was completely peaceful and uplifting for everyone involved. We’re already seeing how there have been more similar demonstrations and protests since the inauguration. I expect there will be many more for at least the next four years and I look forward to participating in subsequent events over time.

Graduate school – In mid-December, I officially completed the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University.

After finishing my final course in the Fall 2016 semester, the university officially certified me as a graduate by late December with the diploma arriving in the mail in late January, capping off what had been a nearly three-year long program. I already participated in last year’s convocation ceremony so my time for formal recognition has came and went. I am planning on returning this year and next year simply as a guest — and as an official alum, too! — to support my former classmates graduating after me.

Both in the long-term and short-term, I expect this Master’s Degree will further strengthen my credentials as a transportation professional. There’s already a change in motion as we speak. More on that in late June — or sooner, if you follow me on social media.

April, May and June

  • Birthday – I turn 28 on April 4. I share the birthday with Robert Downey, Jr., Maya Angelou, Grumpy Cat among others. Standing among legends on a day like that.
  • Relay for Life – For the second year in a row, I’ll be participating in this weekend-long event in early June to support a family of some longtime friends of mine. Supporting a good cause + being in good company = a really good time.

Those are my Reflections and Expectations. What are some of yours? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you. See you back here in June!

Reflections and Expectations: Now What?

What a way to close a mixed bag of a year. Let’s look back at the month that was in this final Reflections and Expectations for 2016.

December 2016

End of graduate school – Nearly three years and 10 courses later, I officially finished the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. It all ended with the final week of MTM 215 — transportation systems planning and development — on Dec. 13. A week later, I learned that I received an A grade in the course, all but ensuring I will earn my Master’s Degree in two month’s time.

This program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute, has kept my career prospects alive while also helping me develop a well-rounded perspective of the transportation business, all to prepare me to become a part of the future generation of transportation managers. I still maintain an interest in going into a public affairs / community relations side of transportation while also looking into other areas such as contracts administration and transit operations. Wherever I end up, I know my future is in transportation and I will be forever grateful for this advanced degree program for paving the way to a brighter future.

Christmas – For the sixth time since 2010, I spent this holiday weekend with family in San Diego. It was a great way to close out on a high note what has been a challenging year. Due to scheduling conflicts on both sides throughout 2016, the last time I saw them was Christmas 2015 — which felt more like a lifetime ago. It truly was a weekend filled with joy, laughter and some tears. Without getting too much into the last part, it was an extraordinarily heartfelt and profound moment to strike someone like me who rarely gets this emotional about anything. I’ll leave it at that.

January 2017

  • Now what? – Much like the title of this blog, anything goes. There’s much to look forward to, more I want to do and territories yet to be explored. It could be a game-changing kind of year although I will need to clear some hurdles before I get there. In due time, I expect to get there.

By the Numbers

In December…

  • Number of times flying first-class on Virgin America over the last six yearsThree (likely my last time flying with them before the merger with Alaska Airlines).
  • Perfect grades achieved in my courses throughout graduate school – 9 / 10 (the odd one out being a B, lowest of them all. I could only dream about this level of achievement in schools past).
  • Number of times rewatching Elf year after year gets old Zero (…and it will always stay that way).

This edition will double as the year-end review, given how 2016 was a lousy year for most human beings everywhere. Here’s to hoping for a 2017 that is substantially better than this outgoing year.

Happy New Year, America!

Reflections and Expectations: Access Granted

A mixed bag, to describe it best. Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

November

Election – [sigh] This is still very disappointing and concerning. I relented and voted for Hillary Clinton on the day of the election — a decision I made the night before I casted my vote. Sure, I’ve had my shares of gripes about her but she isn’t all bad. I wish I had made that decision much earlier instead of openly flirting with the possibility of voting third-party or an independent. Electoral dysfunction, for sure.

Thanksgiving – With family in San Diego having other plans this time around, I stayed put in the Bay Area and spent the holiday with a friend and former colleague of mine in nearby South San Jose. It all went well as one should expect — getting my full turkey fix and being in good company on that day. No bones about that.

New job – This week, I officially joined MV Transportation as one of its reservationists as part of the company’s ACCESS paratransit contract with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). In this role, I am among the handful of individuals working out of the VTA headquarters in handling all the requests for paratransit services by the county’s senior citizen and disabled residents. I’m glad to be back to work somewhere after nearly four months of searching for the next big thing and four years since I last worked in a more transit-focused setting. Back on track, I go.

December

  • End of grad school – This is it. After nearly three years and 10 courses later, I’m expected to be all finished with my Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. There will be a certain charm to it all that I will miss. More in my next edition.
  • Christmas – A week and a half after that last item, I’m looking forward to celebrating my recent accomplishments with family in San Diego. It could be a great way to end this generally rough year on a high note.

By the Numbers

In November…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 112 (the counter stopped the day before Thanksgiving when I landed my latest role)
  • Consecutive number of hours being awake from Election Day to the next day: 21 (woke up at around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 8 and stayed up watching the returns on TV until 4:30 a.m. Nov. 9)
  • Weight change between the morning of Thanksgiving Day and the next morning: -2.5 (…all this after finishing a full plate of turkey and all sorts of trimmings on that afternoon)

Happy holidays! How are things lately? What are you looking forward to most this holiday season? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Two years later

A quiet month but noteworthy in its own right. Join me in a look back at my month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

October

Grad school – The real beginning of the end of grad school is in full swing as I’m currently enrolled in my 10th and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University.

The current course, dealing with transportation systems planning and development, began on Oct. 11 — coinciding with my two-year anniversary of living in the Bay Area. This course will take me all the way to a mid-December finish of this program, ending my nearly three-year involvement in this academic endeavor.

Is it December yet?

Aerial yoga, Oct. 2 – I finally tried out aerial yoga at my home yoga studio, The Yoga Studio in Campbell, earlier in the month. The owner of the studio recruited students like me to volunteer as subjects for a special session where she was training an instructor on aerial yoga.

Having practiced mainly the vinyasa yoga there almost every week for more than a year, I liked trying out a different realm within this practice. It felt nice to be floating and hanging during parts of the session. I’m definitely interested in practicing more aerial yoga in the future.

November

  • Election 2016 – Thank God it’s almost over. There’s been no shortage of depressing things in my life as of late. At least one of those things will go away but I’ll still have another lingering around for a while. [sigh]
  • Thanksgiving – Maybe some family time will serve as a brief respite from what has been a down year for me. If not, I’ll go find an open restaurant near home on that day to serve as an alternate.

By the Numbers

In October…

  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 88 (as of Oct. 30)
  • Time spent on a session about Ram Dass, who he is and why he matters to people: Approximately 100 minutes (everyone could learn something from him)
  • Duration of Bay Area residence: 2 years, 19 days (as of Oct. 30). Past residences and jobs rarely lasted this long. Now, I hope to find work again that will last just as long as my current residence.

How are you lately? Let’s talk. Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Let’s Do the Numbers

A nod to Marketplace in the title this month.

Join me in this look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

September

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival in San Francisco, Sept. 10 – For the second year in a row, I got my chocolate fix at this annual event, which marks its 21st year for the organizers. Even though I’ve cut down on candy consumption since the last event, I still love Ghirardelli chocolates and couldn’t help myself but to make another visit this year. Chocolates, coffees, tea, ice cream, pastries among other items made for an expectedly overwhelming yet sweet Saturday afternoon in this City by the Bay.

Steel Wheels Conference in Sacramento, Sept. 24 – Hosted by RailPAC, I participated in this annual conference on the state of passenger rail in California and around the country. This was my second conference after my first one in the same city back in 2014. I enjoyed it as much as the last one I attended and got a lot out of it.

October

  • Beginning of the end of grad school – My tenth and final course of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University starts later this month. The transportation systems planning and development course will run through December, closing out my nearly three years in the program.

By the Numbers

A new feature within this series, breaking down some random facts each month in numerical terms.

In September…

  • Total miles spent driving any car: 96 (up from zero in August)
  • Number of days spent looking for the next big thing: 58 (as of Sept. 30)
  • Amount of sniffles during a live, nationally-televised debate: Zero (…and I kept it that way!)

How was your September? What are you looking forward to in October? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.