|Taking a well-deserved break in Temecula|
In January, “Riverdale,” the long-gestating TV adaptation of Archie Comics, whose pilot episode screened last July at San Diego Comic-Con, premiered on the CW to lackluster numbers. The show looked doomed until it found its audience through a streaming deal with Netflix, and quadrupled its teen demo numbers for the season 2 premiere this October. I can’t exactly say I’m a fan of the show, as I blogged earlier this year. It’s certainly its own thing and separate from the comics, but I guess I’m happy it’s successful and keeping the lights on at Archie Comics.
In other entertainment news, Barry Manilow finally came out, on April 17, in the pages of People, timed to the release of his new CD. Of course, his marriage to Garry Kief was the biggest open secret in town, but it’s nice that at age 74, Barry’s finally owning it.
As you may recall, last October I retired from The Boeing Company and transitioned to an aerospace auditor-in-training job at DNV GL, a management system certification company based in Katy, TX. I’ve spent most of this year acquiring the credentials I need to become a successful aerospace auditor. I’m fortunate that DNV GL has allowed me to earn while I learn, paying me a salary and benefits while also paying for my training and testing. However, this was their maiden voyage and the sailing has been anything but smooth. DNV GL had never before run an auditor-in-training program, and probably never will again, at least not on this scale, because they severely underestimated the amount of time and money it would take to get us up to speed. They budgeted for six months, and it took most of us a year to become fully credentialed. Compounding the problem is that the whole industry is transitioning to new versions of ISO 9001 and AS9100, the primary standards we audit to, and the accreditation bodies are still catching up.
Here is a brief rundown of the gauntlet I ran this year. On January 13, six weeks after I took the ISO 9001:2015 Lead Auditor course offered by DNV GL, I finally learned that I passed the exam, qualifying me to take the AS9100D Lead Auditor course, which I took the last week of January in Santa Ana, CA. Two weeks later I learned that I passed that exam, qualifying me to take the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) Aerospace Auditor Transition Training (AATT) course and exams. Here’s where it starts to get ridiculous. Over the past year the industry has been transitioning from Rev C to Rev D of AS9100. IAQG requires 40 hours of classroom training, and everyone’s expectation was that they would start offering Rev D training in January. They did not. Instead, they required us to take Rev C training in a classroom, followed by three exams to Rev C (Knowledge, Application, and a 30-minute oral exam), which, if we passed, would qualify us to take the Rev D transition training and exam online. This meant unlearning Rev D and relearning Rev C in order to pass the exams, then immediately unlearning Rev C and relearning Rev D in order to pass the transition exam. With me so far? Making matters worse, with Rev C about to become obsolete, it became nearly impossible to find an AATT Rev C class. I enrolled in a class scheduled for the last week of February in San Diego, which was cancelled due to lack of interest. I then enrolled in a class scheduled for mid-March in Dallas, for which I was waitlisted and never got in. My next choices were the end of April in Miami or the first week of May in San Diego. I opted for the latter since I could drive to it. I got in, the class took place, I passed the three exams, and immediately started unlearning Rev C in order to take and pass the Rev D online transition exam, which – did I mention? – has a 40% pass rate on the first attempt. I devoted every free moment – nights, weekends, and lunch breaks – to drilling Rev D back into my head, and on May 23, I took and passed the final exam on the first attempt.
Was I certified now? Not hardly. In addition to all these exams, I needed 20 qualifying audit days in order to apply for my ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) Aerospace Experience Auditor (AEA) certification. Here’s where it goes south. Until you’re a certified aerospace auditor, you’re not allowed to participate in any third-party (certification) aerospace audits, not even as an observer. So I had to get my 20 qualifying audit days by participating as an evaluated observer on ISO audits. At DNV GL, the AS and ISO camps are run by different managers. The ISO camp had no interest in helping the AS candidates earn their stripes. So I got scheduled on numerous ISO audits where the client pushed back, the Lead Auditor backed the client, and I was removed from the audit. As a result I amassed qualifying audit days very slowly. To move things along, my manager arranged for me to participate in a series of second-party (supplier) aerospace audits, which she assured me would count towards my qualifying audit days. Although I was skeptical, I performed over a dozen of them, only to see ANAB reject them all because they were really first-party (internal) audits to which I was a second party. Finally, in mid-July, I performed my first ISO Acting Lead, received glowing notices, and got promoted to ISO Lead Auditor, enabling DNV GL to start making money off me as both an ISO auditor and as an ISO trainer. Suddenly I had plenty of work, and by the end of September I reached my 20 qualifying audit days. On October 12, in the middle of an ISO audit in Grass Valley, CA, I received my hard-won AEA certification. DNV GL immediately pulled me off my scheduled ISO audits and reassigned me to AS9100 audits. Since then, I haven’t had a moment to breathe.
|Having trouble breathing at work|
If this past year sounds like one constant test, it was. I have always had test anxiety, and by March my anxiety attacks grew so frequent and so crippling that I could barely function. When I slept at all, I dreamed about being tested. I routinely woke up in a panic at 4 a.m. with tightness in my chest and dread in my bones. It didn’t help matters that my mentor was determined to make me the “the best,” when I was still struggling to become adequate. I finally turned to my doctor, who prescribed Ativan. It makes me drowsy, so I use it sparingly and counteract it with caffeine, but it has enabled me to function through all of this.
|With Danny Lu & Giulia Hamacher on Broadway|
Needless to say, I’ve had very little time for extracurricular activities this year. I did make appearances at some local comic-book conventions – San Diego, Anaheim, Long Beach, Palm Springs – and made one trip to the Northeast, where I visited briefly with family and friends in Pennsylvania on my way to New York, where I saw Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” with my friends Danny Lu and Giulia Hamacher, and made an appearance at New York Comic Con.
I did not release a new book this year, but I contributed to “Love is Love,” a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting; please buy it.
|Love is Love on display at WonderCon|
I also attended a few local shows with some of my favorite performers: saxophonist Vincent Ingala at Thornton Winery in Temecula; singer-songwriter Levi Kreis at Sunset Temple in San Diego; and Julie Brown headlining “The Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun: The Musical” at the Cavern Club in Silver Lake. Meeting the star afterwards was one of the highlights of my year.
|The Homecoming Queen's Got ... Me & Kurt|
This year I’m proud of what I’ve endured, and what I’ve accomplished, and I’m sincerely grateful to those friends who’ve endured my long silences and lent their support along the way – especially my housemate Kurt Mossler, who listens to my rants when I’m at home, and safeguards the house and the cats when I’m away. I couldn’t do this without him.-->