Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Whoever can be trusted with much...

Post delayed mostly because I've spent the last couple days hoping that the fatigue, sore throat, and headaches were the result of a very long weekend and not one of our dancers getting me sick. (Luckily, that seems to be the case, as I didn't wake up with a sore throat and actually have some sort of appetite today.) Not only that, but I've been working on my Soyuz presentation for 512, which is due on Sunday, and trying to convince myself to work on my 604 term paper, which is due a week from today. I have tons and tons of information for the presentation (it was interesting reading Cold War-era documents on the craft, all the "we thinks" and "from the available intelligence it was concluded" kind of stuff as both sides tried to build their own stuff while trying to figure out what the other was up to) - all I have to do is actually make the slides and rehearse the information at this point - but very very little information for the paper, which is worrying me a little bit. I can write a paper, no problem, but not having information makes it a little difficult. I'm going to finish the presentation today, and then focus all my attention on the paper. It might be a little hard with class this weekend, but we'll see what happens. Oh, and speaking of 604, we got our midterms back last week - I got a 94! Yay! He'd originally given me a 90 on it, but we were able to successfully argue two of the questions, so it got bumped up. I *think* it was the highest grade in the class, since he congratulated me when he handed it to me, but I was just happy I passed it. I will not be sorry when that class is over - the people are cool, but the topic is boring. Plus, the final will be similar format, which makes me feel a little better about the paper maybe not being so good. We'll see.

Of course, I'm doing everything pretty much at the last minute, since I was back down in LA this past weekend. I always bring my class stuff with me with the intention of working on it down there, and then never have time to look at any of it. I got down there late Friday morning to find that John had unpacked half the stuff we'd packed up on Sunday, so I ended up repacking it and then we loaded the truck Friday afternoon. (I'm really glad organizing the truck is NOT my responsibility!) Despite some initial qualms, we did indeed fit everything into one semi, then ran some errands and hung out with Eduardo, our new production manager (loading the trucks is his headache, ha! I like him, though. I'll let John keep him. He makes me laugh) until midnight or so. John and Eduardo both got to sleep in the next day, but I was on the road by 8:15a in order to get to the theater by 9:30a. The local crew was pretty cool, although it both amuses and irritates me to no end that they always put on this jaded "oh yeah, we know how all the magic works, we had SoAndSo here/worked with SoAndSo, it's no big deal" but yet they tend to hover over all the illusions and constantly ask questions. Luckily though, a strong but polite "Thank you, but I don't need any help right now" was enough to get them to get off our backs for the most part. (I've had to pull out Bitch Mode a few times when local crews just wouldn't back off, which is irritating.) Of course, there are always things that we just can't hide, but that's why they sign confidentiality forms. Plus, the theater has this really obscure loading area setup where you have to pull the truck into an alley, unload it, then use a double ramp system to get the cases over the 6" curb on the street side and down the 18" drop to the stage floor. The only logical explanation I can think of is that when the theater was built in 1928, the building behind it didn't exist, and so trucks/wagons could actually back straight up to the door, drop a ramp, and load directly into the theater. In 2009, though, it's a pain in the butt, or, rather, back, since our stuff is REALLY heavy, and thank goodness it wasn't raining! (The thing about Watertight weighing over a ton is not an exaggeration for publicity - the thing really IS that heavy!) However, we still had everything inside by 11:30a and my crew and I had almost everything set up and ready to go by the time John and Eduardo arrived around 1:00p. The afternoon was spent on lighting (we've finally convinced John that he just needs to have his own lighting guy), and then we had the show that night. 1700 seat theater, and rumour has it that we sold about 1000 tickets, which is great. The audience had a really great energy, too, which made it awesome. Everything went really smoothly, and even a couple of the "jaded" local crew said they had really enjoyed the show. Curtain went down at 9:30p, and we were out of there by 11:30p. The girls had to get home (they live in Burbank, so it was quite a drive for them), but Eduardo, Alfonso, John, and I went out for a little bit afterwards and ended up getting home around 3:00a. The next day, John and I had a "quick lunch" that ended up with us talking for about two hours, and then I got home Sunday night and pretty much crashed for the next two days.

This show was a big deal for us because (according to John, who told me this at lunch on Sunday) it was the first time that he had EVER done a show and not had to help with loading in or out or presetting anything. He was able to come in, deal with the lights, and just perform. It was a little stressful for me, because that meant it was also the first time that I didn't have him around as a safety net just in case, but it was also fun, too. John had promised that he and I would unpack the equipment together sometime next week so that he could check my work and we could check some equipment that we'd had trouble with, which I was looking forward to, but then he called Monday and said he'd already done all of that, so now I'm a bit miffed with him. I know they're HIS toys and he can do whatever he wants with them, but that doesn't mean that I don't like playing with them, too! I hate being so far away that it's inconvenient for me to help with things like that. (Of course, the fact that John actually is a great guy and I always develop a crush on him any time I'm down there doesn't hurt, either - not that I'd ever tell him that! Out of sight, out of mind helps a lot, though!) I'm actually considering moving back down there after I go through basic and tech school - no point in moving twice - but tkd and my dojahng family are the biggest obstacles to that right now. If we get to the point where I have to go down more than 2-3 times every month for shows, then I'll probably move. (Or, if I can get a job that pays full time!) I can still do Embry-Riddle down there and finish my degree, and I can come up and do my shifts at VAFB whenever it's convenient. Anyway, it's just a thought right now!

I'm also starting a new scarf - the Card Trick Illusion Scarf - that one of my PCPA knitters sent to me Monday. I think it's pretty appropriate, and I'm indulging in some Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk goodness for it. I'm going to adapt the pattern a little to just use two colors - red and black - rather than three, and will switch main colors where appropriate. I'm looking forward to it!

Alright, enough stalling, back to homework!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Unexpected Valentines

Before anyone asks, no, I did not have a romantic Valentine's Day weekend. I did, however, have a blast.

Friday night was a test night at the dojahng. I didn't test or midterm, but I did get to help out with it. I "assistant floor conducted" for Mr. R, which basically means that I indicated where testers were to stand when they were called up, held boards for board breaks, and attacked people for self-defense. It was fun. TKD grandson really wanted to go to Klondikes afterwards, but his grandmother wasn't off work yet and most of the regular group had other plans, so I offered to take him down and keep an eye on him until TKD Grandma got off work. Mr. R ended up joining us down there, and it was cool to hang out with him for a while.

Went down to LA on Saturday for what was supposed to be an overnight trip to rehearse with John for the show next weekend. (California Theater of the Performing Arts, San Bernadino, Feb. 21st, 8:00p. Tickets are $20-50, and well worth it! We're doing Black & White, Mom! And Watertight!) Got down there around noon, worked with John, the girls, and a new guy (who I get good vibes from, I think he'll be a good asset for us) until 6:00p or so, then John and I got a lowkey dinner (a Greek salad and a really good bbq chicken pizza - not as good as Klondike's, but good) and went back to his place. He'd been going through some old show videos to find some promo clips and came across a video of one of our first rehearsals together (we don't know WHY this video exists, as cameras of any kind are obviously very strictly regulated when working with John, but it does). I started working with John four years ago this month, for his 2005 SoCal tour. We started watching this video and then just stared at each other. I have NO idea how we did those first few shows - the guys we had on crew were slow, unreliable, and not professional theater people, and that's about the nicest things I can say about them. I, having just started working with John and not having any idea what he needed or what he was like, was also pretty useless to him at that point. It was such a frustrating process, and I'm sure that John probably wanted to kill us all and run away to Barbados or someplace. We'd worked for a month straight, often staying at the warehouse until midnight or later (our record was 4:00a) and it still wouldn't be right and no one knew how anything loaded or preset, and John would have to be supervising all of us constantly. Somehow, though, we managed those five shows, and began slowly weeding out the weak links in the crew and in our own processes, replacing them with new people and new ideas. He told me once that he'd feel like the show was "ready" when he could rehearse once or twice with the crew and then not show up until curtain and still be absolutely certain that everything was set correctly for the show. Well, this weekend, we ran through the show once on Saturday and twice on Sunday, without John touching any of the presets (he does double check them, of course, because that's just smart), and he's not coming to load-in at the theater this Saturday. Our crew now rocks (*cough*including 3 former PCPA interns*cough*) and John's like "Oh, Katie will be there. She'll take care of it." Which is how it should be, quite frankly. It's only taken us four years to get to this point! We didn't get to see much of the video, because we kept getting interrupted by family members coming in and out of the room (again, secrecy is paramount), but it's amazing how far we've come in four years. We have tenative plans involving the rest of the video and a bottle or two of wine and next Friday night. (Of course, SOME of us have to be at the theater early on Saturday while others get to be the diva and sleep in now, so we'll see how that goes! =) )

So that was my Valentine's Day. Sunday was supposed to be a 12:00p-5:00p rehearsal, packing the equipment, and then I was going to come back Sunday night, but we wanted to run Watertight with water, which takes forever to fill (2000lbs is a LOT of water) and then it didn't work right the first time, so we had to troubleshoot it for a while (turned out to be an easy fix). By the time we got done with that, we were cold, wet, and dirty (the warehouse is....not the cleanest place in the world. It's a warehouse.), so we taught the new guy how to pack up his stuff as quickly as possible and sent the crew home, and John and I finished up. We finally got out of there around 10:30p, at which point John refused to let me drive home (plus he needed help getting the dogs back to his place), so we grabbed some food, stayed conscious long enough to get the dogs out, wash our hands, sit at their kitchen table and eat, and then went bed. (To be perfectly honest, given a choice between a three hour drive after a long day or another night in a gorgeous 8+ bedroom mansion - not counting John's apartment over their 8-car garage - where "my" room - I always get put in the same bed/bathroom, which used to be one of his older sisters', John calls it "Katie's room" now - overlooks the swimming pool/hot tub, sauna, gazebo, and full-size tennis court, well, which would you pick? My mama didn't raise no fool!) I was then going to leave Monday morning after John gave me a ride back to the warehouse to get my car, but of course, he comes down that morning with a list of little things that need to be taken care of. So, rather than getting to the warehouse, getting in my car, and going home, we get to the warehouse and go back to work, tweaking some things that had been bothering him, cleaning up some stuff, etc. Then he notices that one of the tires on my car is low, so then every tire had to be checked and filled while he lamented over the scratches on the rims and doors and harassed me about how often I'd had various maintenance things done on it. (John's a car junkie, and openly admits that not many people are as obsessive about cars and their maintenance as he is. He told me once that he collects illusions and cars, because, in the long run, they're less expensive and easier on the body than crack. Hard to argue with that.) Once my poor car finally (grudgingly) passed inspection, we grabbed a late lunch, and I finally was able to make it back to Santa Maria last night.

I have to go back down Friday morning to help load the truck, and I think we'll probably try to kick back and relax the rest of that day. I think he mentioned having to take the dogs to the groomers that day, but that was it. Saturday I have to be in San Bernadino by 10:00a (that's about an hour from John's place, I think) to start loading in, and then the show is that night, with load-out to follow. So I'll probably come back on Sunday - usually I help unload the trucks back at the warehouse, too, but I don't think they're doing that until Monday. Plus, it sounds like I'll be down there frequently in the next few weeks. Danielle (one of the dancers) and I really want to find a time to hang out, just because we never get to, and John, the girls, and I have been talking about doing a Disneyland trip forever now, and it looks like we might have a weekend available in March. John also has been playing around with a new idea for an illusion, and wants us to help him work it out, so there's more time down there. He has a new producer/publicist, too, so there *should* be more and more shows coming up (including a possible gig in France!). He's totally supportive about me being in the Guard and is completely willing to work with that schedule, which is good to know just in case it does get to a more full-time point (which would be awesome!).

It'd be really cool to be able to work full time with John and part time with the Guard (where the only requirements are that I maintain a California residence and show up for the shifts I say I'm going to show up for). I can even continue working on my degree with him because of the way ERAU is set up. I mean, seriously, being an illusionist's right-hand man AND having a military clearance - doesn't that sound like some kind of James Bond-flick type of character? (John teases me that I must be a very trustworthy person to have to keep so many secrets!)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

First Drill

Easily survivable. There were four of us who are new, two prior service and two non-priors, and since we haven't been through training nor do we have security clearances yet, there isn't much we can do right now, plus someone has to babysit us while we're there, so mostly we just sat through a few briefings, started the paperwork for our clearances (some of you might be getting phone calls or visits, don't worry!) and met a LOT of people. Most of the people I met are with the 216th, which is the unit that runs JSpOC (basically, they decide when and how space resources are prioritized among the various military branches' needs) and non-priors aren't allowed in unless they already have a space background, which is pretty hard to get without prior service, so it's kind of a Catch-22. I'm with the 148th, whose primary and only function is to work with the communication satellites. It's a good place to start getting some experience in space while I work on my degree. A new range unit is supposed to be standing up within the next two years, and my recruiting sergeant had me meet one of the majors who will most likely be in command of that unit. He explained my background to the major (I had a LOT of people ask me why I wasn't an officer. Because there are no officer jobs open!), and then let me just talk to him for a while. He asked why I'd gone into theater, if I'd been an actor. I said, "No, I just wanted to run the show. You'd call my job the equivalent of a flight director," at which point he lit up. He directly challenged me to get through my training with good record, be "a hot s$%t operator" up at the 148th, get a good reputation going, keep working on my masters, and he'd help me get everything put together for an officer's commission with the new unit when it is ready. (A range unit directly handles launches, both missile and rocket.) Now, granted, this IS the military, so I'm not going to hold my breath waiting on that, but it's really cool to hear and I'm definitely planning on stepping up to that challenge! Not that I would have done anything less anyway.

Next month is probably going to be pretty similar, except on Saturday I have to go down to Channel Islands and get yet another physical. Yay. They said something about us non-priors maybe joining a student flight on base after that, and I'm not quite sure what that entails, other than training us for basic (which seems a little redundant, but whatever). I guess I'll find out. It sounded like they were still working out the details anyway.

Best quote of the weekend (from the same major I'd talked to, although he was quoting some general during this briefing to new people to the ANG): "This is the military. We break s&*t and kill people. That's what we do. If you can't support that, you can leave now."

Sunday, February 01, 2009

One month in...

I started typing a response to Inky's comment two posts ago and realized I was pretty much typing up another post in her poor little comment box. So now everyone gets stuck with it, instead!

A few people, mostly PCPA people that I've run into out and about, have asked me if I "miss it" now that I've been out for a month. The answer, honestly, is no. Maybe it's still the novelty of everything, and of course I miss the people, but no, I don't miss my old job at all, actually. In fact, it's sooo nice to not to be in this weird "loving what you do but still dreading going to work everyday" place. I was always so afraid of messing something up, or forgetting to do something, or worse, just not measuring up to standards. It's...a relief right now to have a job with such limited responsibilities (I clock in, help people find things and take their money, balance my drawer, and clock out). I'm not even finding it as difficult as I expected to get used to working mornings, because by the time I get done with work, homework/errands/housework, and classes, I'm usually ready to crash at night anyway. And dudes...two day weekends! All the time! (Okay, so my weekends are currently all booked for February already. But still, it's cool that I can do that!)

It's really awesome to be excited about learning again, too. As much as I love theater and working on shows, classes about it never interested me much. In fact, I probably skipped more classes than I actually went to. But this. This is a field I've been interested in literally since the first time my dad took me outside and showed me the stars. I look at this stuff and just think "this is SO cool!" (okay, the HF class itself is a bit of a drag, but the tangents they go off on in class are pretty interesting). Honestly, we can put a man on the frickin' MOON! Over and over again! And we could do THAT forty years ago! Just think of where we could go now! (Once we get over this whole bone loss thing, of course!)

Anyway, the short answer is that even though I don't always know where the money is going to come from to pay the bills, I still feel lighter than I have in a long time. And, oddly enough, I'm still glad I didn't stick with the engineering degree. I was never really interested in HOW the things were built. I was always more curious about WHY they worked and how all these really different systems work together smoothly to make a mission. Face it, a flight surgeon and an engine expert are totally seperate fields. Not even remotely similar. But yet the data they each provide and what they each control during a manned mission is equally important and necessary. And THAT is what I'm getting to focus on now that I never would have been able to if I had stayed just in engineering.

There's a design to this ride, and I'm really interested in seeing where it's going!