Thursday, January 13, 2011

HUGE Long Catch-Up Post

Alright all, life has been absolutely insane lately. This is going to be a huge post spanning a couple months and several topics, including hockey! So let's get going!

As of around the beginning of December, I am completely, officially Combat Mission Ready (CMR) certified in my position on base. This basically means that I can be trusted to work on my own, which is awesome because there are only four people in my shop (me, two active duty, and one civilian) and me being able to handle the everyday stuff frees up the other guys to do more of the supervisory/bureaucratic and more in-depth analysis projects. (For the curious, the overall gist of my job is to manage all the sensors in the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) and not only make sure that they're playing nice with each other, but that the data they get is good. In a fun-fact nutshell, I run the network that tracks Santa on Christmas Eve.) It's been working pretty well for us so far. I will stay full-time with them through March, and then I'll start splitting my time between the JSpOC and the 216th. For the most part, I like my job a little more every day, although of course there are days that I want to run away screaming or my brain feels like scrambled eggs by the end. Orbital mechanics and computer programming just really shouldn't reside in the same brain, I'm convinced.

Tomorrow marks two years since I enlisted. There have been three decisions in my life that I knew were absolutely, positively right the second the option was presented to me: going to Purdue for college, moving to California, and joining the Guard. Those clicks don't happen often, but I'm glad they did when they did.

Working Out
Unfortunately, I haven't been in the dojo all that much lately, although I do try to make it in at least once a week. Mostly, I have been running. I don't particularly enjoy running, but it is the biggest part of our PT test and the easiest workout to get in, since all I have to do is change shoes and I can run pretty much anywhere. I prefer running the 1.5-mile trail on base, but the new colonel in charge of my division has mandated a 5 mile run every Thursday morning, so been working on upping the distance. I'm not quite up to that distance yet, but I can do a 5K fairly comfortably, if very slowly. I am hoping to do the LA Kings 5K in March now.

Unfortunately, the worst part of my personal PT test that I did in December was pushups. I passed that segment, but not nearly as well as I would have liked. So I would prefer to work on those and build up arm strength, which is more dojo-type work. And kickboxing and tkd are always good, but I really miss FIGHT. Tuesdays and Thursdays are squadron PT days, though, which makes it difficult to get in on those days. We'll see.

Got a couple projects going right now. One of the girls in the squadron is a big Sharks fan and expecting, and I found a really cute baby jacket pattern and some Sharks-inspired yarn for her. I'm also working on a baby blanket for one of the guys I work with whose wife is expecting. But my main focus the past week or so has been our annual Puck This January Hat Trick K/CAL. I already have two goals finished:

Rebecca, from Knitty. Yarn is Berroco Vintage I got in the Start of Season Swap and super squishy. Chunky yarn + big needles = quick knit. It's not nearly as complicated as it looks, either, although I personally think it would easier to follow if it was in a color-coded chart instead of written out. And:

Chicago, based on this hat sold on Etsy. The lady who knit & sold it there graciously shared the star chart with one of the Blackhawks fans in Puck This, and allowed her to share it with the rest of the group. It's jut a plain old striped hat, and then the stars are duplicate-stitched on afterwards. I'd never done dup stitch before, so that was new, but it turned out to be rather like cross-stitching, and after a few tension mishaps, I got the hang of it pretty well. Unfortunately, the pattern was written for chunky yarn and I used worsted, so I have a very cute child-sized hat. I'm thinking about sending it off to a kids' charity in Chicago. But I do kind of like it, too. I might have to make another one in my size.

My third is on the needles right now, and is kind of a test-knit for the designer since it's fairly new and there haven't been many done yet.
It's called the Swirled Striped Hat (pattern available via Ravelry download), and I like it so far. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's got a lot of potential. As with my A New Angle afghan, I've been giving feedback to and getting feedback from the designer, which remains one of the coolest parts of Ravelry. And, why yes, those last two do just happen to be Blackhawks-inspired, since it is a hockey group's K/CAL. And speaking of the Blackhawks...

I know I wanted to keep the hockey talk to the other blog, but to me, these ended up being more personal than sporty. Not only did I get to enjoy a game at the UC this year AND do my personal Thanksgiving Blackhawks marathon, but I ended up being a Blackhawks California season ticket holder! I was able to make it to ALL SIX games that the 'Hawks play in California during the regular season! And have pretty darn good seats (and places to stay) at all of them.

In order, some of the pics w/ stories (photo albums from games behind the links):

Blackhawks @ Sharks 24 Nov
Kopy had been playing with the little guy in the white hoodie while waiting for his turn during the warmup drills, making faces at him through the glass and whatnot. Finally, he was at the front of the line, and we all thought he was turning to start his drill (the moment in the photo), but then he suddenly turned back and checked the glass right in front of the kid. I thought the kid was going to die of glee, he was SO excited! It was super cute!

Blackhawks @ Ducks 26 Nov
Obviously not my pic, but a screenshot that one of my friends sent me - I got high-fives from the Blackhawks when they came on and off the ice for the third period!! That is my hand that Toews is hitting! (And, I would like to point out, the game was tied 1-1 through the second. I gave high fives to Sharp, Kane, Hossa, and a few others, and suddenly they get THREE goals in the third to win. Coincidence? ;-) )

Blackhawks @ Kings 27 Nov
This one takes some multiple pics. For this game, I was sitting by the penalty box, rather than the bench. I still saw my two favorite players up close & personal, unfortunately. It started off with Sharp coming to sit by me early in the game:

Then late in the third (seriously late, like less than 5 minutes left of a very close game), Toews decides to come sit by me. Single Trouble:

And anything that Tazer does, Kaner has to do too, so Double Trouble:

And THEN, just because all the cool kids had done it, I guess, Bolly decides to make it a party in the sin bin. Triple Trouble:

Yes, that was all the same back-to-back overlapping penalties! And they still managed to win! But man, was that scary!

Those three were my Thanksgiving marathon games. Then they went back to Chicago for a couple weeks, but missed me so much that they came back out for a quick visit in December.

Blackhawks @ Sharks 11 Dec
This game was a crazy good defensive goalie duel with the 'Hawks surprise rookie from last year:

against the 'Hawks surprise rookie from this year:
Both goalies were the top stars for the game, but unfortunately, Crow came up on the short end in OT, but my record at the Tank is getting better! The first time I was there, they got 0 points; this time, they got 1! Slowly but sure we are making progress. It amuses me to no end that the fans at the Shark Tank boo Brian Campbell every time he touches the puck there, but I gotta say, out of the three pro rinks here in Cali, that one wins for sheer fun. The fans love the game, they love their team, and they just have fun. Too bad it's the one that is the farthest away. (I did also have a lady sitting behind me in a Sharks jersey lean forward at one point and conspiratorially whisper “I just wanted you to know that I really like Keith. And Seabrook. And Sharp. And…well, maybe I should stop now.”)

Blackhawks @ Ducks 2 Jan
Again, they went back home for a couple weeks, but then came back out to ring in the New Year California-style. Only this time, they brought their moms with them.
Toews was out that game due to injury, and I didn't get to give the guys their high fives this time due to some rather...inconvenient people who refused to move two inches so I could lean over the rail, and the guys lost. Well, okay, the Ducks didn't beat them in that game; the Ducks' goalie, Jonas Hiller, did. Awesome goalie, btw. Only reason they won, because they sure didn't play that well. Too bad.

Blackhawks @ Kings 3 Jan
The next day was a bit exciting, at least for me. I was staying at a hotel near the Staples Center for the weekend, and went to get some coffee that morning from the Starbucks that's just across the way (if you've ever been to the LA LIVE area, you know where I'm talking about). I glance out the window, and Eddie Olczyk (one of the Blackhawks' TV announcers) is walking by. I wave like an idiot before remembering that he doesn't have a clue who I am and is wondering why this apparently crazy person is waving at him through a Starbucks window. So I get my coffee and head back over to the hotel, where I get blocked behind a trio of guys trying to go around a corner to the escalator (I was going to go up to the business center to print out something, I forget what now). Of course I said "Excuse me!" when I bumped into one of them and look up apologetically, and realize I am looking at Jack Skille. (I think I may have said "Hi" and smiled like a ditz but I don't really remember. I do remember him saying "Hi" back, so I suppose I must have. The cameras, btw, do NOT do him justice - he's CUTE!) I get ahead of the trio on the escalator and look back to do a "no really, that didn't just happen" reality check, and he is with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews!! My two favorite players (and Skille does not trail very far behind them on that list either) were RIGHT BEHIND ME!! I know I DID smile and say "Hi! Good luck tonight!" at that point, and I think there was a murmured "Thanks" but honestly, I'm just proud of myself for making it off the escalator without tripping over anything. I was so in shock. They went their way and I went mine (sadly, not the same way), but I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch downstairs in the lobby, so I kind of lurked and ended up seeing several of the Hawks plus EdzO again, although I didn't talk to any of them. One of the waiters knew I was waiting for someone, and at one point asked "Oh hey, is that your friend?" The guy he was indicating was Corey Crawford. (Who is very very skinny w/o all those big goalie pads, btw.) Sigh, I wish!

And, again, physical contact with the guys brings about good luck for them. Toews returned to the lineup that night and ended up scoring the GWG. Sharpie also scored (twice, if I recall correctly) during that one, and the Hawks finished their season sweep of the Kings.

Stan Lee did the ceremonial puck drop:

Tazer played peekaboo with me:
(I was actually trying to get a shot of Hossa, who is forever blurry in my pictures. I didn't realize Toews was right behind him, but I will take it!)

And, the best jersey autograph EVER:
(and I was having a big "I miss Burish! Bring Bur Back!" weekend - we need a pest again - so that was doubly awesome!)

So I got to do all that stuff, PLUS go to Illinois & see the family for a few days at Christmas, where of course we all ate wayyyy too much very good food, drove each other crazy, and spoiled each other rotten. At least, I got spoiled, anyway:
That is a Stanley Cup Champions DVD autographed by Patrick Sharp AND a team picture from the 2009 Blackhawks/Red Wings Winter Classic game at Wrigley Field, autographed by the entire team! Best. Little. Brother. EVER! My mom refused to let me sleep with the picture, but prying it out of everyone else's hands to get it home to Cali was a bit of a challenge. (That picture is also now the subject of every threat my brother feels the need to coerce me with. Distance from family is still a good thing!)

So yeah, I've been a little busy lately! Hope to settle down a little bit and get some rest now!