Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unconventional


The Inaugural Capitals Convention was today at the Gaylord Resort at the National Harbor. It was supposed to be modeled after events held by the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Blackhawks, and the announcement of this event had a lot of long-time season ticket holders worried that it would supplant the now annual season ticket holder party. The Capitals organization constantly stated that the Convention and the season ticket holder party were not connected at all, and in fact, an email was sent out two weeks ago announcing the date of the party. And the Convention was today.

Season ticket holders were given an extra hour in the exhibit hall to purchase used equipment, buy souvenirs and otherwise take in the exhibits, before the rest of the "general admission" tickets were admitted. Pat and I arrived around 9:30, mainly because I didn't feel like getting up this morning after a very long week at work. We'd parked in the Gaylord parking garage, and knowing we'd be there most of the day, I wasn't particularly happy about being slapped with a $19 parking fee. Even the $11 that others reported paying off site wasn't really a "bargain," though I should have known that at a "resort hotel," everything would be overpriced and underwhelming. At least the spaces in the garage were "normal sized," plus we managed to get a parking space next to Clyde and his new Miata top.

The first thing we noticed was that the line to sign up for the autograph sessions was long, really long. We opted to just go into the exhibit hall (bypassing all the general admission people who were grumbling about waiting) to see what it looked like. The "History Lesson" session was taking place on the main stage when we entered, but the sound was pretty bad if you were standing against the skills "rink," and we decided to go look at what was available at the jersey shop. The equipment sale line was crazy long and the interactives were dominated by kids, so there wasn't much else to do at this point.

I saw a couple of shirts I was interested in, but Pat was fixated on the jerseys. Since Brashear signed with the Rangers, Pat had decided that Brashear was "dead to him." He wanted another jersey, but he wanted an American-born player, and preferably one who would stay with the team for at least a few years. We'd been discussing this (along with Clyde) for the last couple of weeks, and even on the way down to the Convention, Pat had mentioned sadly that new Capital Mike Knuble was from Toronto and had only signed a one year contract. So, it was no surprise that he was glancing between the Poti and Steckel jerseys hanging along the back wall. He tried on the L/G Steckel jersey, and I knew his decision had been made. He took his claim to the first line of the day, and I went to check in for autographs.

I picked a 4-5PM timeslot at first, and when I came back to Pat (still in line to pay for the jersey), I told him I knew it was during one of the panel sessions he wanted to go to, but I was going back with his (the other) ticket, and I'd get a different session then. I was just about at the actual window to get the second wristband when Pat showed up with his new jersey in hand, and I gave him the 1:30-2:30 band, telling him that I hoped he'd get Tyler Sloan to sign the Sloan CD he'd brought with him.
Pat didn't really steal the jersey from Steckel's locker... but the locker room area made for a good background!

Pat headed upstairs to sit in on a panel discussion about the media coverage of the Capitals. That was really no surprise, since Pat's a photojournalist by trade and while he was trained by the Air Force and he currently works for an Army affiliated group, I'm sure he wouldn't mind covering the Capitals (or Nebraska football... and I think Nebraska would win if it came down to those two!). I told him I might come up to join him, but I wanted to wander around some more in the exhibit hall.

I took some pictures of the various trophies on display -- it was very much like the Hockey Hall of Fame set up with these -- but I was sorely disappointed that the Stanley Cup wasn't present. Was this a ploy by the Penguins to irritate the Capitals fans? I'm not sure what the "rules" are when it comes to public showing of the Stanley Cup, but every other trophy was there except for the Calder Trophy (for the top rookie). The Kelly Cup for the ECHL Champion (South Carolina Stingrays) was there, and I think the Calder Cup for the AHL Champion (Hershey Bears) was there too. Why not Lord Stanley, unless someone couldn't part with it for a night?





I ended up joining Pat in the panel discussion, which was very good. Frank Brown, the NHL Director of Media Relations, was the moderator, and Jon Press, Lindsay Czarniak, Corey Masisak, Joe Beninati, Craig Laughlin and Steve Kolbe were on the panel. It was a real show of camaraderie, as it was evident how much the broadcasters as a whole enjoyed working with each other, especially Kolbe, Beninati and Laughlin. Press, a blogger, and Masisak, a beat writer, seemed a bit out of their element in front of an audience, but when handed the microphone, they could still hold their own.

Afterwards, Pat and I looked around a bit for food, and we weren't impressed with the options on site. Instead, we meandered back toward the exhibit hall so that Pat could get in line for the autograph session. He was in group B, and I had chosen correctly for Tyler Sloan... except Sloan was in group C, along with Tom Poti. Group B was Shaone Morrisonn and Chris Bourque. I suggested to Pat that he try to switch wrist bands with someone from group C, since we are SCCA experts at removing wristbands. He considered it, but ultimately decided to just get in the "B" line. I guess he's hoping that Sloan makes the big team this time, and that he can meet him at Kettler.
Pat talks to Chris Bourque

We looked at the trophies some more and waited in the line to see the mock locker room setup, which was cool in some respects (the real Jose Theodore mask and the real Semyon Varlamov pads, albeit from Hershey, for instance), and completely lame in other respects (the wrong jerseys hanging (logo forward) in some "lockers").
Does the Chris Clark jersey in the Semin stall count as a jersey foul?

The real Theodore mask was cool...even if some assclown thought it was cool to try to put it on :|

We had some downtime after the autographs, and so we hit the hotel's atrium for lunch. We opted for the buffet place, at a mere $23.50 apiece, and while there, Steve Kolbe stopped by and chatted with me for a few minutes, which was very cool. Pat was kind of astonished when he came back from getting a second helping to see Kolbe talking to me about attending games in Philadelpha. One of the most interesting things he said to me was that he really wanted to place a bid on the Eastern Conference Champions banner that was available in the silent auction, but he also thought a fan should get it. His desire for the banner was due to the fact that he'd first announced for the Capitals in that season. I asked him, "But aren't you a huge fan of the team too?" I have to wonder if he did end up bidding on it.

Heather was at the Convention too (along with Julie -- one of our skating friends -- and Kelly -- who has season tickets next to us), and while we were trying to eat that late lunch, she was spazzing that she wasn't going to get Semyon Varlamov's autograph. Like me choosing Pat's session, she'd chosen the correct time, but didn't get the right stage (B vs. C, just like Pat). So, she wanted me to snap a few shots of Varlamov for her while she languished in the other line.
poor Heather

I got in line for my autograph session soon after, because I wanted to go to a panel session at 4:30, so I wasted a good 40 minutes of my time just standing around so that I could be one of the first to get an autograph. I didn't even know who would be in my session until about 3:40 when Pat came over with his newly purchased Steckel jersey.

Alexandre Giroux and David Steckel were the two players I would get autographs from. Not being a psycho about getting autographs, I hadn't really brought anything to get signed, so it was a good thing Pat had brought some ticket stubs and given me the jersey. Otherwise, I would have felt like a total fool. At least the stub he gave me was from a game where Giroux had played (the preseason game again the Blackhawks last Wednesday). As I presented it to him, I remarked that he had been robbed several times in that game, and he completely agreed. While he may have set a new record in the AHL for goals scored, he has still struggled to get the puck past the goal line in the NHL.
Giroux signed the preseason game stub, while Shaone Morrisonn signed the playoffs game stub

I told Steckel that the jersey belonged to my boyfriend, who'd bought it because he was an American born player, and Steckel responded, "I like his style." I amended that Pat hoped he'd stay for more than just one more year, and Steckel replied, "I'll work on that." I hope he does. I think that game six against the Pens in the playoffs really upped his fan approval, considering the number of Steckel jerseys I saw today, and his faceoff ability is only matched by Boyd Gordon's.
Steckel comments to Giroux about something before autographs begin

I headed upstairs immediately so that I could hit the "Dropping the Gloves" breakout, and on the way, I saw Eric Fehr heading downstairs. I asked him, "Aren't you late?" as I was pretty sure he was supposed to be with Jose Theodore in the group B autograph signing, and his reply was, "I'm on time!" with a big grin, as if he knew he was going to be reamed for being late.

The "Dropping the Gloves" panel was moderated by Steve Kolbe, and the panelists were John Erskine, Alan May, Gary Rissling and Ken Sabourin. Seeing Sabourin at the back of the room before the session began, I asked him why he was there, since I didn't remember him getting into that many fights when he played. He remarked that he used to be "worse" when he played for Calgary. This was another good panel, as the stories told about the penalty box and the opposing players fought were very good. The most awkward moment came when someone asked about how incidents like the Patrick Kane idiocy were breakdowns of "turning off the fighter," but all of the (former) players agreed that what happened with Kane wasn't normal, and that any professional player can turn off the fighter off ice.

Heather and her friend Dennis were ready to leave after the session, so while Pat went to get my skates and jacket from the car (since I'd left them with her after our skating class on Wednesday, instead of trying to carry a duffel with hockey skates into the Verizon Center), I waited to ask Alan May a question I'd been dying to know the answer to for over fifteen years.

"A guy I went to college with swore up and down that he was close personal friends with you, to the point of 'calling you' during our chemistry lab one day. I just have to know... do you know Craig Fitch?"

May immediately responded with, "Do you mean Fitchette?" and I confirmed that (Fitch was his nickname). Then he asked, "Where did you go to school?" I told him, "Western Maryland, but I think Craig was working on his second bachelor degree then." May nodded, "Yeah, I knew him from when he was at Princeton..." After over fifteen years, I finally had my skepticism erased about Fitch's association with Alan May. So, that phone call during lab was for real after all...

My other question was about his propensity towards instigation via goaltender interference. I asked him if he feared certain goaltenders, like Ron Hextall. He said that Hextall was a lot less scary when he faced him than if it had been a few years earlier. He also pointed out how small Hextall was outside the pads, which I know, since I'd met Hextall at one of the Flyers' fan club activities.

So, it was cool talking to Alan May for a few moments at the end of the panel. I then went to the room next door for the athletic trainer's panel, and texted Heather to tell Pat where I was (since I knew he didn't have a phone). He popped in shortly thereafter, then went next door to watch the "'Bear' Facts" breakout session.

Not many people were at the session I attended, but I guess since no players were there, there was a lot less interest in the discussion from the general populace. Ken Sabourin was the moderator for this group, and I was chosen to ask my question, which was in reference to my teaching. I asked how high school students interested in being athletic trainers should prepare themselves, and the head trainer (Greg Smith) said that they should consider if they want to go the sports medicine or the physical therapy route (he's evidently done both!), then choose the school appropriate to their decision. The strength training coach, Mark Nemish, also suggested networking as an important tool to getting into the "big leagues."

Pat gave some funny stories from the session he went to, including a question asked of Karl Alzner about the craziest thing a female fan has done. :o

We went downstairs again to scan around the exhibit hall one last time. The line to get into the Capitals Shop was gone. The equipment sale was essentially done. Even the late autograph sessions were poorly subscribed, likely because everyone knew there was zero chance of Ovechkin being in the last session (since he was signed up to do photographs then).
Karl Alzner and Nicklas Backstrom sign autographs in the final session

Besides Heather, Clyde had also already left, when his autograph session included Ovechkin... at another line (gee, sounds familiar). His line was Milan Jurcina and Tomas Fleischmann. I wish he'd told me, because I would have gotten Jurcina's autograph. Oh well.

We surveyed surroundings, then decided we could wait until next Saturday to see the opening night video. Before leaving entirely, we did the "hard shot" interactive (the only one that didn't seem to be dominated by children under twelve).
Pat whiffed on more than one shot

I never got a good time, but I didn't whiff on any, so I win.

We waited in one last line (to prepay for the parking), then came home.

Knowing it was the first attempt at this sort of thing, and knowing there are 4998 other people with opinions (me and Pat being the other two of the 5K passes sold), I'll just sum up our pros and cons here.

Pros :
* Season ticket holders had extra time (over the general admission ticket) to survey the souvenirs and the game/used equipment
* Breakout sessions that we attended were fun AND informative
* Interactive sessions with puck shooting, etc. were interesting
* Availibility of players and others was good
* Some of the "players" were very polite and accessible -- including Ted Leonsis, Bruce Boudreau, Steve Kolbe, Al Koken, and Gary Bettman

* Honest attempt to include children in the Convention.
* All players -- current and possibly-current were available for autographs.
* Very inexpensive ticket costs.
* Most of the NHL trophies available to look at.

Cons :
* One hour extra was not nearly enough extra time for the season ticket holders
* Breakout sessions did not have enough room for the number of attendees, and there were a lot of people being disruptive via opening snack bags and talking to each other during the sessions
* I saw the various skills clinics on the schedule, and wanted to do one or more of them. But the overwhelming majority of participants in the interactives were children, and I felt like I shouldn't participate if it was meant for children. But I'm not sure it was meant that way.
* Lines for various things -- including getting souvenirs -- were out of control. I might have gotten a souvenir T-shirt if the line for such hadn't been ridiculously long from the moment of arrival. Pat waited a good 20+ minutes in the line to buy his Steckel jersey. I wanted some alumni autographs, but upon monitoring how quickly the line was moving, I realized that by the time I got to the table for signatures, chances were that the current players would have been replaced by other alumni by the time I got there.
* Some of the players were there for as short of a time as possible.
* There was no order to the alumni table autographs, and the line was inexcusably long. Of all the autographs I would have liked to get today, the alumni autographs were at the top of my list. I was very disappointed that the alumni line was the most sluggish, and the least predictable when it came to who would be seated upon arrival.
* Too few seats and very poor acoustics for the main stage.
* Too many children in then interactive sessions made it impossible (or at the very least, awkward) for adults who wanted to participate in stick skills or other clinics.
* The autograph sessions ran into breakout sessions too much. Too many people in some sessions with hardly as many in other groups.
* No photo-postcards or anything for the players to sign for people who didn't bring/buy something to get signed. The alumni table had an "autograph sheet" for signatures, but the regular player tables didn't even have that.
* Parking and food costs not disclosed until too late. Captive audience doesn't equal people who will pay anything -- I know some people just left the convention early to avoid paying the hotel $25 (or more for lunch), and they didn't come back.
* No Stanley Cup.

Other thoughts :
* Have a second room available. This would allow for a larger main stage, and more space for the autographs. The equipment sale and the preseason sale could also be expanded (meaning no line to get into the souvenirs). A second room where the interactives could be the primary thing would be cool, and could allow for kids and adults to compete but not against each other.
* let people know costs (parking, food, etc), ahead of time so they don't get slammed with ATM surcharges. $19 for parking is a bit exorbitant. On the other hand, the $175 Pat paid for the Steckel jersey is less than I paid for his Brashear jersey at Verizon Center.

After seeing Boyd Gordon and Michal Neuvirth at the A stage, we decided to call it a night. Something about needing to be up in time for a noon event on Sunday. At least I don't have to work on Monday!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Good Life

Nebraska is the home of Arbor Day.
Welcome to Nebraska, from the Wyoming side

And, for the foreseeable future, Nebraska is also the home to the SCCA Solo Nationals, which is where I spent most of the second week of September.

The car arrived on site on Monday, and Shawn turned it over to the capable hands of Billy Brooks and Greg McCance to figure out why there was a persistent drip from the front passenger side axle. The Mfactory front differential had been a difficult install, and I suspected that there may have been a resulting issue with the axle seal. However, the two of them could not get the axle out in order to see what was going on. Since there hadn't been enough of a loss of diff oil to register on the dipstick, it was decided to just drive the car as it was.

Wednesday morning came way too early for my liking, as I'd spent most of the previous evening getting ready. My suitcase had been packed with the car, so I didn't need to do laundry and the like, but I still had to decide what I was bringing with me as my carry-on. Ninety minutes of sleep also wasn't a good idea, but I was too anxious over the whole trip to go to sleep. I left the house around 4:20, and after some side trips, parking, the shuttle bus ride and "re"printing my boarding passes, I got to security around 5:00. I was through security around 5:02. Gotta love BWI at god-awful hours.

I spent a miserable hour or so at St. Louis waiting for the second leg of my flight. I was pretty much bored out of my skull the entire time, to the point that I paid $5 for an hour of WiFi time, just so I could at least do something. Oh, and on both flights, I found myself unable to fall asleep until the descent had begun. Major suckage, which continued with the rental car pickup -- bright yellow Aveo with a bent rim. Joy.

An hour drive to the site, and all was well through MM399. Between MM399 and MM395, it started misting, then a light rain, and by the time I'd driven down 48th to the turnoff for the site, it was a downpour. WTF? It had been sunny in Omaha! The rain stopped shortly after I arrived, even as I parked the rental near the WRX and started looking for people. It wasn't hard to find anyone; it was actually hard to walk more than five feet and not get hailed by someone asking, "Did you just get here?" Why, yes, I just arrived 3 minutes ago.

I got through registration (thanks, Connie, for the rulebook!), and said hello to John Thomas (who was driving his FP Datsun) and Steve Mieritz (who was driving, of all things, an SS Z06), the latter whom I hadn't seen in years! I puttered around for a while then was told in no uncertain terms that the car "needed to be teched." When I deigned to ask why it hadn't been teched in the 2+ days it had been on the site, I got yelled at. I grabbed the keys and took the damned thing to the tech area before they closed. Don't know why I bothered, since it was Corey Ridgick and Jon Krolewicz on the job.... I'm not sure they really looked at it. ;)
photo by Danny Kao

So, once competition was done for the day on the West course, we waited (impatiently, I might add) for the abomination known as the CP parade to finish (some people didn't know to avert their eyes.... I hear their sight is just now returning! :o ), then I did a quick course walk so I had an idea of what I was going to be driving the next day. I was still too tired to really process it much, but I also needed to get over to the awards ceremony to help Rupert Berrington with photographs. I figured I was clean enough to be presentable, and jetted off to downtown Lincoln.

I was dying of hunger by the end of it all, and ended up getting to the hotel with nothing to eat until the next morning when I grabbed some disgusting roller-grill things at the local convenience store. I really wanted to walk the course at least twice in the morning, now that I had a few hours of sleep, but I was still in pseudozombie mode, and I didn't really pick up on important stuff during my walks.

Chris Cline had jumped into my car for Nationals, since his other ride offers consisted of FWD, FWD and more FWD. Considering he's been driving an STX E36 BMW the last two years, he wasn't exactly looking for a FWD Civic or CRX. He'd called me on Monday to discuss driving the WRX, and we come to an amenable agreement for the ride. He didn't get a chance to drive it besides taking it up the road for a fill-up with 100 octane, so his first real experience was the first run. Pat followed up with a decent run that would have had him deep in the trophies, except as is too normal for him, he'd coned.

The next run, Chris was a bit faster, and Pat tried to tone things down just to get a clean run in. I don't know what he did, but the resulting time was slow. It was clean though, and that was a start.

Then third runs.... Chris went a bit faster -- good. Pat started off great, then about two-thirds of the way through the course, through the showcase turn...
I just turned around and started to walk away, then I remembered I should warn Chris not to even think about going to the grid spot. Sure enough, Pat needed.... "time" to decompress. I felt bad, but I couldn't dwell on it. I needed to start thinking about my runs.

I got one walkthrough during the break between heats two and three, and then I waited through the slightly-less-than-a-billion STS first drivers before I got to run. There were merely three of us in ESPL -- me, defending ESPL champion Lorien Feighner, and Hilary Anderson in McCance's car -- which meant it was "win or go home" in terms of trophies and tire contingency. Just a tiny bit of pressure.
photo by GotCone.com

My first run was all over the place. I don't think having my last autocross attempt be an RX8 on A3S03s was a good idea. Still, it was a tick faster than Feighner's first run (less than a tenth), even if it was a lot slower than I would have liked. My second run, I pushed it a bit harder through the opening offsets, and up into the showcase. I thought I might have coned coming out of the big sweeper, but nothing was called, and I'm glad I resisted the urge to glance in the mirrors.

The run was minutely quicker than my first, and it would ultimately stand as my best, as I coned my third run in the opening offsets. Lorien slowed down on her second run, and coned her third as well. I would have a 0.295 lead going into day 2.
photo by GotCone.com

Some alcohol and foursquare with the Atlanta Region would ensue in the evening hours, and finally, I decided that sleep would be good. I think we might have made a run to Taco Bell for some kind of snackery, but OMG was I tired. I realized quickly that I had to spend pretty much all day in my grid, with Pat and Chris running first heat, me covering AS and GSL for SportsCar in the second heat, running third heat, sitting around for an hour in impound waiting for results during fourth heat, and then announcing during fifth heat. It made for a long day, but when I was done, I did get a walkthrough on the East Course before the foursquare began.

I started off the second day in a similar manner to the first, except one of my course walks was with Anthony Savini, a local who drives a supercharged Mini Cooper S in GS. He was leading GS by a scant 0.09 going into the second day, but he's also an Evolution instructor, and he went into instructor mode while we were walking. It was something I needed, with my addled sleep-deprived brain needing something to focus on during my driving.

Pat and Chris were well out of the trophies going into the second day, so they were both trying to salvage their respective prides with some decent times on the Feldpusch-designed course. Pat's third run was 0.4 behind local driver (and trophy winner) Brian Burdette, so I think he felt better about how he did. Chris didn't improve every run like he did on the first day, but he was driving the car harder, to the point that he actually coned his final run (which had his fastest raw time, unfortunately).

I got one walkthrough during the break, like before, and as Pat and I approached the start line, I asked Billy Brooks to join us. Pat decided to take offense at this, and walked away. So, even as Billy and I are walking, and Billy is telling me what he was doing in any particular area, I'm worried about how Pat is mad at me, so ultimately, I don't think my attempt at getting input from two people really helped. I would end up falling back on the advice Savini had given me during the morning walk.

My first run, I had a front row seat for Lorien's first cone of two. Seeing her cone made me relax -- probably a bit too much -- since I knew she wouldn't catch me on that run. Her time was a mid 60 second run, while mine was about 1.5 second slower, raw. It was a wake up call, but I was still hitting snooze, since with one look at the course and a driving pattern "set," I wasn't sure what I should do in order to rectify my sluggishness.
photo by Aaron Boltman

It didn't help that we had a huge delay before our next runs, due to two GP cars breaking, then an STS car breaking. Yikes. Multi-car breakage when you're driving an *SP WRX is a bit unnerving.

Fortunately, Lorien slowed down on her second run -- by a lot. She went almost a second slower on raw time, while I dropped 0.7. I was still in the lead, though I wouldn't say "comfortably." If she was even 0.3 off her initial raw time, she would be beating me -- that's how slow I was running.
photo by Aaron Boltman

The last run, I really don't know what I was doing to prepare. The lack of sleep and the anxiety of not having much in the way of downtime was starting to wear on me. I really couldn't think of a plan to go faster; this was the same situation I found myself in for the previous day. I knew I could go much faster, since Pat had run in the 59s. Hell, even Cline had a raw time in the mid-60s. Yet, I was sitting on a 61.2. I just was at a loss of what to do, and I felt it all slipping away when I pulled up to the line.

You can hear me cursing through the "wall-lom" about two thirds of the way through the course. I am so late on those elements, it's disgusting, and I know it. The funny thing is that in my mind, what I said was a lot louder, and a lot faster. Weird. The run was marginally faster than the second run, but either one was good enough for the win, as Lorien went even slower on her third run. More than an hour later, results were finally handed to us in impound (after having to fix an issue with Hilary's times), and I was declared the new champion.

Now for the "but" part. Pat ran 1.5 seconds faster than me on the East Course. 1.5. I can't remember the last time he legitimately drove 1.5 seconds faster than me when we were in the same car (I'm not counting the abortion called the WDCR Practice Event with me in his SE-R). Generally, we're pretty close, at least on raw time, and I was pretty flustered that he was so much quicker than me on both courses (raw time -- he had to sit on a run 0.2 slower than me on the West Course due to his conage).
photo by Aaron Boltman

I'm not sure if the issue is me still driving the car like a DS car, or what. I just know it's got to stop. I drove like crap at Toledo, and I drove like crap at Nationals. I didn't feel nearly as bad about my driving at the DC Pro, but I'm sure it could have been better there too.

So, I'm the newly crowned ESPL National Champion, thanks in huge part to IAG Performance, Vorshlag Motorsports, and Billy Brooks with MODERacing. As for next year, we'll see where the WRX goes from here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pick Up The White Courtesy Phone...

My cell phone rang at 4:15 today, while I was frantically trying to prepare the first test of the semester for the college anatomy class I teach. As I was wracking my brain over how to phrase a question dealing with Tomas Fleischmann's recently diagnosed deep vein thrombosis, I heard the dulcet tones of Modest Mouse's "Dashboard," then suddenly remembered that there was a season ticket holder teleconference today.

The guests of the hour? Brooks Laich and Matt Bradley!
Brooks Laich during practice

So, even though I had work to get done before I left for the 7:30 class, and despite the spotty cell reception at my desk, I answered the phone to listen in.

What's the season ticket holder teleconference, you might ask?

It's yet another perk of being a Capitals season ticket holder. Along with the three ice skating "parties" held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex over the summer, this is the second of the season ticket holder exclusive teleconferences, where you can just listen to others talk to the guests, or you can dial *3 and ask your own question. The first teleconference was with Bruce Boudreau and George McPhee, and I just listened in to that one. This second one had Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich as the guests, and while I listened to a variety of questions, I decided I was going to ask them what they thought about the thrombosis diagnosis.

About two minutes after I pressed *3, "Kirk" with guest services popped in and asked me what I wanted to ask. He entered my question in the queue, then told me that when I heard the facilitator (Steve Kolbe) introduce me, I should just ask my question again to Laich and Bradley. I waited through questions such as, "If you were to have a child, who is the teammate you would least want to babysit?" and "Brooks, do you think you're going need to step up to fill Fedorov's place?" as well as "Matt, with Brashear leaving, does this mean you're the number one enforcer?"

Bradley and Laich were awesome, obviously taking their time to thoughtfully answer each and every question posed to them, no matter how serious or inane the question. Bradley would interject some humor into the answers as well, which isn't a surprise, considering he is known as the team jokester (remember Red Line, and Professor Bradley?).

After about 5-10 minutes, Steve Kolbe came to my question. I asked them if the blood clot being linked to a blocked shot and subsequent plane ride would maybe have them rethinking how they block shots, especially during penalty killing. Laich remarked that it shouldn't change anything, since that's their "job, and it's what [they] are paid to do." As he explained it, if he's supposed to stop the puck, he's going to do it however he can, and if he gets injured, so be it. Bradley lamented that he doesn't usually get the chance to block shots, but when he is out there during a penalty kill, he's usually "behind the shot" (maybe alluding to his awesome shorthanded goal during the playoffs).

I didn't listen much after I asked my question, as I really needed to finish writing the test so I could print it off and make copies before leaving. But, I do know the entire teleconference will be posted on the Capitals website, as the first one with Boudreau and McPhee already is.

The fact that the team involves the stakeholders with small things like the teleconference and the skating parties is just part of the reason I love this team. I have my tickets to the Convention later this month, and my season tickets arrived while I was in Nebraska. Plus, I already got notification that the season ticket holder "appreciation party" will be at Six Flags America on October 13th, and I already got my sub for the college class that night. It's just awesome how the season ticket holders are treated here, and it makes the cost of the tickets just that much more of a deal to me.

Training camp is three days in. Our appetites have been whetted. Let's go Caps! :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Short Story

It was a tough battle, but me and my WRX came out on top. More when I get home from Lincoln.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lock and Load

I picked up the WRX from IAG on Wednesday night, forgoing a Capitals season ticket holder event and another chance to skate for free at Kettler to do so. I wasn't particularly happy about having to do so, but it was either then, or wait until Friday, and I wanted the chance to put some miles on the new differentials before leaving the car with Shawn, the B-stock driver who was going to take the car out to Lincoln for me.

The Mfactory front differential is evidently not completely "plug-and-play" for the 2006 WRX. While Greg McCance had no issues with his 2002 car (which requires "axle stubs"), my car was a bit of a challenge. The guys are IAG were evidently having issues with getting the axles and the new front diff to cooperate. The rear Cusco diff was no problem at all.

Saturday morning, I dropped off Pat at BWI for his flight to Omaha, or, as he calls it, "The Homeland." His dad still lives in Omaha, and he is going to visit for a few days before heading to Lincoln. I came home, and started to clean and load the WRX for it's trip.
loading the WRX

I need a better vacuum. Between the vacuum at the local car wash and the attachments to the vacuum at home, I still couldn't get as much grime out of the car as I would like. It was a lot better than it was when I was done, in any case. I also washed the Rotas before putting them in.

I started all this around 9AM and by noon, I was grabbing a quick lunch and getting ready to head out the door. I touched base with Gabe, who would be picking me up at Potomac Mills, and with Shawn, the driver, and then I was on the road. 1:45, I was at Shawn's house, and then he took me over to the mall where I got to ride back to Gabe's apartment in the ghetto-fabulous DSP Maxima. Mary must really like him if she puts up with riding in the back of that car instead of insisting that he drive the M3!
tires in the car, and ass-kicking boots ready to be packed

Three hours later, I'd successfully navigated the Metro and Amtrak mazes, and had finished the 40 minute walk home from the BWI rental car building.

Shawn and his codriver/car owner Chike were leaving Sunday morning around 7AM, and I got a phone call about five hours into their trip. "Did you have any issues with the transmission leaking?"

I couldn't lie, especially considering how worried I am about my vehicles when others are driving them. "When I picked the car up on Wednesday, I was smelling gear oil after driving it. It didn't really leave any spots in the driveway, and I took it to a car wash to get the undercarriage cleaned off because I knew they'd had issues with the axles and there was likely gear oil spilt."

He told me that he'd looked underneath and there was a "steady drip." I clarified that it was a drip and not a flow and then told him I'd call JJ and find out what he thought. Shawn asked if he should wait for an answer, and I told him, "I didn't smell gear oil when I dropped it off, and if it's just dripping and there wasn't anything in your driveway after last night, I'm not going to worry about it. I will let you know what he says."
the larger of the spots in the driveway is visible here. it didn't seem significant until the phone call

JJ thought it might be the axle seal, possibly slightly damaged from the issues with getting the axles and the front diff to play nicely. I also called Billy Brooks, and conferred with him about what to do with the car once it got to Lincoln, as there were a couple of days before competition and even before Pat would want to drive it at the Evolution School Test-and-tune. I relayed the information to Shawn, and five-and-a-half hours after the initial call, he just checked in and said that the transmission dipstick is showing that the level is okay.

The car should be in Lincoln tomorrow morning. Billy and Greg (McCance) will look at it for me, and everything should be good to go.

In the meantime, @WDCRSoloNats is reporting via Twitter that Ian Baker won the Finale Hawk Super Challenge over Sam Strano, but Strano took the year-end Challenge win. Annie Bauer took the L2 win and therefore the L2 year-end win, as expected, despite some shifter linkage issues on the FSP car. Leslie Cohen won the Ladies Challenge for the event and for the year.

Maybe next year I'll revisit the ProSolo Finale. In the meantime, I've got some work to do in order to be prepared for the days I'll be gone.