Brandon’s normally my date for Punchline shows. Neither of us has ever gone to a Punchline show without the other–until now, thanks to the Army and weekend drill.

So I got Paul to go with me instead.

In retrospect, maybe I should just go to these things alone, although I was kind of hoping Brandon’s drill schedule would change, as it often does in the military. It’s not that I didn’t like going with Paul–it’s actually fun and exciting for me to introduce him to new music–but he’s not always crazy about going, so he can be a bit of a curmudgeon at times. And I worry a lot about whether or not he’s enjoying himself.

I can’t remember the last time I went to a Punchline show. It was probably the last time they played a show here, but I can’t remember when that was, either. And there’s always the chance that I couldn’t go for any number of good reasons. But safe to say there’s a decent chance it’s been four years or more, and I am kind of bummed Brandon had to miss it–it would’ve been a pretty cool triumphant return to our days involved in the local scene, although I am trying to see if he’s free for a local festival next month. Which reminds me, I better ask him about that damn drill schedule again.

Anyway, the show was great. The openers were both local, too–Mace Ballard, who I’ve heard of and did enjoy but wouldn’t say impressed me, and Nevada Color, who I enjoyed more and kind of have ties to. One of the members graduated high school with my brother, and I didn’t recognize him until the singer mentioned everyone by name. And that was pretty cool. I mean, I didn’t really know the kid, but it’s neat to see someone from our school opening for a pretty well-known local band. It also kind of makes it suck more that Brandon couldn’t make it.

Punchline was fantastic, as awesome. Maybe it’s the long span of time since I last saw them, but it had a healthy dose of nostalgia to it–enough to bring back memories of the tons of shows we used to go to, but not so much that it felt like reliving a part of my show-going past that’s gone now. What really made it interesting was seeing how the band handled their new material, which is more electronic, alongside their more pop-rock past stuff. The solution was basically more rock-oriented live versions of the new songs, which was pretty cool. And despite some grumpy-looking moments, Paul seemed to have a good time.

The drive home was a pisser, though. We’d had–and are still having–bouts of unusually warm weather, which is how the day started out, but then the temperature dropped below freezing. When that combined with the recent rain we had, things got messy. My mom advised me to drive carefully into town in the morning, but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with it going home that night. We were fine almost all the way home until we were in Washington, just a few minutes away from the apartment. We’d stopped for some Sheetz MTOs in Canonsburg and were coming into Washington when suddenly, there was stopped traffic all down Route 19 both ways. Turns out someone had slid on ice and set off a chain reaction of fender-benders. At least 20 cars on both sides of the road had to be pulled over, although because some weren’t visibly damaged, I’m not sure why so many. Even the on-ramp to the interstate had some trouble and significant backups, and some lanes were closed. I ate my sandwich in the car while we sat in traffic, and when we could finally move, we slowly crept our way home.

But winter hasn’t set in just yet.

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Just when Terra was medically cleared to drive, she was medically un-cleared to drive. She happened to mention that her sister-in-law was possibly unable to take her to a doctor’s appointment the Monday we saw B.E. Taylor, and I happened to mention that the timing blew because had the appointment been for Tuesday or Wednesday, I was off and could’ve stepped in. Which is how her appointment got rescheduled for that Tuesday.

So I spent one of my two days off taking Terra to her appointment, followed by a fruitless attempt at Christmas shopping, followed by a tasty Primanti’s lunch.

As for that Wednesday, I managed to finish some shopping then up at the outlets.

And on Thursday, I returned to work for the end of the week just in time for the annual holiday potluck.

And that weekend? It brought Punchline, Christmas parties, and Star Wars.

Friday Five: Todayish

  1. When were you last up on the house top? I don’t know! I don’t think I’ve ever been on the roof of any place I’ve ever lived, or any place I’ve ever visited. The closest I’ve come is probably the attic of my childhood home.
  2. What’s a cookie you dislike? I don’t think I truly dislike any cookie, but I’m inclined to pass up something that doesn’t have a lot of flavor or is pretty plain. Although sometimes cookies with fruit in them can go awry–I’ve had some store-bought ones with bad fruit flavor and texture.
  3. How many people named Carol (or Carole) do you know? Just one, my paternal grandmother, who died when I was two.
  4. How much snow have you got on the roof? None! We’ve only really had one snow this season, and it was just a dusting. And it was weeks ago. We had some nasty ice a week or so ago, though, after we’d had a lot of rain and the temperature dropped and froze it all.
  5. Whose lap did you last sit on, and who last sat on yours? I believe the last lap I sat on was Paul’s, which is funny because he once got yelled at by his mom earlier on in our relationship when I did that because she thinks it’s inappropriate and thought the relatives who saw me doing it would be talking. You’d think we were banging instead of innocent lap-sitting, that’s how pissed she was. As for who last sat on my lap, I believe it was Paul’s baby cousin Garrett, who is one of the few babies I’ve willingly held. He’s just such a calm, chill baby, and he’s so chubby and adorable!

Booking Through Thursday: Gift

What books are/were you hoping to get as gifts this holiday season?
Which books DID you get?
Are you happy, or did you rush right out to your local bookstore to pick up the book you’d hoped you’d be getting?

I wasn’t really hoping for any books in particular, but I usually get at least one Barnes & Noble gift card a year. No dice this time. But Paul got me 12 Years a Slave–which I think I already have–and this beast of a book called Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do, a book about victimless crimes that looks really interesting but is probably nothing I ever would’ve bought myself. Once I took a look at it, though, I was pretty intrigued, and I’m excited to dig into it one day.

I’m pleased, and I won’t be going out and picking up things for myself. I don’t have the space! Not that that’ll stop me from buying more books in the future.

I also gifted books–I bought Paul The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which he actually saw when it fell out of the bag in the car. I also bought him The Martian, but when my mom asked what she could get him, I figured I could just give it to her to give to him and I could just pick out other stuff. He can be tough to shop for, so I figure specific, easy-to-find items would be better to tell other people and I can worry myself with weird, obscure stuff or clothes, which is mostly what he ended up getting.

The annual B.E. Taylor concert has become a tradition for us. After months of not hearing anything about it, I was pleased to hear that my mom’s friend Fran got tickets for Brandon and I–my mom wasn’t sure and it sounded like she didn’t initially, and my irrational insecurity kicked in and started thinking that Fran didn’t want me there. Shocker, I was wrong and, you know, irrational.

After a successful experiment with public transportation over the weekend, I decided to do it again, especially considering mandatory overtime was still a thing and I had to work until 4 while our dinner reservations were for 4:45. Making it into Pittsburgh’s Cultural District in 45 minutes from my workplace during rush hour plus construction basically everywhere was next to impossible, and I’m already damn sick of being late for just about everything I go to in the city no matter how much I try not to be–I was late for the pre-B.E. dinner last year, too. The catch was that making it in a reasonable timeframe hinged on me catching the T exactly on time. I told my mom 5 was about the earliest I’d be able to make it, so I at least gave some notice I wouldn’t be on time, but if I missed that train, I’d be up to a half-hour late.

Of course, it’s times like that when people decide to take their sweet time, but I made it just in time. Right as I was parking, a bunch of people were getting off, and fortunately, since that’s the end of the line, the train had to get turned around to get to the other side of the platform and go back the way it came–meaning I just made it on.

Of course, my mom was a bit worried about me taking public transportation on a 40-minutes trip by myself then walking from the station to the restaurant by myself, but obviously, I was fine. I’m genuinely surprised she didn’t send my dad to come collect me, but judging by his texts, it was the original plan and he talked her out of it. But she did drive me to a stop going home. Nice a gesture as it is, it actually would’ve been faster for me to walk but hey.

Dinner was great. We go to this pretty nice place every year, Six and Penn, which regularly changes their menu and features some more interesting dishes. They always have a vegetarian option, and this time it was a pasta in I believe a wine sauce with roasted vegetables that was really good and a lot more filling than it looked. Yet I still had room for sorbet, which if I remember right was strawberry, pomegranate, and orange.

Brandon was supposed to come, like I said, but ended up still having class as his semester wound down. So Fran’s daughter took his place, and she–like Fran–was really nice. And we have something in common. We’re both in relationships with men who have difficult, overbearing mothers, and Fran’s advice is hilariously blunt, telling us that our men need to tell their mothers to back off. It would be a great solution if it wasn’t guaranteed to send Paul’s mom into a childlike tantrum, but I digress.

And the concert was great, as always. It’s interesting to see how a concert that only changes a little each year is still really good and fun, but I guess that’s sort of the nature of performance.

And then I settled in for two days off from work. Such is the nature of trying to use up vacation time before you lose it.

My mom’s friend Fran has Penguins season tickets. I’m not sure if she couldn’t go one Friday night a little over a week ago or if she didn’t want to–her husband recently had surgery and is walking with a cane–but either way, she offered my mom tickets, who in turn asked Brandon and I if we were interested. Brandon couldn’t go, but I was all for it, so Fran had them waiting for me at the arena’s box office and I took Paul to his first Pens game.

The Pens haven’t been doing well. In fact, two guys behind us spent much of the game accurately commenting on things like their careless shots and sloppy passing, and although it ended up being a pretty exciting, close game that went to a shootout, we lost. And for the Pens’ management, it must’ve been one loss too many, because they fired the coach the next day.

So I just so happened to get tickets for what ended up being the former coach’s last game, which is kind of a cool thing to be able to say. And the team is still looking rough, but the last time we fired a coach mid-season, we won the Stanley Cup.

As traffic and construction in Pittsburgh get increasingly frustrating, I’ve decided to use public transportation more. There’s a T stop at a mall 30 to 45 minutes from my apartment–depending, of course, on traffic–that runs all the way into the city, and it started to look more and more appealing. I didn’t want to mess with trying to take it for the Pens game since the timing would be kind of tight, although in retrospect it probably would’ve been easier, but we did try it the next day when we went to our annual “Nutcracker” trip with Brandon and Kelly.

It was a godsend. Finding the actual stop and parking took some time–we’d missed the train we’d been aiming to take, and we weren’t sure until we grabbed a map just how often they ran. But when Brandon and I were coordinating, I’d allowed for a good bit of time, and he was under instruction to get a table at Burgatory if we were running late and just wait for us.

A few weeks ago, I had my dad pick up a card you can load with cash to use to pay on the T rather than needing exact change. I found out I couldn’t use it to pay for both Paul and I, so we bought him a 10-trip pass that’s good for a month and actually used his trips on both of us and were able to work it out so we can use the 10 perfectly by this weekend. So we got that figured out and got on the subway.

Really, it’s a longer commute to take it. If traffic is clear with no road closures due to construction, we can be in the city within 45 minutes. Taking the T just about doubles that, but unless you’re absolutely positive there’s no traffic, it’s so worth it. It’s much less hassle, and depending on where we’re going, it’s cheaper than parking. Plus the small bits of walking do me good.

We were only a little late for dinner with Brandon and Kelly, and they’d dug into appetizers and milkshakes anyway. I’m a big fan of Burgatory, or anyone who does a nice, flavorful veggie burger. It’s a surefire way to get me as a loyal customer, really. You offer me just about any burger on your menu with the option to swap for a veggie patty and you’ll never lose me.

Of course, “The Nutcracker” was beautiful as always. I’ve seen it every Christmas for three or four years now, and I’m not tire of it. I still get excited. I still love watching it.

And this isn’t something I really think about, but it is pretty cool that Brandon, Kelly, Paul, and I have our own little annual tradition.

The weekend of Steel City Con would’ve worked out so much better if we’d sort of flip-flopped what we did on each day. In other words, if I would’ve remembered I still had to work Saturday and not bought tickets in advance, but how could I resist when the tickets were discounted if you bought them in advance online?

The thing is, the timing happened to coincide with a visit home from Meri and Nolan, and my aunt and uncle invited everyone over Saturday night. And we ended up only getting under an hour to spend at Steel City Con anyway. So had we planned things out differently, we could’ve just headed over to my aunt and uncle’s after work and then had all day to peruse the convention at our leisure.

They’ve just released a round of advance significantly discounted online tickets, and the discount is a three-day pass for the same price as Saturday regularly priced admission. And because I’ll be on Saturday rotation again, I’m seriously considering the three-day pass if only for flexibility–that way if something comes up, we can hit it maybe two days. Especially if there ends up being celebrity guests we want to see.

We were able to meet Meri for dinner at Meloni’s that Sunday, though, which was nice. I hadn’t even started Christmas shopping for the cousins at the time, but Meri gave me a nice gift of some soaps from El Paso, a little purse, and journals, including a neat happiness journal I plan to use starting on New Year’s.

Because rotations start and end the first Monday of the month, I ended up with only that Sunday off. I used to just go into work that Monday, but then I got tired of only having one day off, so I started requesting it off. As we’re gearing up toward the holidays and the cutoff for using vacation time before it’s lost, the calendar is full. I didn’t even bother putting in for that Monday, but I did put in for Tuesday instead–I figured a day off is a day off, and I’m okay with working a full week, getting a day off, working on day, getting a day off, then finishing out the week.

How did I spend my day off? Doing laundry, mostly. Ah, adulthood.

I had a brain lapse at the end of my weekend rotation and forgot that I would have to work the Saturday of Steel City Con and bought my tickets in advance to save myself 10 bucks. But no big deal, I figured–going into Monroeville after work wasn’t ideal, but it was doable.

Terra decided she wanted to tag along, so to save some time, I had Paul pick me up at work so we could head in as quickly as possible.

We made the crucial error of forgetting to check Pittsburgh’s traffic situation before we left. Turns out the parkway was closed yet again, and had we known this, we could’ve taken a faster, easier route to Terra’s.

We knew from the past experience that was the disaster of trying to get to “The Diary of Anne Frank” that taking the detour was not an option, unless we wanted to get to the convention when it was closing. But we were too far to catch the alternate route we knew, so we improvised–the GPS kept trying to put us on the closed parkway, so we figured we could enter a landmark in that we know is on that route and worst-case scenario backtrack a bit, best-case scenario put in her address and look for a point where the two sets of directions overlapped. And it worked. We got ourselves rerouted, although it was a major pain in the ass because of where we were and where we had to go to get around both the detour and the closed parkway. But it was better than idling for an hour or more.

I knew, though, that we still lost time and we’d be pressed for time at Steel City Con. Terra and I were in favor of grabbing quick food there, but Paul was too hungry and insisted on a proper dinner first. Normally, we’d go to my beloved Green Mango, but I figured the smarter thing to do would be to eat as close to the convention center as possible. So we settled on Red Robin, finished up pretty quick, and made it over a little after 7. Great, I thought. We’d have two hours to walk around. Plenty of time.

Wrong. While I thought Steel City Con closed at 9, it actually closes at 8. So we were pretty surprised to hear them announce a few minutes before 8 that we had to start making our way to the exits, and some people sounded just as surprised and irritated by that as we were. I pushed it a little longer and kept looking at some stuff, while Terra booked it to quickly buy some stuff that had caught her eye. Had I know we were so pressed for time, I would’ve picked up stuff when I saw it instead of intending to circle back around later.

And because celebrity appearances end earlier in the evening, we missed both Jason Mewes and Sean Astin. Had I known we were gonna get so screwed up, I would’ve had Brandon get their autographs since he went earlier in the day.

The moral of the story is next time, we might be getting a three-day pass.

Friday Five: Alignment

  1. In Dungeons and Dragons, you are asked to select an alignment: Do you favor lawfulness or chaos? Are you on the side of good or evil? Your answers define your alignment: Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Good, (true) Neutral, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, and Chaotic Evil. Which are you? On the way home from wherever we were the other night, my boyfriend and I started talking about his mom and her personal beliefs, and he mentioned how gray areas are really difficult for her–for her, things must be one way or the other and there is no in-between. And I joked that I should start up a conversation with her sometime about my beliefs because they’d blow her mind. They’re a bit opposite. I believe in gray areas, and I believe that what’s truly right and what’s legal don’t always overlap. I think laws are important, but they’re not always good and not always worth following. And I’m definitely on the side of good. So I’d say I’d be a Neutral Good.
  2. In Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a post-apocalyptic utopian society, citizens choose factions based on competence and values. The Dauntless are the brave, the Amity are the peaceful, the Erudite are the intelligent, the Abnegation are the selfless, and the Candor are the honest. Which faction would you test most competent for, and which would you choose strictly on your values? I’d like to read this series someday, in part because I feel like I’d have a better idea of which I’d truly align with. My guess is I’d test most competent for honest, Candor. I almost never lie, and I don’t exactly hide things–this blog is often proof of that. If I were to choose on my values, it would be a real struggle because I can see myself in all but bravery, just because it’s something I don’t think I have much of. But I value peace, intelligence, and selflessness, and I like to think I exhibit them, too. I certainly hope I do.
  3. You’ve probably answered this before, but answer it again. In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, students are sorted into houses based (primarily) on character. Gryffindor values courage, Hufflepuff values loyalty, Ravenclaw values cleverness, and Slytherin values ambition. Which are you, and which is the most recent love of your life? According to Pottermore, which must be taken as gospel since Rowling created it, I’m a Slytherin. And as much as that’s presented as being evil in the series, at least in some ways, I can see it when it’s described as ambition. I have goals–including some lofty ones–and I do work to achieve them. The love of my life would be my boyfriend, Paul, of course, and I’d say he’s a Ravenclaw. He’s very smart, and it comes through in just about everything he does.
  4. In the late 1970s, a Saturday morning cartoon called Laff-A-Lympicspitted characters from different Hanna-Barbera programs in a Battle of the Network Stars kind of weekly competition. The Scoobie Doobies were captained by Scooby-Doo and made up of then-current Hanna-Barbera characters, including the entire Scooby-Doo gang, Dynomutt, Captain Caveman, Speedy Buggy, and Hong Kong Phooey. The Yogi Yahooeys were captained by Yogi Bear and made up of characters from the 50s and 60s Hanna-Barbera programs, including Huckleberry Hound, Augie Doggy (and Doggie Daddy), Quickdraw McGraw, and Grape Ape. The Really Rottens were the villains, captained by an original character named Mumbly and made up of original bad-guy characters who cheated at every opportunity. Which team do you belong to? And if you remember the program, which team did you cheer for? I’m definitely too young to remember when this was actually on, but I’m familiar with most of the characters. I’m most familiar with The Yogi Yahooeys, but here’s where I have to make a confession–I was never a big fan of these cartoons, so I dislike most of these characters. Except the Scooby-Doo gang. I like them, and my brother loved that cartoon, so I saw a lot of it by extension. So I’d have to go with them.
  5. In the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, players draw mana (energy) from any of five different lands, resulting in different magical abilities. The Plains generate white magic (healing, order, protection, light), the Forests generate green magic (growth, strength, life, ferocity), the Islands generate blue magic (deceit, logic, illusion, knowledge, manipulation), the Mountains generate red magic (fury, passion, freedom, impulse, fire), and the Swamps generate black magic (death, ambition, darkness). From which lands do you generate your power, and which tend to rub you the wrong way? I may come back to this and edit my answer later–Paul actually plays, so I’d like to hear which he thinks I’d generate power from. Personally, probably Plains because it’s the most positive and beneficial. That said, every single one has qualities I like and value. I like everything about Forests, and the only reason I didn’t pick it is just because Plains sounded slightly more appealing, but those are all things I like and think are important. I like the logic and knowledge of the Islands, but not deceit, illusion, and manipulation, although I will be honest and say I’m capable of manipulation when I want to be. I like all but the fury of the Mountains because I am a very passionate person and I value freedom. And even the Swamps have some good in ambition. For all those same reasons, you’d have a hard time finding a single one that rubs me the wrong way, but the Islands would probably be the winner there. I have little tolerance for deception and manipulation, especially when both have been used against me as well as people I love. Look into the signs of emotional manipulation sometime.

Booking Through Thursday: Audiobooks

I’m guessing most of you like reading (or why would you be here), how do you feel about audio books?

For me, “reading” means using my eyes, not my ears. As much as I acknowledge their usefulness while doing chores or using your hands, I only ever use audiobooks for the rare long drive–listening, no matter how pleasant, is not READING, yet people persist in telling me they like to read and that audio books are their favorites. Am I the only one to feel that’s just not the same thing?

I agree that it’s not reading, but only strictly technically speaking. Because you’re still getting the experience of the words and the writing, just in a different medium. And one could argue that it’s slightly enhanced if the audiobook’s reader does different voices or accents. If you were to talk to someone about a book and you read it while they listened to it, you’d still be talking about the exact same content, as opposed to, say, a film adaptation where things change.

All that said, I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook!