So, obviously it's been a long time since I updated. I will attempt to remedy this by writing briefly only about my Christmas vacation (putting off other topics for later).
The first thing to do after arriving was visit my mother for Christmas. This was about the same as it's been for many years, and though I can't really say anything awful about it, it definitely has lost all of its magic. It's just too predictable, and the high points aren't really that high. Maybe I'll skip Christmas this year, particularly as even 15 days is starting to look like not all that much vacation (there are people in too many different places whom I want to visit). Perhaps I can substitute Thanksgiving instead. I haven't spent a Thanksgiving with family in a while (well, my dad came out to visit me this past year).
Next I went to my father's house. I got to see him and Nance as well as Clyde, Revco, and Sirius (Nance's bunny). The bunny is huge, at about 9 pounds (almost as much as Katrina!) and black. The cats are also tipping the scales at nearly 20 pounds each. It was good to see them, as well as my grandparents, with whom we played several rounds of pinochle.
On Tuesday the 26th into the 27th, I visited Charlie. I had not seen him in seven months, yet the experience didn't seem unfamiliar at all. I guess it had to do with the environment, and it may have also had to do with the fact that while I was there, I took caffeine back up (and kept it up for the rest of my vacation, though I subsequently quit again). I had about 5 Mountain Dews while I was there. It didn't make me hyper, but strangely, I felt smarter, as if all the cognitive problems I've been complaining about either didn't exist or were much lower in intensity. It was great to get to talk with Charlie about my situation (though at the end it devolved a bit into whining about my internet addiction), and to try Soul Calibur 3, and to give him a pipe (actually, a choice of pipes—I bought two, intending to keep whichever he didn't pick for myself). I guess he may be buying a house, so this might be the last time I visit him in that apartment. Strange.
From Charlie's I proceeded straight to the Hamm family Christmas celebration at Ken and Sue's. Again, it was nice to see so much family again, and interesting to notice the coherence our “clan” has maintained over the years. Also, I got a bunch of DVDs. I think I'm going to have to buy The Matrix myself, as I received numbers 2 and 3 and can't have a marathon without 1.
After that I headed to the mall. I agonized over gifts for an hour or two, eventually picked a couple, and headed back to Catskill. There I would stay until Thursday evening, when Jayna arrived to pick me up so we could drive to Pittsburgh overnight.
We finally arrived at 5 in the morning, and I luckily discovered that my key to the Cabana annex still worked (luckily as no one at all seemed to be home, meaning we had the place all to ourselves). Over the next few days I got to see a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a long time (and associate some known names with some known but previously un-named faces, and meet one entirely new person) at a number of social activities, including Nerd Taboo, the NYE party itself, Mallorca (at which the 365-Vegetable contest was inaugurated), some random hanging out at Chuck and Annette's, and a Clone High viewing at Fred's house. These were all fun. I think this was the first point at which I realized that, in social situations that don't demand heavy thought, I am simply better in every way when I've been drinking. My normal way of dealing with the world is, frankly, slightly paranoid, and though this mostly makes me careful, prepared and responsible in most parts of life, in social situations it makes me… silent. When I've had some alcohol (not too much, as I am a total lightweight—I think I had 7 drinks over the course of NYE, and that was about as much as I could take in that time frame) there is much less of a barrier between thinking something and saying it—which I tend to think is dangerous, but in actuality makes me more personable (the occasional misspeaking can usually be brushed aside).
Jayna is, as Ed pointed out, an extremely different person from anyone with whom I've had significant dealings. She is super laid back (or at least, she's seemed that way to me—I've heard stories (mostly from her) that would indicate that she does have a temper, but I have little first-hand evidence of that). She seems not to plan much in advance, and not to make any real attempt at resisting impulses, especially when drunk. I find her way of being a little bewildering, if also endearing. I found myself emulating her in certain respects (we spent most of the time in Pittsburgh together), as I usually do with anyone with whom I am dealing intensely at a given point in time; however, largely I was quiet and followed her around (actually, I drove her everywhere; she likes to be chauffered).
For the next part of the story, suffice it to say that US Airways sucks. One of their customer service representatives told me that I'd be able to skip the Albany-Pittsburgh leg of my trip without forfeiting the Pittsburgh-Dallas leg; this was a lie, and I had to pay $600 to re-book the ticket. Then the flight was canceled and I missed an entire extra day of work because of it (though I did get some time to hang out with Doug). I've already sent them a nasty letter and will be avoiding them in the future unless they do something about it; I advise you do the same.
On the plus side, I later learned I had won a contest held by my apartment company for 1/2 off my next month's rent, which comes to about the same amount.
When I got back home, Kat meowed for almost an hour straight. I think she was terribly bored while I was gone. I'm never leaving her home alone (even with a caretaker; Derk did it this time) for that long again; maybe at some point I wil get another cat, but for now, if I'm leaving town for a week I'll put her in one of those places that take care of cats.