I need to have a rant. Why is it that minivans seem to render their drivers inept? (this does not apply to our friends J+M – at least it better not!) Here’s a list of the things I’ve noticed that bother me about minivan drivers (and yes, I know some of them apply to more than just minivan drivers, but every single one seems to apply to every minivan driver.):

1. If the speed limit is 45, you should be driving somewhere around that. Not 25.

2. Curves (slight curves, not full turns which require blinkers) in the road are not scary. You do not need to brake and go 10 mph.

3. Speaking of blinkers, I was not aware that minivans were produced without turning signals. Perhaps you should stick your arm out the window to signal if that’s the case.

4. If you are turning onto a main road from a side road, it is generally not advisable to pull out directly in front of an oncoming car.

5. Similarly, if you are turning onto an even bigger main road (4 lanes) from a shopping center, with you trying to cross 2 lanes to make a left, do not pull out and stop in the middle of the road in front of oncoming traffic.

6. Those lines on the road? They’re there for a reason. Try to stay between them.

7. Those pretty green, yellow, and red lights? Are also there for a reason! Green means go. And more importantly, red means stop. Red doesn’t mean “I think I’ll go now, even though the light has been red for 5 seconds, 2 other cars have gone through it ahead of me, and the cars are now starting to come from the other direction because their light is now green.”

8. Those half spots at the local Publix? Do not fit your car! I’m not even sure they’re supposed to be spots. Maybe they’re for motorcycles (there are a lot of those around thanks to the big Harley dealer), but they’re not long enough or wide enough for your minivan. A hint would be the fact that your big ass car is sticking out into the aisle and is over the spot line. Don’t squeeze in next to my car, leaving me with 5″ of clearance to get into my car (I’ve got really long doors on my Celica!). Or maybe just leave a can opener next time so I can get in.

9. Really do not leave your cart sitting behind my car while you load up your car. Especially if I’m trying to leave. But even if I’m not there, you shouldn’t invade other people’s car space with those pointy carts. Keep it in your own zone. If I find your cart touching my car (<shudder>), I reserve the right to give you stink eye and possibly mutter under my breath that you’re about to lose a testicle or a boob (whichever is appropriate).

I’d also like to add that if given a choice, I won’t park next to a minivan (or dented cars, but for a different reason – basically if you don’t care enough to fix your car, you probably won’t care about getting one more dent while you rail your door into my car. If you just can’t afford to fix it, you can’t afford to fix mine either, so you probably won’t leave a note. Anyway…). This picture will show you what I see in my head every time I consider parking next to a minivan:

minivan nightmare

So, in this picture, there are 5 kids getting out of the minivan. My car is the smaller one. All 5 kids are puking, carrying sticky lollipops, and have sticky hands. My car is now covered in all 3.<shudder>

Now then, I do not mean to say that I’m a perfect driver. I know I’m not. If minivan drivers are idiots, I’m the asshole tailgating them, speeding past them, cutting them off, and flipping them the bird. I’m a bit of an aggressive driver (unless I’m in an unfamiliar area or the weather is bad – then I’m much safer). Chris hates it. Whatever. I wouldn’t need to occassionally be an ass if other drivers paid attention to what’s going on around them. So wake up, put down the phone, and drive. For the record, I realize I’ll need to drive more carefully when I have kids (which, despite the horrific picture above, I do very much want!). I will. But I vow to never become a “minivan driver” as described above. If I do, shoot me.

That’s it. Rant over.


TSO Video

Here’s the video I promised (3 slow upload attempts later…):


TSO part 2!

Well, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We went down to Texas to spend Christmas with Chris’s family, which was lots of fun. One of the major highlights of the trip was going with them to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra!! They had never been to a show before and when we were ordering our tickets for Greenville, we asked them if they were interested in the Texas show and we decided to all go together.

The bonus of seeing TSO in Texas was that we got to see TSO West! All we’ve ever seen is TSO East, which of course we love, but we were excited to get to see the other group (especially my favorite bassist!). The show was great!! The show itself followed the same format, but there were subtle differences due to the different musicians and a few different song choices in the second half. It would be very difficult for me to say which I think is better. I wish I could just combine them both and see them all together! But a few musicians stood out to me:

– Chris Altenhoff, of course, who I maintain is awesome. Also, while I earlier said that Johnny Lee Middleton wasn’t so bad this year, after seeing Chris again, there just is no comparison. Chris is so much fun to watch because he’s got a ton of energy, he smiles from time to time (but not too much like Angus), he interacts with the audience, and he genuinely looks like he’s having a blast, and I think an important part of a live show is having good performers. He’s also got awesome hair. Anyway, sorry for the fangirliness. <swoon> (Yes, my Chris knows the extent of my fangirliness already – he calls me Chris’s groupie, lol. I’m just an enthusiastic fan.).

Chris Altenhoff

One of 2 semi-clear shots of him - he was constantly moving, which is great in the show, but every picture was blurry.

– Angus Clark, who for some unknown reason, left several of the guys in our little group quite enamored, lol. I dunno. He was a fine musician, and I liked his energy, but I don’t really see the appeal. He got the most girly cheers in the introduction, but I think he’s a little too smiley. Who plays guitar with a huge smile on their face the whole time!? He was kinda Ken-ish (as in Barbie and Ken). He also didn’t make it out to the meet-and-greet, but I’m trying to assume it was for a good reason, like he wasn’t feeling well or doesn’t do them because he routinely gets mobbed, and not that he’s a princess.

Angus Clark

Sorry for the noggin in the picture. It was kinda hard to see around the guy in front of me.

– Al Pitrelli. Wow, he was a really great guitarist. He was all sorts of improvising on the songs, which was quite impressive. And he can do that thing where you play notes without strumming, just by moving his fingers on the upper portion for the notes!! How do they do that?? He had a kinda funny guitar face, but whatever. His talent makes up for it. He was also pretty nice in the meet-and-greet.

Al Pitrelli

Al Pitrelli

– Several of the singers – Jeff Scott Soto, Bart Shatto, Tommy Farese, and Andrew Ross. All really great singers, with a variety of sounds, from smooth to rugged. I’m also pretty sure at least a few of them were the CD singers, which was cool. Chris particularly liked Bart Shatto’s “Old City Bar”. The people with large noggins in front of us were big Jeff Scott Soto fans, taking more pictures than I did. It looked like they were trying to make a movie out of stills they were taking so many.

Jeff Scott Soto

Jeff Scott Soto

Bart Shatto

Bart Shatto doing "Old City Bar". He normally looks nothing like this, obviously.

Tommy Farese

Tommy Farese singing either "Ornament" or "This Christmas Day"

Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross singing "An Angel Came Down"

The few people I really noticed that I missed were Alex Skolnick, Anna Phoebe (I’m sure Chris agrees, she’s his “Chris Altenhoff”, though West did have an energetic Roddy Chong and they hired a new violinist, Caitlin Moe, who was pretty good too. Perhaps not quite as energetic as Anna, but close. Some of the other guys were quite enamored with her, too, lol. I’m pretty sure at least one wanted to marry her. 🙂 ), Jeff Plate (West’s drummer is fine, but he didn’t have a solo or stand out in any way and his drum set seemed much smaller), the narrator Bryan Hicks (he had an amazing voice and was much more theatrical), Chris Caffery (simply because he’s great with the crowd, getting people to stand and everything, but I wouldn’t replace anyone on West for him), and Robert Kinkel on keyboards (maybe it’s just that I like the music to sound a lot like the CD, but the West keyboardist made the songs sound a bit more different than I like. And maybe I just have a terrible ear for music because the rest of the group absolutely loved her, but I though she sounded a little off. I dunno. I can’t play myself, but I don’t think I’m tone deaf!).

Roddy Chong and Caitlin Moe

Roddy Chong and Caitlin Moe. This is sadly the clearest shot I got...

Anyway, the show was great and after they announced they were having a meet-and-greet, we all decided to stay for it (yay!). Like last time (and every time), my mind went blank coming up to the table and I made it through the line with a smile, but not a whole lot to say other than “We really enjoyed the show” and “Nice to meet you”, which makes me feel stupid. Stupid introversion. I did manage to get this though:

Ticket signed by Chris

Ticket signed just by Chris Altenhoff! 🙂

It’s signed just by Chris. 😀 I did manage to get up to him and ask if I could have just him sign it, though I followed it up with a lame “You’re my favorite”, like I’m five and he’s my favorite crayon in the box. No, no, Melissa. Don’t sound intelligent, telling him why you think he’s a great performer. <sigh> But he was very nice and said “Thanks, darling!” with a smile. <swoon> My Chris and I also told him that we really missed him on East.

Chris also got the program signed by everyone and we got a few guitar picks. 🙂 Though, one of them we can’t remember who we got it from and the signature looks like it says Jeff Scott Soto…who doesn’t play guitar. Why would he have a pick?

Signed program and picks

Signed program and 2 guitar picks. Black pick is Al Pitrelli's and white is unknown/Jeff Scott Soto? (also some kitteh toes at the top!)

Everyone seemed to really enjoy the show – both the music and the lights.  I’m always happy when something we recommend goes over well! As for next year, I know we’ll see east again for sure – we’ve both decided it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas till we see TSO, so it will become a yearly tradition – but I’d love to see west again, too. We’ll see. For now, here’s a few more shots from the concert:

JSS and the stage

Jeff Scott Soto and the stage with the impressive light setup.

Angus in fire

Angus Clark with fire going off in the background

Roddy and steam

Roddy Chong with steam jets


A singer, Erin Henry I believe.


Tony Gaynor, the narrator

group shot

Group shot! Roddy Chong, Angus Clark, Al Pitrelli, Tommy Farese, and Chris Altenhoff

group shot 2

Al Pitrelli, Angus Clark, and Chris Altenhoff

(For anyone interested, the rest of the pictures are here – there are a lot of blurry shots, but a few good ones)

I’ve also got a video, but it’s taking forever to load onto YouTube, so I’ll post that tomorrow or something when it finishes.