With winter almost over -- (What, it hasn't even been a month? Wait, what?) -- it's time for a news quiz to catch up on all that's been going on since the season began way, way back in late December.
1. Everybody is talking about the "polar vortex" this winter when they never did so before. Why is that, and what is it?
a) It's a whirlpool of frigid Arctic air that usually knows its place, which is way to the north, but it's out of control this year and is dipping down to make many Americans feel colder than they've been in decades.
b) As a race, we are softer every year, and so what isn't really so different from what we grew up with now has to be discussed as climatological Armageddon every time we're called upon to put on gloves and a scarf.
c) It's a means of giving hard-core global warming disbelievers a way to show everyone else that they are not as crazy as they seem.
d) It is a way of giving strangers in elevators something to talk about other than which buttons to push.
2. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is thinking of traveling to Iran this fall. Why would it want to do that?
a) It was one of the last American orchestras to perform in that country a half-century ago, and it would be an important cultural symbol of a thaw in the two nations' relations.
b) The audiences in Iran are much less likely to detract from performances by coughing and making noises with paper wrappers, because they face imprisonment and torture for doing so.
c) The orchestra is about to lose out on all of the frequent-flier points it has racked up from trips to Europe and elsewhere, so it's got to go somewhere, and for some reason there are a lot of seats still available on flights from America to Tehran.
d) It's warmer there.
3. What was the worst thing about the Pittsburgh Steelers season?
a) They failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year as a result of another 8-8 record.
b) Coach Mike Tomlin used the word "obviously" too much, but forgot to do so that one time his defense asked at halftime if they really needed to prevent long pass plays by the other team near the end of the game.
c) The number of empty seats shown at Heinz Field on nationally televised games made it appear our fans were no better than those in places like Cincinnati or Cleveland, God forbid.
d) For the first time since the 1960s, there were fewer people talking about them than the Pirates.
4. The Post-Gazette has launched something called a "Where's Bill" online app. What purpose does that serve?
a) It can be used to track the appearances of new Mayor Bill Peduto, who has promised greater transparency in city government.
b) After the lack of visibility at public functions by former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburghers want a way to make sure his successor is doing something other than skiing and attending concerts.
c) The Post-Gazette's restaurant critic created it under the impression the new mayor knows all the best places to eat.
d) The newspaper is assisting the National Security Agency in a pilot project to monitor the movements of all Pittsburghers named Bill -- Peduto, Mazeroski, Strickland, Cardille, etc. -- as an experiment to begin tracking all Americans of every name by 2016.
5. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley has thrown out Pennsylvania's voter ID law as unconstitutional. Why did he do that?
a) The strict requirements of producing official photo identification at the polls was deemed an unjustified burden on voters such as poor and elderly individuals who may not normally have such ID.
b) He was worried that with the already meager turnout in most elections, if it's made any harder for voters a large political family like the Costas could join together to elect whatever relative it wants to any position it wants.
c) It has been nine years since the state Legislature voted for a big pay raise for Pennsylvania judges, and the judiciary has decided to block all significant legislation until it receives another one.
d) Like most Pennsylvanians, Judge McGinley does not like the driver's license photo taken of him, and he does not want to be required to show it to anyone on Election Day.
Correction (posted Jan. 23): This article no longer states that the PSO was the last American orchestra to perform in Iran. The Los Angeles Philharmonic performed there in October 1967 on the occasion of the coronation of the shah.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.