Thursday, January 31, 2008

The hometown weekly strikes again

...And The Stranger said it better and, believe it or not, more eloquently(!) than Caroline Kennedy.

I'll always have mixed feelings about The Stranger, mainly because I can't shake the thought that its deliberately overdone hipster sarcasm undermines its local journalistic credibility and lends a divisive holier-than-thou air to almost every page of newspaper. Which is why I read it almost exclusively for the horoscope, Dan Savage, film reviews, and hilarious personals. In that order. Its blog is way, way better for local stuff than its actual print news.

But this political piece was quite good.

Besides, what's a little discomfort now and then but a chance to rethink the reasons you're comfortable in the first place?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Consumption and ague, foretold

Yesterday I finished the next Connie Willis novel I managed to obtain: Lincoln's Dreams. It's very short, so I was able to read it while travelling to and from campus. Once again, I think it barely qualifies as a sci fi, but hey, I'm not complaining if my stereotype of the genre can be broken down to the point where a historical novel like Lincoln's Dreams can win one of its awards.

Essentially, it's about Robert E. Lee, not Lincoln. Like many of Willis' other books, it's about time travel. Sort of. Or dream travel. The main character is a Civil War researcher obsessed with Traveller, Lee's horse; the author he works for is obsessed with seemingly predictive doom-filled dreams that Lincoln had, as well as where Willie Lincoln was originally buried; and lastly, there's a young woman who dreams Lee's wartime memories. (And I totally understand why the book is not more accurately called Robert E. Lee's Dreams. Different market niche.) It's a rather sinister exploration of the age-old idea that dreams "mean" something besides random chemical goings-on in the brain. It's also not as jolly as the last Willis book I read, but certainly not as grim and grisly as one of the first.

A great deal of the plot also focused on the fact that Willie Lincoln died of an unknown fever. And I just got through watching Amadeus, and Mozart died of an unknown fever.

If I were prone to believe these coincidences "meant" anything beyond their random juxtaposition, I would point to the curious fact that I now have a recurring fever and other symptoms of a suspicious and alarming nature similar to those my classmates have exhibited.

Clearly, the universe is smacking me down for not getting a flu shot!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cost-benefit analyses

Okay, I lied. Nothing can drive me to the Econ readings, not even a really bad movie. So I finished the Georgette Heyer novel a friend gave me for Christmas. Heyer is the Mother of the Regency Romance, and I read most of her books in middle school, but not Cotillion. And she didn't disappoint. Heyer's character descriptions are hilarious, almost Dickensian.

However, the soundtrack I had streaming from my laptop didn't quite fit with the Regency theme. So I switched from supporting the teenage techno DJs to supporting an internet radio station that had an all-Mozart subchannel under its Classical option. It suited the reading.

So of course, after I'd finished the book, the background music inspired me to watch Amadeus on Netflix Instant Viewing.

The best thing about the film is, of course, the music. I don't know anything about the relationship between Mozart and Salieri (and a quick post-viewing glance at Wikipedia suggests Salieri probably wasn't the obsessive jealous stalker of Mozart's that is the basic premise for the movie and the original play). But still, as a story and not necessarily history it works amazingly well. F. Murray Abraham is wonderful as the maniacal and scheming Salieri, and Tom Hulce is brilliant in his role as the immortal musical genius.

I think it makes up for that Grimm Brothers business...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Die Schwarzwald

The news about Heath Ledger made me realize I've been hoarding one of his movies for almost a month. The Brothers Grimm arrived via Netflix during the bizarre fairy tale stint of Winter Break.

It's really bad. Like really, really, bad. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon play the Grimm brothers, tricksters who capitalize on the superstitions of townspeople. Napoleon inexplicably commissions them to investigate the disappearances of little girls in a big scary forest (the disappearances are all based on fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) Bad French and Italian accents abound, as well as Matt Damon's bad English accent (which is also never explained). And unfortunately, Matt Damon shouts such cringe-worthy lines at his onscreen sibling like "This is suicide! You'll get yourself killed!" Ouch.

There's really no redeeming factor for the film. It tries to be a slapstick and a drama and a parody all at once, and it's a little embarrassing to watch it all play out so poorly. Even if it's Terry Gilliam, it's still a crappy film.

It's actually driven me back to the Econ textbooks...

SMS safety

My first real job out of college (discounting the fake one) had me going to a lot of policy conferences, where I would frequently run into a colleague who worked in the office of the then-recently elected Mayor of Detroit. We chatted a lot about local political dynamics in small cities, and messages that worked on the issue we were paid to advance.

While not paying attention to the deregulation lecture in Econ last week, I found out via Wonkette that said Mayor now faces a text-message scandal, with steamy texts proving both he and a staffer committed perjury and face legal consequences.

But according to the Detroit Free Press, the rest of us can rest easy. Our drunken, angry, gushy, or conspiratorial messages will probably not come back to hurt us.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

From a town called ...

Caroline Kennedy said it best, though I'm uncomfortable with comparing the current Democratic frontrunner to JFK, who has come to embody far more than just his political vision. I also find it incredibly ironic that Barack Obama is essentially running on one of Bill Clinton's campaign themes from '92.

The nominees do, after all, have to smile onstage with their former opponents come August and September, respectively. I love primaries for exactly this reason. As I've said before, they're like family holiday gatherings to determine who gets to carve the turkey or pass out the presents. (On a related tangent, as a child I would convince a different sister each year that she passed out the Christmas presents the year before and that it was my turn. But that obviously wouldn't work in Denver or St. Paul...) At any rate, the local and state-level primaries are definitely more fun, but at least with the national races more people have opinions. In theory. And if starting a conversation about sex or religion is too difficult or taboo, there's always the latest primary development to chat about with strangers. (Again, in theory... at the end of the day people with strong opinions don't always vote. Here's to hoping we can beat the high estimated 64% turnout from the last presidential cycle. Woot.)

I've been nerdily scrutinizing the disaggregated data from every primary's exit polls (both Dem and Rep), but still, it's the "moveable middle" that determines close elections -- the swing voters, the moderate conservatives, the more conservative liberals, the independents. Caro really did say it best -- at least on the Blue side, the ideas behind the policy proposals aren't vastly, hugely, unbridgeably different. It comes down to messaging, and though I'm pretty cynical about partisan politics, one message resonates with me and the other doesn't.

The Red side is so much more fascinating! And alarming, of course. But most rollercoasters are...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Way better than Econ homework

Almost coincidentally, WBUR (Boston's NPR station) featured two linguists this morning. The two apparently had their efforts to save endangered languages documented in a film. They travel to Siberia, Bolivia, and India and talk to native speakers of languages that are dying.

Based solely on the interview, as well as audio clips from the documentary, they articulate why languages become endangered and why linguists care to "save" them. Both are obviously very complex issues -- languages die in part because the speakers choose (due to social status, economic opportunities, discrimination, forced assimilation or whatever) to speak other languages. What academics and communities do with those languages once they're dead is also complicated -- there are a lot of success stories of languages being revived if and when communities want to revive them; but scientists (and people in general) can also learn from the worldviews that languages illuminate. (For instance, in the course of interviewing speakers of dying languages, they find a "new" and fairly intricate math system, based in part on 12 and 20.)

Movie #273 in my Netflix queue...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Aloud and browsing

Because I'm bored at work (and because I should stop changing the font colors on the library's website every two minutes just for the hell of it), I'm trawling The Internets. Mi Hermana is a linguist, so I forwarded this story to her:
Last Alaska language speaker dies (BBC)
A woman believed to be the last native speaker of the Eyak language in the north-western US state of Alaska has died at the age of 89.
We used to be a tad obsessed with the story of Ishi, the "last Yahi," when we were kids. (Though apparently there is new anthropological debate over whether he really was truly the last of his tribe and the last native speaker of its language....)

At any rate, it doesn't take a linguist to recognize the importance, both intellectually and culturally, of mapping and documenting oral languages before native speakers pass away.

Plus, it keeps me from confusing the library's website visitors...

Also, I'm experimenting with Safari, Camino, and Opera.  It's kind of fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

... is in the details

A good noir film makes you feel uneasy. The viewer, like the protagonist, has no idea what sinister plot will unfold. There are larger conspiratorial, often societal, forces at work that pit the protagonist against everyone else. The storyline takes place on the margins of society, mostly at night, in the dark. The main character sometimes unwittingly becomes a private eye, sometimes already is; either way, s/he (usually a he) can't trust anyone, even old friends or family.

Devil in a Blue Dress was great noir. Or neo-noir, I guess. (The credits say it was based on a book I haven't read, so I can only comment on the film itself.) The key difference in Devil is that the central plot revolves around racial tensions in a segregated Los Angeles post-WWII. Denzel Washington plays "Easy" Rawlins, a reluctant unemployed factory worker-turned-sleuth hired to find a woman who has ties to powerful politicians. (I guessed the "secret" early on, as anyone who's read Nella Larsen would totally see through the "mystery" of the white woman in the blue dress who spends a lot of time in the black section of town.) What I found most fascinating was Rawlins' obsession with paying his mortgage and protecting his house: it was more a film about the expansion (and implications) of the black middle class, as Washington's voice-over at the end of the film reinforces.

Plus, Denzel was onscreen for a straight hour and a half. Always a good time....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Latest obsession

I really can't get enough of "No One," from Alicia Keys' latest album. Such a beautiful song and such a great voice!

Somewhere in Seattle, I have the rest of her albums. Clearly I need to add this one.

And the greatest of these is...

Faith, understanding, joy, grace, and harmony...

An IM session with a friend just made me realize that the females in my immediate family all have really hippie-sounding names. (La Madre's name is the Spanish word for faith; mine is part of the Hebrew for understanding; La Otra Hermana is named, well, for joy; Mi Hermana is named after the Hebrew word for grace; and the cutest niece in the world is named Harmony.)

That never occurred to me before. Now I guess we just need an Esperanza, a Paz, a Charity, and a Liebe. (But I will not provide them!)

Or I can just get back to doing my Econ readings...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Veggie crunch

Time flies! I just realized I have a backlog of posts that I started but neglected to publish. The OCD has lessened a bit in the last few months, but the "need" to finish something on a list (for instance, draft posts!) is still ingrained. Whether genetically or otherwise is up for debate.

The post-New Year's veg-out, which seems like yesterday, included going to see Charlie Wilson's War with The Scot. I am normally not a fan of either Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, but both were bearable in this movie. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it, and he's brilliant as always.

I liked the film. I didn't love it. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, so of course the dialogue was good. It was also refreshing to see a movie about an area of American foreign policy that normally doesn't see the light of day... well, anywhere. Hanks plays the title Texan, Congressman Charlie Wilson, who almost single-handedly got Congress to fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

On the one hand, it's a movie about budget appropriation meetings! That rocked my world. Who doesn't love a good subcommittee backroom politicking? I guess the reason I merely approve of the movie and don't fawn over it is because the whole time, I kept thinking ahead to the Afghan civil war and then the rise of the Taliban, to say nothing of future American involvement in the area. There's no hint of it in the movie, but then maybe there doesn't need to be. Still, the absence made me uneasy.

Ultimately, though, the movie's audience is watching it with Iraq in its mind, not Afghanistan. There's a scene towards the end of the movie, after the Soviets pull out of Afghanistan, where Hanks/Wilson tries to secure funding for rebuilding schools, and gets laughed out of the committee room. (What's one of the three hot-button election issues? When do we pull out? What resources are needed?) Even the obligatory text before the credits, which goes up at the end of every film "based on a true story," was a Charlie Wilson quote about changing the world but messing up the end game. No follow-up on how, exactly. Nothing specific about Afghanistan. The audience is left with a story that is, sadly, eerily similar to one they see on the news every day.

I do recommend seeing it...

Then, in '06 the Thanksgiving post-turkey veg-out included a viewing of Shanghai Knights, which the friend I watched it with pointed out was suspiciously similar to The Great Mouse Detective. Yes, it's been in my Netflix queue ever since then, and I just recently moved it to the top. I thought I'd never seen it, but I must have, because I had this weird feeling of deja vu while viewing it --and not just because Shanghai Knights ripped off of it (the storylines really are very, very similar). I think I must have watched it years and years and years ago.

It's a decent children's cartoon, though, and the animal characters are all drawn in that old Disney animated tradition. The plot is, familiarly, one that tries to parallel a well-known book in an attempt to get kids to read it. Like Wishbone. Although the credits had a bit that said "Based on the stories of," so I guess there's a mouse detective story out there. Anyways, an evil rat wants to take over the Empire by sabotaging the Queen's jubilee, and the Holmes-esque mouse genius and his bumbling but loveable doctor sidekick have to stop it all. (It even has a scene where Ratigan and Basil fall to their "deaths," à la Moriarty and Holmes in The Final Problem.) The cartoon also does that overdone but somehow still cute thing where the animal world parallels the human world, so the mice in the story have their own queen who lives in the mouse hole at Buckingham Palace.

I'd forgotten that animated films are so short. They seemed so long when I watched them as a kid!

A- for effort

Though I haven't volunteered at the MAVIN Foundation in several years, I do still check out their website every now and then. Especially as I'm preparing for the arrival of the Samoan/Anglo/Asian Kiwi nephew, and have not spent enough time with the Chicana/Anglo/Asian cutest niece in the world.

Kudos to the Brooklyn-based makers of Real Kidz, dolls that are supposed to be biracial. (All but one of the dolls is half white, however, hence the A-.)

Cuz Miko the Hawaiian Barbie was the only non-black or non-white doll I remember from my toy years...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can I get a ... ?

I just wanted to give a shout-out to make me a map, the blog of a friend who is organizing for the Washington State Death with Dignity Initiative, currently in its signature-gathering phase.

Also, mad props to Knowledge As Power, the brainchild of someone I met at a mutual friend's Iowa Caucus watching party two weeks ago. KAP, a nonprofit resource for tracking issues in the state legislature, made its BETA debut last week in time to track legislation in Olympia.

I know really cool, active people.

Warm fuzzies.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Mi Cuñado has this quotation as his email signature, which is perhaps appropriate for a doctoral student in American Studies:
"The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the Nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us."
-- JFK, in an October 1963 speech at Amherst
(He sent me an article about a Ron Paul rally in World of Warcraft, and when I saw his updated signature, I immediately remembered that though the nation will celebrate it next Monday, today is the actual birthday of MLK, Jr. ...)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Withdrawal symptoms: irritability, apathy, drowsiness

Mi Hermana has been telling me funny stories about the massive voter education effort in Michigan to let folks know if they want to vote for anyone but Clinton, Dodd, Gavel, and Kucinich, they have to mark the box "Uncommitted." Writing in any candidate's name will result in their vote being disqualified.

Sounds like chaos. And it's a really messed up process. I'm in one of my moods where I really hate the party system and structure. I still don't fully identify with the Democratic party, although I root for it, vote for it, campaign for it, give it money, and have attended its celebrations, caucuses, and fundraisers. I love party primaries because they're like little family gossip sessions ... or maybe high school homecoming court is a more appropriate analogy. But as I vented to Xtina earlier this evening (when we failed to realize that the trivia event we chose was in a pub with two separate halves and that naturally we plunked ourselves down in the wrong half and waited in vain for over an hour for the trivia to start), sometimes it all reeks of a sham, and that primaries are essentially just the two major political parties being "nice" enough to let the populace have a say in who they select to run for national office. In theory it could be done in secret, like choosing a new Pope, and announced with white smoke days before the general election.

What would be great is if we could have public and limited campaign financing, no electoral college, and several viable parties with seats in Congress. But no. Noooo....

Maybe I'm just in a crabby mood because the Washington State Legislature convened today, and its the first session in six years that I haven't spent months prepping for and months slaving over. I miss it! It's like an opium high (I ... imagine...) It's like there's a void in my brain that only food deprivation, a caffeine IV, and 300 bills dropped on Day 1 can fill...

At any rate, none of Mi Hermana's stories about voters calling in to the local Michigan radio stations with questions and rants could trump the post on Daily Kos this morning:
Michigan "wingnut" files complaint of voter fraud
It's hilarious.

And now I'll go off to crawl under the covers and read my boring Regulatory Economics textbook....

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Myth, Symbol, and Disbelief

Also in the spirit of catching up on Winter Break indulgences, I saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets in the theatre. I lovelovelovelovelove the National Treasure movies. WTF, you ask? How is this possible for a History and American Studies double-major, you ask? Because it's a storyline a 5-year-old would've written after watching Indiana Jones and being dragged around to historic sites on a family vacation. Because it's so cheesy and unbelievable, it's so much fun.

I blogged about NT1 when I first watched it, so I won't in summary again. NT2 comes back in much the same vein. This time, it's not ancient Old World treasure that the Founding Fathers have implausibly and inexplicably hoarded, it's "New" World gold, treasures from ancient Mexico somehow secreted to South Dakota. The rest of the storyline is a largely unclear mishmash involving the assassination President Lincoln, Queen Victoria and the Confederacy, and secret compartments in desks at the Oval Office and Buckingham Palace.

Throughout the movie and afterwards, though, I did keep confusing the City of Gold with the Fountain of Youth. Cibola, El Dorado, eh! I've always somehow mixed them up, because they're really the same colonial justification: those 16th-century Native Americans, they were clearly hiding something, something valuable, like gold and eternal youth! Not to mention land and their immortal souls. But the De Las Casas debates aside, the line that cracked me up the most (and caused the woman in front of me to turn around and stare) was "When Custer died without finding [the City of Gold]..." Cuz yeah, that's what the skirmish with Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull was all about. It's so inaccurate and crazy, there's nowhere to begin.

But, more fascinating for an audience house divided over a war and going into an election, it's also so blatantly about reconciling competing national identities, and I'll leave aside the normal discussion of the subjugation, erasure, and absence of non-majority populations (otherwise the critique wouldn't end). My history advisor in college, whose specialty is women in the U.S. Civil War, was fond of saying both in class and randomly during many office consultations, that the United States "were" (plural) in the Antebellum years, and that they now "are" (singular) post-1865. (So I laughed hysterically when Nicolas Cage said the same thing almost verbatim, to swelling music.) Then there's Ed Harris, the descendant of Confederates who wants to make a new name for himself. Conversely, Nic Cage is outraged by allegations that his great-great-granddaddy was a traitorous Reb sympathizer who helped shoot Lincoln, and this is the sentiment that fuels the entire film.

Essentially, the NT films reinvent the idea of Manifest Destiny, by making the national narrative part of a longer, older, supposedly more important and "nobler" mission. It's fascinating and fun to mine and deconstruct purely for its chaotic conglomeration of myths and symbols.

The Fourth Dimension catches up

Before I hopped the plane back to Beantown, I finished Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog. Unlike her other book about Oxford time-travellers, which was horribly depressing but well-written and highly engaging, this one was light-hearted and funny. It was also choc-full of 19th-century literary references. I loved it.

The story takes place in 2049 and 1888 and 1940 and 2018. A time-traveller accidentally brings a cat from 1888 back to 2049, and Time itself attempts to repair the damage done. It’s very funny. And nerdy. And I guessed the “surprise” towards the end of the book, but maybe that’s because I’ve gotten used to Willis’ clue-dropping by now. But even then, it’s still a wonderful book. It did, however, remind me of the first Willis book I read, Bellwether, in that it attempted to delve into a bit of chaos theory. It also reminded me of James Burke’s The Pinball Effect, in that it kept ping-ponging back and forth, putting forth “What if” scenarios about the effects of small minor things on historically significant events. Willis is still the only sci-fi author to date that I’ve really gotten into. Not that I’ve branched out much…

Then, waaaaaay back, even before Christmas, I rifled through La Madre’s DVD collection and watched Freedom Writers. Normally, I am very skeptical of the overdone story of the teacher (usually white and middle-class) who comes into the “inner city” to teach misunderstood kids (usually black or Latino, sometimes both), and they are all happily and tearfully changed and inspired by the end of the film. There are the typical plot devices and characters: there’s usually a school fight; students tell the teacher s/he is an outsider; there’s some violence involving one of the students; the teacher stands up for the students against either another teacher or administrator who exhibits classist or racist or inflexible and outdated thoughts about the school system; one of the kids has to take a stand and do something that sets an example for the others outside the clasroom; at the end of the film, everyone has the warm fuzzies.

As these types of movies go, Freedom Writers wasn’t bad. I didn’t hate it. There are two reasons it ranks higher than horrible, horrible movies like Dangerous Minds. For one, the teacher, played by Hilary Swank, didn’t tell the kids Horatio Alger stories about overcoming the odds to “succeed” and pass standardized tests, a la Stand and Deliver, which I admit I totally loved when I was a kid. She basically told them to write from their own experiences and let them know they weren’t alone by having them read books written by other teenagers from other eras and countries. And secondly, the movie included Asian kids. (Because they are left out of movies about the city a lot…) So the school’s gang warfare that’s so central to the plot was at least a little more realistic. Haha. I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course, as someone who learned in sixth grade what orange and green and red and blue colors are, and for the next seven years had to always double-check the day's outfit for an overabundance of any hue…

The rest of it was pretty weak and predictable, though. Hilary’s marriage to the smarmy Patrick Dempsey is on the rocks, her daddy fears for her safety, etc.
It also did not help that La Madre came home from the credit union while I was watching the movie and immediately said the kids reminded her of the ones from my high school. And then, several minutes later, during a scene where a Latina character talks about the tough life in the barrio, La Madre suddenly said “We should show this to [my bro-in-law] when they’re here for New Year.” At which point I had to pause the video and we had a little discussion (which in Palmer terms means loud voices) about the appropriateness of mentioning the names of all the people you know of X ancestry immediately and in an irrelevant fashion if you see something about people who happen to be of X ancestry… La Madre understands this when it’s applied to Asians, Asian-Americans, and thus herself, but not so much when it comes to everyone else.

At any rate, the movie does a better job than most, possibly because it’s based on the published stories that real teenagers wrote, which I admit I have not read. And don't really have the time to, right now!

Back to the public policy readings...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Once upon a time, there was a Winter Break

For some odd reason, bizarre fairy tales have taken over my entertainment activities for the past couple of weeks. Maybe it's due in part to the cosmic interference of Santa around the world.

First, I re-watched Into the Woods, which I hadn't seen in about ten years. I'd forgotten I loved Act One but was irritated by Act Two, which got too preachy and disproportionately killed off the generally faultless women in the story but not the selfish and very faultless men. "Agony" is still the best and most hilarious song in the production, sung by two Prince Charmings who happen to be brothers and go on to cheat on their wives (Cinderella and Rapunzel, respectively) with Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Little Red Riding Hood and Jack (as in, The Beanstalk) also figure into the storyline, so you get the picture of a bizarre but very fun setup. With songs. (And Bernadette Peters personifies brilliance in her role as the witch.)

Then The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse showed up from the Library. It was another suggestion from the personalized book list, during the week or so last summer when SPL was doing that. It was also very bizarre. A boy named Jack heads to Toy City to seek his fame and fortune, and ends up teaming up with a stuffed animal, Eddie Bear, to solve the murders of characters from nursery rhymes (Humpty Dumpty, Jack Spratt, Wee Willie Winkie, Little Boy Blue, Mother Goose, etc). The writing style reflected a dry humor, and Rankin incorporated a lot of creative alliterative phrases. I can't say I loved it (in fact I think the ending was a complete cop-out), but it was just so ... weird... that I couldn't not finish it.

And then they got "Fairy Tale of New York" at karaoke, and a friend sang it with the host on Christmas Eve's eve. Okay, that doesn't really count as truly fairy tale-related, but still. It's in the title.

And then The Big Over Easy showed up from PaperbackSwap. I've been meaning to read Jasper Fforde's "Nursery Crime" series, wherein nursery rhyme characters are also murdered off, but I haven't had the time to read it. Maybe on the plane. Or instead of goofing off online at work at the library, once I get back to Boston....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Should auld acquaintance be ...

A few years ago, I stole the idea of reflecting on "firsts" from the past year from a friend of mine, who always sends a New Year's greeting. (I also like the FG's "2007 in sentences" meme, and might borrow it for next year....) For better or worse, here are a dozen "firsts" for me from 2007, in no particular order:

1. Became an aunt! (September) To the cutest niece in the world. Who, at 3 months and 3 days, is 16lbs, already teething, and loves to party.

2. Changed a diaper for the first time. (November) See #1.

3. Entered graduate school. (September) And surprisingly, I don't stress out about assignments as much as I did during the undergrad years. I am, however, also less involved in both campus and community.

4. Discovered I was allergic to penicillin. (February) This, of course, is good to know.

5. Visited Michigan. (November) As opposed to just having a layover in Detroit. We hit up the outlet malls up and down the highway and wandered around Ann Arbor. But mostly, I stayed in Mi Hermana's apartment and played with the cutest niece in the world.

6. Had an uncle pass away. (November) Other relatives have passed before, but never an uncle.

7. Been at someone's hospital bedside when they passed away. (February) Grandpa was surrounded by his wife of 65 years, sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. I now have one grandparent left.

8. Attended an ash-scattering event. (June) It couldn't really be called a ceremony, there was just a piper and Grandma's poem and a lot of whisky-swilling afterwards. But it's the first such funerary/memorial event -- I'd previously only been to cemeteries or memorial services/celebrations of life.

10. Became the only unmarried, unpregnant sister. (May, though they didn't know until July) And I plan to so remain for quite a while! The stories from La Otra Hermana's wedding are well-documented, and include many "firsts" of their own, like having to stuff a cloth down the front of my bridesmaid's dress because the pastors thought it was too revealing. And sneaking alcohol into a dry wedding. But really, I repeat myself....

11. Had a pretty kick-ass Halloween costume. (October) Also slightly repetitive, but I'd never put that much thought, money, or time into a Halloween costume before! Or gotten a lot of compliments that weren't "Um..."

12. Forgot to vote in a general election. (November) Damn it! The memory, it slips away with age and cross-country chaos...

Overall, 2007 was a good year. It didn't necessarily start out on the best foot, but as the months have rolled by I think I've grown, been enriched by, and learned from a full gamut of experiences. Above all, I know I'm lucky to have many, many wonderful friends and family members, and plenty of good (and bad) memories to round out the old year and propel me into a new one.

Life is beautiful! Here's to 2008 ...