Friday, February 29, 2008

Basking in the, um, sun...

As I head out to see the new nephew in everybody's favorite working-class suburb (where I might stop for a decent burrito), I am unusually giddy about the 45-degree weather....

No more bulky sweaters and purse-unfriendly North Face puffy coat! Woo hoo...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lesson learned the hard way #1742

"Empty" train stops probably have someone hiding behind a pillar, which they'll peek around when they hear you singing offkey.

(The song in question has a lot of sharps, and it's very, very easy to not quite hit the right notes. )

But it's still a fun song to belt out....

Friday, February 22, 2008

And I thought the OCD was lessening in recent months

But no. Oh no.

I am *so addicted* to Prolific, the word game on Facebook.... There are a ton of others who are better than I am, but it's addictive nonetheless. It's also gotten to the point where I've started to recognize people from around the world who all play at different times of day. Aiieeeee....

You've come a long way, baby

I hate to be the Netflix evangelist, but their unlimited Online Viewing can be indispensible when snowed in and/or trying to avoid Econ readings. In the past few days, OV also provided key kinds of escapism.
  • Nostalgia. Unfortunately, though, it was nostalgia for the days when my parents made us watch every pre-1965 movie ever made.
    Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is supposed to be a modern/musical take on The Rape of the Sabine Women. It takes place in the Northwest in the late 19th century, which is why I think La Madre foisted it on us in the first place. I hadn't seen it in, like, 15 years.

    Let's just say the gender roles and attitudes are very 1950s. Much like the time I tried to watch the modern/musical take on The Taming of the Shrew(which, strangely, has the same lead actor), I ended up wincing half the time. If I focus on the gender politics, I just get irate, so I won't.

    The songs are not very memorable. However, the choreography is great -- there are really creative dance sequences incorporated into rural tasks like barn-raising and chopping wood. And, like most 1950s musicals, the costumes in the dance scenes are bright and colorful and fun to watch.

  • Movies your friends with vastly different taste recommend. Movies you wouldn't be caught dead watching, except that they have Matthew McConaughey so you find them secretly very appealing.
    Ahem. I actually ended up liking How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Not loving it, but liking it well enough. I started watching it wanting to hate it because I don't tend to like cheesy pop romantic comedies, whether they're marketed towards men or women. They're just not my type of flick. (Cheesy historical implausibilities, now....)

  • The plot is kind of a cliche: a women's magazine writer tries, as the title implies, to lose a guy within 10 days of starting to date him, by becoming the nightmare clingy girlfriend. (An aside: I fail to see how that would be allowed. Don't magazines have IRBs?) Her mark, however, happens to make a bet that he can make any woman fall for him within 10 days. Implausibility ensues. But it's funny. Seriously, I thought I would absolutely abhor it, and I ended up laughing out loud half the time. The thing I appreciated most about it, especially after the sexist musical barrage, was that both the male and female leads were tricking each other, so neither was getting hoodwinked more than the other. It usually pisses me off when that happens. But in this one they were equally lying to each other, so, um, I guess that makes it better?

    Kate Hudson was HILARIOUS. And Matthew McConaughey was, well, Matthew McConaughey....

And afterwards I even felt inclined to read 4 chapters of Regulatory Econ! A long way, indeed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lesson learned the hard way #1741

Library buildings are alive, and want to eat you.

It's true, I swear. During orientation as an undergrad, I tried to find my advisor's office in the library and ended up getting locked in the stairwell. I ran up and down stairs for about 15 minutes before finally finding a door with a window and pounding on it until some random passerby heard and saw me.

Today I had to leave the safety of the top-floor IT office to show someone in the basement how to update a specific section of the library's website. On the return journey, I swear the walls moved, and I couldn't even find the main hallway. The archive stacks just kept going on forever, like Midwestern cornfields or the mirror scene from Enter the Dragon, and it was impossible to tell which way was an exit, any exit!

My dad used to randomly ask us while driving on road trips "Which way is north?" and my sisters would always get it wrong. Streets and roads are easy, though. I'd usually look at the map beforehand and if you could tell which way was which if you knew what road you were on. Or by where the sun was, if it was showing. Or by looking to see where the mountains or the ocean were. So outside on streets, I'm fine.

It's just inside. When the walls move!


Monday, February 18, 2008

La Raza Unida

My college roommate was in town this weekend. (Well, one of them. Not A Common Man.) We’ve kept in contact, of course, but it never ceases to amaze me that even though years can pass since you’ve last seen each other, there will always be some people with whom you can pick up almost exactly where you left off. Four years seems like four days, and you can laugh and cry together about everything that happened in the time warp.

At any rate, it was great to spend time with her, her partner, and another mutual college friend (of waiting-till-our-toes-freeze-to-see-Obama fame). It struck me again, not for the first time recently, that I have a hell of a lot of really cool friends doing a lot of really cool things around the country and world, and I’m both lucky and grateful to know them all.

And speaking of doing cool things around the world, I also watched Bandidas this weekend. I’m a fan of Salma Hayek, and I’m a fan of women who kick ass. And even in a cheeseball movie like Bandidas, I’m a sucker for hot women who kick some serious ass, even if their politics are bit muddled.

The film had Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz robbing banks across Mexico in a slapstick attempt to keep a big corporate American bank from driving peasants off their land. It’s one of those films where the inner historian takes a second seat to the inner pop culture scholar, in the interest of good fun. There was even an unintentionally hilarious scene where Salma Hayek inexplicably screams “Viva Mexico! Viva la revolución!” as if becoming Robin Hood somehow inspired Pancho Villa. Not quite up to the wonderful and brilliant cheesage level of the National Treasure movies, but still really fun. The kind of cheese where you take for granted that drop-dead gorgeous farm girls walk around the desert in off-the-shoulder peasant blouses while the sun beats down on them!

The movie put me in the mood for loveable villainy, so I finally finished Artemis Fowl. A coworker gave it to me as a goodbye present, but I only just now got around to reading it.

It’s a great children’s story, about a 12-year-old millionaire evil genius trying to outwit fairies, a brilliant take on the legend of trying to steal a leprechaun’s gold. Eoin Colfer created an awesomely fantastic world where goblins, trolls, fairies, and dwarves live underground and need to keep out of sight of technologically backwards humans. He came up with a great back story, involving how humans ruined the earth and drove the People (the fairies) into its core. The title character kidnaps a fairy and demands gold as ransom, and the fairy army special forces besiege a medieval estate in Ireland. Great stuff!

And a great way to avoid the Econ readings…

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There's a glitch in the Matrix

Some songs just get stuck in your head, for no apparent reason. Or maybe for very apparent reasons.

Here's to the breaking of old bad habits...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Numbers, schmumbers

Hmmm. Just got off the phone with La Otra Hermana, la nueva madre, and she says Tani was 8 lbs, 8 oz, 19.5" long, and born at 7:31pm PDT. (I got the initial stats from La Madre, who, it should be noted, when giving birth to La Otra Hermana, looked at the clock and saw 10:10pm. So for over 20 years, we celebrated at 10:10. Then, in going through paperwork a few years ago, we discovered she was officially born at 9:10pm.) I am now left with similar but conflicting data....

The lions' den

La Otra Hermana was supposed to be born on Christmas Day, but came ten days early. So maybe it's appropriate that her son arrived 11 days before his estimated birth day.

They named him Tanielu, which is Samoan for Daniel. (The "T" sound is like a German "Z" -- kind of a "Ts", or a little like the "Tz" in "tzatziki.")

8 lbs, 1 oz, 19" long, all natural birth, 15 hours of labor, born at 7:34pm PDT. I'm proud of my little sister! (Cuz she was always stronger than me and would always beat me up when we were little... I'm a weenie.)

Now I have a nephew! \(^_^)/

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The green hills of Tyrol

The first and only time I ever went precinct-walking was with Grandpa, before the 2004 caucuses. I had assumed he was a Gephardt supporter like Grandma, but it turned out he was one gung-ho octogenarian for Dean, and he'd volunteered to walk his precinct and encourage voters to caucus for his candidate (in a kilt, as usual). When he found out we supported the same candidate, he got excited and dragged me along.

When you're banging on doors and a neighbor supports another candidate, you're supposed to say "Great. See you at the caucus!" and then leave. But in that very Palmer way, Grandpa tried to argue the Kerry and Kucinich supporters away from their camps. (His precinct being mainly retired folk, they all loved arguing back, which wasn't constructive. Plus, it was cold standing on all their doorsteps!)

Apparently when I was a baby and teething, Grandpa swabbed whisky on my gums to quiet me. (And so started the long downhill trend...) The cutest niece in the world is also teething right now, but Mi Hermana and Mi Cuñado are using some pediatrician-approved teething gel instead of a good single malt.

Later this week marks the one-year anniversary of Grandpa's passing.

In eerily similar circumstances to Grandpa, Mi Cuñado's father passed away two weeks ago --after a long battle in the hospital, surrounded by family. (I got a 3am wakeup call from his sister in California, frantic because she couldn't reach them in Michigan. They flew out to LA first thing and were at least able to say their goodbyes.)

So now the cutest niece in the world doesn't have any grandfathers. (And, oddly, neither will the new nephew, who's due in two weeks... La Otra Hermana's husband's father died decades ago.) But she did get to see him, and he got to see his only grandchild too, and there are Christmas pictures of the two of them.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bi-coastal, OCD data crunching

When you're both a policy student and political wonk and this semester's loan hasn't posted yet, you spend the weekend before your cash influx is expected doing things like poring over your home state's Democratic caucus results. Plus, it's the first time I can remember that Washington State actually mattered in a presidential primary!

My preferred candidate won every county except one in the Evergreen State, so I'm celebrating in my own little underfunded-but-expecting-$$-soon way. (Well, and I also text-messaged Xtina and Mi Hermana. But Mi Hermana is currently in LA for Mi Cuñado's father's funeral, so the celebratory text was a slightly guilty one.)

However, the percentages from each county and legislative district are fascinating. (Nobody but Washingtonian political wonks will find any of this interesting, but what the hell, I'm bored on a Saturday night, and really need that check to post on Monday like it's supposed to...) Besides, I don't know enough about all the other states that have voted to scrutinize the geography-based numbers. (The numbers on age, gender, race, and education, however...)

Where Obama did the best (as of 10:26pm EDT, according to the WA State Dem site):
Garfield Co., 100% -- In rural eastern WA, very Red-heavy. Apparently there are
a few liberals, and all of them were Obama fans.
Columbia Co., 93.75% -- Also eastern WA, very rural area and Red-heavy.
Okanogan Co., 82.14% -- The biggest county, in the north-center of the state, practically in Canada. Also Red-heavy.
King Co., 37th LegDist, 81.92% -- Traditionally the most radical, liberal, urban legislative district in the state. (Their state legislators can always be counted on to vote the way I agree, at least, and they're also the friendliest and most accessible, in my opinion.) I lived in this legislative district until La Madre's house was redistricted in 2002 into the 34th LD. This district is also the most ethnically diverse, with a huge African and Southeast Asian immigrant population as well as the historically black and Asian-American neighborhoods. It is also highly economically diverse, spanning swanky houses with views of the lake (like my uncle's!) to some of the poorest urban areas in Seattle (like the high school where I tutored).
San Juan County, 81.44% -- In the Sound. Comprised mainly of one big island. Quasi-rural in that city-folk-summer-here type of way. Very vocal, outspoken, involved citizenry.
Where Obama did the worst (as of 10:39 pm EDT, according to the WA State Dem site):
Douglas Co., 37.65% -- In rural eastern WA, very Red-heavy.
Franklin Co., 50.4% -- In rural eastern WA. It's worth noting that this was the first county in WA to become majority Latino, in a state that is only about 9% Latino.
Adams Co., 51.72% -- Also in rural eastern WA. It's worth noting that this was the second county in WA to become majority Latino.
Grays Harbor Co., 54.72% -- Old logging and fishing area on the coast, now very
economically depressed. Tended to vote for Republicans in local elections but Democrats for all federal-level offices., thought in recent years, possibly tied to the decline of the area's major industries, they've started to heavily favor Dems.
Yakima Co., 54.74% -- In central WA. This county is about 48% Latino (again, in a state that is only about 9% Latino.) Hugely agricultural. This is where a lot of the apples come from! =)
Not that there's necessarily any correlation/causation between high Latino populations and primary election voting patterns (on the part of non-Latinos as well and perhaps more especially), but still, I find the data interesting.

And lastly, the areas where I've voted (as of 10:59pm EDT, according to the WA State Dem site):
King Co., 43rd LegDist, 77.7% -- A large area encompassing three main colleges, a lot of old mansions and Catholic schools (including the two where La Madre went), and the historically queer section of town. Tied for second-most liberal legislative district in the state. I voted for five years in this LD.
King Co., 34th LegDist, 70.5% -- The Westsiiiiiiiiide! Woot. Spans the areas with beachfront property to areas that have to make do with views of the Olympics on clear days. And because it only mattered a few years ago when passing anti-discrimination legislation, elected (at the time) the third "out" legislator. Tied for second-most liberal legislative district in the state. I was redistricted to this LD from the 37th -- locally, before redistricting, there were cracks about the "right side" of the Westside being in the 34th with the Boeing engineers, and the "wrong side" being in the 37th with the Boeing mechanics. Ah, local jokes. But now we're all one district! This is where I'm currently registered to vote. Obviously I couldn't caucus, but La Madre sent me my absentee ballot, and I'll mail it on Monday well in time for the primary on the 19th. Even if the primary results don't matter...
Clearly, I need to finish my program so I can jump back into the fray!

Record numbers turned out for only the second-ever caucus in recent WA political history. One estimate put it at 200,000 for the Democrats alone! That's double the number that showed up in 2004!

Full results here.

On the other side, with 78% of the Republican precincts reporting, and according to CNN's website at 11:04pm EDT, McCain is at 26% and amazingingly, Huckabee is at 24%. That 24% makes me a little nervous... La Otra Hermana hasn't returned my call asking her if she caucused. And La Madre had to work and then had a church board meeting, so I know she didn't caucus either; besides, she doesn't tend to go for partisan events, just the voting booth.

I love how both party's primaries are so wide open this year! (Well, maybe not the GOP at this point...) This is how every election should be! Part of me really does hope neither of the nominees is decided until the actual national conventions in August and September.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars

A friend posted this on Facebook, and it's too hilarious not to blog. On the Washington Post's website, you can look at the vote tallies by things like party, state, age, gender, and ... astrological sign.

Take, for instance, the Feingold Amendment to Bush's FISA bill. (The bill, S. 2248, allows warrantless wiretapping of Americans on international calls. The Amendment would have required a court order. The Amendment failed. My former employer, as always, has an excellent summary...)

I note that my fellow Taureans had the highest absentee rate for this particular vote.... and that there are more Scorpios than any other sign. (And where's the PAC dedicated to electing more Libras? They seem to vote the right way!)

But hey, now I have an astrological excuse for skipping Econ the week after Spring Break. It's in the stars. We just don't show up sometimes...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Throwing beads at the ballot box

In preparation for Super Tuesday, I re-ordered my Netflix queue this weekend so I could veg out to election-related media.

The first psych-myself-up film was Iron Jawed Angels, which was good. It told the story of the 19th Amendment's passage and one women's rights pioneer I've always found fascinating: Alice Paul. (Again, the undergrad history advisor, in addition to being a Civil War expert, was also in Women's Studies. Some things will be forever drilled into my head...)

The coolest thing about the film was that it showed how various aspects of social, legislative, judicial, and executive powers intertwine to change public policies. (If you think about it, it's the essence of the recent MLK-vs-LBJ political debacle.) Paul broke off from the more comfortable National American Woman Suffrage Association to form the more radical, lobby-centric National Woman's Party. They both went about in their own ways trying to attain female enfranchisement, sometimes at odds with each other. Meanwhile the Great War started and Wilson and Congress still wouldn't budge. No one tactic or person changed it all.

The other very cool thing was that I'm pretty sure all of Wilson's speeches were real.

The film was, jarringly but creatively, set to a very modern soundtrack -- everything from rock to hip-hop. The fashion and mannerisms were also very un-early 20th century, but overall I think it worked.

My only minor quibbles: I kept waiting for scenes where the suffragettes chain themselves to the White House fence, but apparently that didn't make the cut. Everything else (hunger strike, force-feeding in prison, the Silent Sentinels, the split between suffragette factions) made it, but not that. Oh well. It happened, even if HBO didn't think it was worth showing. Also, Hilary Swank's random almost-romance with Patrick Dempsey seemed out of place.

After Iron Jawed Angels came Election. I'm a big fan of Reese Witherspoon. The movie was not quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I think I would have enjoyed the movie I thought it was going to be ... if that makes sense! I thought it was going to be just another teen comedy about a high school popularity contest. But it actually had more to it than that -- Witherspoon plays the overachiever running for school president. Matthew Broderick is the teacher who, for pretty petty and stupid and vaguely sexist reasons, doesn't want her to win so he goads a popular jock into running against her. Teen drama and a breakdown of "traditional family values" ensue. I liked how the first-person narrative constantly switched between about five different characters.

The slightly disconcerting thing was that the film, made in 1999, had a plot twist with an eerily coincidental similarity to the real 2000 U.S. presidential election outcome.

And now, on to following the Super Tuesday results. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Lesson learned the hard way #1740

Do not opt to stand in the downpour instead of the bus shelter, just because your winter coat is amazing waterproof and warm. While you are giddily and childishly watching the raindrops roll off your outerwear, your very un-waterproof knapsack (and all the papers inside it) will get sadly and disgustingly soggy.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Effing freezing!

Last week, before I fell ill to what seemed like the plague, I was supposed to meet some friends for dinner, but after half an hour of waiting at the bus stop for the right bus, I couldn’t feel my toes. Unwilling to pay upwards of $15 for a cab and hypochondriac that I’ve always been, I immediately envisioned myself hobbling around toeless for the rest of my life; I called the hostesses with my apologies and hobbled home to veg out in front of my laptop-turned-TV. (And it took almost an hour for my toes to regain their senses...)

Spellbound was the cutest documentary ever! It brought back nightmares about my own spelling bee experiences though, including one at the district level that had me and my cousin competing against each other. Suffice to say the farthest I ever got was the state championship, unlike the kids in the documentary, who were shoo-ins to breeze past the regionals to get to the national bee. Some of them were even repeat participants. And they broadcast on ESPN! That is totally cool.

One thing I found fascinating was that a disproportionate number of the kids featured were children of immigrants. No idea if that's what the filmmakers wanted, or if that's who responded to a general call for portraits. Regardless of nativity status, though, the parents were almost as hard on the kids about practicing as the kids were on themselves.

The other documentary was F*ck, an exploration of the not just the notorious F-word itself, in all its glorious meanings and subtexts, but of censorship (particularly from the FCC) and social meaning. The format was basically snippets of interviews with a lot of celebrities, interspersed with some text, and a lot of music. It was good, especially when it got into the FCC-are-hypocrites side of things. (Like when they ruled Bono's on-air use of the phrase "fucking brilliant" was an adjective and not worthy of fining, then caved to outside groups and recast it as offensive, but then let Saving Private Ryan air uncut and unpenalized, fucking swear words and all.)

The film addressed the entire gamut of the word "fucking" -- from seeming proliferation of the word in recent times to its vague origins to what is "polite" to class implications of word choice in general to the controversy over censorship. It was kind of funny -- Alan Keyes was the first interview clip they showed. He was hilarious, but at least articulate. The same could not be said of Pat Boone. Other great clips from both sides of the various issues were Hunter S. Thompson, Janeane Garofalo, Sam Donaldson, Ice T (who cracked me up with a comment about why he loves free speech but doesn't care about the framers of the Constitution), and Alanis Morrissette.

Good times. And if I can convince my Econ group that our project should be about regulation of the airwaves, it would make the rest of the semester so much more interesting! That would be one topic I could get jazzed about for our presentation on economics, law, and regulation. Let the market totally decide!

Then, in a remarkably weird parallel week, an old college friend and I headed to see our presidential candidate of choice at a pre-Super Tuesday rally. We got to the convention center an hour before doors opened and found there was already a line stretching over a mile. (We know it was at least a mile because we Google-mapped it beforehand and walked there, then had to walk back almost to our starting point...)

Since both of Massachusetts' U.S. Senators were also speaking, I think the security was extra-tight. At any rate, it meant the line moved at a snail's pace, to the point where we only moved about ten yards in 30 minutes. I'd learned from last time how to dress appropriately; however, my toes started to freeze again after 45 minutes of waiting out by the piers. We reassured ourselves that it was heartening to see so many people there, that hopefully they all wouldn't be too tired or frozen to vote tomorrow, that it was great to see so many young voters and families out ... and then promptly bailed! I've already seen the candidate speak multiple times, on both coasts.

My toes are not worth sacrificing for a pre-primary political adrenaline rush. It's almost sandal season. I'll need them soon.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Pingüino Vu

I tried to watch March of the Penguins, but I kept falling asleep. It could have been Morgan Freeman's role as narrator. He has a very soothing voice. It could also have been the NyQuil. Or the reading on variable cost formulas in front of me.

To be honest, it's not a movie I would have chosen to see on my own. I was made to watch way too many nature shows as a kid. I only put it in my Netflix queue because of the huge media blowout about how different audiences interpreted it. Friends who saw the film had mixed feelings about it -- some said it was so sad, watching the harsh life of the penguins. Others thought it was good.

But somehow, it all seemed very, very familiar. It's possible that I watched it on a flight, or even on TV. Or on my own? Or with a friend? And forgot about it? (Aaaaaahhhh! That does not bode well for the much-needed mad memory skillz for the comps next year...) The film also reminded me of Happy Feet, which also bored me and kept making me doze off, and which probably also tried to ride on the coattails of the documentary's success.

Maybe it's penguins. Maybe penguins are inherently soporific.