For some reason, there was a large fireworks display near our house. At first I thought I heard the gunfire I'd been conditioned to expect living in places like Oakland and Vallejo in California. But it was too loud. So I went outside to watch, seeking a brief respite from the taut atmosphere inside the house, where my partner was -- and is -- working on an extremely tedious portion of what is already an extremely tedious task. Even though I was enjoying the show, I still felt bad for her. I often stay up late grading, which hardly qualifies as an activity I derive pleasure from, but it still beats the sort of detail work she's doing right now. And that means that the danger of indoor fireworks is high, as will surely be the case for most of the month to come. It's hardly an auspicious beginning to the new year. On the other hand, there's always the chance that 2007 will turn out to be better than 2006. To be honest, it wouldn't take a lot. While 2006 was marginally better than 2005, both years rank towards the bottom of my list. The period from 1978-1982 was my previous low point, a stretch in which I lost both my paternal grandparents and paternal aunt, had to move from a place I loved to a place I could barely stand, and was forced to attend two new schools at the worst possible time in my adolescence. The last two years have had more happy moments than that period, certainly, but have also been full of professional and personal stress that I was immune to in my junior-high years. At least I've managed to stay healthy so far this winter, which is more than I can say for the previous two. I'm sure my late-night bicycle riding has been a factor, so my first resolution is to continue working to improve my respiratory system through exercise. I should probably take a break tonight, though, given the likelihood of there being inebriated drivers on the roads. Stay tuned for my "Year in Music," which I will be posting later today. And, lest I forget, "Happy New Year!"