Archive | December 2015

2015 in Review

Another year has flown by! As in 2013 and 2014, I am again recapping my adventures of the past twelve months.

In January, I went to the All-California Sacred Harp Convention in San Francisco.


In February, I made pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and fried rice for Chinese New Year.


In March, Datvebis Gundi, the UCLA Georgian chorus, had its first real concert. I wrote a couple of guest posts on music and writing for I hiked in Joshua Tree National Park and visited the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens again. Then I went to Eugene, OR for the Annual Conference on African Linguistics, where I gave my first ever conference talk. Instead of staying in a hotel, I camped in the wilds of Oregon with my Field Methods professor. March was a busy month!

In April, I met my editor at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, met Rachel Hartman at C2E2, and presented at the Chicago Linguistic Society’s conference at the University of Chicago. Then there was CLS karaoke. All these adventures are recounted here.

In May, I was mostly frantically writing my master’s thesis, so there are no pictures.

In June, I bought a violin at a thrift shop, met Jamie Ford at the Mixed Remixed Festival, attended a cello concert at the Mojica Hacienda, and went to England for the first time with my parents.

Iffley, St. Mary's (2)

Me examining the beaky doorway of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Iffley

In July, I finished my travels in England and returned to California. At the end of the month, I spent an amazing four days playing traditional music on cello and fiddle at Camp Kiya in the Tehachapi Mountains.


Me performing with the Welsh fiddle class at Camp Kiya

In August, I went home to Minnesota, and my family went canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters.

In September, I went to the Minnesota State Fair and learned two new songs and a dance at a workshop with the Georgian ensemble Zedashe. I also went to the release party for Rebecca Hahn’s second novel, The Shadow Behind the Stars, at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. Then I returned to Los Angeles for the start of my third year of grad school. I saw the Tuvan throat singing ensemble Huun Huur Tu and the Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha perform at UCLA.


Mooncake for the Mid-Autumn Festival

In October, I must’ve been working very hard on Projects of Great Importance, like my research on Maragoli hiatus resolution, my latest Book 2 revision, and the Lunar French dialect a fellow grad student and I were creating for a conceptual artist (I haven’t talked about this at all, but sometime in the new year I will!). I also crashed that nyckelharpa concert. No pictures, though.

In November, I submitted the “final” draft of Book 2 (copyediting still to come) and turned a Georgian chorus rehearsal into my birthday party, all on the same day! I also filed my master’s thesis, so…I think I have a master’s degree? My colleague and I visited the conceptual artist’s Hollywood studio for further collaboration on the Lunar French project. Then I went home for Thanksgiving, participated in Indies First at Red Balloon Bookshop on Small Business Saturday, and played around with an electric typewriter.


At Hansen Tree Farm in Anoka, the day after Thanksgiving, looking for the perfect Christmas tree

In December, I finished up the fall quarter and returned to Minnesota. I went on a road trip to Decorah, attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah (with participatory Hallelujah chorus!), and started to inventory the boxes of stuff from my grandparents’ house. I found my grandparents’ report cards, yearbooks, theses, diplomas, my great-great-uncle’s baptism certificate, my great-great-aunt’s wedding photo, and much more. It finally snowed properly on Boxing Day, and even more over the last couple of days.


Me in the alpaca hat my parents brought me back from Peru in November

Happy New Year!

Liebster Award

Brigid at Brigid Writes Things kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award, which is a sort of chain e-mail of the blogosphere, with the added benefit of letting bloggers discover and promote each other. It looks like fun, so I’m going to do it! (Thank you, Brigid!) The Liebster Award comes with the following rules, which I intend to flout a bit:

The Rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions the nominator has given you.
3. Tag 11 bloggers who have less than 1,000 readers.
4. Think of 11 questions to ask the bloggers you have nominated.
5. Let them know you’ve nominated them through social media or their blog.

Here are Brigid’s questions, with my answers:

1. Put your music on shuffle. What are the first five songs that come up?

Keeping in mind that my iTunes library was partially decimated in the Great Hard Drive Failure of Early 2015:

  1. …well, this is embarrassing. Me playing the first movement of the Shostakovich cello concerto (no. 1) with my high school orchestra
  2. La mode en est devenue nouvelle by Transhumances
  3. Amiranis Perkhuli by Zedashe
  4. Rachuli Supruli by Zedashe
  5. Ach’aruli Khasanbegura by the Basiani Choir of the Georgian Patriarchate

Well, that skewed Georgian, but otherwise it’s kind of an accurate picture of the sort of music I listen to.

2. What’s the last thing that made you laugh really hard?

Um, I can’t really remember. That’s probably a bad sign.

3. What’s something you did in 2015 that you’re proud of?

I’m proud of the speech I gave at the Friends of American Writers awards luncheon in May.

4. What’s one thing you hope to accomplish in 2016?

Find a dissertation topic. Better yet, defend my prospectus.

5. Do you enjoy going to concerts? If so, what was the last one you went to?

Yes! The last concert I went to was An Eclectic Christmas Concert (that’s literally what it was called) at a United Methodist church in St. Paul. I mostly went to hear the Twin Cities Georgian chorus (which has no name) perform. They sang three Alilos (Christmas songs), two Mravalzhamiers (Many Years), and the chant Shen Khar Venakhi. I got to sing Christmas shape note tunes with a whole crowd of Twin Cities shape note singers. The other groups were the Metropolitan Male Chorus, the church choir, and a rock band.

6. What is one of your favorite quotes?

I’m not much of a quotes person, but I like this one from Oscar Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband: “Musical people are so absurdly unreasonable.”

7. What is the weirdest food you like?

I can’t think of anything! I feel like none of the foods I like are that weird. Here’s one, I guess: I like something I call “rice pudding” even though it’s not actually rice pudding (which I also love, as long as it doesn’t have nuts or raisins in it). You take cooked rice, heat it up, then pour milk on it as if it were cereal. Then you sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon on it. It’s a good breakfast to make out of leftover rice!

8. What book has made you cry the hardest?

Hmm, this is hard. I’m not a big crier. Also, my memory for this sort of thing is not great (see: laughing). I’m pretty sure The Book Thief made me cry. Also maybe I’ll Give You the Sun? Tell the Wolves I’m Home?

9. What was the best day of your life?

I don’t know if I can point to a single best day of my life. I’ve had some really excellent birthdays, which included some combination of things like surprise gifts/gestures, singing Georgian songs at an outdoor table at an okonomiyaki restaurant in Sawtelle, impromptu shape note singing under an arch, really cool concerts, cover art in my inbox, and more. (To be clear, there was no single birthday that involved all of these things.) There was the time I went to the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, had dinner with author Rachel Hartman, and did karaoke with a bunch of linguists, all in one day. I’ve had some good days!

10. What fictional world would you love to live in (or at least spend some time in)?

I’d like to spend some time in the world of His Dark Materials, cutting into different worlds, like Lyra’s, with the Subtle Knife (preferably without losing two fingers). I think it’d also be really fascinating to visit the world in S. E. Grove’s The Glass Sentence because different parts of Earth exist in different time periods. I’m not sure I’d actually want to live in either world, though. Maybe only if I lived in a nice quiet corner.

11. If you could meet any author (living or dead), who would it be?

I would like to meet the real Lemony Snicket. But since he’s essentially a fictional character, how about Madeleine L’Engle?


Okay, I’m not going to nominate 11 people. I’ll do 3. They’re all very cool people you should check out!

Artist, tiny house builder, and now grad student Miyuki, whose amazing illustrated posts are at Hey Miyuki!

Linguistics grad student (sound familiar?) Andrew, who blogs about words, activism, and more at [ə bla.ɡə.baʊt̚ ɡɹæd.skʊɫ]

Teacher and traveler Madeline, who writes both heartfelt and hilarious posts about her life in China at Madz Goes to China (I highly recommend “Richard’s Last Thanksgivukkah”!)

Obviously, none of my nominees have to participate. But if you want to (or if you’re reading this and I didn’t nominate you but you still want to participate), here are 11 questions:

  1. What is one of the most interesting places you have traveled to?
  2. What is a book you read for school (any level) that you really liked/appreciated?
  3. What’s something tasty you cooked recently?
  4. How much do you like snow?
  5. What books are on your nightstand (or equivalent) right now?
  6. What is one of your favorite U.S. cities and why?
  7. Which language other than English do you speak the best today?
  8. What is one place you haven’t been to that you’d really like to visit?
  9. What is a musical instrument you don’t play that you wish you did?
  10. Do you have a favorite/most long-lived stuffed animal? What kind?
  11. What is a skill/craft you’d like to learn someday?

Thanks again, Brigid! And again, anybody can answer my questions if you feel like it.

Trip to Decorah

Last Friday, I went to Decorah, IA to visit a friend of mine from college. Decorah is a small town in northeastern Iowa, very close to the Minnesota border. It’s a pretty drive down from the Twin Cities through the hills and fields and over the Zumbro and Root Rivers. I watched the sun set from the highway, and after crossing into Iowa, I drove through some blowing snow.

Decorah is home to Luther College (one of Those Musical Lutheran Colleges) and a charming small town in its own right. I arrived to a thin coat of snow on the ground, more than we had in the Twin Cities at the time (or have now), and it made everything more festive. My friend’s apartment is across the street from the handsome county courthouse, which had illuminated Christmas wreaths in all its windows.

My friend works at Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit that preserves and distributes heirloom plant varieties, and on Friday evening we went to the Seed Savers holiday party. The next morning, we went to the last farmers market of the season, held in a building on the county fairgrounds. The vendors were still selling produce, including cabbage, carrots, and apples (Northern Greening, Melrose, Hidden Rose, and more). There were also eggs, pickled beets, breads, knitwear, jams and jellies, cookies, pies, and, betraying Decorah’s well-preserved Norwegian heritage, lefse and rosettes. I bought a jar of strawberry-raspberry-gooseberry jam.

There were two musicians, a fiddler and a guitarist, playing a combination of folk tunes and Christmas songs for the market. They had CDs for sale, and upon inspecting them I realized the performers were one half of the band Contratopia, which regularly plays for the Minneapolis contra dance! Yet they live in Decorah (and play for its contra dance too).

After the farmers market, my friend and I went to Vesterheim: The National Norwegian-American Museum. (Did I mention Decorah was Norwegian? I saw multiple houses with nisser–red-hatted gnome creatures–in their windows.) Vesterheim means “western home” and refers to America, from the point of view of Norwegian immigrants.


Christmas tree in the Norwegian farmhouse

The museum was great. The permanent exhibits include a model Norwegian farmhouse; the TradeWind, a 25-foot sailboat that is the smallest sailboat to have crossed the Atlantic unaided, sailed by two Norwegian brothers from Kristiansand, Norway to Chicago, IL in 1933; household objects made in Norway and in the United States; collections of silver and needlework; and lots and lots of chests, carved furniture, and rosemaling.


Loom in the Norwegian farmhouse

The temporary exhibits included one of weavings and tapestries by Minnesotan Lila Nelson, one of Scandinavian wood carvings (so much Swedish work–gasp!), and one of Norwegian sweaters.

After seeing Vesterheim, we stopped by my friend’s clay studio and the Decorah Public Library, which allows you to check out, among other things, American Girl dolls and framed artwork. Then I headed home. Driving back through Amish country, around the small towns of Harmony and Canton, I saw no fewer than four horse-drawn buggies rolling along the shoulder.

J’ai Vu Le Loup

This is another one of those posts that unrigorously traces the connections between traditional songs. In this case, some French songs about the wolf, the fox, and either the hare or the weasel.

First, I encountered “La jument de Michao” by the Breton folk rock band Tri Yann, whom I’ve gone on about before. It’s a countdown song (“It’s in ten years… It’s in nine years…”) featuring Michao’s mare, who succumbs to instant gratification and, with her colt, eats all the hay in the field, a fit of gluttony she will regret come winter. It also features the refrain (translated): “I hear the wolf, the fox, and the weasel / I hear the wolf and the fox singing”.

Then I discovered the song “J’ai vu le loup” in a Christmas context, though there’s nothing Christmas-y about it, as far as I know. In the song, the characters are the wolf, the fox, and the hare, as in: “I saw the wolf, the fox, the hare / I saw the wolf, the fox dancing”. Though the words are similar to parts of “La jument de Michao”, the tune is entirely different.

But then I stumbled upon this recording, also entitled “J’ai vu le loup”, which smashes together the tunes and texts of the Tri Yann song and the other “J’ai vu le loup” with lovely results! So are the songs actually related?

It seems that the first “J’ai vu le loup” is a Burgundian song and that Tri Yann’s “La jument de Michao” actually melds two songs, a Breton version of “J’ai vu le loup” and the unrelated “La jument de Michao”. This Wikipedia page is somewhat informative, but more so in the French version than the English version (interesting that the only other two languages this page is available in are Swedish and Basque).

Finally, if you want a modern update that takes things in a different direction, try French Celtic rap group Manau’s “Mais qui est la belette?”.

The Mockingjay Part 2 Contra Dance

Last Saturday at my local contra dance, the caller told us there was a real contra dance in Mockingjay Part 2, the last Hunger Games movie, which came out recently. The dance was choreographed by Seth Tepfer of Atlanta and is called Mockingjay Petronella (petronella being a dance figure). We danced it, though most times through we did a modified version which includes a partner swing, since the original dance doesn’t. I can’t remember any dancing in Mockingjay the book, but it’s been a long time since I read it. Now I almost want to see the last movie just for the contra dancing!

Here’s a video from Saturday’s dance. See if you can spot me.

Family Heirlooms

While I was at home for Thanksgiving, I continued to inventory the items from my grandparents’ former house that have found their way to my childhood bedroom. Forthwith, a list:

Two more hymnals belonging to my great-grandparents, one English, one German (my hymnal collection grows ever larger):


One wooden soprano recorder (not pictured)

One concertina with instruction manuals:


This Department of Defense publication:


“Nuclear war can be a threat to anyone. […] Fallout shelters would enable tens of millions, who otherwise would die from the effects of radiation, to live. Their survival, in healthy condition, would help assure the survival of the Nation.”

The manual includes sections on “Shelter Amusements” and “Religious Activities.” It explains, with illustrations, how to construct a fallout shelter in your home (my grandparents’ house had a basement concrete block shelter much like the one in this booklet). The final chapter is entitled “Survival on the Farm.”

One Sears electric typewriter that still works! It even has an automatic correction feature (and it came with erasable typing paper):



One beloved stuffed animal: