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is tiny.  Spizella passerina:  “little finch perching bird;” “chipping” from “chirping.”  He looks right at me, straight into my eyes, actually hopping along with the car and peering in.  What does he want me to get?  I really feel an attempt to convey a shopping list.  Anything with seeds, surprise us.


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Syrinx (bird anatomy)


It seems that we will be serving a special dinner when Kinan and Dinuk return for their concert next month.  On the drawing board:  Indian (as a proxy for Sri Lankan), unspecified Mediterranean (proxy for Syrian), Italian, and Korean foods.  The unspecified Med’s a big place.  With big food.

I think that whatever they choose, these foods will work well together.  It won’t be like the potluck at the 142nd.  When I was in grad school the first time, I still had two years left on my enlistment in the Utah National Guard but I didn’t really want to commute even once a month from Logan to Salt Lake.  I’m pretty lazy and didn’t like to think about how early I’d have to get up those Saturdays.  Women couldn’t be in field artillery units, so I took a Russian aptitude test and squeaked into the MI linguist unit as an interrogator.  I’m not sure on what subjects I might have been able to interrogate any Russians at that point, but I had recently done fairly well on an oral exam in my second-year Russian class — my topic was “о чем погибель динозавры?” which in hindsight looks a bit idiomatic, but I conveyed the idea that there were dinosaurs, they died, and some big thing had killed them, and that’s what mattered.

“о чем погибель динозавры?  Was it you, scum?  Talk!”

Anyway, this intel unit was unusual because everyone had to have a language.  Didn’t really matter which one.  Most of the others, apart from us Russian speakers, had learned the language for their LDS missions and had a lot of experience with the local cuisine.  At the potluck we had borscht, crepes Suzette, enchiladas, egg rolls, kimchi, sauerbraten, and a lot of other stuff.  Everything separately was delicious.  Everything together failed to achieve detente.  But that was during the Cold War, after all.  Dinner will turn out fine this time.


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Quisition is a flash-card site that somehow knows how to test and retest you at the optimal time intervals for long-term memorization.  You can make your own flash cards or use sets compiled by other people.  To try it out, I compiled a deck with two subjects I sort of know (periodic table and Cyrillic alphabet) and two about which I hadn’t an inkling (Vietnamese food words and Tagalog vocab chosen for some reason, dunno, might be pairs of confusingly similar words).  It freaking works.  I know them.  I know them all.  I can’t necessarily pronounce them, but I will know until the heat death of the Universe that, for instance, peas are đậu Hà lan.  Literally, beans of Hà lan:  Holland peas.

Starting Wednesday, I am going to take an online Spanish class through my school.  Yay!  Last year I did Forensics for Writers and really enjoyed it.  In fact I found myself babbling happily about adipocere at the dinner table once, which maybe wasn’t so appropriate.  I seem to have these jobs and interests again and again that keep me supplied with non-mealtime discussion topics:  wastewater treatment malfunctions, putrefying fish entrails, caring for individuals with incontinence and behavioral issues.

Anyway, after Speed Spanish there are Speed Spanishes II and III, if I like.  I took a summer class in Spanish when I was … I don’t know, eleven?  The teacher was Peruvian, slim and elegant with silver bracelets on her wrists and a knee-lenth cascade of black hair.  As we progressed over the weeks she would encourage us more and more to think in Spanish.  Maybe an hour into class we would take ten in our seats — put our heads on our desks and “think in a Spanish.  Think in a Spanish,” I can still hear her murmuring.

Tifinagh (ⵜⵉⴼⵉⵏⴰⵖ) is a traditional Berber/Touareg alphabetic script — originally, an abjad (consonants only).




Tables and map

Tinariwen, formed in 1979, are Touareg bluesmen/blueswomen/rockers/freedom fighters.  They’re from northern Mali, which is connected to Memphis and actually to every heart in the world in some deep and indescribably beautiful way.  Imidiwan:  Companions won the 2009 Uncut Music Award.


Find it and listen.

Erenhot, Inner Mongolia

Mongolian:  ereen, “colorful;” hot, “town,” as in Hohhot (“blue town”) and Ulan Hot (“red town”).

“To the northeast of Erenhot is a salt lake, Dabusan Nur, rich with salt and mirabilite (hydrated sodium sulfate)….”

But Dabusan Nur means “salt lake.”

Mirabilite earns its name!



In English and Finnish at  Mikko’s Phylogeny Archive.



The Ratel Motel