Looking back, trying to give structure to chaos.
Some of this is in chronological order and some of it isn't.
- the short list
- looking forward to 2017
- I went to POPL/PLMW in January, met a ton of awesome people, and learned more in a week than I usually would learn in a 16-week semester of college.
- I finished my Bachelor's degree. (It only took 8 years. To be fair, I started when I was 12.)
- I got into graduate school; all three I applied to, actually. (See note 1.)
- I accepted one of the offers and in August I moved to Finland to start my Master's degree! (See note 2.)
- I started knitting again. I finished a couple lovely things and started several other lovely things which are still on the needles.
- I studied violin for a few more months before stopping (at first due to my health in the summer, and now due to money, sadly). I got to try an electric violin (both the Yamaha SV130 and the SV200) for the first time last month! (See note 3.)
- I continued studying classical music composition and orchestration and all that good stuff. I'm especially proud of my new knowledge of Roman numeral analysis; it's still elementary, but I can reliably identify and voice triads and sevenths and their inversions in common practice period works, which is the first layer of the foundation for this type of analysis.
- I made significant progress in treating my ADD and dysautonomia. (I still haven't figured out whether I'm supposed to call it ADD or ADHD, and I still don't know what kind of dysautonomia I have, although we're almost certain it's either POTS or IST. Fortunately, these details don't matter.)
This is getting its own separate section, because I was going to have "some good albums came out" as one bullet point in the above list but then it kind of got out of hand. The list is alphabetical by artist, and each album has a Spotify link after the name.
Dalriada - Forrás [x]. Acoustic versions of songs from the band's previous albums (and one cover song). This quickly became a staple of my studying playlist. Standout track: "Téli ének" is smooth like butter.
Grimner - Frost Mot Eld [x]. If everything else on this list is too plain weird for you... Frost Mot Eld is recognizable as a heavy metal album with catchy riffs. Standout track: "Mörkrets Hem" is equally well-suited to headbanging or to folk dancing.
Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika [x]. I never really liked Moonsorrow, despite everything they have in common with some of my favorite artists... until this album. I have zero reservations about calling it The One Folk Metal Album You Need To Hear this year. Standout track: the whole album is one streamlined auditory experience and I can't in good conscience recommend any one track in isolation. Go sit in the forest for 67 minutes and listen to the whole thing.
Thy Catafalque - Meta [x]. This is some kind of vaguely medieval-sounding release from a one-person metal project. Perfect for listening to while you stare out the window on a long bus ride. Standout track: "Ixion Duun" takes you on an almost meditative journey.
Utopianisti - The Third Frontier [x]. Experimental jazz (?) from right here in Tampere. This was a late contender, since I had no idea it existed until I saw it on Mathias Nygård's best of 2016 playlist last week, but it's awesome. I spent most of December trying to get into jazz but not finding any that really spoke to me, so this was a very welcome last-minute find. Standout track: "Voodoo Mammoths From Neptune" is an exciting blend of old and new sounds that sets up the rest of the album perfectly.
Witchery - In His Infernal Majesty's Service [x]. For a band with such an aggressive sound (Encyclopaedia Metallum calls them "blackened speed/thrash metal"), this release is impressively full of earworm-worthy hooks! It's a bit heavy on the guitar solos near the middle of the album, but otherwise it's a tightly mixed wall of black metal sound that evokes Watain and The Iniquity Descent, seasoned with thrash to taste. Standout track: the opener "Lavey-athan" punches you in the face in a good way.
- Arkona - Vozrozhdenie [x]. This is a re-recording of their debut album. I haven't listened to it all the way through yet, but Arkona is consistently good.
- Ensiferum - Two Decades Of Greatest Sword Hits [x]. This is a "greatest hits" album which I'm including for completeness because I adore Ensiferum. Voiton laulut soi ainiaan!
- Sabaton - The Last Stand [x]. It's exactly the same as every other Sabaton album. Fortunately, they're all pretty good.
- Skálmöld - Vögguvísur Yggdrasils [x]. Not bad, but has too many tracks that just bore me. It should've either been 10 minutes shorter or 10% more adventurous.
In late 2015 I decided that I wanted to move to Finland, so when I was looking at programs, I pretty much exclusively considered Finnish universities. When I was applying to undergraduate universities a few years ago, I did basically the same thing: decided where I wanted to live and then applied to whichever universit(y|ies) there which I thought would be likely to admit me but not so "easy" that I wouldn't learn cool things.
I've actually gotten into every university I've applied to, both for undergrad and for grad school; the only university I've been rejected from is Bryn Mawr, and that was because I didn't complete my application on time. (Of course, I have no idea whether or not they would have admitted me if I'd met the deadlines.) One of my goals for the next couple years is to have at least one Ph.D. application rejected, which probably sounds weird, but for my undergraduate and first graduate school applications I didn't apply to any "reach" schools, and in hindsight it's painfully obvious to me that I limited myself because I didn't believe in my own intelligence and my own potential.
Yes, I have a serious case of impostor syndrome and I near-compulsively downplay my own achievements. It's a seemingly inevitable part of being a woman (especially a chronically ill woman) in STEM.
I need to break the cycle of drastically understating my own competence and then getting surprised and offended when I end up in an environment where it's not easy to find the intellectual stimulation I crave.
Moving here was definitely the right choice for my mental and physical health, but I feel kind of stagnant academically now... I think I'm actually a less competent type theorist/PL theorist than I was six months ago, because I'm out of practice, but the majority of that is on me, not on my uni.
I'm going to POPL and PLMW again this year (yay!) and I'm kind of relying on that, plus the promise of a full year without severe summer heat fatigue for the first time in my life, to get me excited about computer science again.
The built-in "Hall 2" reverb on the SV130 is addictive and obviously you can't beat the price on that model but unfortunately the built-in shoulder rest doesn't work with my body. I'm not comfortable with the external control box on the SV150, so I tried the SV200, and was pleased to find that the extra weight of the onboard electronics doesn't bother me! One day... sigh.
I'm going to at least one conference and I should be 75% done with my first graduate degree at the end of the year. I'm continuing to study music and improve my Finnish, and I'll be starting a YouTube channel. Here's to lots more captivating music, healthy food, and interesting computer science papers in 2017!