About jp 吉平

john patrick | 吉平 is a former superhero from seattle | usa

Pork Adobo: I’m right. They’re wrong.

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They want sauce on their rice, they say!  The flavor comes from the sauce!  They believe this deep inside their precious little hearts.

They’re wrong.  Flavor doesn’t come from some cooking liquid.  Flavor comes from caramelization.  Cook that liquid all the way down, kids, and then brown the meat in the fat that remains.

Italian lessons: How to say “Blood Orange.”

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me: what are these called?
host brother: oranges.
me: what about these ones, they’re red.
host brother: oranges. what are they called in english?
me: oranges. but the red ones, like these, we call them “blood oranges.”
host brother: are they different?
me: they cost more.

(end scene)

(translated from the original italian).

Egg Rolls 101

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So the other day I found myself telling my students the difference between the yummy egg rolls that everyone likes, and the gross egg rolls that I hate.

Earlier this summer, the Chinese tutors were trying to organize an evening activity.  They decided to have a karaoke party in a classroom and promised that there would be egg rolls.  When I showed up to the party, I saw the egg rolls and immediately regretted coming.  One of the Chinese ladies told the other to eat an egg roll, but she sadly told her they don’t taste good.  “I like Chinese flavor egg rolls,” she said.  Duh, I thought to myself, didn’t they know they’d get the gross ones if they ordered them from take out?

No, they did not know.  The Chinese people don’t know.  The white folks for the most part don’t know.  This knowledge is native Asian American knowledge… we all know, we and our allies.  And now I share the knowledge with the vast world of my blog readership.

Click on the image above to see the presentation I made.  Or click here.   It’s really just a vocabulary presentation that I quick re-purposed for the sake of egg-roll education.

煎餅 Jianbing in the 206

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My friend Jaime in Shanghai who runs the Shanghai UnTour first alerted me about Bing of Fire in a Facebook post, and commanded me to try it out. I do as I’m told.

So a few years ago I was living in the Luwan district of Shanghai, just a couple blocks from the Xintiandi shopping center. On the way to work I’d stop for a 煎餅, which is many things to many people, but to me it was an herby omelet built into a crepe with a fried wonton surprise crunch in the middle. We all get addicted to these in Shanghai. It’s three kuai for the standard; I always got two eggs, so it was four kuai for me; thats USD 65 cents.

The whole process took about two minutes. I made a video of it, back in 2008, a video that is now horribly dated, with it’s default font, it’s belabored introduction, and factual inaccuracies. Anyway, here is that video .

So after a few tweets and one particularly sunny sick day I found my way to the Bing of Fire 煎餅 cart and ordered my usual; two eggs extra spicy. I should say that before she opened, there was a line of Chinese students ready for their bing. Jianbingera Ms. A recognized me from the old eye exercise video, and greeted me with a sunny “Hi JP!”

So my verdict? It was really good! A pretty good taste of one of the things I liked about China. Ms. A the jianbingera warned me it wouldn’t be the same as I remembered, which… of course; even in Shanghai each jianbingero makes it different. I was actually stunned by how authentic it tasted. The one twist that she had, was that she flipped the crepe egg-side-out, which made a crispier egg-sperience, rather than the creamy-interior herb omelet I remember from the non-flipped bing I used to eat.

From what I observed, her cart is really popular and sells out quickly. I’m pretty amazed at what an authentic experience it was. The one thing I wondered was if she was going to serve the bing in a plastic baggy, but of course she didn’t… Bing of Fire bing are served in environmentally friendly little paper baggies, which I find more appetizing to begin with.

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The Language Learning Jedi

I met my boy Jordan the other night for a drink, and I’m glad I did, because I keep forgetting who I am.  Jordan helps me remember.

I’m a language learning Jedi.  One of them, not the language learning Jedi, but one of them.

I wasn’t sure what ‘language learning Jedi’ meant for a long time. In fact, I coined the phrase causally in Taiwan one day, to describe my new friend Skritter Jake.  I had been toying with other metaphoric titles… language learning samurai, language learning sheriff, in the end I settled on Jedi.

Of course, the explanation is dorky.  First, the Force is the human language learning instinct; it’s all around us but most of us don’t believe in it or can’t put it to work for them (so they think.).  Second, there are people who master the Force, the Jedi, who try to spread knowledge of the Force, and the Sith, who have fallen for the Dark Side and are evil.  Third, there’s the general population, like Han Solo and Grand Moff Tarkin… people who will look a Jedi in the eye and tell them they don’t believe that the Force even exists.

I don’t want to explain this metaphor much further, I know I’ve already lost most of my readers by now.  I just want to say that Rosetta Stone is the Death Star.  And a company I used to work for is Jabba the Hutt.

Anyway, here’s an infographic for you to look at (click to embiggen):

This image is making the rounds now among the languagestudyarati.  Do you notice anything about it?  Notice anything missing?

Yes, the perfect language learner is a skinny white guy with bad shoes.  That’s not what I’m getting at… although it wouldn’t have killed them to show some different shapes, genders, and colors of people, but again; beside the point.

The problem is:  no where does it say TALK TO PEOPLE.  The perfect language learner uses the Force; i.e. the human language acquisition instinct, and that instinct is fueled by human communication.  Human communication is a non-negotiable.  I’ll admit that when I first saw this image, I was inspired… I can be that skinny white guy!  But then I saw… they really had zero mention of target language practice, as if language learning was a solitary activity.  Seriously, leaving out the whole “talk to people” aspect is negligent.

One of my friends tried to rationalize; maybe talking to people is such a no-brainer, they just ASSUMED that people know that.

Well, I’m here to tell you, that they don’t.  In fact, here’s another “perfect language learner” set of criteria, again without any mention of making target language friends, studying with your classmates, or actually *practicing* the target language.

People tell me their reasons they can’t talk to people.  They want to memorize first, they haven’t memorized enough yet.  Or they’re afraid of their mistakes and it makes them feel stupid.  Or they’re really more interested in talking ABOUT the language, rather than actually talking the language itself. Or they just don’t believe it’s important, and can’t be bothered.

My students come into my office with tears in their eyes and say, I have done EVERYTHING and I just cannot learn x-language, what should I do?

I tell them.  I tell them; study with a partner, and practice speaking.  Have you tried that?

No, they say.  No, I have not tried that.  That is just not going to happen, they say, and they storm out of my office, offended. Who does he think he is, they say, some kind of Jedi?

I don’t know why talking to people and practicing the target language is such a horrible, horrible thought to them.  Must be something big, I guess.

Anyway, Jordan is the one who reminded me to be who I am, so I owe him a debt of gratitude.  The rest of the night I’m going to study some Korean for my class tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll bring my light saber.

Broken Cookie

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I took a day off of work because I felt a tickle in my throat. I wanted to stay home and sleep it off before it turned into the wretched mucus monster that is terrorizing my coworkers nowadays. So far so good.

A day off of work does not mean a day off from coffee, so I came down to Vita to chill out a little. I got a tall americano, no room, in a diner mug. And a thick slice of blueberry loaf, which looked very minimally sugary.

The barista, who I didn’t recognize, smiled and said “Hi! Tall americano?” Whoops, I should work on recognizing people. When she went to reach for my slice of blueberry loaf with the tongs, the corner broke off. Immediately she started reaching for the next slice.

“I’ll take that slice,” I told her, cheerfully.

“Are you sure,” she asked. “It’s broken…”

“That’s the one,” I said.

“Ok,” she said. “I always check and make sure. One time I was working downtown and a lady threw her cookie back at me because it was broken in the bag.” Fresh baked cookies are not as solid as fully cooled cookies.

I think it’s ok to ask for a non broken cookie; maybe it’s a gift, maybe whole cookies are important to you, I don’t know. Could I please have an unbroken cookie? I would use those words.

I don’t think it’s ok to throw a cookie back at the person that’s serving you. Cookie wholeness is not a reasonable basis for bakery rage. I am against bakery rage.

Post Super Bowl Celebrations in Seattle

Here’s 13 seconds from Pioneer Square, 1st and Yesler, right in the intersection.

Here’s 23 seconds from 1st Avenue South and Railroad Way.  We stopped a lane of traffic, high fived people as they inched down toward Pioneer Square.  At one point a low rider rolled up and popped the hood.  There was also a dance break or two.

Finally, here’s someone else’s video of what the street party was like in Ballard:

So Ballard B tells me that this scene at Market and Leary went on for an extended period of time; people were screaming on the sidewalk, and then when the crosswalk light turned, they went into the intersection, only to cross over to the other side in time to let traffic through.  Every car honked back at them in celebration.  Ballard B also says that some body tried to start a fire with utility poll posters, but passersby called it stupid and stomped it out.

Next up:  pictures and video from tomorrow’s victory parade.

“Why Not Us?” Superbowl XLVIII

Photo by B

Photo by B

So here’s how Superbowl XLVIII went down for me in Seattle.

On Saturday I was coming back from a retreat on the Olympic Peninsula.  For the ferry ride over from Bainbridge, I spotted a sign that the vessel had been redesignated the “MV Russell Wilson.’

Sunday morning I went over to Fana’s to pick up some chicken wings for superbowl party #1.  They made me a fresh batch when I got there, so I hung out for about half an hour, chatting about the repression in North Korea and joking about the seriousness of Seahawks fans.

I spent the first half at JM’s place in the CD.  I was pretty sure we were going to win the game, and I was ready to shout victory when we got that first safety.  I love putting my palms together above my head in that safety signal; it’s gotta make the opposing team feel horrible.  Also, we had quite a laugh after Lynch’s one yard run for a touchdown in the 2nd half; JM called it a carwash.  See for yourself.

After the halftime show I went to RE’s house, where he was doing obscene cheers and making sure everybody skittled up.  At that party there were buffalo chicken sandwiches, mac and cheese soup, and salted caramel rice crispy treats.  And very tall margueritas.

I didn’t stay long after the game; I wanted to go home and plan my classes for the following day.  From my front door, I could hear cheering and car horns echoing through the valley. When I stopped for gas, I got a text from BM to pick him up and go join the celebrations downtown.

I texted him back “no way, I have to do my lesson plans for tomorrow!”  And then next thing I knew, I was on a train with BM headed downtown. We had been gifted a couple of day passes for the train by a crowd of party kids waiting by the ticket machine.

People were screaming “Seahawks” on the train and underground in the station. When we made it to the street, people were cheering and high-fiving everyone they passed.  The big crowd was at Pioneer Square at First and Yesler, and when we got there we immediately waded into the center of the crowd, right in the center of the intersection.

People filled the intersection were cheering all around us.  A few dozen guys were on top of the Pergola, and the SPD was there to close off the streets.  I turned to BM and said, “I should have brought a drum!” and then I turned around and there was a dude with a djembe under his arm.  He started leading some cheers with his drum; it was a pretty wild to be singing cheers with people in the intersection to a Middle Eastern rhythm.

We walked around watched the crowd from other spots, getting pictures of people climbing trees and stoplight posts, and random cheering and high fiving anyone and everyone.

After a while, BM said, let’s go for a walk! So we ended up on 1st Avenue South, where people were stopping cars to high five with them, dancing to some music from a boom car in a parking lot.  People were coming down the street in their cars hanging out of their windows and roofs.  The moment became perfect when some cholos in low riders came bouncing down to where we were; one guy tipped his front tire a foot off the ground, and then of course got out and popped open the hood so everyone could admire the engine.

I didn’t say out that late, and didn’t see any property damage, crowds getting out of hand, or confrontations with the SPD… violent victory riots smack of effort. News shows street celebrations in West Seattle, Ballard, Capitol Hill, the Greek System and the Ave, Westlake, Pike Place, and Pioneer Square. There’s a funny video of fans waiting on the sidewalk for the walk signal to change, and then rushing out and cheering for the Seahawks when the they get the walk sign. Found it! It was in Ballard.

School has been canceled on Wednesday so that students and faculty can attend the champion’s parade on 4th Avenue through downtown.  I’ll hop on a bus after a faculty meeting and then take a tourist day.  They’re telling people to either line the parade route OR rally at the C-Link but please not both.  I plan on being down at the rally, and eating in Chinatown.

The Two and the Four

I don’t do a lot of posts about music… I don’t do a lot of music anymore nowadays. But those of you who know me know that live music has been a pretty big part of my life.

It’s always great to play live for people, even when I’m not ready or not well rehearsed; in the moment it’s always a joy to do. The one… problem… The one problem is when the audience doesn’t know when to clap. That is a gross feeling. You’re not supposed to feel gross about your audience, but that’s what it is; when people are clapping at the wrong time, I think, “these people are gross.” It’s the same feeling you get when you watch someone put way too much salt on their food. Or when you see someone who swings their arms wrong when they walk. Or when someone calls a baby “ugly” in public.

The strong backbeat is the hallmark of American music; it’s our gift to the world. There may have been strong backbeats before America, and now certainly there are many non-Americans now which emphasize the backbeat, but it is clearly a thing: Old World musical traditions encourage clapping on the downbeats; American musical traditions emphasize the backbeat. That is, if they’re trying to sound American.

So what do you do when your audience starts clapping along to your live music in that lumbering Old World way, and you start getting that gross feeling as if someone just drank from the toilet? Well, you can try to “bring people in,” and show them where the beat is, which usually means that your hands leave your instrument for a moment. Someone once asked me why my Gospel choir director always brought people in, why we couldn’t just sing an uptempo song without clapping…. It’s just part of the song, I said, but I’m pretty sure now that she was pre-empting the bad clappers. Once people get going on the downbeat, they don’t let go, it’s like trying to take a porkchop back from the dog. So it’s safer to just pre-empt them by starting the claps on the correct beats, the backbeats, before they turn your American music into a Slavic military march.

Watch this video of Harry Connick Jr. playing on French TV. To tell the truth, I myself saw it just a second ago, and got so excited that I wrote this post; I haven’t even finished watching the whole thing.

What’s so exciting? He start playing the song; and immediately the French audience starts clapping along. There’s a look on his face that’s like, yay, you all sure did find that downbeat. The audience of course has no idea they’re “wrong,” they’re enjoying it and they what they do when they enjoy music at that tempo, they clap up the ones and threes.

After HCjr. finishes singing the head, he takes a chorus for a piano solo, and at about 0:40 seconds in he FIXES THE AUDIENCE. He adds a beat…. or does he skip a beat… I don’t remember, I was too excited, I would have to look at it again… either way, he shifts the audience to the backbeat, and suddenly the energy of the music changes; it changes from that lumbering, plodding, embarrassing dork-festival, to something that you’d want to loosen your tie and crack open a can of beer to. About a second later you can see the drummer behind the piano pumping his fists in celebration… just his fists; but it’s pretty clear to any American musician why.  From that moment on, the audience is clapping on the right beat, and I doubt they even realized that they had just been “fixed.”  Go back and look; count it out if you need to!

Now that I think about it, I’m sure that experienced musicians must do that all the time; I’m just excited to see the youtube evidence.