So I licked all the soaps in my house

I made four batches of soap this weekend, and learned a lot. I made a travel sized grapefruit shampoo; it didn’t reach gel stage and when it I cut it, it looked like white cheddar cheese, specifically Beecher’s. I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, and it turned danger pink! So I put that on the shelf to mellow for 6 weeks. What a bummer.

My second soap was a shave soap. These ones did reach gel stage, and I got a picture of it. The secret was wrapping the mold in towels and stuffing it in a beer cooler. When I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, it turned pink again. Dang it! Another soap in soap jail.

I tried making a second batch of the shampoo soap, and this time I made a rookie mistake; I didn’t stir the lye water enough, because I was afraid of it. When I dumped the lye water into the oil, I discovered a precipitate; a lye puck at the bottom of the container. It was stuck there. Shrug. So I just kept going, knowing that this batch would be oily and have a short shelf life. It turned out soft and translucent, but passed the phenolphthalein solution test.

Finally I made a 40 oz loaf of coffee/cocoa butter soap. It was perfect, a perfect soaping experience, and all my soap is going into the beer cooler from now on; it gelled up beautifully. And when I tested it with phenolphthalein solution, I got danger pink again.

Listen, most people make soap from recipes and then have to let them mellow in soap jail for 4 to 6 weeks. I am trying to go a different road; I have Certified Laboratory Reports of all my oils and I do the chemistry to make sure the water is adequate to saponify my oils by the next day. My soap coach said that it should be safe to use immediately. So I was disappointed that the soaps I did without mistakes were turning danger pink.

Then I thought, wait a minute, phenolphthalein solution tests for alkalinity, and all soaps should be alkaline, right? That’s why it removes grease from your skin. I must be reading the “danger pink” wrong. So then I tested all the soaps in the house with phenolphthalein solution, and guess what… none of the commercial soaps contained any alkalinity. But all of the homemade soaps I tested, including the one from my soap coach, turned pink under the phenolphthalein! I must be reading the results wrong. I googled to see if I can get a better idea of the spectrum, maybe danger pink was not really danger.

What I found was that people don’t really test with phenolphthalein solution anymore, apparently it’s hard to read and some people say it’s wholly unreliable. I mean, finding un-saponified lye crystals is alarming, but just because the surface of the soap gives a pink reading doesn’t mean that the soap is dangerously alkaline. So I resorted to something I had hoped to avoid: I did the old fashioned test, the test that soap makers without the benefit of chemistry have been doing for centuries; I licked the soap to see if the lye would zap me.

The first soap I licked was my original shampoo bar. It didn’t taste bad; it tasted like all the oils and fats I used and a little bit soapy. Most importantly, the lye didn’t zap me. That soap is safe to use today.

So then I went around the house and licked all the soap. Soap soap soap, lick lick lick. It’s all safe.

I used the shave soap to shave my face yesterday. It was fine, it didn’t burn me. This morning I used the grapefruit shampoo bar, it was fine, I didn’t get burned or lose my eyesight. I’m going to try the cocoa butter coffee soap in the shower tomorrow. It all seems safe.

Yes I will keep trying to figure out how to use phenolphthalein solution properly, I need to get to the bottom of that. But the good news is that all my soaps pass the old fashioned zap test. I can lick them all. I’m a soap licker.

Of course, yuck. But it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

I Make Soap Now

I am trying to de-industrialize my life; stop relying so much on big corporations.  I’m also trying to stop using disposable plastics where I can, and to stop washing so many chemicals down the drain to pollute the water supply.

So I decided to make my own soap. I took a soap making class at the Soapmaking Studio in Lemon Grove, CA. The class was at capacity with a dozen people. I was the only dude, and the only one there for hippy moonbeam reasons; I think the rest of the class was there to learn a craft and maybe start a home business.

I’m glad I took the class. I showed up with a bunch of constraints in my head; no industrial detergents, colors, or scents; no palm oil. Keep it natural; I was probably the hardline extremist compared to some of my classmates, who want to make pretty, fragrant, and therapeutic products. I just want to wash my greasy hair.

We learned the chemistry of formulating recipes based on certified laboratory analysis, which gives us safe soap right away. People who don’t do the chemistry, and just use recipes and procedures that are passed down to them or found on the internet, they run the risk of dangerous soaps, that might burn skin and eyes and cause permanent damage, even blindness. To compensate for these wonky recipes, homegrown soap makers have to let their soaps cure for weeks or months in order for stray sodium hydroxide to neutralize itself. My class taught me that with the proper chemistry and certified laboratory analyses, we can make soaps that are safe to use the next day.  Isn’t that nicer?

The shampoo bar I had been using finally ran out this morning, so it seems that my first soap must necessarily be a shampoo bar.  Soapmakers are a little bit secretive about their secret recipes, so it’s hard for me to tell what to look for in a shampoo bar. It might the case that I make a crappy shampoo bar but a good bath bar. We’ll see how it goes.

I used coconut oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil pomace, argan oil, and grapefruit essential oils, and no colors.  The only preservative I used was rosemary oleoresin extract.  It’s a test batch, so I made it in the 10 oz mold that makes travel sized bars.

Small test batches are kind of a pain to measure out, probably due to my kitchen scale. I melted the cocoanut butter in the polypropylene pitcher using a water bath. The mix came to a thick pudding stage rather quickly; only two rounds of whizzing with the stick blender.  It’s now wrapped in towels and baking itself on the counter. I’ll publish updates as events occur.

In the days to come, I hope to formulate the following soaps:

  • A grapefruit shampoo bar (the one I made tonight)
  • A shave soap with kaolin clay
  • A bath soap made with coffee
  • A face soap made with activated charcoal

Update:

I unmolded my soap after 12 or so hours, and cut it up.  It looks like my favorite cheddar cheese.  It’s still a little high on the phenolphthalein test so I will wait a while before trying it on my head.

Things I have to blog about

Oh my goodness, blogging is so old fashioned but I miss it.  I find myself writing long-form Facebook updates and Twitter threads, and thinking, wow back in the old days I might have blogged this.

Here are things that I’ve been thinking about but I might never get around to writing:

  • How to write a useful sample sentence for vocabulary learning.
  • Decolonizing & De-industrializing:
    • My diet: fresh/local food, plastics
    • My kitchen: pots & pans, knives, cutting boards, plastics
    • My bathroom: soap making! I’m making my own soap!
    • My language:  A Spanish teacher who never says “Hispanic.”
    • Other random policies.

There are other things going on in in my life, things that I might have blogged about ten years ago.  Like my movie-star ASL teacher saying that we have ESP, or me yelling at a UPS customer service rep to just fix the problem rather than sending me in circles.  There’s the political situation–I think this country is in decline and the republic is falling apart–but I have little to add to that discussion.

I might do another post about what my ideal life looks like now; it’s been a while since I’ve done one of those.

Goofing off is so satisfying; I suppose having my act together would be satisfying as well.  We’ll never know.

Recipe: Steamed Fish

Buy a fresh white fish that will fit whole in your steamer rig. Tell your fish guy to clean the fish but leave the head on.

Prep: Julienne some ginger and the whites of some green onions. Wash and trim some cilantro. The leafy green section of the green onion, you can give them a simple chop at several inches long. Peel a large garlic clove and slice it paper thin. Optional: make paper thin slices of chile serrano or Thai chiles.

Rinse and pat your fish dry, outside and in. Slice some vents into the side of the fish, down to the bone, but don’t slice the bone! Season with salt and black pepper, outside and in. Stuff cavity of the fish with ginger and lengths of green onion.

Cook: Steam your fish gently for 15 to 20 minutes.

While that’s happening, bloom some black pepper in a hot sauce pan.  Add soy sauce and seafood stock. Reduce the liquid to thicken a little, and pour into a small bowl or large ramekin.

Set the table.

The fish is done when the center is 145°F. It should be juicy and come easily off the bone. Move the whole fish to your serving plate and garnish with raw julienne of ginger, slices of garlic and chiles, and then finally the whites of green onion and the tender parts of the cilantro. Give the whole thing one last blessing of fresh cracked black pepper.

Call everybody to the table. Heat a quarter cup of oil in clean saucepan.

When everyone is seated, bring the fish to the dining table and carefully pour the hot oil over the garnish, making sure to hit the garlic slices. Stuff should sizzle and pop but not splash or jump; slow your roll if people start getting oil burns.

Finally, dress the fish with the soy sauce mixture.

Recipe: Basic Pansit

I spell it with an /s/. What’s the point of spelling it with a /c/?

Prep: Julienne some carrots and celery. What else do you want, bamboo strips? Green beans? Bell peppers? Now’s your chance. Sweet corn slice off the cob is nice.

Shred some cabbage. Crush and peel some garlic, chop your onions the way you want them. Slice a lime into squeezy slices, and prep cilantro and green onions or chives to garnish. Chop up some Thai chiles; one for garnish, one for your sofrito.

Liquid: Bring your stock to a boil in a small stock pot. A liter or two would work. I used powdered seafood stock and a bunch of mushroom powder, but a good veggie stock or some bonito flake broth or whatever. Make a couple liters of it, you can use the extra in other recipes. Once it’s at a boil, you can turn it off or keep it at a simmer. It doesn’t have to cook, it just needs to be hot.

Stir-fry: Put your wok over a high flame and bloom a lot of cracked black pepper; a lot. Stir-fry the veggies; start with the hard veggies first (carrots), then add the softer ones. I want to see some searing on the carrots. You can leave out the shredded cabbage for later. Remove the stir-fry mix and set aside. If you want a meaty and/or seafoody pansit, stir-fry it now and set it aside. Put a sear on your meat so people don’t think you boiled it.

Sofrito: Turn the flame down to medium; bloom some more black pepper. Then add oil and crushed garlic, one Thai chili, and some anchovy fillets. Add onions and stir-fry until soft. At this point if you want, you can add pepper paste or whatever secret pastey ingredient you want. This is a good time for patis.

At this point, bring your liquid back up to the boil.

Noodle time: The sofrito is at the bottom of your wok. Add DRY bihon (rice stick noodles) and dry sotanghon (bean thread noodles). By the way, stop saying ‘vermicelli;’ it’s weird for you to speak Italian in this recipe. Also, I speak Italian, and when you say “vermicelli’ I hear “little worms;” not classy. If you’re speaking English, “noodles” is an appropriate word. If you’re speaking a Philippine language, we can say “pansit.”  Or “pancit” with a /c/, whatever, ma l’italiano, dai, loro non hanno nulla da fare qua, eo.

Anyway, add dry noodles on top  of your sofrito. Turn the flame up to all-the-way high. Pour the boiling liquid over the noodles, until the noodles are covered with liquid. It’s a scary amount of liquid. Drop in the cabbage and start tossing everything together with tongs.

You will notice that the noodles soften quickly and start drinking up the liquid. Your job is to keep tossing them, mixing them with tongs. Don’t stop. Lower the flame to medium-low. If you are a fan of the strong soy sauce taste, add it now, straight into the noodles, and keep tossing it.

When the liquid is gone, toss in the veggie and meaty stir-fry. Turn the heat off and keep mixing the ingredients in, tossing with tongs. If you want, you can toss in a little sesame oil at this point.

Garnish with green onions, cilantro, maybe toasted garlic or shallots.  Offer the following as condiments; soy sauce, patis, sliced chiles, lime squeezes, black pepper, sambal ulek (or whatever hot sauce you want).

This is my recipe, and I’m the only one who makes it this way, and I might never repeat it. Every pansit is different, and I’m sure a bunch of Filipinos will look at my recipe and call it wrong.

Whatever; here’s what you have to know. The stir-fried ingredients should have a sear on it, and shouldn’t look steamed or boiled. The noodles should soak up flavored liquid, not plain water. I want that base flavor to have all the chiles and aromatics; it shouldn’t taste like a can of low-sodium chicken broth. The top flavors in the noodles should be black pepper, and lime with the smell of soy sauce.

Eat it hot! It’s better that way.

 

 

 

Linguistic Autobiography, 2nd Update 2018

It’s been 12 years since my Linguistic Autobiography post, and 9 years since my first update.  I could probably stand to re-write the whole post. Maybe someday.  Here’s the current state of the languages I speak.

English: Native speaker/native fluency.

Spanish. I speak it every day at work, and out in the community. There are plenty of people in my life with whom I have code-switching English/Spanish relationships, and quite a few Spanish-only relationships. I still make language mistakes in Spanish, but I make mistakes in English, too; who cares. There’s still plenty I don’t know about Spanish, and I still learn something new about expressing myself every time I talk to one of my friends. I want to stress that; literally every time I talk to someone in a non-routine conversation, I learn something new; whether by intuition or by explicitly asking, “what does that word/expression mean?” At this point, learning things in Spanish feels effortless, as effortless as learning new slang or expressions in English.  But the point is, yes, I’m still learning.

French and Italian. Each of these two languages were my dominant second language at some point in my life, even though I got much further in my French studies than I did in Italian. There are a few people I can talk to in French, but not many, and not every day.  As for Italian, there’s really no one that I speak to anymore. I miss it. In the future, I’d like to spend a summer in Italy, and another summer somewhere in the Francophonie–maybe Martinique, Guadaloupe, or Québec–just to get those two languages back. I feel like I need two weeks of immersion in either of those languages to get back to speaking them transparently.

Mandarin Chinese. Rusty! I haven’t gotten to the point in my Chinese where I could speak as well as those European languages; I can speak less Chinese, but the little I do speak, I speak really well. I need another summer in Taiwan to get that ball rolling again. Going for two years without daily practice was not great for my fluency.

American Sign Language: This the new hotness on my list. I had a Deaf friend back in 1991 teaching me signs, and I took extension courses in ASL here and there, but I didn’t have the opportunity to really learn it until this summer.  I took a summer intensive at the local community college, and as a resident of the state of California the credits were cheap! $49 per credit! I aced the class and am going to all the Deaf events I catch word of: Deaf Meetup! Deaf Pizza! Deaf Bowling!  I want to be a signer and have Deaf people in my life! I would say my level at this point is Novice High, and climbing rapidly.

I’ve talked before about a two-week headache, not actual pain, but a dull soreness that tells me my brain is re-wiring itself for new language.  I did not feel this headache the same way with ASL; it only lasted for a few days.  I also found myself with no desire to speak English.  After three and a half hours of class, my friends and I seemed reluctant to switch to speaking; I found myself with zero desire to speak again. When I did, speaking English seemed noisy and chaotic, exactly how I felt at the end of my Chinese language pledge back in 2007.

Tagalog, Pangasinan, and Ilocano. These are my heritage languages, and I have made an effort to learn each of them. Tagalog, I think I got up to Intermediate Low, but I’ve lost interest in it for various reasons. I’ll regret it someday soon, I know, but nowadays when I look at Tagalog, all I can think about is Pangasinan.  I’m still all about Pangasinan, but I’m at Novice Mid and holding. I will practice more with my parents. Ilocano is still at Novice Low, and hope to spend a summer in Ilocandia someday.

Here are some other languages I’ve studied in my life; I’m at Novice-Mid, or Novice-Low in all of them at this point. Latin, German, Korean: I took classes in these languages, but I don’t retain much. I’d love to have the chance to study all of them. Hawaiian, Hindi; I’ve done some self-study but haven’t gotten very far. I get a crush on ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi every time I go to Hawaii, and Hindi speakers are everywhere and I want to eat all of their veggies. 

Other languages that I haven’t studied but seem like fun:  Bahasa Indonesia, Kiswahili, Modern Standard Arabic, Guaraní, Portuguese, Catalan, Maltese. Xhosa seems cool doesn’t it? Japanese 100%!

The list is probably too long, but it would be cool. We’ll see; poco a poco.

Americans Eat Monkey Brains!

chilled-monkey-brain_1xWhen I was growing up on Tumwater Hill, a neighbor kid SWORE to me that his grandfather or his uncle or something was stationed in the Philippines and everybody was eating monkey brains. I can’t remember if that kid held me responsible for this or not, but I asked my mama later if Filipinos ate monkey brains, and she was pissed.

Nowadays, I realize that white superiority has to be inflated with imagined exotic fears. They make stuff up, or exaggerate something… it doesn’t matter; once they repeat it they believe it. Maybe it’s based on something true. I’m sure the Emperor of China or somebody was once served some crazy extravagant delicacy; maybe it’s delicious; I don’t know. I’m sure some people somewhere has eaten a monkey brain, but McMonkey Brain operations seem to be an urban legend

But let’s think for a second… What economy do you imagine where some Filipinos eat monkey brains, and no other part of the monkey? The ocean is full of fish, the town is full of chickens and pigs, the fields are full of rice, . . . but for some reason we gotta hunt monkeys, eat only their brains, and serve them to American GIs? Why aren’t there stories of monkey adobo? Monkey chicharrón? Monkey organ stew?  Where does the rest of that monkey go?  

Somebody’s going to read this post, and find an image of Lea Salonga wearing a Philippine flag t-shirt excitedly putting a grapefruit spoon into a screaming monkey’s exposed cortex. It doesn’t matter that I, a Filipino person, tell you that it’s not part of our culture. Someone’s going to find a video of Manny Pacquiao, that bigot, opening a monkey brain restaurant in Quiapo. I’m sure there’s video. And for racist people it will be enough proof that Filipinos eat monkey brains. Similarly, if someone mentions Jeffery Dahmer in conversation, YOU KNOW that someone in the back of the room has leaned in to their neighbor and whispered, “Jeffery Dahmer, that’s some white people.”

Listen, I can’t negate the possibility that there’s never in history of time has there been a T.G.I.Monkey’s somewhere in the Philippine Islands.  I can only say that it’s not part of our culture; it sounds much more like the imagination of racist Americans.  

But let me just say, that there is exactly on scenario where I can imagine a Filipino serving monkey brains to an American: if Americans ask for it something, Filipinos will find a way to serve it to you. They want monkey brains?! Fine, whatever, put it on the menu. Send your nephew and his friends into the forest to hunt for monkeys tomorrow; Americans eat monkey brains.

Language Learning: They Talk Too Fast

giphySo I’ve been a teacher for 23 years at this point, and a casual multilingual for a similar amount of time. I’ve been thinking about the following topic since the 90s, but have been afraid to try to explain it, since monolinguals are often such babies.

Second language learners and monolinguals often accuse people speaking other languages of talking too fast.  “Slow down! Please! You talk too fast!” How inconsiderate of you, to not speak at a pace that I dictate. You people (of a different culture) have a problem, and my needs, as the outsider, must be placed at the center of this exchange.

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Listen, these cross-linguistic studies about words per minute, and syllables per minute were done years ago. There’s a ton of them but I’ll just link to publications with the most authoritative sounding title; so here’s Scientific American and Psychology Today.  Both articles explain that all over the world, different languages exchange information at about the same rate; nobody is actually giving information faster or slower than anyone else. Spanish and Japanese might have slightly more syllables per minute, and Mandarin and German might have fewer syllables per minute, but if you look at Mandarin and German syllables they are denser with information; in the end, no one culture is exchanging information faster than the other.

Yes, there are exceptions; excited teenagers, coke heads, etc. But the remarks I hear are rarely about a coke head; instead they are about entire cultures. I’ve heard: Spanish speakers talk too fast! French people talk too fast! Chinese people TALK TOO FAST (um, Scientific American just said they have the fewest syllables per minute…).

My students regularly tell me I’m talking too fast. I’m not. I’m talking normal speed.  When I show a video, they throw themselves on the floor and say OMG WHY ARE THEY TALKING SO FAST. I can hear with my own freaking ears that they’re not talking fast at all.

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Get up off the floor.  They are not talking too fast.  You don’t understand anything due to the fact that you have THROWN YOURSELF ON THE FLOOR. You stopped listening. You. You did that. You stopped listening, and now you’re complaining about them.

Here’s what’s happening:

  1. giphy1They’re not talking fast; you are understanding slow. You are at a stage where you cannot process normal speed human communication. That’s normal, it’s not your fault. But it is YOUR problem to deal with, not theirs; stop accusing them of being abnormal. They are treating you they way they treat everyone else.  You want them to baby talk you? The least you can do is ask politely.  Could you please baby talk me? Can you please stop treating me like the adult you think I am, and instead infantilize me?  Go ahead and use all your baby stereotypes, I love that.
  2. They’re not talking fast; they are talking in paragraphs. It feels fast to you, because you’re slow to process, but you’ll notice that even when they baby talk you in paragraphs, you still get lost.

But I need it, you say, I need slow speech! That would be a great argument… Actually, no;  it’s not, restating that you need something is a terrible argument.  When you actually get people to slow talk you, one of two things happens:  a) they baby talk you and it’s condescending and they stop taking your seriously as a person, or b) they slow motion talk to you, which DOESN’T HELP YOU UNDERSTAND.  If you don’t speak Chinese, no amount of slow Chinese is going to help you understand.  If you don’t know the words, hearing them at half speed doesn’t help you; no amount of slowing or shouting or repeating the same word at them excitedly is going to connect the dots in your brain.

So just go home and give up.

Or you can try to negotiate for meaning.

  • Interrupt politely and ask a question, hear the answer and repeat it.
  • Interrupt and try to repeat what they said; check for confirmation.
  • Interrupt and try to paraphrase them, check for confirmation.
  • Interrupt and request clarification, “what was that word?” Hear it and repeat it.
  • Interrupt and ask them to repeat what they said. Hear it and repeat it.

These are all communication strategies that forgo you accusing them of being abnormal that don’t require slow motion or condescending baby talk.  You’ll notice that they are all appropriate strategies in a regular conversation in your native language. People talk to you in paragraphs all the time in your native language; you already have the strategies to disrupt the stream of information a little so that you can manage it.

What if you’re in a conversation where interrupting would be impolite?  Oooh that’s a tough one. Let me suggest this; if you’re in a situation so formal that interrupting would be rude, then accusing that person of talking too fast is also rude. Maybe be a different kind of rude. Or maybe stick to familiar register social interactions for the time being; stick with allies who know you better and are familiar with how you fast you process information, and can comfortably adjust for your level. Maybe just smile and survive it, and keep your coke-head accusations to yourself.

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Pronoun posters in Spanish

Poster Complementos directosPoster Complementos indirectosPoster Complementos reflexivos y recírpocosPoster Los pronombres sujetos

Here are my pronoun posters. I leave them up on the wall all year, even when there’s a pronoun quiz.  Here are the reasons I use these.

  1. Because of the way I interact with these posters, the students get the idea that there are distinct sets of pronouns, that they’re not all just random mix-and-match like buttons in a box.  So when someone pulls out an *Él se gusta frijoles or *Yo doy tú una flor I don’t have to clear the board and launch into a huge pronoun tangent which they will ignore; I can just write their sentence on the board, circle the wrong pronoun, and walk to the four posters and ask which role (perpetrador, víctima, beneficiario, etc.)
  2. My students couldn’t identify a complemento directo to save their lives; they don’t ever bother to learn what it is even when I teach it explicitly.  Forget it!  They know what a victim is; so if I give them a sample sentence like “Juan se comió toda una pizza,” they can identify that pizza is the victim of eating, the pizza got eaten.  That’s good enough. Plenty of people speak Spanish without ever thinking about complementos directos e indirectos; if I can get them to know them implicitly I can skip teaching them explicitly.
  3. The color coding helps students remember; a trick I learned from teaching Prof. Dummit’s tone colors in Chinese.  Red is the color for victim, as it’s the color of blood.  Green is the color of money, and the beneficiary gets the money.  They can remember that /g/ for green corresponds with /g/ for gustar.  Mirror gray symbolizes the color of a mirror, which symbolizes reflexives/reciprocals.
  4. Won’t students just look at the wall instead of learning their damn pronouns?  That’s the fear of keeping content on the walls, right?  Well, I’m currently working in a culture where:
    • students would rather guess wrong than make an effort to be right; I think they’re used to their teachers just giving them the right answer so it’s more efficient for them to guess wrong and await correction, than actually learn the content.  I know it’s bleak; it’s the culture of where I’m teaching.
    • my students literally do not believe in the whole process of using a reference to find the right answer.  I’m TEACHING them this skill.  They need this skill in college: keep using reference until the information is internalized.
  5. I can always just pull the poster off the wall during an exam. I’ve found it unnecessary, however, since my exams are not usually about pronouns.

Please let the record show that I am HORRIFIED by my students’ habit of just guessing wrong.  It’s bad. When they guess right, they’re so surprised by it that it becomes a nervous distraction. It’s BAD.

Anyway, that’s why the pronouns are on my wall.  If you’d like to use my posters, find them here and print them out yourself!  The only thing I ask is that you send me a picture of them on your wall, and you let me know how it’s going. If these don’t work for you, I’d love to hear suggestions.

If you’re looking for interrogatives and immediate needs posters in Spanish and Chinese, find them on this post.

JP’s Asian SoCal Adventure Packages

Good morning from Koreatown, LA. If you ever wonder why I disappear for the weekend and return with a spring in my step and no grading done, here’s a list of the places I go. Notice that all of these adventure packages include a trip to an Asian supermarket, a Daiso, and some other kind of adventure, such as a trip to the beach. All of the adventure packages require a two-hour drive, except for the Rancho Run, which is only an hour. They are all designed to be a day trip; leave in the morning after breakfast in the desert, and then return before sundown.

1) The Koreatown Haircut: Central Los Ángeles. This package happens once every month or two, and features me getting a haircut in Koreatown, because Kelly makes me look like a movie star… or feel like one, at least. Features include: Koreatown H-Mart and/or Little Tokyo Market place, Daiso, Café Vita, BCD Tofu. Optional excursions include anywhere in LA; Little Ethiopia on Fairfax, Original Farmers Market. Any of the West LA beaches; Redondo is a favorite because of the food. DTLA (LACMA, Cathedral) Chinatown, East LA, whatever. This trip must occur on a Saturday because Fridays and Sundays are Kelly’s day off.  It is possible to do this on a Sunday, without a haircut, and see more of LA.

2) The Tea Run: San Gabriel Valley Tour, a Chinese Adventure. Destinations include 99 Ranch, Daiso, Wing Hop Fung (Chinese tea supermarket), H.O.T. Spicy Kitchen.

3) Kearny Mesa Tour. Destinations include Marukai Market, Daiso, Mitsuwa Market. Optional excursions include anywhere in San Diego (Old Town, Gaslamp, Pacific Beach). Scenic trip through the mountains.

4) TheRancho Run: Rancho Cucamonga. This is a shortest round trip from where I live now in the desert. Destinations include 99 Ranch, Daiso. Optional excursions include Seafood City, Zait Bistro.

5) Orange County: Anaheim to the Beach, a Vietnamese Adventure. Destinations include: Daiso, H-Mart, 99 Ranch, beach (either Newport or Huntington), bánh mì or pho somewhere. Optional excursions: Disneyland, Angels Stadium, Westminster. Shout out to JC who joined me on the original discovery.

6) North County Beaches. Any and all of the beaches between Laguna Beach and Del Mar. Island Market (Temecula), Daiso, Kyoto’s Japanese Market, Lita’s Fish Market (Oceanside).

7) West LA (A Japanese Adventure) (still under development). Marukai Market, Daiso, Boulevard Music, Joxer Daly’s. Any beach from the Palisades to Redondo Beach.

8) A Filipino Adventure (still under development). Eagle Rock? Carson? Not sure how to do this yet, but it will include a Seafood City, a Daiso, and some kind of grilled fish and vegetables.

I know how to get bagels, Ethiopian food, mariscos, izakaya, South Indian food, hipster tacos, “Mediterranean food” (mostly Armenians). I have excursions planned to Little Central America.

I don’t much now how to eat Peruvian, Brazilian, Eastern Europe, or Central Asian food; maybe if I ever go back to being a meat eater I will put those cuisines on my list.

As far as adventures farther afield, I’d like to do a Santa Barbara to Big Sur adventure. I’ve also been contemplating a drive to the former Japanese Internment camps, or a UFW pilgrimage.

México trips are less Asian but always fun, and usually equally as food-oriented. They tend to be overnight and include the hours it takes to cross back into the United States of América. I’ve done Tijuana Beaches and Tecate; looking forward to discovering Mexicali someday. Mexicali will be an Asian adventure as well, as the city has had a sizable Chinese population ever since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

For the record, I’m open to other SoCal adventures that don’t revolve around Asian groceries or Daiso, but for the record I’m not a fan of hiking.