My Dim Sum Spots in Seattle

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Happy Mothers’ Day from Las Vegas.  I used a personal day so I can be with my mama today.  I popped popcorn last night and my parents and I watched SNL together.  This morning I made strawberry/blueberry buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.  Mama used to tell stories of her father Tatang Maël making popcorn, making pancakes in the afternoon for snack, picking pineapple out of the yard for breakfast, and stealing chunks of Cougar Gold cheese that Tatang bought at the Commissary.

I’m grading papers and planning classes all this weekend, but I’m taking a little break to blog.  My boy BM texted me this morning for dim sum recommendations in Seattle, which… I haven’t lived in Seattle for two years! But of course I have a list.  I don’t know if these places are still there, but they are still fresh in my mind.

Dim sum for one/I’m in a hurry

  • Dim Sum King Order at the counter.  Get it to go if you want.
  • Dim Sum House Up on Beacon Ave. This is the greasy spoon for dim sum.
  • Duk Li Dim Sum Probably the best variety of the Dim Sum For One category.

Old School Dim Sum

  • Harbor City This has been the it-place for a while now; a shoebox shaped, mildly noisy, wait-for-30-min during Sunday Brunch kind of place. This is where I would take Chinese people.
  • Jade Garden This was once the it-place, maybe ten years ago. Still good, but not the same spectacular food it once was back in the day. There is often still a wait, and it’s got a lot of non-Chinese buzz.
  • Joyale Seafood This place has had two other names, but they were all good. There has been ownership drama, I think; an ugly divorce, etc. The food is good, service is good; free parking is nice, usually no wait time. This is a wedding banquet hall.  The only thing I don’t like so much about it is the lack of natural light; otherwise it’s good.
  • Honeycourt Maybe twenty years ago, this was the it-place.  Still popular among old people and Filipinos of all ages. A student messaged me recently to tell me they had renovated. When I still lived in Seattle, the buzz was that Honeycourt was a place for old people, which means absolutely nothing to me.
  • Ocean Star This is the old Sun Ya, which was a way old school place that I didn’t like. A friend of mine, the Transit Tzar, asked me to meet him there a couple years ago, and I was blown away by how good it was. Also, free parking (tight, limited) and natural light. This place is the new hotness to me.
  • New Hong Kong Way down in Rainier Beach.  Nothing to sneeze at; jammed with Chinese Americans. Parking is a piece of cake.
  • Regent Bakery and Café This place has high quality food and is on the fancy end of the dim sum spectrum. Service was a little weird the times I went there, in that the servers were not Asian and were not really acquainted with the way that Asian people eat. For example, they weren’t very quick on the draw when it came to a big pot of rice and a whole bunch of rice bowls for everybody at the table. But my complaints about this place are cultural, not food-based.
  • House of Hong Ok, look; I don’t go here anymore. It’s not that it’s bad; in fact, it’s nice inside, and it’s the place where a lot of us non-Chinese people first learned about dim sum. You will see the whole ethnic spectrum of Seattle in the dining room, and it feels good. This used to be my go-to place, until I started realizing I was seeing the same shrimp ball cooked 15 different ways, and I kept falling for it. I didn’t mind, until I started going to other places and seeing other things; then I never wanted to go back to HOH. Still, I’m thankful for all the meals there.

If I wanted to impress my Chinese friends, I’d go to Harbor City.  Left to my own devices, I’d be at Ocean Star. My sister and I often end up at Joyale because of parking.  慢吃吧。

 

 

Laser Eye Surgery, Round 2

I’m sure the entire universe remembers that I had LASIK in 2008 when I lived in Shanghai, China. It was probably a little scarier than I expected it to be, because of culture shock, but my vision improved tremendously and I no longer needed glasses. Life was good. They warned me that I shouldn’t box or go surfing, that cigarettes would dry my eyes, and that my vision would change again after age 40… “the change.”

Then around my 41st birthday “the change” happened and I was back to needing glasses for daily life. Of course the prescription was drastically milder than the coke-bottles I had needed pre-LASIK, and because of my habit of going to Asia I could get all kinds of fashion glasses just for fun.  In Shanghai I got three pairs of prescription glasses for $80 USD made while-you-wait in under 30 minutes. In Taipei in 2012 I got brand name frames with titanium and all the fancy coatings for about $200 USD; they were ready to pick up in 24 hours. The same glasses might have cost me $1200 in the US and would have taken a week or two. I liked those Taipei opticians so much I went back to them in 2014.  By the way, glasses are expensive in the US because of a monopoly, according to 60 Minutes.

Anyway, I’m 44 now, living in Southern California, which means I do yoga and Crossfit and have become a pescatarian. I asked my eye doctor about more lasers and he said SURE and set me right up.  I scheduled the zapping for Christmas break so I could recover away from teenagers.  It would have to be LASEK this time, which means longer recovery.

Here’s how it went down, as I understood it. They taped my eye open, dropped some numb drops in and then put some tiny egg rings over on my cornea. The egg-ringsdoc dropped some acid into the egg rings while an assistant counted to ten. After the ten count, the doc lifted fished out my corneas with a pokey thing; the corneas came out like plastic wrap. They washed the acid out and then there was some bright laser-ing. The doc put in some drops and then put on a clear “bandage contact lens” and then patted me on the behind and said, “get outta here, kid.” The procedure didn’t last 15 minutes.  They gave me a face shield. I went home and slept.

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Before and After

The next day they saw me again, did and eye test, and tussled my hair and told me to come back in a week.  Yesterday I went in for that week-after check in. The doc pulled out the bandage contacts and did an eye test, and then put another bandage contact just in my left eye and said it needed to heal a little longer.  My vision is much improved, and I can drive in the day time with sun glasses, but is continuing to improve every day.

How was it compared to my LASIK in China?  It was a lot more comfortable for me.  The acid drops were about a thousand times less stressful than when they “cut a flap” in my corneas in China (the process includes a cigar trimmer).  Recovery of vision is much slower with LASEK but so far so good. One good thing is that with the LASEK I don’t have that corneal flap to worry about long term… so boxing and surfing, here I come!

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JP’s Nine Tips for Asians Visiting the USA

chinese-tourists-taking-picturesWelcome Asian cousins!  We hope you enjoy your visit to the United States. I’ve put together some tips for you to help make your visit to the Beautiful Kingodom go smoothly.

  1. You can eat whatever you want. If you would like to spend your entire stay in this country eating hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches, it is absolutely possible. However, if you’re getting a stomach ache, you can also eat rice and vegetables, that’s easy. Here’s the trick; ask us, your Asian American cousins, where to eat. Chances are we can steer you clear of blistery egg rolls and fried chicken with sugary glaze on it; we live here, we’ve dealt with this problem before.  Also, don’t assume that all the Asian food is going to be bad and that all the European food is going to be good; that is a stupid assumption, for stupid people.  Stupid.  One more thing, American sweets will be a thousand times sweeter than is necessary.  Maybe you’ll like it, maybe not.  If not, you can always go to a Cantonese, Japanese, or French bakery for cakes and pastries; they will have a more manageable level of sweetness that you are accustomed to.
  2. Flush the used toilet paper down the toilet.
  3. Clear your own plate and dishes when you can. It is considered tacky (uncivilized and ill-mannered) to walk away from a table with your garbage on it. If you are invited to eat at someone’s home, offer to help clear the table.  If you are eating at a restaurant where you are served at the table (your order is taken, your food is delivered, and your bill is brought to you), there is no need to clear the dishes.
  4. Tip your restaurant servers.  Add 15% to your restaurant check if you were served at the table at all.  Add 20% if your meal included alcohol.  You may tip more if you feel your server served you in a way that was more than what was expected.  If you feel you got bad service, tip 10%.  It is horrible to not tip a restaurant server in North America.  Horrible.  HORRIBLE.
  5. Wear your damn seat belt.  I will punch you in your stupid neck if you ride in my car without your seatbelt. Then I will put you out of the car and drive away. I don’t need you.
  6. You will see some crazy stuff. Listen, in this country your friends will pour soy sauce over their rice and explain to you that rice has no flavor.  They will find a way to put cheese on noodles, cheese on vegetables, cheese on soup; then they will ask you if you’d like extra cheese.  They will stay in the shower for a long time, and when they come out, the entire bathroom will be filled with steam and it will spill out into the hallway.  There will be mysterious invisible zones where smoking is against the law, and there will be times when you are not allowed to buy alcohol.  You will see homeless people and mentally ill people.  You will see the American flag everywhere, as if every day is National Holiday.  You’ll see people at Chinese restaurants who don’t know how to order family style; in a group of five people, four of them will order chicken and one will order fried rice and all of them will be surprised when their family sized portions arrive; they won’t share.  Just laugh, and let it go.  After a while we get used to it, and frankly, when we travel to Asia we notice a bunch of messed up stuff that you probably never thought of.
  7. You will see amazing things.  You will see bank lobbies with no chairs, no take-a-number system, because people finish their banking business within MINUTES of entering.  At a restaurant, a server might refill your water glass discreetly and quickly, without you having to ask and with no one interrupting your conversation, like a ninja. You will see people at parties who are not drinking booze because they are “designated drivers;” oh yes, things you hadn’t even imagined.
  8. Take pictures.  Avoid taking pictures of other people’s children.  But apart from that, who cares. Food, buildings, selfies, cops, take whatever pictures you want.  Just do it fast, and don’t make other people wait for you. If you are taking a picture and blocking the path, people might get frustrated with you. Or they might walk in front of you and ruin your picture.  Actually, me; I will walk in front of you and ruin your picture. Do it fast.
  9. Nobody is impressed by your fancy designer brands, your constant extravagant shopping, your display of wealth. In fact, we find it vulgar. Those things impress your aunties and uncles and peers back home, but here it makes you look like garbage, and I would feel disgusted to be seen with you. We know you have to impress everyone back home, so we will help you schedule a shopping trip, but please be discreet, and don’t assume that we share your need to talk about shopping all the time.  Puke.

There are my nine tips, I hope you find them helpful. Happy travels!

Special note to visiting Filipinos: make an itinerary and communicate that with us, your cousins who love you. I know you think you’re awesome by playing it by ear every single freaking day; however, that actually stresses out your American cousins. And when I say “communicate” I mean communicate with actual words that actually leave your damn head and reach us in the form of text or sound. No, seriously; bad planning and poor communication not awesome, it’s inconsiderate, we hate it, and we may end up resenting you.  Mabuhay!

 

Still Early

Here are the things I’ve done this weekend:  

  • Help my friend C move from Baldwin Village to Boyle Heights, lunch at BCD Tofu
  • Send my credit card information to so crossfitters and tell them to help themselves to the membership dues every month. 
  • Do my laundry, clean the entire apartment, sweep.  
  • Make poke for the week with M from grad school, after a trip to the Fish King.  We made albacore, ahi, and hamachi. 
  • Organize my Von’s Monopoly game, with the help of M. 

Next weekend I’m hanging out with the gang on Dockweiler State Beach and then going to meet JG in San Diego , maybe go to Mexico, who knows.  

I haven’t been blogging lately, which feels wrong to me, as I have plenty of time and ideas to blog about.  I just don’t feel as energized to sit and write anymore like I did, which is bad because becoming an famous author is my retirement Plan A.  So I gotta work on that…

Maybe I’m too distracted by the weather here.  I’ve got doors and windows open, a breeze going, and my fridge is full of poke. I’ll go out later to buy coffee beans.  

I don’t want to say too much about Crossfit because I’m not great at it, and everytime I go I think, “I’m finally going to hate it this time.”  But I don’t.  So I’ll just say this: I think I’m not the worst at rowing.  

Langauge Learning: How to Spot a Chaos Informant

When you’re learning a language, you should know that some native speakers will feed you misinformation, and they will believe it deep down in their hearts that their misinformation is true, completely oblivious to the fact that they made that shit up on the spot.  I call these people “Chaos Informants;” take their explanations with a grain of salt. This is not a term that professional linguists use, in fact I just made the shit up on the spot.

Sometimes, they will offer you their chaos information unsolicited, but more often the chaos informants come out when I ask a question.  In fact, you can use questions to identify Chaos Informants, so you can take their explanations with a grain of salt. Here’s how.

“What is the difference between much and many?”  If you’re learning English, you can use this question to identify English speaking Chaos Candidates.

The “professional” answer to that question is countables; we use the word “many” for nouns that are in countable units (too many bananas, too many armpits, too many individual liberties).  We use much for things that are not in countable units,  (too much money, too much talking, too much sex).

I call this the “professional” answer because usually it’s only langauge professionals that can answer this question off the top of their head. This answer probably does not occur to someone who learned English as their native language.  Here’s the deal: linguistic knowledge is separate from conscious or academic knowledge. A native speaker can live a hundred years without ever mixing up “many” and “much” and never be able to supply the “professional” answer.

A “chaos answer” is any explanation that is yanked out of the ass region that doesn’t involve countability.  So if someone tries to tell you something like “always use many with objects you can fit in your pocket,” they are a Chaos Informant; grain of salt.  It’s probably not malicious; people are just trying to be helpful.  Some people just have horrible horrible intuitions about language and have a “tin ear” for what their own mouth is doing.  One British lady railed against /r/ insertion and then burst into tears when a researcher pointed out that she was totally an /r/ inserter.  She’s not stupid; it’s common for poeple’s perception of their own langauge to be different from actual acoustic reality.  I used to tell my classes that there was an [m] sound hidden in the sentence “I lived in Paris for a year;” this exercise divided the class and upset people, not kidding.

If you’re not blessed to be a language professional and you don’t want to be a Chaos Informant, here’s a good alternative for you; just say, “I don’t know.”  If that’s too humiliating for you, you can try “I’m not sure.”  It may not be the answer to the person’s question, but at least it’s the truth, and it’s more helpful than making shit up like a jackass.

Here’s a test for Spanish-speaking Chaos Informants:  “When do you use the subjunctive?”  The professional answer is that there are certain clauses and conjunctions that trigger the subjunctive; I can list them all for you if you need me to.  Native Spanish speakers who are not language professionals have no reason to know the professional answer, so don’t bother them with that. Hopefully they’ll tell you “I don’t know, I’ve never had to think about it before,” which doesn’t answer your question, but at least it’s true.  A chaos answer, one that I’ve heard before, is that you have to use the subjunctive whenever you use the word “que.”  Total chaos.

By the way, the students in my Spanish classes often felt confident about making up their own rules for Spanish, you don’t have to be a native speaker to be a Chaos Informant.  I was always stunned at their classmates willingness to believe the explanation as that still smelled like the ass they were yanked out of.  They’d say something like “you can’t have three verbs in a sentence” or “there is no umlaut in Spanish,” and then try to convince me that they were right.

For Tagalog, ask your friends, “What’s the difference between galing mo and galing ka.Both sentences mean something like “you’re sharp.” The professional answer is that “galing mo” is an abbreviated form of the exclamatory “Ang galing mo,” and the focus is on the adjective “galing.”  In the sentence galing ka, the focus is on the pronoun.  Easy.

If the person tells you that the verb “galing” means “to come,” you know that this person is a Chaos Informant; grain of salt.

Do I have one for Chinese?  I don’t remember anymore.  It might have been the difference between modal verbs 必須,必需and 需要.  I think I’m back to being a chaos informant for Chinese.

I have no memory of ever meeting a Chaos Informant of French or Italian, although there are many times where I’d hear someone make a grammatical mistake for fun, and then deny that it exists and forbid me to repeat it.  Also, I discovered last week that I’m making shit up when it comes to French.  Here’s a lamp post sign in Glendale that’s up right now:

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As you’ve probably noticed, they’ve written “Welcome” in several languages.  None of them are Filipino, so I guess Filipinos are not welcome.  Chinese is on there twice. And the French looks like a feminine singular; they’re welcoming a single French woman.  Ho ho ho. Look everyone, a French mistake!

Only my friend Armando pointed out that, “Bienvenue” is the noun, and that’s the appropriate way to write “Welcome” in this context.

So in other words, I’m a Chaos Informant for French; grain of salt.  Don’t trust my judgement!

Learn Pangasinan: Existence Sentences

To declare the existence of something in Pangasinan, we use the word wala.  To declare the non-existence of something, we use angapo.

Examples:

  • Walay andeketa pusa ed dalanan. There’s a black cat in the street.
  • Angapoy andeketa pusa ed dalanan. There’s no black cat in the street.
  • Walay priton pusit ed lamisaan. There are fried squid on the table.  
  • Angapoy priton pusit ed lamisaan. There aren’t any fried squid on the table.  

Piece of cake. You should notice that there’s a -y suffixed onto our target words.  That -y is a focus marker, it tells you when the noun in focus is coming up. In this case the nouns in focus were andaketa pusa and priton pusit.  

You may have noticed that we use the preposition ed to specify a place in Pangasinan.  In English, we have specific prepositions like on, in, at, and to… In Pangasinan we can use ed for all of those; it’s a general-purpose location preposition.

If you want a more general locations like here and there, there are a couple of options. Here are the location adverbs:

  • dia here (near the speaker)
  • ditan there (by the listener) 
  • diman there (far from speaker and listener)

Note that it’s a three-way distinction, which corresponds to 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person. It’s different than the two-way here/there system in English.

So now you can use these location words in your existence and non-existence sentences.

Examples: 

  • Angapoy andeketa pusit dia. There are no black squids here.  
  • Walay priton pusa diman.  There’s some fried cat over there.  (DISCLAIMER: Pangasinan speakers do not eat cats.  Language learning has to be surprising sometimes.)

Hooray, now you can declare existence (and non-existence) of objects and specify locations!

But wait, there’s more!  If you are really committed to the preposition ed, you can feel free to use it with diaditan, and diman; there’s no change in meaning.  One thing you should know, though, is that the forms contract.  Here are the contractions:

  • edia (ed + dia)
  • edtan (ed + ditan)
  • edman (ed + diman)

I’m told that you can switch corresponding forms out freely, that there’s not a meaningful difference between walay bastosa ugaw edman and walay bastosa ugaw diman.  

There’s one more thing. The existence verb wala loves the location adverbs so much, that it contracts with them.  Check it out.

  • wadia (wala + edia). Wadiay narasana aso ed abong.  There’s a hungry dog here at the house. 
  • wadtan (wala + edtan)  Wadtan so narasana aso ed abong. There’s a hungry dog there at the house (near you, listener). 
  • wadman (wala + edman) Wadman so narasana aso ed abong. There’s a hungry dog over there (far from both of us).  

You’ll notice that wadtan and wadman both end in consonants, so it’s impossible to add the focus suffix -y to the end of that word.  Instead, we use the other focus marker so.

As far as I know, it’s just wala that has contractions; if there are angapo contractions I’m not aware of them yet.

To summarize, there are a few ways to declare the existence of, for example, a big house over there, you’d say it like this:

  • Walay balega abong diman. 
  • Walay balega abong edman.
  • Wadman so balega abong.  

You can deny the existence of that big house over there with angapo; just remember the word angapo doesn’t want to make a contraction.

  • Angapoy balega abong diman.
  • Angapoy balega abong edman.  

That’s all for now, here’s a summary.

Existence and non-existencelocation prepositionlocation word three way

 

Interference and other Paranoia

I would like to tell the world that in the early 1990s back at the UW, I studied more than one langauge at the same time.  In fact, it was my policy; taking both French and Spanish was exactly what I wanted to do.  There was one point when I added Italian to the mix so that I could do the UW’s Rome Program.  Anyway, the point is that semester after semester, I was studying two or sometimes three different languages at the same time; often on the same day.

People used to ask me, “Don’t you mix them up?  Don’t you confuse them?  Don’t they interfere with each other?”

And my answer was, no, not really.  Then people would either look at me like I was a super genious (I’ve never been a super genious) or tell me that it was impossible, and that I must be lying somehow.

I don’t really know what their theory of language was. They must have believed that the human brain is a finite container, and that a one language filled a normal brain to capacity.  My Linguistics 120 class taught me that we haven’t really found a ceiling on the number of languages a human could learn, but maybe I was the only one who got that memo.  In other words, if there is a limit on the number of languages a human brain can hold, science hasn’t found it yet.

For me, speaking a language is just a habit, and we conjugate verbs by habit, the same way a basketball player has a habit to dribble a ball.  Is there a limit to a number of sports someone can learn to play?  If someone is a tennis player, does the tennis knowledge interfere when that person tries to play basketball?  Are there stern warnings against learning too many sports or too many games?  Is there a danger that a football player might get confused and start dribbling the ball?

Anyway, for me, French is an entirely different game than Italian; Italian is a different game than Spanish.  So no, I don’t mix them up.  Sometimes, when I’d be teaching a Spanish class and the bell rings and five minutes later my Chinese class is in the room, yes, I absolutely called a Chinese student “Señorita” or “Señor.”  Does that count as mixing up the languages?  Because it doesn’t seem very significant.  Nobody seemed to care, not me, not my students.  I feel like in those quick-switch situations, I wasn’t “mixing them up;” it just had a different langauge handy at that very second.  I mean, so what if I call an English speaking lady “Señora,” or say “Hola” to a Chinese person?  Everybody survives.  Literally everybody survives.

I remember one time when got a paper back in Spanish class back in college.  I had written, “he oído hablar que…” or something and the prof marked it wrong and wrote “Interference from French.”  And I thought, this prof is a dick.  We were in a Spanish class because we were learning how to speak Spanish; if I used a French structure it was because I DIDN’T KNOW THE SPANISH STRUCTURE.  It was a strategy.  But he called it “interference” as if my French habit was damaging my Spanish.  Honestly, literature professors are not qualified to diagnose stages of language learning.  I still think poorly of that prof (although I learned a crapload about Latin American short story in that class).

People love the theory of language interference, they love it like a dog loves a bone.  Whenever I take a new language class, it doesn’t matter if it’s Spanish or Korean or German, there is always some precious snowflake who answers the instructor in French, and the breaks into English and explains that they took 6 years of French and French is just on their mind, and guh, it’s so hard to speak Chinese now because French is crippling them. Later I speak to them in French and find out that they don’t actually speak French; their Chinese is being blocked by a langauge THEY DON’T EVEN SPEAK.

I don’t believe in interference.  I don’t believe that knowledge of one langauge is ever a detriment to learning another.  I don’t think that langauge learning is ever bad.

When people ask me how many languages they can take at once, I tell them, “as many as you believe you can handle.”  If they believe they can handle only one at a time, then they’re probably right, but it’s their personal limitation, not a biological one.

And when people tell me about getting “confused” with too many languages, I always wonder, do they know someone who is so “confused” with many languages that they are disadvantaged in life?  Are there YouTube videos of genuinely language-confused people whose lives are ruined by too many languages?  Have you heard of a single person?  Sure, they say, this person speaks English with a horrible accent, they say, but in that case, it’s not someone that’s genuinely “confused.”  It’s usually the case that they’re not good at English.  Anyway the point is “confused with too many languages” is NOT A REAL AFFLICTION.

Finally, there are people who create monolingual policies for their children, because they don’t want their kids to be “confused.”  Folks, little kids learn language like a superpower.  Confining a kid to one language because you are afraid of confusion is like forbidding Superman to fly because you’re afraid he might fall.  It’s adults that tend to suck at language learning; it is a shame that they project that onto their kids.  Also, you might want to remind those parents who fear multilingualism that they haven’t read a single book, article, blog, tweet, nutrition label, or fortune cookie about raising multilingual kids before they sentenced their child to monolingualism.