Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we remembered my grandparents at Rose Hills. It's been an annual tradition for us. I used some bathroom cleaner that worked pretty well to remove some of the white calcium buildup on the gravestones, and I finished it off to a mirror shine with some Windex.

Hikaru is the "fourth-generation" descendant (Yonsei), since my grandparents arrived in the United States from Japan in 1920. To contemplate a history of family lives and past events is something to wonder about. There's so many "what ifs"!

What if my grandfather never worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in Clovis, New Mexico? What if the Japanese American Interment never happened? What if my dad never returned from his service in the US Army during the Korean War? What if I didn't grow up in Cleveland, or move to LA? If a single life event in our family histories happened differently, would we be the same people, or even be present to see this written?

Hikaru has no memory of his great-grandparents, of course, but I hope he'll know of his roots in the family tree. The history of our ancestor's lives can give a certain humbling perspective to the actual control we can exert to the dynamic flow of events and life decisions. But one thing for certain, though, is that our family stories and our memories is what remains to be "passed on" before we pass away.

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The Puzzle

Things aren't always as "easy" as they look, especially if you're still a 20-month old baby. In this video, Hikaru works out a puzzle. To view the video click please click on the image below.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hikaru in Chinatownland

Chinatownland is as fun as Disneyland to 20-month old Hikaru. In this video, Hikaru has dim sum, and explores the touristy side of Chinatown, Los Angeles. To view the video, please click on the image below.

This video was edited on a 350 MHz Macintosh G3 with iMovie.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Survival Stories

Occasionally, there's a story in the news that redefines human survival. Mitsutaka Uchikoshi was walking down Japan's Rokko Mountain when he fell, broke his hip, and became unconscious. He was later discovered by a climber after spending 24 days without food or water. His body temperature dropped to 71 degrees F, and his pulse was barely discernible. When his rescuers brought him to the hospital, he woke up, and eventually made a full recovery.

Pretty amazing.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wolfberry Seedling

Wolfberry is a traditional Chinese (and Japanese) medicine that's supposed to enhance the immune system, improve the liver, and improve eyesight. It's usually found as a dried red berry at the local Chinese herb stores.

I was very curious, if I could actually grow this Asian plant from its seeds. So I planted one the wolfberries in some soil. And it sprouted! (See photo below.)

I'll try to keep you updated on how well it grows.

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Summit Dreams

On Saturday morning I went for short 6 mile hike in the San Gabriel mountains with a group of community friends who call themselves the "Hiking Club". (Unfortunately, Hikaru stayed home, and didn't come along for this one.) In the photo below are two veteran members, Felix and Hiroshi.

In some ways, the club is part social, part exercise, and some might say, part crazy. Club members have hiked the local mountains in rain or shine -- like Mount Wilson and Mount Baldy (during the winter in a foot of snow).

But in the near future, there could be Mount Whitney. Some of the members are planning an ascent to the summit later this year. At 14,505 feet above sea level, Mount Whitney is the highest point in lower 48 United States.

So why climb a mountain? It's great to have a dream and the challenge to realize it to give whatever meaning we can extract from life. And of course, it's a great view from the top! For me, though, the hiking might provide a more immediate motivation to get back into better physical shape.

However, the after-hike lunch of a pastrami dip at "The Hat" (a local eatery) might not have been the best way to lower one's cholesterol level. But hiking club member Dennis claims it's the "best" pastrami sandwich in town.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Apple or Pear?

This is a typical baby mealtime conversation. Hikaru would say, "Apple!" while looking at the pear sitting on the dinner table. We say, "Not apple, pear!" After a slight pause, Hikaru says "Pear!" knowing that he was corrected. Maybe to Hikaru, everything edible, rounded in shape, and sweet in taste, is like an apple -- associated in his mind, but we give these various fruits different names.

Training for categorical thinking starts early, I guess, and there's no escape from it in our use of language. Language is quite useful for human communication and thinking. But adults (like us) find it convenient to file away thoughts neatly in containers, even when they don't really fit well. And then we look for other boxes, and put boxes within boxes, to refine our sorting process.

Someone once asked, "Is Hikaru Japanese, Chinese, or American?" I suppose, he could all of those if one is talking about the ethnic cultural identity boxes and the family influences being passed on to him. He's also "Los Angelino". He's a unique guy with his own 20+ months of experience too, so he's part "Hikaru-an". And we might add some African as well, if we're talking about human ancestral origins. Does it matter?

Yes, it matters we need to calculate our mental sorting process, but otherwise maybe not so in reality. I wonder how much our use of language, and the classification system of "naming things", distorts our way of understanding the fuzzy dynamic intangible realities in the world -- like people and the quantum universe.

Perhaps poetry and speaking with metaphor and simile, is more of the answer to our communication issues than a literal legal document. So the next time Hikaru says "Apple!", we'll understand more deeply that what he's really means, and we'll say "OK".

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

APA Book Festival

This past Saturday was the first Asian Pacific American book festival, and it was about time! Why? Maybe "awareness" is one good reason -- and just to point out that notable Asian American writers exist in our diverse ethnic weave of American culture and experience. Minority voices get lost, so they need places to be discovered. The festival slogan was "Celebrating Stories, Transforming Lives".

Carlos Bulosan, Mitsuye Yamada, Hisaye Yamamoto, and Wakako Yamauchi were four of the "pioneer" writers being honored. The free event was coordinated by the APA Legal Center of Southern California with the theme of this year's festival being "family". A complete list of the participants are on website located here.

I was working as a festival volunteer during the morning. It seemed like I was mostly saying "hi" to many community folks who I haven't seen in a while. It was nice, and I met some new people too.

Mommy and Hikaru joined me later for some poetry readings by Victoria Chang, Sung Yi, and Amy Uyematsu. And to our big surprise, (baby) Hikaru was quite focused in listening to the poetry, including some spoken words from Alison De La Cruz. We couldn't believe it -- especially if you know how restless 20-month-old babies can get. Maybe they all sounded like Dr. Seuss. (Just kidding.)

Too bad I missed some of the writer's workshops and discussions, though, but oh well... I guess there's always next year. After coming home, I felt a little inspired to pick up the so-called word processor again for a postponed (book) project. I shouldn't really use Hikaru (and the lack of sleep) as an excuse not to work on my poetry either. The beauty, the images, and the thoughts are staring me in the face. I just need to exercise some sweat in connecting them with words.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Garden View

This morning, I decided to take a few photos of plants growing in our backyard. Usually, my hands are wet from watering or muddy from yanking out a few weeds, so I don't think of holding my camera. Much of so-called "beauty" is fleeting and transitory, and tomorrow things will be all different. But a camera might catch a few glimpses, and enable me to share.

In the photo below, the flower is called "Cosmos". Maybe we can see with it a little portion of the universe and its cosmic harmony. These are very "tough" flowers that require little watering or fertile soil to grow.

Our Japanese eggplants are growing pretty well (so far). I've been watering them every day. Below is a photo of a purple eggplant flower that we hope will eventually turn into something we can eat.

And this yellow flower belongs to our Japanese cucumber plant. And we're counting on a future meal from this too. Yes, our current garden philosophy is somewhat in "practical" terms, but the vegetable flowers are as pretty as the decorative kind (in my opinion).

The red hot stuff below is cayenne pepper. I've heard that peppers are a good treatment for a sore throat, but not exactly sure how one should take it in. Also, the active chemical in pepper (capsaicin) is supposed to be able to fight off cancer, provide pain relief, prevent inflammation, good for gastrointestinal problems (stomach aches), and increase metabolism.

Basil is another herb that comes in handy for cooking. Basil plants are quite fragrant, so it adds a dimension of experience being near them, as well as the white flowers attracting bees. Fresh basil is great in pasta dishes.

Below is thyme. I'm not sure if this herb is the short or long kind, but there's never enough of it during the day. We took some thyme today to cook with some chicken.

And finally, this is our lavender plant. It doesn't require much care or watering, and it seems to grow well in our climate. Apparently the oil from the lavender plant has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, but I haven't tried this myself.

Well, that's all for today... I hope to post more garden photos in the future (thyme permitting, that is).

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Food Presentation Tips

You might be wondering what's sitting on the plate in the photo, but it's a sampling of southern Chinese village cuisine. My Chinese mother-in-law made these for us. I was once snacking away on these at their home, and she thought I liked them a lot.

These little balls are made out of ground up plants and rice flour. It looks black in the photo, but it's actually a very dark green color. I'm not sure what the plants are called, but it's a common plant found in the rice fields. At the end of the season, and after the the soil is turned over, these are plants that grow back. They taste sort of like mochi with a "green" flavor.

I can get additional details (including the name), if anyone is interested. However, you probably won't find this many illustrated Chinese cookbooks.

Please keep in mind that external appearance is not always important (as in the way we should also view people), and it's really what's "inside" that counts. That's my food presentation tip for the day. As they say, "it all ends up in the same place" (and you can read that in whatever way you want).

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Wah Wah!

Wah-Wah is "water" in Hikaru's language. In this short 3-minute video, he explores some places in search of "wah-wah" and gets quite excited. By the way, this is our first online home video. Hikaru is 20 months old now, and moves so fast that still photos can't quite capture him.

Click on the image below to play the video.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Strawberry Season

It's strawberry season again in California. Our annual tradition is to get a box of freshly picked sweet juicy red strawberries. These strawberries were grown in a field in South El Monte (near our home). Hikaru has become part of the tradition as well.

He calls them "tah-baby" (strawberry). Our baby enjoys eating strawberries (very much), but we have to cut them up into smaller slices or he might swallow them whole. In the photo below, he shows off a box. Looks good, huh?

By the way, what a difference a year makes! The seasons often have the ability to provide wonderful markers for the passage of time. The photo below was taken during the strawberry season last year -- even before Hikaru was able to eat them.

By the way, it is the same baby, but a different box of strawberries.

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