Category Archives: Philosophy

Visiting Hillary

Yesterday, I got a sample ballot for next Tuesday’s primary… Which is puzzling because I thought I registered as Independent.  I also received a rally call for Hillary being in Newark on Wednesday June 1st.

I’ve never gone to a political rally before–It’s on my bucket list. With the ballot in hand and the rally call, I thought I’d check that off. I also thought it’d be interesting to see her through my own eyes, in person–The potential history maker. If she does become the first woman president, I will be glad that I went to her rally in the state that potentially put her over the line to become the Democratic nominee.

The day of the rally was very sunny and pleasant in the morning–Not too hot. IMG_5052

I arrived at the location and waited in the very long line of women, blacks and Hispanics around the block. Soon I was handed a small form to fill out. The volunteer announced: “You must fill out this form, or you will be blocked from entering the building.”  I looked at the form, it’s asking for my personal information–Name, email, contact phone number, and select a choice time to volunteer…

OK, I really don’t want to fill this out–I don’t like giving out my personal information, plus I’m registered Independent… At least I thought I am. But if I say I’m an Independent, would they still let me in? I could lie on the form and say that I’m Betty, a housewife from Clifton, raising 2 kids… But I just can’t lie–I’m a terrible liar… It’s uncomfortable for me either way!

Suddenly, I remembered that I brought my ID from my part-time job. So I got the attention of another volunteer, who happened to be very nice and pleasant. I said to her:

“I don’t think I can fill this out… Because I work for a news organization.”  

“Oh I get it–You can’t support a political party because your work has to be unbiased… Do you have an ID?”  I flashed my work ID immediately.

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The blue card that identified me with the rest of the journalists at the event

“OK, you don’t have to fill out this form. You just need to get in line with the press.”

She showed me to the front of the building, where the rest of the journalists await. Shortly I was handed a blue card that reads “Credentialed Press.” I am so glad that I’m prepared!

Journalists got to enter the building before most people, so they could get through security with all their equipment, start setting up and get to work. With the blue card, and my phone in my hand, I blended right in with all the journalists.

Gradually, the barricades were setup, people started coming in, and music started playing. There was a live jazz ensemble and performance from Malcolm X Shabazz High School marching band. Right around 1:30pm, Senator Teresa Ruiz kicked off a series of motivation speeches by Congressman Donald Payne Jr., and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, to encourage people to vote next Tuesday. Then, to my pleasant surprise, Mr. Jon Bon Jovi (!) showed up to introduce Senator Cory Booker and Secretary Hillary Clinton. (I always liked his music.)

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Malcolm X Shabazz High School marching band

As soon as Secretary Clinton was on the stage, I was pulled by a security member to stand behind the barricades setup for Press. That’s why I couldn’t get a better picture of her–I only had my iPhone.

My favorite speech today was really by Senator Booker. (Sorry Hillary–I’ve already formed my opinions of Donald Trump. So your speech today, to me, was preaching to the choir.)

I met Senator Booker years ago, when he was the mayor of Newark. He not just talked the talk, he pragmatically walked the walk. As Mayor, he cleaned up Newark and setup a new course for future mayors to follow, before he went on to represent us in the Senate. When I met him in person years ago, he was very charismatic and persuasive. He actually got me to consider investing my business in Newark… He even charmed my late father-in-law, who was a long time Republican.

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Senator Cory Booker speaking

Today, Senator Booker’s enthusiasm at the podium kept me engaged through the entire time. He used historical references to make his points heard. Being someone who likes statements backed up by facts, I really like this style of communication.

 

Hillary, a fellow October Scorpion, is poised, as always, graceful, steady and strong–Never a disappointment to me… Even during her toughest time as First Lady, before the world knew about her husband having an affair with a White House intern, she was reasonably and notably upset. But she still managed to keep the matter private by making Bill sleeping on the couch. According to Business Insider, she dealt with the affair by spending time alone and eating lots of her favorite mocha cake–In other words, she handled the matter well, never made a scene in public. This episode was a strong indicator that showed Hillary having the wisdom, and being strong enough to suppress her emotions in public, at a time of doubt over her very public marriage to the President of the United States.

Think about it: Too much would be at stake if she had acted up on this affair–Not only her marriage would end, she would have setup a bad example for Chelsea, her teenage First Daughter at the time, who was already in the public spotlight, and it would also negatively impact her life. Expressing jealous rage at such a stressful time would only add oil to the fire and would not be conducive to solving problems…

I would much rather choose a wise person to be the leader of our country, who evidently is strong, organized and wise enough to draw the line between private and public lives, has the experience dealing with domestic issues and foreign policies, and knows her people and the government, inside and out.

Today in Newark, Hillary touched on all the issues that faced our country, and promised to address them, if she were elected President.  The headline-maker today was calling Donald Trump a “fraud” – Not surprising from the news that came out around Trump recently.

I started tweeting as her words stuck in my head… Hey, I was granted a press pass, why not use it to do what I’m “supposed” to do! LOL

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Hillary taking a selfie with a fan

At the end of the event, they removed the press barricades. So I rushed toward the stage trying to get a good picture of Hillary… With Secret Service agents around her, she was walking along with another set of railings, taking selfies with fans as she walked by, shaking their hands. I couldn’t get any closer than a few heads away–it was so crowded! But I managed to get an overhead shot of her taking a selfie.  🙂

 

 

If you want to follow me, my Twitter handle is @mohgirl1030.  And @artifactuality, where Bob is also an admin.

 

 

Go VOTE next Tuesday, my friends!! 

This election is too important for anyone to pass up!

Don’t take my word for it… See it for yourself in the recording of the live event on June 1st:

 

Foot note:

“Add oil to the fire” is a literal translation of the Chinese phrase 火上加油 (huo-shang-jia-yiou,) meaning making the matter worse.

The old man at the wedding

1985, I came to America.

The following week was my birthday, and it was also the very first time I put on makeup, making myself look pretty–Because I can now, I’m in America. There was no birthday celebration–It coincided Cousin Robert’s wedding.

At the dinner reception, I quietly sat and watched people dancing with music, laughing through the night… Wishing a handsome boy would come to ask me for a dance. But, instead, there was a strange old man with a very long white beard sitting next to me, smiling. I smiled back. His wrinkled face bore a pair of white eyes… I mean his irises were white, he had white hair, and was all in white. But somehow he knew me, so he came to me. I didn’t know him, but I did not feel threatened, nor did I feel I was in danger. There we sat, and though he was blind (or was he?) He knew where I was, and he was facing me. Then he asked:

“剛到嗎?” (Just got here?)

“是,上禮拜剛到。” (Yes, just got here last week.)

“歡迎來美國,有沒有對相了?” (Welcome to America, do you have a boyfriend?)

Suddenly I felt my entire body’s blood rushed into my head. How did he know I was wishing for a guy to pick me up for a dance? I couldn’t say a word, wanted so bad to have a place to hide. By then I was convinced he was not blind, because he knew I was embarrassed… He laughed, so heartily, like Santa Claus, “Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho… 不要緊,我逗妳的!” (No worries, I was teasing you!)  Then, with a long pause, he seemed to be studying me. He penetrated my eyes with his white irises, leaned closer and said slowly with a sincere and steady voice:

“妳遠從台灣來,是為了遇見妳未來的丈夫。但妳必須要爭取他、才能得到真正的辛福。” (You’ve come a long way from Taiwan, to meet your future husband here. But you must compete for him, in order to be truly happy.)

“但是媽媽說女生不應該追求男生呢… ” (But mama said a good girl shouldn’t be chasing a boy…)

Before I finished my sentence, a dancing couple lost control, and came fast towards us. They crashed between me and the old man. Luckily they didn’t knock over the whole table. By the time the couple got back on their feet, the old man was gone. I looked around, he was nowhere to be found.

Years gone by, his words were forgotten, through a brand new American western culture, a new language to learn, a new life to live, to fit in, to get by… But, no matter how much I changed, how well I spoke the English language, how much I became “Americanized,” how many boys I “chased,” deep down, I felt guilty to have chased boys, to have been intimate with too many friends who were not my type, to have been wild, bold and outspoken… Deep down I still love Mother’s cooking, still am humble for my achievements, still believe in fung-shui, still pray to Buddha during Chinese New Year, still believe my grandparents are watching over me, and I still believe there are people among us who are messengers of the gods, who can see the future, like the old man at the wedding.

About fifteen years later, I fell madly in love with a man whom I shouldn’t have been in love with, and he shouldn’t have been in love with me. But eventually, seven years after the fall, we got married. And through all of this rollercoaster ride, the old man never surfaced in my memory… Until almost thirty years later, I vividly recall–the old man at the wedding.

“Please… Enjoy my horrible dish!” (“請多指教小人的拙菜”)

If you ever happen to attend a Chinese immigrant’s dinner party, and when you are about to dive into to what seems like a delicious meal, chances are, you may hear the chef saying something like what the title suggested. The literal translation for the Chinese expression above is “Please advise me in this horrible food created by little me.” 

I bet this is very confusing for the westerners. For the sake of explanation, it is an expression of modesty. This kind of expression applies to any creative work, not just culinary, when a Chinese person presents to his/her guests and strangers. 

 

Statue of Confucius
Confucius (551 – 479 B.C.)
The ancient Chinese philosophers taught us to be humble: Modesty is a virtue — even when we know we’ve done good. Because, the more we are humble, the more we are to listen. The more we listen, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we improve. 

The word “proud” (驕傲,)in Chinese, has a shared character “傲” with the word “arrogance” (傲慢.)  It makes sense because pride, when not curbed, can easily become arrogance, which is detrimental to one’s self-improvement. So we, the Chinese, have been taught from very young age to be humble at all situations, and to avoid any chance for ourselves to become arrogant. 

A very good example here: With the western influence, only the latest generations of Chinese people had begun to admit that they are proud of their children. Because, in the ancient Chinese language, one would refer his son as “犬子” –meaning “dog-son”– when conversing with other people.

In the western world, display of humbleness would often be mistaken as passiveness, weakness, cowardice, lack of self confidence, or even lack of self esteem  (“自尊”).  Thus, when the Chinese are modest about their achievements, they often do not get the respect they deserve. It maybe the reason why the Chinese government decided to show off during the opening ceremony of 2008 Olympics.

Here’s another related social interaction case:  When someone pays a Chinese person compliment, the Chinese does not say “thank you” but, instead, he/she says “I do not deserve this,” or say nothing at all, or play deaf. The reason is simple: With humility in their every being, the Chinese may feel that the praises would feed into their ego. And, in order to prevent themselves from becoming arrogant, they would shy away from the compliment. This reaction therefore could easily be wrongly perceived by the westerners, and the poor Chinese person could wear a hat as an “unappreciative jerk.” 

So when you see Chinese people being modest about their success, it’s is not them being dishonest, nor being unappreciative–It’s them being Chinese. 

The Chinese community, however, has been more aware of this cultural difference that caused them lots of missed opportunities. So there have been many discussion forums and articles written to inform everyone to accept compliments with gratitude. There are also warnings about being overly modest in a competitive situation, such as a job interview. 

By the way, the Chinese government’s grandiose display during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony, and its lavish spending on new constructions for the event, is nothing short of an arrogant exhibition… In my most humble opinion.

References:

“Why do Chinese people humble when they hear words of praise” (中國人為什麼聽到讚美的話會謙虛?) 

Excerpt from “Not reconciling lost of competition to the witty: Wittiness is ability, understanding silence is wisdom.” (”輸給會說話的人不甘心:會說話是能力,懂沉默是智慧“) 

“The authenticity of modesty to progress of self-improvement” (謙虛使人進步的真偽與對錯)

A Particular Lunar New Years Custom

Last week I went to Mother’s home, joining the rest of the family in celebration of Lunar New Year, the Year of Goat. I stayed with my eldest brother, who is quite in-tuned with traditional customs. One custom in particular, with my personal lifestyle and current situation, maybe borderline superstition–This is another story, as a result of being far and away from my roots over the years…

As I mentioned in my previous entry, a nice custom about Lunar New Year is when everyone gets busy, in the final weeks leading to the changing time–washing their cars, cleaning their houses, shopping for new clothes, etc. That was exactly what happened in my brothers house. They rearranged furnitures, changed the living room rug, washed all the clothes, sheets, even hired a cleaning crew to deep clean the house… All this happened before New Years Day.

I, the traveler living out of her suitcase, accumulated some laundry during my stay. But the laundry machine had been occupied. So the only time I found both the machine and myself available to do the wash was after dinner on New Years Day.

So I washed my clothes on New Years Day. It was loud. The whole house could hear the machine running–Especially the dryer–when my jean buttons contantly banged on the rolling drum. My brother came and asked, “Are you doing laundry?”

“Yeah. Why? What’s wrong?”

“You’re not supposed to do laundry on New Years Day! Forget laundry, any kind of wash is sacrilege!”

“WHAT? Oh my god, REALLY?! What ghost or God did I offend now?”

“THE WATER GOD!!”

“Ugh… What am I supposed to do now with my clothes all wet?”

Realizing me not knowing the custom, my brother forgave me at once. “It’s Ok,” he said, “Don’t worry about it. Just keep drying your clothes.”

I racked my brain with causes and effects, ecological effects, philosophy and science… If washing offends Water God, should we instead on New Years Day offend people around us with B.O.? 😬

I welcome anyone who knows more about this custom to enlighten me, and to share your insight with my readers. Thanks in advance.

New Year with Sticky Rice Cake (年糕) and Fish

A colleague asked me yesterday what would be served as traditional dish during Chinese New Year. Right away I thought there would be many different celebratory dish, but what stood out were sticky rice cake and fish…

The New Years marks a time of changing cycle, changing shifts, where beginning meets the end, and where chaos would happen. So all traditions and rituals for New Years have long been established for good omen and well wishing. Sticky rice cake and fish are a good example of this tradition. It is not required to combine the two items in one dish, but both are required to be served…

Why? Because the Chinese word for “sticky,” or “粘” (nian,) has the same pronunciation as the word for “year”, or “年” (nian.) Whereas the word “fish”, or “魚” (Yu,) shares the same pronunciation with the word “surplus”, or “餘” (Yu.) Therefore, having sticky rice cake and fish on the New Years table is a good omen for the upcoming year, echoing the lucky phrase “年年有餘” (nian-nian-yo-yu), meaning “having surplus year after year.”

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Crispy Sticky Rice Cake

Sticky rice cake comes in different kinds and flavors. I am introducing today the sweet sticky rice cake made with red beans, wrapped in spring roll wrapper. This recipe was a spontaneous creation at a hot pot party years ago.

Ingredient list:

  • Store-bought or home-made red bean rice cake, 6 to 8- inch diameter
  •  Store-bought or home-made spring roll wrapper, around 6″ squares.
  •  Deep fryer
  •  Deep frying oil, a gallon, or the amount enough for your deep fryer.
  •  1/4 cup cooked white rice to be used as edible glue
  •  1 cup Water
  1. To make edible glue, in a sauce pan, mix cooked white rice with 1 cup water, stir, mash, and use high heat to bring it to boil. Reduce heat, continue stirring and mashing, until the rice-water mix is reduced to thick congee texture. Remove from heat. Then set aside to cool.
  2. Remove packaging of the sticky rice cake, if bought from store.
  3. Cut the rice cake disc into bite sized chips.
  4. Wrap each individual rice cake chips with a single sheet of spring roll wrapper. Use the edible glue to secure the end of the wrapper. Without securing, they may unravel in the deep frying process.
  5. Setup and heat deep fryer to 350 degrees
  6. Deep fry the wrapped rice cake in batches until golden brown. Drain oil and set aside to cool before serving.
red bean sticky rice cake
This is a photo of a red bean sticky rice cake, similar to a store-bought version with the packaging removed.
My version of sticky rice cake
Here’s my fried sticky rice cake being cooled right before serving. It was crispy on the outside, warm and sweet on the inside. (Yum!)

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Sautéed Tilapia for Eight

During Chinese New Year, a plate of fish is often required on the table, for the symbolism explained earlier. It doesn’t matter which kind of fish. The Asian culture cook and serve food in its entirety for wholesomeness. We cook and use all parts of animal and fish for sustainability–not to create animal waste of God’s gift. But for my western readers, I hereby publish the recipe of my famous tilapia fillet, which I cook for my in-laws every Christmas Eve.

Ingredient list:

  • 4 large fillets. 2 servings per fillet.
  • 2-inch section of Ginger root of 1″ diameter.
  • 6 stalks of scallions
  • 1 TBSP Sautéing oil
  • Salt

Preparation:

  • Sprinkle one pinch of salt on each side of fillet.
  • Cut all ginger root into thin slices. Julienne about half of the slices to be used for topping.
  • Julienne all scallions
  • Setup a frying pan with a cover

Cooking:

  1. Grease the pan with sautéing oil. Use medium high heat. Spread in the sliced ginger in the bottom of pan. Once the ginger pieces starts to bubble, lay down tilapia on top of ginger slices. Spread the julienned ginger and scallion over the fillets. Reduce to medium heat and cover.
  2. When the fish turns completely white, remove from heat and serve. If a firmer texture is desired, it may be cooked longer with cover, for about 3 to 5 more minutes.
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In this photo, the plate on the left had chili powder added to the plate, for those who like a kick in their tilapia. Also there are cilantro to top it off as added garnish.

I hope you enjoy these recipes…
新年快樂,恭喜發財!
(Xin-nian-kuai-le, gung-xi-fa-cai!)
Happy Chinese New Year, Congratulations for your new wealth!

Memo on Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year celebrates the New Year’s Day in the lunar calendar. This year, the Year of Goat, would start on Thursday, February 19th. The festivities are like a combined celebration of different western holidays.

It’s like Christmas, instead of gifts, children and unmarried young generation would receive red envelopes from their elders for wishes of good fortunes in the year to come. For those who don’t know, red envelopes contain cash. More on this tradition later, in a future entry.

It’s like Thanksgiving, immediate families gather for traditional meals, connecting across generations, across worlds, from the Eve through the midnight moment, into New Years Day; then extended families, relatives, and friends gather in the subsequent two days and enjoy good food and good times.

It’s like the fireworks on Fourth of July, every household lights up fire crackers at zero hour of New Years Day to scare off evil spirits. And children would play with fire crackers around this time of year.

And it’s like the solar New Year, the lunar New Year is a celebration of new beginning, with many things happening in not just one day–People would get busy even before the Eve to prepare for the new year. They would clean their houses, wash their cars, shop for new clothes to wear… And of course shopping for cooking ingredients for dishes to be served during the 3-day long celebration…

For a traditional Chinese New Year dish recipe, check back next week. 😉

Capitolism and Exploitation of Labor

The nature of capitalism is to exploit. The Internet provides the perfect pipeline to enable exploitation to the extreme. Capitolism exploits artists egos and the Internet has done a fine job to facilitate the act… A.k.a. Crowdsourcing.

As a proud supporter of public radio, it really hurts to hear my favorite radio station, WNYC, exploited graphic designers by soliciting free work to fill their content of Map Your Move Data Visualization project. Their reward for the submitting artists: Dedicating 30 minutes of airtime interviewing the best 5 on the air…

Is that enough? Promotion never guarantees future profits and/or advancement of career.

Is it worth spending 50 hours of your time to do work for free?

They put you on the air for average 6 minutes per person–You are suddenly famous. You feel great because they fed your ego…

But
Does your bank need to be fed?
Does your ego bring food to the table?

Sad.

ID this!

Recently I started to draw a family tree, of both sides of my parents, trying to make sense of who is who in my family. Then I suddenly realized: I have cousins whom I haven’t spoken to or seen in more than 20 years!

So, prior to my annual trip to California, I had a mission: To visit as many relatives in California as I can and to collect as many family stories as possible.

With an open mind, not only would I catch up with everyone with their life and career, I would try to uncover their stories that they usually don’t share with a stranger… (Hey I’m family!) And, of course, this was a chance to be a spectator to look into these relatives lives like I have never done before.

After more than 10 years being “conditioned” by Bob, my husband–the ultimate opposite of me–I was lost for a while. Internally struggling to be a better person for many years, at times I would drive myself crazy because I could never be good enough! This is another reason why I decided to venture out to visit distant family relatives, to search my soul and reclaim my identity.

As a result, I discovered many things-good, bad, and dysfunctional-and it’s OK! I was extremely enlightened from this trip. I’ve become more accepting and have come to a deeper understanding of why and how I am who I am… A certain way––

Because it’s all in my blood. 🙂