Month: February 2016

Baked: Kasutera


When we were kids, my sister and I always looked forward to getting the Japanese cake kasutera カステラ (蜂蜜蛋糕 in Chinese) from Vancouver.

I don’t think we’ve had it since, but I finally made it! I primarily used Japanese Cooking 101‘s recipe but I also incorporated some tips from Just One Cookbook‘s version as well (most notably, the honey glaze). I have a feeling this recipe is going to be one of my go-tos when it comes to baking for groups.

Wealthy Tech Entitlement

Justin Keller, founder of the start-up (never heard of it) wrote a highly objectionable blog post complaining about the plight of the wealthy tech workers who have to endure the sight of the “riff-raff” in San Francisco (emphasis mine):

The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.”

Complaining instead of showing compassion? Check. Not considering one’s own role in the process? Check. Having loads of self-entitlement? Check.

Two Daikons in Meiji Japan

The Meiji Emperor's silver anniversary (by Nobukazu Yosai 楊斎延一)
The Meiji Emperor’s silver anniversary (by Nobukazu Yosai 楊斎延一)

I was reading Takashi Fujitani‘s excellent Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan when I came upon this golden anecdote of two “daikons”:

“Quite outrageously, at the time of the emperor’s silver anniversary, which was often referred to as the Great Wedding (daikon 大婚), the people of at least one neighborhood in the provincial town of Saga made a visual pun and placed a giant radish (daikon 大根) on a festival float. Forty neighborhood residents of all ages danced to the rhythms of festive music (hayashi 囃子) as they paraded to the Saga prefectural office with what would appear to be a fairly explicit sexual symbol.” (228-229)

Bilingualism in America

From Janell Ross at the Washington Post on the Spanish fracas between Cruz and Rubio:

“There is a dark period in American history. It’s one to which some Americans seem eager to return. It’s one when people were barred, shamed or even punished for speaking languages other than English. That was especially true outside the home.

Speaking a foreign language or limited English was very widely believed to be an indicator of suspect national loyalty, limited intelligence or ability. Speaking a foreign language simply was not regarded as a useful skill.”

If there’s one thing that’s consistently baffled me since I came to this country, it’s the weird attitude towards foreign languages many people have. Bilingualism just isn’t emphasized to the same extent in America as it is in Europe or post-colonial Asian countries.

Mendocino State Hospital and Foucault’s “Panopticon”

Mendocino State Hospital 123 Building

We recently read Foucault in our Historical Methods class; specifically, his chapter on Discipline. At the end of the chapter, Foucault raises the specter of the Panopticon and a society so throughly infused with self-regulated discipline. What makes discipline insidious is not that it can be seen, but rather, it cannot be seen. The supervision can be constant and yet, incorporeal.

Which brings me to Mendocino State Hospital, which is now of course the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and where I spent most of my childhood. One of the largest wards in the former mental hospital is the 123 Building in the back (I’m not sure if it ever had a proper name). After reading Foucault, I suddenly realized that each ward had a small booth for observation and supervision, and all the light switches were in that room. If the observers turned off the booth’s light and kept the ward’s on, they could not be seen. It was a pretty heavy thing to consider the physical manifestation of Discipline in a building I have been in and around since my childhood.

My sister helped me take the picture above to illustrate the view of the supervisor from that booth.

Mendocino State Hospital Patient Board

Items from the old  Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.
Items from the old Hospital at a Grace Hudson Museum exhibit a couple years ago.

“Comfort Women” in Californian Textbooks

The L.A. Times on the new proposal to teach the issue of “comfort women” in Californian history textbooks:

The new language on “comfort women” marks the first proposal to teach what has been a long-contentious political issue in East Asia in high school classrooms in the U.S. It has the potential to widely influence how textbooks address the topic.

The guidelines recommend that the subject of “comfort women” be taught to high schoolers “as an example of institutionalized sexual slavery, and one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century.”

Personally, I hope that secondary school history teachers spend more time encouraging students to understand the complex nature of history rather than essentializing an incredibly complicated time period down to one or two paragraphs. Yes, it’s important that more Americans know about the issue, but no one’s going to get a good understanding from the small side blurbs Asian history is usually reduced to in American history textbooks. Furthermore, it ignores the long and intimate relationship wartime soldiers had with prostitution and potentially coerced sexual services.

Money Isn’t Everything in Politics

Much has been written about the sheer amounts of money flowing into political campaigns in the post-Citizens United era. However, to a certain extent money’s role is still heavily circumscribed by the fact that people actually make decisions and don’t necessarily believe every ad they see and hear (something I keep telling my far-left friends). The individual’s role is still present in the modern political system, I believe. Certainly not as prominent as it was in say, Lincoln’s day, but then again fewer individuals could vote then.

POLITICO on the results coming in tonight from New Hampshire’s primary:

“Cruz’s third-place finish also reflected badly on Rubio and Bush. Cruz spent less than $600,000 in the state yet finished ahead of fourth-place Bush who, between his super PAC and campaign, spent as much as $36 million on television. Rubio spent about $15 million and finished in a close fifth.”

Based on the numbers coming in from the NYT with 84% of precincts reporting, that means Jeb(!) Bush and his associated SuperPACs spent upwards of $1,200 per voter and still came in fourth. Rubio spent a comparatively frugal $560+ per vote. And Cruz? Just north of $20 per vote.

The Nice Thing About Journaling

The nice thing about journaling consistently for the last ten years is that I can see how my thoughts evolve over time, and how my emotions and processes shape what what I do and become. Let’s face it: when one has 2400+ entries in their journal, there’s a lot to read and learn from.

But mostly, I realize how god-awful my poetry was when I was 16. It’s not as bad as Vogon poetry, but it’s not something I’m particularly proud of either.

I’ve used the brilliant Day One for my journaling needs for the last four years. Prior to that, I used the now-defunct Journler, and before that, MacJournal. I ended up abandoning these two programs because their development stalled and as Mac OS X evolved their interfaces began to look more and more dated. Good UX is absolutely key for a program I use every day.

The Harvard Coffee Study

From The Kitchn:

A Harvard study was broken into three parts over the course of 30 years, tracking the results of more than 208,000 men and women. When compared to non-coffee drinkers, moderate imbibers exhibited a “lower risk of death from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, and suicide.”

Fantastic. Now I can justify the four cups of coffee I drink every day.