Saturday, July 29, 2006

How It All Started (paca)

By taking a look at the web stats for this blog, I just discovered that the original Dragnet City of Crime rap video is online at YouTube. You can watch the delicious 80s-ness here:
http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/002553.php
If I remember correctly, when the llama and I rehearsed our Dragnet dance at the age of 10 or so, I was Dan Akroyd and he was Tom Hanks.

The line after which this blog is name comes at 1:21 in the Video.

Have fun.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fusion Cuisine 3: Flatbreads Inc.

This one is sort of a bridge from my culinary creations to the next series on paca's business ideas of the past.

Another idea I once had was a restaurant focused on all sorts of yummy things that start out flat. Some times I think of it as a full restaurant. Other times I think of it as a hole in the wall with a window for service or just a stand on the beach. It would serve all those breads and bread-like things that wrap things inside. Kind of like a wrap place, but closer to a creperie. And being Coke Fusion, of course, it involves items from around the world. Things to serve:

Crepes in all their variety - strawberry, chocolate, mushroom, asparagus, bacon...

Korean Jun - beef jun, scallion jun, shrimp jun (the last is different in that you put the shrimp in a blender and it goes into the batter itself).

Pitas - gyros, etc.

Jian Bing Guo Zi (Egg Unit) - the last is a specialty from Tianjin, China, where I did my semester 14 years ago now. It's mostly a breakfast item and it only comes from food stands. You make the thinnest pancake in the world - thinner than a crepe. Then you spread scrambled eggs across it just as thin. It all cooks in seconds. You then take a piece of yummy fried bread and wrap the bread in the egg crepe.

The idea is to focus on rather simple foods, each item only having a handful of ingredients. I actually still think about this one and contemplate researching how to do a food stand.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fusion Cuisine 2: Cajun Seoul

Another idea I once had was for a restaurant which I tentatively titled Cajun Seoul. Get it? Catchy, no? Hey, I only knew two words of Korean at the time, so my choices were limited. One could always go with Kimchee Cajun, but if there isn't already a Korean-Louisianian blogger with that name, I'd be shocked. This idea comes from the same time period as the legendary chilibo, which caused all of you to salivate or was that vomit? Anyway, I picked up a Korean cookbook a few years ago - before Hawaii - and had gotten into trying things out. Most of my readers are from Louisiana or at least know what Cajun and soul food are like, so I won't go into that. So I will focus on describing Korean cuisine, since it isn't all that common yet on the Mainland.

So, like Chinese and Japanese food, Korean food is based around rice and the noodle as the starches. My first Korean dish was Bi Bim Bap, which just means rice with assorted things. Bap is rice. You have rice and then you place various items in a circle on top of the rice in small piles. There's always some stir-fried beef plus lots of different cooked vegies. Bean sprouts, cabbage, watercress, and other items that I don't know the name of. On top of all this is a fried egg as well, usually runny. Finally, you have a little bowl of Gochu Jang paste which is a chili / bean paste.

From the description of this dish, you can get a basic idea of Korean cooking. The chile is the number one seasoning period. Everything can come with chili powder on it, and so you have to eat spicy to eat much. Other primary seasonings are green onion, sesame seeds and oil, and soy. At a nice meal, such as at a restaurant or when guests come over, variety is a critical component. You will have a main dish, but before that dish arrives you have small bowls of all sorts of appetizers / side dishes, mostly vegetables. One of these side dishes is the ubiquitous kimchee. Kimchee is actually a whole bunch of different things, but the most common variety is bok choi or cabbage. Kimchee has chili powder to make it spicy, some salt, and usually it is pickled for some time to give it a sort of sour bite as well. It preserves the food for many months, is cheap, and is thus a great way to get through a Korean winter.

Anyway, I like Korean food and I like Cajun, so I was going to try to blend the two in some way. There are some overlaps to work from - the presence of rice, chili powder for cayenne pepper, shrimp. Some ideas might be:

1) Crawfish boil with emphasis on chiles, sesame, and green onion flavors for the crawfish.

2) Grits Jun - Jun are Korean style pancakes, and it seems you could take a spicy fried grits pancake and add sesame and soy flavorings to it.

3) Cajun Kal Bi - Kal Bi are rib like things that are barbecued and very enjoyable to Korean food novices. Unless you are just adventurous in what you eat, this is a great choice for your first time. Anway, you could certainly give them a cayenne/file boost.

4) Ragin Cajun Bap - A bed of rice with various things on top in a circle. Fried up spicy crawdad tails or shrimp, mustard greens, black-eyed peas, and the egg.

You get the picture. You could also just do a style blending of the two. So mostly Cajun type foods, but you get small portions of a large number of them Korean-style.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fusion Cuisine 1: Chilibo (paca)

Is it chilibo? gumchi? Or just gumbo chili?

As people who have read this blog for more than a day know, I am all into the cross-cultural blending thing. That's why my nickname, since I drink a lot of soda is, Coke Fusion. Ok, it's not. Never has been, but anyone who wants to call me Coke Fusion can.

But I do like putting things together. A couple years back I was on both a chili cooking spree and a gumbo spree. One day I decided that I, Nuclear Paca, was going to put the two atoms of yummy southern stew goodness together and make one fused southern stew goodness: Chilibo.

I tried several big pots of my new creation, and N can attest the results weren't... what's the right word... good.

Yeah, not so hot. It never worked out to anything as good as either chili or gumbo. But as I have thought about this today, I think I know why. I didn't ever get down to the essence of the two dishes to really create. Instead I just made a roux, then I made chili in the same pot, then I sprinkled a lot of file in. That's just a cop out. So how would this really work?

There are all sorts of chilis: chicken, beef, vegie, bean. So the meat isn't the key to being chili. It's the chiles.

Next up, what makes gumbo gumbo? Roux, but more. File, but more...

Here's my new plan:

Make a roux
Add gumbo meats - sausage, shrimp, crawdad, chicken, possum, squirrel, gator.
Make it a real stew like chili not a soup like gumbo.
Now it's extra tomatoes like chili, okra like gumbo, green onion, but not too much of the white onion so it doesn't take over the flavor.
Then in with the mild chiles and the chili powder. Cumin, a little tobasco, or a lot.

Serve with rice. I'm all inspired now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grad school milestone number 2 (paca)

I hit a small milestone today in this doctoral process. It's not an actual requirement but it makes me proud nonetheless. Today, out of the blue with me doing nothing to encourage it or make it happen, an honest to god actual professor who is not affiliated with our university in any way emailed me to ask about one of my papers. OK, he asked about my only paper. This guy is big in my book, too. I know who he is. My papers always cite him. I almost attended (before I got cheap) a workshop of his last summer - just because it was him giving it. And today I get this email from him saying he saw the paper I have online and was it ever published? He also included a current manuscript of his because he thought it might interest me.

This doesn't mean anything, really, but it seems signficant to me. Now, IF he cites my paper in his at all, the odds are high that it will be of the form: "Drawing premature conclusions from highly speculative data, paca (2005) states something we have known to be false for years." But I don't care. It would be a freaking citation. Of me.

That's cool.

Oh, and for the record, milestone 1 was passing my prelim exams last January. Oh, and milestone 1.5 was finishing my ling coursework in May. Milestone 3, to be done this fall, is the great "working paper".

Monday, July 24, 2006

And a philosophy program (paca)

And here is something else I wrote up. I had once developed a program of research, that I never got going, of course, and had spent some time identifying backgrounds that would be useful. Some of this actually made it into my Statement of Interest the first year I applied to grad schools. Not surprisingly, I now understand, I didn't get in anywhere. Not a single school. That's because no one is doing this - still - and what grad schools look for is research matches with their faculty. I did get interviewed for the Johns Hopkins cognitive science program but didn't make it there either. I remember trying to explain this program to one of the profs and not impressing anyone. The only person I remember ever understanding what I was going for is my older brother. "So you are trying to build a mathematical model of the nature of relationships." Holy crap! He got it! Which is strange because we only speak about once a year. Literally. Anyway here's my program. You can get insight into the nature of the Paca due to the fact that I have ancient philosophy side by side with cognitive neuro and predicate logic. It's almost laughable how little I knew what I was talking about when looking at this list. Yeah, I'll just learn quantum physics as one of five hundred other things on the way. Anyway, this is also the sort of thing that I used to dream about when bored:

Philosophy Program

Research Goal:

The world appears to be constructed not of bouncing billiard balls (not that this was ever a complete theory, just simplified stereotype) but instead of patterns, waves, and occasions inter-relating to each other. These relating occasions give rise to all that we experience – and are us as well. There has been much work in various specialized fields concerning the relations of these occasions to one another – for instance, in quantum physics and molecular biology. However, there is little work analyzing relations generally and how they create the nexus of the phenomenal world. I hope to develop such an analysis. Ideally this should follow Whitehead’s criteria of being applicable, coherent, and adequate. I am calling this a “relational calculus”. The result should be something quite useful to people in all fields to perform their own research, using tools and a vocabulary which did not exist previously. I believe such work will also benefit the examination of many other traditional philosophical problems in ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of life, and philosophy of mind.


Study Program

Logic and Mathematics Program
Solid foundation in Symbolic Logic, especially Predicate Logic.
Philosophy / Foundations of Logic
Familiarity with Modal and Sub-structural Logics
At least differential and integral calculus

Complexity Sciences
Quantum Physics, String Theory, , etc.
Chaos Theory
Complexity

Cognitive Neuroscience
Cognitive Science
Artificial Intelligence

Philosophy
History:
Parmenides, Heraclitus, Zeno

Plato
Parmenides *
Timaeus?
Theaetetus (sp?)

Aristotle
Physics
Metaphysics
Logic

James
Radical Empiricism
Pragmatism
A Pluralistic Universe
The Will to Believe
Essay on the “One and the Many” *

Dewey
Studies In Logical Theory
Experience and Nature
Logic: The Theory of Inquiry *

Pierce

Bergson
Mind and Memory
Creative Evolution (?)

Whitehead
Process and Reality
Modes of Thought
Adventures of Ideas
Science and the Modern World
Symbolism
The Function of Reason

Hartshorne
Creative Synthesis and the Scientific Method
Reality as a Social Process
Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays
Creativity in American Philosophy

Locke
Essay Concerning Human Understanding

Hume

Descartes
Meditations
Discourse on Method
The big final work no one reads

Kant
Critique of Pure Reason

Hegel
Phenomenology of Spirit

Heideggar
Being and Time

Buddhism:
Nagarjuna
Mulamadyamikakarikas
Mahdyamika
Pratitya-samutpada
Sunyata
Dogen
Shobogenzo
Hua-yen
Kyoto School – Nishida, Nishitani

Areas of Focus:
Problem of One and Many
Reductionism
Essentialism / Substances
Properties and Relations
Emergent Properties
Space/Time
Ethics
Aesthetics

Two months of pregancy (paca)

No, it's not that!!!

A couple weeks ago I discovered a CD-Rom I had brought from the mainland to Hawaii that was full of old documents I wrote while bored at work. Apparently, I started one doc called "Two Months of Pregnancy" right around when N checked into the hospital for a little bedrest a couple months before B was due. I decided that I would write up some of my thoughts on the matter and had dreams of submitting it to something like Redbook. Of course, I only wrote one draft of one entry. I have posted my little entry below. Turns out it would have been about one month of pregnancy in the end, since B came 5 weeks early. Here you go:

A Couple Months of Pregnancy

The first thing that must be said in all of this is that I am the Dad. As such, what do I know about pregnancy? Pregnancy is the purview of mothers. We all know that. But I refuse to shut up.
However, isn’t the dad shutting up what being pregnant is all about? I tag along with my wife and the nurse. I sit in the corner to stay out of the way. I go get the apple juice from the fridge down the hall and bring it back to those who need it. Staying out of the way is what it is all about.
What a frustrating and fun role! It’s really something of an art, I am learning. The key is to shut up and get out of the way, but at the same time, you make all these hidden things happen. While the real work goes on, I go and pay the bills, clean the house, earn money to pay for the house, walk the dog, basically keep the normal old world going, while the special world happens inside my wife. Me: Normal. Her: Special. I can live with that.
I should say one other thing. I recently learned that pregnancy is still a bad word, and there are probably some out there whom I have already offended. I had not realized this. I remember one could not discuss a woman being “pregnant” when I was seven, but I thought that had disappeared with, oh, 22 more years of my life, and 22 more years of the world. But then, wow! Someone on the radio stopped themselves from using the p-word recently. I had been going around apparently swearing for all the world to co-workers about our proud condition, blithely using the naughtiest of words.
There are a number of things I just don’t get about this English language of ours. First, how is “pregnant” still a bad word? Is it because of the way one gets pregnant? But, surely, the same process gets a bun in the oven – a phrase which, by the way, sounds a little more descriptive of the process of begetting, if you visualize properly. Second, I have learned it is OK to say you are expecting. “I and my wife are expecting,” can be stated without making your grandmother blush. But, you aren’t allowed to say precisely what you are expecting. You simply expect, you don’t expect anything in particular. And this lets me figure out the whole pregnancy-is-a-bad-word thing. One can’t mention the baby. The little thing in there is not to be discussed until it pops on out. And I can only guess it is because of the one thing that is truly too painful to talk about: sometimes the little creature doesn’t make it. Expecting is so vague that it can slip by. But if you are pregnant, you are full of something, and there is no doubt what it is. Maybe, by not mentioning what you expect, you don't have to spend as much time explaining what you are missing if the worst comes to pass.

Friday, July 21, 2006

iTunes loves the Funk (paca)

I have my iTunes set to the most random setting there is so that songs are supposed to rarely repeat. It seems to work fairly well, but I swear that Parliament's Flashlight is in the top section of every single mix it ever comes up with. I think the programmers put in a special George Clinton hack. I will have to load Atomic Dog into it and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

B report (paca)

Before the B report, I will do my traditional llama report, which happens whenever he disappears for a long time like he has again. The report? Like always, I know as little as yourselves. I know that no one is looking in from Thailand, so I conclude he is off in Bangladesh or some such. If anyone knows more, feel free to say so.

B report.

So B is 3 and a half now, and it is enjoyable to see his growth.

Artistic B. We went to a used book sale last Friday night, and N and I took turns watching B while the other browsed. His favorite thing to do was jump up and down in a puddle outside. I took to picking up fallen plumeria flowers and throwing them at him. He would take the flower and toss it in another puddle nearby. As each flower fell on the pavement, he became more and more deliberate about their arrangement. The first couple were just tossed in the puddle. The next few were purposefully displayed stem-side up. Then when he liked the pattern, he would take each further flower and very carefully kneel by the puddle and place it appropriately inside. Before I could show N the creation, however, B decided it would be enjoyable to stomp on the artwork.

Creative storyteller B. B is really beginning now to make up stories and do classic kid's play. He will take a melody and put in new words about something that may or may not have ever happened. He will sit in his carseat and tell a story to himself or tell a story about the toy he is holding. It used to be simple comments about surroundings or very straightforward substitutions in known stories and songs. Now, he's really making them up.

Techie B. He figured out the mouse on the computer about a month or two ago, and so now at the wee age of 3, he can sit for half an hour at a computer and play games by himself. He uses the browser back button and hyperlinks. He can launch programs on N's Mac. He does online painting, Dr. Suess' ABCs, and YouTube.

Vocab B. B's vocab continues to grow. I haven't really calculated it out, but he's in the hundreds. This is right on track if not a little behind the curve for a normal child, so it's not a brag, just a comment. We counted out the animals he knows and we are around 60-70 now. Unfortunately, we have been watching lots of old He-Man, because N bought me the season 1 DVD set for Xmas. So his vocab includes, truly, He-man, Skeletor, Teela, Beastman, Sorceress, and Orko. Not a day goes by where he doesn't lift some long and pointy object in the air and say, "By the Power of Grayskull!"

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Paca the romantic? (paca)

A couple of you may have noticed one or two unusual links over on the right there. Well, at least unexpected links. One for instance is to Brenda Coulter's blog. She's an inspirational romance author, which is the subgenre of Romance that has a Christian theme to it. That might be odd because guys aren't supposed to read romance. And I've even confessed to not being Christian. So why have such a link? Well, the quick answer is just that she writes amusing stuff frequently on her blog, and that's pretty much the beginning and end of the explanation.

Beyond that, I've been exploring the worlds of writing and romance through blogs. In fact I just put a long comment up on one of the main Romance genre blogs, which I even have bookmarked, called Romancing the Blog. This is still a bit weird, because the truth is that I don't read Romance genre stuff really. I know who Nora Roberts and Jane Ann Krentz and Stephanie Laurens and such are, but I haven't successfully completed a book yet. I am currently powering my way through an erotic romance (for people who aren't following the romance publishing world, this is one of the hottest subgenres out there now and has gone very mainstream), though I am not sure I am going to make it, and I plan to blog about that one day. So I am not really a hidden Romance guy in that I don't read the genre.

But I am very much a romantic or a romance guy with a little r. My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. If you've only seen the movie of a few years back, you may be thinking of a guy being beaten in jail a lot and then he gets out and has a lot of sword fights. In the actual book, the Count never gets in a fight at all. OK, there is almost a duel with pistols, but it is cancelled. Instead he slowly works his revenge through revealing secrets of shameful pasts and causing evil bankers to lose all their money. The revenge and the fabulous wealth are all cool, but they are nothing compared to the emotional climax of the book for me, which is when his lost love Mercedes reveals that she alone still recognizes him after he has become the Count and begs for him to spare her son's life. Heart palpitations already. I love her character so much I truly kept putting Mercedes in the baby name list if we had had a girl. Similarly, in another favorite book, the emotional climax is when the protagonist Roger Byam is taken off in chains never to see his beautiful Tahitian wife Tehani again. When I think back to that book, I think back to Byam swimming in a calm lagoon with Tehani. That's what the book is about.

So I guess this is just for the record that guys like romance just as much as women, but it seems you have to pitch it to us in a slightly different way than the Romance genre currently does.

Friday, July 14, 2006

30 Tunes

I know what you are all wondering. What kind of music does Paca listen to? Here are the first 30 tracks from my iTunes shuffle at work. I've only uploaded about one third of my music, so it's missing a lot, but here you go nonetheless:

You Just May Be The One 2:03 The Monkees
L.O.V.E. 2:33 Nat King Cole
True Asia 4:40 Puffy AmiYumi
Love Is Here To Stay 3:56 Ella Fitzgerald
Pick Up The Pieces 3:58 Average White Band
The Penguin 5:26 Kool & The Gang
Love Shack 5:21 The B-52's
Around Midnight 2:53 Julie London
The Girl From Ipanema 5:25 Antônio Carlos Jobim
Shine 5:11 Dolly Parton
Ladies Night 3:33 Kool & The Gang
The New Cobweb Summer 6:57 Lambchop
The Saturday Option 4:38 Lambchop
Queen Of The Slipstream 4:33 Brian Kennedy
You Make Me Feel So Free 4:08 Van Morrison
Rock The Casbah 3:43 The Clash
Sack O' Woe 4:06 Van Morrison With Georgie Fame
Asleep In The Desert 3:31 ZZ Top
I Cover The Waterfront 6:44 John Lee Hooker
Universal Sound 4:04 Kool & The Gang
Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart 2 3:55 Van Morrison
Imagination 2:35 Peggy Lee
Jungle Boogie 3:04 Kool & The Gang
Up With People 5:59 Lambchop
You Told Me 2:25 The Monkees
Sombrero Sam 6:42 Kool & The Gang
Soul Power '92 14:13 Maceo Parker
N.T., Pts. 1 & 2 6:30 Kool & The Gang
Too Bad About Your Girl 2:50 The Donnas
Moanin' At Midnight 2:56 Howlin' Wolf

Thursday, July 13, 2006

4.4 in 46 after 5

I've been doing the Nike Running Club for the past few months. It meets on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings at the Niketown just 3 blocks from our place. I started off with the 2 mile route. B is in his jogging stroller and reads books and eats raisins as we go. He has the better job I think. We both listen to Kool & the Gang on my iPod, because I only have two playlists so far on it - Kool & the Gang and Ladies of Jazz. Ladies of Jazz isn't great jogging music. I raised the mileage a couple weeks back to 3.75, and then tonight (Wednesday) B and I upped the ante again and did the 4.4 mile route around Magic Isle. Completed it in 46 minutes, which means I'm pretty much keeping my 10 minute mile speed. It's the first time I've gone over 4 miles since I did the marathon back in April of 2001. So, go me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Science at work - and God! (paca)

As an editorial assistant of an academic journal, I definitely get to see my fair share of "who really gives a damn" research - research that seems to have no point other than the fact that all us "researchers" are required to publish to keep our jobs. Undoubtedly, some of it truly isn't very important and will never be of much use to anybody. But the thing about science is that you frequently don't know which research is important or not until much later, if ever. So a linguist might document a stress system of a Pacific island language spoken by 150 people 1200 miles from nowhere. You look at the title, "Stress adjustments in the Tanawalam dialect of Kunu" and yawn. Someone got a grant for that? But someone else takes this bit of data and realizes its implications for how stress works in language, which then makes them rethink how stress could possibly be processed by the brain, which then makes them reanalyze the functional mappings of neural substrates of speech, and suddenly they are re-thinking how humans integrate multiple sensory input into conscious analysis, i.e., they are learning something basic about how humans think - all because some other linguist wrote up 20 pages on this obscure dialect of Kunu in 1968.

I was thinking about this because of this recent article from Space.com It's an article about whether or not famed physical constants are actually constant. It's an unevenly written article in that it starts off talking about atomic superglue in order to be accessible to a general audience and then later just tosses out words like strong force and general relativity. So the question about contants involves questions like: was the speed of light always the same? Apparently much of the evidence that the constants might have had different values comes from analysis of quasar spectra. If I was to just look at an article about quasar spectra, I would think, "I'm sure it's a bit interesting to an astronomer." At best. But by looking at this isolated data about objects billions of light years away, scientists are having to think very hard about the nature of the universe as a whole. For me, the most interesting statement in the article is from a scientist saying something to the effect of "we know what many of the constants currently are, but we don't know why they are as they are." To me, that is an exceedingly interesting question. The only answer we've had for a long time is God. And my understanding is that some Intelligent Design arguments are based on this - if any constant had differred by a millionth the whole universe would collapse, so something must have made the constants as they are.

I think it is very cool that some measurements of quasar spectra can make you think about God.

Here's one more last thought to stir controversy. In mathematics for a long time people were puzzled very much by the idea of the square root of -1 (negative one, minus one). Every number, even zero has a square root except for (-1). Of course, every negative number would have this problem, since a negative number times itself is positive, but negative numbers are just positive numbers multiplied by -1. Minus one is the problem. Eventually, this quandry was "solved" by just giving the square root of minus 1 a name: i.

And that's it. "i" just is the square root of -1, though we still have no idea what "i" is. But now it has a name and mathematicians could move on. Humans seem to operate like this. We don't undersand something, but then we give it a name and, voila - now we understand it and can work with it. There are a lot of diseases like this. SIDs (Sudden Infant Death) syndrome is pretty much just a name, but with a name doctors seem to be able to make progress on identifying symptoms, which might one day lead to genuine understanding of what is going on.

The controversial bit: Is God the religious version of "i'?

We don't know where anything came from, so we will give it a name. It came from God. We don't know how God did it or what God is like, but at least we have a name. God. That seeems to help.

Bad family names (paca)

In the long post below (in the comments) Sammy and I talk geneology some. He reveals that he had a relative named after that illustrious president Martin Van Buren. I'm thinking: At least they didn't have a thing for Millard Fillmore. It made me remember some awesome/horrible names from my and N's families. I have ancestors with the given name of Eufrozine Sophronia. That's a killer name, no? This name was enjoyed enough that it was passed on for several generations of great grandmothers and aunts and such. However, I think N's family wins the prize with some distant, distant relative of hers whose lovely parents named her Disappointment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I guess it's about ethnic identity or something (paca)

I periodically stop in at a blog by someone based here in Hawaii where she writes about her daily stuff like everyone else, and she also writes about her experiences as a Korean adoptee in America, meaning that when she was very young, she was adopted out of a Korean orphanage by American parents and grew up in Ohio, I think. She is in her 20s now and lives on Oahu with her husband. She made the point in her blog once that her husband is Filipino and some sense of shared Asian-ness was important to her. Her history of adoption is apparently very important to her as well. She is something of a figure in the online world for Korean adoptees and seems to head a Korean adoptees association on Oahu.

I first stopped by her blog a while ago, following a link to a link that had nothing to do with Korea or adoption, and she had written a very long post about finally finding her name. She identifies strongly with both her Korean heritage and her American heritage. She had an American English name from her adoptive parents and had finally settled on a Korean given name to go with it. She had to find her own Korean name, because she did not identify with the one given by the people who ran the orphanage.

I didn't go back to her blog for several weeks after reading all this. When I did, she had recently been enduring a firestorm of emails because of a post she had written. I think in her mind what the post said was that before parents of another race adopt from some place like China or Korea they should really think about the cultural issues involved, because they can be very difficult to manage for the children. Adoptive parents who ignore these issues and adopt anyway might be thinking more about themselves than their children-to-be. That's my guess of what she was aiming for. What she actually said was much closer to "white parents can never adopt non-white children and those who do are selfish and don't really give a crap about taking a child out of its birthplace." Adopting parents of Korean kids who read her web site were then mortally insulted because they felt they were being told that they can never be true parents to the one they love more than any other and that their parenting was doomed to failure. The parents then returned with patronizing messages to the Korean-American adoptees, saying the blogger clearly needed therapy and didn'y appreciate her own parents or that she must have had a terrible mother (adoptive). In short no one conducted themselves well. It fell to the point of people attaching various labels to each other - oh, you are just a INITIALS HERE - so we don't even have to think of you as a human being and understand where you are coming from.

I should add that I was not part of the conversation at all. I kept being tempted to rush in with my first post ever and try to bridge the communication gap, but I think I wisely stayed silent since I am an idiot on all these matters.

Today I was having another related discussion in person about a Chinese-American family here in Hawaii who have adopted a couple girls from China. This just came up in a long chain of topics. The person made a comment that it made some sense for people of Chinese ethnicity to adopt a daughter of Chinese ethnicity.

But I still couldn't get the question out of my head, "why does this make sense?" or "does it really make sense or do we just think it does?"

To put it a third way, "what exactly makes this person who was adopted from Korea when she was one think of herself as Korean in some sense?" Of course, she has whatever physical and biological traits are part of being Korean, but what is the exact tie between the physical body and the culture? Is it better to be adopted from Korea by Korean-Americans or would it make no difference? What if the Korean-American adoptive parents only spoke English? Would the fact that their grandparents were born in Korea somehow make the adoption easier? The adoption might not be trans-racial, but it would still be trans-cultural.

I don't know the answers to my questions and I am not really challenging the blogger. I am ignorant. The only roughly parallel experience I have is being an American as an adult in other countries. I have a strong tendency to start displaying what you might call heritage traits when I live somewhere else. I owned a cowboy hat, Ecuadorian actually, but rarely wore it when in college in Minnesota. But when I went to China the hat suddenly got a lot more play, because I obviously felt the need to express American-ness there (apparently people stopping and yelling "laowai" which means literally "old foreigner" all day long wasn't enough). I do this kind of thing all the time. When I first moved to Hawaii, suddenly I was cooking gumbo and renaming the computers in the department lab with names like etoufee and jambalaya. Now that I feel largely at home in Hawaii, I don't seem to be expressing my Louisiana background anymore. The desire to express a separate identity faded.

The major difference of course between me and someone adopted out of a culture is that I have lived all my life as an American, not just one year as an infant with no conscious memories. And yet the blogger clearly feels that she was ripped out of her home culture, despite loving her adoptive parents very much. If I was an American kid growing up since I was 2 days old in Seoul to Korean parents with no other white Americans around me, but only speaking Korean and living as a Korean, would I feel a pressing need to discover my American heritage in addition to my Korean one? The answer might be yes. But I don't like that answer. It says that my physical race somehow ties me forever to a culture that I have never even known. Why should that be the case? Is it the case?

People may have gotten the idea already that I hold very strong opinions about the adaptability of humans, their basic goodness, and an almost ludicrous faith that people are all one in the end (make that last one match with with a belief in enormous cultural adaptability please, because I can't). So the idea that a few months in a place as a baby ties one forever to an ethnic identity just doesn't sit well. (And note that I am not saying that if I felt completely Korean in my "paca as adoptee" scenario that it precludes a desire to be American; or vice versa, because the discussed blogger feels a connection to Korean heritage, I am not dumb enough to think that she doesn't also, perhaps, feel completely American as well. Not mutually exclusive.) If birth does give ethnic identity, I just don't know why that must be so.

The final note. I have spoken mostly about transracial adoption from East Asia to the US because that's the blog entry that got me thinking, but I assume there are the same issues even within the US. They could occur when adopting across race lines within the same town. They could occur when adopting across class lines. And if the latter is the case, maybe race has nothing to do with it at all and I'm chasing the wrong horse. Some people apparently just feel a strong pull to a birth place when others don't - or at least express it differently. My understanding is that many adopted children feel an immense desire to know about their biological parents. Others could barely care. To take my life as an example again, when N moved with me to Hawaii, she felt no need to express her Seattle heritage in obvious ways. We weren't suddenly eating salmon every three days and watching the Supersonics on TV and running to the mountains so we could get rained on. It was only me who felt a need to be hyper-Cajun for a while, when I never ever ate gumbo as a kid and have never been to a crawfish boil in Louisiana. That said, I think of Hawaii more as home now than N does. N just wandered over and said this is true, but she doesn't really feel she has a home, so there is no identity to express. No one she knows is living in a town that she grew up in, while my dad does still live in the same place where I was raised. I understand what she is saying, but I bet if we had no idea where we were going next, or if I died, she'd immediately go back to Washington state.

And those are my thoughts. I realize they are mostly stupid ones.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pet peeve number 9

number 9, number 9

So here's an annoying thing that keeps recurring in my life. I try to enroll in a music psych course but need instructor approval. I email the prof. No response. I try to enroll in an English creative writing course, but need approval. I write the instructor but no response. I try to enroll in a neuropsychology course but need instructor approval. You get the trend. Basically, if you are not in their department, people will do their best to keep you out.

On a related matter, I had an old friend call me a couple weeks back with an excited voice mail, "how you doing, man, been so long, here are my phone numbers." I call all of them back the next day twice. Haven't heard back yet. Similarly, an old college friend finds my email and sends a message, "tell me everything that's going on." I do. No response. Another person is moving to Hawaii and wants info about the school I taught in last year. I write back multiple paragraphs. No response.

Argh.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer session 2 (paca)

So summer session 2 starts tomorrow. I will be in 102 it looks like and sitting in with 202. I had hoped to reverse that, but I don't think so. In other news did you know that the name "Meara" is Irish and comes from the Irish word "mara" for the sea, while the name "Mira" comes from the Russian word "mir" meaning peace, as in the space station Mir.

Just a fact for you all to know. I am not clear yet on the relationship to Maya or Moira. Maire, however, is the Irish version of Mary. So there. Definitely don't ask about Myra.