Wednesday, April 25, 2007


A loooong time ago, I wrote about a planned family trip to the land of my wife's birth, the Philippines, wondering about the logistical and cultural considerations involved with using a carseat overseas. Well, the time has finally come to put the rubber to the road, as it were. Our big trip "home" is fast approaching.

My non-continental-U.S. travel experiences have been slim so far--a trip to Puerto Rico, two trips to Mexico, two trips to Hawaii, a half-remembered childhood daytrip to British Columbia from Washington State. This is by far the longest flight I'll have been on, let alone with The Pumpkin, who at 2-and-a-half is no stranger to planes. And this trip is different in a much more important way--for my wife, who came here at age one, and her parents, who are the only members of their families in this country, this isn't a vacation as much as it is going home. For someone born and raised in Los Angeles whose immigrant ancestors on both sides of the family are at least three generations in the past, this is something entirely new.

For the first time, I'm going to meet people I've only heard about for the last 15 years, people I'm related to by marriage, people who are my wife's family. My daughter's family. My family. It's a weird idea, a weird feeling, for a guy whose own family-by-birth is pretty small. The number of first cousins I have, I can count on my fingers. For my wife, even thousands of miles and years apart, cousins aren't cousins--they're brothers and sisters. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about all this, about making a good impression, about the language and culture barriers, about traveling with my in-laws in their own homeland, where they're the experts. I want to have a good time, to make sure my wife and babygirl have fun too, and to show my parents-in-law how much I respect and appreciate them. So yeah, nerves are there. But I so want this, for my wife, and for my daughter, though I don't know how much she'll remember in years to come (we'll have plenty of pictures, though, if I brought enough memory cards and the right power adapter, that is). And you know what? I want this for me, too.

So I won't understand everything, linguistically, culturally even. So I'm not Filipino, just "Filipino by marriage." But being surrounded by people who look like me, a country full of brown skin and miscegenated features? And add to that that I'm related to a whole bunch of them, and they to my babygirl? Yeah, I want this.

So we're running around buying "tropical-weather" wear (90 degrees with similar humidity, only 80 at night!), packing balikbayan boxes for the relatives, prepping The Pumpkin with talk of the Philippines and going to where Nana and Tata are from, with them, and going on the plane, and meeting lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. We've tried to get her used to the backpack carrier we've bought, gathered all the power cords for the various electronic devices (thank god for portable DVD players!), and stocked up on sunscreen and bug repellent.

And we've been reading The Pumpkin these two awesome, brand-new books from Asian-interest publisher Tuttle, both by Filipina expat Liana Romulo: Filipino Friends and My First Book of Tagalog Words. They're both from the p.o.v. of Filipino American kids--"Filipino Friends" actually follows a balikbayan kid on his first trip to the Philippines. [Thanks to the good folks at Tuttle for sending me these, and just in time, too! Wow, I didn't even realize till I looked at Amazon that "Filipino Friends" isn't even out yet! Cool. Heh.] Definitely cool books for trip prep.

Oh--and the carseat? Yeah, bringing it. Heh.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Rampage

I was holding my 6 day old son in my arms today watching the news when I first found out the shooter was a Korean. Yesterday, I was so saddened by the whole shooting when I found out about it, but for some reason, it really hit me hard when I found out the shooter was Korean. As a Korean American, I cannot describe the feelings and thoughts that started racing through my mind, and are still racing in my head. I know it should not be a race thing, and the shooter could have been any other race, but it is hard for me to not overlook the fact that he is a Korean. Feelings of anger and sadness have been overwhelming this morning. I am sure part of it is that I am completely sleep deprived from helping to take care of our baby, but I know part of it is that I took it personally for some reason when I found out he was Korean. It was almost as if I felt ashamed, like he was part of my family or something. It made me feel sad that in the future, when one thinks of Korean males, the thought that we are going to be remembered that one of us was responsible for the largest mass massacre in U.S. history. I am sure I am overreacting, but still. Its hard for me not to take it personally, and be so angry at Seung-Hui for what he has done and the heartache he has caused these people that lost their lives, their families, and their community. Could all the hard work that Koreans have done to develop their positive presence in the American community be overlooked with this event? I am sure it won't, but its hard for me not to think about. I know its not a race thing, but it is hard when I keep hearing "Senior from South Korea" over and over again on the news.

I could not help thinking about my son, and wondering how the parents of Seung-Hui must feel right now. I wonder what drove the him to do this? Was he abused as a child, did his parents put too much pressure on him to succeed, was he teased a lot for being Asian, did his girlfiend cheat on him, did he feel alone and rejected and it was topped off when his girlfriend broke up with him? I am sure there are multiple factors which led to his actions.

I want to teach my son how to deal with his anger and sadness. I want to raise him in an emotionally healthy environment. I want to protect my son from repressed anger, sadness, or racism, but know that I always can't. I can't imagine how the families and friends of the students who were killed must feel. I pray for them. Looking at my son, I can't imagine my life without him now. I pray this does not turn into a race thing, or that Korean males get stereotyped as all having repressed anger and violent tendencies. I am sorry if I sound irrational, but I feel so filled with so many emotions and questions right now. I wonder what could have been different about Seung-Hui's history that would have prevented him from dealing with his anger in this way.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Glorious Poop and Pee

Oh man, what a day!!! I have to thank Daddy in a Strange Land and the fellow gang first of all for visiting us in the hospital after we had the baby. It was nice to see them and their kids. I can't even tell you how amazing it is to have a baby, and to hold your baby in your arms for the first time. In addition, it was insane to see my wife push that baby out of you know where, and I can tell you I did not know you could fall more in love with a person, but I truly have even more amounts of admiration, respect, and love for her.

Anyways, it really hit me hard that I was actually a father when we got home from the hospital. It was a rush, but at the same time totally surreal. We wanted to try our hardest to breasfeed only, but only small amounts of colustrum were coming out. We should have known it suspicious when our baby was hardly putting out any wet diapers. Of course, when we went in to see the pediatrician this morning, our poor little baby had lost significant weight and was jaundice. As a family practitioner, I should have seen all this, but I have been so exhausted and run down, I just figured it was all because our boy is Asian, which is partly true. Anyways, we had to go the hospital to draw labs, and meet with the Lactation consultant. My wife then had a breakdown since she felt like she was trying her hardest to feed the baby, but her nipples were on fire like someone poured tobasco sauce on them, and the baby was now dehydrated and jaundice. Fortunately, we got some great tips from the lactation consultant, and we headed for home to supplment the breasfeeding with formula. Thank goodness that when we started doing this, our kid started to have more wet diapers and stool. I almost broke down and cried out of happiness seeing the stained diapers each time. After using the Lanolin cream and improving the latch, my wife's nipples started to feel less painful, and our baby is chilling with his bilirubin UV lighs at home.

Anyways, it was a lesson in humility and education. I know that while I can read all the textbooks I want, it won't help until I actually go through the experience and understand it from a personal point of view. Our little yellow baby is doing better, and is having glorious poop and pee making his dad proud!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Hey, RakuMon... Don't tell anyone I told you, but...

You're now officially Rice Daddies' designated "expectant" dadblogger.


Okay, yeah, I know I shouldn't steal his thunder, but I'm too happy, so I gotta let y'all know that our own Dr. Lo Siento is a daddy now! OBmommy [hey, he never gave her a nom de blog, so they can change it later] gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 2:11 this morning. Both mom and baby are doing well [as is the big poppa].

Speaking of "big"...

The little dude weighed in at 8 lbs, 4 oz, and was 21 inches long! If you've ever seen a photo of Dr. Lo, you'll understand why I'm expecting, shall we say, an abundant cranium on the child. Heh. We get to meet him tonight!

Welcome to the world, little buddy! And welcome to the club, Doc. Your world ain't never gonna be the same....

Our Obsession with Pandas

I think I can safely say that my wife and I are obsessed with pandas. It was actually an obsession she learned from me years ago. When we started dating, I'd buy her little stuffed pandas and birthday cards with pandas. Pretty much, pandas all around.

Nakko has always loved cute, round, chubby animals anyway (that's why she married me!), so it was natural she'd take a liking to the pandas I brought into her life. For me, I've been a fan since I was an infant. My first stuffed animal was a panda named Radar.

Anyway, two years ago, panda fever gripped the whole country when baby Tai Shan was born at the National Zoo, which is about 45 minutes from us. For months after Tai was born, Nakko and I would spend hours on end watching the Zoo's panda cam. I can’t even begin to count the number of hours of productivity that were lost between the two of us in the summer of ’05. I think it was at that time we decided we could be parents. Watching Mei Xiang -- the panda mama -- cuddling and nursing that tiny, hairless baby, I guess we figured "how hard could it be?"

On a serious note, we thought it was a nice bit of kismet when we learned my wife's due date would be July 9, 2007 -- which would be Tai Shan's second birthday. Learning that cosmic coincidence was a little bittersweet, though, when we realized Tai was set to be returned to China on his second birthday. What to do?! Kiki will never be able to meet her spiritual “brother from another (species’) mother!”

Well, fortunately, the National Zoo and the Chinese government are negotiating an agreement to let Tai Shan stay a little longer. He’s guaranteed to stay until at least the fall, which is good news for us because we can bring Kiki to the zoo when she’s a few months old. We only hope she’ll be able to remember the trip.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Lost Secrets of Traditional Asian Whole Steamed Fish

I love to cook. Asian, Italian, American, it doesn't matter - I love to cook. One of the most delicious and easiest dishes in the world is traditional Asian whole steamed fish with ginger and scallions. Yet, every recipe I've seen on the Internet and in cook books neglect several key points which often lead to a bland, dry dish. Even my mom has forgotten the secrets, I know that because she started asking ME how to cook this dish after sampling my fish.

So I figured it's best to share the secrets and spread the word. Forget that this dish is healthy and good for kids, it's downright delicious, better than the best steak I ever had when done right! My kids love it.

OK, first the basics. It follows what nearly every recipe calls for - a fresh whole fish, scallions & ginger, soy sauce and a steamer. You can definitely add a few more ingredients and I can offer my opinion on that but later. However, the dish will suck unless you remember these key points:

1) The fresh fish - even if it was alive and swimming, that isn't enough. The flavorful sauce you get from steaming fish comes from the blood. Yes, the blood of the fish is key! So remember this, never let them cut off the fins, never buy pre-gutted fish (it's the worse!), the blood will drain out and you will have a tasteless piece of cardboard to eat. I go as far as to gut the fish myself at the last minute to reduce fluid loss. Fresh frozen and thawed whole fish can be just as good as a more expensive living fish.

2) Undercook the fish. That's not quite the same as saying don't overcook it. When you remove the dish from the steamer the fish should still be a bit raw at the spine. The way to check is to use a knife to cut along the spine and see if the flesh parts from bone and if the bones are still translucent (raw). A regular 2lb fish like bass or tilapia requires only like 8-9 minutes of cooking. Just make sure the fish is fresh. (Thinner or thicker fish require different times based on weight - experiment and write down the cooking times, fish is good for you.)

3) That final splash of hot oil on scallions. Ah how I dread having to heat up the oil so hot it's steaming. After the fish is cooked, pile on the chopped or julienned scallions (ack a guy using the word julienne!) on the fish and pour the scalding oil on top. Always be careful, this is why I cook fish and not my wife who wants to avoid getting burned - use mitts. But the hotter the better to release the scallions' flavor into the sauce. And be generous on the oil.

You know why whole fish is better than filets? Because the head, bones and skin add flavor, the blood adds flavor. The best part of the fish is the fatty belly meat (just be careful not to break open the gall bladder when you gut the fish). Steamed fish on top of rice with sauce on top is just awesome.

My personal recipe uses the white parts of the scallion stalks as a rack to to lay the fish on top of (this let's the bottom of the fish cook faster). My sauce is 4 parts light soy, 2 part dark soy, a little sugar, 1 part Shao Xing rice wine and a dash of sesame oil which I pour over the fish to marinate prior to steaming. Ginger is placed on the skin and in the gut of fish, the chopped scallions are for later. I don't like making diagonal cuts on the fish to let it cook faster - blood will leak out of the flesh. Lot's of people add garlic or black beans and other stuff - all good as long as you follow the secrets!

Enjoy, maybe next time I will share my award winning Chili recipe!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Got Mad Cash. Who Needs Some Money?

Every now and then, I come across a big crapload of money. Whenever that happens, I just take what I need and I give away the rest. Over the years, I've learned that money is like food. It's perishable, so you gotta give away what you can't spend. When you need more, it'll just come to you. Don't ask me how this works. It just does...

Recently, I came across another crapload of cash. After taking what I needed, I started looking around for people who could use the rest of it. Needless to say, I hit a few charities, including the SoulSnax Diversity in Media Challenge cuz these kids need it the most.

Then I found It's like the eBay of "people-to-people lending." From my experience so far, it looks like a great alternative to my 3-year ING Direct CDs (Current APY: a measly 5%). On Prosper, I'm earning an average of 16.5% on a diverse array of person-to-person loans. I've spread out my risk by contributing $50 here and there to a variety of folks at varying interest rates, based upon their individual credit ratings. The typical borrower will pay about a 17% interest rate to consolidate credit card debt of 25% or more. It's a win-win for lenders as well as borrowers.

What does this have to do with giving money away? Well, I was in a good mood one day, so I set out to find me a Rice Daddy on the Prosper site who could use some cash. Preferably a high-risk borrower, cuz those are the folks who need it most. The interest rates they get rarely fall below 25%. Ouch. That's pretty steep.

I eventually found this one Filipino-American guy who was an army veteran looking to borrow $5000. He needed it to cover the hospital bills of his new preemie baby. He had been laid off, but recently found employment at a lower salary. I offered as much as I could, at 1% interest. If he paid me back, great. If not, no biggie. Unfortunately, not enough lenders pitched in before the proposal expired, so the deal didn't go through. I was bummed, and if I could, I'd track him down and throw him a few bucks. Oh well...

Luckily for my philanthropic ego, I discovered a new feature on the site called "Community Payment" which allows you to contribute $25 or more to any folks in danger of defaulting on their loans. I picked a couple of these "deadbeats" and donated some money to cover their late payments. I entered a short inspirational message, and hit SEND. Then I paused to savor that warm fuzzy feeling inside. :)

Then today I was thinking, wouldn't it be great if enough of us RiceDaddies could get together and pitch in the next time one of our brothas needed a helping hand? What do y'all think? Post your thoughts in the comments.