My 2016 Reading Goal


I set my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge goal at 26 books and I’m using the above chart to choose a few of them. I’ve already got one book picked out, thanks to my wife: Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.

I met my reading goal in 2015, beating my 26-book goal by 3 books, and I hope to do it again, thus giving me a three-peat for my yearly reading challenge.

One other book-related note: Gene Luen Yang was named the Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature. He’s the first graphic novelist to be named to the post and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading his brilliant and thought-provoking American Born Chinese.

Day 335: Giving Tuesday



While I’ve shunned Black Friday over the years and slowly become more of a Cyber Monday kinda guy, Giving Tuesday is really the only day that matters.

Started four years ago, “#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.”

My wife and I have supported Wikipedia and CicLAvia on previous Giving Tuesdays. This year, we donated to a cause very close to our hearts: Visual Communications.

Visual Communications “is the first non-profit organization in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts.”

It felt good to make a small donation tonight. And unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is the only pseudo-holiday that can be practiced on any day of the year, so if you’re reading this days, weeks, or months from now, you can still participate.

Day 193: Nepal Cultural Festival


My wife and I love the USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. We attended a few of their Fusion Friday events last summer and today’s Nepal Cultural Festival and Earthquake Relief Fund was our first visit this year.

The festival happened to fall on Second Sunday, when the museum offers free admission. We made the trip before noon and were treated to traditional and fusion Nepalese music and dance. There were a few crafts tables where you could make your own Nepalese mask and one of our favorite food trucks, the India Jones Chow Truck, was there.

Of course, a trip to the museum wouldn’t be complete without a walk through the museum itself. We liked the copies of Snakes and Ladders that were available for play; as explained here, the ancient game originated in India and is still played by children today in its modern version, Chutes and Ladders.

We enjoyed the Visualizing Enlightenment: Decoding the Buddhist Iconography exhibition. This exhibit featured a six-foot Buddha wood carving from over 500 years ago, with an explanation of its details.

The weather warmed up as the day wore on, but the pleasant vibe kept everyone in good spirits, as performers and audience mingled and danced together in the courtyard. It was a good-for-the-soul Sunday Funday.

Day 152: APA Heritage Month Reading

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

Although Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month just ended, it’s easy to experience APA arts and culture throughout the year. Professor Timothy Yu posted a terrific list of Asian Pacific American/Canadian fiction (all published pre-1990) and I’m looking forward to making my way through this list; I can personally recommend the works of Carlos Bulosan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, and Bharati Mukherjee.

Here are a five more that I would add to the list of recommended books about the Asian-Pacific Islander experience. I’ve included a few non-fiction titles as well and linked to the Goodreads pages.

1. Big Little Man Eye-opening look at the perceptions and experiences of APA men, especially Filipinos.

2. Ghost Month Murder mystery set in Taiwan’s night markets.

3. Everything I Never Told You Coming-of-age mystery set in 70s middle America.

4. The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker Thought-provoking collection of essays by former White House speechwriter Eric Liu.

5. American Born Chinese Outstanding graphic novel of the immigrant experience.


Day 144: Sunday Sickday

Jedi Elvis

Jedi Elvis

I’m still wiped out from my sickness (which wasn’t helped by being out for Star Wars Day), so today’s post is short and sweet.

Above is Jedi Elvis, the hilarious singer/Star Wars geek. Below are links to my photo/video albums from the last two events I live-tweeted.

Star Wars Day photos and videos

Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Arts Night photos and videos

Day 135: Asian/Pacific Islander Cultural Arts Night

Josh Chang

Josh Chang

Tonight I’m live-tweeting from the Asian/Pacific Islander Cultural Arts Night in Rancho Cucamonga, California. You can follow me on Twitter from 7-9pm; I’ll use the hashtag #APICANRC for my tweets and photos.

I missed last year’s celebration, but the previous year was awesome, mainly because I met Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of the Asian American literature classic Farewell to Manzanar. She did a brief Q&A before meeting fans and signing (free!) copies of her book.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s event, with headliner Josh Chang and other entertainers. I’ll post photos later on my Google+ page, but for now you can check out my photos of the last event I live-tweeted, the Riverside Tamale Festival, here.

Day 134: Fung Brothers

Fung Brothers

Fung Brothers

Thanks to my wife sharing a news item with me about the Fung Brothers, I just binge-watched an hour’s worth of their videos on I’d already seen the hilarious “Asians Eat Weird Things” song with AJ Rafael, but this was the first time I watched any of their other videos. It’s easy to see why they landed their own television show: they’re passionate, funny, and brilliant.

I loved the pop culture references, the music, and the energy in each 5- to 10-minute clip. I had a blast watching them and learned a lot, too. My number-one lesson? Don’t watch on an empty stomach. I’m craving Din Tai Fung, The Hat, Korean BBQ, fried rice, and boba right now.

Day 128: Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen

We celebrated an early Mother’s Day with my mother-in-law tonight at Ajisen Ramen in Rowland Heights. It doesn’t compare to the legendary Daikokuya and other top ramen spots in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, but Ajisen is always satisfying and I like the modern decor of this Japanese-based chain restaurant.

After inhaling the baby octopus and fried tofu appetizers (both were delicious), we dove right into our ramen. I went with the Premium Pork Ramen this time and left a happy camper. There are many excellent ramen shops in the area (Ramen Yukino Ya and Foo Foo Tei, to name just two), but Ajisen has never let me or my family down.

Day 127: Din Tai Fung


Din Tai Fung

You know a meal is good when you’re still thinking about it days later. Din Tai Fung does this to me every time. The xiaolongbao is perfect. The service is fast and efficient. The other food, from shrimp and pork shao mai to the sautéed string beans with garlic, is excellent.

It’s consistently great, but none of this matters if the company is bad, right? Fortunately, I’ve always found myself here with my wife, family, or good friends.

Outstanding food with amazing people: it’s the only pairing that matters.

Day 126: Delano Manongs

Larry Itliong

Larry Itliong

I learned something about my lolo (grandfather) recently, after watching the Delano Manongs, a documentary now airing on PBS as part of its Asian Pacific Heritage Month programming. I mentioned this to my mom and she said that lolo had worked those same fields. This was news to me, since I only knew about the time he’d spent serving in the U.S. Navy.

As I watched the short film, I was inspired by Larry Itliong’s drive and passion for protecting his fellow Filipinos. He fought long and hard for workers’ rights and partnered with Cesar Chavez. They formed the American Farm Workers union and led the famous grape strike that eventually led to better conditions and pay for the workers.

This history of workers’ rights was interesting and was in line with what I’d learned in college. I felt silly that I never asked mom if lolo had worked there. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense: there weren’t many job opportunities for young Filipinos back then, especially ones like my lolo who only had an elementary school education.

There’s a point in the documentary where many of the manongs (the older Filipino farm workers) decide to continue their work in the fields, while others go off in search of other opportunities. What if my lolo had been one of those that stayed in the fields? Would I be here, typing away on a laptop about him?

I only have a few memories of my lolo, but they’re all good ones. It felt good to add another one today.