Sunday, July 30, 2006

Personal: Roots

Two Tin Canners:

This weekend, I visited my folks over in Monterey Park and asked them about the old country.

When we visited in 2001, we took the ferry from Hong Kong.

China is made up of various provinces. My ancestors hail from Guangdong province. Within Guandong, my parents can trace their roots to the prefecture-level city of Zhongshan. The village resides within the administrative town of Nanlang. Finally, my dad is specifically from the village of Charyuen.

From a mix of oral history and fragmentary genealogy documents, he believes the first ancestor arrived in Charyuen 21 generations ago. Eventually, America rose in power and some Chinese would go to America as immigrant labor seeking opportunity. This took place in the 18th generation (mid-19th Century). Some of the 19th generation would be born in US territories while others were born back in the old country. I'm in generation number 21.

Kari, I think you had mentioned to me that you had tracked down your family tree at one time. Might you refresh my memory?

Dear gentle Two Tin Can readers, if you would like, would love to hear your coming to America story and about your roots! If you have clicked over here from outside the USA, what's your story about where you are and how you and your family got there?

Take care and be well,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Culture: Standing on two distant shores

Dear Kari:

Thanks for sharing the story of the international adoptions process.

Congratulations on taking this big and exciting step!

To the degree you find it helpful to share about the experience, please do as I and our dear readers would like to know how it turns out and we are rooting for you both.

It would not surprise you to know that this blog has gotten a few hits recently with adoption in the search field. Thus, there are people out there who want to know more and your story will add to the mix of personal experiences for people to draw encouragement and information from.

To the extent you would like to discuss, I'd be curious to know what kind of advice the agency is giving you regarding the cultural aspect to the adoption. As you well know, I'm born in the USA and of Chinese ancestry. In a bit of rentless self-promotion, I hope readers will click over to my China travelogue where I share about my visit to the ancestral homeland and village back in 2001.

The American experience has always involved the blending of cultures.

When I was growing up the term was "melting pot." That term fell out of favor because it implied a homogenization of cultures. The new terms are "tapestry" and "mosaic."

From my perspective, the new terms are more accurate.

As a person with a foot in two cultures, I am forever reminded by those of generations before me that I'm not sufficiently Chinese or too American. To those who are from the majority culture, some still see Chinese and Asians as slightly alien or somewhat exotic and approach with a mix of weariness and curiosity.

On top of the baseline culture factors, toss in gender issues to the mix of our media conscious age and you get Asian women prized as news reporters and Asian males as falling into one of two stereotypes: the kindly wise grandfather figure or the martial arts warrior.

In good days, I feel I have gotten the best of both worlds and on bad days I feel I have inherited the worst of both worlds. On the whole, one of the gracious compensations of age and a Christian worldview is that one grows to recognize our common humanity rather than dwell on differences.

It is also good that in the era I grew up, outright institutional racism was fast becoming a thing of the past. Documentary films highlight past injustices and seeing them invokes a mixture of feelings.

Sadness in that America, the land of the free and the belief where all men are created equal, didn't always live up to those ideals. With that sadness comes the realization that human sinfulness knows no cultural boundaries and in that regard we are all the same.

However, there is also pride in America in that we have come so far so quickly. In other parts of the world, different cultures clash with force of arms and blood flows in the streets and the fields. Here, now, by in large, the different cultures of the American milieu are celebrated.

The other night with the power outage, the dwellers of my apartment had a spontaneous block party of sorts in front of our building. There on the sidewalk and on the grassy lawn, Americans of all sorts of ancestry mingled. During the time I was there, we shared lots of small talk of what we do and various incidental details of our lives. I heard someone say he was Greek, a few were Armenian, another Russian and those cultural identities were just a part of the interesting conversation.

Keep us all posted on how it goes on this cyberspace version of the front porch.

Take care and be well,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Life/Culture/Travel: China, Here We Come (Eventually)


I’ve been reminded that these tin cans work both ways on the end of a very long string, so today I’m breaking my listen-only mode.

Today is a milestone of sorts for The Other Half and I. We just sent a completed packet to Holt International Children’s Services in Eugene, Oregon, for what is the last US-based step in the international adoption process. Next stop for the dossier: China.

It was in January that we sent our initial application to the agency. We started compiling our dossier in February (physicals were first up), and we received the authenticated dossier materials back from the Chinese Consulate in Chicago on Monday. We did each step as soon as we were eligible to, so five or six months would almost seem to be the minimum. We had hoped to get everything done in four months, but some things just take time. Getting a key form back from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service took exactly seven weeks on its own.

One complicating factor that ended up being not so complicated after all was getting an original of my birth certificate. I was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and my birth certificate was on file with a territorial government that no longer exists. As it turns out, the U.S. State Department is the custodian of the old Canal Zone files, so the birth certificate I received bears the signature of Condoleezza Rice and had to be authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC.

The Other Half was frustrated by the dossier process – we were fingerprinted by multiple agencies on separate occasions, had to be approved by our social worker and the state as fit to adopt, and were required to explicitly relate our financial situation, among many other things – but to me, this process was not unnerving, because I understood why most steps were necessary, and we still had some degree of control. Now that the paperwork is out of our hands, the waiting begins (it’s estimated that we will receive a referral in 11-12 months, traveling 6-9 weeks later for 10-12 days). Waiting will be the hard part for me.

As you know, my siblings were adopted from South Korea (my brother in the mid ‘70s, my sister in the early ‘80s). I suppose that gives us some advantage in familiarity with the process and integrating our family, but there are many unknowns ahead. We are trying to prepare ourselves to be the best parents we can be for our daughter, who may already be living in a provincial orphanage somewhere in China. We took a parental preparation class that Holt offers (actually requires, which is a good thing) for adoptive families, are continuing to read books and articles about international adoption. We’ve also started getting serious about cultural education, hungrily reading and watching anything we can about Chinese history and daily life in modern China. Our DVR is getting cluttered with cultural shows recorded off CCTV-9. If readers have any recommendations for us, please pass them along!

I pledge to resume posting on other, non-adoption-related topics. If you’re interested, I will post updates on our journey, but fear not: Two Tin Cans will not become a de facto adoption blog….

Take care,

Sports: Dodger blues

Will the Dodgers win another baseball game?

The problems:

(1) Starting pitching:
Penny had the strong 2 innings in the All-Star game but you can't throw like that routinely. Lowe was a contact sinker ball pitcher and now he is a contact surrender runs pitcher. Sele was a surprise in the first half but he is known to run out of gas in the 2nd half of the season. Hendrickson hasn't won yet. Billingsley is a rookie and for the moment the only pitcher to win a game for the Blue since the All-Star break.

(2) Relief pitching:
Erratic; in the first half, they could be lights out or the arson squad. Now, with no offense to speak of, by the time the ball gets to the bullpen the Dodgers are behind and they can be lights out and it doesn't matter.

(3) Hitting:
The rookies probably were hitting above their level in the first half but now they are coming to earth. The veterans have been injured or not hitting up to expectations or both.

Pretty hard to win if you don't score and your pitchers can't contain the other team.

Will the Dodgers win another baseball game?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Culture: Heat wave

Sometimes I stare into space
Tears all over my face
I can't explain it
Don't understand it
I hadn't ever felt like this before
Now that funny feeling has me amazed
I Don't know what to do
My head's in a haze
Ronstadt was singing about something other than 100+ degree weather.

However, that song popped into my mind as we swelter here in Los Angeles. The California power grid will be pushed to the brink again today with demand expected to exceed 50,000 megawatts again likely triggering Stage 2 emergency procedures in the afternoon.

Los Angeles is off the California grid because the city has its own utility company and currently is able to import enough power to handle the crisis. However, the distribution system in LA is antiquated and is blowing out in this heat wave.

In fact last night, at my apartment building was out for 6 hours. DWP crews were hop-scotching around our neighborhood fixing blown equipment. My four story building was an oven so most of us went out to the sidewalk. I had not met very many of my fellow apartment dwellers until last night.

In any case, power popped back on briefly around 9:30 and then blew out again. Eventually, power was restored shortly after 11 pm.

Stay cool if you can where ever you are!

Books: Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy

I really enjoyed the following book ...

As a life long Dodger fan, it was very informative to read about arguably the most famous Dodger ever.

I was born in 1963 so if my parents had taken me to a game or had the radio on, I would have been too young to remember.

Growing up following the Dodgers, I just knew that Koufax and Drysdale were the dynamic duo of the Dodgers.

The book has plenty of baseball but also a lot of the story of the era that Koufax lived through.

Leavy alternates chapters about the life of Koufax with chapters that recount each inning of the famed perfect game of September 9, 1965.

The first thing that struck me was that initially Koufax wasn't very good. He was wild and Dodger manager Walter Alston really didn't want to use him much. But eventually, Koufax hit his mark and the last six years of his 12 year career, the ball was in his hands a lot.

I had heard his career was cut short because of arm trouble. Little did I realize how bad it was. He essentially pitched until his arm nearly fell off. In three seasons he pitched over 300 innings!

Third, I knew of the famed perfect game. Every Dodger fan has heard playbacks of the final call by Vin Sculley where he recited the time and date as part of his call of that last inning. What I didn't know was that his opposing pitcher threw a 1-hitter and the 1-run was unearned due to a throwing error. It was a night of almost two perfect games.

The human dimensions of the Koufax story are amazing. It is hard to imagine that there once was an era where racial slurs against blacks and Jews were very common. Koufax endured those with grace and stood together with his black teammates. Koufax was a fiercely competitive ballplayer and very reserved. Yet, the book reveals that he was much more than that. His kindness to teammates and the people in his life comprised many of the anecdotes of the story.

Finally, there is the story of his refusing to pitch on Yom Kippor on game 1 of the 1965 World Series. Koufax was not the most religious of Jews but his decision has left an impression on many Jewish people. Check this page for one such story.

Jane Leavy has told a wonderful tale of a very interesting man. It is a book about baseball but it is a book about so much more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sports: Soccer = National League ???

Was watching PBS Newshour and one of the guests was defending soccer and proclaimed its growing popularity in the USA and the other was saying it remains a niche sport and will not get beyond that.

I have to say I agree with the latter analysis.

In the just concluded World Cup, I didn't watch a single game from beginning to end. I only watched portions of a handful of contests.

In many ways, my interest in the World Cup was more in the hoopla around the World Cup rather than the games themselves!

As I have mentioned before, the shootout is emotionally exciting but intellectually unsatisfying. Can one really say that Italy was better than France?

I realize sometimes a game in any sport can come down to the last possession where really either side deserves to win. However, in the World Cup, there were so many 1-0 games and several determined by shootout. The cumulative ambiguity of the results leaves me cold.

Am I alone in this?

Is this an "American" trait that likes clarity? Especially, a clear winner?

As George C. Scott says in Patton, "Americans love a winner!"

To add insult to injury, there was no question that Team USA soccer was not up to snuff as demonstrated by their winless performance - blitzed by the Czechs and finally booted by Ghana. But remember which team did Team USA play to a draw and almost beat?

Italy, the World Cup champs!

This morning, was listening to The Herd on ESPN Radio and he was on a rant about the AL versus NL divide. The AL has a decade of dominance in the All Star Game. They swept the last two MLB championships. The top four teams in payroll are AL teams. The AL is way ahead of the NL in inter-league play.

The only difference between the AL and NL is the designated hitter.

Yet, it is now clear the AL is doing much better. The Herd claimed that extra bit of offense is drawing more crowds and this has translated to players prefering to go to the AL. This small advantage has now snowballed into dominence.

The Herd went on to bash the NL partisans saying, oh, stop with this purity of the game stuff. Watching pitchers hit? Double switches? Fans like offense and offense sells tickets.

Hmmm ... sure sounds like the beef against soccer?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Culture: Are you ready for some football????

That is how the CBS radio news started by using the famed music of Monday Night Football to kick off its hourly update. At the time, they reported that Italy and France was tied at 1.

I'm watching now on TV and will live blog.

It is second overtime and it is still tied 1-1.

Both sides look dog tired. Italy seems more tired though.

UDATE: It is 19 minutes into OT. One of the Italian players got clocked by Zidane but since the ref didn't see it, there is no call. They are showing it over in replay. Wait a minute, the side judge just pulled the RED card! Oh my!!

UPDATE: Will Italy play for the penalty kick or will they try to press their one man advantage?

UPDATE: 24 minutes into OT, France seems to still dictating play even a man down.

UPDATE: The speed of ice hockey is partly because it is on ice skates but also because of unlimited line changes. Part of soccer is the stamina aspect but this is pretty gruesome to watch. I hear they only allow THREE substitutions for the whole game. Perhaps, they should allow a few more substitutions.

UPDATE: We are now in stoppage time of the overtime session. Neither side can seem to organize a series of passes to get a good shot. Most of the players are just standing around from exhaustion.

UPDATE: It is penalty shoot out time. The only other time a World Cup has been settled this way was in 1994.

UPDATE: Best of 5 kicks to determine the winner. If still tied, then it is sudden death penalty shots.

UPDATE: The goaltenders hug before the French net minder goes to the nets while the Italian goalie goes to the side to await his turn in the net mouth. Italy scores.

UPDATE: France evens it 1-1.

UPDATE: Italy 2 France 1. France up to kick.

UPDATE: He hits the upper post, NO GOOD. Italy can take a 3-1 lead with a kick here. He hits it.

UPDATE: France hits it to make it 3-2 in favor of Italy.

UPDATE: Italy hits it to make it 4-2. Now, a must hit by France or its over.

UPDATE: Nails it. 4-3 Italy. But if Italy hits this shot, they win the World Cup!

UPDATE: He buries it. Italy wins the 2006 World Cup!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sports: World Cup Final Four

It is Germany vs Italy and Portugal vs France.

I've only watched parts of some games.


(1) I don't understand a word of the play-by-play on Spanish language channel 34 here in LA but it sure made what I was watching more exciting!

(2) The penalty shootout to settle a game is dramatic emotionally but intellectually unsatisfying. It would be like settling a baseball game on a home run distance contest, a basketball game by a round of HORSE or an American football game on PAT kicks.

(3) People complain about the flopping that happens in basketball. Hah! The best NBA floppers have nothing on what happens on the pitch.

(4) The speed and stamina of the players is impressive.

(5) Because goals are so infrequent each near miss is quite exciting. Likewise, when a team has decided to run the clock out and take their chances on the penalty shootout, it is less exciting. UPDATE: Was it my imagination or not? Seemed Germany got pretty passive in extra time trusting they could take down the Italians in the shoot-out? The Italians got the goal as time was about to expire ... it was a nifty sequence that set up the curvy shot just inside the left post!

Predictions: past performance is not an indicator of future success (my guesses have been about as good as flipping a coin!) but I'm thinking Germany vs Portugal in the finals.

From what I've seen Germany has what appears to be a steady if unspectacular but effective style of play. Portugal appears to have a way of getting on the nerves of the opponent. Prime example: England's defeat.