Sunday, April 26, 2009

pinto lake park, watsonville, calif.

This is the shrine at Pinto Lake Park in Watsonville, where locals believe the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared on a tree. There is an enormous amount of flowers and candles, notes and pictures.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

different world

The Swedish Lutheran Church is electing a new bishop in Stockholm. Front runner is a woman called Eva Brunne. Eva Brunne is gay, and in a registered partnership. Do the Swedes care about her sexual orientation? No. The news story makes more of an issue of the fact that the couple has a young child. 'Why couldn't a bishop have kids? That's not a big deal', says Eva Brunne.

Imagine that, in the US.


When you have chemo, you know that you're going to loose your hair. Being bald isn't fun, but there is nothing you can do about it.

What they don't tell you before hand, is that it's very likely you are also going to get fat. That's a side effect from all the different medications that come with the chemo.

Yeah, bald and fat.

So, I've had a few pounds to loose. Most of it is gone, but I am still on a carrot heavy diet.

The other day Dan's truck needed work. I dropped it off, and walked home. It took me about an hour and a half, which was good. Carrot diets should be accompanied by lots of exercise, we all know that.

Yesterday I timed myself again, when I walked over there to pick up the truck. An hour and a half, on the nose.

The drive home? 12 minutes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

from one of my former students, also the author of the famed paper 'if it weren't for stereotypes, I wouldn't know I am asian'*

Today seemed like a regular Wednesday while walking one of my 4th grade classes across campus towards the lab. Everything changed when one of my female students, Christine, raised her hand. Since I was walking right next to her, I looked at her and asked what she needed. "What do you need?"

"Mr. Lau, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

The question surprised me. I was laughing inside of my head because I don't think she would have asked any of her other teachers the same question. She doesn't think I am an adult?

I replied, "A super-hero."

She gave me a puzzled look and said, "....really?"

I grinned and said, "I don't know yet. What do you want to be when YOU grow up?" She said she did not know yet.

I guess I have a lot in common with a 4th grader. Age means nothing here.

* If I remember the title correctly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

see that yellow grass there?

one year later

It's a year ago this week since I started chemo. It was on a Tuesday, like today, and the date was April 22.

The day before I started treatment Babs came with me for a training session. A nurse told us about drugs, side effects, what to eat during the months of treatment, and what not to eat. It was pretty overwhelming.

Then the next day Dan came with me for the actual infusions. It wasn't 10% as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn't 10% as bad as he thought it would be either. When we were done I waited outside while he got the car. He told me later that he thought he'd have to carry me the few steps between the bench were I was sitting and the curb, but I got up and walked just like a normal person.

The only images of cancer patients that are available in popular culture come from after school specials, movies like Terms of Endearment, and the cover of National Enquirer. It's not helpful. Cancer is a horrible disease, but many people go through treatment living relatively normal lives. It's perfectly possible to have a relatively normal life while being treated for cancer. But that doesn't make for any dramatic endings of movies, or dramatic cover stories.

Friday, April 17, 2009

and it's obviously a huge success

I read about (this links to a Swedish article, sorry) a Swedish grocery store where they've stopped throwing out the food when the dates expire.

What they do instead? They cook it. Just like you would at home. They've hired a chef, who cooks the food, and then they sell lunches. Genius.



the tiniest

Thursday, April 16, 2009


One of my students gives tours on campus for prospective students and their families. The other day she told me that a grateful mom had presented her with a bag of homemade cookies after one such tour. Job well done.

This reminded me of when one of my gay students had decided that he wanted to come out to the class. So one day he did, and as he was speaking the room was dead silent. Everyone, me too, was affected by his courage and honesty.

The next time the class met a girl brought him a plate of cookies. He accepted, puzzled.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


there aren't any european super heroes (did you ever think of that?)

I've seen a movie and a British TV series recently that kind of reminded me of each other.

First there was the Swedish film Everlasting Moments (Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick). It tells the story of a working class Swedish woman in the early 20th century. Her 'everlasting moments' are the images she captures with her camera, and the movie shows clashes between creativity, poverty, and gender roles, in a changing society.

Then I watched the British TV series Cranford, which, similar to so many other British films and TV series (and novels), is set in the 1840s. It tells the stories of the people who make up a small village. The main theme is, again, the changing society; who stands to gain something from social change, who would loose.

Both stories put major emphasis on education. It is through education people achieve change in their lives, and education is what some of the young main characters in both stories long for, but are told they cannot have.

Probably because I live in the US, the stories struck me as extremely European. They show people living their lives within a societal structure, and they show the struggles that ensue when people feel limited by circumstance.

American popular fiction is not so much concerned with that. I think that is a pity. Because the limitations exist here too. We just don't talk about them as often.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

from michelle, and the houston chronicle

My oh my:

AUSTIN — A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

longwinded association

In Wilhelm Moberg's series of novels (there is also a musical based on the novels, written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the two Bs from ABBA) about a group of Swedes emigrating to America in the 1860s, the character Kristina spends most of her life in Minnesota being homesick for the old country. She has brought with her apples, and she plants a seed the first year. By the time she dies, the tree bears fruit in the new country.

The tree is of the Astrakan variety. Because of the popularity of the novels and musical, the word 'astrakan' has taken on a new meaning in Swedish. It connotates longing, belonging, homesickness, and loss.

So I laughed, and snapped a photo, when I found this sign at IKEA, the mothership of modern-times emigrant Swedes.

Min Astrakan (My Astrakan), from the musical:

birthday sushi/sashimi combo

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

a little louder, a little slower

I just saw half a minute of President Obama's chitchat with the Queen of England.

That was, in essence, a tall polite man talking to a little old lady.