a blog about soybean cake and other essential topics

Archive for September, 2009

Finally, a close encounter worth telling others – seeing the heavy metal pig

posted by on 2009.09.30, under context, design, pig van, video, wow



Strangely enough, this wide-bodied, heavy-set, metal-riveted, mobile pig that rolls through Seattle’s streets and sells pork sandwiches has, in a way, special meaning for me. 

I am a descendent of a family that once had the surname that is pronounced “zhu” in Mandarin. And “zhu” – depending on the tone and context – also means pig.

So, nearly a century after my mom’s dad left China for the United States, our family name is not only synonymous with the animal itself but also with a motorized, heavy metal pig coach that makes people stop, smile and take out their cameras.

Man: I love this country.

The vehicle has been dubbed Maximus Minimus, a mobile pig, which can often be found at Second Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle.

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Every day, good fortune is always welcome

posted by on 2009.09.29, under china, context, design, wow



My wife and son are visiting my mother-in-law in China. Recently, they all went to a daisy show to have fun and let our son see the sights and gaze at people.

Either my wife, Dan, or my sister-in-law, Yu, snapped this photograph of dome-shaped yellow flowers with a red Chinese character.

So, thank you to my wife or sister-in-law for doing so.

You might recognize this as the Chinese character “fu” – which shows up in words including the name of Fujian province and its capital city, Fuzhou.

The English-Chinese dictionary from Oxford University Press defines the word – pronounced in a lower to higher tone – as “good fortune, blessing, happiness.”

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For decades, Chinese dragons on my mind

posted by on 2009.09.29, under china, chinese dragons, design, international district, wow



As a teenager, I once bought a white T-shirt from Honolulu’s Chinatown that had black letters noting the location and a red curving dragon representing Chinese culture.

Its mouth was agape, its teeth were sharp, its pointed toes jutting out and its spiny body swirled on the white cotton. For some reason, I liked it.

Since then, I’ve tried to keep my eyes open for Chinese-style dragons in the United States, China or other parts of Asia. I like seeing designs, learning the history behind them and noting where they pop up.

In fact, I once bought some note cards printed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art that featured a yellow dragon on a Chinese emperor’s silk robe.

When I went to the New York City museum’s Web site, I didn’t spot that image but I found this eye-catching piece of history.

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Could it be? Yes, bean curd (yet again) prompts human to tinker, innovate, build

posted by on 2009.09.27, under bean curd, context, design, tofu, wow
Photo credit: Franz Rindlisbacher, Zurich

Photo credit: Franz Rindlisbacher, Zurich on


To understand what Andreas Saxer has created, it is necessary to study this photograph of a tofu shelf for a few minutes.

The slabs of tofu rest horizontally on pieces of wood. Boards create just enough space for desk-like slots in which to place more of the good stuff.

Simple. Utilitarian. They get the job done. What’s the big deal?

In fact, if you asked the people who work in that kitchen, my sense is that they might say – in a matter-of-fact way – that yes, the function of these boxes meet the form.

Time to make more slabs, right?

But that tofu box served as the impetus to spur sparks and creativity in Saxer’s mind to think somewhat bigger - at least judging from what he built.

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Inside, outside, a bakery, a box and a wall

posted by on 2009.09.26, under context, design, international district





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Truth comes to advertising and a punk show

posted by on 2009.09.26, under context, design, wow
Photo source: Dona Junta at

Photo source: Dona Junta at


Joe, my friend from college, contributes to the astute, say-it-like-it-is and occasionally rough-and-tumble blog, LA Eastside.

He’s a keen observer of life and we used to have long historical, political and philosophical talks as undergraduates. Good stuff.

One of the best things he did during our conversations was to raise questions and experiences that would have never entered my mind. 

As I was browsing LA Eastside, I came across this image under an entry from someone who goes by the handle of Dona Junta.

When I saw it, my reaction was quick: Ain’t that the truth.


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Author John Jung reflects on latest book about Chinese in the Mississippi Delta

posted by on 2009.09.25, under asian american history



Designer Maya Lin recently talked about how people marveled that she’s from Athens, Ohio.

For a while, my father’s family – originally from Southern China – lived in Augusta, Ga. because there was a need decades ago for people to build canals. A relative went there to work.

When I studied in China, I met ethnic Chinese who called the Maldives, the group of atolls in the Indian Ocean, their new home.

It is the context of the Chinese Diaspora – particularly the U.S. South – in which author John Jung, a retired professor, emerges with his third book, Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers.

The book, published last year, marks his third about Chinese American history and families. One central theme in Chopsticks, he says, is the universal theme of persistence.

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University of California Press holds big sale, books 50-70% off – magic code is 10M9352

posted by on 2009.09.25, under information

Book lovers, it is time to unite during these pixel-swamped times.

Of course, I say that partially in jest because I enjoy experimenting in the world of New Media. But the printed word still has value to me.

So, take note: The University of California Press has cut prices on over 4,000 titles - with many savings in the 50 to 70 percent range.

And the sale ends Oct. 31.

There are 18 book categories that fall under this sale, which has specific details. Topics include globalization, urban studies, biographies, the history of food and the history of philosophy and science.

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Butterfly kite flutters in Seattle alley

posted by on 2009.09.24, under international district



This yellow butterfly kite flying in the wind outside Liem’s Aquarium in an alley in Seattle’s International District caught my attention.

I don’t know if it was the yellow next to the green paint or orange character or the red sign or muted brick.

Or it might have been that something was moving in the wind in an alley in which I expected no motion at all. For some reason, I like it.

I didn’t step inside the store on Maynard Alley South, which is off South King Street. I just took the photograph and continued with my day.

If you’re interested, though, reviewers have made their thoughts known at Yelp.

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Best seat in the house? Honda unveils all-direction Personal Mobility Device

posted by on 2009.09.24, under technology, video, wow


People who have wanted to stay put but still move forwards, backwards, sideways and diagonally might have their dreams answered with Honda’s newest creation – the experimental Personal Mobility Device.

Known as the U3-X, the compact device resembles a chair or unicycle but its drive train – which has a large diameter wheel as well as smaller ones around that bigger one - enables it to move in all directions, Honda said in a statement released Thursday.

The Tokyo-based company, which presented it before journalists, said it believes in the idea of “harmony with people” with this device, which uses an ”omni-directional driving wheel system.”

AFP and The Associated Press report that it can travel up to 3.7-miles per hour.

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