Monday, December 20, 2010

A way to help this holiday season

In case you've been looking for a way to help someone else this season, I wanted to share something I've been working on called the Lan Cun Education Project. It's a charitable fund to help kids in Lan Cun, a very poor, rural village in China.

Every dollar donated will go directly towards building, staffing, and supplying a cafeteria for the Lan Cun Primary School, which teaches kids ages five to eight. The school currently has no cafeteria, which means all the students have to leave school premises midday. With no place to go, many of them head home and can't come back for the second half of the school day. This is because the walk to and from school is not easy--some of these kids walk more than three hours a day over mountainous terrain. And of course, it is often the poorest kids who live farthest away. We plan to provide a safe space and a hot lunch for all the kids at the school for at least three years, after which time the school will be able to take over the hot lunch program.

This Project was thoroughly vetted by Give2Asia, a well-respected non-profit organization that supports public interest work in Asia, and is fully supported by the school's teachers and administration.

If you'd like to donate, you can click on the Donate button above or visit You can also mail a check to the address below.

WHY LAN CUN?My dad was born in Lan Cun. He told us a lot of stories about what it was like to grow up there in the middle of mountains of southern China. The region was so isolated that his father, my grandfather, was the only teacher in the region. He taught school for a month or two in one village before moving on to the next. It often took him weeks to hike over the mountains, wade through flooded fields, and wait for raging rivers to subside, before he returned home to see and teach his own children. The route was unspeakably difficult, and he died on one of those journeys home. Today, Lan Cun doesn't rely on traveling teachers, it has its own school, but even so, getting an education remains a difficult path. The families in this village are "extremely poor" by World Bank standards, surviving on less than a dollar a day. Our Project seeks to help give the kids of Lan Cun a better chance at an education and ultimately a better life.

A donation of $20 pays for one child to have a hot lunch in the cafeteria for three years. If we reach our goal of $15,000, we will impact more than 800 kids and teachers by 2014. After that, the facilities and hot lunch program can be maintained with just a fraction of this amount by the school itself.

You can read more about the Project, including how we worked with the school for a year to develop this idea, our budget plan, how 100 percent of your donation will go to the kids, how we will oversee the results, and our sponsorship by Give2Asia, at

You can donate online at, or you can also mail a check (please write Lan Cun Education Project on it) directly to this address:

Lan Cun Education Project
465 California Street, 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Some suggested donation amounts:
  • $20 pays for one student to have a hot lunch in the new cafeteria for three years.
  • $160 covers the cost of lunch in the cafeteria for the students in each class who walk more than three hours a day through treacherous terrain to get between home and school.
  • $320 covers the students in each class who miss the second half of the school day.
  • $1000 covers the cost of an entire class, which thanks to you, can now spend less time getting to school and more time in it learning.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Little bites

When it comes to the best all around, the prize goes to the jiaozi my mom makes. Perfection pictured above.

I put on a brave face--and a loose pair of pants--and ate my way through the best Chinese dumpling joints in the seven by seven for my latest expose in The Bold Italic.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Baseball Giants

I'm generally embarrassed by tattoos of Chinese characters, particularly so when found on bodies of people who can't read them. Inevitably, their tattoos are grammatically incorrect and upside down. They reflect all the artistry of a three-year-old wielding a paintbrush. The people bearing them often have weird ideas about the Orient. If you don't believe me, Hanzi Smatter offers examples of the catastrophes that result from loving anime and beer too much.

Tonight the Giants won the World Series. Tonight I also learned that the star of the series (and currently, the sport) Tim Lincecum bears a tattoo in Chinese characters on the back of his neck that's usually covered up by his scraggly hair. It's not beautifully written or even straight, but it's a poetic mantra for a star pitcher.

Simply translated, his tattoo means, "man" or "male." It is, as many have pointed out, the character that tells you which bathroom to use. But broken down into its parts, nan means so much more. At its base is li, 力, which means "strength." At the top, tian, 田, which means "field." Back when humans were just starting to assign written symbols to ideas, we thought that demonstrating strength while toiling in the fields was the measure of a man. For a ball player, strength on the field remains the mark.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gone missing

After the mysterious disappearance of a beloved resident of my aquarium, I consulted local experts to understand what might have gone wrong. Read about the gruesome possibilities at The Bold Italic.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I scream, you scream

Yeah, I ate that.
Read about how I crammed 8,000 calories down my gullet in the name of investigative journalism at The Bold Italic.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The firm

Some days at the office I don't get a chance to leave my desk to pee until the sun has set and my phone has finally stopped ringing.

I'm pretty much equivalent to an Ultimate Fighting Champion in that I'm willing to sacrifice my body for my work.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thirty seconds with the waterpets

Pepper surveys the Blyxa flower while Sparkles moves on the better things.

Pepper, the male Scarlet Badis, surveys the landscape. He spies a stray brine shrimp caught in the Java moss and darts over.

Sparkles, the female, swims idly by the rock and leans against it.

Pepper pounces on the brine shrimp. Grasping it tightly in his jaws, he gnaws furiously and sinks to the bottom, focused intently on subduing his prey.

Sparkles notices the action and floats over to peer at the brine shrimp tail hanging out of Pepper's mouth like a cigarette.

Pepper chews vigorously.

Sparkles bites Pepper and tears the shrimp out of his mouth.

Pepper watches Sparkles swallow and glide away. Then he slowly floats over to his spot in the grass.

There's so much pent-up resentment in their relationship, you don't even want to know.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A happy little place called Friendship Town

I don't normally endorse things (except for this time, this time, and also this other time), but a groundbreaking new literary and artistic work debuts April 1 in the venerable San Francisco Chronicle. It's featured on BoingBoing too.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gong xi fa cai!

My suggestions for some (stereotypically) sensational dishes to ring in the Year of the Tiger.