A Tongue for Every Continent

After I studied abroad in Italy for a year (2011 – 2012), I became fascinated with languages. Traveling Europe, I began to see how multilingual people were constantly in the process of learning and mastering other languages. This is incredibly different than the American mentality of monolingualism.

It follows the old joke:

What do you call someone that speaks three languages?


What do you call someone that speaks two languages?


What do you call someone that speaks one language?


And of course, as most polyglots know, as soon as you get far enough in your second language, you want to learn more and more languages. I guess I am no different:

Which language(s) are you learning – why those?


I am in the process of learning Japanese as I have applied to go through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program. I am hoping to be able to survive, hold a decent conversation with Japanese people, and immerse myself once I go over to Japan. I’ve loved Japan since I was young watching Sailor Moon and DragonBall Z.


I studied Italian for two semesters before I left to live in Italy for 11 months where I studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Florence through the CSU International Programs. Much of my knowledge of Italian vocabulary focuses on art terms or cooking terms. While Italian is on the backburner, I do love to read Italian memes and watch videos on Italian cooking taught by old Italian cooks.


During my Master’s program, I was considering where I wanted to go abroad. While I was in Italy, the Arab Spring brought a lot of people from different countries to Italy so I met many Arabic people that I thought were very friendly. During my second to last semester in grad school, I decided to take Arabic 101. Man! What a difficult language! But I love the way Arabic looks and its potential for beautiful calligraphy. I am definitely interested in visiting either Morocco, Egypt or Jordan someday.


As promised, I am using this blog to also document my Japanese learning.

Right now , I am learning time expressions.

Here are some sentences (that are probably wrong, but I will edit my post later to correct):




JET Program and Learning Japanese

I applied for the JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching) in November, and interviewed early February. I won’t hear the results until late March/early April.

Currently, I’m in a Japanese 101 class (again). This is much different than the time I was learning Italian before I went to Italy. Now I am much more experienced in language and the language of language.

I will be using this blog to post more about my language learning experiences, as well as posting more photos from this year.

Fire and Fury (Surprising Excerpts) Part I

I’ve been pouring through this book and highlighting surprising/interesting quotes. At first I was hesitant to get this book, but I’m glad I did. Whether or not all the information within the book is accurate remains to be seen. Wolff states that he has taken the information from interviews with people in the White House. So whether or not you believe them again remains to be seen.

Source: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff Free Kindle instant preview: http://a.co/2ODcV0h 21

“It was a place overrun by white trash. “What is this ‘white trash’?” asked the model. “They’re people just like me,” said Trump, “only they’re poor.”

Many of these types of scenes leave the reader’s jaw on the floor. I’m not sure if it’s accurate or dramatization of the author.

Reince Priebus, getting ready to shift over from the RNC to the White House, noted, with alarm, how often Trump offered people jobs on the spot, many of whom he had never met before, for positions whose importance Trump did not particularly understand. Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 White Houses, was growing worried by the president-elect’s lack of immediate focus on a White House structure that could serve and protect him. He tried to impress on Trump the ferocity of the opposition that would greet him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff. And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington,” Ailes told Trump not long after the election. “You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: “Speaker Boehner.” (John Boehner had been the Speaker of the House until he was forced out in a Tea Party putsch in 2011.) “Who’s that?” asked Trump.

This is just one funny instances in the book that illustrates Trump’s lack of knowledge.

Each of these interlocutors provided Kushner with something of a tutorial on the limitations of presidential power —that Washington was as much designed to frustrate and undermine presidential power as to accommodate it. “Don’t let him piss off the press, don’t let him piss off the Republican Party, don’t threaten congressmen because they will fuck you if you do, and most of all don’t let him piss off the intel community,” said one national Republican figure to Kushner. “If you fuck with the intel community they will figure out a way to get back at you and you’ll have two or three years of a Russian investigation, and every day something else will leak out.”

Instructions unclear. Pissed off everybody.

“Deep state,” the left-wing and right-wing notion of an intelligence-network permanent-government conspiracy, part of the Breitbart lexicon, became the Trump team term of art: he’s poked the deep state bear.

An interesting concept.

In fact, Trump’s aggrieved mood became a perfect match for the Bannon-written aggrieved inaugural address. Much of the sixteen-minute speech was part of Bannon’s daily joie de guerre patter—his take-back-the-country America-first, carnage-everywhere vision for the country. But it actually became darker and more forceful when filtered through Trump’s disappointment and delivered with his golf face. The administration purposely began on a tone of menace—a Bannon-driven message to the other side that the country was about to undergo profound change. Trump’s wounded feelings—his sense of being shunned and unloved on the very day he became president—helped send that message. When he came off the podium after delivering his address, he kept repeating, “Nobody will forget this speech.” George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”

This will probably be one of the top quotes from the book.

She treated her father with some lightness, even irony, and in at least one television interview she made fun of his comb-over. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate—a contained island after scalp reduction surgery by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men—the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orangeblond hair color.

This quote is already all over the news.

Even before there was reason to suspect Sally Yates, they suspected her. The transition report said Trump wouldn’t like the fifty-six-year-old Atlanta-born University of Georgia career Justice Department lawyer slated to step up to acting attorney general. There was something about a particular kind of Obama person. Something about the way they walked and held themselves. Superiority. And about a certain kind of woman who would immediately rub Trump the wrong way—Obama women being a good tip-off, Hillary women another. Later this would be extended to “DOJ women.” Here was an elemental divide: between Trump and career government employees. He could understand politicians, but he was finding it hard to get a handle on these bureaucrat types, their temperament and motives. He couldn’t grasp what they wanted. Why would they, or anyone, be a permanent government employee? “They max out at what? Two hundred grand? Tops,” he said, expressing something like wonder.

Sexism and classism becomes apparent in Trump’s mind.

In one White House view, Yates’s tattling was little more than “like she found out her girlfriend’s husband flirted with somebody else and, standing on principle, had to tell on him.”

Sexism in the Trump White House.

The FBI and DOJ would evaluate the evidence—and the opportunity—through their own lenses of righteousness and careerism. (“The DOJ is filled with women prosecutors like Yates who hate him,” said a Trump aide, with a curiously gender-biased view of the growing challenge.)

More sexism in the Trump White House.

If all politics is a test of your opponent’s strength, acumen, and forbearance, then this, regardless of the empirical facts, was quite a clever test, with many traps that many people might fall into. Indeed, in many ways the issue was not Russia but, in fact, strength, acumen, and forbearance, the qualities Trump seemed clearly to lack. The constant harping about a possible crime, even if there wasn’t an actual crime—and no one was yet pointing to a specific act of criminal collusion, or in fact any other clear violation of the law—could force a cover-up which might then turn into a crime. Or turn up a perfect storm of stupidity and cupidity.

Machiavelli says that the prince should be a fox or a lion: a fox can sniff out traps and avoid them, a lion is powerful enough to dissuade enemies from moving against him. Trump is essentially a Daffy Duck.

From the Steele dossier, to the steady leaks from the U.S. intelligence community, to testimony and statements from the leadership of U.S. intelligence agencies, a firm consensus had emerged. There was a nefarious connection, perhaps an ongoing one, between Trump and his campaign and the Russian government. Still, this could yet be seen as highly wishful thinking by Trump opponents. “The underlying premise of the case is that spies tell the truth,” said the veteran intelligence community journalist Edward Jay Epstein. “Who knew?” And, indeed, the worry in the White House was not about collusion—which seemed implausible if not farcical—but what, if the unraveling began, would likely lead to the messy Trump (and Kushner) business dealings. On this subject every member of the senior staff shrugged helplessly, covering eyes, ears, and mouth. This was the peculiar and haunting consensus—not that Trump was guilty of all that he was accused of, but that he was guilty of so much else. It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible.

Bannon is quoted in this book as saying that the White House was too incompetent to conspire with the Russians. The problem is an investigation could lead to other misdealings and bring out the skeletons from the closet.

Trump, a former military academy cadet—albeit not an enthusiastic one—had touted a return to military values and expertise. In fact, he most of all sought to preserve his personal right to defy or ignore his own organization. This, too, made sense, since not really having an organization was the most efficient way to sidestep the people in your organization and to dominate them.

Lack of organization is cited as a major problem in the WH.

But making suggestions was deeply complicated. Here was, arguably, the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: he didn’t process information in any conventional sense—or, in a way, he didn’t process it at all. Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semiliterate. (There was some argument about this, because he could read headlines and articles about himself, or at least headlines on articles about himself, and the gossip squibs on the New York Post’s Page Six.) Some thought him dyslexic; certainly his comprehension was limited. Others concluded that he didn’t read because he just didn’t have to, and that in fact this was one of his key attributes as a populist. He was postliterate—total television. But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen. He preferred to be the person talking. And he trusted his own expertise—no matter how paltry or irrelevant—more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.

This is probably the scariest quote of the book. The president is a talker and does not spend a lot of time reading or listening.

Here was a key Trump White House rationale: expertise, that liberal virtue, was overrated. After all, so often people who had worked hard to know what they knew made the wrong decisions. So maybe the gut was as good, or maybe better, at getting to the heart of the matter than the wonkish and data-driven inability to see the forest for the trees that often seemed to plague U.S. policy making. Maybe. Hopefully. Of course, nobody really believed that, except the president himself. Still, here was the basic faith, overriding his impetuousness and eccentricities and limited knowledge base: nobody became the president of the United States—that camelthrough-the-eye-of-the-needle accomplishment—without unique astuteness and cunning. Right? In the early days of the White House, this was the fundamental hypothesis of the senior staff, shared by Walsh and everyone else: Trump must know what he was doing, his intuition must be profound. But then there was the other aspect of his supposedly superb insight and apprehension, and it was hard to miss: he was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant in these instances than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however silent and confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do.

Gut intuition versus expertise. Also this idea of ad populum: he somehow got elected, so he must know what he’s doing.

In the early weeks of the administration, Priebus arranged for House Speaker Paul Ryan, however much a Trumpist bête noire for much of the campaign, to come into the White House with a group of ranking committee chairmen. In the meeting, the president blithely announced that he had never had much patience for committees and so was glad someone else did. Ryan, henceforth, became another figure with unfettered access to the president—and to whom the president, entirely uninterested in legislative strategy or procedures, granted virtual carte blanche.

Handing over important responsibilities because they are boring.

During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became its own countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore—which would finally come at the end of March. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus and lack of concern were simply incomprehensible. In early March, Walsh confronted Kushner and demanded: “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on. What are the three priorities of this White House?” “Yes,” said Kushner, wholly absent an answer, “we should probably have that conversation.”

Another quippy anecdote.

“Trump has said things that conservatives never would have thought.… His criticism of the Iraq War, bashing the Bush family, I couldn’t believe he did that … but he did.… Fuck them … if at the end of the day an Anglo Wasp family produces Jeb and W then clearly that’s a clear sign of denegation.… And now they marry Mexicans … Jeb’s wife … he married his housekeeper or something. “In Trump’s 2011 CPAC address he specifically calls for a relaxation of immigration restrictions for Europeans … that we should re-create an America that was far more stable and more beautiful.… No other conservative politician would say those things … but on the other hand pretty much everyone thought it … so it’s powerful to say it.… Clearly [there’s] a normalization process going on.” “We are the Trump vanguard. The left will say Trump is a nationalist and an implicit or quasi-racialist. Conservatives, because they are just so douchey, say Oh, no, of course not, he’s a constitutionalist, or whatever. We on the alt-right will say, He is a nationalist and he is a racialist. His movement is a white movement. Duh.” Looking very satisfied with himself, Spencer paused and then said: “We give him a kind of permission.”

Trump as an object of affection for Neo-Nazis.

All things considered, he probably preferred the notion of more people having health insurance than fewer people having it. He was even, when push came to shove, rather more for Obamacare than for repealing Obamacare. As well, he had made a set of rash Obama-like promises, going so far as to say that under a forthcoming Trumpcare plan (he had to be strongly discouraged from using this kind of rebranding—political wise men told him that this was one instance where he might not want to claim ownership with his name), no one would lose their health insurance, and that preexisting conditions would continue to be covered. In fact, he probably favored government-funded health care more than any other Republican. “Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” he had impatiently wondered aloud during one discussion with aides, all of whom were careful not to react to this heresy.

Trump as a secret Democrat on Healthcare.

In their personal interactions, Trump had found Comey to be a stiff—he had no banter, no game. But Trump, who invariably thought people found him irresistible, believed that Comey admired his banter and game. When pressed, by Bannon and others, to fire Comey as one of his early acts—an idea opposed by Kushner, and thus another bullet on Bannon’s list of bad recommendations by Kushner—the president said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got him.” That is, he had no doubt that he could woo and flatter the FBI director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission. Some seducers are preternaturally sensitive to the signals of those they try to seduce; others indiscriminately attempt to seduce, and, by the law of averages, often succeed (this latter group of men might now be regarded as harassers). That was Trump’s approach to women—pleased when he scored, unconcerned when he didn’t (and, often, despite the evidence, believing that he had). And so it was with Director Comey.

The seduction of the FBI Director (or lack thereof)

Flashback 2017 Women’s March LA

Hopped on the train from Fullerton to Union Station. This felt much different than other marches I’ve attended. Every age group, race, ethnicity, color and creed came out in this historic moment. And as this year has passed it has become more obvious that this was just the beginning. Hillary Clinton could not break the last highest glass ceiling for women because there’s still a lot of work to be done for equal rights for women.

52 Week Photography Challenge

I’m looking forward to practicing my photography skills with this photography challenge!


WEEK 1 Vision: Look Ahead New year. New beginnings. New you. Look ahead. Interpret as you wish.
WEEK 2 Composition: Color Harmony Get out your color wheel. Do opposites attract? Can there be harmony with opposite colors? Does the Hulk wear purple pants? Mix warm and cool colors.
WEEK 3 Technical: Full Manual While the camera often determines shutter speed and aperture for the photographer, it doesn’t know your creative intent. This week, challenge your self to assume creative control over the camera by using full manual mode. Select a subject where varying the aperture and / or shutter speed helps enhance the composition and visual qualities of the image.
WEEK 4 Creative: Quiet Moment Peace. Serenity. Tranquility. Convey a quiet moment.
WEEK 5 Wildcard: Photographer’s Choice Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it’s all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.
WEEK 6 Vision: Alternating Rhythm Alternate patterns of light to bring depth and rhythm to the photograph.
WEEK 7 Composition: Fill the Frame Fill the frame with your subject, no background. You will need to get up close and personal, or use a good zoom lens.
WEEK 8 Technical: Zoom Burst By changing the focal length during long exposure you can add movement to your frame, producing leading lines within your frame.
WEEK 9 Creative: Forsaken Abandoned and Forgotten were favorites in the past. Let’s revisit the idea the idea this year with forsaken.
WEEK 10 Vision: Selective Color I know, I know. Yuck. Selective color can be cringeworthy, however, when done right, it brings compelling focus to the subject.
WEEK 11 Composition: Negative Space Minimize the composition to isolate your subject. The composition should be simple, thereby drawing your viewer to the subject.
WEEK 12 Technical: Macro Life is in the details. Get in close and show us the details we usually miss. You don’t need a macro lens to shoot a macro shot.
WEEK 13 Creative: Leading Lines Back by popular demand, use lines to lead the viewer to your subject.
WEEK 14 Vision: Diptych or Triptych Connect 2 or 3 images together, creating one image, to provoke a thought or tell a story.
WEEK 15 Composition: Rule of Space Your subject should be facing the frame, walking into the frame, this keeps your subject “in” the frame and engaging with it. Give your subject room to move.
WEEK 16 Technical: Portrait Lighting Whether Butterfly, Rembrandt, Split, or Loop Lighting, choose the technique which best flatters your subject.
WEEK 17 Creative: Humor Laughter is the best medicine. Make us laugh.
WEEK 18 Wildcard: Photographer’s Choice Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it’s all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.
WEEK 19 Vision: Edge Cut Sun Having an edge cut through the sun looks nice, or having the sun rising over a line or diagonal within the photo. Stop down the aperture to create a starburst.
WEEK 20 Composition: From Below Get down low; below 2 feet, and change your perspective. Look out or look up.
WEEK 21 Technical: Product Imagine your image in a catalog or a magazine. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
WEEK 22 Creative: Door A symbol of transition, a door or a gate provide a passage way.
WEEK 23 Vision: No Peeking Shoot as if you were using a film camera. That means that you will not look at the photographs you’ve taken until they are downloaded on your computer.
WEEK 24 Composition: Contrast An easy way to make a photo more interesting is to introduce some form of stark contrast: liquid/solid, hard/soft, delicate/brash.
WEEK 25 Technical: Starburst Create a very strong focal point and add an entirely new dimension of interest to your image using a starburst.
WEEK 26 Creative: High or Low Key You don’t have to do both this year; choose your favorite and shoot that.
WEEK 27 Vision: Flattery They say imitation is the highest form; so, past or present; choose your favorite master photographer and imitate their art or technique.
WEEK 28 Composition: Left to Right Rule Compose an image in the way we read; most countries read from left to right. Compose your shot to follow this direction.
WEEK 29 Technical: Twilight Zone While golden and blue hours bring beautiful lighting, shooting in twilight opens up a new way of seeing the world. Capture a “scape” that isn’t dominated by darkness. Show the light and textures that can be found under the stars, in city lights, or a moon filled sky.
WEEK 30 Creative: Circles The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning; it represents the notions of totality.
WEEK 31 Wildcard: Photographer’s Choice Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it’s all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.
WEEK 32 Vision: The Alphabet Alphabet photography involves taking photographs of existing or created objects to create a word.
WEEK 33 Composition: Figure to Ground If camouflage is designed to make things disappear, Figure to Ground is designed to make the subject stand out. Light on dark, dark on light.
WEEK 34 Technical: The Wild Side Capturing a captivating wildlife photograph requires knowledge of your camera settings and the behavior of the animal. Capture a compelling wildlife photograph that has proper subject alignment (e.g., no “bird butts”) and exposure. For an easy introduction, urban critters (e.g., squirrels) are easy targets. For an advanced challenge, a bird in flight could be considered.
WEEK 35 Creative: Loneliness One is the loneliest number.
WEEK 36 Vision: Ordinary Find beauty in the ordinary.
WEEK 37 Composition: Eye Lines Eyes draw attention to certain parts of the frame, your subject will direct your audience’s eye. Where is your subject looking? What are they seeing or not seeing?
WEEK 38 Technical: Focus Stacking A technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus distances to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field. Especially helpful in macro.
WEEK 39 Creative: Abstract Photograph a common object in an abstract manor.
WEEK 40 Vision: Classic Novel Create an image that identifies a classic novel or story.
WEEK 41 Composition: Rule of Odds Compose and image highlighting an odd number of subjects; some see this as natural and more pleasing to the eye.
WEEK 42 Technical: Shutter Drag Used to balance fill light with ambient light or add motion-blur to images.
WEEK 43 Creative: A Song Create a photo from the title of a song.
WEEK 44 Wildcard: Photographer’s Choice Capture an image on your terms; who, what, where, when, why, how … it’s all up to you. Caveat: You must tell us your intent.
WEEK 45 Vision: Show Half Tell a complete story by only showing half of it.
WEEK 46 Composition: Golden Triangles A diagonal line divides the frame from corner to corner, two more lines are added from the other corners, intersecting the diagonal line.
WEEK 47 Technical: Step Back Edit your image to where you think it’s perfect and let it sit for two days. Then return to it and see if it works. Print a picture and review it from a different perspective before finalizing.
WEEK 48 Creative: Split Tones Another favorite; last year’s technical, is this year’s creative. Have fun with it.
WEEK 49 Vision: Look Back We need to look back to see how far we’ve come. If you were Captain Ahab, which skill would be your whale? Post a comparison.
WEEK 50 Composition: Golden Ratio Often called Fibonacci, the spiral leads the viewers eye to the squares (the subject), compose your image using the Golden Ratio.
WEEK 51 Technical: Exposure Compensation While high dynamic range pictures can help capture challenging lighting situations, there are times when you need a single frame. Use exposure compensation mode on your camera to capture backlit or other challenging lighting situations
WEEK 52 Creative: Self Portrait Not popular, but it’s good for us to get on the other side of the lens. This year it’s in a creative categroy, so be creative.