What constitutes a “liquid” on a flight?

When traveling back from Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday, we had only carry-on bags, but my backpack, which was holding my beloved Newfoundland Salt Company sea salt, was flagged. The security agents took the salt jar out of my bag to check the weight of it. At 150 grams, it was under the 350-gram limit for salt to carry on during a Canadian flight. I had no idea that “salt” even had its own category!

According to the CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) website: “Salt: Certain powders and granular materials in your carry-on are limited to a total quantity of 350 ml or less (roughly the size of a soda can).” So, it’s not being categorized as a liquid, but actually has its own category under “powders and granular materials”? I didn’t realize this was an issue when flying in Canada, but now I know. I checked the TSA website, and salt does not appear to get flagged.

Then, while researching travel to Brussels this November, I found out that the airports there actually consider chocolate a liquid if they are pralines or truffles that may have fillings that are soft or become liquid after reaching a certain temperature. As such, a number of disgruntled travelers were forced to check their bags full of their Belgian chocolates when leaving Belgium. I definitely would have been confused and not understood right away if I were told this. This is almost as befuddling as the salt incident from this past weekend.

I guess I will need to pack a bag that will be good to get checked because I’m definitely planning on bringing back chocolate from this trip!

The crappy education of American schools

Since I was young, I was always an avid reader. It took me a while to read “classics,” but I eventually got there. Two of the books that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t read until the last month, which were always on my reading list, are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. They are both novels that touch upon the 20th century oppression of black people, and what is the worst part about reading both of these books in the year 2019 is that… not much has changed in the way that black people are oppressed today. It is simply masked in another way, whether it is the inordinate incarceration of black Americans, or the unarmed killing of black people by the police, the supposed protectors of our society.

Both of these books are oftentimes on reading lists for children in high schools across America. While reading up about both books after finishing each, I was disgusted to learn that both are still on a number of “banned books” list from American schools even today. To Kill a Mocking Bird is banned due to its “use of foul language,” because the N-word is used extremely often. Then, with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this book has many warnings due to its very graphic depiction of Angelou’s own rape experience.

I have a lot of grievances with this entire attitude. The reason the N-word is used a lot in the first book is due to the fact that during that time, that was a word that was oftentimes used by white people to condescend and condemn black people. It is fitting for the time and era during which it was written. Therefore, it is only fitting to be true to that time and use that type of language. It is not a flagrant way of being disrespectful today, but rather a method to capture the time and hostility felt then. Context is everything. With the second book, the rape scene is depicted to show the level of personal atrocity that Angelou faced while a young child. How can you possibly expect young people to grow, mature, and learn from the past if we are constantly shielding them from all the brutality and the harsh history of our world? You cannot sugar coat slavery or segregation. You cannot make rape seem like it’s some quick event that just happens, passes, and is done. That is not reality. There is a lack of desire and even a resistance to be rooted in reality and face the painful facts and history of this country, and it has persisted for far too long.

News via podcasts and e-mail summaries

I was thinking about my car rides back home in San Francisco last month and how depressing it was listening to whatever AM radio station my parents always have on. It’s a local AM radio station in San Francisco that basically reports everything depressing and local: the latest car jacking, the innocent college student who got held at gun point in the middle of the Inner Sunset, a girl who got kidnapped and was found murdered in a random ditch. It’s no wonder my parents go through life always assuming the worst is going to happen and fearing everything and everyone they meet; the limited amount of media they consume makes them anxious to live their lives fully because they are just crippled by fear and hate.

I read a decent amount of news nearly every day. On the weekdays, I start my morning commute with theSkimm and the Morning Brew, and anything I want to learn more about, I dig into later in the day. It’s a bit exhausting to read the news every day, especially since yes, a lot of it can be extremely depressing and blood-pressure spiking. I don’t read all of it because I enjoy it (ahem to the current moron in the White House), but rather because I want to make sure I can at least slightly stay informed. Then I started finding out about ways to listen to the news, kind of like my parents, except actually informative and useful news, via daily news podcasts that give you a brief but well rounded summary of current events, such as theSkimm’s own podcast and NPR’s Up First. I don’t completely love how theSkimm is written because their daily email summaries sometimes can dumb down the news and seem like it’s targeted towards airheads, but I do like the random pop culture news articles and the interesting quotes that they provide at the beginning of each email.

And this morning, when I was listening to Up First, I realized… I wish this was the way my parents consumed their news. It would be great if they heard about the good, bad, and neutral news. It would be better if they heard more about other cities and countries and continents. The world does not revolve around San Francisco. They wouldn’t have to constantly be listening to latest kidnapping or murder and thinking that events like that happen every second on every corner of every street in the world. How does it benefit any of us to be informed of every event like that? What exactly would we be learning from any of that?

Whale and puffin watching

Exploring Newfoundland and Labrador has given us quite a number of sights, from rugged cliffs, unique rock formations, crashing waves and piercing blue waters, to puffins little auk birds, and several different whale sightings. The funniest thing about going on a whale watching boat tour, which is what we did this morning, is that it’s always a gamble on whether you will actually see a whale, but you kind of go just hoping for the best. And we saw not a single one today, but it didn’t really matter because we had already seen two or three by chance during other hikes and walks on this trip.

During our boat tour today, I learned that puffins are local to this area, and after having visited a free puffin viewing site a couple days ago, I realized how unique these tiny birds are. They have so much oil on their feathers that despite being able to regularly dive into water as deep as 100 feet, as soon as they get out of the water, they are 100 percent dry. Their signature orange-red tinge on their beaks is temporary; it’s only present when it is mating season and used to attract a mate. And the funniest part of the narration of the tour: I had noticed how much puffins had to flap their wings while flying in the air, but one of the guides said that here in Newfoundland, unlike in other areas of Canada such as Ontario, they really do not care about being politically correct here. So, they like to call puffins “PPFs” — “piss poor flyers.” They flap their wings while flying like there’s no tomorrow, as though if they didn’t flap 100 times that they’d fall out of the air.

And of course, Chris had to make comments wondering what a puffin would taste like. He is a true omnivore.

Iceberg lager and cloudberries, aka baked apple sour

While I enjoy alcoholic beverages quite a lot, one thing I’ve never really gotten into is beer. I’ve been to beer festivals, been to too many beer tastings that I’ve lost count, but it’s just never been something I’ve really loved or looked forward to. I particularly have never, ever been able to develop a test for IPAs (India pale ales). However, there are exceptions to this: I do enjoy cider (is that considered beer…?), plus I do love a number of fruit beers I’ve tried over the years, particularly the pear, pomegranate, and grapefruit Schofferhofers we discovered we loved in Germany in 2013.

On the second day of this trip while visiting the Quidi Vidi fishing village just outside of St. John’s, Chris suggested we check out the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company and try a beer flight. The bartender was really friendly and did a custom flight of four beers based on what we said we like and don’t like (fruity, nothing too hoppy). They are most well known for their Iceberg lager, which is a North American style lager brewed from water that is genuinely collected from icebergs found off the coast of the province.

In our flight, we tried the Iceberg lager (very clean and fresh tasting), a baked apple sour (cloudberry) beer, a mango-peach tinged IPA, plus a wheaty saison beer. The baked apple sour was definitely my favorite, and with further discovery while doing other tastings on our trip and some quick Google searches, I discovered that “baked apple sour” is synonymous with cloudberries, which is the same as bake apple berries and Nordic berries. They are local to this region and also found in Nordic countries and Scotland, plus other temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They grow wild, not to mention they are pretty resistant to being domesticated, so when used or sold, they are pretty much always picked wild. Cloudberries are most often used in liqueurs, wines, and jams, and this makes sense given how delicate and tart the berries are. They resemble raspberries and are “cloud-like” in their shape, extremely seedy, and are a bright-orange hue. We lucked out on our drive back into St. John’s from Elliston and Bonavista this afternoon and passed a man on the road side selling mason jars full of cloudberries. I likely paid the most I’ve ever paid for fruit after jackfruit or durian — $15 CAD for a pint-sized jar of cloudberries. But I figured that since one of our biggest joys is trying and discovering local produce and foods when we travel that it was a worthy investment. And boy, were these little guys tart! They were quite sour with a slightly sweet after taste and while jarred, it seemed like their juices were oozing out, creating somewhat of a fermented, alcoholic flavor as we ate them. And now, I have their mason jar to take home and remember them by.


Eating local in Newfie, down to its salt

Newfoundlanders take their food very, very seriously. Given they are so remote and that they experience such extreme, cold temperatures in the winter, great care is taken in the production of every aspect of their food, from the way their vegetables and fruits are preserved for the winter (this is the largest home of “root cellars” in the world, or old food storage systems that are built into the ground; these are basically like historical refrigerators before these existed) to the killing of wild moose, the preservation and fishing of their most famous fish, cod, all the way down to how their salt derived from the local salt water that surrounds them. I was greatly anticipating eating the local food here, and I certainly was not let down.

Newfoundland’s “summer” seems to be more like New York City’s “spring” in that everything we get at the Greenmarket in New York seems to come here around July or August of every year. This includes short-season vegetables like garlic scapes, which are pungent and much loved, as well as chanterelle mushrooms, one of the most expensive mushrooms I’ve ever eaten, and one that I still have been too cheap to buy myself to make at home. We had the privilege of dining at one of Canada’s most famous restaurants last night in St. John’s, Raymond’s, which is known for its dedication to local, sustainable, and wild foods. Most of its food is wild and foraged within kilometers of the restaurant, which adds to its mystique, particularly in an era where pretty much everything we eat is farmed and domesticated, whether it’s a carrot or a sheep.

The original chef of Raymond’s, Peter Burt, is known for his creativity plus his passionate obsession for salt. He grew frustrated with the constant import of food into Newfoundland and asked, why are we importing something as simple as salt when we are literally surrounded on all sides by salt water? So he refined his method of salt making during his years at Raymond’s and eventually left the restaurant to be a salt maker full time out in Bonavista. He now runs his salt business with his partner/wife as a two-person show full time and sells to specialty shops and chefs around the local area, throughout Canada, and even in the U.S. now. His business is simply named Newfoundland Salt Company.

That kind of passion is so inspiring to me. Salt seems like it’s just this little thing in the grand scheme of food, but Peter Burt’s obsession with it in fine-tuning the granules in its size and shape is just so quirky and fascinating. That’s the kind of thing that gets me really excited about food; we think salt is salt and sugar is sugar, but there is so much that goes into making these seemingly simple ingredients that the average person just doesn’t know about and thus, doesn’t appreciate at first glance. And I can say as someone who has had this salt multiple times on this trip, at Raymond’s, Mallard Cottage, and the Boreal Diner (delicious locally sourced restaurants in Quidi Vidi fishing village and Bonavista) that this salt is unique and a true standout. You can taste and feel the difference when it sits on your tongue and as you’re crunching down on it with your teeth. A few years ago, I started getting into salt because of the famous sea salt I’d repeatedly read about from South Brittany in France, fleur de sel de Guerande. These salts are said to be high in minerals, lower in sodium (the irony), and have no additives. But this Newfoundland Salt Company sea salt is one of the most beautiful and to date, likely my favorite salt I’ve had and purchased. It’s meant to be used as a “finishing” salt, so for sprinkling on top of vegetables, salads, meats, and even baked goods right before serving. I never thought I’d be this excited about sea salt, but I can’t wait to use this on something special when I get home.

Rugged beauty of Newfie

We’ve spent the last day and a half exploring St. John’s, and it’s already clear to me how different Newfoundland and Labrador, or “Newfie,” is to the rest of the other Canadian provinces we visited, even Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The accents are stronger here and surprised me; they sound like some combination of a Canadian accent mixed with Scottish and Irish. St. John’s feels very quaint and small, even though it’s the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. The downtown area felt like a little seaside town in many ways, with brightly colored homes (in the vein of the Jelly Bean Row homes), windy streets, and small shop storefronts. All the businesses we’ve visited so far support other local businesses, for everything from their meats, cheeses, and produce all the way down to the salt they use. And if they aren’t supporting local businesses, then they are literally making and growing everything they use and serve themselves. The Newfoundlanders take so much pride in their crafts. 

I guess they didn’t accidentally name Nova Scotia “New Scotland” for no reason, nor are the accents similar to the Scottish accent for no reason, as well. We visited the Johnson Geo Centre, which is built right beneath the beautiful Signal Hill National Historic Site, the highest point of St. John’s. The centre describes the earth’s geological makeup, the local area’s cultural history, and in general, Newfoundland life. The craziest thing we learned from visiting this exhibit was that back in the Caledonian orogeny 400 million years ago, two bits of the earth’s crust began to collide. The result much later was the Central Pangaean Mountains that formed. What we know now to be Newfoundland and Labrador and Scotland were actually the same land mass once upon a time but have since been separated. The same rock formations found in Scotland can be found in Newfoundland today, and we saw many examples of this during our hike as well as at the Geo Centre. 

The other interesting history we learned was the real cause of the Titanic sinking. At first, I was wondering why the Titanic even had its own exhibit, but then I found out this was due to the Titanic crashing in this vicinity. The exhibit made it very clear that you cannot blame the Titanic sinking “because of an iceberg,” which I always thought was idiotic, yet another example of human beings refusing to have any accountability or take responsibility for their mistakes. The crash and the over 1,500 deaths that happened as a result of the Titanic sinking was really due to many, many greedy and arrogant white men, including J.P. Morgan, who at the time, made selfish and short-sighted decisions, resulting in this epic and tragic devastation. What probably made my blood pressure soar the most was seeing that those who managed the Titanic gave zero reparations for damages and deaths to the survivors and families despite their extreme wealth. This, plus the fact that there were not enough life boat seats for everyone, and they boarded people on the life boats in order of class – it’s just amazing how greedy and heartless people are regardless of what time period we’re in. 

Signal Hill gives a gorgeous view of the entire city and the sweeping water, harbor, and lighthouses that surround it. We spent the late afternoon yesterday hiking this area, and it was so impressive how well laid out and maintained it was. It reminded me a lot of the coastal walk in Rhode Island, just that here, there were far fewer people hiking, and the ones who were actually in the area seemed more like locals going for their daily exercise. There are boardwalks and stairs in many areas, chains where the ledges are very slim so that you can still safely walk across the rocks, and many resting areas where bright red Adirondack chairs can be found. The colors of the area were so vibrant; the green of the grass seemed to be nearly florescent and glowing in some areas, while the water appeared aquamarine and emerald-hued, sparkling wildly depending on how bright the sun was shining. The greens and the blues really contrasted with the whites and reds of the lighthouses. You could also see all those millions of years literally layering on top of one another when gazing over the cliffs and the rock formations, with all the different layers and shades of tan, brown, orange, and red. 

The rugged beauty of this area has stunned me in the last couple of days. I’m happy that it feels so remote and untouched because that adds to the beauty and serenity, but given its proximity to New York City (it’s just about 4 hours away by flight), it’s crazy that so few people come visit. Most of the tourists we’ve noticed so far have been domestic tourists exploring their own backyard. This truly feels like a getaway from civilization as we know it.

common decency in public restrooms

I was in an airport lounge restroom at the Toronto airport this morning, standing at the sink while washing my hands. As an older woman got out of her bathroom stall, I casually noticed in the mirror that she seemed to be waiting for someone else to exit another stall as she also washed her hands. In about a couple minutes, a much younger female (she couldn’t have been any older than 11 or 12) also exited a stall and stood next to who I assumed to be her mom. She clearly used the restroom and flushed, but she made no attempt to get to a sink to suds up her hands.

Older woman: Hun, aren’t you going to wash your hands? You just used the bathroom, didn’t you?

Pre-teen: (grimaced, said not a single word, then points to the little bottle of hand sanitizer that is attached to the side of her backpack. She made no indication that she would use it then and there.. or maybe even ever).

Older woman: You’re going to that instead?

Pre-teen: (nods)

Older woman: Okay, then. If that’s what makes you happy.

They exited the bathroom. There are so many problems with what just happened, ranging from entitlement, lack of gratitude, lack of self-awareness, #firstworldproblems, to just plain filth, that I cannot even begin to list them out now.

I was immediately wondering exactly how permissive of a life this child led to be allowed to exit a public restroom without washing her hands. The purpose of hand sanitizer is to use it when you do not have access to soap, water, or a public restroom. She clearly had access to all the above. Yet, she stubbornly refused to use it. You’ve got to be kidding me. If that were my child in that situation, I would have said, “You’re in a public restroom with running water and soap. You’re going to wash your fucking hands now.”

When your city hates pregnant people

The U.S. is so family unfriendly. I never really thought that much of this… outside of the fact that American employers are obligated to provide a total of zero weeks of paid leave to their employees after the birth or adoption of a child, that new mothers are constantly discriminated against when they return to work, that visibly pregnant women cannot feasibly look for new employment, that new fathers are discouraged from taking their full paternity leave (if their employers even provide it). So you know, not too many things, but enough to get my blood boiling. Then, I started noticing it even more when I began traveling more internationally. I noticed things like… completely separate bathrooms for families and actual baby changing rooms that were separated from the main restrooms. I noticed a baby carrying seat in the women’s room stalls so that a mother can properly pee without needing to hold her infant or toddler down. I saw women openly breastfeeding without any cover-up, without people staring at them like they were offensive to God. I heard announcements at airport gates for pre-boarding for families with children. These things never happen here. The latest thing I’ve noticed here in the U.S. is breastfeeding rooms popping up in airports; I was truly amazed by this. Truly.

So I got even more infuriated when I accompanied my five-months pregnant colleague to Old Navy today just a few blocks from our office to find out that they had no maternity section period. We asked a worker when we walked in, and she embarrassingly told us that there was no maternity section at any Old Navy in all of Manhattan, and if we wanted to find a maternity section, we either need to go to Queens or Brooklyn locations for Old Navy, or order online and do in-store pickup. The other option was that on the second floor, they had all their maternity returns for the pieces that didn’t work out.

Ummm, what?

“So basically, pregnant women aren’t allowed in Manhattan?” I asked the worker. She laughed and said she had brought up this issue multiple times to the manager of the store, and he would respond, saying they didn’t have enough space “for that.” The store worker eventually agreed with me. “We’re really just not friendly towards expectant mothers. It’s sad.”

When we went upstairs to view the returned maternity pieces, it was very clear to us that a lot of women were shopping online for maternity wear and doing in-store pickup; the store manager was just completely short-sighted and literally being a dick towards pregnant women. This is just another form of discrimination, another form of being anti-family and ultimately, anti-woman.

“So, I basically have two options,” my colleague said to me, sighing. “I can go to the really expensive maternity wear stores and pay $100-200 for a dress, or I can shop at Old Navy for reasonable prices, but only online!”

Why do we live in such an anti-family, anti-woman society?

learning new software = painful

So one of the new hobbies that I’ve picked up over the last couple months, which has been extremely slow moving, is video editing. I cook a lot and also watch a lot of travel and cooking videos online, particularly on YouTube, so I thought it would be fun to do my own videos. I already get so much joy out of cooking and documenting via photo and Instagram, so how hard could it possibly be to edit videos using real video software?

The truth is… it’s pretty frustrating, difficult, and exacerbating, like with learning any new skill or software for the first time. I was thinking about the first time I had to learn all the “e,” “eu,” “eau,” “ou,” etc., sounds in French my first two weeks in freshman year of high school, and that was extremely brutal. Studying Chinese every night and doing homework was just excruciating in college, as we had daily quizzes (which in the end, truly served their purpose because somehow, all these years later, I still know most of that stuff!). Any new skill is painful and annoying in the beginning, but I hope this all pays off.

Collectively over Saturday and Sunday, I probably spent over six hours…. just trying to figure out how to create and save templates in Adobe Premiere Pro, only to find out that the method I was using was relevant in older outdated versions of the software, and that “Legacy Title” templates no longer exist in the latest version. Instead, I’d need to undo all that because they could no longer be used, and instead create new templates in what they are now calling “effects graphics.” It took several Google and Adobe forum searches to find what I was looking for. Yep, it only took six hours — no big deal.

I have to keep telling myself that this is just part of learning, that eventually, this will all get much easier, and it will become like second nature to me. It’s a small investment of time now for a bigger payoff later. Fingers crossed.