Remembering a loved one (for me, my grandpa) through odd associations (duck)

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my paternal grandfather. Out of all my grandparents, I always felt closest to him. Despite his poor English, he always found a way to make me laugh or smile. I loved flying/driving up to Malaysia to see him and my grandmother (who is currently living with us in Singapore). Don’t get me wrong – I love my maternal grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins too – but I always looked forward to seeing “Ah Kong”, as we called him. You must be wondering about the leg of roast duck I have featured here. I’ll get to that shortly.

Back to the duck leg. Whenever we drove up to Malaysia, we always stayed in Ah Kong’s home. Having raised five kids that are all grown up now (that’s a whole other story in itself), he had room to spare for when my family went up. After the week or so we spent there, we would always leave in the morning because we wanted to be back at a decent hour and the drive was about six hours without traffic. On these days, Ah Kong would wake up and go out specially to buy me something to eat for the road – you see, he was always worried that I wouldn’t have enough to eat. The year he passed away, I still distinctly remember what he bought for me the last time I saw him: two roasted duck legs from the “best roast duck place in Kelang”.

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Being homesick (for a place that’s not really your home)

As humans, we crave intimacy – whether it’s from our family, friends, or lovers doesn’t matter. Having many intimate connections and suddenly being uprooted from them can be traumatic for those that are mentally unprepared or lacking in a support network in their current location.

As someone who has gotten used to picking up my life and moving it to another country, I stopped thinking of individual places as home. Instead, I began viewing home as where my friends and family were. However, I am now faced with having my family in Singapore and my friends scattered between Singapore, Rochester, and many other places. In a way, I’m homesick for a place that, by my own previous definition, doesn’t technically “qualify” as my home. I’ve asked myself on many occasions, “how is this possible?”

If you read one my previous articles, you know that I love U of R and miss it. However, what I’m talking about right now is that I miss its people more. Not just the people that were there last year, but every person I made a meaningful connection with the five years I was there. I also miss everyone that I grew up with at Waldorf and it’s so strange seeing some of the younger people I saw growing up so quickly. In a way, everyone goes through what I go through when graduation rolls around – I just think I have to do it more often than most.

The most difficult part of moving is saying goodbye, especially to your best friends. A much younger version of myself even attempted a long distance relationship because of my own reluctance to say goodbye. I’d like to say that it gets easier as you get older, but in fact, it doesn’t. You never know what you’re going to say; you don’t know if you’ve said enough or if words are even necessary. Sometimes a hug, a squeeze of a hand, or a kiss is all you need to do to say farewell. You are most definitely not going to be able to say goodbye to everyone you want to say goodbye to; don’t worry though – eventually you’ll realize that that’s okay.

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Meeting New People and First Impressions

“Hello, nice to meet you.”


“Je suis ravi de faire votre connaissance.”

The list goes on, but these are words traditionally spoken when meeting someone for the first time. Depending on where in the world you are, an accompanying handshake, bow, or something similar accompanies this statement.

Why am I writing about this? I believe that a first impression is everything. I mean, come on, have you ever been on the receiving end of the “limp/dead fish” handshake? The early grabber? The late squeezer? The man or woman that simply holds on for far too long? What about the ones that stares down at the ground or makes seemingly unbreakable eye contact with you? How did you feel afterwards about the person?

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What is Music Cognition – A Primer

Considering that the field of music cognition has only started offering Masters degrees in the past ten years or so, it is a safe assumption that not many people know a whole lot about it. Those that do encounter the term in passing may simply scratch their heads and, if someone does not help enlighten them, will simply brush it off as us silly humanities people trying to be scientific. My goal is to have you, my awesome readers, walk/click away from here with a better understanding of the field of music cognition. Rest assured, this is pure, rigorous science backed by neuroscientists, psychologists, and musicians all at once. There’s nothing touchy-feely about this research…minus the music as healing part. More on that later, of course.

Oh yes, I ought to mention that I wish to contribute research to the music psychology/cognition sub-field during my career, so that is why I’m talking about this highly fascinating subject (to me, anyways, and hopefully to you as well). I’m writing this with as little citations as needed and am drawing from my own personal knowledge and understanding. At the end, I have included links of interest related to music cognition.

So first, on to the fundamental question: what is music cognition? The term “music cognition” is an overarching term that actually covers three subdivisions: computational models of music, music psychology/cognition, and music theory. Like all fields of study with subdivisions, there is some overlap here and there in the fields. Having taken courses in all of these, I can say a few things about these subdivisions.

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The Sad State of Socialization Today (smart phones and tablets to blame)

Smart phones. One of the best and worst things invented that is available to the every day man, woman, or child.

Nowadays, everyone has a cell phone of some kind. Even my cousin, who was about 6 years old at the time, got a cell phone. With the departure of the landline as the main means of reaching somebody, I suppose this was the next logical step. Phone plans in the US are notoriously expensive, while phone plans in Singapore are ridiculously cheap, yet almost everyone I know has a cell phone, younger siblings and extended family and all. What’s even scarier is that some of said children, right down to the primary school/elementary school age, have their own smart phones.

I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in 11th grade. It was a flip phone, displayed black ink only, and had a cool blue backlight. I got it because it was a necessity at the time – my parents were in Singapore, I wasn’t always home at my violin teacher’s, and as I didn’t want to have to give out said teacher’s phone numbers to my friends, I inherited my mother’s old phone and number.

Enter the smart phone and having the internet available in your pocket. At first, it’s exciting, but eventually, the novelty wears off after a while. Sure, it’s nice to be able to look up movie times, retire your paper planner and migrate to a digital one (I know I did), or being able to check Facebook while waiting for coffee (again, guilty), but the same things can easily drive you insane. The invention of the Blackberry has everyone tied to its flashy red indicator…if it had a voice, it would yell in that trusty AOL voice,  “You’ve got mail!” every few minutes. People think that even though they’re not at work, that blinking red light beckons them. The appearance of the “crackberry” started to affect socialization.

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Meliora (to me) and a few thoughts about my Alma Mater

“Meliora” is the name of my network when I turn on tethering on my cellphone. Kind of ironic considering its meaning (“Ever better”, for those of you who don’t know) and my phone’s ability to provide increasingly spotty data coverage…I digress. Think what you want of this, but this coupled with my graduation ring basically being glued to my finger and my memories are reminders of five wonderful years. This entry is a feeble attempt to describe what these five years have done for me.

Up until this point, my life has always followed a strange path. Leaving Singapore at the age of 9 to move to America, I had the privilege of gaining a small (300 students Kindergarten-12th grade) liberal arts, private school education from 4th to 12th grade. I then served in the Singapore Armed Forces as a medic for 2 years before I arrived at the University of Rochester.

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The Endless Ambient Music in Food Service

I only started working in the the food service industry this past year, but I have frequented cafes and the like for a very long time. One thing I have noticed is that the music rarely changes, if ever. Another thing I notice is that it is almost invariably annoying, too loud, or highly repetitive.

Let’s start with my first point. For those of you who don’t know me well, I basically lived in Starbucks at my university. I lived off campus and as a central, high traffic location, I used to hang out there and it had the right amount of white noise, so I studied there as well. I eventually picked up a job there as well, but there’s one thing that always ruined it for me: the music. Granted, the playlist was fairly long (about 3-4 hours apiece, I believe), but considering the amount of time I spent there on a daily basis, this is not a large amount of music. The reggae part of the playlist was alright; I once heard “Stand by me” five times in a day. However, as far as I could tell, the playlist only ever changed once every few months are so (Christmas music started playing in early November, but that’s a whole other story…I’m of the “no Christmas until after Thanksgiving” camp).

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Symphony of Life, by William Henry Channing

Photo credit: Wikipedia

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury; and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable; and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasion, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.

London Bucket List

Bucket list of things I need to do in London:

1.) Go to a live Muse concert
2.) Go to Wimbledon
3.) Visit Buckingham Palace
4.) 221B Baker Street
5.)  Portobello Market
6.) See ALL the West End shows
7.) Abbey Road
8.) Get lost on the Tube and see where it takes me
9.) Freud Museum
10.) Big Ben
11.) Camden Town, including the underworld club, the book club, and the market
12.) Go to Brighton and go to the pier/beach on a sunny day
13.) Trocadero Arcade
14.) The British Museum
15.) Chinatown (duh)
16.) St. James’ Park
17.) Have a cupcake at Hummingbirds
18.) A show at the Globe

Keep the suggestions coming guys! Anyone have any other suggestions?

(Thanks to Laura, Ashley, Mickey, and Fatty for their contributions!)