Happy birthday to this blog!

A year ago, I posted my first entry on this blog. Forty-two entries and a new domain name later, here we are celebrating my blog’s first birthday.

Thank you for all your support and kind words over this past year, and I hope you continue to enjoy reading my posts as much as I enjoy writing them!

Here’s a sneak preview for what to look forward to in the next few weeks (not necessarily in this order):

  1. A piece about my best friend – who she is, how we met, and why she’s so special to me.
  2. My nicknames through the past 26 years and how they came about.
  3. An article about the three types of people you will ever meet in your life, courtesy of a very wise person that I met last week.
  4. Some musings on what the sum total of our experiences mean (this last one might take a while, and might get nixxed depending on whether I feel I can present something vaguely intelligent about it)

Have a wonderful week ahead, and here’s to another great year! Thanks again!

Image courtesy of Strawberry Sue

The story of Leah and Michael

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are not fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely planned. With that said, I changed names and will not mention any geographic information or time-frames to preserve the characters’ identities. With that said, Leah and Michael, if either or both of you read this, I hope you don’t mind that I’m writing about this.

With all the violence and death that has been going on of late (note: I started writing this in late April and am just finishing this now), I thought I would write a little story about love. Not my own love, (unfortunately,) but of a rare and beautiful kind that I felt privileged to witness firsthand during my travels.

Movies, television, and magazines have created notoriously unrealistic outlooks for romantic relationships. They create the expectation that there will be a great story when you meet the love of your life, that, despite any obstacles you may encounter, you and your significant other will have a fairy tale ending and live happily ever after. In some cases, this may actually happen, but realistically, it does not. I probably do not have to tell you that relationships are built on a combination of love, trust, struggle, and compromise; any of you who have ever been in a relationship or are presently in one know exactly what I’m talking about.

This is a story that, as far as I know, still has no ending, but I still want to share what I’ve already seen with you. I first met Leah and Michael during one of my many travels. Living the poor student’s life, I booked myself a hostel. As it wasn’t my first time living in a hostel, I was actually sort of keen to meet my roommates, hoping that they would be cool and that we could be friends. When I first got into the room, I saw that two of the beds were already occupied and I heard the shower running…and two voices. People traveling and staying in hostels in pairs is nothing out of the ordinary, but when you walk into this sort of situation, you can’t help but think and worry for a brief moment that perhaps you should have taken that extra five or ten minutes in the lobby to ask about the sights in the surrounding area. Fortunately, my worries were laid to rest when Michael walked out of the bathroom shortly after I walked in.

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The Cab Driver

Author’s note: I had this from my Facebook Notes. I don’t remember where it came from, but I still think it’s worth sharing.

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.”

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A 1000 Word Picture – 1

I used to live right on the beach. Our southward facing windows looked over the boardwalk, the sand, the ocean, and the horizon; as the days grew longer and shorter, I used to think about tracing, in white pen on the windows, the growing and shrinking arcs the sun followed as the days went by a la John Nash. There is nothing quite as naturally beautiful as the rising sun, and one of the mornings before I had to leave this home forever, I went out to sit on the sand to watch this marvel just before dawn.

There was a clear and cloudless sky with the stars silently twinkling at me. There wasn’t much wind that night, but once in a while, a gentle breeze would blow from behind me. It was strong enough to shift the sand dunes around me, but it wasn’t strong enough to cause it to kick up into my eyes as I sat there. The salty smell of the ocean was there, as always; a few times, I closed my eyes and tried to permanently capture this reassuring and consistent smell, along with the feel of the sand, mixed with small seashells and tiny pebbles scattered throughout, and the sound of the breeze, in my mind – this wonderful memory of my first real home outside Singapore. This nest that I had spent seven years living in. The place where I learned about a new culture and that I had finally felt like I had begun to belong to.

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A few of the things in life that make me happy

I’ve been having a pretty shitty day, so instead of doing the things I usually do when I have a shitty day, I’m trying something new. Here’s a list of some of the things that make me happy in life.

  1. The sound and aroma of grinding coffee beans
  2. Puppies
  3. Smiling/laughing babies and children
  4. Playing my violin by myself or with other people
  5. Watching some bad (or good?) comedy or rom-com TV show or movie
  6. A friend who surprises me by doing something unexpected for me
  7. Talking about Rochester
  8. Singing loudly and obnoxiously with someone, sometimes in public
  9. A perfectly made latte with even microfoam and espresso shots that haven’t sat longer than 6 seconds
  10. The smile of someone (a patient, an old lady, etc.) that I’ve helped, even just a little bit
  11. Hummus
  12. My mother’s cooking
  13. Cuddling
  14. People’s satisfaction from something I cooked for them
  15. Hugs. Not just any hugs, though – good hugs
  16. Waking up and finding notifications on my Facebook with hilarious links or comments
  17. Learning something new and useless
  18. Clear sunsets
  19. How my skin feels right after I shave
  20. An unexpected but welcome phone call

Photo from Maniera

I Want To Take Off My Hijab (Reblog from Thought Catalog)

Author’s note: I have followed Thought Catalog for a couple of years now, and this is the first time such a poignant article on Islam (that I’ve found) has made it through the editors. I have fixed most of the grammar and spelling errors and inserted a few explanatory links, but I leave this girl’s message intact. Any anti-Islam comments will be removed. Here is the source link. Cover photo from NBC

It has taken me a long time to write this. It is very personal, difficult, sensitive, and extremely controversial.

Sitting here, typing this, I am still not sure whether I can, in fact, put it all into words that, in some little way, express how I feel and why.

But enough with the preamble – let’s just get into the heart of the matter:
I am a Muslim and i want to take off my hijab. there. I’ve said it.

I remember the day I wore it. I was thirteen. My best friend and I had been talking about wearing hijab for a while because everyone’s been doing it. Duh. It was the coolest new thing. We decided we would soon. It was in Ramadan; after iftar, I went to her place so that we could go to our aunt’s wedding. She dressed up and put on a hijab. I decided to do it then and there. I borrowed a hijab from her mom. With both of us wearing it, we went to the wedding hand-in-hand, extremely proud of ourselves.

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Online test for my master’s thesis

Dear readers,

I am in the early stages of testing for the online component of my master’s dissertation. Before I send this out to large mailing lists, I want to make sure that all the programming in place works properly.

Disclaimer: You do NOT have to have absolute/perfect pitch, and/or synesthesia of any sort to take this test. If you do it’s a bonus, but the point is to get as many people as possible to take it!

If you have approximately 20-30 minutes to spare, have interest in absolute/perfect pitch and tone-color synesthesia, and are able to take a test that uses sound, please help me (and science) out! Here is the link:

http://psy770.gold.ac.uk/apsyn

Thank you so much!

A reintroduction

As you may have noticed, I have changed the title of my blog from The Wondrous World of Guang Yi’s Mind to Classically Caffeinated Compositions. Why, you may ask? First and foremost, I thought that the first title was boring. When I first created this blog, I needed a title, and that was one of the first titles that came into my brain – it was easy to remember, and it was somewhat descriptive of the theme I wanted going behind the blog. Now, almost a year has passed since I wrote my first introductory post, I wanted a new name that was catchy, more descriptive, reflective of the majority of the content that I write here, and very me.

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Warm-up/Preparatory Rituals

I find that there is something wonderfully peaceful and magical about watching someone prepare to do something, whether it is before a soccer player takes the field, a ballerina takes to the floor, a musician begins to practice, or a painter puts his or her brush to the canvas. There is almost a palpable anticipation for what comes after the warm-ups or preparations are complete because just from watching them, you know that you are in for a treat; they have had years to refine and hone not only their skill or art, but to practice their preparatory rituals as well.

Before I unpack, I put my case down and stretch – right shoulder, then left, flex and hold my right wrist for a forearm stretch, then the left. Bend and hold fingers on the right hand, do the same for the left. Shake it out, then open the case. Violin out, attach shoulder rest, remove bow from case and tighten before applying rosin. G major scale, 3 octaves, 2 notes per bow. Then 3, then 4, then 6, then 8. Then arpeggios. What comes after depends on my mood, but these parts are always the same.

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Entropy, in the non-physical sense

Disclaimer: Before you guys go fleeing for the hills because I used the word “entropy”, don’t worry, because this isn’t going to be (entirely) a scientific piece. These are just some thoughts I have about the literal versus metaphorical meanings of entropy, and I’ll try to keep it simple.

Here’s your thought for the day: does entropy apply to non-physical objects as well?

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states:

The entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium—the state of maximum entropy.

Entropy is a measure of the order and disorder of the universe. Put simply, the natural state of the universe is chaos, and any system, no matter how organized and carefully constructed, will disintegrate over time due to entropy. These systems can be anything: human bodies, buildings, large machines…you get the point.

If you view everything with this perspective, I began thinking if the laws of entropy apply to non-physical things as well. First, let’s think about memories. In the literal sense, a memory is a series of electrical impulses in our brain with accompanying neurotransmitters, among other things; in the metaphorical sense, the sum of these impulses and neurotransmitters create the experiences that shape the people that we are.

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