Using music to explain converging heritages harmoniously

Each and everyone of us wear different hats and play different roles at different times to different people.

We don’t get to choose our lineage, our physical appearance, the country we were born in, how we are taught to think as we were growing up.

Yet at some point of our lives, we have to make choices that would eventually define us for the rest of our lives. The hope is that as we are given that responsibility to choose, we don’t make irrevocable mistakes, where we don’t get to learn from those mistakes as we move on in our lives.

This is an interpretation of my Asian and American heritage. Depending on how embedded you’re in either of these cultures, you will experience the piece differently.

I chose these two songs because they are evergreen pop classics in each culture that describes our journey of continuously working on the innate human connections that we call friendship.

Could you tell that there are two songs going on?

Do you know the lyrics to each song?

Do you have a Chinese or East Asian or American friend who grew up with either song where you can share the significance of the song and it’s meaning with?

What do you think of the harmony?

What about the timing of how they start and end together?

To me, the harmony of the 2 songs blends so well that it made me wonder what could go so wrong in any two seemingly polarizing opinions that it could never be resolved.

Surely, there are moments in the song where dissonance and tension linger. But by giving the dissonance and tension time, and allow myself be comfortable with the uncomfortable, it births a new appreciation to the converging songs, thus giving color to the song, so that when the dissonance gets resolved, the harmony brings peace to the soul.

How does this relate to your current self and your past self? What about your relationship with your family? Your relationship with your friends? Your relationship with your government? Your relationship with your enemies?

As I relate more to my American heritage these days, I recorded Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” first and used it as a baseline to my playing of Emil Chou’s “Peng You” (which is translated to Friend in English).


Karma is dead. So what is your intension?

So often, we are taught by various belief systems to “Do unto others what you want others do unto you.”

Worth trying. Seems fair. Let’s all do it.

But wait, what about character Job in the Torah, Bible and Quran? Was his life fair? “Well, that’s long time ago…”

What about that pregnant teenager who decides to keep the child of her rapist?

What about the child who has cancer?

The girl who wanted to go to school but not allowed to?

Those families who lost their homes in the fire?

The child who died protecting his classmates from a shooter in school?

We expect God to be fair.

We expect parents to bring a child up right.

We expect doctors to cure.

We expect governments to protect it’s people.

We expect teachers to take care of students.

We are frustrated, angry and resentful when those expectations are not met.

Karma is dead.

I can only expect based on what I had experienced and what I know. I’m in charge of my own expectations. I therefore, need to know myself first.

39 years ago today, my mother went through a lot to give birth to me in a small town in Malaysia. Who I am today I owe to all whom I have crossed paths with, and I am gifted a new perception of life through my love, Gary’s death.

I grew up in a Muslim society as a 3rd generation Chinese immigrant to Malaysia, attended English sermons in a Presbyterian church, where Malay was my first language, but I mostly speak English at home. I consider myself a Malaysian-born-Chinese-American.

I have performed for Kings, Queens, Presidents, Ministers and Generals as a musician.

I’m lucky to be American because I have the freedom to figure out what my intension is.

Right now, I hold the tension between my Malaysian, Chinese, American, Christian, Muslim, immigrant, artist, engineer, military veteran, lesbian, straight, queer, married, widowed heritage… until I stumble on my new heritage.

How do good musicians keep time? By knowing oneself, and listening to one another.

How does a good engineer fix an issue? By finding the root cause of the problem, and the rest will self-correct.

Intension, after all, is made up of “in” and “tension”.

“Chapter 79:

Failure is an opportunity.

If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master fulfills her own obligations and corrects her own mistakes.

She does what she needs to do and demands nothing of others.”

– Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching, a Stephen Mitchell translation)

Life’s Lesson about Love from Jumper, my male duck

The following photos were taken by Gary from a few years back, and can be found at Gary’s website:

This is a photo of Jumper taken by Gary when he was about a week old. He is a duckling. Ducks have no opinions. Ducks live in the moment. Jumper is a duck.

Jumper is a lover. He would be the first to jump up to you (hence his name). When the love season is in the air, Jumper will find you. When the ducks started laying, Jumper would attempt to have sex with anyone and anything; from all his girls, to socks, or anything warm and fuzzy.

I learned of Jumper’s puberty Spring behavior from Gary. Whenever Gary let the ducks out of their house in the mornings, Jumper would follow Gary every step back into the house. When Gary remove his shoes, Jumper would attempt to have sex with Gary’s socks. Gary would then pick Jumper up and remind him who the alpha duck is. That’s when Jumper would give Gary a hickie, or sometimes, hickies – because Jumper is a duck.

Last Spring, when I forget that it’s Spring, Jumper reminded me. He reminded me by giving me a hickie when I picked him up to give him a hug.

This Spring, I have housemates.

Two days ago, my housemate told me that Jumper started following him closely whenever he is in the yard. I was reminded it’s Spring again. As I was explaining Jumper’s behavior to my housemates, Jumper came up to the sliding door. Expectingly, I opened the sliding door, and Jumper came launching at me. I picked him up and gave him a big hug. I think he figured out that we had went through this before. He struggled like as if he wanted me to let him go, so I put him back down and he went on his way.

This morning, my housemate knocked at my bedroom door. I opened the door, and Cindy told me, “It’s Jumper”. While I was in the city last night, filling my heart with love and joy through good music made by good friends, my housemates at home had heard an altercation in the backyard.

I went out to the backyard, and there he was, lying motionless, decapitated, in a pool of blood. I looked over at the 3 female ducks, who were lying under the bush. I (chased) and picked each one of them up, kissed and gave each one of them a long hug, as I grieved with them.

I came back into the house, got a few pointers from my housemates on what to do with Jumper, took a plastic bag and some sarin wrap back out. Pom-pom and Sweetie Pie were checking on Jumper’s motionless body.

Quackmire was sitting among the white lily plants. As I approached, she left. I saw the reason for Jumper’s death. He died protecting his first eggs of the season.

Déjà vu

I turned and looked at my alarm clock – 5:10 AM. My left and right hemispheres finally made a unanimous decision to get out of bed before my alarm clock is supposed to go off in 30 minutes. I replied a few emails, got ready, lock the doors and walked to the bus stop.

As I was waiting for the bus, a gentleman joined me. His name was John. As there were no numbers on the stop sign, I asked him to confirm that I’m at the right stop. John has been making this commute for 20 years. He just celebrated his 20th anniversary with the bank that he works for in the financial district in the city. While we were chatting, the 6:40AM bus arrived. In the next few stops, about a dozen of well dressed individuals boarded the bus. At the last stop before getting onto the freeway, the driver made a short announcement. “I’ll not be here in the next two days”, he said. “The other driver may be unfamiliar with the route, so please flag him down if you have to. I wouldn’t want you to be late”.

It’s as though I had just opened another pandora box of a Petaluma secret society. Where have I been? Who are these people? What are their stories?

The last time I had to take a bus to school was more than 20 years ago. I was fresh out of high school and had just left home to live with my sister in her 10 x 20 bedroom rental in Singapore. My commute to Singapore Polytechnic was between an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the traffic. It was similar to this morning’s commute, except with 4x the number of people. It was a double decker bus filled with students in the first 1/3, working adults in the next 1/3, and more students at the final leg of the commute. It’s usually pretty quiet in the morning and I would sometimes get a seat when I boarded the bus. Otherwise, I’d just wait long enough to get a seat. Headphones with a good mixtape was my best companion…

I would have never imagined then, that more than 20 years later, I would be an American, a U.S. Army veteran, a homewner living in the Bay Area, privileged to return to school full time for my second masters degree. I would have never been able to accomplish all these without the help and support from so many people.

I’m getting nauseous from the winding road, as the bus approaches the Golden Gate bridge. I should rest before the day starts…

Preview to my new year: Reassesment

I just resigned from Calix after 4.5 years, and will be a full time MBA/MPA candidate with Presidio Graduate School in January. I will still be an active member of the Broadband Forum, so as to stay relevant in the telecommunications industry.

I’ve also decided to rent my house to a trusted couple who was displaced by the recent Sonoma fires starting in February. I have thought and planned all this for some time.

I also bought a new used Subaru Outback to busk my harp out of – on the road. It may sound crazy and dramatic to some, but it’s a natural progression for me. 2017 has been difficult. Very difficult. What do you call a person who has no more f**ks to give, and yet s**t keeps happening? I can’t care anymore, yet I keep caring.

Well, I’m there.

So if I can’t stop s**t from happening, I’ll have to choose what to “care”. Like Forrest Gump when he started to run. But because I’m no Forrest Gump, I’m also going to need to play music for me, for others, because it’s therapeutic. Hence a good, reliable car for road trips across the USA, playing harp. And attending classes once a month. And attending BBF meetings.

I need help. I’m looking for two things:

1. someone to adopt my ducks for a year, maybe two.

2. places to go and catch up with friends anywhere in the USA. Maybe doing house concerts. I’d drive to you to visit with you until we get bored of each other, which should only be a few days, right?


Thanksgiving reflection: Stewardship amid chaos

Life has a way of surprising us when we allow it. This Thanksgiving, I learned that my stewardship towards nature, causes, and relationships keeps me rooted. Stewardship is an active noun.

My parents have been living with me for two months now. The journey of getting to know each other again was arduous, yet fulfilling, because we were rooted in our stewardship to our relationship with each other. It involves a great deal of space, silence, respect, patience, open mind, courage, affirmation, humility, tears and laughter, assertion and forgiveness – from each of us… and here we are.

We’ve had quite a few adventures together – seeing redwoods and snow for the first time, experiencing the worst wildfires in the California’s history, exploring the history of Asian immigrants to San Francisco via Segways on Angel Island, visiting Legion of Honor to soak in the chronological artifacts of various culture and land, ruminating on Klimt and Rodin’s work, wine tasting, beer tasting, dancing, military appreciation, and adopting a new family of friends.




#parentshavingfun #rockymountains #colorado #firstime #snowlove

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