Slides from STF Seminar

Thanks to all who sat through the short seminar at the Singapore Trombone Festival. I don’t usually speak about this topic, glad to have an opportunity to connect with fellow trombonists and share some thoughts.

Here’re the slides for your reference. For those who did not attend, please note that this is not a replacement for rigorous harmony and orchestration training, but a light and easy hour to get musicians to start writing instead of just playing the instrument, and critiquing other people’s arrangements.

Getting Started on arranging for Trombones

STF logo

More information about the festival (some concerts you should catch)!

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Gratitude and tough love

It wasn’t until I started writing this post that realise “Tough Love” is an accepted expression (proof by Wikipedia).

When I first learned of the word gratitude (probably in my teens), it wasn’t a good feeling. Because it’s often used when the other party is administering tough love. Remember 打就是爱, 骂就是疼? It’s no wonder I find it odd that many years later, it would take an extreme mental shift for me to express gratitude both to people who administer “Kind Love”, to “Lady Luck”, and most importantly to my own self.

So today, as Singapore, a place I’ve been based out of for the past 9 years, celebrates its 49th birthday, I want to express my gratitude to the people of this island state that has made the following possible, especially those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet:

1. To the faceless and nameless officer at ICA, thank you for granting me 5 years of PR in the latest renewal, instead of the year by year renewal that I had to endure earlier. With a 5 year horizon not having to worry that I will be expunged from here and forced to sell my flat, I can put my heart and soul into starting up new business, writing music, and dabble into various activities that’s not related to survival mode. If it’s not too much to ask for, please bring back the 10 years PR scheme as well, whatever the opportunity cost may be.

2. To the faceless and nameless civil servant at HDB, thank you for scrapping the Sibling Scheme only after me and my brother purchased a flat in Ang Mo Kio at sky high COV. Not only have this small humble place serve as a place for our parents to camp over when they are here helping taking care of my new born daughter, it has also strategically placed me next to some of the people that I am endeavouring new projects and startups together. It also helped me shelter and later marry my wife, and have children, while my brother is doing the same right now, something rather difficult when we were both camping in a rented room with a double decker bed.

3. The ABSD and rent that we saved (now mortgage paid out of our CPFs) can now be channeled into very productive tool such as a motor vehicle. To the Singapore residents who bidded for a COE around the time I got my trusty civic, thank you, for not bidding beyond my means. It has made a difference in enabling me to launch into hundreds of situations, such as fetching equipment and musicians to perform at shows in a timely manner, fetching my family back and fro Malaysia, wandering and learning about various underprivileged corners of Singapore and Malaysia, and so on, without being held back by a lack of mobility. We hope to meet you again 2 years from now when we all have to bid for another COE at the same time.

4. To the people in the EDB scholarship machinery, thank you for channelling your tax dollars into funding my overseas education, and forcing me to relinquish whatever opportunity I would otherwise be able to ride on in US, so that I can sit through more than 7 years of system integration, government service, telecommunications, while still dealing with technology, music and startups on the side. What a better an outcome than an indentured servant being granted freedom in the New World, albeit a different one? It even comes with some overseas education badge of honour that has ever since been useful in both job hunting and business networking.

5. To the nameless and faceless people of NParks, thank you for not chopping down the large Angsana tree in front of my flat, even though 4 similar trees between where we live and Ang Mo Kio MRT has been completely cut down for unaccounted reasons (which hopefully someday we can read about in an article). This is despite the tree being damaged severely by contractors who demanded some branches cut off for the purpose of lift upgrading. Please keep it till I sell the flat a few decades down the road, otherwise my buyer will be face to face with the artificial river of AMK Ave 3.

6. To my neighbours (sorry I still don’t know all of you) who voted ‘yes’ for lift upgrading, thank you for agreeing to shell out a cool two plus grand and enduring the extremely slow construction pace, cooking with dust in your dinner, and having your infants breath filthy air. Because of you, we are now $32,000 poorer, but all the better because we will be able to put our daughter right into the stroller and roll her all the way to the nanny in the coming month, instead of carrying her for 2 flights of stairs prior to doing so.

7. To the employers of senior citizens, such as the town council who is still keeping my 70 year old neighbour sweeping my car park, or the cleaning company who hires the 70 year old who cleans my table and plates in the coffee shop and hawker centre, thank you for providing them the opportunity to work till they can’t any more, instead of letting them retire and die prematurely, as your founding father has often predicted. It will be great if more organisations would find ways to let them go into gardening (roof top gardens?) instead of just cleaning, which we young people can do.

8. To the lorry drivers carrying my vegetables from Malaysia, to the ship crew carrying my pork from Bintan, in fact to everyone in the food supply industry, thank you for doing your best to keep your price competitive, so that we continue to have access to affordable food, and help our hawkers, restaurants, and other food outlets pay their exorbitant rent. Like my mum said: just take KL for comparison, with all the advantages of being closer to sources of food, eating in KL is (without converting, i.e. based on PPP) so much more expensive than in Singapore. Oh by the way, please don’t strike, it’s ok to pass on the cost of the causeway toll rise to us consumers.

9. To all the people (I don’t even know how to address you, bio defence?) who are working hand in hand to ensure the Ebola virus doesn’t reach the shores of this island, thank you, for your vigilance, for I cannot protect myself without guidance in the event of an outbreak. I was still in US when SARS broke out and I read excellent feedback about the measures taken to minimise loss of life, and hope such infrastructures and operating procedures are in place for us to survive again.

Oh there are so many more, I think I will stop here before this becomes a book.

All of you collectively formed Singapore, and as I inadvertently also contribute the same to earn my purpose of stay, I know I’m standing not just on the shoulder of one single giant, but many many individuals who continues to find ways to make live better for others.

It’s tough love, sometimes they tax you heavily to deliver a benefit, sometimes they use severe penalties to control your behaviours, sometimes they pull the carpet under you so that you can fall into a thankful kneeling position. The fortunate thing is after you give thanks, you can stand up and walk on to better pastures, and not having to endure warfare, famine, not even theft, maybe just relative poverty, as the Gini coefficient revealed.

Gini Coefficient

After all poverty can be a good thing – it stops you from chasing after material goods, and looking at the other things that matter in life, spiritual or otherwise. Capital can then be channeled into bigger things to continue to weave additional support on the hammock of survival.

Happy Birthday Singapore!

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More than 10 years of working experience

Is officially no longer something I fake on my resume – ha!

Real Working Experience

Years ago, I used to count working experience starting from my internship days. Just so that people don’t think I’m too green for any position. After all, I lived most of my working years in dog years, and that worked out well.

But now it’s truly 10 years, starting from August 2004 when I started in, until now (few months of being entrepreneurial in music scene notwithstanding).

Do you tell people you’re more experienced than you really are? Do you do creative accounting on resumes?

Count your days, count your blessings.

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Fixing whatsapp on iOS8 beta

The issue is already well documented, I’m pulling them together here and adding some ideas.

The cause is an error in handling Typographic Ligature (actually I don’t care, just in case you do)

The current behaviour is:

A. if you type a message with ff, fl or fi and hit Send, whatsapp crashes, you don’t see the message in your phone, but the message is actually sent.

B. if you receive a message with ff, fl or fi, whatsapp crashes when you open the message, but the message continues to reside in the database, and thus you will not be able to converse with this person / group until something is done.

For scenario A, there’s nothing you can do, but at least communication continues (you just don’t have a log of the message).

For scenario B, my solution of choice is based on this snippet on github


  1. Download and launch iExplorer
  2. Download and launch SQLiteBrowser
  3. In iExplorer, look for Apps, WhatsApp, and drag ChatStorage.sqlite to your desktop
  4. Drag that file again into SQLLiteBrowser (optional – create a duplicate for backup for safety)
  5. Click on Execute SQL, paste the following in and then click the Play button to execute the queries

    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%ff%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'ff', 'f_f') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%ff%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'fi', 'f_i') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%fi%';
    update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace( ZTEXT, 'fl', 'f_l') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%fl%';

    DROP TRIGGER ios8_fix;

    The 1st query (ff) needs to be executed twice because of words like wtffffff. The first time replacement will create wtf_ff_ff_f, and the second round wtf_f_f_f_f_f.

    I didn’t quite like the [f f] style coz I also type messages to others and it’s easier to type f_f and looks more normal to the receiving party. Feel free to change this (if you add something at the end you don’t need to repeat the query).

  6. Quit SQLiteBrowser and save the file.
  7. Drag the file back to where you got it from in iExplorer. Choose to Replace the file

The resulting behaviour might still result in a crash, but a second launch will be successful.

Thoughts welcomed.

Ok back to work on iOS8.

p/s At some point in the future when the problem is gone, I would do a final update

update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_f', 'ff') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_f%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_f', 'ff') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_f%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_i', 'fi') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_i%';
update ZWAMESSAGE set ZTEXT = replace(ZTEXT, 'f_l', 'fl') where ZWAMESSAGE.ZTEXT like '%f_l%';

DROP TRIGGER ios8_fix;

to revert my entire database to the original.

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Growth Spurts

We’re into the 3rd week now, not exactly full moon yet, but patterns has emerged, some old wives tale has been proven to work and we’ve been lectured throughly on Facebook.

Turns out the stress from parenting isn’t so much about the baby’s expectations. There are a limited number of things that can go wrong (and a very small probability it’s something else that requires the doctor) – milk, poop, gas, cradle. Other than these 4, we haven’t seen any other need. The cry is also consistent, starting from milk which can shake the house, down to cradle, which is a tearless cry.

The same couldn’t be said of the complex world that we live in, one that would take every opportunity to tell you you’re doing it wrong, and yet request for more baby photos to be made available. We’re hesitant now – if every photo of our parenting invites a barrage of lecture from our week meaning friends, is it better to save it for ourselves and only put the standard family portraits?

Never had my study of the social media phenomenon been so amplified. We created for ourselves a world that screams Gold 90 FM: Only the good stuff. Why? Why won’t it be? Just like in my previous work life I have been warn never to write bad things about my employer on this very blog you’re reading. That’s why it’s always good news, marketing news, etc. and I kept my job.

Now all that we hope is that our extended family and close friends get to follow us as we embark on a new journey to raise children, especially since we’re geographically separated. What we didn’t expect: contradicting lectures. Half the world says sleep with aircond, half the world say cannot. Half the world say a cat will kill the baby, half the world couldn’t care less. Don’t get me started on the advise that my wife got on breastfeeding.

Some of them are sensitive enough to private message, while some bother to repeat exactly what’s said by earlier commenters. I mean, seriously, how many times must you say cannot have direct sunlight in baby’s eyes in one single picture? How stupid can the parent be? Why didn’t you tell me about the wrong way I’m eating in my earlier posts? I can get carried away pretty easily here.

So I took it in stride, while continuing to experiment. Yenn is a super demanding baby like many other babies, and comes with her own idiosyncrasies. At 3 weeks old, she’s quite a character when it comes to choosing the source of food (oh that face that says “yuck” when she got her milk slightly warmer or colder than expected), and her drama tantrum when we’re changing her diapers (omgomgomg there’s one more speck there on my butt) but dramatically return to her cuteness once the new diaper is locked in.

And the best part is her learning to cry amply so that she can be carried and cradled around. Unfortunately for her she has a very smart daddy who could start reading her by the amount of tears that comes out of her eyes: the “fake cry” that her dad is so good at doing is already identified at such a young age.

But we still pamper her like any parent would, exhausting our repertoire of nursery rhymes and random nonsense that we can ramble to keep her entertained in our arms until she willingly falls asleep. Not because anyone on Facebook cares, but we feel like it.

And if you’re going to be someone who’s going to tell us that baby who are carried too much will be very demanding in the future, we will smile and nod in agreement.

Have a nice day.

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New parents

Yes they have warned us multiple times. Yes we took antenatal courses and had all the knowledge. Yes we had all the support anyone could wished for (perhaps sans the benefits for locals but that’s for another day) – mother in law for confinement, friends who give their time, resource and moral support.

But nothing could prepare a couple in the face of a crying baby. An OMG-the-sky-is-falling-down crying baby.

Yenn is so sweet, until she cries. In that respect she’s no different from all the babies we see around. 6 days of training and we are now settled into the evergreen checklist of diaper, burp, milk.

Except we still need to remember to bring around _enough_ diapers, burp the right way, and feed, uh, wait there’s not enough milk being produced… Even though every nurse says it’s ok and gave ever so slightly varied tips from the massage to the pump, we were still too nervous to lactate up to medical quantity.

I wouldn’t say it’s an indescribable feeling, it’s just, you’re so tired from this 3 hourly routine you don’t want to describe it. But that’s not what well meaning family members from all corners of earth understand in that very same Whatsapp-group refuge you used to build up confidence of being a parent.

These last two days changed the way we view the sun. The sun, that red hot boiling star is needed as your temporary liver and if you don’t get enough of it you pay a S$1,000 penalty for having your baby do phototherapy in a machine from Uranus for 48 hours. And she’s only been out for three days!

The book says 50% but the Neo Natal Jaundice ward’s nurse said 90%. And she used the word “locals” – so you mean LKY credited Aircond as the greatest invention wrongly? It should have been Medela’s Bilibed – the UV light than gives life to the island state?

Whichever percentage it is, evolution certainly wanted us dead. But we thrived. There’s a kind of morbid yet survival instinct point of view that I noticed between YC and me: we kind of like to just go with the professional advise – keep the child in the hospital, give enough milk, enough light. Because that gives that ever so small a break, a few hours between 10pm and 8am.

But on the other hand, there’s an overwhelming sense of love and responsibility that rejects this from the outset. Spartans take their child to the army at age 7 and you’re taking it from me at day 6!? We shuttled in and out of the hospital 3 times today, and will probably do 4 tomorrow and 2 the day after before we can redeem our precious.

And now at home, it’s already very eery that there’s no crying sound. The sense of emptiness is rather.. indescribable.

Suddenly the lyrics of a piece that I just finished arranging came to mind. In 江惠’s 家后:

阮的一生献乎恁兜, 才知幸福是吵吵闹闹

The journey continues.

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My first born, Kai Yenn, was born 23 May 2014 6:39pm at Mt Alvernia Hospital, Singapore.

Daddy and Yenn

She weigh 3.55kg at birth. Mummy was doing well, reasonably refreshed right after delivery too. Yay mummy!

Mummy and Yenn

She is feeding and sleeping well after a first day of learning to latch on, and when she smiles, she’s cute dao…

Angel Yenn

Stereotypes starts immediately at birth (female gemini horse 八字) but at least we believe in choosing a good name for her.

is a word we stumbled upon when finding alternatives to 凯. It has a mountain and a self on the right, almost like tracking your way up the hills, something dad likes to bring mum to do, to seek peace and tranquility. With the heart on the left, it means happiness, harmonious, and merry. 恺,乐也。——《说文》。按,豈,愷实同一字。

on the other hand follows mum’s dedication to animals. We wanted to call her Yenn, but many other similar sounding words like 彦 didn’t work out or were too boyish, and we already have an aunt using 燕. It is basically this migratory swan.




Perhaps she might bring us around the world on her wings?

Happy Birthday Baby Girl :)

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99 days of solitude, attitude, and fortitude

I originally wanted to commemorate the first 100 days of true freedom on Monday, but seeing that my wallet is empty and it’s still not ATM day, thus facing the prospect of having nothing to eat (or having my wife buy me lunch..) I changed my mind.

I’m going to commemorate, or more accurately raise my own alarm bell, on the 99th day. Previously I thought self-employment means no savings, but now the prospect of a real cash-flow crunch is actually possible, seeing that I’ve had a great decline in income that has been tapering slowly from previous deeds, and new sources are not yet flowing in quick enough.

New things takes time, music needs to be written, software needs to be built, customers needs to be courted, eyeballs need to be sustained. With all my focus on delivering music on time, other items, unwittingly, suffer. It’s not that things are not done, but they are not done at the fervour and speed of a startup.

And that has to change in the next 99 or 100 days, or I’ll be too deep into the jungle and would have spent more than half the year not scaling up as planned, but only running around like a chicken who lost its head.

100 days

I recalled an old article saying something like don’t multitask if you’re trying to focus on delivering creative work. Now I see this hurts. Normally I perform very well in a salaried job, typically being an administrator, because the job is primarily routing messages and keeping dozens of threads running in parallel, making other people do the creation. However, when I do creation, the world vanishes and I exist only for the music.

Another way probably is to tag team with someone who’s willing to do the rest of the work, but at my current scale that doesn’t really work yet. It might also be another excuse to delay following up critical matters.

Nevertheless, 99 days is a milestone for solitude, attitude, and fortitude. Celebrating it must mean looking forward to the next 100 days at a much higher level.

To a more productive and focused tomorrow. Cheers.

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Banana Boat Song

Time flies. The first weeks were slow and I can watch the passing hours. The second, still slow. Now, it’s just a week shy of the end of April, that would be my first unemployed “quarter”, and time is now moving very quickly (maybe coz I’m having too much fun, maybe I’m actually way too busy, maybe both).

After putting down the phone rejecting yet another head hunter, I looked at my calendar (which is now more like my diary than this blog) and asked: was I really fair to myself? Did I do what I set out to do and did I let people down? Certain projects were completed, others started, new contacts were built, and most importantly for me, music is written, even though it’s slowing down tremendously due to the large overhead of running a business.

So even as my output slows, I actually feel the strain on my mental capacity – already I don’t spend much time trying to get new melodies, but the engineering work of constructing usable and meaningful scores can actually take more effort that just cooking up something completely new.

This morning though, after someone begged for free scores, I had lunch with another band instructor who told me that he too, writes for the band he teaches, partly due to necessity, partly coz, it’s fun. That followed with some research on YouTube on some Hokkien song called Teh-O, where one click leads to another and I’m presented with the video that made my day.

This is the magic of the muppets – they took such a simple song, and made it so special, and created so much laughter. Yes the producer and the team probably worked under commission and under time pressure as well but look, the results is just hilarious.

At the end of the video, I suddenly realise, I haven’t written anything for fun since my last PhilBrass concert (where I have a group who will read anything I put in front of their face anyway). Maybe I actually forgot to “play” and “have fun” even in this line of work.

So there you go, thanks to the muppets (and sorry to those who are waiting for your orders), here’s a percussion ensemble version of Day-O that I challenge any school band to put up as a show, with a skit that can beat the muppets. You can tear the score apart for conversations, and sing using the score as accompaniment (just omit melodic lines if you’re singing).

Scores and mp3 here: (if this is broken in the future it means I took it down)

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Honeymoon Diaries #10 – Los Angeles

The inflight Wi-Fi in Alaskan Airlines that we took

May 13 (Monday)

Yuen-lin, with possibly the greatest hospitality of all hosts we had, left us the keys to the house as he immediately ventured north for a 11 day meditation retreat 2 hours north of the bay area after putting us home safely the night before. We woke up really early to diligently pack our belongings and found our way back to Berkeley downtown to catch a BART back to SFO, as we head towards our final detonation of the trip.

Honestly, Los Angeles wouldn’t have been part of the tour if it wasn’t for Disneyland. Plus, placing this destination last means our shopping has to be done here (to prevent paying extra for luggage for internal flights, now $50 a piece! crazy!) with a really high Californian sales tax of 7 to 9%. In hindsight, I’m happy we came anyways, even though my parents didn’t have very much good impression when they visited a decade back.

Upon reaching LAX via Virgin Air, with all its weird Pink Purple Magenta lighted interior, we caught up with Sy Bor in the airport itself (macam business man…) before renting a car for the 3rd time. This time it was much cheaper than the previous 2 times as we will be returning it to the same place. It was necessary for us to carry out all the difficult shopping manoeuvres, plus we didn’t have any contacts in town who could help.

Wanting to be close to LAX so that we can catch our final flight home, we made Culver City’s Super 8 motel our headquarters for the week. Motels are such an integral part of the American travel experience, and to my delight I found dear very satisfied by its simple and practical setup. After wandering around the neighbourhood and having some really nice Mexican grilled food for dinner, we
stayed in for the evening to plan for the least planned part of the journey. After finally confirming against an day trip to San Diego (to visit the Zoo), we bought tickets that night to Disneyland.

* * *

Super 8 Culver City

May 14 (Tuesday)

We started our LA sight-seeing day knowing that they might be some disappointment due to our last minute planning. The first stop we climbed the hill up to Griffith Observatory, and true to our prediction we forgot to check its opening hours and had to make do with the glorious view of LA.

We headed straight to Hollywood next. It was the finals of American idol so large part of the street was blocked, but we got our fair share of tourist-ish things done, from reading the stars mosaics to taking pictures with the Hollywood sign from Kodak theatre, while avoiding all the mascots prowling tourist for tips.

Originally just wanting to pass by, we got lost wandering around Beverly Hills amidst the huge rich people’s mansions. When we finally found our way out, we stopped by another Mexican corner shop for lunch and it tasted awesome probably from the hunger. We kept heading west until we reached Santa Monica, and grabbed our 2nd Jamba Juice before heading out to the beach.

Walking shoeless on the hot sand towards the beach, we wondered if there were nudity (neh, sorry to disappoint) but there certainly were lots of trash cans lined up along the beach, making its long and beautiful sandy beach a pleasant place to get scorched by the sun. It wasn’t long before we retreated from the cloudless sky back into downtown Santa Monica, surveying camping gear prices in REI trying to figure out how much Yuen-lin invested in his gears.

We met Jung Kian at Soowon Galbi Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner at his recommendation, and for the first time in our trip we scheduled a meal with someone we didn’t know before (ha!) Thanks to dear who’s totally accepting of her husband’s random hook up habits, even with young undergrads. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear current generation Malaysians rather going back to serve out their bond instead of taking advantage of the 1 year OPT (optional practical training) to work in the states – or perhaps Jung Kian is an outlier? We also caught up with Sze Min at Bourbon street cafe, but our conversation was unfortunately cut off prematurely when the shop closed fairly early.

We dropped Jung Kian back to USC, and kept thinking of tomorrow’s destination at Anaheim on our way back.

* * *


May 15 (Wednesday)

Visiting Disneyland was the other key promise to my wife for this trip (other than niagara falls). I guess it had been important enough for her to insist on it, but the nagging feeling has always been that one would like to bring children to come to Disneyland together! Alas, I gave in since I also went to Disneyland Florida when I was a freshman.

After a really long drive from Culver City to Anaheim, we parked in the Mickey themed car park and took a nice train-length road transport to the ticketing booth, where we realise we were following all the family people into the main park, while the youngsters seem to headed for the adventure park (to do both parks we would have to spend 2 days here).

Dear was excited by all the high energy rides, while I was singing kiddy tunes silly. As usual, one has to be on top of your game to be able to avoid queues and get to rides as fast as possible, but we did not figure out this FASTPASS thing until when the day was almost over. Thus half the time we were really just queueing, especially for the Space Mountain, where the queue was so so so long. Nevertheless, Space Mountain was totally worth it – we were seriously considering a 2nd ride in that pitch black monster.

Otherwise, Ironman displays were great, bumper cars were my favourite. Burritos for lunch was delicious. Small world was a bit of a let down, but the final ride around the entire park on its feeder train soothed the soul somewhat. We managed to cover most of the park in the end, especially catching the most important Main Street Parade while holding our Astro burger in hand. Dear got her candy floss and souvenirs while I got a nice presentation on Lincoln before we surrender to the setting sun.

Totally exhausted, I thought the happiest place on the earth can really just be anywhere that can drain you completely in one day.

* * *

Guess which one we bought

May 16 (Thursday)

On our final full day in the North American continent, we started frantically acquiring all that could fit our luggages, and ticking off the huge shopping list by our friends and family. Medela breast pump, check. Kate Spade, check. And the list goes on. We started from the simple stores like Target, which dear found it super huge but I was like, well this is what the big boxes look like, and got Yunxin’s pump. Then at Nordstrom, we found a nice jogging T for Chern.

Next we headed out to long beach. Yes it was really far, but The Horn Guys are either there or way up north in La Crescenta, and they are the only larger brass shop that I knew after sufficient research. It was really dear who pushed me to go take a look, since I’ve half heartedly said that I wanted a new trombone, but did not find any earlier in Dilon and Chuck Levin.

The only thing in my mind during this honeymoon was her, so to now start thinking about something else completely different caught me completely off guard. Yes it has been in the plans to get a new trombone for years now but why now now? That feeling completely changed after this one nice B natural that rang everywhere in my body, and suddenly I was confronted with a bone that’s actually very similar to my current Bach 42B Stradivarius that I inherited from my teacher from just after high school till today.

I remembered having to tell the shop keeper that I’ll be back, walked out of the shop and sat in Jack in the Box for a whole hour reading reviews and comparisons while dear waited patiently for me, consistently reminding me that she hope that I can invest in one now. Not being a professional who works day in and day out as a trombonist put some brakes into this investment (it’s impossible to earn back that much money just from gigging), but then again, if i really can’t afford it later, I can still sell it as long as I can take good care of it. Maybe even at a profit if it’s aged properly?

Hoping to minimise buyer’s regret, I went back and spent more time with the instrument before having a conversation with the shop keeper. Then we found out how we could actually avoid a full 10% of taxes since I was going to use my Singapore credit card, as he could record this as an export and shipped to Singapore (without him paying for the shipping and with me only paying for the bank exchange rates). That, and a load of free oils and spray sweetened the deal and I relented :) The Getzen 4707DS is following me home, and it even comes in a fibreglass case that fits the airplane compartment.

Our last stop is to get dear’s sister her Kate Spade bag. We traveled a few cities before arriving at The Americana at Brand in Glendale, a place so new and polished it looks like a super tourist trap, but with no choice (as the other Kate Spades did not carry the item she was looking for), we shopped on. The large Apple store was welcoming but none of the items were of value, so we left. Barnes and Nobles provided the free Wi-Fi we needed to have real time conversation with my sister in-law as we only found the same bag not the same design. It was a happy ending.

After an order and a reorder of Alondra Hot Wings (didn’t know dear could eat so many wings!) in Alhambra, we crossed street to meet up with Sze Min again to continue our conversation, joined by another old friend Fang Ning who’s conducting her own community orchestra in LA. We chatted for a very long time, knowing that it would be the last conversation that we will have in US for a long time to come.

* * *

Sze Min & Fang Ning

May 17 (Friday)

Mechanically, we rose with all the task of the day laid before us. Breakfast, checkout, returned car, checkin, dropped luggage, checked and checked if our documents we right, and headed to the gate, where home calls.

I shed a tear, privately. I don’t know what it was for.

In my foursquare checkin, I said, “Bye and thanks for all the fish”. I don’t know what it meant, and don’t know what it means now. I wasn’t a hitchhiker lost in the universe – I wanted to go home.

* * *


May 18 (Saturday)

We gained a day when we came, we lose a day on the return trip.

Totoro said hi to us in Narita, and we waived back.

The 2nd leg of the light arrived at Changi airport on 5pm that day. Even though we weren’t sure if we’re back where we came from, we felt secure of the fact that we are now safe, from the turbulence on the way there, from losing our way on the roads so many times, from the adventure of our lifetime, so far.

And I realised, when we are together, we are home, always.

* * *

Pine Cones

End Notes

This diary was written as a present for my wife, and for our little to-be-borned daughter, who we conceived shortly after returning from the trip. Both of them gave me so much new purpose in life that I wouldn’t have even known how to ask for.

We hoped for a such an epic trip once again, perhaps to conquer the entire South American continent, as a family. Maybe it would take us 5, 10, or 20 years, perhaps it would never be, but it would be the hope and planning that will make this happen, just like that 42 days of holiday.

Public diaries are also my way of saying – look, you can also find your own story to tell, you just have to tell it to somebody and not yourself. The more you tell, the more you learn how to tell your story your way, and eventually find meaning in telling these stories.

I’ve found mine, which is why this blog had survived for more than a decade, and will likely continue as long as I can afford the domain and the hosting and my precious time to write.

I’ve learned that sharing one’s story, no matter how mundane you think it is, is more powerful than listening to all the stories in the world.

And in doing so, you will find who you love, what you love, how you love and, even if by just a faint scent, why you love.

Thank you for reading.

Lego in New York

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