Photo Blogging on Tumblr

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I learnt last week that Tumblr is now the 9th largest site in America and that I should probably start using it to my advantage. As you know, I am no stranger to Tumblr. Teddy’s Tumblr was a very successful experiment that I will continue and I have one for doodles which I update very once in a while.

However, I never really had one that showcased any of my photography skills. My Flickr is also too jam packed with concert photos that nobody really knows I can take photos of other things. I have been posting my non-concert photo sets on this blog in the past (and will probably continue doing so), but if you can’t get enough photography I also now have a daily photo blog at tianafeng.tumblr.com.

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Musicophilia- Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks


Musicophilia a book by neurologist Oliver Sacks had been a compulsive buy a year ago. Anything to do with music and the brain I find fascinating but a busy schedule had turned me away from a book that was 424 pages long and what I presumed would be written in flourished language.

I was surprised to find that it was written in a very easily digestible manner and extraordinarily fascinating. Sacks explored in great detail people’s mental afflictions and the heartbreaking affect music had on these people. I thought it was extremely spell-bounding how those who couldn’t even add 5 + 3 were exceptionally musical.

Musicophilia has 4 different sections full of their own emotionally drenched stories:
1. Haunted By Music– those that have very little control over the music in their lives.
2. A Range of Musicality– exceptionally musical people despite other impairments.
3. Memory, Movement and Music– music inducing memory and movement.
4. Emotion, Identity and Music– those that hardly know who they are but connect with music.

I have the “Revised and Expanded” edition so there are footnotes as long as half the page. They often include updates on his patients as well as easy to understand definitions of medical afflictions and terminology that the reader may not have known. Those who have a passion for psychology or cognitive science may find this book mesmerizing. There are plenty of examples that demonstrate the thought-provoking and mysterious powers of music. I don’t want to reveal too much in case you plan to read this book. One thing of note is that it is sub-titled Tales of Music and the Brain so expect it to be very anecdotal and not necessarily filled with tons of scientific analysis as one would presume in a cognitive science book.

Musicophilia really made me wish I had seriously considered pursuing (or perhaps continuing studies for) a degree in Music Therapy.

Teddy Wants To Go Outside

Here’s a video I took of Teddy expressing that he wants to go outside.

Meh Tacos.. At Mexitacos

Situated at 828 Bloor Street West, Mexitaco is much closer to Nash’s place and Exclaim! than Tacos El Asador so we thought I thought I might as well try it at least once. I was actually told their food is mediocre by people at work, but I’m the kind of person who will give everything a chance. Yelp reviewers also had very mixed feelings about the place.

We were in a taco mood. The chorizo taco was recommended by people on Yelp so we ordered them. For $8.99 there were four tacos. They were topped with coriander and onion. The chorizo meet was a bit better than at El Asador but other than that, there wasn’t really much to the taco.

A ring of toppings was brought to us with the tacos. There was two salsas, a green and a red as well as onions and limes. We weren’t exactly sure what the green one was. Our estimation was green tomato and jalapenos. Both salsas were a bit bland and runny.

We also ordered Tinga tacos which were described as chicken in chipotle sauce. There wasn’t really any other special toppings with it, just chickens in a taco. They were just okay, but either we don’t know what chipotle sauce is supposed to taste like or it tasted like burnt shoes.

Anyways, the tacos weren’t bad, just ok. Edible, but not anything special. The portions were also really small. Even though we had 4 tacos each, it wasn’t totally filling. Whereas at El Asador I could order 2 or 3 things for the same price and be sufficiently full. I will probably just make the extra walk to Tacos El Asador for now on when I have a taco craving.

Mexitaco on Urbanspoon

I Cut All The Ropes


I spent a lot of time commuting lately and short-level games have been great for the ride. I finally I beat Chillingo’s Cut the Rope. I’ve had the game on my iPad for quite some time but I recently restarted it on my iPhone and within a month of commuting finally finished the game.

If you live in a box, Cut the Rope is a cute little physics game where you literally cut rope, avoid traps or use things to your advantage in order to get the candy to the cute little dinosaur. The game is only 99 cents in the iTunes app store and has over 300 levels.

Levels are arranged in “boxes” and each box has a certain type of theme that determines the types of traps in the level. Like angry birds you can gain up to 3 stars per level. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t get 3 stars for all the levels (and I think if I did that for every game it would take forever).


It’s definitely worth the money with the amount of levels and the promise of more to come.

Being An Imperfect Musician


I played piano today, and I enjoyed it. This was a statement I had not been able to say for a long time.

Over a year ago I had posted about rekindling my love for the instrument, but it never really happened. Life got in the way- or so I thought.

I blamed a lot of not playing on being busy, which I was with various internships. I also pushed the piano aside because Teddy (my precious little puppy) hated the sound and would howl whenever any instrument was played.

Though the above were contributing factors, none of them really explained why I was avoiding the piano. The truth was that in fourth year after a rather disastrous jury, I was tired and frustrated at the piano.

I am a big cognitive science junkie. In Levtin’s book This is Your Brain On Music he talks about how 10,000 hours of practice makes a great musician. I calculated that if I started piano when I was five and averaged about 2 hours a day since then (with the long hours in my advanced years evening out the early years and holidays) that it amounted to something like 12,410 hours. This was approximate number of hours I had spent at a piano from when I was 5 up to the day of my piano jury when I was 22 (I am currently 24).

It was disheartening having put in more than the required 10,000 hours and be far from “perfect”. This anxiety had caused me to be afraid of performing in front of other people. “What if I mess up?” was a constant worry during the hours spent in university practice rooms. The consequence of this unease was more intense practicing and the development of carpel tunnel (which I am happy to say I don’t have any more).

Today I sat at the piano without too much thought about it. I picked up a book of Chopin waltzes and simply started playing. I realized some of my strengths:
1. I am a great sight reader.
2. If I played a song once, my fingers will remember it forever no matter how long it’s been since I last played it.

Though imperfectly, it was nice to be playing again, especially the music of my favourite composer. Now that I am out of school (and finished RCM exams), I don’t have to be playing under the pretense of needing to be perfect or performing for somebody else. I can also explore pieces that excite me and not have to drill them to perfection. I want to continuously enjoy performing for myself. And for me, imperfect is okay.

Comfortable Silences

There is a famous quote from Mia in Pulp Fiction that goes something like:

Don’t you hate that? Uncomfortable silence. Why do we feel it’s necessary to talk about bull in order to feel comfortable? That’s when you know you’ve found somebody really special. When you can just shut the hell up for a minute and comfortably share a silence

I’m surprisingly (or not really) a semi-awkward person. Are’t we all? When I’m in an uncomfortable situation I tend to feel obliged to talk , blurt out something even if it ends up being really stupid because silence as the alternative is just too uncomfortable.

Luckily, I found someone who I can have comfortable silences with. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk (hell we can talk for hours), but we can appreciate quiet moments. Whether it’s staring into each other’s eyes and smiling or sitting in the same room on separate laptops, talking is not a requirement.

What I Learned from Wreck-It Ralph


Wreck-it Ralph was a highly enjoyable movie and worth it for the tidbits of nerd gamer references including the Pac Man kill screen at the end of the credits. The character building was fantastic and I particularly loved the Candy world.

Since this is a Disney movie so there were lessons to be learned:

– Just because you’re somewhat of a clutz, doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy
– Society as a whole matters more than your own happiness
– Speak out and do something if you’re not happy, things will change
– It’s okay to get thrown off of a building as long as you get cake afterwards
– If you tell someone they’re “one dynamite girl” enough times, they will fall in love with you
– If you ever need some light the mixture of mentos and hot diet cola results in a very bright explosion

More Than Sandwiches At Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi Boys have been quite the hype around Toronto for the past little while. We were in the area for a concert recently and finally decided to try it. The menu was pretty extensive for Banh Mi sandwiches. I didn’t know you could put more than just ham in them! I ordered the Five Spice Pork Belly Bahn Mi.

The sandwich was was way bigger than I thought for a price of $5.99. Delicious sweet pork belly was sandwiched into the traditional Vietnamese sandwich ingredients of pickled carrots, radishm cilantro and cucumber.

Nash ordered the Braised Beef Cheek Bahn Mi. The baguette was filled with meat! Even with just the sandwiches we would have been stuffed.

However, not knowing what the portions was like before we ordered (remember we’re big eaters), I also had the Kimchi Fries. Yes you heard right. Kimchi on fries. Oh, and pulled pork. These 3 ingredients don’t normally sound like things that go together, but it did. And it was pretty damn addictive. I gobbled most of it up. The fries and 2 sandwiches was way too much food for the both of us though.

For a fad restaurant, I expected the prices to be way higher than they were. I’m glad it isn’t because they offer a nice selection of sandwiches as well as tacos and steamed baos. My only concern about the place is that you have to prey like a hawk for seating in their small squishy location.

Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

Delicious Things at Tacos El Asador

One day the Exclaim! office all ordered tacos, and they looked delicious so I asked them where they were from and immediately went right after. Tacos El Asador fit in perfectly for my continuous journey of eating all things adventurous and ethnic.

The atmosphere was friendly and the staff helped me interpret what some of the things on the menu were. An interesting thing to note about the Annex establishment is that it’s not entirely Mexican food, but a Salvadorian interpretation of Mexican food as the name of the place suggests. This is why there are all those silly reviews on yelp or urbanspoon complain about it being different! I first walked into this place a month ago, and I’ve already been back 4 or 5 times.

Jalapenos and Salsa

If you eat in, your table automatically gets a giant bowl of jalapeno, coriander, onion and yellow pepper mix as well as a spicy salsa. It’s really hard not to pick at the mix when waiting for food, even if the seeds can get you heated!

Burrito and Enchilada

Nash likes to get the $10 combo that includes a burrito and an enchillada or quesadilla and a drink. The burrito by itself, is already enough to fill a person!

Fish Tacos

My favourite are the fish tacos. The fish combined with avocado, salsa and carmelized onions have a lovely creamy texture that melts in the mouth.

Crunchy Taco

Tacos come in crunchy or soft and in a variety of meats including chicken, pork, beef and chorizo. I tried chorizo which is like a spicy pork sausage, but I wasn’t completely a fan. It was a little dry. They tasted better with chicken (or fish!). I love that they double wrap both kinds of tacos to prevent any sauce leakage or have back up for accidental breakage.

Enchilada

Their take on the enchiladas was interesting. They were done in a kind of Honduran style with the black bean almost like a spread on the tacos which were served open face, instead of wrapped in rolls with sauce on top.
Pupusa

Pupusas were one thing I learned about for the first time when coming here. They are a truly Salvadorian dish and was almost like their take on a fried crepe of some sort! I had one filled with pork and it was served with sauce that reminded me of marinara.

Tamale

Lastly, I also tried the chicken tamales. They reminded me of sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf that my grandmother used to make, except this was with corn and chicken. It may appear small, but one of these things definitely fills you up.

What I love most about this place is the price. All menu items are around $3, so you can mix it up and have multiple items. For the price, the food is fresh and delicious. When I have time (and the budget) I’ll hit up Grand Electric to compare, but I think I may end up favouring Tacos El Asador. I don’t care about pretension, only how things fare on the taste meter and if it doesn’t hurt the wallet, it’s a double win.

Tacos El Asador on Urbanspoon