equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
31 Jul 05

New Computer '05

I finally got my com­puter, and have the week­end to spend set­ting every­thing up.

Let’s talk geek.

Processor: AMD Athlon 64 X2 (Dual-Core) 4400+

Thumbnail: Large CPU heatsink

The sex­i­est stock heatsink I’ve ever seen. Notice the dense fins, and the sym­met­ri­cal cop­per heat pipes. I didn’t dare take it off the cpu for a pic­ture. One time, after I pulled the heatsink off a P4, I noticed that the proces­sor was stuck to the bot­tom while the proces­sor lock was still in place. The ther­mal paste had caked and turned to glue. The edges of the cpu were chipped and a few pins were bent, but I care­fully put them back in place and it still worked.

This one is an AMD though. It’s clocked at 2.2 GHz, with two megs of level 2 cache (one per core). Even though it can almost be con­sid­ered unrea­son­ably expen­sive, I went with a dual-core proces­sor because I wanted some­thing that could han­dle both single-threaded and multi-threaded apps. All the reviews I read said that the Pentium Extreme Edition chips were slightly bet­ter for the lat­ter but much worse for the for­mer, so this marks my first foray into the use of an Advanced Micro Devices proces­sor, at work or at home.

Read the rest of this entry »

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28 Jul 05

I Bought A New Computer

The last part came in from back order today and they’re run­ning the burn overnight, so it’ll be ready for me to pick up before the weekend.

It’s the most expen­sive sys­tem that I’ve ever bought, but also the most guilt-free. At home, I spend the major­ity of my time at the com­puter — I use it to write, manip­u­late pho­tos, ren­der video, play games, com­mu­ni­cate with friends, watch movies, lis­ten to music. I could sur­vive on my cur­rent sys­tem, but I could also take advan­tage of an even bet­ter setup.

Some of the parts may be a lit­tle exces­sive, but why not go all out? I only know a few peo­ple, such as Trolley, who could appre­ci­ate a top-of-the-line sys­tem in the same way. Ever since Intel announced their lineup of dual-core proces­sors in the first quar­ter, I’ve been sav­ing my money, keep­ing track of the parts I’ve wanted. By the time AMD announced their own dual-core archi­tec­ture, I had a com­plete list of com­po­nents for my dream sys­tem. Most stores couldn’t even get their hands on the chips, so for two months I would peri­od­i­cally check for avail­abil­ity. Eventually, I ended up going through a cor­po­rate con­tact, who has his own direct con­tact to AMD. To boot, he gave me a dis­count (rang­ing on 15%, which is insane, con­sid­er­ing the tiny mar­gin on com­puter sys­tems) since I’m a busi­ness client as well.

The kicker is that my work just hap­pens to need a com­puter capa­ble of han­dling some heavy graph­ics edit­ing. The com­puter most ade­quate to han­dle this usage is mine, since it’s also the fastest in the office, so I get to give up my already ade­quate sys­tem for a bet­ter one. I got approval to order the same sys­tem that I bought myself per­son­ally. The same sys­tem that I’ve been dream­ing of, plan­ning for, and drool­ing over since February.

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26 Jul 05

The Next Level, Part 2

It’s get­ting eas­ier to write again. Ideas are com­ing a lit­tle more flu­idly, and aren’t quite as strain­ing to develop any­more. Perhaps there’s been an excess of inspi­ra­tion in the last while, from the music that keeps me mov­ing, to the peo­ple I inter­act with, to the tem­per­a­ture of the sea­son, to the words in the books that I’ve been read­ing with relish.

Life is a series of sen­sa­tions that gal­va­nize, encour­age, pro­voke, and teach.

I can never seem to get it all down.

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24 Jul 05

Zone

Thumbnail: Kitchen gadgets
Thumbnail: Bowls and placemats
Thumbnail: Brushed aluminum goodies
Thumbnail: Clocks and vases
Thumbnail: Coloured glass
Thumbnail: Desk clocks
Thumbnail: Stir sticks
Thumbnail: Plants with lights
Thumbnail: Salt and pepper shakers
Thumbnail: Shower curtains
Thumbnail: Wall clocks

Every time I’m in there, I want to buy some­thing, any­thing. I want uneven, hand-made chop­sticks, and wine glass iden­ti­fiers. Transparent coast­ers that form designs when stacked. Milk frothers. Sushi rolling mats. Designer veg­etable brushes. Hand-crafted Italian mar­tini glasses. Retro wind-up desk toys.

Slave to the Ikea nest­ing instinct.

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22 Jul 05

Christie Had A Speech Impediment

Her unwit­ting nick­name in high school was Fudd (as in Elmer), because her “r“s came out as baby­ish “w“s.

This was par­tially due to the fact that she would imi­tate her older brother in admi­ra­tion dur­ing child­hood, after he devel­oped his own imped­i­ment from an oro­fa­cial sports injury. The other, and much more severe, aspect of her imped­i­ment was a ran­dom and sud­den inabil­ity to speak. No stut­ter, no slur.

As her speech ther­a­pist explained, it was a short-circuit in the brain, caus­ing her to believe that a sen­tence was fin­ished when she was only half-way through say­ing it. The only prob­lem was that she would get stuck on a word. On good days she sim­ply couldn’t repeat it, on bad days she couldn’t speak at all. Most peo­ple thought it was brought on by a rather trau­matic series of events brought on by her sup­posed friends in high school. The was­cals.

I always found it endear­ing, but she never cared for it. One of the tricks she used to get by was to take her time in say­ing a word. E-nun-ci-ate. It was like mas­sag­ing the ten­sion from a mus­cle, and slowly, she would be able to speak again. Another trick was to imag­ine being in a com­fort zone, which was her room, to relax when she was flustered.

I’ve always found that girls share some intrin­sic bond with their rooms. It’s almost as if they’re fol­low­ing an evo­lu­tion­ary nest­ing instinct, and their rooms become their homes. A place to grow and be safe. Along with the care­fully lined-up books and the ran­dom pieces of jew­ellery, the hid­den cache of pho­tos and the pur­pose­fully placed can­dles (some of which must never be lit), are the char­ac­ter­is­tic quirks.

Christie could never fall asleep if one of her dozen stuffed ani­mals were fac­ing her. Her bed­time rit­ual was to make sure that each one was turned away.

In time, Christie’s com­fort zone became the walk-in-closet of my room. She was old enough to make love, but simul­ta­ne­ously too young to stay overnight, so we would spend most of our time in there, the place where we could reach out and feel the walls around us, con­fined to the inti­macy of the enclo­sure. We spread out the blan­ket, lit the can­dles, and closed the door.

After a while, the humid­ity would build up, and this was no more appar­ent than in the win­ter when we would crack open the door and tan­gi­bly feel the chill on our skin. Opening the sun she called it, as the day­light sharply spilled on the blan­ket that cov­ered us. It was the only place where we could shut out the world, the only place that felt like night.

In a rela­tion­ship, shar­ing the night is more impor­tant than shar­ing flu­ids. Falling asleep with some­one is an accep­tance of trust, a way of say­ing that we’re com­fort­able enough to drift into our sub­con­scious minds. Perhaps it was the unavail­abil­ity of such a rit­ual that’s given the night so much significance.

Having no night of our own, we had to make due. I cov­ered one side of a card­board panel with glow-in-the-dark stars and sus­pended it from the top of the room. The panel was large enough to fill the vision, and in the dark­ness the closet became a micro­cosm of the starry sky. Even in the mid­dle of day it was near black­ness, and we’d lose track of time, hud­dled under the blan­kets with her sleep­ing at my chest, or lying there face-to-face, talk­ing while I ran my fin­gers through her hair. Sometimes, all we would do was get together and nap.

And even­tu­ally, Christie didn’t have much trou­ble speak­ing anymore.

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20 Jul 05

Switching Books

Over the week­end, with the cozy com­fort of my duvet, I fin­ished read­ing the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The story took me by sur­prise. I had no prior knowl­edge of the plot, char­ac­ters, or themes, so I had the lux­ury of read­ing with­out the taint of another opin­ion. Even as a teenager, Duddy has the ambi­tion to pur­sue his dream of own­ing a huge plot of land before he’s even legally allowed to own it, but he loses his human­ity in the process. It was a fairly gal­va­niz­ing story, some­thing I’m not sure I could say if I knew more about the book before read­ing it. It’s his drive, his ini­tia­tive that I admire.

Yesterday, I started The Republic of Love (on the rec­om­men­da­tion of Karen) by Carol Shields. Even though I’m only through the first chap­ter, I can already tell that Shields knows what she’s talk­ing about. She knows how rela­tion­ships dis­in­te­grate, knows how peo­ple think, knows how our daily lives are a reflec­tion of the moods we have and mind­sets we wear. I’m reminded of Khalil Gibran, the Lebanese philoso­pher and author of The Prophet who wrote as if he under­stood love and the spirit on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level. Even though he never met the love of his life face-to-face (they knew each other through pub­li­ca­tions), their col­lec­tion of love let­ters shows an under­stand­ing and har­mony deeper than any other two peo­ple I can think of.

It always makes me won­der: how much of an author’s writ­ing is from expe­ri­ence and how much is from imag­i­na­tion? The details, sub­tleties, thor­ough­ness of the char­ac­ters they develop, expressed in the inge­nu­ity of the words they use must be from more than mere under­stand­ing. Would Frost have been able to write his rural poetry with­out mov­ing to New Hampshire, spend­ing his time there as a cob­bler, farmer, and teacher? Would Irving have been able to write from the per­spec­tive of a teacher at Bishop Strachan, with­out first watch­ing the girls in their plaid skirts being picked up by their wealthy par­ents? Even in the pref­ace to A Hero Of Our Time, Lermontov admits, “oth­ers del­i­cately hinted that the author had drawn por­traits of him­self and his acquain­tances” and brushes this off as a “thread­bare wit­ti­cism”, but could he really have cre­ated such an amoral anti-hero with­out a lump of burn­ing indif­fer­ence in his chest?

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19 Jul 05

With A More Pretentious Title Than Last?

The new Coheed And Cambria sin­gle (song starts play­ing after the Flash intro) com­pletely knocks me off my feet. I sus­pect that the new album will be darker, mood­ier, and even bet­ter pro­duced than their last. I’m not the only one who’s reminded of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, with the chro­matic chord pro­gres­sion and orches­tral back­ing, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties end there.

Can’t wait until September.

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18 Jul 05

Trinary Maturity: (In)Conclusion

I wasn’t plan­ning on writ­ing another part of this series until I asked John for his opin­ion. He was extremely hes­i­tant to com­mit but even­tu­ally opined, with earnest con­sid­er­a­tion of his words.

His most sig­nif­i­cant insight was that I may be hastily pass­ing judg­ment on some­thing that I’ve only begun to expe­ri­ence. “It’s time, not the aware­ness of our accom­plish­ments, that teaches us what’s sem­i­nal”, he put it. I find it dif­fi­cult to dis­agree. After all, I have no idea how impor­tant the last year will be. All I know is that it’s been impor­tant up until now.

I always trust what John says. Like a preacher, he speaks the truth. It’s good to have a friend who can keep me in check, who can give me some per­spec­tive. Perhaps I’ve been look­ing a lit­tle too hard for mean­ing. I want to believe that these things have changed me, made me a bet­ter person.

But only time will tell me for sure.

The Trinary Maturity Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Job
  3. The Girlfriend
  4. The House
  5. (In)Conclusion
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16 Jul 05

Summer Steak

Thumbnail: Summer steak

Nothing says sum­mer like a juicy, ten­der, melt-in-your-mouth steak. And to have a friend cook it for you?

Well that’s even better.

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14 Jul 05

Bachelor

Megalomania is watch­ing a man with a brain in a jar court a woman who laughs like a mule, and believ­ing that it’s the story of one’s life. Weakness is los­ing a thought to a pretty face. Concupiscence is the inter­pre­ta­tion of awk­ward rough­hous­ing as a pre­lude to fuck­ing. Jealousy is won­der­ing why one never had the same oppor­tu­nity, and accep­tance is real­iz­ing that one did.

In the end, it’s not the sit­u­a­tions we relate to, it’s the hope­less­ness of being stuck with the deci­sions we make. Of being caught between the risk of set­tling, and the fear of not doing any better.

Happiness is free­dom from both.

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13 Jul 05

Today I Hit The Snooze

I also dressed down, and stole a drink from work. Two of my best friends finally met each other. They got along famously, bet­ter than any of my other friends in the past. I sup­ported one on the biggest deci­sion of his life. The other told me that I had always been her hope­ful out of the round of inter­views for my job, over a chicken sand­wich and some onion rings. I learned the four Cs of dia­mond appraisal, and saw a car­bon spec through a loupe for the first time.

I met two cats; one rolled into my lap while play­ing Double Dash with the best kids in the world. A fam­ily inspired me, and I dared to dream of some day hav­ing my own.

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12 Jul 05

Some Days...

Some days I wake up and I feel like I’m ready to con­quer the world. Other days I wake up and I’m too dif­fi­dent to even answer my phone at work or at home. Most days I’m stable.

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09 Jul 05

HK Fullscreen, Revisited, Again

Here I am, try­ing to get another entry down, but there’s a movie play­ing on OMNI.2, one of Canada’s pre­mier multi-cultural chan­nels. Although the pro­gram­ming of OMNI.2 is aimed for 22 dif­fer­ent eth­no­cul­tural groups in 20 dif­fer­ent lan­guages, Saturday nights are always in Cantonese. Almost just as invari­able are the roman­tic come­dies of Hong Kong cin­ema that they broad­cast around this time.

It makes sense of course; stud­ies have shown that by 2017, vis­i­ble minori­ties will top 50% in Toronto and Vancouver, with Chinese peo­ple mak­ing up over 500,000 of that per­cent­age. Add to this the grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion of younger peo­ple with the Asian cul­ture, and recent flicks from Hong Kong are the per­fect way to build a strong mar­ket presence.

Unfortunately, the movies are mostly trite: a col­lec­tion of pre­dictable, sac­cha­rine love sto­ries with lit­tle artis­tic intent, and the one on now is no dif­fer­ent. I have to admit though, as sim­ple as these movies are, they still affect me. When I see the char­ac­ter­is­tic neon build­ing signs, homely food stalls filled with wok hey, and claus­tro­pho­bi­cally busy streets of Hong Kong again, I’m filled with a cer­tain inex­plic­a­ble romanticism.

And I can’t seem to get over it. All I want to do is go to Hong Kong again and share the expe­ri­ence with some­one. An expe­ri­ence that’s heart-racingly poignant, like the ado­les­cent mem­ory of a first date, when you’re build­ing up the courage to hold someone’s hand. Perhaps, like Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita, the mem­ory of my child­hood has frozen some­thing in me. A mem­ory that’s beautiful.

Simply, purely, beautiful.

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09 Jul 05

It's A Rainy, Overcast Saturday Morning

I’m only awake now because I’m too used to wak­ing up at half past six on work­days. A mug of Hong Kong milk tea (made with con­densed milk for extra creami­ness) has always been my week­end com­fort food, but I ran out of loose leaves a few weeks ago. Usually, I sit at my desk and write after break­fast, fin­ish­ing off the tea from break­fast, but instead I’ll be going to my music for inspiration.

I’ve run into a string of good music lately, or maybe I’ve just been hear­ing things in a dif­fer­ent way. None of my playlists seem rel­e­vant again. More details when I have more time.

It’s good to be sober.

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07 Jul 05

Trinary Maturity: The House

In the last year of high school, I was called into the guid­ance office for some direc­tion in choos­ing a post-secondary insti­tu­tion. The coun­cilor, a very, very Caucasian man, went through the fea­tures of each uni­ver­sity, not­ing espe­cially the ones with nice cam­puses. In an effort to save his time, I explained that the esthet­ics of a uni­ver­sity were of no con­se­quence to me, because they wouldn’t affect my life. Apparently this was a dif­fer­ent approach from other stu­dents, whom he believed decided on the direc­tion of their edu­ca­tion through a desire for lush lawns and big dorm rooms.

I’d always believed that I’d feel the same way about a house as a cam­pus. Give me enough room for my com­puter with walls thick enough to crank my music and I’ll be happy, I used to say. While this may still hold true, I’ve dis­cov­ered that I’m even hap­pier with a nice place. I finally under­stood that coun­cilor, four years later, after chang­ing uni­ver­si­ties for a brief post-graduate stint. The new cam­pus was big, mod­ern, and inspir­ing; quite a dif­fer­ence from my pre­vi­ous uni­ver­sity with its brown build­ings and con­stant construction.

It’s the same when com­par­ing a rented place of res­i­dence and an actual house. A house begets secu­rity, and in turn, a sense of con­fi­dence. There’s a dis­tinct feel­ing, every day, wak­ing up in one’s own home. Knowing that every pay­cheque is going towards some equity, a lit­tle piece of prop­erty I call my own. Having a com­fort zone, a place that I don’t have to deal with any­one I don’t want to. A place where I make the rules, not hav­ing to answer to land­lords or security.

It was the process too, that helped me grow. Aside from the com­mon sense of own­ing a house as a long-term invest­ment, I was inspired (or should I say “dri­ven”) to move because of a room­mate. After one par­tic­u­larly child­ish con­flict, I decided more than four months before I actu­ally had time to look, to buy a house and take Trolley with me. We moved in before the lease was up on the apartment.

I went through the entire process myself, know­ing noth­ing at the start. I had never done any­thing on this scale before, and while it may seem triv­ial to those who have been ini­tia­tors their entire lives, this was a big step for me. It let me know that I could actu­ally accom­plish the things I want.

And that cast aside all the doubt that was hold­ing me back.

The Trinary Maturity Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Job
  3. The Girlfriend
  4. The House
  5. (In)Conclusion
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