equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
31 Dec 08

A Significant Year

I gen­er­ally loathe such arbi­trary mea­sures of time, but the fact of the mat­ter remains that there were some fairly impor­tant things that hap­pened in my life within the last 365.

I had my first art gallery exhi­bi­tion. So far, I’ve sold 12 pieces, which I’m ecsta­tic about. I’ve also since become good friends with the gallery own­ers, Frédéric and Misun.

I started — and fin­ishedpyscho­an­a­lytic ther­apy. After my crip­pling panic attack exactly one year ago, I was encour­aged to seek some help, and this ther­apy ended up going much, much deeper. I wasn’t scared in my rela­tion­ships because I didn’t real­ize how much bag­gage I had. But now I know.

I got my sec­ond tat­too. This sig­nif­i­cant thing about this is that it’s prob­a­bly my last tat­too. After the first one, I finally feel com­plete (and symmetrical).

I got a car. And I’m lov­ing the free­dom. After buy­ing my house and being gain­fully employed, a car was the only thing left. This means I can buy large items, I don’t have to depend on friends to get me places inac­ces­si­ble by bus, I can go home from par­ties when I want, and awe­some road trips out of town.

I kissed her and she kissed me back. Sometimes, there’s noth­ing more impor­tant than hav­ing the right girl kiss you the right way.

I released ver­sion 10.0. This was by far the most pop­u­lar design of my site, being fea­tured at places like Perishable Press’s Web Design Showcase and at the top of Crestock’s 13 Minimalist Blog Designs You Really Should See. Unfortunately, this also meant I higher pro­file, and more attempts by peo­ple to copy it.

I went through a course of Isotretinoin. This effec­tively ended my acne, which became a pretty big prob­lem in the last year. It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing to wake up and not have to worry about what my face was going to look like.

I got this let­ter from a reader. I receive many let­ters and com­ments, which I greatly appre­ci­ate, but this one really stuck out because some­thing that I cre­ated had affected some­one in an intensely pos­i­tive way. I hope to be able to do this again some day.

29 Dec 08

The Return of Water

Well, I have water. And hot water too. I’ve been doing loads of laun­dry and dishes in the dish­washer. Not to men­tion sweet, sweet BMs on a toilet.

Bathroom ceiling

Bedroom ceiling

But my bath­room and bed­room ceil­ings still look like this. Not to men­tion the coarse dust on every­thing and the uprooted fur­ni­ture. I had sev­eral entries with pic­tures to post, but my colour-calibrated mon­i­tors are sit­ting in the spare room. I have no idea when the con­trac­tor is going to be back to get every­thing dirty again. Otherwise, I’d do some cleaning.

Either the con­struc­tion com­pany is on hol­i­day (which con­tra­dicts what the worker said), or they’re dodg­ing me, because I haven’t been able to get a hold of any­one for days now. I’m stuck in limbo here, lit­er­ally liv­ing in the liv­ing room (what a fit­ting name). It’s left me rather sick and unmotivated.

27 Dec 08

Pull Over

When it’s 2:30 in the morn­ing and there are no other cars on the road, I try to time my speed with the red lights so that I never have to come to a com­plete stop. On approach­ing an inter­sec­tion less than a kilo­me­ter from home yes­ter­day, I suc­cess­fully did so, and started accel­er­at­ing again when the light turned green.

Then I noticed a police car dri­ving in the oppo­site direc­tion do a U-turn and start tail­ing me. In my head, I’m hop­ing he pulls me over. I’m in no rush to be any­where, I’ve done absolutely noth­ing wrong, and I want some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for every time I’ve dri­ven fum­bled for my wal­let in the dark before dri­ving her home in my paja­mas, on the off-chance that this may hap­pen. Besides, I’d never been pulled over before, I want to know what to expect.

After a moment, his lights go on.

Read the rest of this entry »

25 Dec 08

Holiday Hell

Nightmare. The word almost every­one has been using to describe this hot water sit­u­a­tion. From my friends and cowork­ers, to the plumb­ing tech­ni­cians, to the sales reps, to the contractors.

When the con­trac­tor came over to make holes in my ceil­ing, he brushed against a pipe that went to the hot water tank, and since it was almost rusted com­pletely through, it snapped and started leak­ing. Water shoots out of the hole any time I turn the water on, so I’ve had to shut off the main valve. Now I have no water. I can’t wash my hands, I can’t go to the bathroom.

The exhaust pipe that goes to my fur­nace isn’t up to code any­more either, so even if I get all this work done on the house, my ceil­ing would have to be ripped up again when the fur­nace goes. And since mine is 12-years-old and rated for 15 years, it could die on me as soon as three years (or sooner). So I’ll be get­ting the fur­nace pipe replaced too, which essen­tially dou­bles my pipe instal­la­tion costs.

In addi­tion to mov­ing as much fur­ni­ture out of my room as pos­si­ble into my guest room (thereby rob­bing me of my photo stu­dio, Tai Chi prac­tice area, bed­room, and main com­puter), I’ll have to cover the remain­ing things in sheets to pro­tect them from the dust. When the pip­ing is all replaced1, the con­trac­tor needs to come in and patch up the holes, scrape all the stip­ple off my ceil­ing, respray the stip­ple on, and repaint it. I don’t even have an esti­mate of how much that’s going to cost.

The house is my one area of sta­bil­ity. Where I retreat to when every­thing else is falling apart. The one place I need to be con­stant. I won’t feel set­tled until it’s all been resolved.

And to think that I was look­ing for­ward to the hol­i­days. I was pic­tur­ing myself enjoy­ing my well-earned time off, eat­ing bacon and eggs, play­ing a few games, and start­ing some new projects.

How far away the image seems now.

  1. And with luck, they won’t refuse to do the job because they don’t have enough clear­ance. []
23 Dec 08

Life Is Pain

Hand spot

Sometimes, you stab your­self in the hand with a point, but it’s not sharp enough to break the skin.

Sometimes, the blood comes to the sur­face, and this is as much of your­self as you can show the world.

Sometimes, the pave­ment is cov­ered in snow out­side, and you can drive over 100kph in one spot before the trac­tion kicks in.

Sometimes, you scare your­self with your recklessness.

Sometimes, you real­ize that life is pain.

Sometimes, you have noth­ing left but numb­ness and resolve.

21 Dec 08

Water Is Life, But Hot Water Is Living

Broken hot water tank

I have no hot water.

In the mid­dle of the week­end, my hot water tank broke down. I called the energy com­pany and was on hold for almost two hours. When I finally got through to some­one to trou­bleshoot my prob­lem, all he told me to do was unplug the tank and plug it back in again. Then he told me to wait an hour and call back to make an appoint­ment with a tech­ni­cian if it didn’t work. I refused to do this (after being on hold for so long already), so I made an appoint­ment right there.

The tech­ni­cian came today and told me that the pipes were leak­ing water, and the black area under at the bot­tom sig­ni­fied a car­bon monox­ide leak1. The entire hot water tank has to be replaced.

The good news is that my hot water tank is rented, so any repairs or replace­ments are cov­ered by the energy com­pany. The bad news is that the ven­ti­la­tion pipe that con­nects the tank to the out­side of the house is no longer up to code, and needs to be replaced before the hot water tank is replaced. The worse news is that my ceil­ing is fin­ished, so it needs to be ripped open for the new pip­ing to be installed then patched up again when it’s done, by an out­side con­struc­tion com­pany. The cherry on top is that nei­ther the pipe instal­la­tion or the destruction/construction is cov­ered by my condo or the energy com­pany, so I’ll have to shell out more money at a time I can’t afford it.

Until then, I can’t shower2, I can’t shave, I can’t do my dishes, I can’t do my laun­dry, I can’t rinse my mouth with­out using painfully cold ice water.

I can hon­estly say that I took hot water for granted.

But I won’t after this.

  1. Thankfully low enough that the two car­bon monox­ide detec­tors didn’t go off []
  2. which is one of my favourite ways to unwind at the end of the day []
19 Dec 08

A Blogger Passes On

Many years ago, I received an e-mail from a reader named Winston Rand, look­ing for some blog­ging advice:


I have been to your equiv­o­cal­ity site numer­ous times over the last cou­ple of months and always come away impressed. Having vis­ited many other “blogs” — God how I’ve come to hate that term — I keep com­ing back to yours as my gold stan­dard. Been think­ing of start­ing my own, even have 2 domain names paid for, but being an engi­neer and an IT pro, I’m too hes­i­tant to start until most of the answers are quite clear. That is a strength as well as a failing…

In my quest, I’ve looked at many dif­fer­ent blog­ging tools, host­ing sites, etc., and am still not sure which route to take. My temp­ta­tion is to say to hell with all of them and just post my stuff using sta­tic html pages (Dreamweaver) since I’m not really inter­ested in feed­back or com­ments that much. But I do like the abil­ity to eas­ily inte­grate cal­en­dar, archives, and other fea­tures that most of the blog pack­ages seem to include by default. And who knows, one of these days I may care what other peo­ple think of my work.

Among the pop­u­lar pack­ages, I’ve got it nar­rowed down to WordPress, Moveable Type, and SquareSpace, but I’m wide open to sug­ges­tions and recommendations.

Could you share your thoughts on what you use and rec­om­mend? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Keep up your excel­lent work! I look for­ward to see­ing more of it.

I steered Winston towards WordPress, and soon after, he started his own blog at nobodyasked.com. Over time, he devel­oped a sig­nif­i­cant read­er­ship, as he would write quite lucidly about pol­i­tics, humour, and the occas­sional geek talk.

Although our blogs cov­ered dif­fer­ent things in a dif­fer­ent style (Winston called it “[spin­ning] in a slightly off­set par­al­lel uni­verse” when describ­ing my blog in his one-year anniver­sary post), we would check up on each other now and then.

During one of my last vis­its, I found out that Winston has died after a 38-hour ill­ness and 3 surg­eries. While I never really knew him in per­son, I still feel like some­one close is gone.

And I wish I could explain why.

15 Dec 08

The Measure of a Man

I’m still not sure if I feel like a man.

I always imag­ined that it’s a mind­set you sud­denly develop (or a way peo­ple view you) once you have kids, or pass 30, whichever one comes first. There’s this idea stuck in my head that adults are these peo­ple who don’t have fun. They don’t watch (and enjoy) stu­pid movies, or play Warcraft, or talk on the phone for hours. It’s prob­a­bly from grow­ing up with my par­ents, who never did any­thing that made them laugh or smile. Or maybe I’m hav­ing too much fun and free­dom to really feel like I’m grown-up.

There was def­i­nitely some point between get­ting my first job and house, and now, that I started to feel like an adult. It was never a dis­tinct line though.

It’s still for­eign for me to say that I date women, as opposed to girls. To think I’ll ever grow out of say­ing that is very strange.

For now, the only thing I do that makes me feel like I’m a man is when I’m pay­ing and fil­ing my bills.

12 Dec 08

Moments Like This

Julie in the Black Tomato

Sometimes, I feel like I’ve been wait­ing to cap­ture moments like this my whole life.

10 Dec 08

Winter Transit Ride

By now, I’ll have spent twice as much time on this bus than in class.

Through the win­dows, the world is streaked and muddy, and it looks like god has turned on the lights out­side, it’s so bright. These goose­bumps aren’t from the cold. It’s the music, loud and full in the ears, that shivers.

The home­less ask for quar­ters with an apol­ogy for inter­rupt­ing your music. It’s as if the cold has turned their bit­ter­ness to des­per­a­tion, and we get a lit­tle polite­ness in return. No sign of my lost girl, just a man in her spot with too many bags, a frumpy hat, and two old paper­backs that he never opens.

My socks are soaked through at the ankles, and all I can think of is how good it’ll feel to peel them off and jump in the shower. Or how good my won­ton soup will taste when I even­tu­ally get home. Or how con­ve­nient it’ll be to just take off and drive next time, instead of wait­ing out­side for the bus.

I may be wet and cold, but I’m going some­where nice. That’s enough to keep the spirit warm.

I miss this. I miss being alone among peo­ple. I miss being forced to read, or write, or do nothing.

I don’t do this often enough.

07 Dec 08

Lonely Lot

Lonely parking lot

Sometimes, you need to get out­side. Dodge the drunks stum­bling through the halls, the peo­ple stand­ing and wait­ing for their groups, the famil­iar faces. Maybe because it’s snow­ing out­side, and you don’t want to miss it, when the sky aches the same orange as you do.

This isn’t your scene, but there’s no one to back you up, so you smile and nod. Fake kisses and oblig­a­tory hugs, think­ing, “I don’t know you, and I never will”. A façade to appear nor­mal, when mem­o­ries come flood­ing back. Sitting alone at a table, won­der­ing why you came in the first place. Times with­out a per­son to make you a promise. Moments with other people’s wives, because he’s secure like that, and wish­ing for noth­ing else. Walking these halls alone the way you’re doing now. Memories you wish were a lit­tle more dis­tant. Maybe you’ll come back one day, and break even, or maybe even come out ahead.

Until then, your indif­fer­ence will keep you alive.

Sometimes you need to take a pic­ture of some­thing, any­thing, because noth­ing you see here is how you feel, and it’s the only way you can scream.

Maybe it’s not so much out­side, where you’re run­ning, as away.

04 Dec 08

More Stolen Words and Pictures

Most recently, a per­son called Cleo, who also goes by the mis­nomer “sexy1980”, stole both words and pic­tures from a heart­felt entry I wrote after a par­tic­u­larly hard day. Word-for-word. You see that car on her site? That’s my car.

Cleo steals

If you dare to look at this abor­tion of a web page, do so at your own risk. I warn you, the ani­ma­tions and colours are not for the feint of heart.

I wasn’t happy when some­one started copy­ing entire entries of mine, word-for-word, or when another per­son stole my design of Version 10 (his attempted redesign in an effort to cover up his actions isn’t that far off either). Sure, I also get peo­ple hotlink­ing my images too, but I take sim­ple plea­sure in replac­ing the images with pic­tures of a lemon party, because I get to laugh at things like this.

But when some­one steals both my words and hotlinks my pic­tures I get really pissed off.

02 Dec 08

Christmas Wish-List '08

Updated tastes for 2008. Many items from my 2006 and 2007 lists are crossed out, which is why cat­e­gories like “fur­ni­ture” aren’t smaller now.

I’ve been told that I’m noto­ri­ously hard to shop for. Not only am I extremely picky, I have eso­teric (and expen­sive) tastes, and I usu­ally buy — and so, have — the things that I want. This year, I real­ized that good gifts are things peo­ple want, but which they don’t buy for them­selves because they can’t jus­tify the cost. It doesn’t have to be lav­ish, but maybe a lit­tle over­priced, some­thing you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily buy for yourself.