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

New Years At Home

Thumbnail: Table settings
Thumbnail: Genseng bins
Thumbnail: House of flying daggers
Thumbnail: Lemon squares
Thumbnail: Little Buddhas
Thumbnail: Tiger shrimp
Thumbnail: Snuff bottle
Thumbnail: Soup for one
Thumbnail: Pacific store

I’m finally in my own house again. Going to Toronto means I give up the com­fort of my kitty, my com­puter, and my envelop­ing duvet for a few days of authen­tic Chinese food, real Chinese kung fu movies, silk­worm sheets, and a few moments of fam­ily dys­func­tion every now and then.

Time at home left me drained. Turns out that I had an extra party to go to, and this year, I pulled myself up to go box­ing day shop­ping. It was killer on five hours of sleep, but def­i­nitely worth it, my best score of clothes in years. Mom was run­ning around every spare moment, prepar­ing food for over 40 peo­ple for the New Years Party, while dad prac­ticed his karaoke between runs for gro­ceries. There were two nights that I sat by myself and enjoyed the new pro­jec­tor, and it was the most relax­ing time I had dur­ing my stay.

As nice as it is to get away, I’m glad this only comes around once a year.

26 Dec 05

Boxing Day '04-'05

Exactly one year ago today, I was doing this. Even though the annual party at Chris and Clarmen’s actu­ally starts on the 25th, I really see it as a box­ing day party, the way a New Year’s party really starts on the 31st of December.

That night we used the excuse of going to Timmies for all the par­ents as a way out of the house to have a ses­sion. Unfortunately, this meant remem­ber­ing about a dozen drink orders, some­thing that proves dif­fi­cult under the influence.

In chrono­log­i­cal order:

  1. We met up at the house, where Darren’s fin­gers brave the turtles
  2. A ses­sion occurred out­side, and on the way to Timmies we intro­duced Chris to Dreamtheater (hence the music selection)
  3. An order is made for about a dozen drinks with great difficulty
  4. We drove back to play Slap Hand, which is a vari­a­tion on Slap Jack, except the pile is hit every time the cor­rect num­ber is called (and for increased dif­fi­culty we played with +/- rules where the pile is only hit if the num­ber spo­ken is an addi­tion or sub­trac­tion of a dif­fer­ent spec­i­fied number)
  5. Darren ran­domly deals every­one a hand of hold ‘em and plays it through, and this causes me to make fun of his obvi­ous addiction
  6. Darren pre­cisely deals a full hand of 13 cards for a game of Asshole, while talk­ing, for which I count my cards in dis­be­lief and finally real­ize just how much he plays cards

Other signs of how stoned we were:

This year, today, Lam joined us instead since Darren is off in Las Vegas.

22 Dec 05

Dreams That Blur

Last night I dreamed of beau­ti­ful bokeh.

20 Dec 05


Hello, I’m an introvert.

When going through Psychology 1101 to cover a required sci­ence elec­tive, I stud­ied the char­ac­ter­is­tics of intro­ver­sion and extro­ver­sion, but the mate­r­ial never really res­onated with me. As I saw it, there are vary­ing degrees of both, I fit some­where on the intro­verted side of the scale, and this was the extent of the appli­ca­tion of such a subject.

I can force myself to be social, friendly, cheer­ful (what Shirley and I call being on), but I can only do this for lim­ited amounts of time. Usually I can keep it going just a few hours for a party or gath­er­ing, or as long as a few days as required if we’re out camp­ing or snow­board­ing, but never longer than this.

The rest of the time I spend in my room, away from the world, because the social inter­ac­tions of every­day life are a huge drain on me. When I’m alone, I recharge in a way I can’t explain. I’ve spent years feel­ing guilty for this behav­iour. The North American atti­tude is that there’s some­thing wrong with being quiet or unso­cial. The most strik­ing mem­ory I have of this was dur­ing frosh week, when oth­ers would con­stantly harass me to go drink­ing, or danc­ing, or par­ty­ing with a bunch of peo­ple I had never met before.

Now there’s an expla­na­tion that makes more sense to me than a sim­ple degree on a scale. In a recent arti­cle, neu­ro­science researcher Marti Olsen Laney talks about the con­nec­tions between intro­ver­sion and biol­ogy. “It impacts all areas of their lives: how they process infor­ma­tion, how they restore their energy, what they enjoy and how they communicate.”

I real­ize that there’s a greatly sig­nif­i­cant cor­re­la­tion between the way I behave and my intro­verted mind­set. Introversion is an atti­tude that affects almost every aspect of my life, deeply rooted to a phys­i­o­log­i­cal level. It isn’t some­thing I should be ashamed of or embar­rassed about.

And if I can come out of my shell every now and then, I’ll be alright.

18 Dec 05

The View Down Here

Thumbnail: View from my room

This is the view out my win­dow on the night of a snow­fall. The bed­rooms are in the base­ment, so I get a sub­ter­ranean look at my minia­ture lawn with pine tree, although the gar­den is now buried under 40cm of snow. There are the Moonlights, deprived of their charges from snow cov­er­ing their solar pan­els. There’s the A/C that cost me a month and a half salary.

A lit­tle box, out­lined by fence and porch, of my things.

I sleep with the blinds open in the win­ter because at night I see more this time of year than in the sum­mer. Snow makes the sky glow an ashen orange, a phe­nom­e­non I can’t myself explain. On some nights, it’s too bright to sleep and I have to mask my eyes, peek­ing out every few min­utes to make sure my win­ter par­adise is still out the win­dow until I fall asleep. When I feel espe­cially sen­ti­men­tal, I leave the win­dow open a crack to let in the smell of ice and dry air.

The price of this plea­sure is at least three dead in weather related inci­dents across the province of Ontario.

14 Dec 05

It's Over

There’s no room for con­fu­sion or regret. One can only thrust one­self for­ward, never look­ing back, never ques­tion­ing what was once said. To learn from these mis­takes is the only sav­ing grace. Busyness is sim­ply self-distraction, and to believe oth­er­wise is self-delusion.

So do you fuck him harder, to bury the love you once had, to drown the guilt with fer­vent voices? To con­vince your­self that it’s over, and that this is bet­ter anyway?

And do you try to love him more, because you can’t love me?

12 Dec 05

Without Bias And To Hold Nothing Back

Even after three years, it’s still strange when peo­ple e-mail me, peo­ple I’ve never met before who men­tion my expe­ri­ences and quote the words I’ve writ­ten. When they share a bit of their lives in return, per­haps from the guilt of find­ing them­selves the unas­sum­ing and unabashed voyeur, it never ceases to be inter­est­ing. They’ll tell me of their pot smok­ing habits, rec­om­mend music that’s touched them in some way, talk about the abuse they suf­fered from their par­ents, share the kinky habits that are nor­mally reserved for those with a phys­i­cal familiarity.

It’s strange because even with these details, I really know noth­ing about these peo­ple, while they know some of the most inti­mate things about me, stuff that I hide from oth­ers in every­day life.

And the more I think about it, the more I real­ize that I’d rather not find out.

10 Dec 05

The Canon Speedlite 430EX

Thumbnail: Dolly saucer 1

Thumbnail: Dolly saucer 2

The Canon Speedlite 430EX flash lets me take advan­tage of a 1/200 X-sync speed, which means that high-speed shots such as these are now pos­si­ble in low light­ing con­di­tions. I picked one up this week, so most of my free time has been spent learn­ing the capa­bil­i­ties of an exter­nal flash unit. The tilt-and-swivel head means that I can bounce the flash off a ceil­ing to soften the light, or take advan­tage of the sur­round­ings, such as bounc­ing it off my stove (the pic­ture on the left) or off my fridge (the pic­ture on the right). There’s also a low-profile AF assist beam that’s a huge improve­ment over the seizure induc­ing on-board flash unit.

I decided to go with a Canon brand flash so I could have full E-TTL meter­ing sup­port (which fires an unde­tectable low-powered pre-flash for eval­u­a­tive meter­ing done through the lens) to match the Rebel XT shell. One of the coolest things about the 430EX is that a set of motors auto­mat­i­cally adjust the zoom range to match the lens, and it can be used as a slave unit that can be opti­cally (which also means remotely) trig­gered from a mas­ter unit for up to four light sources.

Even though there are tons of other acces­sories I’d like to have, such as a Sunpak hand strap (which would be a good com­pro­mise between the safety of a neck strap and the con­ve­nience of no strap), some Kenko exten­sion tubes (for macro pho­tog­ra­phy), or a portable micro­drive, I thought that a flash would cur­rently best serve my needs. This isn’t even to men­tion the options for some sweet glass, like a lens with image sta­bi­liza­tion, a tele­scop­ing range, or even some­thing from the L series which I’d have to put a sec­ond mort­gage on my house to afford. I think that I’m only begin­ning to under­stand how expen­sive a hobby pho­tog­ra­phy is.

04 Dec 05

Dim Sum

Thumbnail: Dim sum 1

Thumbnail: Dim sum 2

Thumbnail: Dim sum 3

Outside it’s snow­ing, but inside it’s a clat­ter of carts and dishes. Dim sum is mostly seafood, espe­cially shrimp, but the most com­mon ingre­di­ents are oil and monosodium glutamate.

My par­ents go full out with the tripe and the phoenix talons (a euphemism for chicken’s feet), dishes that scare most Westerners, and even some Canadian born Chinese such as me. The dim sum here is much bet­ter here than at the restau­rant across the street, they note. The rice-flower skin of the shrimp dumplings is delight­fully smooth and thin, a demon­stra­tion of the chef’s skill. The mooli cakes, made from fried daikon radishes, taste espe­cially savoury. Even the buns are steamed well and slightly sweet.

The praise of my par­ents is a tes­ta­ment to the qual­ity of the food. They have the abil­ity to find fault with almost any­thing, the root of years of child­hood despon­dency and con­fi­dence issues, but today the food is nearly impeccable.

02 Dec 05

Television Dreams

Short and sweet.

I’ve been falling sleep with the TV on lately. Discovery chan­nel, trashy tabloids, com­mer­cials every quar­ter hour. The con­stant chat­ter keeps me com­pany the way old movies on DVD can’t. It’s like the world never sleeps. Someone else is awake, and watch­ing the same thing as me.

It’s one of the things I like so much about you. If you hide that, you’re hid­ing the best part.

The lit­tle girl was taken to Humber River Regional Hospital, and later trans­ferred to the Hospital for Sick Children, where she was diag­nosed with what police call “a sig­nif­i­cant brain injury”.

The J is like an H Ricky, Hal-a-peen-yo

This is live.

Sometimes I wake up with a song in my head that I may not own, or even par­tic­u­larly like. Sometimes I wake up know­ing some news before I read it on my lunchtime break. Sometimes my dreams will take off in a strange direc­tion, and I’ll be cook­ing some­thing com­pli­cated or unload­ing auto­mat­ics through house win­dows or fuck­ing some­one I’d never have a chance with in real-life.

30 Nov 05

Show Me Which Constellations You Know, A Denouement

Eternal Sunshine 1

Eternal Sunshine 2

Eternal Sunshine 3

People always say that this song or that book or some movie is a story about them­selves in some way. One of my friends is truly deter­mined that his life has been proph­e­sied in the eight and a half minute rock-opera Paradise By The Dashboard Lights. My story was told in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but it wasn’t any­thing with as much grandeur, it was sim­ply about a girl.

Interestingly enough, it’s not the sto­ries them­selves, but the details of each story that give them such relat­able con­vic­tion. In Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf sings about a coerced com­mit­ment lead­ing to an even­tual eter­nity spent with the wrong per­son because of a stub­born, but more impor­tantly moral, refusal to break a promise. The prog­nos­ti­ca­tion of these par­tic­u­lars sends my friend sweat­ing when­ever he hears the song.

For me, it took the form of pangs, from the details of Clementine’s char­ac­ter. The fucked up girl look­ing for her own peace of mind, who applies her per­son­al­ity in a paste. A per­son who keeps you off bal­ance, always guess­ing, and con­stantly frus­trated. A girl who sends off sirens in your brain telling you to run as far as you can before you get burned, but you stay any­way, against all logic, resigned to the even­tual fate.

And here I was, wait­ing to be saved, think­ing she’s a con­cept, or she’ll com­plete me, or she’s going to make me feel alive. When it didn’t work out, I used to say that it was for the best, that I was in it to have no regrets, but it was really because I couldn’t leave. I was drawn mag­net­i­cally, inex­plic­a­bly, to the last per­son to deserve even the effort of all the torn up thoughts.

To the one that got away.

On the week­end, I dis­cov­ered that I could finally watch Eternal Sunshine with­out those pangs when I had felt them for so long, even when I already knew how impor­tant it is not to for­get these expe­ri­ences, as Joel fig­ures out while hid­ing Clementine in his sub­con­scious. All the resid­ual emo­tions have passed, and now I can talk, and laugh, and think, and share the expe­ri­ence like an embar­rass­ing ado­les­cent mem­ory. It only took two years.

Everybody’s gotta learn sometime.

28 Nov 05

A Weekend With Pita

Pita was over for the week­end. He had a com­pe­ti­tion in the city, in both Standard and Latin, and needed a place to crash. He tells me that he’s at the point where he’s stuck between achiev­ing a higher level and pri­or­i­tiz­ing the sport as a recre­ation, espe­cially after com­ing back empty-handed this week­end when he won two golds at the last com­pe­ti­tion. 25 is get­ting old for a com­pet­i­tive dancer, and his instruc­tor, who’s the same age as him, is already the Canadian champion.

I have an inter­est­ing rela­tion­ship with Pita. He was the first per­son I met when I moved to this city, shar­ing a room on the 15th floor of a res­i­dency. Similar inter­ests and intel­lects meant that we got along much bet­ter than the other pairs of frosh room­mates, most of whom got stuck with the crazy, the irra­tional, and the dis­gust­ing. We went sep­a­rate ways the next year, but moved into an apart­ment together for the fol­low­ing two years. After part­ing ways as room­mates, when he moved 12000 kilo­me­tres to the place he was born, before com­ing back to this coun­try, we didn’t speak to each other for more than eigh­teen months.

Now, when­ever I see him, when­ever he’s in town vis­it­ing old friends or par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­pe­ti­tions, we can greet each other with­out for­mal­i­ties and just pick up where we left off. It’s on odd state between acquain­tance and friend­ship. We share our­selves, and what we’ve learned and how we’ve changed since last see­ing each other, but never keep in touch oth­er­wise. We also give each other per­spec­tive. He often speaks as if he’s ask­ing for advice or guid­ance, with­out actu­ally ask­ing. I offer my point of view, which he always inter­prets in a dif­fer­ent way than intended, and this keeps me on my toes.

26 Nov 05

Show Me Which Constellations You Know

Forget what went wrong. The tiffs, the tantrums, the tears.

Remember every­thing we had. The com­fort of cradling under sheets in the sum­mer, the quin­tes­sen­tial excite­ment of the unknown, the rush of being saved from a pro­saic life.

Show me which con­stel­la­tions you know.

And we’ll walk along the beach forever.

23 Nov 05

Back Into The Game

After a ten month hia­tus, I’m back into my reg­u­lar table ten­nis rou­tine again. I started out extremely rusty, feel­ing as if I was learn­ing how to play again, but now I’m almost at the level that I ended with. It feels like it’s advan­ta­geous to take a step back from play­ing so that I can for­get all my bad habits while remem­ber­ing all the the­ory, because I can tell exactly what I need to change to improve now. I wish I could say the same for my golf game when I get out on the courses every spring.

My bout with gas­troen­teri­tis left me with a smaller appetite and ema­ci­ated frame. The sud­den weight loss — bring­ing my weight pre­car­i­ously close to 100 lbs. — has been rather notice­able; my sweaters are baggy, my rings slip off my fin­gers, and I’ve lost two notches on my belt. Most peo­ple strug­gle to lose weight, I strug­gle to gain it and stay above 120. Table ten­nis is one of the best things I can do to fix this. After every ses­sion, I’m rav­en­ously hun­gry, and this usu­ally con­tin­ues through to the day after.

Table ten­nis is also one of the only sports that I enjoy enough to not have to drag my ass out every time, which is def­i­nitely an advan­tage when the venue is an hour away. Unfortunately, my sched­ule on Tuesdays and Thursdays now con­sists of:

  1. wak­ing up at six thirty in the morning
  2. going to work for eight and a half hours
  3. com­ing home and sleep­ing for half an hour
  4. eat­ing a din­ner which I’ve pre­pared ear­lier in the week (with no time to cook)
  5. trav­el­ling to the gym
  6. play­ing for two hours
  7. trav­el­ling home
  8. show­er­ing and falling asleep by midnight

There are no breaks in between, which means that I have to watch the clock dur­ing almost every­thing that I do. It’s a com­plete rush from start to fin­ish. The upside is that when I’m at the gym, work­ing on bet­ter short-ball con­trol, or try­ing to achieve a back­hand smash, I can for­get every­thing else, which is some­thing that doesn’t hap­pen for me easily.

21 Nov 05

A Bittersweet Life

He admit­ted to me that in his car, when he’s dri­ving alone, there’s a com­pul­sion to put together the details of his father as he writes in his mind the speech for the even­tual day that a eulogy will need to be deliv­ered. The only other per­son he’s admit­ted this to is his girl­friend, who’s labeled the prac­tice as rather dis­turb­ing. Morbid, I’ll agree, as his father is far from pass­ing, but not as strange as she makes it out to be. In return, I admit to him that I do the same thing when I piece together sto­ries of his life for the speech I’ll be deliv­er­ing as best man at his wed­ding, an event just as grave, and every bit as tragic.

He humor­ously finds relief in this.