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

Winter Has Come

Thumbnail: Cat snowprints

Thumbnail: Cozy comforts

Cats are always curi­ous in the snow. As they sniff, the touch of their noses melt the snowflakes, and their tongues come out to lick away the mois­ture. They cau­tiously walk into it and inspect their paws, won­der­ing how they sud­denly became wet.

As for me, I’m com­fort­able at home with a warm drink and the glow of my mon­i­tors. The week has me burned out nowa­days, and the week­ends have become the only time for me to relax, the only time I can enjoy the sun­light dur­ing the short­ened win­ter days. You can always rec­og­nize a win­ter sky by its pale­ness, caus­ing par­tic­u­larly bright days and orange nights.

Christmas will be here soon. Vacation and trips home and fam­ily and the spirit of the sea­son. Fall has come and gone. How does the time pass so quickly? Did I imag­ine I’d be here, at this stage in life, a year ago? Not at all.

I never real­ized how much I missed the win­ter, until the snow started falling.

13 Nov 05

Birthday

I received a birth­day reminder two days ago in the form of a card from my par­ents (a Richard Scarry–esque draw­ing of a crowd of cats, cell-phones to their ears, with the line inside, “Can you hear me meow?”). I had mostly for­got­ten, although it came to mind about a month ago, and the thought remained dor­mant until Pat brought it up today.

During the week I made plans to meet Pat and Jen for dim sum, not know­ing that they secretly invited Aaron and Karen as well, and that it was really to take me out for my birth­day. Afterwards, we came back here to play some Donkey Konga and Mario Party. As sim­ple as it may seem to sit around play­ing games with a bunch of friends, it’s rare to find a day that our sched­ules match. It’s even more rare to hang out with a group of peo­ple I can totally relax with and just have a good time, let alone be able to indulge in the plea­sure of a bunch of addic­tive party games with them. These are real friends, peo­ple who remind me how good it is to laugh, and help me real­ize that I don’t do it nearly enough anymore.

On a day that I ask for noth­ing, I was given every­thing that I could have wanted.

11 Nov 05

Introduction: Lacey

Thumbnail: Lacey hides

Thumbnail: Lacey scratches

Thumbnail: Lacey naps

Aaron and Karen adopted another cat, and named her Lacey. She’s a tiny thing, with downy white hair and ears like satel­lite dishes. So far she’s a bit shy, as Chaos fol­lows her around often, but I think she’ll get used to it.

Until Lacey came along, I would have never sus­pected how much the cats look like their own­ers, but the resem­blance, as dif­fi­cult as it was to put my fin­ger on at first, is strik­ing. Chaos is the nearly over­weight cat who some­times has a goofy look on his face like he’s say­ing “WHATSGOINGONOVERHEREGUYS??”, and Lacey is much smaller with big ears and del­i­cate features.

09 Nov 05

The Inconclusive End

Over break­fast, a gen­er­ous gorg­ing of sausage links, over easy, and hashed browns, the real­iza­tion dawns on me that out of the eight peo­ple seated, four of us have worked in the same office.

In fact, three of us had the same job; while Aaron was work­ing as a devel­oper, Pat was brought in to replace Jacques, and I was hired when Pat left. What a small world. That’s how Pat and I met Aaron, how Aaron met Jacques, and it was only on that day, four years later, that Pat was intro­duced to Jacques.

Now we can sit around a break­fast table, fill­ing our­selves with greasy food and caf­feine in prepa­ra­tion for a week­end of gaming.

How long ago those days seem, work­ing in an unmo­ti­vated gov­ern­ment office, dat­ing some­one I thought I wanted to make my wife. I remarked to Pat how funny it was to believe back then that I knew what I wanted in life, and with a smirk, he asked me, “You think you know what you want now?”.

The ques­tion was rhetor­i­cal, of course. Sometimes Pat knows me bet­ter than I know myself. In his way, he was remind­ing me that even now, after all my con­tem­pla­tion and all my con­clu­sions, I still may not have fig­ured that out yet.

Do I really know what I want?

Not really. In my career, my rela­tion­ships, my short-term life I can say that there’s a path I’m mov­ing towards, but I also know that this will most likely change. As I learn and grow, as new goals are met and made, what I want changes too.

And per­haps being sure of this is what I really want.

07 Nov 05

The Everyday Sickness Of Stress

Thumbnail: Card by Elle

I called in sick again today, but this time I didn’t go in.

In Psych 101, you learn that a group of stu­dents are sprayed in the face with the cold bac­te­ria dur­ing their exams, while a con­trol group is sprayed dur­ing the reg­u­lar school year. The result is that the stu­dents going through their finals are more than twice as likely to get sick. Stress low­ers the immune sys­tem, and the les­son here is that there’s a direct con­nec­tion between the health of the mind and the body.

Knowing this isn’t enough to pre­vent it. Sometimes it all adds up, and you get worn down.

Little sur­prises come in the form of friends offer­ing to pick things up from the phar­macy, peo­ple I’ve never even spo­ken to ask­ing if I’m okay, or care pack­ages from ex-girlfriends, con­sist­ing of choco­late bars, vit­a­min C drops, African peanut soup, a DVD of BMW shorts, and even a get-well-soon card.

05 Nov 05

Trolley's B-Day '05

Thumbnail: Chillin outside
Thumbnail: Strike a pose
Thumbnail: Shots of Jag
Thumbnail: Dual Stella cans
Thumbnail: Cheers

A cou­ple of shots (no pun intended) from Trolley’s birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, also mark­ing my first for­ray into the dig­i­tal SLR cam­era world. I had no idea how much was involved in pho­tog­ra­phy until I started going fully man­ual (quite a change from my sim­ple point-and-shoot Elph), but just try­ing to achieve what’s “tech­ni­cally” cor­rect has made me appre­ci­ate both what the pro­fes­sion­als go through and what the artists try to express.

03 Nov 05

Still Being Tested

It’s been rough going the last few weeks. Every day is a con­flict between doing some­thing relax­ing, doing the chores that will make me feel com­fort­able, or going to bed. Even now I can’t relax. I clean my mir­rors of fin­ger­prints in between sen­tences, or brush Dolly of excess fur as she force­fully nudges my wrists in mirth, and only con­tinue writ­ing when I come up with the next idea.

A sore throat and weary body had me call­ing in sick today (I sus­pect that I caught some­thing from pet­ting the same cat as Karen yes­ter­day, who’s seems sick as a dog), although I ended up going in and work­ing six hours any­way. All the extra cur­ric­u­lar things are slowly wear­ing me down. There’s the two side-businesses, the new effort of learn­ing as much as I can about my new Canon Rebel XT by pho­tograph­ing every­thing, and the blog­ging. I also started table ten­nis again, although I’m not sure how often I can attend, tak­ing four hours out of a week­day. The one reprieve is a LAN party I’ve had planned since September that starts tomor­row, and even though it’ll be a good week­end of gam­ing, it’ll still mean lit­tle rest. Normally I’m planned, pre­pared, and prac­ticed for a LAN, but this time it’ll all be improvised.

I’m being tested, and even though I know that I’ll get through this, it’s still dif­fi­cult. I’m forced to deal with peo­ple I’ve avoided my entire life. I’m push­ing myself past the lim­its of any­thing I’ve ever gone through. To be hon­est, it’s a lit­tle eas­ier than I would have imag­ined. The strength and con­fi­dence that I’ve gained over the last two years has helped tremen­dously. Knowing that things get done in their own time keeps me from being over­whelmed. If I can make it through this, I’ll be stronger than ever.

01 Nov 05

Thrice = Love: Far From The End

The con­cert was quite amaz­ing. The set lasted just over an hour and a half. Nothing was per­formed off the first album, which makes me think that Thrice actu­ally knows how weak an LP it was. They did two encores, one of which was Dustin play­ing an acoustic ver­sion of Staring At The Sun, and the other which was a short lit­tle piece from the mid­dle of The Abolition Of Man, where Dustin actu­ally hands off his gui­tar to a guy who comes on stage with a grey hoodie, and walks into the crowd to scream the last few bars. Unfortunately, my mem­ory card ran out of space dur­ing the LAST WORD, ulti­mately ruin­ing the clip.

It was good to see that peo­ple knew all the words to Artist In The Ambulance, and Deadbolt (which they didn’t play until every­one was yelling it in chorus).


Thumbnail: Crowd
Thumbnail: Dustin with acoustic guitar
Thumbnail: Stage

On his celebrity, Dustin once said, “It’s pretty awe­some. A lot of peo­ple throw under­wear at bands, but our kids bring us books”. If I ever had the chance, I’d give him Huis-Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre.

There’s more that can be said, but I think I’ll put this to rest for now.

Thrice is Love.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
30 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: The Rush

I want to take the bul­let,
The one aimed straight for your heart.
I want to meet the wolves halfway
And let them tear me apart,
But that’s not the way they do it here.

I want to lay on the tracks,
Feel hot steel scream­ing at me.
Expose the bones on my back,
Let me show you what I mean.

Yeah, it’s a dif­fer­ent kind of love.
I want to climb barbed wire fences
And warm our hands in blood.

And this is my gift
Asking you to fix my ruined hands.
And it’s a gift that keeps on giv­ing,
And right now it’s all I have to give.

I want to write the per­fect song,
And play it just for you,
While you are tan­gled up in sleep.
I need you more than I’ll ever know.
Until I stop breath­ing,
My lungs will take you for granted.

—Thrice, In Years To Come

I remem­ber a time in my life when I was scared about love. A set of rather ado­les­cent expe­ri­ences in high school, of which I only now find myself com­fort­able speak­ing frankly, had caused me to cling to an unat­tain­able ideal. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert well describes such a hap­pen­stance that sim­i­larly “made of it a per­ma­nent obsta­cle to any fur­ther romance through­out the cold years of my youth. The spir­i­tual and the phys­i­cal had been blended in us with a per­fec­tion that must remain incom­pre­hen­si­ble to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained young­sters of today”.

Eventually, I had given up my ideal, but still felt for­ever tainted, regret­fully break­ing more than enough hearts in the process.

It only took an ardent, extremely brief sum­mer romance to free me, and a jour­ney of 12500 kilo­me­tres to real­ize it.

And as fleet­ing as the entire expe­ri­ence was, it still enough to gal­va­nize, to make me want to take that bul­let, or let the wolves tear me apart. Being tan­gled up in that mad love, the love that goes against rea­son or bet­ter judge­ment, soft­ened the stone in my chest, and it felt like I was finally alive.

Gimmie a girl who can make me feel this way.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
28 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: Rock It

Entertain the hope that some­how you’ll escape me
Weld the bolts and close the iron gate
Drink deeply the illu­sion of your safety
My how wish­ful thoughts ine­bri­ate
Masquerade and revel in your opu­lence
Writhe unfet­tered by your stabs at igno­rance
Swim through hues and whis­pered tones of heresy
A dozen strokes to run your blood cold enough to believe
Remember me
You look so sur­prised to see me here
Hells black wings did I over perch these walls
For stony lim­its can­not hold me out
And now you all die

—Thrice, The Red Death

And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more mer­rily than ever

—Edgar Allen Poe, The Masque Of The Red Death

It’s sim­ple.

Gimmie a girl who isn’t afraid to ROCK THE FUCK OUT to this song.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
24 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: The Journey

I see the parts but not the whole
I study saints and schol­ars both
No per­fect plan unfurls
Do I trust my heart or just my mind
Why is truth so hard to find in this world
Yeah in this world

Cause I am due for a mir­a­cle
I’m wait­ing for a sign
I’ll stare straight into the sun
And I won’t close my eyes
Till I under­stand or go blind

—Thrice, Stare At The Sun

Even at my age, whether oth­ers may con­sider it young or old, I haven’t decided on a spe­cific set of beliefs, whether they be reli­gious, philo­soph­i­cal, or psychological.

In try­ing times I find myself wish­ing that I had some­thing, some form of struc­ture that would make sense of the things that hap­pen. The most serene peo­ple I know are also the most pious, as they seem to have an answer for the seem­ingly unex­plained or unde­served. I’ve often asked the­ists, the ones whose intel­li­gence I respect, what has made them believe in one or sev­eral gods. Most com­monly the answer is that they have enough evi­dence for such an exis­tence. Even though I’ve had a few serendip­i­tous expe­ri­ences myself, things which I can’t explain by chance alone, it hasn’t been enough to give me a defin­i­tive answer.

Sometimes it feels like I’m wait­ing for a mir­a­cle to give me an answer or show me a path.

I used to be an athe­ist, then an agnos­tic, until I became com­pletely unde­cided. It’s rare to find other peo­ple who are open-minded enough to admit that they are still learn­ing, or have yet to dis­cover what so many other peo­ple already have. What I know for sure is that I still have the rest of my life to find out, to walk that path and make that journey.

Gimmie a girl who isn’t afraid to stare at the sun with me.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
22 Oct 05

Thrice = Love: Introduction

Thumbnail: Thrice ticket

It’s been more than two years since Thrice has released a new album, until Vheissu, just five days ago. I’m still explor­ing the tracks, approach­ing each song with an open mind, but never dis­sect­ing too much through analy­sis. Due to the uncer­tain­tiy of what to expect, lis­ten­ing to some­thing for the first time is always a lit­tle different.

It can be eas­ily observed that they’ve grown through all of their full-length albums. It’s dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to Identity Crisis (2000), because of how rough and unde­vel­oped it is. The Illusion of Safety (2002) was much improved, intro­duc­ing a unique, exper­i­men­tal style, though heav­ily influ­enced by punk and met­al­core. The Artist In The Ambulance (2003) took things a step fur­ther, achiev­ing tracks that were both esthetic and intelligent.

Ever since I stopped smok­ing weed on a daily basis, of which a great deal of time was spent lis­ten­ing to music, I’ve been ener­vated by the fact that songs would never sound as good, until this album.

Vheissu has renewed my hope. Saved my life.

It goes beyond every­thing else to a com­pletely spir­i­tual expe­ri­ence, from the album art­work to the chords and the key sig­na­tures. Thrice has reached out with music that is haunt­ing, mov­ing, emo­tional, try­ing things that they’ve never tried before. Dustin Kensrue sings more than he screams, even goes falsetto(!), only occas­sion­ally call­ing on his hard­core roots. Electronic sounds, piano, acoustic gui­tar have been worked into the tracks them­selves, instead of being rel­e­gated to the intro­duc­tions. The mixed meters are less obtru­sive, but still inter­est­ing enough for prog-rock fans. Even with all of this, they con­tinue to defy gen­res, as they’ve done in their pre­vi­ous albums. It all works.

Thrice is com­ing to town, and the con­cert is just six days away.

I was only intro­duced to Thrice in the last two years, but I’ve been through a lot with them. Different apart­ments, room­mates, girl­friends, breakups. Even the lyrics speak to me, lift­ing, mov­ing, never crash­ing. I only ask one thing.

Gimme a girl who loves Thrice.

The Thrice = Love Series

  1. Introduction
  2. The Journey
  3. As The Crucible
  4. Rock It
  5. The Rush
  6. Far From The End
18 Oct 05

Today, Finally

It’s dif­fi­cult to sleep with so much on the mind, and even more dif­fi­cult when you’re filled with anger about not being able to fall sleep. With my duvet wrapped around me last night, I turned my alarm off com­pletely, decid­ing to get into work when­ever I woke up, know­ing that I’d need the rest to focus on a per­sis­tent net­work issue. After try­ing to fall asleep for an hour with­out suc­cess, and feel­ing like I’d waste the rest of the morn­ing, I got up very frus­trated. Those who know me, know that five hours is con­sid­ered calami­tous. I cooked a heavy break­fast of bacon, eggs and toast, know­ing that I’d still have time to get to work early, a bit of sus­te­nance to get me through the rest of the day.

The main prob­lem I’ve been fac­ing for the last week has been the setup of a VPN for a new out-of-office sales rep we recently hired. It was the per­fect morn­ing to get to work early, because I could work on the server for about an hour with­out hav­ing to worry about affect­ing any client com­put­ers. I traced the prob­lem to an out­dated ver­sion of the firmware, and crossed my fin­gers (after my last flash­ing dis­as­ter) as I burned the lat­est ver­sion. This was at 7:00 in the morn­ing. I spent the next 13 hours try­ing to fig­ure out why inter­net access stopped work­ing within the range of inter­nal IP addresses .1 to .36 (which makes absolutely no sense with­out being a power of two, and espe­cially odd when we had no DHCP ranges set).

This meant care­fully learn­ing the exist­ing struc­ture of a net­work I didn’t set up and fig­ur­ing out the Windows inter­net pro­to­col. I’ve had no for­mal train­ing in being an MCSE, so a lot of the day was spent read­ing through white papers and tech­ni­cal notes for a pos­si­ble DNS/DHCP/IIS/firewall/RRA set­ting I may have looked over. Network ser­vice slowly degraded through­out the day as I began trou­bleshoot­ing, includ­ing a simul­ta­ne­ous crash of the main cus­tom soft­ware on every sys­tem, a loss of dynamic dns address­ing (which brought our new online ser­vice down), until I couldn’t even find the net­work address of the router.

When you’re filled with angry per­se­ver­ance, you get a lot done. If only other peo­ple could under­stand that. Wearing a face of deter­mi­na­tion means I don’t have time to be pleas­ant, or have a lunch, or lis­ten to innane sto­ries of your grandchildren.

On the walk to work, I had already decided that as soon as I got off, I was going to play some table ten­nis at one of the bi-weekly ses­sions, vision blurred, eyes dry­ing, as tired as I was, and pass­ing out after din­ner. This obvi­ously didn’t hap­pen. I’d been seri­ously plan­ning on going since last week, but things just kept get­ting in the way.

Until the last 15 min­utes, the only thing I could think about was whether I’d have to pull an all-nighter, and whether or not I’d even be able to solve things if I did. That’s the risk of tech sup­port; the solu­tion can be as sim­ple as it is elu­sive, and there can be no progress until the very last tweak. Halfway through the day, I already decided that I’d call an exter­nal net­work spe­cial­ist to help if I didn’t get any­where by tomor­row after­noon. I was too tired to worry about not get­ting the net­work up before the next busi­ness day, which would basi­cally bring the com­pany to a stand­still, and too tired to be angry at every­thing that was going on. After fig­ur­ing out our net­work struc­ture, three calls to tech sup­port, and learn­ing inter­net pro­to­col the­ory from the ground up, I finally fig­ured out that all I needed to do was do a hard reset of the router, and con­fig­ure every­thing from scratch.

It was prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult day I’ve had since I started the job, but I knew that if I could get through it and fix the prob­lem, I’d be able to get through any­thing that could be thrown at me. Not only did I get the web con­nec­tion work­ing through the entire sub­net, I also got the sales reps lap­top to con­nect to the VPN through dial-up. Yesterday was a late night, get­ting a web­site done for a client friend. Tomorrow’s another 14 hour day, and even though I’ve known about it for a month, I don’t think it’ll make it any easier.

I real­ized that I only really feel lonely on days like these, when my body aches, my mind loses focus, and all I want to do is have some­one else take care of me. To have some­one else decide what to do, because I’m too tired to decide for myself.

Stepping out­side, hun­gry and exhausted, I put on a win­tery playlist for the walk home, since it was two hours past sun­set and the fall nights are get­ting frigid. The first song that came on was Explode by the Cardigans. I’d been sav­ing this song for months now, skip­ping it every time it came on so I wouldn’t get tired of it.

Today I finally deserved it.

17 Oct 05

This May Feel Cold

Thumbnail: Holter monitor

I’m lying down, naked from the waist up, gig­gling uncon­trol­lably. The nurse damp­ens some tis­sue with rub­bing alco­hol, and rubs down my torso method­i­cally. I feel it evap­o­rat­ing off my skin, star­ing at the ceil­ing, unsure of any­where else I could appro­pri­ately keep my eyes. Suddenly, there’s a sharply drag­ging pain on a small area, and I see her mak­ing quick, short arm move­ments in one direction.

Ow, what is that?”, I ask jovially. I’m still gig­gling, a result of my ner­vous­ness. She picks up on this.

It’s sand­pa­per. Haven’t you ever been exfoliated?”

The sand­pa­per removes the dead skin, mak­ing the elec­trodes stick better.

Are you telling me that this is going to make my chest glow, and reduce the appear­ance of any lines and wrinkles?”

She play­fully returns, “On these five spots, yes.”

Afterwards, I’m told to sign a form with a short expla­na­tion on what is being done, that acknowl­edges my understanding.

Holter mon­i­tor­ing pro­vides a con­tin­u­ous record­ing of heart rhythm dur­ing nor­mal activ­ity. There is no dis­com­fort asso­ci­ated with the test.

I’m given a jour­nal to record any abnor­mal heart­beats, whether it’s a skipped beat, an extra beat, or an irreg­u­lar beat, but for the 24 hours that I’m wear­ing this device, I don’t write in it once. It’s a guess­ing game for them, to sort out the what’s nor­mal and what’s not. After any test they do, urine, blood, stool, holter, they say the same thing: we’ll call you if any­thing shows up in the results.

They always say, no news is good news.

15 Oct 05

Just One Thing

It’s been a long week, although it was tech­ni­cally made shorter from the long week­end. Three can­cel­la­tions in three nights. Nothing’s work­ing out. I left work early yes­ter­day because my eyes stopped func­tion­ing. The pre­vi­ous day I’d worked a full 14 hours.

I used to get angry or frus­trated at things like this, but now I find myself cold and emo­tion­less, accept­ing things as the way they are. The advan­tage is that I’m a much more sta­ble per­son. It isn’t even any attempt to be stoic, but I’m sick of all the bullshit.

All I want is a break, just one thing to go my way.

Please?