equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
10 Mar 06

Table Tennis Growth

When I read the order of play to Norm, he laughed. The first group­ing was against Hit-And-Miss, and being such an active mem­ber in the com­mu­nity, Norm knew them well. Against this team of three middle-aged, white met­ro­sex­u­als and their buddy Chinese cap­tain, we fared what can only be described as holo­caus­tic. They wore tight-fitting shirts, styl­ish tear­away pants, and had the strength, and speed to match.

Except for the Chinese guy. He had a bit of a pot belly, a bit of a scruff, and a very feared, well-balanced, pen-holders grip. And he spoke great English.

It was a plea­sure to lose to such nice guys.

I asked them about the next team we were up against, and they told us that they trashed the two lit­tle guys at the last league meet. Little guys? Kids. But I can already tell that both have improved since last month, the capain told me.

No chal­lenge for four fit men in their thir­ties plus one Chinese guy (40 give or take 10 years). A lit­tle more dif­fi­cult for me and my team­mates, Norm, a calmly pas­sion­ate Chinese guy in his 50’s, and Andrzej, a Polish man who picked up table ten­nis this year after a 40 year break, both of whom are bet­ter than I am.

I never would have believed that an 11-year-old and his seven-year-old brother could be so intim­i­dat­ing, a very FRENCH Olivier and Laurent. As cap­tain, I had the deci­sion to make as to who was play­ing first.

In table ten­nis, as with chess, the strongest player on the team is usu­ally signed to the first match so that the matches may end before the weaker play­ers have to play. Captain 1 signs the play sheet for the order of play for his team, and hands the sheet folded in half to Captain 2 so he can’t see, and use such infor­ma­tion to his advan­tage by pair­ing up oppo­nent styles against their weak­nesses. Out of five matches, there are two sin­gles at the start, a dou­bles in the mid­dle, and two more sin­gles at the end between the first sin­gles oppo­nents reversed, for best out of five matches.

Confused yet?

Before I signed the play sheet, Norm let me in on a lit­tle secret; when Olivier was 10 last year, Norm beat him in the league. Gambling that this would still hold true, and our oppo­nents would fol­low form, I put Norm first, me sec­ond, and Andrew with Norm as dou­bles. That way Norm had the best chance at beat­ing the older brother, I would have a chance at beat­ing the younger brother, they would win dou­bles, and that would be it.

Unfortunately, they decided to play the younger brother, Laurent, first. He could only see about a foot over the table, and I could tell his move­ments were strained from the height dis­ad­van­tage. He spoke no English, except for the phrase “Backhand?” dur­ing warm-ups, and “One mo!” when he was at 10 points. Sometimes he would mimic the table ten­nis pros with lit­tle grunts of sat­is­fac­tion when he got a point. Eventually, he lost to Norm gra­ciously (for a seven-year-old).

Then I was up against the Olivier, the older brother. Believing that a pair of descended tes­ti­cles to be my only advan­tage, I played with a lump in my throat, and he returned like a machine, sur­pris­ing me at every point. I could never keep him off bal­ance, or run him around the table. He just kept land­ing the ball on my side.

I lost. Then we lost at dou­bles, a tremen­dous upset. My mind was out, and I was forced to play the younger brother next. I lost again, although I won one set after Norm told me to serve to the far side of his stance (they had a time-out and eas­ily adjusted for the next set). By that time, we lost three out of five matches, and they were deter­mined to be the win­ning team, but Olivier asked to play Norm for the final match any­way. When Oliver won, he walked over and shook Norm’s hand, a look of proud accom­plish­ment on his face.

And this is what Norm loves the most. To see those younger play­ers grow up and improve and become national team players.

07 Mar 06

Card By Louise

Thumbnail: Gift card from Louise

05 Mar 06

A Jumble Of Emotions

I’ve been a jum­ble of emo­tions lately. A mix of excite­ment and worry, fun and stress, unset­tling uncer­tainty and crossed-signals. On top of it all I keep get­ting all sorts of BULLSHIT from peo­ple, when it’s the last thing I need.

I gen­er­ally don’t like this feel­ing. To grow, and this is espe­cially true for me, one needs a foun­da­tion of sta­bil­ity. Once the basic things are con­stant, there can be changes and adjust­ments made to improve. Now I find myself strug­gling to keep the sim­plest things under control.

It’s cer­tainly been an inter­est­ing year so far.

27 Feb 06

So Now Then...

24 Feb 06

The Return (Hiatus 1: Octave)

We move in cir­cles
Balanced all the while
On a gleam­ing razor’s edge

A per­fect sphere
Colliding with our fate
This story ends where it began

—Dream Theater, Octavarium

Back to this.

So much has passed, yet noth­ing seems to have changed. I’ve never gone this long with­out writ­ing an entry. For a while there, I didn’t mind. Didn’t mind not forc­ing myself to sit and write at every free moment. Didn’t mind my life not being taken over by this.

Now it feels like I’m in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion. So much is hap­pen­ing around me, with so much to do, while my emo­tions remain neu­tral as if I don’t know what to think. There’s hasn’t been enough sta­bil­ity yet, or per­haps I haven’t been able to sit down to write and think about what’s going on. I’m ready now.

It’s been 33 days.

I def­i­nitely missed this.

21 Jan 06

Busyness Ensues

Yup.

Thumbnail: Dolly scratches

18 Jan 06

Quills

You can’t be a proper writer with­out a touch of mad­ness, can you?

—Madeleine LeClerc, Quills

Has this become my only refuge?

No. Not even this.

15 Jan 06

Slightly Emo Frames

Thumbnail: Me with new glasses

Thumbnail: New glasses

Got a new pair of specs. I wanted either thicker rims, for a bolder look, or han­dles screwed into the glass with­out rims, for an even sim­pler look than what I have now. After try­ing on both styles, I decided on the thicker rims. Since these aren’t tita­nium, they’re sev­eral times heav­ier than my old pair, so I keep the old pair around for when I’m relax­ing or doing sports. The funny thing is that this is one of the least expen­sive pairs of glasses I’ve ever pur­chased, yet they’re D&G made.

13 Jan 06

The Winter Schedule

But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed in the gen­eral con­scious­ness you feel most delight­fully and unmis­tak­ably warm.

I save the window-opening rit­ual for Friday nights, after a long, tir­ing week, when the sweaters are all folded, and the shirts all ironed. Before I go to bed, I turn off the lights, square off my desk, and turn the win­dow crank 220 degrees clock­wise. Even though the ther­mo­stat is at 23°C, it’s any­where from –16°C to 5°C out­side these nights.

When I wake up at 5:00 a.m., as I usu­ally do, my room is filled with the chilly, snow-smelling air.

I do this only once a week to appre­ci­ate it.

I do it on Fridays to enjoy it.

11 Jan 06

Tremblant '06

Thumbnail: Winding road
Thumbnail: Cabin at night
Thumbnail: Aaron and Karen
Thumbnail: Poker game
Thumbnail: Phil's royal flush
Thumbnail: Old and new skis

Here I am, in a cabin in the mid­dle of the woods, 160 km away for two short days and a night in Tremblent. Today, we drove the wind­ing roads lined with pine trees and set­tled in. By tomor­row morn­ing, the 10 beds and mat­tresses are going to be filled with 16 peo­ple, all-round exhausted, cram­ming in as much sleep as they can before the hills open.

In between, Aaron finds a Bubbles action fig­ure that looks just like Karen. Phil is dealt a royal flush, which we’ll prob­a­bly never see again in our lives, dur­ing the sec­ond game of poker. For this, we drink, and I’m asked to make a print of the photo for every­one present to sign.

I’m not here to ski, or snow­board, or party, I’m just here to observe. Nick gave me the use of his lenses, includ­ing a 200mm prime L, but it was the 15mm fish-eye Sigma that I grew to love. How strange it is to be record­ing my mem­o­ries with some­one else’s glass.

This week­end it feels like I’m run­ning. I’m look­ing for some­thing, but I don’t know what it is or where to find it.

09 Jan 06

A Stoic Beginning

Sometimes, after pulling your­self out of bed instead of call­ing in late because there’s too much to do, when the walk to work is through ankle-deep snow which is com­ing down in sheets, you give up on avoid­ing the pud­dles because your socks are already soaked through after five min­utes, you can barely keep your eyes open from the pre­cip­i­ta­tion and the exhaus­tion, the cold is giv­ing you a split­ting headache, and the only thing keep­ing you stoic is to con­cen­trate on the music in your ears but your iPod runs out of bat­ter­ies and this is the start of your week, you have no other choice but to laugh.

02 Jan 06

New Year's '06

Thumbnail: Aaron and Rob
Thumbnail: Cheese tots
Thumbnail: Cristina's poker face
Thumbnail: Cuff links
Thumbnail: Lacey
Thumbnail: pass the booze
Thumbnail: Sarah
Thumbnail: Poker table
Thumbnail: Karen

Aaron and Karen’s annual New Years party was a fun time in a relax­ing sense, much lower-key than last year, with fewer peo­ple and casual clothes. I don’t believe there was any­one who felt out-of-place, which meant that one could eas­ily move from group to group with­out any feel­ings of intru­sion. So that I didn’t have to worry about catch­ing a bus home early, they lent me the use of their SUV for me to drive home.

I’m espe­cially pleased with this set of pho­tos. I think I was able to show the mood appro­pri­ately, with­out over-exposing the flash too much. My two favourite are with Sarah in her scarf and with Aaron hand­ing the low­ball to Rob. The for­mer because of the pure chance that worked out in cap­tur­ing the moment along with the won­der­ful tex­ture of her scarf, and the lat­ter because of how strong the two sets of hands look, like a firm hand­shake with­out touching.

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.

28 Dec 05

Christmas Observer

Thumbnail: Shirley's mantlepiece decoration
Thumbnail: Braden with Shirley
Thumbnail: Christmas observer
Thumbnail: Ginger the cat
Thumbnail: Julia
Thumbnail: Snoopy the cat
Thumbnail: Braden opens a DS
Thumbnail: Nicole is happy
Thumbnail: Nicole's got attitude

Stepping back to the 25th, I awoke to the sounds of ebul­lient whis­pers com­ing from down­stairs as I lie in Julia’s bed, which she’d care­fully made for me. I checked my watch, noticed that it was 6:40 a.m., and remem­bered that Shirley put her foot down about not open­ing any presents until seven. The kids were already up, of course, their inter­nal alarm clocks set to spring in antic­i­pa­tion, even after we stayed up late the night before, play­ing wrestling games until the threat of Santa not com­ing put them to bed.

Instead, Santa went all out this year, from Nintendo DS, to mp3 play­ers, to boxes on boxes of clothes, to DDR dance pads, to portable DVD play­ers, to games for every sys­tem. He also left me a mini remote-control Mercedes SLK, and I’d nor­mally say that he shouldn’t have so he could spend more on the kids, but he also left Braden and Bill a mini Hummer and mini Mustang GT respec­tively, so I had to accept the gift in order to race them.

Just being there was enough of a gift. As the kids ran around, unable to decide what to play with first, I started to con­sider stay­ing so I could spend the day, but the respon­si­bil­ity of prior engage­ments and time with the par­ents kept me in check. We had a big greasy break­fast of bacon and eggs, but John was there to pick me up for the four hour drive home before the turkey dinner.

Next year, I decided.

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.