Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Who is Aron Hsiao, Ph.D.? ▼

I’ve worked in a wide variety of very public roles and written a number of books. In my “real life” I’ve had an audience varying from hundreds of thousands to millions over the years, across big media, online media, and academic media.
 
Teaching
 
Some of you may also know me from the classroom, as I’ve taught at a decent array of major universities, in topic areas from linguistics to anthropology to sociology to cultural studies and media. I am not currently teaching.
 
Companies and Brands
 
If you’re wondering if I'm the “same Aron Hsiao that...” then, in fact, I probably am. I won't mention all of the companies, brands, and publications here because many of them won’t want to be directly associated with a blog like this one.
 
On Google
 
But if you’ve searched Google for “Aron Hsiao” then you’ve found me. The writer me, the professor me, the photographer me, the technology expert me, and so on. All of those pages and pages of results are, in fact, me. I am not aware of any other Aron Hsiao that has recently (in a decade or more) ranked in the first dozen-plus pages of Google’s results.

Born February 29th, 1976
 
Ph.D. Sociology (The New School, 2014)
M.A. Social Science (Chicago, 2004)
B.A. Anthropology (Utah, 2001)
B.A. English (Utah, 2001)
 
7 Books
Thousands of articles
 
1 Life
2 Kids
5 Goldfish
2 Cats
1 Dog
 
Lived in Salt Lake City, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, and now... Provo.
 
Myers-Briggs INFP/INTP

I started “blogging” for the first time in 1999 at twenty-three years old, as I was going through my first serious breakup. Without meaning to, I continued to blog on a personal basis more or less without interruption after that. Now it’s been going on seventeen years. All of that content (well, most of it) is here, in one place.
 
In professional life, I have also ended up spending a decent amount of time blogging for an income for others. Still do.
 
But after all these years, Leapdragon remains home.
 
Many have questioned the wisdom of maintaining a site like this one, and from 2007 through 2015 I kept it increasingly obscure online. I have grown tired, however, of hiding myself behind a “professional” cardboard cutout. I’m forty years old and my life, like the lives of many others, gets more complicated by the day, personally and professionally.
 
It’s time to just be me again, in public, and let the chips fall where they may. So here I am.

Politics: Mixed—Old Left + Old Right (Fuck the SJWs)
Music: Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten
Novel: 2666, Roberto Bolaño
Operating Systems: Mac OS, Linux (Android)
Aquarium Fish: Common goldfish, fully grown
Illumination Technology: Neon tubing
Rag: Counterpunch
Academic Work: Illuminations, Walter Benjamin
Work of Art: Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Helnwein
Art Medium: Still photography
Club/Pub: The Pub, Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago
City: New York City
Place: Antelope Island, Syracuse, Utah
Fabrication Material: Leather
Drink: Green Chartreuse
Beach: Ellwood Beach, Goleta, California
Design Language: Swiss/Modern/Bauhaus
Season: Fall

Ten things that suck.  §

1. USPS Parcel Select. Oh . my . God . does . it . suck . Never, ever use it. For anything. USPS is now a one-service shop: priority. Send any other way and you’re looking at 15-30 days, packages that they don’t bother to scan for tracking at all, and a not insignificant chance that your parcel will never arrive because they allow it to fall off the back of the truck.

2. The Democratic Party right now and liberals in general. Embarrassing cesspool of outrage porn, prejudice, tribalism, and anti-democratic activism. And I say that as a far-left liberal of many years. These people are currently lost.

3. The way that no watchmaker is quite on the ball. Swiss makers can’t come up with a cheap anything. Americans don’t even make watches anymore. Orient has beautifully accurate, inexpensive automatic movements, but only periodically come up with a good watch face and can’t get their bracelets or fit and finish right. Citizen makes beautiful faces, cases, and bracelets, but then stuffs an Eco-Drive into almost everything and makes precious few automatics. Seiko has reasonable movements, reasonable faces, reasonable cases, and reasonable bracelets, but excels in nothing, leaving you feeling as though you’re wearing a Toyota.

4. The way that Apple now sucks. They used to make high-quality, world-beating products that made life better. Now they make high-quality products that are way behind the technology and size curve and make life more complicated and more frustrating, all while charging way too much.

5. The American legal system. It’s a dumpster fire. Anyone hoping to get justice out of it in any area of law—family law, criminal law, torts, whatever—is going to be sorely disappointed.

6. Facebook. Aside from being a cesspool, it’s also got the most braindead resources for businesses that I think I’ve ever encountered in a SaaS UI.

7. Volvo. Which is sad. Because they once made great cars that ran half a million miles with the barest of service. Now they make expensive cars that run exactly 24 miles between $3,000 repair bills.

8. The fact that nobody makes full-size Chinese Checkers sets any longer, and the fact that Levi Strauss & Co. keep changing (and cheapening) their recipe for 501 jeans while selling them as “the original.”

9. The malaise in the academic world.

10. United Healthcare. Never try to do business with them. Any little thing you want to do has to be done by phone because their online system is a joke. When you call, it only takes 25 minutes to wade through their voice system pressing numbers, after which you’ll be relieved when you’re finally told, “We’ll connect your call now. Your expected wait time is 55 minutes.” After which, at approximately minute 52 of waiting, they’ll summarily hang up on you without warning. After four days of trying and waiting, you’ll finally get through to someone whose English is so bad that even if you’ve lived in every major city in the U.S., communicating effortlessly with accents from new immigrants from all over the world, you’ll fail to understand the very first sentence that they make, and will then spend the next ten minutes asking them to repeat themselves over and over again until they (once more) hang up on you without warnng.

Let’s not state the obvious too much.  §

Okay, friends. It isn’t necessary to tell me that my marriage destroyed my career and “probably ruined” my life. In fact, let’s not do that. Here’s why:

(1) I’m fully aware of this fact. What do you think my biggest bugaboos have been for at least half a decade? Certainly not itchy socks or the death of great American fiction.

(2) I had culpability here. I allowed it to happen. I participated. I self-sacrificed, as I always do, into oblivion, long past the point at which I should have given up. And if I’m not careful, or if I place blame, I’ll probably end up doing it again. I need to learn not to give until I’m dead, or to let people take advantage of me or take me for granted, and that’s on me.

(3) It’s not over yet. I’ve been down for the count before, and hearing said many of the same things (and for the same reasons, sadly). I came back then. I can do it again, I like to think. Yes, the mountain is much steeper this time given that I’m over 40, the finances are in much worse shape, and I have two kids at the center of my life. But I don’t quit. Ever.

The thing is, I have to actually follow the rules this time. No relationships. Ever again. Period. Because fate, biology, and psychology have decided that they are not for me.

I need to stop trying to be a significant other forever, and finally allow myself to become the professional and the father that I’ve always wanted to be, but never could, because I was fighting the wars of significant otherhood.

But yeah, you don’t actually need to tell me all about it, or about where it’s left me, or make a list of the people that have been involved, etc. I got that covered. I’m a pretty reflective guy.

Apathy.  §

I have these periods in my life during which I don’t say or do much personally or publicly that is out of the daily routine. Largely this happens when I simply stop caring about what’s happening in the world.

This is one of those periods. There are all of these things that I know I’m supposed to care about, but I just plain don’t:

– Politics and the election of Donald Trump
– My ex-wife’s life or the fact that I have an ex-wife at all
– Acdemic topics and the latest research
– What’s going on in my community
– What’s going on in friends’ lives

I don’t know what the psychological dimensions of the phenomenon are, all I know is I just can’t bring myself to care. I try and I don’t. It all seems so irrelevant to anything at all.

What do I care about?

– Ensuring that day-to-day life is stable for my kids
– Taking proper care of my jeans
– Whether my aging dog is happy or not
– Whether my watches are running slightly fast or slow
– Whether my new tiny fish is going to be eaten by my monster fish
– The neighbor’s dog

It’s like a switch went off and I hit that second half of life that seems to young people to lay on the other side of a very large phenomenological chasm. I swore I’d never be one of those people, but here I am and so I am.

The immediate and the local seem important. The other stuff? Idiot presidents and ex-wives? Who cares? It seems to all be a lot of bullshit. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is to water the plans and vacuum the floor and be sure that I’m honest in my everyday dealings. The rest seems like so much fluff.

Nuts.  §

Have you ever noticed how most people look in selfies?

They look nuts. Absolutely nuts. Especially women. They are smiling so hard you think their ribs are going to crack, and they are pressing their face forward so hard they’ll likely need a chiropractor for weeks afterward.

I think they think it’s gonna make you want to hang out with them.

Mostly it makes you think you’re glad you don’t know them, because they’d probably come visit and turn your house upside-down, talking the entire time without stopping.

(Forgotten) rules for living in a functional society.  §

Always rationalize others’ behaviors and sharply question and apologize for your own, no matter what the behaviors in question.

Never justify your own uncivil behavior, no matter what may have happened to inspire it. Own the blame, and blame no other.

Express the incredibly strong internal responses that you have to things in the quietest possible terms, and only at times and places specifically set aside for doing so.

Guard against the emergence of an “activist mentality” in your own thoughts and behavior.

Support longstanding norms even if at the moment they result in catastrophic outcomes to which you are stridently opposed.

Put others first and yourself second.

Remember that now is rarely the time; the immediate moment passes quickly, and time itself is quite long.

— § —

Why do we live in a shit society in the middle of a shit globe?

Because these rules, so long known by so many wise people, are the precise opposite of what have been broadly embraced by the public these days. Every one of these, when flipped to its opposite, is now the conventional wisdom.

Nobody stops to realize that if we flip each of these to its opposite, we must also flip the title to read: “Rules for living in a selfish state of eternal offense and factional warfare.”

Things.  §

We are living in Weimar America.

— § —

I once thought the most important thing about social media was its multiplexity in combination with its abridgment of time and space.

I was wrong.

The most important thing about social media is the end of the newspaper, not so much physically as metaphorically, c.f. Anderson.

Yes, it will be a postnational world. It already is, even within nations.

No, it will not be a harmonious one.

We are entering yet another “new age of barbarism,” to recycle the term once used by the Frankfurt School scholars.

— § —

I do not blame this on the right.
I do not blame this on the left.
I blame it on both.
On both sides, bigots and extremists, all.

Per Yeats, the center has failed, once again, to hold. Humanity seems incapable of preserving it.

— § —

The term #failson is an interesting one, but I think it’s more #failcitizen that is at stake. I’ve posted before about the lack of grown-ups.

I have spent my own life trying very hard to grow up. Every single social and economic force in our current milieu militates against it. As a result, we are and are surrounded by petulant, spoiled children who don’t know how to run a world. Every adult I know under the age of 55 needs a good, hard spanking. Yes, a violent one. I don’t care if that would be abuse.

— § —

Contrary to what it may look like here, I haven’t had much time over the last couple of years to think much about the world, about the things I spent most of my life studying.

I have been digging, for the past year in particular, into myself. There is much to work out. And every time I think I may be halfway through the tunnel, I realize that this is likely not the case, but that I don’t know where the tunnel ends.

I have been working on developing frames of mind to turn toward the world while remaining also tuned in to myself. But this is a work in progress.

— § —

I don’t call myself a Christian because I’m not one. But I will say that by and large, the Christians and the Buddhists and the Taoists have it right.

The university professors, the activists, and the raging hordes on Facebook busy sharing posts about coconut oil and lemongrass have it wrong. Evil doesn’t always recognize the evil in itself.

— § —

The world is haunted. Only the children are not. I suppose it has always been thus.

Only these days, people don’t like children. They’re jealous of them—because they’re vying for the same attention and recognition that the children are.

— § —

We are living in Weimar America.

Learning from serious mistakes.  §

Mistakes. Serious mistakes.

Most serious of all? Losing the thread of things again. Destroying myself for someone else—again. It never works. It does not bring happiness to people. If someone is expecting you to destroy yourself for them, they’re not the sort of person that can be made happy.

Leaving New York City was a massive, massive mistake. It isn’t easy to shift from the lower-cost heartland to the higher-cost but far, far more important and more opportunity-enabled coastal urban areas. You swim financially, logistically, and strategically upstream the entire way. You have to significantly leverage yourself to make it possible, expecting to pay it down on the other end once you have arrived, relying on the increased opportunity and higher wages to make that possible.

I took on all the costs. I didn’t stay to reap the rewards. It will take me many decades on the outside of opportunity and high-dollar centers to roll those costs back. And many decades after that to make my way back to a place that matters and a context in which my particular identity and talents matter at all. It will likely not happen in my lifetime.

— § —

I was a person raised in a lower-middle-class cultural milieu. In this milieu, destroying yourself for others is what you do. Everyone destroys themselves for others in a kind of economy of mutual self-destruction, because everyone is destined to fail anyway, so there is a kind of cultural capital in demonstrating to others that you will sacrifice for them if they will sacrifice for you.

But there is no way out of this world of self-created zombies. It is a closed system created by elites to skim capital from the life-processes of its hermetically-sealed-in residents. Very few people manage to make the jump out of it, and those that try take on significant personal risk. There is no support because the people that you leave behind are incapable of offering any; they have literally nothing to contribute. It is beyond their capabilities in every way—financially, intellectually, etc.

The background that I am from presumes a kind of cultural homogeneity and general naïveté that is fine in places where people have zero resources to harm, zero street smarts, and zero ambition. Life is a series of passage rites that are more or less identical from family to family and that are centered around a life trajectory of school-anonymous employment-retirement-death.

I was able to climb out of the hole and try to launch myself toward the sun. I had certain parts of this task well in hand, but one in particular was insurmountable for me, given my background—adopting the culture and related behaviors of the class that I aspired to join.

That failure brought me back down to earth, ablaze.

— § —

In short, the fallacy of sunk costs is much more difficult to overcome when you come from a backround in which an endless and unlimited commitment to sunk costs is not just a universal habit, but in fact is seen as moral—as gospel.

There is no moral superiority in suffering. These people don’t understand that. And the suffering only increases. Cut loose. Sever the tie. As early as possible. As so many of the pop self-help books say, cut the toxic people out. It will only get worse.

— § —

I am still learning not to destroy myself. Maybe this time it will stick. But I doubt it. I have spent a lifetime trying to overcome this particular tic. This time, its consequences are likely permanent.

I have seen in distant relatives the other way to be, the one so foreign to me—take care of yourself; be rational; carefully screen and winnow your associations to encompass only the best; divorce early when necessary, not late. Do not, under any circumstances, shed a tear or invest a single minute in risky people. For any reason.

Risk management.

I didn’t have the chops when it counted. And by the time I scared them up, I had been off-trajectory for five years.

I am trying to promise myself that this will never happen again. When I was younger, I thought they were being ruthless. Now I see that they weren’t; they were being adults in a world of children who imagine themselves to be adults, but aren’t.

It is time for me to learn how to emulate them, in the time that I have left.

Key mistakes, last ten years.  §

1) Not following the “no women” rule when I arrived in NYC for graduate school.
2) Leaving NYC. The reason doesn’t matter. Bad, bad mistake.
3) Stopping teaching. Another bad mistake.

I am at a point in my life at which it no longer makes any sense to “try to do the right thing by others.” I have had a lifetime of that. It leads nowhere good. It leads to enabling others to essentially dictate your life.

I’m happy to do the right thing, period. But the “for others” part usually ends up not being about a right thing on moral or ethical or even reasoned grounds, but rather being about satisfying their strong preferences and their own emotional foibles by amending my own life. I was raised to be this way. I have done it over and over again over twenty-five years. It has to stop. There is nothing edifying about it. It is a way to virtue-signal that was practiced by my parents. Virtue-signalling is an empty hobby.

Let others suck eggs. Live your own life. That’s my advice to the young.

Cars, watches, and momentum.  §

I miss my old car. How I miss my old car and am annoyed with my wife of the time for forcing the issue to sell it. It needed a heater blower and a new sunroof seal. That was it—but she hated it.

Thing is, I bought it at 133k miles for almost nothing. It looked and drove as new. Over the space of 15 years, it was incredibly reliable and almost nothing had to be fixed. It always started. It always drove. It never felt uncertain.

When we sold it, it was at 250k and the engine still ran as smooth as silk. The body and interior weren’t falling apart. The worst thing was the paint job—too many days spent outdoors in the ice during wintertime. It was sold for $615.00 to a student in New York. I’d pay $1,000.00 to get it back now.

That’s how hungry I am for a reliable car. I’m at 150k and the car is in far worse shape mechanically than the car we sold in 2010 at 250k. The current car is held together by duct tape and bubblegum, and keeps eating money at $hundreds a pop every other month.

Change will have to come soon. Somehow.

— § —

The thing about watches. And about why I don’t like straight quartz. Here’s the reason. Automatics (powered by your movement) and Eco-Drives (powered by the sun) derive their energy from the environment on an ongoing basis. Every moment that you wear these watches, your activity, your context, and the events that surround you power them.

Put a quartz watch with a new battery in a drawer and forget about it and it will still be running five years after anyone last touched or saw it. Wear a quartz watch with an old battery and it may die on you in the middle of the day despite the fact that you are still in the thick of things.

In other words, the time that quartz watches keep is abstract, mathematical, disconnected from the world that you yourself are living in. You and the watch are inhabiting different universes; a quartz watch lives in its own objective, isolated context, not directly related to anything that you do.

Automatic and to a slightly lesser extent Eco-Drive watches live with you, through you. Their timekeeping is intimately connected to the moment-by-moment movements and situations in your life. They inhabit the same time that you do—real time, the time of events and workdays and trips to the store. They do not live in a pure, theoretical space in which there is no material reality around them. Quartz watches keep time no matter what happens. For some, that might be a selling point. For me, it isn’t. To me, it feels as though they simulate time, rather than mark the passage of it.

If a giant meteor hit the earth tomorrow, filled the air with unbreathable soot, blotted out the sun, and took all life with it, quartz watches would still populate the earth and millions of them would still be rolling along five or eight years later, keeping perfect time beyond the end of the world. That’s just too much. It’s oppressive.

On the other hand, if the world ended tomorrow for all of the life forms on it, automatics would mark the end of time by stopping the day after tomorrow, just 20-40 hours later. Not a single one would be ticking a week later. Eco-drives—apart from the few whose owners happened to die outside in the sunlight—would go into hibernation (“pause” themselves in power-saving mode due to lack of sunlight) within a few weeks, and would never tick again.

The same goes true for when an owner dies and watches end up in storage as the funeral occurs and life goes on—the automatics stop within a day of the wearer’s life ending, and the Eco-Drives within a few weeks. The quartz watches? They don’t need you. Their purpose is ordained by God and they continue no matter what; their deaths are disconnected from human life or death entirely.

Both automatics and eco-drives have that additional, embodied timekeeping capability—they have the ability to mark the end of time, to indicate and memorialize death and mortality, at whatever the scale. They are sensitive to the importance of the lives of their wearers. Somehow, to me, that is the most important function in a watch that I wear on my body, that becomes a part of me. So long as the watch is on my wrist is ticking, I want to know that I am alive and the world has not ended yet. And when I die, I want my watch, intimate partner that it is, to mourn and commemorate my departure from life and refuse to go on without me.

With quartz, I don’t get that reassurance. And that makes all the difference.

— § —

I struggled to stay awake all day and promised myself that the moment the kids were asleep, I would be, too.

Now, it’s 11:40 and I’m sitting here still typing, despite the fact that the kids have been asleep for hours.

— § —

It isn’t easy to tell whether or not you’re lying to yourself. Everyone acts as though deep down, you know. In fact, you generally don’t. Your subconscious isn’t that considerate.

— § —

Though I’ve slowed the descent, I am still losing momentum. The slow drip of disappearing mojo continues. It must stop.

I have huge internal resistance to starting at the bottom of the hill and pushing the boulder upward for the long haul yet again. Huge internal resistance.

There is a large part of me that wants to just throw my hands up and forget about it. To say “this is what I am today and it’s all that I’ll ever be or do, and whatever happens will happen.”

I mustn’t allow that to stick. I need to remember the Pete Carroll quote that I put up here a day or three (or is it a week or three) ago.

I must always be willing to fight the fight. I cannot allow myself to let myself down. I have to be able to live with what I’ve made of all this on the day that I die. I don’t want to face myself and realize that I was just lazy, especially when it counted.

Work to be done.

Curses.  §

I’m getting bored reading about the election—in the mainstream press, in the niche political press, and on political blogs. Especially on political blogs.

For all the flak the press gets, the mainstream big-brand press basically understands what happens and articuates it correctly. Everyone else is off in la-la land. Sixty million racists and sexists. International conspiracies involving the FBI and NSA to hack the election. Blah, blah, blah.

Some people are trying to make these explanations stick while using the same numbers that the mainstream press are using to tell the actual story. They look like idiots.

On both sides of the aisle, they all look like idiots. And Clinton and Trump come out of this clearly looking like idiots as well.

Basically, Americans just aren’t terribly high-quality people any longer. Their educations, when they have them, appear to be crap. They weren’t listening in class. Or maybe grade inflation is finally being reflected across the political system, both in candidates and in voters. And those that don’t have educations are overcredulous and incredibly self-focused. Everyone has seen too many movies. Their entire brain is a repository for a variety of vapid blockbuster flim plots, and meanwhile, they just plain can’t math and can’t fact.

The whole thing is just plain dismal.

— § —

Which brings me to fall.

The older I get and the more I reflect on life, the public, the system, my own path, and the seconds that pass, the more I understand why the “wise elders” in any milieu always seem to detach and turn away from social life and toward the natural.

The leaves, in all their windswept, fractalic beauty, are not idiots. They are forceful, elemental, real as of course is the wind itself.

Time passes. Seasons change. Life changes.

Truth.

Yes, there is truth. Objective truth. I have come down on that side of things. Just because the idiot plebes can’t reach it and the idiot elites can’t grok it doesn’t particularly undermine it in any way.

It doesn’t empathize with us, nor does it laugh at us. It just goes on its way, no matter what the humans do, no matter what happens in the world or what forces are applied. That’s how you know it’s truth.

Money.  §

Money is tight. Like, tight. Divorce’ll do that.

— § —

Kids are money pits. They wonderful, but they do eat a lot, and they break things. Expensive things. For no reason. Scratch a $1,500 lens here, out of the blue. Stick a magnet against your $200 watch there to see what will happen, out of the blue. Break a toy and then break another toy. Squeeze the toothpaste all over the bathroom.

There’s no point doing any scolding because each case is new. It’s absolutely true that you’ve never told them not to cut a textbook up with scissors before. And you also never told them not to try to dye their clothes with markers. And so on.

You can try abstract concepts like “please try to take care of things, rather than ruin them,” but the fact is that kids don’t generally know the proper way to care for things, or at what threshold and set of characteristics a thing is called “ruined,” and there are just far too many potential cases in the average household to elaborate them all (not that they’d remember them all of you did).

It’s the school of life. The lesson not to jump up out of the blue and slam-dunk pieces of nature on your lens front element while laughing happens precisely on the occasion of this occuring. There’s no other occasion for it; that’s when it came up.

— § —

There are too many things to keep track of, too many moving parts in general in life. And too many urgent things.

It is proving difficult to advance at this stage of the game because life consists almost entirely of running around trying to keep things under control and not burning to the ground.

But it certainly doesn’t make me happy that no progress seems to be happening anywhere.

— § —

I’ve always thought that long, wavy grass was far prettier than mowed grass. Still do.

— § —

I don’t know what this blog post is about. As usual, over the course of the last couple of days I’ve had a hundred thousand things pass in one side of my head and out the other that I imagined ought to go into a blog post. And now that I’m here, I’m just plain half asleep and blank.

The end? Collapse?  §

I’m not sure how serious I am about this post, because the question is so big and so ridiculous. And at the same time, at least in the abstract, this deserves to be asked:

How long can the United States as a functioning state continue? Are we about to see a sudden collapse?

Consider.

In a two-party system with a very highly polarized population that almost universally despise (despite the protestations of self-sanity on both sides) each other, one party has refused to concede the legitimacy of the state for at least a decade already. And they have just won an election on a platform that explicitly grants legitimacy to the nation alone while effectively rejecting the state as it is currently constituted.

The opposition party has erupted into protests in the streets and the consensus is that the results of the election must not be legitimized. There must be four years of protest, the electoral college should vote against historical norms and then immediately be abolished, current leaders must not accept the new leadership, and the new government will “never be my government.” I am seeing talk all over the online sphere wondering what would happen if they simply refused to relinquish power on moral grounds.

Who, exactly, is the state’s constituency right now? What, exactly, is preserving it apart from sheer inertia and bulk?

For at least eight years, the Democratic side has been the state’s constituency. Examining the history of the last few cycles, we’d have expected the roles to flip if Republicans won—suddenly the Democratic side would refuse to accept the legitimacy of the state and suddenly the Republican side would embrace it. Only this time, the Republican side ran a new and unexpected kind of candidate—one who denies the legitimacy of the state entirely, and submits that it is the nation alone that is legitimate.

We are heading into a period in which the state will not have a legitimizing constituency, only populations on both sides that deny its legitimacy.

Call me crazy, but it seems very much as if there is very little holding the “United States of America” up. If there is a collapse, the name won’t go away—both sides are likely to engage in warfare to own the brand if the nation were to fragment somehow, all claiming to be the “real” United States government—but it won’t any longer be the same United States of America.

It is worrying. I’d suggest that liberals dial it back a little, unless there really is a desire to wind the state down. Because that is the platform that the other side ran on. If the left jumps in with both feet, too, to argue that the state should be wound down in favor of something new, then who, exactly, is working to preserve it?

Exactly no-one. And under those kinds of circumstances, change can move very swiftly, as it did for the Soviet Union.

Tired.  §

I’m tired. Seriously, I’m really tired. The last few years have been a lot. And that was right after doing a Ph.D. and moving from New York, which followed on the heels of moving to New York, which followed on the heels of rock and roll tours and doing an M.A. blah, blah.

In the space of a decade in a half I’ve lived in Salt Lake City, then Chicago, then Santa Barbara, then Goleta, then Salt Lake City, then Manhattan, then Queens, then Provo. In that span of time I’ve held twenty-one (!) different jobs at different organizations. I entered and exited three serious relationships. I got married. I got divorced. I had two kids. And this doesn’t include any of the details—long trips on the road, sometimes on a bus, sometimes in my own car(s); books written; media appearances; days in classrooms and exams given; cars bought and sold; blah, blah, blah.

It’s just been a lot of stuff. I suppose everyone’s life is like that. Crowded. Busy. But there are definitely times these days when I feel as though I want to retire, I’m ready to retire and just play golf or something. But of course I can’t. I’m not at all in a position to do that.

I need some sort of a vacation. Not like a weeklong-trip-to-Disneyland vacation, but a took-a-year-off-and-backpacked-across-Europe vacation. But I don’t know exactly how that would work. There is not a single circumstance in my life that would be conducive to that sort of thing.

But boy, am I tired.

Math and narcissism.  §

The amount of numerical illiteracy on display about the Trump outcome is driving me nuts.

The national exit poll data is wildly easy to understand at the level at which major news outlets are publishing it. It’s like something that would be on an average SAT test. It’s not rocket science. But the amount of abuse being done to the numbers is astounding. People just can’t get their heads around basic, basic numbers like percentages and percentage changes. And as a result, they think the data is telling them things (White racists swung Trump! People of color swung Clinton! Rich people swung Trump!) that are patently untrue, even with the numbers sitting right there in front of their faces.

In fact, they take these numbers to social media and share them along with their rants, and other people like and follow and agree. And here are the numbers that clearly show the opposite. It’s shocking that people can’t take two numbers printed side by side, subtract one from the other, and get an accurate answer.

People are dumb, dumb, dumb in America. Problem #1. Even 5th-grade math skills are missing.

I was wrong. I hate it.  §

A while back, I switched from a Galaxy Tab S 8.4″ to an iPad Mini, specifically to be able to use Daedalus and Ulysses again, which aren’t available on Android. Because I love those applications. I love them on iOS and I love them on the Mac. I thought it would help to boost my productivity to have access to them on both devices again.

I was wrong.

They haven’t boosted my productivity because I just plain hate the iPad Mini and iOS. This isn’t Apple hate. I was an early adopter of the original iPad, back when everyone else was making fun of it. And at the time, it was absolutely miraculous. An awesome device. And I use a Mac every single day for my work and at this point couldn’t (not just wouldn’t) switch without basically fucking up my entire life.

But the iOS thing? iOS is naff. And iOS on iPad Mini 2 is basically unusable. Let me count the ways:

  • Zero personalization, diffused flow focus on default metaphor UI
  • Dog slow (DOG SLOW) compared to my Android tablets over the last few years
  • Terrible UI accountability (Did I tap it? No way to know, when there’s this much lag and no UI hovering/hilighting)
  • Heavy
  • Bulky and way too thick
  • Touchscreen not as responsive
  • Screen much worse quality (poor color gamut, worse viewing angles compared to AMOLED)
  • Still no way to work with files
  • Highly crashy if you do anything intensive due to paltry RAM size

In short, in comparison to recent versions of Android on recent Android hardware, feels like I’ve traveled years into the past, back to when the iPad was first released. It would have been as amazing as the original iPad if this was 2010. But it’s not. And for 2016, given the competition that’s on the market, the iPad Mini 2 is absolute shit. I have been trying to rationalize, but I can’t. I hate it. When I can budget in the funds, I’m switching back to Android.

And oh, the productivity thing…

Because I hate it, I avoid it like the plague. If I’d still had my Android tablet, I’d be writing this post on it. I’d be complaining about workflow (have to start a standalone editor, save it to a file, transfer it to the desktop, blah, blah) and probably dreaming of Daedalus and/or Ulysses again and all the time and distraction they’d save me. But I’d be typing on Android.

Where am I typing? At a quad-core i7 desktop with two monitors. That is not the right place for blogging. A tablet is the right place for blogging. But I cannot stand my current tablet. I hate using it now that I’ve used Android on recent hardware, even though I love Daedalus and Ulysses (still do, at least in concept). Because the endless lag (press the home button, wait 5-7 seconds for anything to happen; pinch-zoom and the zoom takes effect 3 seconds after you remove your hand from the screen) and the incredible bulk (it’s like the difference between wearing a wristwatch and wearing an alarm clock on your arm) and the washed-out, low-contrast display just make it an unpleasant experience, even with the best apps, once you’ve had something else.

I’m sad that I sold off my Galaxy Tab S 8.4″ for this crap. I thought it was the right move, but the gains haven’t materialized. Instead, I’m stuck in the past, sitting at a desk after work in the PM hours typing at a desktop like it’s 1999.

Sorry Apple, iPad is dead. You have become IBM, at least in this space—once great and innovative and miraculous, but now pushing the equivalent of huge, 40-pound beige-and-black steel boxes with PC-DOS and OS/2 while everyone else is selling contoured PCs that fit conveniently into small spaces and run that newfangled Windows thing.

iPad Mini 2 = epic fail. Crap tablet for 2016.