Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Yearly Archives: 2007

overture  §

fuck usa
fuck the president
fuck all you white wasp asses
who never made me feel welcome
who called me a chink
and a gook

i have never once felt welcome in this country
and now i feel less welcome than ever

in the core of my being i am not white
not protestant
not american

i am the other
i am the inevitable
permanent
threatening
inscrutable
other

the
other

the
other

the word of the day is ‘renounce’
which to some minds has the same tenor as ‘traitor’

Strange Saturday  §

I’m on my way to work. It has been a strange Saturday in some undefinable way that I don’t quite like. For some weeks now life has seemed so entirely comfortable and familiar. Today it feels as though a strange and vaguely forbidding sensibility creeps inward at the edges of reality.

My wife can feel it, too, I think. She says it’s stress about the coming semester, and I think she’s right. For a long time we have had a fairly well-established routine and things to look forward to in the very near future—first living together and then Poland and then getting a dog and an apartment and then visiting Salt Lake City and getting married and then our first Christmas together. Now with the end of the semester the well-established routine has given way to entirely undefined schedules and at the same time the only thing to work toward in the immediate future is our graduate exam on the first of March, which lacks the lighthearted sheen of our previous benchmarks.

I think we are about to encounter the “early year malaise” that strikes so often during January and February.

Meantime, yes, I am going to work in an empty office on the Saturday before the New Year. Then tomorrow I’ll be working at home on the Sunday before the new year.

Anthropology  §

is perhaps the wisest and most insightful of all the social sciences, despite what the others might say or how they might feel. And it is of utmost importance that one never lose sight of the wisdom of anthropology if one is to really know what is going on at any given moment, in any given place.

Holiday over :-/  §

Our Christmas was, in a word, lovely. I couldn’t have imagined beforehand just how simple, quiet, and amazing a Christmastime can be, but now that it’s passing (or even has passed) into history, it will live in memory as one of my favorite holiday seasons ever. It has been good for the soul, good for what ailed us.

Downside is that all of that holiday junk food is making me feel both sluggish and heavy. I guess it’s time to get back to a nice, healthy diet and regular routine. Nothing like the basics to clear out a head full of hazy lazy holiday niceness.

New year, new computer. I’ve just finished (well, “finished” being a relative term) setting up the replacement for the Thinkpad T30 that fell victim to the infamous memory socket design flaw beyond my ability to save it.

I’ve gone with a Toshiba Portege 3500. That’s right, one of those subnotebook “tablet PC” systems with a single, multidirectional hinge in the center of the bottom edge of the display. My first impressions are that it’s fragile. I don’t know if this thing is going to hold up. It just gives off the air of something that wanted to be designed a little more ruggedly, though I suppose if that had happened it’s raison d’etre would have dissipated into air.

But nonetheless, I fully expect this thing to get loose and creaky really damn soon. The display is already a bit floppy (it came very floppy but I opened it up first thing and tightened the hinges). It’s very cute, but I just don’t know if it’ll hold up through dozens of pages of typing and a few trips to the school in a backpack, much less hundreds of pages of typing and multiple daily subway trips for months on end. It seems more gadget and less workhorse than I’m used to, even though it is very cool to have a Wacom digitizer on your screen and the ability to use it like a slate-shaped webpad.

Everything works in Linux except screen rotation thus far. Even the pressure-sensitive input on the digitizer. We’ll see about rotation later, depending on how often and how much I feel like I want to use this thing in tablet mode.

We are grappling with governments or even entire nations these days. We have done the socially unthinkable and violated borders in the most fundamental of ways, creating family ties across culture, language, ocean, and nationality. The world is still only partially ready for this at best, and very suspicious of it to boot, as is evidenced by the thousands of dollars in fees, hundreds of forms to be submitted and processed in locations on both continents, and months and months of tense waiting time that are involved.

The feeling exuded by “the system” as you stand before it is that transnationality is a kind of terrorist plot. I suppose that with respect to a ruling ideology it really rather is. But that is where we are and what we have chosen.

It’s a slow, gray, dark day in New York… the kind of day that seems appropriate to follow Christmas. Nothing moves, nothing starts, nothing can happen. It’s as though the day itself structurally precludes event-ness to give us all some time to rest.

Now we await all of those holidays that are to come. 😉

Christmas Eve  §

The year is drawing to a close and as always, for its final week the world is a swirl of lights and music and food. Everything is beautiful; everything is just as I would have it. This holiday is really illuminating what has been an unforgettable, dream-worthy year. Until now, anyone who asked has heard me answer that 1979 was the best year of my life. No longer true; the best year of my life has been, without a doubt, 2007. I have to go now and enjoy the rest of it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everybody.

Things and thoughts  §

It is almost Christmas, but we don’t have time to think about that right now. Papers to write. Tons and tons of papers, it seems like, even though it’s just a few. It’s funny—you get older and what you see as “your career” begins to hinge more and more on every last little thing that you do and pretty soon you are spending an awful lot of time on little things, trying to make each one of them perfect, failing most of the time while you’re at it, but spending the time nonetheless.

I guess it’s not that funny. It’s the way things work. But it’s also true that for me a 25 or 30 pages of “write a paper” used to be a sort of one-day deal, especially when I was an advanced undergrad. I just thought other people were slow. Now it takes me weeks to write a single paper and I’m constantly worried about issues like applicability, completeness, weaknesses in argument and evidence, topicality, nuanced use of language, etc.

I guess you just get more serious as you get older.

Taught my last class of the semester yesterday. It was a nice bunch of kids, I’m going to miss teaching them. It’s very rewarding to see people develop and learn—to see light bulbs go off over heads and to hear about the projects and goals that young people have.

I completely understand why veteran teachers say that teaching keeps them young—it’s like youth concentrate to be surrounded by intense young people all the time trying to figure out what to do with their lives. It also brings to the fore all of your own experiences on a reasonably constant basis, so that you feel almost as though you’re re-living your own life in the background a lot of the time.

It’s suddenly a bit sad that I won’t be teaching next semester. I will, however, be taking major exams and working on putting together a committee and the capital P in my “Ph.D.” so that I can get on with research and writing in earnest.

My mom always uses the phrase “stage of life” when she’s talking about things like work and personal time. “It’s a new stage of life you’re entering,” or “that stage of life is over for you.” I guess I always thought it was a bit overwrought, but right now it does feel very much as though this year has been about entering a “new stage of life.”

Everything is at the same time more serious than it ever was before and also deeper, more meaningful. I am married. I have a home and a dog and an identity, much more than I ever have before. I am about to leave the realm of “student” and enter the realm of “teacher.” It’s a lot to take in. It’s been a long time in coming.

They say that people live transparently, that you don’t really feel all of the things that are changing about you on a day-to-day basis, but I have to say that I think that’s nonsense, at least in some situations, because I can absolutely feel my life being radically transformed.

I am indeed entering a “new stage of life.”

On a more quotidian note, two bottles of Puretronics flux cleaner arrived in the mail today to try to help me deflux my T30, which I like very much but on which I had to conduct rather serious soldering repairs to the tune of 288 surface mount joints and which has had “surplus flux” problems ever since resulting in lots of time cleaning circuit boards with toothbrushes trying to get it off and lots of time reseating SODIMMs and recovering from freeze-ups due to bad memory contacts.

So… I took of the memory panel and sprayed those damn repeatedly oversoldered memory sockets but good with flux cleaner. The thing booted up okay afterward and we’ll hope that that’s the end of the story. It does seem less sticky all around than it was, so maybe it is finally actually “fixed,” this T30 problem I’ve been having almost since the moment I got back from Poland.

On a more abstract note, it is not enough to know. It is easy to know. It is necessary also to communicate. It is not easy to communicate. That is the job of the academic. Many know. It would be a conceit to assume that there aren’t many who know. The issue is that there aren’t many who know that can also communicate, and thereby hope to inform the rest.

That is where we come in. That’s the hardest part of our job, whether verbally or in writing (which is perhaps the hardest part of the hardest part). But it’s definitely rewarding.

I like being an academic. I finally begin to feel as though I can use that term in reference to myself without seeming to be just a bit above myself.

It’s a nice feeling.

A lot of life this year has been a nice feeling, dammit.

Nonsense late at night  §

It is late and I have been trying to write. If I write thirty-two pages of utter nonsense, does it get me a coupon for a free mint TGIF or anything?

Speaking of, I am craving salt. It’s funny that you can’t satisfy a salt craving by eating salt but rather only by eating other things totally slathered in salt. Grease wouldn’t go amiss, either. I could murder a pile of onion rings right now, which are of course the last thing in the universe my heart or the rest of me actually needs.

The first thing in the universe my heart or the rest of me actually needs is some sleep but that’s not coming for a few more minutes so consider this to be a seriously missed opportunity to get a jump on good health.

The counter is lined with cute little jars, except for one big one with a large metal scoop which is full of rice. If you cook rice right, it doesn’t quite stick together but it doesn’t quite stay separate, either.

That’s the zen of rice.

Cognac is like a posh kind of brandy. I think. I’m not actually sure. I don’t have any idea about that kind of stuff, I suppose in my conceit I think it’s for the bourgeois.

Mythomaniacs do it better.
Sociology is for lovers.
My other car is a Fiat.
I break for turnstiles that lock me out because of expired metrocards.
Tora! Tora! Tora!

My laptop has a touchpad in addition to a trackpoint, which is why I keep accidentally tapping my cursor around to other windows in the middle of my paper typing, which is in turn why tonight I got a hammer and put it with full force through the center of the closed lid, spraying liquid crystal and shards of broken keys and plastic everywhere in the kitchen.

Just kidding.

But sometimes the touchpad annoys me.

Christmas is really lovely. I wish I had more time to enjoy it, rather than sitting here writing papers all night. Also, I’ve realized that I have rather a large number of poetry volumes. Well, maybe not relative to a poet laureate or the New York Public Library, but relative, for example, to anyone who has no poetry volumes at all.

It would be very nice indeed to sit down and read poetry for the next fifteen or so days until Christmas. That is not, however, likely to happen at all. In any way.

Oh well.

But Christmas is really lovely nonetheless.

And we are gonna go ice skating.

And now I am gonna go to bed because otherwise this damned stupid post will go on even farther, which must not be allowed to happen.

There is a naturally heightened aggressiveness  §

intrinsic to the state of being a man. This aggressiveness is often found to be undesirable, but I for one often revel in it and do not apologize for it. Eat, as they say, my dust. And if you find me to be threatening, perhaps you should crawl under a bench.

Insecurity  §

Something vaguely unsettling is in the air. No idea what it is or what it means.

It’s gonna be a tough day, I see.

It’s been common since I was little  §

to hear Americans say “democracy and capitalism may not be perfect, but they’re the best systems invented yet!”

What they didn’t make clear, of course, is just what they are the best systems for achieving. They mean of course that democracy and capitalism are the best systems for guaranteeing that personal liberty and individual freedom will not be abolished entirely from society.

“Give me liberty or give me death!” says the so-called “founding father,” with this statement elaborating one of the greatest paradoxes ever spoken and prophesying unwittingly of the reason for man’s destiny to exceed carrying capacity.

None seem to anticipate or understand, of course, what the world still refuses to face: on a small planet covered with seven billion people on an exponential growth curve, liberty is death.

Your freedom is the death of the species. People must not be free.

Call it a philosophical problem if you wish. And remember that as the population continues to grow and we literally begin to run out of breathable oxygen as we clear more and more oxygen-producing foliage for food while as an exponentially growing population we continue to consume more and more oxygen while exhaling carbon dioxide that suffocates us. Forgetting about global warming. And energy. And pollution. And warfare. And limits on natural resources in a world dominated by the ethos of private property.

Your freedom will carry you all to your graves.

“In a Republican administration, your money will be safely protected by our pocketbooks, just as the founding fathers intended. In a Democratic administration, your children will be forced by a socialized system to have gay abortions performed by Osama Bin Laden, without any hope of ever having a Christmas again!”

It’s time  §

for a big, long blog post. It’s been a while since I made one, I think, and so many things are going on and have happened that it’s beginning to feel as though I’ll never catch up.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my dog at my side looking out the window at snow falling in New York. One of the neighbors in the building is playing Christmas music. I can’t make out any words, but there’s just enough rise and fall and rhythm and melody to what I can hear to fill the morning unmistakably with the feel of the holidays. It’s warm and cheerful, despite my slight sniffle. It could even be called lovely or festive.

The slight sniffle was actually a hell of a sniffle just a couple of days ago and still seems continually to threaten to turn into something larger. My lovely wife is, I think, less recovered than I and is taking it easy this morning trying to shake the damn thing off.

It is a wonderful thing to be married. It is an even more wonderful thing, I suspect, to be married to the same person twice. The Poland wedding is still on, still the “main event” at which the families will meet. But we have indeed done something a bit earlier in Salt Lake City, place of places, so they say.

There is so very much to do in my “real” life, my non-couples life, and yet every day seems a little bit more subordinate to and less important than my life as half of a couple, our life as two people trying to work our ways through this little corner of history with two families and a dog along for the ride.

It is actually quite tough right now to return to the routine. Coughing and fevers make it difficult of course, but even if we’d returned in perfect health I suspect we’d be sitting here wasting time and talking by the window rather than doing what needs to be done.

Real life will, of course, establish its ascendancy once more. After all, bills have to be paid. Jobs have to be kept. Work must be done, or you’ll find yourself living (or dying) on the street. But for the moment, even with eyes glued shut by illness and noses as red as they come, we are enjoying our brief view from the apex, from the top of the mountain, the top of the world, together. We’ll soon fall back into the hills and valleys of the everyday, but we’ll hopefully make it back to the top at least once more in August, perhaps even a higher peak than this (already very impressive) one.

I suppose I have to go now. There are stacks of papers to be graded, final papers to give input on, lessons to prepare, readings for my own classes to do, multiple (in some cases overdue) papers to write, articles to come up with, bills to pay, hours at work to prepare for… In fact, there is no possible way to catch up, no human way at all even when healthy, so there’s nothing for it but to get to work and start at the beginning and see how far I get.

Probably a few things will break. That’s okay. We’ll fix that shit together, one day at a time.

Thanksgiving break :-)  §

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I totally forgot until just now that I have a blog.

Here’s what I did over Thanksgiving break:

– Drive across the country from New York to Salt Lake City in three days
– Get married
– Eat a lot
– Drive back across the country from Salt Lake City to New York

That’s right, get married.

There’s one more wedding in Poland next year, but I am already the happiest man alive.

There’s nothing else to add. Life is quite simply a damn beautiful thing.

😉

NEVER TAKE THE MONEY.  §

It destroys your ability to be fair. It destroys your ability to be honest. It puts you in a very particular sort of position: the position of having to agree, whether or not you happen to agree.

This is a lesson that politicians, most famously, have failed to learn, but it appears that I may have failed to learn it also.

Be careful, children; it is easy to sell your soul without meaning to do so. This is the nature of the free market—of markets of any kind. In order to avoid doing it, you must always actively work against the possibility; it is not enough to passively wait for the opportunity to turn down offers to buy it. They won’t arrive by post, after all; they will enter your house like Nosferatu, and once you open the door, they have been invited.

The rewards are immediate, if unexpected, and they are also seductive; the bill, which arrives later, can no longer be negotiated.

You are owned.

Academics can either be a futile campaign against innumerable windmills or simple whorism. The former is noble, if a bit stupid; the latter is base. I pursue the former precisely because I am an idiot, and a generally agreeable one at that. I wish to avoid the latter precisely because I do not wish to be a whore.

Sometimes  §

I get lost in a kind of fascination with China. It is a kind of foreign self for me.

And it is an emerging superpower. And it claims to be successfully maintaining a communist/capitalist hybrid. And it had the printing press and paper money hundreds of years before the west. And they make everything we use, every day.

I think I feel as though people in the old world must have felt about the U.S. during its emergence in the 19th and early 20th centuries… The sense that the global balance of power is shifting, and that these people, to whom I am in some way vaguely linked, are the next gravity center of humanity.

Language projects, which have been a part of my “gotta do it, somehow (but dammit probably won’t)” canon since way back in my undergrad anthropology days, are calling to me once again. I have to learn Chinese and Polish. Polish and Chinese.

Just over a week now. 😉

We are up to our ears  §

in subprime at work. We have been for months now. This financial crisis has been growing and not only do we watch it every day, we ingest it, play with it, make friends with it, know it inside and out.

Ladies and gentlemen, I suspect we are going to have a wee depression. Times will be very tough. Things in the world markets are very bad and for some time now every story out of the financial press is the same. The basic question is not if, but when.

When is it all going to collapse?

Some days I sit here and feel like a dead man walking in relation to the economy. I wonder if we are all, as middle class people, going to be like corpses: stuck in exactly the position we were in when it happened, unable to move, unable to grow, in a state of total powerlessness, with no options left, having lost.

I suspect we are going to have a wee depression. Or at least a very, very big recession.

Buy what you need now, because it’s gonna get way more expensive over the next ten years, while your wages don’t get any higher at all—in fact, you’ll be thanking the stars if you can hang onto the job you’ve got at the wages you currently earn.