Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

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.