Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Good, Bad, Ugly  §

To get a Ph.D. I am fighting the market and finances, the school at which I’m studying, the faculty employed there, and my family. This is what they mean when they say that as a Ph.D. student you will feel lonely and as though it is “you against the world” at times.

Only it’s not “at times” and it’s not “you’ll feel.”

It’s all the time, and it is you against the world, because a Ph.D. is the kind of project that family and bill collectors see as a frivolous luxury indulgence, and whatever identity and individuality you have is something that the Ph.D. granting people see as a threat to their own livelihood and specialness, so they, too, really wish you ill as a Ph.D. student.

It is a war, on behalf of some idealistic vision of knowledge, against all of society, all of your social networks, all of economic reality, and every subsystem of each of these. It is you fighting on behalf of a religion against the entire forces of darkness.

— § —

On other notes, better ones:

On NYC mechanic services: If you live in the New York City area and certainly if you life in western Queens and you don’t take your car to TM&T (that somehow answers the phone as “T and M” when you call) on Northern Boulevard and 42nd or so, then you are a fool. These guys are the best, most honest mechanics in New York City. And what’s more, they are proper mechanics, not technicians of the sort that are so common today and that are being chucked out by trade schools at an alarming rate. Technicians all do the same thing: (1) plug car into computer, (2) read code number from screen, (3) refer to dealer/manufacturer book for that code and replace whatever assembly is listed there, charging you $$$$$ in the process and often fixing nothing (“Oh, a new code! Guess we’ll replace some other part! Oh, a new code again!” and so on). Mechanics, on the other hand, like the guys at TM&T, actually inspect parts, apply tools to them, clean and tighten things, bend and weld things, and generally make things work.

Every time I’ve gone to TM&T I’ve been very pleased when I left. Every time I’ve gone to another NYC mechanic I’ve been tremendously dissatisfied, and I’ve tried about four others. And I’ve had TM&T do real work, things like replacing rack and pinion units and rewiring. And here’s the real rub: the most expensive bill I’ve ever had from TM&T is less than the least expensive bill I’ve ever had from another NYC mechanic. Don’t be put off by the fact that these guys are so swamped it takes than 20 minutes to answer the phone. There’s a reason they’re so damned popular.

On SquareTrade: I’ve been buying SquareTrade warranties for a while now whilst also crossing my fingers, not knowing whether their service actually lived up to the hype or whether I was blowing my money away like so many soap bubbles by a four-year-old. Well, now I know. SquareTrade is awesome. My LiveScribe Pulse pen, nearly two years old, decided to develop serious screen issues, not as a result of physical damage, but (most likely) some soldering or component defect that left it full of swaths of bright light where there should be none and utter blackness where information ought to have been readable. So I filed a claim with LiveScribe. They ruled on the claim without even having seen the device, sent a return label for UPS by email, then sent me reimbursement for the purchase price the moment the UPS label showed in the tracking system as having been sent. They didn’t wait until it arrived and they had a chance to test it out against my complaint. They didn’t even wait just until it arrived to see whether I’d sent a bag of rocks or a rubber chicken (I hadn’t). They just sent the money, electronically, right away based on my claim and the receipt that they had on file. I was able to log right back onto Amazon.com and buy a replacement with the cash immediately. A fabulous service.

— § —

Yes, I am getting Ph.D. student burnout. But it’s not just about the Ph.D. That’s the sad thing. It’s really about all of society, the disconnection from family and friends, etc. When you hear the discussions you always assume it’s because people just can’t handle the workload or just can’t stand to be in front of an audience of students any longer, but at least in my case, it’s about being too weary to continue to defend your choice to get a Ph.D. in the face of all the forces in society that just don’t value it. It’s nothing to do with the academic or intellectual requirements and/or your own work ethic and everything to do with feeling like you’re tired of offending people, of being the contrarian, and so on.


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