Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: April 2016

Things.  §

  • The root cause of a huge amount of trouble in life and in relationships is that we’re not completely honest. We try generously to protect others’ feelings, or to protect ourselves from others’ reactions to our own thoughts and feelings, and in so doing, we paradoxically end up in a place that is, in effect, selfish and perilous—as humans actually are incapable of not being entirely honest forever. Eventually, it all comes out anyway—but the longer it’s been hiding, the more damage it does.
     
  • The problem with honesty is that honesty takes time. Feelings and thoughts are nuanced and complicated things. In the modern world of long workdays, busy family lives, social media and texts, there is a practical limit to what can be conveyed. It may be implausible to be completely honest; simple time means that you have to prioritize what gets said. Being “as honest as possible” thus becomes a skill, not just of courage, but also of judgment, to be learned over the course of a lifetime.

Okay, stop. Maybe not just “things,” like so many other posts before. Maybe I am about to make a stupid list when I should have an equally stupid but real ramble.

— § —

Yes, I need to start a ramble. May whatever god exists and whatever people I love forgive me for an uncontrolled ramble. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, and that feels dangerous. But I’ll be damned if I couldn’t do with more rambling and less parsing in my life.

This blog has been here for an awfully, awfully long time, only it hasn’t at the same time, because for a long time, I fragmented it—spread it across many domains, kept parts of it offline, hid some entires from search engines, and so on—to try to protect myself from consequences—to manipulate the world, in a sense. But the fact is, everything that’s here is something I’ve thought or felt at some time, and there are many things I’ve thought or felt at some time that aren’t even here, which, if I’m totally honest, is a kind of sin against myself (even if posting something counterproductive to other goals in my life on a given day would also have been a kind of sin against myself—hinting at complexities in this ramble that are likely yet to come).

Unifying the blog and putting it all online were huge steps for me, enabled only by the personal recklessness that deep sadness at my separation from my wife inspired. But I’ll go a step further—the fact is that right now at least, I do think that I need to say more here, not less, and to say some of the things that I say here in real life, not just in writing.

The temptation to walk backward is always there. Just earlier today, I had a moment of terror thinking about the consequences of putting this all online finally in one easily accessible, searchable place for all to finally see without obfuscation or effort. What if so-and-so reads it? What if my employer finds out? Future employers?

For a brief moment, I actually contemplated rushing back to The Machine (the oversized personal computer that is my own personal form of phallic overcompensation) and taking it all back offline again.

Can you imagine?

No.

Just no.

I’m forty years old. My life is half over. My wife veers between hating me and being at best vaguely fond of me right now. My career trajectory is entirely off track. Most of all, I am struggling to keep my head above water because it feels as if I am getting nowhere.

And the reason I so often feel as if I am getting nowhere is because if you can’t be honest about things then in fact you do not exist. Nobody knows who you are, least of all yourself [1]. Any attention, any accolades, any relationships that you have do not reach your heart at all, because in fact they are attention given to, accolades for, or relationships with, someone that is not, in actuality, you. I knew this once, and then—sadly—I forgot. And that is the most fundamental truth in my life right now. As some point, I forgot.

The only way to get love out of the universe is to, first, be yourself. If the universe then hates you, so be it. But maybe, just maybe, some part of the universe will love you. If you aren’t yourself, if you aren’t honest about everything, about who you are, what you think, what you’ve thought, who you’ve been, what you want, what you’re doing—then you are catastrophically alone; the reality of you is cut off from the rest of the universe and nothing at all, positive or negative, can reach the actual you. So it all becomes academic anyway.

Footnote [1]: Fact is, I was much healthier, and knew much better, in 2006, when I was (not coincidentally) much more open and honest with myself and the world about what I thought and felt. Getting married and having kids can cause you to do stupid things like get conservative and try to protect things by putting up a “do the right thing always” front. Mistake.

— § —

Right now in my life I am caught between all sorts of forces (let’s be honest, all sorts of internal allegiances to external things and ideas) that are pulling me in a million different directions. Marriage and wife. Kids. Career. Job. Self (let’s not forget loyalty to self). World. Time. Friends. Family. And on and on. A million different ways to try to “do the right thing” and a million different risks of “doing the wrong thing” by and for myself and in fact, I am having trouble sorting them all out.

What do I want? For real?

Not that this is a failure on my part. Everyone lives with this, even in much more boring circumstances. Every fucking person.

The heroes are people who manage to approximate something retrospectively akin, in the post-hoc analysis, to “listening to themselves, exposing themselves completely, and taking action toward what they want.” But this is deceptively difficult to achieve; it is a learned skill, and it is not straightforward because (as my own life demonstrates) what can seem entirely clear one moment can seem terribly incorrect the next.

This blog isn’t here because it’s “my therapist” but because it’s the closest I’ve ever achieved to being cumulatively and retrospectively honest with myself and the world, an ongoing project, but a worthwhile one in any life. Gotta start somewhere. Gotta take the steps where you can. These are my best steps so far.

— § —

Right now I spend a lot of time feeling catastrophic sorrow and regret over the decisions that I made and the actions that I took last year.

I spend less time, but still some time, feeling a kind of opposite thing—as though I have let myself down many times in the past and feeling—not resentment or anger or indignation, exactly, but a kind of frustration that somehow at the end of the day the larger, very sorry and regretful part of me always beats other part of me into submission. Well things don’t just come out of nowhere. Do they? There is a part of me that wants me to take better care of me and my needs than I have done in recent years. Maybe that’s a good way to put it.

In fact, like everyone else on earth, I spend some of my time conflicted and life is tough and sometimes you seriously fuck up but people are fucking complicated beings and love is pure, but it is also complex in its effects and it is rarely, if ever, entirely innocent in them. Perhaps tiny infants can love in entirely and always harmless ways. I don’t believe that anyone else can. No, for the adults love does both good and bad to all, usually more good than bad, and it is what it is, beautiful, pure, and also unpredictable and vaguely dangerous.

That is, in fact, what life is. Beautiful, pure, but also unpredictable and vaguely dangerous.

There is no way around it.

Trying to find a way around it is folly.

And yet that’s what we all do, day after day—following rules, being polite, protecting others, protecting ourselves—all euphemisms for trying to affect reality, to achieve some sort of control in the interest of “good,” but of course it’s always our good because we live inside our own skin and our judgements are ours, and any attempt to deny this is simply deflection.

— § —

Two dangers:

  1. That if I keep typing, I end up at nihilism.
  2. That if I keep typing, I end up at facile, adolescent embarrassment, if I’m not there already.

I’d like to say that I resolve to tell the truth all the time, but in fact the truth of any human self is more subject to daily variation than we like to admit.

The “in the moment” people will say that telling the truth is as easy as living in the moment—say what you feel now. If you love something now, say so. If you don’t love something now, say so. That works well enough for things, but it’s harsh to people.

Most people have had the experience of living the yo-yo somewhere in their dating life. You love me! I’m in heaven! Oh, you hate me. I’m not. Wait, you love me again, I’m in heaven! Is that any way to treat people? I don’t like it when it happens to me and I don’t like the idea of doing it to other people. Plus, I do tend to believe the wisdom which says that if you hate someone, then the fact is that you love them in some way, as love is the prerequisite of hate.

Some families of wisdom say that you shouldn’t feel affected by others’ feelings, that everyone should own their own feelings without regard to others’ feelings. “What does it matter if they love you? If you love them, live in your truth and tell them!” But of course if you love them, and telling you love them is going to hurt them, isn’t that an unresolvable paradox, since love implies the desire not to hurt?

Moreover, if love is purely a function of the giver alone, then what is the purpose of giving it in the first place? Just to express yourself before you die, with no greater purpose than that? Isn’t that the definition of nihilism?

I suppose I have to end here.

— § —

But I should make more posts like this one. More like some of the posts that I used to make. More, in fact, like some of the posts that just a bit earlier today I very mistakenly thought about deleting.

Because nihilism or not, what is the point of even being in the world if you’re just going to keep it all inside yourself forever until you die, nobody to know you and you to share nothing with anyone? Maybe it’s late at night, but in fact right now repression sounds rather the same as suicide—if you’re going to do it, your existence is, in fact, null.

— § —

One thing is certain, as a weird and mostly unrelated but not entirely unrelated aside—no matter how I feel at the moment, whether I’m in the sorrow-and-deep-regret phase or the less common indignation phase—there is no time that I have felt strongly that I want my marriage to end, and in fact almost all of my time has been dedicated to the very strong feeling that I want it to survive and thrive, and that I miss the person with whom I used to share my days.

Perhaps that gives a bit of an opening—the truth can change, yes—but you can tell something by the range of truth that you feel, and the bases that it covers.

I may think one day that I am a photographer at heart and another day that I am an academic at heart and another day that my mission in life is to flee to South America and open a dive bar under a new name, but I never think of myself as a born salesman or as a natural ballroom dance instructor. That, at least, hints at another level of truth that I am still struggling to figure out.

Maybe that’s where a word like “honesty” can begin to make some coherent sense. Who knows.

Movement.  §

So I’ll admit it. Between marital separation (and related support costs) and student loan debt and trying to do my part to raise two children, I find myself in pretty serious financial waters. None of this is new for me; anyone born into a middle-class-or-lower family in the United States knows that this station comes with some financial stress to begin with, and that being a newly married graduate student having babies is even less likely to be a picnic. Add to that now the costs accumulated costs of legal nonsense and the monthly expenses of separation and I’m in deep snowdrifts, even with a reasonable middle-class income.

I’m not generally one to stress out or lose sleep, but this morning since about 3:00 am I’ve found myself laying awake and thinking. How do I make this all work?

As is usual, I’m fighting the length of the runway. This has been a durable trope in my life. I build up a particular position, and then—in the interest of trying to grow—I overshoot it to some extent, not unlike the concept of leverage in finance. In a sense, I “live beyond my means” but the “beyond my means” part is in the interest of arriving somewhere new and better with higher income and career potential after the fact. The “runway” metaphor speaks to the fact that with each new position and the overshooting that follows, my immediate situation is unsustainable without some further growth. The big picture looks something like this:

Position -> Operate in the red in the interest of new position -> New position -> Repeat

So as usual, I’m operating in the red. And that means that the status quo has an expiration date; there are only two ways to avoid catastrophe. One is to give up (and this means on virtually everything, a kind of catastrophic legal and personal giving up that writes all of life off and implies “starting again” from scratch as just a human body) and the other is to take the “next step” and achieve a new status quo at better title/higher income/increased prospects, at which point the new status quo becomes the default position.

Yes, it’s a way of pushing myself. It’s always been there; it’s the only way I know how to live. Swim or die.

— § —

But the long and short of all of this is that I am, as always, speeding down a runway of definite length. If I reach the end of the runway before either stopping or taking off, I crash. And at this moment, crash is only maybe six months off (if that). So, as has happened so many times before in my life, I need a strategy.

Laying awake this morning, unable to sleep, I finally gave up and declared the day open so that I could sit down and begin to work on one (yet again). There have been maybe four to five times in my life when I’ve done this in earnest—when I’ve said “it’s now or never, do or die, sit down and strategize about how you’re going to survive and thrive in the months and years to come.”

Each time it’s worked out well.

Hopefully this time it will as well, because the consequences of failure are bigger than they have ever been before. While I won’t go into details, there are some general principles that are worth mentioning:

  • Actively and pragmatically pursue progress, in concrete steps, every day
  • Productize my knowledge, experience, and identity
  • Remember that little things together add up to a lot
  • Go as far as is humanly possible toward balancing the books
  • Surrender on “lifelong dreams” until the next position is achieved
  • Think independently and entrepreneurially
  • Move on multiple proposed fronts at once, to provide a margin of error
  • Act wisely and with discipline
  • Maintain perspective and don’t panic

There are smart people out there that solve and/or overcome problems like the ones I’m facing all the time. I like to think that I’m one of them, but smart is as smart does. We’ll see. Meanwhile, it’s time to move into an “action posture” for the foreseeable future. I can’t afford to sit here and muse about the meanings and future of things any longer.

Once again, it’s time to put on my “maniacal courage suit” and act.

Keep the faith.  §

You have to keep the faith. You have to continue to take risks. You can’t get conservative and decide that you’re just going to protect your current position.

Because in the world in which we live, there is no way to stand pat; merely protecting your current position is a sure way to lose it.

Go for the jugular, always. Go for the win, always.

If you lose, at least you lost trying. The only way you can leverage your gifts, talents, and skills is if you put them on the line. You’re either going forward or backward. There is no happy middle.

You have to have faith in yourself, and the flipside of course is that you also have to live up to the faith that you have in yourself. Those are the two halves of progress, and of happiness. You’ve got to have them both.

Greatness.  §

The one thing guaranteed to bring tears to my eyes every time is to see greatness—to see someone doing something nobly, beautifully, at the outer limits of what is possible for anyone, and at the absolute apex of what is possible for themselves.

Humanity can be very ugly, but in those moments when individual humans achieve greatness without affectation and with a generosity of spirit, humanity is amazingly beautiful.

When I see someone achieving greatness before my very eyes, I just plain lose it.

Axiom.  §

Any attempt to perfect the world, or to perfect justice, invariably destroys both.

Political discomfort.  §

I remain politically uncomfortable as a voter in the United States two-party system.

I find the Democratic party to be too married to (and increasingly comprising) so-called “Social Justice Warriors” whose oversimple morality and intellectual laziness is often counterproductive to the real search for justice, which hangs on an object whose nature has been debated in diverse philosophical and ethics literatures for thousands of years. These to the exclusion of those that are concerned with the more world-critical problems of environmental and social systems and state, of wealth distribution and inequality, of the administration of society and the provision of a social safety net. Today’s Democratic party reminds me far too much of the mobs of campus twenty-somethings that are on the rove today in search of “microaggressions” to denounce.

Meanwhile, the Republican party is simply infantile and petulant. In theory, there ought to be something to the notion that there is much to be lauded and conserved in civilization and society, and thus, something to the notion of conservatism itself, with the practicable question being just what the proper threshold is in each dimension and on each issue. But in fact the Republican party seems to have fallen victim to an even more oversimple morality and even more slothful forms of intellectual laziness, and has become little more than a club of malcontents who identify with one another based on a few now pat “positions” that are in truth mere contrarian slogans, bizarre fantasies about the blissful human past, and petulant pokes at those who aren’t members of the club.

Who, meanwhile, is going to focus on matters of state and society, of environment and progress, of resource distribution and allocation, of the general administration of the social apparatus?

Nobody. Nobody is sincerely discussing, much less selling, such questions and issues to the electorate as primary or even as meaningful. It appears that the electorate has no appetite (or perhaps no knowledge) of these things that, in fact, inform the natures their future lives far more than others. Democracy has become impotent because the citizen has in general become blind to the very existence of the polis as an conceptualizable object.

Meanwhile, voters like me hold loosely to the Democratic party for lack of a better practicable alternative, wishing all the while that someone would try to actually steer this boat and keep it from taking on water. But for the moment, the task of the day appears to be for the passengers on the boat to organize themselves into cliques and to denounce one another for their manners, habits, prejudices, and affiliations.

Meh.

Double meh.

— § —

Punditry, analysis, and public discourse have become similarly inane.

There was a time when we could hear Christopher Hitchens debate William F. Buckley, Jr. Whatever one thought of the ideas, the debate was nuanced, historical, and stimulating.

Now we are stuck with the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Kristina vanden Heuvel, who are both equal parts pious and facile.

Drudgery. Blech.

Sunday.  §

“You shouldn’t let poets lie to you.”
         — Björk

— § —

Too much. I have reached the saturation point in reading psychological literature. It is time for me to take a break.

I have learned a great deal, but would hesitate to talk much more about it here. And that hesitation is the basic crux of any maladjustment problems that I personally might have. I suppose at some level, I’ve always known it; that’s why this blog has always been such a touchstone for me.

It is the venue in which I work out my relationship to any negative feelings about life that I have, and in which I can observe either how far toward repressing these negative feelings or how far toward reactively overexpressing them (a swinging pendulum with which many are familiar) I am during a given phase of my life.

During repressing, the blog looks too neutral and detached, yet I’m afraid to use it honestly, so it doesn’t communicate everything about me that I wish I could communicate to the world. In other words, during repressing, the blog becomes a paradoxical way of silencing myself, reflective of the way that I silence myself in real life.

During overexpressing, the blog is a wild roller-coaster, yet when people compare it to me, they say that they don’t get why my blog is so out there but I seem well-adjusted and regular. In other words, during overexpressing, the blog becomes an split-off-from-real-life venue into which I toss extremes of positivity and negativity that I suspect aren’t quite right.

In the middle of the two extremes, the blog represents me more or less accurately, is moderately positive or negative at appropriate times, and more or less reflects how I interact with and relate to people in real life on a day-to-day basis in more or less healthy honesty, and with a more or less integrated self.

It’s kind of like a slow-moving health gauge that can’t be rationalized away. “How am I doing?”

Right now, the pendulum has swung toward repressing, and it has been there for some time—probably since around 2008 or 2009.

I can see this (and have for some time) but I can’t overcome it yet. But one of the things the blog also does is give me a venue of possibility in which to work on it, on any given day.

— § —

The happiest and healthiest periods of my life have been just after launching large, self-directed, self-expressive projects in new environmental and social contexts. (Both stints in graduate school and the final “get it done” year as an undergraduate are obvious examples of these phases in my life.) I invariably thrive in these for a while, make many new friends, experience flow and joy and world-openness, and am massively creative, smart, and productive. Then, I tend to get bogged down, narrowing my world to just one or two people and just a few details and from there things tend to go wrong, and my creativity, productivity, and fulfillment also tend to collapse.

“Healthiest” in this case does not just refer to cognitive or emotional life, but to physical life as well. During these high points in my life, I have been the most comfortable in my own skin, and have felt the clearest integration between physiological states and cognitive-emotional states.

— § —

Right now I’d say that I’m mostly okay and things are going pretty pretty well, but I am still struggling to climb toward “my best and happiest me” once again—to find my mojo once again.

Hopefully that will come, but it’ll probably take a year or three.

But I do have to take a break from reading for a little while. It starts to make a person dizzy.

Myers-Briggs.  §

I know that many people are wary of personality testing and its dubious empirical bases, yet I’ve always found something very compelling about the MBTI assessment and its personality typing. I find it to be intuitively persuasive, and to resonate with me, both in terms of my own “typings” and in terms of the typings of people I’ve known and loved.

It’s time for me to ask a tough question that I’ve wanted to avoid.

When I arrived in New York in 2006, I was a clear INFP and had always been a clear INFP, since my pre-teen days when I’d first taken the assessment at the University of Utah during a summer academy for kids.

Yet today I am an INTP. Feeling has given way to thinking.

Why?

This period roughly corresponds to:

  • My marriage
  • My time as a “serious” academic
  • My time as a real “careerist”
  • My time as a parent

The change wouldn’t necessarily be a problem but for the fact that I have the nagging feeling that it’s inauthentic. That the “real” me is still that NF type, intuitive-feeling, not the NT type that is highly rational and lives in his head.

In short, I can’t help but feel that over the last decade, my life and myself have become a series of rationalizations and a sphere of rationalization.

I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel right.

From the list above, I suspect that marriage and career are the things that led to where I am today. In some sense, I think I tried to “do what was expected of me” and this demanded a much more rational approach to life, as well as the development of an impulse to rationalize away my deeper feelings and impulses beneath a veneer of responsibility and unemotionality.

Anyone that takes a look at the seventeen years of this blog knows that I am not (traditionally) an unemotional person. Yet here I am.

I want my NF back.

Cities.  §

All the coverage of the upcoming primary in New York has me thinking about cities. Here are my rankings of some memorable places I’ve been, based on experiences there and interactions with the people there, though I haven’t lived in all of them.

Absolutely Great
New York City
Vancouver

Pretty Cool
Chicago
San Francisco
London

Reasonably Positive Qualities
Seattle
New Orleans
Austin
Portland
Philadelphia

Neutral
Salt Lake City
San Diego
Nashville
Des Moines
Warsaw
Krakow
Dublin
Calgary

Not So Cool
Reno
Boise
Sacramento
Dallas
Phoenix
DC
Santa Barbara

Avoid at All Costs
Las Vegas
Cleveland
Los Angeles

— § —

Places I’ve never been but would obviously like to go include all the other global cities (Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, Rio, etc), the Canadian east coast, major cities of the Middle East and Africa… Basically, my global outlook and experience are severely limited.

Take a punch.  §

The single most important thing in life, if you want to get through it in one piece, is to know how to take a punch.

Physical, mental, emotional.

Because the blows will happen. Some of them will be small, some of them will be massive. If you can’t take a punch and keep on going, if you aren’t durable and indomitable, you are toast. To take a licking and keep on ticking is the single biggest dividing line between a whole bunch of dichotomies that people ruminate on—success vs. failure, happiness vs. sadness, strength vs. weakness and so on.

The big game is the mental game and that’s where you either thrive or suffer. All the rest—it’s all just a bunch of random punches.

Dreams and reality.  §

It’s not until you’re older—and you have the deep relationships, loves, sadnesses, and anxieties that come with spouses and children of your own—that dreams begin to take on a haunting, lyrical quantity.

You know these people well enough, and have seen enough of life, that your mind is able to paint images of places and sequences that could really—or you might even find yourself thinking ought really—have happened, complete with the things that your loved ones would have said, had they been there.

Dreams can begin to feel less like fabrications or imaginations and more like that which has really happened in some other, better place, in some truer reality, in a world in which everyone and everything are what they should have been or essentially, beneath all the complexity, really are.

Once you become an adult, dreams can move you not just for a few hours here and there, but in some cases for the rest of your life.

Apropos of that which shan’t be mentioned.  §

If you want to be a statistical anomaly in life, fine. Be a good man. Have and keep your integrity and fight the good fight.

Just realize that as a statistical anomaly, you will never be seen as that. If you try to do something beyond or other than the norm, even if it is the greatest of things, you will do it alone, and without recognition, even in crisis.

Because for other people, you are the norm. We all are. Nothing we can do, good or bad, can ever cause us to be identified as or with anything other than peoples’ existing prejudices about us.

Reasons.  §

If you look for reasons to do a certain thing or feel a certain way, whether in regard to events, people, or life decisions, you will find them.

Anything can be rationalized.

To get to the promised land, however, you’ve got to own your power and your decisions, stop looking for the “reasons” and rationalizations, and admit to yourself that you do X or feel Y because that is the agency that you have and the decision that you have made, full stop.

Reasons… reasons are a dime a dozen. You can come up with reasons for anything. But as long as you do that, you’re playing with fire. Take reasons into account. Have reasons that you’ve included in your consideration. But don’t have reasons “why.” Because once you reach that stage, you are living in denial and disempowerment.

— § —

Life is both beautiful and ugly.

I wish the two could be separated, but it seems they can’t simply because we who are living it, are both beautiful and ugly.

Time and patience.  §

Everybody knows that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but in real life there is this constantly seductive impulse to treat This . Very . Moment as if it is definitive. At least, there is and always has been for me. Overdramatic. But oh-so-hard-to-avoid.

This moment is not definitive. No moment is definitive. I have to remember that.

Even at “last moments” for this or that—your life, your job, your relationship, whatever—the flow of time and reality is informed by a million non-definitive moments that have gone before. And even if you can successfully identify a “final moment,” it is a mistake to think of it as a “definitive moment,” because in fact by the time you arrive at final moments, it is too late; the future was encoded by all the moments that went before.

In short, there are no definitive moments. There is only now.

Do your best now. Always. But remember that your best is not the same thing as imagining that “now” is definitive, because that imagination is what leads to misunderstanding and mis-action.

Engineering.  §

I should have been an engineer.

I love mechanisms, the mechanical contrivances of the late modern era, the more ingenious, capable, and idiosyncratic the better. The give me the flutters. They make me happy. I like to look at them, listen to them, take them apart, put them back together, enjoy them, exercise their capabilities just for the sheer joy of seeing so many principles and properties of matter and so much of the ingenuity of human thought at work.

I love DLT. Seriously. Once I get the bug and realize the drive is there, I run backup after backup just for the joy of hearing the linear tape wind and rewind, and the thought of the microscopic robustness of the device and its accessories, and of the hundreds and hundreds of gigabytes of information being stored there. The sound of the drive is like music to my ears.

I love wristwatches. Automatics in particular. I tumble them about just to hear the rotor glide this way and that, and hold them to my ear to hear the escapement pivot, tic-tic-tic-tic-tic. I stare at them and watch the tiny movements of the second hand, so precise, so regular. I run my fingers along the solid blocks of stainless steel and titanium that make the case, so precisely forged and ground.

I love printers and scanners. I love to watch the data LED illuminate and think about the signaling on the Cat-6 cabling and the multi-layered protocols at work and their correspondence to voltages and currents and their perturbations as organized signals that represent, ultimately, everything from concepts to images to language. I love to watch the rollers spin with their own inevitable logic, hard-coded into firmware, and to think about the laser and drum and toner and fuser at work in perfect synchrony.

I love the internal combustion engine, for all its sins. Such a guilty pleasure. I love to press on the accelerator pedal and imagine the crankshaft and bearings and rods and pistons and cylinders and their movements, as well as the fuel injectors and spark plugs and various pumps for lubrication and heat transfer that are at work. And to think of the power that is thus generated and its punctuated nature and the way in which increasing multiplicities of cylinders equate to a calculus of integration, with the power curve being ever-less quantized, effectively, in relation to cylinder count.

Gosh, even just holding a molybdenum magnet in my hand makes me feel as though I am going to faint with appreciation. The same goes for the mirror and eyepiece lens in a good Newtonian reflector, or for the soles of my Blundstone shoes, or for the incredible—incredible—precision of soda cans.

Whatever else happens in my life or in my world now or in the future, I feel privileged to live in an age of such wonders of order in an entropic universe. We are a broken, bizarre species saddled with a particular self-defeating form of collaboration and organization that can alternately be referred to as society or as culture (depending, in turns, on whether one is a sociologist or an anthropologist, though in principle the two perspectives ought to enjoy a synergistic, rather than an antagonistic and lexically mutually exclusive, relationship) but in fact our ability to collaborate and to accumulate and accrue knowledge and skill as integral to this ethos of collaboration is beautiful.

Engineering is beautiful.

Here is to the engineers. You make evident the coolest, most super-awesome face of humanity’s nature.