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Monthly Archives: January 2018

When you don’t have goals, people and nuts fill in the space.  §

During the best times of my life, I have just a few icons on my desktop, a few files I’m clearly working on, and a few tabs open in my web browser. My desk is clean.

Right now, I have icons piled on top of icons, I don’t know which files I’m working on (but there are many dozens of them in recent memory) and my desk is a mess.

Everything seems to be a mess.

— § —

There is a huge pile of pistachio shells sitting on a plate next to my keyboard. This pile has grown throughout the week as I have gone through two one-pound bags of nuts, munching and then munching some more for lack of a better idea.

I’ve been in a dark place. Fevers are here, possibly influenza, money is generally not. A once barely manageable schedule of predictable work at one company, one major extracurriculars, and healthy kids and pets has given way to unpredictable work at two companies, multiple major extracurriculars, and sick kids and pets.

Other drama won’t be mentioned, but it’s there.

There is no better way to get grumpy than to find yourself feeling distinctly overwhelmed and at the same time without a clear, productive focus or near-term goals while surrounded by chaos, thermometers, and medicatons.

I need to clear away the shells. Tomorrow. (I tell myself I’ll do a lot of things tomorrow. In truth, I don’t know whether any of them will get done tomorrow, or whether any of them will matter anyway.)

— § —

When things are going well, you can measure your life progress as an accumulation of successes. I got used to this for many years. Papers turned in, books released, degrees earned, goals met, etc.

In the absence of successes, you can also measure your life by events or milestones. The start of fall semester. The end of fall semester. The start of spring semester. The end of spring semester. The start of summer vacation. The end of summer vacation.

If you stop teaching and you don’t have these events, either, maybe you rely on the seaons.

Unless you have an unseasonably warm fall and winter that don’t give you much to hang your hat on.

Then you fall to measuring the passage of time by the march of possessions around you. Especially technology possesions, since these are the ones we most regularly replace. The Galaxy Tab S period gave way to the iPad Mini period. Now the DMC-CM1 period has given way to the Mate 9 period.

It’s brittle and not edifying. I’d rather have the successes.

But to have a success, you first have to set a goal, and to make steady progress toward that goal. I have done neither in a very long time.

— § —

When I was in my mid-teens, I went through a period of hypersociality. I was still an introvert who didn’t (couldn’t) share much of what was going on inside me, but I did go out a lot, and I had a lot of friends. A lot of them called me the “dark one.” (The “light one,” incidentally, was my best friend of 35 years.)

Then I had a period of turning-inward between about seventeen and twenty-two. Friends fell away. I didn’t return calls. I didn’t go out much. I didn’t want to. I mostly made a lot of notes, worked on my own projects, reconnected with myself.

After that, in the last stretch of my undergrad years, I reached out once again. I made a lot of friends, dated a bunch of people. This lasted until the end of graduate school at about twenty-eight. Then, I withdrew again and read a lot.

Moved to New York and from maybe thirty-one to thirty-five I was more engaged than I’ve ever been. People. Places. Students. Friends. Chats. A born conversationalist.

Until I wasn’t starting late 2010 when my daughter was born. That launched a period of silence and interiority that has largely continued until the present.

Recently, I’ve started interacting again. It’s funny how organic it is; rather than avoid or delay responses to messages, I just shrug and respond to them. I reach out to people with thoughts. I ask how they’re doing. I have the impulse once more.

Is it serving me well? Probably not. It’s never world-shattering. The non-introvert people who see you when you’re introverting always imagine that your life will be revolutionized if you can just “come out of your shell” or whatever. I’ve done that multiple times in my life. It’s never that big a thing. It’s sort of like you replace reading Wikipedia with reading texts, and you replace listening to podcasts of other peoples’ classrooms with listening on the telephone.

But does it change who you are or beat back the darkness with a torrent of social light? Not in the least. Once an introvert, always an introvert.

— § —

I have The Man Without Qualities here but I’ve never read it. I really need to get to reading it. Also the history of the first 3,000 years of Christianity. And a bunch of other books I bought because I really wanted to read them but never got around to it.

— § —

The most terrifying thing about being a strongly expressed introvert is that you sometimes think, before you manage to check yourself, that if you lived that episode of the Twilight Zone in which time can be stopped with a mystical stopwatch—which breaks at the end of the episode, leaving time suspended around its protagonist forever—you might not actually dislike it all that much.

Then for a moment you think maybe they’re going to come and take you away before you get back to piling up more pistachio shells and reading texts from a bunch of random people that you respond to without much thought.

— § —

In a secret dream that I have, somewhere there is an island of the introverts where my tribe lives in a kind of noble savagery of silent introvert comfort.

If there were actually people out there who read this blog, that dream wouldn’t be so secret any longer.

Extroverts have a habit of taking credit for introverts’ work.  §

This is impolitic, but I am compelled to say it.

I’ve been in the workforce for a long time. I’ve never known extroverts to do particularly good work. It’s not that they’re not capable, it’s that they don’t have the time—they socialize a lot. They don’t spend their precious hours in silent focus learning new skills or applying old ones judiciously.

What I have have seen an awful lot of is extroverts taking introverts’ work and getting credit for it as their own, often by omission. The extrovert shares something great with excitement, nobody asks, presuming that it’s their own, they don’t think much about it, and over time they build a “track record” of things that they presented but didn’t actually create (though in some cases I think through inadvertent blindness they come to believe that they did). Then, they are promoted, hired away, etc. on strength of that track record… that isn’t properly theirs.

So if you’re hiring, rather than consider only the extrovert that presents well, consider also the possibility (even likelihood) that the work in their portfolio was actually done by the nearest introvert, who hasn’t received credit for a great many things in their life. At least ask for the nearby introvert’s portfolio. And if you see a great many of the same things in it, you can be sure that it was the introvert—not the extrovert—who is the actual skill player and driver of success.

That narrative about time and pain isn’t quite right.  §

The conventional wisdom says that time heals all wounds. This is incorrect. It doesn’t.

It does, however, place them at an ever-increasing distance. Most of the time, that’s enough.

When reality leaves you behind, you are faced with ‘more.’  §

People find religion as they age because with time, reality becomes otherworldly. Or maybe paradoxical. Or transcendental.

So much is invested in the notion of “the real” that the concept takes on a kind iconography of its own in the church of the Enlightenment, but this is not the religion that begins to creep into life as you age. In fact, it is the opposite—and the impulse.

Age and circumstance invariably lead you to question the real.


© Aron Hsiao / 2004

At first, you do this in a circumstantial way. Which account of what’s just happened represents reality? Which of the instances of ‘me’ over the years is the real one, all the rest necessarily being dreams? Is reality to be found in the memories that I have of the past, in one from a multiplying number of interpretations of the present, or in visions of the future? Does reality lie in the daily routine or in the ever-present possibility that it will be interrupted?

Over time, these reflections become less concrete, less situational; you begin to suspect the very idea of “the real” as something that is both too stingy and too generous, too arbitrary yet also too inflexible.

Then, one day, it begins to dawn on you that you can’t conceptualize “the real” any longer; the real has overflowed its bounds, has outgrown itself. It can’t be contained in a single concept, because it does not maintain self-consistency. Every version of yourself is real. Every version of yourself is false. The mountains are concrete reality; the mountains are mere misconceptions. The sun and the stars and the grass and the trees are real; the sun and the stars and the grass and the trees are ephemeral, literature rather than substance, poetry rather than material-as-prose.

You don’t leave reality; reality leaves you, bit by bit, until you realize that you walk, breathe, are born, and die in a space that is already transcendental, not by fiat but by nature, by the ontological compulsion of a nature that is beyond comprehension and conception. Aquinas was right; Occam was wrong. The image of God as a sovereign agent exercising will is impossibly crude, mirroring the same naive belief in “reality” that possesses the young. Such a God can only exist in an empirically consistent universe.

Once reality leaves you, Occam is dead to you as well.

Then, it is yours to quest. Not for the key to the real, but for the key to whatever lies beyond it; not the real, but the actual, as the two are very different things. At first touch they feel the same to the uninitiated and the blind, but then so do the cheeks of an infant and a dying man.

— § —

To sit for two days in silence is a kind of pilgrimage to the core of things.

Moment by moment, you peel away the layers of what is—car keys and mailboxes, projects and assignments, dishes and brooms, blankets and jeans, hunger and thirst, awareness of breath—even presence—until nothing remains but time and actuality.

Here you hear the numinous call to you, from nowhere and everywhere at once, as nowhere and everywhere, too, have faded.

There is nothing more to be done; you can’t interrogate or share pleasantries with the numinous; it is not there for you. You are there by virtue of it.

First everything sensed becomes art. Then, everything sensed becomes iconography. Then, sense gives way and icons are rendered moot, like the concepts of telephone and letter, speech and writing in the unity of the singularity.


© Aron Hsiao / 2005

This pilgrimage is not to be taken lightly, nor is it available to those who aren’t ready. Like the portals to other states of being that are archetypal in all of literature, they appear only to the chosen.

In this case, chosen by time.

— § —

This is also why, as people age, they begin to take pleasure in “the simple things.”

A book. A pen. A watch. A plant. A view. A pet.

Because on the far shore of the actual, there is a special kind of amusement and delight to be found—a kind of quaintness—in the apparently real, not unlike the aura that hangs over a childrens’ tea set or teddy bear.

That is to say that you know that you are called to seek, that you have crossed over from the real into maturity, when “having tea with bear” is no longer a matter of tea or of a bear per se, but rather a matter concerning everything in the universe and, at the same time, nothing in particular at all.

There are no more old school adults because “old school” was bad for business.  §

The elders are disappearing, largely lost to us already.

As the 1968 generation busily concerned themselves with fomenting a particular sort of cultural change, they didn’t in all their naiveté realize that they were in fact:

  • Decoupling capital from the last remaining check on it—the experienced individual who understands the difference between price (exchange value) and value (use value).
  • Losing, along with the coercive embeddedness of ascribed identity the deeper freedoms of mentorship and inherited self-understanding.

As a result, the role and image of the adult has been transformed—from that of the guarantor of cultural transmission, survival, and embeddedness (we no longer even pretend to expect the university to do this; there is simply insufficient value—that is to say, exchange value—in it) to that of the jaded asset wielder and financial literate.

This jadedness is compulsory for the attribution to be granted, as it marks the key difference between the “old adult” and the “new adult” who possesses (as this “jadedness”) a complete, willed-if-not-innate blindness to use values that are not also exchange values, as these are deleterious to efficient profit and control.

Hence the evolution of the question, from “Do you have children?” to “Are you a parent?” to “Are you financially secure enough to make the life choices you’d prefer to make?” and the evolution in understandings—i.e. in which answers to which of these questions equates with “maturity” and thus social status.

Note the subtle shifts in which things are central to the discussion and in which things are incidental to it—not to mention the shift in the subject(s) and object(s) of history. The freedom won in the culture wars largely comprises:

  • The freedom to consume
  • if certain subtle conditions of self-abnegation have been met
  • these consisting primarily of the reduction of all value to price
  • including, covertly, the value of oneself—
  • and—no small thing—the gradual, anything-but-accidental loss of figures not in thrall to this freedom.

The giants of the past are gone because the traditional conception of adulthood was orthogonal to the project of harnessing of all of history to be a machinery regime for maximally efficient commerce; the forces of capital, astute as they are, saw an opening in the marriage of a particular historical configuration of youthful utopianism and communication and transportation (e.g. exchange) technologies. The seized upon it and were successful.

The rest is merely accounting and bookkeeping.

When you don’t like the things other people do, it’s hard to find activity partners.  §

So, first Saturday in 2018:

  • Binge-watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix
  • Cleaned the house enough to raise the standard of the environs from “disaster” to “acceptable”
  • Reassembled Oki color laser that is now a parts unit after I scored a new one on eBay for peanuts
  • Drank about six liters of a mix of unsweetened tea and diet soda
  • Reflected on the fact that I’m not doing any of the things that I planned to do
  • Went to Walgreens to buy more drinks, saw none of the college students I flirt with just for fun
  • Put off responding to a bunch of personal communication because I haven’t felt like it, as usual
  • Worried some about a friend who is going through a tough time
  • Got older by a day

In not-so-long I’m probably going to climb back into the car and drive down the other side of the hill to the 24-hour supermarket to get dishwasher detergent.


© Aron Hsiao / 2018

But I don’t want to go yet because it’s too early, I’d rather go sometime after midnight. I’m not sure why. It’s that night owl thing. If I could afford a therapist, I think it would be amusing just to go for a long time and ask about why I do a lot of the things that I do, and see what they said, or what questions they could ask me in turn to help me to understand myself better.

But I can’t, so I won’t.

— § —

I have a few friends that live about a day’s drive from me. I don’t see them all that much.

They’re always inviting me to come out and visit and have a drink and so on, but I just don’t want to. I don’t want to arrive at their place, then visit for one or worse several days, then return. I’d rather text or talk by phone.

Now I would enjoy it if one of them would meet me halfway somewhere. I drive toward them, say, 400 or 500 miles, and they drive toward me 400 or 500 miles, and we meet at a diner in the middle somewhere, say in a little berg that neither of us knows all that well. We pick “local color” looking spot and have lunch and a drink and a few laughs. Then, maybe an hour and a half or two hours later, we both get back into our respective cars and drive home.

I’d do that in a heartbeat. Sadly, that’s not the sort of thing that anyone else seems to want to do. It seems to be a common feeling that there’s more value to a visit if someone flies in and then back out again, staying for days at least in the meantime. That’s to maximize the “together” time, regardless of what we end up doing.

As much as I love friends, I absolutely hate dropping into other peoples’ lives and being dragged around for a couple of days. Their activities are not my activities. It’s usually boring and full of people that I don’t know. As it happens, we make chit-chat that we could also have made by phone, and in the mornings we have to do breakfast at their place. I can’t think of anything more dismal than that.

For just about everyone else, it seems that the point of friendship is to “be together” as you do some things or other things, with the particular things being of secondary importance. I go the other way, really—if there’s a togetherness component to friendship, it’s to “do certain cool things” while together.


© Aron Hsiao / 2005

The meet-in-the-middle adventure is my sort of thing. I used to do it all the time—pick a spot on the map about half a day’s drive away, drive there, get lunch by myself, and drive back. I think it would be great to do that with a friend. In general, my amusement with the conceptual and the absurd remains.*

To date, I don’t really have any friends that share that with me.

* As an aside, this was among the sad, extended arguments that I had with my ex-wife before we got divorced. She wanted to do something big for my 40th birthday and asked that I choose. I kept choosing things that were interesting to me, that were I suppose, conceptual and absurd (though other words for such things could be, say, “adventurous” or even “curious”). She grew more and more upset over many days, imagining that I wasn’t taking her seriously and was deliberately proposing shitty options, I suppose to insult her or something. And I absolutely did not want to fly to some resort or other and sit in a hot tub and eat $60 steaks and drink wine. We never settled on a plan beforehand; the differences were—say—irreconcilable.

— § —

I don’t generally watch much television (or whatever you can call it these days—”streaming video” seems far too technologically precious). My list basically includes:

  • The Grand Tour
  • Intelligence Squared US
  • PBS Frontline
  • Appearances by Camille Paglia and Jordan Peterson

The last “other” thing that I watched was the Gilmore Girls reunion series, which I found unsatisfying. But I enjoyed 13 Reasons Why very much. I’m not sure about the reasons, precisely. Probably this merits some self-reflection… which isn’t going to happen. Oh well.

— § —

Everyone is an accumulation of all the people that they’ve been—the children that they’ve been and the teens that they’ve been and the twenty-somethings that they’ve been and so on.

Therapists talk of people getting “stuck” at certain stages of development and having, in a way, gaps in their aggregate. Someone that got “stuck” at age five, for example, due to childhood abuse may be a perfectly functioning thirty-year-old and also a child of ages up to and including five—but the levels of development of the intervening years are all missing. It’s as though if life is a class, they were absent for most of the material that happened between five and thirty.

I seem to have all of my bits of education and development except those in my late twenties and thirties. My aggregate includes all of my childhood versions and my teenaged versions and a good number of twenty-something versions, but they disappear sometime before I’m twenty-six or twenty-seven and there’s not much after that until the present, at forty-two.

Am I perceiving things right? Hard to say. If I am, what is it that caused my development and learning to taper off for my late twenties and throughout my thirties? Hard to say. Like I said, someday, if I could afford therapy…

But in any case, it’s safe to say that while there is a kid and a teenager and a twenty-something and a forty-something sitting in this room, there is not a hint of any thirty-something here. It’s as though I was never thirty-anything. Those ages and that stage of life mean nothing to me.

Maybe that’s what graduate school does to you, who knows. In any case, that’s all over.

— § —

Tomorrow I’ll wake up, do some more cleaning, and then get busy with all of the personal communication I’ve been putting off.

It’s never that hard once I get rolling, but when it comes to getting started responding to email, texts, voicemail, and so on, I’m one of the world’s great procrastinators—and I’m fairly sure that’s why I like email, texts, and voicemail so much—because they enable me to put conversations, even pleasant ones, off for a while.

Always has been thus. Probably always will be.

— § —

There’s a part of me that wants to binge-watch Northern Exposure. I have the complete series here, and I haven’t watched it in years.

There’s another part of me that’s putting that off, because for me, watching Northern Exposure is a bit like taking tough questions from a therapist. Which is probably why I should watch it. And probably why I won’t.

Sometimes it’s good just to take a step back and see yourself for who you are.  §

I’m an unusual guy. With an unusual personal history. I think and do unusual things.

There are times in life when I revel in this fact.

There are times in life when I hate it.

There have been times in life when it has served me very well.

There have been times in life when it has cursed me.

Tonight it seems better to just look at it directly and honestly and without any particular emotional response and see it for what it is. Admit it to myself, tell it to myself, be aware of myself.

There’s a certain self-indulgence that you have to guard against in saying things like, “I’m different from most everyone else,” but there is also a certain dishonesty in refusing to concede it at times when it stares you right in the face. Better to acknowledge what is and maybe to conceptualize it if it’s been a while since you thought about it.

That’s not to say that I’m better than most everyone else. Anyone who looks at me can see that my life is less together, I have less financial stability, and I have seen less objective success than a great many people. For all the doting that adults did on me as a young man, I have never done much that was particularly brilliant. Even my dissertation wasn’t turned into a book in the end, which speaks to the lack of self-discipline that has overtaken me, yet another personal flaw.

So this isn’t about a value claim. It’s a qualitative one. The various ways that most people are in my society—good and bad—I am not. It is what it is.

— § —

N.B. I had originally used the term “strange” rather than “unusual.” And then I went to “odd.” But in the end, “unusual” seemed kinder. And though I don’t want to be unduly generous to myself, it doesn’t pay to be unduly harsh, either.

So unusual it is.

Maybe “anachronistic” is a better term. Given the state of things in western civilization and populations just now, though, that amount of self-applause is probably a bridge too far for a public post. Well, almost.

😉

Goodbye 2017, part two. (The real part.)  §

I realize only now that this is my “last post of the year,” despite the fact that it comes three days into 2018. A mere technicality.

Today is the final day of my winter vacation, my time off from work. It is the last time off from work that I am likely to ever take in my current position, which I’ve held for four years. It marks the end of an era.

When I started this position, it was on a consultancy basis. I was an academic, an advanced-standing Ph.D. candidate actively teaching at three universities and working feverishly to complete my dissertation. That was my “day job” and my identity.

The position grew over time. While in it, I saw my children grow from toddlers and infants into “big kids” who go to school. I left behind first my dissertation research, by way of completion and graduation as a doctor, then my teaching, after which I transitioned to a full-time employee, then ultimately also my conception of myself as an academic at all (with no small amount of pain and regret). I saw my marriage end and my nuclear family riven by conflict and fear. As part and parcel of this catastrophe, my twenty-year career as an independent contractor and brand in my own right also ended.


Winter 1999, San Francisco. Inflection point #1.
© Aron Hsiao / 1999

Through it all, this work relationship remained. But as of late December, the company that initially sought to work with me has been acquired and no longer exists as-itself. Prior to that, in 2017, the persons with whom I had worked most closely for years left the company. Now, in a few short weeks, my position will end and I will have to find something new to do, and someplace new to do it.

The arrival of 2018 marks, for better or for worse, the final break with all that was for so many years:

  • Academic life
  • Early childhood and early parenthood life
  • Consulting/freelance life
  • Employed life
  • Married life

All of these things touched each other. By the end of this year, nothing in my identity, day-to-day work, familial roles, or practical goals will touch or overlap with anything that was central to my life or identity prior to 2018, apart from my children themselves. But children change too fast to be your anchors in the world, and it’s not fair to treat them as such anyway.

The particular arc of life that began for me in 2005 when I left Santa Barbara with a car packed full of a few meager possessions—with the vague goal of returning to graduate school to do a Ph.D.—is done. I married, became a parent, became a doctor, became a traditional employee, became a divorcee, became a single parent, and became something other than a the far-left liberal I’d been for my entire previous life. I guess those are the bullets.

I have a list somewhere in my archives of “inflection points and thresholds” over the years. Matters and moments of history at which I became someone new, or rather, ceased to be someone old. December 2017 will be added shortly.


Spring 2003, Salt Lake City. Inflection point #2.
© Aron Hsiao / 2003

This eleven-year period of life-transforming events is done.

How many times over the last several years have I bemoaned the bland oppression of ennui, of “stasis” and “lack of progress” and so on? And yet now, here I am, feeling as though I’d give almost anything for another decade of the dispensation that has been.

It’s not to be.

The future is yet to be written, but it is not the “next chapter” in the work. It is a new volume, with a new title. I’ve had this feeling before. There’s no English word for it. I don’t know if there are international words for it. I’ve had it three times before in my life:

  • In 1999, in the early morning, in Golden Gate Park
  • In 2003, in the early morning, alone on I-15
  • In 2005, in the early morning, in Santa Barbara

And how here we are again.

It is only this time that it becomes clear to me what these moments have in common. Each time, the old me had reached the end of his life, and a new me was yet to be born. The ground had all but disappeared beneath my feet, and mine was to leap across the chasm to try to grab solid ground on the other side—no matter what was to meet me there once I pulled myself up to firmament.

Here I am again—about to leap. Nothing is clear. I pray to the fates to carry me as they have before.

— § —

The few days that I took off during the holiday season were meant to be a time of reflection and speculative work toward whatever comes next.

It didn’t happen that way.

Instead, I spent my time collaborating in veterinary care and spending money that I frankly don’t have on ensuring that my eleven-year-old pit bull received it.

We emerged from that crisis, for the moment, only yesterday.

That’s the way it’s always happened before, too. You don’t get time to “deal with it” consciously. You do your best to adapt and deal with it logistically, as things happen more quickly than you’re able to make sense of them.


Fall 2005, Santa Barbara. Inflection point #3.
© Aron Hsiao / 2005

You follow your nose, even when the idea of success or reprieve on the other side seems preposterous.

I am following my nose.

— § —

Every moment not spent thinking about dog health recently has been wrapped up in reflection on what I am good at, what I know how to do, what sorts of value I can bring to the world—what I might do next.

It’s not at all clear to me that my “next opportunity” sensibly fits in the same category as does my most recent several years of work. A small company hired a decades-long academic and put him in a senior marketing and communications role in the software-as-a-service industry. For some unexplainable reason, it worked. Well.

But I see no reason to believe that it should work anywhere else—or that “anywhere else” should be inclined to believe it either.

But what, then?

A return to academics?
Some sort of entrepreneurship?
Find another small company?
Some new kind of education?
Run away to South America and disappear forever?

I don’t know yet.

Hello, 2018.

If you’re like most people, you may not know what a ‘pit bull’ is.  §

So as my beloved older dog ages into seniorhood, there has been a decent amount of veterinary activity lately. There have been scary, sad moments, and very happy ones, too. This post isn’t about that (directly), but it is about my two dogs in a way.

See, I keep getting the side-eye or the “Oh…” (meaning “My gosh, your poor children, I wonder if I ought to report you—”) when I tell people that I have two pit bulls, especially when they know that I have kids. This is, frankly, because of a whole bunch of shady breeders who lie through their teeth and because of panic, both amongst the general public and amongst the public servants that do dog attack reports (and who rarely know breeds accurately by sight, and who tend to take the word of witnesses verbatim—witnesses who know breeds even less accurately by sight).

It’s also the fault of the UKC, who often registers dogs as members of a breed sight-unseen, based on the word of said shady breeders. So let’s do this. Note the following two groups.

NOT American Pit Bull Terriers

These dogs are claimed to be ‘pit bulls.’ They are categorically not. I don’t know what they are. I don’t particularly care. They are what the public tends to imagine when they hear ‘pit bull’ and also what police tend to refer to, rather slanderously, as ‘pit bull type dogs.’ Let’s take a look:

ACTUAL American Pit Bull Terriers

The dogs below are actually the dogs known more briefly as ‘pit bulls.’ They measure 17 to 21 inches tall. They weigh between 30 and 60 pounds. They are not great hulking monsters and by the breed standard they are absolutely not aggressive.

They are athletic, bouncy, fast, clownish, spirited, and intelligent. They have one of the highest average scores for stable temperament from the ATTS (87 percent pass rate), ahead of cocker spaniels (81 percent pass rate), golden retrievers (85 percent pass rate), toy poodles (80 percent pass rate), collies (80 percent pass rate), and beagles (79 percent pass rate), to name just a few comparative examples.

They are not lumbering masses of bulk and slobbering jowls. See the difference?

Note that the one on the far right is one of my own dogs—the young one, Molly, at about four months old. She is, in fact, athletic, bouncy, fast, clownish, spirited, and intelligent. Now, nearly fully grown at a year old, she is around 18 inches and 45 pounds.

Nothing is more amusing than taking her for a walk and having people ask “Oh, what kind of dog is that?” then answering with “She’s a pit bull—” only to have them snicker and say, “Uh, she seems a little small for a pit bull—”

Um, no. She’s exactly the size of a pit bull. Exactly the size.

And she is the world’s most dedicated snuggler of children.