Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: April 2008

By the time we have reached our mid twenties,  §

there is so much history as to be insurmountable. How do we humans do it? How do we survive our own memories, our own collections of bizarre, disconnected, and overmatching artifacts? By all rights we should develop wings on the sides of our shoulders that immediately pluck the femurs from our legs and use them to pound out holes one thump at a time in the ground straight past layer upon layer of even-weighted dirt particles all the way to seventh hell.

Memory is as memory does; that is to say, if it is transparent, it is your memory; if it is heavy, it is probably your memory; if it is bright or dark or smells of blood, it is probably your empty-ass memory.

In the dark, in the city, there are and were moments in which you are and were cold and warm, awake and asleep, there and not there, powerful and impoverished, empty and a shining, singing, silver god of Olympic magnitude causing those minions that would remain with you to cower and tremble in delight and terror and ruthless objectivity.

Elect to allocate your elocution to the unlikely antithesis.

Tomorrow, yesterday, today.

I remember a Levi’s commercial in which a man wearing blue jeans and a leather jacket with mid-length brown hair spoke into the television camera about authenticity. There was music in the background with lyrics saying “it’s got to be real.”

I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I’ve been buying those jeans ever since. So have others.

And others and others and others.

I do believe that this is as close as I can possibly come to patriotism without going blind.

htuoy cinos  §

Cant catch me
Im syntax free
Im preconceived
I dont invest
In what is best
Your once and for all
Means shit to me
Hate translator
Hate translator
Hate translator
You cant catch me
Dont mistake her
Dont misshape her
You dont mutate her
You cant get me
The radical beacon
The preverbal season
The abstract poetics
Immediate treason
Do you remember
Reductionist lie

Would I be so antisocial  §

if I hadn’t been raised in America? Hard to say.

What I can say is that I think I am wired differently from other people with respect to sociality. You often hear activists of various kinds in particular say that only when you view people in the abstract can you do harm to them—that when you know them personally you begin to care.

I am definitely in the opposite. When I imagine people in the abstract, I can have empathy for them, see them as other human beings with thoughts and feelings that must be like my own. But when I am around people in the general public, I instead feel as though I must be wrong. “How can this sack of skin have feelings? I probably shouldn’t give two shits about it.”

Later on when they’re gone and I’m no longer in the midst of the general public I feel guilty and recognize that they must have feelings. But when confronted by them I just can’t see it.

People assume that everyone is like them. Particularly guilty of this are the people who say that they realize that everyone is not like them.

People underestimate the broad variability in emotional response, perceptive experience, etc. that marks the human condition.

They get upset and attribute to bad motives or psychosis or willful idiosyncrasy what is the result merely of human cultural and biological diversity.

The world will never have understanding or peace.

I think people like to imagine that they are like their pets, or that their pets are like them. I know that I do but if I really think about it I realize that I am guilty of precisely what I’m writing about.

Mostly my pet just likes frisbees, which I have no particular care for beyond my pet’s love of them.

It often seems to me that  §

only those inside technoculture—truly inside, not as writers or observers or mere “enthusiasts,” but as self-conscious emblems of the body-as-machine, the computer-as-clockwork-universe metaphor—can understand the term “hacker” or its true root concept, “the hack.”

So many have written about it, appropriated and misappropriated the term, attempted to describe the “hacker’s motive” in terms of social prestige, economic gain, creativity, the production of information—and so many really seem to get it wrong.

The hack is a metaphorical, metaphysical moment. The hack is a kind of nirvana; it is a moment of reduction, a metonymic emblem of the universe itself. To hack is to love not prestige or creativity, but rather the system—all systems. To hack is to fall in love with functional complexity, to meet God. The hack is in that sense a religious moment, a transcendental moment.

It is a glimpse into truth of a kind that is rarely seen elsewhere. It is to see the system; shared or not, whether anyone else sees it or not, whether it brings economic gain or not, whether it is useful or not. It is to experience the same kind of joy that Newton must have experienced; the sheer joy of being. It is, to quote Chris from Northern Exposure, “a pure moment.”

To understand hacker culture, you must have a visceral understanding of the hack. They are a culture precisely because they see this love in each other—the love of complexity, of systems, of their functionality and therefore of truth, of absolutes. To hack is (paradoxically, for most observers) to love the structure and to see it’s tremendous strength, to assert in praxis, visible or invisible, that there is a reality, that things are, that Truth can be found.

This moment of understanding—this reinforcement of the belief in Truth—is the heart and soul of the hack, and the genesis of the actions of most self-described “hackers” and certainly of those that exchange with glee one useless “hack” after another.

You don’t “find” balance,  §

you create it.

This blog has reached it’s sell-by date. Time to reradicalize.

Transition in knowledge production  §

I’m in the middle of a big “cleaning of the desk” party, so this thought and post are destined to be brief and they may indeed be obvious… but events of the last several days have again drawn my attention to the apparent disparity between the small, face-to-face interaction of a closed group of “in-crowd intellectuals” exemplified by the academic conference and the dynamic, voluminous, chaotic, and very public process of knowledge generation to be seen on the biggest and best of the themed newsblog communities and even mailing lists like Linux-Kernel.

Every time I have this thought, it comes to me as the sudden sense that the academics and intellectuals are as obsolete or at the very least as quaint as are any other pre-web/pre-crowdsource forms. There is no way in seven hells that a room full, a network full, or even a school full of intellectuals can produce at the rate, with the dynamism, or while achieving the same ultimate quality as so-called “crowdsourced” (what I’d rather call “crowd-produced”) forms.

Is the era of the academic over? In twenty years will every thinker that really matters be either a webmaster or a network participant, or both, with those who just want to wear berets and attend conferences trapped in an increasingly irrelevant old-boys-network echo chamber?

I think so. No matter how elite or “peer-reviewed,” the “expert” cannot hope to compete with the massively parallel crowd in a system, as we have developed them today, that privileges and places at the center of discourse the most interesting/most rewarding/most insightful work as the seed for future work by the crowd. The intensification feedback loop of crowd-based knowledge production to my eye makes the lone academic not merely obsolete but also narcissistic in their continued reliance on the forms of discourse and production that best serve their own selves.

But that’s just me thinking out loud, right now.

I hate  §

being shocked and taken aback.

Words matter.


You try to get it right. You try to be judicious. You try to be wise. You try to balance interests given what you have learned. You realize that the ability to use experience is understood to be one of the central tenets of maturity, but at the same time you fail to use it in a way that is seen to be mature. You doubt yourself. You second-guess your own approach, as you have done a million times before.

Then, you set your jaw and you pursue it. You pursue it based on the only judgment you have. You consider and consider again and still you fail. Always you will fail. Failure is the human condition.


When we were seen as “Sick Men from East Asia”, we were called The Peril.
When we strived to get stronger, we were called The Threat.

When we closed our doors to the world, you forced them open with drugs and guns.
When we finally embraced Free Trade, you blamed us for taking away your jobs.

When we were falling apart, you marched in your troops and robbed us blind.
When we put the broken pieces back together again, “Free Tibet” you screamed, it was an invasion!

So, we tried communism, you hated us for being communists.
Then we learned from capitalism, you hated us for being capitalists.

When we had a billion people, you said “The planet is starving.”
So we tried to limit our population, and you said it was Human Rights Abuse.

When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.
When we were able to loan you cash, you blamed us for your debts.

When we build our industries, you blame us for global warming.
When we sell you goods you can afford, you blame us for dumping inferior products.

When we buy oil, you call that exploitation and assisting genocide.
When you make war for oil, you call that liberation.

When we were lost in chaos and rampage, you insisted on the rule of law for us.
When we uphold our law now, you call that violating human rights.

When we were silent, you said we had no free speech.
When we are silent no more, you say we are merely “brainwashed”.

“Why do you hate us so much?” we asked.
“No” you answered, “we don’t hate you.”

Truth is we really don’t hate you either, but do you understand us?

“Of course we do,” you say, “we have BBC, CNN and AFPs.”
So we ask you now: “What do you really know and want from us?”
“And why do you find it so hard to accept us?”

I refuse to apologize  §

for being an adult, for having the wherewithall to ask the questions that I want answered, for taking care to have an opinion, for seeking answers that I want.


I love  §


Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love America. How much I savor its distinct flavor.

Or maybe it’s that I love humanity.

Anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love humanity.

God oh god almighty god god damn it,

I looooooove it.

Suddenly  §

everything seems foreign again. 🙁

Sometimes  §

I wonder whether or not I am a bit crazy.

But I suppose everyone wonders that from time to time.

You can never change who you are.  §

The same old problems will always continue to haunt you, and you will always have to struggle with them. I guess that’s “personal growth” in a nutshell—the endless struggle to address your own shortcomings and the things about yourself that drive yourself nuts.

It is time once again  §

for a reckoning of sorts—time to re-examine the state of my life, the state of my health, the arc of my trajectory. Sorry, everyone, for being essentially unreachable for so long. I have been tremendously busy for some time.

That state of affairs has how, however, evolved to some extent. I’m sitting here at midday in front of my little computing universe organizing things. Things: photos (lots and lots of them), files, email messages, all sorts of little artifacts of the sort that in another epoch would have been material, things to cling to, things to put in a wooden box for children or grandchildren or history.

Instead, these days we have data, for better or for worse, and this data is mine.

I am trying to understand what my data—its presence, its organization, and its importance to me—are trying to tell me. I have in fits and spurts for the better part of a decade now been relatively focused in pursuit of certain goals, the most central of which was the establishment of an academic career, with accompanying doctorate degree.

Such a path cannot be walked in a straight line; finances, living arrangements, credentials, relationships, and practical emotional and physical realities always conspire to make the road a winding one. Mine has been no less winding than any other, having taken me to both coasts, to the midwest and to the south, through several academic programs and work relationships.

I have seen a great deal and for many years the goal was the most important thing in my life. It was, in fact, the only stable thing in my life, the only thing that was mine, the only love that wouldn’t leave me.

I feel as though I am at something of a subtle crossroads. Two years ago I wouldn’t have recognized it; it is only the experience that I have gained of late that has given me the emotional and intellectual wherewithal to see beneath the moss and realize that there are choices to make, directions to choose, futures to either embrace or neglect.

Unfortunately, I am not yet quite experienced enough to be able to weigh the options skillfully or even to be able to elucidate them in full. Off in one direction runs some constellation of financial security and careerism, both tremendously important to me. In another runs academics and a related but different careerism. In still a third I see books and books alone. In a fourth I see only financial security but the abandonment of both career and academics as priorities.

The question that faces me is this: having found for some time now the happiness that I want more than all others—that is to say, life with my beautiful wife—what else, precisely, do I want? What do I want to be the nature of my life with her, of our life together?

Are we to be a working couple? A couple with one breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent? An academic couple? A small business couple? Something else entirely? And where are we to live? And when are we to make such diversions from the direction in which we now face? Is this the proper crossroads at which to alter the route or will there be another a few miles down the road that is more convenient and well-marked than this one?

The choice is not entirely mine, of course.

But at the same time, the responsibility to make it for myself, right now, is mine. The responsibility to be at peace with the choice, whatever choice it is that I make, is mine.

The responsibility to try to divine, to discern the destination of these paths that intersect here is also for the moment largely mine as a matter of practical logistics.

This research must be conducted, but it must be conducted on the one hand rapidly and on the other with wisdom and maturity of a kind I’ve never needed before.

Things are changing.

Things are always changing.

The question, at each change, is this:

how should I direct this change?

I feel shaky  §

it’s only 9.30 on a Friday morning and there is a great deal of living still to accomplish today, but I am utterly exhausted.

I need a moment to regroup.

Time passes and life happens  §

and it’s always been that way. Every now and then I suppose you need a little shock to the system to show you, by way of a benchmark or rapidly approaching or receding monument, that you are still in motion; that life remains dynamic; that consequences are still real and outcomes are still at play.

There is no certainty. There will never be certainty. There is only the struggle.