Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: October 2010

Reprioritize  §

Academic politics is a devastating thing. My career was harmed and continues to be harmed by academic politics, and real relationships that I valued and that were tremendously helpful to me were lost in the process thanks to the negative intervention of others.

One of the things told to me by a faculty member I no longer get to talk to because of academic politics is that there is a limit to the usefulness of career strategy at this stage of the game. In fact, it's counterproductive, he said.

A young, starry-eyed would-be academic can quickly exhaust themselves trying to prematurely build up the CV. "Opportunities" (read: CV-worthy titles associated with random bits of sometimes menial, sometimes senseless labor) abound at this level and for the student emerging from grunt "nobody" status into the light of "serious potential scholar" status, it's tempting to want to seize each opportunity that comes along. Carpe diem, after all.

Certainly one hates to turn anything down—particularly with the keen awareness that one has of the tremendous competitiveness of this profession and the depth that one wants to be able to show on a CV. But, warned this person, likely the largest intellectual influence on me in some years, to think about the CV at this point is to risk embroiling oneself in entanglements that absorb every bit of one's time and energy, leaving nothing for the one component of the CV—the disseration—that is actually mandatory for an academic career.

Scheme too carefully and/or adopt too many titles too early and the Ph.D. begins to recede into the future… just a few months at first, then a year, then multiple years, and soon one is a hack: an M.A. with years of middling experience and mid-level titles and no doctorate—and hence no tenure, no professorship, no job stability, and no real CV growth. It's a trap.

Yes, earn the income that's needed to complete the Ph.D., but try not to rely on mid-level academic work, and certainly don't do anything at this level solely for the CV. Get the Ph.D. instead, then worry on credentials inflation afterward. The Ph.D. is the first, fundamental, gatekeeping, and most elusive of all credentials.

He was right. And I have failed to listen to him. It is time to clean house and reorganize life a bit, I suspect.

I'm going to reflect on this for a few days, but the problem is at this point that I am working for everyone in academics except myself right now. I am doing favors for everyone except myself, helping with everyone's work other than my own. My own dissertation progress has been stalled since spring. And that cannot be allowed to happen.

The experience of fatherhood  §

has severely complicated my productive life. I’m just not getting things done; I am in all honesty completely bewildered a good portion of the time right now about what I ought to be doing or what I should attend to next.

It’s not that I’m not busy—in fact, I am very busy most of the time. It’s just that it all seems to amount to nothing in thre end, to be directed toward myriad ends about which I have no particular set of priorities. Everything seems fragmentary, invariably behind schedule, essentially an afterthought, if not an after-afterthought, hassled, and distant, unreal.

I am full of fervent hope that this total unfocusing of fatherhood doesn’t represent a new normal with which I am expected to function until my child reaches adulthood. If that is the case, I suspect that I will be far less productive in the years to come than I have been in the years thus far passed.

Whereas I used to spend my days planning and executing in relation to career, degree, and hobby/interest progress, I now obsess from sunrise to sunset about reading to my child from Peter Hessler travelogues before bedtime.

Miscellaneous notes  §

It's damned hard to get yourself to do anything when you've just become a father. Everything else seems to be of cosmically lower priority than spending time with the small person you've just come to know.

Complicating matters is the fact that time disappears entirely just as your baby makes its first appearance in the world. Not only are you not working; you are not working and you don't notice it because everything from birth through present seems like one long day in your new life—a life in which all of the things that you used to value are now far less important.

Meanwhile, fall is clearly here in New York. On the day grandma's left us, it's windy, cold, and grey. If there is a smell that can be attributed to the decrease in distance between afternoons and darkness, that smell is everywhere tonight. It carries with it the promise of Thanksgiving and Christmas to come, but also portends the end of the college football season, which is now more than halfway gone once again.

Life moves so damned quickly one almost doesn't have time to catch one's breath.

I'm sure the kid will agree someday, when she's able. Should be in about five minutes, at which time you'll see me, wizened, wondering what the hell happened and how 1984 got to be 2064 while no one was looking.

Facebook, Fatherhood, and Blogging as Writing  §

This morning I've killed the RSS feeder that was taking all of my posts here and automatically posting them on Facebook as well. The reason for this is simple: after I implemented automatic Facebook distribution, my posting dropped off precipitously. The knowledge that I was also posting to Facebook became a kind of filter; I was suddenly beset with an awareness of my audience and it influenced both the things I wrote and the frequency with which I wrote them.

Basically, I miss blogging, and turns out that I need to do it more or less anonymously. I suspect this is because blogging my own little corner of the world (if you can even call it blogging) basically takes the place of a personal diary and of daily free writing for me. Both of these things are sorely needed in my life, and since the Facebook connection (and related slowdown in posting), I've struggled to reimplement them in other ways. It hasn't worked.

With fatherhood now in full swing, I need a place to write more than ever before. I am keeping a "baby diary" of sorts, a place where I write to my little one, but I without my blog space I have no place in which to write about my little one and my experiences with her, or more simply about my state of mind. Writing has always helped me to cope with my state of mind; this place has been a dialogue first and foremost with myself since 1999, and I need it to be that once again.

I'm actually struggling as a father to get myself to do real work right now, or to think reflexively at all. Every bit of my attention is directed much more simply toward the prospect of interacting with my daughter. Only now as a father do I understand just how much is aligned against fathers in our political economic system. I don't get family leave of any kind and am expected to be working again full time more or less immediately after birth. The result is a kind of dogged hypnosis that carries one along haplessly. There is no waking up, no coming to attention; these things entail risk—the risk of realizing just how alienat…

More and more connections…  §

So I’m trying this experiment to see if I can make a note in Evernote and have it turn up both in my academic database and publicly on the blog. That would make for a convenient blogging method that eliminates the need for unstable blog API apps.

And one more test  §

just to be doubly uncouth.
Sorry, everyone. Life is that way sometimes.

Not fond of “test” nodes and posts  §

but sometimes they are inevitable.
I mean, what are you gonna do?