Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: October 2016

Some days are like that, and other delayed things.  §

So there’s this effect by which you start to save up stuff to post and then at the end of the day you’re too tired to do it, so it gets pushed off until tomorrow, and tomorrow it all happens again, until before you know it you’ve gone silent. Or you might even be making a list (ahem) and it just keeps getting longer as your exhaustion catches up to you, night after night. So here are some late payments.

— § —

The thing I hate most are “domino days.” Domino days are days on which you make one mistake early on, and even if you manage to correct it, your focus on that mistake leads you to make another mistake. And then while you’re chasing to repair that mistake, you make a third mistake, and so on. The degree to which you’re stretched thin leads to a “domino effect” of failures that monopolize the day as you race to try to put out the fires that you keep allowing to emerge as you fail to stay ahead of things.

Friday was such a day. One cock-up after another, from the word go. The morning mistake started off a string of dependent mistakes which included a missed meeting (due to head being in the wrong place), an oil spill all over the kitchen (due to rushing too fast), and other similar snafus.

At the end of such days, you pretty much want to give up. You struggle to tell yourself that tomorrow will be better, and in general, you feel hopeless and as though you’ve cocked the universe right up.

— § —

But the struggle is important. It is all there is. I read a quote from Pete Carroll:

“Guys don’t get dumber as they get old. They just get tired of fighting the fight.”

I read this (can’t remember the context), and I stopped in my tracks. Because that’s me right now. I always said I’d never be one of those that gave up. And I’ve seen those that gave up, that settled for whatever was in the living room and whatever was in the fridge right now, from now until the end. I pitied them, and was horrified by them. Even those that were well off. It was like they were just waiting to die.

And now here I am at 40, divorced, two kids, Ph.D. that will now take incredible heavy lifting to remobilize, resaturate with inertia, and turn into a career—and I feel most of the time as though I am tired of “fighting the fight.” Or rather (this is how we procrastinators do things) I feel as though I’m still too beaten today, tomorrow will be a better day strategically to start the engine once again.

And tomorrow turns into a week, then into a month, then into three years.

Truth is, there is no day when the fight is easy. You either choose to fight it or you don’t. And every day that you don’t is a day on which your mental conditioning and your inertia wane. You get less and less qualified to fight the fight, until you’re hopelessly out of the game.

I don’t want that to be me. Yet at the same time, I don’t know how much “gas” I have left in the tank.

Still, it’s instructive to think back to those other men I’ve known (if I can even call them that) who were entirely out of the game by mid-life. Who were, in effect, dead in advance. I don’t want to be one of those guys. Not for myself, and not for my children.

— § —

Late yesterday we made it (after one of those mistakes) to the outdoors Halloween fest at a local strip mall. It wasn’t a trick-or-treat event (as a multiplicity of signs and postings announced), but rather a charity event with a few streetside games, a live band, and a lot of costumes.

One of the “games” was a set of a dozen or so foam swords that kids could use to fight each other with in play, just for fun. While we were there and I was helping my son with his costume, my daughter was assaulted by a boy a year or two older than she was. (Don’t get me started on the poor parenting that is in evidence in Utah Mormon families, where the motto appears to be “the law of the jungle is God’s law.”) He knocked her down, then tried to rip off her costume for no apparent reason, leaving it torn half open. She came to me crying.

I told her while I was happy to go and give him (and his parents) a damned terrifying talking-to, she had also been learning self-defense in Taekwondo, where she is currently a green belt, and that it was useful for just this type of situation.

She looked at me, picked up two foam swords, strode back into the melee, and let him have it, mercilessly going at him with a two-handed, rapid-fire foam sword attack, bellowing with gusty shouts as he fell backward, then backward some more, stumbling in retreat across yards and yards of lawn until he landed on his backside with his hands over his face and started to yell for help and foam at the mouth, face red. Then she threw the two foam swords down at this bigger boy whose teeth were clenched in impotent rage, stormed back to me, and said “Let’s go do something else, I’m done with this game.”

As a father, I have never been more proud, or more satisfied with the outcome of a troubling kid situation.

— § —

There are two types of “white girls” that I don’t like.

I. The Crate-and-Barrel Eastern Mystic

  • Natural weave or canvas platform-style heels
  • Expensive jeggings
  • Billowy blouse with far too much fabric and uneven trim, despite costing hundreds at an upscale store
  • Studiously disheveled hair that mixes sandy and blonde in some way and cost $hundreds
  • Trite eastern symbols (ohm, yin-yang, Buddha, etc.) as jewelry
  • Starbucks cup in hand
  • Tense as fuck
  • Wants to exude “enlightenment,” is secretly worried she doesn’t

II. The “Please Find Me, 40-and-Sporty” Go-Getter

  • Lululemon yoga pants
  • Cross-training top, usually gray with pink highlights
  • Cross-training sneakers
  • Hairband
  • Gym bag containing “extreme” sports accessories, carried everywhere
  • Expensive convenience store “health beverage” (note scare quotes) in hand
  • Trying so hard it’s making her veins burst
  • Wants to exude “adventurous spirit,” is secretly worried she doesn’t

This is why white girls have the rep they have. Because it’s hard to take them seriously. You don’t know whether to make fun of them or to feel bad for them.

The kinds of white girls I like:

III. The “Who Gives a Shit, I Know What I Like” Chill Girl

  • Men’s jeans
  • Ironic, non-trite print sweatshirt or tee
  • Leather boots with decent wear
  • Natural hair (any cut, just no product or investment)
  • Backpack or messenger bag containing random actually useful stuff
  • Soft drink in hand
  • Not trying at anything, wants to get home and watch the football game
  • Likes to rake leaves and talk bullshit and have a good laugh with the guys

— § —

Forty years in, I’ve taken up sewing.

I’ve re-hemmed three sets of jeans so far and improved some Halloween costumes with a cheap Brother sewing machine. If I’d realized it was this easy, I’d have done this a long time ago.

I like having control over my clothes. It’s turning out to be a really good thing, and I keep looking around for things I can sew.

— § —

There are some people that just do not interact well together.

Everything is composed entirely of awkward moments in which each invariably gets the other wrong without meaning to. They simply speak different languages and live in different worlds, and no amount of learning can rectify this.

When you know someone like this, spend as little time with them as possible.

— § —

I have gone a long time without including post images. Oops.

For a while, I was going back and adding these every few days. Recently, work has been so busy, and the new custody schedule so different, that I haven’t yet figured out how to have the time to do this. I’d like to, though. I miss the visuality myself.

It’s also time—or at least it may be—to re-theme this thing. I am maybe growing a bit tired of the blue-and-gray after all.

— § —

Two small victories from Friday, in the midst of all of the wreckage:

  1. A cheap electric pencil sharpener, you know the kind—big, square, plugs into the wall—found at an ad-hoc thrift store stop for just a couple of bucks. Works. Made my week, if not my month.
  2. An old instance of the game “Othello” (a rather nice one, with a raised felt board and very heavy pieces) from same thrift store. The kids learned the game very quickly, even at their age, and now can’t stop asking to play it. It’s the greatest thing yet invented, so far as they’re concerned.

— § —

Also, on the games note—I have discovered, quite by accident, that my daughter has quite an interesting brain. At just-barely-six, she can count cards.

We have a deck of cards and I have been teaching them some games.

Out of the blue, as we were going through them, she started saying things like, “Now you have all of the twos except the two of diamonds!” and “No, the ace of spades and the king of spades are in the deck; the jack of spades is in my cards, so you must have the queen of spades!”

She is generally right on these things. It floors me. Very surreal. I knew that there were people that had a knack for this (I couldn’t do it even if I tried and practiced) but I didn’t think I’d experience it in my own six-year-old daughter.

But there it is. Without meaning to, just over the course of regular gameplay, she is tracking where the cards are and making game decisions based on this. Remarkable. Parenthood is a fascinating thing to experience.

Just a frustrated stab.  §

The death of hard-assed jeans and their replacement with jeggings (or their jeans equivalents) is the death of America and its replacement with Eurotrash at the low end and Europrissyman at the high end. The older I get, the more I have a distinct distaste for Europe and all things European, including the death of real, hard-assed jeans.

The mundane things.  §

I didn’t realize how unsettled I’d feel when our refrigerator gave out just over a month ago. Gave out as in “couldn’t get the temperature below 45 degrees farenheit in either the refrigerated or freezer sections of the unit.”

It suddenly became impossible to keep any food at all in the house; everything had to be bought just before consumption. Meanwhile, the prospect of $600 to $1,000 or more for a new unit loomed.

Day by day, the lack of in-house refrigeration increased in importance as an issue. Something akin to worry definitely began to set in.

Finally it was clear that something had to be done. Money would have to be spent. But post-divorce, money is very tight. I considered buying a tiny apartment fridge and just living with that as a temporary solution, but somehow when you have kids, that sort of thing seems less plausible than it did when you were a young student on your own.

Finally, with dogged determination, fast talk, quick wits, and a lot of phone callsI scored a fridge through the local classified ads for only $75 and brought it home, installed it, and removed the old one myself using U-Haul rental equipment.

After a lot of cleaning, it’s humming along quietly in the kitchen. And there is food in the house again. And it is strangely beautiful that that is the case. I feel as though I want to hug it, or caress it, each time I walk past. I open it repeatedly just to know that it is there. I want to buy things just for the purpose of putting them inside tt and getting them cold.

The presence of a working refrigerator has reversed so much of the doom and gloom I’ve recently felt that it’s almost silly.

Hooray for indoor refrigeration, which is taken entirely for granted until it disappears on you.

— § —

A few weeks ago as we started painting, I started to excavate the closets (they are packed; there is a significant amount of material crap that gets left behind when an eight year marriage goes bust, and I have ended up with much of the clearing-out tasks).

I found two pairs of old Levi’s 501 raw denim jeans. And they fit. And they are amazing.

It’s easy to forget just how terrible most jeans are until you have a quality pair on you. The fabric and fit and stitching are entirely different. It looks different, definitely, but more to the point, it also feels different.

I’m now breaking in a new pair of 501 shrink-to-fits. When I was a young kid I thought the “break-in” phase, when they’re very stiff, was naff. When I saw people wearing these very stiff, dark-blue things out and about, I made fun of them in my skull.

When I bought new 501s, I’d wash and dry them over and over again until they faded before I’d wear them.

Now? Now I think that phase is beautiful. Because the result is literally uplifting. I wish everyone in the world had access to a really good quality pair of jeans. I suspect it would improve a lot of things.

Remember.  §

This times 1,000.  §


Democracy.  §

“In democracy, the most critical issues are decided at random by a few million fools, because we tried having them decided by a handful of wise men and felt the result was unfair.”


Kick me out of the academy.  §

Kick me out of society.
Boil away my friends.
Because this:



Quotes file: On masculinity.  §

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

Things.  §

  • People who talk all the time about the power of love do so because they don’t believe in it themselves, but would desperately like to.
  • I’ll say it now, out loud: the emperor has no clothes. The race/gender lobby has turned into the totalitarian inquisition that they have long accused the Christians of being. Neither inquisition is compatible with enlightenment. Both are dangerous, and everyone knows it, only nobody right now is willing to call out the race/gender lobby because of their abusive, PTSD-infused tactics that can sink institutions and careers. The time will come.
  • Nobody—N O B O D Y—actually believes in liberal values. Show me ten people who say they believe in diversity, tolerance, freedom, reason, consciousness, and any other high-minded ideal that you care to name, and I will show you ten hypocrites who are lying through their teeth. I don’t care what their political persuasion is. People are selfish, end of story.
  • This is what a society that mocks philosophy looks like.

Things.  §

Sometimes in life you are just plain tired. Right now I am just plain tired.

— § —

It is difficult and painful to operate with honor, integrity, and maturity, but only fools and children believe they’ll somehow save themselves difficulty and pain in the long run by betraying these things.

— § —

The start of fall is always a happy time. The middle of fall is always a bittersweet time. New beginnings beget awareness of ever-approaching endings.

— § —

Less than a month of Karate as a kid and I’m able to help my own kids with their form in Taekwondo now. It’s amazing to imagine how much they’ll retain after having done this for many months, or even many years.

— § —

The days pass quickly while you are busy wondering what you ought to be doing with them.

— § —

The clothes I just recently put away because they were “too warm” need to come back out again. This is the grown-up version of the “making the bed” argument.

— § —

Once you concede to blackmail, you will never, ever be free of it again. The best policy is to hold your ground to begin with, even if it seems painful.

— § —

Tomatoes, which I hated so much as a child that I wrote a poem to that effect, are amongst life’s little joys.

— § —

Self-marketing is the single most important key to success in life. I am terrible at it, mostly because it makes me feel dirty and as someone with a modicum of integrity, I struggle to get myself to do it. As a result, I end up teaching people everything I know, then watching them become successful with my teaching—largely because they advertise their accomplishments—even if I am generally better and more experienced at the same things. Meanwhile, I do not progress, and continue to informally teach. I wish my wiring was a little less like that of a monk, and more like that of Tim Ferriss.

— § —

My wiring is not very much like that of Tim Ferriss and very much like that of a monk.

— § —

When I was young, I hated repeating tasks. Drudgery, it felt like. I sought to automate them, or find ways to not have to do them at all. Now that I’m older, repeating tasks have become little rituals that make life somehow less forbidding. Once a week I add 25 lbs. of air pressure to my right rear tire, which leaks. Every day I mop the floor, starting and ending on the same sides of the room each time. Twice a week I clean the bathroom. And so on. Without these little Tasks That Must Be Done, I might stagnate completely, lose my job, and become an unfit person. But the tire must have the air. And so everything else in life gets done.

— § —

That’s not to say that I really understand why most things in life must be done—not at an ontological level. Just at a practical one. Ontology itself seems to me to be the study of the effectively arbitrary.

— § —

It took me weeks to fix the sprinkler system this spring, and so I didn’t run it at first. As a result, big chunks of the lawn died. Then, I got it fixed and re-seeded. The re-seeding went well, and the grass is now growing thick and requiring watering and mowing and so on (the latter at least one or two more times before the season is done). The final result is that I wish the grass would die off again.

— § —

Basil is also one of life’s little joys. Basil and wristwatches. Not being broke though; that’s not a little joy at all.

October.  §

bite off a little bit at a time
because survival matters

the world is made up of
the echoes of unwritten stories
that will never be finished

and days
that will never be lived

Parenting Zen.  §

People have reduced parenting to an extensive set of rules.

Do X.
Don’t do Y.
Frame things in terms of Z.
Adopt strategy A for discipline.
Adopt strategy B for rewards.
Keep in mind these 11 Axioms about C.
Always buy U.
Never buy V.
And so on.

And then people are still on Facebook and Twitter about how many rules there are and how bad their kids are anyway and how it’s such a struggle and they need a big glass of booze and so on.

It’s all nonsense. Rules don’t make for better parents or for better kids. They miss the point. There are exactly two steps to successful parenting and happy kids.

(1) Internalize the fact that you are the adult parent and they are the kids, without confusion or hesitation.
(2) Take joy in parenting.

Lots of people can’t do #1, and even more can’t do #2.

Oh sure, everyone says “I love being a parent!” but then the follow it up with “But I hate tantrums, messes, battles over television, lying, fighting, having to lay down the law strictly…” Loving being a parent is not the same thing as loving parenting. Loving parenting means that the tantrums are adorable, the messes inspire a cozy glow, the battles over television are amusing and humorous, the lying is cute, the fighting amuses you, and the strictness feels—in that moment—like love and love only.

Because those are the things that parenting is made of. If you do not love those things, enjoy them, find them to be interesting and fun and an inspiring challenge to grow, etc. then your parenting is not happy parenting. You may love being a parent, but you are not parenting happily. And parents are always parenting. And kids are happy when their parents are legitimately and authentically happy. So given that you’re parenting basically nonstop when you’re a parent, if you’re not happy when parenting, your kids ain’t gonna be happy either. And if you don’t know that you’re in charge and they’re not, then you’re going to get run over, whether everyone is happy or not.

Those two points are all that it’s about. Be the grown-up and take joy in parenting, and everyone is happy and everything that has to get done gets done. Fail to take absolute, moment-by-moment pleasure in the everyday parenting tasks and challenges from your children and nobody will be happy. Fail to be the adult in the room or to be conscious of that fact and nothing will get done.

The rest is just… the rest.

Yikes.  §

A toxic, mutually-destructive relationship is one in which both people feel as though the other person is always interfering with their best ideas, skills, initiatives, and characteristics. Rather than both people thriving, each feels as though the other one is actively working against them, trying to sabotage everything they are trying to be and do. Over time, each person shrinks—becomes smaller and less than they were, rather than bigger and more.

When two people significantly diminish each other, just by being their best selves, they should not often be in the same room together, much less in a relationship with one another. They need to distance themselves from one another and live their own lives.

More and more truth.  §

“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

Irritation.  §

I get irritated at a lot of things that are abstract—society and culture, the limitations of physics, and so on.

But it takes a whole hell of a lot to really, really irritate me on a person-to-person level—to get me irritated at somebody in particular. I’m a person with lots of feelings, but usually irritation is near the bottom of the list.

Right now, however, I am seriously personally irritated. I am trying to talk myself down, but frankly, there are few harder feelings to talk yourself down from.