Town Shock

I recently hitchhiked from Donner Pass to the town of Truckee (a distance a bit less than 10 miles / 15 km). The guy who gave me a ride has lived in Truckee most of his life. He commented that when he moved to Truckee as a kid it was still a small town of about 6000 people.

“You know how big the towns I’ve been in lately are?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“The last town I was in, Sierra City, has an official population of 221.”

“Oh.”

“And before that, the last town I had been was Belden. Care to guess the population?”

“No. What’s the population of that town?”

“Officially, the population is 22, though I don’t think that includes the seasonal workers who only live there for a few months per year.”

“Oh wow.”

“Since I left San Francisco, the biggest town I’ve been in was Etna, which has a whopping population of 800 people.”

“Okay, I take that back, compared to the towns you’ve been in lately, Truckee is huge. I think we now have about 15,000 people.”

Technically, between San Francisco and Etna, I did transfer in two towns – Dunsmuir and Yreka – which have a population of over a thousand people (I think Yreka has about 7000 people) but since I was just there for bus transfers I feel they don’t count. Some of the people in Etna tried to persuade me to leave San Francisco and move to Etna but they failed. Since I left Etna and started my hike, the towns I’ve stopped at have been Castella (population: 240), Cassel (population: 207), Old Station (population: 51), Belden (population: 22), and Sierra City (population: 221). Thus, Truckee is by far the most populated place I’ve been in for weeks.

Believe it or not, all of these towns have post offices. Post offices are part of the life blood of these tiny towns. They are also one of the most important stops for hikers (though I try to avoid using post offices on the PCT – I prefer to use UPS to deliver my packages to a local business instead). Even Belden has a post office.

It’s a bit of a shock. Truckee has supermarkets. Plural. Truckee has more restaurants than I can count on one hand. Truckee has gas stations, plural (Castella, Old Station, and Sierra City each have a single gas station; Cassel does not have a gas station; Belden does not have a gas station and it’s a 50 mile / 80 kilometer drive to the nearest gas station). Truckee has a post office with more than two employees. Heck, Truckee has post offices, plural (amazing). Truckee has public transportation (well, so does Etna, but Etna has a population over 500 people). Truckee is really sprawled out (well, so is Belden – even though Belden officially only has 22 people, it is miles long because it is in a canyon where the few patches of land flat enough for buildings are not all in the same place). Most of all, it is possible to be really anonymous in Truckee in a way it’s not possible in a town with less than 500 people. Even though I was just a visitor passing through these tiny towns, both the locals and other PCT hikers could instantly peg me as a PCT hiker, and that gave me some designated place in the town’s social system. Meanwhile, in Truckee, people hardly notice me at all unless I give them a reason to notice me.

I don’t just hike the Pacific Crest Trail for the trail itself – I also hike it because it allows me to experience these towns I would have never heard of otherwise, let alone visited. And it gives me a chance to get to know really tiny towns in rural California. I spent two nights in Belden – spending that much time in a town with so few people was a novel experience. I also spent two nights in Cassel.

But at the time I’m writing this post, I’m in Truckee, which is a gigantic town (yes, I know I grew up in San Francisco, which has way more people than Truckee, but still, it’s been weeks since I’ve been around so many people, so I feel that Truckee is HUGE).

Truckee has internet which is not slow.

I have yet to visit a trail town on the PCT which I did not like. I like Truckee too. Each town, tiny or not so tiny, has its own distinct atmosphere and its positives (as well as its negatives, but I tend to find more positives than negatives).

And I’m actually stopping my hike for a week so I can do something which is not hiking. And it’s going to involve going to towns which have a population even bigger than Truckee. I guess Truckee is helping me adjust to dealing with bigger towns again.

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The Meaning of ‘Siusa’

There is a word in Chinese – 瀟灑. In Mandarin, it is pronounced as ‘xiāo​sǎ’ and in Cantonese it is pronounced as ‘siusa’. Since I can actually speak Mandarin, I favor the Mandarin pronunciation, but since this blog is in English, I am going to use the Cantonese romanization ‘siusa’ for readers who do not know how to pronounce the Mandarin ‘x’ sound*. (Note: I am assuming that this word has the same meaning in Cantonese as in Mandarin, but since I don’t know much Cantonese, I cannot be sure of that.) The ‘siu’ in ‘siusa’ is pronounced like the phrase ‘see you’ but compressed into a single syllable, and the ‘sa’ has the same ‘a’ as the word ‘father’ (don’t ask me about pronouncing Cantonese tones, since I don’t know how to pronounce them myself).

So, what the heck does the word ‘siusa’ mean? Here is one dictionary definition. Here is a different dictionary definition. I notice that the second dictionary gives the word one definition, but then translates it very differently in the examples. I think this just goes to show that English does not actually have a word for the concept of ‘siusa’.

The fact that there is no English word for ‘siusa’ means it is often trips up translators. For example, in the English translation of this song, they translate ‘siusa’ as ‘debonair’ which is not an accurate translation. It does not make sense in context ‘ Be debonair like the wind, lightly floating’ and it makes even less sense in the overall context of the song. But there are worse examples. In the translation of this song (the translation is in the description, not the video itself), they translate “huó​ de xiāo​-xiāo-​sǎ-sǎ” as “have a stylish life” which is a downright bad translation (though at least it makes sense in English, unlike the phrase “let the secularity go with us”).

So what, after all, is the meaning of siusa? I think it is better to use examples than to try to write definitions. Since it is often used as an adjective to describe people, I am going to try to find examples from various works of fiction in English.

Harry Potter: I would say that the most siusa character is Sirius Black (and I’ve seen native Chinese speakers describe him as ‘siusa’).

Romeo & Juliet: Obviously, the most siusa character is Mercutio, in fact he is probably the most siusa character in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, maybe in the entire Shakespeare canon.

Star Wars: It has been about 15 years since I’ve seen any of the Star Wars movies (except as clips), but based on my memories, I would say Han Solo is the most siusa character.

Star Trek: I’m only really familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation; in that series, I would say the most siusa recurring character is Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana Troi (this clip offers a sample of her personality).

Pirates of the Caribbean: I’ve only seen the first movie, and I saw it more than ten years ago, but, ummm, Jack Sparrow seemed like a siusa guy.

James Bond: Once again, it’s been over ten years since I’ve seen a James Bond movie / read a James Bond novel, but based on what I remember, James Bond is siusa in the movies, not so siusa in the novels.

Supernatural: I’ve only seen a few episodes. Maybe there are siusa characters, but based on what I saw, neither of the Winchester brothers nor Castiel are siusa.

Girl Genius: There are actually a lot of siusa characters in this webcomic. Among the main characters, I would say the most siusa are Zeetha, Maxim, and Bangladesh Dupree.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Believe it or not, I have not seen a single MCU movie, so I don’t have the faintest idea. If anyone wishes to suggest a siusa MCU character, feel free to comment.

Doctor Who: Never seen it, any of it, if anyone wishes to make a suggestion, go ahead.

Game of Thrones: I read the first 30 pages about 15 years ago, and I completely forgot what happened, aside from the fact that there is a character called … Eddard Stark? (I could look that up, but I want to do this strictly from memory) who is some kind of nobleman. If anyone wants to make suggestions, go ahead.

Also, apparently, the Chinese language edition of GQ magazine is called “Xiāosǎ”.

The word siusa is often associated with movement, or at least not being tied down by an anchor, which is why a song lyric like ‘be siusa like the wind, lightly floating’ makes sense, and why a word like siusa can also be used to describe calligraphy. One of my favorite descriptions of siusa I’ve found was somewhere in the Chinese-language internet where someone said (my translation/paraphrase) ‘a siusa person leaves when they want to leave’.

Siusa is also associated with a lot of other Chinese words which do not have direct equivalents in English, but methinks if I want to explain more of those words I need more blog posts. Thus, I’m just going to describe the one which has a good English equivalent – 英俊, which is pronounced as ‘yīng​jùn’​ in Mandarin and ‘yingjeon’ in Cantonese. It means ‘handsome’. The common phrase is ‘yīng​jùn xiāo​sǎ’ (Mandarin) or ‘yingjeon siusa’ (Cantonese), and I suppose the English word ‘dashing’ is a decent translation of the phrase. However, while ying​jun and siusa (yes, I can mix Mandarin and Cantonese if I wish because this is MY BLOG) are associated with each other, they are separate words because they represent different ideas, and in particular, some of the discussions I’ve seen of the meaning of siusa in Chinese make it clear that there is no requirement that somebody be good-looking in order to be siusa. And unlike ‘yingjun’, ‘siusa’ is a word which can be used to describe people of any gender. I suspect that ‘siusa’ is often (mis)translated as ‘handsome’ because it’s often paired with the word yingjun.

One thing I noticed as I was putting together the list of characters is that it is a lot harder to think of siusa protagonists in English language fiction than in Chinese language fiction (in fact, the only examples I could think of were Jack Sparrow and movies!James Bond). Siusa characters, when they appear in English language fiction, are a lot more likely to be supporting characters, like Mercutio and Sirius Black, and they are also less common than siusa supporting characters in Chinese fiction. Siusa characters are especially common in wuxia, my favorite genre of Chinese language fiction, but even in other genres of Chinese language fiction, it is easier to find siusa characters than in English language fiction. The conclusion I gather from this is that siusa is a personal quality which is more valued in Sinophone cultures than in Anglophone cultures, which might be why Chinese has a word for it and English does not.

I rather like the concept, and since English does not have a word for it, I propose that English import the word ‘siusa’ itself. And now that I’ve written this post, if I ever feel an inclination to use the word in future blog posts, I can link back to this one.


* If you really want to know how to pronounce the ‘x’ in ‘xiāo​sǎ’ then do this: 1) pronounce a ‘sh’ sound and feel how the air whooshes through your teeth 2) pronounce a ‘k’ or a ‘g’ sound and feel it in the middle of your mouth 3) create another ‘sh’ sound, but instead of having the air whoosh around your teeth, have the air whoosh in the same part of the mouth where you pronounce ‘k’ and ‘g’ sounds, congratulations, you can now pronounce the Mandarin ‘x’ sound.

The Density Debate: Infrastructure (Part 2)

Find Part 1 here.

If I am understanding the anti-density advocates arguments about the sewage system (and infrastructure) in general, then they predict that, if San Francisco’s population increases, either the degradation of our sewage system will accelerate, or if more resources are put into maintaining/upgrading the sewage system to accommodate the increase in population, diseconomies of scale will cause sewage bills to go up (i.e. the costs will be so high that, even with a larger base of ratepayers, the SFPUC will still have to charge more PER PERSON).

But what do I know? While more people means more stress on the sewage system, it also seems like a lot of the costs of the sewage system are fixed, not dependent on population. Even if San Francisco’s population does not increase, having a bunch of 100-year old sewers failing would still be a problem. Maybe having a larger base of ratepayers to cover the fixed costs will help even out the marginal costs incurred by a larger population. I’m definitely not enough of an expert on sewage systems to judge this one.

And then there is transportation. Traffic is bad in downtown San Francisco, and the streetcars / buses going to downtown are quite crowded during rush hour. I think the problem of crowded streetcars and buses could be solved by hiring more drivers and buying more vehicles and increasing frequency, but I know that is expensive, and that there are also logistical obstacles to buying more vehicles (even when the public transit agency tries to buy more vehicles, they sometimes fail, and have to repair the old vehicles instead – it’s complicated). The pro-density people say that increasing density would help alleviate congestion because more people could live close to their workplaces, and the anti-density people say that more people means more congestion and overloaded public transit.

Does population density increase or decrease congestion? Methinks the devil is in the details. It is true that there is a correlation between population density and congestion within San Francisco. Chinatown, which is densely populated, is also one of the most congested neighborhoods, the buses tend to be full, and I don’t even want to think about parking in Chinatown. In Forest Knolls, one of San Francisco’s least densely populated neighborhoods, I do not recall ever seeing a traffic jam, the buses tend to be less than half full, and parking is not so hard to find (by San Francisco standards). But that does not mean I think transportation is better in Forest Knolls than in Chinatown. In Chinatown, the buses are frequent, whereas the buses are not frequent in Forest Knolls. Also, Chinatown has a lot of grocery stores and restaurants, whereas I cannot think of a single convenience store, let alone a grocery or restaurant, in Forest Knolls, so one basically has to leave the neighborhood to buy food, and that is a transportation problem (and one of the main reasons I would rather live in Chinatown than Forest Knolls). I’ve seen some people from Forest Knolls protest against building more housing (i.e. increase population density), and while I think some of their concerns are valid, I do not think their concern about how it would impact public transit is valid. I actually would like to have more people living in Forest Knolls because then there would be more an incentive to increase the frequency of the bus lines there (and the buses going through Forest Knolls almost always have plenty of seats anyway) (and if you’re wondering how I know so much about buses in Forest Knolls, it’s because I used to use those buses to get to school).

I’m not talking about gas or electricity because I know even less about electrical grids and gas delivery than I do about water and sewage and transportation.

I do agree with the broader point of the anti-density activists that at some point the diseconomies of scale outweigh the economies of scale, and that increasing population density beyond that point means either paying a lot more for infrastructure or living with crappier infrastructure. And maybe San Francisco is at that inflection point, at least for some infrastructure systems.

I have lived in Taoyuan, a city in Taiwan. Just about any city in Taiwan with a population > 150,000 people is much more densely populated than San Francisco, and infrastructure in Taiwan, including Taoyuan, is generally crappier than the infrastructure in San Francisco (is the infrastructure crappy BECAUSE the population density is so high? I don’t know – I’m just saying that the population was much higher AND the infrastructure was crappier). I’ll be more specific – I drink water straight from the tap in San Francisco, whereas I did not dare do that in Taoyuan (I did not even take showers in the tap water in Taoyuan, I used a shower filter, the water is that bad). After hearing all of the horror stories about how crowded BART (a transit system in the San Francisco region) is during rush hour, I tend to be pleasantly surprised when I do end up riding BART during rush hour, because it is not as packed as the trains going in and out of Taoyuan. I can only recall one occasion when I took a bus within Taoyuan city (as opposed to an intercity bus) because the bus system in Taoyuan is much more limited than the bus system in San Francisco. And during all my decades of living in San Francisco, I have never encountered awful traffic like the awful traffic of Taoyuan (to be fair, Taoyuan appeared on a list of five Taiwanese cities with the worst traffic, so it may not be representative of Taiwanese cities). Sewage – well, the sewage system in Taoyuan could not handle toilet paper. Garbage? In San Francisco, garbage gets sent to a landfill outside the city. In Taoyuan, because Taiwan has a much higher population density than California, there is no space for landfills, so garbage is incinerated, which reduces air quality. Electricity – actually, in my experience, electricity was more reliable in Taoyuan than San Francisco, so I guess maybe Taoyuan did not ~always~ have inferior infrastructure.

Taoyuan was also lacking in some of the less obvious types of infrastructure. For example, San Francisco has a system to limit the number of stray cats, and the few stray cats who live in San Francisco tend to be relatively healthy. If Taoyuan had any kind of system to limit the number of stray cats, it was failing badly, and while I generally enjoyed watching the stray cats of Taoyuan, I could see that some of them were suffering.

Heck, the sidewalks of Taoyuan were so thoroughly awful that, even as an able-bodied person, I sometimes felt they were an obstacle course (and it is worse for people who are not able-bodied). I now have a much better appreciation of San Francisco’s sidewalks, and the local ordinances which require that sidewalks not be obstructed. I am also aware of the cost of such ordinances, since when the sidewalk outside our home was in such bad condition that it violated ordinances, my mother, as the property owner, had to pay for the repair.

And yet, the crappier level of infrastructure in Taoyuan did not ruin my life. Though it definitely helped that I lived in downtown Taoyuan, which meant that groceries, restaurants, my workplace, the library, and the train station were all within walking distance of my apartment – that allowed me to ignore most of the traffic congestion (though I still got tripped up – sometimes literally – by the crappy sidewalks). I was just as capable of attaining happiness and fulfilment in Taoyuan city as in San Francisco. I do not consider relatively crappy infrastructure to be as unspeakably awful as some of the anti-density activists imply. At the same time, I think it is something which needs to be considered, and something which the pro-density activists tend to not pay enough attention to.

In short, I agree with the anti-density people that increasing population density may lead to a crapification of at least some types of infrastructure. If increasing the population density of San Francisco brings enough benefits, I would be willing to accept a crapification of infrastructure – but the question of whether or not increasing population density brings substantial benefits is beyond the scope of this post.

The Density Debate: Infrastructure (Part 1)

There has been a long, ongoing debate about population density in San Francisco, and whether or not it is a good thing to build lots of new housing and increase the population density. It is a complex subject with many nuances, so it would be impossible to do the subject justice in a single blog post. Thus, I am singling out one aspect: infrastructure.

First, I suggest at least quickly skimming this essay, which has a proposal for how to build a large number of homes in San Francisco for just $50,000 per unit. You may notice that it completely ignores the question of water, sewage, and electrical grids, though it does address transportation to some degree.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen a presentation by people who are strongly opposed to increasing the population density of San Francisco, and one of their major arguments is that San Francisco’s infrastructure is already at capacity. If we increased the population of the city without major investments in new infrastructure, they claimed, our infrastructure will fail. They especially focused on water, sewage, and transportation.

I’m going to make a gross simplification: with increasing population density, there are economies of scale for infrastructure, UNTIL a certain point is reached, and then there are diseconomies of scale (or more accurately, before the inflection point, economies of scale > diseconomies of scale, after the inflection point, economies of scale < diseconomies of scale).

To illustrate what I mean, I'm going to give a hypothetical example. Let's say there are a network of villages where nobody uses wheels, let alone any motorized vehicle, and there is also no water transportation, thus all travel is done by foot. Trails are the infrastructure which facilitate inter-village travel. If the population density is very low (villages don't have many people & are far apart) trail maintenance really is not worth the bother, it is better to just go cross-country when someone needs to get from one village to another. As the population density increases (more people in the vilages / villages closer together) the collective effort it takes to maintain trails is less than the collective effort it takes to travel cross-country, so it makes sense for the villages to break and maintain trails. As the population density gets higher, the trails get clogged with traffic, so it makes sense to break and maintain even more trails to accommodate the higher traffic. But if there are too many trails, the terrain becomes eroded, and the erosion threatens the villages' livelihood (it degrades the villages' water supplies or it threatens to bury the villages with landslides or something like that). Once it reaches the point where additional trails will cause destructive erosion, if the villages wish to preserve themselves, they either make do with trails that are clogged with traffic, or they limit inter-village travel.

I know that the people who designed San Francisco's water and sewage system thought that San Francisco might eventually have a million residents, and planned accordingly. Meanwhile, the water and sewage system is roughly a hundred years old, and the current population is about 880,000 (which actually blows my mind, because I always think of San Francisco as having a population of 750,000). Though I do not know enough about the workings of the water and sewage system of San Francisco to judge the claim 'San Francisco's water and sewage system is already maxed out', I think the claim is at least plausible.

Of course, a higher population would, presumably, increase the economic activity of San Francisco, and either through water & sewage bills or taxes, there would be more money for improving the water and sewage system. The question is, is the cost for expanding the capacity of the water and sewage system higher or lower than the economic benefit of having more people? And is there an inflection point where the marginal cost of accommodating more people with infrastructure shoots up?

Given how viciously expensive it is just to repair and maintain the current system, my guess is that any attempt to increase the capacity is going to be very costly. For one thing, California is prone to drought, and there is already intense competition for water in California, so increasing San Francisco's water supply beyond the water that San Francisco already has water rights for would be difficult (yes, San Francisco sells water to many other Bay Area communities – but even though San Francisco holds the water rights, the communities which buy water from San Francisco have very long-term contracts which would be difficult to break without serious consequences – and even if those contracts were broken, San Francisco would only be 'gaining' water by depriving other Bay Area communities of water). That is one reason why local groundwater is being added to the tap water supply – a lot of people are opposed because the local groundwater is much more polluted that the water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, but the local groundwater is the only additional supply of fresh water that San Francisco has an indisputable right to use.

Not all ways of increasing the capacity require ~building~ more infrastructure, but they still would come with high indirect costs. The simplest method is simply to impose strict water rationing, and as the population increases, to reduce the per-capita ration. That said, I think it is obvious that water rationing would impose numerous costs on residents.

Sometimes, I envy the water situation of Marin County, just north of San Francisco. Marin County is mostly self-sufficient in water – it has just about enough high-quality water within its borders to supply its residents (unlike San Francisco, which depends on water from the Sierra Nevada mountains), so its water system is much less entangled with other counties, and it is also less prone to drought than most parts of California. Marin County can only pull this off because it has a much lower population density than the highly-populated Bay Area counties – if Marin County's population substantially increased, it would also depend on water sources outside its own boundaries.

Sewage has its own issues. The Southeast Treatment Plant is old and basically at capacity, which is why partially untreated sewage is sometimes dumped into the bay. There are numerous ways to solve this problem, and all of them are damn expensive. Increasing sewage usage in the part of San Francisco served by the Southeast Plant would definitely make these problems worse. The plant is going through a multi-year renewal process, which is a) damn expensive and b) for the most part is just going to maintain current capacity, not dramatically increase capacity (for example, seismic retrofitting is necessary to prevent the sewage plant from being destroyed by the next big earthquake, but does not increase capacity). The Ocean Sewage Treatment Plant is newer and, as far as I know, not at max capacity, but it only serves about 20% of the population of San Francisco, and buildings can't be shifted from one sewage plant to the other because of San Francisco's geography (if it were possible to do so, I'm sure it would have already been done). If sewage were the most important matter, then this would be a strong argument for allocating all population increase to the catchment area of the Ocean Plant and not having any population increase in the Southeast Plant catchment area – but sewage is just one of many issues.

And that is just the sewage plants, not the sewers themselves. 60% of all sewers in San Francisco are 80+ years old, and some sewers date back to the 1860s and frequently fall into disrepair, stressing the whole system.

To make all of this EVEN MORE COMPLICATED, San Francisco is the only city in California (aside from the oldest part of Sacrameto) with a combined sewer system. That is because San Francisco has such a high population density that, unlike other cities in California, it could not afford to separate its sewage and stormwater systems, and that is a large part of why San Francisco sometimes dumps partially untreated sewage into the bay. Though combined sewer systems cause less water pollution than separated systems (except when the system is overwhelmed and partially untreated sewage is dumped in the bay) it is a system with higher maintenance costs.

This post is so long I split it into two parts, and I'm just ending Part 1 here because this is about halfway through the original post.

My Slowly Increasing Seniority in the Ace Community

This is a submission to the July 2018 Carvnival of Aces “Then and Now”.

It’s the kind of change which can really creep up on someone, but looking back, I feel the effects of my increasing seniority in the ace community.

First, an analogy to something more concrete.

I attended a small high school. That meant there was a lot of interaction between all grade levels – freshman (first year), sophomore (second year), junior (third year), and senior (fourth year). Often different grade levels would be mixed into the same classes – for example, since there was only a single physics class offered during my junior year, it was open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and we were all in the same physics class (it was not open to freshmen because students had to request to be put into the physics, and practically none of the incoming freshmen even understood how the classes at my high school were organized, let alone consider putting in a request to be placed in that rare physics class). Though it was uncommon, there were occasionally classes which were all four years mixed together.

The fact that there was so much mixing of grade levels meant that people of different grade levels had a lot of social interaction with each other, and thus one’s grade level was socially important. Everything else being equal, the higher one’s grade level, the higher one’s social rank. It was rare that students in the higher years would pick on the students in the lower years – that was Very Uncool (and on the rare occasions when outright bullying of students in lower years happened, the school administration would land on the bullies like a ton of bricks). It was more of a frame of mind thing than anything explicitly enforced.

Mostly, freshmen were new to high school and insecure in their position relative to their peers and the school in general. Seniors had generally figured out their place in high school, understood the school very well, and they were going to leave soon anyway so they cared less about trivial social matters, and from the outside this looked a lot like that the seniors were confident and had their shit together. As a freshman, I looked up to the seniors as the Awesome Beings Who Were Really Capable. When I became a senior myself, I was far from being an Awesome Being Who Was Really Capable, but I could fake it, at least in front of freshmen. Sophomores and juniors were in between the extremes of ‘freshman’ and ‘senior’.

One of the most memorable moments of my high school years was when I was a junior, and I was dealing with a freshman just a few weeks after the beginning of the school year. I could see how vulnerable he was, and how he looked up to me as a sparkly idol of how to be a high school student. I recognized that feeling because I had felt the same way towards juniors and seniors when I was a very fresh freshman, and I also felt at that moment that I was unworthy of being his sparkly idol, that I was merely a teenager who was slightly less confused than him. And that was also the moment I realized that the juniors and seniors who had gone before me were not actually sparkly idols, but teenagers who had been slightly less confused than me. It was as if someone had ripped a veil off my face and I found myself staring into a mirror.

The ace community is not organized on lines anywhere nearly as clear-cut as high school. We do not divide ourselves into ‘people who have identified as ace for less than a year’ ‘people who have identified as as for two years’ ‘people who have identified as ace for seven years’ etc. At ace meetings, I won’t say ‘hey, are you a fourth-year ace?’ However, I feel that the ace community also has a dynamic where one’s seniority within the ace community – i.e. how long one has considered oneself to be a member of the ace community – affects how we relate to each other.

Once upon a time, I was a baby ace. I was insecure and vulnerable in my ace identity. All of my interaction with the ace community was strictly passive. I think there were both advantages and disadvantages to not having active interactions with the ace community at that time. A lot of that passive interaction was reading blogs (and if you’re curious what blogs those were, this post gives you a good idea). Back then, the options for interacting with the ace community were much more limited than they are now (it was basically AVEN with a few very, very small groups on the side), but the main reason I kept my distance was a lack of confidence.

Then, I had my moment of sophomore arrogance. I had settled just enough into my ace identity that I felt I could stand up for myself – which meant that I went to the other extreme for a little bit, and thought I could SHOW THEM ALL with my ace brilliance, like a sophomore drunk on the power that comes with being a returning student instead of an incoming student (except the transfers – since I wasn’t a transfer, I won’t speak to that). I briefly had the ambition of not just starting an ace blog, but starting THE BEST ACE BLOG EVARRRRRRR!!!!! Fortunately, this moment of sophomore arrogrance passed quickly, because that would have been a recipe for burnout. It did push me to finally start this blog, which I deliberately made a low-key endeavour, even if that meant it would not turn into the best ace blog ever, so that I could keep it running for the long haul (and also, this has always been more of a ‘I want to write about this now’ blog than an ace blog, which is a large part of why I don’t burn out).

In the beginning, this blog was very obscure, and I was fine with that. It was only once I started participating in the Carnival of Aces – this very carnival I am submitting this post to – that this became noticed by the ace blogging community at large (yes, I know a few of you found this blog before that, and I appreciate you).

In the process of participating in the ace blogging community, I learned a LOT about asexuality as well as various other topics, and as I learned more, and became a little better known, I became even more confident, not strictly in my own personal identity, but also with my standing as a community member.

After I moved back to the United States, I also started participating in the ace community offline. By now, I’ve been going to local ace meetups for years.

There are two curious things I notice at this point in time.

To the extent I have status/rank/prestige in the ace blogging community, I believe it has more to do with the fact that I’ve been at this a long time than the quality of my posts. If you were to compare, say, my 5 best ace blog posts, and compare them to the 5 best ace blog posts of quite a few other ace bloggers past and present, my posts would look less impressive. But the quality of my posts is high enough to interest enough people, and I have been going at this for more than half a decade, and I don’t burn out (well, I sometimes get tired of writing about asexuality for a while, but then I write about something else, and then I get back to writing about asexuality) and I think that counts for a lot. All a high school freshman has to do to become a senior is pass the required classes and spend three years in high school.

The other curious thing is that, at offline meetups, I am often in the top fifth when it comes to people who have identified as ace the longest. I described in this post a bit of how I have become more secure as an ace over time. I feel that one of the disadvantages of that is that I am forgetting a bit of what it is like to be a ‘baby ace’ and I that I sometimes fail to show them enough consideration. There have been a few times in the past year when I have interacted with someone who has only recently been identifying as ace, and when I look back at those interactions in hindsight, I wish I had acted with a bit more sensitivity. This is a relatively new concern for me, and one I only became aware of once I started perceiving myself as someone who has been in the ace community longer than most members (though of course there are still many who have been participating in the ace community longer than I have).

I do not think seniority was nearly as big of a deal in the ace community ten years ago since back then there was hardly anybody who had been participating in the ace community more than a few years, if even that long. As the ace community continues to go one, I expect there will be more diversity in terms of how long someone has been in the community, and I expect the seniority dynamics will become more complex.