Confessions of a researchaholic

March 23, 2012

Smoke

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:03 pm
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Dear Chinese government:

According to the following statistics, 50% of Chinese men smoke, consuming one-third of the world’s cigarettes.

As you can imagine, this is a significant drag-down of the Chinese national power, given the well known facts about health hazards caused by smoking.

Please put your authoritarian power in good use and ban smoking outright. No, not just in public places, but illegalize cigarettes all together.
Unlike the dysfunctional democracies like America who have to listen to tobacco lobbyists, you have no such baggage. And I am pretty sure no Chinese tobacco kingpin is more powerful than Bo Xilai, whom you sacked with such ease and grace just last week.

You can easily bankrupt the world’s tobacco industry by eliminating one-third of their revenues. This will go down as one of the major achievements in human history.

The last dynasty, Qing, in a much weaker state, had the gut to ban opium. I am pretty sure China is strong enough now to win a second opium war even if some foreign imperial power is stupid enough to start one.

Sincerely yours.

July 20, 2011

Name

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:56 am
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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare

But this is true only if the name is not already loaded with other meanings and the name cannot reflexively influence the entity being named. For the name “rose”, it does not carry any meaning other than a specific breed of flowers that smell sweet. For the entity “rose”, it still smells sweet even if it is named otherwise (such as “dung”).

When it comes to naming, people would be an exact opposite case to roses. People’s names are usually already overloaded with meanings, and names can reflexively influence people’s behaviors and self perceptions. I have an uncle whose first name was “至愚” which roughly translates to *extremely stupid*, and my grandparents told me that it became an excuse (in a funny and joking way though) for my uncle to not perform well in school as a child. (He later changed his name to something better.)

In case you wonder, it is not uncommon for Chinese parents to name their heirs negatively, as the tradition believes that doing so can help avoid devil’s attention. But whatever discretion my grandfather has for that uncle disappeared when he named me “立一”, which roughly translates to *number one*, *the first*, or *the best*. Not a typical name in a culture that observes humility and conformity (and devil’s attention). Probably because of the name or probably because of the expectations, I have been trying to live up to my name since childhood, although unfortunately more on the non-humble/non-conforming side rather than on the being number-one side. And probably because of the devil’s attention, I always have difficulty accomplishing anything other than the best, even if I tried.

Every year during my birthday, I tried to find someone or something to be thankful. In the last few years I thanked my mom for the pain she has to endure to bear and raise me. But this year, I would like to thank the name that was given to me, and the family elders who came up with it. It has guided me well throughout my entire life. Every time I have doubts about myself or need to make hard decisions, my name already reminds me who I am and what I am supposed to do.

August 12, 2010

Reviewing computer science papers

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:06 pm
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Computer theory: A hundred page proof that takes many very smart people weeks or even months to verify and (eventually) reject.

Computer graphics: A 4 to 8 page paper that takes one Joe Six Pack maybe just 3 seconds to reject because the teaser image does not look beautiful enough.

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