Confessions of a researchaholic

July 17, 2014

Constructive criticism

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:29 pm
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Criticisms can help us improve, but only if they contain constructive information.

Some examples:

Useless criticism: this result is unacceptable.
Constructive criticism: this result is unacceptable because it contains this specific form of artifacts.

Useless criticism: this presentation is uninteresting.
Constructive criticism: this presentation is uninteresting because I do not care topic X and would rather hear more about topic Y.

As a recipient, I feel excited about constructive criticisms, even if they are harsh or contain personal attacks. In contrast, I usually ignore non-constructive comments because they provide nothing I can act upon.

Non-constructive criticisms are a waste of time at best, and look like whining at worst.

July 11, 2014

The best can succeed with those who are not

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:45 pm
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I thought about James Simons every time Stony Brook was mentioned, so I always assume it is a perennially decent institution. Thus, I was surprised to find out its math department was “lousy” when Simons started there (and he wanted the job and it sounded like fun).

What we can do counts more than whom we are affiliated with.
Those who can succeed only with top people probably are not all that top.

[I would like to know how Simons built the department, aside from the fact that he is brilliant all by himself. Thanks in advance for potential sources.]

March 31, 2014

Lullaby

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:28 pm
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Street noise
Is like a lullaby
For city boys

March 7, 2014

Double-edged sword

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:32 pm
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I found Bobby Fischer against the World a fascinating documentary about a particular kind of talent (chess) of a unique individual (Bobby Fischer, widely considered as the greatest chess player of all time who later self-destructed into an outcast) at a particular era (cold war, with chess being one of the competitions to showcase US/Soviet supremacy).

One interesting point pursued in the movie is about the specific type of brain that enables superior chess play may also cause certain psychological issues.
One can make a more general point in that unusual brains, as double-edged swords, can produce special talents as well as abnormal behaviors, as have been seen in geniuses across different disciplines such as musicians, artists, scientists, and mathematicians.

February 22, 2014

Be different

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:37 am
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This is likely a unique local phenomenon, but I often see these student representatives wearing suits and sitting in meetings for various organizations.

It is extremely difficult for me to understand why anyone wants to do this. Young people should dream of being different instead of rushing into conformity.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs

December 9, 2013

President Obama calls on every American to learn code

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:34 pm
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On one hand, like math, coding provides some fundamental training that should definitely be learned by everyone.

On the other hand, it is a design problem if everyone has to learn coding just to build or use software tools.

In the current state of computer science, it remains unclear (at least to me) which parts are fundamental materials and which parts are design artifacts. The former can be distilled into general teaching curriculum while the latter should be fixed.

Ideally, an entrepreneur with core knowledge in math and programming should be able to create his or her own applications without having to write a single line of code.
This is already happening in certain domains such as mobile app development.

October 1, 2013

Conflicts

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:12 pm
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are often caused by a lack of imagination

September 28, 2013

The Klingons

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:47 pm
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Imagine you are a Klingon warship commander. After going through some hyper-warp to arrive at an alternative space time, you find that all Klingons are in gentle servitude to humans.

This is what I felt about the HK technology industry as a SF bay area computer scientist.

PS
If you are a Klingon in that alternative space time, work with that commander so that you will not turn into a pussy.

September 25, 2013

Job season

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:38 pm
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I am in a constant process of helping students and postdocs landing jobs.

One thing I find very common and extremely interesting is the discrepancy between self-perception and reality. That is, candidates tend to have a higher estimation about their own qualifications (and thus higher expectation about the job offers they will get) than what reality would warrant.

This is just human nature. There is very little I can do; few took my advice, and many learned the hard way. But I guess this is how life works.

Humility is a virtue that we all learn eventually, one way or another.

Bureaucratic engineering

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:12 pm
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Doug Burger, my last MSR manager and a former UT professor, shared with me some very valuable personal experiences when I was heading the opposite way.

One of these, as quoted from him, is: there are pockets of inefficiencies in a school that are rarely seen in a company.

After witnessing some of such pockets myself (you are absolutely right, Doug), I realized that the right approach, as any good engineer would do, is to accommodate these inefficiencies into the design of my products and processes, so that I would not be negatively impacted under any circumstances. It is basically the same as, say, designing hardware processors which can tolerate a range of temperatures, and software interfaces which can deal with different user inputs.

Self: Good engineers never assume optimal conditions. Rather, they build things that can function under a wide range of possible scenarios.

I guess this could be a fundamentally different mentality from people with pure academic background.
:-)

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