Confessions of a researchaholic

February 26, 2012

Terminal ward

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:04 pm

I found visiting terminal wards an inspirational experience: I am going to die one day, so better live the life I aspire and do what I desire before it is too late.

February 24, 2012


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:15 pm

The Knicks, even during their best times (within my living memory), are one of these teams earning privileges to be knocked out by Michael Jordan in the playoffs.

Now, thanks to Jeremy Lin, their games are watched and followed by fans all over the world, many of who with little prior basketball experiences.
It is just amazing to see how an individual can galvanize a great city still recovering from two major blows (9/11 and the financial crisis), as well as a major ethnic group that has previous been stereotyped as not fit for sports that require grace and coordination.

February 22, 2012

Artificial intelligence

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:37 pm
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When I was younger I preferred to stay away from people as much as possible, as most of them are not very interesting and it is much more rewarding for me to be alone thinking and reading.

When I get older, I realized that humans are intensively intriguing subjects for study. I started to spend a lot of time observing human behaviors and try guessing what they are thinking and predicting their actions.

This caused certain dilemma for me: on one hand I still want to be as far away as possible from people, but on the other hand, I want to be close enough with them for the purpose of studies and observations.
(The penalty and reward seem to go in tandem; crowd behavior is the most interesting, but also the most annoying to be part of.)

Fortunately, computer science comes into rescue. Far from the common stereotypes (of nerds locking in toilets), computer science, especially the most current and active subjects, are very human centric. One example is user interface, including design for better user experiences, as well as analysis and synthesis for deeper understanding and more advanced interactions.

A more recent example is social networking. Previously, most human daily activities simply dissipated into entropy. Now, with people spending more of their interactions through various social networking sites, we can record their activities in better quality and quantity.
Such data not only enables better computer technologies but more profoundly, more insights into human nature. (Facebook probably knows more about certain individuals than their mothers do.)

Two sci-fi series could provide inspirations for both directions.

Caprica is about how humans create Cylons, a cyber-genetic life form that eventually pushes humans near extinction in the main Battlestar Galactica series (which I found to be much less interesting).

Dollhouse is about how technologies can allow memories and personalities to be extracted from one individual and installed into another, essentially programming human brains.

Both offer insights into computer science and humanity, as well as highly enjoyable entertainments. Unfortunately, both got canceled prematurely due to low ratings, a confirmation of my childhood observation about how ordinary humans would react to deeper materials.

February 16, 2012


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:54 pm
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Numerous studies have concluded the importance of sleep for the wellness of brain functioning. A good night’s sleep not only refreshes the mind but also, in my personal case, often yields good ideas, and solutions to difficult problems. The best description I have seen so far is this:

We cannot do anything else when we are sleeping because it is when we work the hardest.
– Neal Stephenson, in Anathem

February 13, 2012

Jeremy Lin

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:33 am
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I am not trying to jump into the bandwagon, but there appears to be a civil-right scale movement happening in the Asian-American community now.

I found a few articles worth reading:

A forbes article about lessons learned from Jeremy Lin.

What I see in Jeremy Lin, an article I found through ESPN. And another good one by J.A. Adande, one of my most favorite ESPN writers. (Yes, you can actually learn something in a sports page.)

Paper tigers, a provocative article about Asian-Americans. I agreed with some of the points, disagreed with others, but found most of them very interesting.

February 9, 2012

Job interview

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:15 pm

I guess it is a sign of getting senior that I am spending more and more time writing letters of recommendation for guys seeking jobs.

A common question is about how to perform well in job interviews. In this era of search engines and social networks you can find plenty advices on your own already.

Beyond those, I have one high level suggestion: just be yourself. That is it. The reasons are as follows.


First, if you be your natural self instead of somebody else, you are more likely to be more relaxed and thus perform better during your interviews. I believe anxiety is one major reason for suboptimal performance.

Pretending to be somebody else can actually hide your strengths.
You never know what the recruiters are looking for, so do not try to second guess them.

I remember during my very first job interview, I wore suits and tried hard to be like a normal person. I walked and talked straight and stayed on the central line. I did not get the job. Years later the hiring manager saw one of my talks in a conference. He came up to me at the end of the session and said: *why didn’t you do this during your interview years ago? You would definitely have got the job*.

Nowadays, when I went to job interviews, I dressed and behaved in my own personal style. Not everyone likes me and not everyone gave me job offers. But very few people could anyway, and at least now people reject me because they think I am not suitable instead of being not good enough.


This brings us to the second reason. The purpose of job interview is like match making: you are finding a suitable employer, and the employer is finding a suitable employee. So, if you try to be somebody else during your interview, even if you get the job, you can still end up being not happy or not productive. This benefits neither you nor the employer.

During one of my recent interviews with an institution, I quickly discovered that they are looking for people with a very specific range of skills doing a very specific kind of job (despite that their overall theme looks extremely interesting initially). That is the opposite of what I want to do, as I am interested in a variety of stuff and tend to jump around in research topics. So near the end of the interview I just told one of the more senior guys that I really think I am not a good fit and I hope I would not waste his time further. The guy was totally cool and kind of glad that I be so straight. So I got extra time sightseeing that interesting city while the guys can go back to work without wasting more time on me.


Few people can score every job offers. So failure is not a big deal. Just relax, and enjoy the process. I learned more from my failures than my successes. The important thing is to fail and succeed in your own style, not following somebody else.

February 1, 2012


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:59 pm
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A few days ago I ran out of shampoo. So I went to a nearby convenience store and bought a bottle. When I came home later that day, I found out that what I bought is hair conditioner instead.

So yesterday, I went to the same store again, determined to buy the right stuff this time. I did not recall exactly what happened, but this morning when I tried to wash my hair, I discovered that I have two bottles of conditioners, and still no shampoo.

I tried to recall what happened, and realized that I have been occupied by a bug and on some kind of auto-pilot the whole time last night.

I am going to give it a third try tonight. I fixed the bug earlier today, so hopefully I can finally get enough focus to buy shampoo.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out what to do with all these conditioners. My hairs grow so fast that I have to cut them like every 3 weeks, so I seriously doubt if they will last long enough to benefit from any conditioners. Nevertheless, I am going to give them a try, and see if they will get shiny.

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