Confessions of a researchaholic

June 30, 2013

How to keep motivated

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:05 pm
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[My attempt to answer the question “I can’t keep myself always motivated in research, and I wonder what’s your method to do so?”]

I am actually not sure how to answer this, because I take it for granted. It is like someone asking you how to keep motivated in eating or sleeping.
But let me try.


Lack of motivation is usually a sign for lack of (genuine) interest.
If research is not what you really want to do for yourself, you are wasting your life; do something else instead, before it is too late.


The world is becoming increasingly competitive. People in your fields are getting better faster than, say, how Shanghai has changed in just 20 years.

Would your future prospect (in job, family, etc.) be enough to keep you always on the edge? If not, I cannot save you from being doomed into eternal mediocrity.

June 26, 2013

Time transfer

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:47 pm
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Summer tends to be boring and slow. I wish I could transfer June to August into the end of December. Winter is much more exciting but tends to run faster than I can catch.

If you are my collaborator and you try to take a summer break, you will regret in the winter. Just mark my word.

June 20, 2013

Silver lining of non-intentional screw-ups

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:13 pm

I will be able to see consequences of experiments that (even) I would normally not conduct.

June 16, 2013


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:54 am
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Public speaking is the number one fear reported by people in the US.
Many people, at least in the US, like to go to parties.

For me, it is the exact opposite.
The bigger the audience, the easier I feel.
Giving a large conference talk is the most comfortable; I totally control the script and there are so many people that they become anonymous, blank, and non-human.
Teaching a class is slightly trickier; I am still in control but have to interact with students sometimes, potentially disrupting the flow and raising my awareness of their human presence.
Small talking in a social gathering is the most energy consuming; it is entirely ad hoc and I have to read people and react in real-time.

Is this extrovert or introvert? I guess it is something orthogonal. Maybe it is “sociability” before I can find a better term.

Around 38:00 mark on Hannibal season 1 Aperitif (at the end of Will Graham’s class on criminal psychology):

Jack Crawford: I also understand it is difficult for you to be social.

Will Graham: I am just talking. I am not listening to them. It is not social.

June 14, 2013

Aromatic association of cities I have lived in more than 1 year

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:01 am
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They say olfactory memory is the most visceral as it is within our primitive brains.

Taipei: soil within sidewalk pavement cracks

Kaohsiung: (strong) industrial waste water

Stanford: dry grass

Palo Alto: coffee

Mountain View: swimming pool chlorine

Emerald Hills: trees

Beijing: gun powder (sulfur)

Seattle: sea-weed/salt

Hong Kong: (humid) bean curd

June 13, 2013

How to fail your graduate study like an undergrad

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:36 pm
Tags: ,

You think GPA is important and spend time boosting your grades.

You think research is as deterministic and well-defined as courses.

You wait to be told what to do rather than figure out your own way.

You think you are working for your adviser rather than yourself.

Instead of work continuously, you let external factors (e.g. holiday and semester breaks) disrupt your flow.

You do not read every paper in the top venues of your fields especially during your first few years.

You try to read and understand every paper completely like textbooks.

You feel that deadline 3 months later is still far away.

You believe you are smart enough so that you do not have to work as hard as others.

June 9, 2013

About asian exam culture

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:24 am


Good article, even though many things in life simply cannot be “taught” and have to be experienced.

June 8, 2013

Protected: DRPC BJ 2013

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:07 pm

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June 3, 2013

Final year project

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:08 am

HKU has this course called final year project (FYP) for undergrad students. As the name implies, it is a two-semester projected oriented class. The offerings change every year. Each class is designed by a CS professor, and matched with potential students.

Out of pure experimentation, I offered ray tracing for FYP. Five students, divided into two teams, took the project.

It appears that I might have underestimated the workload a bit. They all crunched their tails off; one guy told me he wrote 35000 lines of code, and I did not try to ask others.
As a reference, 2000 is about the medium number of lines of code written by undergrad applicants from mainland China to our PhD program.

Fortunately, one of the ray tracing teams managed to win the champion of the grand competition among all FYP teams. Congratulations to Ng Sui Sang, Lui Ho Kuen, and Pa Tat Ki. I am very proud of you guys, despite the fact that none of you actually finished the whole thing (a fact probably unknown by the judges), I never learned how to pronounce your (Cantonese) names, and I forgot to attend the competition and ceremony. (It is not that you guys are not important to me; I also forgot to attend department meetings.)

Now, about the experimentation part: I wanted to see how well the HK kids can code, compared to other places that I have been to (e.g. SF Bay Area, Seattle, and Beijing). (I could not get the answer from the introductory programming class I taught in HKU because, to avoid student complaints, I have to water-down the programming assignments to be no more than what I could do in junior high.) The FYP results indicated that there are indeed talented young computer scientists in HK. Unfortunately for them, the local economy and job market are geared too much towards rent seeking (e.g. real estate) and moving things around (e.g. finance and business) than innovating (e.g. technology).

It remains interesting to see if technology can eventually fix this. In theory, any individual smart enough can already conquer the world with a laptop and internet connection from a bedroom. Already, I do not need a physical lab in HKU.

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