Confessions of a researchaholic

January 16, 2021

January 14 2021 3:15 am dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:01 pm
Tags: ,

I tend to have very vivid dreams (David Lynch plots combined with George Lucas visuals), at least for these that I woke up to remember, which I tried to depict to the extent possible within my visual memory and artistic skill without much sleep disruption.

January 14, 2021

When technology becomes like science

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:38 am

I was having a dream in which one day our technology becomes so complex that we lose track of how things work and have to approach them like how we study nature in science.

December 10, 2020

Mondrian cake dream

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:30 pm
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Mondrian-themed cake,
in an early morning dream,
cut but not eaten.

November 3, 2020

Election night doodling

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:11 pm
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“The American people are a very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity.” – Will Rogers

October 31, 2020

Spider crab head thing

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 8:31 pm
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I just felt like drawing something like this.

October 28, 2020

Prison cell visit dream

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:15 pm
Tags: ,

I visited a man in a prison cell
The man sat on a chair
With a noose hung next to him
I was supposed to talk to him
But instead started to draw him

October 26, 2020

Crow with acorns

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:05 pm
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I used to think the acorns were dropped on the roof by the squirrels, until this afternoon when I spotted these crows, which I didn’t manage to photograph on spot but drew one later based on visual memory and online photos.

October 18, 2020

Little painter

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:06 pm
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I drew this fun exercise with reference photo(s).

I found FB an excellent venue for virtual drawing archive: unlimited storage, albums for organization, “memories” for reminding/checking progress, social sharing (or peer pressure, depending on how you look at it) for motivation, and no known privacy issue (how to target ads based on drawings, aside from generic Adobe CC subscription?).

October 16, 2020


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:18 pm
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These are experiments with the charcoal brushes in Fresco.

View this post on Instagram

Pineapple – charcoal #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

View this post on Instagram

Pineapple head – charcoal #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

October 13, 2020

6 am dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:59 pm

I remembered this dream after waking up around 6 am, but the visual memory already faded when I tried to draw it in the evening.

October 10, 2020

American nightmare

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:17 pm
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In nightmares, Jorge Luis Borges mentioned about the mesmerizing painting by Henry Fuseli, which inspired me to paint over my variation to reflect the current political atmosphere.

The reference image sources: incubus, statue of liberty, elephant.

September 28, 2020

Books-round-over-table-corner dream

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:43 pm
Tags: ,

Around 6 am September 26 I recalled this dream about a bunch of books circling over the edge of the kitchen table without falling over.

September 27, 2020

Feetcopter dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:10 pm
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I had this dream half a year ago on on March 27 2020.
Upside down helicopter man fly over a city.
Rotor stopped and dropped to the ground, captured by a GoPro camera.
Rescue workers brought a big net rushing towards the camera view, which I replaced by an ambulance view for easier drawing.

September 26, 2020

A day of several drawings

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:29 pm
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I remembered 3 weird dreams earlier at around 4:30 am and 6:00 am this morning, and decided to draw them out.

Before that, during an eye break, I spotted a rooftop worker.

This is the first dream, about an eel tank.

This painting is inspired by the name of a prior intern who is still collaborating with me.

View this post on Instagram

橙一藍 orange one blue #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

September 13, 2020

Quick morphing animation exercises

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 11:22 am

These two exercises aim to create organic morphs between simple shapes, with focus on animation instead of drawing.

During the last exercise, I found out that drawing every frame from scratch can facilitate more lively motions while copying and editing frames can produce more rigid/static effects (like in stop motion).
In this example, the left side looks like a growing plant while the right side looks like a swimming worm.

August 18, 2020

Wild fire

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:37 pm
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Given our performance so far against the covid-19 pandemic, how would you rationally expect we can deal with environment damage and climate change?
With the current trajectory, humanity may not last beyond 100 or even 50 years.

August 9, 2020

Exercises in secondary dynamic effects

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:29 am
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The looping wave motion is more difficult to create than I expected.
Two of the earlier mistakes include a standing wave and a “smoke” that moves up and down.

After watching a candle fire extinguished by wind, I tried to capture the essence the memory via drawing the simplest possible animation.
Without looping, it is easier to create a jumpy fire followed by a rising and distinguishing smoke.

July 31, 2020


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:48 pm
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The disintegration of a dead body is its reintegration back to the nature, and inspires me to decompose my sketching.

July 25, 2020

Breakfast memory

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:40 pm
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I drew from visual memory a cut avocado that has been a regular part of my breakfasts.

View this post on Instagram

Breakfast memory – oil paint with #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

July 19, 2020

Mamba graduation wine bottle

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:46 pm
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This is my first graphic design, to celebrate the graduation of my last HKU PhD student who derived her nickname from the black mamba.
(I managed to help her publishing top papers but not converting her from LAL to GSW.)

Source svg file


Source graphics:
wine bottle
graduation hat
the black mamba

July 6, 2020

Sitting across from the black cat opposite a glass panel

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:00 pm
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The neighborhood black cat often came to visit.
The sketch is a composition based on two photographs.

July 4, 2020

Drawing a composition of evening sun and moon

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:54 pm
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This composition is astronomically implausible (unless there are multiple suns above the horizon) but I felt like doing it after seeing the evening sun and moon at opposite ends of the sky.

July 1, 2020

A spider on a flower

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:47 am
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A spider, resting on a lamp shade, scurried away after being gently poked by me to see if it was still alive.

This exercise aimed to reproduce my impression of its movement, but over a flower as captured by an earlier photograph of another spider instead of the lamp shade.

I drew the flower and the spider in multiple layers via Fresco, exported the pdf file to Illustrator to animate the spider via puppet warp, and assembled the final video from the individual spider layers/frames along with the flower.

Even with puppet warp, the authoring process still involved tedious manual repetitions, which can be alleviated by autocomplete.

View this post on Instagram

Painting a spider on a flower #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

ffmpeg -framerate 32 -start_number 0 -i frame_%02d.jpg -c:v libx264 -pix_fmt yuv420p -vf scale=1024×1024 SpiderOnFlower32fps.mp4

June 7, 2020

End of consumer toilet paper shortage?

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:10 pm
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Just a few weeks ago the US was suffering from a shortage of consumer toilet papers, so I was a bit surprised to see a pack of unopened toilet papers marked as free on top of a garbage pile while walking in the neighborhood on Sunday evening.
I wonder if that is a sign that the toilet paper production has finally ramped up?

May 23, 2020

Add a groundhog to a previous drawing

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:05 pm
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I once saw a groundhog poking its head out of its mound in a nearby county park.
This one was drawn via a reference photo.

May 22, 2020

Export control

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:04 pm
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This package of face masks took about 40 days to reach me from my parents in Taipei.

View this post on Instagram

Oil paint a package of face masks #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

May 20, 2020

Adding flora to a previous drawing

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:56 pm
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During an evening walk I noticed a lone red flower sitting in the middle of a grass land, which inspired me to draw this variation.

May 17, 2020

Adding body parts to a previous drawing

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:40 pm
Tags: ,

I added body parts from my previous drawings over the shovel-and-wheel-barrel scene I drew earlier.

Base drawing

Rodin’s hand

Caltrain passenger’s leg

View this post on Instagram

Sketching a morning train passenger #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

May 8, 2020

Drawing a fox pack

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:04 pm
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A pack of foxes were videographed in my neighborhood a few days ago. The captue was quite blurry, so I decided to create a new composition.

View this post on Instagram

Drawing a fox pack #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

May 1, 2020


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:14 pm
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Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but when his experiment goes wrong, he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead.

View this post on Instagram

Morbius – oil painting with #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

March 28, 2020

Social distancing

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:36 pm
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I drew this one from a photo (taken during a hike) and a movie still (watched during a long distance flight).

View this post on Instagram

Social distancing #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

March 21, 2020

Watercolor wet spatter a crabapple tree

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:37 pm
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I don’t have the skill (or, more importantly, the patience) to draw trees so I just settled for the built-in watercolor wet spatter in Adobe Fresco.

View this post on Instagram

Watercolor wet spatter a crabapple tree #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

March 8, 2020

Mongolia trip dream

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 1:06 pm
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I was flying to Mongolia (world map with fly route and Mongolia border).

Upon arrival at the airport, I looked for gate 20 for bus exit (looking at the terminal map).

Somehow, I went to south gate 8 for Eva lounge filled with hello Kitty stuff (casino like setup).

I went back to terminal, trying to print my photo from a computer as required to board the bus, and found out it is 11:35 am so missed the hourly bus by 5 minutes (computer terminal on the right, terminal window on the left with the road and bus stop visible).

I then woke up at 5:27 am (March 5 2020).

View this post on Instagram

Mongolia trip dream #adobefresco

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

November 9, 2019

Practice drawing from memory/imagination

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:45 pm
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as a next step from drawing with references (including live subjects and captured photographs)

February 2, 2019

Self programming

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 12:46 pm

Instead of the current medical technology which looks like ad-hoc hack, I look forward to the day when we could program ourselves (e.g., at a molecular or genetic level) as we could with artificial entities, so that we can adapt to any environments and resist all diseases, including aging and death.

Maybe eventually we will still perish, but we can at least watch the collapse of the universe.

PS: reincarnation is probably still the best form of immortality.

PPS: the same technology could be applied to restore biodiversity and revert climate change.

December 11, 2018


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:40 pm

If there were a superman/superwoman I would expect him/her as benign to us as we to other life forms on earth or even towards one another historically.

Regarding good versus bad aliens, one of my most favorite movies is The Thing (1982), which I found to be much more convincing than E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial released in the same year.

December 9, 2018

Time perception

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 4:54 pm

During my dream earlier this morning, someone (God?) was telling me what time really is. It is neither a one-dimensional curve nor a two dimensional-ribbon. But the dream did not continue to reveal the rest of the answer.

View this post on Instagram

Time perception from a dream

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October 29, 2018

2:46 am dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:28 am

I woke up at 2:46 am to record this dream, from which I plan to draw later before my visual memory fades.

We were attending an eye-brow party but somehow waiting at two adjacent bus stops.
One coming to my stop at 8:10 pm. The next one is 5:10 am the next day, so I hopped on.
You were still sitting at your bus stop bench.
I did not know which station to take off, so I loudly asked you, through the bus window.
You did not respond, so I yelled why you did not answer me.
The person lifted her face and turned to another person who replied that I did not ask a question.

June 24, 2018

Perceptual reality

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:41 am

I am fascinated by how Rene Magritte challenged our visual perception with his paintings.
A canvas in front of a window may seem transparent, and a receding boulevard might look like a tower.

June 18, 2018

Tour of hell

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:54 am

According to the guided tool of hell in SF Asian art museum, what we experienced during our journey to hell is a synthesis of our own (negative) thinking and experiences accumulated during our life time, such as desires and regrets. To get out of the hell, we need to free our own minds.

I stood there thinking what kind of hell I would go through, and I counted (1) not spending enough time with people I care and (2) failing to fully realize my abilities to benefit others.

April 24, 2018

Early morning dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:14 am

I was taking an exam. I thought the duration is 3 hours, so I decided to finish a paper review first. The review took me about 80 minutes, but then the examiner informed me that the exam is actually 90 minutes. I tried to finish the exam in 10 minutes only to find out that the paper is made of a wet towel so I could not write anything.

January 26, 2018

Dream recording

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:41 am

My young grandfather
Looking sideways from a stand
For my legacy

October 29, 2017


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:16 am

VR space warp is interesting and challenging enough, but VR time warp appears even more so.
At least I have no idea how to achieve that for the next SIGGRAPH project.

September 17, 2017

Devil in the house

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 2:39 pm
Tags: ,

You brought a devil into the house
It wants to leave
And takes your flesh

So just let it go

Teach yourself and your offspring well
So that none would not be fooled by the devil

Exercise your discipline
To await the devil to destroy itself

If you want to lure it back
Better yourself is the only way

July 16, 2017

Dream this morning about Hong Kong

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 2:49 pm

I slept inside a standing shower room, with my body balanced by my backs and legs against the plastic walls.

Afterwards I went to a laundry shop, which charged me 10761 HKD for 4 pieces of cloth. (It usually costs me about 30 to 50 HKU for a weeks’ worth of laundry.)

June 26, 2017

The guest house

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 4:30 am

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

by Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

February 14, 2017

Ghost in the Shell

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:20 pm

There is a peculiar kind of pleasure for senior people to reminisce their junior experiences, as I discovered after getting older.

The first trailer closely matches the original anime, which is also available on Netflix.

Like many contemporary Japanese anime, the story can be confusing for people not familiar with the genre. But it seems quite clear from the second trailer, and different from the original story.

Race can be a sensitive issue for Hollywood, but watch how the Japanese react to the casting of this movie. This should be no surprise for people who understand the Japanese culture in general.

May 25, 2016

Quantum ideas

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:43 am

Elusive ideas
Measured by expressions
Collapsed from possibilities

March 1, 2016

What if General Skywalker never becomes Darth Vader

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:35 am

Fortunately for us, he did.

February 29, 2016

Professors vs Jedi

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:06 am

Only the second applies to me (unless hoodie is counted as “robe”) 🙂

October 6, 2015


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:57 pm

To know if you are a real angel
Visit hell
And see if you can still fly

September 28, 2015


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:36 pm

Slow turn
Eaten by the rats

September 25, 2015

Dragon haiku

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:51 pm

The lone dragon
Twitches a finger
Hurts a throng

July 28, 2015

The twin prime conjecture

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 2:55 pm
Tags: ,

No matter how odd you are, you might not be alone.

July 4, 2015

Neural inceptionism art

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:10 am
Tags: ,

I have decided to feed the art works by (or related to) my father, grandfather, great*** grandfathers, etc., to this neural network inceptionism code.

Below are some results. Each group consists of the original image, and the results amplified for low and high level neurons.

巷尾 ~ At the end of the lane

戲院街的後巷 ~ The back side of theater street

巷弄內望見普德宮的廟頂 ~ temple top


Calligraphy, uniform font size

Calligraphy, varying font sizes


Kublai Khan


June 25, 2015

How to find and attract top recruits

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 9:31 am

Major König: I’ll fix it so that he’s the one who finds me.

June 20, 2015

Apprenticeship in a Star Wars universe

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 11:46 am

The Jedi recruit those who are good enough.
They learn how to collaborate early on.
They graduate after passing tests, and let go otherwise.
They keep the universe in order most of the time.

The Sith recruits one (and only) who is the best.
He learns how to survive alone.
He graduates by defeating the master, or getting killed otherwise.
He remains low most of the time but eventually eliminates the entire Jedi order and conquers the whole universe.

June 19, 2015

I got lost in my dream

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:59 am

And spent the night figuring out where I was.

April 14, 2015

To my future self

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:01 am

Even if you are 88 years old with terminal cancer lying in the middle of the Gobi desert while being pointed at by an AK47, you can still overcome every obstacle just like we always do.

That is all you need to remember.

March 25, 2015

Pedro turning into a werewolf

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:03 am

This is yet another vivid dream I had earlier this morning.

I was waiting in line for I3D electronic theater with Pedro, chatting with other folks happily.
All of a sudden, he bent over the floor and started to vomit.
His bones deformed, with nails were protruding out of his fingers.
One of the two bear-like eastern European guys standing around us bit off Pedro’s right index finger tip, and that settled him down.
The eastern European guy told me that my bite would not help, implying I am a vampire.

March 7, 2015

Why living forever is probably a bad idea

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 11:51 am
Tags: ,

Even if under optimal physical, mental, and social status:

. It will eventually become very boring.

. One cannot participate in evolution and thus becomes inferior (barring technology like dynamic genetic splicing).

. If the universe eventually ends it will drag you down to some unknown horrible state.

Reincarnation, or some form of jumping between different intelligent species, seems much more fun.

September 18, 2014

Gecko brothers

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:35 pm

Better walk to hell at our free will than ascend to heaven under God’s command.

June 13, 2014

Vermeer geekification

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:18 pm

One part of me wants to algorithmize everything, while another part wants to preserve the vintage of manual art, like romanticizing about an alternative universe in which light sabers can beat laser blasters.

March 31, 2014


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

December 25, 2013

Cat pose

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:43 pm
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Cold winter day
Sitting on a warm hood

December 22, 2013

Two recent movies

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 11:51 pm

Every computer scientist’s wet dream:

Every computer scientist’s nightmare:

September 28, 2013

The Klingons

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:47 pm
Tags: , ,

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.

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

August 7, 2013

Father’s day haiku

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:10 pm
Tags: , ,

A Y-chromosome
passed from dad to son
unchanged across millenniums.

July 28, 2013

The matrix concert

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:54 pm
Tags: ,

I went to the Matrix in Concert with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Don Davis, who is also the composer for the Matrix trilogy.

Basically, what they did is to play the first matrix movie with music accompanied by the orchestra.
I enjoyed the show for a variety of reasons: I am a fan of the original movies, the visual setup (black dressing + green lighting) is fitting, and the music integrates seamlessly with the movie.

The most interesting aspect is that the music adds (yet) another layer of performance + reality, over the original movie, which is already layered. The music starts with the opening scenes and ends after the end credits. So the entire show starts before the movie starts and ends after the movie ends. In a movie theater, most audience would walk out during the end credits, but we should sit through this one. (It was very funny to see a few folks who left during the end credits.)

What has not changed is that I want to be agent Smith if I can choose to become one of the characters.

June 14, 2013

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

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:01 am
Tags: , ,

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

March 3, 2013


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:46 pm
Tags: ,

A really beautiful woman can shine without makeup or enhancement12.
A truly capable man can function without job title or institution13.

1Replace man and woman above with unisex nouns if you like. I do not mean to be a sexist; the sentences just flow better.

2To sense whether that someone is for you, see her true self; wake up early on a Sunday morning, sneak beside her bed, and watch her sleep.

3I spent my early childhood listening to my grandparents’ stories on how they survived WW2 and how untrustworthy governments can be. I became one of the few in my (and younger) generation with this innate distrust of institutions. (Self psycho-analysis indicated this is a main source of my inclination towards individualism + self-reliance and my philosophical difficulty working in a company.) If you have no idea what I am talking about, try “Wealth, War and Wisdom” by Barton Biggs. (The book succeeded in conveying the sense of institutional distrust, even though I do not agree with all the points.)

February 14, 2013

Liberal art

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:40 pm

This is a random collection of thoughts after watching this movie, liberal arts, on a recent flight.

I like the movie; it is funny, informational, and the characters are cute (especially the one played by Elizabeth Olsen).

I finally got what it meant by liberal art college: basically, the kind of schools that trains one to be a generalist rather than for a specific profession. Quote from the movie: “I majored in English and minored in history just to make sure I am fully unemployable”.

I think computer science is some kind of liberal art: writing good codes is a lot like writing good proses, designing good algorithms is a lot like designing good plots, and making good UIs is a lot like making good plays!

From now on I am going to proclaim I do liberal art, in a more employable fashion.

January 27, 2013


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:06 am

【侯 文詠】漸漸




「那 就領薪水,好好地做個會計。」我問。



「一開始喝酒就好辦了。站著喝酒薪水是二萬四,坐著喝是四萬八,客人給的小費還不包括在內。同樣都是大專畢業,為 什麼錢賺的比別人少?!就會有人勸她了,人都在裡面了,外面的人誰知道你是端盤子,還是坐檯呢?!再說自己真的清白,別跟客人出場就好了,陪客人喝酒,就算在社會上交際應酬也是常有的事。」

「於是坐下來當坐檯小姐。剛開始一定規規矩矩地喝酒。也不隨便跟客人出場。這一行競爭大,領四萬八慢慢就會嫌不夠了。只 好挑看得順眼的客人給帶出場了。作久了,總是會給厲害的客人佔便宜,哭哭啼啼鬧一陣子也就好了。畢竟讀過書,狠下心來做得更利落、更敢,客人喜歡,我也得意,這是兩廂情願的事。」






無從捉摸,無法抵擋的墮落與沉淪。 漸漸之可怕,在於我們的不知不覺。世界上沒有任何東西是永遠不變的,唯一不變的只有一件事,就是任何東西都在變!

December 2, 2012


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 5:55 pm
Tags: ,

We like the novelty of giving up what we know, and we like the novelty of coming to know something we did not know. Otherwise, we would just hold on to what we have, and that's not very interesting. - Jasper Johns

August 24, 2012

Protected: Self portrait collage

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 1:21 pm

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August 15, 2012

How to be more creative

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 4:55 pm
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[Work in progress; this is a darn hard one to write, but I finally decided to start as triggered by a conversation with my MSR colleagues last dinner.]

This is the holy grail among all questions related to research, or any other intellectual pursuits. I used to (and still) think creativity is more of an innate talent and personality trait than something that can be taught. But I have finally gathered some anecdote to start something concrete. Some of these came from my own experiences and some from people I know. So it is a very personal perspective, and I cannot guarantee anything.

I summarize these into two main aspects, divergence and convergence. The goal is to have both in a right balance. My take is that either is hard, and the right combination is even harder.


Many good ideas were generated by exposure to diversity, such as learning from different fields, interacting different people, and experiencing different cultures.
(1) computer graphics is known to borrow ideas from other fields, such as physics, art, psychology, perception, architecture, interaction, etc.,
(2) a disproportional number of project ideas in Microsoft Research came from smart people talking to each other; I have heard plenty interesting stories on how an idea originated and transformed, often through multiple years and multiple folks, into a final project idea (that often bears little resemblance to the original idea, such as my SIGGRAPH 2011 paper on “non-linear revision control for images” which originated from “deformable BTF texture synthesis”),
(3) people who are multilingual and/or have been living in different countries/cultures tend to be more successful [dig out that economist(?) article].

Try to be playful and willing to take risks. Happier people tend to be more creative [dig out the source]. Those not willing to take risks usually end up with ordinary performance; this is evident in not only entrepreneurship but more mundane stuff like paper submissions: aiming for a more prestigious venue often encourages (or forces) people to be bolder.


God/devil is in the details. Many good ideas came by carefully studying a subject. My SIGGRAPH 2011 paper on “differential domain analysis” was originated from the trigonometric transform equation which I discovered by trying to solve a puzzle of my previous SIGGRAPH 2010 paper on “multi-class blue noise sampling” (the equation first appeared on the technical report published the previous year in 2009).

Sometimes one has to be a perfectionist, pushing things beyond the very top level, to discover the golden nugget of ideas. This was the case for my SIGGRAPH 2011 paper on “discrete element textures “, which went through multiple submissions to the point that the authors started to feel desperate and only be saved by the discovery of a very important key idea (sample based representation that requires only positional but not rotational information).

August 13, 2012


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:52 am

“Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind” – Douglas MacArthur

Add-on #1: just don’t get caught. 🙂

Add-on #2: if you do, pretend you don’t know the rules. 🙂

It takes courage to break rules, intelligence to know which rules to break and how, and imagination to get away with it.
This is why I consider breaking rules as both a good training and testing.

June 17, 2012

The Host

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 3:03 pm

A while ago I stumbled upon this trailer video of an upcoming movie, The Host, which turned out to be the film adaptation of the same titled novel by the very same author responsible for the hugely popular (in terms of box office, not critic) Twilight series.

Yes, I know a lot of people think Twilight is stupid and suitable for teenage girls only. I agree with that, after making a fatal mistake of actually buying a ticket to watch the first one in a movie theatre in Seattle during a raining evening. The weather and location turned out to be the main motivator, because the story backdrop happens in Seattle, in the thesis that lack of sunlight provides natural camouflage for the vampires. (I really want to advocate Beijing as a far better locale due to its heavy pollution, but let me not derail.)

The thing is, I really wanted to know why stories written by the author, Stephenie Meyer, tend to be so popular. There is no way I am even going to get near the Twilight books, but fortunately, The Host contains two major themes that I tend to enjoy, sci-fi, and conquering humans. So I read the book during a long distance flight.

I like the book tremendously, not just for the sci-fi and (conquering) human components. A theme that is really special behind many of these Stephenie Meyer stories is the study of relationships among entities that have quasi-human souls embedded in quasi-human forms. Like vampires + werewolves + humans (Twilight), or brain snatchers from outer space (The Host). So, essentially, these are romances embedded in an expanded sci-fi universe with extra dimensions for all the love, hate, and intrigue.

This being said, I still plan to allocate more my novel quota for Neal Stephenson. Brain snatchers are intriguing, but less so than brain computers who can alter the past and the future.

March 29, 2012


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 7:33 pm
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God is in the details
Devil is in the details
So which one will be there
When we look into the details

March 23, 2012


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.

March 20, 2012


Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 8:45 pm
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Humans seem to have so much trouble accepting the nature of death that they need to come up with all kinds of alternatives like after-life and reincarnation.

“Hell is a place where nothing connects to nothing” – T.S. Elliot

February 22, 2012

Artificial intelligence

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.

November 19, 2011


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 6:36 pm

The following scenario happened in one of my dreams early this morning.

During the committee meeting of one major graphics conference, a paper of mine got discussed. So I need to wait outside the room. I noticed that a lot of other people also walked out, and I wondered what the heck that was about. Eventually, the paper chair also came out and announced that nobody can review my paper because every committee member was in conflict.

A very senior guy came over and said: I told you not to make too many friends!

In the end, the paper was marked as *not accepted* (a new category beyond rejected, accepted, and togged) due to *lack of committee members for reviewing*. My co-authors told me they hate me and accused me of being an academic polygamist.

Well, clearly, being a dream, this is not entirely logical, as if there were no committee members who could review a paper it would have been discovered during the paper sorting process, not the meeting itself.
But still, an interesting beginning for a day.

September 23, 2011


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:27 am
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Imagine a world where all resources are unlimited. Everything has infinite supplies and free to access like air. Everyone can live forever without aging, disease, injuries, fears, or any forms of constraints.

What would it be like? Do you think it is heaven, or hell?

Life is worth living precisely because it is finite and every resource is limited.

September 11, 2011

A year of no significance

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 6:13 pm
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1587, a Year of No Significance (Chinese: 萬曆十五年) is a book by historian Ray Huang (Chinese: 黃仁宇) which described how a sequence of seemingly insignificant events precipitated the eventual downfall of the Ming dynasty, as well as China itself. I remember getting totally fascinated by this book as a high school kid. The book is not flawless, but it is fascinating in highlighting how significant long term trends, which usually happen slowly, are often preceded by very small signs.

It is like the famous Chinese proverb, 一葉知秋: from a falling tree leaf one can know that the autumn is coming.

If future historians are going to write a similar book about the eventual downfall of the America (dynasty) as well as the entire West, the analogous year will be 2001, or probably even a specific day, September 11. Contrast to 1587, this is a year of *major* significance. But THE event is no less precipitating than those in 1587.

I am looking forward to read this book, and I hope it will be as enthralling as the one by Ray Huang.

April 13, 2011

My attitude towards rejections

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:25 am
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Thank you very much for providing all the motivations I need.

I am going to prove you wrong by outperforming whomever you think is better than me.

My meaning of life

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 10:23 am
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Life is a (serious) game, so play hard, be triumphant, and (most importantly) have fun. The game is very short and you might only play it once, so do not waste your time.

February 2, 2011

A tale of two brothers

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 1:08 pm
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A long time ago in a place far far away, a pair of twin brothers were born. Their parents worked long hours, so they were put with different day care families. One of them, nicknamed Rat, lived with his grandfather. The other one, nicknamed Dog, lived with a retired nanny.

The grandfather was a former college professor who had nobody around to lecture on, so he force-fed Rat everything he knew, like chess, history, and classics literature. The grandfather was also a retired army officer, so he instilled discipline and self-control into Rat’s mentality and life style. Through this rigorous training, Rat absorbed everything happily, even though some of the subjects were clearly beyond his age (e.g. classics which should be for high school, not kindergarten, kids). At first grade he knew that history books are filled with lies written by the winners, and at fourth grade he beat his grandfather in a chess match. He was so ahead of his classmates that he found school very boring and thus got into a lot of troubles. To channel his excessive energy, Rat tried to pick up college calculus at fifth grade, but did not succeed until he was 15. Because he derived so much pleasure and satisfaction through learning new subjects and outperforming his peers, Rat spent more and more of his time studying, which further enhanced his satisfaction and achievement. He was in such a virtuous cycle that he did not recall taking any day off including holidays and weekends.

The retired nanny was barely literate, so she did not teach Dog much useful. She got up late and spent most of her time watching TV, so Dog did not learn a disciplined life style. Dog was slightly behind his classmates when he started school, and found school work arduous and unrewarding. Thus, he did not spend a lot of time studying, which made him further behind, which in turn further discouraged him. It also did not help that his father constantly compared him to his twin brother. Dog was in such a vicious cycle that he never fully realized his potential, even though he is an identical twin to his brother.

This tale is mostly fictitious (Dog is entirely made up even though Rat is partially based on myself), but I want to use it to illustrate three very important scientific principles applied to education, especially during early childhood.

Initial condition
Physics taught us that even a tiny little difference in the initial conditions can lead to dramatic differences in the eventual outcomes. This is why early childhood education is so important. By nature, kids do not want to be disciplined, so parents will have to enforce that. This is one of the biggest differences between Chinese and American mentalities for education, and for this, I am totally on the Chinese side. I would not have been what I am today if it were not for the rigorous training I received from my family when I was a little kid.

Compound interest
This is probably the most powerful concept in math and finance. Intelligence and confidence are accumulated in an exponential rather than a linear rate, due to the self feedback loop. Even a tiny difference in how hard you study everyday can lead to huge differences in the long run. I remember seeing a study showing the magic of merely studying one hour more per day. In my personal case, I did not take holidays or weekends off, and that is an automatic 40 percent more work than ordinary folks! I do not even have to be particularly smart or talented to outperform them.

Anchoring effect
This is one of the most well known effects in psychology. People judge things in a relative instead of absolutely scale (e.g. they are happier to receive 20 dollars if everyone else receives only 10 than to receive 40 dollars if everyone else receives 80). In the story above, Dog has absolutely the capability to be like his twin brother, but was frustrated by being compared/anchored relative to Rat and his classmates.

And of course, if the three principles are combined together their total effects would be even more significant.

In summary, if you really care for your children, give them tough love: instill discipline from early childhood, ask them to work as hard as they can in a daily basis, and try to encourage instead of frustrate them through proper peer comparison (e.g. identifying an aspect that the kids performs well relative to others and use that as an motivation). I do not have any kids now, but if I do that would be how I am going to bring them up.

January 6, 2011

Premonition of a first impression

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 11:20 am

Stone mansion
Golden attire
Behind all these sleight of hands
Lay the naked men
With their naked truth

September 5, 2010

The monk and the riddle

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 12:16 pm
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by Randy Komisar

This is such a good book that I wish I had read it earlier (but fortunately found it is not too late). The gist of the book is about the right mind set for starting up companies (it was published right before the dotcom bubble burst) but I believe the main points are equally applicable to other professions: (1) do what you want to do for the rest of your life and (2) be ambitious, aim for the very best, and do not settle for mediocrity.

Read the book to figure out what the riddle is about.

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.

August 7, 2010

Life as loan

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:56 am
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Recently I read about an interesting point, in the context of usury and debt interest payments under the Catholic and Sharia laws, that life is a loan from God and thus (just like all loans) will have to be repaid one day.

I am not religious but I have found this an interesting mental exercise: if life is indeed a loan and one day we have to pay it back (to God) with principle plus interests, what the latter would be? In other words, what kinds of values do we have to add to our lives (for the sake of interest payments)? For simplicity, let us assume life is like a zero-coupon bond and everything is paid back in the end (of the life).

July 21, 2010


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:40 am

**** spoiler alert ****
**** spoiler alert ****
**** spoiler alert ****

My one word movie review: tensor.

Explanation: Inception is a layered version of The Matrix.

Overall, Dark City, The Matrix, and Inception are my 3 most favorite movies in this category.

July 20, 2010

Eucalyptus, a novel

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 10:13 am

By Murray Bail

This is an unorthodox love story weaved from sub-stories around individual gum trees. The writing can be as rough and patchy as the (author’s) Australian landscapes, but the book is short, sweet, and unique enough to worth reading.

July 19, 2010


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 4:09 pm

To me, Chinese is more of an art than a language, and most Chinese literature, especially these classical ones, cannot be translated to another language without losing their original beauty and meaning.

Below is a modern short poem (fragment?) that I have found to be more or less translatable without being sacrilegious.
(Let me know if you have a better translation; I cannot even make it rhyme.)

The day Mother suffered

A poem by Guan-Chun Yu

In this life
Twice I cried my heart out

Once at the beginning of my life
The other at the end of yours

The first one I cannot remember but you told me so
The second one you cannot know even if I tell you

But between these two cries
Are endless laughs

That has been going on and on
For 30 years

May 29, 2010

The girl with the dragon tattoo

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 3:08 pm

The length of my to-read list for books and papers usually discourages my indulgence for long novels, but I picked up “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for the following reasons: there is already a copy at my home (an impulse purchase by a family member who has not and maybe will never read it), I like detective novels in general, and most importantly, according to this Economist article, the main reasons why the Nordic detective novels are so popular include (1) a plain, simple, precise, and direct writing style and (2) realistic and yet distinctive portrayal of the main characters. I told myself: gee, these seem to be the kinds of desired writing styles for good research papers (after replacing *characters* by *algorithms*) so I went on to give the book a try.

This turns out to be one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I ever have. I highly recommend to anyone who wants to read a compelling story with engaging characters in a clean writing style. I also plan to read the two subsequent books of the same trilogy, “The Girl who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”.

April 12, 2010

Accidental art

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 2:55 pm
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For some reason, the most beautiful images I have produced tend to be the buggy ones.

I guess this is a unique advantage of graphics research (compared to other CS fields): when we screw up, we might be able to claim the result as an art.

February 16, 2010

The Rowling criterion

Filed under: Imaginary,Real — liyiwei @ 3:41 pm
Tags: ,

I guess I am not the only one who ever heard people commenting that “computer graphics research is mostly done” or “all the big ideas in graphics have been discovered and the remaining research is mainly about incremental ideas” or something like that.

If you look at history, similar comments have been made about physics in the early twentieth century when people believed that Newtonian physics is near perfection and all the remaining problems are incremental. And then came quantum physics, relativity, and other ground breaking stuff.

I do not think computer graphics is done for a very simple reason. Every year I have been kept seeing interesting/exciting papers coming out of various graphics conferences. So these pessimistic comments may reflect more about the status of people who made them rather than the status of computer graphics research.

And I would not claim graphics is done until people can author images, movies, and animations as easily as writing articles. And these do not even have to be good; not everyone can be Shakespeare, but at least almost everyone (who is literate without severe handicaps like blindness) can easily write an article, a letter, or a diary entry via existing tools, ranging from simple pen and pencil to more advanced text editing software. But how many people today can easily make an image or a movie all alone? It is true that amazing effects have been achieved in many movies, but these almost always involve significant resources, not least a large team of talented professionals. (Take a look of the end credits of the kinds of movies like Harry Potter or Avatar.)

Talking about Harry Potter, this is actually a good example on the difference between authoring textual and non-textual artifacts: for the former, a good writer like J.K. Rowling could single-handedly author an entire book series, but for the latter, a large team of talented staff has to be devoted to realize the books into movies. And this a technology, not talent issue; no existing tools today would have allowed J.K. Rowling to turn her visions into movies, even though these imagery would likely have existed in her minds while writing the books. (I believe she can do that because that is exactly what happened in my minds when reading her books.)

Thus, allow me to propose a necessary condition to claim the completeness of graphics research, the “Rowling criterion”: it should be as easy for a single individual to author a movie/animation/image as to write an article. And when such technology is available, I would happily turn myself from a researcher into a content creator.

January 25, 2010


Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 2:31 pm
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The most muscular pepper I have seen; photo by Edward Weston.

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