Confessions of a researchaholic

March 21, 2019

How to draw human subjects on trains

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:40 pm
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Pick a schedule that the train is neither too crowded nor too under attended. It is very difficult to draw in an overcrowded or a completely empty train.

Pick a train (or a specific car) with open views so that you can easily see other passengers, preferably frontal faces.

The above two require some experiences but would not be hard to figure out after a few weeks.

Walk through all cars once the train departs to identify the best subject and your location.

Like research, the most important stage for art is picking the right subject. The rest is just execution.
The subject should have enough visual interest (at least to you) and yet in a stable enough state to draw (e.g. sleeping or focusing on a book or device).
Sit at a right angle and distance from your subject. You need to be able to see his or her face with sufficient clarify, while avoiding being noticed. (People might not behave naturally if they sense being watched.)

Time your drawing with the train stops.
Ideally you want to have enough time and physical stability to draw, so place the most important strokes (e.g. the outline and key features) during the longest segment (so that the subject is most likely to remain there).
Also consider how shaky the train can be; place the coarser strokes (e.g. initial base layer) during bumpier movements, and the finer strokes (e.g. detailed eye structures) during slower movements.

I usually have about 20 to 30 minutes for a trip during which I try to complete the drawing as much as possible. Sometimes I perform fine touches afterwards, but only if my visual memory is still fresh.

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Quick sketch of an evening train passenger

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

View this post on Instagram

Quick sketch of an evening train passenger

A post shared by Kublai (@kub1ai) on

February 7, 2019

Imposter syndrome

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:55 am
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A colleague recently told me that he felt like being an imposter in our lab. I was surprised because in my view he has been very successful all around.

Many members of our research community feel likewise and need to shore up their facades. I guess we can all relax a bit once we realize everyone else is just like us.

Or you can be like me, too insensitive or self-absorbing to really care what others think about us. (I still pretend I do, mostly to fit in.)

January 23, 2019

Doing projects versus developing people

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:06 pm
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I like the technical part of Mengqi’s SIGGRAPH 2018 presentation, but even more so at the end when she talked about never giving up.

During the early stage of my research career I focused more on doing projects, but have gradually shifted more towards developing people, which I found to be an even more interesting and rewarding experience.

December 3, 2018

Integrity, intelligence, and energy

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:48 am
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Warren Buffett once said to look for three qualities for people to work with: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And without the first one, the other two will kill you.

However, history is full of people who committed grave atrocities due to lack of intelligence, even with good intention and integrity. And I have witnessed people causing less damages who are not as dangerous but still annoying.

Thus, lacking intelligence is no less dangerous than lacking integrity. Avoid such people as much as possible.

September 27, 2018

How filter recruiters

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 10:01 am
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It is usually much more effective to talk directly with the hiring managers for job opportunities. Recruiters, either internally to the companies or externally in agencies, are usually less effective, even though I have encountered a few very good ones and enjoyed the processes.

If you are receiving more recruiter contacts than your bandwidth can handle, one strategy is as follows. Tell the recruiter that you are very happy with your current job (true for me, but pretend to be so even if you are not) and are not thinking about switching now. However, you are interested to know more about the opportunity, and might be able to recommend other suitable candidates.

A run-of-the-mill recruiter, looking for a quick score, will usually pass by after reading this message.
A smart recruiter, on the other hand, knows the importance of building relationships and expanding networks, and top candidates usually have good jobs; they will be more likely to get back to you.

September 16, 2018

MSR Asia single-author challenge

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:32 pm
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It has been 10 years since I posted up the single-author SIGGRAPH paper challenge to MSR Asia, and nobody has managed to claim the prize as far as I know.

Looking back at my writing, I was wondering who this blunt prick is.
If I could, I would tell my past self to be more graceful without compromising the strength.
Otherwise, I still stick with, and have faithfully followed by own edicts, after switching into these other roles.

August 26, 2018

Git research source

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 3:53 pm
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Below is a summary of my suggestions of using git to manage research source, based on numerous discussions I have had with my collaborators across multiple projects at multiple institutions.

Always revision control your code. There are multiple options, but at this moment of writing, git beats alternatives such as svn and perforce.

Use github for public repos and bitbucket for private repos.

Start with existing code if feasible. If the code is already under git, use submodule as a component or fork/branch as an extension. Otherwise, convert the code into git, and preserve revision history whenever possible (e.g. github/bitbucket can help you convert svn repos into git repos).

Use multiple branches for different versions of the code, such as stable branch for release or a personal branch for experiments.
Use multiple remotes across organizations and time-frames.
For example, during your internship with a company, use an internal corporate github repo, and sync it with an external bitbucket (private) repo at the end of your internship so that you can continue the project at your school. When you are ready to publish your code, mirror it to a public github repo.
Keep multiple remotes under the same repo for easy management.

For paper drafts, you can create an overleaf git branch for more WYSIWYG-style editing while retaining all the benefits of branching and revision control.

Chongyang Ma (@ Snap Research) has recommendations for industry research code practice.

June 27, 2018

Project pivot versus switch

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:03 pm
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When we get stuck in a project, the issues could lay on the project or us.
For the former, switching to a different project might help.
For the latter, we should fix our own issues as otherwise no project will work out.

It is not always clear where the issues are.
But if someone keeps on switching projects, it could be a sign of individual instead of project issues.

Even if a project does not work out, it is usually better to pivot by continuous transforming the ideas during progress, instead of discontinuous switch to a separate project without coherence.

Download (SVG, 8KB)

June 8, 2018


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:54 am
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Aside from rare exceptions like Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein, people usually do not care who is behind an invention or discovery.
(As a quick experiment, can you name the Nobel Prize winners in the most recent year, especially if you are not working in the related fields?)

Thus, I would prioritize our outcomes over our egos for publicity.

May 28, 2018

How to screen PhD/intern applicants

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:00 pm

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