Confessions of a researchaholic

October 1, 2013

False presumptions – sequel

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:31 pm

Last night I saw this Facebook post from a friend who is a CS professor in a top university:

Gag ugh gun ml K LnmNqnN ‘m

I spent some time deciphering the profound meaning and encoding of that post, to no avail.

Later on, the friend commented that this is the first Facebook post of his 2 years old daughter.

September 25, 2013

How to deal with flight delays when you are already onboard

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:55 pm
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Flight delays suck. But what sucks the most is when you are already on board, so that you are trapped on that narrow seat and you cannot even walk around in a terminal.

If you are on a plane with in-flight entertainment system (stay away from those airlines/airplanes that do not even offer this basic service to all cabins) and the captain is smart enough to turn it on, start watching your favorite movies. This directly converts painful delays into extra entertainment time. At least it beats sitting there whining and worrying.

I realized this while getting delayed on board by a super typhoon a few days ago. It was a short haul flight, so the normal fly time is not even enough for an average movie. But it turns out to be enough after adding the delay. I got to watch a movie not available on Netflix.

May 22, 2013


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:51 am
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I bumped into this interesting and concise article a few days ago. I encourage you to read it in whole and watch the embedded video.

Basically, it echoes my personal experiences quite well, across product groups, industry labs, and academia. For jobs that require any dose of innovation, the success predominantly depends on individual creativity, perseverance, and autonomy, rather than knowledge, smartness, or even intelligence.

I have a very simple rule of thumb to know, at an early stage, whether a student is suitable for research, or any form of innovative work. It is a bit like push and pull. If I push you a bit (e.g. suggesting you to try an experiment) and you can react back with at least something I did not know a priori (e.g. a surprising result or a better way to do that experiment), you are probably good. Otherwise, you are just a robot that needs to be told exactly what to do. It is a bit better, but not fundamentally different from, say, strawberry pickers or assembly line workers.

Autonomy is the main distinction between jobs in the past 2 millenniums (e.g. agriculture, manufacturing) and this new millennium (the so called knowledge economy). It is also the main reason behind the bifurcation of economic power, social class, and a lot of other things.

On a related note, a recent story deeply touched my heart. A previous unknown, 50+ years old mathematician, with stints in fast food restaurants, recently proved an elusive property of prime numbers that has been one of the longest standing math challenges.
I did not know this guy, but I bet he must have a tremendous amount of passion and perseverance to spend all the time and efforts to pull this off.

May 21, 2013

Lvdi Wang visiting HK

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:41 pm
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[People usually send out email announcements for visitors. But I find it very boring. So I am going to take a different approach that is more interesting and fits my style better.]

Lvdi Wang, a MSR Asia researcher in computer graphics, is visiting Hong Kong from June 8 to June 12, 2013. If you are a faculty or student who would like to meet with him, let me know.

Here are some reasons why it is to your benefit to meet him, especially if you are a student, and more so if you are a student working with me now.

Lvdi is a very smart guy. In fact, he is one of the smartest students I have ever worked with. You can benefit a lot from discussing with him about your research.

He is also a very nice guy, nicer than the usual kind of smart guys who could make you a bit uncomfortable.

[Look at his publications and photos under his website for the two points above.]

He is not my longest collaborator, but likely knows my style well enough to give some *happiness* guide, especially to my internal students. (I am not saying anyone should have any grievance given my liberal style; how many professors out there allow their students to work anytime anywhere? But just in case.)

You might want to ask him about “nothing is impossible”. I am going to quote from his case if you ever tell me “it is not possible to accomplish that”.

May 3, 2013


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:00 am
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Dear student:

I am totally cool with skipping all the classes as this is also what I did in school. But at least I never walk up to a professor in the final session and ask: “are you the TA of this class?”

(True event occurred in my mobile computing class today. All students have to show up for their final project demos.)

February 12, 2013


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:12 am
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A few evenings ago while tunneling through one of the numerous secret passageways of Hogwarts I overheard a heated argument between a pair of young student couples.

They clearly thought it was a sufficiently secluded place for letting go all of their inner emotions.

It was quite enjoyable to feel so much energy in the kind of anger signature of young couples. After they are older, they will cool off, and silently resent and despise each other.

February 11, 2013


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:13 pm
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I avoid airline check-in counters because it is a huge waste of time and I seldom bother with luggage anyway, but a few flights ago I had to do it due to malfunctioning self-check-in kiosks. While laboring with an agent, I overheard the conversation in an adjacent counter.
I did not watch the customer because my visual cortex was occupied with mental seat-map upload, but from his voice and intonation I pictured a high level corporate manager in his 50s with bristle white hair in a business suit.

The guy was hissing out sentences like “this is totally unacceptable; I am a XXXX elite status member”, in a tone of shock, indignation, and disappointment.

Gosh. If I had known the company he worked for I would have shorted it.

Self-note: dealing with check-in counters might not be such a bad thing because it provides opportunities for observing humanity under emotional stress.

January 26, 2013

Why my site is not worth hacking

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:49 pm
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A friend of mine, who is currently a grad student in a prestigious CS department, told me that his PhD adviser is pretty keen on the cyber security thing. Like, he will fuss about unencrypted project servers.

I do not encrypt my server. It is not nearly as popular a target as my friend’s department, and I simply do not think it is worth hacking. Allow me to do a quick breakdown of the content of my site:

90% are project ideas killed by myself.

9% are not killed, but papers rejected by reviewers.

1% are neither killed nor rejected, but so poorly written that reviewers, who are experts in my field, asked for 3 revisions to be able to understand.

I hope I have saved your time. Have a good day.

October 17, 2012

Party like a panda

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 1:21 am
Tags: ,

(Realization after a lunch part today at the University Lodge, aka the president’s office)

I am one who attends parties like a panda: eats (all the good food while available), shoots (some really bad and cold jokes), and leaves (before people realize I am a jerk).

March 3, 2012

Reading week

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:09 pm

So the university has this *reading week* in the middle of the semester that has all classes suspended. The official documentation says this is for students to catch up on their course readings.

I was wondering why the students need an entire frigging week for this; aren’t they supposed to be doing the reading and course works all the time?

Eventually, a senior professor told me, in a whispering tone: “the reading week is just an excuse for professors to take a spring break”.

Hush, hush

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