Confessions of a researchaholic

January 17, 2024

Learning addiction

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 2:18 pm

I avoid Duolingo Pro so that I won’t have enough hearts to to too many exercises.

November 6, 2023

Septology by Jon Fosse

Filed under: Imaginary — liyiwei @ 6:41 pm
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An aging painter recorded his activities within a few days interleaved with flashbacks and reminiscences of his life and monologues about art, religion, and relationships in a single continuous sentence spanning seven volumes of this fiction.

Several characters in the story, including the writer himself, have doppelgangers with the same name and similar appearances but different life trajectories.
There can be multiple interpretations of this, such as mental confusion and imagined alternative lives as a reflection of the writer who possessed talent in art but deficiency (and regression due to aging and substance abuse) in other mental aspects.

I read volumes I-II (the other name) in an e-book version just to see what the Nobel literature prize is all about, and finished III-V (I is another) and VI-VII (a new name) in audio book versions as I found the audio format perfectly suitable for the continuous verbal style of the story without any visual structure.

A painting titled “St. Andrew’s cross” is repeated mentioned in the story, which I tried to visualize.

September 17, 2023

The art thief

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:53 pm
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This is a compact and yet engaging book about the most prolific and efficient art thief in history.
To understand such an extraordinary individual, his deeds, and the shocking ending, it is important to know his “state machine” – how he perceives the world, his relationships, incentives, and actions.
To reconstruct this state machine, the author interviewed the thief in person and also talked to people who knew him, including his small circle of friends and family, his victims (e.g., museums, antique stores, and auction houses staff), psychoanalysts, and law enforcement officers.
The book also describes the history of art market and theft (e.g., Picasso commissioned a theft from Louvre early on and then became the most stolen artist later), and the author’s own journey in writing this book.

Highly recommend, especially for those who are interested in art, psychology, and crime.
I probably will see things differently during my future museum visits.

Instead of stealing artworks and put them in an attic for personal peruse, I dream about the opposite: sneak artworks created by people I know into museums so that they can be appreciated by more people and better preserved by art professionals.

August 27, 2023

Atlas Shrugged

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:47 pm

I finished watching all 3 episodes of the movie version of Atlas Shrugged just to see what the fuss is about without having to spend days reading the book.

A bunch of industrialists and intellectuals were fed up with the socialist government, and decided to go on strike to form their own community in the mountains, while the economy and society crumbled.
It is basically a libertarian (and a bit technology) fantasy from an author who grew up in the Soviet Union, offering some reflections for the current government policies leaning towards state intervention.

August 13, 2023

The gap in the curtain

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:03 pm

I heard from a podcast/blog about this book offering important lessons for finance, so I borrowed the annotated digital version from the local library and read it via hoopla.

In a nutshell, the book is a fable (or a collection of individual but connected fables) where having partial information about the future can be more perilous than having no information at all, as one may misinterpret the information, take actions with unintended consequences, or just be psychologically paralyzed by the uncertainty and eventuality.

From the perspective of CS/ML, the book is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of over-fitting, as the characters in the book are trying to fit the information they have to their own actions and narratives (or vice versa).
And the danger of partial information applies not just to the future but also to the present and the past, as we often have to make decisions based on incomplete information.

July 9, 2023

Metaphors we live by

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:50 pm

This book introduces metaphors as ways for us to think about one concept (often abstract or more difficult to understand) in terms of another (often concrete or more familiar, grounded in our experiences), e.g., “argument is war” and “time is money”, highlights their importance in how we think, communicate, and act, and then discusses the relationships of metaphors with respect to objectivism and subjectivism (basically as a middle way that covers issues that both are trying to address).
The most interesting part to me is the end of the book where the authors discuss how metaphors can influence how we understand each other and ourselves, art, culture (ritual), and politics.

May 28, 2023

A history of graphic design

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:08 pm

I bought this book in year 2004 but did not finish reading it until now.
Overall, it is an excellent overview of the main developments in graphic design, including styles, technologies, and people.
In long run I will probably remember more of the many beautiful image examples than the detailed text descriptions.

The book focuses mainly on static layouts and touches upon animations and interactive interfaces in the end, which, together with recent generative technologies, will probably be worth another book in the future.

February 19, 2022

Silicon Valley Index

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 12:50 pm

Some interesting aspects I found in the 2022 Silicon Valley Index:

  • The total population declined due to net emigration.
  • Asian now constitutes 39% of the population, more than white (29%), Hispanic (24%), black (2%), and the others (6%).
  • The median income ($138100) is about the twice the US value ($67300).
  • Apple and Alphabet employed 12% of the total work force.
  • Despite a relatively low household poverty rate of 5%, nearly 33% of all households do not earn enough money to meet their most basic needs without public or private/informal assistance.
  • Non-residential development approvals hit an all-time high in FY 2020-21, with more than 21.5 million square feet of space approved.

August 15, 2021

The doubtful guest

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 6:42 pm
Tags: ,

I spotted this palm-sized book on a shelf in Kinokuniya San Francisco, and managed to read it in a few minutes. When the book is open, you will see a few (usually two) lines of rhymed texts on the left and an meticulously hatched illustration on the right. Both the story the art have a very interesting style.

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