On Reading CS Papers – Thoughts & Reflections

Be forewarned:

  • This is not an advice post. There are tons of people out there who desperately want to give people advice on reading papers. Read theirs, please.
  • This post is a continuous reflection on the topic “how to read a CS paper” from my personal practice. I will list out my academic status before each point so that it may be interesting to myself on how my view on the matter has changed as time goes forward.


The first year of my CS master program. Just get started on CS research.

  • It’s OK to not like a paper

In my first semester, I majorly read papers on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing.  Very occasionally, I read papers on NLP. Some papers on NLP are from extra readings in Greg’s course. Some are related to Greg’s final project, which deals with both code and language.  I don’t really like and want to read papers back then. In NLP class, I prefer to read textbooks (Jufrasky’s one) and tutorial posts that I can find online. One roadblock for me to read papers is that there is certain background knowledge gap I need to fill and I just simply don’t know how to read a paper. So, for Greg’s NLP course, I only read some papers related to my final project. This paper is the base paper for my final project. I got this paper from professors in linguistics and software engineering and they want me to try out the same idea but using neural network model instead. I read this paper several times and the more I read, the more I want to throw up.  I just think this paper hides many critical implementation details and the score 95% is just too high for me to believe. The authors open source their code but their code has some nasty maven dependencies, which won’t compile under my environment. Their evaluation metric is non-standard in NLP and many “junk words” wrap around their results. Of course, the result of my experiment is quite negative.  I often think it is just a waste of life to spend your precious time on some paper you dislike.  Here, I’m more of talking about paper writing style and the reproducibility of papers’ results. I probably want to count shunning from some background gap as a legitime reason not like a paper.

  • Try to get most of the paper and go from there

I got this message from Matt’s Crowdsourcing class. In the class, I have read a very mathematical heavy paper, which invokes some combinations of PGM and variational inference on the credibility of fake news. I’m worried back then about how should I approach a paper like this one, which I’m extremely lack of background and mathematics formula looks daunting.  I pose my doubts on Canvas and Matt responds in class and gives the message.  I think the message really gives me some courage on continuing read papers.

  • It’s OK to skip (most) parts of a paper.  Remember: paper is not a textbook!

This semester I’m taking a distributed system class. To be honest, distributed system paper can be extremely boring if they are from industry. Even worse, system paper can be quite long: usually around 15 pages, double column. So, if I read every word from beginning to end, I’ll be super tired and the goal is not feasible for a four-paper-per-week class. So, I have to skip. Some papers are quite useful maybe just for one or two paragraphs. Some papers are useful maybe just because of one figure. As long as your expectation about a paper gets met, you can stop wherever you want.

  • Multiple views of reading a paper

I didn’t get the point until very recently. I did quite terrible on the first midterm of my distributed system class. The exam is about how to design a system to meet a certain requirement. In the first half of the course, I focus on the knowledge part presented by the paper but that doesn’t work out well. Until then, I realize that I need to read those systems paper from a system design point of view: what problems they need to solve, what challenges they have, how they solve the challenges.  OF course, those papers are valuable from knowledge perspective: how consistent hashing works, for example. But, depends on the goal of reading paper, I can prioritize different angles of reading a paper. If I need to implement the system mentioned in the paper, I probably need to switch to a different paper reading style.

  • Get every bit of details of paper if you need to

It’s time again for the final course projects. Again, I need to generate some ideas and find some baseline papers. In this case, “skip parts” and “get most out of the paper and move on” strategy probably won’t work well. All in all, I need to understand the paper and those are rely on the details from the paper. In this case, I need to sit through the whole journey and remove any blockers that I may encounter.


A writing project – Daily Bible Reading Notes

I didn’t write any post this January, which is bad. So, to keep this place alive, I decide to start a writing project – Daily Bible Reading Notes. I will read bible verse each day and take a note of the thoughts and questions related to the bible verses I read that day.  To make notes relative organized, I’ll make a post each month and keep update that post in that month. This project serves also a self-experiment on how long I can insist doing this.

I may have questions during the reading but my view on Bible is that I don’t want to actively seek out the explanation of those questions. I think the answers to those questions are unique and depend on each person’s view. Over the time, God will explain everything to me and all I need to do is to catch the signal from my daily experience.

利未记22-24 (02/07/18)


你 要 對 他 們 說 、 你 們 世 世 代 代 的 後 裔 、 凡 身 上 有 污 穢 、 親 近 以 色 列 人 所 分 別 為 聖 歸 耶 和 華 聖 物 的 、 那 人 必 在 我 面 前 剪 除 . 我 是 耶 和 華  (22:3)

这节经文给我感觉神就非常的严厉。他想把所有不干净的人都消灭。但是如果用基督教的观点来看,人生下来就带着罪的。难道神就要将我们铲除么? 也许唯一途径不被消灭就是受洗成为一个洁净的人,成为基督徒。

六 日 要 作 工 、 第 七 日 是 聖 安 息 日 、 當 有 聖 會 、 你 們 甚 麼 工 都 不 可 作 、 這 是 在 你 們 一 切 的 住 處 向 耶 和 華 守 的 安 息 日 。(23:3)


你要曉諭以色列人說、凡咒詛 神的、必擔當他的罪。那褻瀆耶和華名的、必被治死、全會眾總要用石頭打死他.不管是寄居的、是本地人、他褻瀆耶和華名的時候、必被治死。打死人的、必被治死。打死牲畜的、必賠上牲畜.以命償命。人若使他鄰舍的身體有殘疾、他怎樣行、也要照樣向他行。以傷還傷、以眼還眼、以牙還牙.他怎樣叫人的身體有殘疾、也要照樣向他行。打死牲畜的、必賠上牲畜.打死人的、必被治死。不管是寄居的、是本地人、同歸一例.我是耶和華你們的 神。 於是摩西曉諭以色列人、他們就把那咒詛聖名的人帶到營外、用石頭打死。以色列人就照耶和華所吩咐摩西的行了。(24: 14 – 23)


利未记25-27 (02/08/18)








你們不可作甚麼虛無的神像、不可立雕刻的偶像、或是柱像、也不可在你們的地上安甚麼鏨成的石像、向他跪拜、因為我是耶和華你們的 神。 你們要守我的安息日、敬我的聖所.我是耶和華。你們若遵行我的律例、謹守我的誡命、我就給你們降下時雨、叫地生出土產、田野的樹木結果子。你們打糧食要打到摘葡萄的時候、摘葡萄要摘到撒種的時候、並且要喫得飽足、在你們的地上安然居住。我要賜平安在你們的地上、你們躺臥、無人驚嚇.我要叫惡獸從你們的地上息滅.刀劍也必不經過你們的地。你們要追趕仇敵、他們必倒在你們刀下。(26:1-7)


我是耶和華你們的 神、曾將你們從埃及地領出來、使你們不作埃及人的奴僕、我也折斷你們所負的軛.叫你們挺身而走。(26:13)










马太福音1-3 (02/09/18)



这里出现了一个非常被提及的概念:义人。这个概念其实挺不好理解的。我看了一下对应的英文翻译:righteous man。结合这句话来看,义人在这里我理解为为她人着想的人。这里马利亚未婚先孕,按照这句话理解,约瑟是应该在众人面前羞辱她。但是,因为约瑟是个义人,他只是想暗暗把马利亚休掉,顾全马利亚的面子。其实这点也是北京人所讲究的做人要尽量给别人留个面子,不要把事情做绝。

那時、有施洗的約翰出來、在猶太的曠野傳道、說、天國近了、你們應當悔改。這人就是先知以賽亞所說的、他說、『在曠野有人聲喊著說、預備主的道、修直他的路。』(3:1 – 3)


約翰看見許多法利賽人和撒都該人、也來受洗、就對他們說、毒蛇的種類、誰指示你們逃避將來的忿怒呢。你們要結出果子來、與悔改的心相稱.不要自己心裡說、有亞伯拉罕為我們的祖宗.我告訴你們、 神能從這些石頭中給亞伯拉罕興起子孫來。現在斧子已經放在樹根上、凡不結好果子的樹、就砍下來、丟在火裡。(3:7-10)




當下、耶穌從加利利來到約但河、見了約翰、要受他的洗。約翰想要攔住他、說、我當受你的洗、你反倒上我這裡來麼。耶穌回答說、你暫且許我.因為我們理當這樣盡諸般的義.〔或作禮〕於是約翰許了他。耶穌受了洗、隨即從水裡上來.天忽然為他開了、他就看見 神的靈、彷彿鴿子降下、落在他身上。從天上有聲音說、這是我的愛子、我所喜悅的。(3:13-17)

这里又再度出现了“义”这个概念。这节经文我觉得比较难以理解。但是,我目前的理解是受洗代表的有两层含义:1. 代表洁净 2. 代表承认神是父的地位。那么“义”在这里就可以理解为道义。因为如果耶稣是神派下来”将自己的百姓从罪恶里救出来”(1:21),那么耶稣本身就应该是洁净的。同时他也应该承认神是他的父。只有受了洗,这两层含义才能达成。后面神对耶稣的行为的喜悦也就可以解释通了。

马太福音4-6 (02/10/18)

對他說、你若是 神的兒子、可以跳下去.因為經上記著說、『主要為你吩咐他的使者、用手托著你、免得你的腳碰在石頭上。』耶穌對他說、經上又記著說、『不可試探主你的 神。』(4:6-7)


虛心的人有福了.因為天國是他們的。哀慟的人有福了.因為他們必得安慰。溫柔的人有福了.因為他們必承受地土。飢渴慕義的人有福了.因為他們必得飽足。憐恤人的人有福了.因為他們必蒙憐恤。 清心的人有福了.因為他們必得見 神。使人和睦的人有福了.因為他們必稱為 神的兒子。 為義受逼迫的人有福了.因為天國是他們的。人若因我辱罵你們、逼迫你們、捏造各樣壞話毀謗你們、你們就有福了。 應當歡喜快樂.因為你們在天上的賞賜是大的.在你們以前的先知、人也是這樣逼迫他們。(5:3-12)


你們是世上的鹽.鹽若失了味、怎能叫他再鹹呢.以後無用、不過丟在外面、被人踐踏了。你們是世上的光.城造在山上、是不能隱藏的。 人點燈、不放在斗底下、是放在燈臺上、就照亮一家的人。你們的光也當這樣照在人前、叫他們看見你們的好行為、便將榮耀歸給你們在天上的父。(5:13-16)





这段经文是讲基督徒不能离婚时常备搬出来的经文。这次阅读,我特意看了一下对应的英文翻译,顿时觉得自然语言确实是模糊的。这句话对应的英文是:“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for martial unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”  这里causes在我看来有两种理解方式,一种是中文翻译这种叫妇人成为淫妇。另外一种是导致女人成为淫妇。那么后者就有一种逻辑是是否离婚就一定会使妇人成为淫妇呢?我理解是这个是有概率的。那么基督徒不能离婚这点就是尽可能的去避免因为离婚使一个妇人去堕落。虽然我们不是直接让妇人成为淫妇的主要原因,但是正是由于离婚的这个行为很有可能导致了妇人成为淫妇。这是神不想看到的。

只是我告訴你們、甚麼誓都不可起、不可指著天起誓、因為天是 神的座位.
不可指著地起誓、因為地是他的腳凳.也不可指著耶路撒冷起誓、因為耶路撒冷是大君的京城。 又不可指著你的頭起誓、因為你不能使一根頭髮變黑變白了。




你們聽見有話說、『當愛你的鄰舍、恨你的仇敵。』只是我告訴你們、要愛你們的仇敵.為那逼迫你們的禱告。 這樣、就可以作你們天父的兒子.因為他叫日頭照好人、也照歹人、降雨給義人、也給不義的人。 你們若單愛那愛你們的人.有甚麼賞賜呢.就是稅吏不也是這樣行麼。(5:43-46)


所以我告訴你們、不要為生命憂慮、喫甚麼、喝甚麼.為身體憂慮穿甚麼.生命不勝於飲食麼、身體不勝於衣裳麼。 你們看那天上的飛鳥、也不種、也不收、也不積蓄在倉裡、你們的天父尚且養活他.你們不比飛鳥貴重得多麼。 你們那一個能用思慮、使壽數多加一刻呢。〔或作使身量多加一肘呢〕何必為衣裳憂慮呢.你想野地裡的百合花、怎麼長起來、他也不勞苦、也不紡線. 然而我告訴你們、就是所羅門極榮華的時候、他所穿戴的、還不如這花一朵呢。你們這小信的人哪、野地裡的草、今天還在、明天就丟在爐裡、 神還給他這樣的妝飾、何況你們呢。 所以不要憂慮、說、喫甚麼、喝甚麼、穿甚麼。這都是外邦人所求的.你們需用的這一切東西、你們的天父是知道的。 你們要先求他的國、和他的義這些東西都要加給你們了。 所以不要為明天憂慮.因為明天自有明天的憂慮.一天的難處一天當就夠了。(6:25-34)


马太福音7-9 (02/11/18)

你們不要論斷人、免得你們被論斷。 因為你們怎樣論斷人、也必怎樣被論斷。你們用甚麼量器量給人、也必用甚麼量器量給你們。 為甚麼看見你弟兄眼中有刺、卻不想自己眼中有梁木呢。 你自己眼中有梁木、怎能對你弟兄說、容我去掉你眼中的刺呢。你這假冒為善的人、先去掉自己眼中的梁木、然後纔能看得清楚、去掉你弟兄眼中的刺。(7:1-5)


你們祈求、就給你們.尋找、就尋見.叩門、就給你們開門。 因為凡祈求的、就得著.尋找的、就尋見.叩門的、就給他開門。你們中間、誰有兒子求餅、反給他石頭呢。求魚、反給他蛇呢。你們雖然不好、尚且知道拿好東西給兒女、何況你們在天上的父、豈不更把好東西給求他的人麼。所以無論何事、你們願意人怎樣待你們、你們也要怎樣待人.因為這就是律法和先知的道理。(7:7-12)

这段经文非常的有力量。经文鼓励大家去努力去询问,而一系列的比喻告诉我们为什么神会把最好的给我们。最后一节其实和古人的 “己所不欲,勿施于人”是一样的道理。但是,似乎现在这条在现世已经不能么通用了。你待人真诚,但是你不能期望别人也这样做。原来不信主之前会觉得为什么要这要做呢?自己岂不吃亏了。但是,现在渐渐的觉得这些都会有天上的父补偿给我们。关于这点只是去教会听到的,还要具体去查阅圣经寻找出处。

你們要進窄門.因為引到滅亡、那門是寬的、路是大的、進去的人也多。 引到永生、那門是窄的、路是小的、找著的人也少。(7:13-14)

今天在读到这段经文的时候,脑海里突然有一种声音就是关于我是应该去做system还是去做AI, 紧接着又想起了我上学期Prof. Dana Ballard的一席话: “when I see there is a path that is so crowd, I start to think the probability of my success.” 这句话是在我们讲到deep learning的时候提到的。

所以凡聽見我這話就去行的、好比一個聰明人、把房子蓋在磐石上。 雨淋、水沖、風吹、撞著那房子、房子總不倒塌.因為根基立在磐石上。凡聽見我這話不去行的、好比一個無知的人、把房子蓋在沙土上。雨淋、水沖、風吹、撞著那房子、房子就倒塌了.並且倒塌得很大。(7:24-27)


耶穌在屋裡坐席的時候、有好些稅吏和罪人來、與耶穌和他的門徒一同坐席。 法利賽人看見、就對耶穌的門徒說、你們的先生為甚麼和稅吏並罪人一同喫飯呢。耶穌聽見、就說、康健的人用不著醫生、有病的人纔用得著。經上說、『我喜愛憐恤、不喜愛祭祀。』這句話的意思、你們且去揣摩.我來、本不是召義人、乃是召罪人。(9:10-13)

这个故事在第8章和第9章记录耶稣所行的神迹中印象给我最深。尤其是最后一节“我來、本不是召義人、乃是召罪人。” 我从中看到了耶稣品行的伟大。一个教授如果只看重一个在本科就发表各种论文的学生来录取他们当自己的学生,那么这个学生的成长和这个教授有什么关系呢?再看看耶稣,他不是来召义人而是召罪人,其中工作的艰辛就好比你要把一个没有任何文章发表的人培养成世界一流的研究员。这段经文让我感受到耶稣的伟大。多说一句第8章,第9章讲了很多人因信得救。信这个看似简单的心理状态实则艰难万分。尤其是面对考验的时候,是否还选择相信神,在我看来是基督徒一生的修行。

你們禱告的時候、不可像那假冒為善的人、愛站在會堂裡、和十字路口上禱告、故意叫人看見.我實在告訴你們、他們已經得了他們的賞賜。 你禱告的時候、要進你的內屋、關上門、禱告你在暗中的父、你父在暗中察看、必然報答你。 你們禱告、不可像外邦人、用許多重複話.他們以為話多了必蒙垂聽。 你們不可效法他們.因為你們沒有祈求以先、你們所需用的、你們的父早已知道了。 所以你們禱告、要這樣說.我們在天上的父、願人都尊你的名為聖。 願你的國降臨。願你的旨意行在地上、如同行在天上。 我們日用的飲食、今日賜給我們。 免我們的債、如同我們免了人的債。不叫我們遇見試探.救我們脫離兇惡。〔或作脫離惡者〕因為國度、權柄、榮耀、全是你的直到永遠、阿們。〔有古卷無因為至阿們等字〕 你們饒恕人的過犯、你們的天父也必饒恕你們的過犯。 你們不饒恕人的過犯、你們的天父也必不饒恕你們的過犯。(6:5-15)


马太福音10-12 (02/12/18)

凡在人面前認我的、我在我天上的父面前、也必認他。 凡在人面前不認我的、我在我天上的父面前、也必不認他。你們不要想我來、是叫地上太平.我來、並不是叫地上太平、乃是叫地上動刀兵。因為我來、是叫人與父親生疏、女兒與母親生疏、媳婦與婆婆生疏.人的仇敵、就是自己家裡的人。 愛父母過於愛我的、不配作我的門徒、愛兒女過於愛我的、不配作我的門徒。 不背著他的十字架跟從我的、也不配作我的門徒。得著生命的、將要失喪生命.為我失喪生命的、將要得著生命。(10:32-36)

这段圣经让我觉得很激烈。尤其是“並不是叫地上太平、乃是叫地上動刀兵。因為我來、是叫人與父親生疏、女兒與母親生疏、媳婦與婆婆生疏.人的仇敵、就是自己家裡的人。愛父母過於愛我的、不配作我的門徒、愛兒女過於愛我的、不配作我的門徒。” 这些其实是很多慕道友无法理解的,而且我也不是很明白。因为家人对于我非常重要,但是耶稣这里却是强调人要把他摆在第一位。这里的矛盾该如何解释?


在我理解这里展现的道理是:每人都有一张嘴,她可以想说什么就说什么。那么我们应该因为这个人的嘴里的话而或喜或悲么?不,我们要遵循一定道理。凡是违背这个道理的,我们就不听。凡是遵循这个道理的,我们要听。那么这个道理是什么,我看来就是 “總以智慧為是”。

凡勞苦擔重擔的人、可以到我這裡來、我就使你們得安息。我心裡柔和謙卑、你們當負我的軛、學我的樣式、這樣、你們心裡就必得享安息。 因為我的軛是容易的、我的擔子是輕省的。(11:28-30)


你們或以為樹好、果子也好.樹壞、果子也壞.因為看果子、就可以知道樹。毒蛇的種類、你們既是惡人、怎能說出好話來呢.因為心裡所充滿的、口裡就說出來。善人從他心裡所存的善、就發出善來.惡人從他心裡所存的惡、就發出惡來。我又告訴你們、凡人所說的閒話、當審判的日子、必要句句供出來。 因為要憑你的話、定你為義、也要憑你的話、定你有罪。(12:33-37)


污鬼離了人身、就在無水之地、過來過去、尋求安歇之處、卻尋不著。於是說、我要回到我所出來的屋裡去.到了、就看見裡面空閒、打掃乾淨、修飾好了。 便去另帶了七個比自己更惡的鬼來、都進去住在那裡.那人末後的景況、比先前更不好了。這邪惡的世代、也要如此。(12:43-45)




书评:《男人的一半是女人》- 张贤亮











“你好了!” 她的声音从很深很深的水底浮了上来。

”是的。。。我也不知道。。。” 我笑了。一种悲切的和狂喜的笑,一种痉挛的笑。笑声越来越大,笑得全身颤抖,笑得流出了眼泪。

“你还。。。能吗?” 水底又浮上来模糊的声音。


书中像这样的描写其实有很多。这对读者来说是一种小刺激。但是,同时我却非常感谢作者这一种坦诚。在那个年代里,可以想象,崇高理想并不会让一个人时刻保持着活下去的冲动。但是,相反,恰恰是这种人性欲望和情感需要才会让人能艰难度过那段时光。老章最开始没有性能力其实并不是老章自身有什么生理问题。恰恰相反,从这次以及老章在林子中和黄香久的一段云雨看出,老章的身体其实一点问题也没有。那么是什么让老章最开始不能的呢?其实是心理上的一种压抑。这点从老章在第一次和黄香久相遇的场景就可以看出。老章和黄香久第一次相遇是黄香久在池塘了洗澡出浴的时候。老章第一次看到女人的裸体 。长时间艰苦的劳动改造和自己的本能让老章想要与她欢愉一番(”开始,我的眼睛总不自觉地朝她那个最隐秘的部位看。“)而黄香久也摆出了一番欲迎还拒的姿态(”她并不急于穿衣服,却聊下手中的内裤,像是畏凉一样,两臂交叉地将两手搭在两肩上,正面向着我。“)。但是老章总后却没有行动,他用自己的理性战胜了自己的欲望,但是与此同时这也给老章带来莫大的内心痛苦:



。。。 那么,刚刚我要是与她媾合了,我就将不成其为我,我今后的命运就可能大大改观–


我对老章这番思想斗争还是颇有感触的。因为,不论在何种年代,做一个好人真的是非常非常的不容易的。有些时候,在生活中你会发现似乎最后总是坏人,不道德的人,没有那么多像老章这种精神束缚的人笑到了最后。就像老章说得那样:“我对自己的行为负责,那么谁又曾对我负过责任?社会的责任似乎就全在于折磨我和迫害我。” Google的名言是“Don’t be evil”。但是,仔细想想,这是一个多么高的道德要求:”倘若我迎了上去,世界也并不会因此更坏些;我转身逃了开区,世界也没有因此变得更好。“ 如何在面对诱惑,面对那些最后 ”be evil”然后获得利益好处的做法,保持一种不作恶的行为准则。这是多么苛刻的要求。最后,也许就像老章那样,不停地去压抑自己,去符合社会所谓的准则,去活下去。但是,这真的是“活着“吗? 我不知道,书中也似乎没有给出这方面的答案。最后,老章为了自己的信念选择了离开黄香久。这也许是老章选择的 “活着”的一种方式。那么,我们自己真正应该以一种怎样的姿态去活着呢? 我还没有一个明确的答案。




Summary of reading: May – July 2017

It’s has been quite a long time since last time I wrote a book review.  This year my goal on goodreads is to finish 30 books and I’m way behind my schedule. In addition, I have been thinking about whether to port my “book review” section in this blog to my technical blog. The reasoning behind it is that I have spending most of time reading technical books and wordpress is not very friendly when drafting a technical-heavy blog (why? see this post). However, when I actually start drafting this post, I realize that book review is not that technical: it involves the mixture of the text from writer, and thoughts and feelings from reader. So, I’ll keep it here. The really downside for keeping the reviews here is that my “bookReview” tag doesn’t really give a list of titles for quick browsing. By the way, I want to thank my work that offers me four hours daily commute that allows me to concentrate on reading.

“The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth” by M.Scott Peck

I finish this book maybe May or maybe June. I cannot remember the exact date. That has always been a problem for me because I usually do highlight when I read a book and once I finish it, I want to take note of good points for future reference. This delays the progress of my next book and also messes up my memory on what exactly date I finish the book. This problem usually happens to some book that are worth lots of re-read in the future. “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck is exactly one of those books.

I read through the Chinese translation of the book. It’s not a thick book: only around 250 pages for translation edition. To me, this is somewhat a sequel to “There is nothing wrong with you” book even they are from different authors. The problem discuss in this book is about life and love. The theme is truly cliche on some level. When I recommend this book to my friends, some of them even laugh when I do some briefing of the content to them. However, to me, the author does mange to provide some new perspectives to the issue.

The book starts out by emphasizing one important mindset: life is hard. People may often complain about life: “Why this thing happens to me?” “Why can’t I have an easy life like John has?” There is a subtle assumption that people may not be aware of when they say those stuff: they assume that life should be easy. That’s the problem that can cause lots of people’s mental issue. I was shocked when I read this part because it was just so obvious and I had never thought about this. Once you have a really high expectation to life, you cannot easily go through the obstacles you will encounter. However, if you tune down your expectation by accepting the fact that life is hard, then you’ll be in a positive mindset when trouble happens to you because you know this is how the life really is. And more importantly, when you actually achieve something or getting some help from others or something good happens to you, you can appreciate those things to another level. You’ll feel lucky and satisfied. This will make you stronger when face the next obstacles.

Another good point the author makes is about love. Love is a term that is really hard to define. People have been trying thousands of years from many perspectives trying to define it precisely. I think there will never be a universally-accepted definition to this term but we can learn about love based upon each person’s definition. I guess that’s the beauty of love. The definition offered by the author is that one is truly willing to help someone grow. This definition is really new to me but if you take a pause and think about it, it makes sense. Parents show their love to their children by helping them from different perspectives with the hope that their children can grow healthily and have a good life. Lovers care about each other so much that sometimes they may directly point out each other’s weakness. Those scenarios shows the love. However, as pointed out by the author, love is not easy as people may think. I myself face issues with love. Chinese parents are overly critic when their children face the problem and they think criticizing is better than compliment.  That’s not the love as they may think and that causes problems like self-hate as thoroughly explained in the “there’s nothing wrong with you” book. In order to find the cure, the author emphasizes the role of psychiatrist. To the author, one can hardly get cured without the help from psychiatrist. That feels too depressing to me. The author tries to deliver this message by giving out lots of cases that show how he helps his patients to achieve better mental state. I have doubts if this is the only way to the cure especially when the problem for a person isn’t as serious as the patients described in the book.

One thing I realized lately is the role of toastmasters club. Even though the organization is described as a way to help people improve their communication and leadership skill, it can also be thought as a way for people gaining love. In the book, the author explains that listening as a way to show your focus to someone is a crucial way to show your love. That’s why the children requires parents constantly attention.  People in the club pay attention to the speaker and provide positive feedbacks to the speaker as a way to help the speaker acquire self-confidence. This is exactly how people give love to others. With the practice of speech, speakers are no longer afraid of stage is a signal for gaining love. I think the mental issue or whatever problem caused by lacking of love can be cured as long as we can acquire love from outside. Psychiatrist may be an important way but I hardly believe that it’s the only way.

The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century” by David Salsburg

I know this book since the junior year of college when my PhD roommate carries this book around as a way to take a break from intense research. The title looks interesting to me and one day, I ask him what good about this book. He answers with big smile: “This book is all about gossip in statistics”.  I know back that time he is also taking a statistics course in sociology.

Four years after that conversation, this book never appears in my life again. However, for no reason, his comment about this book, especially the word “gossip”, is engraved on my mind. So, I give it a try once I’m done with “The Road Less Traveled”. This book looks a good fit to me because based upon his comment, it’s not a really technical book that may require a silent study room, pencil and paper. Also, it’s about statistics on some level is exactly what I need because I’m always attracted to the machine learning, which has deep root in statistics.

To be honest, this book is probably not best described by the word “gossip” because there is not really a lot of gossip involved. Although, I do learn that R.A Fisher really dislikes Jerzy Neyman and his “overly-abused” hypothesis testing; Egon Pearson overthrows his father, Karl Pearson’s work. To me, this book is more like a survey of the field with the aim to tell general audience about the development of mathematical statistics. I myself is also part of general audience in the sense that I’m not really into a mathematical-formula-dense book on a noisy subway. From this perspective, I think the author does a very good job by delivering idea of mathematic term without invoking mathematical formulas.  This is particular useful for me because I can get an overview of each component in the field and their connections without studying a great deal of math. Lots of intuitions are actually from seeing “big picture” instead of worrying about some tedious calculation. Another good point of this book is that you can feel the excitement of the development of the field. Scientific development is motivated by the problems. This is especially true with statistics because statistics is essentially about using mathematical tools to discover the true nature of the data. Here, “the true nature” invokes lots of controversy in the field. The author does a good job to naturally develop the story and motivation behind the argument. Each chapter isn’t too long and it is self-contained as a complete story.  One takeaway from reading this book is the idea about mathematical tools. Formulas are just formulas and unlike computer program, I never think about those mathematical formulas as “tools” for statistician to query the data. This has psychological impact on me because thinking about formulas as tools are just not as intimidating as thinking of formulas as formulas. Another good point about this book is that it lets me realize the assumption behind some mostly-commonly used technique, like hypothesis-testing. Every tool has its assumption, and it’s danger to abuse it without knowing what’s the motivation behind the invention of the tool.

This book is definitely the book I’ll revisit a lot and I think it can be used to its full potential while you taking a class in statistics when you read the book.


Book Review: There Is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate


这本书其实我在4,5月份的时候就已经读完了,在从5月份到7月份这期间,甚至我还拿这本书做过一次Toastmaster club speech。如果你有兴趣,这是我当时做演讲用到的slides。之所以拖到这个时间才去写,原因主要有二:

  • 之前两个月我忙着去考GRE
  • 像这种功能书,如果刚读完就去写的话,难免会有概率误人子弟。为啥呢?如果我刚放下书就跑到这里胡扯,而不是亲身按照书上的方法去实践一下的话,这不是误人子弟还能是啥?!(那你为啥还去做演讲呢?这看到本好书难免会激动要去和别人安利一番嘛)
  • 现在时间刚刚好。自己实践了两个月,可以稍微有资格去评价一下书上的观点;脑子里记得关于这本书的感想也行将淡去,是时候付诸文字记录一下了。


做程序员的多多少少会有一些完美主义。作为土生土长的中国人,这点可能会更为强烈一些。在只许成功不许失败的家庭教育下,在社会上编程大神日益成为网红的时代潮流下,我,一个还算有点上进心的中国程序员,难免会有一些焦虑,自责,乃至自我厌恶——you suck because you’re bad.

终于在某一天的晚上,出于一个记不清的理由(估计是又遭到老妈针对我某件事做法上的批评),我自我厌恶情绪达到了顶点。同时,另外一个从来没出现过的声音出人意料地也在我脑袋里响了起来——老子今晚就要以暴制暴,好好处理一下内心中另外一个我。所以,我想到了之前在reddit上看到的一个post: [Text] Self- loathing is poison. It leads to escapism, procrastination and and depression. Stop focusing on what holds you back. 并想从中获取一些对抗自我厌恶的手段。于是,我就发现了这本书。



You could just sit down and face a wall and eventually you would understand all of this (what is self-hate, how self-hate is formed …). It’s all available without having any intellectual understanding of it.









举个例子来说,假如泽远小的时候特别想要台电脑,但是当我这个请求向父母提出的时候,我得到的回复是”NO”。这个时候,在我的潜意识里就会得到一种判断,那就是: 我的请求之所以没有被父母采纳,是因为我本身不够好,如果我做的更好的话,父母就会给我买电脑。在那个时候,我并没有意识到父母有可能存在问题的可能性(比如他们不给我买电脑并不是因为我做的不够好)。在我的眼里,他们就是权威,而且我的生存也强烈依靠他们。因此,他们不给我买电脑肯定是因为我自身的问题。因此我决定通过不断指责我自己的方式来“追求完美”,从而希望我的需求最后能被父母满足。这种追求完美的心态就渐渐促成了self-hate。



再引申一步讲,遇到任何困难,比如说表白被拒,找工作不顺,这些往往并不是因为你自己有问题,而是因为这些事本身就是有难度的。换句话说,就是Doing bad at something is not because you’re bad. It is because the thing you are trying to do is hard in itself. 因此,换个角度,就有可能以一个更加积极的态度去看待问题。而不是始终被self-hate所控制,暗无天日,陷入一种消极的状态中。

Too obvious to ignore


书中举了一个非常生动的例子。假如你突然有一天想开始跑步,这时候突然有一个声音蹦出来叫道:“你穿成这样就跑步?你居然敢声称你要跑步。。。” 同时,又有另一个声音向你说道:“你已经做的很好了。就这样跑下去。你跑得非常好,继续加油!”。你仔细想想哪种声音是真正想让你跑步的?而哪种声音是装作给你提建设性意见 让你跑步,但其实是在阻挠你的?

没错,self-hate往往就是以一种建设性意见的姿态出现在你的内心,假装是为了你好,实际上却是在万般阻挠你前进。再试想一下,如果这两种声音不是出自你的心声,而是出自你的两个朋友的话,估计你已经早已离开那个不停向你提出“建设性意见”的朋友远远的了。可是,为什么我们不能对self-hate采取同样的办法呢?仅仅因为self-hate是存活在我们的内心,并没有具体的形态,我们就可以对他听之任之了吗?! 不!