Freedom of speech

Piazza is an online forum tool that is heavily used in the academia. It is used to help students ask questions and get feedback from both peers and instructors. It has a goal that is similar to Slack in the sense that they both try to cut the duplicate emails sent by several people for the same or similar type of request. It is a good tool but every tool that comes with power has its own consequence.

Instructors can perform the following configuration when they setup the forum for the course.

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Basically, this option means that when you make a post, whether you can choose to be “Anonymous” to both your peers and instructors or to your peers only (instructors can still see who makes the post).  The following picture shows what this option looks like from student’s perspective:

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The intention for this option I guess is that some students may feel embarrassed to ask questions. They might think their questions are dumb and will make them look bad in front of peers or instructors. I think this option is used as a way to encourage students to ask questions bravely.

However, this option may get abused. From my observation, Piazza is used as a way for instructors to show off their teaching quality. This is important for Assistant Professors because teaching still means something (if teaching quality doesn’t matter, why institution asks for the teaching statement at the very first place?). In addition, the teaching quality in some sense is an important indicator for students to evaluate you as a person. This is important for professors who are looking for graduate students because research publication is only part of the story and how those professors interact with students may be a crucial indicator to how good a professor as a human being is (evaluation may be a better indicator but it is confidential). Thus, if some potential students look at the piazza that his interested professor teaches gets a lot of complaints. The students may have a second thought on whether he should work with him for research (maybe he is a very bad person even he is doing a good research).

Thus, the instructors have a strong motivation to censor the posts on the piazza. This scares the students because they don’t have a secure way to provide feedback to the instructor. Let’s assume that the majority of students has a good heart: they won’t say bad stuff to the instructor who actually really cares about students. Thus, the time that something slightly negative appears on the Piazza may be a very important signal to the instructor that something wrong with his teaching. However, due to the strong motivation for instructors to show off their teaching quality through Piazza, the instructors may start to censor the speech on the Piazza by turning the option off.

I didn’t realize this thing last semester. Last semester, the instructor from one course sets this option off and I was thinking maybe he wants to know the students who are shy to ask questions and provide some individual attention. However, this semester, the instructor from one of my course initially turn the option on so that everyone can truly ask questions as “Anonymous”. Then, until one day, someone makes the below post and the option is turned off. Now, no students dare to make slightly negative posts.

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I fully understand the interests conflict between students and instructors on the use of Piazza: students may think Piazza is a secure way to provide anonymous feedback while instructor may think bad posts on the forum make them look bad. However, I still think there should be a better way to address this conflict to protect both students and instructors especially with the technology we have nowadays. But, (unintentional) censorship is not something we want to culture especially in the Academia. By the way, for this course, I still think the instructor is good but the material is quite challenging without laying down a solid theoretical foundation beforehand. He went through the material again after this post but too bad the truely “Anonymous” is gone.

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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)

有的时候我对神爱众人这个观点总是持将信将疑的态度。一方面自我愿意相信是出于自我安慰。但有的时候会去质疑是因为圣经上的某些字节:

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)

这个也许就是为什么周日要去教会的由来吧?

把那咒詛聖名的人帶到營外、叫聽見的人都放手在他頭上、全會眾就要用石頭打死他。
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)

其实这段经文给我传递出来的一个信息就是:千万不要侮辱诅咒神,是会受到惩罚的。但是另外一方面来看,神并没有给这个人悔改的机会。这是为什么呢?我从中感受到了神爱人这种说法中的一种矛盾。但是另外一方面又从这段经文中感受到了神的严厉。

利未记25-27 (02/08/18)

今天读经找到了很多在教会中可以听见的说法的出处。比如说,教会经常强调人要休息,其中一个论据就是指以色列人要六年耕作,第七年休息。今天终于找到了经文的出处。

你們若說、這第七年我們不耕種、也不收藏土產、喫甚麼呢。我必在第六年、將我所命的福賜給你們、地便生三年的土產。(25:20-21)

另外一个词汇叫做“客旅”,往往在强调基督徒在世上是客旅的,天国才是我们的家时出现。

地不可永賣、因為地是我的、你們在我面前是客旅、是寄居的。(25:23)

从这节经文中,我感觉神和我们是一种房东与房客的关系。如果按照一般解释,可以为神是掌权的。但是,这节经文给我的感觉神是冷漠的。

你的弟兄在你那裡若漸漸貧窮、手中缺乏、你就要幫補他、使他與你同住、像外人和寄居的一樣。(25:35)

这节经文给我的印象很深。这里强调我们应该是如何对待自己的弟兄。但是,我在读这节经文的时候在想,真有这种事情发生在我眼前,我是否能像经文中所说的那样行出来。自己总感觉自己对金钱握的很死。也许这就是所谓的捆绑。但是是否我要懂得舍得,神才会给予呢?自己还是没有信心踏出对神的那一步。

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)

整个26章讲述的是神对顺从他的人的好处。世俗的来想就是你公司的老板给你开不出工资,但是他不停的在给你画饼。前面章节在说你们要听从神(老板)的话,做这个做那个,但是你会在读的时候想,我这么做能得到什么好处呢?于是26章就开始给你画饼。至于你最后能不能得到其实是无人知晓的。按照教会的说法,是可以的只要你顺从神。但是另外一方面来说,如果你得不到,说明你对神的信心不够,没有顺服。这种说法的奇妙之处在于,你自己在神的面前永远处于一个弱势的地位。所有的argument对你都处于不利的状态。我不知道这是否就是侮辱神了。但是,这也是我时常所困惑的。即教会是否真正鼓励批判式思考,还是在聚会中鼓励大家自我暗示与洗脑。但是这一切又可以用信心二字一言以蔽之,是无法从中讲出逻辑出来的。

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)

这里又出现了一个经典名词:轭。这个词在我理解就是人背后的包袱,这个可以指代任何事情比如说心理上的捆绑:钱,缺乏爱,惧怕等等。这节读起来还是挺有力量的。

你們若不聽從我、不遵行我的誡命、厭棄我的律例、厭惡我的典章、不遵行我一切的誡命、背棄我的約、我待你們就要這樣、我必命定驚惶、叫眼目乾癟、精神消耗的癆病、熱病、轄制你們.你們也要白白的撒種、因為仇敵要喫你們所種的。我要向你們變臉、你們就要敗在仇敵面前.恨惡你們的必轄管你們.無人追趕、你們卻要逃跑。(26:14-17)

神又在这里开始恐吓不听他话的人了。这个其实给我感觉神对人是一种专治的态度。即你们要听我的一切话,然后我才能给你们各种好处。神所讲的这些惩罚听起来是非常恐怖的。其实这个引出了我一种疑问即神的爱是unconditional的么?是否真正是神爱世人。其实这个问题在传教的时候非常容易被提出来:你既然说神爱世人,那我为什么还要信基督教呢?他既然已经爱我了,我就不用信了。其实这个问题我非常难以回答。如果从这节来看,可以解释为只有你信了,听从神的话了,神才会爱你。那这个和unconditional的说法不就矛盾了么?

你曉諭以色列人說、人還特許的願、被許的人要按你所估的價值歸給耶和華。(27:2)

这节经文我是难以理解的。我理解是神可以让你许愿,但是他要收取相应的报酬?如果真是这样的话,感觉神就像江湖骗子一样。所有的疗效(许愿)不一定会实现,皆因为你的信心。但是许愿这个动作本身发生的同时,我就要向你收取好处。这就好比去医院看病。不管最后医得好医不好,都是要收取挂号费的。

但到了禧年、那地從買主手下出來的時候、就要歸耶和華為聖、和永獻的地一樣、要歸祭司為業。(27:21)

这节引出了祭司。这个就是祭司也能从整个献祭活动中获得好处。这给我的感觉就是神在打点他的助手(祭司)。

地上所有的、無論是地上的種子、是樹上的果子、十分之一是耶和華的、是歸給耶和華為聖的。(27:30)

这节引出的就是十一奉献的出处。每月收入的十分之一要归给神。其实有的时候我在想神真是非常巧妙的建立起了一个经济体系。其中参与者有信徒,祭司,神。信徒献祭给神,神将所得献祭交给祭司,神给信徒给予好处。这个是一个非常典型的买卖市场关系。但是神是否真正做功就要在平时事物上去感受了。这也就是感动与见证的作用。如果你有感动或者听到了别人的见证,那说明神确实做功了。你就应该更加顺服神,按照神所说的去行。这一切市场活动机制就运转起来了。我观察不管什么宗教,人类敬畏自己所信奉的神是常见的。信佛烧香将诚心,不可说和想不敬的话,这样佛才会赐福于你是异曲同工的。但是每个宗教对别的宗教的看法却是截然不同的,基督教讲不可拜偶像,是对基督徒的劝诫。那别的宗教也许会走向更加极端,对拜偶像的人要处死。不得不说这也是今天读经的一点收获。

马太福音1-3 (02/09/18)

昨天晚上和一位主姊妹沟通,她建议我还是先从四本福音书读起。

他丈夫約瑟是個義人、不願意明明的羞辱他、想要暗暗的把他休了。(1:19)

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)

这节经文让我感受到一种力量。

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)

这节经文我感觉是需要知道一定的背景知识才能理解的。这里出现了“果子”这个物品。我的理解是果子与悔改相对应。如果法利赛人和撒都该人不知道悔改,那么神就会把他们“砍下来,丢在火里”。关于果子的含义,我觉得还要再结合其他经文去体会。先暂时作罢。

他手裡拿著簸箕、要揚淨他的場、把麥子收在倉裡、把糠用不滅的火燒盡了。(3:12)

我理解这节经文和前面“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。”是相似的意思。这里把麦子和糠做对比,一个代表好,一个代表坏。结合一下之前经文(11节),我理解好是指知道悔改,“承认他们的罪”(3:6)的人而相应的糠就是指那些不知道悔改的人。

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)

这里有一个矛盾即撒旦和耶稣都出于神的话行,那么哪个是对的呢?这就引出了一个问题即我们应该怎么去理解神的话,怎么去解读神的话。这里耶稣说不可以试探主。那么对于神所应许的事情我们除了等待别无他法了。

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)

这段经文是非常著名的。正是因为这段经文可以让基督徒不沉迷于现世的利益纠纷,能给将目光与神对其。打个比方,如果你在北京二环有套三居室那么你可能就不会那么纠结于是否在一个偏僻郊区是否能通过摇号得着房子了。基督徒所相信的正是神对他们的应许:“你們在天上的賞賜是大的”。

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)

盐和光是圣经上非常有名的比喻。这里的盐失去味道我的理解就是失去了义,即不再荣耀神,不再做神认为对的事。其实后边点灯的比喻在我看来也是同样的道理。如果一个人成为基督徒,是光,那么他就应该按照神的话语去行。如果因为外边的压力而去极力想去遮盖自己是光的这个事实,那么我们为什么还要被点亮呢?

所以你在祭壇上獻禮物的時候、若想起弟兄向你懷怨、就把禮物留在壇前、先去同弟兄和好、然後來獻禮物。(5:23)

前几天她和我吵架然后又迅速想和我和好,理由就是出自这个经文。但是我理解和好不是走形式,不是说我为了按照圣经上的话,最速的做出来。这种表面文章有什么意义呢?什么是真正的和好,是要把心结打开,不是说大家有各自的想法但是表面言和。这种形而上学的去解读圣洁是我无法接受的。按照圣经去行是总被强调的,但是不能因为行而行。

只是我告訴你們、凡休妻的、若不是為淫亂的緣故、就是叫他作淫婦了.人若娶這被休的婦人、也是犯姦淫了。(5:32)

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。
你們的話、是、就說是.不是、就說不是.若再多說、就是出於那惡者。〔或作是從惡裡出來的〕(5:34-37)

这里我理解的是一种守信。换个角度就是说话要有度,不能说满。有的人可能喜欢给承诺就是对天发誓,但是世事无常,如果发出如此重的誓无法行出来怎么办?所以我理解这节就是教导我们要量力而行,不可过分夸大自己,给人过高期许。

只是我告訴你們、不要與惡人作對.有人打你的右臉、連左臉也轉過來由他打。(5:39)

最开始我接触到这节经文的时候会在想神怎么这个样子,明明有人打我右脸,我还要左脸转过来让他打。其实我现在仔细一看发现这句话有个前提条件就是“不要与恶人作对”,这个就很好理解了,恶人是无法讲道理的,那么如果去和他们硬碰硬,这样自身性命都可能会有危险,这远比被打一顿要严重的多。但是,这么解释又让我疑惑,难道神都是要人去作怂包吗?

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)

紧接着的这段经文就解释了我上面的疑惑。我们之所以不去和恶人硬碰硬,就是因为那样我们会产生仇恨。我们要效仿神,那么我就应该去尽量的爱每一个人。如果我们只爱那些也爱我们的人的话,那么这就不是神所说的无条件的爱了。所以,即便是恶人我们也要去爱。

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)

这段经文是非常非常的powerful。对于一个认识神,信靠神的人来说,这些比喻是多么的有道理。尤其是最后的那节经文“一天的難處一天當就夠了”,一下能使人从焦虑中走出来。

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)

这段话感触挺深的。之前自己是一个非常去judge别人的人。但是,随着年龄增长,越来越知道每个人所面对生活的不易,所以也就更加尊重每个人在不同情况下做出的选择,也就更加不想去妄加评论些什么。终究,自己不是当事人,也是没有那种资格的。

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)

这段经文也让我有所感动。作为基督徒真正要做到的是行出来。我理解这和一个人去把圣经读的多熟练都没有关系。如果一个人他只读了圣经中的一句话就把他去行出来,这远比另外一个人把圣经读的头头是道并用来保证“政治正确”要有用的多得多。

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)

今天在读经的时候突然想到了祷告,就又回到第六章看了一下。不得不说惭愧,因为我正是那种在人面前祷告,一个人得时候从来不祷告的人。从今天起要认真去祷告。另外第7节的经文也直击痛楚,即有的时候在想我不祷告时间久一点我是不是就显得不如别人虔诚啊。所以就会有话不停重复说的想法。但是第7节明确告诉我们,祷告不要在乎长短,因为在祷告前我们的需求已经被天上的父所知道。另外,这段中提到的祷告文我打算就在我今后的祷告中锻炼熟记。

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?

 約翰來了、也不喫、也不喝、人就說他是被鬼附著的。人子來了、也喫、也喝、人又說他是貪食好酒的人、是稅吏和罪人的朋友.但智慧之子、總以智慧為是。〔有古卷作但智慧在行為上就顯為是〕(11:18-19)

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)

这段话让我感觉非常的有平安。其实今年喜乐教会的新年意象就是学效基督。这段经文非常支持这个主题。尤其是“柔和”和“谦卑”,使我们一生需要修行的。

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)

这段经文给我印象深刻的就是我们所说出来的话其实真实的反应着我们的内心。所以这个也给我们一定启示就是在追求幸福的道路上,我们不仅要注意别人说出的话判别他的内心,更要注意自己说出的话。

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)

这里干净的屋子比喻的是我们基督徒的内心。在受了洗,内心悔改之后,我们是洁净的。但是,这并不意味着我们的内心是永远洁净的。会有更多的魔鬼会来攻击我们,想要把我们内心变得更加污浊。

 耶穌還對眾人說話的時候、不料、他母親和他弟兄站在外邊、要與他說話。有人告訴他說、看哪、你母親和你弟兄站在外邊、要與你說話。他卻回答那人說、誰是我的母親.誰是我的弟兄。就伸手指著門徒說、看哪、我的母親、我的弟兄。凡遵行我天父旨意的人、就是我的弟兄姐妹和母親了。(12:48-50)

这里我找到了教会里为什么要互相称呼为弟兄姐妹。但是这个称呼其实在我看来就是个名字,并不意味着什么。真正能做到这么互相对待的能有多少人呢。坦率的讲,我现在还是做不到。教会也是非常复杂的,不可因为教会里的事物影响到了自己去追求神的内心。

In relationships: a first taste

It’s October 30th today. I only have one more day left to compose a post for October. Blogging can be very hard during school time because there are endless tasks you need to get done in a timely fashion with certain expected results. Even though I have given up watching videoes, playing video games, writing technical blogs (almost) for this semester, I still want to write something here to keep the blogging trend going: I have written at least one post per month for the past two years. So, here it is.

There are many things happened in October and surprisingly, those things are all about the relationship: I got baptism to become a Christian, which indicates a new relationship with the God; I start seeing a woman, which is a relationship in a normal standard. One thing I am always curious about when I don’t involve those relationships is: how life can be different when you are in a relationship. Most of my knowledge on this matter is from the media and the people I observe. For the relationship with the God, I barely know anything. I haven’t actively thought about this since I graduated from the college and I won’t even think about being a Christian before coming to Austin. For the relationship with a woman, that I have been thinking about quite actively especially when I was a high school student. I always want to know the taste of being with someone. However, quite surprisingly, if you ask me now how life changed after being with God and being with a woman, I would say: the former one is quite significant but the latter one doesn’t change much.

Being with the God

Being with the God is a huge decision to me. I went to a church back in Madison for two years but I could barely feel anything internally. I always treat going church on Sunday morning as a way to sing some songs and take a break from study. However, after arriving in Austin and thanks to some incidents, the picture of God becomes clear to me. I start to feel the life journey I have been through is perfectly designed to me. Attending Madison for undergraduate makes me mentally strong to the setbacks and going back to China for work makes me grow up like an adult and start to learn all the soft skills I previously ignored: communication, love, and family. All those things prepare me to head back to the States and pursue the further study. In addition, I always know that I have sin but I don’t know what way can help me to get rid of that and start a new life. Even worse, I constantly get seduced by Satan to do the things that hurt my friends and my family. I know I’m wrong but the pleasure coming from the crime is just too much and that gives me the pulse to commit again next time. Thankfully, I have the chance to know the God and I get my way out of the vicious cycle.  After becoming a Christian, I learn to view things in God’s view and try to pass the love to others. I learn to forgive the conflict and do things in the honor of God. Thanks to God, he prepares a woman for me.

Being with a woman

Surprisingly, being in a relationship doesn’t change my life that much. I simply have one more person to care about and I need to allocate certain time for that person. This doesn’t differ from spending time with my parents previously. She is a Christian as well and we adhere to the same core values. All the rest of difference seems trivial to reconcile. However, we have been dating for like a month and we are still in the calibration period: we start to know more about each other and be careful with the relationship traps that people usually fall into. However, with the help of the God, I think I’ll be fine.

Does teaching matter?

I really hesitate whether I should spend my precious hours during the working days composing this blog post. However, I feel I should. I wrote down the title several days ago but I felt some pieces were missing to formal a relative concrete post. However, today, the miracle happened and I can finally complete my puzzle.

Several days ago, I feel quite frustrated because there is a homework due for one of my classes and I have no clue how to finish it. I dig into the books on the subject and try to research the solution out. The most frustrating part isn’t the whole process of seeking answers. It from the lectures. The class is quite popular among the CS graduate student and no matter what areas of their research, everyone I know in the program will take this class sooner or later. The professor for the class is quite famous for his research but I have to say that the quality of the teaching is controversial. By controversial, I mean there is a debate in my head on whether his style of teaching is good or not. If you are familiar with Prof. Andrew Ng’s CS229 lecture videos, then his style is exactly opposite of Prof. Andrew Ng’s. Unlike Prof. Andrew Ng’s mathematical teaching style, professor in my class skips most the f derivations of the formulas and in some cases, he will read through the slides and talk loud about some steps of the derivation. He usually ends the 90 minutes lecture 30 minutes early and in-between he may make some jokes or take a diverge into his research areas that might seem related to lecture topic. The good side of his teaching is that he may offer some intuitions or insights on why we perform those steps and sometimes those few words may help you connect the dots. His teaching style may look like a good fit for someone has a solid background in the field but if you are relatively new to the field, you may have some hard time. This “twisted” class partially leads to my question in the title: “Does teaching matter?” For me, under the context of trying to finish the homework, I cannot see any good from my professor’s lecture style.

The reason that I now look quite peaceful in accepting his lecture style is because of some new insights into research. In a nutshell, you just really don’t have enough time getting everything figured out all at once. Once you’re inside the graduate courses, you will start to read research paper immediately. There can be a lot of background knowledge you need to clear up especially you are new to a field. However, can you say “let me take a pause and get everything figured out at the first.”? No! There are unstoppable piles of papers coming to you and all you need is try to iteratively make best out of the paper. If there are mathematical formulas you don’t understand, in most cases, that’s ok as long as you get a big picture of the paper. The formulas matter the most when you actually start to build your own models. But, that’s not like I have to super clear about every bit of variables appeared in the set of formulas. Many of times, you can take them as given and go straight to use them as basic bricks to build your own building. This feels a lot like playing with LEGO: you don’t care how each piece is made of. You simply use them to build your stuff. The way of looking at knowledge is totally different from your undergraduate where you are tested out every bit of information taught in class through the exam. This observation may look easy but it is really hard from psychological perspective especially when you are a strict person who holds tight to your knowledge system. This psychological barrier is hard to break when you have relative enough time to read through a single paper. You may really hog onto the background or related work section of the paper and you may think there is always a piece of information that you find yourself unclear. Then, you take several months to study the material in order to move a few words to the next sentence of the paragraph. That’s exactly the beauty of the graduate school where you get bombarded by the papers. You just simply don’t have enough time to get everything cleared up before moving on. Classes are heavily centered around the papers and you are sort of expected to figure out on your own by adopting an iterative approach to the knowledge understanding. Take PCA algorithm as an example. The first pass of the material may just simply know how to follow the algorithm and implemented it. The second pass of the material may involve understanding the intuition behind the method and some mathematics derivations. The third pass of the material may actually need to dive to figure out every bit of information and so on.

Now, let’s get back to the question: “Does teaching matter?” It is sort of yes and no question depending on the perspective. From the undergraduate perspective, the hand-holding strategy is probably the must because that’s how we help students build the solid knowledge foundation and allow them to have the basic strategies to survive in the water. Now, for graduate students, it’s debatable whether we should go freestyle of teaching like my professor of the class or we still proceed somewhat like hand-holding but with modification. I guess that depends on the information that the instructor wants to deliver: knowledge itself or how the research is done.

P.S. The miracle happened to me today is during the calculus discussion section, a bunch of freshman chats out loud when I try to explain the solution of the problem to the class. That brings me to think whether the education quality of public system relatively weak compared to the private institutions is due to the quality difference of students. People may think that the reason why faculty in public universities don’t really care about teaching that much is due to the lack of the incentives. But, I’m now starting to think whether that also probably involves another party as well: the students who in short give the wrong signals to the faculty who try hard to achieve teaching excellence. That’s probably an another post in the future.

 

“work-life balance” at school

Everything so far goes great for me. Austin is a nice place: you don’t have to worry about extremely cold weather and unlike Beijing’s summer, the summer here is not about humid air. Everything feels both familiar and strange at the same time. The usual part is that the school life style is the one that I’m most familiar with. However, on the other hand, it feels a little bit strange to me because I become quite okay with working style: you get up, go to work, and after eight hours, you go back home and sleep. To be honest, there isn’t much pressure when you can enjoy your adult single life. You just get out of school, and there is no intensively homework due, and you are free to do whatever you want after work. That’s why I have the opportunity to write bunch of blog posts in the past two years. But, taking a break from work and heading back to school is totally different story. You need to adjust your time schedule back to probably the most intensive and high pressure schedule. There are endless deadlines you have to meet and all of them are quite intense. You cannot say to your professor that due to the limit of resources, you have to push back the GA date of your programming assignment. All in all, you are expected to get the job done in a timely fashion at school (of course, you are also expected this from your boss but lots of factors can make this sentence not strictly hold in a real setting working environment).

That brings up one important issue that people usually emphasize the most when they work: work-life balance. Specifically, under the academia setting, the question becomes:  does work-life balance matter to the students? In my early college year, the answer I’ll give is “No!”. The reasoning is simple: I’m in a state of endless worry. I worry about the job hunting; I worry about I become lazy and don’t make enough out of the expensive tuition and cost of living. So, I spend most of time working at library or labs in the hope of that “hard working” can make myself less anxious. The end result is not good. I can practice this life style until I’m sophomore and I quickly burn out when I’m junior and senior. Those years the intensity of advanced classes and the work in research labs make me breathless. Thanks to the cold weather in Wisconsin, things become even worse: I feel depressed and hopeless. I don’t want to work at all. I end up spending whole days playing video games and I even skip the final exam to my algorithm class in the Fall semester of my junior year.

Now, after two years of work, I gain some new insights from this miserable experience. One thing is about the worry itself. I have been reading Dale Carnegie’s book “HOW TO STOP WORRYING and Start Living“, and in this book, the author says the following:

Clearly, what I needed was a textbook on how to conquer worry – so again I tried to find one. I went to New York’s great public library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street and discovered to my astonishment that this library had only twenty-two books listed under the title WORRY. I also noticed, to my amusement, that it had one hundred eighty-nine books listed under WORMS. Almost nine times as many books about worms as about worry! Astounding, isn’t it? Since worry is one of the biggest problems facing mankind, you would think, would’t you, that every high school and college in the land would give a course on “How to Stop Worrying”? Yet, if there is even one course on that subject in any college in the land, I have never heard of it. No wonder David Seabury said in his book How to Worry Successfully: “We come to maturity with as little preparation for the pressures of experience as a bookworm asked to do a ballet.”

I have strong feelings towards this text. Lots of important lessons are barely taught or even mentioned in school. In most cases, you seem to be expected to find them out on your own from your own experience. It’s a “Swim or Sink” situation. I don’t blame our education system for this because you can hardly come up with a way to teach a course about “worry” with proper assignments and exams. However, those lessons are so crucial to people and you’d better have some tools in your mental toolbox to know how to handle it. Otherwise, sooner or later, some situation or life events will eat you up just like what happened to me in my junior year. There is a sentence from Jesus: “Take no thought for the morrow.”, which gets translated into “Have no anxiety for the tomorrow” in modern English. In other words, we try our best for today and hope for the best. This one is important for me because I don’t want to work ten hours day because of the worry. I want to work ten hours a day because I just want to work on the day.

Work-life balance means important to research as well. There is no doubt that research is a hard job and unquestionably, I will meet various difficulties when working on research projects. However, I want my future self know that even I face challenge in research, I can still have life. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. This is just like researchers want to work on multiple research projects because you always have plan B when one project doesn’t go well. Keeping work-life balance can help you when you start losing faith in this job because, all in all, you still have something left in your pocket.

Leaving IBM

To be honest, this is probably the most difficult post I have ever written. This is majorly because there is a ton of stuff I want to say but I’m unsure whether I should keep them public or should keep it to myself. Another factor that makes this post hard to write is because the span of drafting. I have been drafting this post since April in 2016, right after when I decide to start the whole process of quit-IBM-and-get-a-PhD project.  I used to use this post as a log to record things and feelings when somethings happens around me at IBM. Frankly, if I take a look at the stuff I record (mostly are rantings) retrospectively, lots of stuff still hold but the anger just passes away with the time. So, that year-long drafting really makes me hesitate even more because the mood when those stuff are written are gone. However, two years can be a significant amount of time and quitting IBM can be called “an end of era” and I should give a closure to my happy-and-bitter experience with IBM anyway. So, here it goes.

 

Thank you, IBM!

I’m really thankful for the opportunities working with IBM. This experience really makes me grow both technically and mentally.  Technical-wise, I have the opportunity to get hands on experience with DB2 development. DB2 as a database engine is extremely complex. It has over 10 million lines of code and it is way beyond the scope of any school project. Working on those projects are quite challenging because there is no way you can get clear understanding of every part of the project. I still remember when I attend the new hire education on DB2, there is one guy says: “I have been working on the DB2 optimizer for over 10 years but I cannot claim with certainty that I know every bit of the component I own.” This fact really shocks me and based upon my experience so far, his claim still holds but with one subtle assumption, which I’ll talk about later. There are lots of tools are developed internally and reading through both the code and tool chains are a great fortune for any self-motivated developers. I pick a lots of skills alongside: C, C++, Makefile, Emacs, Perl, Shell, AIX and many more. I’m really appreciated with this opportunity and I feel my knowledge with database and operating system grow a lot since my graduation from college.

Mentally, there are also lots of gains. Being a fresh grad is no easy. Lots of people get burned out because they are just like people who try to learn swim and are put inside water: either swim or drown. I’m lucky that my first job is with IBM because the atmosphere is just so relax: people expect you to learn on your own but they are also friendly enough (majority of them) to give you a hand when you need help. I still remember my first ticket with a customer is on a severity one issue, which should be updated your progress with the problem daily. There is a lot of pressure on me because I really have no clue with the product at the very beginning. I’m thankful for those who help me at that time and many difficult moments afterwards. That makes me realize how important is to be nice and stay active with the people around you.  Because no matter how good you are with technology and the product, there are always stuff you don’t know. Staying active with people around you may help you go through the difficult moment like this by giving you a thread that you can start at least pull. In addition, participating with toastmasters club really improve my communication and leadership skills and more importantly, I make tons of friends inside the club. Without working at IBM, I probably won’t even know the existence of the toastmasters club. If you happen to follow my posts, you’ll see lots of going on around me when I work at IBM. Every experience you go through offer you a great opportunity to learn and improve yourself. Some people may look at them as setbacks but for me, I look at them as opportunities.

toastmasters1

( the picture on the left is all the comments people give to me about my speech and on the right is the awards I have earned inside the club in these two years)

With the help of all those experience, I have developed a good habit of writing blogs (both technical and non-technical), reading books, and keep working out six days per week. All those things cannot be possible if I work at a place where extra hour work commonly happened. I’m very thankful for IBM for this because staying healthy both physically and mentally are super critical for one’s career. Even though those stuff don’t directly come from IBM, but IBM does provide the environment to nurture this things to happen.

 

IBM has its own problem. The problem is centered around people. There are many words I want to say but I think I’ll keep them secretly but I want to show my point with a picture:

ibm_survey

I don’t know why IBM’s term “resource action” on firing employees and the sentence “IBM recognize that our employee are our most valuable resources.” bother me so much. I probably just hate the word “resource” as a way to directly describe people and how this word get spammed so much around IBM. I know everyone working for a big corporation is just like a cog in a machine. However, what I feel based upon lots of things happened around me is that IBM as its attitudes represented by its first-line managers (because those people I commonly work with) makes this fact very explicitly. It hurts, to be honest. No matter how hard you work and no matter how many prizes you have earned for yourself and your first-line manager, you are nothing more than a cog in a machine, which is not worth for high price to have you around because there are many cogs behind you that are ready to replace you. They are much cheaper, much younger, and more or less can work like you because your duty in the machine is just so precisely specified, which doesn’t really depend on how much experience you have had under your belt. To me, that’s devastating.

This leads to the problem that talented people are reluctant to stay with company. My mentor and the people are so good with DB2 have bid farewell to the team. That’s really sad to me because they are the truly asset to the company and the product. The consequence of this is that crucial knowledge is gone with people. Some quirks existing in the product are only known by some people and once they leave the company, the knowledge is gone with them. That makes mastering of the product even harder. That’s the subtle assumption that the person makes during the new hire education and that’s also part of the problem when working with legacy code. The whole legacy code issue is worth another post but one thing I now strongly believe is that any technical problem has its own root cause in company culture and management style. To me, I’m not a guru now but I cannot see the way to become a guru with my current position, which scares me the most

That’s it for this section and I’ll leave the rest to my journal.

“Research” Interest

This week Friday, I meet with my future roommate in Beijing. During the lunch, we had a conversation about each one’s research interest. My roommate, likes me, is also a CS graduate student at Austin. However, unlike me, he has a clear vision about what direction he is going to pursue in graduate school. He just finished his undergraduate degree in Automation department at Tsinghua University. Automation department, as he explained, is similar to a mixture of mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. He has interest in mathematics since high school and naturally, he wants to work on machine learning theory in graduate school with emphasis on computer vision (CV).

Now comes to my turn. That’s a hard question I have been thinking about for a while. I don’t have clear vision on what I’m going to pursue next. I think maybe I’m too greedy and want to keep everything. However, I also realize that I may not be as greedy as I thought initially. I know I don’t want to work on computer architecture, computation theory, algorithm, compiler, network. Now, my options really just choosing among operating system, database, and machine learning. For the machine learning, I even know I probably won’t choose computer vision eventually (still want to try a course though) and I more lean towards the natural language processing (NLP). However, picking one out of those areas is just too hard for me now, even after I did some analysis in my last post trying to buy myself into picking machine learning only. There is always a question running in my head: why I have to pick one? Sometimes I just envy the person like my future roommate who doesn’t have this torture in his mind (maybe he does? I don’t know).

This feeling, to be honest, doesn’t new to me. When I was undergraduate facing the pressure of getting a job, a naive approach is just locking oneself in the room and keeping thinking what profession might suit me the best. After two years of working, I grow up enough to know that this methodology on making choice is stupid and I also grow up enough to know that “give up is a practice of art”. Why I’m in this rush to pick the direction I want to pursue even before I’m taking any graduate course yet? Why can’t I sit down and try out several courses first? Because I want to get a PhD in good school so bad. Let’s face the fact that people get smarter and smarter in generations. Here “smarter and smarter” doesn’t necessarily mean that people won’t repeat the mistake that happened before. It means that people will have better capability to improve themselves. Machine learning is not hot in 2014 from my experience in college. Back that time, Leetcode only has around 100 problems. I have no particular emotional attachment to machine learning material when I’m taking the AI class. Maybe because wisconsin has tradition in system area? I don’t know. However, in 2017, everyone, even my mother who is a retired accountant, can say some words about AI, machine learning. Isn’t that crazy?

On my homepage,  I write the following words:

I like to spend time on both system and machine learning: system programming is deeply rooted in my heart that cannot easily get rid of; machine learning is like the magic trick that the audience always want to know how it works. I come back to the academia in the hope of finding the spark between these two fascinating fields.

Trust me, I really mean it. Maybe because I graduate from wisconsin, I have naturally passion for system-level programming, no matter it from operating system or database. Professor Remzi’s system class is just a blast for anyone who wants to know what’s going on really under the software application layer. Professor Naughton’s db course is fully of insights that I can keep referring to even I begin to work a DBMS in real world. Wisconsin is just too good in system field and this is something that I can hardly say no even I have work so hard lie to my face saying that “system is not worth your time”. What about machine learning? To be honest, great AI dream may never accomplish. Undergraduate AI course surveys almost every corner of AI development but only machine learning becomes the hottest nowadays. Almost every AI-related development nowadays (i.e. NLP,  Robotics, CV) relies on machine learning technique support. Why I’m attracted to machine learning? Because it’s so cool. I’m like a kid who is eager to know what is going on behind magic trick. Machine learning is a technique to solve un-programmable task. We cannot come up with a procedure to teach machine read text, identify image object, and so on. We can solve these tasks only because the advancement of machine learning. Isn’t this great? Why both? I think machine learning and system becomes more and more inseparable. Without good knowledge about system, one can hardly build a good machine learning system. Implementing batch gradient descent using map-reduce is a good example in this case.

I just realized that I haven’t answered the question about rushing towards the making decision. In order to get a good graduate school to pursue PhD, you need to demonstrate that you can do research. This is done by publishing papers. Most of undergraduates nowadays have papers under their belt. That’s huge pressure to me. Master program only has two years. I cannot afford the time to look around. I need to get started with research immediately in order to have a good standing when I apply to PhD in 2018.

So, as you can tell, I have problem. So, as a future researcher, I need to solve the problem. Here is what I’m planning to do:

  • Take courses in machine learning in first semester and begin to work on research project as soon as I can. I’ll give NLP problem a chance.
  • Meanwhile, sitting in OS class and begin to read papers produced by the Berkeley Database group. People their seem to have interest in the intersection between machine learning and system. This paper looks like promising one.
  • Talk to more people in the area and seek some advice from others.
  • Start reading “How to stop worrying and start living

Will this solve the problem eventually? I don’t know. Only time can tell.