关于租车经验教训

5月11号我去了趟丹佛玩,租了辆车。但是路上发生了一个小事故:在加油站便利店出来倒车的时候,没有注意到后边的大卡车,导致车后灯被撞坏了。当时我用的是Chase Sapphire卡,想waive掉租车保险。发生事故后,给信用卡公司打电话,信用卡公司说了个网站(http://eclaimsline.com/ )并且说了一堆所需要的文件。当时想那这个事得要凑齐所有文件才能办,结果因此酿成了损失。后边又因为拖延症,耽误了时间。以下是这个事故的一些总结,避免再犯。

教训:

  1. 养成定期收信的习惯。邮寄过来的信8月初就到了,结果我到现在(8月22号)才开始处理。耽误了许多时间。之前用chase sapphire信用卡刷的Hertz rental,想利用卡上的auto insurance rental waiver来免掉要交的保险钱。但是信用卡公司政策是出事故60天就要report,100天之内要上传完资料。但是我这两个时间点都耽误掉了。虽然目前也向Chase递交了,但是希望渺茫。
  2. 紧接着上一条:report claim和finish claim是两回事。换句话说,出了事故,不管所需资料是否齐全,第一时间要在http://eclaimsline.com/ (如果是Chase卡的话)去报告,即使手头上所需要的资料啥也没有。这些都可以在事故发生后的100天内补齐。所需要的资料有:
    1. Police/ Rental agency report – Police report and/or the auto rental company accident report(s)
    2. Monthly billing statement – Cardholder’s charge receipt or monthly billing statement verifying the rental transaction
    3. Itemized repair estimate – Itemized estimate of repair or the repair bill
    4. Initial rental agreement – Initial auto rental agreement (front and back)
    5. Final bill for loss – Any correspondence from rental company outlining charges from this loss
    6. Photos of the damages – Two photographs of the damaged vehicle, if applicable and available
    7. Letter from employer – A letter from your employer stating that the rental was for business purposes (Company card transactions only)
    8. Prepaid reservation information – Prepaid voucher or your travel package invoice (if applicable)
    9. Finalized rental agreement – Finalized auto rental agreement (front and back)
    10. Auto insurance declaration page – If renting in your country of residence, your Auto Insurance Declaration Page(s) or a Notarized statement of no insurance, including date of incident. (Rentals on Personal Cards Only)
    11. Insurance settlement – Insurance company’s settlement for this incident (if applicable)

08/25 Update: 收到了来自负责Hertz保险公司Viking Billing Service的账单然后按照上边的电话打过去,转到人工客服之后,可以索要具体的itemized repair estimate (上边3)。他们会通过邮件寄过来一套文档,里边包含保险公司的billing,Rental agreement,我签过字的rental agreement (receipt),Hertz Vehicle Incident Report,Hertz修车的具体费用。我看了一下基本上包含了所有Chase上面所要求的文档。因为我当时租车的时候没有Auto insurance,所以10是没有的。其次因为事故对对方卡车没有任何影响,因此1也没有。我上传之后看了一下唯一缺失的就是6. Photos of the damages。现在看来最重要的就是出险之后赶紧上网file claim

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美国第一次买车经历

在Austin工作没有车是万万不行的。所以,不得已,买了辆2020年Corolla。以下是我买车的经历和一些心得体会。希望对下次买车有所帮助。

经历概述

我买车主要分两个阶段:看车和买车。看车阶段主要试驾了Nissan的Altima,Versa hatchback,Sentra SV;看了Honda的Civic(小插曲:去了First Texas Honda,他们告诉我没有保险不让试驾,所以直接就没有怎么考虑Honda了);以及试驾了丰田的Camry和Corolla。之前租车对chevrolet的Malibu印象不错:开起来稳重,70迈以上不发飘,但是加速较慢,从ramp上高速的时候尤其明显(需要猛踩油门),再加上Chevrolet的dealership离我住的地方比较远,想想就作罢了。最后我把考虑范围基本缩小到了尼桑和丰田这两个品牌上。试驾的时候Sentra内饰简陋,方向盘很重,所以作罢。后来又考虑到保值及品牌稳定性的关系,最终选择了丰田。再加上预算在2W之内,最后选择了北美四大神车之一的Corolla。

买车阶段我主要参考的就是

其实主要就是邮件询价,然后拿一个dealer的邮件去compete另一个dealer。我当时直接是去每个dealer的官网打开网页chat,然后管他们要Corolla 2020的OTD。主要参考的就是上面Reddit链接中的Chapter VI。其实在邮件砍价的过程中有的dealer会要别的dealer的邮件证明,证明确实有dealer给我开到过那个价格。有的dealer会吹毛求疵说必须要看到sales consultant开的purchasing order而不是sales manager的。我觉得这些都是套路,坚持的底线就是不看到满意的OTD是不下场过去进入买车环节的。但是我也被Charles Maund Toyota这个车行套路了。跟我聊的是19K OTD并且可以付现金。但是到了之后,却又跟我说是做Finance。最后我选择的是Round Rock Toyota。主要理由其实就是那边的人挺痛快:说好OTD,然后第二天开出了签名的purchasing order。

经验

  • 丰田的dealer的惯用套路就是看你试驾后,不由分说就开始让你录入个人信息,急着让你购买。但是请注意个人信息保密条款只有在买车之后才会签署。也就是说,如果你不买车但又把自己个人信息交代了的话,dealer很有可能直接转手就把你的信息卖掉了。我这次买车就有这部分的担心。所以在试完驾后一定要斩钉截铁的高速dealer我就是来试车不买车,然后直接走。
  • 询价阶段一定要但注册一个邮箱,用自己的英文名去讲价,尽量避免自己个人信息暴露。我是每个model对应一个邮箱,用不同的名字去讲价。
  • 我买车的时候我没有用到graduate rebate。其实rebate感觉车行不会都用,因为他们会在MSRP上面给你减一定钱数,然后谎称这里已经包含了rebate。我当时买完车,然后找他们说要能不能再给我一个graduate rebate。之前讲价虽然从未提及我毕业生的身份,但他们还是说已经给我算了,并管我要我的毕业证,想自己吃掉这部分rebate。我就已毕业证还未寄到搪塞过去了。
  • 交车的时候不要着急,多想想要问的问题。我走的时候就没有问清保养的问题。
  • 买车的时候要auto insurance。我就直接去网上把主要insurance company按照固定的plan去quote了一下价格,做了下apple-to-apple comparison。还是会有惊喜的。之前做好功课,在dealer那里他会提供联系方式来卖保险,拒绝掉即可。

以上只是我的一些小总结,肯定会有很多不足之处,下次再来补充。

08/04/19 Update: 我在买车的时候一部分走的是和丰田做finance。一个原因没有选Charles Maund Toyota是他们要求全部OTD走finance,但是他们说我可以在走Finance后立刻付清全款。当时我对立刻付清全款有些疑虑:不知道是不是存在closing cost即如果没有把贷款维持一定天数就连本带息全部付清的话,会有额外成本。我6月20几号买的车然后7月2号付清的贷款,最后其实是没有我之前担心的额外cost的。也就是说只要Toyota Financial那边把账户创建,就可以立刻付清全部贷款,没有任何额外cost。但是值得注意的是创建账户需要几个工作日(5天左右),如果想要网上付清贷款的话,需要account number才能在丰田网上创建账户。通常account number是写在monthly bill上的,但是等账单寄到就又会花上好几天。因此,想要快速拿到account number的话可以直接给丰田打电话,然后报上VIN,然后他们会通过电话直接告诉你的account number。

另外我是08/03/19去上车牌的,那个周二接到的电话说车牌到了,直接去车行他们直接把车牌给我,然后免费帮我装上。

08/22/19 Update: 车的Title寄到了我的手里了,至此买车的事情也告一段落了。因为Texas参加了Electronic Lien & Title (ELT),因此Toyota通过电子的方式把自己Lienholder移除了。这样我拿到title后也不用再去DMV去变更owner了。

2018 End-year Recap

前言

过去的Recap:

2018回顾

转眼已经走过了2018。首先还是来回顾一下2018年写下的目标:

向下扎根,向上结果

找到实习或者署研

有学校可上

减重到70kg,体脂比在15% (监督链接: Daily Weight Statistics)

每周坚持锻炼至少3次,每次时长30分钟 (监督链接: Insanity Max 30 (2018))

一年读10本书 (监督链接: Goodreads 2018 Challenge)

每天刷2道leetcode  (监督链接: 刷题进度表)

在美国找到工作

完成的有 “找到实习或者署研”, “每周坚持锻炼至少3次, 每次时长30分钟”,“在美国找到工作”。 “向下扎根,向上结果” 并没有完成的很好。现在看看当时写下的文字 “18年希望内心得刚强” 现在看来是缺乏具体的行动计划的。最近在看的一本书“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” 给完成这个目标给出了一些具体的行动方案。“刚强”其实就是要有principles,不受外部条件变化和影响的principle。而principle,用书中的比喻来说就是要建立自己的personal constitution。要建立自己的personal constitution最简单的做法就是想象在葬礼上你想让别人怎样去评价你。这个会做为2019年的一个工作重点。减重还是没有很好的完成。今天量过的体重还是73公斤。最近从母亲那里学到了一些她的技巧,正在实践,不知道2019年的时候能否把这个工作项目从清单上消去。关于读书,说来真是惭愧的一年。在岁末的时候我才突然意识到我还没有完整的读完一本书。这真是让我震惊而又羞愧。“有学校可上”和“在美国找到工作”是冲突的,两者不可得兼。真正的是要去发现自己想要做什么。到现在其实还是很迷茫。虽然我对金钱没有那么渴望,但是人在外边,有一些金钱储备还是要踏实很多。我想我最后还是不会去继续读PhD了,但是剩下的面试还是准备全力以赴。最后就是关于刷题了。现在看看这个是一个长期的工作:每年都要做。去年目标不好的一点就是非常激进的规定了每天要做两道题。其实这个非常不好,并没有考虑到实际的条件(读书节奏快,事情多),高估了自己的精力。

2019展望

首先还是要确立自己的personal constitution。这点比任何事情都重要。如果方向错了,任何的努力都是白费。

健康方面要更加注意。保持锻炼并且要调整作息。11点前还是要睡觉,做到早睡早起。还有一点就是要注意用眼卫生。不能过度用眼了,每隔45分钟还是要从电脑屏幕前走看,活动活动,休息休息眼睛。体重上这次目标变成了65公斤。

精神方面就是要多读书。要更加侧重读一些书,一些植根于中国传统文化当中的书。比如说孟子。今天看Youtube视频中突然提到了孟子的一句“由是則生而有不用也,由是則可以辟患而有不為也,是故所欲有甚於生者,所惡有甚於死者。” 觉得此句甚好,讲出了什么才是“大丈夫”的气节。故上网去查了一下。愕然发现这句出自上学时候背过的“鱼我所欲也”。通读了一下全篇。不由得发现自己对古文感到了如此的生疏。顿时惆怅了起来。在现在这个社会,粗俗扭曲的词汇不断出现,如何在这个环境下去刻意的维护自己的语言体系,去做一名儒士:说话写字有雅风,表达情感准确,不会觉得词穷。我觉得读古文是非常重要的一点。对于这点我是想2019年着重培养的习惯。

事业上,我想最重要的还是保持好奇心。刷题还是要继续,2019年刷200道题。另外,还是至少要做一个significant的side project。技术博客还是要继续保持更新。最低目标就是更新10篇。

为人上,2019年想要做到的是generous。时时觉得自己是一个self-centric和money-centric的人。多giving,给予需要帮助的人更多支持,尽自己的所能。不被一些细节上的亏损所左右。做好个人理财,但同时也不要被金钱所捆绑。

最后的最后,还是希望家人能够平安喜乐。希望能让他们看到我的变化。

结语

2019年是一个全新的一年。今年我打算做一个全新的尝试,我会把上面的目标贴到一个draft里,在年中的时候实时更新,然后在2019年末给贴出来。希望2019年自己能有一个全新的提升,慢慢的变成一个儒士:平和而又有雅风。

 

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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 11.58.12 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 11.58.33 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 12.28.57 AM

 

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.

2017 End-year Recap

距离要起床去机场还不到2个小时了。实在是辗转难眠,就起床开始写今年的倒数第二篇博客了。如果我在飞机上能读完那本书的话,还是会有一篇book review的。

先贴上2016年的回顾吧。毕竟格式是要保持一致的。

2017年回顾

上来先做个工作报告,回顾一下16年展望中的工作进展:

  • 博客数量至少100篇!

粗略数了数,17年目前为止总共写了62篇博客。其中技术类44篇更新在我的个人主页上。虽然没有完成既定的目标,但是我个人对这个数量还是比较满意的。年初的时候就基本发现1年写100篇博客其实还是不现实的。如果在这个数量前加个“有质量”的定语,那就更加不可能。“有质量”仅仅是指对我个人来说。技术博客9月份以前由于工作原因时间比较充分,所以还是可以好好看看书,然后写写的。但是到9月份的时候就有灌水之嫌了。所以,我就果断作罢,停止技术博客更新了。希望回国冬假期间能补上几篇。Wordpress的博客这一年来还是坚持每月至少更新一篇,整体质量还算说得过去,只有11月份灌水了一下,这里作为半吊子作家自我检讨一下。博客的灌水究其原因还是时间不够。随着开始硕士学习,课程强度使得我没时间沉淀。每天都在张着嘴,被老师拿各种新东西往里揣。现在感觉有点消化不良,希望冬假能沉淀沉淀。

  • 体脂比降到15%以下,体重降到70kg

看到这个是老泪纵横。在国内控制的可以叫做胜利在望,但是出来了就可以叫做惨不忍睹了。最好记录是72.6公斤,12%体脂比。主要出来检讨一下在国外这几个月骄奢淫逸的罪行。首先没弄个体重秤是最大的问题原因。果然没有数字的直接刺激,就很难评估每次运动的直接成果。其次就是吃了。最开始吃还是克制了一些,但是后来就非常放飞了。10月底开始我家来了个重要客人来我这入伙,那真是变成了想怎么吃就怎么吃了。一顿饭不仅要弄个2,3个蔬菜,连肉大部分时间都是既有白肉也有红肉。每次蒸米饭,我的手抓个3把就差不多了。但是由于客人实在太过尊贵,就抓个4,5把了。米饭真是个好东西。亚马逊19.99一大袋便宜不说,吃起来特别管饱。每次两个人坐在椅子上,互相看着对方拍着肚皮的样子,一种幸福感与安全感混杂的情绪就油然而生了。现在我做饭口碑算是小有建立起来了,至少在那位不能说名字的客人面前,我做的饭是属于管够并且“多搁点盐就是餐馆水平”的了。现在和我室友,以及那位客人相约减肥,为此我室友还搞了个体重秤。希望能如愿。

  • 看书频率要达到这位的速度

这个又是罪过了,完全没有达到预期。如果把全年以出国日期8月5号作为切割点的话,两段时间各自出现了一些问题。出国前看书偏细致,算法书逢题比作,看的实在是过于精细了一点。同时,自己文学类书籍看过一些,但是频率还是不及。出国后看书效率明显提升。这个主要得益于跳着看这个方法。 这里非常感谢Prof. Dana Ballard教的Machine Learning以及其他courses的老师们,自学成为主要学习手段。疯狂的project进度逼迫着我这个完美主义者向能用就行主义者的进化。看一本书直接就看最相关的章节,所有背景知识都是后补,并且如果又不理解的但又不影响阅读的,就画个标记搁置起来后边再看。意识到一本书可以看多遍的道理,所以第一遍读时的贪欲就少了很多,就不求每个点都读懂了。是的,写这段话的时候,我脑海里浮现的书名就是PRML。但是,一本书没有看完大部分章节终究还是不能说看过的,所以8月份后问题主要出现在时间不够上边。介于未来几年希望能读完PhD的我来说,状况可能改善不会太大。

  • 每读一本书都要写book review!

这个做的还是不错的。因为毕竟真正读完的就没有几本而且都集中在上班时期,所以每本读完的书都写过book review了。

  • 有所学校能收了我!

这个愿望算是实现了。感谢主。我来到了UT-Austin!

从2016年的展望来看,5个点真正完成的了只有最后两个,完成率40%,只能说一般。但是从2017年整体来看,我还是比较满意的。适应了从职场人到学生的转变,虽然第一学期的Graduate school非常难熬,但是我还是非常高兴自己能挺了下来。希望新的一年里能继续加油。

2018年展望

  • 向下扎根,向上结果

其实这是教会2018年要交通的主题。结合自己来看就是希望自己能够更加的了解神,接近神,信靠神。教会里属灵前辈讲男人是头。17年的第一学期主要参加的就是团契和主日了。祷告会一次也没有参加过,甚是惭愧。重要的客人这方面已经积累了10多年了,要超越不容易,但是还是要做。具体来说,18年希望内心得刚强。有的时候我深深佩服我这位客人。总觉得内心是刚强的,尤其在美国,在外旅行的时候。要向她学习。这点我觉得解决问题的关键还是在主那里。也许主让我和这位客人相遇就是想去除我内心上的软弱呢?我还是非常相信这点的。

  • 找到实习或者署研

这点其实是老生常谈的问题。研究方向成为了17年一个贯穿始终的话题。坦率的讲,我第一学期之后还是没有发现我真正的研究方向。NLP已经成为我AI方向中的头号Candidate。但是System那边还是希望能多explore一下再做最终决定。至少目前我是这样想的,但是不到课表确定的最后一刻,任何问题都还是说不定。确定了研究方向暑期研究具体做什么也就确定了很大一部分了。剩下的就是确定导师了。实习算是另外一个方向,主要是为了刷题多积累点动力。另外一学期的政治学习也积累了不少动力。

  • 有学校可上

18年底又又又要申请学校了,这次希望继续有神的保守。

这一切的一切都需要主的保守!

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.