Over the Wall

Probably the only thing that is more difficult to do in mainland China than to log onto Facebook is to log onto WordPress. I have to climb over the wall.

As Pink Floyd would ask, “Am I just another brick in the wall?”

The City of Two Tales

Hong Kong is the city of two tales.

Around the universities where I have studied at, it was quite, young and innocent. The sea is harbored by the small bay, like we are by the libraries. 

In the neighborhoods at Sheung Wan where I live, life unfolds every corner of its diversity. The smell of the sea becomes the smell of the fish. This is the life that local people are living. Before I could realized it, I found myself already chatting with the old doorman in my broken Cantonese.

The Surgeon

This may freak people out, but I crazily think that a good scientist should be as good as a good surgeon: They should be the combination of extraordinary familiarity with the subject and extraordinary intuition in his field.

His expertise should be accumulated through millions of times of surgery experience, through the weirdest and toughest cases that he tried hard to fix. His wisdom should give him excellent intuitions in cases where nobody has complete knowledge before a treatment has been performed.

Once he grows old, a good surgeon should still be able to perform a basic surgery completely with his own hands.

Once he grows old, a good scientist should still be able to derive an equation confidently on the blackboard.

No patient wants to put his/her life in the hands of the second-best surgeon.

No good question wants to put its answer in the hands of second-best scientist.

There is no shame in not being the best, though. But the bottom line is that, if you do it, you should keep going for the best.

I know this is crazy thinking, and may earn me a risky and bumpy path. But after all, life has so many other places to keep peace for me.

Grothendieck

Maths people got surprised when I laughed at some Chinese translation of Grothendieck, because they do not think I shall have heard of him.

The fact is that I definitely have NO knowledge about algebraic geometry. But I got to hear some stories and myths(among which the fact that his nationality is “none” is the most hilarious) about him through reading the book The Mathematician’s Brain. It is an intriguing and heart-soothing book! Many of my friends have read it, and I recommend it to the rest of them that have not read it.

Where you want, where it wants

The moment I woke up this morning, I noticed that the curve of my hair does not match my expectation.That reminded me of what my hair-dresser said about hair when she trimmed my hair last month:

“Don’t worry. Sometimes it goes where you want, and sometime it  goes where it wants.”

 

Before and After

I just came back from today’s concert by Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It was fabulous. I am really into symphonies (a switch from concertos) recently, and Brahms No.2 was just beyond words.

The following stream of thoughts came to me BEFORE the performance:
Art and science incredibly mirror each other, in that both involve a process of creating and defining a set of criteria. The criteria is for those who practice it, as well as for those who wish to admire them. Without knowing the standard, one may be able to tell the worst art or science from others, but cannot tell which one of the avant-garde is truly valuable. The standard is subtle, but not trivial. The value of art and science is known only to those who have learned them well enough.

Moreover, both art and science contain elements that are drastically different from “problem-solving” for engineers. They explore and experiment with the underlying structures of the problem, but not merely for the purpose of solving it. This is good and bad. On the bright side, they raise questions and reveal insights that are naturally ignored by the engineer. On the dark side, because the answer to “what is important” for art and science is soft and not known to anyone on earth, it is subject to those in possession of power. Unlike what Plato has envisioned in “The Republic”, those with power are not necessary who deserve the power. In fact, they are usually those who have the strongest desire and lust for power. Thus, this opens up space for the human lust for power to exercise and even rule. A danger, in a sense.

The following stream of thoughts came to me AFTER the performance:

Who cares? The sensational music rules!

Coldplay?

Anyone finds the new album of Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto, unsatisfactory? Because I do.

I have to go back to some of their impressive old songs that I enjoyed, such as The Scientist, to reconstruct my fondness of this band.

Well, “Nobody said it was easy.”

The Voiceless Song

Once in a while I wish I were not as sensitive as I actually am.

If things are going to happen anyway, let them happen. If there is nothing that I could do to change about something, I shall go on by myself. Just don’t take any detours.

Keep working. In any case, live for the present and the future.

The Prospective Book Shopper

Having pre-ordered three books on Amazon, I suspect that I have turned from retrospective book shopper to prospective book shopper. Pre-ordering means that I pay online (at a claimed-to-be discount guaranteed price) a book before it is published. Ideally (which never happened), the book will be delivered to me in no time of its publication.

The first book I pre-ordered last year was Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. I finished it. It was an impressive read! I recommend it to everybody.

This year, I have ordered to books:

1. Why Nations Fail, by Acemoglu and Robinson.

2.The Social Conquest of Earth, by Wilson.

The former will come out March 20, and the latter April 9.

If I go broke someday, it would be due to my prospective book-shopping, because I am spending in advance against future income flows.

Democratizing Knowledge and Garbage

Democratizing Knowledge to valuable ideas is what \LaTeX is to good writing.

The relation implicit in both of the above two pairs is: there is no correlation.

If we are thinking garbage, democratizing knowledge merely mobilizes our garbage.
If we are writing garbage, \LaTeX merely visualizes our garbage.