On Modeling, 1

All disciplines use models. So what is a model? It is a useful abstraction of reality. It is an abstraction because it does not intend to recreate the real world in a one-to-one scale. Rather, it distills the essence of a situation so that it can be readily deployed in other similar situations.

One reason we need models is because we have limited cognitive capacity—you cannot keep track of all the details all the time. Modeling is a way to filter out irrelevance and to focus on what matters. So models are the lens we use to see the world we want to see. And simplicity is the first criterion.

The second criterion is generality. We don’t want to build a new model for every single situation; that would defeat the very purpose of modeling. Rather, we would like our models to have sufficient generality, so that we can apply the same models to different situations with limited modifications.

2017-01-08 12.49.15 HDR

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\section{DAY 283, 6.26S}

RUN: 2.05MILES, 9.5MPHS, 13MIN;
SWIM: 0.6KM;
LEARN: ALIPRANTIS, CH.5, 3HRS;

TYM2: WRITING, 3HRS;
CHAT WITH ZC (DEPRESSED) FOR 1HR;

\SSN{WRITING: A TRICK QUESTION}

IT IS A BIT STRETCHED TO MY LIMIT. K IS MY COAUTHOR. BACK IN GRADUATE SCHOOL, WE SHARED THE OFFICE AND HAD THE SAME ADVISOR. HE IS GENUINELY NICE GUY. UNFORTUNATELY, RESEARCH IS NOT HIS FORTE. FIVE YEARS ON JOB, NOW HE IS IN BIG TROUBLE. UNLESS HE CAN PUBLISH SEVERAL PAPERS THIS YEAR, HE HAS NO HOPE OF GETTING TENURE.

I AM ALREADY PUTTING IN HALF YEAR TO SAVE HIS REJECTED PAPER. BUT THAT MAY NOT BE ENOUGH. I HAVE ANOTHER PAPER WITH P. ONE WAY TO INCREASE K’S PRODUCTIVITY IS PUT HIM ON P’S PAPER; IN RETURN, K PUTS P ON HIS PAPER. THE DEAL WOULD WORK, IF I AM WILING TO GIVE UP THE FIRST AUTHORSHIP ON THE PAPER WITH P, FOR P NEEDS THE FIRST AUTHORSHIP FOR HIS SCHOOL. GO BY MERIT, P SHOULD NOT HAVE IT. BUT THIS MAY BE THE PRICE I HAVE TO PAY IF I TRULY WANT TO SAVE K.

ALSO, IF I GIVE P THE FIRST AUTHOR, THEN HE SHOULD HAVE EVERY INCENTIVE TO TAKE CARE THE REST IN THE FUTURE. THAT WOULD SAVE ME LOTS OF HEADACHE.

YES. I AM READY TO TAKE THE HIT. BUT HERE IS THE CAVEAT. I CANNOT LET P KNOW UPFRONT. OTHERWISE, HE WOULD TAKE IT AS THE SIGNAL OF WEAKNESS, AND THAT WOULD ENCOURAGE HIM TO BEHAVE MORE AGGRESSIVELY IN THE FUTURE. SO I MUST WAIT UNTIL HE GIVES HIS ANSWER.

ALTHOUGH I HAVE PUT LOTS OF TIME INTO BOTH PAPERS, THEY WILL BE JUST FILLERS FOR MY CAREER. SO, THE BENEFIT OF GETTING FRIENDS OUTWEIGHS THE COST.
2016-06-12 17.17.19

WHY ACADEMIA SUCKS

THEY SAY, IF YOU WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE RIGHT, DO IT YOURSELF. BUT YOU HAVE ONLY LIMITED TIME BUT UNLIMITED DEMAND. THAT MEANS YOU MUST PRIORITIZE.

THIS IS MY CURRENT SITUATION. I HAVE SEVERAL COAUTHORED PAPERS GOING ON. BUT ONLY ONE OF THEM IS NONTRIVIAL. THE REST ARE JUST ANOTHER POTENTIAL PUBLICATION. I DON’T WANT TO SOUND CYNICAL. BUT FRANKLY I DON’T HOLD HIGH REGARD FOR MOST OF THE PUBLICATIONS IN MY FIELD: LESS THAN 5 PERCENT ARE TRULY ORIGINAL; THE REST IS MORE OR LESS GARBAGE.

BUT HERE LIES THE IRONY OF ACADEMIC (AT LEAST MY FIELD): MOST PEOPLE NEED TO PRODUCE THOSE GARBAGE TO GET PAID, TENURE, AND PROMOTION. MOST OF MY COAUTHORS ARE IN THIS CATEGORY (I DID THIS STUFF TOO BEFORE I GET TENURE, FOR SEVEN YEARS). WHAT MAKES ME FRUSTRATED IS THAT SOME OF THEM HAVE ALREADY HAVE THE TENURE SECURITY; THEY NO LONGER HAVE THE PRESSURE OF MANUFACTURING QUANTITY. YOU MAY THINK ONCE THEY HAVE THE SECURITY, THEY SHOULD SWITCH TO PRODUCE QUALITY.

YOU ARE WRONG. FOR WHATEVER REASON, MOST TENURED PEOPLE CONTINUE MANUFACTURING WORTHLESS STUFF. THEY HAVE NO AMBITION TO BUILD THEIR OWN ENTERPRISE, THEIR LEGACY. FOR ME, THIS IS DISTASTEFUL. YOU ARE WASTING YOUR LIFE. WHAT’S THE POINT ONCE YOU HAVE NO WORRY OF COMFORT?

I AM NOT GOING TO WASTE MY LIFE ON THIS NONSENSE. I HAD ENOUGH. I WILL WRAP UP THOSE AS QUICK AS POSSIBLE. I NEED TO BUILD MY THING. WHEN ALL IS GONE, I MUST HAVE MY IDEAS STAND: I GUESS THAT’S THE ONLY WAY TO DEFY MORTALITY.

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WRITING 137: WORK PLAN FOR FEBRUARY

For a long time I’ve been quite cynical even hostile to my area. I believe most of the papers in my area are garbage. They at best make epsilon improvement. Only 5-10 percent are truly original.

Yet people still devote tremendous amount time in this meaningless game. For juniors I understand: this game is the path to power and security. But I have little respect to the tenured ones who still keep producing garbage, the garbage even themselves do not believe in

But unless the academic tenure system collapses, not much will change. The logic is quite simple: if you don’t want to play this game, just quite; there are hundred part-time, adjuncts dying for a permanent, tenure-track spot.

Complaints aside, the tenured are still required to produce to justify their unreasonable pay (yes, i believe most of US academics are overpaid), which never make sense if only justified by teaching alone.

Another justification for playing this useless game is to help students and juniors, a more sensible course. Currently I am involved in four projects with four juniors. Among them, AO is most mature and motivated one. He initiates and takes the responsibility. I only need to discuss and do the final write up. The workload is about a week.

KK needs more guidance. For TQ2, he will email me the computation part. Then I need to finalize it. There are 3 papers to read for the literature review part.

The most troubling one is PL. He wants the result but does not want to work. Instead, he recruit another guy from his previous school. I haven’t heard from him since mid-December. But I am in no hurry: after all, it is him, not me, who needs the paper out so badly. He is working on the extension now. Once that is done, he needs to rework the numerical part two. The writing will be a pain. Expect 1-2 weeks’ work.

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