Books or Academic Papers?

These days, maybe because it has been gloomy outside, I have a lingering mood to do research related activities indoor. Just kidding, I have been trying to accumulate my knowledge in the field for quite a while. My favorite way to do this is to read books by scholar. But they are in general pretty thick and I guess predictably heavy to read, so I must take my time to read them if I want to understand them and record them in my brain. And since my schedule is very variant, I never know, sometimes I might have a long free time when I can read my book, so I always try to have the book within my reach in my bag or more frequently, on my hand.

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Retrieved from Google on 9 May 2018. All rights reserved.

So one day, when I was on my way back from work, I met my ex-college professor. I was holding one of those books on my hand and that caught my professor’s eyes. He asked me if I am reading that book and if I like it or not. I told him, I am in the middle of reading it but so far I enjoyed it a lot and I asked him if he had read it too. His answer was what I has half expected, “No, I only read his academic papers. Do you read the paper?” Well, I said no (I did for some but only the abstract so I think that does not count right?) Upon hearing my answer, his expression changed to what I think an underestimating expression. It might be that he didn’t mean it that way, but since he was also a professor who told me that women cannot pursue economics PHD, I can’t help to be biased. Anyway in this post I would like to share the reason why I prefer to read the book instead of the academic papers.

Need not to be said, the book content was a lot easier in the sense of they are using layman’s language, very little jargon and less technical. It is also clear that it is less boring to read the book and less effort in finding the goods. Seems that reading academic papers gave out the signal of effort and academic like approach and book is for every other people. But really, reading the book can be more enriching and inspiring than academic papers. Academic papers give us information about one particular study, from how they did that, what had been done so far in the topic, why is that significant (according to the researcher). Sometimes, the researcher had done several papers on the same topic and mentioned that in their introduction or reference. But more often, they have a range of research interests which might not necessarily related one another. We might be able to find all their paper in their profile but reading one paper to another creates a gap because it is unclear how this particular researcher think, why is he/she interested in these very different research areas. The thinking process and idea generation steps, which absent from the body of academic paper, are offered in the published book. The books, despite chunked into a number of chapters, provide the story behind one’s research journey. It introduce a more personal approach in doing research. Ideas rarely fell from the tree (except for Newton’s gravity theory), they have history. Since my research interest lies in human irrationality, I prefer reading books by behavioral economist and psychologist. I learned that researching in this area may start from observing our own behavior and see if the misconduct prevalent within the society (or is it just me who’s weird).

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Retrieved from Google on 9 May 2018. All rights reserved.

Another perk of reading the books is to gain implicit moral support. When we read through the academic paper, only the successes were shared. Little can be known about the hard path leading to the production of that paper. The possible failures and the length of time needed before that paper got published. Possible discrimination, bias and belittlement they might have faced. The importance of persistence, never-ending curiosity and belief as well as the love in learning. These are not given in academic papers.

So there are at least three benefits in reading books-written-by-researcher; one, it is easier to understand and it summarized all the important points (if you are skeptical, feel free to find the paper) a.k.a it is convenient. Two, it offers stories, let us understand the creative thinking and this might lead to inspiration for the readers to connect the dots. Lastly, it provide moral support and remind us that even the top prominent academics are still human and strong will is an important factor to get to the top.
Next time you met a professor, tell them you read academic papers if you want to increase your ‘I-am-so-intelligent’ signal, but behind your professor back, try to consider reading the books because there might be where you gain inspiration and lead you to great research idea.

If you are interested, here are some book recommendations:
– Misbehaving – Richard Thaler (Behavioral economist, Nobel winning economist 2017)
– The Upside of Irrationality – Dan Ariely (Psychologist and behavioral economist)
– Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (Psychologist, research interest in psychology of judgment and decision-making)

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Short Story from My Way Home

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Retrieved from Google on 22 March 2018. All rights reserved.

Couple years ago, when I was still living at home, close to my family, I always go everywhere by car. My parents will always make time to drive me safely to my destination and pick me up after I am done with whatever business I have. Later, my friend also took the duty to pick me up from my home and return me back safely to my parents. But when I left my home country to pursue my study, I have no choice but to take public transportation. It is pretty convenient but no where near as comfortable as my private car (I don’t think I need to explain why). As time passed by, I got used to life with public buses and trains and have my own way to enjoy the ride. Sometimes I listen to music and lip-sync-ing like nobody’s around (where in fact it’s a full bus), sometimes I read books and most of the other time, I just let myself to be lost in my own world. One thing I realized is everyone is also doing the same thing as me, make themselves as comfortable as possible and give very little care to whatever is going on in the bus.

Since I started to work and became a regular bus commuter, I changed my attitude a little. I started to observe my surroundings a little bit more. Normally everything is very repetitive, the same guy sleeping and snoring, old couple on the priority seat chatting lively, so on and forth. But there are days in which I was able to observe events that made me regain my faith in humanities. So here, let me share the story from this evening.

It was nearly a full house in the bus, I stepped in with my not-so-small bag while hugging my laptop but since there is so many people, I was unable to move in the bus and thus need to stick by the door. At the next stop, some people got off the bus and so I squeezed myself into the middle section of the bus and found myself a hand handler to hold on. So imagine yourself in the middle of a moving crowd, both shoulders carrying a bag, one hand protecting your laptop and the other hanging on the ceiling handler. Does not sound so comfortable right? But, I was feeling moderate, neither like it nor hate it. Then a middle aged woman next to me, she poked me and told me to take her spot instead–so in a bus, of course everyone with a chair can sit down but those who stands, there are some sweet spots in which if you stand there, no matter how bad the bus is trembling you are most likely to be ‘secured’ (not being squeezed by others or basically just able to stand your ground)–. Yes, this woman’s spot is one of the sweet spot I mentioned, and she gave it to me because she saw me having trouble with my laptop and bag. She really took me by surprise (also note that she stood beside me for pretty long time, meaning her stop was not close but she offered the place to me) because this has never happened, especially in this society where kindness is rarely use to describe them, I felt so grateful.

There is more. When the bus stopped for the fifth time (fifth stop I think), there are some elderly who have a hard time getting off the bus (because again it is full). However, in normal circumstances, they will still able to get off one way another. But in this bus, I saw people are opening the way to let these grannies passed. Some even got off the bus and then lend a hand to help the slightly overweight grannies step off the bus. Not only that, a lot of people (in the bus) also told the grannies to walk slowly, move carefully and take care. The bus stopped for something like five minutes but no one (as far as I heard) complained about it. I feel warmth when I witnessed the scene. In the current world where so many hate crimes, gun shots etc etc, I am blessed to be able to be reminded on the kindness of humanities.

Faith in humanity restored.

 

New Year’s Enlightenment

Life is more than the digits in your scale
Life is more than the number in your transcript
Life is more than the amount in your bank account

Life is about the smiles, the tears, the joy and pain
Life is about learning something new, failures and successes
Life is about caring for others, sharing and kindness

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Original photo and design by randomwalk 🙂 All rights reserved.

They said “the grass is always greener in the neighbor’s garden”
Thus some people wished to the star to swap place with the other
Imagining the possible goods and best in the life of the other party
Little that they know that everyone has their own problemsBecause life itself is a chain of never ending problems
…or never ending opportunities

So once again, the value of life is not a math that could be calculated
The value of life is not like housing price that can be estimated
The value of life is also not something assigned by anyone but yourself

Thus only oneself can determine where and how their life will be, doing our best while embracing the unexpected ups and downs. Because nothing is constant, not even change if you don’t want it to 🙂

Things That I Never Able to Understand

…which I encountered during my part time job.

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Since 2014, I have been working part-time in my university’s library. There I sit in the information desk near the entrance and my main duty is to answer questions, lend inventories as well as making sure people can come in and out through the gate smoothly without bringing food with them.

First thing first: The gate that can be seen above. 
So this gate is ‘special’ as in super moody but it really required no skill just patience to go through it. The mechanism is simple, make sure to stand behind the censor, tap your id card to the identifier, wait a second or half then walk in smoothly. There is an instruction on the identifier and if something blocked the censor, it will lit up red light and make a long beep sound. Super clear and easy, however, amazingly this gate always probe problems. More than many people failed to come inside and it is not rare to hear loud crash sound when people tried to barge in. Well, another reason why they can’t come in because their card is expired or not authorized to access the library due to lag in system information update. This too however, shown in the display of the identifier. Whenever I approached them and asked what was wrong with the card they just say ‘expired’ or ‘not authorized’ with angry or confused face which I really don’t get. They should know better than trying to come in without authorization, right?
Sad to remind you that this is a university library door and it required NO skill to come in. I really don’t understand why people still failed so miserably.

Second: No food or drink in library.
To me, this is very obvious. Library is a public area to study, enjoy books and maybe do school work. How can I concentrate if while I am reading there is a smell big mac and munching sound from one beside me? In addition, this five floors library has only two entrances, not much ventilation. Imagine if ten people eat Subway sandwich in the area everyday, can we smell fresh air ever again? Yet another issue with drinks. We do allow sealed container beverages but not those that could spill. This is a preventive measure such that no water will be spilled on to the devices and broke any of library’s property. Not only that, apparently these people are not very responsible of their rubbish. Often me and the security found empty cans and snack packages around the study area, which really downgraded the hygiene of the place. If one really in need to refresh themselves, the library offer this place where you can eat snacks and drink called the refreshment zone, still people will secretly eat inside the library premise without feeling guilty. Well, a lot of this library users, who are pursuing degree or universities staffs and professors, don’t care and some even scolded us for having the policy. Very ironic and I cannot understand why.

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Remember what your mom used to say when visiting a public library? “Shhh, keep your voice down” or something with similar caliber. On the left is a picture of the learning commons area. Despite being still part of the library, here we could tolerate a little bit of noise. However, some group of people just cannot get how little is a little and just started chatting as if they are in the canteen. Laughing pretty disgracefully and worse of all, seems like have no understanding of public space respect. I have a very legit reason behind this claim. As a good employee I had approached these groups more than dozen times to ask them (from politely to not so politely) but they never fix their behavior and we received numerous complains from other users. I tried to reason with them and it quickly escalated to argument. Despite wining the argument (and successfully kick them out), they still come back again the next day with the same behavior. This actually cost their nationals a bad name within the library cycle where we label this national as troublemaker (lead to stereotyping other people of the same national). And they claimed to be university students. Ummm, I don’t understand.

Three is a golden number so let me just stop here for the moment. Maybe after reading those problematic points you came to a conclusion that I hate this job. Well luckily, I am not. This job is very petty that some people underestimated it but I learned a lot of my experience here and I made some very good friends along the way. Due to the nature of the job, I constantly have to face confused or angry or ignorant people that have various way of communicating, which required me to actually adapt with their style and try not to be too irritated with anything. I also was able to practice my language by pretending to be Chinese or Hong Kongnese as appropriate, then revert back to “English please” if I don’t understand their question haha. I have been here for nearly three years that contract end seems so unreal to me. But it is coming and I guess I am ready. I hold no grudge to anyone but I think the stereotype will still lasted for some time; the things I learned will always stay similarly to all the friends I made during the period. This includes two generations of student helpers, my supervisors, reference librarians, thank you Eunice for the graduation gift, Xiaolei for the morning and evening ride from/to Choi Hung, Susan for nice homemade bread, technicians, also cleaning service jiejie and beloved Ming Jie and A jie, thank you for various snacks and dinner you shared with me!

The perks of working in library? Your own fast PC, self-made locker and ability to enter library when no one has been welcomed yet!
DSC_0075**All pictures were taken by and copyrighted to @random.walk_ (me!)**

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“Life is too short to not be creative”

Featuring canva.com

This is an amazing online tool to create amateur art.
Recently I created an Instagram account ( @random.walk_ ). This account contains my original work, photography as well as the quotes. I utilized Canva to make most of the work and it really helpful and it made me addicted. Quotes did not just come to me, most of them came due to the circumstances and thus there are stories behind my work. These are some work that I had posted (or will)

This is rare but all rights reserved to me! yes!

“Success is a measure of self-satisfaction”
I believe that success is a very subjective term. One can be a billionaire but if he thinks that he is not successful enough and that he needs more; the public can believe he had succeeded but for him: success still not around the corner. Other people might feel successful when they reached a level, for example, married to a higher status husband. Society might redeem this is not even an achievement to be proud of, but she is happy and she thinks that she had succeeded so she is. Hope this is logical enough.

“Observe beyond what the eyes saw”
Most of the time people failed to see the beauty, the positive half of the truth and focused deeply on the sad facts. It is easy for the eyes to deceive the brain and made our lives seems to be more miserable. Take a deep breath and think about what you saw, switch your perspective and do not let your eyes failed you.

“Professionals are experienced amateur”
It is not a secret that everyone starts someone. There are prodigies but they still born only able to cry. From the book Outliers, I had known that talent is a thing but most of the successful people just trained. trained and trained for 10,000 hours. That means they just stacking knowledge and experiences. So while NOT every amateur can be professional, professionals undoubtedly were cultivated from an amateur.

“Fail thousand times, succeed life once”
We heard a lot about how falling does not matter, what matters is if we can get up again. This has a similar idea, in life, we will encounter numerous failures, rejections that will make us down. Even if we did succeed, it might come with a risk of failing more in the future. Whilst this could be very nerve-wracking, just remember two things; one, a success is determined by oneself and second, we do not need much success anyway, once successful life should wrap everything up.

“Life full of lies”
We live in a world of paradoxes. Truths are never 100% true and there is truth behind lies. No one living a life without ever lied, whether they realized it or not. This is what I believed. Featuring book by Philip Zimbardo, “The Time Paradox”.

“Learn to spend, earn a friend” and “Friends sound so fake”
I really do not want to say it but I remembered my discussion with a friend couple years ago. Having friends means we exchange benefits, either socially, financially, or other needs. Sad but do not be too pessimistic, scientists are still looking into altruism that might support the concept of unconditional friendship.

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Have not posted this but I really like it. As you might have felt from previous posts; currently I am in a hard situation, I face an extreme challenge in which prevented me to move forward. I am unsure of where to go and what to aim. The pressure behind me say the road behind is not an option but I am stuck. Eventually, I started to believe that sometimes taking one or two steps back is not a shameful decision.

 

In Summer

This summer, I am not doing any internship due to my obligatory summer course. I thought it will be such a relaxing, boring and unproductive holiday. Little that I know, one can be busier and learn so much more during the period of freedom. While the learning was not necessarily academic related but they are certainly valuable.

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Retrieved 24 July 2017 from Google. All tights reserved..

So, within this period of time, I am extremely occupied with job seeking, as I had previously mentioned. But apart from that I try to satisfy my interest in various fields; in economic research, in Japanese language and random reading. I said economic research but basically I am trying to see if my believe of how things work is true or not, especially about economic growth and insurance industry. I read papers and news which interest me, mostly about the topic but not always. I developed my own understanding of this issue and then I search for data. Pretty hard honestly, but I go around and select countries that I believe have more complete data such as US and UK. This is proven true and I managed to find minimal data I need through online databanks from World Bank, OECD, WHO, etc. Since my theory is pretty random and the data was not tailored to the purpose thus no real conclusion was made after analysis but I had a lot of fun trying to find things out. This also gave me motivation to apply to World Bank as a junior researcher (to one of related topic) but the hurdle was high and I don’t think they even consider me.

Japanese language is another self enrichment I did. I utilize an online platform called memrise.com which I like because I can learn offline and it goes straight to words. Sadly, no grammar included in the course I took so despite knowing the words, I was not able to make good sentence. Lately I have abandoned this method and took a more conventional way of learning through textbooks. Now that I started to understand the grammar better, I feel more confident to start a conversation ( I made several Japanese speaking friends ). Third thing I am doing is random reading. Just find seemingly interesting book and gulp it down, after I finished it then I find another victim. This also applicable to online articles. This activity is truly beneficial. Not only I got to know more interesting (and not so interesting) information, I also feel that I understand my interest better. I tried to read a wide range of books and articles; from fiction, autobiography, academic, logical, mind-blowing, recipes, history, managerial as well as motivational and self help.

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Retrieved from Google 24 July 2017. All rights reserved.

One of the book I would like to recommend is ‘Outlier: the story of success’ by Malcolm Gladwell (2008). It is not a new groundbreaking book but I found the facts inside are entertaining and logical. It outlined general understanding of why some of us ended up more successful so-called upper outlier, and it is more than just talent. It is the opportunities in our lives which we could choose to take/not that shape our future. Of course to some extend it is about talent but mostly it is about 10,000 hours training. The book gave data proofs of its claims and I found it interestingly mind-blowing. I cannot wait to finish reading it 🙂

The three things above are just some activities that kept me busy other than job seeking. Doing all of them really gave me an insight of what kind of person I am and where my interest lies. I did learn some technical skill and academic materials but on the top of that I gained more knowledge about myself, about what I might want to do. Since I did so much filtered reading, little by little I found what topic most interest me and what are the most boring subjects. This also trigger some thinking and reflection on my own life so far and where I want to go later on to achieve my long term life goal. Following this I applied for related jobs and I hope that sometime soon I will get a good news from one or two of them. So this is how my summer holiday end up to be more fruitful in a way than any other summer I ever had.

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Retrieved 24 July 2107 from Google. All rights reserved.

Now listening: In the End – Linkin Park. Tribute for Chester Bennington that passed away last week. One of my favorite band whose songs had accompanied me since junior high school. Rest in peace.

Nostalgic Memories – Year 1

Now that I have graduated, apart from feeling scared of being potentially unemployed, I feel a strong sense of nostalgia.

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Retrieved from Google on 19 July 2017. All rights reserved.

I can’t really remember what I was doing four years ago today but I know what kind of person I was. Shy girl that never dare to speak what was inside my mind, who was scared of strangers that I felt like crying if I need to ask for information in a theme park. A girl who just know how to study and do my homework, who strive for perfect score in each and every exam (except Indonesian class definitely). Never really speak English outside English speaking exam and kitchen was a different planet my mom live in. As I think about me that time, I can’t help to smile to myself, I was young ~

Now, here is the older me. Beside still stubbornly ambitious, I think I have changed remarkably. Four years of independent living in different countries really transformed me, in the way I live, I think and how I behave. A lot of stories were created and experiences shared with numerous people I met. In my first year, I made a biggest step in my life; on my way to the dorm I said hello to a random European looking girl who I saw sat alone in a seat in front of me in the orientation session. That was how I got my first friend who was apparently also my neighbor (what a nice coincidence!). I never dream of sharing a room with a Mexican, I mean I don’t even know they speak Spanish there (I thought they speak Mexican. Duh, pardon my stupidity). I took a course on fashion design which count two credits but have ridiculous amount of work. In the second semester, I went through my first roll of interview-ever- to be an executive committee of a society which I fail miserably. Second interview similarly failed, third so on and so forth. The sad truth was in the end, I failed all but one which is to be an ex-co of my school’s committee, simply speaking responsible for freshmen activities.

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Retrieved from Google on 19 July 2017. All rights reserved.

My first year was the only year where I have a lot of time to play. My success in making my first friend helped me in making more friend (actually also because this girl is a natural friend makers since she is SO NICE, I just tagged along). I stayed up late at night to watch movies with my hallmates, attend various functions and forced to have speed dating style ice breaking session, etc. In summary, my first year was when my time was invested in making friends and connections, adapting in the new life style. I had my first winter, got to know what was heater looked like, first spring with 101% humidity and introduced to humidifier. Looking back, I feel so dumb for not knowing those simple things but that was the reality.

One biggest decision in my university life also happened in my first year; which is choosing my major. I always known that I want to have a bachelor of science degree so I only have two choices in my plate. I remembered that time I was desperately wanting to get into quantitative finance major because I thought I like finance (I was in Science major so I never took a finance course ever, but I like counting money). Another reason was also because of my arrogance, it was one of the top major thus my pride told me to strive for it. I passed the screening but upon interview, I told you earlier, everything failed except one so yes, I was rejected. Honestly, I never encountered this many failures up until that time, so it was really discouraging. I spent nights thinking to myself what did I do wrong? Why my smooth life got so bumpy and harsh. Anyway, I made a lot of friends but I was also mentally hurt, and unknowingly my first year went by.

~ to be continue