Last week I spent three mesmerizing days in Gothenburg. There is something particularly charming about the nordic light on a long summer day. Compared to the fiery sunshine in Southern Europe in summer, the nordic sunshine is more atmospheric, more gentle.
The Southern European summer sun is like a passionate lover: when they are present, they are your whole world and you can’t see beyond them. The nordic summer sun is like a tender friend: they accompany you to see the world, they are by your side.
The gentle atmosphere, the buzzing conversations with a few friends and a solo trip to the Gothenburg Museum of Art triggered me to do this little game: as I was wandering around the gallery, I collected painting titles and then try to piece them together into a poem. The result is the following. 😛
(All underlined bits are titles of paintings or sculpture, though I did cheat a bit and used on film title :P.  Most paintings are from Gothenburg Museum of Art.)

Two ways to stop worrying

If you want the instant remedy, scroll down until you see bullet point 1. Otherwise I am going to ramble a bit first.

pharmacy for life

So I am writing self-help articles. Never thought that would happen. When we feel we are held back by bad habits or problems, in this era of instant everything, we want an instant cure. We ask Google “how to do x”, e.g. “how to be more confident”, “how to stop procrastination”, “how to eat a cookie” or “how to be more efficient”, and Google hands us lists of “tips”, “tricks” and “ways”. It’s like walking into the Pharmacy for Life, where there are shelves of pills for each life disease. Usually the packets of pills come in numbers of 7, 8, 10, 15, or even 25: “7 ways to be more productive”, “25 tricks you didn’t know that boost confidence”. Some claim to be “scientifically proven” (so the rest are just homeopathy and Chinese herbs?). The smallest packet I saw contains 3 pills, like the following ones on productivity. The first self-help alchemist says there are ONLY 4 ways to be more productive, while the other tells you their 4 ways are the ones that REALLY work. Hmmm who should I believe? Continue reading

Rethinking creativity

    This article was jointly written by Tim Nieradzik and myself. When we met at the computational linguistics conference EACL 2017, we talked about the staggering speed in the development of Artificial Intelligence [1] along with people’s fears. If one types “Is AI going to make us jobless?” into Google, this is a glimpse of answers you would get:
  • AI “could leave half of world unemployed” The Guardian 
  • AI will create “useless class” of human, predicts bestselling historian. The Guardian 
  • AI and robots threaten to unleash mass unemployment, scientists warn. Financial Times
  • The rise of artificial intelligence risks making us all redundant The Independent
  • A world without work The Atlantic 

Picture from “Who Will Own the Robots?” – MIT Technology Review

What’s in an age?

A few days ago, crouching lazily on the sofa after lunch, I watched a Ted talk by Joshua Prager, titled “Wisdom from great writers on every year of life”. He assembled 100 literary passages into a book called “100 years”, one for each year of life. His talk reminded me of a quote from the film “Lucy” which I recently watched: “Time is the only true unit of measure. Without time, we don’t exist”. Suddenly, age and time came into my awareness and attention. It reminded me that I am turning 32 in less than two weeks! I thought, what Joshua assembled was beautiful. I get to read about every age from the eyes of one (insightful) individual. But in reality, how homogeneously do humans experience age?  Is there really something that can characterize being 32? Something that is experienced by 32 year olds (plus or minus, say, 3 years), which is not experienced by 22 year olds or 42 year olds?

So I got up from my couch Continue reading

A copy of you

I wrote a little poem, hope you like it ;P

A copy of you

I want a copy of you
             on my local drive.
The CD spun and the screen said:
“You are about to install
                     a copy of me.”
“Is your directory
                     Heart: \ I-miss-you\?”
–  Yes, Next.
“Do you want to see an icon
                    always in your eyes?”
– No, I will search for you
                    when I think of you.
“Have you read the Terms & Conditions
                     that I don’t belong to you?”
– That’s not what I want,
                     but I read and understood.
“Installation complete. Thank you sweetheart.”
I clicked on you and there you were,
                     smiling at me.
I smiled back and asked:
                    “Will you ever want
                      a copy of me?”

Debate No. 2 – the battle

Even if neither Trump nor Clinton would make a good president, they certainly make good, or at least captivating television. This post is a little bit late, and perhaps many of you don’t want to think about this anymore, but here I am again, rambling to you about the debate from a linguistic point of view. Whereas the first debate wasn’t exactly rational discussion, this second one probably can’t even be described as discussions. It was Battle Royal – they wanted two people in, one person out. Continue reading


This is roughly the same article as the previous one, in Chinese. 🙂


克林顿和川普的首场辩论创了观众人数纪录,据说当晚(九月26日)有将近一亿观众在电视上和网络上看了直播。 我周二早上一起来脸书上就被各种关于辩论的评论给刷了屏。作为一个研究语言吃饭的人, 我想也来凑凑热闹。 Continue reading

Trump Clinton First Debate – disfluency and smile


The Monday nclinton-smile-whew-okight presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was apparently the most watched debate in American history. When I woke up today, my facebook was “刷屏” (screen-painted) by everyone’s opinion on this, so I sat down, opened youtube and started watching. OK I didn’t just watch.  I thought, why don’t I check out their disfluency patterns, and whether there were any smiles and laughter in this presumably hostile interaction? This took me a whole day. Someone in the cafe saw me watching the video and said, “isn’t watching the debate so much better than working?”. I thought, “this is working!” Continue reading