亚洲必赢626aaa.net 1


Huffington Post)在201四年十一月二10日发表的壹篇博文,原来的小说标题为“This Is Why
You Ignore 伊夫rybody On The Subway — And Why You

 Building Jarvis

李琳 译

Unit 2 Locations and directions



It is October now. Some gentle wind has breezed into Nanjing. The
summer’s heat can still be felt. Wandering by the Xuanwu Lake, My heart
is eased by the tender night, with its cool moonlight floating on the
quiet lake. Burying myself in all of this, I am waiting for the train
that will take me home. Do not know from when beginning, I became
sensitive and eager to flee and this feeling is swelling in my heart day
after day.

Unit overview


  1. signal 2. much3. plugged 4.message 5. behind 6. misinterpreted 7.
judged 8. unfamiliar 9. anxious 10. turn11. dangerous 12. hurt 13.
conversation 14. passengers 15. predict 16. ride 17.went through 18. in
fact 19. since  20.simple

My personal challenge for 2016 was to build a simple AI to run my home
— like Jarvis in Iron Man.

Now, the train is approaching slowly from Shanghai. In its short stay in
Nanjing, I finally succeed shoving in the crowded compartment. Another
unbearable night. Everywhere before my eyes are people’s heads. There
seems no hope for a little movement. Living in this era, except for a
peaceful world, nothing can be harder than access to a berth ticket that
allows you to speed along the Beijing-Shanghai line. Carried by the
stream of people, I could move only a little step at once. Someone’s arm
is sticking closely on my chest, somewhere in the corner is sending out
stinking fishy smell, and occasional quarreling and babies’ crying keep
hovering beside my ears. It seems as if I was lost in a messy dream
created by a poor sleeper. Finally reaching my seat, I am not a bit
surprised that it has been already occupied by a stranger, a very common
stranger, like anyone else in the train. “I am so sorry, but…” before I
finish my words, he stands up at once, leaving with hands folding in his
arms. I cast a short glance at the luggage rack overhead. The luggage is
so terribly crushed together that I am sure another leaf would break the
rack down. Holding my backpack, I sit down in no time. Surrounded by the
annoying and endless noise, my mind drops into a complete blank. 

Telling someone where you live


My goal was to learn about the state of artificial intelligence — where
we’re further along than people realize and where we’re still a long
ways off. These challenges always lead me to learn more than I expected,
and this one also gave me a better sense of all the internal technology
Facebook engineers get to use, as well as a thorough overview of home

Before I could settle down, the trainman begins to yell. No one knows or
even pays a little attention to what he has said. As the door is closed,
a deep boom penetrates the crowed throng. Trembling slightly as pulled
by the locomotive, the train begins to move. Finally, I think. The train
progressed rather slowly. The light outside is getting dimmer. The
pitch-dark night is encroaching on each segment of the train. I put on
my earphone, and familiar melody flows into my brain. Closing my eyes
and adjusting my body in a comfortable condition, I try to seek for a
moment of peace.


亚洲必赢626aaa.net 1

  1. Use next to to indicate that a place is next to another one.
    The library is next to the playground.

  2. Use on the corner of + two street names to indicate the place
    where two streets intersect.
    The bank is on the corner of Pine Street and First Street.

  3. Use in front of to indicate that a place is in front of another
    The bus stop is in front of the supermarket.

  4. Use between + two place names to indicate that a place is between
    two others.
    The post office is between the restaurant and the movie theater.

  5. Use behind to indicate that a place is behind another one.
    The pizza place is behind the library.

  6. 亚洲必赢626aaa.net,Use across the street to indicate that a place is across the
    street, and across the street from to indicate that a place is
    across the street from another place.
    The bookstore is across the street.
    The bookstore is across the street from the restaurant.

  While the subway’s arrival may be ambiguous, one thing about
yourcommute is certain: No one wants to talk to each other. In our
contemporaryculture, the prospect of communicating with — or even
looking at — a strangeris virtually unbearable. Everyone around us
seems to agree by the way theyfiddle with their phones, even without a
signal underground。

So far this year, I’ve built a simple AI that I can talk to on my phone
and computer, that can control my home, including lights, temperature,
appliances, music and security, that learns my tastes and patterns, that
can learn new words and concepts, and that can even entertain Max. It
uses several artificial intelligence techniques, including natural
language processing, speech recognition, face recognition, and
reinforcement learning, written in Python, PHP and Objective C. In this
note, I’ll explain what I built and what I learned along the way.

The song is over, and the train has driven out of the city at a much
higher speed. Regular sounds are made as wheels crash with railway
joints. I open my eyes, which are instantly tortured by the glaring
lamp, and close the mp3. As I look outside, a young girl’s face emerges
on the window. I stare at her in the window for a little while, then,
shoot my eyes onto her. She is still immersed in the outside world,
without any knowledge of her intruding a stranger’s sight. Girls like
this one can be seen everywhere. Only she, herself, is clear how life is
entwined with joy and sorrow. She wears a long blackish-green dress, a
black knitted shirt, a pair of black-rimmed glasses and waterfall-like
hair pouring down behind. Around her fair neck, a delicate golden
necklace is shimmering softly. She leans against the window, cuddling
slightly, focusing her cold eyes on one certain place outside. Is there
anything attractive of the monotonous night? Perhaps somewhere out is a
good place to chew over one’s most inner heart. Others’ mental world is
such a mystery for me, just like the endless night. For fear of
embarrassment, I close eyes and turn on the music again, releasing my
whole weight onto the chair.


  1. There are many different words used for streets. Here are some key
    words and their abbreviations. The abbreviations are used mostly to
    write formal addresses for documents, letters and mail. Remember to
    capitalize street words if they are used with a specific name, such
    as Fourth Avenue.
    street = St
    road = Rd
    avenue = Ave
    boulevard = Blvd
    drive = Dr

  2. Use on to talk about the street or road where a place is
    I live on Maple Road.
    The library is on Pine Street.

  3. Use at to talk about the specific number of a street or road.
    I live at 1215 Maple Road.
    The library is at 57 Pine Street.

  4. There are many different ways to say street numbers. If the number
    has one or two numerals, say the number normally.
    The bank is at 43 Central Boulevard.

  5. If the number has three or four numerals, it can be said in various
    ways. Listen to some examples.
    I live at 570 Beverly Drive.
    I live at 1215 Maple Road.
    The theater is at 406 Sunshine Way.

  6. If the number has more than four numerals, say each numeral.
    The bank is at 11743 Fifth Avenue.

  7. Notice that if any numeral is 0, you can say it as zero or oh.
    I live at 570 Beverly Drive.
    He lives at 1208 Maple Road.
    The library is at 21409 Second Avenue.

  It’s a sad reality — our desire to avoid interacting with
otherhuman beings — because there’s much to be gained from talking to
the strangerstanding by you. But you wouldn’t know it, plugged into your
phone. Thisuniversal armor sends the message: “Please don’t approach

Diagram of the systems connected to build Jarvis.

The light outside comes and goes, so does each city along the journey.
Unwittingly, Nanjing has been left behind. My mind is drifting casually
amidst the stifling compartment as well as my unclear memory when I
suddenly catch sight of a young boy sitting in front of me. Boys like
this one can be seen everywhere, but each one has his own story. I
cannot but watch him stealthily. He wears a green plaid shirt, a gray
short-sleeve inside, and a pair of handsome jeans, with a black backpack
before his chest. He sits still, completely soaking himself in the
music, just like a wood carving. He probably has no idea that he has
been reflected in a girl’s eyes for an instant, a brief but beautiful
instant. Only after a little while, I have to reset my eyes somewhere
else, for fear of eye contact with him.

【Expressions】Asking for addresses


  1. Use these questions to ask where someone lives or the address of a
    A: Where do you live?
    B: I live on Pine Street.
    A: What's your address?
    B: It's 507 Pine Street.
    A: What's the address of the restaurant?
    B: The restaurant's at 819 Ocean Avenue.

  2. Once you are told the address, you might need to ask follow-up
    A: What's the cross street?
    B: The cross street is Fourth Avenue.
    A: What's your apartment number?
    B: It's 2314.
    A: What floor do you live on?
    B: The 23rd floor.

  What is it that makes us feel we need to hide behind our screens?

Getting Started: Connecting the Home

Unaware how long I have been wedged here, my body does not ache at all.
It is likely that the surroundings are more prone to be overlooked while
one is caught in the past. All the present stuff flits away, leaving no
meaningful impression. What a terrible night! Both the suffocating
compartment and the grievous bygones keep stirring in my mind. I turn on
the cell phone, only to find nothing new. It is twenty-two fifteen and
there is still a long way to Zhengzhou. Counting how many hours left, I
even feel the tedious journey cannot be withstood any more the next
moment. Boredom is more likely to call up bad memories. Even now, it is
still hard to believe today’s fiasco in the interview of my ideal
university and the break-up call from ex-boyfriend several days ago. In
the desperate pursuit for love and school attainment, my relentless pay
turns out a monodrama with no audience. The painstaking effort has been
recognized by no one else but only me. On the subway to the train
station, tears kept flooding out of control, which might have been
pitied by other passengers nearby. At thinking of this, the thread of
thought is abruptly interrupted by a loud crying from a peddler. A woman
in a uniform pushes an iron wheelbarrow, squeezing into the aisle, which
stirs up a fit of complaint and movement. She keeps apologizing for the
disturbance while yelling out her quite fluent lines. I am kind of
amused by the sudden incident. As I turn around, my eyes happen to meet

Giving directions

  One answer is fear, according to Jon Wortmann, executive mentalcoach
and author of “Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself WhenStress
Takes Over.” We fear rejection, or that our innocent socialadvances will
be misinterpreted as “creepy,” he told The HuffingtonPost. We fear we’ll
be judged. We fear we’ll be disruptive。

In some ways, this challenge was easier than I expected. In fact, my
running challenge (I also set out to run 365 miles in 2016) took more
total time. But one aspect that was much more complicated than I
expected was simply connecting and communicating with all of the
different systems in my home.

I wonder if anything in the wheelbarrow deserves a purchase. But nothing
interests me after a careful search. I turn to the window again,
unexpectedly to run across the girl’s eyes. In the short eye contact,
which is a bit embarrassing, I say nothing, neither does the girl. Yet
the one or two seconds just now seem to have already blossomed into a
sweet fairy tale. Far away out of the train, the moon sheds her liquid
light silently over the fields on both sides of the railway, the highway
beyond the fields extends with the streaking train, and the warm yellow
light guides the hurtling cars on the highway forward. It occurs to me
that in high school, below the balcony of the dormitory, there was also
a road like this one, lightened by the same mild light. For every lonely
night, I have dreamt more than once of driving a car under the
mysterious firmament with my loving girl beside, to explore the
vanishing street, all the way to the deepest ending. Completely free as
I am in the campus of university now, that night and that girl have
never appeared. I come to end lost in the process of seeking and fail to
get my bearings. Instead of being free, I would rather say I have been
imprisoned by a larger cage and trapped by some invisible things. Even
worse, those old pals that have been around could not be found anywhere.
Does the girl in the window cherish the same experience as mine? Has she
ever been forgotten by the world like me? Why cannot I see any hope
sparkling in her eyes? I ask myself. The woman and her voice fade away
with her wheelbarrow, leaving the train peaceful again. I cast a
fleeting glance at her—she has fallen asleep, curling up in the corner.
I take Kafka on the Shore out and read carefully, trying to be a
consolation to myself in the undesirable situation.



  1. Use these expressions to tell someone to go straight ahead on a
    Go straight on Pine Avenue.
    Go down Oak Street.

  2. Use the expressions turn right and turn left to indicate
    direction. These expressions are followed by on.
    Go straight on Pine Avenue. Then turn right on Central Boulevard.
    Go down Oak Street. Next, turn left on Valley Road.

  3. You can also use these expressions to tell someone to turn right or
    Go right on Central Boulevard.
    Make a left on Valley Road.

  4. To say if a place is on the right or left side of a street, use
    these expressions:
    His house is on the right.
    The building is on the left.

  Strangers are inherently unfamiliar to us, so we are more likely
tofeel anxious when communicating with them compared with our friends
andacquaintances. To avoid this anxiety, we turn to our phones.
“Phonesbecome our security blanket,” Wortmann says. “They are our
happyglasses that protect us from what we perceive is going to be

Before I could build any AI, I first needed to write code to connect
these systems, which all speak different languages and protocols. We use
a Crestron system with our lights, thermostat and doors, a Sonos system
with Spotify for music, a Samsung TV, a Nest cam for Max, and of course
my work is connected to Facebook’s systems. I had to reverse engineer
APIs for some of these to even get to the point where I could issue a
command from my computer to turn the lights on or get a song to play.

I still cannot fall asleep after the fifth attempt. Once I close my
eyes, the past images run though my mind to and fro, like a commonplace
film played again and again. Another autumn, and it is late into the
night, but why is the compartment made so chilly? I wrap myself up in my
thin sweater, hugging myself more closely. Is there anyone who can ask
to turn the air conditioner down? I guess it may not be that easy for
the boy opposite to feel cold. That is really not bad. Somehow, I seem
to be kind of uplifted by some firmness glistening in the boy’s eyes
just during the short eye contact with him. But that might be another
wishful thinking on my part. To think that my life gets so wretched that
I should have to seek for solace from a stranger. If I confess all my
feelings to him, I would be definitely considered as insane. But frankly
speaking, I even refuse to remove my eyes from his face from now on,
perhaps out of curiosity, or boredom, or both. Is there anything more
interesting than appreciating a dull boy’s face on such a dreary night?
I am now somewhat amused by my curiosity. As I am waiting for a proper
time to strike up a conversation with him, a clear ring comes from my
bag after a long silence. The registration system of Shandong University
must have been opened. Cheer up, girl! Application for a good university
can never be easy. 

【Expressions】Repeating directions

  1. You can use the word so when you repeat directions for
    A: Go down Main Street, and then make a right on Terrace Drive.
    B: So, I go down Main and make a right on Terrace.
    A: Yes, that's right.

  2. The person giving you directions will tell you if you have
    understood correctly.
    Yes, that's right

  3. Or you’ll be told that you misunderstood.
    A: Go down Main Street, and then make a right on Terrace Drive.
    B: OK. Go down Main Street and make a left on Terrace.
    A: No. Make a right on Terrace.
    B: Oh, OK. Go down Main Street and make a right on Terrace.
    A: Correct.

  4. Be careful: The word right can be both a direction and another way
    to say correct.
    A: Make a right on Terrace Drive.
    B: OK. I make a right on Terrace.
    A: Yes, that's right.

  But once we rip off the bandaid, tuck our smartphones in our
pocketsand look up, it doesn’t hurt so bad. In one 2011 experiment,
behavioralscientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder asked
commuters to do theunthinkable: Start a conversation. The duo had
Chicago train commuters talk totheir fellow passengers. “When Dr. Epley
and Ms. Schroeder asked otherpeople in the same train station to predict
how they would feel after talkingto a stranger, the commuters thought
their ride would be more pleasant if theysat on their own,” the New York
Times summarizes. Though the participantsdidn’t expect a positive
experience, after they went through with theexperiment, “not a single
person reported having been snubbed.”

Further, most appliances aren’t even connected to the internet yet. It’s
possible to control some of these using internet-connected power
switches that let you turn the power on and off remotely. But often that
isn’t enough. For example, one thing I learned is it’s hard to find a
toaster that will let you push the bread down while it’s powered off so
you can automatically start toasting when the power goes on. I ended up
finding an old toaster from the 1950s and rigging it up with a connected
switch. Similarly, I found that connecting a food dispenser for Beast or
a grey t-shirt cannon would require hardware modifications to work.

The train stops at a small station. The yelling of the trainman rises
again. This time I get his words. The middle-aged man announces with his
typical dialect that we will stay here for half an hour. The passageway
is jammed with passengers and a man sleeping beside me on the floor
pillows my lap now and then. Lucky as I am to have a seat, it is not
comfortable at all. I might as well get off to take a walk. Someone
standing behind in the aisle moves over to my side and smiles his
apology embarrassedly, “would you please have me get down my luggage.” I
say yes and make way for him. Then he hurries off with his heavy bags
after extending thanks. Now a patch of room is available for my
backpack, which has been a big burden for me all the way. I put it onto
the rack, noticing that the girl is smiling while talking on the phone,
not a bit indifferent but a little more lovely. Making sure of the
valuables with me, I leave from my seat. While passing though the aisle,
I wonder if I should stay to hear what the girl is saying. Her words may
be more inviting than an aimless walk. The door is not far, but it takes
me rather long before getting there. Indeed, too many people are in my
way, but for another, I am a little attracted by the girl’s talk. The
noise is quite a torment for my ears, but one thing I can be sure of is
that she is also a university student of my age and is preparing for a
postgraduate school

【Final Task】Giving directions

You spot your friend Kim on the street and decide to invite her to a
party. Listen and record what you hear.


  In fact, these commutes were reportedly more enjoyable compared
withthose sans communication, which makes absolute sense, since human
beings thriveoff of social connections. It’s that simple: Talking to
strangers can make youfeel connected. The train ride is a fortuity for
social connection — “thestuff of life,” Wortmann says. 伊芙n seemingly
trivial interactions canboost mood and increase the sense of belonging.
A study similar in hypothesisto Eply and Schroder’s published in Social
Psychological & PersonalityScience asked participants to smile, make eye
contact and chat with theircashier. Those who engaged with the cashier
experienced better moods — andeven reported a better shopping
experience than those who avoided superfluousconversation。(文都供稿)

For assistants like Jarvis to be able to control everything in homes for
more people, we need more devices to be connected and the industry needs
to develop common APIs and standards for the devices to talk to each

The station is a little shabby, and anyone else can hardly be seen
except some passengers on the platform in twos and threes. It is deep
night now. The air gets cooler as the train goes up north. I button my
shirt to the top one to keep warm. Up in the sky, stars are unexpectedly
studded here and there. I stroll near the door, stretch a little bit and
light a cigarette. The incense of nicotine brings me a moment of peace
as it permeates my lungs. Should I talk to the girl? Looking at her
through the window, I ask myself. She is still talking on the phone. I
think over and over while hesitating again and again, but fail to get an
answer. The nearby passengers chat away with their unique dialect. The
plate which indicates Shanghai to Zhengzhou is covered with a fine layer
of dews. As I touch it with fingers, a fit of chill penetrates my whole
body, giving my mind immediate refreshment. The girl in the window has
put down the phone and is looking around carelessly while yawning and
stretching. Maybe she is also suffering from the night, isn’t she? Maybe
she is eager for a relaxing talk to pass the time. Well, why not
initiate the conversation with this question—are you applying for a
postgraduate school? Thinking of this, I am a little bit relieved as if
something tangled in my brain is untied all at once. It appears that
complying with the inner sound of one’s heart is really a pleasant

Asking for directions to a business

An example natural language request from command line.

Hanging up the phone, I am reassured by the encouraging words from the
other side of the phone and my anxious nerve calms down to some degree.
It is eleven fifty-five, only several minutes left before the ending of
the terrible day. Out of the window, the sight has stopped some time
again. So many stopovers, what is the distinctive point of the “express”
train? If only the train could hurtle all the way to Zhengzhou. After
turning back, the boy opposite has changed to another person. Where is
he? Has he arrived and got off? Aware that he has gone never to appear
again, I feel some loss somehow. Honestly speaking, I really wish to
have someone like him with such firm eyes to travel along, even if there
is only now-and-then wordless eye contact between us. I pretend to do
some stretch to broaden my horizon and hope to catch his figure
somewhere by good luck, but he seems to have left forever. Apparently,
the beautiful word “luck” never applies to me. I give a silent sigh, and
press myself again onto the window. Turning on the phone and sliding my
thumb aimlessly on the screen, I find nothing useful to read. Social
software always loses its appeal when the one using it is idling away
his time. If only East China Normal University had given me the offer.
Then the cold and unbearable night, what of it? Feeling gently the
necklace that has been with me for three years, I close my eyes slowly.
Nearly unconsciously dropping into another world, I feel a slight
movement beside me. Slitting my eyes sideways, I am instantly
exhilarated. It’s him! 


  1. go by car

to go to a place by riding in a car, a road vehicle that carries only
a few people
e.g. Should we go by car or take the train?

  1. go by ferry

to go to a place by riding on a ferry, a large boat that carries
people and sometimes cars across a body of water, such as a river
e.g. When we go across the river to Grandma’s house, can we go by

  1. take the subway

to go to a place by riding on a train that travels in tunnels beneath
the city
e.g. I always take the subway when I am in New York.

  1. go by plane

to go to a place by riding on an airplane, a passenger vehicle that
flies in the air
e.g. They are going by plane to the vacation resort.

  1. take the train

to go to a place by riding on a train, a passenger vehicle that rides
on rails and has many cars linked together and pulled by an engine
e.g. John takes the train to visit his brother at school.

  1. take the bus

to go to a place by riding on a bus, a large passenger vehicle that
has regular stops along a fixed route
e.g. Does Jessica take the bus to school every day?

  1. ride a bike

to go to a place by riding a bicycle
e.g. Chris rides a bike to work everyday.

  1. take a taxi

to go to a place by riding in a taxi, a car that has a driver and
charges money to drive people places
e.g. Let’s take a taxi instead of taking the subway. I want to see the

  1. ride the streetcar

to go to a place by riding on a vehicle that runs on electric rails
through a city or town
e.g. The kids love to ride the streetcar.

  1. go on foot

to go to a place by walking
e.g. We usually go on foot to the ice cream store.

Natural Language

After quite a few passengers getting off to have some relaxation, the
compartment looks spacious now. I return on the train, only to find my
seat have been occupied by some other one. Instead of a polite claim, I
would rather he sat there for the present, or even all the way to the
destination. Since the seat beside the girl is vacant, now I am
justified to sit with her. But faced with such a good chance, I fall
into unnormal timidity. What is my real intention? I have been
accustomed to loneliness, which has been clearly written in my diary,
haven’t I? Would this brusque start of talk back the girl? I am not
given too much time to hesitate before being pushed more inside to the
girl’s place by the ones behind. Finally I make up my mind to sit down.
Much to my surprise, I catch a bit of delighted amazement gleaming in
her eyes.

【Expressions】More directions

  1. The four compass directions are north (N), south (S), east (E)
    and west (W). These four words are commonly used when giving
    Go north on Third Avenue.
    Go down Central Boulevard, and turn east on Clover Street.

  2. You can also ask direction questions with which.
    A: Which direction is it?
    B: It's west.

  3. A block is a section of a street, from one corner to the other. It
    is commonly used in giving directions.
    Go down Main Street for three blocks, and then make a right.
    Go south for two blocks, and turn left.

  4. dialog

Take the number 13 bus, and get off at Pine Street. 
Then walk north on First Street for three blocks. 
Our office is on the left at 3489. 
We're on the fourth floor in office number 420.

Once I wrote the code so my computer could control my home, the next
step was making it so I could talk to my computer and home the way I’d
talk to anyone else. This was a two step process: first I made it so I
could communicate using text messages, and later I added the ability to
speak and have it translate my speech into text for it to read.

“Are you preparing for the entrance exam for a postgraduate school?”

【Expressions】Asking for directions to a business

  1. When you phone a company, a receptionist may answer and say
    something like:
    ABC Industries. How can I help you?

  2. If you are going to visit a business, you might ask for the address
    or directions to get there. Add please to make the question more
    What's your address, please?
    Where's your office, please?
    How do I get to your office, please?
    Can you please tell me how to get there?

  3. The person you are asking might need more information from you. For
    Where are you now?
    How are you coming?

  4. After you receive the directions, you might want to ask how long it
    takes to get there. The receptionist will probably give you an
    A: How long does it take?
    B: It takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

  5. Don’t forget to thank the receptionist.
    Thank you for your help!

  6. dialog

A: Good morning. Telex Company. How can I help you?
B: Yes, good morning. I have a meeting at your company today. Can you tell me how to get to your office, please?
A: Yes, of course. Where are you coming from ?
B: I'm in front of the Regency Hotel on Park Drive. I'm walking.
A: Oh, OK. First, go north on Park Drive for two blocks, and make a right on Seventh Avenue.
B: North on Park, turn right on Seventh.
A: Correct. Next, go one block on Seventh, and take a left on Chase Street. Our building is on the right - number 729. We're on the third floor . Our office is number 316.

It started simple by looking for keywords, like “bedroom”, “lights”, and
“on” to determine I was telling it to turn the lights on in the bedroom.
It quickly became clear that it needed to learn synonyms, like that
“family room” and “living room” mean the same thing in our home. This
meant building a way to teach it new words and concepts.

“No, but a postgraduate recommendation.”

Describing the location of a city

Understanding context is important for any AI. For example, when I tell
it to turn the AC up in “my office”, that means something completely
different from when Priscilla tells it the exact same thing. That one
caused some issues! Or, for example, when you ask it to make the lights
dimmer or to play a song without specifying a room, it needs to know
where you are or it might end up blasting music in Max’s room when we
really need her to take a nap. Whoops.

“A postgraduate recommendation?”



  1. mountains

a very high hill, often with rocks near the top
e.g. a mountain rescue team

  1. coast

the land beside or near to the sea or ocean
e.g. a town on the south coast of England

  1. desert

a large area of land that has very little water and very few plants
growing on it. Many deserts are covered by sand
e.g. the Sahara Desert

  1. river

a natural flow of water that continues in a long line across land to
the sea/ocean
e.g. the River Thames

  1. beach

an area of sand or small stones (called shingle), beside the sea or a
e.g. tourists sunbathing on the beach

  1. hills

an area of land that is higher than the land around it, but not as
high as a mountain
e.g. I love walking in the hills(= in the area where there are hills).

  1. forest

a large area of land that is thickly covered with trees
e.g. a tropical forest

  1. lake

a large area of water that is surrounded by land
e.g. We swam in the lake.

  1. ocean

the mass of salt water that covers most of the earth’s surface
e.g. the depths of the ocean

  1. valley

an area of low land between hills or mountains, often with a river
flowing through it; the land that a river flows through
e.g. a small town set in a valley

Music is a more interesting and complex domain for natural language
because there are too many artists, songs and albums for a keyword
system to handle. The range of things you can ask it is also much
greater. Lights can only be turned up or down, but when you say “play
X”, even subtle variations can mean many different things. Consider
these requests related to Adele: “play someone like you”, “play someone
like adele”, and “play some adele”. Those sound similar, but each is a
completely different category of request. The first plays a specific
song, the second recommends an artist, and the third creates a playlist
of Adele’s best songs. Through a system of positive and negative
feedback, an AI can learn these differences.

“Yep, I am applying for a postgraduate school.”

【Vocabulary】Giving the location of a city or town

  1. Hometown refers to the place where you were born or grew up.
    A: What's your hometown?
    B: It's New York City.

  2. If someone is unfamiliar with your hometown, you might be asked
    where it is. Use the preposition on with the following geographical
    vocabulary. Notice that, in this context, on has the same meaning as
    next to.
    Where is it?
    It's on the ocean.
    It's on a lake.
    It's on the beach.
    It's on a river.
    It's on the coast.

  3. Use the preposition in with the following geographical vocabulary.
    Notice that, in this context, in has the same meaning as
    in the middle of.
    Where is it?
    It's in a forest.
    It's in the mountains.
    It's in the hills.
    It's in a valley.
    It's in the desert.

  4. To give the location of a city, you can also use the preposition
    in with the points of the compass: north, south, east and
    It's in the north.
    It's in the south.
    It's in the east.
    It's in the west.

The more context an AI has, the better it can handle open-ended
requests. At this point, I mostly just ask Jarvis to “play me some
music” and by looking at my past listening patterns, it mostly nails
something I’d want to hear. If it gets the mood wrong, I can just tell
it, for example, “that’s not light, play something light”, and it can
both learn the classification for that song and adjust immediately. It
also knows whether I’m talking to it or Priscilla is, so it can make
recommendations based on what we each listen to. In general, I’ve found
we use these more open-ended requests more frequently than more specific
asks. No commercial products I know of do this today, and this seems
like a big opportunity.

“Your schoolwork must be very good.”

【Expressions】Asking for a giving distances

  1. Use the expression How far is it? to ask about the distance to a
    A: Let's go to the coffee shop.
    B: How far is it?
    A: It's only two blocks.

  2. To ask about the distance between two places, use the expression
    How far is it from (place) to (place)?
    A: How far is it from your house to the beach?
    B: It's about two kilometers.

  3. Most of the world uses kilometers (km) to measure distance. The UK
    and the United States use miles. One mile is approximately 1.6
    kilometers. If you don’t know the exact amount, you can use around
    or about before the number.
    A: How far is it from London to Paris?
    B: It's about 340 kilometers.
    It's around 215 miles from London to Paris.

  4. dialog

SARAH: So, how far is it from Paris to Berlin?
PAUL: Well, first we drive from Paris to Bruges, in Belgium. It's about 300 kilometers . Then we drive from Bruges to Berlin.
SARAH: How far is it from Bruges to Berlin?
PAUL: About 800 kilometers.
SARAH: Wow. That's pretty far.

Jarvis uses face recognition to let my friends in automatically and let
me know.

“I’m placed second in our school.”

【Reading】Reading about locations

Rio de Janeiro is a big city in the south of Brazil. 
It's on the east coast of the country. 
Rio has beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. 
Two very famous beaches are Ipanema and Copacabana. 
Rio also is in the mountains. 
Sugarloaf is the name of a very famous mountain in Rio.

Vision and Face Recognition

About one-third of the human brain is dedicated to vision, and there are
many important AI problems related to understanding what is happening in
images and videos. These problems include tracking (eg is Max awake and
moving around in her crib?), object recognition (eg is that Beast or a
rug in that room?), and face recognition (eg who is at the door?).

The train is started again. The owner of the seat comes back, and I
return to mine. What a pragmatic girl! The pragmatic dialogue, the
pragmatic smile, perhaps her life is also pragmatic. Otherwise how can
she be one of the top students all through her college years. To be
pragmatic, isn’t that exactly what I am short of? Our conversation is on
and off, so is our eye contact. But my thirst for the leisurely
communication has never ceased. I begin to be infatuated with her voice,
her serious expression as well as her heart-melting laugh. Outside, the
highway cannot be seen any more, and the moon hides behind the black
clouds. Unknowingly, it begins to drizzle. Sitting here shrouded by the
curtain of night, I am thinking over for another topic. Which kind of
synthesizer do you think is more appropriate for the stage keyboard,
Roland’s, or KORG’s? Ah, how silly to talk like this!

Face recognition is a particularly difficult version of object
recognition because most people look relatively similar compared to
telling apart two random objects — for example, a sandwich and a house.
But Facebook has gotten very good at face recognition for identifying
when your friends are in your photos. That expertise is also useful when
your friends are at your door and your AI needs to determine whether to
let them in.

“And you? Are you a college student as well?”

To do this, I installed a few cameras at my door that can capture images
from all angles. AI systems today cannot identify people from the back
of their heads, so having a few angles ensures we see the person’s face.
I built a simple server that continuously watches the cameras and runs a
two step process: first, it runs face detection to see if any person has
come into view, and second, if it finds a face, then it runs face
recognition to identify who the person is. Once it identifies the
person, it checks a list to confirm I’m expecting that person, and if I
am then it will let them in and tell me they’re here.

“Yep, in Ningbo University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.”

This type of visual AI system is useful for a number of things,
including knowing when Max is awake so it can start playing music or a
Mandarin lesson, or solving the context problem of knowing which room in
the house we’re in so the AI can correctly respond to context-free
requests like “turn the lights on” without providing a location. Like
most aspects of this AI, vision is most useful when it informs a broader
model of the world, connected with other abilities like knowing who your
friends are and how to open the door when they’re here. The more context
the system has, the smarter is gets overall.

“Mechanical Engineering? It sounds really difficult. There must be
numerous formulas and a strict standard for math.” 

I can text Jarvis from anywhere using a Messenger bot.

“Absolutely right. And what’s your major?”

Messenger Bot


I programmed Jarvis on my computer, but in order to be useful I wanted
to be able to communicate with it from anywhere I happened to be. That
meant the communication had to happen through my phone, not a device
placed in my home.

“Reading and writing and reciting, you must have a lot to do every day.”

I started off building a Messenger bot to communicate with Jarvis
because it was so much easier than building a separate app. Messenger
has a simple framework for building bots, and it automatically handles
many things for you — working across both iOS and Android, supporting
text, image and audio content, reliably delivering push notifications,
managing identity and permissions for different people, and more. You
can learn about the bot framework

“Of course, but I love English, so it’s not that painful.”

I can text anything to my Jarvis bot, and it will instantly be relayed
to my Jarvis server and processed. I can also send audio clips and the
server can translate them into text and then execute those commands. In
the middle of the day, if someone arrives at my home, Jarvis can text me
an image and tell me who’s there, or it can text me when I need to go do

“Then what’s your direction for your master’s degree?”

One thing that surprised me about my communication with Jarvis is that
when I have the choice of either speaking or texting, I text much more
than I would have expected. This is for a number of reasons, but mostly
it feels less disturbing to people around me. If I’m doing something
that relates to them, like playing music for all of us, then speaking
feels fine, but most of the time text feels more appropriate. Similarly,
when Jarvis communicates with me, I’d much rather receive that over text
message than voice. That’s because voice can be disruptive and text
gives you more control of when you want to look at it. Even when I speak
to Jarvis, if I’m using my phone, I often prefer it to text or display
its response.


This preference for text communication over voice communication fits a
pattern we’re seeing with Messenger and WhatsApp overall, where the
volume of text messaging around the world is growing much faster than
the volume of voice communication. This suggests that future AI products
cannot be solely focused on voice and will need a private messaging
interface as well. Once you’re enabling private messaging, it’s much
better to use a platform like Messenger than to build a new app from
scratch. I have always been optimistic about AI bots, but my experience
with Jarvis has made me even more optimistic that we’ll all communicate
with bots like Jarvis in the future.

He nods silently, as if lost in a deep meditation, wondering what kind
of research translation is on earth.

Jarvis uses speech recognition in my iOS app to listen to my request for
a fresh t-shirt.

It is spitting outside. The rain must be cool even in October. Imagining
being tapped by the chilly sprinkles out there, I feel even colder.
Isn’t the trainman in short sleeves cold at all? If he is selfish enough
to say, “Hey, I’m so cold that I’m going to turn down the air
conditioner.” Perhaps none would complain. Most passengers have fallen
asleep in all kinds of postures, wrapping themselves with whatever can
be used—coats, blankets, or even newspapers, which may look strange, but
so warm. I now regret extremely having not followed mother’s words,
having thought only a couple of days in Shanghai has no need of too much
clothes. The boy must also feel cold now, his sleeves pulled down and
his shirt buttoned to the top one. I am so silly to hope to be offered
his shirt by him.

Voice and Speech Recognition

“That I came to Shanghai this time is for the interview of East China
Normal University, the result of which was thought absolutely all
right…” the girl casts a glance at me, breaking the silence as if to
avoid the wordless embarrassment between us. She shakes her head and
frowns slightly, as if knocked badly by something afflicting.

Even though I think text will be more important for communicating with
AIs than people realize, I still think voice will play a very important
role too. The most useful aspect of voice is that it’s very fast. You
don’t need to take out your phone, open an app, and start typing — you
just speak.

“Haven’t you been admitted?”

To enable voice for Jarvis, I needed to build a dedicated Jarvis app
that could listen continuously to what I say. The Messenger bot is great
for many things, but the friction for using speech is way too much. My
dedicated Jarvis app lets me put my phone on a desk and just have it
listen. I could also put a number of phones with the Jarvis app around
my home so I could talk to Jarvis in any room. That seems similar to
Amazon’s vision with Echo, but in my experience, it’s surprising how
frequently I want to communicate with Jarvis when I’m not home, so
having the phone be the primary interface rather than a home device
seems critical.

“No, and I don’t know how it came about. I might have been too nervous
then and haven’t answered the questions well”

I built the first version of the Jarvis app for iOS and I plan to build
an Android version soon too. I hadn’t built an iOS app since 2012 and
one of my main observations is that the toolchain we’ve built at
Facebook since then for developing these apps and for doing speech
recognition is very impressive.

“Is there any other chance left?”

Speech recognition systems have improved recently, but no AI system is
good enough to understand conversational speech just yet. Speech
recognition relies on both listening to what you say and predicting what
you will say next, so structured speech is still much easier to
understand than unstructured conversation.

“Once I arrive tomorrow morning, my parents will be waiting there. We
will hurry to Jinan in the afternoon for the interview of Shandong
University the next day.”

Another interesting limitation of speech recognition systems — and
machine learning systems more generally — is that they are more
optimized for specific problems than most people realize. For example,
understanding a person talking to a computer is subtly different problem
from understanding a person talking to another person. If you train a
machine learning system on data from Google of people speaking to a
search engine, it will perform relatively worse on Facebook at
understanding people talking to real people. In the case of Jarvis,
training an AI that you’ll talk to at close range is also different from
training a system you’ll talk to from all the way across the room, like
Echo. These systems are more specialized than it appears, and that
implies we are further off from having general systems than it might

“Is Shandong University within your grasp?”

On a psychologic level, once you can speak to a system, you attribute
more emotional depth to it than a computer you might interact with using
text or a graphic interface. One interesting observation is that ever
since I built voice into Jarvis, I’ve also wanted to build in more
humor. Part of this is that now it can interact with Max and I want
those interactions to be entertaining for her, but part of it is that it
now feels like it’s present with us. I’ve taught it fun little games
like Priscilla or I can ask it who we should tickle and it will randomly
tell our family to all go tickle one of us, Max or Beast. I’ve also had
fun adding classic lines like “I’m sorry, Priscilla. I’m afraid I can’t
do that.”

“I’m not that confident now, but compared with East China Normal
University, this school is not that challenging.”

There’s a lot more to explore with voice. The AI technology is just
getting good enough for this to be the basis of a great product, and it
will get much better in the next few years. At the same time, I think
the best products like this will be ones you can bring with you anywhere
and communicate with privately as well.

The girl pauses a little while and continues, “haven’t you noticed my
red and swollen eyes?”

Facebook Engineering Environment

I approach closer to her, look into her eyes and then check my watch. It
is one o’clock already. 

As the CEO of Facebook, I don’t get much time to write code in our
internal environment. I’ve never stopped coding, but these days I mostly
build personal projects like Jarvis. I expected I’d learn a lot about
the state of AI this year, but I didn’t realize I would also learn so
much about what it’s like to be an engineer at Facebook. And it’s

“Because of staying up late?”

My experience of ramping up in the Facebook codebase is probably pretty
similar to what most new engineers here go through. I was consistently
impressed by how well organized our code is, and how easy it was to find
what you’re looking for — whether it’s related to face recognition,
speech recognition, theMessenger Bot
or iOS development. The open
packages we’ve built to work with GitHub’s Atom make development much
build system we’ve developed to build large projects quickly also saved
me a lot of time. Our open
AI text classification tool is also a good one to check out, and if
you’re interested in AI development, the wholeFacebook
GitHub repo is worth taking a look at.

The girl smiles, “partly out of this, but more because I have cried all
the way since departing from Shanghai.”     

One of our values is “move fast”. That means you should be able to come
here and build an app faster than you can anywhere else, including on
your own. You should be able to come here and use our infra and AI tools
to build things it would take you a long time to build on your own.
Building internal tools that make engineering more efficient is
important to any technology company, but this is something we take
especially seriously. So I want to give a shout out to everyone on our
infra and tools teams that make this so good.

“Cried all the way?” I am a little confused.

Next Steps

“On the subway to the station, tears were running out of control.”

Although this challenge is ending, I’m sure I’ll continue improving
Jarvis since I use it every day and I’m always finding new things I want
to add.

“It’s no small blow to you.”

In the near term, the clearest next steps are building an Android app,
setting up Jarvis voice terminals in more rooms around my home, and
connecting more appliances. I’d love to have Jarvis control my Big Green
Egg and help me cook, but that will take even more serious hacking than
rigging up the t-shirt cannon.

Hearing his words, I become uncertain now. East China Normal University
is my ideal school, but there is no need to be so heart-renting, for I
am clear that this school is not the final choice.

In the longer term, I’d like to explore teaching Jarvis how to learn new
skills itself rather than me having to teach it how to perform specific
tasks. If I spent another year on this challenge, I’d focus more on
learning how learning works.

“Maybe. Something that you feel sure to obtain suddenly disappears. The
disappointment is not that simple as that brought about by the rejection
of an ideal school. It seems like that something you have been
accustomed to leaves you unexpectedly, making you helpless, or even at a

Finally, over time it would be interesting to find ways to make this
available to the world. I considered open sourcing my code, but it’s
currently too tightly tied to my own home, appliances and network
configuration. If I ever build a layer that abstracts more home
automation functionality, I may release that. Or, of course, that could
be a great foundation to build a new product.

“Um… I have had this feeling before, or have been experiencing it all
the time. But, it’s not a big deal. Just seize your opportunity at


The girl shakes her head slightly, as if forced to accept something
unacceptable. With her chin in one hand, she puts another on the table.
We stop saying anything and gaze at each other. Now I can feel that the
distance between us is being shortened.

Building Jarvis was an interesting intellectual challenge, and it gave
me direct experience building AI tools in areas that are important for
our future.

“I have made a great effort for East China Normal University, which was
thought to ensure my admission. However, everything turns out a

I’ve previously predicted that within 5-10 years we’ll have AI systems
that are more accurate than people for each of our senses — vision,
hearing, touch, etc, as well as things like language. It’s impressive
how powerful the state of the art for these tools is becoming, and this
year makes me more confident in my prediction.

“Life cannot be anticipated. Most of the time, things will not go as
expected. You have to learn to get used to that.”

At the same time, we are still far off from understanding how learning
works. Everything I did this year — natural language, face recognition,
speech recognition and so on — are all variants of the same fundamental
pattern recognition techniques. We know how to show a computer many
examples of something so it can recognize it accurately, but we still do
not know how to take an idea from one domain and apply it to something
completely different.

He comments in a moderate manner. At some point, something muffled in
the heart seems to vanish in a flash, which makes me even wonder what is
the point of my anguish just now. However, I don’t want to tell him “I
feel much better as you tell me this.” I hope to hear more comforting
words from him as well as his tone of steadiness and power. As chatting
with him, I am given more chances to appreciate his assuring eyes.
However, am I a little greedy and mean to think like this? But luckily,
he might be unaware. Besides, is there anything wrong with the
requirement for some outside consolation? Then go ahead, Li Lin. Be
brave to pour out all your misfortunes to him. At thinking of this, I
feel much more relieved and delighted. Perhaps the most pleasant thing
in the world is to follow one’s heart.

To put that in perspective, I spent about 100 hours building Jarvis this
year, and now I have a pretty good system that understands me and can do
lots of things. But even if I spent 1,000 more hours, I probably
wouldn’t be able to build a system that could learn completely new
skills on its own — unless I made some fundamental breakthrough in the
state of AI along the way.

The girl is silent again, as if thinking to herself how she can learn to
get accustomed to all those undesirable experiences. The water bought in
Nanjing has already run out. In fact, it was a long sleep that was
expected before the journey, not such a condition. Where is the peddling
woman at the very moment when I am thirsty?

In a way, AI is both closer and farther off than we imagine. AI is
closer to being able to do more powerful things than most people expect
— driving cars, curing diseases, discovering planets, understanding
media. Those will each have a great impact on the world, but we’re still
figuring out what real intelligence is.

“The woman frequented her figure when not needed, but disappears for
good and all when I am thirsty for a bottle of water.” I tease myself.

Overall, this was a great challenge. These challenges have a way of
teaching me more than I expected at the beginning. This year I thought
I’d learn about AI, and I also learned about home automation and
Facebook’s internal technology too. That’s what’s so interesting about
these challenges. Thanks for following along with this challenge and I’m
looking forward to sharing next year’s challenge in a few weeks.

“Are you thirsty?”

“A little bit.”

The girl takes out an orange cup, “Why not go getting some water? I am
also a little thirsty.”

I take over the cup with hesitation. To use a stranger’s cup, that is
really uncomfortable for me. However, it seems all right to the girl.
Then how come there are so many misgivings on my part? Just some help
from a stranger, just a bit of drink. I must worry too much.

The water service is set at the connection between two compartments,
which is a little far from my place. Just like tramping over hill and
dale, I have to squeeze myself into and out of the crowd another time.
The passage is cluttered with deep-sleeping people. Beside each seat is
leaning a poor drowsy passenger who has not got a seat. I take each step
carefully for fear of treading on a body or stirring up someone’s dream.
Closing the water service, I suddenly notice something creeping on the
floor. I stop to check. It turns out a lobster. Nearby is a broken bag,
from which might someone’s delicacy slip out. I wake up the bag’s owner,
a middle-aged man with sparse hair in a striping short-sleeve, in the
pocket of which is a packet of Hongta. What I see is an absolute
middle-aged man, even to say a representative of his age. Seeing his
creeping lobsters, he seems to suddenly emerge from his dream and
catches each of them one by one into the bag. Adroitly tying the bag, he
extends his thanks and returns to his dream. Back to my seat, she is not
seen anywhere. The water is a little hot. I only take several sips
before waiting against the seat back. 

At three o’clock, she returns to my opposite.

Seeing her, I give a courteous smile, and she responds the same way.

“The water is a little hot. Wait for a little while.” the boy says
considerately enough.

“All right. Just leave it there.” 

Suddenly, something occurs to me, something that I want him to know. No.
Actually, I am ready to tell him anything that comes into my mind now.

“In fact, my original seat is beside yours.”

“So, why are you sitting opposite to me?”

“Because your side is contrary to the train’s travelling direction.”

“Contrary to the travelling direction. So what?”

“I would feel carsick.”

He bursts into a fit of laugh. Is there any laughing matter? However,
since he has been glum all the way, to amuse him is also a pleasant
thing for me. It is so unnatural of me to begin to please a stranger
consciously or unconsciously. If my awkward situation can cheer him up,
I will share with him generously. Moreover, since I was so honest, would
he have doubt that I am actually regretting not sitting with him?

“So interesting?”

“Nothing. Just too many differences between people. I know someone who
can’t go along with the traveling direction, but with little knowledge
of those who can’t go against the traveling direction.”

To be honest, I have no idea what I am laughing about, just amused by
her lovely frankness.

She gives a demure smile and doesn’t say more words. Her eyes are fixed
back on the outside, with her figures stroking the necklace around her
fair neck 

I notice the English word engraved on the pendant of her necklace. The
letters are designed in a fine, round hand, but too little to make out.

“What does your necklace say?”

The girl looks down and up again, “isn’t it clear?”

“Not very much. Love?” I choose one word based on my only idea about
girls’ necklace.                                                        

“No, seven letters in all.”

Looking more closely, I still fail to recognize it, so I shake my head.

“Forever.” the girl utters a word in very standard American English.



Now it seems really the seven letters after a second look.

“Is it that difficult to recognize the word? I can’t figure it out why
everyone fails to make it out the first time they see it. Besides, each
inquiry doesn’t seem to be careless.”

“Why do you prefer the word ‘forever’?”

A delicate smile creeps on her face, and her talking speed is not that
hurried any more. She answers gently, “don’t you think ‘forever’ is so
beautiful a word?” 

“Exactly,” I blurt out without any thinking.   

“But it has never worked on me.”

“In what way, love?”

The girl takes a deep breath, and then typically shakes her head, as if
some bad memory is called up.

“Not long ago, I received the break-up call from my boyfriend.”

The boy listens to me carefully without a blink of eyes, as if attending
an English grammar class with full attention.

“We had been together for a long time and I had already taken him as my
lifelong partner.”

My heart has just been brightened when the recalling brings me back into
the abyss of sorrow. Whatever situation I am in or will be in, those
sharp recollections will make me relive the bitterness whenever they
come into my mind. I try to calm down and come clean about myself as if
telling other ones’ story.

“We had planned everything—where we would settle down our home, what we
would do, and even for what we would quarrel with each other the first
time. I had let him know whatever I can think of. To be at his side,
just waiting for our next life period, I felt I was the happiest woman
in the world. Life for me seemed free from worry forever and filled with
laughter for no reason. But what I had never expected was that he was
such an irresponsible man.”   

The girl’s eyes drift outside again and silently shake her head the
second time. This time, I could feel her tears could run down at any

“My French class had just been over when he called. I was so happy to
see his name glimmering on the screen, thinking he must miss me. How
silly I was! As soon as he began to speak, I came to realize something
was wrong with him. Once he finished, I fell into an absolute daze as
for what had happened on earth, but one thing I was clear was that we
were done.”

I am at a loss as to how to comment and comfort her. Although her heart
is distant from mine, I could tell truthfully from her tone that she is
overwhelmed with desperate sorrow.

“He must have had a heart of stone, just analyzing sensibly the present
situation, leaving no chance to me to express my opinion. It seemed I
was informed by my dear boyfriend of a piece of bad news. I had no idea
how long I had been standing there. People came and went. I was lost in
a droning blank, with all the sense stripped off me. But strangely, I
was totally unconscious of any pain, as if the soul had left my body. I
don’t know how long had passed before the flood of sorrow swept over me.
I even forgot how to breathe, how to cry and how to sense. I can’t
remember how I had got over those days, but there was one thing I got
clear from then on.”

The girl suddenly stopped and looked back at me.

“What thing?”

“I can’t hold my drink.”

I am confounded at first, then smiles kindly, “yet not a bad thing.
Still suffering?”

For a moment the girl stares blankly, “suffering…, but in a different
way. My resentment at his leaving has been diluted by time, except that
an occasional thought of the past would plunge me into a momentary
sadness. After all, too much has been devoted on my part in our

The girl’s eyes are blurring somewhere above my shoulder. Perhaps she is
sleepy or exhausted after the utmost sincerity of her history. Or she
just spreads what is on her heart on the eyes-focus and savors it alone.

“Sleep for a while. You might not be used to staying up.”

The girl rubs her eyes and looks me over again, “you might not, either.”

“Me? I’m Ok. Anyhow I have never intended to sleep. Even having
successfully fallen asleep, I would have a very hard time.”

“Your eyes are bloodshot and glazed.”

“It is a tough journey on the train after all.”

I take a drink of water, the temperature of which is just right. I am
quite sober now. But the redness in his eyes indicates his lack of
sleep. It might be true that I was sleepy just now, but at this moment
the casual conversation with him offers me inexplicable sureness and
impulse, dispelling all the sleepiness. The raining city might have been
left behind, and the moon begins to shed its limpid light generously,
keeping the train company in the lonely night.

“Well, sleep for a while.”

The boy nods his head and closes his eyes. I turn on the phone, a new
message lingering on the screen, which informs me that my friend has
helped me sign up for the interview of Shandong University. Alas! Some
mixed feelings are pent up in my heart. I try to seize another
opportunity, but with great regret at the same time. Almost everyone has
fallen into sleep. The trainman in a short-sleeve, the embarrassed
peddling woman, what are they thinking about, and what is the shape of
their inner feelings? Having finished the assignment and staying alone,
would they be afraid to face up the daylight memory? My dry eyes
struggle to make out the time on the watch—ten to four. How time flies.
Maybe, I think, I have been enjoying every minute spent with him. 

The train is speeding through everyone’s dream, while each one carrying
his dream is hurtling toward the upcoming dawn.  

I wake up slowly. Because of the awkward sleeping position, the whole
body feels uncomfortable, just like an old rusty machine. The train
stops at one regulating station. Outside are the criss-cross rails and
the flickering signal lights. The morning dawns fresh and bright as soon
as the first ray of sunlight pierces through the rolling dark clouds.
The girl’s face appears clearer bathed in such crystal light, and the
necklace glints against the beams as her chest heaves up and down. She
is still deep in sleep. I cannot help watching her closely. She has a
delicate face as well as a slim figure, her collarbone protruding
distinctively. It isn’t six o’clock yet, and our shared time has been
only several hours till now, which, however, has become part of my
precious ethereal memory. Somehow I hope to embrace her. At the thought
of the parting in one hour, I feel a surge of pity. If only the train
could travel all the way where life ends.

Under such circumstances, I should have succeeded falling asleep. I
subconsciously glance at the watch—six twenty. There is still less than
an hour before reaching the destination. The sky is still overcast, even
in the early morning. Every now and then a train screams past from the
opposite direction. All the passengers seem to have the same internal
lock. Once the clock rings, everyone stops to sleep. And once it rings
again, everyone begins to open their eyes to chat, joke and laugh. I
look around as the self emerges again from the deep unconscious, only to
catch him staring at me. Almost by reflex, I smile with corners of my
mouth upward.

“You wake?”

The girl stretches herself, “hum, not a sound sleep, too many dreams.”

“Light sleep engenders more dreams.”

“And you? How about your sleep?”

“Not very satisfying. For the present, a hot bath and an uninterrupted
sleep on my soft bed are most wanted.”

“I do envy you. You just go back home, while I have to rush to Jinan
this afternoon.”

“Go straight home?” the girl continues.

“First of all, I will find a place to have breakfast. My stomach has
been empty for the whole night.” I smile. 

The sun has just come out before hiding behind the domineering dark
clouds again. I have no idea how to say goodbye to the girl, or how to
continue our conversation not to say goodbye. 

“Are you hungry?” I look forward to a positive answer somewhat.

“A little bit. Energy tends to run out much more easily in such a cold
environment. I’m still a little cold. Why is the temperature regulated
at such a low level?”

The boy just gives me a casual answer, as if his attention has been
distracted by something else instead of the air conditioner stuff. What
is in her brain right now? Why hasn’t he invited me to share with him
the time after getting off? 

“Have breakfast together?” I finally extend a brave invitation.

The girl smiles, with faint shyness on her cheeks.


She answers briskly, but I am not that sure and begin to waver at the
moment. That is exactly the answer I hope for, but seemingly I have not
been fully ready for such a happy ending. In the midst of annoying
babbling voices, a boy and a girl just chat away about some casual
topics, passing the time together before the train reaches its terminal

My heart is brimming with ecstasy of longings, as if a weight was lifted
off my mind at last. At least, we do not have to say goodbye at the
railway station, which is so satisfying for me even if it is nothing but
an ordinary breakfast.

As the train pulls into the station slowly, all the passengers begin to
move. Here is the destination, and the train has completed its mission.

Carrying my baggage, I am pushed forward automatically by the people
behind. Once stepping onto the earth of Zhengzhou, I cannot help
shivering a little attacked by the dry and chilly air. Over-shadowed
under the gloomy sky, the whole city of Zhengzhou appears dismal and
dreary. Delighted, I make my way slowly, looking around for your figure.

Carrying my bag on the back, I hide myself as well as my complex
feelings among the crowd. Seeing you off farther and farther, I remain
where I am, hesitating to catch up with you. 

Where are you? Why haven’t you showed up from the many strange faces? I
get a little anxious now.

I keep standing there before your slim figure is completely out of
sight, as if my body had been frozen by the penetrating cold air. 

I take hold of my baggage and walk faster. A burst of loss sweeps over
my mind. But you must know that even a bit more time will do no favor.

The backpack feels extraordinarily heavy, slowing down my pace. You
might be still looking for me, or you might have understood me, but
please forgive and forget a stranger and his flee.

Far away, the bell sings out the hour of seven. Pigeons are hovering
above the square against the cloudy sky.

Heading eastward from the station exit, I look back for the last time.
Sharing the cold and lonely world, you might have never thought to
embrace me.

You may know that, nothing can be forever in the world.

Heading westward from the station exit, I dare not look back. You might
have vanished into the sea of people. In the pale and grey October, how
I wish to embrace you. 

But I am not brave enough, to promise you “forever”.