Good news and bad news

After nearly three months of waiting, the editorial decisions for two of my manuscripts came back today within 12 minutes of each other during the lunch time. I was pretty shocked when I got back from lunch.

The first one was very good. Essentially I only need to correct a couple typos and fix two figures. Which makes me really happy.

However, the second one was really disheartening. We had very high hope for this one but had great difficulty to even get it send out for review. The first couple submissions came back as "it's good and interesting, but probably not here (i.e., please go away)". Finally the manuscript went out for reviews, but the results were quite negative (at least in my view, Jessie doesn't think it was too bad). Anyway, probably will need to think about what to do next in the next couple days.

Well, at least I am not alone in this endless frustration.


Ant, Ant, Go Away (and don't come back)

Over the past few days there were some ants coming into our kitchen through the window. There were not too many of them so we were not really concerned, but this evening they seemed to decided that they probably should send in more workers to find something interesting. So we put out the ant baits in the hope that this will solve the problem. Surprisingly, the ants just walked past the bait, without going inside or even stopping by, and decided it is time to call for a full retreat.

Watching all this happened within a couple of minutes, Vivian made the comment "maybe they know that the bait will kill them so they flee back to home". Oh well, whatever works is good.

A bad day

Today is a bad day for us.

First we went to the dentist's office and found out all our appointments were canceled by mistake and we'll have to reschedule again. Being so busy recently, I don't remember what my schedule will be and have to call them when I get back to my computer. Who knows when we can find a time to squeeze in again?

Then Ann went to pick up David's prescription and couldn't get it. The pharmacy has the prescription ready for us, just as they promised. However, because the insurance company's computer was down, they can't give it to us unless we are willing to pay it in full by ourself. I almost choked when I hear that some skin cream for rash would cost $37, which is totally ridiculous. So Ann came home empty-handed and we will need to make a trip tomorrow after the insurance company fixes their computer.

After we all got home, we received the new passport for Alyssa. Originally we were happy that something finally went right today. We paid an arm and a leg to have the passport expedited, worrying that we might not get it in time for our trip back to Taiwan. The passport came earlier than they promised, but the date of birth on it was WRONG! I ended up have to call the passport service, figure out that we have to fill out another form, send it back again, and pray it will come back in time.

The day was so bad that we decided to stay home after dinner and skip our evening walk. Then we hear from Ann's mom that one of the construction workers fell down from the second floor of their new home. Oh what a day!


Getting way too comfortable

Apparently Nina REALLY likes her bed. Now she regularly sleeps like this at home:


Grocery shopping spree

We have to prepare snacks for Alyssa and Vivian's class at school next week, and that means feeding 51 kids + 4 teachers every morning, which is a quite daunting task for us. So this Saturday we went to the Buford Highway Farmers' Market in Atlanta to get all the fruits we need. The shopping carts there is at least twice as big as the regular ones in Walmart. When we were there in the past we always used less than half of the space and this is the first time we think that we might need two carts. Anyway we manage to stuff everything into one cart and it was really an amazing view.

This morning we went to the local Walmart to get the rest of things we need (crackers, cheese, etc) and it's the same thing all over again. Not that they are paying attention to what we buy but I was really curious about what the cashier was thinking when she saw us with three little kids and a shopping cart full of snacks.

Work on your bikes party with Hugh

It is hard to believe that I already put more than 3k miles on my bike in less than a year and it is about time to check the valves. I thought about doing it myself but was not quite sure if I can do this or not. After all, I'll have to take the bike and engine apart to get to the valves. Fortunately, Hugh from the Ninja250 club offered to show me how this is done on his bike. So today I rode up to Toccoa to visit Hugh and work on our bikes together.

I took SR106/SR145 to get to Toccoa. The weather and road is quite nice and I enjoyed the ride a lot. I missed a turn on my way there but fortunately didn't get lost. When I finally got to Hugh's house I am only about 15 mins late.

On my way there I saw the sign of Cromer's Mill Bridge. I know that's one of the few covered bridges in Georgia and would worth a stop to take some pictures. However, I didn't try to find it because the sign didn't say how far away the bridge is and I don't want to be late. Only after getting home I found out that it's probably less than 5 mins away from the sign. Maybe I'll try to go there the next time I visit Hugh.

Hugh already got the fairing and fuel tank off when I got there so we dived right in to the engine top end. As Hugh put it, valve adjustment is easy once you've done it a couple time. Actually I think it is even easier if you are just watching other people doing it. I read through the shop manual and the FAQ from the Ninja250 club a couple times but couldn't quite understand the whole process. But as Hugh demonstrates the procedure to me everything I read starts to make a lot of sense. Too bad that I've to wait for my bike to cool down before I can check the valves, so I couldn't just have mine done at the same time and have to do it another time. Hugh was very kind that he agree to ride down to Athens sometimes with the valve adjustment tool and help me do mine. Hope we can find a time to do that soon.

After we are done with Hugh's bike, he helped me to change the coolant on mine. I guess the previous owner(s) have never changed the coolant but luckily the old stuff that came out didn't look too bad. We even washed my bike a bit, which I have never done before. My attitude toward bike washing is "an hour spent on washing bike is an hour wasted, I would rather go riding any time". But this time we have to clean the spilled coolant anyway so it is nice to see the bike is all clean and shiny.


My squeaky little mouse

Vivian has an imaginary friend that is a little mouse who lives in her tummy. This little mouse is very useful for our communication because Vivian can tell us what she thinks about things that she didn't want to talk about directly (the little mouse thinks...). So Ann and I are all good friends to this little mouse and sometimes we'd call her a little mouse too.

This afternoon when we were driving back from Atlanta we were hoping that David can take a nap on the way home. However, Vivian was too excited about all the things we get for them from the supermarket she just couldn't calm down and that makes it difficult for David to fall asleep. When Ann and I finally got her to calm down and stop talking, an amazing thing just happened: she starts to have hiccups!

We really don't know what to say to her (how can you blame a kid for hiccup and ask her to stop?), fortunately David had no problem with that and just fell asleep.

Although she is already 3 and 1/2 years old, Vivian never cease to amaze me. She just has gazillions of ways to be cute that I can't even imagine what'd be the next.

What's for lunch today

This happened on our way to the China Town in Atlanta to have lunch.


Musical highchairs

After David showed first sign of interest in his sisters' highchairs, his urge to get on them becomes stronger and stronger over time as his mobility improves. Now whenever we sit down for a meal, David would get down of his own chair, climb up from behind Alyssa or Vivian, and try to squeeze himself in.

Since it will take quite some time to make one highchair for him, I came up with the idea of promoting all kids one rank higher last week. So now David has Vivian's chair, Vivian has Alyssa's chair, and Alyssa get to have a "grown-up" dining chair. Everyone is pretty happy with this arrangement.

David is getting so good at climbing up and down the highchair I made that at mealtime he'd go to the dishwasher, pick out a plate for himself, and climb up the highchair while holding on the plate.


Where are my high school friends?

Ann's friends from high school are organizing a reunion, which reminds me that I was out of contact with my high school friends for a very long time now. With the help of Google, I managed to track down one email (OMG! He's a real doctor now!). Will see if I can find more.

Also discovered that Wikipedia has an entry about Tainan Second Senior High School BUT NOT Tainan First Senior High School!! This is almost criminal, will need to get it right ASAP.



Today I signed up an account on Rapleaf. Their idea about people should take care of their online reputation sounds interesting, although I am not sure if it will turn out to be useful.

Anyway, this should be a fun experiment.

Alyssa "21-teeth" Kuo

Alyssa has her first molar came out at the bottom of her left side today. She was very excited and declared that she is now Alyssa "21-teeth" Kuo.


Talking about good memories

Alyssa was being silly before going to bed today. She made up a long story about how mommy's tummy has all kinds of places to go and how she took Vivian and David everywhere back when they still lived inside (including a McDonald's!).

After Alyssa's done, I asked Vivian what did she do after Alyssa was born. She quickly replied that she was playing tag games with David all the time. Because she is the winner, she get to be born first and become the "big sister".

Disposable phone

David is very into talking on the phone and throwing things away lately. Today he made the connection between his two favorite activities. After talking with his grandma on the phone, he just hang up the phone and throw it into the trash can.

My reaction was like: "hey little dude, I know phones are cheap these days, but they are not THAT CHEAP yet!" :)


The not-so-big chicken in Gainesville, GA

After seeing my ride to the Big Chicken in Atlanta, Hugh suggested that we do a Chicken themed ride around Georgia to find some more chicken related landmarks. So this afternoon we meet up in Gainesville, the Chicken Capital of the World, to have our picture taken with the chicken statue there. Hugh managed to get his Bandit up to the side of the statue for our photo op.

After that we made a quick stop at a 20' tall Giant Rabbit in the Rabbittown before heading home.

On the way back I spotted this eagle statue near the intersection of US-129 and I-85.

The weather is very nice and cool this afternoon. I rode a total of 106 miles today and had a really great time. After I got home Ann suggested that maybe I can try to visit all the Bull Dawgs in Athens for my next quest. That sounds like a great idea and should be a great memory after we move to other place.

I think this whole quest thing is a great idea. It gave me a better excuse and motivation to ride and I also started to see things differently. For example, I've been to Gainesville a couple times before but never make the mental link between it and the local poultry industry. On this trip I paid more attention to the business along US129 and really start to appreciate the scale of the local poultry industry. Last night I read a little bit about the local history and found it very interesting. Who would have thought that a city can make it illegal to eat chicken with forks?

Bicycle ride today

After taking a long break from our regular bicycle ride, we went out to the Sandy Creek Nature Center for a family ride this morning. Alyssa is practicing her balancing all th way so I guess she'll be ready to take off the training wheels soon. It is amazing that Vivian can have the strength to ride with us all the way without stopping.

I have David riding on my back this time and he fell asleep once again, just like he did every time we took him out for a ride there. We had a very happy Sunday morning.


Someone call the police

This happened over the breakfast this morning.

Alyssa: Dad, you are invited to my wedding.
Me: Really? Do I need to bring any gift for you?
Alyssa: Yeah, it's up to you.
Me: How about I bring you a pacifier and you can suck on it while walking down the aisle?
Alyssa: NOOOOO DADDY! I'm going to call the police.

We were cleaning out David's baby stuff last month. When Alyssa and Vivian saw the pacifiers they each asked to get one. Ann and I found this really amusing. None of our kids would take pacifier when they were babies but now the two girls are 3 and 5 years old and they started to take pacifier to pretend that they are babies.

Who? Me? Sarcastic?

Ann told me that my sense of humor is becoming more more sarcastic. I guess it doesn't help that I enjoyed Bill Bryson, the Daily Show, and the Onion.

Running for my life

We went out for a walk today after dinner and Alyssa suggested we play tag game together. To my surprise, it is almost impossible for me to out run the both of them now. It is really amazing how fast they grow, particularly Alyssa. Not only she was fast, she knows how to command the slower Vivian to corner me. I can still escape from Vivian's side now but I doubt how long that will last. Running speed aside they both can maintain a high heart rate for a very long time. Every 10 minutes or so I've to slow down and let them catch me, but they showed no sign of slowing down after more than 30 minutes of intense running.


A very dark week

My mood over the past few days was very dark. In the beginning of the week I got the news that my dad's health is deteriorating fast due to his liver cancer. Although I've seen this coming for quite some time now, it is still a huge shock when I actually hear it.

So the whole week I've this strange feeling of sadness that I've never experienced before. Sometimes I'm just like usual but in a minute I'll have some very dark thoughts. It is also very difficult to concentrate on things. I feel dizzy most of the time. It took a couple days for the shock to wear off and I am starting to feel better now, mostly because my rational part is come back to control.

On a brighter note, I did finish another round of revision for my third chapter. The manuscript is one step closer to submission.


Mini-Monimo or Mini-Momomo?

Vivian is taking a music class at UGA's Community Music School. She really enjoys this chance to sing and dance. Today I asked if she remembers the name of her music class and she just couldn't remember what it is. So I teased her if she's taking Mini-Monimo or Mini-Momomo and she suddenly remembered what it was. She got very serious and shouted "IT IS MINI-MOZART! You silly daddy!"


Extreme open science

Michael Barton, a fellow bioinformatics grad student, is taking the open science movement to a surprising level that puts ongoing work on the web. I think this is bold and interesting and would like to see how it will go.

Pinata is a big hit

After seeing the big kids at school cracked one open, Alyssa has been asking to get a pinata so that she can try too. I found this instruction on the web and was kind of surprised that it is very easy to make one at home (I hate those Styrofoam ones they are selling in supermarkets). So I told the girls that I can teach them to make their own pinata and they totally gone nuts.

It took a total of three days for us to finish. We made the shell on the first day and then waited overnight for it to dry. They had too much fun with that and just couldn't stop. So when I told them the shell is thick enough they started to put the newspaper on their legs.

The second day we put the decorative paper on the outside with glue and have to wait again. The third day we took the balloon out and the girls stuffed the pinata with some goodies from Japan.

Today is the fourth day and they couldn't wait to crack it open (they originally said they will wait until the weekend so they have a couple days to hang the pinata in their room).

We took the pinata out in the back yard and hang it on the tree.

Alyssa tried first but she still don't know how to control the bat, so I crack it for her. The view is quite spectacular when the pinata exploded, it was colored paper and chocolates everywhere. When I hanged Vivian's up David also wants to have a turn and I've to hold him up to try.

They all had a great time today after dinner and certainly enjoyed all the chocolates.


The Big Chicken and the really big rock in Atlanta

The Ninja 250 Club is starting the Ninja 250 Quest to encourage the members to ride to somewhere that is "special, unique, wacky, or otherwise out of the ordinary" in September. I thought that sounds like fun and decided to do just that this weekend. I did a little bit of search to find out about the remarkable/quirky landmark in the area and decided to include two destinations for my Sunday afternoon ride, the Big Chicken and the Stone Mountain.

I made a ride announcement in the forum and got response from several other members to join me for the ride. Don't know what happened but none of the people showed up, so the planned group ride became a solo ride. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the ride a lot.

The Big Chicken is an interesting structure, although it doesn't look like that it is actually 56-foot high.

It was more tricky to find a spot to take a good picture of Stone Mountain. The only good spot I found was at the roadside of US78, but I feel it was too dangerous to stop there. Atlanta drivers are really crazy, most of the people are doing 25mph+ over the speed limit on the highways. I didn't want to be late for dinner at home so I gave up on finding a suitable spot for a picture, so I guess that has to wait for the next ride.

Overall I had a fun ride today to visit these two landmarks in Atlanta. This is the longest ride I took (about 161 miles round trip) since I rode to Toccoa to meet with Hugh (LDBandit) back in June for the KawiDavis Memorial Ride. At the end of the ride, I am pleasantly surprised to find my Ninja250 averaged a record high of 76.9 MPG for the trip.


Monster brooms

We took the kids to the local Barnes and Nobles almost every Saturday for their story time. They always have a craft session and some yummy milk shakes (from the Starbucks in the store) after the story session. Sometimes they even have one of the staff in costume of the characters from the story, so the kids really enjoy this weekly event.

This week's story is about a boy who uses a broom to fight off a monster in his house, and the story teller leads the kids to make a broom out of cardboard papers and straws. All three kids love this new craft (I made one for David too). After we get home Alyssa and Vivian used their "monster broom" to scare off the squirrels in our yard whenever they come down to steal from the bird feeder. They even took the brooms on our evening walk in our community and keeps beating up some imaginary monsters all along the way.

Twins two years apart

I took Alyssa and Vivian out for shopping today. At one of our stops the cashier asked if the two girls are twins. When I told her that their birthdays are two years apart, her reaction was "Really? They looked identical other than one is a little bit shorter than the other." She said some very nice things about how cute they are and gave each of them a small bag of cookies. The girls were thrilled.


Scientists as humans

Edward Larson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science historian, gave an excellent talk at the Genetics seminar today about Haldane, Fisher, Wright, and the emergence of population genetics.

I found that the stories about outstanding scientists are always fascinating, maybe simply because they are extraordinary people. But because they are such legendary figures in science, it is easy for people (even we as scientists ourselves) to forget that they didn't start out as such giants, science wasn't everything of their life, and they may have quirky personalities.


Manipuri Dances of India

The Department of Dance at UGA had a Manipuri Dance performance by Jhaveri Sisters' group this evening and we took all three kids there. The performance is very good and we really enjoyed it. The costumes are really amazing and the style is like nothing that I've seen before.

One interesting thing that I noticed was that Alyssa was imitating the hand gestures of the dancers while she watches. I am not sure if she was doing this consciously or not, but she looked like she was really concentrated in watching the performance. No wonder kids are great learners.

And it's not just Alyssa. In one of the dances the dancer was doing some hand gestures to express that she is picking flowers, and David also picked that up and started to practice grabbing things in the air. So dance really is a powerful and universal language that everyone understands.


Callaway Gardens

We went to the Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia for a short trip today. The main event that inspired us to go is their annual Hot Air Balloon Festival. We took Alyssa to a hot air balloon festival back in Iowa once and she often talks about that. Naturally this makes Vivian really curious about the hot air balloons so we decided to give her a chance too.

When we arrived in the afternoon just in time for the birds of prey show. We saw a Red Shouldered Hawk and a Great Horned Owl. The show was very interesting and we enjoyed it a lot.

We found this interesting wingspan chart next to their amphitheater. I'm about as big as a bald eagle and the girls are about as big as a falcon.

After the show Ann took the kids to their butterfly exhibition. I was too tired from the long drive so I took a nap in the car. The girls are very excited to see a butterfly came out of its pupa.

Unfortunately, the main event of the day and the reason why we went there, the hot air balloon launch, was canceled due to the weather. The kids were kind of disappointed but we cheered them up by taking them to the beach next to the launch site. All three of them had a ton of fun with water and sand there. David was so eager to jump into the water after his sisters that I had a very difficult time holding him back.


Finishing day

Today I got a chance to put on the finish for David's arm chair and the shelves that I made for Ann. It feels so great to finish something.

Alyssa and Vivian helped a little bit with sanding before I put on the finish. They are so eager to help that I've to send them to sand the garden tool rack before they over-sand the shelves.

The shelves and arm chair all looked great after this final step. However, David and Vivian already doodled on the arm chair so those "arts" are sealed under the finish now.