New toy on the go

I have been toying around the idea of getting a GPS for quite a while now but just couldn't spend the money for a toy like this. With our up-coming 1,800+ miles trip to Arizona I thought I finally can justify the expense and ordered a Garmin Nuvi 350. The package arrived today and we took it out for a little ride. It worked like a charm and we are really impressed. We are really surprised to find that the pre-installed point-of-interest (POI) database is very comprehensive, even Mean Bean (our favorite local burrito place) is included in the list.

Double egg hunts

We had two separate egg hunts today. We first went to the Memorial Park in the morning, I guess the kids had some fun there but I just don't like seeing them fighting all those "vacuum cleaner" parents in the field. It was very interesting to see David trying to figure out what was going on. He insisted to keep only one egg in his hands and refused to pick any more.

After we had lunch at home, we decided to have another egg hunt in the front year. Alyssa and Vivian helped me to stuff the plastic eggs with their stickers and I went out to hide the eggs when they took a nap. David seemed to get the idea this time and got a full basket all by himself.


I am the X-man

I don't know why/how she came up with this idea, but Alyssa decided to bring the X-ray film from my knee injury to school today for show-and-tell. I guess I'll get some more questions from the kids the next time I go to pick Alyssa up.

Every once in a whole this I'd have this same old question that I can't answer: how come I have a wacky daughter like this?


Web 2.0 for science networking

I found a very interesting social networking site, SciLink.com. The idea was simple enough, they mine scientific publications to find links between co-authors. All you have to do is to sign up on their website, claim the papers that you have published, and you can see a collaboration network with you at the center.

They have some nice visualization tools on the site. But with my limited experience I have to say that this is not ready for prime time yet. The publication records in their data base are limited (mostly based on my searches of some big names in my fields). It's hard to imagine that people will go through the trouble of entering all publications by themselves. Also this probably won't work well before there is a critical mass. I will check back on this site sometimes later and hope that they are on their way to a healthy growth.


Interviews from the other end of the table

As we are preparing to move out of Athens, we are hiring an agent to help us to sell our house. Interviewing agents is a new and very interesting process. This is the first time I sit at the other end of the table during an interview. For the most part, I used to be the one who is being interviewed, or at best, I am the one who sit at the side and give the boss my comments afterwards. However, I AM THE ONE WHO IS CALLING THE SHOTS this time. This is really amazing. Not only that, when I think more about it, I probably won't be interviewed for too many times from now on. After I get a "real" job as a PI, I probably will have plenty of opportunities interviewing other people. The thought is kind of scary.

People always say that teenage years can be confusing. From my point of view, 30s are equally (if not more) confusing. At this stage, many people are getting married and having kids at home and possibly are promoted to a higher position at work. All these transitions in the roles one plays can be satisfying and yet terrifying at the same time.


Doomed to be a scientist

I was too naive to think that getting my dissertation out of the door would help with this. Unfortunately thinking about my research projects (either tweaking the old ones or starting new ones) still got me all excited and stay wide awake for a couple hours in the middle of the night. It was fun but I am really tired now.

So I guess there's no escape; I let go of my other dreams when I graduated from the college and chose the path to a research scientist. There were some tough times and I can foresee more challenges are yet to come, but all in all I think I made a good choice. I should be grateful for how well things turned out.

This reminded me of a career development talk I went to awhile ago. The speaker (sorry I forgot his name, maybe I should try to find this in my emails) said that the main point is to have fun and not thinking about scientific achievement, fame, or money. He used the big biochemical pathway diagram as an example; every tiny arrow on the map was the collective work of many scientists' lifetime achievement and still subject to revision. Very few people can make the quantum leaps in our knowledge, the majority of scientists are more like worker ants in the colony. Compared to other professions with similar training requirements, the pay for scientists really isn't that great. So if it's not fun, you would be better off doing something else. I guess he got a good point and I am glad about where I am now.

Faculty chamber concert at UGA

I took Alyssa to attend her violin teacher's concert this evening and it was really enjoyable for the both of us. I am really surprised to find that Alyssa can have such a long attention span to listen to the whole program.

While listening to the beautiful music, a couple of thoughts crossed my mind. When I was growing up, classic music has some kind of "upper class" aura to it and I never thought that I'd learn to enjoy it. Seeing Alyssa doing so well in her Suzuki Violin Class somehow transformed my attitude toward this. Moreover, I started to have the temptation that I want to learn an instrument myself. Going to Short Road Home's concert at library a couple days ago really got my interest in violin peaked. It's funny that this evening's concert features a string quartet and a piano trio, and somehow all I can focus on was the sound from violin.

My temptation of learning violin is so strong that I am surprised by myself. I don't remember ever having such strong desire of learning something that's not "useful". Yet I am also scared of making the commitment to myself and jump right into it. I still worry about this may turn into a huge frustration and disappointment.

The secret key to mastery

Read an interesting article in the Time magazine (Mar 10, 2008 issue) about why experience or raw talent are poor indicators of performance. The article cited the research done by Anders Ericsson at Florida State and suggested that "dedicated, slogging, generally solitary exertion" are the keys to "first-rate performance". One of the most intriguing points is that "it should never get easier; if it does, you are coasting, not improving". That's sounds really comforting isn't it?


Smitefest MMVIII

Our lab went out to bowl this evening to take the challenge from Dave Hall's lab. It was a very fun event and quite unexpectedly we managed to defeat our unbeaten opponents.

I am quite surprised about scoring 96 points myself. Considering that the last time I play bowling was back in high school, that was pretty good.

Defense party and goodies

Jessie and Daniel kindly hosted a party for me after the defense. It was very enjoyable to chat to everyone and hear the "Congratulations!" over and over again.

I also received a bunch of books from Jessie as my graduation gifts, including two Tucson guides (very thoughtful and practical) and a "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward R. Tufte (looks like a really interesting book).


I'm done!

Well, actually not quite but almost.

I had the final defense today and it went really well. There are some more paperwork that need to be taken care of and some corrections that I need to make in my dissertation. Nonetheless, I managed to convince all 6 people on my committee to sign the forms for me. Pretty soon I'll get my degree and I couldn't be happier.

After my defense we went to our local Olive Garden and had a very nice dinner. All three kids ate very well, which made Ann and I very happy.

Looking back, it's kind of amazing that how long it took for me to get here (mom did make the comment that I've been away for so many years when I called her this evening). All these reminded me of a joke from Austin Powers. When a therapist addressed Dr. Evil as "Mr. Evil", he got very mad and screamed "I didn't spend all those frigging years in medical school to be called a Mr.". While I don't want to be addressed as "Dr. Kuo", I can relate to that.


Lens into another world

In preparation of the upcoming Atlanta pen show, I following Richard Binder's suggestion and order a BelOMO 10x triplet loupe. Playing with it reminded me of my first magnifying glass (a very cheap plastic one that I got when I was about 6-years old). It simply opened a window into another world for me and I had been since fascinated by the close-up views of things. When I was really into photography back in college, I spent most of my weekends crawling on the ground with my 100mm micro lens to take pictures of various plant parts and fiddler crabs.

I tried the loupe many things other than fountain pen nibs and couldn't be happier about it. I think this is one of the most worthy toys that I've got. The optical and build quality is unbelievable considering the price.

One thing I tried was taking it out in the backyard and use it to view some tiny flowers. I was REALLY REALLY happy about doing this again; Ann said that I was acting like a kid and I take that as a great compliment. I tried to let the kids use it but I am not sure if they really got it. I also tried to got an ant under the loupe but that proved to be a rather difficult task. Every time we located an ant on the ground Nina just came by and lick it up. I think that our stupid dog is having an identity crisis, maybe she thinks that she is an anteater today.


SRH at library

Short Road Home (Daniel's band) had a show at our local library this afternoon and we took the whole family there to enjoy the nice music.

To me the fiddle really stood out among all the instruments. Not sure if this is because the sound of violin is so familiar to me now (with all of Alyssa's lessons and practice) or it's just because I have been contemplating about learning violin recently. Anyway this experience certainly made a big impact. When I told Ann about my thought of learning violin, Alyssa got really excited and shouted "Yeah I can teach daddy". As I think about this more seriously I am really surprised that my daughter are so good at so many things at such a young age.

Imagine that, I may take violin lessons from a 5-year old.

A very stressful dream

I don't think it's really that bad but it seems that I'm really stressed out about my upcoming defense (at least subconsciously).

The dream I had last night was that only one person from my committee showed up at my defense. We kept waiting and waiting but there's just the two of us sitting in the room. And then suddenly a bunch of Fedex guys came in, each with a package for me to sign. After I got all the packages, I was horrified to find that they are corrections of my dissertation from my other committee members. The worst one had a whopping 478,659 comments (I even remembered this number hours after waking up). My response in the dream was "C'mon, the word count of my dissertation is not even close to that you know".



Organic dog meat

I just realized that our dog is eating better than we do; all her dog foods and treats are USDA-certified organic. Maybe we should get one of those "Organic" label on her dog tag.

Valve party in Athens

Hugh and I met at Rene's house today to help him with valve adjustment. Brad planed to come but unfortunately didn't make it. We are lucky that the weather was pretty nice today and had a very good time. Unfortunately I have to leave half way through because there are tons of other things waiting for my at home (Alyssa's birthday is coming up and we will be providing snacks for her classroom for the whole week) and at work (my defense is on the coming Tuesday). Nonetheless, I got my first two GRR points for this year (hooray!).

Funny ambition

Saw a very funny car on road today. The Hyundai decal on the back was crossed out and there's a handwritten Porsche under that.