It's riding time

After Alyssa got rid of her training wheels yesterday, David learned to ride his bike this morning.

He did quite well in pedaling and controlling his bike, he even handled some slopes without any problem.

And with that, we finally have everyone on the wheels and are ready to tackle some bike paths together! (sorry Nina, you have to stay at home until you learned to pedal..)


A busy Thanksgiving for Alyssa

Alyssa lost her 4th tooth after breakfast and then learned to ride her bike (without the training wheels) before lunch. A perfect example of one thing has nothing to do with the other. :)


Photo op at the Javalina Rock

In preparation of making the holiday postcards this year, we headed out to the Javalina Rock in Saguaro National Park this morning to take some pics of the kids.

And it's not just the kids, Alyssa also took some pics of Ann and I, which are pretty rare for us since we have the kids.

The kids are very excited about being able to do all the rock climbing. Ann and I are very surprised to find that Alyssa is so good at this, she just kept climbing higher and higher while we are looking after David. Eventually we had to call her down because it was too scary for us (but not for her, or Vivian for that matter).


The harassment food chain

Just ranting here.

When I ride my motorcycle, I was harassed by cars/trucks/SUVs. When I ride my bicycle, I was harassed by cars/trucks/SUVs AND motorcycles. Now what's with that? Do people just do something because they can (and/or stupid)?

Good thing I don't have to walk to work.


My favoriate tree in Tucson

I pass by this Palo Verde tree on Glenn St. everyday on my commute route. The way it waves with winds reminds me of cotton candy.

Seeing a beautiful tree like this always gives me a boost and makes my bike ride much more pleasant.

My new job description

"Mad scientist by day, bike mechanic by night" seems to be pretty accurate.

The mad scientist part hasn't changed for quite some years now, but the bike mechanic part is somewhat much more demanding than I expected. Currently there are more bikes than people in my house: Ann, David, and I each has one (the relatively trouble-free trio), while Alyssa and Vivian share three bikes of different sizes between them (the source of all my trouble).

Every day I get home, I'd be greeted with:

"Daddy, I have a flat tire."
"Daddy, I need to take my training wheels off."
"Daddy, I need to put my training wheels back on."
"Daddy, my saddle is too high."
"Daddy, my saddle is too low."
"Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, AAAAARRRRGGGGGHHHHH".

I am not complaining, I do enjoy riding and working on bikes. It's just that I've never dreamed of running a bike shop when I grow up, let alone managing a team. Now if I can get a dollar for every job, I'll be rich really soon.

Don't mess with my pens

Thanks to a generous donation from my boss, now there is a guardian dragon watching over my pens in the office.


The wonderful morning adrenaline rush

Now that I got a new bike, I am back to the saddle for my commute.

Oh boy was the new bike a sweet ride. Before I was always wondering how those crazy people pass me with such amazing speed, now I know that the bike really makes a huge difference. Even though my muscle is not any stronger compare to a couple weeks ago, I can go much faster with ease. And I have to say, the feeling of racing to work is really fun. Despite going easy on the bike and myself for our first ride, I made a record time on my bike commute.

More importantly, I confirmed my suspicion about what was wrong with me in the last couple weeks. All my drowsiness and headache was gone after a nice adrenaline rush from the ride and I had a wonderful day at work. With that, I guess this is what I have to do:

"Hi, my name is CH and I am an adrenaline junkie."


A brand new start

I finally got a new bike to replace my stolen Trek 7300. The replacement is an aptly named Fuji Newest 1.0.

Originally I was looking at a Newest 3.0 and contemplating about getting a Newest 2.0 (for the better frame). When we got to the shop this evening, I tried to explain to Ann what the differences are and thought I'd know what I want better after discussing with her. Much to my surprise, she said that there's no way I'm getting a 2.0! Instead, she insisted on buying a 1.0 for me.

I am not used to buying something that is the top of the line (I'm more of a getting-the-most-bang-for-the-buck guy). So while I was thrilled about what she said, I was a bit hesitate to accept the generous offer. However, after test riding the bike, I was completely hooked by the better shifters on the 1.0 (2.0 comes with Shimano Sora, which is difficult to use when you are tucked in. 1.0 comes with Shimano Tiagra, which is much easier to use).

So that's the story about getting my first road bike. With a wife like this, I really don't know what to say (secret note to myself: always bring Ann along for toy shopping).

The only person who was more excited than I do is David. Ann prepared some snacks for the kids after we got home from the shop. While Alyssa and Vivian enjoyed the feast, David refused all his favorite foods and just stood beside my new bike and smiled the whole time. It looks like the little guy has some potentials.


Anger and hatred

Several weeks have passed since my bike was stolen and I have finally gave up the hope of ever getting it back. Now I am really mad about the whole situation as the reality is kicking in. The amount of time, effort, and money involved in getting a replacement is way more than what I have expected.

One thing I learned is that the regular inflation index certainly does not apply to bikes. I was so shocked when I see the same model is selling for about 50% more than when I got the bike a few years ago. What's the deal with that? I mean, yes, the spec is somewhat better now, but the huge price spike certainly is in no way justified.

What's even worse is that the shopping process made me realize how much I missed my old bike. I thought shopping for a new bike will make me happy (just like all my previous experiences of getting big new toys). Unfortunately, I can't help but to think about my old bike when I stare at those shiny new bikes in the store. Before losing the bike, I thought I wasn't very attached to it. The way I think about this is to ask myself an hypothetical question: if someone offers me to trade a new one of the same make and model for one of my toys, will I take up the offer?

I thought about this question some time ago and my answers are:
fountain pens? no way!
motorcycle? maybe.
bicycle? sure! why not?

Sadly, I learned it the hard way that I am way more attached to my bike than I thought. And whenever I think about it, I have this outrageous anger and hatred toward the thief who stole my bike. The whole thing is really scary because I'd never have guessed that a quite insignificant event like having a bike stolen can get to me like this.


Go back to sleep Max

For some unknown reasons, one of the car dealers in town put up a giant inflatable gorilla in their lot.

The kids love seeing it and even have a silly song made up for it. Whenever we drive by, they sing something about "Go back to sleep Max or we'll tickle you".

Exponential regression in Excel

As it turned out, Excel calculates the R-squared values of exponential regression based on transformed data. For example, for a exponential curve y=ae^bx, Excel computes R^2 using ln(y) = ln(a) + bx.

I know I shouldn't rely on Excel to do my stats but occasionally I do use it to do some quick analyses before pulling out R. What happened today was I did the regression in Excel first to see the plot and then calculate the P-value in R. Luckily, I caught the discrepancy in the R-squared value and decided to find out what the problem was. It took me quite some time to figure it out, and needless to say, I am not happy about it.

Lack of capability is one thing; Pretending being able to do something and then screw it up is totally another.

[Edit to add on 03/16/2010]
I am a bit surprised to find that this appears to be one of the most read entries of my blog. Lots of people landed here through googling some combination of "excel", "regression", and other words.
Anyway, I have a slightly more detailed explanation of the problem with performing exponential regression in Excel, plus some simple tutorials of doing regression analysis in R on my wiki at:


Feel free to take a look there if you are interested, hope this helps.


Animal control agents

Not sure how they get the idea (maybe from Annie). This afternoon Alyssa and Vivian came up with the game of "Animal Control" and had a lot of fun chasing after Nina in the yard (cowgirl style, complete with the lariat).

Anyway, the girls and the dog are all worn out afterward. For this reason, I think it's a GREAT game.

See the agents in action:

M+O Lab retreat

When you spend lots of time staring at strings of ATCG in the lab, it makes you want to scream AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! (wait, I see a homonucleotide run here)

To prevent us from going mad in the lab, the bosses took us out to the Santa Rita Experimental Range to have a lab retreat over the weekend. I took this opportunity to have my first long ride in AZ.

Getting ready to go:

The ride down on I-19 was uneventful, although seeing all the km signs in the US for the first time got me a bit confused. However, after getting off the main road, I was surprised to find that there are a couple miles of unpaved road ahead:

It was definitely not fun to play motocross on a Ninja. Nonetheless, my bike handled the road okay and I got to the station without any incident.

After having a light lunch, we went out for a hike along the trail up to Mt. Wrightson:

We only spent about 3 hrs on the trail and did not make it all the way up, but we did enjoyed some really nice views along the way:

After the hike, we sat down and chatted about our ongoing and future research projects. I talked about my gene fossil hunt in bacterial genomes and the frustration with some bad gene annotations on some sequences that was done using 454 (homonucleotide runs are indeed a headache).

The dinner was incredible and I can't remember when was the last time I ate so much. Zakee's steaks are the best that I had in recent years and Gaelen's chocolate cake is simply delicious.

I am pleasantly surprised to find that Gaelen and Kevin are fellow boardgames nuts (we are a rare breed). We enjoyed a couple rounds of games (including For Sale and Bohnanza) well late into the night and had a lot of fun.

On Sunday morning, we all put on the lab T-shirt to have a group picture before we go.

Instead of going for another hike, I decided to go home early. On my way back I stopped by the San Xavier Mission:

When I get home the bike was really dirty after all the riding on unpaved road.

I don't mind riding a dirty bike and usually wouldn't spend time on washing my bike. However, the chain and brake looks really bad this time and I decided to give them a good cleaning. Fortunately that didn't take too long.

Vivian's barnyard

Moments before it was destroyed by the Davilla.


Running a desert resort

It looks like our home is becoming a popular resort among our old friends from college; three weeks after Ho-Yi's visit, Yung-Yao came from Cambridge, UK for a short visit.

We are very happy to see another old friend here; there are just so many things we can talk about, from our old days in college to our current life as a postdoc in biology.

The weekend was extremely busy and fun. Together, we went to:

Saguaro National Park

Rillito River Path

Halloween trick-or-trick at Tucson Electric Park

Artist's market at Plaza Palomino

Kartchner Caverns State Park

Sabino Canyon

Biosphere 2

And of course, we ended the wonderful weekend with our long-running tradition since college, a dumpling feast:

Also because YY received the great news that one of his papers got accepted while he was here (you lucky bastard, how come I never had such good luck when I was taking a vacation), we had a good excuse to enjoy a bottle of nice wine.

So that's pretty much what we have done over the weekend. Now, who's the next? :)

Hazardous bridge ahead

Taken at Sabino Canyon (Tucson, AZ).

Hazardous bridge ahead