Saturday, December 15, 2012

Question the Metro Expresslane Program in LA County

Los Angeles County’s first toll lane has been open on the 110 Freeway since November 8th, allowing drivers with FasTrak accounts to cruise past traffic in the express lane (  After several friends of mine got fined without proper use of Metro Expresslane, I began to examine the design of the program in more details. My conclusion: Metro Expresslane is ridiculous. It just squeezes extra money from taxpayers with public road.

First, it pushes occasional carpoolers away from using carpool lane and makes 110 more jammed in general. In order to get the transponder, you will pay an initial fee of $40.00 and pay $3.00 "maintenance fee" each month thereafter no matter you use it or not. Occasional  carpoolers cannot bother to  buy the transponder, and will use other lanes. This simply worsens 110 traffic jam.

Second, there is no justification for the the $40.00 unfront fee apart from the cost to make the card. If I am frequent carpooler and theoretically pay no toll fee, I don't understand why should I deposit such large amount with CalTrans. There is no clear information whether you can get any money back if you cancel your transponder. Since you are actually depositing money with CalTrans, they should theoretically pay you interest if you use the Metro Expresslane for carpooling only. 

Third, it really hurts travelers to Los Angeles from other states. Los Angeles Airport, as the largest airport in west coast, attracts tens of thousands of travelers and visitors on business purpose everyday. 110 is the only highway connecting LAX and downtown. As a result a lot of travelers and visitors from other cities and states cannot use carpool lanes. Even worse, since Metro Expresslanes is not known to those travelers and visitors, we should expect many travelers and visitors will get fines and penalties. If I were one of them, I must consider LA as the most unfriendly city if I got tickets just off the plane at LAX.

Fourth, the cost to maintain such a system is unclear.  Ther is the initial investment to implement those equipments and hire people to sell transponders. To use the transponder, you need to manually switch to one, two or three person mode. If you forget to do that, sorry, fines. It is also not unclear how to enforece the policy, say if I set the transponder to 2 even if I am driving solo. If they have camera that can tell how many person in each car, why bother to use the tranponder in the first place?

I am strongly suspicious whether the Metro Expresslane in its current state will improve 110 traffic and benefit LA drivers. A more reasonable change to current program will be: only sole drivers who want to use the express lanes need to buy  and display a transponder. All other carpoolers, frequent or occansional do not need to have transponder to use carpool lane just as before. If this change implemented, my first three concerns will be resolved. Otherwise I strongly urge to terminate the Metro Expresslane program in its current state as soon as possible.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Yellowstone Trip Travel Log

Finally, I made the trip to Yellowstone. Hurray!!! 

June 1: Salt Lake City

Bingham Canyon Copper Mine

12800 South State Route 111 Bingham Canyon, UT

Great Salt Lake State Park

Located about 16 miles west of Salt Lake City.
From I-80, take Exit 104 to the marina.

LDS Temple Square
50 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-0001

The Mormon missionaries there are very friendly and eager to tell you about their church and the architectures. There are only four or five buildings in the Temple Square, but we spent almost the whole afternoon there.

Utah State Capitol Building
120 State Capitol, 350 N. State Street, SLC, UT 84114

This building looks like the United States Capitol. Not only Chinese local officals are copycats :-). 

June 2: SLC to Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Salt Lake City to Grand Teton 
I-15N --> McCammon --> US-30N --> Soda Spring --> Idaho SH-34N --> US-89N

We have planned to go through I-15N and US-89N to Grand Teton National Park, but missed the entrance to US-89N. Therefore we took an unconventional route via US-30N and Idaho State Highway 34N. This proved an happy accident. The scenery along these two state highways are spectacular, including vast wheat field, forests, ranches, bushes, scattered lakes and creeks. It is so beautiful that we are not quite surprised when we actually entered Grant Teton. There is no gas station for about one hundred miles along Idaho Highway 34. So fill your tank if you decide to follow this way.  

Grand Teton National Park 
Jackson Hole --> Moose Junction --> Teton Park Road  --> Jenny Lake +Inspiration Point Trail --> Teton Park Road --> Teton Park Road --> John D. Rockefeller Hwy --> Yellowstone South Entrance

Jenny Lake is small but lovely lake. We hiked around the south rim of the lake but did not made it to Inspiration Point due to heavy snow. But we saw two moose on the trail and we were just two meters away from those moose. Mooses have a long face. I nicknamed them "donkey deer".
In Grand Teton, there are two roads from south to north. The above line is West Line, which is the canonical route to visit Grand Teton. Someone also highly recommends the East Line, which follows US-191 (Wyoming Centenial Seneric Hwy). It starts from Moose Junction, passes Oxbow Bend Turnout, Snake River Overlook, Schwabacher Landing and Mormon Row and finally joins the Teton Park road to JDR  highway. These two routes make a circle inside the Teton Park. If you have enough time or decide to pass Grand Teton twice, you may try both lines.  

Lodging and Dining
Grant Village; Grant Village Dining Room
Grant Village: General Store and Mini Store; Grant Village Restaurant 
(307) 242-3400 ‎

June 3: Old Faithful Area and Norris Area

I will mark those points of interest, which are worth visiting but we have not been able to visit, in italic character.

Lake Area: West Thump Geyser Basin

The West Thump Geyser Basin is close to our lodge at Grant Village and makes our first stop at Yellowstone National Park. There are some small hot springs in this area and some of them are even located in the Lake. They are cute, but do not spend too much time, you will have plenty of time to enjoy hot springs, geysers and the sulphur "boiled-egg" smell in other area of the park.
From West Thump to Old Faithful
Isa Lake, Craig Pass, Kepler Cascades, Lone Star Geyser 
Old Faithful Area: Upper Geyser Basin
It is helpful to get park news from the visitor center and the eruption time of the Old Faithful Geyser. There are two trails here, the 1 mile Geyser Hill Loop Trail and Observation Point Loop Trail. Along the Geyser Hill Loop trail, you are able to observe   many geysers in close distance, such Beehive geyser and lion geyser. There is even a Chinese geyser but it is very small. We joked it looks like Chinese hot pot. The Observation Point Loop Trail gains about 200 ft. in elevation to a prominent overlook providing a great view of the Upper Geyser Basin. It starts Firehole River footbridge behind Old Faithful Geyser.

Old Faithful Area: Midway Geyser Basin
The name of Midway Geyser Basin sounds ordinary but this place is undoubted the best because the Grand Prismatic Spring is located in this area. It is the largest and most beautiful hot spring. This is the last place you want to miss in Yellowstone National Park. First take the broadwalk to observe the spring in a near distance. Next we hiked to the hill behind the spring. The trailhead is easy to miss. Leave the designated parking area at Midway Geyser Basin and drive towards Old Faithful direction for two or three miles where you will see an informal parking area near the Firehole river. From there, cross a steel bridge and hike towards Grand Prismatic for 1 mile. You will notice informal trails up to the top of those hills. On top of the hill, you will see the grand view of the Grand Prismatic. It is amazing.   
Old Faithful Area: Lower Geyser Basin
3 Mile Firehole Lake Drive: Great Fountain geyser, White Dome geyser. In the end of the drive, there is Fountain Paint Pots. You may walk the short Fountain Paint Pot Trail.

From Lower Geyser Basin to Norris District
First you will pass Madison river, the best place to see bisons. There are lots of them grazing on the grassland along Madison River. Sometimes there is heavy traffic because of bisons crossing the roads. After we saw so many bison here, we were no longer excited about the appearance of any other bison thereafter.

Next, you will pass Artist Paint Pots Trail. The Yellowstone park official website says it is  "overlooked yet wonderful short hikes".  However it is not that good in my opinion. Maybe we just saw too much hot springs and mud pots.  

Norris Geyser Basin
Back Basin Trail: Steamboat Geyser is the most powerful geyser in Yellowstone and able to throw hot spring up about 100 meters. But it erupts irregularly. The last time it erupted is in 2005.
Porcelain Basin Trail: we did not walk this one because it looks similar to the above Back Basin Trail.

From Norris Geyser Basin to Canyon Area
Ice Lake Trail is 3.5 miles east of Norris on the Norris-Canyon road. But it was closed when we were there.

Old Faithful Inn

We stayed at the Old Faithful Inn in the night. The building, completed in the year of 1904, is a masterpiece of wood. The three-floor house is constructed out of wood shingles and keeps the colour and texture of the original material. It has a huge lobby and a big stone fireplace. In the night, with the lights on and guests sitting leisurely  around the fireplace, I felt the most unique atmosphere in whatever place I have stayed. Even if you cannot reserve a room in this place, it is still worth walking, just to feel the feel. 

June 4: Yellowstone Canyon

From Lake Area to Yellowstone Canyon:
Natural Bridge Trail: We could not make the trail due to heavy snow. 

Fishing Bridge: There you will see picturesque view of the Yellowstone river and the Yellowstone Lake. Especially, in the early June when there is still snow near and far, it is quite pretty and reminds me the scenery of Mirror Lake at Yosemite National Park.
Pelican Creek Trail: it is said it is a good place to see bears because bears hunt trout in the creek but we could not go there.
Mud Volcano: There is broad walk trail along which you will see some mud pots.

Heyden Valley: That's the place to see wild animals, such as elks, bisons and bears in the morning or during twilight. If you are serious about observing wild animals, you should definitely bring telescopes because they are often far away. With help of other people's telescope, we saw a bald eagle feeding a calf, two black bears and some elks.

Yellowstone Canyon

This was the highlight of out second day at the Yellowstone. Along there are extensive trails and observation points along both rims of the Canyon. We first explored the South Rim. We hiked arduously in the snow along the trail from Upper Falls to Uncle Tom's Trail  to Artist Point. I were amazed by the grand view of the canyon even in the middle of the trail. The north cliff shows the distinct colour of yellow (possibly due to the sulphur minerals) and red. I guess that's why Yellowstone National Park got its name. Finally when we got the Artist point where you have the best view of the Canyon and the Low Fall. It is just beyond speech.

Next we drove along the North Rim and stopped at each observation point. Inspiration Point is worth pointing out. We saw the nest of a bald eagle in a stone column in the Canyon. Again there were some seats facing the Canyon. Let me quote my friend's comments: it is like watching a 3D movie sitting there. 

In the night, we stayed at Canyon Lodge: N 44 44.063 W 110 29.385
June 5: Mammoth Area and Tower Area

From Norris Area to Mammoth Area
Along the river from Norris to Mammoth Area, it is also good place to see wild animals, for example bisons and bears. In the morning of June 6, we saw grizzly bears feeding on a calf. A little earlier, some visitors actually saw the bears hunting on their truck.    
Sheepeater Cliff: This cliff is very special. It is made of columnar stones. The stones are so neatly stacked that it looks almost man-made. 

Mammoth Area
The colourful terraces here are landmarks of Yellowstone National Park. Frankly speaking the terraces are not as amazing as you see in photos, however it is still beautiful enough. I really appreciated the joint work of hot springs and sulphur-phile bacteria. Along the Lower Terraces Trail, you are able to appreciate those landscapes and bacterial colonies closely. 
Originally, visitors are able to explore the Upper Terraces through the Upper Terrace Drive, but it is recently closed due to earth activity. It is however accessible by walk. We hiked the Drive. Luckily there were few people and we were able to enjoy the beauty, the serenity, a bunny and a blue bird there.  

If time permits, you may also would like to hike three hours to the Bunsen Peak, where you can overlook the Mammoth Terraces. Also Beaver Ponds Loop Trail is recommended.
From  Mammoth Area to Tower Area
The road between Mammoth Area and The Tower Area is the least-mentioned in Yellowstone and it is even not in our original plan. But We got some unexpected bonus when we decided to try it. We saw an elk and two black bears in close distance in the afternoon. If you are going to see wild animals, besides Hayden Valley and Mammoth Area, this road is also worth a try.
Petrified Tree and Specimen Ridge: Close to Tower Fall, we turned into a valley, which a tomb of dead trees due to earth heat. Of particular interest, the million-years old Petrified tree still stands because its organic material are replaced by minerals.

The Road to Tower Fall is craved out of a cliff. It feels formidable driving there.

Tower Area
The main attraction at Tower Area is the Tower Fall. There is short bur quite steep trail down to the bottom of valley. It is a lovely place there. A river flows smoothly, washing colourful pebbles in the river bed. Above, the cliff shows distinct layers of light yellow soil and dark brown rocks. 
Beartooth Highway 212

Out of Northest  Gate, it leads to the "most beautiful" Beartooth Highway 212. But unfortunately, it was due to adverse weather. Why do we have so much snow this year :-( ??
Boiling River

Want a hot tub in Yellowstone?  Boiling River is about 2-3 miles north of Mammoth Terraces and in the midway to North Entrance. It is permitted to enjoy a free and natural hot tub here. However it is closed due to rapid waterflow when we got there.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel

We stayed at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel this night. This is a interesting small village.  Mule deers, with their distinct white buttocks, leisurely walks or stays in the lawns and streets. We could see them even through our hotel window.

June 6: Home! Sweet Home!

Mammoth Area --> Madison Junction --> West Yellowstone --> I-20 W --> I-15S --> Salt Lake City

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Open Letter on Recent Racial Discrimination Incident at UCSD

Dr. K---- posted his personal apology on the inappropriate comments in his lab website (
Please accept my personal and sincere apologies for the insensitive language recently found on my laboratory's website. I find the language offensive and I am embarrassed by the poor judgment exhibited in posting the offending language. Although I was unaware of the existence of this page until it was brought to my attention, I accept full responsibility. I have taken steps to remove the offending language and will arrange for appropriate training for my research group and me relative to the UCSD Principles of Community.

----. K---.
Professor,Chemistry & Biochemistry
A snapshot of Dr. K---'s apology letter is available at
Updated May 23, 2011

It is not my intent to criticize anyone particularly but to promote the public awareness of racial issues on campus when I wrote this open letter.

For my Chinese friends, I am proud of those who stood out during this incident, especially RoamingGhost, who wrote the first version of this letter and contacted the President of UC and the Chancellor of UCSD. For any friends from other ethic groups, I would like to emphasize that the C word is as offensive to Chinese as the N word to African-Americans and the K word to Jews. Do not use it.  Additionally, any racial discrimination issues are  serious. You must be responsible for what you say. Try to communicate before you complain.  Try to be considerate with other ethnic groups. 

I will keep my promise and am willing to bring this letter down or at least remove Dr. K---'s name when I see the formal apology of Dr. K----.

Here is an apology from UC San Diego:

An apology for insensitive comments on Professor K----'s research lab website

On behalf of President Mark Yudof, Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, and the UC San Diego community we are truly disappointed by the insensitive and offensive language that appeared on the website of Professor ------ K-----.

This language does not conform to our commitment to the UCSD Principles of Community. We have communicated today with Professor K----- who has ensured that the offending language has been removed and he will provide a formal, written apology. This apology will be posted on Professor K-----’s website. Further, we have asked the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) to review the matter. Please accept our sincere apologies on behalf of the University.

Suresh Subramani
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Mark Thiemens
Dean, Division of Physical Sciences
Updated May 23, 2011

I would like to highlight the comment of an anonymous reader who is familiar with Dr. K----. I am willing to believe this reader: this incident is due to misunderstanding instead of Dr. K----'s true intention.

It is not my intention to critic anyone particularly but to promote the public awareness of racial issues on campus. If I receive any formal explanation of Dr. K---- or representatives of Dr. K----- or UCSD, I am willing to bring this letter down and looking forward to a smooth resolution.

I see what you've written and I'm sure it will be removed once brought to their attention.

Professor K----- is one of the biggest proponents of acceptance of all races and diversity on campus. I had him in CHEM 6C and I can attest that he never made any sort of inappropriate comments in class and he was always very respectful and supportive of all students in class and outside of class in his office hours in addition to being a brilliant man and excellent teacher.

Also, I think anyone who's ever worked in a lab (I did this past summer) knows professors don't have time to make, edit, and monitor frivolous details like their own site. I think from the context of the snapshot you have, it's obvious the lab rules there are satirical. I think that term shouldn't be used but I, as an Asian-American, do not find it offensive, especially since it's an old general term and not equivalent to the N word. Instead of writing an open letter and creating controversy, why didn't you just e-mail him personally?

He is a very responsive person and I'm sure he would have removed it immediately once it was brought to his attention, just like any other professor at school.

Also, to bring more attention to his true character, I know he and his wife donated millions to support students' educations at UCSD from an article I found googling him. Don't throw out accusations and make assumptions without knowing someone.

This open letter is adapted from a letter by RoamingGhost at

I am writing to bring to the public attention a racial discrimination incident at the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. ----- -. K-----, a faculty member in the Dept. of -----, openly states that  "3.Don't believe anything the Chinaman says." in his lab's website ( As any well-educated people should have known,  the C word is as offensive to Chinese as the N word to African Americans and the K word to Jews. It is really shocking that Dr. K----- uses the C word and attacks the integrity of Chinese people,  openly and officially in the university-hosted website.  As a Chinese,  I am deeply uncomfortable with Dr. K-----'s statements and feel disappointed that UCSD even allows such incident from happening.

The fact that this incident happens in a publicly funded lab at a prestigious university is shameful. What concerns me even more,  racial discrimination seems a widely spread issue on the UC campuses. For example, Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, posted racially discriminatory video clip to Youtube not long ago. The UC system obviously fails to fulfill its responsibility to educate its faculty members and students on  racial issues.

I hope that UCSD takes immediate action to deal with Dr. K----- inappropriate and seemly racial discriminatory statements and demand Dr. K-----'s apology to the Chinese students community. I believe the UC system will learn from this unfortunate incident and take the education of racial issue more seriously. I would also like to see more friendly communications between different ethnic groups on campuses so that we together make the UC campus a better place.

The webpage mentioned in this letter is archived in Google Cache at

The webpage is also archived by Internet Archives:

A snapshot of the webpage on May 21, 2011 is shown below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why the New Gmail Interface Is Wrong?

The new gmail interface is imposed on all gmail users today. Personally I really hate this new design. The engineers try to FIX SOMETHING THAT IS NOT BROKEN and they make it  worse.Here is why I think the new gmail interface redesign is wrong this time.

1. The release of a new design should be based on users' feedback 
In the traditional google culture, any design decision should be based on statistics from users' feedback. When they want to test a new feature, they first make it available to a small group of users. In the test phase, there is usually an option that enables you to SWITCH BACK easily. Therefore if most users keeps the new feature, it suggests users like the new feature, and then the engineers make it accessible to a more general group of users. It is like mutation and selection in biology as described by Darwin. If you remember the history that gmail kept the Beta label for five years: this is the right altitude.

But this time the gmail team IMPOSE the new interface to users. Even worse, if you do not like it, you can not switch back. My personal observation is that there is something wrong with the Google's culture and they become very arrogrant. Maybe you still remember the initial release of Buzz.

2. The Big Ugly Useless "Compose mail" Button 
One of the revolutionary feature of gmail is the use of keyboard shortcut in a webmail. When you want to create a new mail, you instinctively press c in the keyboard and who bother moving figures away to the mouse?

3. The Contacts Interface that Clutters the Sidebar

I like the search functionality in the old interface so much that I can not like anything in the new design. It feels cool to use it when you see dynamically updated result when you type in your search keywords. But in the new interface, the google team seems forgetting the word "SEARCH", instead they use the old style of ordered list of contacts. When you have hundreds of contacts, you can bear to turn twenty pages of lists of contacts? The old 3 column view makes full use of screen but the new sidebar design simply clutter the sidebar. In my opinion, the sidebar is where most used links that are fixed so that you are able to easily find the right link. When there are tens of entries there, it is disaster. Finally let's come to individual's column, in the new design, the big note box occupies half of the screen. Fairly speaking this is not terribly wrong. But you just want to find a peron's phone or email, why should we leave half of your screen blank. What's more, in the old interface, there is a link to either write a mail to the individual or call him or her. But how could you do that quickly in the new one. If you have not feel what I say, go to Google Voice's contact interface before they ruin it as well. 

4. Pop-up style of Task List

Again this is about the full use of wide screen display.

If this post make sense to you, please go to leave a post at Gmail Help Forum and make the voice of us heard.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Help Wikipedia approach the perfect

Help Wikipedia approach the perfect: every digit counts.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Long Distance Relationships

Today I presented a paper in our weekly journal club. My topic is about the Hi-C technique used to mapping the long-range interactions between genomic loci. I adapted a short love poem to describe the long distance relationships between chromatic elements.

Original Version

Though miles lie between us,
We're never far apart,
For friendship doesn't count the miles,
It's measured by the heart

My version

Though millions of basepairs may lie between us,
We're never far apart,
For chromatic interaction doesn't count the basepairs,
It's measured the 3D structure

It may requires some biological knowledge to tell the meaning, here are the slides of my presentation. [slides]

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I am practising GIMP. Here are some of my work.

Used in an academic presentation about personal genomics and smithlab at USC

(These works are based on material from the internet and for personal use only)