Target, Ticket, Turkey, Party

We spent Thanksgiving this year relaxing at home with Westley and the in-laws. With the weather getting colder, we opted for hot pot over traditional Thanksgiving fare, followed by adventuring through Hyrule to discover new shrines and hunt more lynels. Holiday shopping continues to begin earlier each year, so I went to Target after dinner to get in on some of the doorbuster deals. The next morning, we took advantage of Westley’s early wake time to partake in Black Friday in Vacaville. The crowds seemed more manageable this year, probably due to many shopping online, but our loot was equally underwhelming. Melody focused on cooking instead, preparing an alternative Thanksgiving meal for a lab party at my house. She spent Saturday preparing a charcuterie and cheese platter with homemade cranberry apple relish, hummus, candied pecans, egg salad, creamed corn with gorgonzola cheese, and roasted carrot white bean dip, along with a wild mushroom bread pudding, kale and turnip gratin, sweet potato tots, and an impressive braised turkey dish. The nerds of the group, including my wife and I, embarked on a Ticket to Ride, while Westley chose to hang out with my lab technician instead of his biological parents. I burned off the calories over the following week running busy clinics, preparing a grant, submitting several ARVO abstracts, and surviving our first round of residency interviews. On Saturday, we danced the night away with my new labmates at our department’s holiday party, which left us with little energy on Sunday to enjoy the weather at Pioneer Park or more holiday shopping in Roseville. With my new foam slippers, a new batch of marzipan, and more hot chocolate, I feel like I’m ready to hibernate for the holiday season.


Our annual AAO meeting returned to New Orleans this year, but the visit was longer than I’d like, having committed myself to three courses, two advisory boards, and a podium talk. So while I was unable to spend time with my family, I was determined to eat to my heart’s content at the very least. After an early morning flight and checking into my hotel, I quickly took a Lyft ride to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for fried chicken. Being solo, I skipped the line outside, but could hardly recognize the inside as the wait staff took my orders on fancy tablets with trendy music blasting in the background. The chicken was not as sublime as I remembered, but still hit the spot. After a Zeiss advisory board meeting, I joined Genentech folks for oysters Rockefeller and gumbo at Antoine’s, then shared sweetbreads and BBQ lobster with Duke co-fellows at Brennan’s. I didn’t recognize anyone at the Cornea Society party, so I called it an early night to make the 6am advisory board with Alimera the next morning. Afterwards, I stayed at the conference to check out portable fundus cameras before lunch at Cochon, where the fried alligator and pork cheek appetizers overshadowed the salty louisiana cochon entree. For dinner, I mooched off cajun-styled receptions with Allergan and MEEI, then socialized at the Beats by the Bayou party at House of Blues. On Sunday, I taught my laser retinopexy course, shared coffee and beignets with my fellow Parisa at Cafe du Monde, then joined my roommate Dan for a “Peacemaker” po-boy at Acme Oyster House, before returning to the conference to teach my OCT course. I filled up on Galatoire’s goute and shrimp etouffee on the way to our department reception, then socialized more at the YO party. With all the talking over loud music, I had to recover my voice on Monday. So after morning meetings with Iridex and Clearside, and lunch with UCD fellows over Mr. B’s BBQ shrimp, I relaxed in my hotel room until the CAOS dinner. Despite the high cost and bad food due to lack of corporate sponsorship, the event was well attended, and I got to sit next to Ralph Eagle and rub elbows with several Chinese-American leaders in our field. I was glad that my voice had recovered by Tuesday for my podium talk, although our inaugural intraoperative OCT course had fewer attendees than instructors. Nevertheless, I was just glad that the long trip was over, as I took my last bite of delicious gumbo and fried chicken from Dooky Chase before my flight home.

Halloween Fever

We took Westley out to the Sacramento Reptile Show and Grandpa’s Barn earlier this month, where he continued to demonstrate his affinity for animals, but only if viewed safely from a distance. My parents also visited us to help with the baby. Fortunately, we got our renovations completed in time for their arrival, and they were able to enjoy the new guest bathroom, as we transitioned Westley to his new bathroom at the same time. Melody was out of town for two conferences, so they got to bond with him – blowing bubbles, exploring nearby parks, teaching him Cantonese, and watching Planet Earth II together. They also helped with pick-up and drop-off at daycare, watched him pick his first pumpkin, and joined his school’s Fall Festival parade. Meanwhile, Melody and I were able to take some breaks over more Zelda and another season of Game of Thrones. We even got to dine out at new restaurants like Sarang Bang and Localis, where we enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and creative cooking from bar seats overlooking the open kitchen. Last week, while wildfires were consuming parts of nearby Napa valley, Westley had a bout of fevers which made him more irritable. Fortunately, his symptoms abated by Halloween, and we were able to send him back to daycare in his monkey costume. With my parents manning candy duty at home, we took him on a tricycle ride around the neighborhood to visit our friends. At this age, Westley is really peaking on the “cuteness”-meter now.

New Discoveries

Our bathroom remodel continued to drag on, as the whole project began to feel as if it were cursed. With our bathtub cracked on delivery, a medicine cabinet that could not be installed, vanity handles with the wrong length, scratches on our marble counter, crooked bathroom mirror, and many, many delays from the contractors, it felt like everything was going wrong. Half of our home remained covered with plastic sheets and we had not had our house cleaned in almost 3 months, which further aggravated the dirt and chaos generated by our 19-month old. Last week, after helping to organize a site visit from the NEI director, my wife and I took a short trip to San Jose to attend my fellow Parisa’s wedding. We would’ve liked to see more of our first Persian wedding, but the sun was shining directly into our eyes. Dinner was an interesting introduction to Persian cuisine and music, but we left early to relieve my in-laws back home. This weekend, we took Westley out to the Farm to Fork Festival, where we checked out the various booths and food trucks, and snacked on grilled oysters, blueberry gelato, and an “OG” burger with pork belly, fried egg, and kale chips. Westley enjoyed all the samples, especially the goat milk, but was more tentative with the goat petting. Back home, we watched the premiere of the new Star Trek Discovery, a prequel to the original series featuring a new cast, new ships, new races, and a whole new look that got us plenty excited.

Labor Days

My university offered me an invitation to submit a foundation grant just days before Labor Day. While it was an honor, it effectively wiped out my 3-day weekend. Combined with my upcoming promotion, Melody applying for another position, and the ongoing heat wave, we decided to spend most of our holiday weekend working indoors. Between power naps and sitting at the computer, we took turns hanging out with Westley, who’s starting to show off a wider vocabulary with words like “car”, “house”, “outside”, “shoes”, “star”, and “fish.” On Saturday, we took him out to watch us eat Ginger Elizabeth’s sundae, but did not make it through brunch at The Porch as we tried to shift him from a two-nap to one-nap schedule. My work load spilled into the following week, with several manuscripts under revision and a textbook to edit, allowing me little time to spend with my new lab post-doc Sook beside a brief lunch in Davis. With us eating mostly at home, we finally finished the Nikita series, and began watching the acclaimed Handmaid’s Tale, which depicts a haunting future reminiscent of changes that are currently happening in our country, especially in light of recent events in Charlottesville. To lighten things up, we also began Parks & Recreation, which hilariously depicts the nuances of working for public office, akin to working at a public institution. Westley can’t seem to get enough of the new season of So You Think You Can Dance. Between hearing news of devastating hurricanes and nuclear threat, I was able to find some reprieve watching him bounce along to the music.

Going Wild

Despite being on retina call for the widely anticipated solar eclipse last week, my pager remained surprisingly quiet. Melody and I had noticed the sky getting darker while working from home, and not having purchased the appropriate eye protection, ended up casting some funky crescent shadows in our yard. I saw no cases of solar retinopathy, which I attributed to the media’s excellent job at raising public awareness. We took advantage of the quiet weekend to bring Westley to the Sacramento Zoo, where he got to practice his animal sounds with actual animals. The zoo was small, but just the right size for him to comfortably explore amidst the sweltering heat. We also cheated on our usual HK spot to try out the Jade Fountain Cafe next door, which did not disappoint. At home, we finally completed our role as Pathfinder in Mass Effect Andromeda, which despite being generally panned by critics, felt overall worth our while. This gave us the chance to focus on Link’s journey in Breath of the Wild. Whether it be collecting korok seeds or killing bokoblins with their own arms, the beautiful open world continues to impress, although the combat seemed more challenging. This weekend, I had to drive down to Berkeley to participate in an advisory board, but gave me a chance to try out a new ramen joint and stock up on Marta tumblers from CB2. With early Labor Day sales, we also got a new set of Dansk flatware from Macy’s to replace our 10-year-old wedding set. We are still left feeling unsettled, however, as our bathroom renovations continue to drag along due to multiple delays. I can hardly wait until the contractors are done so we can enjoy our home again.

ASRS in Boston

It’s been 5 years since I left Boston for fellowship, and I finally got a chance to revisit New England for this year’s ASRS annual meeting. Melody’s parents helped watch Westley on Friday, so we made it a dinner date at Empress Tavern before my red eye flight out. My room was not yet ready when I arrived, so I changed in the hotel bathroom to attend the morning session. For lunch, I met up with my friend Leo and his family for some beef noodle soup at Shangri-La, where customers still lined up before opening as I had remembered. After attending case presentations and checking into my room, I joined my co-fellows for dinner at Fin Point, having begrudgingly abandoned my B&G reservation to accommodate an extra person. Sunday brunch with my med school friends at the Cheesecake Factory brought back memories of old times when the place was still new and hip. I left room in my stomach so that I could head to Haymarket afterwards for clam chowder and lobster roll at Neptune Oyster. The wait was shorter than I expected as a solo diner, and gave me just enough time to pick up some cannolis and eclair from Mike’s Pastry. I returned in time to present my poster, then hung out with my college friend Ben for more chowder at Summer Shack and late night gelato at the new Eataly. I spent my last morning at the exhibitors’ booths, testing the new hypersonic vitrectomy system from B&L before checking out of the hotel and heading to Brookline to inspect my old condo. My old pad had seen better days, and I was glad that we were finally able to find a tenant at the last minute. I met up with some fellows for seafood newburg at the one of the oldest restaurants in America, picked up fish chowder from Legal Sea Foods and soy sauce noodles from Hong Kong Eatery, and made use of another airport lounge on my way home. The whirlwind conference trip did not contribute much scientifically, but gave me a chance to see how the neighborhoods have changed and took me down memory lane with old friends and good food.

Bump & Lump

July marks the beginning of another academic year, and we welcomed our new fellows over a Hawaiian-themed BBQ on Independence Day, followed by catered Italian food for the residents last week. Since I was away for vacation last month, my clinics have been overbooked, which was especially brutal with new trainees and my new scribe out sick. I also had new summer students in lab working on a variety of projects, as well as a couple of grant deadlines to keep me busy. Fortunately, some of my hard work paid off with a new pilot grant from the California National Primate Research Center which also helped us gain some publicity. At home, we’ve finally started the demolition phase of our bathroom renovations, as we made some final purchases like exhaust fans, shower arms, and towel bars. We also took advantage of Prime Day deals for a new Echo Show and a sous vide machine to cook the ribeyes we recently bought. Westley also enjoyed our new toys on the kitchen counter last week when he decided to take a nose dive to the floor. The lump on his forehead wasn’t so bad, but when he started falling asleep during bath time, we decided to revisit the Sutter Davis ER yet again. Fortunately, he quickly perked up by the time I arrived, so we decided after much deliberation to observe closely rather than get a head CT. Westley was back to his normal cheerful self to enjoy dim sum and Zelda with his cousin and auntie yesterday. Although his colorful badges have faded, our anxiety hasn’t yet.

Club Vit in Greece

When I was invited to attend Club Vit’s 20th anniversary meeting in Mykonos this year, we had planned to bring Westley along for his first vacation abroad. But after our exhausting road trip in January, we decided to leave him with my in-laws so that we could enjoy the Greek islands like honeymooners for our own 10th anniversary. We left from San Jose for a cheaper flight, which also gave us a chance to score some Din Tai Fung soup dumplings before taking off. Connecting through Frankfurt and Athens, we made good use of airport lounges before arriving in Santorini. We stayed at the Kapari Natural Resort, named one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, which offered a warm welcome, a luxurious cave suite, and dinner at the excellent hotel restaurant with grilled octopus and superb pappardelle. The next morning, we awoke for a 5-hour kayak tour that included the Red, Black, and White Beaches along the southern coast of the island. Melody did not venture far with her snorkel gear, but the aquatic fauna was quite sparse anyway. Afterwards, we enjoyed homemade sandwiches while petting a sea urchin on the beach before losing the kayak race heading back to shore. Dinner at Ouzeri in Fira included delicious aubergine and lobster linguine for two, and ended with a scenic but long stroll back to our hotel in Imerovigli. On Tuesday, we awoke early for our 3-hour hike to Oia, but it was not early enough. With no shade and the sun beating down our backs, we were drenched in sweat by the time we arrived for breakfast. We shopped framed arts and photographed blue domes in the picturesque town, then tolerated overpriced juice and slow lunch service before hopping on a bus back to the hotel. For dinner, we joined friends at Metaxy Mas for delicious Greek fare amidst a scenic backdrop and stray cats. Having completed both upper and lower body workouts from kayaking and hiking, we relaxed on our ferry ride to Mykonos on Wednesday, only to realize when we arrived that our posh hotel was miles away from the main town. After catching up with folks at the welcome dinner buffet, we spent the next few days mostly confined to the hotel with the same routine – conference in the morning, poolside restaurant for lunch, and back to our air-conditioned room for a nap and gaming in the afternoon. The new Zelda: Breath of the Wild is both beautiful and captivating, although it would’ve been even better to dock our Switch and play on the big screen. After sundown, we headed into town each evening to sample local cuisine from a souvlaki stand, a rooftop garden restaurant, and a seaside diner. Although the hotel shuttle service was inconsistent, we still enjoyed our outings along with a round of drinks with new friends the following night. Our last evening gala led us through Little Venice to the Sea Satin, where we dined on giant grilled fish and puffed pastries a la mode. We watched high-kicking Greek dancers as the sunset cast its colors on the island’s famed windmills, then concluded with children of retina specialists breaking plaster plates on the floor without eye protection. We flew to Athens on Sunday after a brief flight delay that landed us at the sun’s peak. With nearly 110-degree weather and the city sanitation workers on strike, we could hardly enjoy our hot lunch at Psaras. We finally made it to the Parthenon, taking frequent breaks between the reflective white marble walls of the Acropolis, then called it quits and returned to our hotel lobby for some ice-cold juice. We recovered after a nap, shopped along Adrianou Street for souvenirs, then went to Michelin-starred Spondi for a forgettable dinner. We returned to our hotel rooftop for a glimpse of the Acropolis and a final kiss shot before our flight home the next morning. We got pork-cheek ramen and listened to Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me from NPR on the drive back from San Jose. With the unrelenting sun and heat, our vacation was not as relaxing as we hoped, but we were glad to be back with Westley again.

Father’s Day Out

Having slept through most of my flight home from Singapore, I was sure that I had overcome the 18-hour jet lag when I returned to work Tuesday morning. But after a week of imaging monkeys at the Primate Center, complex surgeries in the OR, and overbooked clinics on Wednesday and Friday, I was back in a state of exhaustion. On Saturday, I managed to stay awake through all the resident and fellow research presentations, and enjoyed a funny faculty roast at graduation. But after waking up to disappointing chicken rice for breakfast on Father’s day, I crashed on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. This flipped my schedule back to Singapore time, and made for another discombobulating week, with a healthy dose of tryptophan from more chicken rice that sent me to food coma early each night. I was lucid enough to set up new dual 34″ curved ultra-wide monitors, which now allow me to tile 6 windows across the desktop, but little real estate left on my actual desk. By the end of the week, Melody was already packed for our trip to Greece, while my new spinner was still empty. Fortunately, my in laws are arriving early tomorrow to take care of Westley, so I’ll be able to squeeze in some last minute packing.

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