Aloha ARVO

This year’s ARVO meeting took place in Honolulu. And while there are worse places to spend 5 nights, it was not the same without my wife and son with me. My brother-in-law dropped me off at SMF at 5am last Saturday to make my early flight to SFO, where I shared breakfast with my colleague Jack before connecting to HNL. An old friend picked me up for ramen with his family, then dropped me off for an Allergan ad board meeting that lasted until dinner time. Exhausted, I opted for ramen again over a networking dinner before settling into my hotel. I kept busy on Sunday attending talks and meeting collaborators, but ducked out for lunch at Marukame Udon, where I enjoyed the cafeteria-style noodle shop experience and brought extras back to the hotel to supplement the offerings from our Chair’s reception and Genentech investigator meeting. I had little time to practice my talk and EyeTube filming on Monday morning, but was well-prepared for afternoon outings. For lunch, I took my med students to Maguro Bros, which served solid, unassuming sashimi donburi and poke bowls from a dingy stand inside a Chinese supermarket. Dinner by contrast was a chic kaiseki feast at Nanzan Giro Giro with my Duke friends that featured flamboyant waitors, designer stoneware, and a creative omakase menu of black cod, foie gras, and lots of dashi. I explored nearby Ala Moana Center on the way back with my friend Paula for souvenirs, including goodies for my kid and labmates. The next day was filled with more poster and paper sessions, training from Heidelberg, surgical instrument shopping, Chinese food with CAOS, chats with Google, and flavorful Manichi ramen. I finally took a breather Wednesday morning with an early snorkel tour at Hanauma Bay, where the rocky corals were replete with tropical fish but left me pretty banged up. I returned to the convention center fo more meetings in the afternoon, and caught up with friends over acai bowls and oxtail pho. On Thursday, I awoke to toasty malasadas from Leonard’s Bakery and boring saimin from Zippy’s, but nabbed a nice Zip Pack to-go for my flight back. After fending off questions from my resident’s presentation, I raced to the airport in time to get another souvenir for Westley before my flight. I ran into my friend Mike during the SFO layover, and discoursed about family and career over airport udon before finally getting home around midnight. I had little chance to recover with an overbooked clinic on Friday and a COEH Symposium talk on Saturday. This gave me barely enough time to prepare for an “infectious night of fun” at my house, where I invited lab folks to a game of Pandemic followed by wings and burgers from Costco. Fortunately, I made sure the meats were cooked thoroughly to avoid an actual infectious outbreak, and everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities. With a new tank of propane and warmer weather approaching, I’ll be firing up the grill again soon.

Promotion, Outlook, and Odyssey

My excitement for being promoted to Associate Professor at UC Davis last week was tempered by my employer’s termination of POP e-mail access, forcing me to reluctantly convert from Gmail to Outlook. Having spent years creating countless time-saving shortcuts, labels, and filters to expedite my workflow, the reversion to Outlook felt like a big step backwards. After migrating my 15GB of email data to the Exchange server last week, I spent Sunday volunteering at Paul Hom, then dined solo at Yang’s followed by an Ikea run for a cabinet and bins to contain Westley’s growing Brio and Duplo collection. Taking a break from his terrible-two tantrums, Melody and I then took Monday off to lunch at Bouchon in Yountville, where we savored escargot, onion soup, foie gras, mussels, and croque madame, followed by treats from their bakery where the usual line was nowhere to be found. Yesterday, while Melody was down in Cupertino judging resident research at Kaiser and gobbling XLB at DTF, I braved Picnic Day traffic to take Westley to his first dance lesson at Dance Daze. Despite his initial apprehension, he joined in the fun when they broke out the parachute and played his jam (“If you’re happy and you know it”). We let him chill out with his auntie Emmeline today, but waited until after his bedtime to crack into our copy of Super Mario Odyssey. Mario’s newest adventure had little new narrative, but included a cephalic accessory called “cappy” that provided some novel gameplay mechanics. Now that we’ve scheduled our solar panel installation next week, we hope to have extra AC available to beat the summer heat.

Ethnic Bites & Mosquito Fights

My second trip to the NIH for grant reviews was a bit more relaxed, as some of the submissions were repeats from last year. After running into my colleague Susanna on arrival, I invited her to dinner at PassionFish where I splurged on lobster tail with shrimp risotto and a crab & corn chowder. Although I was disappointed by the tighter budget and lack of a breakfast voucher, I wittingly brought leftover mac & jack with crab for lunch while others were stuck eating cold sandwiches. The stormy weather left most of the participants tele-conferencing from home and delayed my return flight, leaving me stranded with bad onion soup and escargot in DCA and almost missing my connection home. Fortunately, Melody was soon back from her week-long Harvard-Macy course, so we were able to enjoy our last weekend together with my parents over corn dogs at the Farmers’ Market, discounted tickets to Fairytale Town, and casual Italian fare at Obo. Our hyperactive Westley had several near-falls that made my heart jump more than the next season of the Walking Dead. On Cesar Chavez Day, we took advantage of daycare coverage and drove to SF Chinatown for slightly-overpriced XLB and beef noodle soup at China Live, followed by an hour-long wait for toasty egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery. We brought extras to my post-doc Sook’s house-warming party that afternoon, where Westley was slow to warm to the crowd despite an impressive spread of home-made Korean food. Meanwhile, our front and rear porches had been infested with mosquito swarms, likely due to our new bat-free environment, requiring me to spray down the house exterior with insecticide while dressed in a bunny suit. This week, I flew to the Beckman Center for the Ryan Initiative for Macular Research, where I had the rare opportunity to rub elbows with academic and industry leaders. We had only one free evening away from the catered meals, but the sushi at Buddha’s Favorite was worse than Javi’s enchiladas in SNA. Having missed my niece’s birthday, I made up family time with Westley and the in-laws over leftover cake and colorful play-foam. We ended the week with our first visit to nearby Taqueria Guadalajara, where the lengua tortas, cabeza burrito, tamale, and pozole were fresh and authentic, but did not change our affinity for Mexican cuisine.

Reinforcements Have Arrived

With 2 consecutive weeks of retina call and both my wife and me intermittently out of town this month, my parents’ presence has been a godsend. Despite the late-night surgeries and busy clinics as I transitioned to a new scribe, we still managed a few dinner dates after work, although our regular favorites like Taylor’s Kitchen and Ryujin felt a bit less exciting to me now. Back home, we were also able to get our taxes done, and embark on a new Uncharted game that refreshingly featured female leads. Last weekend, we took Westley to Ginger Elizabeth’s “Chocolate for Breakfast” event that required a 1.5-hour wait before we could enjoy the decadent breakfast affogato, hazelnut waffle, and pan au chocolate. We supplemented with a poke bowl and oily pork belly fries from Make Fish before returning for a delayed nap for Westley, followed by dinner with Melody’s new fellow over more raw fish at Lou’s Sushi. In the meantime, we also tried to keep my folks company by exploring spicy Asian fare in Davis from Uniboil and Chengdu Style. With Melody gone for the Harvard-Macy course this week, I abandoned the baby again and drove down to the SF Lighthouse to give a talk on gene therapy for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. On the way back, I stopped by the Japan Center for hakata tonkotsu ramen at Marufuku Ramen and some Daiso shopping over another 1.5-hour wait. I also stopped by the CB outlet in Berkeley for a geometric camel statue to go with our new macrame wall hanging in the guest room. I tried to make up family time on Sunday morning playing tennis with my dad and hanging out with Westley at the renovated Pioneer Park playground. In the afternoon, we revisited Old Sac and the Railroad Museum, followed by dinner at New HK Wok where the wok hay is still going strong. With NIH grant reviews and another grant application due this week, I’m just glad that we’ve got excellent family support.

La La Land

My folks arrived just days before my trip to Beverly Hills for this year’s Macula Society meeting. After groceries, dim sum, and a quick orientation for our new childcare routine, we celebrated the Year of the Dog with an attempt at a tea ceremony and a hearty “gung hay fat choy” from Westley. I arrived in LAX Wednesday morning and headed directly to Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles. Not knowing the difference with their annex across the street, I did a quick web search and opted for the heartier tsukemen at the annex. But the salty broth was overpowering and I made the mistake (again) of paying an extra buck for the large size that left me uncomfortably stuffed on the way to the hotel. The poolside reception after the first conference session included the usual suspects from the retina world, and I went to bed rehearsing my talk. The next day, I left the meeting early and enjoyed springy noodles and a rich, nutty broth at Tentenyu Ramen. I tried to let it digest during the new member reception before having dinner with my friend Raj at Gwen. The overpriced Blackstone Wagyu flat iron steak at this manly restaurant/butcher shop however left me reminiscing about Matsusaka marbling. On Friday, the meeting ran later than expected, and I once again braved the agonizing LA traffic for french bistro fare at Ludo Lefebvre’s Petit Trois. The soft, cuddly omelette and scrumptious escargot were to die for, although the onion soup felt a bit undersalted and underflavored, but enough to keep me satisfied until our gala banquet. I was coming down with a cough by the last day of the meeting, but managed to get through my talk and met my friend Jeff for lunch over bacon-wrapped dates and a delicious Spanish fried chicken and cornmeal waffle at A.O.C.. I was ecstatic to see Melody bring Westley and my parents to pick me up from the airport, and we indulged in a lavish meal of fresh abalone, peking duck, and conch before returning home. With Melody leaving again soon for her conference, we took advantage of some Mondavi Center tickets from a colleague to enjoy a little alone time without the baby on Sunday.

Another Year Older

Turning 39 wasn’t really something I felt like celebrating, so I took up an offer for an advisory board in Phoenix just 2 days before my birthday. We spent Sunday at the Norcal Home & Landscape Expo to scout landscape designers, then dined on hearty HK cuisine to ease our cold symptoms. My lab made a bigger deal of my birthday when I got back with a beautiful red velvet cake, and my clinic staff extended the celebration further on Wednesday. The following weekend got swept away by a day-long faculty retreat that began with a cult-themed Escape Room experience, followed by grueling but unproductive discussions about education, research, and clinics at a country club. For Westley’s birthday, we delayed the celebration until Sunday for a dim sum party at Yue Huang, followed by unpacking of presents, whacking of balloons, eating of cake, assembly of Duplo pieces, and jumping on an inflatable trampoline that got him bouncing in and out like a ninja warrior. His new-found assertiveness led to some roughhousing at school, leaving him disfigured as he transitioned to the Beginner’s 2 class. For us, his growing energy also meant forgoing any hope for vegging out to watch the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and instead filling our weekends with playground visits and outings to keep the little guy busy. Surprisingly, he handled his first dental cleaning with flying colors last week. And since he still maintains a 7pm bedtime, we were able to finish up Dishonored 2 and prepare for our next guilty gaming pleasure. With impending tariffs on clean energy, we are also beginning to invite solar salesmen to our house to torture us with their infomercial sales pitch. With my parents coming in just one week, we hope to maintain our sanity just a bit longer before reinforcements arrive.

Milling around Mill Valley

After the relative success of our New York trip, we decided to take Westley to North Bay for the long weekend. With a short stop for Westley’s first McDonald’s hashbrown, we settled into our beautiful AirBnB private retreat stocked with Magna-Tiles, toy trains, Lego, and books galore. After sharing some camerones empanizados and pollo al horno at Sol Food, we returned to the house in post-prandial haze for Westley’s nap. We spent the afternoon touring the interactive exhibits at the Bay Area Discovery Museum by the Golden Gate Bridge, ending with an early fireside dinner of chowder, fish and chips, and scrumptious warm buttered crab roll at Fish. We visited Muir Woods the next morning, sticking to the main trail and thankful for the more rugged stroller we borrowed from our hosts as we soaked in the quiet and majesty of the redwoods amidst Westley’s intermittent shouts of “eat,” “no daddy,” and “up-a-now”. He fell asleep on the way to lunch, so we tried to nap in the car with him. Once we carb-loaded at Piazza D’Angelo, we hit up local playgrounds like Boyle Park and Sycamore Park, enjoying sandboxes, intercoms, and catkins. Dinner at Sammy Hagar’s El Paseo consisted of spicy deep fried quail, mushroom risotto, and black cod in coconut milk which were solid across the board. With my persistent back pain and Melody’s sore throat, we took a leisurely stroll around Sausalito Monday morning before capping it with good chickpea soup and poached eggs in mushroom broth at Cibo. A final nap proved fruitless, so we packed up and headed out, stopping for CB2 and CB outlet shopping, and dined on Korean food at Pacific East Mall before returning home. We’ll have to see what other road trips we can do now that Westley’s nearly two.

Parks & Rails

We rang in the new year with lots of family time and a gift membership to the California State Railroad Museum. On Saturday, after visiting the Yolo County Library to get Westley’s first library card, we drove to Old Sac to check out the highly-rated museum. Westley enjoyed wandering between locomotives and exploring the dining and sleeping cars. But he was most excited by the toy train exhibit and play area. After parallel play with Brio, Melissa and Doug, and Thomas the Tank trains amidst other rowdy toddlers, we strolled around Old Sac and snacked on mini donuts before heading home. We spent New Year’s Eve feasting at our favorite local Chinese joint, but Melody fell asleep before the televised ball drop. We spent New Year’s Day exploring the playgrounds of Davis – Rainbow City, Willow Creek Park, and Playfields Park, where Westley climbed, swung, and slid on various play structures. With his new ability to awkwardly smile on command, I was awarded with plenty of photo ops and lots of daddy pride. We also returned to PC gaming with Dishonored 2. Playing this time as the deposed empress Emily Kaldwin, we returned to first-person stealth action through the steampunk sequel, and basked in the warmth generated by my desktop computer.

Big Little Staycation

After our packed NYC trip, we decided to relax at home for the rest of our Christmas break. To prepare, we stocked up on groceries, and brought leftovers home from Asian Pearl, including a variety of new foods for Westley to try like conch, geoduck, and frog – just in time for him to start forming 2-word sentences like “more…conch” and “more…seaweed”. On Friday, we took him to the local Explorit science center, which kept even us adults entertained with interactive hands-on exhibits like wind tunnels, rotating tables, ferromagnetic liquids, and nanotube models. The trip left Westley tired enough to resume his usual sleep schedule, and we were able to embark on a mini-marathon of Big Little Lies over steaming bowls of bun rieu. Despite the soap-opera feel of the HBO show, the excellent acting and deep dive into issues of domestic violence kept us engrossed throughout. We invited the in-laws over on Saturday for board games, video games, and Japanese take-out, then took a trip down to Stockton on Sunday for dim sum with the grandparents. Westley woke up on Christmas day to a new Radio Flyer wagon and a Mr. Potato Head, along with other goodies from Hape, Brio, and Melissa & Doug. Still recovering from our recent cold, we spent Christmas weekend mostly binge-watching the second season of Stranger Things and gearing up to finally rescue princess Zelda (after clocking more than 150 hours). Despite spending nearly a week vegging out at home, it’ll still be difficult to return to work this week.

‘Cause Everyone’s My Friend in NYC

It did not bode well that all three of us came down with a sore throat a week before our trip to New York for the holidays. We had made the daring decision to take a red-eye for Westley’s first flight, so we were ready for the worst. Annoyingly, the flight kept getting delayed and ultimately got canceled. So we were forced to bring the baby back home after getting him all prepared in his sleep sack and car seat at the airport terminal. After regrouping for the daytime flight, Westley did surprisingly well on the plane, and we landed at JFK just in time for dinner and bedtime. On Sunday, we met up with my college friends and their kids for brunch at their upper-east-side apartment, then returned for a family reunion with my cousins over a Chinese banquet-style seafood dinner. The next morning, we awoke to dim sum and a visit to my parents’ senior center, before taking Westley on his first subway ride into the city. We walked along the High Line through SoHo, met my friend John for lunch with matzo ball soup, then stopped by Murray’s for a grilled cheese for the subway ride home. In the evening, we left Westley with my parents to enjoy a movie and dinner date. After watching The Last Jedi from our reserved recliner seats, we went to Le Bernardin for Eric Ripert’s tasting menu, which featured fluke, langoustine, monkfish, snapper, and meluza – all cooked to utter perfection in classic French-style, drenched in their respective sauces, and served in a newly-renovated dining room that evoked fish scales and ocean waves. After dinner, we walked past bustling Time Square to the iconic Rockefeller Center, where the Christmas tree was unfortunately unlit. We spent our last morning checking out the popular Holiday Train Show at the NYBG with Westley, then headed to Flushing’s New World Mall for lunch, where the Siblings potato noodles outshone the beef noodles from Lan Zhou Noodles, the duck noodles from Yoz Shanghai, or the cold noodles from Old Luoyang. We also got some dumplings from Golden Shopping Mall for the return flight, but Westley had a rough time on the flight back, even though we tried to keep him on West coast time throughout. Luckily, we have a week to recover from our action-packed trip!

A R C H I V E S            E - M A I L            U S E R S