Memorial Day in D.C.

When we decided to visit Melody’s best friend and her family in D.C., we didn’t realize that perhaps Memorial Day weekend wouldn’t be the best time to visit the nation’s capital. However, Westley handled his third flight like a champ, with the help of fried rice and Mario in flight, followed by burgers, hot dogs and new 2- and 7-year-old friends to take baths with. We headed to the National Zoo on Saturday, where the animals were surprisingly active with highlights that included itchy elephants, a baby gorilla, and a high-swinging orangutan. With the sweltering heat, we snacked on boiled eggs and orzo salad, drenched ourselves in misters, then hydrated with over-sweet icees on the way home for nap time. The kids were occupied by a softball game on TV at Manna BBQ for dinner, but perked up with snack samples and shopping at H-Mart next door. With the kids in bed, we enjoyed some John Mulaney standup on Netflix before turning in. We spent Sunday morning at the Mosaic District’s Farmers Market and dim sum at Vinh Kee, but vegged out for the afternoon with Black Panther when it started to rain. Memorial Day was similarly lazy, with puddle-jumping at the local playground followed by Melody and Lisa running off for pedicures and shopping, which included groceries for Melody’s broccoli-beef stir fry and steamed egg custard for dinner. We spent our last morning at the National Museum of Natural History. Westley was tentative at the butterfly exhibit, but otherwise enjoyed the dinosaur bones, insects, and savanna taxidermy until his meltdown at lunch. After a short nap, we returned our rental car and picked up some Potbelly sandwiches for our flight home. We’ll see how Westley handles the jetlag back.

Saturday Night Fever

We celebrated our 11th anniversary last week like any other Saturday. While Melody was at her massage, I took Westley to the library and dance class, where he has become more engaged. Despite being the smallest in class, he follows directions well, though I wished that skill translated better to home and daycare where he continues to exert his independent (and occasionally bitey) nature. After lunch and nap time, we took Westley to apply for his passport in preparation for our upcoming trip to Vancouver. On Mother’s Day, we drove to Stockton for grandparent bonding and dim sum before returning to a busy work week with Melody gone for an investigator meeting. With all the recent and upcoming travels, I decided to commute rather than stay at our department’s Napa symposium. For my pre-meeting lunch, I found myself the only patron at Ca’Momi and managed to strike up interesting conversation with the bartender over crispy sweetbreads and grilled octopus. The evening concluded with dinner with the invited speaker from UW, with whom I shared memories of yonder days from SHP and high school research. I returned to find my wife prostrate in bed with strep throat and a temp of 104, so I bailed the meeting to spend Saturday with leftovers and Mario. With antibiotics on board, Melody brought Westley to Napa to watch my talk on Sunday, and hung out at a nearby playground before another visit to Ca’Momi on the way home. As she battled out her affliction and I recover from sleep deprivation, we agreed to keep our Memorial Day trip more relaxed.

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 for 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. We didn’t have time for a screening of the movie Outbreak, but 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.

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