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, or 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was fortunate to be accepted into the Macula Society this year which held its annual meeting in Singapore for its 40th anniversary. Although Melody could not join me, I was excited to experience the city’s unique blend of cultures and cuisines, with many similarities to Hong Kong from British colonial influence. I departed Monday afternoon and slept through 12 of the 15-hour flight from SFO thanks to my recent sleep deprivation. Since my room was not yet ready, I found an ATM and some laksa at a nearby food court for breakfast, then made my way to the Jurong Bird Park. After a morning of avian photography and high-flying bird shows, I checked into the hotel, then lunched at Chatterbox for their famed chicken rice before attending the meeting’s first session. Our lavish welcome dinner took place at the hotel’s Line buffet, which left me uncomfortably stuffed before bedtime. Next day, I felt like a kid in a candy store at Food Republic, but only had room for chicken rice and tea rice. I walked off my lunch with a visit to the Raffles Hotel and Merlion Park, navigating the vast underground malls and sipping milk tea until I reached Chinatown. Here, I checked out the Thian Hock Keng and Buddha Tooth Relic temples, took an audioguide tour at the Chinatown Heritage Center, and shopped for Chinese imports at Yue Hwa. The long day left me less social at the New Member reception, but I redeemed myself at dinner with my mentors by breaking out the Cantonese and ordering a spread of seafood ranging from giant prawns to chili crab. On Friday, I awoke in time to receive my travel grant, then went to sample the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal at Liao Fan Hawker Chan. From there, I hopped on the clean, efficient subway to the Gardens by the Bay, where I endured the summer heat to peruse the impressive horticultural display before joining the evening gala in the Flower Dome. My basic science talk was relegated to the last morning of the conference, but I was happy with the positive feedback. With the meeting’s conclusion, we celebrated our fellow’s award over dim sum, then headed to the Singapore Zoo. Despite the intermittent rain, we appreciated the unique fauna like giant fruit bats and pygmy hippos. Having purchased tickets in advance, I stayed to visit the Night Safari also, completing my comprehensive yet exhausting wildlife tour. I spent my last day back in the city to round out my culinary adventures, starting with kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs with milk tea for breakfast in Kampong Glam. From the Sultan Mosque, I made my way to Tai Hwa Pork Noodle for my second Michelin-starred hawker meal. The two-hour wait got me behind schedule, so I skipped my laksa stop for delicious, aromatic bak kut teh. I returned to the hotel to pack my stash of Prima Taste packets from the Mustafa Center, then joined my friend Yvette for a light dinner followed by drinks at Ce La Vi atop the Marina Bay Sands. Our view of the city from above on this last night was breathtaking, and I was left with fond memories of this jewel of a city.
With summer weather approaching and many personnel changes in lab, I decided to host a lab BBQ at my house to let people hang out outside of work. Having learned from hosting a BBQ with the retina folks last year, we didn’t bother with homemade skewers or quiche, sticking instead with burgers, hot dogs, and prepared salads from Costco, along with some curried wings which were a hit. We assigned drinks and desserts to guests, which led to a glut of extra sweets that fortunately the undergrads were more than willing to take home. Sadly, Westley broke out in a heat rash and did not cope well with all the new faces. He managed to warm up a bit when we invited our in-laws afterwards to tackle the leftovers. My call week for the Memorial Day weekend was quite busy, but we did manage to enjoy some dim sum with the fellows, having missed Chinese New Year earlier this year. We also stopped by Planet Granite and Medimer to browse marble remnants, and took advantage of online holiday deals for more compact luggages for work travel. Having pulled several late nights to catch up with clinical duties and manuscript preparation, I ran on little sleep and ended up losing my wallet last week. Between getting my credit cards and wallets replaced, and squeezing in a DMV visit for a new license, I felt ill prepared for this whirlwind weekend of our department’s Napa symposium and the iOCT Summit in Cleveland. After Friday morning clinic, I drove to Napa for some oysters and chowder, only to suffer from food poisoning that kept me from enjoying dinner and left me dehydrated on my red-eye to Cleveland. I arrived at the Cole Eye Institute at the crack of dawn Sunday, and relied on coffee to keep me awake through North Coast Retina in the morning and my talk in the afternoon. With little time to catch up with friends, I flew back to SFO that evening, briefly dining on delicious beer-battered cod with rosemary fries at Bar Symon at CLE. I had trouble keeping my eyes open on the drive back to Napa for my quick overnight Airbnb stay before my Sunday morning talk to the department. Exhausted, I was relieved to return home for lunch with my family and my friend Yao, before having to pack again for a trip to Singapore tomorrow. While it feels nice to be popular at times, I just don’t think I’m cut out for the jetset life.
We marked our decade-long marriage together this past Friday with some sparkle. My planning for the occasion began as early as February, when I sought to replace the engagement ring that Melody had lost a few years back. After many covert trips to Roseville and downtown Sacramento to browse diamonds from various vendors – Shane Co., Bianca’s, Santillan, and Sharif’s, I ultimately chose a Blue Nile stone that nearly matched the original diamond’s specs, and worked with their custom department to recreate my design. Having failed to score a French Laundry reservation from our concierge service due to their change to a new ticket system, we instead booked Date Night at 3-Michelin-starred Benu in San Francisco, asking our in-laws to cover baby duty at home. Corey Lee’s Asian-style tasting menu provided a unique take on very familiar flavors as we smiled at each other over Melody’s new ring. We started with delicacies of 1000-year old quail egg, tuna marrow, oyster and pork belly foam, squid on a blood sausage, barbecued abalone with abalone liver, and “shark fin” crab egg custard before finally getting to the bread course featuring the Best Bread Ever. Then the real journey began: foie gras xiao long bao, seasonal caviar and uni, geoduck clam, fried eel with lip-numbing pepper leaf and szechuan peppercorns; a fat juicy barbecued quail with a steamed truffled bao, a lobster-stuffed sea cucumber, and a beef course featuring steak, a galbi-jim-styled riblet, and banchan. We cleared our palates with an omija sorbet before the chocolate acorn dessert and a pricey vintage pu-erh tea. But things weren’t over yet – a final anniversary cake was presented within a music box playing Love Me Tender, which we enjoyed with a sweet rice water drink. After another marble-hunting trek with some Korean food in Rancho Cordova on Saturday, we celebrated Mother’s Day over hot pot and another cheese trip for Melody. Recounting our journey over past 10 years, and with Westley now finally walking, we look forward to many more adventures ahead.
This year’s ARVO meeting took me back to sunny Baltimore. My last visit to the city was 10 years ago when I spent a month at Wilmer for an Ophthalmology rotation that left me with memories of Subway sandwiches, sketchy neighborhoods, and unsatisfying blue crabs. I departed last Friday on a red-eye after dropping Melody off for her 7am flight and blasting through afternoon clinic, leaving me exhausted by the time I arrived. Rather than taking a nap as I should have, I decided to get breakfast with my roommate in nearby Lexington Market for chicken & waffles, which provided a rather authentic Baltimore experience, but was no match for Dame’s. We returned to our hotel for a 6-hour-long Allergan meeting before I took a breather over small plates at Salt Tavern with some Duke friends. I presented my poster on Sunday, but overall felt that the meeting was less satisfying than previous years perhaps due to the meeting location and lower turnout. I also caught up with friends from residency, and ended the evening at Cinghiale for a delicious 4-course prezzo fisso, and nearly 3 hours of waxing philosophical with colleagues over our careers as clinician-scientists. On Monday, I spent the morning interviewing a post-doc candidate, interfacing with industry leadership, and lunching with an old lab mate over harborside crab cakes, then hosted an inaugural networking dinner with sponsorship from Alcon for clinician-scientists in Ophthalmology. Continuing our prior night’s dinner topic, we had 30 participants from different career stages share their advice for succeeding in an academic career combining research with clinical practice. Afterwards, I hung out with some students until the wee hours that night. Despite a late start next morning, I joined the CAOS folks for a crab feast luncheon at Bo Brooks before my flight home. I made use of my Priority Pass again at BWI, and was glad to see my new Sapphire Reserve really starting to pay for itself. With all my upcoming travel, I’m hoping to get more use out of it this summer.