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Kevin’s Knee Surgery – March 18, 2009 April 30, 2009

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Kevin’s Knee Surgery – March 18, 2009

My son, Kevin, had a knee surgery (ACL) on March 18, 2009 in San Francisco. Maria and I went there two times to give him a hand with his long recovery. He loves Chinese Wushu and has been practiced this beautiful Kung Fu for almost 10 years now. His right knee has been giving him problems due to Wushu practices.

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He found Doctor Kenneth Akizuki from Yelp and had gone to Embarcadero Physical Therapy near his work before the surgery to strengthen his knees. Dr. Akizuki is an Orthopedic Surgeon who got his MD from George Washington University in Georgetown, Washington, DC. He is in his mid 40’s and has been an Orthopedic Surgeon for the past 12 years.

We arrived at Pacific Height Surgery Center around 11:00 AM and the nurse took him into the room shortly. From the outside, you won’t know that this is a surgery center. It looked like a 3-story condo with a parking lot at the bottom level. We were told to wait in the waiting area and the operation will take up to 2 hours and recovery should be around 1 hour. We should be out of here around #:30 or so. We asked to speak to the doctor and were told that he is in surgery now and will talk to us after the surgery. We waited for about ½ an hour and talked to the doctor for about 2 minutes. He looked quite young, energetic but warm. He briefly went though the procedures and asked us if we had questions. We told him that we will be here for 10 days to help with the recovery. He said that’s adequate. He knew that we came from Northern Virginia and said he studied at George Washington in Georgetown. We talked about where we live and a few places he was familiar with in the area. He said that we can leave our cell phone number with the front desk and the receptionist will inform us when the operation is over. He then went in the operation area.

We decided to have something to eat and came back in about 2 hours to wait for the doctor. We drove to a strip mall about 4 blocks down and ordered some sandwich and drinks for lunch. We then came back to the surgery center and waited for doctor Akizuki.

He came out around 2:15 PM and said that everything went through nicely and Kevin is comfortably in the recovery room. He also said that Kevin’s bone was too hard and he had to use a Titanium drill bit to drill holes in his knee. He said other than that everything went through smoothly. He also said that Kevin is very strong but he still has to go through physical therapy to gain full motion of his knee. We thanked him and were told to wait for him at the reception area. We waited for another hour and were told that Kevin was ready to be discharged. We then took him home, helped him walk to his apartment using crutches.

For the next couple of days we stayed at Kevin’s apartment and didn’t go out unless it was necessary. I cooked for us using the grocery we picked up from the local 99 store on the day of our arrival. I made many soups and dishes such as 鸡汤, 牛尾汤, 排骨汤, 狮子头,猪排,饺子 etc for us. The bone soups were good for Kevin’s recovery. I also made many dishes, separated them into small batches and froze them for later use. Kevin can easily make many meals out of them after we go back to Virginia.

On Friday March 20th, I went to Asian ghetto across the street from Kevin’s apartment around 10:30 in the evening to get some 珍珠奶茶. On the way back to his apartment, as I was trying to get the key card from my back pocket to open the front door of the apartment building, I heard a loud bang from behind. When I turned around and looked toward the source of the bang, I heard a second loud bang and saw a small red sedan stopped at the concrete barrier for the control box for the traffic light. The sedan had a big dent on back fender on the drive side. Many people immediately came around the intersection (Durant and Telegraph, probably the busiest intersection in Berkeley). Since I was about 15 feet from the car, I went to look too. I saw a motorcycle in the middle of the intersection. A guy in his 20’s lying about 20′ from the motorcycle with his right leg on top of his left leg. He was in his shorts with a pair sneakers and I noticed that he didn’t wear a helmet. Several people gathered around him and were apparently checking his condition. I didn’t see any blood on the ground and people around the guy talked among themselves but didn’t ask anyone to call an ambulance or getting some medical assistance. They stood up, took his left leg and lay it on the ground. Shortly after, a policeman showed up. He first walked to the guy on the ground, briefly checked his condition, talked to the people around him, then walked toward the car and asked for the driver of the sedan. A young Asian guy answered the call and said that he was the driver. He then proceeded to ask him questions about the accident. By this time, it was obvious to me that the guy was dead. He most likely broke his neck when he landed on the ground. I wasn’t sure who was at fault. Someone mush have run a red light and the impact was so huge it forced the sedan to turn 180o.

What a terrible thing to happen when I was there! It reminded me that life is so fragile and bad thing can happen at a blink of an eye: one moment the young guy was enjoying a ride in a clear spring night. A few seconds later, he landed on his back with his neck broken and dead on the scene. Imaging how terrible the news was to his parents and family. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his parents who raised him to his 20’s but lost him in a flash of a second. At that moment, I couldn’t help but thought about what Chinese say about parents attending their kid’s funeral because there is nothing worse than “白髮人送黑髮人。”

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During the next several days, Kevin gradually improved from having to take pain medicine on a daily basis to relying on Ibuprofen before we left on Friday, the 27th of March. Most of the time, we stayed at his apartment, walked with him to help with his recovery. We also took him to physical therapy near his work a couple of times and to the doctor’s office on the day of our flight

back to Virginia to check on his progress and to remove the dressing. Dr. Akizuki took out some reddish fluid (about 20 cc) from his swollen knee. The procedure was so painful that Kevin called it a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10. He later went back to the doctor’s office again a month after surgery. This time, Dr. Akizuki removed some more fluid from his knee. Apparently, the wound was recovery nicely because fluid was clear to slight brownish in color. I hoped it wasn’t as painful as the first one.

We went back to Virginia on Friday but decided to come back on the 5th of April. This time we only stayed for 4 nights and took Kevin to PT twice. By the end of our second visit, Kevin was much better and the wound has almost healed. Although he still couldn’t stretch his right leg all the way out. I guess it will probably take 6 months to completely recover.

A day after the surgery, Kevin was able to walk around with the help of crutches. Since the doctor wanted him to walk in order to speed up the recovery, we didn’t stay at his apartment for too long. We took him out to meet with his cousins and a friend in the Bay area. On Saturday, March 21st, we met with Stephen, Joyce and their two kids at a very nice Japanese restaurant “Sushi House” in Alameda, about 15 miles from Berkeley just north of the Oakland Airport. The next day, we had dinner with Ho-pu, Erica, their kid, Christine and Justin at Shanghai Restaurant 江浙聚豐園 in Milpitas not too far from their houses. Monday afternoon, Maria and I drove back to Fremont to see Maria’s Aunt and chat with her for 2 hours. On Tuesday night, we took Betty to Taiwanese Restaurant in Berkeley for dinner then to have some gelatos at Ciao Bella. Betty teaches Math at an element school in the Mission district of San Francisco. She is a daughter of a good friend of ours in Northern Virginia. Other restaurants we went to were On our second trip, we met Danica’s mother and brother right in front of Kevin’s apartment by accident. We talked about Kevin’s knee and she invited us to have dinner with them the next day. They took us to a Singapore restaurant in Lafayette north of Berkeley, called Kopitam.

We also ate at local restaurants such as Taiwan Restaurant on University Blvd, Great China Restaurant on Kittredge, Zachary’s on College (bad pizza but very popular with locals probably because of Zagart’s favorable review,) Manpuku  Sushi on College (fresh and very reasonable on prices,) The Cheeseboard Pizza Collective on Shattuck in North Berkeley where only one kind of pizza is served everyday for $20, a Szechuan restaurant (Sichuan Fusion)  in the shopping center where 99 Ranch grocery store is, Osaka Ya at Japan center, Ciao Bella Gelato on Shattuck in downtown Berkeley (we’ve gone there twice because it was so good,) and Fentons Creamery on Piedmont in Oakland where many of Kevin’s cousins went there for a great night of ice cream during Ho-pu’s wedding.

Shanghai Restaurant was a good choice. I liked their 臭豆腐燴大腸: unique combination, right amount of spiciness, hot and last but not least the大腸 was chewy but not over-cooked. 糟溜魚片 was authentic: white fish in tangy酒糟 sauce. But I didn’t think the kids liked it probably because of the distinctive taste of 酒糟. 砂鍋腌燉鮮 (金華火腿, fresh bamboo shoots and 百頁結 (made from soy beans: kind of like dry bean curd but different in form and texture) is an authentic Shanghai dish I like a lot. It bought back some fond memory of my Mobil days when I frequently drove from Bakersfield to St. Gabriel north of Los Angeles (130 miles) after work in the field just to have this dish. The broth was clear, fresh and delicious. The bamboo fresh and the百頁結 was quite good. Unfortunately the restaurant was out of a few dishes I like to try. Well, maybe next time! I also saw a framed Chinese calligraphy art work on the wall which I enjoy reading.

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It is one of seven short poems in “何處難忘酒七首 – Can’t Forget Drinking Wine with Friends” by 白居易, a very famous poet in the Tang Dynasty. The art work says:

何處難忘酒,天涯話舊情。
青云俱不達,白發遞相惊。
二十年前別,三千里外行。
此時無一醆,何以敘平生。

It expresses author’s affection to wine and uses wine to symbolize friendship between two friends who last seen each other 20 years ago and has since traveled 3000 miles apart. Now that they meet after so many years, how can they not have some good wine to talk about their live stories?

The Sushi House was a busy restaurant. We had to wait for about 20 minutes before getting a table for 7 including 2 small children. While we were there, we saw a line of about 15 people waiting to get a table all the time. The restaurant is about 100′ from the shoreline of the San Francisco bay. We sat at a table which allowed us to watch the beautiful sunset. The view was great. The atmosphere was vibrant. People came in and out of the restaurant nonstop. Three young hostesses took names of new customers, answered phone calls, prepare to-go orders, rushed people to their tables and helped with setting tables for new customers. The open sushi bar had 6 sushi chefs working nonstop to put out colorful sushi plates. A kitchen behind the sushi bar put out other dishes such as Teriyaki, Tempura, Udon and Bento boxes. The 140-seat restaurant was such a hit with locals and tourists alike it was completely packed. The menu was filled with beautiful sushi and sashimi pictures. There were at least 60 different selections and it took us a while to make up our decision. We had Toro Sashimi (belly of Tuna, Fatty, oily and soft), Crunchy Roll (deep-fried warm tempura shrimp with crab meat and avocado,) Samurai Roll (looks very nice), Crispy Roll, Power Roll, Beef Udon, Oregon Roll, Super pawn, Spicy Tuna Roll (much more spicier than what I had before at other Japanese restaurants.) I also wanted to order some sake for the occasion but there were so many choices. I had a hard time to decide. I finally ordered a small bottle (300 cc) of Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo Sake in a very pretty bottle for $9.95. It was made from rice that was milled off the outer 40% of each grain. I believe that this particular Ginjo (not Junmai) had alcohol added to the rice wine hence the alcohol content was very high: 40%. I didn’t like the wine because of the higher alcohol content which overwhelmed the sake flavor. It turns out that this sake was bottled by Takara Sake USA located right in Berkeley.

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For desserts, we shared a Green Tea Cheesecake and a Pound Cake. The dishes came out quickly once we placed our order. Since it was a busy Saturday evening, the service was spotty and at least I felt a bit rushed. The kids were so nice they were patiently playing with toys and munching finger food such as cheerio. We finished our dinner in about 40 minutes then drove in heavy rain to their house somewhere south of Fremont. We talked about Joyce’s business, Stephen’s job and watch their kids playing with the toy train. Grace asked Kevin about his girl friend and found out that he was once available. We stayed for an hour so and then drove back to Berkeley.

Well, 10 days went by very fast but it was a nice break from the daily grind of the restaurant business. We were quite nervous before the surgery and it was gut wrenching to watch him suffering the pain especially during the first few days. Since he is well off to a good recovery, I guess we can easy the anxiety now. On our second visit, we had more time for ourselves because Kevin went back to work. We tour the city: the crookest street, the Golden Bridge, San Francisco Park, and Sausalito. We also went to see the Bhutan exhibit at San Francisco Asian Museum. Although it was raining, we had a good time being together on a quasi vacation. Sausalito was particularly beautiful even on a raining and cold day. We had some espresso. coffee and small pastry at a shop called Piccolo Caffè by the bay. We sat outside on a wooden bench. A propane heater kept us warm. We watched seagulls flying by, gazed at the skyline of downtown San Francisco in the far ground and enjoying a quite moment together. Maria also bought a couple of nodding head pandas and we will put them in our restaurant. They will do the nodding to thank our customers for their business.

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In the past, when we flew into Oakland Airport, we usually rented a car at the airport. This time, we rented cars in downtown Berkeley instead. It was much cheaper because we saved at least 50% on the rent. We learned to take BART to and from the airport. It was quite convenient but the trip took about an hour: 15 minute walk from Kevin’s apartment to the BART station on Shattuck, 25 minute BART ride and 15 minute bus ride from BART station to the airport. We also rented a car with City Carshare at $5/hr for 45 minutes in order to return a rental car to Alamo on University. Parking in Berkeley was much better this time. I only had one ticket during two trips this time which will cost me $30. I do have to get up before 9 AM to move my car from street parking to a public parking lot though. The Interceptors at Berkeley were out in force at all times to check parking meters and parking lots. I had seen so many of them in Berkeley (and in San Francisco) that I thought their salary depends on how many tickets they issue everyday. Last time when Maria and I were here early this year, I had to pay $42 to park overnight in a garage on Durant at Telegraph: $21 overnight fee and $21 for parking. What a rip off! I though that the maximum charge was $21 and that was what I had in mind when I went to the cashier to pay for it the next morning. I will never park there again.

Talking on a cell phone while driving is illegal in California. I knew that because Kevin told me. Unfortunately I got a ticket from a policeman on his bicycle when I answered Kevin’s call about letting the guy came into his apartment to retrieve the CPM machine. He was right behind me when I answered the call. He had his flasher on and I didn’t pay attention to him and continued talking. He then pull right beside me and asked me to pull over. He said I kind of ran a red light while talking on the cell phone. I told him that I didn’t know the law but he gave me a ticket anyway. He said he’d let me go on the red light violation probably I was distracted by the phone call. He handed me the ticket and said the fine was only $20. Well, at least he was reasonable. Other wise, it would be close to $100. Better pay it or they will send me a ticket to me home.

Staying at Kevin’s apartment wasn’t that bad. We got used to sleep on the floor: a little hard on my back but we saved at least $1500 on hotels. Well, 10 days went by very fast but it was a nice break from the daily grind of the restaurant business. We were quite nervous before the surgery and it was gut wrenching to watch him suffering the pain especially during the first few days. We were glad to be able to help him with his recovery. Since he is well off to a good recovery, I guess we can easy the anxiety now.

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Junior Suite at Bally’s in Atlantic City – April 2009 April 22, 2009

Posted by hslu in Travel.
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Jennifer and Bobby came back to Northern Virginia to visit us in late March, 2009. Bobby was on his last few days of a well-deserved 2-week vacation after almost a year on his first year of residence in New York. Maria’s siblings were also here to enjoy the cheery blossom in Washington DC. Maria’s younger sister had to go back to work on the 31st. Her big brother had to catch a flight back to Phoenix at Newark Airport on April 2nd and Bobby had to go back to work on the 1st of April.

Instead of asking Maria’s big brother and sister to drive Jennifer and Bobby back to New York on the 31st of March, we decided to make the trip ourselves so that we can bring some homing cooking food and some supplies for them. We stayed at their small apartment in Northeast Manhattan for one night and left New York after having a late night take out dinner from Humus Kitchen at around 10:30 after Bobby got off from work.

We left New York around midnight and drove for a little more than 2 hours to Bally’s. At the check-in counter, the nice lady offered us a junior suite at their Bally’s Tower. I wasn’t too sure what that was about but accepted the offer gladly.

We have stayed at the Bally’s Tower a few times. Although it is an older building, the rooms was okay for a short stay, the bed was comfortable but we can help but notice signs of deterioration from long term use. The decoration was definitely old style. But what the heck, it was free. Isn’t it?

When we walked into the 46th floor, two floors down from the penthouse, we knew this floor was different: the carpet was softer; the decoration was better than average; the quality of the light fixtures in the hallway was much better than what we have seen in other floors; the ceiling the wall lights were softer, and there were glasses, mirrors and golden fixtures everywhere you go.

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The junior suite room was about twice as big as the average rooms in the hotel. It has a good size foyer which leads to the living room in front of you and a powder room to the right. From the living room, we can walk into the bed room and the bath room.

berkeley-diploma-110The living room wasn’t big but has a partial view of the board walk and Atlantic Ocean, a bell tower of the casino and the Resort Casino in the far ground. The TV was definitely old style: a 32″ CRT TV in a black-colored wooden TV console. The dark-colored sofa wasn’t great but I didn’t think we’d be using it at all. There was also a 24″ round table with four chairs perfect for room-service next morning. The big bed room was comfortable with a homey feeling: big king-size bed, soft pillows, white and ultra soft down bedcover, gentle lights, and, well, another 32″ CRT TV. We could see the Atlantic Ocean if we stand at one side of the wall-to-wall window but the morning fog blocked all our views from the inside of the room.

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The small powder room has a gold-colored sink probably made out of brass. The brightly- lit bath room was huge: about 15′ x 15′.  It has 2 sinks, marble floor, a huge Jacuzzi, a shower and wall-to-wall mirrors. We quickly dropped off our luggage and went downstairs to gamble. As usual, we first went for penny slots and I played a few hands of table games later: Caribbean Poker and Texas Hold’ em. I got lucky on Caribbean Poker the next day with a pocketed A’s which paid 30 times of my bet: $5. On slots, we both lost some money but we ended up losing about $150 after 2 days of play about what it takes to stay in a junior suite for a night.

When I booked my room online, I was offered a Deluxe room as before. The other two options, Luxury and Premium, weren’t available. Nonetheless, I checked the premium room box and Bally’s web site took it without asking more questions. We were surprised of the offer but very glad to stay at a junior suite. I guess slow casino business and the deepening recession prompted Bally’s to upgrade my regular comp room to a junior suite hoping we will return soon.

The way I see it is that even the financial crisis has its silver lining and we ended up taking the advantage of it at the right place and at the right time.

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc April 19, 2009

Posted by hslu in Wine.
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According to an Ad on Wine Spectator by Oyster Bay, Wall Street Journal’s wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher recently wrote a review of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Here is what they wrote:

“The young New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are more lemon-lime grapefruit than green pepper. This is a particularly vibrant example. It tastes like very ripe grapes, filled with sunshine. Dottie immediately thought of oyster on the half shell and added “Every seafood restaurant in the world should have this on their wine list.”

I thought this confirms our selection of this white for Jennifer and Bobby’s wedding. I still like this wine very much. You might like it too.

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