Eleventh Annual Vision Research Conference, day 1

Today and tomorrow I am attending the Eleventh Annual Vision Research Conference. Wolfgang Baehr is the principal organizer of the meeting, but this year he was helped by Bill Hauswirth, Eric Pierce and Anand Swaroop. This years title is Retinal Degeneration and Gene Therapy and the focus of the meeting will be on genetic transfer and gene knockdown in recessive and dominant retinal diseases. The idea is to target genes to treat or help prevent genetic disease in the retina through gene replacement or gene knockdown.

We started the morning off at one of the best French bakeries around, the Bonjour Bakery on 1637 Se 17th St in Ft. Lauderdale. This is a real French bakery that makes some of the best pastries and a mighty fine latte.

After that it was off to the meetings, where today we talked about cilia and their role in retinal function and disease. In the interest of preserving people’s work, I’ll not discuss much of what was shown today other than to say it was illuminating.

It was also the practice day for the airshow down here in Ft. Lauderdale, so we were able to get a preview of sorts of the show. While I sorta wished to have gotten the chance to go down to the beach to get some better shots, I had meetings to attend and had to satisfy myself with pictures taken from the top of the garage during the breaks. In retrospect however, I likely should have tried to schedule some time so collect more images for the Defense Technology folks. I shot some images for them up at Hill AFB a few weeks ago that resulted in an article on the A-10. Interestingly, I was able to grab a few shots of A10s demonstrating their high maneuverability for the air show tomorrow. Notice the fake canopy painted on the underside of the fuselage to confuse potential adversaries as to the direction the aircraft may be turning.

There were also some demonstrations by F-15 Eagles and an F-22 Raptor that was tied up rather nicely at the end with a heritage flight comprising an F-15, an F-22 and a WWII era P-51 Mustang. I have to say that I do love the sound of that old V-12 Merlin engine in the P-51 as it flies over…

Other demonstrations included an air to air refueling demonstration by a C-130 fueling Blackhawk helicopters along the beach, after which the C-130 retracted the fueling lines and turned right to fly right over us standing on top of the garage giving me the photo op for the introductory image for this entry and making Felix, James and I very happy.

Finally, James got a shot of me changing lenses just before we headed back into the meeting and also just in time, got a demonstration by the Air Force Thunderbirds. Last year’s airshow during ARVO had the Navy’s Blue Angels and the year before was the Thunderbirds. So, perhaps there is some agreement to alternate years? Next years ARVO is going to be a few days earlier than it has been for the past couple of years, so perhaps I’ll be missing the demonstration unless I decide to stick around for a couple of days.

In addition, the conference center is right on the main Ft. Lauderdale waterway into port giving you great views of ships coming in and out of the port including large cargo/container ships. The only problem of course is the increased security just to attend a scientific meeting.

Because of the access to the waterway, after the meetings, it would have been nice to simply walk across the bridge or down to the waterway to get onto a chartered yacht, but given the limited funding in science these days, for this professor, the thought of coming up with almost $400,000 to charter a yacht like the Excellence III for the week of ARVO is pure fantasy.

Instead, we went back to our hotel room at the Embassy Suites, cleaned up and headed out to dinner at Charlie’s crab house to eat dinner on the water at sunset. While this was Felix’s second ARVO, it was the first time that James had come to ARVO and we wanted to show him some of the local flavor.

We shared a reasonably tasty bottle of wine from Cakebread Cellars and I had the stone crab followed by a key lime pie. Unfortunately, it was not the best stone crab as it was late in the season. The crab was old and did not have much flavor other than the mustard served with it on the side, but the key lime pie was pretty awesome. A perfect mix of sweet and sour combined with a beautiful presentation.

After the sun went down, we continued the conversation with a discussion of science, history, literature, and economic models ending a loooong day back at the hotel where I am about to collapse in a heap on the bed. After all tomorrow is another full day of meetings. More to come…

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