Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fixing Stomach Discomfort and Break in Diet

This has to be the longest hiatus in my blogging yet, the last post being almost two weeks ago. I was not exactly under the weather during the intervening period, but did have several bouts of stomach discomfort to contend with.

I have since resorted to drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice before I go to bed. That being alkaline, it tends to counteract the acidic secretion in the stomach, at least that's what I thought to be the source of the problem. The result has been quite telling, saving me some sleepless nights, but it seems to work only when ingested, the s0-called curing the symptom but the cause remaining at large.

I have been reading several books intermittently, one of which is a Chinese Buddhist book entitled The Path of Prajna (wisdom) in Life (1996). The author, Joan Wai, is a lay Buddhist from HongKong but now based in NY. One of the chapters in the book describes her personal experience in following a 12-day regimen of dieting that involves graduating from a combination of fresh juices and liquid food to soups and finally to plain water. The direct translation from Chinese is Break in Diet.

Unlike hunger and other forms of dieting, which cater to the external environment, the former being imposed while the latter aimed to meet the external criterion of aesthetics, the Break in Diet is inward-directed, seeking to cleanse both the body and the mind. Therefore, an important element is maintaining mental clarity/purity by shunning all forms of mass media during the period, the purpose being to obviate wide mood swings engendered by the external environment.

The body cleansing part goes beyond bowel motion that gets rid of accumulated “garbage” in our digestive system that has a capacity of about 25 pounds (isn't that amzaing?), and includes dry scrubbing of skin. Since skin is our largest organ, it makes sense that a vital conduit for cleansing is through skin pores. So dry scrubbing the skin helps to open up the skin pores to release the toxins from our body.

Equally important is the easing back to a normal diet after the Break in Diet, gradual being the operative word. The author found that after the regimen, some of the chronic body pains that she has been experiencing has disappeared. Her resistance against fatigue has also improved, along with gain in mental alertness.

I now recall that the transformation of Venerable Hung-I from a prodigy in all Chinese art forms to a highly venerated Buddhist monk as blogged here was preceded by the Break in Diet that he observed in a temple. I would have to try it sometime to see whether that can fix my stomach problem.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Arts Appreciation

Wify and I attended a get-together held at the home of her Arts teacher, Mrs. Fan, at 2pm today. In attendance too were Mrs Fan's other students in the same class, a prospective student, Linda, and her friends living in the same area, Mr. And Mrs. Huang. A subsidiary purpose was viewing of Mrs. Fan's drawings as well as making digital copies of some of her works to be put in this blog, with her consent of course.

Even though this was our second visit (read here for our first visit), I had to make a few turnarounds in order to reach the destination. We started in heavy downpour at our end but reached there in the dry, reliving the spotty nature of afternoon showers that we used to experience back home.

While the lady host and the lady guests were in the kitchen and various parts of the houses engaging in animated conversations of their own, the gentlemen were at the living room exchanging views on the latest developments in the political front, sometimes distracted by the live telecast of the professional football game between the Chargers and the Colts variously when points were scored by either side.

Ladies first (from left: Linda, Wify, Mrs. Fan, Ling Yi, and Claudia; not here is Julie Huang who arrived after the photoshoot.)

The gentlemen's turn, taking a brief break from their discourse to pose for yours truly (from left: Bill, Steve, and Mr. Fan, the host; by the same token, Mr. Huang is not to be seen here).

Midway through it all, I retreated to the backroom to take digital photographs of the works of Mrs. Fan. Even though these works were done decades ago while she was still in/just out of college back in Taiwan, most of them are in pristine condition, a testimony to the high quality of the drawing material used and the meticulous care she has invested in the upkeep of the drawing pieces. Much more impressive are the efforts she had put into each of the drawings, sometimes requiring triple make-over to embellish certain exquisite details such as the hair-do, the dress design, or the leaf canopy. The results are a stunning set of individually rendered artworks that she has graciously agreed to have them illuminate today's blog. Thanks, Mrs. Fan.

Admittedly the photographic effect is not the greatest such that it interferes with the lustrous appeal of the artworks. Just take my word that the actual drawings outshine their digital counterparts, another instance that nothing beats the real thing.

Then we were treated to a scrumptious food offering prepared by the hosts and the lady guests. And we left just when the game between the Giants and the Cowboys got underway, and were pleasantly surprised by the relatively bright outdoor during our drive home, which is usually dark this time of the year when dusk starts to set in. But the images of Mrs. Fan's drawings that follow will forever remain a bright spot on this blog irrespective of the time of the day.

This was taken at our home prior to our departure, showcasing wify's now famous fruit basket.

The lady bearing a gift to commemorate longevity. Just the hair-do with the flower garland of sort is enough to highlight the patience, the soft touch put into the effort.

The lady rowing a log on choppy waters. The flow streaklines are visible on the drawing, which illustrate the uneven flow surface, but hardly noticeable here. Note also the exquisite design pattern on the dress.

The lady reading by the window. Here the details are in the leaf canopy.

The lady in a pensive mood. Note again the design pattern on the dress.

Two ladies in a rocky landscape.

The lady perhaps just about to play the Gu Zen, a traditional chinese musical instrument, still wrapped in a cloth sheath.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Contemplations from Dealing with Sub-Zero Condition

We experienced a staggering cold front earlier in the week, the night temperature on Wed (Jan 2, 2008) going south of zero. According to the local news, the temperature of 28 degree Celsius persisted for about 7-8 hours through the night. Worried of frost damage, wify moved the plant basket she received as a gift from her Arts teacher into the house. And we dutifully switched on the heater. CE was in thick clothing, and me, clad in two T-shirts.

As a result, I did not feel the frigid onslaught. But the drive to the office the following morning was an entirely different matter. I had to first brave the wind chill (fortunately the car was just parked outside our home), then I had to deal with the extremely cold condition in the car, having being left under the elements overnight, especially the stark steering wheel, it being the only part that my raw skin (my palms) came in contact with. Then it was a short walk (a brisk one) to the office from the parking garage, hands in pockets, but the face stricken the worst in the breezy street. All in all, everyone in the family survived unscathed. And I shudder to think how we would have fared if an arctic storm like the one that pummelled California later in the week were to assail us. Time to feel thankful.

The temperature on the following night (Jan 3) was above zero, and wify and Yu Huei decided to host a steam boat dinner, a vegetarian one, in our home. The guests of honor were yours truly and Viky, a USF doctoral student from China whom we have befriended when we first met him at the Middle Way Buddhist Association.

Yu Huei brought along a table top gas stove fired from gas canisters. It's a compact little thing the size of a Phone book that fits into a similar size suit-case-like container. We propped it on top of a phone book, and placed it at the center of the dinner table, surrounded by dishes of raw vegetables, taufo, noodles, and other vegetarian goodies but with meaty food names (Sigh!).

We first slided plates of food items into the boiling pot, then covered it to let it boil and then simmer somewhat. Then it was an alternate process of removing the cooked food for consumption and placing new food items to replenish the pot.

Soon we were all satiated, and adjourned to a game of 3D Tic-Tac-Toe, one we bought at 75% discount from CVS as part of a post-Christmas sale. Viki took turns to match wits with wify and Yu Huei while I stayed above the fray but not necessarily feeling under-matched. After a few rounds, including one where his left hand played with his right (apparently he did this quite often back in China in his younger days since he is the only child), Viky concluded that the game confers unfair advantage to the first mover. Life is perhaps analogously similar, there is really no level playing field and all one can realistically attain is to reduce the disparity, in general.

Then yesterday we sent WT back to Hume Hall after both WT and CE had a hair cut at the SuperCuts and we collected our prescription glasses in the morning, the car journey relatively congestion-free and uneventful. Then we dropped by Lin and Huang's place for a tasty bowl of porridge (actually several bowls) cooked with chicken broth. In turn, wify exchanged her recipe of seafood porridge (tilapia slices, bay scallops, finely cut carrot strands, and cut celery considered good for the heart) with the Lins.

Being further inland compared to Tampa, Lin related the demise of several of his flower plants left outdoor to defend themselves against the brief cold spell several nights ago. But his vegetable plot survived. As in life, sometimes human intervention is necessary to nudge life forward, but not to the extent of creating a subsidy mentality, a dependency syndrome that hurts in the long run.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Welcomed Reprieve

Today was the day of the appointment wify had with the ophthalmologist, the result of a referral by the optometrist. In layman's term, the ophthalmologist would be the eye doctor, a medical doctor specializing in the eye, and the optometrist, an optician, being a person trained and skilled in examining and testing the eyes for defects, in order to prescribe corrective lenses or treatment.

Wify was naturally apprehensive (I think anyone would be when the word “surgery” is mentioned, no matter how minuscule the risk can be). But I assured her that today's purpose was merely to get a medical opinion from a certified professional, and we do not have to commit to a surgery, as yet. Part of her fear, phobia being too strong a word, perhaps arises from her experience in Malaysia, albeit limited, where surgery (the common term used there is operation) seems to be the very first option recommended by doctors, especially by those in private practice.

I tried to allay her misgivings by citing, firstly, doctors in US likely would not go the way of surgery lightly, given that this is a litigious society where suits are filed at the slightest excuse. And secondly, cataract surgery is performed routinely on senior people whose recuperative ability is perhaps a notch down compared to their middle-aged counterparts such as wify. My colleague just told me that both of his step-parents have undergone cataract surgery when in their 60s and 70s.

Thus fortified, wify stepped into the exam room, in my company, in a somewhat relaxed mood. The only anxious moment was perhaps when the doctor needed to deliver the eye drops twice before wify's eyes were sufficiently dilated for the eye exam.

Well, the diagnosis was confirmed, wify does have cataract, on both eyes. But the good news is she is just at the borderline where the doctor would only recommend surgery if wify feels up to it, i.e, mentally prepared to “go under the knife” so to speak (though from what I heard the cataract surgery only involves a small incision). It seems the doctor sensed from wify's body language that she was not too thrilled to undergo surgery just yet.

The doctor then related her own hesitation when she needed to undergo a C-section when her pregnancy had reached full-term. She even pleaded with her doctor that she was willing to walk around with a belly so as to put off the surgery, but perhaps in jest. Anyway, we appreciated her empathy.

We then sought her professional opinion on the imminence of the cataract surgery based on her diagnosis, to which she replied assuringly, “come back in six months and we will see.” Apparently she was also surprised by wify's power of vision at this stage given her eye condition. Wify's seemed to be leaving the Ophthalmologist's office with a slight spring to her gait.

So wify received a kind of reprieve, from a seeming medical inevitability. But what I'm most glad is that the decision has been made not based on our gut feeling, but rather on the considered diagnosis of a certified professional.