December 2009

It was supposed to be a light week at work with my judge on vacation as with most judges, so that there were more of us than were needed around the County. So I was surprised when my supervisor called me and floated me to Compton Court. I wasn’t happy about it, so on the drive I called Mr. W (who was at home waiting for installation guys to switch over our cable/internet/phone carrier and for his friend Chris to show up so they can hang out all day) for some soothing and sympathy. I got the exact opposite where he rushed off the phone and since I didn’t know what was going on, I was basically hung up on and when I texted him to ask why he hung up, I didn’t get a response and after some time I called him back and he was really irrate that I was calling again because he was working with the cable installer guy and I was interfering. AND it rained unexpectedly through the morning, so I drove to the city that rap artists earn their gang war wounds in, in the rain, found this unfamiliar courthouse, parked in the separate juror lot, walked a block through the rain with no umbrella or coat to the courthouse carrying my manual and file stamps since the handle of the bag I’d brought my materials in ripped off as I got out of the car, and walked into the middle of a murder and assault preliminary hearing. I emailed some coworkers during the hearing to ask if there’s anything special I need to do or note or code for a Prelim since I’d never done one before, and mid-email, sat through an earthquake. The 11th floor I was on swayed for a long time, and I looked around and briefly considered ducking under the desk, but no one else was budging except for a man in the audience who kept looking up and around at the creaking walls in confusion, and I didn’t want to create panic when I had one female bailiff who was watching a very fidgety inmate being held to answer on charges of beating up and trying to kill another inmate in a jail cell in order to help his criminal street gang. So I just sat there and dealt with the swaying. The judge never looked up at me through the entire hearing, and I thought he was upset it took me until 10:20 to get there. Things got better after that.

After the hearing, the judge introduced himself as he got off the bench and I handed him a Christmas card that someone had walked in for him. He looked at the attached document and said that this is from a family friend whom he gets UCLA game tickets from, and I said I’m a Bruin, and he said he was too, and the DA said she was too, and then it was all big happy family from that point on. Turned out the judge was very nice and was just very focused on the Prelim; he’d missed the fact that I’d come in, he’d missed another judge who stood in the courtroom next to the bench for a long time waiting to say hello to him, he’d missed the earthquake. When we tried to identify which judge had come by to visit him, all I could tell him was a physical description and that the visitor said this judge, Judge Herman, is his former boss. I learned Judge Herman is a retired judge just sitting in Compton for now on assignment to help out during the holidays, he was borrowing someone else’s dark courtroom to call these cases, and as we looked through a list of all the judges in the building so he could figure out who’d been by, I learned that half the bench officers in Compton were either his former employees when he was the head district attorney, or his former students when he was a professor at law school. As he got off the bench we got engaged in an hour-long conversation about the current UCLA football team and analysis on their development, coaching strategies, recruitment deficiencies, etc. I learned that the players with the highest IQs are the big boys in the front of the offensive line, contrary to what one might think, because of their need to remember all plays, change and recoordinate their positions and plays as defense changes, AND take a physical hit all at the same time. I learned he used to play college football until an injury took out his left knee and snapped apart every ligament there and that every 5 years, he goes back to an orthopedic surgeon hoping modern medicine has figured out a way to fix his knee, only to be told there is still nothing they can do except a full knee replacement when pain got intolerable. He still went to work out during lunch and came back in time to be on the bench at 1:30p waiting for three misdemeanor cases to come in. During that waiting time, he told me about the distribution of power in relationships (business or personal) being equated to a pie; power over various components are sliced up and designated to one or the other person, and conflicts arise when one person acts on something that’s considered within the other person’s slice of pie, because what’s on the slice is solely the other person’s turf. He said it was important to know to reslice the pie as things change and to allow dynamics to shift, such as when a baby is born, it needs the mother more so the father will do what he needs to assist the mother, keep her happy, but basically stay out of her hair on baby things if she’s got it covered, and as the child grows, it will eventually outgrow the immediate nurturing the mom had provided, and more power would have to shift to the father for leadership, discipline as the stronger hand, helping play sports or something, maybe. The mother would have to let go of that portion of her slice and allow the father to pick it up and that would then be his turf and she’d resign her control over those things (such as coaching the kid in a sport). I liked when he said that his wife told him, “I married you for life, not for lunch,” and they’re careful not to step on each others’ toes when they have their separated interests or activities. And after the hearings were done, he told me about a book he’d just finished reading called “Parallel Worlds,” and we got into quantum physics, religion, the current experiment under Switzerland, the theories of Creation and prophecies vs. mathematical astrophysicists’ projections of the End. As we left, he keyed me in the employee elevator to each floor I had to get off on to distribute orders and files and waited for me so that he could key me to the next floor (I didn’t have internal access to the building), and then was concerned that I had to walk in the rain back to the parking structure. I told him I didn’t think I could shrink any more than my current short size, and he laughed, and said he hopes I’d be back the next day. (I’m not, since I carpooled to work today so I can’t leave on my own.) I really liked him.

After work, I drove to childhood friend Sandy’s house a few neighborhoods over. I arrived starving, since I skipped breakfast as usual (except for my hot mug o’ chia seeds) and skipped lunch knowing that if I left the secured courtroom, I wouldn’t have keys to go back into it after lunch. She made me a big batch of potstickers and we chatted around her dining table while I ate and she watched me, and we drank hot oolong tea with honey. Her cats came by one by one to greet me, and soon I was surrounded by five furry faces. We then retired upstairs to her TV room/loft so I could look for Molly, Mr. W’s favorite cat. I soon sent him this picture by text message to make him jealous:

He wanted me to steal Molly but of course Sandy wouldn’t allow it. Soon her boyfriend Steve came home and we chatted for a long time about Asian parents, psychotic ex-wives, and the little mischievous ghost that’s haunting their house. We ordered pizzas and laughed a lot. I made two white cats (“this one and that one!” I’d say, pointing to each white cat in turn with the laser dot they were chasing. “They have NAMES, ya know!” Steve said in mock offended tone, knowing I can’t tell them apart, so all night it was This One and That One for Lacey and Daisy) chase a red laser light dot in circles, at each other, up a wall, and then made the dot chase the cats as they freaked out and walked backwards and sideways on their toes with their hairs standing up on their spines, which Sandy said she and Steve had never thought to do as they laughed at the cats’ reactions to the role reversal. They may have SEEMED freaked out, but they liked it, because when my arm would get tired and I’d turn off the dot, both white cats would whip around and stare at me with their alien almond eyes until I started with the laser pointer again. Sandy said if I ignored them after the stares, they’d start knocking things off the table to get you to play with them, and they’d go so far as to bat the actual laser pointer at you to force you to pick it up so they can chase the dot. Around the time I was planning to go home, around 10 p.m., her pizza delivery guy showed up and said he had trouble getting to her house because the streets were blockaded by police. We looked out and sure enough, police helicopters were flying overhead shining floodlights around her neighborhood. Great. So I had this text exchange with Mr. W:
me: i cant leave cuz the streets are closed & quarantined & police copters are flying overhead.
Mr. W: What the…..
me: i dunno. we’re watching the news to see what’s going on. all the copter searchlights are on & they’re going around her roof & neighborhood.
Mr. W: That sucks. How often does that happen there? Twice a day or more?
me: sandy says she’s hurt & offended.
Mr. W: What are you gonna do?
me: sit here. steve’s here so we feel safe-ish.
Mr. W: That might be the safest time to leave. When the cops are watching.
me: & get carjacked by a desperate refugee? no thanks!
Mr. W: Are you coming home tonight?
me: there are FIVE cats here!
Eventually the helicopters went away around midnight, which was when I left cuz I figured, they must’ve caught the guy, right? When I went home Mr. W was staying up waiting for me, which is unusual cuz it was so far past his bedtime. He said he wanted to make sure I got home from that area okay. I told him about the helicopters going away. He said that doesn’t mean they caught the guy, it just means they gave up. Great. But I still had a great evening.

I forgot to post photos from a couple of weekends ago when we met up with my dad’s military buddy’s visiting daughter, Jenny, and her Trojan boyfriend Kevin. So here ya go.

We had Chinese hot pot at my parents’. Let’s see how long Cindy can refrain from drinking the champagne.

Apparently, not long.

How many people can you fit on one sofa?

Hmm. If we’re all on the sofa, who took the picture?

The lengths some people go to, to set up the perfect shot!

My parents and grandma are coming to our house for Christmas dinner tomorrow. My parents and I are not traditionalists where these holidays are concerned, so I’m just making what people like to eat. My dad’s a huge seafood fan, so I’m gonna do the Cajun shrimp bowl that was such a hit last time. My grandmother, however, is a very picky eater, and I was stuck. She has a major sweet tooth and constantly complains that various pastries and desserts aren’t sweet enough, so I’m gonna go pick her up a gourmet chocolate cupcake, which I know is plenty sweet. But I don’t think she eats spicy or shrimp, for that matter, so I was stuck as to a main dish for her. I emailed my mom for help. What does grandma like? My mother emailed back that she likes pizza. So our Christmas dinner tomorrow will be shrimp and pizza. Haha!

Earlier tonight, Mr. W managed to get sheet music on the computer, which displays on a monitor he placed on the digital piano. It’s a pain to have to stop playing to scroll down with the mouse in order to turn the page or get to the next line, but the advantage is that I don’t have to prop 50 sheet music books on the piano, either. Just ONE collection he downloaded (one of many) was 1043 popular songs. I’m in love with Jim Brickman’s compositions now, by the way. But considering the fact that it is now almost 2am and I’m only now getting to bed (and I still have 40 songs to go through in this “album!”), I’m thinking this may not be all a good thing. Scott spent 80 minutes working the knots and tightness out of my back earlier today, and thanks to 1003 songs by The Beatles, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Elton John, George Michael, Jewel, Mariah Carey (just to name a FEW), my back hurts again. =P I’m quittin’ and going to bed.

My dad’s military buddy’s youngest daughter Jenny has been in the ‘States visiting her boyfriend Kevin (getting his second masters in some sort of engineering at USC) for the past couple of weeks, so Mr. W and I have been busy entertaining them on weekends and some off-times. We took them to Balboa Island to ride the ferry and admire all the rich peoples’ extravagant holiday decorations (electronic bears and Santa doing acrobatics and walking tightropes between house and private pier, animated penguins watching people in a front yard transformed into Antartica…), introduced them to our favorite coffee and tea parlor there, took them shopping at the huge designer storefronts in Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza, and they’d wanted to see the Irvine version of famed 85DegreeC bakery cafe from Taiwan, so we lined up for fresh-baked pastries and their best-selling sea salt foam iced coffee. Mid-week I scored discount tickets to SeaWorld so we took them there to see the animal shows, carefully avoiding the water rides and “Soak Zones” where killer whale Shamu cupped his tail to bring a little of his world to the audience. Then Sunday, Mr. W and I drove down to my parents’ house for lunch to hang out with Jenny and Kevin for the last time since they both leave to go back to Taiwan today (although Kevin’s coming back once winter break is over). We brought my parents their Christmas gifts, a wooden basket carved out of a tree trunk cuz my dad loves stuff like that (and altho Mr. W insists it’s a bowl, I say it’s a basket because it has a handle) and a D-Link internet photo frame that Mike discovered and told me about. The gifts were a huge hit, and we set up the photo frame right away. Now I can manage what appears on their frame remotely through the internet, and any friends of theirs who want to send photos to appear on their frame can do so simply by emailing the photos (or sending a text pic thru their cell phone) to a designated email address. I told my mom that if I’m mad at her, she’ll know because she’ll find herself staring at photos of me making angry faces and shaking my fist at her. Hopefully, the ability to load any pictures online and have it appear on their frame immediately will alleviate her nagging at me for photos or access to my image hosting site.

While we were there yesterday, I picked up all my childhood piano lesson, recital and theory books, and came home to give Mr. W his very first piano lesson. He’d been playing a keyboard game the past few days, in which the computer (he bought a separate monitor for the piano) depicts a rainforest scene with bugs scrolling through and landing on a key, and you have to press that key at the time the bug lands to hit the note at the right times and play a song. It’s something like the old typing games meets Guitar Hero/Rock Band. He’s familiar with hitting notes now, but doesn’t use the right fingers and isn’t really reading music, and I feel the theory and technique is missing, so I asked if he’d like to learn things the classical way, too. He said he would. We spent an hour last night identifying the different types of notes, meter, proper fingering/posture, playing some simple tunes without use of the staff yet, terminology (forte, piano, measure, bar, etc). He picked up the tunes pretty fast and didn’t lose his temper or get impatient. It was actually a really good lesson and he was very receptive. He’d get all happy when he’d get the tune right after a few practices and I scoot him over so I can play the duet accompaniment part as he plays the tune. He used the “record” function on the digital piano and delighted in listening to playback of our duet. I should figure out how to get that saved as a midi so I can put in online.

I got my blood test results back from my doctor’s visit, and every component in my blood was within “normal” ranges. So, my trouble breathing is not a symptom of lung cancer, anemia, asthma. I am diagnosed with something else much, much simpler. An email from my doctor just now:

“This is GERD.

1. Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day instead of 2-3 big meals per day.
2. No eating 3 hours before bedtime. Do not lay down after eating.
3. Avoid alcohol, spicy food, Advil, Motrin, ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, Alleve.”

During my visit, the doctor had discussed with me his theory that I have a rare acid reflux reaction in which the stomach acid comes up the esophagus and makes a turn straight down into the lungs. The result is usually coughing and/or chest pressure (trouble breathing). He says in these cases, the affected people do not feel the acid’s movement from the stomach into the lungs. He said it IS possible that it takes 2 weeks for my lungs to clear out and hence have breathing issues for 2 weeks. This makes sense, since I’ve had acid reflux before from a stress-induced stomach ulcer in 2000, and last nite, I spit up a mouthful of acid (and half-digested dinner) just getting up from a laying position on the couch.

Aside from the list of over-the-counter pain relievers I can’t take (which I don’t take anyway unless I’m writhing on the floor foaming at the mouth from pain), my doctor’s suggestions sound like weight-loss tips. I guess one side effect of un-GERDing myself will be trimming down my body. I can live with that.

This arrived on Wednesday afternoon, in “dark rosewood.” I immediately went MIA for the next 10 hours and reacquainted myself with Bach, Clementi, Mozart, Debussy, Richard Clayderman, Lionel Richie…
I can tell you that the capabilities of this instrument far, far exceeds what I’m able to do, invent, take advantage of, but the store that sold this has unlimited free “button-pushing” classes. I just might soon be able to bring some of those melodies (and occasional full-orchestral pieces) that write themselves in my head to life.
In the last couple of days, Mr. W’s daughter brought a new song she’d written and asked me to come up with a piano riff and/or accompaniment, and what I have so far, she loves. Mr. W downloaded and purchased programs for teaching piano to beginners, and has plugged the digitial piano to his computer and monitor and has been learning simple pieces on black keys. Mr. W’s son was over the day the piano was delivered and listened to me mess around with the various instrument voices available, making some popular love songs’ melody parts into saxophone or violin parts, while keeping piano accompaniment, and he said that if Mr. W’s learning programs work, he’d like to learn to play as well. So it’s a little something for everyone in the family!
Oh, wait…I do have one complaint…in that 1st day of 10-hour piano playing for me, I already wore the gold off the top of one of the pedals. Come on, Yamaha, I know you can use better paint than that!! I wasn’t even wearing shoes!

Today is furlough day, and it’s a rare furlough day when I’m not at the dentist these days. Instead, I went to a Kaiser appointment for a physical, and to check up on why I’d been gasping for breath for the past couple weeks. Of course, by the time I obtained this appointment, the breathing difficulties have been over. My first air-restriction-less day was Monday. I sat there at Ann’s apartment chatting with her and suddenly realized, I was breathing normally! Tuesday wasn’t bad, either, despite walking to lunch and back. I also haven’t gymmed in a few days, maybe that helped. The doctor checked me over and said all four quadrants of my lungs sound great, I don’t appear to be anemic, I’m in great physical shape, oxygen saturation at 100%, blood pressure 104/59, pulse at 62. He was impressed by the decades of gym dedication and said I’ve saved myself from at least 80% of physical ailments due to my exercise regimen. He ordered a blood test to rule out anemia and kidney disease anyway, just in case.

At the lab, I was freaking out remembering my last blood-draw experience at a different Kaiser, and I expected to be pricked 3 times on each arm for nothing before they threaten to draw from my foot. *shudder* Instead, the guy had me squeeze the ball, tied my arm, did a poke-poke inside my elbow with his fingertip, set up his needles and test tubes, did another poke-poke, wiped my arm with a swab and wiped it off with a dry swab, I turned my head, he poked with a needle, I saw out of the corner of my eye that he was rapidly changing test tubes as I filled what I needed to fill, and he pulled the needle out and taped a cotton ball to the prick site. “Okay, you’re all done,” he said, not a hint of stress on his face.
“Wow, you’re SO MUCH BETTER than the last phlebotomist I had!” I said in happy surprise.
He said modestly, “Oh really? Probably just my lucky day.”

So now we wait for blood results to see if the cause for my sucking wind can be uncovered there.

I’d like to welcome my jujitsu friend Gerardo to the blogosphere! Turns out, he’s a really good writer. Since he’s now a blogger, I’ve made Gerardo the first jujitsu buddy to be informed that I have a blog (aside from personal friend Vanessa, but she had to be my roommate first before I even let her in on it). You may remember Gerardo from my past blog posts such as this one.

Right now Gerardo’s looking for Cindy’s World. I told him I have a blog, he expressed interest in reading it, I got his permission to put his link up on my blogroll, but I didn’t give him this blog address or any clues as to what it’s called. I’m curious just how easily I can be found on the internet, anyway. He should be happily surprised when he finally finds the blog and reads this post…or when he gives up and I finally give him the address, whichever comes first.

Earlier in the week I received my dental statement for the work Dentist Andy had to do on a molar that had a chunk crack off last month. It was just shy of $1K. Insurance took care of about half, and I paid the other half out-of-pocket. That was the second or third time that a molar fell apart on me; the first one was while eating a Zone bar some years ago, and I had another one that seemed like the filling and part of the tooth fell out, and Andy had repaired both last year, and this one happened while I was eating a panini last month. Andy determined the tooth was so compromised that I needed a crown, so I have a temporary crown in place right now (my first one, and I was hoping that’s the end of crowns for me) and the permanent one will be installed next month. Well, on the same day that I received the dental statement, I was laying in bed when I realized I was so thirsty, that I just HAD to go downstairs for a drink of water. While I was drinking, I realized I hadn’t flossed yet that night, so I went to the bathroom and started flossing. The floss got a little stuck between two teeth (on the opposite side of where I had the temporary crown), so I gave it a little tug. That freed the floss, all right, but it also freed something else that flew out of my mouth and landed with a rattle on the bathroom sink counter. I looked closely, and recognized it immediately. I mean, I’ve had enough practice. It’s a chunk of ANOTHER molar!! Who the hell’s teeth fall apart like this?! I’ve been going to the dentist nearly every furlough day to get work done and just when I was finally done, my teeth start falling apart. I already have a dental appointment for mid-January for the crown, I suppose I’ll just wait till then. I went back to bed and laid there lamenting and regretting my thirst and good oral hygiene (WHY did I have to floss?!) and gave myself acid reflux all night.

On top of teeth problems, I’ve also been having the old breathing difficulty again. It feels kind of like my lungs are unable to expand to take in more air, or the air isn’t filling up as much as it should, even though I can tell air’s coming in. I think it may just be a sensation of not having air since I’m not wheezing or choking or anything. Maybe something’s wrong with my diaphragm. I end up gasping for deep breaths, trying to get all the air in I can, and then get light-headed from hyperventillation. That means I must be getting some oxygen, right? I asked Vicky yesterday whether anemia would cause the sensation of not getting enough air, and she said yes, so maybe that’s it. I’d rather think it’s that (which makes sense cuz this happens when I’m eating little-to-no red meat, such as the summer before my wedding and now), or what she thinks — slight bronchial inflammation from the cold or the bad air quality — than to think it’s something like lung cancer. I had the suffocating feeling fairly often summer of ’08, then periodically earlier in the year, and recently it’s been all the time, all day long, so I finally had to call the doctor for an appointment. The attacks have never lasted this long; usually they’d come and go within minutes, and in the past week it’s all the time. I also think I may be a little short of breath, as at the gym I now have to stop and breathe before moving on to the next exercise. If I’m sitting very still, I don’t have the problem.

All this could only mean one thing — my manufacturer’s warranty must have just expired.

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