It had been a long time since I’d been to the emergency room, so my body thought it would be time to go again. Quickly, my body polled itself; usually, the lungs sounded out, saying that they’d love to have an asthma flare-up, but for some reason my lungs remained quiet this time. Then my stomach piped up and decided it would be fun to have some major cramps; not the minor twinges that everyone gets from time to time after eating too much cauliflower, but the big whopping kind that leave you doubled over in pain, in tears because of their intensity. Yeah, said my body, that works. And see if the back can get in on the action as well. This really needs to be a party.

My stomach had been a little sore all night on Friday night, but at mdnight, these cramps really struck hard, and I finally poked Jennifer awake and asked her if she could call the advice nurse at the hospital. After a record shattering five minutes on hold (the previous record for shortest time on hold with an advice nurse was half an hour), the nurse listened to my symptoms and said that I needed to go to the ER. My body was delighted with the idea, since it had been so long. I was not but Jennifer put me in the car and drove me off.

The ER we went to was pretty slow, so I got in right away. I was poked at and prodded, given painkillers and saline, told to pee, told to bleed, and tested and poked all over. The doctor examined me in a place where I’d never been examined before, explaining that it was routine in cases of stomach problems like this, but it was disturbing anyway. The doctor announced that she found nothing unusual but that my prostate felt normal.

I was given pain medication in an IV drip, and the cramping subsided. My blood was tested and so was my urine. Nothing odd was found so the doctor ordered an abdominal CAT scan, fearing appendicitis. This involved drinking two large cups full of nasty-tasting goo that would make my intestines glow for the CAT scan, and a three hour wait while the goo went to work. In the scanning room, the radiologist injected X-ray dye into my veins, which felt like a strange warmth spreading throughout my body, beginning in my pelvis and spreading upwards. It’s difficult to describe the sensation. It was like urinating backwards in a way.

The results of the CAT scan showed that I have something called “diverticulitis”. It’s a condition where your intestines form small pouches on the outside; I don’t know why one’s intestines would do this, unless it’s part of an evacuation plan, a place to store personal belongings when it comes time to leave the body. These pouches are called “diverticules”. And every now and then they can become infected, and that’s what heppened to me. And it hurts like the devil himself.

The worst thing about this, though, is that I’m at least ten years too young to develop this condition. Just like the gout and the hypertension: I’m not old enough for these things to happen to me. I told Jennifer that at the rate I’m going, I’ll be developing arthritis at 38, and by the time I’m 40 I’ll be wearing those polyester paints that go up to my chest and complainng about the government full time.

At any rate, we got to leave the ER at six in the morning, with prescriptions for some hard-core antibiotics and Vicodin, which I’d never taken before, and instructions to call my doctor as soon as possible to follow up on this. The doctor — who was actually really friendly and efficient — told me that if I’m lucky I might get to have a colonoscopy or even surgery to correct the problem.

A couple of days later, I’m still worn out. I still have some pain in my stomach and in my back but nothing like what I had on Friday or Saturday (the Vicodin kept me pain-free enough to go to a wedding and reception on Saturday, where I’m sure my painkiller-inspired humor made me the life of the party). One of the antibiotics lists drowsiness as a side-effect, and I think it’s hit me really hard.

Anyway, that was my excitement for the weekend. You can read all about diverticulitis here, and see some pictures of infected intestines.

If nothing else, I now have something that I can put into this year’s Christmas letter: “To all my beloved friends and family; this year, among other things, Richard got to have his first rectal exam…”

Quick! To the AM Dial!

I’ve always wanted to get sports. I mean, I’ve never understood the whole thing. When I find myself in a situation where people are talking about touchdowns, fifty-yard lines, and Raider Nation, I always embarrass myself by asking something like, “So… um… we’re talking about football here, right?”

There have been times when I’ve given it a good try. In my first year of college, prodded by a friend, I tried to get into football. I went to a couple of UC Davis games, I watched a few pro games on TV, but I couldn’t quite get it. I don’t know why. I think it’s a bizarre form of androgen insensitivity: in me, the hormones that drive the football spirit probably are produced, but they’re just not absorbed.

I tried to get into hockey. Everyone in my family was a fan of the San Jose Sharks, back before they even learned how to play hockey and all they had going for them was a cool team logo (everyone, that is, except for my little sister, who liked the Anaheim Mighty Ducks — the feuds that erupted when the two teams played each other were pretty fun to watch). I went to a Sharks game when they played against Philadelphia once, and it was fun. But I didn’t really get into the sport itself. When there’s a hockey game on a TV in a public place, I look up and try to figure out what’s going on, but I never do get it. I think that when I figure out what a Power Play is, I will feel better about this.

I watched a few basketball games on TV. My friend Evilpheemy tried to teach me the intricacies of basketball, because I had a crush on a woman in my office who was a big basketball fan (she ended up with another co-worker who wasn’t a basketball fan after all).

But now, I think I’m beginning to get baseball. Perhaps it’s just because the World Series are coming up, but there’s baseball fever — well, at least a slight cold — in my office, and I’m starting to feel like I understand it. A bit.

Baseball’s neat, possibly because there are some things you can know about baseball without even being a fan. For example: the Cubs lose. You don’t have to know anything about baseball at all to know that. The Chicago Cubs just lose. I don’t mean that they lose every game that they play (that would be the Cincinnati Tigers, but who cares about them?). What I mean is that the Cubs can get close, real close, to winning the championship, and then flub it in the last inning by… well, just by flubbing it up. It’s the human story, Mike Royko, the former columnist from Chicago, says. Who hasn’t experienced the agony of getting really, really close to your goal and losing it at just the last moment?

That’s what the Cubs do. They lose.

The Red Sox do kind of the same thing. They’ve got a great team this year, even I know that, but they can’t quite seem to get their act together. Again, it’s the human story. You get everything just right, but somehow everything seems to go wrong.

The Yankees win. That’s another truism. But they also suck. Because who the hell wins all the time? Schmucks like the Yankees, that’s who.

That’s why people can be fans of the Cubs and hate the Yankees, even though the Yankees win and the Cubs lose. It’s because the Cubs are real human beings, regular joes like you and me, but the Yankees are like those rich kids who got to have everything their way in high school.

See? It’s a cultural thing.

The other night, I knew that the Cubs were laying the Marlins, and I heard on NPR the next morning that the Cubs had the game in the bag, until close to the end, when things just started to go wrong. I knew that the Cubs played the Marlins again the next night and lost with dignity.

Last night, the Yankees played the Red Sox in New York. I wanted to hear the game, so while I was driving home I actually sought out an AM radio station that was playing the game. I didn’t hear much of it, just a bit of the top of the second inning (see how quickly you can pick up the language?); I heard enough to know that Roger Clemens, the pitcher for the Yankees (and isn’t that a great name? Roger Clemens, how much more American can you get?) was giving out home runs left and right to the Sox. When I got home, the Sox were ahead by a score of 4-0. Yet the Yankees managed to pull it out from under them, so it’s going to be the Yankees vs. the Marlins at the World Series this year.

I’m interested in how the Series will go, but I probably won’t actually watch the games. I was rooting for the Cubs against the Marlins, and the Sox against the Yankees. If either of those teams had gotten in, I probably would have gone out of my way to watch at least one of the games of the World Series.

All in all, though, I think I’m glad that things turned out the way they did. I don’t think the Universe would be able to cope with the sheer surrealism of a World Series featuring the Cubs against the Sox.

Hypertension leads to moral decay

Imagine the scene in my pulmonologist’s office a few months ago. A spirometry reading indicates that I have pretty significant airway remodeling going on in my lungs, which is irreversible. Nothing serious, really, just that my lungs have been permanently damaged by a lifetime of asthma, and my lung capacity is lower than it could be (but, surprisingly, actually better than average for people my age and size). The nurse looks at the results of the spirometry and says, “You’ve got plenty of obstruction there.”

“Yeah,” I joke. “I keep telling people that my asthma is going to kill me some day.”

The nurse checks my chart again. “Well,” he says, “if that blood pressure doesn’t come down, it won’t be your asthma that kills you.”

Okay, I’ve known for years that I have hypertension, but I admit that I’ve only taken a half-hearted approach to getting it under control. Take a few pills, then go back to my bad-for-me lifestyle of little exercise and too many cheeseburgers. But this time, something clicked in my brain and I finally realized that this is something I have to take very seriously, and that lifestyle changes are required.

Hence, the cauliflower that I am snacking upon at my desk while wrestling with Oracle.

And let me tell ya, raw cauliflower is one of the least inspiring foods you can possibly inflict on yourself. It’s healthy, sure, but it sits on my desk, in a little Tupperware container, amidst a few carrots and bits of broccoli, looking a little bit like a brain with an engorged brainstem.

“Yeah,” it says cheekily, “you want me.”

It lies. It’s like a whore who stands on the corner, saying the same thing as she wipes a booger from her upper lip and scratches her behind.

Not that I’m comparing cauliflower to a whore, mind you. I’m sure the whore is much more wholesome.

My soul longs for something better. Steak, maybe. Prime rib. A chocolate sundae piled high with strawberry ice cream and hot fudge and whipped cream and nuts, probably as dessert to the aforementioned steak or prime rib. And a big mug of a good stout beer to the side.

But my heart betrays me. Cauliflower it is. There’s something deeply poetic in that, I’m sure.

I’m sure that I could bring some light salad dressing in to dip the cauliflower into, or steam it a little so that I wouldn’t have to eat it raw, but I think of these as exercises in self-deception. It doesn’t even alter the flavor, all that much. All it does is try to convince you that it’s not really cauliflower you’re eating; but God and your conscience know better, and the taste remains.

Cauliflower, I know, would taste much better if it were brown in color, sweet, chocolate flavored… in short, if only it weren’t cauliflower.


Two years ago, Jennifer and I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), mostly as a way to get my own mind on something else other than the fact that I’d been laid off the month before. Jennifer swears that the 50,000 words she wrote were pure garbage, but since she deleted them all, no one will ever be able to tell for sure. Me, I wrote the text to a novel I’d been pondering for awhile, something called Unfallen. It turned out to be half-complete. Someday I’ll finish that one up. And since it’s just part of a huge epic involving many different novels in many different genres taking place in many different times and places, it’s going to be a huge project. Maybe someday I’ll finish it. I suppose that I could use NaNoWriMo this year to write the next book in the Unfallen cycle, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that unless I finished the first one. Go figure.

So anyway, I’ve decided to do something totally different this year, and write something called The Road to Gilead. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? It was originally going to be a post-apocalyptic story about a prophet in a mega-city called New San Francisco who was going to lead a group of refugees to a mythical homeland in the midwest known as Gilead. When I first conceived of it, the thing that enchanted me the most was the whole New San Francisco setting. But I never got anywhere else with it.

Then I created this web page for The Road to Gilead. I grabbed the background image almost at random, thinking it was just kinda neat (it’s a picture of an old abandoned mill in the California ghost town called Bodie), but when I really looked at it, I discovered that it kind of awoke something in me. The original idea for Road to Gilead didn’t appeal anymore.

So now The Road to Gilead is a western. A post-apocalyptic western, to be sure, but a western nonetheless. And since I’ve read very few westerns, this is going to be quite a challenge to me. I checked a few books out of the library and I’m planning on watching a few movies… but that’s probably not going to be enough.

Well, fortunately, NaNoWriMo isn’t all that serious. And the point is just to get the thing written. You can always fix it up later.

One of the really interesting things about NaNoWriMo, though, is how seriously people are taking their fiction when it comes to realism. I don’t think anyone is expecting to have a perfectly researched and written novel, of course. But there’s a forum on the site which is meant specifically to hook writers up with each other to exchange information, with the idea of making novels more realistic. I think that’s kind of neat. So I’ll be posing questions about horses, probably.

Not much else is going on my world right now. I think it’s neat that the Chinese have sent a man into space; I wish it would help get the U. S. space program back into gear, but I know we don’t currently have the vision or the competent leadership that would be required. Tonight I lead Bible study at my church. No word on the process of turning my temp job into a permanent one. And so on.


Early returns are in; and, contrary to intelligence and common sense and democratic principles, we went and recalled our governor and put an action movie star in his place.

But at any rate, now that Californians have proven to the world what a bunch of gullible idiots we are, I feel that I can safely voice my vision of what will happen over the next few years.

First, I predict that the California economy will improve. It won’t happen quickly; it will take a couple of years. Schwarzenegger will be governor, so he’ll be able to take the credit for it. If it takes longer than three years, then he’ll be voted out of office for being as incompetent as Gray Davis, even though he won’t be any more responsible for the state of the economy than Gray Davis was.

Remember the national recession? The fact that 48 other states and the national government are all running massive deficits, just like California? Remember the dot-bomb? Remember the stock-market crash? Remember the energy deregulation debacle which led to manipulation of California energy markets by Enron and other corporations — a deregulation which Republicans inflicted on us? Arnold says that he will put market forces to work to solve our energy problems — um, pardon me, isn’t that the kind of thinking that got us into the mess we’re in anyway? But I digress…

Anyway, the economy will go through some ups and downs. If the slump lasts longer than three years, then Schwarzenegger will be voted out of office in 2006 (which is when this gubenatorial election should have happened) and a Democrat will be voted in. Then the economy will improve again, not because of anything anyone did, but simply because that’s the way these things will work. Then the economy will slump again, and Republicans will come back.

The thing that bothers me the most about all this is that Republicans now pretty much have the state in a grip as far as the budget is concerned. True, liberal Democrats still have a majority in the Legislature, but not the two-thirds majority needed to make a budget work. The Republicans have just enough votes in the Legislature to bully the Democrats around. What bothers me about this is that we basically have a one-party system in place with regards to the budget, and that is never a good thing. And yes, I would have said the same thing if the Democrats controlled the Legislature completely and a Democrat had just been elected governor.

Frighteningly, I think that makes me a Libertarian. Except that I also believe that certain part of the infrastructure just shouldn’t be under the control of big corporations since that leads to political corruption and a weakening of the same infrastructure.

At any rate, it’s said that people get the leaders they deserve. I really wish that we deserved better than what we got.

Some Things Never Change

Personally, I find the California recall race very reassuring. It’s nice to know that there are some things that never change, including the fact that elections like these haven’t changed all that much from the days when we were voting for class president in sixth grade. For example, I remember that when I was in sixth grade, we had one of those elections for class president, and this one kid, Jason (not his real name — I didn’t change it out of respect, I just changed it because I can’t remember what his real name was; for all I know, it really was Jason), was running.

Jason was a schmuck. There’s no doubt about that. He was a basketball player (our school didn’t have a football team) and he was strangely popular. He was tall, good-looking, and charismatic, but he was mean to the “nerds” in our school, male and female, and he made passes at the girls, slapping their rear ends and grabbing their breasts in the hallways between classes. And his grades were abysmal.

But he was running for Class President, and because he was popular, he was the popular candidate. He was one of those guys who was popular, in spite of his lack of academic ability or character. And, of course, he won.

Sound familiar to anyone?

I have expressed my opinion on my Live Journal that I don’t believe Arnold Schwarzenegger should be our next governor. Leaving aside the questions about his character and how he treats women, I don’t believe that he is at all qualified to be Governor. He’s intelligent, and there can be no doubt about that; but he has no political experience (and running a charity doesn’t count as experience in elected governorship). Sure, this makes him an “outsider”; but I think that once he’s elected, he’ll find that he’s in over his head as he deals with a legislature that is divided, fractious, and dominated by liberal Democrats. And as the allegations about his character and his shady dealings with Enron continue to surface, resistance to him is probably going to only get worse.

But because Arnold has the charisma, his character doesn’t matter and his qualifications don’t matter, and he’ll be elected. I’m impressed that he was man enough to admit to what he did, though his apology fell just short of admitting that what he did was wrong (I’m probably picking at nits with this; but saying, “What I did was wrong” is still a bit different than “I’m sorry I offended you”).

I’ve already voted, of course. I voted “No” on the recall, as should everyone who values the democratic process in America. People who believe that they can buy an election, or who would like to force the results through quickly regardless of accuracy (and in spite of Constitutional requirements) violate democracy, which is just wrong.

I also voted for Cruz Bustamante, though I felt somewhat violated afterwards (kind of how I felt after voting for Gray Davis in 2002). I voted, then I took a long shower. I still feel dirty. And on reflection, I wish I’d voted for one of the minor candidates — Georgy Russell, perhaps, a Democrat who also has no political experience, but at least has integrity and solid values.

In the sixth grade, the class president really doesn’t have a whole lot of power over anything; over the school budget, over school policy, or the selection of books at the school library. So kids can vote for the schmuck, and the consequences won’t be so bad. The governor of the state can have a large impact, though. It’s almost a shame that the kids in the sixth grade don’t get to live with the consequences of a bad choice in an election, a choice based on popularity and charisma over qualifications and character. If they had gotten that chance, then perhaps the people of this state might start showing some sense.

Bagpipes on the Breeze

Last Saturday, Jennifer and I woke up late for a change. There was a Scottish Games event in our town, less than a mile away from our house, and through the bathroom window I could hear the sounds of the bagpipes as they were tuning up (which sounds something like a sick cat being drawn and quartered). I felt good. I love Scottish games, and I was looking forward to my parents coming up and joining us at the games.

When my parents showed up, we walked over to the site of the games, where it became quickly obvious that there was to be no haggis served. This puzzles me, not just because haggis is a fine delicacy that people delight in all the world over, but also because the local purveyor of haggis, the Scottish Meat Pie Company (which has a website somewhere around here, though I can never find it when I need it) is a mere three blocks from my house. You remember, it’s the place where I bought the haggis that my sisters and I gave to my father for Christmas a year or so ago. Well, even without the haggis to eat (and who knows how many Weight-Watchers Points are in a haggis anyway?), I was able to find a T-shirt which reads, “Real men eat haggis!” This made me feel better.

We wandered through the Calvacade of Clans. My stepfather is descended from Clan Ross, so we hit that booth first. These clan booths don’t really have much to offer if you’re not a member of the clan they represent; usually just information about upcoming events, mailing lists, and chances to meet other members of the clan. The people are friendly enough, though. So I started chatting with one of the folks at the Clan Ross booth, quickly explaining that I wasn’t a member of Clan Ross, and that my last name is Crawford, not Andrews.

“Oh, Crawford!” the man replied. “Well, I think that Clan Lindsay has a booth here somewhere. And Crawford is a sept of Lindsay, you know.”

“Neat,” I said cleverly. “But I’m not really descended from the clan. I’m descended from a group of Cherokee that took the name Crawford because they were forced to take a European name, and Crawford was the last name of an English general that they liked.”

The man nodded. “Well, look at this,” he said, handing me a pamphlet listing all the affiliations of Clan Ross. “Part of the annual budget of Clan Ross actually goes to the Trail of Tears. Because of Captain John Ross, you know?”

I didn’t know, but I was intrigued. The Trail of Tears is the name of the period of history when the Cherokee people were forced to move, en masse, from their homeland in Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousands died, mostly women and children, and that’s why it’s called the Trail of Tears. I don’t know the history of John Ross, but I resolved to start researching it as soon as I got home.

Um. I still haven’t started that yet.

Anyway, I did swing by the Clan Lindsay booth, but there really wasn’t much there to look at. So we left that part of the Games to explore other areas.

In the middle of the Calvacade of Clans was this dragon. It’s made of steel and wood and breathes fire and is as large as a Volkswagon Bus. Jennifer made me promise to make one for her. I haven’t started that yet, either.

And at the entrance/exit of the Calvacade was an information booth. The sign above it read “Clan Information”. Naturally, I went over to ask them what their tartan looked like. In return, I got a puzzled look. Oh well.

I love Scottish Games. There’s always great music (Tempest played this year — Tempest, one of my favorite bands ever, played just a mile from my house!), interesting people to talk to, and neat vendors to look at. All in all, it was a worthwhile day, even if it was topped by the worst production of Music Man that I’ve ever seen. But more on that some other time.

In other news, I’m still working as a temporary employee here in this office, plugging away at Solaris and Oracle. The management has just recently opened it as a permanent position, and of course I submitted an application. I spoke with my boss and he assures me that unless someone shows up with outstanding qualifications, the job is pretty much mine. Keep your fingers crossed for me, okay?

The spectre of hypertension has been raised yet again by my pulmonologist. So today I’ve got an appointment to see my regular doctor to see if there’s anything that can be done about that. Again.

And finally, I’ve reformatted my journal entries. Neat, huh? I’m working on eliminating tables as a layout tool for my pages, and using cascading stylesheets instead; if you look at the source code for this page, you’ll see that frames are not involved in the making of this page. But be warned, though; this new style looks as intended only in Mozilla-based browsers (Mozilla or Netscape or Firebird). If you’re using Internet Explorer, which is very buggy when it comes to style sheets, then upgrade thee to a standards-based browser today.