Arthritis Trigger-Lack of Sleep?

One of the fun things about an auto-immune disease is that it is highly individualized.  What triggers an arthritic flare for one person may have absolutely no effect on another one.  That’s why you almost see websites about arthritis with possible flare triggers (at least about psoriatic arthritis) use also sorts of wiggle language and caveats.  Some of the most common I’ve seen include caffeine (no change for me, as evidenced by coffee-free Lents), cheese/dairy (I haven’t really gone full dairy-free, but have no change when I reduce dairy), alcohol (no change here, whether I imbibe or not), sugar (early on I tried this and went added-sugar free for about a month on the theory that sugar, or at least too much sugar, is an inflammatory.  No change during, no change when I added sugar back in, no change when I indulge in sweets cravings).  So, auto-immune really is a case of “your mileage may vary.”

All that said, I think I’ve run across one thing that usually triggers an arthritis flare for me:  lack of sleep/disrupted sleep.  As long as I clock about 6-7 hours a night, I’m fine.  One or two days of a little less, and things seem OK.  Much more than that and I do start to feel pain in my hands.  I should note here that although I have a few swollen joints, my particular manifestation of psoriatic arthritis is not usually painful.  A twinge now and then is all I usually have.  Things look much worse than they actually are (and they don’t look all that bad, really).

Since I was on travel last week, my sleep schedule was completely disrupted.  The jet lag from being five hours ahead, along with a couple of later than usual nights, as well as a couple of long plane trips conspired to give me a flare up part of the way through the trip, and that I’m still trying to tamp back down.  The main thing is getting back to usual amounts of sleep so as not to make things worse.  Secondarily, I’ll take a minimal dose of an anti-inflammatory if the flare continues more than a few days, so as not to cause damage to the joints.  This usually gets things back under control after a couple of days.

Again, what works for one auto-immune patient might not (probably won’t) work for another.  This happens to be what sets things off for me, and one way I’ve come up with to handle it.  As with most things in life, your mileage may vary.


Ash Wednesday in the Desert…and for 12-year olds. — Charlotte was Both

Well worth reading, both for the passage on Lent in the desert, and for how older Catholic books treat older children (those who have been confirmed, which used to be at a much younger age than high school) as full members of the Church Militant.

From previous years, but still worth a read! How did I happen up on this? In the usual, wandering way. I went to and typed in “ash wednesday” in the search box, and after wading through a bunch of sermons and pamphlets (including one I had written!), I happened upon this, and stumbled into a huge rabbit hole. […]

via Ash Wednesday in the Desert…and for 12-year olds. — Charlotte was Both

“Dockless” Should Not Equal “Brainless”

For better or for worse (for worse, in my opinion), the local jurisdictions around here have all started pilot programs for various forms of “dockless” mobility device sharing–bikes (some e-bikes) and e-scooters.  The dockless bicycle program seems to be much less popular than the e-scooters, at least based on the numbers I’ve seen.  Unlike the initial bikeshare program, which has designated docks scattered throughout the area, you pick these up wherever they’ve been left, and just park them at the end of your trip.

Now, in theory, this is an OK idea, especially in this urban environment where the bus system is not all that great for actually getting you from point A to point B in a timely manner without making you go through all sorts of gyrations to make it work with your schedule.  Rather than needing to procure your own bicycle or other vehicle, you pick one up close by, pay via app for the short trip, and leave it parked when you get to your destination so another person can take it.  These companies seem to have found a niche to fill, so good on them.

That said, the execution has been lacking.  Just because the scooter or bike is dockless, doesn’t mean the users get to be brainless.  Shortly after the scooter programs got the green light, I started finding them parked really poorly, obstructing the bike path or sidewalks.  The first offense was last summer, when one was parked on the sidewalk at an intersection in such a way as to block BOTH directions at the cross walk.  You absolutely had to detour around it.  Later on this fall, I ran across a scooter parked in the middle of the span of the 14th street bicycle/pedestrian bridge, blocking at least half of the route.  This happened not just once, but several times.  It’s as if the person using the scooter ran out of time on his or her payment, and just left it there rather than paying to go another half mile.

Things have actually gotten worse recently.  In the last four weeks, I’ve had to physically move three scooters out of the way so I could get around.  Two were blocking the curb cut to a very busy cross walk.  Just this morning, I had to move one off the sidewalk so we could walk to church without detouring onto the very soggy strip of lawn between the road and the sidewalk.

In addition to this lack of consideration, I’m seeing more and more people riding these scooters (which are motorized, remember), recklessly through areas where there are lots of tourists.  You almost never see a helmet (even though they can get up to some significant speeds), and I’m seeing more and more scooters carrying two or more people.  Again, just because they don’t need to think about where to park, it’s like many of the users forget to use their brains at all.

Sure, there are many responsible users of this program out there, and it fills an obvious need.  That said, before the pilot goes permanent, I would like to see the companies step up the enforcement of their own published guidelines:  do not block sidewalks when parking, wear a helmet, and ride responsibly.  If the companies do not/cannot/won’t enforce, then it would be nice to see a few fines levied for obstructing a public thoroughfare or endangering others to drive home the point.

Where did the Gloria Go?

In the traditional Catholic calendar, today was Septuagesima, or “Seventieth.”  This is a misnomer, because it is certainly NOT the 70th day before Easter.  The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, as reprinted at New Advent suggests that it may just be named this as part of a series (since Lent is Quadragesima, or Forty), or that it’s possible that this is the earliest that Lent began for some early Christians (who would have excepted Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from counting for the fast).  It comes down to this being one of those tradition-inertia things that we have held onto.

In any case, what it does mean is that we’re in pre-Lent.  It is a reminder that we should begin preparing ourselves for the great fast that is coming.  We have three Sundays to plan out our Lenten observances, and really figure out how to get ourselves ready for Easter through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  As a sign of this, the liturgy (at least in the Extraordinary Form of the Catholic Mass) changes.  We lose the Gloria at mass.  We also lose the Alleluia, which is replaced by a tract (essentially, an extended psalm without antiphon responses) in mass.  Traditionally, the Alleluia is “buried” the Saturday before Septuagesima (no, really, a paper or banner with the word is buried, to be brought out again at Easter).  The priest wears purple.  In many ways, it starts to look like Lent, even if we aren’t quite into the full-blown Lenten season yet.

Still, Lent is coming, and the liturgical changes serve as that wake up call to get us thinking about it.

On the Cusp of Language Development Breakthrough

Thumbkin, a rambunctious toddler, is very close to a breakthrough on his linguistic development.  Last week, he started making “g” sounds, followed by “l” sounds.  Over and over and over.  Yep, he was basically making the syllables for “giggle,” but it was coming out in toddler babble.  I was changing his diaper while he went on a chain of gg-l-gg-l-gg-l, and asked him if he was saying “giggle.”  In reply, he complied with a cheerful giggle, and went back at it.

Thumbkin manages to communicate and express himself quite well, which I think is a survival mechanism with four older siblings.  He HAS to be able to get a word (or babble) in edgewise just so we know he’s there.  Still, once he really starts talking, it’s going to be hard to get even a moment’s worth of peace around here, giggling aside.

Mittens: Winter Biking Necessity

Growing up, I hated wearing mittens.  Something about the way the hand-me-down things fit (or really, didn’t fit) make me uneager to don them, no matter how cold it was.  I also dislike the loss of dexterity that comes with having your fingers unable to manipulate things independently.

Fast forward to, oh, a couple of years ago, and I discover that mittens, do, in fact have their place.  It just turns out that, in my case, they’re really ideal for bicycle commuting in the winter.  Given my arthritis, which leads to really cold hands very quickly (not out-and-out Raynaud’s syndrome, but colder than usual), winter biking can be highly problematic.  My solution has been to wear a pair of mittens over a pair of gloves, which works pretty well.

I started out with a relatively light pair of mittens, marketed for bicycling.  They have the advantage of being water resistant, and not too bulky, so you can actually still do things with them on.  The disadvantage is that they really do need at least one pair of gloves underneath, and often a glove liner under that.  Some days, I had to wear an old pair of socks over the gloves as an additional “mitten liner” to keep some warmth.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up an inexpensive pair of ski mittens.  They’re far bulkier than what I had been wearing, but also much warmer.  I don’t really need the gloves unless its under 25 F or so, and even then just a light pair seems to work–I haven’t had to go with double gloves just yet, and I’ve already tested them with temperatures in the teens.

I know what I really need are bar mitts, which mount on your handlebar and create a weatherproof pouch for your hands, but I’m reluctant to spend the money on them, and I haven’t had a chance to source the neoprene to make my own.  In the interim, at least, the ski mittens are working, so I’ll stick with it.

At least I got over my childhood dislike of mittens.  It’s really a case of finding the right tool for the job.

Fudge, Finally

Based on multiple attempts, I’ve determined that I am not a confectioner.  I’ve tried to make different candies and such, but things more often than not go sideways.  This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but it is an interesting limitation to know and try to overcome.  The opportunity presented itself in the run up to New Year’s Day, when we were getting ready to have people over for hoppin john, cornbread, and a house blessing.

I was looking for some sort of dessert/sweet to make to have on hand for some friends of ours who have to be gluten free.  I also had on hand several bars of semisweet and unsweetened baking chocolate that needed to be used.  Sure enough, in the book CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher, was a recipe for fudge.  Several, actually, to include traditional, marshmallow, and microwave varieties.  I opted to try the microwave recipe because of the low time investment–about 5-10 minutes max, all told, of active work.  What makes this work is the sweetened condensed milk, which has all the sugar already in it, and much of the water already taken out of the milk:

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

7 oz milk chocolate chips [I had 60%, which is in the semisweet category]

11 oz semisweet chocolate (bar or chips) [this is where I used some semisweet and some unsweetened]

1 tsp vanilla

[I omitted the nuts, but she gives directions to roast one cup of pecans or walnuts in the oven, then, once done, stir in a tablespoon of butter and a sprinkle of salt.]

Line an 8×8 pan with buttered foil.  Combine condensed milk and chocolate in a large glass bowl or 4-cup measuring cup and melt in the microwave at 50% for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  As soon as the chocolate is melted, stir in the vanilla (and nuts, if using), and pour into the prepared pan.  Refrigerate to cool and set.  Once set, remove from pan, peel off foil, and cut into squares.

Since I used mainly semisweet, and not milk chocolate, this set up really firm.  Not too hard, but definitely on the firm end of the fudge spectrum, especially when it was kept in the fridge.  I was worried that it would be grainy because I overstirred it, trying to make sure the chocolate was all melted (and to keep the sugar crystals small, which is what gives fudge its texture) and it started to look curdled.  I didn’t need to worry–the sugar in the condensed milk is already entangled with the milk proteins, so can’t form large crystals.  The curdledness disappeared when I poured it into the pan, and didn’t affect the final texture.   It went over well with all the guests, so I would say it was a success.

Finally, I’ve managed to conquer fudge.  Not that it’s something to make every week (or month, even), but it is nice to have a quick and easy sweet treat recipe on hand.

New Year, Updated OS

With some unanticipated free time around the new year, I finally updated the operating system on my computer.  I’ve run Linux Mint since I built the desktop (about six years ago, now), and really like it–it isn’t too far away from Windows (sorry, no experience wiht the current Apple system, so I can’t compare), and doesn’t require use of Terminal, but you can certainly do things the quick way with text commands if you like.  I started out with Mint 14, and updated to 17 after that came out.  I finally got around to updating to 19.1, which is a definite improvement.

Probably the most notable update (at least for me) is with the repository (that is, the programs that are easily installable from within the system itself).  Lots and lots of new stuff is in there (and I’m still stumbling across more).  One notable inclusion is Skype.  Previously, you had to download the tarball and install it that way, then Microsoft dropped support for earlier versions of Mint (or something happened–I couldn’t get it to work, but since it isn’t entirely essential, I didn’t bother with tracing the problem).  Now, with it in the repository, it’s just a click to install.  There are also more social media applications, if that’s your way of interacting with the world.

Additionally, someone reverse engineered the software needed to make my Canon printer/scanner work in Mint.  Last time, I had to hunt for the drivers in a form Linux could use (from Canon’s Asian site) and do some work in Terminal to try and get it to work.  Now, a developer put together the back end to allow the printer to work in Linux without needing to do a lot of manual work.  I just installed that program, and the computer found it, both for printing and scanning.  A definite win.

In addition to updating the system, I went from the Cinnamon edition to MATE.  The main difference, as far as I can tell, is that Cinnamon has a slightly more polished graphics feel to it, while MATE is a bit more familar to long-time Linux users.  On the upside, since it has less going on graphics wise, it appears to be slightly more stable.  MATE is certainly appears more bare-bones, but that’s not necessarily a problem.  Sorry, not being a deep Linux geek, I can’t give much more than those impressions–I do understand that the file manager and menu programs are different, but functionality seems to be identical.

Finally, I made the leap and put in a home partition, which should make future upgrades (or switching back to Cinnamon) easier.  In essence, what this does is puts my home folder (where all your personal and working files go) in a parition on the hard drive, rather than as a folder within the OS.  When I go to update the system again (or install a different edition of Mint, or a different flavor of Linux), I should be able to keep the home partion and tell the system to use that as the home folder, rather than creating a new, empty one.  The mistake I made this time around was I tried to create the home partition before updating the system, and seem to have misnamed it (or named it properly, when the system wanted to create a folder of that same name).  When I installed the new system, it wouldn’t launch because it was confused by the existence of possibly two home folders on the parition.  After all, what would a system update be without a little drama and at least one re-install.  After re-installing, allowing the system to create the folder on the partion, and copying all my files into it, things ran (and continue to run) smoothly.

I’m still playing around with it, and making minor tweaks, but overall, I like the update, and am pleased with how easy it was (slight misstep with the home folder aside).  Really, it only took a couple of hours, and most of that was hands-off while files were being copied.  Well worth the investment.

Happy Epiphany

Note the song comes more from tradition than scripture.  As Yakum put it, “Wait, so the Bible says that there were magi, plural, but names three gifts.  So we know that there was more than one king, but exactly three gifts.”  Still, tradition gives us names for three of the (possibly many) magi, which influenced the carol.

Enjoy, and happy Epiphany.

Honor Among Felines

A few weeks ago, Lavash caught a mouse.  We had heard it off and on for a few weeks, scurrying around, but never actually succeeded in finding it.  I still don’t know where it came in, but given the amount of rain we’ve been having, I’m not actually surprised that it came inside in spite of the two cats.

In any case, I came inside and heard what sounded like one of the cats eating.  I assumed that one (or both) had stolen a slice of bread, or maybe a broccoli floret, or something similar.  The odd thing was that Benson was sitting a little bit away from Lavash.  It looked almost like he was standing guard, but also like he was waiting.  Benson is not known for being a patient cat–he will hop up on the counter when I’m putting food in the cat dishes, or when we’re chopping kale, or really any time he thinks he needs to eat (which is almost always).

When I got closer, I realized what had happened.  Lavash must have hunted the mouse, and caught it, while Benson was taking his extended midday nap.  Since she was the one who did the work, Benson was waiting to see if he would get a chance at the remains.  While he is not a patient cat, he isn’t stupid enough to try and take on Lavash when she’s in huntress mode.

Lavash very graciously let me trade the now-dead mouse for a cat treat, which she happily ate.  Benson got one, too, for being such a patient, honorable cat.