Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tu B'Shevat 5776


The holiday starts tonight, and ends tomorrow night. 'Tu' stands for 2 Hebrew letters that add up to 15. (Gematria is a numerology based on Hebrew letters. Certain meanings can be derived from it.) It falls on the 15th of the month of Shevat. (That's where the 'Tu' comes from.) 5776 is the year we're in on the Jewish calendar. It's also known as the New Year of the Trees. People celebrate it by eating fruits and nuts, planting trees, and having special seders. Seder lit. means 'order', but is also a special ritual meal. You go through symbolic foods/drinks in order. Many people are familiar with the Passover seder. For this one, you go through the seasons, try at least a certain amount of fruits/nuts from certain categories, drink at least 4 cups of wine (or juice, if you're like me), etc. Basically showing appreciation of nature.:iconheroamericaplz:This seder has its roots in Kabbalah and it's having a pretty recent revival. Many people refer to this holiday as the Jewish Arbor Day.

Started tapering down the prednisone last Thursday. I was feeling more and more antsy or jittery, and very sleepy. Sometimes at the same time. Which is a weird feeling. That's gotten a bit better since I went down a pill. My nausea is a lot better, and most of the time it doesn't pop up. I think it's mostly when I eat too fast, now. I still occasionally have joint pain. Not as bad as before, though. I still feel a strange pain in my chest. The same one since I started taking it. I don't think it's a really big thing, and maybe that will go down as I taper more off of it, too. It might have to do with my stomach. I don't know.:iconusaplz:They did say it can cause stomach pain, but I'm not used to this kind. I have felt a weird muscle pain. I'm not sure how to describe it.:iconhanatamagoplz:I thought one of the times it felt really bad, my upper right thigh was cramping up horribly. No amount of movement changed it. Lasted for a while. It didn't really have a 'piercing' sort of pain, like I would have with cramps. It felt deeper and like it was searing. I've been getting similar pain more often in my upper right arm. Not as intense. I usually notice it before going to bed. I've read that it might affect people's muscles. So, I guess I'll just have to see what happens over time. Also, as I went down a pill, I noticed that I'm getting more headaches. Took me a while to fall asleep last night, because it just wouldn't ease up.

My gastroenterologist wanted me to schedule an actual physical appointment with her for in a couple of weeks. I say physical, because all the appointments since the end of July have been over the phone. It's a trek to get over to that clinic. So, I thought I might try to make one for the beginning of next month, and called them. They said the closest available appointment would be in mid-March. She's apparently very popular.:iconseychelles-plz:It's quite a ways out, so they said they'd confer with her nurses to see if there could be a closer date. A couple hours later I got a voicemail from them. They said they made an appointment time for me on January 25th. At least a couple of things wrong with this.:iconinsultedplz:First, they made my appointment for me, and told me I had to confirm it. I wasn't sure if they threw out the other appointment I had made. They could have just suggested the date, or said call us back we might have a better time. Also, this would make it earlier than even my gastro wanted it to be. So, I called back. The person on the other end was very apologetic, and switched the appointment date to the same March one again. Not sure how my gastro's going to take it. She might be used to that sort of thing anyways. Especially with how popular she seems. 

I have a few things that I might want to bring up while I'm there. It might just be easier in person with some of it. I noticed for a while after I lost so much weight, that my abdomen/belly is going down at a slower rate than everything else. This scared me at first, knowing about Mom's abdominal tumor. I know it wasn't the same, but still scared me.:iconscaredplz:The sit-ups have been helping a bit. Another sign it's not what she had. I noticed about a week ago, that when I turn to the side and look in a mirror, my spine seems to do a weird 's' thing. (Or, something similar.) I never had problems with scoliosis as a kid. We were tested each year, and I was fine every time. But, right where I see the most 'belly' or thicker part, my spine seems to be a lot more concave. I'm actually getting partially defined abs, because of all the sit-ups. So, it was interesting to see. It almost seems like my spine is pushing that stuff out, and making it appear that I have more of a belly than I do. Finding this out at first, I thought it was very interesting, and almost reassuring in a way. But, once I thought about it more, it seems like it sounds a bit serious. I've heard that IBD can mess with your bones in general, possibly stripping away nutrients from it. They can become more brittle this way, too. Some meds for it can actually dissolve bone. So, this got me a bit more worried. I'll bring this up then. It might not be a big deal, but at least she might look into it.:icontinoplz: 

Another thing I want to bring up: do I really have Crohn's or do I have Ulcerative Colitis? Everything seems to point to Crohn's, including the colonoscopy/endoscopy. Except for that one IBD blood test that indicated I had UC. She told me that test can be inaccurate or produce false positives. So, I want to know for sure.:iconhongkongplz:I know that there can be Crohn's that just affects the colon, and UC only affects the colon. The only difference with these, really, is that one (Crohn's) affects more layers of it than the other. Also, Crohn's might be in more patches, rather than one section. If someone with UC has their colon taken out, they're a lot more likely to stay in remission for the rest of their lives. With Crohn's, it might travel, and slow the progression of the disease. This is at least what I've learned so far. According to the colonoscopy/endoscopy, my stomach and part of my duodenum were slightly affected as well. (Not nearly as much as my colon.) This would be more of an indicator of Crohn's. A lot of the treatments are the same, at least. I just would like a more definitive feel/answer for it. Might not get one, but I at least want to try and see. I might ask for a barium x-ray (I think) of my small intestines. Sometimes that helps with narrowing it down. They can't get to the small intestines with the colonoscopy/endoscopy. They can pretty much get to everywhere but that. Or, she may bring up that type of thing herself at the appointment. That might be partly why she wanted to see me in person, too.:iconpolandplz:So, I don't know. 

I finished figuring out descriptions for my nightmare anthology of short stories, Sweet Endless Terror. I realized I wanted to have more of the description down before I sent it off to be published. I'm actually getting pretty excited about it. Just the idea that I'm going to publish a 2nd book is pretty cool to me!:iconfrancisplz:It might take a while for it to be fully approved by both review phases. The first one doesn't take long, and it converts the book into multiple ebook formats. I think they dub it the 'meat grinder'. After it passes that, it's available through the Smashwords catalog. The second phase is manual and more in depth. After it's approved through that (it usually takes a couple of weeks for new books), it goes into their 'premium' catalog and gets distributed almost everywhere. Like I mentioned before, I'm thinking of having it as a pre-order first before it goes 'live'. They go through the review processes slightly differently, but you still have to be approved by both in the end. So, I'll see how that goes.  

For Shabbat, I did the same thing I did last time. I stayed off of electronics, and started/ended it on time. It still felt good.:iconthailandplz:Kind of refreshing in many ways. I read about a third of Sanctuary by Faye Kellerman, Friday night. It's a much thicker book than the last one I read from the series. I just started it that night. It's really good, and I didn't want to stop reading it, but I started to get really sleepy at a certain point.:iconswissplz:I like this one more than the last one, too. The killer's identity is a lot more hidden, and you don't know what they're thinking. With the last one, Day of Atonement, they kept going back and forth between the detectives/family's perspective, and the killer's/kidnapped kid's perspective. It was slightly annoying at times.:iconnorwayunimpressedplz:This one's a lot more straightforward, and it feels like there's more mystery this way. So far a wealthy family of 4 went missing. The mother and father had been found, and were killed and buried in the mountains close to home. The 2 sons are still missing. Something seemed off about the home, too. Another family, don't know if they are related with the current case, decided to stay with Peter and Rina. (Peter's the main detective in the series, and Rina's his wife. She occasionally helps out. Especially when it involves the orthodox Jewish community.) It was a mom and her 5 kids. They were trying to take a vacation away from the dad, since he was acting strangely. The dad was a diamond dealer. Same as the father in the current case. He was killed near his home, and stuffed in a locker. As soon as Peter heard about this the mom and kids disappeared. The car they had rented had stopped on a freeway, and had slashed tires. There was no one inside when Peter investigated. It's interesting that it might be related. I hope they're not dead, too.:iconraivisplz: 

It was also a special Shabbat called: Shabbat Shirah or Shabbat of Song. Both the Torah and Haftarah portions have songs in them. The Torah one looks really interesting in the actual scroll. It's stylized a bit more with wide spaces in between each line. This one's the song sung by the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea, and the Egyptians drowning in it. The Haftarah one has the Song of Deborah. Both of these are pretty violent. In the Passover seder, when we're going over the story, it's bittersweet when the Egyptians are defeated. Basically happy that we're free, but disturbed that anyone died. But, in this part of the Torah, there seemed to be no sorrowful response to it. Maybe the rabbis elaborated on it for the seder. Or, maybe that comes up later...:iconchibiswedenplz:The Deborah one was just very blunt. Some people observe Shabbat Shirah by singing more songs, and playing tambourines. 

Read and studied from the Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides. Maimonides is always interesting, but the type with this book is really small. Might need a magnifying glass next time...:iconhongkong-wantsursoul:The first part was on the concept that we're made in the image of G-d. It's not that we physically look like him. I tend to refer to G-d as him, because I'm used to it. But, many refer to him as her, as well. Some have other pronouns. Just depends on how people want to refer to him. According to Maimonides, it's our intellect. We have the ability to create, think, study the world, etc. That's how we're alike. I've always liked that idea, too. 

Havdalah was a bit easier this time.:iconranranruuplz:Might be because I'm getting more used to doing it on my own. I'm noticing that the candle burns up pretty quickly. Not exactly surprising, considering it has multiple wicks. A bit sad, because I got it in Israel.:iconkikuplz:At least it's being used now. 

I started the 2nd season of Haikyuu on Friday. Interesting start so far. Also, the 2nd season of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu or Assassination Classroom started recently. It was really good during its first season. Started watching a brand new anime a couple of weeks ago called Divine Gate. It looks promising. A bit much all at once right now, though. (Kind of similar to Kekkai Sensen that way. They hit you with a bunch of things, and then you understand more as you go along.) Fairy Tail started a new arc called Fairy Tail Zero. It's about the beginning of the guild, Fairy Tail. I like the founder, Mavis, a lot. She's very intelligent, unique, positive, had a horrible childhood, believes in fairies, tends to not wear shoes, looks ethereal, tough, and more. She spent a good chunk of her life virtually alone, except for one friend, on in island. So far this arc has been interesting, too. The current Shogun arc in Gintama has been amazing!:iconchibispainplz:Really high quality, awesome fights, nice and short flashbacks, very touching, the humor is still there (although toned down a bit), lots of surprises, and more. It seems to be one of their best arcs so far. I think it'll end during the next episode. Should be interesting to see what happens with it afterwards.

Started a manga called 6 no Trigger, or Trigger of 6 on Monday. (Some translate it to 6 Trigger.) It has a very interesting concept behind it, but has been violent, too. Some of the violent ones can be good. As long as there's a reason behind it. This one's about an assassin, named Tsubame, who shares his body with 3 other people. They switch control of him by switching to different mechanical arms. His appearance changes with each one, too. One of them is a quiet little kid named Penguin, who has amazing sniper skills. Another one's named Washi, and he has a huge gattling gun crafted to his shoulder to mow down his enemies. And, the last one's a woman named Suzume who wields dual pistols. Tsubame prefers rifles and martial arts. Should be interesting to find out how Tsubame got that way. It's a relatively short manga, but should still be interesting. 

Started the manga, Asklepios on Friday. It seems interesting, too. An order has been sent out to hunt down the existence of an Asklepios, a Greek demon G-d of medicine, whom the Church believes is practicing unorthodox methods. Buzz is the head of a family of doctors (I think he's the last one), and the Church believes his family are those demons. So, he's gone into hiding, and has helped people silently along the way. Every time he helps people they sing his praises, and he immediately runs away. He thinks the Church is always out to get him, so he wants to keep a very low profile. He's terrified of the officers that are sent by them to the towns he's stayed at. He also refused to do surgery until someone showed up to protect him, and got shot. She wants him to become more visible, and boldly help as many people as he can. Apparently his family has interesting medical abilities. They can monitor people's vital signs just by looking at them. Buzz seems very skittish, but that's to be expected. This one also seems to be short. 

Also, went to a town hall meeting about the trees that were being torn done in the greenbelt behind us. It was more like a demonstration/q and a thing. A few charts displayed with people to explain, a huge layout of the roads for the neighborhood and area, many officials around those explaining things, and people asked them questions and voiced their concerns. Interesting to see the house blown up like it was, to have a better view of what's behind us, and to see what they plan to do. The mayor was there and talked a bit to us. She had similar concerns. She couldn't be apart of the project, because she lived within the area. But, she can relay concerns, suggest things, etc. now. They do plan to tear down all of the greenbelt behind us. There's going to be a straight long road behind it. The mayor said she'll suggest that they put a fence up on the side that faces the new road. Beyond that road, in the future, there's going to be a new development. They said it'll take a few years for the project to finish. A lot of people seemed concerned about it. Many thought it was inevitable, but still find something wrong with it. Some are concerned they'll end up being flooded. The wood piles that I thought they were going to burn last week, are being turned into mulch instead. That's a lot better for everyone. I wonder if they'd be giving some of it away to the neighborhood? There were also about 4 different kinds of cookies, and water bottles at the meeting. So, yay! Calm people down with cookies and water.:iconsleepygreeceplz: 

I got to playing my clarinet this past week, too. Felt good to get back to it. I'm getting closer to finishing the original character expression meme of Junko, from my first novel. Studied a couple more kanji and their compounds. Translated more of the You Maga article. This time it's about what parents should make for school lunches, if anything. 

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