My adventures with methotrexate

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis early in 2020. This was unexpected as I thought my increasing aches and pains were due to fibromyalgia/CFS or something. I was a little sceptical about the RA diagnosis but went with it as my Rheumatology Consultant knew far more about this stuff than I did.

My blood test inflammatory markers ESR and CRP were both elevated, and I had a whole body scan after being injected with a radioactive marker, highlighting areas of bone damage.

After trying and giving up Hydroxychloroquine which make me rather tired and irritable, I was put onto Methotrexate. Interestingly, in the weeks between stopping Hydroxychloroquine and starting Methotrexate, my RA symptoms became much worse with general ache averaging 3/10 and specific pain up to 8/10.

I’m currently on my 6th dose of MTX ( 6 tablets ) and the effects are very unpleasant

  • nausea/vomiting on the 2nd/3rd day
  • Vicious migraine on the 3rd/4th day
  • appetite loss for most of the rest of the week ( this is good )
  • no noticeable effect on RA symptoms

I’m going to try for injectable MTX, and if that does not work, then some other DMARDs

https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/treatments/drugs/disease-modifying-anti-rheumatic-drugs-dmards/

All of this does seem to be the standard route for treating RA, trying cheaper/safer drugs to start with and then work on to the more difficult ones. Trying one drug, feeling terrible, stopping, feeling terrible, trying another drug does take a toll on the patient especially if they are trying to maintain a full time job.

Stopping the RA treatment is not really an option, as RA permanently damages the body, not just the joints but heart, lungs and other organs. If I’m not effectively treating the RA, my body is deteriorating.

So, my inflammatory markers : ESR is 53 ( normal = 30 ) and my CRP is 9 ( normal = 5 )

I’m waiting for these markers to start going down.

Buying A Narrowboat in lockdown

Before the second covid-19 second wave and associated lockdown hit us in December 2020, I had looked at a number of narrowboats with a view to purchase.

Of course I found a narrowboat that seemed solid, albeit rather scruffy. She had an odd engine, reverse layout and a cruiser stern. She ticked all the boxes and we could just afford her.

Unfortunately, when I saw her at the brokers near to Heathrow, it was pouring down with rain. I had a brief look outside, and good look inside but no view at all of the engine. After some consideration I put in an offer, negotiated and it was accepted dependant on survey and river trial. I fully expected to be there to chat with the surveyor after the survey, and visit during the buying process to measure things up.

Then we went into the second lockdown. We were taking lockdown seriously so a trip to the brokers was not possible, and the broker forbade it.

The boat was taken out of the water for a full survey and I had the report that evening. There are issues, but nothing terrible.

I’m just rather uncomfortable taking the purchase forward on a narrowboat that I have only seen once, in the rain.

Anyway, to put this in context, I realise I am very lucky to be able to sell our motorhome and buy and narrowboat during the pandemic, when so many people are suffering.

Postfix SSL Certificates on linux

SSL certificates have caught up with us. For our email TLS we used to use self-signed certificates, but that time finally ended when our IOS devices refused to let us authenticate to invalid, expired or self signed certificates.

I have set commercial web sites up with certificates purchased from Godaddy etc when working as a sysadmin. That was 10 years ago, and I’ve forgotten how to do it. This blog is as much of a reminder to myself as a published article .

Do I went to the wonderful letsencrypt people https://letsencrypt.org/

Following the instructions, from a bash shell I installed certbot and it seemed to do everything for me :

  1. created and downloaded a newly signed certificate and key from letsencrypt
  2. configured apache to use it
  3. our jsquared webpage was now secured but this did not help our email
  4. certbot will automatically update the certificate as it expires – I’ll find out if this works in the next few months
  5. It will analyse your apache config and optionally include sub domains as necessary. I needed to manually add the <mail> sub domain that I missed in my first attempt. It seems easy to append a new sub domain later

Configuring postfix to use the new certificates

The normal place to install the certificate is /etc/ssl/certs and for the private key is /etc/ssl/private. We had cert/keys called ssl-cert-snake-oil and I’m guessing that these were the self-signed ones.

certbot installs its keys in /etc/letsencrypt/live/jsquared.co.uk

Certificate: fullchain.pem

Key: privkey.pem

To enable the cert/key for postfix, add/change the following lines in /etc/postfix/main.cf

smtpd_tls_cert_file=/etc/letsencrypt/live/jsquared.co.uk/fullchain.pem
smtpd_tls_key_file=/etc/letsencrypt/live/jsquared.co.uk/privkey.pem

There was a really useful site to test our settings : https://ssl-tools.net/

A new trike

I’ve always been fascinated seeing recumbent trikes on the roads around Cambridge and Newmarket. My health pushed be to try one.

I currently have an electric bike, a Gazelle Grenoble and it was great for when I lost my driving licence ( for medical reasons – other bits in this blog ). I could cycle from Newmarket to Oakington and bacon one charge.

I stopped using it when I got my driving license back after finding that riding the bicycle hurt my hands, wrists and shoulders, as well as other bits being rather saddle sore.

My old electric bike – a Gazelle Grenoble

With various health issues, I’ve found myself lying down a lot more and thought that a recumbent trike might get me back onto the road. The ICE trikes looked great, but the price was formidable. So, I sold some radios and found a second hand ICE adventure HD on facebook sales.

ICE adventure HD

I’ve ridden it three times now, just for a few km. I *think* its going to be good. My thoughts so far :

  1. The trike is wonderfully comfortable to sit in once the seat and pedals have been adjusted correctly
  2. I do feel a bit vulnerable, especially with all the huge 4WD vehicles around Newmarket
  3. My legs hurt when going up any sort of incline. Apparently the muscles will adapt to this new cycling position. Changing gear down (up) when my legs ache and then learning to take it easy. There is no problem with stability on a trike when going slow so minimum speed is not an issue
  4. I am now planning which cycle computer, lights and radios are going to be fitted, and where. I want to link to Strava, but also see heart rate and as many other bio measurements as possible. I’ll always have my mobile phone with me, but that will be safely in a waterproof bag, and I really want to see a live display of speed/cadence. Perhaps a pi zero with BLE or ANT+ interface
  5. Radios. One thing I really like about the trike is that you bring your chair with you. The flag would make a potential 2m/70cm sleeve dipole. I like the idea of cycling to a local hilltop and chatting to people whilst drinking tea..

Nissan Leaf – my journey to work

I purchased a 2014 Nissan Leaf in the summer of 2016 and her first major trial was the journey from Newmarket ( home ) to Baldock (work), just over 30 miles either way.

The rated endurance is 80-100miles, and I quickly learnt the factors that affect this :

  • Temperature: the battery seems to lose capacity in the cold
  • Speed: slow speed = more endurance = upset drivers behind me
  • Drag: I have a single roof bar and  antennas
  • Heater: this also uses a good proportion of your battery
  • Aircon: as above

So, in the winter I am restricted to 55 mph especially as I have no access to a charging point at work. When the temperature was hovering around zero, getting home with the recommended minimum of 20% in the batteries was marginal even at slow speeds without the heater on. 5% was regular.

Its now spring with temperatures around 12 degrees C,  I can go faster and have the heater on. Assuming I am starting from a full overnight charge of 100%, here is a map of the battery depletion.

journey

So, 40% there and 40% home. Its works easily in the summer, but is a struggle in the winter.

Accurate timekeeping on Windows 10 for wspr

So, I’ve upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and so far, after a few months, I’m still impressed. Possibly a faster start, device manager available by left-click of the start button, and less crashes. My only complaint was a reset_for_updates a short way into carving on the CNC Router ruining the job.

Anyway, after aquiring an Elad RDM DUO 5w HF Transceiver, I have been wanting to try JT65 and WSPR. Lots of messing about later ( I must blog this ) and I have WSJTX working in a scanning WSPR mode from 473kHz up to 50MHz.

However, the successful RX messages stop after a day and I realise that the PC clock has drifted by a few seconds and the windows time update settings are too long. A quick google and here is the answer :

  1. Bring up regedit
  2.  Navigate to  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Services\W32Time\TimeProviders\NtpClient
  3. Change the DWORD SpecialPollInterval ( I set mine to 3600 decimal  seconds )
  4. Reboot I guess

This involves changing your registry. Please only do this if you know what you are doing. Changing the wrong key could break your PC.

Getting the Fun Cube Dongle Pro Plus to work on a Raspberry Pi

I wanted to be able to read the RSSI and plot the result using munin, mostly for creating a strip-chart type graph for calibrating my radio telescope. I found 3 applications that should work with the FCD pro plus and Raspberry Pi  V2:

  • Hamlib
  • fcdctl
  • carpcom-fcd

Hardware

When failing to get some of the software options below going, I did try using a better 5v usb PSU, and a shorter, thicker PSU cable. I noted that the rpi did not like to boot up with the FCD installed, and plugging it in caused the red rpi power light to momentarily dim ( without resetting the rpi )

hamlib

I installed hamlib using aptitude.

jennyb@raspberrypi ~/carpcomm $ sudo rigctl -m 2513 -r /dev/FCDPP -v
rig_open: error = IO error

( I tried a number of things but eventually gave up )

fcdctl

I built fcdctl  using :

gcc fcd.c hid-libusb.c main.c `pkg-config –libs –cflags libusb-1.0` -D FCDPP -o fcdctl -Wall -lrt -lpthread

This is the output :

jennyb@raspberrypi ~/fcdcontrol-proplus-srv $ sudo ./fcdctl -s
[sudo] password for jennyb:
FCD present in application mode.
FCD firmware version: 20.03.
FCD frequency: 43.750500 MHz.
FCD LNA gain: enabled.

carpcom-fcd

sudo carpsd-fcd –device 0 –set_freq_hz 43750500
[sudo] password for jennyb:
Frequency [Hz]: 43750500

 

Windows default route and Metrics

I have a windows laptop that I am using for remote debugging. The scenario is that an Engineer takes this laptop to a remote site and starts up the 3G connection and teamviewer. I get remote control of the PC via 3G/Teamviewer and then the remote Engineer plugs the laptop into the equipment so that I can debug.configure it.

The problem is that the default windows settings will prefer the ethernet connection to the 3G connection despite the fact that the ethernet connection does not lead to the internet. Therefore when the ethernet cable is plugged in, we lose the connection.

It is possible to overide the Windows default metrics as follows :
[Windows 7]

1) Open Network and Sharing Centre
2) Change adaptor settings
3) Right Click on Local Area Connection settings
4) Open properties of Internet Protocol Version 4 ( TCP/IPv4 )
5) Select ‘Advanced’
6) At the bottom of the dialog box untick ‘Automatic Metric’ and enter a higher metric manually ( 50 )

To confirm the metric numbers for each interface, open a DOS box ( command box ) and type route PRINT. Metric is the last column. Adjust the metrics up or down relative to each other to change the dynamic routing.

The Liberal Democrats, coalition and saving the Pound

We have just had the 2014 Council and 2014 EU Election results. Many hardworking Liberal Democrat Councillors have lost their seats, this must be hard. Very much like the many hardworking Labour Councillors losing their seats over a War they did not agree with. I feel for them too.

Let me try to explain why ‘I agree with Nick’, we should not have a leadership election, and coalition was the right thing to do.
In 2010, the UK was in recession, the confidence in the pound was marginal and Greece was possibly going to leave the Eurozone with consequences for Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. The UK needed a Government that gave confidence that the Economy was in good hands.

My preference was that it would be a Liberal Democrat government, but with only 23% of the vote, this was not going to happen. There were the options :
1) Minority Government – No budget would be agreed. The £ would become targeted by the currency markets and it would go down. We lose the NHS, Welfare State. Bad
2) LibDem coalition with Labour – No financial credibility. The Labour Parliamentary Party might be well intentioned, but apparently incompetent.
3) Re-run the Election. Conservatives would get a majority. Good for the City, bad for the UK

So, the least worst option was a LibDem coalition with Conservatives. This saved the pound and protected services to the vulnerable at the cost of the Party. Yes, it was worth it but the apparent lurch of the LibDem Parliamentary party ( with notable exceptions ) towards the hard right disillusioned many voters and activists. “I’ll never trust them again” is the cost.

The logical response is that the LibDems have stopped the worst excesses of the Conservative Party, but as a minority in the coalition, this is limited. Again, this was worth losing the Party for. The emotional response is that the LibDems were trusted with people’s vote and abused it just to get power.

The Coalition was mismanaged in my opinion. Instead of voting along with the Conservatives and trying to spin this as positive, the LibDem MPs should have been honest about how terrible some of the policies were for, but being in a Coalition, this was the price. Compromise.

So, where should the Liberal Democrats go from here.

Be honest. The Coalition was a necessary compromise. The party will fight the 2015 election with Nick as leader and state what it would do if it got a majority. It probably won’t go well, they need to be honest about that was well. Once the General Election is over, elect a new leadership from the left of the party. Try to rebuild the party as the honest party. It will take a generation to get trust back, but I’d love to have a party that I can trust again.

So, personally I am now conflicted. My friends are in the Liberal Democrats, but when I examine policies, I should be voting Green. When knocking on doors, I used to be frustrated with people who voted out of loyalty rather than policies. Now I am one of them. Damn.