Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Attention, Logbook DM Users

Some of you know me back from my Logbook DM days. (Uh, Scott!) If you're not familiar with Logbook DM, here's the brief story.

Many years ago, before the PDA even existed, I had this idea that software could help a person calculate their insulin dosages pretty easily given the rise of carb-counting. I played around with formulas, and used my trusty HP calculator to store some of them for my own use. I even discussed my idea, at the time, with my endocrinologist, who was quite intrigued with the idea. But, alas, the technology needed to make it practical was still a few years away.

Some time later, I bought my very own PDA. A Sony Clie running the PalmOS. And, of course, I realized that this was the perfect platform to realize my dream. But before I started working on that dream, I figured I would see if anyone else was doing the same thing.

Answer was yes and no. There were applications for diabetics out there, but none of them really worked the way that I wanted them to. They were designed and laid out like a programmer would want them to be, not like a user. They seemed to ignore the connection between current BGL, food intake, and the insulin bolus. So, I wrote Logbook DM to address this.

I had a lot of ideas for Logbook DM...some of which were probably ahead of their time, and ultimately never realized. This included fuzzy-logic used to analyze your trends and give recommendations as to what might be causing highs in the evenings or lows after lunch, etc. I just didn't have the time to spend on it.

But, Logbook DM was apparently useful to a great many users and is still available to this day, albeit at a lower price. That lower price is because I no longer actively develop Logbook DM.
I even considered making it available for free, but then realized that would actually be unfair to those developers who are still developing their software. They would have no incentive to improve their software if I'm giving away a decent application for free. And, frankly, I'd rather see my software superseded by something even better.

The unfortunately thing is that while Logbook DM is still a decent application, technology has moved on, and new devices have come out. New devices that have presented some compatibility problems. The Treo line of devices, in particular, have proven themselves troublesome. Not sure why, exactly, but certain features of Logbook DM don't play nice on the Treo, even though the same feature works fine on others.

So, to those who use Logbook DM and have faced issues with it resetting, I have this one general bit of advice that has helped a great many. Apparently, the PalmOS has this feature where you can selectively disable hi-res support for any given application. If Logbook DM has caused problems for you, then I suggest going into your PalmOS preferences (not Logbook DM preferences) and turn off hi-res support for Logbook DM. This seems to clear up a majority of the problems.

Sadly, I just don't have the time nor resources to develop Logbook DM beyond where it is today. I wish I did. I have a list of features I still would have liked to see...including having a version that runs on the PocketPC/Windows Mobile platform. I'm sorry to say, it isn't going to happen. And if some enterprising individual wants to take over the Logbook DM application, contact me and I'd be willing to hand over the source code (as ugly as it is) to be further developed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Still Numb, and Wishing For a Tricorder

You'd never guess that my blog is world-famous for it's discussion of "numb fingertips". Really. Just check my blog stats, and you'd find that, on average, 20-30% of people who Google their way to my blog use the terms "numb fingertips".

Nevermind, I've discussed the topic all of twice.

But, to satisfy the masses, I'm providing entry number three. Why? Because, quite simply, I have numb fingertips. On my right hand. My ring and pinkie fingers.

The last time I had numb fingertips, it was because of a weird sleeping position. Problem went away in a few days. But several months back, I started experiencing on-going numbness in my two fingers. I spent time looking up the issue, including Googling "numb fingertips" and running across this blog entry by one Ryan Bruner.

Okay, so I ignored that one. But I did discover some possible causes. I tried to take the recommended remedies, but nothing really helped. So, I finally consulted an Orthopedic doctor a few weeks ago and had an EMG on Friday.

The next time a doctor recommends I need some kind of test, I think I'm to decline. First, there was the MRI. You can read about that in my blog. But EMG sounds harmless. Something electrical, so I figured they just tape some sensors to my hand and record the results.

Not quite the case. Sure, the doctor taped some sensors. He also drew little lines all over my hand, wrist, and arm, measured distances, and then repeatedly zapped me with electricity. Basically, it feels like you're being electrocuted. Probably because you're being electrocuted.

Not fun. It was mostly annoying, but at times it really hurt, and my screaming just resulted in the doctor saying, "Sorry about that, but I didn't get a measurement. Gotta do it again."

Apparently, the test measures how long it takes for various nerves to transmit the electrical impulse.

After the shocking part was over, there was part two. It involved placing needles into various places and taking some electrical measurements. I wasn't too worried. After all, I've give myself shots since I was 9. I could handle it.

Except insulin shots don't actually go into the muscle. These needles do. And so, once again, I was yelping in pain.

The positive from all this was that the doc did determine that I had a slowing of nerve impulses across my Ulnar nerve...which is exactly what the Ortho doc figured was the case. I go back for my revisit in a few days, and will likely be fitted with something to keep my elbow straight and protected while I sleep at night in an attempt to relieve pressure on the nerve.

But after the MRI experience and now an EMG, I'm really thinking it is time for someone to invent the Tricorder, a la Star Trek.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Rules of Writing

If you spend any time hanging around a group of writers (which is kind of weird, if you ask me, but whatever!), you'll probably hear some kind of debate revolving around writing rules. There are umpteen different rules that writers are advised to follow, and any decent and/or experienced writer will likely be able to spout a half-dozen of them off without much thought. Oft times, these rules even contradict each other.

One thing you'll also hear is how there are no rules in writing.

So which is it?

I'll admit, I'm a rule kind of guy. I took one of those personality tests, and was rated an INTJ. If you read about such a personality, you'll find that INTJs tend to like rules. Or, at least, rules that serve a useful purpose. So, little surprise that I rather enjoy writing rules.

Yet, I totally understand that there are no rules in writing as well. The problem comes in the word "rule". Because the "rules of writing" aren't so much rules in the, "if you don't follow them, the world will end as we know it" kind of rule. No, the rules are more or less suggestions or guidelines of the kinds of things to watch out for, but go ahead and break all you want if you so choose.

Let's think back to elementary school, when you were learning the rules for spelling and reading. For example, you probably learned that the letter A makes the short sound, such as in the word "ran". You did a ton of worksheets that illustrate this rule. Sure enough, every word you had to read and/or spell followed this rule. Cat. Bat. Sat. Tan. Van. But then, the next week, you get this word: Cane. Suddenly, the rule fails.

Was the rule wrong? No, not exactly. The rule was really a stepping stone. A way to simplify teaching. And once you grasped that concept, you could start learning the exceptions to the rules. You build, until one day, you can read just about anything without even really thinking about the rules involved.

That's how I see the rules of writing. They are stepping stones. Ways of introducing writers to concepts so that they can improve their writing. But as they improve, those rules will become less and less absolute, until the day comes along that you really don't care about the rules. You'll break those rules at will, even though a good percentage of the time, it has become natural to follow them...or not!

Let's take one of the favorites: adverbs are bad. This rule is often grilled into us, and we become hyperaware of each and every adverb we write and read, cringing in horror.

Yet, what's the truth about this rule? Adverbs aren't bad. They serve a very useful purpose in writing. Their overuse could be a sign of poor writing. But their overuse could be a sign of an intentional writing style. So, why the rule? Because it makes a writer aware of a tendency to rely on adverbs where a stronger verb could be used instead, as just one example.

"He ran quickly to the car."

In this example, the need for the adverb is questionable. Running implies a certain level of quickness. So, adding the adverb is redundant. Or, quite possibly, it is a good opportunity to replace the "ran quickly" with a single, more-powerful verb.

"He darted off to the car."

But there are plenty of places an adverb adds to a sentence.

"The dog pounced on me, enthusiastically."

I don't claim this is the greatest prose in the world, but here the use of the adverb adds something that is lose without it.

So what's the point? The point is, a rule of writing may be useful for learning, much like how knowing an A makes the short sound...except when it doesn't. Once you understand the rule, and understand when the rule does or doesn't matter, you can just forget it. Break it all you want!

And one caveat to all of this. People learn in different ways. Some never need these kinds of rules. They just naturally write well. They are blessed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'd Rather Live With the Pain

Yesterday, I had my first ever MRI. Not just any old MRI, but a "Left hip MRI arthrigram", which basically means they inject this special die into my hip before doing the MRI.

Why, you may ask, did I need an MRI? Well, I'm glad you asked. About six months or so ago I started experiencing this hip pain. In the joint, really...the leg socket on my left side. It only hurts when I move it certain ways. Normal walking or sitting it is fine. I went through twelve weeks of physical therapy, which improved my range of motion, but did nothing to actually eliminate the pain. My doctor thought it was just tendonitis, which it apparently wasn't. So, off to an orthopedic doctor, who requested the MRI.

Getting an MRI sounds more impressive than it actually is. Mostly, it's boring. But you know when they show people getting one on television? They make it seem like the space is fairly large. I can think of an episode of House where a girl actually crawls out of one. But let me tell you, there isn't room to crawl. I think I had maybe 6 inches above my head, and that's it. My arms couldn't even stay by my sides comfortably.

Anyhow, the MRI was fine. Although, twenty-five minutes of staying perfectly still gets old really fast. But it was the injection of the die into the joint that was horrible. First off, I'm very ticklish. Which means I'm very sensitive. Just to have them clean the area before they started tickled. Then, they inject local anesthetic. They warned me that it feels like a bee sting for a few seconds. Nevermind I've never been stung by a bee for comparison. But, once the needle went in, I have to say...I never want to be stung. Because it hurt like the dickens. (Okay...I'll interject right now that I have no idea why a "dickens" hurts, but I thought it would be fun to use that phrase.)

It was at that point I thought that maybe I would have rather just lived with the hip pain. And it wasn't even over yet. Once they numbed up the area, next came the "big needle"...the one that goes all the way into the joint. The physician's assistant doing the job jabbed it in and, once again, it hurt like the dickens. I flinched and groaned, and he said, "Oh, did you feel that?"

Uh, yeah.

So he said he needed to inject a bit more anesthetic. Which, of course, hurt like the dickens. Finally, he finished by injecting the fluid with the dye. Which, as you can imagine, hurt like the dickens. Although in this case, it wasn't quite as bad...more like a bad ache.

Then it was over. Had my MRI. Got dressed, and walked out of there.

Of course, as the evening progressed, the anesthetic wore off, and my hip was in a lot of pain. (I won't say it this time, but can already tell me how much it hurt, can't you? Like the...) I could barely walk. This morning is better. Still sore, but returning to normal. But I still think I would have rather lived with the pain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Exercise, or Is That a Low?

Today is my third official day of exercise. I hate to say it, because it sounds so trite, but I have to admit the exercise is kind of fun. Like when I used to play racquetball every other morning with my friends back in college. Okay, so the first couple weeks we played it was tortuous to get through even 20 minutes of game play before we collapsed to the floor, lungs on fire, feeling like we were about to cough them out of our chests. But we quickly adapted and even grew to look forward to getting up early.

See, I'm no early bird. I don't like getting up early. But there we were, waking up at 7:00 in the morning to play for 45 minutes, leaving time to shower before heading to our 8:30 am first class of the day. Remember, I was in college. College students love to sleep in. But we did it.

And now, I feel a bit the same. It is a kind of incentive to wake up and get there early. Sure, the workout itself is a bit grueling, but afterwards I feel a bit exhilarated. Okay, okay. Not exactly exhilarated. More like my lungs on are fire feeling like I'm going to cough them out of my chest. But I'm sure I'll feel exhilarated, eventually.

Anyhow, one thing I'm already learning about exercise is that it throws a curve ball at the whole being able to predict your blood sugar levels thing. Because some of the after effects from the workout are quite similar to symptoms.

For example, the slightly shaky muscle fatigue from the weight machines is very similar to the slightly shaky, weak feeling I experience when my BGL is low. Which means, if I go low, how can I tell?

And then there is the slight stomach pain from the ab crunches, which is quite similar to the nauseated feeling I get when my BGL goes high.

I'll work it out, I'm sure. I'm just at the beginning of this road to greater strength, flexibility, and general health. However, let me just tell you that it was a bit disconcerting when I was adjusting the weights on some of the machines this morning. One machine, which I was struggling with at the 50 lb. mark, had been left at the 150 lb. mark. Which means someone before me was using it at 150 lb. Which means, of course, that I'm a great big wimp! (All the more reason to work out, eh?)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Exercise Program: Day 1

It's official. I'm the proud member of the Fitness Center here at my workplace. And I even lived through the orientation session, which is what day one consisted of. The whole experience was weird for me, starting with the locker rooms.

I'm not shy. I don't care about being naked in a room full of other naked guys. But, it seems that various locker rooms take on unwritten rules and protocols that everyone follows without ever saying anything. Back in college, my friends and I played racquetball three days a week at the campus recreation center. There, the locker rooms were expansive, and no one cared if you walked the mile and a half from your locker to the showers sans clothes or towel. Some did, some didn't. Showers were wide open style, so anyone who was shy was out of luck. Guys would stand at the sinks buck-naked as they brushed their teeth or shaved.

Another gym I've been to had a bit more closed showers. Not completely hidden, but with these half-walls that gave you the illusion of privacy. There, people pretty much kept themselves wrapped until they were to the benches next to the showers, drop their towel, then step in.

So, what about this gym? Trouble was, the time of day I went, there wasn't really anyone else around to follow any rules. Each shower stall has its own shower doors, etc, with this little area where you can hang a towel before getting in. Very private. But I noticed that the one guy who was in a shower had left his clothes out on the bench near the lockers. No help at all. So, do you go ahead and strip at the lockers and head to the showers? Or do you take your towel to the shower and strip once you are just inside the door? They really should have signs or something that say, "Listen, no one really wants to see you without clothes, so do the rest of us a favor."

Anyhow, next up was rating your current physical health. They sort of do a health inventory on all new members, taking blood pressure, pulse, height, and weight. And then they have you do as many push-ups as you can in 30 seconds (eleven, if you really want to know), and these half sit-up thingies in 1 minute (twenty), and finally this flexibility measurement where you try to touch your toes, but using this machine.

What did I learn? When it comes to flexibility, I'm a failure. I couldn't even reach the starting position, giving me a negative score. Pathetic! But, the lady was all nice about it, saying perkily, "Oh, that's perfectly fine! You did great!"


Then came the treadmill. Six minute walk at 3.5 mph. She measured my heart rate along the way. By the time my assessment was over, my gym time was pretty much up.

Tomorrow begins the real work. I meet with her again, this time setting up my exercise plan, showing me the ropes on the weights and what not. Until then, I have to decide: naked or not?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Conceptually Speaking, I'm Tired

The North American International Auto Show is upon us, once again. Growing up, and even into adulthood, this was a must-see event. There was something exciting about previewing the latest and greatest car models...not to mention the cool concept cars. You brave the crowds, fighting for a chance to catch a glimpse of that three-wheeled thingamabob, or that car with the doors that flipped up like wings. You imagine the most futuristic vehicles sitting in your driveway, getting in, and having it take you to work as you sit back and read a book! Or, perhaps, just checking out what other cars you might consider to replace the one you already own, but have suddenly grown tired of.

That's how it used to be. But the auto show kind of grew, and crowds became a bit unbearable, and while it is still fun to look at new cars, it just isn't worth the hassle.

And apparently, "old fogy" mode has kicked in for me, because frankly, I'm growing tired of concept cars. I'm tired of the automakers teasing us with awesome looking vehicles that we'll never see. I'm tired of outlandish ideas that no one should ever see. We get it, Ford, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc. You can come up with some really nifty, eye-pleasing candy for us to sample. But what's the point? You won't sell us more. I feel a bit like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory...given an everlasting gobstobber that I'm not allowed to eat.

What's the deal? Why can't you show us real vehicles? Or, rather, realistic? We're mature enough to handle it. In fact, we're mature enough to handle those far-fetched styled vehicles as well.

I remember asking my dad, once, why they don't make concept cars for real, and one reason he gave was that there is a point where the public won't buy something that is too futuristic. Yet, that seems less true today. Personally, I think futuristic would sell nicely.

And even when we are taunted with a vehicle that is production-worthy, either it, too, is never seen again, or by the time it actually makes it to the marketplace, it is old news. Ford's Thunderbird was a prime example of that. The concept vehicle was an awesome reincarnation of an American classic. People raved about it. But several years later, after the design had been watered down, the whole "retro" movement had become old news.

Give us the future now, because frankly, I've grown tired of the concept car. It no longer generates excitement, but frustration. Frustration that instead of that sleek-looking vehicle on the podium, we get that clunky-looking counterpart sitting on the floor next to it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Go, Go Gadget Stem Cell

As I've posted before, I'm vehemently against embryonic stem cells, because for me, it involves the destruction of life. Instead, I have always felt there are other possibilities yet to be explored that, should embryonic stem cell research be allowed, might get left behind and never tried.

But today, in the news, another source of stem cells, potentially as valuable as embryonic stem cells, has been revealed: stem cells from amnio fluid.

This is what scares me about this whole thing. Scientists (and those persons longing for cures for their respective diseases) have been pushing for embryonic stem cell research so hard you'd think it was the Holy Grail. Yet, in doing so, they are missing a vital stepping stone: finding a source of stem cells that doesn't depend on destroying life. Of course, to those who don't see embryos as "life" in the same sense I, and other like me, do, it is no big deal.

But to me, this new source solves the problems. It gives flexibility unseen before in adult stem cells (despite the fact that several different therapeutic uses of adult stem cells have been developed...something which embryonic stem cell research can't claim). It also shows how utterly blinded much of the research community has been, staunchly trying to push embryonic stem cells as the only real source, rather than thinking creatively in new ways to use stem cell research without controversy.

Of course, in one article, a scientist is quick to say something to the effect of, "Well, this doesn't mean we should stop embryonic stem cell research." No. Of course not. Because that would be admitting that, just perhaps, the hoopla around embryos as the only source isn't true. Rather than celebrate this as a great advancement, the scientist is still trying to hold to a principle.

Not that I necessarily blame them. We all do it, don't we? When we believe in something, and work hard at something related to that belief, we will be skeptical. And, truth is, we don't know for certain that amnio fluid as a source of stem cells is completely as flexible as embryonic stem cells, even though early research points that it is. Of course, we also don't know that embryonic stem cells will ever result in therapeutic cures either. It is all theoretical right now.

But for now, I'm ecstatic about this discovery. If offers a controversy-free way to progress in stem cell research, which should make both sides of the debate happy.

And, me being a skeptic myself, I'm still not convinced that I'll ever see a cure for my diabetes in my lifetime, no matter what the source is for stem cells. But if it offers hope to some, that's great. I can say that with tremendous confidence and relief, now knowing there is a new path for stem cell research that does away with the destruction of new life.

It is still a waiting game, however. Years of research behind us, and there is still years of research ahead of us, for which I'm still thankful for companies such as Lifescan, which makes my blood testing meter, and Minimed, which makes my insulin pump, and Lilly, which makes my insulin. Because until there is a cure...until we can say, "Go, Go gadget Stem Cell" and watch it miraculously transform in a new beta cell...there is still the need for treatment.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Exercise: The Great Unknown

I'm a rather healthy guy, if you ignore the fact that I have diabetes, bad back, joint pain in the hip, numb fingers, and, at the moment, a cold. But I'm also getting old. Well, not old old. But older. At last count, I was 33 years old. And given that in the past two years I moved up a pants size, and my belly, which used to be somewhat flat is starting to look a bit, well, less flat, I'm considering starting an exercise program.

Ah...not just any old exercise program. No. I'm planning to join a gym. I'm fortunate to work for a company that has an on-site fitness center. I have to pay to use it, but it is convenient. And in the world of exercise, convenient is a must. (Then again, that treadmill we have in our bedroom is rather convenient as well, and I think I've used it a total of ten times.)

So, in the next couple of weeks I'm going to start my journey at becoming "Mr. Buff." The kind of guy that turns the heads of ladies every time I walk by. Actually, that happens already, except they all seem to look away rather than at me.

Okay, okay. I don't care what the ladies think (except one particular lady who happens to sleep with me...and yes, I'm talking about my wife!). But I do hope to get into shape. Or at least into a different shape.

What will be interesting will be to see how such a change in my life will affect my diabetes. Will my insulin requirements shift? Or my LDL cholesterol levels drop? Will I have more frequent lows? Or maybe less frequent highs?

Or will I just throw my back out?

It is the great unknown. Wish me luck. And in the meantime, I can think of one thing my wife will really absolutely love about my exercising: she can help me pick out some new workout clothes. (Uh...what did you think I was talking about?)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On Your Mark, Get Set...Attack!

Well, the holidays are over. That's a good thing. Because like every holiday break, this one was jam-packed with stuff to get done. And so I'm glad to get back to work so that I can relax.

Honestly, though, once I finished repainting the boy's room, we had a nice time. New Year's Eve involved staying up and playing games with the family until midnight, pausing, of course, to stuff ourselves silly with delicious desserts we won't see again until next holiday season. And, the brunt of the cold that has infiltrated our household (despite my wife's best efforts, diligently slathering us
with antibacterial hand sanitizer every time we left the house, touched a store cart, or even looked like we were about to sneeze) waited until after New Year's Day to really take any of us down.

My third boy faced the worst of the wrath with a high fever and severe cough. Thank the Lord for Motrin and Albuterol, however. Together, along with a decent dose of prayer, we kept him out of the hospital this year. Poor kid. Two days ago, I put the DVD Cars into the player while the family ate. I forgot about him for a bit, but when I finally headed back in to check on him, he was just staring at the menu screen for the movie. I had forgotten to press Play, and he was too out of it to care.

Anyhow, back to New Year's Eve. This year, my wife bought us Uno Attack! It was a blast to play, and it is the first time we were able to play a family game where the entire family could play...even our three and four year olds. (Of course, they needed a measurable amount of assistance from Mom and Dad, but they had a blast.) My daughter mostly got a kick out of pushing the button and having a stream of cards shoot out. My youngest son got a kick out of being able to choose between playing his yellow seven, his yellow six, or his yellow two. My second oldest son got a kick out of trying to earn as many cards as he possibly could, then trading his hand with Dad so that I'd end up with fifty thousand points. My oldest just got a kick out of playing.

My wife? She got a kick out of winning. She blew the rest of us away, actually.

All in all, it was a blast, and we pretty much repeated the evening the following day and played more Uno Attack and eating more delicious desserts.

Hope you all had a great holiday! And now that it is over, I hope you can actually get some time to relax!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Short Story Published!

As I had mentioned last year (isn't that fun to say?), my short story The Dreammaker has been published in the January 2007 issue of Beyond Centauri. I haven't yet received my print copy, but it was a giddy-inducing moment to see it posted on their website, only to discover that my name appears on the front cover! Very exciting. This is my second published short story.

I, of course, will encourage everyone who is anyone to go purchase a copy so that you can show it to all your friends and family and say, "Hey, I know this guy!" even though we've never met outside of this virtual forum. It is a science fiction/fantasy magazine for children/young adults.

And as a teaser, I'm going to post the first few paragraphs here to whet your appetite for more. If you want to read the entire story, you must buy the magazine! (By the way, as of right now, the only way to get to the January 2007 issue at the website is to go to the main Genre Mall webpage. You have to scroll down a bit to see it. Apparently, the subpage specific to Beyond Centauri still lists the previous version as of this post.)

So here it is:

The Dreammaker

by Ryan Bruner

When the boy moved in across the street, Christy could tell he wasn't quite normal. His jet black hair sat on his head like a crooked beret--long on one side and short on the other. His eyes were bold and bright, and his clothes hung so low that he had to hike them up every time he sat.

He sat a lot--under the Oak tree next to the road--reading comic books. And he watched everyone and anyone who drove or walked by, his gaze following them as though staring into their very souls looking for something. Then he would turn back to his comics.

For three days, Christy peeked out at him through her bedroom blinds until his gaze focused on her. Even from across the street, she felt naked, as though he were taking something away from her from the inside out. It almost hurt, and she flicked the blinds closed, gasping for breath.

She tried to avoid him, but each time she peered out to see if he was still there, his eyes glared up at her. It was silly, she knew. He had just moved in. He was probably one of those shy types hoping someone would be his friend. How could she not say hi. They were neighbors, after all.