Friday, March 30, 2007

The Book Wife

Sometimes we are inspired at the oddest moments. Sometimes we realize how incredible someone is at the most inopportune times.

For me, such a moment came yesterday while my wife was out with a friend and I was sitting, of all places, on the toilet doing, well, toilet-related things.

Around me were books. Actually, pretty much anywhere you are in my house you will find books. But what struck me about these particular books was that I had never read any of them. My wife, however, had.

Ordinarily that would come as no particular shock. My wife is a reader. She has an insatiable thirst for books, and has probably read 100 times as many books already than I will ever read in my lifetime.

But my wife isn't just a reader of fiction. And this is where the realization was so powerful. My wife reads for entertainment, true. But she also reads to improve herself. Books about becoming a Godly wife, or about techniques in homeschooling, or about how to leave a family legacy with our kids, or any other topic you can imagine. My book wife is constantly trying to improve herself, and as a result, improve us, her family.

She isn't happy just being who she was yesterday, or who she is today...and she's not happy being satisfied with where our kids are now, or who I am as her husband and their father.

Just a couple days ago, the two of us sat down and had a conversation about things I won't bore you with now. But at one point, I told my wife how she reminds me of the character Yentl. Have you see the movie? Starring Barbra Streisand? Phenomenal movie, by the way. Sadly, it hasn't yet been released to DVD.

Anyhow, in the movie, Yentl is a actually a Jewish woman who is out of place because she wants to learn. She isn't happy being like the other woman, who happily do women's work. She wants to know what the men know, and more. So, when her own father dies, she cuts off her hair, puts on men's clothing, and becomes a boy.

Well, see the movie to learn what happens. And while my wife isn't about to cut off her hair and turn into a cross-dresser, she has that same desire to broaden herself, and in the process, those who know her.

And all of this came to me on the toilet last night. I become suddenly in awe of how incredible she really is. I mean, I knew she was incredible before. But even more incredible. And, in a way, somewhat intimidating, because I also realized how my own efforts seem to pale in comparison. In her efforts to improve herself, she is trying to, ultimately, improve her family. Can I say the same? Are my own pursuits, ultimately, for the benefit of everyone else? Or myself?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Problem With Pop Machines

First, my apologies to the rest of the nation who uses another word. Pop is what we call it here, and so that is what I'm calling it in this blog. Substitute soda, coke, or whatever else you prefer.

I'm getting really annoyed with pop machines lately. Okay, so prices are outrageous. Why is it that I can buy a two-liter bottle of Diet Coke for less than the price of a 20-oz. bottle from the pop machine? But, whatever. It is my own fault for being the dope who pays the $1.35.

But I have other issues. More important issues. Like, who has decided that people who drink diet pop get only one choice, or two at most, while those who drink regular pop get like six or seven choices? Don't they realize that diet is being increasingly popular?

Yet, even when a pop machine offers you a "choice" of diet, it is between Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi...or, between Diet Coke and Coke Zero...or between Diet Pepsi and Pepsi One.

Excuse me, but what if I don't want cola? Next choice? Diet Sprite.

Apparently they seem to think that's all people who drink diet like. Cola or Lemon-Lime.

At my workplace, I was happy, because the pop machine offered me Diet Mountain Dew. Okay, I'll admit I would prefer if it were Diet Code Red Mountain Dew...but I'll live. But what did they do, arbitrarily? They recently replaced the Diet Mountain Dew button with a second regular Mountain Dew button. So, my choice of diet is Diet Pepsi, Diet Pepsi (yes, it is there twice), or Diet Coke.


At church, the pop machine offers a grand total of one diet pop choice. Twice, I left a note on the machine please requesting that they add a second diet pop offering. There are a lot of diet pop drinkers at my church, and the Diet Pepsi is always the first to be sold out.

Okay. So, that's annoying, to be sure. There are so many other, better, diet pops out. Coke Zero Cherry, or Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, or Diet Code Red Mountain Dew, or Diet Pepsi Jazz (of either variety), or Diet Dr. Pepper, or Diet Ruby Red Squirt, etc. None of which are offered.

Well, a couple days ago, I started experiencing a new issue. Pop machines that randomly decide my quarters aren't good enough. I'm not talking about machines that are telling me "exact change". I'm talking about plunking in four separate quarters, and the machine arbitrarily decides it won't take any of them. It tried about twenty times. At first I thought it was just a fluke. Yet, a day later, a different pop machine, it, too, decided my quarters were no good.

And here's the kicker: yesterday, I used two crisp one dollar bills to buy myself a pop (the dope I am...yes, I know). It happily gave me my Diet Pepsi, and my $.65 change. Only, it decided to give me a quarter that isn't from these United States...which means I can't even use the quarter it gave me in another pop machine!

Maybe it's all for the best. Maybe I need to go back to just drinking water from the water fountain.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Chocolate Milk and Common Sense

Today I did something very odd. Well, odd for me. At lunch time, I bought myself a chocolate milk. Honestly, I rarely ever drink chocolate milk. In fact, I rarely drink milk at work, even though it is my beverage of choice at home.

Anyhow, drinking chocolate milk hardly seems blog-worthy material...except in this case. Because, as any good diabetic, I always read the label and check the carb content before consuming. And, as any good diabetic knows, knowing the carb value isn't good enough. You have to also know how many servings are in that package. A little math, and voila! You have your total carbs.

Or do you?

See, had I done that blindly, I would have given myself a bolus for 232 carbs. No, that's not a typo. But there was a typo on the bottle. 29 carbs per serving, but the bottle said there were 8 servings, when in reality, there were only 2.

Of course, I am more than just a good diabetic, and I immediately realized the error. But what if I hadn't? What if I am like a good percentage of Americans, and just took the nutritional information (whatever it all means) at face value. It could have been a serious issue.

It shows the perils of blindly accepting things. Even when being diligent, we have to use common sense. There is no way that bottle of chocolate milk should contain 232 carbs!

Which brings me to another, less obvious example of misleading labels.

Are you aware that the carb content listed on an item is, in reality, the minimum carb content, and not actual?

See, it goes back to a day when manufacturers weren't being held accountable for their labels, and they might say that a package had 2 oz, but really only contained 1.7 oz as a means to save a little money. Someone sued (or at least, I think they did), which led to a tightening of laws. If a package says 2 ounces, then I had better be getting at least 2 ounces.

At least.

And that's where the problem is...because, in reality, while a manufacturer may try to get as close to that 2 ounces as possible, for fear of falling under, which would be illegal, they will err on the side of caution and the package will contain slightly more than the label says. In fact, it could contain twice as much as the package says. And while the carb content is listed for a 2 ounce serving size, and the package says there is 1 serving, in actuality, it could be 1.5 servings., meaning your carbs are way off.

Calculating carbs is in inexact science. Even if you weigh each and every byte you put in your mouth, some foods have various parts with varying carb densities. Take the Frosted Pop-Tart as an example. If the package says it weights so much, but in reality it weighs slightly more, is that "slightly more" from too much frosting, too much filling, or too much pastry? It matters, because if it is all from too much frosting, that will be significantly more carbs than from too much pastry.

So, good luck on getting your carb calculations perfect. It isn't possible, so don't fret about it. That's what the correction bolus was invented for!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bookstores Are Bad For Your Health

On Saturday, while my two oldest boys were at a four-hour long choir rehearsal, I decided to get some writing done. Made some good progress, too, but four-hours straight is too much for me, so at the 1 1/2 hour mark, I decided to make a trek to the nearby bookstore.

These days, I don't go into a bookstore all that often. If I don't get my books from the library, I get them from Amazon or something.

And I was reminded of something...that being in a bookstore can be a bad idea for wanna-be writers, such as myself. Bad, because each and every time I walk into a bookstore lately, instead of the joy of finding some new book I want to read, it is a panic-inducing mess of paperbacks and hardcovers. A mess that I'm just crazy enough to want my own book to not be a part of, because I want my book to be noticed and bought, rather than sit on the shelves.

There are books everywhere in a bookstore. I'm sure that's news to most of you. And I think to myself, "Why do I think my book is gonna make it among all this?"

So, I figure I needed to focus. Lemme see. Where might I find Jon Clinch's new book, Finn? Because he is getting grand reviews, it must be easy to find, right?

Well, sort of. I didn't bother checking the new release tables or anything, because I think there are more new release tables than actual bookshelves. So, I headed over to the "Fiction and Literature" section. (Not entirely sure why it is called "Fiction and Literature", as if those are mutually exclusive things they arbitrarily decided to shelve together.)

I found Finn. Two copies, spine out, among hundreds of other spine-out books. And guess what? It didn't really stand out at all. I mean, if I hadn't been looking for it, would I bother to pick it up?

Then I went to the teen section, looking for Ally Carter's book, I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You. Not there. (But, she said the paperback is coming April 1, so I'll check then.)

Then, I fled from the store, blocking the entire experience from my head (rather unsuccessfully, as this account attests).

The only solace I found in the entire experience was that there were literally hundreds of people in the store. So, there are people buying books.

I can only hope one of them, eventually, will be my own.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A New Meter Review

Well, I did it. I not only flirted with a meter other than my One Touch Ultra by Lifescan, I'm having a full-fledged affair. I bought myself a box of 100 strips and a meter from my local Kroger. The meter itself was only $10, and a box of 100 strips cost $44, which is the same price I pay for 50 strips for the One Touch.

I'll start out by saying I really love this new meter. There are a few differences, but mostly, I prefer it to the One Touch.

I suppose you'll want to know why. Okay, okay. I'll tell you.

  1. The Kroger meter strips are cheaper. But you already knew that one.
  2. The Kroger meter is smaller. Not a great deal smaller, but definitely smaller. Not only that, but when I have all the strips, the meter, extra lancets, and the "poker" in the case it comes with, it is still smaller.
  3. The carrying case is just plain cooler than the one that came with my One Touch Ultra.
  4. The poker that came with the meter is far more comfortable. In fact, with the exception of one time thus far, after I poke my finger, I wondered if it had done anything at all. I honestly didn't feel a thing. But, I managed to milk blood from my finger just fine, so apparently it worked. There are five adjustable settings for depth, and I used the middle one, same as the one that came with my One Touch Ultra.
  5. There is a built-in backlight.
  6. While both the One Touch and Kroger meters have a 5-second test, the Kroger meter will not start counting down until you have enough blood. The One Touch Ultra starts to count down almost immediately, and occasionally you don't have enough blood in time, resulting in the waste of a perfectly good test strip. Not an issue on the Kroger meter.
  7. The Kroger meter has similar features as the One Touch Ultra, including auto-on by sticking in the test strip, displaying averages for 7 days and 14 days, etc. But one thing the Kroger does that the One Touch doesn't is it has an audible feedback feature (which can be turned off). Basically, it beeps when it turns on, when there is enough blood, and when the test is finished.
  8. As I mentioned, the Kroger meter is smaller.
So, all in all, a very nice meter. And at $10, I can actually buy several and keep one at work, one in my car, one at home, etc, if I want.

Now, despite all the positives, there are a few things that I either don't like or I'm just not used to yet:
  1. The strips come individually packages in foil wrappers rather than a vial. In a way, this isn't a problem. In fact, I can fit a lot more strips in my case in less space as a result. But it means not only tearing open the foil wrapper, but having the extra garbage to deal with. Not a huge issue, but different. The wrappers are actually extremely easy to open, so it isn't a big deal.
  2. The test strip goes in the bottom of the meter rather than the top. My One Touch Ultra, the strip goes in the top. Being on the bottom makes it slightly more awkward to apply the blood sample if I'm using the bottom side of my finger. Having the strip on top makes it easier, no matter where on my finger I poke. Again, this is more of an adjustment on my part than anything.
  3. The blood sample size on the Kroger meter is very slightly larger than on the One Touch. Truly, it isn't enough to make a difference to me, but I mention it because some people might have trouble getting that extra .1 microliter of blood (or whatever it is). For me, it is no worse, and actually the difference is moot since the meter won't start counting down until I have enough blood anyhow, so I have more time to squeeze out more blood.
  4. Calibrating the meter isn't a matter of just scrolling through some numbers. Instead, they have this calibration stick. You place it in the meter when you open a new box of strips, and it codes the meter for you. In a way, this is easier. However, it means you have to keep the calibration stick around. Even that isn't so much of an issue, however, since they provide a little place to keep it in the carrying case.
And there you have it. Honestly, I'm not sorry to make the switch. I almost wish I would have done it a long time ago. I'm not sure how the Kroger version compares to other generic versions, such as Meijer's or Wal-Mart's, etc. But I'm here to say, if you are paying for strips yourself, or with a significant copay...or if you just want to save the insurance company money (which is worthwhile, since it ultimately helps lower health-care costs for everyone), then I highly recommend the Kroger brand BGL meter.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Confessions of a Guy Going High

Anyone had a Shamrock Shake lately? I never remember to get one when they are out, although I used to love them. So, my wife and I got one a couple days ago while we were out. First of all, I gotta say...I was a bit disappointed. I really think they used to be better. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't taste nearly as good as I remember.

But this point isn't really about Shamrock shakes. Well, not exactly. See, this point is about how even the best of us can be naughty and choose to eat (or drink) something when we know we shouldn't.

It all started several hours before my wife and I went out. I tested, and I was high. Not just a bit high, but significantly high. No problem, though. I bolused, and I'd be back to normal in no time.

Except then we went to Taco Bell and I got the Grilled Stuft Burrito. Ever had one? Delicious! But not only does it taste great, but it is a type-1 diabetics worst nightmare. Carbohydrates galore, with the rice and beans and flour tortilla. Yum. Of course, I added to that a taco. I figured I bolused enough to cover most of those carbs. I guess. Didn't have my meter with me to check.

Then came the Shamrock shake. I got a small. That was sort of kind of being good. Right?

Bolused more insulin. Got home and tested. Well, you know how most meters have a maximum that they will read? Anything above that maximum and it will just say, "Hi"?

At first I thought my meter was just being friendly. But no. There isn't enough screen space for a "g" and an "h", so I was left with astronomical BGL levels.

I wasn't worried about ketones or ketoacidosis. I had insulin in my system. But still, I should have known better, but at the moment, I didn't care. I wanted that Shamrock shake.

It took most of the night before I was finally back into reasonable numbers, peeing every hour, waking up to test. 453, then 375, then 323, then 220, and finally 150.

Today I was a good boy. But every once in a great while, I go high. Really high. And then I have to pay the price and do the hard work of getting it back down again without going low. In the end, was it worth it?

No. It wasn't. Because, as I said from the beginning of this post, the Shamrock shake wasn't all that great.

I confess. I should have had a Boston Cream doughnut instead.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Meter, Meter, On The Wall, Who's The Fairest...

You know, sometimes a person can be stupid without even realizing it.

So, there I was standing at the Kroger Pharmacy asking the pharmacist for a box of One Touch Ultra test strips. $43 for 50 strips. Craziness.

But then I noted that sitting there on the counter was Kroger's own BGL meter and strip. The meter, just like the One Touch Ultra, uses a tiny amount of blood and tests in 5 seconds. It is about the same size as the Ultra. But most importantly, the strips only cost $24 for a box of

Hmm. Do a little math, and you can see that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of advantage to sticking to the name-brand meter these days. Oh, sure, once upon a time One Touch had the lead on meters, with one of the smallest drop sizes and fastest testing times. But that's no longer the case. And frankly, One Touch's latest meters don't offer me anything additional that I really need. They have graphing, or slightly smaller sizes, but nothing I haven't gotten along without for 24 years. They could, I suppose, reduce the test time to one second or something...but honestly, that isn't enough. It takes me longer to get the strip out of the container, stick it in, cock the lancet device and squeeze the finger. Four fewer seconds means little. (And for the record, they don't offer a meter with a one-second test.)

So why is it that I haven't made the switch? Save myself and my insurance company some money, and guy generic?

I have no good answer, except that I've been with One Touch for so long now, it almost feels like cheating to flirt with another brand.

But you know what? I'm flirting now.

So, my fellow diabetics...this is where you come in. Have you "made the switch"? Have you asked the mirror on the wall which is the fairest meter of them all? If so, were you pleased with the switch to generic?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Goodbye, Captain America

It is a sad day in Superhero land. According to this article, Captain America is dead.

Now, honestly, I never read a single comic book with Captain America, yet he holds a special place in my heart. Why? Because back in the 70s, there were two TV movies made about the character (or, rather, the son of the character, who shares the name Captain America). And being a kid obsessed with superheroes at the time, I, of course, watched both of these movies. There were rumors of a TV series spin-off. In fact, my faulty memory has convinced me that there was, in fact, a TV series when apparently there wasn't.

Anyhow, superheroes have been on my mind a lot lately. (Based on the last couple posts, you wouldn't have guessed, eh?) Not only am I writing about superheroes (kind of, sort of), but I'm watching them on the show Heroes, as well as anticipating Spider-Man 3 and The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. (Okay, so the FF movie, not as much. The first movie was kind of pathetic...but I'll watch the new one.)

On top of these, we also have the release of Melanie Lynne Hauser's second book: Super Mom Saves the World. Kind of a cross between superheroes and women's fiction. Funny, witty, beautifully written. Well...the first was. The second I'll get my hands on soon enough.

Superheroes abound. But, sadly, no more Captain America.

On the bright side, the article mentions that Captain America is being made into a movie!