Monday, December 19, 2011

Diabetes: Just a software glitch.

I became involved with technology when I was 9 after seeing the movie Hackers. Regardless of how many problems exist with the film with my now current knowledge, at the time it was an absolutely brilliant film to me. Not to mention I'm indebted to it for my life pursuits, college, and career. Thanks Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie. Let's move on, that sentence leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when I was 12 and remember radically changing my youth, teens, and ultimately my years to come in terms of how I viewed life, economics, and more than anything my priorities. If 7th grade was about wondering why girls weren't icky anymore, drinking mountain dew, playing games with friends then my life had immediately taken a 180 as now the only things I could be concerned with was checking my blood sugar, dosing insulin, remembering to draw one type of insulin before the other so I didn't contaminate, eating correctly, not having too low or too high of a blood sugar, and everything coming second to this. On top of this, continually learning of ways to manage this issue of mine and how the variables of my life contributed to it's control.

Fortunately and luckily enough, I had my parents and brother as support at the time. While the first 24 hours of this knowledge was not necessarily a stroll in the park, the next week of my stay in the hospital certainly led to my otherwise black and white view on the matter. I remember when i was finally ready to come to grips with this at the time I said "So, when it comes down to it. I have to check my blood sugar and take 2-3 shot a day. K. I can do this." Because this was now and had become my new reality, my new state of affairs, and my new level normalcy.

My dad told me that "the area between two disciplines is the most fertile ground for innovation." Now at age 25 with more knowledge and technology than I had at 12, I couldn't agree more. At its best or worst, diabetes is just a software glitch of the (computer that is the human) body.

More importantly why couldn't it be viewed and treated as such? Like any well written software program, it's full of variables, control, and means of preventing mistakes. Who cares that I'm a living thing? Carbohydrates, blood glucoses, and all the crap involved in this disease is data waiting to be manipulated and dare I say - hacked. Besides, Jerome Radcliff at the hacker conference that I somehow miss every year demonstrated this year (2011) that it was possible to break into the insulin pump and deliver a dose wirelessly from his laptop. I've been dying to chat to him and certainly can only hope by some stroke of luck he comes across this post. In an arguably sick way, it's almost disappointing there are not more diabetics who happen to be of the IT disposition. I certainly wouldn't wish this lifetime annoyance upon anyone, but to quote Bill Gates - "I believe most problems can be solved."

In a series of upcoming posts, I'm going to be blogging the results of my diabetic body hacks that I have done or will be doing on a combination/alteration of injections, insulin pump, and CGMS. As an example, running several miles with/without my pump, consuming with/without caffeine, and all sorts of recently discovered information that is worth sharing. There just isn't enough control engineers, IT people, or technical people talking about this disease as their should be. Casual diabetics provide good conversation and good information, but I want more nerds in this field.

For a list of the seemingly endless articles written on Jerome, I've provided a "top hits" list here.

I'm a system administrator, network engineer, web developer, and as of this past year application developer. Thus far I've managed to improve my quality of life through some incredibly proprietary means (Excel) but my holy grail is hacking the insulin pump (with an Arduino & Xbee), and developing some kind of standard for exchanging data. Diabetes management in the cloud? That doesn't sound like a far off reality at all and while I don't doubt medtronic and other companies are hard at work towards an artificial pancreas, I'm going to be experimenting on myself until then even if this CGMS device isn't 100% accurate - gotta start somewhere.

I am however asking the following of any reader, or passerby of this blog. Read the following article from 2003. Put two and two together, and if Jerome Radcliffe himself should stumble across this - I can only imagine you'll be able to see where I'm going with this. 

Jerome, it works and I need your help.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Diabetes @ the beach.

Will get you stared down, accused of cancer, and make otherwise interesting tan lines that can't be explained by anyone but yourself.

I'm not even kidding about the cancer thing. Apparently when you have something taped to your side and another thing stuck on your side with a tube running out of it to a pager...people really start making all sorts of wild guesses to comfort their children/own curiosity. But i don't mind the stares or the accusations, i'm a diabetic with my shirt off. If it wasn't for the chronic disease i'm annoyed with on a daily basis (don't ever let any diabetic tell you it's anything above annoying, they are liars and just want your sympathy) I would have people at the beach just making jokes at the expense of my rather scrawny frame (or my otherwise "pale" self, what do you want. I'm an IT guy. I sit with computers all days, indoors). Then again, i'd still be fine with that. THANKS TO THAT GENOME THING I DID, i know my body type is not going to change no matter what I do.

But I'll tell you one damn cool thing, that one thing stuck to my side in the picture with no tube running out of it is relaying my blood glucose levels to my pump wirelessly. Which equates to less fingersticks...because apart from how annoying that is several times during a day...the last thing I want to do is do that at a beach. I'm with friends, i'm not at work, and above all else - I just want to relax and do ABSOLUTELY nothing. What's more, disconnecting my insulin pump...leaving it in my backpack going out into the water and this thing still relay glucose levels. I don't even know what the range is of this device but whatever it is - it was enough to capture most of my sugars. So yes, it missed a few readings (does one every five minutes) but for the most part got them. Enough to see a trend and really that's all I care about.

So what's the point/moral of this post? Not much. Just being diabetic with electronic control at the know...a place with water. Whichever the case, I kept the pump on the beach and the sensor on myself in the water. No problems. So either Medtronic (the company that makes these devices) builds them really damn well or this is just a luck occurance. I'll go with luck as a minor splash on my pump last summer resulted in a free new replacement.

In my next post, I'm already feeling like explaining this disease for what it really is. An annoying, perfectly managable disease that if controlled will not have a single adverse effect on you...and how to do it and eat like you weren't diabetic AND for no healthcare profession to question it. Maybe I should dispell some diabetes myths and also make sure this doesn't turn into a diabetes blog. That'd just be stupid.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Microsoft, you lied to me.

As most of you know, or my friends would tell you. There is no company I pledge greater allegiance to than that of Microsoft. Windows has standardized my world, the Xbox 360 was my media extension out of it and coupled with games was phenomenal, Zune was how I listened to the best music around and never paid for per song for it. My first email address I ever created is still my email address to do and has become my de facto Live ID. My passion further evolved entering college and discovering this incredibly thing known as the .NET Framework. Venturing down the path of an IT guy at Purdue, Windows Server was a pleasure to administer clients life from the start of my IT career at the age of nine to where it's carried me now is one that I've shared with Microsoft the whole time.

And I have nothing but good, fantastic, and wonderful things to say about the truly glorious ecosystem Microsoft has created. Office Live? App Hub? Tech Net? One sign on to rule them all - my Live ID is the only identity on the block and let me tell you I can't imagine my life without it. My Phone? Live Mesh? - Yes, these products helped me make the most of my college life and thrive with real-time collaboration for free. Something competitors could only dream of doing but only one company was capable of. Oh Microsoft, you've done nothing but right as far as I'm concerned.

But let's get serious. Let's be honest. You lied to me about the ZuneHD and more importantly knowingly shot yourself in the foot with it's lifespan.

I remember darting out of a class that November morning and practically racing to Best Buy with a friend. "A 16gb ZuneHD please," i said. Upon which I was returned with this beautiful package. This device that was going to change everything. Microsoft's answer to that iPhone garbage that didn't fit anywhere into my life. The device for people who love music, and finally offering touch and eventual Xbox titles.

But that didn't come. Well it did, just in the worst selection of applications for the device imaginable. This wasn't the answer to the iPhone or iPod Touch, this was just a failed product. But I got over it. I was perfectly fine with my WinMo 6.5 phone and my ZuneHD. Sure my ZuneHD couldn't join hidden wireless networks (still can't, guess you stopped caring) and sure it didn't have a marketplace of any real value. But I put up with it. I had a superior mobile media experience and that was honestly enough for me.

Then s&#t got real. Windows Phone 7 was announced and you decided to completely forget about this other product you had created. At first I was thrilled, I thought "Backwards Apple strategy, device then phone. Nice. Totally behind you company I love like their is no tomorrow." Then came the hardware requirements - "Three buttons are mandatory, back, home, and search."

Get. The. Hell. Out.

ZuneHD was dead, the device i had been so insanely excited for and two of my friends bought because of my push and envy of had just killed instantly.

Microsoft, all I'm saying is I feel as though you lied to me and your true Zune followers. The ones actually responsible for whatever small percentage of the market you owned. 2%? 5% 10% I didn't care what the number (and still don't) was because I loved that device and still own it. Yet everytime I look at it I not only scoff but realize how TRULY much it pales in comparison to my Windows Phone 7 device. It's a Microsoft device that no longer fits into my life and let me tell you it truly pains me to say that. You have the money. You have the power. You have EVERYTHING you need to drive a certain competitor straight into the ground and I can not begin tell you how bad I want this to happen.

Office 2010. Sharepoint 2010. CRM2011. Visual Studio. ASP.NET. Server 2003 and 2008. Exchange 2010. Need I keep listing all the technologies you have nothing but my complete unwavering support on? I have cast my ballot for Microsoft in EVERY possible way I can...but I can't forgive you for the ZuneHD and my wasted, but your clearly earned, money.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Yeah, I'd Go Running...if it Weren't for These Damn Knees!

When people discover I run and by discover, I mean I inform them what a pretentious bastard I am by the about of land I covered the previous night - usually they add in that "Well I'd run, but I just don't have the knees for it" or perhaps "I get sore if I run too long." Go ahead, I'll give you some time to think about this before continuing on.

I'm not really sure how this thought process prevails as a legitimate excuse to one's self, but clearly it must be working as these people continue to simply not exercise (america is rather overweight last time I checked). However, a common trend amongst the physically unfit is being the first point out healthy activities that require no physical exertion.

"Oh you know, tea is so good for you."
"Eating organic food prevents cancer."
"Did you know during your average workday you walk half a mile?"

I need not even be curious as to why these people are so quick to point out a short cut to physical fitness. My only guess is that they believe they've found a loophole in the system and beaten someone like know what. I'm a bad example. Let's use my brother. The tri-athlete. No wait, still not good enough. Let's use Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon runner. Here's a guy that ran two marathons back to back (thats 52 some miles) and during which he ordered a pizza, drank two Starbuck's lattes, and an order of baklava. He ate/drank this whilst running. WHILST! THATS MORE SERIOUS THAN "WHILE." He's the same guy who did a marathon everyday for a month.

Secondly, these individuals are rather reluctant to have you point out the holes in their logic and supporting evidence. No doubt, tea probably has some kind of benefit...but I can't imagine the quantities you would have to consume to actually have something of a noticeable benefit. Eating organic foods prevent cancer? That isn't even worth my time, at least in this post.

The next time someone says they wish they could run if it weren't for their damn knees, ask them if they've been on a scale recently.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 - The Wrap Up Post

Have I facebooked about this event enough? No, because science - the kind of thing that enriches peoples lives and does more than Jersey Shore can't be talked about enough. How many newspapers have astrology columns? Now how many have science columns? You know what...I can't even get into that. That's another post for another time. Never the less, let me press forward.

I wrote several weeks ago about going into the 23andme process ( and you know what was waiting in my email today when I got home from work? An email with the following subject line...

Your Genetic Profile is Ready at 23andMe!

Yeah, I flipped out. I lost it. My heart was beating a bit faster. I was about to see and understand an insane amount of information about myself in but a single click. Was I going to discover my mother was wrong and heritage isn't mexican? What if I'm actually african american? What if I'm asian? What if the cancer my grandfather denied he had, he actually did and I'm genetically predisposed to possibly get it? This list of what if's goes on for quite some time and I won't repeat myself with what I outlined in my first blog post on this topic.

So I went over to the website, I logged in...and suddenly the page that was otherwise empty for the past weeks was now vomiting data all over the page. My elevated health risks, my decreased risks, my traits (that's right, I spit into a tube and they can tell me my eye color. Yeah. Let that sit in for awhile), my carrier status for disease, and my response to drugs. The last one is kind of the beneficial endgame of this, drugs would be prescribed to you based on your expected response to it. Perhaps the dosage needs to be higher because you have some obscure resistance to it. That kind of treatment sounds beyond promising to me.

So what's this? Information warfare against myself for the future? Maybe it's bad word usage but it sounds neat to me. Without sharing specific results as I'm still figuring out how sensitive I am to this information being publically disclosed I can see my likelihood for getting diseases. That sounds beyond useful to me. That sounds like something I want to share with my doctors and that could be planned for and possibly prevented. What could be better than that? What if I have a 62.49% chance of getting really severe arthritis? Would I not want to possibly be able to prevent this? But what about the diseases my family knows nothing about? The ones they, and now have in turn me made into a carrier for? Would I not want to take preventative measures?

I will tell you some obvious information that I don't mind sharing, because they are some interesting traits that you think "Oh, hey thats weird to point out. But neat." Here are a few things that have been pointed out to me merely by spitting into a tube:
Eye color: Likely brown (I do have brown eyes)
Muscles: Likely a sprinter (so far this is on par, I run a lot but I have trouble running anything past 3 miles)
Alcohol Flush Reaction: Does not flush (this is known as "Asian Glow" and happens when you don't process alcohol like everyone else, resulting in a red glow. Typically, people of Asian heritage suffer from this.)
Caffeine Metabolism: Metabolizes quickly (fair enough, I enjoy coffee, mountain dew, and other caffeinated beverages on occasion and I don't have crazy reactions to them.)
Bitter Taste Perception: Unlikely to taste - correct. I don't really taste bitter things.
Lactose Intolerance: Likely tolerant - correct. I drink milk and consume dairy with no adverse effects. My father on the other hand is lactose intolerant.
Freckles: Unlikely - but interesting my "people" are disposed to have them. I however specifically am not.

But what do I mean by my "people"? I'm white. My mother says I have mexican heritage and my father is from a serbian background. But I'm American. I mean, really...what else there to say on this topic? People always talk about their ethnic backgrounds but what if that information was wrong? Better yet, what if it was right but only on the most superficial levels? Well, interesting fact here...I am in fact Asian and African American. Yeah. My mom's family line while mexican actually started off as eastern asians. My dad on the other hand, is of serbian/european descent.

It's funny because all I did was joke before/during this process was say "It'd be great if I turn out to be asian or black...or both!" Lone behold, I am those two things.

What's left after that? Discovering any relative who may have done this process as well...well all the relatives I don't know about who've done this. I got the health/ancestry today and according to the site in a week they will share family heritage with me. It will link me to other members on the website who I am actually related too and I kid you not, possibly discovering fifth cousins.

On top of all of this, I am going to receive up to date information every month on genetic information pertinent to me. But before I close, there was one bit of information I was really curious about. I am a Type 1 diabetic. explicity states they can't/won't diagnose you but merely show you your genetic predisposition to certain disease. I laughed thinking about results coming back saying "You're diabetic" but here's what interesting. Here's what I truly found to be a kick in the pants.

Out of 100 people, I had less than a 1% chance of contracting diabetes. It was 0.70% to be exact. It would seem that someone has to be the statistic.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Purdue Math Department...Sucks.

I'm a graduate of Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. Summer class of 2010 with a degree in Computer and Information Technology, with a specialization in Network Engineering. In short, my degree qualifies me to defend networks, personal, small, big, corporate, government, national, international. It's a degree in the internet and it's security.

My coursework outlines my knowledge of Windows, Unix, Linux, Mac OS, and other operating system. C#, ASP.NET, and Java encompass some of the languages I know (these three were required for my degree). HTML, CSS, Flash, Silverlight speaks to my web developer side. Programming routers, configuring switches, deploying servers, testing email receipt, faking email on behalf of other people, are things within my ability. Knowledge of Microsoft Office should be assumed, and troubleshooting is my indispensable tool of the trade. Windows Mobile certifications, CCNA's, MSCA's...the tests can and do go on to further add certifications too my Black and Gold degree.

However - there is a single thing for which I can't grasp. That seemingly couldn't be explained to me and could have prevented my very graduation and seal of approval in my various fields of Information Technology. The culprit is calculus, but the bad guy was really the Math Department.

Calculus 1 and 2 were two classes that since my freshman year of college I saw the two largest impetus' of my degree. In fact, I failed Calculus 1 (Calc 221) three times. I failed Calculus 1 (Calc 223) once. I then failed Calculus 2 (224) once. How did I pass them? I didn't take them at West Lafayette I can tell you that much. If you could hunt down any of my classmates, they'll tell you I was an idiot when it came to math. I was, even I know this. I was horrendous. In fact, it was in my senior year that I actually managed to pass these entry level, freshman courses, just not in Lafayette.

The math department of lafayette subscribes to their own method of grading, only which I can assume is done because they are mathmatics majors and thats just what they do. What else do you do with that degree? I don't know, I won't criticize, but this certainly seems like a good start. I digress. Anyway. Here's the short unpleasant version with an explanation following it. What if I said you do well on homework, quizzes, and exams. So well, that you are scoring a 90% minimum on everything. You can see this, but your grade can't be confirmed or denied until the end of the semester (aka the report card) when the grades come in you discover you got a B. How can this be you ask? You did the work, and got the results of at least an A, yet receive a B. Here comes the explanation directly from the syllabus no less.

There is a total of 550 points in the course. Homework and quizzes combined count 100 points. Each of the three mid-term exams counts 100 points, and the nal exam counts 150 points. Since the only assessments common to all students and graded identically for all students are the two, course-wide exams (Exam 2 and the Final Exam), a normalization process based on them is used to determine the number of each letter grade given in a section. The Department decides on an A{range, B{range, C{range, etc., for the combined two exams. Each instructor then gives the same number of A's, B's, C's, etc., that his section earned on the combined exams. The assignment of the letter grades is based on students' total points (a number between 0 and 550). For example, if in a particular section there are 8 A's, 10 B's, etc., on the two combined exams, the 8 students with the highest total points receive an A, the next 10 a B, and so on.

Does this make sense to you? If it does, explain it to me. If it doesn't, then keep thinking about it until your head explodes. Believe it or not, this system actually is to the student's advantage. Well, the slightly less intelligent students. It ensures the bottom of the barrel students still perform somewhat average. It makes things far more challenging for students who want to do well. Interestingly enough, there is one way to cheat this system but it would never work given the coordination involved. If you could convince every students to fail, or only do so good as a point perhaps. Then everyone gets an A. Because there isn't enough of a "scale" to distribute grades to point values. Hell if everyone fails, and everyone gets a 0 out of 550. Then the highest grade is 0, meaning 0's get A's. It wouldn't work because there is no way you could convince the number of students enrolled in your particular class, let alone entire course to do it.

With this being said, it is possible to do A quality work and yet only receive a B. However in my case, the system never benefited me. I did so consistently poor, this "curve" was of no benefit to me. I couldn't even pull a D in these classes, more importantly, a D was all I needed as far as my degree was concerned to move onto the the next level course and ultimately graduate. But that didn't happen, always got the F in these courses. Anyway, the department in my view designed me to fail. I couldn't perform in this kind of competitive grading environment. Something about getting a grade, only to find out the grade really isn't mine seems odd. Why shouldn't it be odd? Every other class I take a quiz, and now I know exactly what my quiz grades are.

One summer I decided to go to a satellite campus, Purdue Calumet. This campus is located in Hammond, Indiana and has a FAR more community college atmosphere to it. It also, has a far larger mix of people. This is the college where it's not entirely my 20 something peers, it's fully grown adults. It's people with full time jobs coming back to college for a degree, taking night classes, etc. I sat down in my class that hot summer day for calculus one and prepared for how this school was going to teach me the same class I had already failed. But class hasn't started, it's syllabus time first and then class time.

50% and below is an F.

51% - 59.9% is a D

60% - 69.99 is a C

70% - 85% is a B

And you can guess A range. This was ridiculous, this was unheard of. The grade range was known ahead of time and the standards are ridiculously lower at this campus. It's going to transfer as the same credit and I'm going to pass it. I did pass it, with flying colors. I did Calculus 2 the same way. I cheated the system by going to the campus with lower standards and doing it. I tried Calculus 2 at Lafayette, even more impossible than one.

Here's where Lafayette, fails absolutely, hands down miserably at teaching this subject and why I and others have and will continue to fail at it:

1. TA's teach classes, what's worse is they barely speak English.
Look, I'm all for equal opportunity employment. But when I have to ask someone to repeat everything at least 2 times all the time. It gets frustrating.

2. 50 minute classes
The typical class follows suit as such - 10 minutes for homework questions, every TA will say how they cant answer all of them because they need time to lecture that day. The day's lecture will take anywhere from 20 minutes to the rest of the class. What's worse is when quizzes are introduced. You will truly enjoy watching how these people budget their time to better suit themselves than the student.

3. TA's are students with schedules, not Professors with jobs.
The problem with TA's is they are students just like those in the class, they have homework themselves. They have classes to get to themselves. They have their own pursuits and then have to grade your work, quizzes, and tests. Let me say this, good luck finding "Office Hours" for one of these folks. They don't exist, if they do it is but for minutes. Even if you do find office hourS (notice the plural use of hour) you better hope you have some free time. Maybe you'll have to skip a class. Be late to another. Start work later. Don't get me wrong, you go to college for college and to learn and no one is more unsympathetic than the college itself.

4. Online homework
This honestly seemed like a good idea when it was introduced to me the third time around in calculus. Let's do away with submitting homework with paper, and instead require students to spend money on an online subscription service to grade you. Here's the problem, computers don't give partial credit. They simply don't understand your math, merely the final answer. The advantage of a human grading my work is following the steps I made, seeing where I went wrong and correcting me. More importantly, giving some degree of credit for getting somewhere with the problem. Because when you are struggling, you'll take all the credit you can get. A plus instead of a minus, but still the right absolute answer? Plus you can't ask questions, the program has a help program but only explains it one way with no further help. What if I need further help? Oh right, I need to find my TA's office hours...but I already went over that part.

5. The Math Help Room
There is a math help room, which has go to be the largest joke I have ever witnessed. I went regularly to discover 4 various employees (students) standing around waiting to be hailed over to problems. Chatting and talking amongst themselves and then discouraged when a hand is raised to go help. When asked for a question, you are immediately presented with an answer - not help, an answer as to what to do next. The help then walks away and you are assumed to go about your work until you need them again. It's a worthless investment as the room only supports about 16 - 20 students. It's like the math departments solution for dealing with problems without having to deal with them. Such as "Oh have you tried the math help room?"

6. Tutoring
There is a recommended tutor list on the departments website, but tutors aren't linked to the department in anyway other than "we trust this person to do a decent job." But you have to pay them, because the department doesn't. Which means you are again, working with someone's schedule (a student's more times than not.) You are paying them directly, with no guarantee of service or a "I'll give you some money back" or anything of the sorts. Students, living on student wages. Then there are rogue tutors on campus, they aren't on the department website but have done this "forever" and have an extensive client list and promise a certain letter grade. I did this, because I was desperate. I wasn't expecting the promised B minimum, a D would have done just fine but you know what. Whatever, maybe I'll get a C. We'll see what happens.

Needless to say the old french guy by the name of Jacque on the West Lafayete campus, with a very large black mustache who always wears a baseball cap should not be trusted. $25 an hour and promising a B minimum and will refund up to 30% of your money otherwise. Seems to me I was tutored, then told "You can't do this, and should drop." Really meant "I'll continue to tutor you, but won't give you any money back because you aren't smart enough to do this." Oh well, what's $1250 as a student.

7. Emailing the head of the department for help
Also doesn't result in as much as you think it would. Actually, it results in greater insanity. I told her I wasn't getting any help from any of the sources I was told I could. Nothing was working. In response I was told "You should go sit in on other TA's lectures and see if hearing it from different sources helps." A perfectly plausible thing for me as an 18 credit hour student with a job to do.

Needless to say, I decided to say screw it and take the class during the summer at Purdue Calumet. It worked out well both times. It was taught by professors. I got as much or as little time as I needed from professors. I had professors who were willing to meet on weekends to help me. Coincidently, I also saw what a change in location does in terms of expectations. Standards are drastically reduced. Also - you can use full scientific calculator during exams. That's right, that would imply you CAN'T in Lafayette. That is not a typo, that is the truth. Only simple calculators that DON'T display the equation you are working on are allowed during exams in Lafayette. Go ahead and sit on that one for awhile.

So sure I've graduated, I got my degree, and it's the seal of approval on my IT knowledge. But I will never forget the Purdue Lafayette Math Department and what I had to go through merely to receive that seal. Two freshman level courses that took essentially my career to complete. I hate math.

Hail the Knoy Hall of Technology.