Thursday, January 5, 2017


I'm a data geek and taking charge of my diabetes is no different.  The doctor gave me a glucose meter for "free", but it was just the same old dumb meter that required me to keep a paper log or put the data into an app manually.  I'm lazy and I know it so I went looking for a better solution.

My answer was Dario.  The Dario glucose meter is made by an Israeli company and is a major departure from the traditional glucose meter.  In one nicely designed unit, it houses the glucose meter, test strip storage and lancing device.  The white cap on the right in the picture below hides the test strip cartridge which holds 25 strips at a time.  The orange cap holds one lancet and is deployed with the orange button on the bottom.  The meter itself is housed in a spring loaded drawer on the top side.  It then is removed and plugged into the head phone jack on an iPhone (not supported on iPhone 7 yet, but they're working on it).  Once connected and using the Dario app, you place a strip in the meter, prick your finger and get your reading.  The app is integrated with Apple Health so the glucose numbers can be easily fed to other applications.
The Dario with the glucose meter deployed at top.
In my case, my physicians are part of the HSHS Medical Group which uses the Allscripts For My Health app.  This app reads the data and adds my blood glucose readings directly into my electronic health record.  Because of this my doctor can see my readings anytime she wants.  In addition for parents of children with diabetes, they can load the app or a website and see a child's readings at school while they are at work.  

Another nice feature is that if the meter detects a dangerous hypo or hyper glucose scenario it will send your position and an alert to a person you designate so that they can make sure that you're ok.

All in all, for $39.99 this was a great purchase.  Insurance doesn't cover my testing supplies, but at 4 cents per strip, it is cheaper than what my copay and deductibles made it to buy the other supplies through insurance.  The only design change I would make is a way to store the safety cap for the currently loaded lancet and a place for at least one spare lancet.  Due to Apple's removal of the head phone jack, I'm also hoping the device becomes lightening compatible or bluetooth.  Unfortunately FDA approval often slows down innovation so I expect new versions to be limited to Europe for a bit before the US gets the next version.  If you want to learn more, go to

Diabetes 0 Ben 1

I had my first visit with the endocrinologist this week.  While at the office they ran my A1C again.  Since the initial diagnosis in November, my A1C has gone from 6.9 to 5.8.  The greatest part of this is that I did this with no medicine.  I must say that Nutrisystem D with exercise and better eating has done the trick.  In addition I've managed to lose around 30lbs.  My endocrinologist is still not happy with my morning fasting blood sugars though so I have to look at other changes.

The first one is to get with my GP about getting the BiPAP machine that my sleep study indicated I needed.  Unfortunately that whole process got sidelined when my foot and diabetes problems started.  Hopefully this will help me sleep better, lose weight easier and lower my blood sugar.  Or at least that's what the endocrinologist thinks. Beyond that she's testing for all sorts of things including thyroid problems.

All in all though, I would say month 1 goes to me. :)

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Lot Happens in the Course of the Year

According to my blog archives, the last time I blogged on this blog was in late October of 2015.  Well a lot has happened since then and a lot of it has been in the last two months.

First the exciting thing from those two months... Cubs Win, Cubs Win!  This is finally the year.  My Cubbies won the World Series.  It was a heck of a ride right down to the extra innings game seven.  My Grandpas didn't see it in their lifetimes, but I finally did.  Wow!

Now for the less exciting, but more important stuff.  About midway through the playoffs my left foot got very swollen and sore.  At first I thought I had just twisted my ankle or something like that, but after another week I ended up at the ER.  They diagnosed me as having cellulitis of the foot and put me on antibiotics.  This helped, but the swelling persisted.  Finally after almost four weeks, two sets of x-rays and an MRI, the podiatrist diagnosed me with having Charcot Arthropathy (aka Charcot Foot), which is pronounced shar-koh.  This led to another diagnosis with a bit more impact...  Diabetes.

The podiatrist ordered an A1C test immediately and it came back as a 6.9 which puts me on the lower end of the diabetic range.  The diagnosis wasn't a huge shock as my family history pretty much determined that it would happen eventually, it was just a bit earlier in life than I had expected.

Thankfully my loving wife Em is at my side and she's decided to take up the same diet as me to help me get my blood sugar and weight under control.  The goal is to not need insulin and hopefully not even metformin.  Being one footed, it's hard to weigh in right now, but I've had to put two new holes in my belt since mid October which is a good sign.  Right now we're doing nutrisystem D using getting started boxes from the store which is working for us.

I get to meet with my GP for the first time since the diagnosis on Thursday and then the dietitian on the 16th.  I know what I need to do and thankfully I have my wife helping me do what I know I need to do.  Even as I scoot around on my knee scooter, we've been able to increase our walking through Pokemon Go and Ingress at Washington Park and the Mall.  I do have to try not to coast on the tile at the mall though. :)  It's interesting how much it takes to scoot up even slight inclines when you're using one leg to move 390+lbs plus the scooter.

I see the podiatrist again on 12/8 so hopefully then I'll be released to start putting weight on my foot again.  I'm sure it will take some time to get back up to speed, but I also know that Em needs me back on my game to help with our dogs and the house.

Well hopefully my next entry will be in a shorter time period.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Another Baseball Season Short of the World Series, But What a Season it Was

I've had a few days to decompress after the disappointing Cubs loss in the NLCS.  As a Cubs fan I'm used to ending a season disappointed, but this year the disappointment is tempered with something new, something exciting... expectation of next year.  It's not the normal "Wait til next year." mantra either.  I'm genuinely excited about next season.

To explain, you have to go back to December of 2014.  The setting was an offseason after a dismal 73-89 2014 season that put the Cubs securely in last place in the NL Central.  But on December 13th, the Cubs story started to change when they signed Jon Lester.  This coupled with the October surprise signing of Joe Maddon as manager was a signal to Cubs fans.  The pieces are finally coming together, the waiting is over and we will WIN.  Still at this point most fans were hoping for a winning season and hopefully to be in the playoff race, but beyond that was... well still a dream.

This year soon became different though.  Although the opening home stand was a bit of a disappointment both on the field and in the not quite ready for primetime Wrigley Field that was still very much under construction, the season quickly turned hopeful.  Young talent kept popping up to the majors and impressing.  Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell to name a few.  Wow we were winning and the Cubbies had that swagger back that they expected to win.  It was fun to watch.  Then the second half started and we went from being a .500 team to a team on a mission only losing 19 games.  Although we couldn't catch up to the equally hot Cardinals and Pirates, we made the Wild Card playoff game.  We had a chance.

At this point things were just going right for the Cubs.  Plays that in previous years would have spelled doom were being made.  As a fan, it was a bit scary.  Talk of black cats, goats, and Bartman were often squelched in fears of bringing up demons of the past.  This was when I started to believe that it really could be possible for the Cubs to get to the World Series and even win it.  Something that neither of my Cub fan grandfathers ever got to see in their lifetime.  The last time the Cubs even played in a World Series Grandpa Viola was somewhere in the South Pacific in the Army waiting for orders home. and Grandpa Story was working to support his family back in the states.  I'll never forget watching Cubs games with Grandpa Viola listening to Harry Carray and Steve Stone calling the games on WGN.  Rooting for any other team never crossed my mind.

One game, do or die, oh boy oh boy.  Talk about a lot of emotions going into the sudden death wild card playoff game with Pittsburgh.  I literally had my Crown and Coke ready at game time and was nervous at every pitch until the 27th out was made.  When the dust settled it sunk in that the Cubs had won again and were going to play the Cardinals, the arch nemisis, in a best of 5 NLDS.

At this point my thought was beat the Cardinals, the fact it was the NLDS was just icing.  This was a dream series along I-55 with Springfield being just about ground zero for the war that was about to ensue.  Losing game one made me start looking for goats and cats again, but the Cubs came back and won the rest of the games to win.  The Cubs beat the perennial October favorites!  At this point you probably could have told me that Joe Maddon was walking on water and I would have believed you.

Then it was the NLCS against the Mets.  Praying as hard as Cub fans can pray we were still no match for the Mets this year.  They played every aspect of the game flawlessly for four straight games.  It wasn't a complete loss though, through the heart break I reconnected with old Cub fan buddies, made new friends and we got to see the future.  The Cubs team is GOOD and with a few tweaks and experience next year's team is going to be Great.  Sorry Cubbies, but next year a winning record won't cut it, nothing short of making it to the NLCS will be even close.  Hopefully next year the Cubs will be having a hell of a party in October.  Oh and Cardinals fans... next year we're gunning for first in the division too.

Spring training can't come too soon...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Common Core

With a wife that is a teacher, I hear a lot about the Common Core standards.  I've also been hearing a lot about the Common Core from the media, politicians, and my Facebook friends. What I end up seeing is that most people have no clue as to what the Common Core really entails.

Most parents seem to have confused Common Core standards with curriculum designed (at least supposedly designed) to help students meet those standards.  For example, one of the fourth grade math common core standards is
Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations, including problems in which remainders must be interpreted. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding.
 Nowhere in the above statement is it dictated to the teacher how to teach anything.  It just states what the student should be able to do by the end of fourth grade.  Think of it like the set of requirements in a Boy Scout or Girl Scout handbook for a certain rank.  Distilled to the main point, this is what the Common Core standard is all about.  It sets goals for each grade level.

Unfortunately most of what is touted by the talking heads on TV and shared on Facebook as Common Core, actually deals with curriculum and not the standards.  Curriculum is usually set by the local school district or sometimes the state.  Because of their size, California and Texas has a tendency to push the direction the US goes on curriculum because the textbook vendors cater to the largest customers.  As you can see above, the standards don't say HOW to teach a subject, just what the expected outcome should be.  

For example, today on the radio, one of the talk radio hosts was ranting because his daughter had been taught three ways to do subtraction and one of them was confusing her.  The particular method that she was struggling with was subtraction by addition or "method of complements".  The idea behind this method is to make mental math easier.  One example of this method in every day life is a skill that a lot of people no longer have because of cash registers.... how to count back change.  

The bottom line is that a common set of goals for every student in the United States is NOT a bad thing.  In fact goals are good things and give us a way to quantitatively evaluate educational policies such as curriculum.  Unfortunately text book writers and local curriculum directors have used the Common Core as an excuse to try new methodologies as experiments on our students.  Hopefully over time the failed curriculum choices made will be phased out.  In the mean time, don't vilify the teachers for teaching what they're told to teach by their management.  Instead educate yourself on the curriculum and the standards and lobby your school board and administration to make needed changes so that every student in every school in the United States can excel.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The World Isn't Black and White

After 34 years living on this planet and revolving around the Sun, I've come to a realization.  The world, as in our civilization, is not black and white.  Although somethings might have a right and wrong answer like the world is definitely not flat, most things are not as easy as we would like them to be.

Many issues today are polarized between two camps such as pro-life vs. pro-choice, Republican vs Democrat, and Mac vs PC.  Ok so some are more important than others, but the idea is the same  Both camps dig in with their ideology and tune out anything supporting common ground or the other side.

The more I experience, the more I find that most solutions end up in the middle somewhere.  For example, as I get older, I'm finding myself gravitating more and more towards more Libertarian views on topics.  This has led to a "liberalization" of my social ideas while I stick to my conservative ideas about the scope of government and how to manage the economy. 

Likewise with the Pro-life/Pro-Choice debate I have changed my stance over time.  When I was younger, I followed the straight ideology from the Roman Catholic Church.  Life is life and under no circumstance should any human take that away.  I still fully agree with this when it comes to abortion and embryonic research, but capital punishment is a little less black and white for me.  In most cases, I think that life in prison is probably enough, but for some people, I am ok with the death penalty.  Osama Bin Laden... yes, Saddam Hussein... yes, some random kid that got mixed up with a gang... probably not.

So what I'm trying to say with my rambling is that we need to take a closer look at a lot of issues in our world.  It's time to come to the middle and learn about the other side.  We might just find out that there's a bit of truth in the middle.  And who knows, maybe we can take our energy and use it for something else like helping to feed the hungry or curing the sick.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bugles Across America

Every day in the United States Veterans are laid to rest with military honors.  Unfortunately as the demand for military burial details is ever increasing, the budget for the active duty burial details is being cut.  One of the most rare resources for these teams is a live bugler to play Taps.  In the absence of a live bugler, the teams often turn to recordings on CD players or a "self-playing" bugle.

Thankfully there is an organization that helps make sure that as many Veteran's as possible receive the honor of having a live bugle as part of their funeral service.  Bugles Across America was formed to honor our Veterans.  Anyone may request a bugler through the organization's website for free.  The website then contacts all of the buglers in the area of a request and one will accept the mission.  All of the buglers are vetted by the state directors to ensure the quality that the solemn ceremony deserves.

If you're a bugler and want to help, please sign up for an audition today.  If you know someone that may need our services, please have them make the request online.