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Who Cares About the iPod, Where is the Apple Glucose Meter?

A few months ago I was looking at blood sugar meters and cholesterol testers for family members.  I have had my blood tested for various things throughout my life and I've seen the standard drugstore-issue glucose monitors in action, so I had a very basic idea of what I was looking for.  But I wasn't exactly an expert, so I went online. Now one of the benefits of living in the Internet age is that if you need to learn about any technological device, from MP3 players to video cards to application servers, you can quickly and easily find out all about it online.  Making a major purchase?  Some skillful Googling will lead you to novice-level tutorials, product comparisons, recommendations from normal users, and jargon-laden details from experts. Unless you want to buy a glucose meter.  I found virtually nothing except for short blurbs on retailers' sites.  I even had a hard time finding product info from manufacturers! The worst thing is, I was wasting my time.  Even if there had been a ton of info out there, comparisons, anecdotes, reviews, etc., it would have been no use.  Because as far as I can tell, all blood glucose monitors are complicated, confusing devices that are difficult to use.  Diabetics are supposed to test their blood every day, but the testers are temperamental, require expensive consumables, and can fail without always alerting you to the error. You have to line up drops of liquid on a tiny little target.  Make sure you cover the whole target, or the results will be off.  Make sure you don't go outside the target, or you'll screw up everything.  Oh, maybe you need to recalibrate.  Did you check how old the strips are? I was really, really surprised about this.  Actually, it was a mix of surprise and anger - why should anyone have to put up with such frustration for something that is so important? Why would a confusing interface make me so angry?  I couldn't really put my finger on it (bad pun) until now.  I just read an article at Techcrunch, "Apple iPod vs. the Insulin Pump."  Apparently a blog that covers Diabetes that has posted an open letter to Steve Jobs of Apple:

We are, of course, deeply grateful to the medical device industry for keeping us alive.  Where would we be without them?  But while they’re still struggling with shrinking complex technologies down to a scale where we can attach them, hard-wired, to our bodies, design kinda becomes an afterthought.

This is where the world needs your help, Steve.
This is precisely what is needed.  Now, it doesn't have to be Steve Jobs or even Jonathan Ive, the guys who designed the iPod.  Any designer with some insight and a proven track record of making usable devices could probably improve these medical devices immeasurably.  Millions of people's lives could be made easier if someone married modern medical technology with user-centered design. So add me to the list of people asking the questions in this letter, Steve (few people realize that Steve Jobs reads Unsought Input daily and hangs on our every word).

How to Fat Smash and Become an Ultramarathon Man, Pt. 2

Had a weigh in for the competition recently and I’m down 30 lbs. total. 30 lbs in two months and I haven’t done anything unhealthy to lose it. I’m getting positive comments on my weight daily. Chuck and I finally got to run his neighborhood again this weekend and challenge the monster hill of doom. End result: 5 ½ miles and one conquered hill. At the risk of going all Tony Robbins, I want to share how I’ve been able to achieve all of this in such a short time. I was completely and utterly disgusted with myself but now I’m confident that someday I’ll be able to achieve my goals. So read on, and see how you too can achieve what I have. Give yourself multiple pieces of motivation. If you read my last post, my weight loss kicked off with a bet. A sizable chunk of money ($180) was waiting for the winner. And that money was great motivation to start. But once the contest was over, what then? I wanted to make a serious life change. Short term goals might get you moving, but changing the way I ate in the long term meant I needed long term motivation. My first motivation was running a marathon. I knew I couldn’t get in that much shape during the three short months of the challenge. I also knew that in order to run a marathon, I had to get down to where carrying my weight wouldn’t be too huge a burden on my legs. My second motivation was to get more, ahem, “attention� from my wife. My wife is into tall, skinny, gay guys out of Japanese comics. I fit in only one of those categories, the least I could do is fit into two. Just to be clear, the two categories are tall and skinny. My third motivation is this tight knit turtleneck sweater that I’d look bad ass in if I didn’t have a gut. There will be pain, but it won’t last. Biggest and best thing I did was cut soda out of my diet. A bottle of soda is two servings, and you run some 180-260 calories per serving. One soda is a meal! All I used to drink was soda. And beer. Mmmmmm… beer. Anyway, stopping the soda intake meant stopping the caffeine intake. Which meant withdrawal. Which meant three solid days of splitting headaches. But doing it that way was better than the alternatve. One of my fellow competitiors slowly weaned himself off of Mountain Dew, and put himself through two weeks of mild headaches. I’m a get over it and get going kind of guy. The other pain was the hunger. This too will pass. The American Obesity diet plan is all about big portions that you don’t need. Your primitive survival instincts always want to pack on fat because you don’t know if your tribe will be able to find a berry patch or hunt down a wildebeest tomorrow. So when you cut your calorie intake below what you burn in an average day (which is the only way to lose weight), your body starts to look to replenish its fat stores. Don’t give in. It takes about ten days to get used to the smaller portions. You have to break down to rebuild. I didn’t realize I was on the Fat Smash Diet until I browsed through the book three weeks in. Much to my surprise, I was following the same program they do on Celebrity Fit Club. Fat Smash is a diet in the scientific sense… you don’t go on it and then off it, you make it your diet for life. Much better then destroying your kidneys on Atkins, or starving yourself on the new fad diet and then gaining it back when your done. To start off I cut my calories way down, ate pretty much purely healthy stuff. Total fruits and vegetables, no red meat. Did I get rid of carbs? NO! Carbs are energy. I hate this low carb culture we’ve created. It’s bullshit. I ate subway A LOT. That bread has a lot of carbs. Here I am, 30 pounds later. I ate 1000-1200 calories a day for about two weeks. Spark People, a free diet website was a huge help during that time period. I really suggest you give them a shot. The amount of calories is not good long term, but I had no intention of staying there. It was a purging. I was so used to consuming 1000 calorie meals, that just to cut some food here or there would never work. But using that as a base got me used to portion control, and when I slowly built up to a safe 1600-1800 I felt like I was endulging myself. I am dead serious here about YOU MUST WORK UP TO A HEALTHY INTAKE. It actually helps you lose weight. When you stay at that low a level, your body goes into starvation defense, kills your energy level, and throws on as much fat as it can because it thinks it needs to keep you alive. Water is your best friend. Remember how I stopped drinking soda. Well I started drinking water. Non stop. And I used to hate water. I also used to have the driest, most cracked skin in the worl. Now girls ask me how much I moisturizer I use to get my baby botttom smoothness. Water is awesome on so many levels. It has 0 calories. It is is vital for metabolizing fat into energy… in other words, the more you drink, the more fat you burn off. It keeps your skin healthy. It cools you down. You MUST drink at least 8 cups a day. Do better. Drink 10. Make that 12. Yes, you will pee every hour on the hour. Make it a game. If you don’t pee clear, you didn’t drink enough water. If you’re thirsty, you aren’t drinking enough water. I got up in the middle of that last sentence to drink more water. On a side note, drink tap water. Don’t fall for the bottled water is cleaner scam. The water coming out of your tap is monitored by local, state, and federal organizations. It has all sorts of rules. Bottled water falls under a loophole that considers it on the same level of soda and does not have the same stringent codes. So in the best case, they filled it out of the same tap you did, and only ripped you off by charging you $2.00 for a plastic bottle that cost them half a cent. In the worse case you are drinking spring water that was downstream from where the bears crap… and the bears have dysentery. Eat a breakfast of Champions I never ate breakfast. I had diarrhea about three times a week. Coincidence? Not really. Eating a high fiber breakfast every day is great on so many levels. Every morning I pour Post Raisin Bran into a measuring cup. Pour said cup into a bowl. Fill measuring cup halfway with soy milk (8th Continent or Silk). Pour said cup into bowl. Voila. This plus eating takes me five minutes and destroys my old “I don’t have time for breakfast argument�. I love Raisin Bran. The fiber does two things. First,it jump starts my metabolism. Second, it keeps me regular. I haven’t been regular for years… probably since my Mom stopped making me eat breakfast. Total caloric intake at breakfast: under 300. Several times a week I throw in a banana and make it 350. So that just about covers my diet. Next time I’ll discuss my exercise plan. Good Luck!

How to Fat Smash and Become an Ultramarathon Man, Pt. 1

When you surpass the weight of Homer Simpson, you began to develop an elephantine disgust with oneself. I had done this several months prior, yet kept engorging myself with foodstuffs through the holidays. It is a lucky bit then, I suppose, that ultimate collision of several motivating entities that drove the forging of both form and mind. With continuing fortitude, I shall hammer myself into an ultra-marathoner. What a load of pretentious drek that was… In all seriousness, I had previously heard that the only way the vast majority of people who achieve a drastic change in body type manage to do so is the mindset that comes along with absolute abject misery towards the state of their body. To paraphrase: I was a disgusting fat body. I felt my fat had gained enough experience to go up a level. Somewhere between 230 (Homer’s weight) and my peak of 252 I had slipped into obesity. You can feel this. Your bulges no longer seem to be a part of you, but almost as though you are wearing a coat of lipids. The underside of your arm touches your chest before it’s supposed to. When you sit on the toilet, your gut takes a nap on top of your leg. You sense your wife’s growing abhorrence towards your naked form. I would like to think that that was the kicker, that my need to please the love of my life was enough to push me to better health. For the sake of not delving into the darker, more honest portions of my psyche, we’ll leave it at that. Luckily, several other things simultaneously occurred, the first being that several of my teammates at work expressed a similar desire to shed a few pounds. Competitive nutcases that we are, a bet was formed. Money was put on the line, big money. The second motivating factor was Wired magazine publishing an article on Dean Karnazes. Dean is known as the “Ultramarathon Man� This guy ran 50 marathons in 50 days. He’s ran a marathon at the south pole. He’s won the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135 milerace from Death Valley up a mountain… in the middle of summer. I was awed at what he had done, and inspired. If this guy could push the limits of human endurance as far as he had, I certainly could push myself 1 50th of the way there. And I could give myself 2 years to do it, which would give a nice milestone of running a marathon when I’m thirty. I plan on covering the grueling steps to get where I’ve gone, and where I’m going. But right now I’ll just settle for telling you we had our second of 3 weigh ins for the bet. I’ve lost 30 pounds, more than twice the competition. I can run 5 miles on a hill climb program when I’ve never been able to run much more than 1 flat, even when I was in my weight lifting football years. I bought a belt yesterday because I was on my old belts last notch and my pants were slipping off. Best of all, I’ve had a lot of women tell me they can tell I’ve lost weight and I’m looking good. And one of those women happens to be my wife.

Word of the Day: Pica

In the past we have taken a look at two amusing curiosities of the English language: Foley and Pharlapsicus. Today we will look at a similarly vexatious, but diverting vocable: Pica. The word pica has two very common and proper but very divergent meanings. In this brief lesson we will look at both, but the most important lesson for today is that you must not mix up the two meanings of pica. The first meaning of pica is a unit of measurement used most often in the design and print industries. Each pica is equal to exactly 12 points, no more, no less, although the size of a pica in inches may be 0.177638, 0.166044, or 0.166666 (repeating) depending on the context. Most often it is the latter figure. If you have not worked as a printer, typesetter, or graphic designer you may not be very familiar with picas, but if you have typed a document in a 12-point font you have in fact made use of the pica/points measuring system. Of course, if you are a devotee of the history of typewriters, most of the above will seem comical! Pica is also the name of a disorder where the sufferer has a persistent urge to eat non-food items. A patient with pica finds themselves craving and attempting to consume objects that are completely inappropriate. Examples of things that might look like the most delicious sweetmeats to a person with pica include carpeting, soil, or mouthwatering anthracite coal. In some cases pica indicates a mineral deficiency and may clear up with the deficiency is addressed, while in other cases it is associated with a developmental disorder. Do not underestimate the repercussions of crossing or conflating the the two definitions of pica. If you work regularly with developmentally disabled adolescents, and you see "pica" listed in a client's records, do not assume that the client will be a fraction of an inch tall. If you do so, the accommodations you prepare for them will be gravely inadequate, they cannot use such a tiny chair for sitting! If you are working in a major metropolitan newspaper, and overhear an editor saying "There should be 2 pica in this gutter," do not look about for two people ensconced in an arroyo, happily shoveling handfuls of soil into their earthen-stained mouths. You will not find them. Few, if any newsrooms contain ditches, let alone ditches of sufficient size for two human beings. Your eyes have begun to wander. Perhaps I have not made myself clear. Stop this quixotic search, do not call out or wave to them, they are not there. They will not smile to you through loam-sullied lips.

First they Came for the Trans Fats, and I did not Speak Up

...and then there was no one left to speak up for me. Pity the poor citizens of New York City. Their most basic human rights have been stripped away. The freedom to choose has been stripped from them by a big brother who says he knows what's best. Adam Smith, George Washington, and Milton Friedman are spinning in their graves, and the Statue of Liberty sheds a single, rusty tear as she gazes across the at a once free people. No, I'm not talking about illegal domestic wire tapping, or the denial of the First Amendment via remote "free speech zones." We all know that those are required to combat terrorism, and triffling privileges like those are a small cost for combating terrorism. I am talking about a much more important freedom: the right to choose to eat foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, rich with trans fats. "Dear god, say it isn't so!" you shout. "What will they ban next?" Probably baseball and apple pie. But while I would join you in protesting and future attacks on baseball and apple pie, I am afraid I cannot join in your outrage over the trans fat ban, for three reasons: First off, trans fats are really, really bad for us. Consuming them results in much harm and no benefit whatsoever. I'm not going to say anything more about this point, the research is out there. Secondly, a trans fat ban does not really take any choice away from consumers. How can that be? Let's perform a scientific experiment. Walk into a restaurant, sit down to order, and examine the menu. Exercise your right to choose by picking out the food with the most trans fat. Having a hard time? That's okay, ask the waiter or waitress which food has the most trans fat. Still having difficulties? Demand to speak to the manager. See if that helps. Although trans fat content above .5 grams has been required on packaged food labels for almost a year, there is often no way to know the trans fat content in restaurant food. You have no way to choose because to have no basis for making a choice. This is not a case of nanny-state Marxism injecting inefficiency into the free market, this is a small, but very real, market failure--a very common case where one (or both) sides of a transaction do not have the information needed to rationally pursue their own interests. A sufficient amount of transparency a necessary condition for a free market. If lack of information and transparency is the problem, why not simply require labeling in restaurants instead of banning trans fats outright? Quite frankly, holding restaurants (especially sole proprietorships and "mom and pop" shops) to accurate food labeling would be much, much more costly to them than an outright ban. No more chefs deciding today's special on based solely on their skill and artistry - everything would need to be vetted and nutrition calculated. A huge apparatus of state would need to be created for testing and enforcement. I can't see too many libertarians in favor of that. Third, banning partially hydrogenated vegetable oils with make food better, not worse. The truth of the matter is, if they had managed to somehow eliminate trans fats in secret, you would not have even noticed. Trans fats are not used to enhance the flavor of food; the most they can do is effect the texture of foods that have been sitting out for a long time. Restaurants do not use them because they are what consumers demand or prefer - they use them so that they can leave the same oil in the fryer for a longer period of time and sell girl scout cookies baked long ago as if they were fresh. If anything, a ban will result in fresher food. Costs may go up for restaurants, but not by an inordinate amount - Denmark banned trans fats in 2003, yet you can still get McDonald's french fries without taking out a loan. Taste is, of course, very subjective. There are plenty of chefs swearing they cannot do without. But keep this fact in mind: very, very little food made in the 1980s or earlier had anywhere near the amount of trans fat found in foods today. And yet historical records show people living in such ancient times considered their food "yummy" and "delicious." Removing trans fats is in fact a return to cooking "just like mom used to make." Finally, I can't take seriously any argument against the ban founded on "first they said this was bad, now that" cynicism. I know, I know... first they said saturated fats were bad, so you stopped eating butter. Now they say trans fats are bad, so you can't eat margarine anymore. Clearly these "scientists" have lost all credibility and are just toying with the public for their own amusement. I hate to have to be the one to break it to you, but this is actually a perfect example of how science works. The scientific method is not a way to prove, beyond all doubt, that something is true with a capital 'T.' It is a way to come up with the best explanation given the data available. That best explanation will almost necessarily change over time - first came enough evidence to accept that fatty foods were linked to heart disease. Then, as more information and finer measurements were taken, it was discovered that saturated fats, in particular, a re very bad. Then, after the food industry started replacing saturated fats with trans fats, more and more data because available leading to the conclusion that trans fats are even worse than saturated fats. I am sorry if this is distressing to you. If you want (relatively) unchanging truth, you are more than welcome to turn to the various religions of the world. But keep this in mind: unlike other systems, science and its application have consistently generated real-world results, such as vaccination, air planes, antibiotics, the internal combustion engine, rockets, nuclear weapons, and the XBox 360. Perhaps ten years from now we will discover that only trans fats with certain numbers of carbon atoms are really bad, and some are okay. Oh well.