Diabetic Book Reviews

After leaving work at little early on Friday after not feeling the greatest and suffering some of the effects of high-blood sugar associated with Type 1 Diabetes, I decided it’d be very beneficial to me to read some book out there on the subject and see what I could learn.  I read Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition, and Think Like a Pancreas from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.  Yes, this was a heck of a lot of reading, but when things concern your well-being, you tend to be able to maintain more focus than what you think you can.  All the books offer some great advice, some good advice, and some advice you’re just not going to take.

Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is a great book discussing what changes a diabetic would need to make in order to perform at their peak during a given athletic activity.  The first seven chapters describe the basics of exercise, fitness, insulin, blood sugar control and other related subjects.  I’ll admit I found them very interesting since they describe in layman’s terms what is going on in the body when you exercise and how to best control your blood sugars.  The second section of the book is really what you want the book for.  This section provides guidelines on preventing low blood sugars while partaking in your particular athletic endeavor.  The book covers everything from gardening to football (both American and the rest-of-the-world) to motorcycle and off-road racing.  I found it worthwhile since I enjoy working out, mountain biking, and doing day hikes and nature trails.  This book has exactly what I need to do in order to remain safe without me having to go out there and find out for myself how to best handle it.

The next book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution is billed as ‘The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars.”  I won’t disagree with the title, the book is very thorough on what exactly Dr. Bernstein does with all of his patients from how to draw insulin correctly to what diet you should eat.  Although he never comes out and says anything he doesn’t seem to be a fan of Insulin pumps which I think are wonderful things (thanks to my severe hypoglycemic reactions to the long lasting insulins like Lantus); however, the advice can still be followed by pump users even if you have to modify some of his advice.  Personally, I’m not a fan of his diet routine described in the book, but, I see where he is coming from and do intend to integrate some of his ideas into my diet.  I am also very big on his idea of getting all diabetics down to normal blood sugar levels seen by non-diabetic people, even if it will take them a little bit of time to drop their blood sugars and feel comfortable in doing it.  The section devoted to supplies that all diabetics should have is complete and matches almost exactly what I was told when I first visited my endocrinologist.  In fact, many of his ideas were used by my endocrinologist and diabetes educator so it was almost like redoing the first few visits at the doctor’s office.

Pumping Insulin: 4th Edition is nothing like Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger unless pushing a button on a pump is like doing bench presses :).  Pumping Insulin is probably the best book for general information I read this weekend.  It goes into detail on everything needed to adjust and determine initial bolus and basal doses as well as carb to insulin ratios and correction factors when using a pump.  If you’re on an insulin pump or thinking of going onto one, this book is worth getting.

Think Like a Pancreas sounds like a children’s book, but it is most definitely not.  I was amazed that this book covered situations that occur in the real world and doesn’t tell you to just “don’t do it.”  For instance, drinking alcohol; most diabetic books will say never drink it, this one says, you can drink it, and here is how to make sure you don’t suffer from the low blood sugars afterward.  Of course, one still needs to exercise some form of discretion because getting hammered isn’t going to help you adjust your pump and there aren’t many people I’d trust to adjust settings on my pump.  This book in content is much like Pumping Insulin and covers most of what Pumping Insulin covers, just sometimes not as in as much detail.

If you’re looking for a good general reference book I think Dr. Bernstein’ book is the best bet.  If you’re looking for information on helping you adjust to a pump and are an adult Think Like a Pancreas is better than Pumping Insulin, but if you’re prone to forgetting things, Pumping Insulin is better.  Finally, if you’re an athlete or like to think of yourself as one; Diabetic Athlete’s Handbook is worth the purchase.

The Edsel and software architecting

The Edsel as everyone knows was a failure; what everyone might not know is that it was brilliantly engineered vehicle with many features that are just now becoming standard on vehicles today.  Software architects are involved in many facets of a product: designing the system which the developers create, deciding which technologies to use, and discussing the system and it’s requirements with the customer to name a few. The one item I’ve noticed that gets lost in the shuffle is the user interface.  The user interface is the entire system to the user.  They don’t care how brilliant and reusable the underlying components are, they care about how easy it is to use.  Don’t let your product become the Edsel.  Don’t forget the customer; they are the ones that will be using it on a daily basis for (hopefully) a very long time.  A wonderfully designed and technologically marvelous system might make you feel great that you pulled it off, but if the customers hate it — you haven’t succeeded.  There are a few techniques you can use to prevent this from happening: a walking skeleton, a project champion, and frequent demos.

First is the walking skeleton; a perfect solution to keeping your customer involved with the design of the system.  Once the requirements are set, the user interface can be tested by users and allows you input on the user interface.  If they’re happy with it, they’ll be happy with the system.  If they dislike the user interface, you’re on your way to an Edsel.  As the architect it is your duty to prevent feature creep, so be prepared to delay or ignore implementing some features the users may ask for.  A simple “we can plan that for the next version,” or “thanks for the feedback, we’ll see what we can do” lets the users know you’re thinking about them and making the program with their best interests in mind and not as a vehicle to add a bunch of buzzwords and bullet points on your and your developer’s resumes.

Secondly, the walking skeleton can net you a project champion user.  This will be a user (or users) who really love the idea of the new product and evangelizes the new system to less receptive users.  Try and identify this user quickly so you can have them help you gain acceptance within the user community and alleviate fears about the product.  Again, using something sly to get an end-around on the users will not make them happy campers — even if you know they have no choice but to use the system, show you care about their ideas and want to use their ideas to create the best system for them.

Finally, frequent demos of the walking skeleton system can help you gain a project champion or calm the waters (and gain a champion) if the users are complaining about the system.  Personally, I’ve found the more demos one gives of the system the better off you’ll be when figuring out exactly how people want to use the software.  You’d believe the requirements gathering would cover everything, but more often than not, I’ve found out I’ve learned more from the users with a simple demo than a whole list of requirements.  The walking skeleton demos are another way to get to the root of the requirements.

Remember brilliant engineering with no focus or incorrect assumptions on the users creates an Edsel.  You might sell a few, but you’ll be dead, gone and forgotten shortly after.

Your workspace could be hazardous to your health

If you’re like me, you spend a lot more time than you should sitting in a chair in front of a desk typing on a computer keyboard looking at a computer screen programming, writing technical specification documents, leading demos, doing email, or just surfing the web.  The one thing you’re not thinking about is your workspace, and I have news for you — you should be thinking about it.  Chances are, you’re slouching in your chair right now, surrounded by a lot of paper, books, speakers, or you’re sitting with a laptop on your lap reading.  I’ve got news for you, it isn’t good for you.  There are few things you can do to help clean up your workspace and be more productive and in better health for it.

The first item I’d worry about is a nice chair.  You spend so much time in, why skimp on something that is going to last you at least 10 years if not more?  For the longest time I’d been sitting in a chair that I’d had since high school and it wasn’t very comfortable.  It was downright annoying to sit in, then I read this article from Coding Horror and realized I agree with his three main points:

  1. Chairs are a primary part of the programming experience
  2. Cheap chairs suck
  3. Chairs last

As an additional point of reference, I finally gave up on my old chair and purchased a HumanScale Freedom Headrest chair after sitting in many other chairs to see what felt the best to me.  For me, the Freedom chair works perfectly because it allows me to recline while working, yet keeps my spine, arms and neck in alignment though its ingenious “second spine” down the back of the chair.  It also has very few adjustments which I really like.  I want to sit in a chair and be comfortable in a few minutes, not spend a week to a week and a half tweaking every setting.

When sitting in a chair you should have your knees, hips and thighs all in the same plane while your feed are flat on the floor.  If you want armrests (I advise you to get them), they should position your elbows close to your waist when used.  Finally, the seat of the chair should be slightly wider than your hips and thighs and slope downward in front leaving a 2 to 3 finger gap between the seat and the back of your knees when sitting correctly.  Remember, however, a chair is a personal choice and I would suggest you sit in as many chairs as possible since what is good for one person might not be the best for another.  It’s your rear end in the chair for the next 10+ years 🙂 so make it count.    Again, go out there, sit on a lot of chairs then make your choice.

Now that you’ve attained chair nirvana, it is time to get that proper seating position.  An improper seating position can lead to a whole host of problems: numbness in the fingers, lower pack pain, sore wrists, eyestrain (leading to headaches, blurry vision and a mess of other nastiness), and general fatigue in the arms, legs, shoulders and thighs.  Hopefully you’re sufficiently scared enough to work on making changes to your seating position.

The proper seating position consists of a few settings: chair, table or workspace, monitor and posture.  The proper seating position for the chair, which was discussed in about a sentence previously, is that your feet should be flat on the ground, knees, thighs and hips horizontal to the ground and your back straight.  The workspace should have your keyboard a centered on your body and a few inches above your thighs such that the angle at your elbows is “open” or around 90 degrees so you get circulation to your fingers, your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor and your wrists nearly straight.  The monitor should be placed about an arms-length away from you and the top of the monitor should be at eye-level and out of any light that will cause reflection or glare on the screen.  Finally, a few pointers on posture in addition to everything else.  Your ears, shoulders and hips should be in line.  Your arms should hang relaxed from your shoulders and your wrists and hands should be in line with your lower arms.

A clean, quiet, and efficient workspace.  I’ve found (as have many other people) the clearer and quieter your workspace is, the easier it is to concentrate and do work.  I’m not saying there should be nothing on your desk except the bare essentials (I’m not that Zen), a knick knack here or there won’t hurt any — just don’t go overboard.  There are numerous examples of how to clean up your workspace, so I won’t bore you with my ideas of cleaning up the workspace.  🙂

Exercise and the Diabetic

I think it is pretty safe to say that everyone has heard that exercise (in addition to a good diet) is a good way to keep yourself in shape and in better health.  In the newest Diabetes Forecast they have an article discussing the benefits of exercising.  Exercise does the obvious things such as improving blood glucose control and reducing the risk of diabetic complications but it can also combat heart problems, weight gain and depression.  The short-term effects of exercise can be felt from two hours afterward up to three days later and according to some doctors exercising every other day is great, but exercising every day is even better.

In terms of exercising it was found that a mixture of aerobic and resistance training have the greatest improvements in their A1C rates (A1C is an accurate measurement of blood glucose levels in the body for the last two or three months).  However, any sort of exercise helps reduce the A1C value and hence, have better blood glucose levels.  It is also suggested that a diabetic person do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week in addition to two or three strength training sessions within the week as well.  This is important since people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease than those who are non-diabetic.  These risk factors are due to high levels of blood fat (triglycerides and cholesterol) and high blood pressure present in most diabetics.  And now the kicker (which is probably also valid for non-diabetics) has to deal with weight loss.  To lose weight at least an hour a day of exercise should be done along with a diet to reduce the amount of calories taken in.  A study done found that in person who lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for the entire year of the study were exercising on average seven hours a week.

Obviously, it looks like being a diabetic the idea of exercise shouldn’t be something that is taken lightly.  It is like the rest of what happen, you change your lifestyle in order to take control of it as opposed to letting it control you.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Review

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin states that to succeed in today’s business world you need to become an artist — do emotional work.  Work that is “the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person,” not work that creates some generic widget that anyone could make.  In short, you need to stand out from the crowd (in a good way).  Show that you’re smart, you can solve problems in unique ways while enhancing people around you.  I don’t want to write too much about the book because I do believe it is worth reading all the way through.  I like the message of the book and found it very interesting to read, however, like others who have reviewed the book, it did become repetitive to a certain extent.  The book could have easily been under 100 pages and still have been just as valuable.  The book as it is is definitely worth a read and a place on your bookshelf.

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World is by Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing and Editor and Chief of Make.  I was made aware of this book since it was on my brother’s birthday wishlist as a book he wanted.  However, since I didn’t know what the book was going to be about, I got him something else (he’ll just have to wait for his birthday to see what I got him) and went to a Barnes and Nobles to see if they had the book in stock.  They did and I read the first chapter and became hooked.  I read it cover to cover in under a day.

Mark Frauenfelder describes his decent into DIYism after believing living in the L.A. area was causing issues and wanting to escape to an idyllic island with his family and remove themselves from the hustle, bustle, and chaos of the big city.  The island ended up being less than idyllic and they found themselves moving back to the states after only four and a half months; which ended up being for the better since upon arriving he was offered the job as editor and chief of Make magazine.  Getting to learn about the people writing articles for Make made him jump into the DIY realm and Made by Hand follows his (mis)adventures.

The chapters follow his many DIY projects from gardening to raising chickens to tutoring his children in math.  In each of these stories he fesses up to things where he felt he screwed up and is completely honest about how he would do it differently next time.  For instance, he describes how as he began working with wood more often, it because easier for him to figure out how to make things from wood and how to choose and handle the various tools that he needed to build or repair for the given task.  Some of the things he does, I don’t think I would do: such as raising chickens or keeping bees but its still great to read it and see what his thoughts were and how people around him reacted to his situations.

The biggest messages I got from the book were “Don’t be afraid to screw up” and “only visit Home Depot once a day.”  If you’ve ever wanted to make something, read up on how to do it, go buy the necessary equipment and go to it.  You’re going to screw up.  It’s life, but you learn and next time you do it, it’ll be better because you’ve grown.  If you’ve ever wanted to do something yourself and haven’t had the courage; read this book and read it from the perspective of a guy who went from doing very little DIY to becoming a very competent DIYer in a short amount of time.