Here is a picture of a stem cell from the Biomedical Image Awards 2006:

stem cell

Here is a picture of me, taken a few weeks ago as I tried on my friend Phil’s glasses:

Scott Reynen wearing glasses

Phil’s glasses improved my vision slightly, but I don't wear glasses because the improvement isn’t consistent over time. I have juvenile diabeties, so my blood glucose levels don’t remain steady, and when they fluxuate, my vision blurs. Apparently the shape of our eyes is somewhat dependent on the amount of glucose in our blood.

Anyway, I present these two pictures here as an exercise for you, the reader. I don’t have perfect vision, so maybe you can see better than I can: which of these looks more like a person who could use help from the government?

 

For anyone a bit confused about the difference between concurrence and causation, I'm pleased to report that I took a bike ride this evening and did not almost die, reducing my near-death bike ride percentage to fifty for the year. I hope to have my N-DBRP (pronounced "nod burp") down to about two by fall, solidly debunking theories that bike rides significantly increase likelihood of death.

 

The bad part about being diabetic is, like any terminal illness, the constant increased risk of death. But the bright side is the constant increased awareness of death. Everyone is going to die at some point, but few of us are actively aware of it. At times I've forgotten, but in general, since I was five years old, I've had an active awareness of death.

Earlier today I decided to take advantage of the nice weather to take my bike down to the gas station on the corner and use the free compressed air to fill up the tires. As soon as I got outside I realized the weather wasn't quite as nice as it looked, but by then I'd already committed to the project, so I foolishly continued. The gas station is about four blocks away, down a hill.

The front tire on my bike was too deflated to ride on, so I walked down the hill. I ran the pump three times as I struggled to position the nozzle in such a way that it would actually pump the air into the tire and marveled at how complicated such a seemingly simple task could be. Then I started to ride back home, at which point I realized my chain and front brakes were both detached. So I fixed those and realized the front tire was still too deflated. So I ran the pump yet again, and then started riding back home.

What I could have reasonably determined was too cold to ride became much too cold with the wind chill as I rode. My breathing became strained as I went back up the hill. After a four block ride, I arrived back home exhausted. I sat down on the couch and rested for a while. I was more tired than I should have been, I figured because I've long been less active than I should have been. I thought I might take a nap, but then I thought I should probably check my blood sugar first.

29

Oops. Jessica's at work today, so I could have easily gone to sleep for a nap and never woken up. I don't mean to be melodramatic here — much the opposite. The first time something like that happens, it's scary. I'm sure it still scares people who know me. But after it happens a couple dozen times, you get used to it. Death isn't so scary after a while.

You can see this in people who live in areas of poverty and/or war. They see death all the time, and they get used to it. Their friends and family die, and they go on living. For those of us who don't see death all the time, this is a familiarity we'd rather not have. We want to live forever and have everyone we know live forever also.

But it doesn't work that way. Reality refuses to cooperate with our illusions. Death happens. We don't need to celebrate it, but I think we need to get over it. We need to stop pretending that death is an aberration from the norm and realize that death is the norm. Death is a vital part of life.

Last year Steve Jobs gave the commencement speech at Stanford. In his speech, he said:

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important thing I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

That's the nice part about being diabetic. I don't have to try so hard to remember what's important because I have a little machine that tells me three times a day how close I am to death. I just need to act on what's important. They haven't made a machine for that yet.

 

In other interesting neuroendocrinology news, Alzheimer's may be something like diabetes of the brain. It would be nice to combine research on the two, but so far it's just a largely unsubstantiated theory.

 

I made a comment over on The Diabetes Blog that has since caused further discusison, some of which seemed mildly offended at what I said. I'll reproduce it here in full:

I've had negative feelings about type-2s for a while now. But I think it's sort of like watching rich people waste money. I'd probably do the same if I were rich, but as I'm not, it's annoying to see them waste something I'd love to have. In the case of type-2s, that something is the opportunity to not be diabetic, which to me is more valuable than money. But it never occurred to me that non-diabetics might feel the same way because they also have that something I'd love to have, so I wouldn't think it would bother them so much to see it wasted.

Amy Tenderich quoted me, and a few type 2 diabetics have emailed me about this. I probably should have said that I realize that not every case of type 2 diabetes is self-inflicted. Further, I think I'm pretty good about not assuming I know what someone is going through just because they fit, or seem to fit, into some generalization. I have negative feelings about a lot of groups and individuals, but I still manage to respect them and remain on friendly terms with them.

That said, the generalization still stands as a generalization. Most type 2 diabetics are doing it to themselves, and the more I think about it, the more I think this should disturb not just type I diabetics, but everyone. For the record, I also do plenty of things that should disturb everyone, not the least of which is abusing my relatively mild diabetes with less-than-healthy diet and exercise. But the best I can do is not let my diabetes get worse. That's not true for most type 2 diabetics. They can get better, and they should.