Remote Blood Sugar Monitoring

With Samantha about to start in the competitive gymnastics program, we really needed to have a better way to monitor her blood sugar.  In the recreational program which she has been a part of until now, Cynthia or I would sit in the waiting room.  She would stop by and let us test her if she felt low.  With the activity, she did tend to drop during her gymnastics classes.

But for the competitive program, the coaches really do not want the parents sitting in the waiting area and potentially distracting the girls.  I am sure they would make an exception for us but we wanted to give Samantha some more space.  At the same time, we knew that gymnastics was one of those times that her blood sugar needed to be watched closely.

We decided to get a continuous glucose monitor for Samantha.  There is a sensor which is inserted into her skin and replaced every several days.  A transmitter sits on top of the sensor and send the readings every five minutes to a receiver wirelessly.  The receiver has a screen and you can look at recent readings and trend arrows that tell you how her sugar is changing.

The receiver needs to be within about 20 feet or so though.  To make the next jump, we used something called NightScout.  NightScout is a project by several people online to piece together a way to monitor blood sugar remotely.  You connect the receiver to a cell phone using a USB cable.  The cell phone runs a special app which reads the blood sugar readings from the receiver and sends them out to a database you setup on the Internet.  You also setup a web server on the Internet which reads the database and presents the readings to a web browser.  Then, there are apps for the iPhone and other devices which display the data.

The NightScout setup instructions describe how to setup a database and a web server on two different hosting platforms.  Initially, I setup services on these other hosting platforms.  I did this so I could at least test everything and ensure it was all working.  Easiest to follow the instructions exactly the first time.  Once I saw how it actually worked, I was ready to do it my way.

I have had my web hosting with Dreamhost for years and I really didn’t want to suddenly use a bunch of other services.  First, I needed to move my existing web sites (including this one) from their shared servers to a VPS (virtual private server).  The web server for NightScout is node.js based and will not work from a shared server.  Dreamhost moved my existing websites to the VPS without a hitch.

Next, I setup the NightScout database on my new VPS.  I redirected the cell phone to send the readings to my new database and sure enough, I started getting data.  I changed the web server (still at the non-Dreamhost server) to get its data from my VPS hosted database and that worked.  Now I needed to move the web server.

I grabbed a copy of the Javascript source for the node.js server and poked around for bit.  The instructions have you use these other hosting services partly because they are cheap but also they have nice interfaces for configuring everything.  I was working from a command line into my VPS and trying to figure out how to configure things.  When the instructions said to set a field in a form to X, what do I need to do in order to accomplish the same thing.

After browsing the code for the server a bit, I wrote a simple script to setup some config options and launch the server.  After a couple of tries, I got the script right and the server started working.

With that up, I changed Cynthia’s and my phone to pull data from the server running on our VPS.  I decommissioned the services I setup with the other providers.  The entire solution was now running through a VPS I managed.  I wrote a backup script to make sure all of this configuration was backed up every night.  The backups go back to our computer at home.

We even bought a Pebble watch for Cynthia which lets you have the blood sugar readings right on the screen of the watch.  So, here is the sequence of events to get blood sugar readings to us:

  1. The sensor takes a blood sugar reading.
  2. The transmitted connected to the sensor sends that reading to the CGM receiver wirelessly.
  3. The cell phone pulls that reading from the CGM receiver through a short USB cable.
  4. The cell phone uploads the reading to the database running in our VPS.
  5. The web server on our VPS provides that reading and all other data to any client which requests it.
  6. Our iPhones have apps on them which will communicate with the web server on the VPS and display the blood sugar values and trends in real time.

The only requirement is that the receiver/cell phone stay within about 20 feet of Samantha and that the cell phone has a good Wifi or cell signal so it can upload the data.  This will be how we give Samantha more independence while also continue to be able to manage her blood sugar.

Samantha’s Activities

Samantha is a busy girl.  She has been doing gymnastics for the last few months in a recreational program.  She had visions of joining their competitive gymnastics program but that is by invitation only.

Cynthia and I encouraged her to work hard.  We told her that if she focused, listened to the coach and tried her best, she would have her best chance to join the competitive program.

Sure enough, a month or so ago, she was asked to try out for competitive gymnastics and we found out recently that she was accepted.  That means starting after the summer, she will go to practices a couple times a week instead of just once.  And she may be going to gymnastics meets next year.

Not content to wait for that, Samantha asked if she could play soccer this summer.  We were late to register her but she was lucky they had room for her.  So, every week, she plays soccer at a field very close to home.

Gymnastics and soccer are her favorite sporty activities these days but swimming in our pool will probably be up there also as soon as the temperatures go up a bit more.

Misty Jumps!

We have adopted a second cat for the last few months.  Her name is Misty.  She may be smaller than Joey, but she bosses him around.

Today, we found her trying to catch a bug on the other side of the patio doors and grabbed some video.  Check it out.

Infiniti Q50

I bought a new car.  And not just new to me.  An actual, for real, new car.

When we moved to California, we had to buy cars for both Cynthia and I.  Importing our existing vehicles was more trouble than it was worth.  We both bought used cars.  Cynthia got a 2007 Toyota Matrix and I got a 2005 Infiniti G35.

I have always been happy with the G35 but it was now ten years old and it was time for something new.  That something new was the Infiniti Q50.  It is essentially the successor of the G35 I was driving but in some ways, it is an entirely new car.

The Q50 has “drive by wire”.  The steering wheel has a mechanical connection to the wheel but that is a backup.  With the Q50, when you turn the steering wheel, software responds to that and makes the appropriate change to the direction of the front tires.  Feedback goes both ways so you still get a feel for the car through corners.  This also allows you to select the kind of handling you want.  Do you want loose casual handling?  Do you want tight control in “sport mode”?

It has a pile of safety features.  It has blind spot detection so small lights on either side come on if there is a vehicle in a blind spot.  If you try to turn towards a car which is in your blind spot, it sends an audible alarm.  It will even take temporary control and stop you from steering into the other car.  Again, because it is “drive by wire”, it can do these kinds of things in software.  The Q50 even tries to detect the lanes and it will warn you if you are drifting out of your lane.  Again, if you ignore the alert, it will take over and put you back in your lane.

The Q50 is monitoring the distance between you and the car in front of you.  If that car brakes quickly, the Q50 will brake for you in order to try to avoid an accident.  Even more, the Q50 is monitoring the distance between the car in front of you and the next one ahead.  If the car in front of you is closing quickly on the next car, then chances are the driver ahead of you is going to slam on the brakes.  Again, the Q50 will brake preemptively.  I have seen this come on at times and it feels strange to suddenly be slowing when maybe you still have your foot on the gas.  But there is evidence that features like this really do reduce the chance of collisions, so I am willing to put up with that odd feeling the very few times it happens.

But the feature I like the most is the adaptive cruise control.  We drove to Toronto recently and it was my first chance to really try it.  Basically, you set a target speed and the Q50 tries to go that fast.  But if you are approaching someone going slower, the car automatically slows down to keep a safe distance.  You have some control over what that safe distance is.  I think I took cruise control off three times in the whole trip to Toronto.  I had cruise control on through Toronto highway traffic!  As you approach someone going slower, you just signal and switch to the right lane.  The Q50 detects that the lane is clear and goes back to the target speed.  No need to turn off cruise control.  Normally, you have to make decisions.  Can I leave cruise on?  How close will I get to this guy in front of me before I can get to the right and pass him?  And you are always tempted to get too close.  Now, I just don’t worry about it.  The car is managing my speed.  I am just making decisions about which lane to travel in and when it is safe to switch.  The stress level for the trip was definitely lower.

I am very happy with my new car.  And it is definitely an intermediate point along the way to truly self-driving cars.  I like to drive but if I could have let the car drive us to Toronto on our recent trip, I would have.

Spring Finally Arrives

IMG_0671It has been a very long winter this year.  But this past weekend, we had our first real spring day.  Saturday was a bit cool but by no means cold.  It was windy so we took one of our kites to the park.  Samantha spun all the line out and flew the kite for quite a while.  If you look at the pictures, you will see her holding an umbrella between her legs just in case the weather changes.  I guess after that winter, she has come to expect the worst but the umbrella wasn’t needed.

After several minutes, she was done flying the kite and passed it over to me.  She ran to the swings while I flew the kite for a while and slowly wound it up.

IMG_0669A bit later, Matthew and his friend Ryan came home from their curling practice.  Ryan had never flown a kite so we set it up again and they both passed the kite back and forth between them for a while longer.  Before we knew it, we had spent the entire afternoon at the park and it was time to head home and prepare some dinner.

Sunday was even better.  It wasn’t windy so we left the kite at home.  We spent a couple hours setting up the patio furniture and just cleaning up the lawn.  With our chores done for the day, it was back to the park for a few hours before dinner.  After dinner, we spent another hour at the park.

Something tells me that we were suffering a bit of cabin fever from the long, cold winter.  But it seems that is well and truly behind us now.  On to BBQs, kite flying, park visits, walks through the neighbourhood, bike rides and lots of other outdoor activities.

 

Christmas 2014

This year, we attended the Alcatel-Lucent Christmas party as we normally do.  Matthew and Samantha sat on Santa’s lap and passed along their wishes for Christmas Day.  Samantha got her face painted to look like a cat and really enjoyed the magic show.  Matthew is getting a bit old for this event but he was fairly patient.

A few days later, we got our tree.  Joey didn’t know what to make of it and spent a fair bit of time under it, batting at the lower branches and ornaments within reach.

On Christmas Day, Matthew and Samantha found that Santa had come.  He left some wireless headphones for Matthew.  I guess Santa was as worried as I was that Matthew would eventually walk away from an iPad which he was tethered to with his old wired headphones.  Samantha got an iPhone 5 which she will be using as an iPod Touch (i.e. no cell service).  Again, Santa seems to think the same way as I do that a used iPhone 5 is a better deal than a new iPod Touch today.

Samantha also got an American Girl doll and some accessories which she was very excited about.  Matthew got a fair bit of Lego for Christmas also.  You can see a picture of Matthew working on assembling one of his new Lego sets while Joey sits on his shelf wondering what is going on.

After Christmas, we are headed to London and Toronto to visit my brother and his family and Cynthia’s dad.  We will be back home in time to ring in the New Year and before you know it, we will need to be back to work/school.

Christmas with Friends

The weekend before Christmas, we had Natalie, Louie and their kids over for a Christmas/Hannuka dinner.  I was roasting a turkey, the kids were playing the basement and the adults were relaxing in the living room.  Suddenly, all the kids came running up the stairs saying that water was pouring out of the ceiling.

We all went downstairs and a section of the basement ceiling was definitely wet.  It wasn’t clear where the water was coming from though.  The water wasn’t pouring from the ceiling any more so whatever the kids say was probably a pool of water which suddenly found a path out and emptied.  But water was definitely collecting in the ceiling.

Figuring that all the drywall would have to be replaced anyway, I started to cut away pieces to try to find the leak.  Eventually, I found a copper elbow which seemed a likely candidate.  Sure enough, it was wet.  With it exposed and a bucket under it, we could hear a slow drip.  This is the second time we have had a bad elbow in the plumbing in the basement.  The first time, I had to remove and replace about a one foot square section of drywall.  This one is much worse and the cleanup job will take longer.  The leak has since been repaired but we still have a hole in the ceiling.  It will eventually need attention.

The excitement kept me from checking the turkey but everything ended up working out OK.  Shortly after that, we served dinner without any more hitches.  However, Natalie did pull a knife on Louie for some reason just before dessert.

Matthew’s 12th Birthday

Matthew turned 12 and he celebrated multiple times.  He had two different sleep over parties.  One with his “outside school” friends and one with friends from school.  At both, they watched The Lord Of The Rings movies one after the other until late in the night.  You can see Matthew with his cake and the candles which read 1100, which is 12 in binary.  Binary candles have become a “thing” in the Rand household since Cynthia’s birthday party last year when I did her age in 1’s and 0’s.

On his actual birthday, we went to Boston Pizza as a family which is Matthew’s favourite restaurant.  For dessert, he ordered a “panookie” which is a huge cookie in a pan with ice cream and whipped cream.

Next year, Matthew officially becomes a teenager.

Joey is a Sleepy Cat

Here are some pictures of Joey trying to get some sleep but Cynthia keeps bothering him with the camera.