An Interesting Idea

I was reading this when an interesting thought hit me:

On my paternal side, all the blood relatives from my grandparents down to my daughters’ second cousins, are currently alive and reasonably healthy.  My grandparents (now nearing their nineties) suffer from any number of age-related afflictions, but they show no signs of going anywhere any time soon.

On my maternal side, all the blood relatives from my mother’s generation down to my daughters’ second cousins are all currently alive and healthy.

To my knowledge, neither my grandparents nor their decendants has had cancer problems.  Not a single one.  There are several instances of diabetes, but none so bad that it’s permanently debilitating.  It’s possible that it contributed to my paternal great-grandfather’s death, and I know it was worse for my maternal grandfather than other family members.

On my ex-wife’s side of the family, she has access to no grandparents.  Her grandmother and mother died of cancer.  Her mother’s siblings and their descendants are alive and healthy. I’m not sure who’s available on her father’s side.  I believe that at least two generations (my daughters and their second cousins) are available.  That may extend another, to my wife’s generation.  I believe that there have been instances of diabetes, but I’m not sure.  In either case, it’s a double jackpot because you still have a pool whose distribution may give you clues about where to look for the gene sequence.

I continue to assure my daughters my fervent belief that medical science is progressing so rapidly that new breakthroughs occur at an alarmingly rapid pace.  No physician of one hundred years ago could have possibly dreamed the reality of today; our physicians will be utterly incapable of comprehending the combination of science and technology used by physicians of 2100.

Then I read items like this that only reaffirm my conviction.

What I’m thinking should seem obvious.  I can think of no way to put this that doesn’t make me sound cold-hearted and tactless, so I’ll just say it:

With the genomes currently available in my family — particularly my daughters’ — it should at least be possible to determine specific gene sequences for some kind of cancers, if such exists.  As a bonus, maybe diabetes.

Like I said, cold-hearted and tactless.  But, as the brilliant The Young Ones episode “Bambi” clearly illustrated so long ago:

Come now, Dr. Noththenineoclocknews, we’re men of science.  We fear no Earthly terrors!

(Which only sounds like I’m being pompous if you don’t know what I’m referencing.  Go on, you ignorant little frak-tards — off to YouTube to learn that your elders were just as big a bunch of cutting-edge ignorami as you think you are.  Yes, that is Hugh Laurie as Lord Monty.

(You’re not impressing anybody — especially not us, you pathetic, pretentious twits.  Build the next Internet and then maybe we’ll be impressed.  Of course by then, you’ll realize as we did:  we had nothing on our elders in the telecom and micro-miniaturization fields.  Without them, we’d’ve never been able to do what we did.  Hell, some of them are still at work — we’ve still got catching up to do.

(It’s all part of the Great Circle of … Stuff.  Trust me, you’ll get it.  Until then, frak off.  But I digress …)

If gene sequences can be isolated, the potential for treatment skyrockets.  All my close and extended family currently alive would almost certainly benefit from any kind of treatment that might be applied at the genetic level.

And yes, I’m totally aware that my daughters would benefit the most.  I’m not above admitting I want them to live as long, happy, healthy lives as possible.  If anybody else happens to benefit, the more the merrier.  But my daughters being able to live without worrying about cancer or diabetes because they can get it treated at a genetic level?  Damned straight.  And having grandkids who’ll never worry because the specific gene sequences in question can be restructured following conception but before the cells have divided beyond some critical mass.  Hell yeah!  And having great-great grandchildren who will never worry about it because no living human being retains the gene sequences in question?  Frakking-A!

I know, genetic-level treatment isn’t possible now.  But it will be.  Again, it will involve combinations of science and technology that will baffle the finest minds of today — but it’s coming.

It’s just a question of taking samples, freezing them, waiting for the technology to arrive to adequately examine them, unfreezing them, and doing tests.  Take a big enough sample from each person to do this a few times so you don’t run out.

While you’re waiting, take more samples, from any descendant of William and Sylvia Stone and … well, I’m sorry, I don’t know my ex-wife’s grandparents’ names.  I’m probably an ass, but they were long gone by the time I met her.  They were just shadowy sketches of someone else’s description.  The names didn’t stick.

But their genetic legacy does.  If we work reasonably fast on my grandparents in particular.

Please, some private firm with appropriate resources contact me.

And appropriate security.  I have an IT security background and certifications: you have no idea what I’m going to require before I’ll turn over my genome to somebody.  All us Stones seem to be that way — and yes, it did occur to me to imagine that you’d think being uppity about authority might be a genetic trait, you ethical cripple.  Educate yourself and reconsider what you’re asking for.

Hence the security requirements.  We keep the data, you pay us to to study it.  We decide when and if you get to poke your nose into our genomes.  The physical security alone will involve redundant dead-man switches to completely obliterate all samples and their non-public data in the event of unauthorized access.

Oh, and one more thing:  anyone may sign a waiver and their genome must be published under the GNU Free Documentation License.

I’m dead serious.  We either make history, get all get our hometown high schools named after us (and in your case, a prestigious university or two), and get fabulously wealthy no matter how hard we try avoid it …

… or you let it slip through your fingers and humanity suffers for generations more.  Starting with my daughters.

Clock’s ticking, get to work.  Don’t frak it up now.

Another Round With Doctors

I have diabetes (or, as Wilford Brimley insists that it be called, “die-uh-BETE-us”). It’s not bad, though I’ve had a couple of bad flare-ups in the last year. Enough so that when I went in to my GP a couple of weeks ago, she immediately flipped out.

I was having stomach problems — cramping that got pretty severe, nausea, all kinds of fun stuff. After some initial poking and prodding, she concluded that laxatives were in order.

Then she looked at my records. It turns out that they’re incomplete — which I told her. From her perspective, it looked as though I hadn’t had blood work for over a year, and when I’d had it last, my blood glucose was around 400. That’s bad. Around 100 is good.

I’ve been consistently flat right at 87 for months and told her so. After my most recent flare-up, I got the fear of Death put into me and really started watching my diet. I’ve also lost 40 pounds, not surprisingly. And some more hair, though I assume that’s unrelated.

Anyway, the interesting thing to me, as a sysadmin, was that I recognized the look that flashed in her eyes when she saw my records — followed by a flurry of logical but ultimately totally pointless tests.

I’ve seen that look before. Most sysadmins screw up from time to time. Remind me to tell you the time I pulled a company’s sole database server out from under the major application.  “The look,” roughly translated, means, “Oh, shit … I’ve screwed up big time. This guy hasn’t been checked for a year, his blood sugar’s been at dangerous levels for 12 months, and now he’s having permanent gastro-intestinal problems as a result! Shit, shit, shit, I’ve just frakked up big … !”

So I had tests. A couple of weeks worth, in fact. Missed more than a week of work because the pain and nausea were increasing. Last night, I very nearly went to the E.R. because my GP about had me convinced that my intestines were about ready to explode. It sure as hell felt like it.

Oh, one note on Magnesium Citrate: that crap is vile. I mean just utterly vile.  The interesting thing is that it’s flavored: lemon.  Sort of.  That’s what the label reads, anyway.

Anyway, in the last 24 hours, I’ve had two of those things roto-rooter their way through my system.  What struck me the first time was:  their marketing people considered this a “win”.  That is, this horrific, vomit-inducing, lemon-sugar concoction was considered the best flavor they could come up with.

Now, I used to work for a huge cookie manufacturer.  They had eight ovens a hundred yards long.  There was an entire research division of the company devoted to optimizing the taste of anything that came out of the factory and then coming up with a specific set of ingredients so that every single one of the millions of cookies pouring down the line every day tasted exactly the way they designed it.

No doubt the Magnesium Citrate people also have such a research division.  And this was the best they could come up with.  Wow.  That stuff must be really horrific if the current taste is the best they could do.

Today, I got ran the CT scanners and MRIs — this in addition to an X-rays earlier in the week and the one preceding.  Interminable periods of waiting, shuffled from one place to another, etc.  By the time I finally crawled back into bed, I was seriously considering getting a hunting knife and performing surgery on myself.

Now, I don’t mention this to garner pity:  it was a nasty couple of weeks, but life is like that sometimes.  I mention it because of my ultimate point:

There I was, about mid-afternoon, hoping to hear back from the GP about today’s tests soon.  Short of cancer, I’d’ve been thrilled with any positive results.  At least if there was a watermelon-sized benign tumor in my gut, they could perform surgery.

But no, all the tests were negative.  I’m healthy as a Mrs. O’Leary’s cow immediately before she was spooked.  The GP really had no clue.

On the one hand, this is good news, because it probably means there’s no long-term issues, diabetes-related or otherwise.  On the other hand, I’m about to go to the E.R. because I just can’t stand it any more.

At that point, the GP did something else I recognize:  she started spitballing.  In the IT world, this is what happens when you’ve done everything you know how to do, and then you just start looking around in general to see what there is to see.  Maybe this way you’ll stumble across some thread that will lead you in the right direction.

In this case, my GP’s ultimate trouble-shooting action was for me to take double the usual dosage of Prilosec.

Apparently Prilosec is some kind of damned near miracle cure if you have what it turns out I have:  a highly acidic stomach and possible ulcer.  Within four hours of taking two Prilosec tablets, I’ve become a new man.

In any case, the ultimate point is that during these madcap escapades, I’ve had something pointed out that I knew subconsciously never really put words to:

What the doctor does and what I do are two very similar things, process-wise.  We take an ailing system, look at what it’s doing that’s wrong, follow signs, signals, inter-process communication, and logs (pun intended).  We try this, we try that, and most of the time, if you’ve been around very long, you get to see the same kinds of things pretty repetitively.

But every once in a while, there comes along this one bitch of a case.  It won’t work, nothing you do helps, all the tests say everything is totally fine, and even the logs are pretty clean.  Well, as clean as logs ever get.

So you start just poking at random, seeing what little changes you can make and what effect you can attribute to that change.  Hopefully you hit one that’s somehow connected to the real problem.

And somehow, these bitch cases always seem to be somehow life or death — at least to the user.  You’ve seen ’em come and go, and somehow, despite all the whining, the world never ends.