Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Supplementary Material II - Other Ways To Hold Pieces Together

While we enjoyed our early experiments with gluc, tape and polymer clay, our quest to use as little as possible extra material (and to have less constantly sticky hands) led us to try out other ways to join pieces together.  It wasn't self-evident that it would work - making a hole in one piece of plastic and simply jabbing in another.  Our results, however, impressed us substantially.  The stretchiness of glucose tubes, for example, gave a little "wiggle" room to slide in a syringe base.  The highly polished, tapered and durable surfaces of medical plastic seem to lend themselves quite well to this technology.  Any pieces that appeared less-than-fully secure could be glued afterward in a single, quick session.
The two most reliable ways we found to make consistent holes of a useful size were hole punches and rotary tools (though basic sharp pointed awls worked in a pinch).

Hole Punches
For little ones, a hole punch can be a useful way to make holes in glucose and similar tube containers.  Comparably sized plastic pieces can simply be shoved in (obviously some experimentation is involved).

 These plastic containers also lend themselves to being cut with a sharp blade like and X-Acto knife, which provide portals for lancet strips that youngsters can color and slide in.

Rotary Tool

We use a Dremel tool, though any rotary tool at all should work fine.  It has proved to be the most versatile and helpful diabetology adjunct we have found so far.  The attachments that have been most applicable are of a cutting variety (see the triangular pointed cutter and the perpendicular cutting blade in the photo below), though several interested diabetologists have experimented with grinding and sanding attachments to "rub off" product names.  Rotary tools have become surprisingly affordable (for example, a 3 speed Black & Decker RTX-6 2 amp 3 speed rotary tool with 30 accessories and 2 spring clamps is available on Amazon with free shipping for $32.49 [less than half the original market price]).
Safety Issues
Rotary tools are a very appealing and engaging medium for preteen children and can be used by them quite skilfully under appropriate close adult supervision with safety measures in place.  Safety glasses , good lighting and a cutting mat free of clutter are essentials.  During the cutting process, pieces may get hot (in some cases, the tool almost melts through the plastic).  It's important that kids be aware of this and avoid touching pieces that have been cut for half a minute or so.

While a cordless rotary tool is not essential, the Dremel cordless tool is a bit smaller and more easily handled by avant garde kids with smaller hands (and eliminates worry about cord tangles).  Careful - your kids may find hundreds of new and previously-undescribed applications for rotary tools in their daily lives!

Rotary Tool Applications
We have used ours to punch holes in everything from pump site applicators to the tops of glucometer stick containers and to slice syringes and other cylindrical items into rings (great for glasses)

Spend some time playing with your available starting materials and see what you come up with!  Pre-drilled pieces offer a path to instant gratification for younger kids to assemble diabotics.

Supplementary Material I - Holding Diabotic Parts Together

This supplementary material discusses ways of joining pieces together to make diabotics. Getting small plastic pieces of different dimensions, some with curved surfaces, was less straightforward than we anticipated. We started with glue, but have now tried several methods, in response to numerous "complications" encountered - near-immediate "body-part shedding" of evolving creatures, diabotics who routinely wanted to tip over and those assembled creatures who failed our rigorous "durability assurance testing" process (which required a 5 minute survival of attack by 3 cats when dangled at the end of a plastic fishing pole).
We preface the following section, for those reading on, with the disclaimer that our diabotic projects have involved a rather detailed and extensive analysis of crafting materials. This approach to diabotics is neither necessary nor advocated and should probably be discouraged (reflecting simply a unique ability to transform small projects into Nobel scale operations). We don't want to detract from a commitment to keeping diabotics a simple endeavor.

In Supplementary Material I, we will discuss our experiences with glues, adhesive tape and polymer clay.  We made lots of mistakes and incurred a few disasters along the way (so you don't have to).  In Supplementary Material II, we will pay homage to the rotary tool and discuss other ways of holding parts together that require no added materials. 

Glue and Glue Alternatives
Getting small plastic pieces with curved surfaces to stick together was less straightforward than anticipated. We started by trying a handful of different types of glues, with some working significantly better than others. Our general findings so far: (1) clear glues work better than white ones. and (2) thicker (goopier) glues better than thinner (runnier) forms. At this point in our testing process, we are using a product called Crafter's Pick-The Ultimate Glue (a non-toxic, water-based general purpose adhesive generally safe for kids) and E6000 Crafter's Adhesive (which, given its chemical composition, should not be used by young children).  Our favorite source for these is Articus Studio, a wonderful site for altered art supplies of all kinds (many excellent for diabotology), at reasonable prices, with comprehensive reviews of materials like glues (current prices: Crafter's Pick-The Ultimate Glue, 8 oz. $5.99, E6000 20z tube, $5.69).
Even with an effective glue, the optimal strategy involves letting one part dry for a few hours before adding another, a time factor that may frustrate kids (big or little). Double-sided tape and polymer clay were two items that emerged from our exploration into glue alternatives that proved particularly helpful.

Double-Sided Adhesive Tape
Durable and very sticky double sided adhesive tape has been a useful diabotics investment for us. In the sea of current craft adhesives, some appear "less ideal" for diabotics (translated from polite lingo to mean that pieces fall off almost immediately). Avoid products labeled "repositionable". Our personal recommendation, based on ten years of using it for every possible purpose, Provo Terrifically Tacky Tape. It comes in 4 widths (particularly useful are 1/4 and 1/8 in) and can be widely purchased.    We buy it from Articus Studio, where 5 yards of 1/8 in currently costs $2.25 and 5 yards of 1/4 runs for $2.99.

Polymer Clay 
This is vastly under-rated as a medium and overall lifehacker tool. We have found it to be a worthy diabotic material, excellent for sticking oddly-shaped bits on evolving heads, proving to have fabulous "hair-base" potential, and providing a mechanism to stabilize wobbly legs and aerodynamically balance bodies that tended to tip over.

A basic working knowledge of polymer clay forms comes in handy, given its diverse applications. While trying to avoid excessive detail about the nature of polymers here, this polymer clay mini-review is necessary to understand safety issues: Polymer clay can be bake-able (many formulations, many brands) or dry upon exposure to air (air dry). The bake-able polymer clay forms, such as Sculpey and Fimo, widely and successfully employed and offering a broad range of properties uniformly share one limitation. They are associated with a risk of exposing children to pthalate (not a good thing), a component of the PVC from which they are made, if handled material is ingested or fumes are inhaled during baking at excessive temperatures. The two recently released air dry polymer clays, Makin's Clay® and Lumina®, represent a heralded innovation, as they are water-based and non-toxic (and, yes, more expensive and harder to find with Joann's offered as one personal source, with a frequently available 40% off coupon online that can be applied to one regularly-priced item).
Our polymer clay recommendations: (1) use whatever form you have available with older kids, (2) stick to baking temp guidelines and definitely use a separate craft oven (buy a toaster oven on Craigslist) and (3) work with air dry bakeable forms when doing projects with young children or when trying to hold together pieces that would melt in the toaster oven Most essential is that everyone thoroughly wash hands after diaboting.

These three diabotics (Russell, Lacosita and Piggy) demonstrate the ways that polymer clay can be used.  Russsell's legs and arms are held in place with it, Lacosita sports a fabulous "Fimo"-do, and, if were not for polymer clay stuffed in his belly to weigh him down, Piggy would regularly topple over.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Your Diabotic's Identity

Each diabotics has a unique and special name and identity, conferred by its creating diabotologist.  Take the time to stop and reflect on your new little buddy - his or her hobbies, talents, habits, quirks, favorite pursuits, favorite books, favorite movies, peculiarities....  Let your diabotic be a means to share something about yourself with the world.
Each diabotic has a superpower.  What will your neo-being possess?   Those seeking inspiration may want to refer to wikipedia (from which this image, Cover to World's Finest Comics #283, published by DC, was taken), the complete list of superpowers,  or the superpower list, all of which offer comprehensive, albeit slightly different, overviews of superpowers.  Alternatively, for fans of black humor, superuseless superpowers are nicely dealt with by   http://superuseless.blogspot.com/, a compendium of superuseless superpowers.  You may find yourself drawn to a beloved character or to a superhero with whom you find some similarity.

Diabotics can be made by all people whether or not they have diabetes.  They are meant to prompt families to find some time for artistic exploration, to find a creative use for diabetes waste and to provide a mechanism for interested individuals to share messages about day-to-day life with diabetes.   Inviting non-diabetic friends and family members is a great way to help people understand the complexities of this illness and its management.  Please help us spread the word!
The evolving World Diabetic KID'Z Foundation has spearheaded the inaugural World Diabetic KID'Z Day (for kids of all ages!) , to be celebrated between November 6th and 8th, 2009.  Part of the festivities will include a global challenge to everyone to create their own diabotic and submit its picture for this event (see more under World Diabetic KID'Z Day).  Please consider submitting yours!

How To Make Your Own Diabotic Creature

A diabotic is a creature made from recycled diabetes supplies (see the last post about terminology) who possesses, additionally, a superpower assigned by its creator (diabetologist of origin). Making diabotics is a meant to be a fun, all-inclusive activity open to any interested individual, requiring simply recycled diabetes-related materials, with no specific tools needed and involving minimal cost (glue). The enthusiastic diabetologist may want to stop reading here and dash off to begin his or her own adventures in this domain. Others may wish to read these basic ideas for making diabotics that emerged from our own explorations.
Starting Materials
The building blocks of diabotics are (1) any waste materials that arise during day to day diabetes management and (2) some of joining them together, such as glue. The possibilities are diverse and everyone is encouraged to explore this further. Different materials will be available to each person, based on his or her unique treatment plan (oral medication, insulin shots or pump). The essential thing is that "every patient tests and every patient treats" (and, thus, "diabetes waste happens").  You may also find it satisfying, as we did, to smash used items. Here are some items to consider using as pieces for making diabotics:
Glucose and ketone monitoring supplies: discarded lancets and lancet packaging, discarded strips, alcohol swab packaging, broken lancing devices, plastic bottles of glucometer calibration fluid, used glucometer batteries

Used or expired medication bottles or packaging: Used or expired insulin bottles, used glucagon bottles or kits, used pill bottles, used glucose tablet or glucose gel packaging

Used syringes, used pumping supplies, used glucometers: Site change devices and packaging, pump tubing, pump insulin syringes, used pump batteries

There are other areas to explore, as well, such as materials involved in recording glucose values (old log books, notebooks sent to school with lunch carb values, outdated cables for uploading glucometer values to computers), materials used in sharps collection and in hand sanitizing. It will be different for each individual. The most pressing issue that must be carefully and thoroughly addressed before starting any diabotics project is safety.

Safety Issues
  • Sharp surfaces, glass - Carefully remove all sharp elements. This includes needle tips on lancets and on insulin syringes. Examine site applicators to make sure that no sharps will extrude if the device is pushed into the application position by small hands.Take a careful look at all the edges of site applicators and similar items (syringes, etc). Even plastic can have broken edges. The use of breakable expired insulin bottles should, in our humble opinion, be supervised by an adult and omitted from the diabotology palette of younger children.

  • Contamination - Anything that has potentially come into contact with bodily fluids should be treated with something to eliminate the possibility of transmitting an infective illness. We put these in a bowl of dilute bleach solutionn (1 tbsp per gallon) overnight. Anything that doesn't require this step gets a thorough wash with soapy hot water.
We recommend decontaminating and extracting sharps as soon as you begin collecting your materials (and then regularly as you go along).It saves the extra work (and needle stick risks) of sorting through used diabetes materials.

Getting Down to Business:
  • Find a sizeable flat surface to spread out materials on where glue spillage will not be an issue (use newspaper, trash bags or plastic tablecloths, if needed). Garb youngsters as indicated on their "messiness with crafts" scale rating (one being that mythical perfect child, ten the glue "hurler").

  • Play with pieces and see what evolves. Certain items might snap together. You might consider taking apart site applicators or old glucometers to see what is inside.  Ellie, below, is coloring her diabotic's eyes with a Sharpie.

  • Join, glue, wire, solder, melt to your heart's content. (Those interested in more detailed notes regarding our personal experiences may want to read the Supplementary Information post to follow).  Anika, below, finds yet another use for the Dremel tool in Diabotic Engineering (reviewed in Supplementary Info post).

  • Explore the identity of your diabotic, choosing its name and superpower (see additional information the following Diabotic Identity post).
  • Consider submitting your diabotic to the landmark first World Diabetic KID'Z Day Global Diabotics Challenge (see the upcoming Diabotics Challenge post for specifics).

Diabotics = Diabetic Waste Joined Together Somehow
The most important message we want to communicate is that diabotics are created by whatever works. Making these creatures is a way to have fun, spend time together, re-purpose waste and raise diabetes awareness, all at very little cost. The above is meant to offer some ideas and inspire individuals to begin their own journeys. It's important not to let "stuff", get in the way of "doing". As many great people have stated throughout history: "The most important things in life are not things."

Meet Our Diabotics

The Group

 Once we started making diabotics, we found it hard to stop.  The above photo depicts the collection of our very first group, with descriptions of a number of these diverse individuals below.


Banting was the original diabotic, named after Sir Frederick Banting, a co-inventor of insulin (and this diabotic is, coincidentally, a fellow Canadian).  Banting can be a shy fellow and had to be coaxed into this photo.  Inspite of his quiet (and, at times, slightly geeky) nature, our other diabotics (and our cats) universally consider him to be a leader.  His hobbies are polymer chemistry and designing diabetes pump-wear.  His superpower is instantaneously knowing the blood glucose of any individual without using a glucometer.


Bartleby has been a clown since his beginning as site applicator housing (insisting on constant losing of his arms and prompting the discovery of the usefulnessness of Dremel tools in diabotics).  His diverse hobbies include teasing the cats, hiding the family glucometer and reading comparative mythology (Joseph Campbell, mainly).  His superpower is being able to change discouragement to optimism in others, helping people see the bright side to life.


Roxanne is a diabotic diva (and the winner of this year's prestigious "Miss Diabotics Vixen of Greater Boston").  When not coiffing her syringe depressor locks, she likes studying algebra and has memorized pi to 234 decimal points.  She also designs diabotic clothing (notice her ketometer lancet skirt, carefully colored purple) and is initiating a clothing line with Banting consisting of clothes equipped to hold a pump without the need for any additional belt or holder.


Ursula considers herself to be a "bohemian goth pagan".  She's vegetarian, lives in a yert and spends much of her time camping in the wilderness.  One of her projects is exploring how diabetic people managed to live at all in the years before insulin was discovered.  Her superpowers are two-fold - a photographic memory and the ability to read massive amounts of information quickly (making her a top contender for the Diabotic Academy of Academic Bohemian Goth Pagans).


Francois is a French-Canadian who is true to the words on his chest, "Diabetes Warrior".  He is a strong advocate for all diabetics, Type 1 and Type 2, whether they take insulin or not.  He has, in the past, lobbied congress on diabetes-related issues, even surviving a crush injury when a congressman inadvertently stepped on him (even with his insulin bottle legs, he is only six inches tall).  His superpower is being able to explain very complicated information in a way that helps every person understand and master it.


Bongo is the diabotic brainchild of Ellie Somers, a founding diabotologist, and was made from materials that Ellie felt would be suitable for younger children (although she added certain features with a Dremel tool and cautioned that she would only recommend glue for smaller youngsters).  Bongo enjoys sports and is a constant volunteer  hockey puck for the cats (he glides really well on hardwoods).  His hero is "Mr. Bill" of Saturday Night Live origin and his motto is "More Cowbell".  His superpower is knowing every possible carb count (by brand, by weight, by packaging) of every food in the world without having to look it up (definitely a worthwhile friend!)


Oswaldo is a happy-go-lucky diabotic whose superpower is climbing the walls and ceilings.  He was created by Anika Somers, a founding diabotologist whose specialty is finding all possible Dremel tools applications in the diabotes endeavor.  Oswaldo is a movie buff.  His favorites include "The Compass", "Baghdad Cafe"and every film ever directed by Christopher Guest.  He enjoys going to historic movie theatres where he has been known to entertain the other movie-goers with his wall-climbing antics.


Snibblet would be easy to overlook because he's the shortest of the group, but this little fellow has a huge presence.  He is extremely well-read and can speak six languages (including the clicking one).  One of his life goals is to meet Wes Cowan of the History Detectives, of which he has viewed every existing episode.  Inspite of his nerdly exterior, Snibblet is well-liked by all.  His superpower, reflected in his multiple eyes, is being able to see all sides to every issue.   In addition to his open-mindedness, he is a skilled and fair negociator, which has won him a seat in the Diabotics United Nations.

Diabotics, Diabotes and Diabotology: An Introduction

A far-reaching and friendly, but intense debate followed the arrival of the first diabotics, centered on finding appropriate terminology to describe them. Accurate, precise and relevant definitions are fundamental for all forms of study. This list of relevant descriptive terms is provided to help clarify such semantics.
Diabotes ("di-a-bot-eees"): A field of study incorporating all aspects involved in the creative fabrication of neo-beings (diabotics, "di-a-bot-icks") from discarded medical supplies that were previously used in the care of a diabetic patient.
Diabotics: Neo-beings made from discarded diabetes medical supplies whose final form is determined solely by the creating individual (diabotologist, "di-a-bot-awl-o-gist") with no regard given to conventional or previously described life forms.
Diabotology: A profession or past-time that requires no pre-requisite background or skill and in which there is board certification is neither available nor permissible.

The Principles of Constructive, Collaborative and Inclusive Diabotes outlines core ideologies that are embodied in the diabotes specialty and inherently expressed in the actions of every diabotologist. A complete outline may be found elsewhere (in the Universal Declaration of Diabotic Rights), but for summarizing purposes may be described to include
  • Creative repurposing of used medical supplies and commitment to reducing waste
  • Interest in creative exploration with recognition of the breadth of artistic experience
  • Promotion of widespread diabotes participation by diabetic and non-diabetic individuals of all ages, backgrounds and cultures
  • Advocacy for diabetic patients in all areas of life affected by this disease
  • Respect for diabotics, with proper naming and care of the individual 
Important Disclaimer
Care must be taken to avoid confusing Diabotes with linguistically similar terms that refer to drastically different areas of study: Diabates (the study of remarkable feats of acrobatic activity performed, occasionally without warning, by diabetic children), Diabites, (the study of diabetic fairy beings, occasionally exoressed in its slang form "Diabitties") and, finally, Diabutes (the study of diabetic children who consistently use the word "but"). This website assumes no responsibility for consequences that arise from confusion of these terms.