It's especially annoying because it's so easy to fix!
On the other hard, you smelling doesn't affect you in any way (you get used to your own stench), it affects others. So this is not a health issue, it's a generic "getting along with others" issue.
One big distinction is that people often know they're unfit, but are normally oblivious to hygiene problems. I've never had the nerve to tell anyone myself.
Edit: It works both ways. If someone is unproductive due to their health problems, that definitely affects their coworkers. Diabetes, fair enough, but there's definitely an argument for putting many easily avoidable physical problems in the "getting along with others" category.
Edit Edit: If you're going to downvote, let's have your counter-arguments please.
Off-topic: I also noticed that a lot of comments get some early attention from eager downvoters. I know it's frustrating. Just wait a bit for the score to settle.
- not brushing your teeth can lead to caries, which in turn can cause your teeth to degrade, gum trouble and can even cause you to literally lose your teeth
- not washing can have dermatological implications, including fungi and infections
Between the toothbrush, running water and penicillin we've probably increased the average lifespan of humans by a measurable amount.
The rest is just routine: new day -> new shirt; fresh cloth -> deodorant; sunday -> do laundry..
(Also, get an antiperspirant/deodorant (without aluminium/titanium if possible)).
invisible already stated that a dark shirt and white non-gel type deodorant will most likely result in a rather embarrassing slash down the side of your shirt. One that I have been a victim of more than once. Seems like a good enough reason to get in the habit of applying it after putting on your shirt.
His clothes are now cleaner, but he's still pretty dirty. It's especially noticeable right after a new game comes out that he spends all night playing (WoW, and I'm told now SC2).
Taking a shower doesn't give you an edge over it for more than an hour: as soon as you've walked for a while or sitting in public transportation for more than five minutes, you're as soaked as before. And then you're smelling again.
If it really is unbearably hot you could even pack a spare t-shirt. An American Apparel Summer T-Shirt will fold up to the size of a wallet if you're short on space.
After the first few weeks of withdrawl, I've found that it is a net gain overall. No more feeling like crap until the first cup of the day. Better sleep. Clearer, less scattered thinking. I recently went on a trip with a friend who is still a heavy coffee drinker, and it was striking to see him suffer through the first several hours of the day before his second or third cup. Being able to wake up and feel great is well worth it.
The thing you lose is the muli-hour high speed coding marathon. But lets be honest, how often is it that the result of these marathons isn't something you end up needing to rewrite anyway because you jumped in too quickly or failed to think it through?
You could, of course, drink it "when you need it", but I've found that this is the slippery slope back into addiction. So, I just stay away.
Edit: I've also found that a tall decaf from Starbucks can serve as a mental substitute for those days when I really crave it. I even get a slight placebo energy boost. "It's so good when it hits the lips" :)
- I fall asleep within 5 minutes after hitting the pillow.
- I wake up when I want to, without problem, whether I've had 4 or 8 hours of sleep.
- The number of headaches I get has decreased dramatically.
- More importantly, the severity of the headaches I do get is dramatically different: before they were debilitating. Now, they're more like a hangover. Annoying, but easy to deal with.
- Caffeine radically improves the efficacy of medicines like acetaminophen. 350mg of Tylenol + 1/2 of a coke is more effective for me than 1g of Tylenol.
- When you get fuzzy headed because you've been staring at the screen too long, 10 minutes of fresh air works better than coffee used to.
- waking up is a lot more pleasant. It takes about an hour to fully wake up, but you're always partly functional, never grumpy. A little bit of exercise is the best way to shake it off.
Caffeine is a nasty drug to kick. DO NOT GO COLD TURKEY -- the headaches are evil. Slowly titrate off -- I used caffeine pills and a pill cutter.
a) Drink coffee without much sugar/milk. I prefer iced espresso drinks that end up being 50% ice or water. Drink it slow so the ice melts as you go.
b) Drink a 1:1 ratio of water to coffee. If I have a 20oz iced Americano I drink 20oz of water before having more coffee.
c) Pay attention to your pee. Easiest way to see if you're getting dehydrated.
Whether that means one cup of coffee in the morning and another after lunch, a thermos of green tea over the day, or a couple slightly-caffeinated mints every few hours depends on how your body handles caffeine.
I highly recommend anyone that drinks anything more than green tea to quit - it seriously f's up your adrenals...
My personal experience was this: extreme fatigue during the day (it was difficult for me to stay awake and not nap when doing anything sedentary), daily allergies that fired up (very badly) for no allergic reason, and a general sense of sluggishness.
Once I cut out stimulants (it isn't just caffeine, but the amphetamines in decongestants, ADHD medications, etc...) and started taking pills with desiccated adrenal gland tissue and thyroid boosters I could stay sharp all day long without ANY caffeine or naps. I slept really well every night, and a general sense of well being came back.
This coupled with my improved diet in general (paleo diet, no grains at all, high in animal protein and vegetables) made my life so much better. My body feels good, finally.
I sure enjoy a cup or two a day and I doubt that is excessive. Drinking lattes also has another nice side-effect: you get to drink some milk, for your daily calcium needs.
I found myself quite addicted drinking a grande from starbucks every morning. Before that cup I was pretty much useless.
Alton Brown mentions this on the Good Eats episode about coffee :)
Even then, from my additional readings on the topic the difference appears to be very small.
I'm pretty sure you're right, though AB has been stubbornly wrong about enough things before that I prefer to fact-check him.
Also: If your love of kitchen science extends to mad science, you might also like _Wild Fermentation_ by Sandor Ellix Katz. Making sauerkraut, sourdough, mead, beer, tempeh, miso, etc. Best cookbook, ever!
It seems the difference is very small regardless of which one has more.
I'll have to check out both books. Good Eats has inspired me more than a few times to spend a Sat. afternoon attempting to recreate what I just watched ;) It would probably help to have something a little more concrete in front of me.
I found it interesting, if not very rigorous. It shows that one man's productivity did not suffer after quitting coffee.
There's the muscle sheaths that have stiffened by the lack of use of the full range of motion and the constant deposition of collagen, which literally glues the sheath to itself. This tight sheath can impair blood flow to a muscle, especially when the muscle is contracted for a long time. The contracting muscle presses out against a tight sheath. Blood takes the path of least resistance.
That lack of healthy blood flow can cause the sarcomeres, the contractile unit of muscle, to get stuck in their contracted position. This is how a muscle gets tight and actually shorter.
When a muscle gets very stiff, a trigger point can develop. A trigger point is just an area where many sarcomeres are tight. We certainly notice trigger points, but the muscle gradually hardens for a while before a trigger point develops.
The hard muscles are shorter and thicker and this makes manipulating the sheath to break up the collagen much harder. But if the muscle is softened first, it can be done.
Massage is how you soften the muscle and get the sarcomeres in it functioning again. Massage pushes depleted blood out and then new blood is pulled in from the capillaries.
But there's still one other factor and that is the way muscles communicate with each other to accomplish work. When one muscle is engaged, other muscles receive nerve signals to help. And if there is a trigger point in one muscle, other muscles are engaged via the nerves.
So you may have a tense muscles but it may be another muscle that is the root cause. All of the muscles need to considered and massaged in a systematic way.
I'd definitely give this book a try since it clearly identifies which trigger points are causing the referred pain/numbness along with the ways to treat them.
Also if you are in the Chicago area, check out http://www.myopain.com/. Like I said, they were able to help me with only 2 visits.
I wish I had realized this years ago. I developed RSI symptoms, or at least they became severe enough that I took note of them, about two months ago. I did a lot of research after that and ended up booking my first ever massage.
When the therapist started working on my forearms, she explained that I was very tight, and she wasn't surprised it was causing me pain. Oddly, my left arm ended up being the worse off of the two. After the massage, I felt great and could type relatively normally again without pain.
She also told me that my neck muscles were essentially made of stone, and asked me if I regularly got headaches (I did).
I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't underestimate the value of regular massages. It would probably cost around $1k/year to go once a month, but I think it's worth it to keep yourself at the top of your game. Therapeutic massage is often used to manage chronic pain, so I see no reason why it couldn't also be used to prevent it (or cure it if you're in the early stages).
It depends on the therapist; some are really good and some approaches work much better than others. But this problem is clearly not addressed properly for most people. Many suffer for years with it and a quick trip to a nursing home will confirm that.
Or rather, it depends the therapist stepping out of the role of "fixing the body" and into the role of helping the person use their body well.
"just message therapy" but message therapists these days are learning a variety of modalities, from hypnotherapy to Qigong to Rosen Work. If you are in a major city and have money to spend on body work, I'm sure you can find really skilled people.
In many ways, what's really necessary is for a person to wish to learn how to effectively use their body. But this goes against the expectation people learn in a consumer society, the majority of people expect a "plugin" fix.
Of course, each person's response is somewhat different. Some people seem to do well being "fixed" once a month.
You need to take good care of yourself in general in order to stay healthy - eat right, sleep well, keep yourself hydrated, and sit/work comfortably.
It just seems to me that a lot of programmers already take care of some of these items - the fact that I've even heard of Herman Miller chairs is evidence that at least some programmers take these things seriously - but RSI is still a huge concern in the industry.
I think if you're already sitting right and taking care of yourself, you could still be slowly damaging yourself because you're still locked in a static position for large portions of the day. Your muscles get used to working together as a single muscle, and they start locking together and essentially becoming that single muscle. Massage helps relieve muscles in spasm, and deeper massages will help break the "supermuscles" apart so they act individually again.
RSI is an issue every programmer (or any other person sitting at a computer all day) needs to be aware of, and the more preventions and cures we can throw at it, the longer we'll be able to stay healthy and productive.
Sitting all day is just an aggravating cause, not the underlying cause. A muscle gets stiff under a light load only when circulation is impaired. A muscle with good circulation will not get stiff.
So it isn't that we sit for long periods. Its that we haven't fully exercised our full range of motion on a regular basis. We haven't kept the normal deposition of collagen from essentially gluing our muscle sheaths into something stiff enough to impair blood flow to the muscles inside them.
That's my theory anyway. And part of my understanding is that this situation is totally reversible.
Now, prolonged stress and inflammation (and certain physical abnormalities) can cause damage to the nerves themselves and nerves suck at healing. If you start having problems with sensation (feeling cold or numb), that's the result of nerves under attack. Prolonged attack equals irreversible damage.
As far as your notation about collagen gluing muscles, that sounds about right to me, and is sort of part of what I was saying earlier. Also, collagen is largely made up of water, and this is why it is so critical to keep yourself hydrated.
Also, muscles locked in static positions (I assume as a result of spasm) can begin to act as a single unit rather than individual muscles. When this happens, your body can actually try to sort of "heal them together" and the muscles can literally begin to bind to each other. Massage, particularly deep tissue massage, can help to break these bands apart so your muscles become independent again.
That's my understanding, anyway. I'm definitely no expert in this, and my knowledge largely comes from online research, and the book "It's Not Carpal Tunnel."
I suspect the narrative is simplifying a bit. In my experience, trigger points develop in a variety of situations following a variety of physical, genetic and psychological factors.
I stretch at least daily and I'm probably more limber than 90% of people but I can certain develop trigger points after some intense exercise - stretching isn't necessarily enough.
I think standing desks are an obvious remedy for back pain and discomfort. Your "core muscles" are used more than if you were sitting down, and it reduces the pressure on your spine caused by sitting upright in a typical office chair.
A good, low-tech way to do this is to buy an unfinished door and paint or finish it yourself. If it has a doorknob cutout, just use it for cable management. Then get a pair of adjustable Stanley FatMax workhorses and you're in business:
I prefer standing, as it is so easy to take a step away from the computer and really concentrate on the problem at hand. I find the computer can really distract me when I need to think.
* This is part of why I find whiteboards so helpful. They give me tons of space to think, both physically and mentally.
Your desk just needs to be deep enough to allow your arms to be on it past the midway to the elbow, so you don't have to actively raise your hands. Lowering your chair also has the benefit of bringing the screen at eye-height, but you could just get a high desk...
Agreed. I don't put the chair back, but I have two of those rubberized "keyboard" wrist supports (the ones that are about 20x3 inches) across the edge of my desk (one for each arm), and I type with the point of my elbows just off the wrist pads, my forearms supported by the base of my forearm just near the elbow. I found that if I rest the point of my elbow on the wrist pad it's not as comfortable. Since they are side by side, they stretch the entire length of where I'm going to move my arms, for both using the keyboard and mouse. And since my arms are supported near the elbow, the natural most effective typing position for my wrists is straight, or what high school typing teachers would call "up", not resting on something. The pads put my forearms almost perfectly level when my hands are on the keyboards.
I don't use the gel or bead filled ones because they don't keep their shape as well, and I don't find their rounded edges to be as comfortable -- I know the exact position to be in based on being able to feel the edge of the pad with the base of my forearm. I need something to support the weight of my arm, not change its shape to the contour. Unfortunately the rubberized ones are getting hard to find.
In a pinch, I use rubberized mousepads, which every office seems to have lying around and no one uses. When using these, I just put one under each elbow and use the edge of the desk like I'd use the edge of the keyboard wrist rest, feeling out the edge with the base of my forearm. This isn't ideal though. I need to stock up on more of these "keyboard wrist rests".
(Also, I think switching to Dvorak may be helpful. My wrists move a lot less with this layout than they do with QWERTY. Touch typing is a good idea but where QWERTY discourages it, Dvorak makes it simply the best idea; you don't have to try, it just happens. YMMV; please note I said "I think", and I mean exactly that, not "It has been proved that".)
It's a tricky thing to get hard data about, though, and the whole Qwerty vs. Dvorak thing somehow got caught in some religious argument about the free market, so there's probably too much noise to ever sort it out.
* Hey, I taught myself to type on a Commodore 64 as a kid.
That said, if he's in essentially a lying position all day, there could be other issues (like loss of muscle definition) at play.
Here is one reference I did find:
For 1.5 years I was not able to type without pain. I was able to rid myself of this pain in weeks through a psychological approach. It's been over 7 years since then and I haven't had problems.
I also play guitar, bass guitar, and drums. It can be painful sometimes to play a lot if I haven't been practicing, but that pain goes away immediately, and I don't believe it contributes to a permanent or long-standing problem.
Ergonomics is good for being comfortable and pain-free. And exercise is good for general health. But I don't think not doing so is going to give you chronic pain.
Of course you should see a doctor to rule out diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Here is a document that explains Sarno's ideas: http://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/handout.doc
Google cache of it for HTML: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&v...
Keep in mind that this does not mean "it is all in your head"... The problem does cause a physical condition in your body, but the cause of it is psychological.
So yes, learning to control you body and how you use it is generally a good idea. In general I think that's all Sarno's method does. It just makes you focus on how the motions should be done in a more relaxed manner, rather than tense and harmful.
Combine that with the wrist exercises and you'll be even better off.
I also ran the gauntlet of standard medical treatments and therapies before trying Sarno's approach.
If you have seemingly untreatable RSI, it's worth giving Sarno's ideas a look.
Autoimmune (e.g. Lupus) diseases are another important set to rule out.
The good news is that, though not curable, many of the inflammatory ailments are easily and cheaply treatable.
My advice: have your doctor consider the old NSAIDs first.Ketoprofen is my favorite, though Wyeth pulled it off the OTC market, so the lowest single-pill dose is pretty high. Among friends and relatives who've tried it, it consistently counters inflammation, even though its pain relief varies down to nothing. Being old, it's cheap, too.
 shortly after buying the company who marketed it under the brand "Orudis KT". The cynic in me says it's because Advil has a much higher profit margin.
 50mg compared to 12.5mg. Sometimes, 12.5mg once a day is all I've needed. Especially with the recent concerns over the safety of NSAIDs, needlessly quadrupling the dose seems foolish, so I hack the dosages. I could probably get a compounding pharmacy to do this for me, but that would eliminate the "cheap" advantage.
I myself experienced much improved condition when I stopped being fearful.
Would you agree that in at least 5% of serious cases, the physical not mental problem is the main thing?
His experience matches mind as well. Horrible RSI persisting for years, with non of the conventional treatments effective beyond a short amount of time.
After doing a _lot_ of research into this, I experienced an almost complete short-term recovery. It wasn't just lack of pain... muscles that felt perpetually taut and ropey were suddenly softened, and I became extraordinarily thirsty for a couple of days as healing started again.
Unfortunately, I only have speculation about what's going on here medically. As a seasoned skeptic, Dr. Sarno's explanation of psychological causes is unsatisfying to me. My hypothesis is that RSI is caused by a problem in the autonomic nervous system (i.e. the part that regulates your body). Sympathetic nervous system activity is provoked when your body is in "danger" mode: muscles are tensed, ready to act, etc. Now, what happens in RSI is that your muscles are being stressed through use (typing). This isn't normally a problem: when you stop typing, your muscles heal the tiny amount of damage that was inflicted. But if you are stressed out, then your sympathetic nervous system activity is heightened and your muscles don't get a chance to heal.
Now this is the insidious bit: the pain and injury eventually becomes a danger signal to your body. The injury thus provokes further sympathetic nerve activity. This negative feedback loop can thus perpetuate without the person feeling actively stressed any more, but is obviously exacerbated by feelings of worry about the RSI. Every time you try to be careful, you make the problem worse.
For a more medical take, some pieces are conveyed in this article: http://www.aapb.org/tl_files/AAPB/files/biof_34_2_pain.pdf . Some people speculate that similar issues underlie more serious problems, like RSDS and fibromyalgia
So that's all well and good, but what about the "cure"? Well, it seems that many people have virtually instantly solved their problems by adopting positive beliefs about the nature of the problem, that it is a problem caused by problematic nervous system signals and NOT an insoluble muscular injury. How does that work, exactly? I have no idea. Obviously, some stress is reduced, but that can't explain the magnitude and suddenness of the change. If anyone has ideas, I'd be very interested in hearing them.
If you suffer from RSI, the advice I would have is to think about this explanation while researching the ideas thoroughly to see if you're convinced. In the meantime, the best thing to do is daily exercise that isn't too intense, but gets your blood flowing for 20-30 minutes. Biking, running, yoga all have good benefits. You can do things like lift weights as well, but it is easy to overdo it, so I don't recommend it if your symptoms are severe. It's worth reading Dr. Sarno's book, but keep in mind that he uses words like "freudian unconscious rage", which made it hard to take anything he said seriously. In my mind, he is inaccurately explaining something which isn't true but corresponds to _some_ true phenomenon.
I've wanted to write this up for a while, but while I'm relatively convinced that I have a better explanation for RSI than most doctors, I don't really understand how "the solution" works (nor for how many people it does). I also realize that it sounds exceptionally hokey, which fuels my reticence. We'll see how it goes over here... ask me anything.
Many thanks to Zed for bringing it up the topic. I think it is always good for the programming community to hear different views on it. As we rely more and more on computers, mobile devices, etc., we're going to see these sorts of injuries more and more and I'm not sure the medical community knows how to deal with them yet.
I read HN sometimes and there are so many people doing full time jobs, then coding at home, then playing guitar on top of that! It is depressing to read because I'm lucky if I can make it through lunch without my arms hurting some days. I don't think people in my camp speak up enough (partly because we are trying to type as little as possible). I haven't played my guitar in years while I try to cope. I've been to some physical therapy, but found that it didn't improve things much short or long term. If you do visit a doctor (which you probably should), just be aware that they may suggest surgery. Personally, I don't think that is the answer to RSI in most cases.
I weight lift occasionally but I can't tell whether it is helping or hurting. I've always been curious about yoga, I just need a kick in the pants to get started. So, there's my personal story.
As far as advice, I don't have much since I haven't actually found something that works well for me. I read "It's NOT Carpal Tunnel Syndrome" which was an short, interesting read, but ultimately didn't help me with my particular problem. It does have good general advice, a section with stretching exercises and nerve glides, etc.
Maybe my writeup sounded worse than it is. It isn't totally consuming my life, but it has been worsening again lately so the topic has been on my mind. I am not always in pain. I go through periods (days-weeks) of relative normalcy, but other periods where the pain is worse. I haven't played guitar because I try not to stress my arms while I'm home. I try to stay off the computer at home too, but you see how that is working out... I need some mental fortitude/willpower, too.
What do you mean by "change how you do things with your hands"? I've tried a few different chairs, chair/desk heights, keyboards, and mice. My latest is putting my MS Natural 4000 in my lap to type. I think that is an alright position for my hands, but I wish its keys had a little less resistance than they do.
1. Get a friend and ask them to help you. Take your index and thumb and touch them together tight as you can then have your friend try to slowly pry them open. Try to remember how weak or strong your hands were. Try a couple fingers to get an idea.
2. There's two bones in your forearm that join at your wrist. Take your other hand, and squeeze these two bones together at points along your forearm down to your wrist. Squeeze really hard for about 10-20 seconds then relax and shake your hand after each squeeze.
3. Now relax for a bit and do your other arm equally, then do those wrist exercises I gave you. Rotate them, warm them up, and do the stretches very carefully and slowly. Rotate your wrists after every one and shake them.
4. After you're done, have your friend come back and try the strength test. See if it improves. If it does, then do this every day, no matter what, before you do anything with your hands.
That squeezing of those two bones helps relieve pressure in there and takes it off of nerves in your wrist. Give it a try but as usual don't do it if it hurts too much.
Some discussion on "mental habits of mind" would be good.
Sitting up straight and relaxing your breathing isn't just good for your back it changes the way you think about what you're doing.
If only that were true, then the answer for every mental problem would be 'exercise'.
Not saying that people with mental health issues wouldn't benefit from exercise in general, but that goes for everybody, not just for them.
And even if their mental state would improve I'd be surprised to see 'schizophrenia cured by exercise' as a headline. And the same would go for plenty of other mental health issues. Mental health is influenced by physical health to some extent but to claim it is a function of physical health is a step too far I think. You can have perfectly healthy people with a very bad mental make-up and vice versa.
Simply being physically active goes a long way to solving everyday psychopathologies, like mild anxiety or depression; and is a curative factor in extremely serious mental illness, like the schizophrenia you mention. Exercise is often part of the answer.
Going for a walk does wonders for my state of mind.
Although I suppose "physical condition" would have been more accurate than "physical health."
Downvoters: you are aware that Zed lists problems he has struggled with and that his generalization of this list to 'common problems programmers face' is perhaps not warranted for all problems mentioned? If it was a serious suggestion, jacquesm would have included an explanation of why programmers would commonly face mental health problems.
Do you really need an explanation of why programmers might be at risk of mental health problems? To first order, Zed's list speaks for itself: being in poor health tends to depress you, especially the part about bad sleep. The depression and the health effects feed back on each other in a nasty way.
But I'd add that loneliness is a big factor. These days we have amazing tech like IRC and Twitter and HN, and it's easy to imagine that we can have rich social lives without ever seeing another person except through the medium of text. Well, your brain, designed and conditioned as it is for the presence of actual physical humans, may think differently. I spent eighteen months working as a solo consultant in my office, meeting clients only via email and the occasional phone call, and it eventually drove me bananas. My wife still laughs about the day I took half an hour off to go to the barber and then raved about the awesome social experience.
Even if you work in an office the isolation can be frustrating, because as a programmer you routinely work on problems that nobody else understands or wants to understand - even your fellow programmers, who are trying to focus on problems of their own. To interact with others you need to really break your focus, but that causes you to slow down, so maybe you try not to do it, and before you know it everyone else has gone home and it is dark and you're wandering through an empty parking lot...
Remember, solitary confinement is one of the worst tortures you can inflict on a human.
I had the same experience working for a company where I was on my own and the people weren't friendly. I ended up loving the staff in the nearby Cafe Nero because they were friendly and asked me how I was and sometimes had a little chat. When I finally left that job, I left them a massive tip... I actually wanted to leave a gushing thank you card but at least I still retained some sense of perspective to know that that would have probably weirded them out.
All day I was on messenger and forums and had music playing but having no friendly contact with humans for hours has quite an effect.
To interact with others you need to really break your
focus, but that causes you to slow down, so maybe you try
not to do it, and before you know it everyone else has
gone home and it is dark and you're wandering through
an empty parking lot...
(Not trying to bait you, just honestly wondering what you think would help, because I feel I only solve/understand such things by experiencing them)
your flippant comment seems likely to be downvoted by
folks who have encountered mental illness
Do you really need an explanation of why programmers might
be at risk of mental health problems?
The question is what additional risks to your mental health becoming a programmer introduces, beyond the fact that mental health problems are already reason number one for disfunctioning, unhappiness, and even death in certain age categories. Should every writer of every introduction on any professional subject include a section on mental health problems, because everyone is at risk of them? I'd rather advocate people being taught the risks of certain working conditions in highschool.
> I'm asking for evidence of that
I can't speak for 'mechanical_fish' but I've seen plenty of evidence of that, including two very sad cases (very smart but socially mal-adapted people that ended up living more or less like hermits).
Lets suppose that they are self-taught programmers: would a section on mental health in the introductory works they read, warning them against the dangers of loneliness and seclusion, have helped? Would they have heeded the warnings and would they have been able to socialize, or were they already the kind of people that didn't socialize anyway?
The problem may be the other way around: programming attracts people, because it's a profession where you can be working alone. If that is part of the attraction, no amount of offtopic warnings are going to help. Only someone physically near that cares can help and then we are still supposing that these people are unhappy. Mechanical_fish needs company and social interactions, which is pretty normal. However, that doesn't mean that everyone needs it. You run the risk of imposing your moral standard about 'socializing' on others, that can, and want to, get by with little social interaction.
I think the dialogue with the computer gave them what they never could get from having a dialogue with people, someone that could keep up with them and that understood them in a way that few people ever would be able to.
> If they had become physicists, would they not have ended up living more or less like hermits?
Physicists don't as a rule work from their houses with curtains in front of the window to block out the daylight and nothing but food ordered by phone. As a software guy you can easily get away with that, and with the virtual office trend we're even formalizing that whole concept.
> Lets suppose that they are self-taught programmers: would a section on mental health in the introductory works they read, warning them against the dangers of loneliness and seclusion, have helped?
That's a really good question, and I haven't a clue about an answer for you. Would it have hurt?
> Would they have heeded the warnings and would they have been able to socialize, or were they already the kind of people that didn't socialize anyway?
Maybe the computer is the escape for people that fall in to that category, but maybe there is more to it than just isolation. Personally I think isolation makes a bad thing worse. I've seen programmers work for companies that were absolutely gifted but they were kept as far behind the scenes as possible due to their lack of social skills and I'm not just talking about taking a bath or changing clothes. And according to their family they were doing ok as people until they discovered the computer, and then they somehow shut out the world. So the tendency must have been there already, but the machine amplified that to some extent. Again, probably nothing you could have read about that would have warned you.
But I know of at least one person whose story I would love to read, if only he were around to write it, there might be a warning in there for some of us that really would make a difference.
> Perhaps the problem is the other way around: programming attracts such people, because it's a profession where you can be working alone.
Yes, I believe that is true.
> If that is part of the attraction, no amount of offtopic warnings are going to help.
Not sure about that. As I wrote above, I have no evidence or idea of whether it would help, but since programming seems to attract such people the place to warn them would be in a place where those interested in their health would read about it, say a book about programmers and their health.
BTW, I'm upset at the way you're being downvoted in this thread, I'd prefer those that downvote to articulate their point of view instead of this silly piling on mob voting. The point you made was articulate, maybe unpopular but it definitely added to the discussion because it brought some interesting stuff to light.
Physicists don't as a rule work from their houses with
curtains in front of the window to block out the daylight
and nothing but food ordered by phone.
Rather than warning prospective programmers of the mental health risks that stereotypical hackers run, I think it would be better to stop glorifying that lifestyle in the first place. If you describe the health risks of that lifestyle, you are still suggesting that it is the proper lifestyle for a programmer. Instead, it would be better to, for instance, stress the importance of communicating with colleagues, because no matter how brilliant you (think you) are, you will overlook things and not come up with all alternative solutions for a problem. It would be better to stress the importance of other hobbies, because of the cross pollination that would never happen if the only thing one has mastered is computer related. It would be better to stress how every computer program ends up being used by people and those people are quirky and different from you, which is why you need to know stuff about people to be able to make programs for them. Even if those people are other programmers.
I don't think it's a good thing if introductory texts in our field start include a section on the mental health risks of such a tiny group, while that risk should already be mitigated by other advice that is nicely relevant, because it makes them better programmers. I think it might make matters worse by once again making it seem as if 48-hour-Dr.Pepper-and-pizza-fueled-codathons are a normal thing, a good thing, a cool thing, something people should aspire to. It should be crystal clear to everyone that you won't be productive, that what you do produce will be sub-your-standard and that the seclusion was a bad idea in the first place, for all the reasons listed above.
BTW, I'm upset at the way you're being downvoted [..]
Everyone's social needs are different as relates to mental health, but my recommendation is if you don't have family or roommates around making some noise and conversation, keep an eye on your how you're feeling and set limits on how much of the week you toil in isolation.
It can also be bad for your health if remote work relationships are difficult, so you have to have a certain amount of company support for what you're doing as well.
I don't think an explanation of why programmers commonly face mental health problems is required beyond asking you to read through the last years postings on HN, which include some very sad entries indeed.
> You're now arguing that people in general, not programmers specifically, commonly face mental health problems.
No, I mean to imply that programmers, contrary to people in general may be at a higher risk to develop mental issues, mostly related to work pressure, personality related issues that tend to surface earlier or more serious with people that are regularly under stress and people that deal with abstractions that they can not easily talk about with others leading to isolation, and isolation is the exact wrong thing to do for people dealing with pressure and stress on a daily basis.
But if you're not talking about your work anymore (or even about why it matters to you) then alarm bells won't ring until it is much too late.
Now I could go and dig up the HN references I was alluding to earlier but I think the memories of some of those would tear open wounds that are best left to heal. Anecdotally, for the size of the community the number of people that have come forward here out of their own accord and that have testified to having 'issues', and very serious ones at that is something of a surprise to me.
It would be good to prove/disprove this by pointing to some study or other that has listed mental health issues and their occurrence by profession but either my google fu is failing me or such a study does not exist.
On average the children in Sydney spent nearly 14 hours per week outside, and only 3 per cent developed myopia. In contrast, the children in Singapore spent just 3 hours outside, and 30 per cent developed myopia. Once again, close work had a minimal influence; the Australian children actually spent more time reading and in front of their computers than the Singaporeans
http://www.poynton.com/notes/brightness_and_contrast/ gives us a good setup procedure.
A really big one for me is mountain biking. I always found it to be a great escape from whatever I had going on - school, work, relationships - you can really forget about all of that stuff on trails. Mountain biking at times feels more like an addiction, to be honest. Indeed, I own a shirt that reads "Mountain biking is as addictive as crack, but twice as expensive". I start feeling bad about myself and getting a bit anxious if I don't go out on trails for several days in a row. It sure feels great afterwards though - really push yourself, have fun, get that dose of adrenalin and be physically exhausted in the end. I always solve my toughest problems after "hardcore" biking sessions :-)
Having talked to some hospital staff during my several biking-related emergency room visits, I can tell you that some forms of it (downhill-type stuff) are very hard on your joints, so don't over do it. If you're really into downhill racing and freeride, mix in several good XC sessions for cross-training. You'll be stronger and healthier.
P.S.: another thing that really helps is having an active S.O., someone who'll drag you out of your work-mode and take you hiking several times a week, and who will want social interactions outside of "reading HN".
Hold a couple pens loosely in your hands with the points facing out, and stand naturally with your arms at your sides. Where are pens pointed? If they are pointed forward, then you've got excellent posture. If they are pointed diagonally inwards, you have slight internal rotation. If they are pointed almost straight inwards, then that internal rotation is severe.
The point of this is that pushups, and everyone's favourite lift, the bench press, promote more internal rotation. Most office people would be far better served performing more pulling exercises than push. So deadlifts, rows, pull downs, pull ups, etc.
the hacker community is not thought about in the medical community overall
They work wonders.
Put the mouse (m] sideways pointed left at the bottom left side of your keyboard:
I've been doing this for a few months now, and it's been a huge improvement. It might take a while to get used to the mouse being perpendicular to the pointer orientation on screen, but maybe not (didn't for me). The position is somewhat adapted from the tai chi standing practice posture.
A good cordless mouse makes this configuration much more convenient (I'm still using an aging Logitech G7, for example).
Curious, do you write left handed? I do, and so does the only other person I know of that uses this setup.
I'm currently in the process of getting back into shape (not as a competitive bodybuilder, but just general fitness). So please, if you can avoid becoming unhealthy, do, and stay fit. There's literally no downside to it (that I can think of).
If there were literally no down sides, everyone would do it by default.
If you get headaches then try drinking some water. Pretty simple.
Also, man you're a giant douche. Did someone piss in your fucking coco puffs today little boy? Shit.
The NYT examine this here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/health/nutrition/04real.ht...
For myself, it's headaches and feeling "parched" (for lack of a better term), preceded by the usual coffee-smelling piss. I usually don't let it get that far, but once my head starts to ache I quickly switch over to green tea and/or water.
Whether the latest journal reports caffeine is or isn't dehydrating may be interesting, but should mean fuck-all to your daily routine. Don't look for authorization in science. Look for it in careful examination of your own experience.
[citation please] - I am genuinely curious about the current scientific consensus on that one, as IIRC I have heard the reverse claim in this talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM regarding Cola being stuffed with caffeine for both its normal effects and the diuretic side-effect (my memory could be failing me, of course).
It is by far not the best source of hydration, of course. You are much better off drinking water or (preferrably unsweetened) fruit/vegetable juices - or even just eating said fruit or vegetables. Hypotonic sports drinks have their place too, but not when your exercise consists of walking up to the fridge.
Sugar levels in juice compared to Coca-Cola: http://www.hookedonjuice.com/
Dr Davis' Goodbye Fructose: http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/goodbye-fructose.h...
Dr Robert Lustig's what happens when we eat fructose and why it's bad video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
Aside from the hydration, you're probably better off with even sweetened coffee than unsweetened fruit juice.
He might want to check with a GP to find out whether these are really problems that are common among programmers. When you've dealt with something yourself, it's easy to confirmation bias your way into thinking the ailments are common in your profession.
And maybe caffeine doesn't dehydrate everyone, but coffee sure as hell makes me sweat more. (Coffee dehydrates me, but tea doesn't anywhere near as much.)
Also: I did Aikido for a couple years, too, and know exactly which wrist stretches he means. They're great pre-typing stretches.
p.s. I currently use "cardio trainer" on android which would also offer a webinterface to data. Before that I used MyTracks (android), Nokia Sportstracker (Symbian), jogstats (webos)
However, I recently got an ergonomic chair after minor back surgery and it is awesome! It has made a big difference in how I sit and I am much more comfortable with it.
I would also add: don't sit at your desk and eat your lunch and surf to HN. :) Go outside for a 20-30 minute walk. Walk somewhere different every day and look at things you haven't seen before. Not only do you get good exercise, you will spur your creativity and curiosity.
For those of you who type like madmen with no regard for ergonomics and work breaks, I did that since I was 9. I have systems in place to avoid that now. Through grade school, high school, college. I was a blazing fast slouch typer. After I graduated from grad school, I started getting pains. So I would rest up and be as good as new overnight. There reaches a point where if you ignore the problem long enough it becomes persistent. Finally, it became such that even after a weekend of rest it would (pain, soreness) still remain. Maybe at a level three out of ten. I went to see a physical therapist and he tested my grip strength - my left hand was stronger. And I'm right handed. Leaving out thousands of ergonomics purchases, the best thing you can do is to start a swimming program. Swimming is zero-impact; you're not pounding the pavement. It is excellent for working your full body. Swimming is hard if you don't know how to swim because you're basically putting all your energy into fighting water resistance. Elite swimmers are three times more efficient than average swimmers (91% of energy fighting water vs 97% for average swimmers - meaning they can put 9% towards forward propulsion). Total Immersion has an awesome swim-like-a-fish program (http://totalimmersion.net). For eyestrain, rest your eyes by looking at least twenty feet away every twenty minutes for at least twenty seconds (the 20-20-20 rule). If you wear corrective lenses, ask your optometrist for a computer Rx (that you can use while screen working). WorkPace software from Wellnomics is awesome because it forces me to micro-pause every 4 minutes for 20 seconds and stop working for 4 minutes every 14 minutes. Believe me, I am a very efficient programmer. Also, use the mouse with your non-dominant hand.
For those of you who don't have health issues, realize that you will not take endless, pain-free typing for granted once you have soreness that becomes persistent. The only true rehabilitation would be to stop typing all together for a long time (2 years). Until then, I'm appreciating my job for what it is - something in the short term. Diversify your portfolio of skills - don't be over-weighted in tech. Start creating things that you own.
I doubt that's feasible for anyone working in an office, rather than for themselves.
I ran the numbers a bit, and I assumed: a) that you work 4 minutes, break 20s, then work for - i.e. the clock resets after the break, b) the 14m breaks are wall clock, not non-break time, and c) when you return from a 14m break, the 4m clock resets.
According to this, you're taking 19m of breaks per hour. I'd be fired if I only worked 2/3 of every hour.
Edit: For anyone interested, I did this in Excel and it breaks down like this:
work 4m, break 20s, work 4m, break 20s, work 4m, break 20s, work 1m, break 4m, work 4m, break 20s, work 4m, break 20s, work 2m, break 4m, work 4m, break 20s, work 4m, break 20s, work 1m20s, break 4m, work 4m, break 20s, work 4m, break 20s, work 1m, break 4m
As for being fired, I've proven that I can get more done than others in this setup. It's not quantity of code, per se, but fixing three to four times more bugs than other devs. That's my niche - I love fixing bugs. I don't understand why other developers claim to not like fixing bugs. For me, quality balanced with efficiency is utmost.
Getting laid off would be a nice clean break.
Thanks for the clarification.
That said, such software would drive me insane.
Other than that, I've found that even non-coding tasks tend to be typing tasks for me. I almost can't stand writing by hand anymore since it just feels so slow by comparison.
That said, with my wrist issues I think of writing as being a task in the same abuse category as typing. My wrist only flared up after I had written a lot by hand for the first time in months.
Also, I use my middle finger on the trackpad, as I need to use the middle AND index fingers to "right click", and this slight turn of my wrist completely removed the wrist pain I get from using a mouse or a normal trackpad.
Stand up and feel your lower back and whether you can massage it easily.
With your arms back at your sides, bend both legs just 1/4 of the way down. Do this 3 to 5 times.
Now stretch the front of each thigh by holding the foot to your butt. Don't use a lot of effort to do this. Just hold in place for 5 seconds or until it completely stretches.
Now feel your lower back again and see if you can massage it. If its much easier to massage now, the source of your pain is your tight thighs. But now you have a way to cope with and reduce the consequences of this tightness.
Go pick up the hardest foam roller you can handle and start rolling:
It has done wonders for my body.
2. Back: Standing desk w/ nice architects chair.
3. Eyes: Get a Kindle and read PDF's/etc on it instead of computer.
My quick $0.02 on the problems I've helped resolve from your list Zed.
The other problems, I have yet to tackle, but, I probably should sooner than later! Great detailed post.
I recommend WorkRave for this: http://www.workrave.org/
Sleeping on your back is something that can exacerbate sleep apnea, so I would modify his otherwise quite pleasant sleep suggestions with that in mind.
I skip dinner and breakfast the next morning, so I'm without food for 24 hours.
Depending on the context that inspired you to ask, the literal explanation may not help.
Nobody forces you to drink coffee.
Really I don't think it's so hard to do programming w/o becoming a complete nerd.
You can do whatever you want to do, just do it with moderation.