Stuff I did to my workspace to fix my posture

I sit in a cubical for 8 hours a day in front of a computer, and my right shoulder blade goes tingly. When the issue first started, it seemed to come and go for no reason, but working with a physical therapist made it clear that my posture was the issue, and certain things I did made it flare up. Mostly, it’s a long road toward increasing my body’s strength and flexibility, but some external changes have made a big difference, namely reconfiguring my desk. I did all this without waiting around for my employer to by me a $1000 standing desk, and the only thing I spent money on was two napkins, which cost a lot less than the visits to the physical therapist. So I thought I’d share these tips.


As you can see in the picture above, my elbow was elevated, which the physical therapist said was part of the problem, so I needed to remove the obstacles keeping me from putting my elbows at my sides.

Diagnosis: my scalenes and pectoralis minor were shortened and tight, whereas my levator scapulae and upper trapezius were over-lengthened. To counter this, my shoulders needed to relax down and back, and my head needed to sit further back on my neck and not crane forward.


Raise the chair

Since I’m short, I had originally lowered my desk chair as much as possible, so my feet wouldn’t swing like a child’s. This was a mistake, since the desk (which is immovable) is positioned for someone sitting higher up. Resting my elbow on the desk probably led to the tightening of my scalenes and pec minor since they were in a shortened position all day. So I raised the chair as high as possible to get to the right height for the desk.

Add a footrest

The new chair position meant I needed to add a footrest. I tried a couple cardboard boxes from around the office until I found one of the right height. To be cute, I bought a pair of cloth napkins at the thrift store and, with some skillfully applied binder clips, used one napkin to cover the cardboard box.

Remove the armrests

The armrests of the chair couldn’t go down very low, and my objective was to relax my shoulders as far as possible, even to get a little stretch. So I unscrewed the armrests from the bottom of the chair and stowed everything under my desk so it can be put back together for a future occupant.

Get the computer within reach

I moved my monitors out of the corner, so they are closer to me and so my keyboard is right at the edge of the desk. In addition, I increased the font size of every possible setting, not because I’m old or have vision problems, but because I was leaning in to read. The last step with the computer was to get rid of the mousepad, so I wasn’t extending my arm to grab the mouse. With no mousepad, I’m more likely to just pull the mouse right to the edge of the desk, which keeps my elbows by my side.

Add a chair-back pad

My office chair has a very curvy seat back, so it looks ergonomic. However, as you can see, it curves in on both sides, which pushes the shoulders forward instead of letting them relax back. I wanted the chair to support my spine, and get out of the way of my shoulders. I made a pad out of a rolled up shirt (the one I kept at my desk anyway for the summer thermostat wars) and held it in place with cubical clips that pin on to the chair back. I covered it with the second cloth napkin for maximum cuteness. 


Now when I sit in the chair, my back is supported, my feet are supported, I’m not craning my neck forward, and my elbows hang at my sides, all of which lets my shoulder blades stay in a tingle-free spot on my back. This reduced the tingling by about 50%, which is awesome. Unfortunately, it also made it clear that I needed a chair with “seat depth” adjustment (my thigh bones or femurs are shorter than the seat, so my back can’t reach the back rest) so I put in an order for a new chair …but I picked one with a convex back rest and no arm rests.

The biggest lesson of physical therapy has been that there is no silver bullet. At first I tried to cheat, and just remove the armrests, or just do the one exercise that seemed the most important to me. I got no results that way. However, if the physical therapist gave me 7 things to do, and I picked 5 of them, I’d be on track…but the crazy part was, it didn’t matter which 5. There just needs to be a suite of improvements in place, doesn’t matter which ones. This is sort of annoying and sort of a relief, as medical advice and life lessons go. 

Learning about human anatomy has been the best part of having a medical problem! I found useful diagrams here:

About Fruit

"Fruits & Vegetables-19-045 - Pear, 4" Photo by (CC BY 2.0)

“Fruits & Vegetables-19-045 – Pear, 4” Photo by (CC BY 2.0)

What does Fruitful Too mean?

The phrase was one I overheard, just at the end of someone’s sentence, “… but those projects could also be fruitful too.” Little words, but they reminded me of a big idea I’d been noticing. We work so hard to identify the best job, best workout, best playlist, best burger, best charity to send our money to, best practices for our industry, the highest passion we hold so that we can pursue it with out best effort. And best is great – Olympic athletes turn regular old sports into feats of beauty.

But sometimes the effort to find the best distracts us from all of the things that are great in their own right even if they’re not #1. Sometimes we get paralyzed by the act of weighing our options, when there’s not that much difference between them, and no objective way to measure it if there was. I would call that effort perfectionism. Applying perfectionism to yourself is considered normal, if unhealthy, but it’s revealing that applying perfectionism to your spouse is considered abuse, and that’s the more truthful word for that effort.

We limit ourselves so much in the pursuit of the best of everything, because…there’s only one of #1. There is so much of value strewn around the foot of the podium. I hope to call attention to some of that fruit I find. Over here!

What’s different about home

Cairo Rooftops – All Rights Reserved

When I travel, I don’ t observe the normal boundaries that I do at home – like not talking to people on the bus or the street, I spend time with strangers less, I don’t go to “dangerous” neighborhoods – and I don’t look for multiple sources of confirmation to cross a place off the list, I don’t loiter, I don’t go to tourist destinations. I’ve been burned in my neighborhood when I was trying to be friendlier, but if I was a traveler  I might try to talk to the veterans who are always outside instead of the yuppies my age who – like me, are scurrying to their familiar homes. When I’m in a travel mindset, I’m open. When I’m in a home mindset, I’m on a track. I’m a curious person, so I’m not totally closed off, and I go to meetups and make conversation at the gym and on the elevator, but with less conviction. I need it less. I can’t fake that. I used to think I could instigate situations that would feel more like travel, or the desperation that drives you into weird and amazing coincidences. But you can’t fake something that important, which so requires authenticity. I can fake dance steps, I can’t fake trust in a dance partner who holds me too tight. I can fake happiness, I can’t fake friendliness. I can fake busyness, I can’t fake purpose. I can fake studiousness, I can’t fake having learned something I didn’t.

Librarian woe: remote self-checkout

I coordinate a very small (~1000 volumes) shared library for 100 churches in Chicagoland. Our circulation is dropping with constituents up to 50 miles away. If our checkout system involved a QR code to scan on the back of the book, plus an SMS option for those without smartphones (“Text 1234 to 567890 to check out this book”) I could make the case for just about any geographically distributed layout (i.e. “branches”) since self-checkout could happen anywhere, anytime, with no infrastructure demands on any “branch”.

Have you heard of such a checkout option out there, or a flexible database that would hook into a setup like this?

Community Manager Hangout notes 11/23/12

I realized my community has no idea how to be a community- if they did, they would self- correct when they got off topic, they would have a vision of what it means to be sister organizations. As it is they have no idea how to reach out to one another (perhaps tied in to their lack of knowledge of how they themselves want to be, their can’t imagine how their sisters would be either or how they could then fit together and interact). They don’t know how to reach out, get help, publicly admit failure, set goals, tell their own story, much less share others’ stories and be advocates (apart perhaps from vaguely patronizing efforts on behalf of outside groups like “the poor” or “minorities” or “Muslim girls in Pakistan”).

Education through newsletters is one way of shaping, guiding, and vision casting. Segmentation can make this more personal, while leveraging the power of groups and doing one thing at a time.

If we’re doing social media, does that mean we need to be extreme content creation as well (to add to the online conversation)? If not, made Pinterest is a good solution for us for curation.

Thoughts after #cmgrhangout 10/12/12

FYR: Community Manager Hangout

Segmentation of your contact lists, objectives, etc means you acknowledge that people interact with you for different reasons – they need different things out of you so they need to be tapped into different messages of yours. Only a bore tells everyone everything about them – a friend you enjoy is one who shows you things that they know you’ll like, since they like excellent things and they know you well enough to know where your interests overlap. And segmentation is a more important thrust than pure increases in numbers, because in segmented communication contexts, that’s where engagement happens.

Valve comes recommended. Which of these jobs sounds awesome to me? What would I need to do over the next 2 years to be prepared to handle the requirements?

Notes from #cmgrhangout 9/21/12

Who are our firecy loyal constituents, who when the isht hits the fan, they are calming others down, doing the work of the company even though they’re no paid don’t have job descriptions. (No, really, note to self: name them and think about them.)

If you just throw spaghetti at the wall, some of what sticks – who’s present and what they’re about – may not be what you want to cultivate. Have to do more guiding. Focus on those people who “get it” and zoom in on the right area.

Who are people non-geographically who are having the “right” conversations? What can I do to connect them? With a business you have the focus of a product. With an NPO, you just have your mission and projects, but people can still have lifestyle tie-ins, not just to what you’re doing but to bigger ideas.

You can only recruit people who have a need for the community. Loyalty – become a source of their happiness. (Pride, trust, and passion – e.g. Harley Davidson, which  – note – is an offline community). Communities make happier constituents, who in turn do more. Proud to belong and therefore share the news. They are an R&D team for you.

Metrics: How many connections are formed?

Everyone is an owner – the “we” attitude. Create something together. Even if every constituent collects a donation themselves and then brings it together at the end – they’ve done it together, so the community manager needs to highlight the “creation together” process. Make them the stars of the show.

Also, NPO community case study.

Book mentioned in convo by Sarah Robinson

Class warfare

Ed Schultz talk radio said Romney’s recorded comments on 47% of Americans not taking responsibility for their own lives is a clear declaration of class warfare. I couldn’t agree more, and I think class is the biggest divider of humans through history…but. I don’t want to be fighting a class war. I want to make changes with my life and affect the things I care about, with something more creative than fighting.

It occurs to me that rich people are lost without their creative legal and finance guys, who are well compensated but in the rat race too, who could potentially be worked upon to exercise the ethics they’ve been asked to deprioritize.