Friday, December 23, 2005

Products to help your aching back

Your back hurts. Heck, everybody's back hurts it seems. I wonder why? Be that as it may, one cure for an aching back is to have good quality chairs, sofas, beds and ergonomically correct computer work areas. The problem is, where do you find them? And, let me tell you, your local Office Max or whatever does not have much in the way of ergonomically correct anything, and they carry a lot of ergonomically incorrect products.

Ultimate Back Store

This is an online-only store that carries office chairs, massage chairs, beds, pillows, recliner chairs, and various ergonomic accessories.

The office chair brands are Herman Miller, Steelcase, Humanscale, ErgoGenesis, Backsaver, Jobri, and Neutral Posture. I've tried several of these brands and found each to be good and interesting.

The "massage chairs" they carry look like recliners but have embedded vibrational units.

They offer several brands of memory foam mattresses and pillows, including TempurPedic. Last year I switched to the TempurPedic memory foam mattress after several years of sleeping on water beds and air beds. While the water and air beds were nice both were, in practice, very hard. That's because as soon as you get on the mattress, your weight pushes the air or water aside to where the mattress surface becomes stretched like a drum. In the end both air and water beds do not have the comfort you might think they would.

I tried several brands of memory foam mattresses, and settled on TempurPedic. It was TempurPedic that invented this kind of product, and a couple years ago their patents ran out allowing competitors to enter the market. Still, I found the TempurPedic mattress to be the best of the ones I tried. The price, though, offers extreme sticker shock.

Ergonomic and Massage Accessories

Relax the Back

RelaxTheBack is both a mortar-and-brick store, and an online merchant. They offer massage chairs, office chairs, accessories, books and videos, and mattresses and pillows. Their web site contains a wealth of information about ergonomics and back care, and I know from experience the personell in the stores know a lot on these subjects.

RTB Health

Losing weight with BalanceLog software

The BalanceLog software offers an intruguing way to approach losing weight. In todays fast paced "super-size" society it can be hard to keep track of your food intake, and gauge how much you really need to exercise or eat. Is walking a mile after lunch having any benefit? How will you know? That's what the BalanceLog software is meant to do, to help you track the facts.

Based on your unique Metabolic Fingerprint, occupation and lifestyle factors, diet preference, and exercise, BalanceLog personalizes your daily calorie budget to reach your goals. Once your calorie budget has been determined, BalanceLog makes it easy to log your food and exercise each day, enabling you to stay on track. With more than 4,000 foods and 300 exercises, finding the appropriate entry is easy, and with the ability to add foods and create your own custom foods, menus and exercises, there is nothing you can't record.

The features include:

  • Personalize your program based on your unique Metabolic Fingerprint™. Use our Facility Locator to find a convenient location near you offering measurements.
  • Set weight management and nutrition goals.
  • Accurately track calories in and calories out.
  • Track protein, carbohydrates, saturated fats, cholesterol, fiber, sodium and more for better health and nutrition management.
  • Select your preferred eating plan or design a custom diet.
  • Add your favorite foods and create personal menus.
  • Easily adjust your program as your metabolism changes.
  • Access a database of more than 300 exercises and 4,000 foods, including brand-name foods and menu items from national restaurant chains.
  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Use with Windows® PCs and Palm OS® Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). Supports color PDAs and Sony Jog Dial functionality.

BalanceLog Weight & Nutrition Software

Clean your air and water for your good health

The environment we live in is dirty. Almost every object, building, vehicle, food, clothing, etc, involves poisons and toxic chemicals. The levels these poisons exist in our environment are low enough to be "acceptable", but to whom? It's known that car exhaust causes respiratory diseases, asthma, and even cancer. It's known that plastics and foams give off toxic gas. It's known that the middle of the Pacific Ocean has more plastic compounds in it than it has plankton, that's how polluted our environment is.

Given that the government is not stepping up to solve the pollution problem, what can you as an individual do? Especially if you have a respiratory disease today?

One thing you can do is use an air purifier to clean the air of the areas you spend the most time. It won't solve the big picture, but at least your living area will have clean air.


BioZone is a series of products for air purification at home, in commercial settings, in air ducts, and to carry around with you. The technology uses ozone and ultraviolet light to clean the air of contaminants, bacteria, fungi and viruses. Both ozone and ultraviolet light have been used for decades in medical settings for sterilization. BioZone has taken that technology, and packaged it for use by regular folk.

No more odors or contaminants - just PURE AIR

Allergy Be Gone

Allergy be Gone is an online store specializing in products to help people "attack their allergic conditions". They sell bedding, cleaning and laundry supplies, air cleaners, vacuum cleaners, air and water filtration, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, mold control, respiratory devices, and aromatherapy kits.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Thinking away the pain

Pain can be a mysterious condition. Why does it occur? The Buddha said the source of pain is suffering, or something like that. He also sat under a tree for years at a time, so maybe he wasn't all that sane. In any case modern research has been identifying mind-body-spirit connections where your mind can control what your body does. I suppose that can change ones personal experience of life from being a victum of whatever your body does, to having some mastery over your experience of life.

The research discussed here: Think Away the Pain (By Rachel Metz, Wired News, December 21, 2005) sounds so very much like BioFeedback, though the article doesn't use that word.

The research is detailed here: Learned Volitional Control Over Brain fMRI Activation and Pain

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a tool that allows researchers to open windows into the brain and “see” brain activity. Until recently, fMRI data needed to be analyzed off-line with the results being unavailable until many hours after the subject was scanned. Through software developed by Dr. Christopher deCharms in collaboration with Stanford University, we are now able to analyze the imaging data in near real time and show a subject being scanned their own brain activity on a moment by moment basis.

From the description (and pictures on the site) I imagine the user has a moving real-time image of some kind of measurements of activity in their brain. Then they made some kind of suggestions over how a person could change their brain activity in the the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC). They don't go into what those suggestions are.

I mentioned biofeedback, which has a long history in mind-body studies. The general concept is to have some kind of instrument that measures biological activity, displays that biological activity to the patient, and through their inner "mental" processes they find a way to change that biological activity. The biofeedback machine continuously measures their biological activity, giving direct feedback as to whether they're succeeding to make the change. (Get it? biological feedback --> biofeedback?)

In the past biofeedback machines measured electrical brainwaves or heartrate. At the end of this article I link to the Wild Divine game, which is a simplistic biofeedback machine packaged as a computer game. It measures heart rate and skin resistance.

In one way, the rtfMRI is just a fancier set of biological activity measurements. Though, I suppose having more data to display to the user is better than the limited amount of data past biofeedback machines display. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

In the meantime I have a lot of experience with pain myself. I tend to agree with the Buddha, and that by using meditative techniques I've found myself able to shift the experience of pain in my life. I have had for years chronic pain that comes and goes, and have found it always has within it some emotional content. My inner turmoil manifests as this pain. And if I sit with that turmoil and find a wholesome or compassionate way of witnessing the turmoil, then the pain will shift dramatically.

So there's something to what that Buddha guy said all those years ago. Maybe we don't need the gadgetry? Or maybe the gadgetry can help us more quickly learn the meditative techniques taught by the Buddhists?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

U.S. getting fatter, faster

Obesity is a health issue. Obesity leads to more health problems. I know that, and yet my weight has ballooned. I'm starting to work on my weight issues, and will be writing about it in this section of my blog.

But, first, for your reading pleasure: US getting fatter, faster (By Lucy Sherriff Published Thursday 25th August 2005, The Register)

Yet another study showing what we already know - Americans are getting fat with the rate of increase rising.

Overall 64.5 per cent of the country is either overweight or obese. Projections suggest that this figure will rise to 73 per cent in the next three years, the BBC reports. We would have illustrated this with a pie chart, but fear this would only accelerate the crisis.

Obesity's official definition is to have a body mass index of 30, or more. You can calculate your BMI from the instructions on the following page:

Be warned that it is a British site, and you're expected to declare your weight in "Stone". Fortunately a quick Google search reveals some other sites:

Friday, July 29, 2005

Review: Mary's Message to the World

It's interesting that I bought this book over 10 years ago, and remember it fondly, but having just picked it up again and leafed through the book I find it a little disturbing.

This book, Mary's Message to the World is channeled from the Mother Mary. You know, the one who gave supposedly virgin birth to Jesus. There's a long literature of people having visions of Mary, receiving messages and so forth. The young children of Fatima or the young children of Medjugorje come to mind, but they are not the first, nor will they be the last.

The author, Annie Kirkwood, at first felt astonished that Mary, the Mary, was coming to talk with her. But she received many messages making it clear she was in communication with the Mother Mary, and receiving wisdom and guidance from the Mother Mary.

Much of the book is full of very kind and heart-filled advice for living well and in a full-spirited way. It is really a very nice book.

However, where I am disturbed is the beginning part. The part in which Mary's predictions for the world are written. These predictions were given in the late 1980's and are about the "earth changes" due to begin in the early 1990's. With 10+ years of hindsight these predictions were anything but accurate.

The predictions talk of earthquakes and volcanoes appearing where earthquakes and volcanoes weren't appearing before. And that this would happen in 1990-1991. You can argue that there's some interesting earthquake activity this year, but in 1991? Further that by 1993 the sea levels would be rising so much that Florida would return to the ocean, and New York City would have to be evacuated. By 1993.

It's making it rather difficult to accept the very nice teachings in the rest of the book, knowing that the predictions in the beginning were so off the mark.

Having studied channeling, quantum physics, probability, and the like, my mind knows an answer to this dilemna. If someone were to look into the future, they see probabilities. There's events that are highly likely, and other events that are rather unlikely. Quantum physics is all about how the world only has a probability to exist, however in practice it's somewhere around 99.999% likely that your car will be in the driveway in the morning (unless someone steals it).

But consider the plight of the poor psychic. They see what they see, but what they see is only one of the many probabilities. Is the world going to follow the line they see? Or is the world going to follow a different line, and come to a different set of events?

Is the calamities which Annie Kirkwood saw, or were shown by the Mother Mary, were they truly going to happen by 1993? Or will they happen later? For example one might think the current strange weather that's happening fits the predictions better than did the events of 1990-1993. Or will those predictions happen at all?

For example channeled messages come through the human vessel that receives those messages. It's well known that the spiritual clarity of the channeler affects the clarity of the channeling.

For example, consider this section I flipped to at random in the middle of the book.

Some people have a problem in thinking of God as personal and yet impersonal. God is very personal and very much a part of you. Do you not see this now? Do you not realize how personal He is? How much more personal can He be than a part of each of your cells, of each chemical function, and of each mental function? How wonderful to know that no one is a clone or a robot. Every person is a special free being, capable and able to make all choices. Each individual is free to create or destroy his physical life, time and again. A clean slate comes with each lifetime and a new chance to recify your mistakes. All events and actions become lessons, even illness. Even though God is in each cell and is part of each function, He does not impose his will on you. This, dear ones, is LOVE!

Now, this paragraph conveys a very high teaching. One that the Christian churches does not recognize. That the truth of the universe is that the universe is all one being.

So it is with a mixed mind that I recommend this book. As I said, it is full of very nice thoughts.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Review: Healing from the Heart

Healing from the Heart: A Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern and Western Traditions to Create the Medicine of the FutureThis book is by a leading heart surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. It discusses his life in embracing alternative medicine while coming from a hardnosed scientist background. Along the way he has developed some interesting and beneficial treatment modalities, brought in healers from many alternate healing paths, and judging from this book he has a wonderful and life filling story to tell.

He starts us with The Biology of an MI, that is, the MI is Myocardial Infarction, otherwise known as a Heart Attack. This event happens to a lot of us, and it is something which runs in my family. My father has had heart problems for a long time, including at least one heart attack. His father died from a heart attack, and all of his brothers had heart problems, including at least one who died from heart attacks. So let me say that I read this book with more than a little direct interest.

What got this hard-nosed scientist to work with alternative therapies? In part it was his patients, for there was a period where he had an unusual amount of interaction with them. See, many of his patients receive what's known as the Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD.

The LVAD takes over the blood pumping job from the left ventricle of the heart. The LVAD is inserted through open heart surgery, and involves stopping the heart, installing this bypass unit, and turning it on, and hoping the patients heart restarts. The LVAD is a mechanical way to extend life until a suitable heart for transplantation is available. Once a heart transplant is available, the patient comes back into surgery, undergoes another open heart surgery, this time to cut out their old heart and replace it with a new one. In-between those two surgeries, the LVAD patients are hooked to this machine which keeps them alive.

For a long time LVAD patients remained in the hospital in a special wing where they await their turn for a heart transplant. The wait is several months long, and so over time the patients get to know one another in great detail. Hence, the doctors and staff also have long term exposure to their patients and families. One thing this community showed him is the value of human connection in bringing about healing.

You can bring all the technology to bear, and still not heal. That is what Dr. Oz seems to have learned, and expresses through the many heart-filled stories in his book. The healing for Dr. Oz seems to be true connection with his patients, in a way that's very different from the typical modern doctor who's madly rushing to see as many patients as s/he can to maximize billable hours. In the book is also story after story showing how the patients received a lot more than just the technical assist with surgery and gadgets like the LVAD.

For example, unbeknownst to him, one of his patients was a well known Jazz (?Blues?) player, who was under his care but dying of his heart condition. During the treatment of this musician, he went home and while driving heard on the radio a marathon of so-and-so's (his patient) music, with the DJ explaining to the audience so-and-so's condition and treatment. Dr. Oz had been stumped about how to help his patient, he knew that often patients need some help to find their will to live. In a flash of insight he knew, this patient needed to be hearing his own music. So, during the surgery, he brought in a walkman tape player, strapped headphones to the fellows ears, and proceeded with the surgery. That did the trick and turned a borderline patient who was likely to die, into a success, who within 6 months was back in the clubs playing his music.

The stories go on and on, and not just of beautiful healing. For example, consider the plight of a hard-driving business man, suddenly finding himself in the hospital with a heart condition, and his wife won't even come to visit him. He had given his life to his business dealings, and had forsaken all human connection for those business dealings, and in the end had no will to live because everybody, including his wife, had abandoned him.

A highly recommended book if you wish to understand some of the wholesomeness of true healing.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Review: Conversations with Nostradamus

The prophecies of Nostradamus have puzzled people for centuries. He was a visionary living in medieval France, and due to the heavy handed ways of the Church of that day, he had to hide his activities lest he be executed for heresy, and his writings were done in code.

For example:

Soleil levant un frand feu l'on verra,
Bruit & clarte vers Aquilon tendants:
Dedans le rond mort & cris l'on orra
Par glaive, feu, faim, mort las attendants.

At sunrise a great fire will be seen,
noise and light; extending towards the North.
Within the globe death and cries are heard,
death awaiting them through weapons, fire
and famine.

So what's he referring to? Who knows. And he's got several hundred prophecies that go along in the same vein, of tantalizingly detail but vaguely worded.

Conversations With Nostradamus: His Prophecies Explaned, Vol. 1 (Revised Edition & Addendum 2001)Conversations with Nostradamus: His Prophecies Explained, Vol. 2Conversations with Nostradamus: His Prophecies Explained, Vol. 3

These three books were written by Dolores Cannon, using a unique way of approaching the Nostradamus material.

See, Dolores Cannon is a hypnotherapist, and one of her clients was repeatedly regressed to a past life where there was contact with Nostradamus. By hypnotizing her client, she could talk to her clients past life, and have that past personality talk with Nostradamus. In this way they were able to have Nostradamus explain his prophecies.

For example, the above quatrain is described this way:

B: He says that this one has a double meaning, a double date. One of them has already come to pass and the other one has yet to come to pass. He says that the first event this one refers to is the Tunguska disaster in the early part of our century.

The Tunguska disaster was a terrible explosion in Siberia in the early 1900s that leveled a forest over a 30 mile radius. It also left the land radioactive and useless, which makes the common theory (a meteorite) pretty strange, for how would that cause radioactivity?

Monday, May 9, 2005

Psychiatric drugs

Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric MedicationsPsychiatric drugs are powerful things.

Bad chemistry? After a lifetime of dealing with depression, I finally started taking medication -- a few weeks before I got pregnant. The drugs changed my life. But did they change my baby's, too? (By Ayelet Waldman, May 9, 2005 SALON.COM)

The article is from a woman who had a lifetime of swings between depression and rage and euphoria, and who finally got labeled (diagnosed) "bipolar", and associated with receiving that label came home with a medicine bottle full of pills. But two weeks later when she found she was pregnant, she stopped the medicine. Wise woman that she is.

Several of the psychiatric drugs have known effects on fetus's.

You might wonder "how"?

Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to MotherhoodIn the womb there are several barriers which protect the fetus and prevent the intrusion of substances from the outside world. These barriers filter out nasty stuff, preventing the fetus from getting it. But that barrier doesn't work for every known kind of nasty stuff, only for the nasty stuff our evolutionary process prepared our bodies to recognize.

The wonders of modern science include the development of many new substances. These new chemicals aren't what our human bodies evolved with, instead they sprang out of the laboratories of modern science most of them appearing within the past 50 years. This is much too fast for evolution to catch up.

Fortunately you don't have to take my word for it. My work is in computer science and spiritual healing, so what do I know about the environmental dangers that can be inflicted on fetus's? Fortunately an ecologist who became pregnant studied this issue on her own, and wrote a fascinating book: Having Faith, an ecologists journey to motherhood

While she didn't cover psychiatric drugs, she went into all the modern chemicals of modern technological prowess that goes into building the products we use every day. She also went into the mechanisms by which these newfangled chemicals bypass all the protections built into the womb, affecting fetal health.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Review: The Astral Projection Workbook

The Astral Projection Workbook: How To Achieve Out-Of-Body ExperiencesAstral projection is the act of separating ones consciousness (perhaps their spirit) from their body, and traveling through a different realm. This realm is said to be the "astral plane", and in the astral you can find many interesting creatures and things to interact with.

Astral projection is perhaps similar to or the same as the journeying techniques used by Shamanic pracitioners throughout the ages.

This book offers a good introduction to Astral Projection. Included are step-by-step instructions for a method of achieving this state.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ergonomical office chairs

Office Chair Ergonomics may seem like a mystical subject, what with the dizzying array of levers and knobs appearing on office chairs nowadays. Yet this subject promises to relieve us from back pain, carpal-tunnel, and other stress symptoms. The basic idea is this: there are zillions of us office dwellers, sitting in chairs all day long while our bodies were designed by evolution for running, jumping, digging in the dirt, climbing trees, and much more. We've found through study that proper posture is a good thing, and that improper posture damages the back or arms.

A good ergonomic office chair helps you keep good posture through proper support that guides your body into a good position. In the resources section are pointers to several articles that explain this in more detail. The adjustability discussed are up-down, lumbar support, adjustable armrests, and more.

One thing to learn is that a "mesh" chair doesn't automatically mean its ergonomically correct. Using a mesh fabric for the seating surface was a design choice by Herman-Miller in the Aeron chair, and the ergonomic features (lumbar support, etc) were a separate issue from the choice in seating surface.

Another chair frequently said to be "ergonomic" are the kneeling chairs. These have two cushions, one for your legs to kneel on, and the other for your buttocks, and neither of these cushions are horizontal. Often these have no back support, and the idea is that the sitter forces themselves into proper posture or else they quickly are very uncomfortable.


Herman-Miller Aeron: (,1592,a10-c440-p8,00.html): I've sat in this chair for a short stint in a Design Within Reach store. It is a cool looking chair, no doubt about it. It has all the adjustability one would want for ergonomics and proper back support. My only qualm is that the seating surface felt very hard. The seating surface is a cloth-mesh that stretches to match your body, but once it stretches it has no cushioning. Otherwise it is a very good chair, very well built, it does a great job of being ergonomically correct, and it looks great.

Herman-Miller Mirra: (,1592,a10-c440-p205,00.html) Very similar in shape and appearance to the Aeron, also from Herman-Miller. It has the same sort of ergonomic controls. Rather than a mesh surface, the seat is a cushion, and the back is a plastic mesh. One interesting feature of this chair is that every part is recyclable, and marked for recyclability, and the chair can easily be taken apart.

Herman-Miller is the "Apple" of the furniture industry, by which I mean they start first with stylistic artistry and then work to make sure the functionality is great.

Freedom: ( This is an interesting chair with unique features that set it apart from other office chairs. The concept is that bodies like to move, so the chair should take that into account. For example the back does not lock into place, but lets you lean back freely and easily. Now, if it simply let you lean back that wouldn't be so good, but as you lean back the chair automatically adjusts itself to still provide proper ergonomic support, so that the chair supports you no matter what you do. Also if your Freedom chair has a headrest, the headrest also automatically adjusts as you lean back to properly support your head. Another feature is that structural arms in the chair do not "cut" across your body, but instead they are situated lengthwise along your body. They claim this improves, or rather does not impede, blood flow in your body.

Relax the Back: ( This company specializes in ergonomics and products that support the healing of conditions such as back pain. Among their products are a line of office chairs. I recently went to their store in San Jose (CA) and tried a couple chairs. The most interesting of them looked like a typical boring office chair, unlike the fancy and stylish chairs from Herman-Miller and Humanscale. All of the ergonomic adjustability features were present in this chair, plus the cushioning material was "memory foam". If you've tried a Tempur-pedic bed, then you know what memory foam is. The basic idea of memory foam is it is a rubber foam that compresses to shape itself to your body, then returns to its original shape, and when someone else sits on the foam it compresses to their body shape, and for each person that sits on the foam it shapes itself to each unique body shape. The memory foam made the Relax the Back chair feel like it was embracing me in comfort.

Haworth TAS ( Another unique chair in the same vein as the Freedom chair. In addition to embracing the fact that we humans like to move around, the TAS is structured to assist you in side-side movements.

BodyBilt ( They offer a line of chairs that are said to provide "zero gravity" seating. What this means is the seat cushions are preshaped to cradle your legs, presumably to provide more complete support.

Equipoise: ( A kneeling chair that includes a backrest.

Ergopro ( Offers both products and information on their web site. They offer several chairs.

Kinesis ( Offers several ergonomic products, including office chairs.

First Ergo ( Another merchant of ergonomic products, including several office chairs.

Butt Pillow ( A seating cushion you can add to any chair that does good things for your butt.


Choosing the right ergonomic office chair ( Recommendations on the characteristics of a good and ergonomical office chair.

Office chair setup and use ( Recommendations on setting up whatever chair you have for the best ergonomics. They also have a buyers guide.

DeMystifying all those chair adjustability options ( Explains the features of ergonomic chairs, and why they exist. The web site is full of good general ergonomics information.

Sitting postures and seating ( Several articles covering ergonomic seating, and part of an extensive website published by an ergonomics consulting practice.

Office Chairs reviews ( This is a summary of office chair reviews collated by Consumer Search on several ergonomic office chairs.