I don't think headhunters should ever include in their job descriptions the requirement for the 'computer literacy' requirement. Nowadays, most of our day to day tasks can be accomplished via the computer and over the internet. Purchases, demos, computing, alerts, maps, and even office documents can be processed and accomplished thru the web. Though there are some who are still used to the traditional way of business processing like the messengers, offline marketing agents, etc., their numbers are gradually being squashed to a negligible percentage of the computing world. I really would be dumbfounded and shocked if I'd hear somebody say that a keyboard and/or a mouse is an unknown gadget to them! Unless you live in a very rural area without phone lines and/or electricity, it seems the awareness of such gadgets is a required fact.

You'll step inside an office and find a matrix of people quietly working and typing away into their glowing lcd screens. Headsets affixed to their heads either for music or for work. Who are they? Would you think they are call center agents? Researchers perhaps? how about programmers? Nope. I guess you wouldn't know at first glance unless you're a programmer yourself.

A programmer is technically still another computer operator. We operate and work on computers. We just work and use them differently. We all have different uses for the computer. Over the years, we've developed habits and practices on working with computers. Some, we customize, some we don't. Some accessorize, some don't. Bottom line is.. we all work with computers in our own way and style.

The computer is my best friend. Its an understatement and an exaggeration at the same time. Of course it's my best resource for things that I want to accomplish professionally, and its the best tool for aiding my goals and needs. Its my best friend when I blog. Its actually more than what is a best friend, but not really a best friend to its fullest. It can't talk back when I need it to, nor give me consolation when I most need it. But its still there, regardless of how much I can get from it, or how much it can provide for me with my needs. Everyone should concede to the fact that the computer is our slave, yet it enslaves us in return.

Gahh.. I don't really care. To some extent, I control what I want from it and how long I want it. Programmers are really scientists. We create. We invent. We design. We are artists, and yes we are addicts. The computer is really very lovable and alluring. Sometimes, I find myself working straight for hours and hours without taking breaks. One thing just leads to another. With so many tools and procrastination sources (timesink sites), its really very hard to exercise discipline all the time. GTD is good, as I do it all the time (not exactly as Allen describes it though), but I still find myself unstoppable during coding. Its just so addictive! :D

I don't remember how young I was when I started falling in love with the science of computing. I got into college and fell head over heels with computers, and programming most especially. I've heard about other people jumping into programming for money's sake, and others dropping out of the roll for time's sake. I believe that once a programmer, you'll always be a programmer. I believe there are tons of reasons debated over and over again about women and programming and even time versus productivity of programmers.

Being the programming addict that I am, of course I can't deny the fact that it has improved my personality and outlook in life over the years. The unending cycle of learning and unlearning things has made some dull aspects of my life shine brighter; while some shiny aspects were worn out and made dull. Reality check must be put in place. But how?

The benefits of loving your career as a programmer:

  • You never work. You only do your hobby.
  • You are never pressed to do anything you don't like (unless you have an abusive superior, of course)
  • You'd love to improve your work because you want to take pride in your hard and diligent labor
  • You want to make a difference and move the people in your community
  • You get to invent and reinvent
  • You get to satisfy your curiosity (most of the time.. :P)
  • You are not technically tied to an 8hr job
  • You care not technically tied to a specific workplace setup

The cons of loving your career (too much) as a programmer:

  • You forget what day and time it is (trust me, I'm not alone on this one)
  • You forget how to define weekends and breaks
  • You use the words "output", "result", "compile", "restart", "build", "migrate", "deploy" more frequently in your daily life
  • You notice that you are skin tone is growing paler (due to lack of sun exposure--you sleep in the morning)
  • You miss out blockbuster movies, tv shows, sitcoms, etc.
  • For me: combing my hair seems less and less important. Haha
  • WORST: you develop RSI

I hate dealing with the cons. Sometimes it catches up on me (on us). Although at the end of the day, its the RSI that makes me do some reality check, its still worth the reassessment.

RSI as defined by Wikipedia:

Repetitive strain injury (RSI), also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), occupational overuse syndrome, non-specific arm pain or work related upper limb disorder (WRULD), is the most recent manifestation of illness concepts that link use of the arm to injury or disease. Prior to typewriters or computers there was the concept of "writer's cramp".

The basis for this illness concept is the idea that one can overuse a tool, such as a computer keyboard or musical instrument in a way that causes tissue damage leading to pain. Conditions such as RSI tend to be associated with both physical and psychosocial stressors.

Although the term "RSI" is very much a general term for pain that is not directly related to medical pathophysiological causes, its meaning has been resounding to all computer users. The most common pain related to RSI is the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This specific trauma arises from the damage of the median nerves that go through the carpal tunnel that is found between three bones. Over repetitive and frequent use, the tissues wear out and cause pain. Google CTS and find information that says the possible cure/treatment for CTS is through undergoing surgery to repair and inject steriods into the tissues only to cut down the pain but not to totally cure it. Immediate ways to combat it is to wear wrist braces and do more yoga exercises.

True that its symptoms of pain gradually increases over time. I'm a touch typist and I usually feel the pain when typing things for long straight hours without a break. (just like when I blog or when I program). The pain now lasts longer and disappears only for a short while. It has gotten into my attention lately, and so I tried to work on a short term remedy. I bought myself a wrist brace. Although Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that CTS is not directly proven to be caused by repetitive activities as compared to structural and biological risk factors, I still cannot take away the fact that the pain emanates during contact with the computer. Below are photos of my wrist brace.

front open
back open
alt text
worn back

I have been thinking about short term needs and long term needs for addressing the problem. So far, I'm too scared of the long term things, so I came up with this list:

  • Use anti rsi applications. So far, I've used Workrave back when I was in Ubuntu; and it works for me. In Mac, you can try MacBreakz;, TimeOut; and AntiRSI.
  • do your GTD well. Consult your best book or tool on this.
  • monitor your health. Remind yourself for more water breaks, toilet breaks, and even meal breaks. ;) You can use RememberTheMilk, your Outlook, mobile phone, iCal and even Google calendar to remind you.
  • schedule more life outside work. Leave work at the right time and enjoy for about 2-3 hours before going home for rest
  • do your homework on ergonomics;. Choose the right gadgets to help you work seamlessly in your workplace and for your work practices. Pick the right keyboard and mouse combination. The right chair height, fit and make could also help a lot.
  • find your sweet spot! Sometimes, all it takes is finding the perfect pose, the perfect spot for working well. If you find this, do take note of it. It might help reduce the total number of hours working infront of the pc and more time outside of work.

I'm no guru, and believe me I had to discipline myself to avoid using the computer at times when I don't have to. Its really addictive and productive at the same time. I hope to be able to practice more of these to avoid further damage while I enjoy my life long hobby.