The Haphazard Blog


Core Trainer, Week 2

by on Feb.06, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

I needed a couple more days of rest, but I did get back to using the Core Trainer. The DVDs provided some insight on how to get the most out of the Core Trainer and there was also a small segment on its use at the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in Detroit. They showed a couple people using it briefly. I’m not sure if both of those people were tall or the unit was shorter because both of them seemed to have their feet on the ground without them coming up. My feet sometimes come off the ground while it is moving.

The mirror is very helpful. I can see when I’m not level and correct it. I can also kind of target an area to try and keep my torso within so I know that I am keeping myself as straight as I can. I also stop using the Core Trainer when I can no longer stay pretty straight. The time I ride it has steadily increased over the week. I also think how long I can stay up straight (no slouching, sacral sitting) is improving. I won’t know for sure without using a stop watch or until I can do it for 3 minutes straight. The display on the Core Trainer counts down from 15 minutes with 5 LEDs, so you only know when you have less than 15, 12, 9, 6 and 3 minutes left.

Getting on and off has become easier the more I do it. I’m able to do it with only one person to help now that I feel more comfortable with it (there is really just a sense that there is nothing to really hold on to, so my biggest worry is sliding off the seat.).

I think the next thing I want to try is to do it without holding the handle to get a sense of the difference in difficulty. Up to now, I have always used the handle, and I think there is no way I could get rocked too much to cause me to go too far in any direction. I’m curious how much holding the handle helps me.

Some pictures of me on the Core Trainer trying to sit straight (it’s hard without seeing myself in a mirror!)

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Panasonic Core Trainer

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

Panasonic Core Trainer

Last Friday I received a Panasonic Core Trainer to try for 30 days. After that I can purchase it or send it back. My interest in it was first raised when I saw they had developed it in Japan (called the JOBA). For physical rehabilitation, horse riding can be a component. It can help to improve the core muscles in an active way.

There are horse riding stables that specialize in this area around the country. When I lived in WV, as far as I knew, there weren’t any in the area. After moving to Kansas, I was told about a place about 45 minutes away. I visited there and spoke with the trainer. A lot of the talk focused on the potential risk of falling. This emphasis was off-putting (and they had an incident where a horse was startled with a patient riding him) so I didn’t take it up. Some time after that, I saw that Japanese researchers had created this. I thought it would be something that could help me strengthen my core (maybe I’ll be able to take a punch to the stomach :)).

It took a bit of time for it to show up in the United States and it had a large price tag. It wasn’t something I could just buy and hope it works well. It doesn’t seem to have penetrated at all here in Kansas. Not in local gyms or at any rehabilitation facilities. I then saw it was in use at the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in Detroit. I figured if they were using it there, then it must be something I could use. I spoke with someone who was monitoring the use of the device there and was told that quadriplegics and paraplegics were using it with good results.

One other concern I had prior to getting it was getting on and off of it. One feature that would help is if it was height adjustable (either manually (adjustable when not in use) or electronically (adjustable during use). Unfortunately, it isn’t. I do a stand-pivot transfer from my chair to the Core Trainer. I have to be sure to stand tall before sitting down or I will be on the edge. Because it has a rounded seat, you want to be sure to get to the crest or beyond. I’m 5’9″ – 5’10” tall. I’m guessing that around 5’6″ might be the threshold to be sure you can sit down on it without worrying you may slide off. I definitely don’t see being able to get on it without help. You still need to swing your leg over to the other side and one of the last things you want to do is lean backwards without any support.

I started using it last week and wasn’t sure what I should do. I started slow and over the course of a few days I sped it up to see how fast I could handle. I managed to get up to the sixth speed of nine levels. I also ride it with my feet touching the ground and without any additional forward or backward tilt. Around Wednesday the left side of my ribs were hurting. The likely cause was the Core Trainer. I also learned that it’s better to go slow and try to sit up (and stay up) as tall as possible for the greatest affect.

Riding it has been fun. I definitely can feel my core muscles working (and they were totally tired out at the higher speed). I plan to get back on it tomorrow (my ribs are feeling a lot better), but use it at the slowest speed. I just got a new mirror so I can watch my posture as I ride it. I found that I maintain a lot better balance by looking straight ahead. If I look down at the display/controls my posture and balance worsen. The mirror should help me stay as straight and tall as possible.

I received a couple DVDs today on how to use it effectively. There should be some very good information on them. They show people riding it with their legs in the air (not on the floor, dangling or in the stir-ups) and not using the handle. I think I’m a long way from that. I wouldn’t even think about not holding the handle.

One of the reasons I posted about the Core Trainer (and plan to continue to) is that I couldn’t find a testimonial that was relevant to my planned use. I’m hoping this will be helpful to others trying to find this information.

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Garbage All Over

by on Jan.25, 2010, under Life

One of the good things that the city of Newton does is provide curbside pickup of recyclables along with the garbage.  We are able to recycle paper (including cardboard), plastic, metal and glass.  Unfortunately, there is a drawback. The city provides all the containers for garbage and recyclables. The garbage can is pretty big and has a lid. The recyclable containers are about the size of a box containing a ream of paper, no lids. On a windy day, which Kansas is likely to have, everyone’s recyclables get blown all over the place.

In my backyard and the farm behind it I’ve seen plenty of stuff blow by as I work. Soda cans, beer cans, 2 liter bottles, newspapers, plastic sheets, small boxes, cereal boxes and even large boxes like a box for a new stroller. We try to pick up as much as we can, but I’m sure quite a bit of this stuff doesn’t get picked up. A lot more gets recycled than not, but it looks real bad when you look out the window and see trash blowing around.

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Falling Behind

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Entertainment, Life, News, Politics, Site News, Sports, Technology

Well, as you can probably tell by the huge gap in posts (a lot in September, less in October and nothing since), I got behind. More to the point, I had other things going on in life.

I tried to keep notes on things to blog about and I was going to back fill the blog with them. It’s kind of pointless though. It would not reflect what I was really thinking at the time. Instead, it would’ve been a mix of what I thought at the time with some hindsight. That seems somewhat disingenuous, and it’s not like there are all that many readers of this blog that are waiting for my incredible insight into random things.

Another thing I will not do is make any resolutions for New Years to blog every day or any nonsense like that. I am starting anew, and it is a new year, but it’s more coincidence. I’ve had the last couple days off from work and I’m not so busy. I wasted my afternoon watching WVU get beat by an inferior (on paper) Florida State in the Kiss Bobby Bowden’s Ass Bowl. Then by about 5 minutes into the second half it was evident WVU was going to be killed by Purdue in basketball. So, I’ll quickly touch on the stuff I had taken notes on over the last couple months. It should be apropos of the blog’s title.

Patriots are up and down this season. That Colts loss was brutal. I can not remember the last time the Patriots got beat as badly as they did by the Saints. Have they ever benched Brady because they were losing? Pure domination over the Jaguars. Can they get the job done when it counts? We’ll see in 2 weeks if they get to play the Colts or Chargers.

Why do announcers and writers call so many hits to the QB that result in a flag the “Brady Rule”? It’s really only hits below the knees when the defender is on the ground. Low hits were banned after the Steelers took out Carson Palmer.

I admit I am somewhat a fairweather fan when it comes to the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. I don’t follow them all that closely during the regular season. Nothing like the Patriots. I know they won the World series again in 2007, but I still keep wishing they re-signed Orlando Cabrera. They still haven’t found a shortstop.

President Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t do anything to earn it. The Republican reaction. Predictable and overboard. There really is no need to pile onto the obvious.

Microsoft needs a much better way to install an upgrade version of Windows 7. Many enthusiasts reinstall their OS often. Having to install XP or Vista first is ridiculous. They should allow people to submit their old XP/Vista key and the Windows 7 upgrade key and receive a regular Windows 7 key to do a true clean installation.

I got a cold in mid-October. I figured maybe I should get the Flu shots. I hadn’t had one in probably 10 years. I called my doctor, a Physiatrist who should be very familiar with the needs of people with spinal cord injuries, to see if I should be trying to get the H1N1 shot ASAP. Her response: Ask my primary care physician. That does not feel right at all. I think I need a new Physiatrist. They said I should, but there’s no waitlist. I needed to call and see if they were in on my own. That got old/tedious fast. Long story short, I didn’t get either and got the flu 2 weeks ago. I still have a cough. There’s supposedly a second wave expected, so I guess I still will end up getting the shot. The flu sucked. I did not get the flu in over 10 years. I can’t decide if it’s better to keep avoiding the shot or not.

I read this article in Rolling Stone about some stock option sales that netted insane profits during the financial crisis in 2008. It’s quite upsetting. I don’t see any reason they can’t figure out the people involved and charge them with crimes. Is everyone complicit in this? Everything is such a mess. It feels like no one is going to do anything about Wall Street. For the most part, no one on the government side took advantage of the leverage they had during the crisis. Now the remaining Wall Street giants are back to making huge profits. I would too if the government loaned me money at 0% that I then could loan out at 4-5%+.

I didn’t write a follow-up Fall TV post. So here’s a quick rundown. Hank stunk (ABC agreed and cancelled it). The Middle is better than Cougar Town but not Modern Family. White Collar is an interesting crime drama, but Leverage is better. I liked V and never saw any incarnation of it before.

The anniversary of the JFK assassination came and went. At least for me, the computer simulation Dale Myers did helped me realize that I forgot about the windshield on the limo. That eliminates so many angles for a shooter on the ground. Oswald makes the most sense. It doesn’t preclude a grander conspiracy per se, but I think the ones about who the shooter was and where the shooter was just don’t cut it.

I got a new PC. It is pretty fast compared to the old one. Everything is snappier. On the old one, things ran well, but I notice they run better on here. Use less CPU time. I still need to get everything transferred over. I have a lot of PC housekeeping I need to do. Consolidate to one machine. Build a new machine for my Dad. replace the 802.11b cards with 802.11g ones so my network can run at G speeds. I can’t stream all of my HD video over wireless B speeds. Then I need to send back my old/broken PC.

We got a pretty good World Cup draw. Hopefully that will help the U.S. avoid a last place, no wins finish in their group again.

I’m hoping to go to the Formula 1 race in Montreal in June.

Health Care “reform” is looking like a train wreck. The Democrats are so disorganized. They stripped out everything the Republicans didn’t want and they still won’t get any votes. If that’s going to be the case, why even bother to appease them? You are going to end up with either all the blame or taking credit, why pass something you don’t like much? I think in the long term, we’re in serious trouble. Nothing the government is doing makes sense for the long term. The Congress can’t do anything but appease special interest groups/lobbyists. I think the smartest people are getting theirs now before everything goes south. Get a lot of money in the bank now with little regard to long term consequences. A lot of good talk from President Obama, and I know change doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m not even seeing any indication that change may happen. It’s business as usual in Congress.

This attempted Christmas Day plane bomber story is very weird with the stories from the lawyer about how the guy tried to get on the plane in Amsterdam, the second person being arrested and a possible second bomb in the luggage. I could understand them not wanting to disclose in order to aid their investigation. I’ll be interested to see what comes of it.

I got Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. It’s a neat game. I’m not even 10% through it and it is challenging. How do you “defeat” a tornado? Destroy steel spikes?

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Colts resting starters meltdown. It has so badly blown up in their faces. They went about it in the worst way possible and every defense of it that Bill Polian throws out there makes no sense. Obsessed with the Patriots much?

If you read all of this, I commend you. I also want to wish everyone out there a Happy New Year!

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Back Pain is Going Around

by on Sep.24, 2009, under Life, Physical Therapy

It seems like back pain is going around in my family. My mother’s back started to hurt in July and it was a couple months before it felt normal. Then my father’s back started to hurt right before he left for India, but it seemed to feel better after a couple of week. Next up, it was my turn.

A couple weeks ago, I woke up with pain in the lower left part of my back. I’ve woken up with back pain before in the past, usually from a hotel bed. It will go away after I’ve been up for a few hours. No such luck this time. When my parents went to the doctor, they got the generic diagnosis. For my mother, she was also sent to get an MRI and physical therapy. Her MRI looked normal and PT didn’t seem to be doing much. My father was just given a muscle relaxant. They were both also told to employ RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and take Ibuprofen.

So I went with the generic treatment, RICE and anti-inflammatories. It didn’t help much at all. I am currently in physical therapy, so it was pretty easy to ask my PT about it and have her take a look. Even better for me, she has a lot of experience with back pain. So she started to dig around and found my lower back muscles were out of whack, “knots” and “strings” aplenty. She worked quite a few out using myofascial release. My back hurt in a different way (from what she did) for a couple days. It feels significantly better, but I think I need to have some more work done.

My PT also showed me something else that was interesting. It’s called a Nada Chair. It’s an interesting device. Put simply, it is a postural support for when you are sitting without any support in the back. It uses simple leverage to rotate your pelvis to make you sit straight. It forces you out of a slouched position and also prevents you from falling back into one. Its simplicity in doing this is amazing. It’s not particularly useful to me since my chair has a back that is positioned and shaped to keep me sitting tall, but to any other people who may stumble on this page, it may be something helpful.

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DirecTV, NFL Sunday Ticket and Deals

by on Sep.04, 2009, under Bills, Life

Every year it’s the same song and dance with DirecTV. They raise prices on NFL Sunday Ticket (or they break up the existing package and add some new features to charge you more to get what you had before). It’s up to $370 for auto-renenwal customers. However, after they “added” the SuperFan package (they took what was included (HD Games) and added a RedZone Channel (awesome) and some other features) for an additional $100 a lot of people weren’t happy. Primarily because they only wanted the HD games and already paid a $10/month HD Access fee.

So word travels fast when they start to offer a customer free SuperFan. Then last year for people who signed up as early birds (same discount as auto-renenwal) would get SuperFan free. That didn’t thrill customers who auto-renewed. So word traveled fast again on how to get it for free like everyone else. So it’s that time of the year again. If you read over at or FatWallet people were getting free SuperFan plus $120 off ($20/mo for 6 months) for a net cost of $150.

This is where the fun begins. You have to call and get them to do it. Sometimes a CSR will do it. Sometimes it has to be someone in the customer retention department. All kinds of stories work. The economy, the wife says it’s too much, thinking about switching, my friend/neighbor/co-worker got such and such or even just coming out and asking for it. Plenty of people get shot down and have no luck. Some call right back and get the deal. Some try a bit later and get the deal. Some just give up and are mad. Some cancel their service.

It drives me nuts. It’s all a game. All I want is SuperFan free. It really bothers me that they took something that was included in the price out of the package. They not only bundled it up with other stuff, but they also raised the price of the base package. So to get the same thing you had the year before, the price jumped $120. For every person like Bill Simmons who would pay $2,000 for it, there are people like me who just get it to watch their favorite team all season. DirecTV is smart to bump the price only $10-$20 a season so it’s easier to swallow, but they are pricing people out slowly. This is why they have an amazing new customer offer that includes the Sunday Ticket. They also started to offer this to existing customers who don’t auto-renew this summer.

In the end I went with the loyal customer and it’s unfair that some customers get these deals and others don’t. They offered me $10/mo for 6 months, I asked for $20 and they said yes. It only took 3 or 4 calls.  I think they are all trained to negotiate with customers. You have to push for it. They are perfectly OK saying no and sorry to see if you’ll just say OK. Uncomfortable silences work well too.

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by on Sep.02, 2009, under Life, Shopping

I’ve had a lot of good experience with Amazon’s free super saver shipping in the past. My online shopping purchases have dropped over the years and if I couple it with Amazon charging sales tax in Kansas (yet nothing ever ships from Kansas) I don’t shop at Amazon that much. But, as I said I’ve had good experiences when I do. Things would ship out fast and arrive within a week or so. This last time, it did not go so well.

My Dad was going to India and my cousin asked him to bring her a stethoscope. Normally I bargain hunt and research sellers to get the best deal. Since he was leaving in a couple weeks and I wanted to be sure to avoid any problems I paid a little more and went with Amazon. So I placed the order August 24th. The stethoscope was in stock, so I was literally shown these options:

  • FREE Super Saver Shipping (5-9 business days)
  • Standard Shipping (3-5 business days)
  • Two-Day Shipping (2 business days) –get it Wednesday, August 26!
  • One-Day Shipping (1 business day) –get it Tuesday, August 25!

I’ll also point out that I had the wrong date for when my Dad was leaving and never should’ve chosen the free super saver shipping option to begin with. But I learned something valuable about what Amazon does when you choose that option. A week goes by and the order hasn’t shipped. I’m a little concerned, but I figure even if it ships today (August 31), I’ll get it in time.

I get the e-mail it ships, and it has an estimated delivery date of September 5-11, 2009. Unbelievable. The item was in stock, 5-9 days. What in the world? I contact Amazon and they tell me that the 5-9 is transit time. There is also an up to 5 day processing time. And for good measure, unprompted, the CSR tells me they can’t explain everything on the web site. Really? They can’t change it to say 5-14 business days? Add an asterisk and note that is only transit time and there is a processing time as well? If people are worried about off-shoring call centers because of accents, don’t worry, they’re getting a lot better. This guy was just as rude as anyone with a less noticeable accent. Same terrible experience for less cost (to Amazon).

In the end I signed up for the Amazon Prime trial and had it shipped second day. It showed up second day. My original order showed up on Saturday the 5th. I refused the package and sent it back to Amazon. I dropped the package off at the post office and got a refund on the 16th. I learned to only use the free super saver shipping if you don’t care when it shows up. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it isn’t. And when it isn’t, it can be 5 days longer than you’re led to believe.

–get it Tuesday, September 29!
–get it Monday, September 28!
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