Planned Obsolescence

Austin, TX Fancy Bastards: We are just over a month away from the 6th annual Dragon’s Lair Webcomics Rampage! Get details HERE.

 Here are some things I have done that have caused me crippling, immobilizing back pain: putting on a shirt, taking off a shirt, standing up, sitting up in bed, drying off after a shower, washing my back, bending over, picking up a ladder, picking up a larger ladder, placing my hands on the lip of a desk and thinking about moving it, but not actually moving it. The list goes on! In the last few years, I have taken major steps towards living mostly back pain free. I never pick up anything over 30 lbs or larger than a cat. I use my arms to lift myself out of a chair or off a couch. I use a footstool at my desk. I use a higher, more comfortable chair when I draw. I put a yoga block under my elbow when I draw to keep it from drooping, and I recently got a Sleep Number bed. My sleep number is: ∞. 

I say all this not to impress you with my glamorous lifestyle, but to illustrate how my particular vessel of guts is on the back half of its particular period of usefulness. Two days ago I woke up from bed (my first mistake), and went to pop my neck like I do every morning. Instead of popping, my neck bones and neck meats screamed in unison and I spent the next 48 hours unable to look this way (It doesn’t matter that you can’t see which way I’m looking. Whatever way you are imagining, I could not look THAT way). Jealous? I know that sounds pretty baller, right? Deal with it.

Regarding the dating of the recent comics: I was, until today, backdating comics published in October to September so I could fill in the gaps that I missed while away at conventions. The simple act of doing this actually caused me more delays and issues and I’ve given up on filling in those gaps for now. I’m taking the mulligan and moving on with updating in the present day. I have a neat idea for a story line involving Josh that could have run parallel to the previous “Roomba” story line. If I get it worked out, I may publish it backdated to fill in the October comic slots.

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70 Comments

  1. Count yourself lucky, my eyes have changed in the last year – if I'm wearing my contacts (for nearsightedness) now things that are close are out of focus, unless I put on reading glasses. So I end up wearing my regular glasses most of the time, and have learned to look over or under the lenses, or constantly take them on and off.
    Yes, I could waste money on progressive lenses, to get the same results. Did I mention that I work with my hands, doing detailed work?

    Also when I wake up in the morning, it takes time before I can focus correctly and see well, apparently this is yet another phenomena as we age, our eye muscles take more time to "get working". Sucks!

    I had no idea who Ray Kurzweil is, but this comic brings the Swedish series "Real Humans" to mind, especially season 2. Highly recommend it.

    • Look him up. He's a weird but brilliant dude. He's a futurist who's right a lot of the time and his only goal for his remaining years is to live long enough to reach the singularity, which he predicts is about 40 years from now. He takes something like 250 vitamin supplements a day, has an extremely restricted diet, a taylor made exercise regimen and a host of doctors monitoring his every activity. He hopes that he'll be able to upload his brain into a female robot. Also he's the guy from Kurzweil keyboards.

  2. 33 was the year my body went to hell, too. I'm beginning to think Logan's Run had the right idea. Just kill us all at thirty.

    • See there's the problem right there. The whole "run" thing. This is what made Logan special, and why it hadn't happened earlier. At this age I'd be happy with a "slightly accelerated shuffle accompanied by various grunting noises."

      At this point I'd be happy transfering my conciousness to the Roomba….

        • When I was 30, I was thinking "I've got 2/3 of my life left." Then I realized life expectancy is still around 75 for men.

          • Yes, but that includes the phase where you just sit around for years waiting to die because your body is broken but your spirit hasn't given up the will to live the dreams you had when you were young, even though clearly forty years of working to make other people richer has taken that away from you and all you can do at that point is simply give up. But you've probably escaped that fate, so I guess I'm just plotting out what the majority of us will experience. 🙂

          • If it makes you feel any better, my grandfather on my dad's side lived to be 95, and was still doing pretty well except for some short-term memory problems just about up to the end.

            My other grandfather is in his 80s and still kicking. So, there's hope.

            Also, speaking from experience, back injuries do get better over time if you keep doing what you're doing (i.e., being careful), and doing regular stretches and core-strengthening exercises can help a lot. (Just make sure any stretches exercises you do are back-safe.) The unfortunate thing is that sitting for long periods of time can aggravate back pain. I can see how this could be a problem for a comic artist. The good news is that just getting up and walking around from time to time, maybe stretching a little, can help a lot with the back fatigue.

            • Urg, yes, avoid sitting in the same chair for too long. "Too long" in my case being defined as around two hours these days, although happily walking over to a different chair and sitting there for ten minutes seems to work if I can't walk around.

              I woke up five years ago to find I'd somehow subluxated a rib in my back in my frigging *sleep* (injuring yourself in your bloody sleep ftw, amirite? ><) and the only time I wasn't screaming in agony was sitting in one particular chair, so I did a lot of that while my back was theoretically (but not really) "healing up". Ends up that sitting almost motionless in a chair for hours on end gives you bursitis in your hips, which is also very painful, because of course it is. >< Then I fell on the ice and as a result, here we are, five and a half years later, and I'm still on bloody prescription pain killers. Eventually my liver is going to crap out on me from them all but hey, in the meantime at least I can stand erect most of the time. Plus I'm in Canada so.

              Getting old sucks, especially when you aren't even effing old yet. Physiotherapy does do wonders for injuries, though. Not much it can do about your eyes sucking, though, alas.

    • I didn't mind 30, but the 40s have been hell. I started getting gray hairs like, 2 days after my 40th birthday, and it's just kind of gone downhill from there.

  3. A few years ago I found out my eyes were deteriorating and would continue to for the rest of my life. On that day I vowed to get them replaced with robot eyes as soon as they made robot eyes that can see better than my shitty real eyes.
    I hate these stupid organic eyes. The sexy android singularity can't come soon enough.

    • They have robot eyes now, but at best they can only distinguish between light and dark areas. Still, that MIGHT be better than yours someday.

    • Or you can get a banana hair clip, paint it gold, and then glue it to your face!

      VOILA! Not only can you see again, but you can also see in the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum!

      On the down side, you'll speak scientific gobbledygook, your best friend will be a machine, and you'll never get laid. So your life will be like it is for the rest of us nerds.

  4. This reminds me of that Louis CK bit where he talks about how at one point in your life, doctors stop trying to fix your body and they're just like, "Yeah, that'll happen."

    • The truth of that bit resounds with me more every year.

      Just saw a doctor for the first time in 8 years and a lot of our conversation went like:

      ME: "Hey, doc. I've got [insert problem] and it hasn't gotten better in almost a decade."

      DOC: "Uh huh… Is it bleeding? No? You're fine."

      • same with mine i had an x-ray on my back 2 years ago and was told it was just wear and tear, normal for my age (42 then) but i've been seeing doctors about my back since i was 14? (mind you i had one doctor i swear just used to google my symptoms)

  5. At 49 I'm unbalanced in my ears and my eyes are going. Science has not been able to make contacts that can fix my particular weird eye issues. Thankfully I can see distances so when I take off my glasses when I wear my Stormtrooper kit, I fare somewhat ok.

    To recap: Helmet + bad hearing, bad sight = a lot of little kids getting knocked in the head with my blaster at Cons.

  6. FYI since you fixed warranty feel free to fix "latter" in your commentary–unless you're talking about picking up Latter-Day Saints…. "Hey babe, wanna try some….coffee?"

  7. Aww, Man! I'm 37 and I tweaked my back the other day just picking up a towel.

    I can't even wipe the tears of pain away if/when I need to!

  8. At 40 I got glasses for the first time in my life… Now I see my chiropractor regularly and do Yoga twice a week. I'll be damned if the ages get the rest of me before I am ready!

    • A chiropractor. This calls for the science! Chiropractic treatments have been proven ineffective at best when applying scientific methods. At worst, well, if going by the standards of data used to 'prove' chiropractic effectiveness, you'll also die of a stroke. The causation is disputed, but then, by the same rules, so are the positive effects of chiropractic

      • If seeing a chiropractor relieves your pain, and hurts no one else, why rail against it? What's the point? Even if it's placebo. I've seen chiropractors that have lessened my suffering and I've seen others that were scam artists, but it's pretty easy to tell which is which.

        • Obviously, if you enjoy the minimal placebo effect which has been found for lower back pains and wish to be treated by a chiropractor on that basis, there is absolutely no objection against that – anybody is allowed to enjoy any form of self-chosen treatment at their own expense.

          I merely objected against the idea of chiropractice actually doing anything for long-term health, as seemed to be the implication in that post.

        • I have before and after x-rays of a pinched nerve in my neck that my regular Dr was unable to fix and was just telling me to live with the pain and numbness in my arms and hands, but my chiropractor gave me relief within hours of treatment. At least I could go back to work after seeing my Chiro!

      • Pain also can't be measured by the scientific method, as your "4" may be my "2", or vice versa. And therefore the effectiveness of pain medications can't be measured by the scientific method either. There is no scientific standard for "feels better", which is why hospitals use that ridiculous happy face / sad face scale.

        And none of it can measure the fact that some patients who are feeling a 5 will say they're feeling an 8, because they'd rather be treated as an 8 because they are absolutely terrified of feeling a 6.

        • I have the xkcd problem, where everything is a 1, because my eye sockets aren't giving birth to pineapples or something. Everything is "uncomfortable".

        • Plus now it ends up that women process some pain killers differently from men, and so what is an effective pain remedy for a guy may do little to nothing for a woman.

          I always add in, when giving that number, "…But I gave birth with no pain killers (it wasn't on purpose) so my ten is that. So my eight right now is pretty high."

      • Two anecdotes (which are worth nothing scientifically, of course, but have been my experience):

        First one. When I was about eight, my Dad started getting really bad headaches. And the bottom half of his arm would go numb sometimes. He saw a doctor who referred him to a specialist seven hours away who told him he needed to have the top four vertebrae in his neck fused; that he had about a 50% chance of surviving the operation, and if he didn't have it he'd be dead in two years.

        Dad said f*ck that and came home but it kept getting worse; someone suggested a chiropractor the next town over. He went but was so sore the guy couldn't touch him, so he suggested Dad stay in town overnight, get a heavy-duty pain-killer the next morning, and come back. Dad stayed, and called home that night. He was in so much pain my mum had to talk him out of killing himself. She persuaded him to hang on one more day and give it a try.

        Know what? Pinched nerve in his neck, and Dr. Lutz got it in one. Dad's in his mid-eighties now and still going. Dad still visits him sometimes.

        When I was a little older I started having excruciating back spasms. Like, fall down and scream spasms. So I was taken to another specialist, and this one told us I needed to have a rod implanted in my spine, the healing process would involve six months in bed, and if I didn't have it done I'd be in a wheelchair by the time I was twenty. Dad suggested Dr. Lutz. I saw him regularly every couple of weeks for a long time, and see chiropractors semi-regularly since then. Guess what? Mid-forties and still no wheelchair.

        Two years ago one got me back on my feet and able to walk around freely when I had messed my hips up and was having to use a cane, and couldn't even get over a 2" curb.

        There's a lot chiropractors can't do, and as others have said, some are better than others. But if you're having issues with pinched nerves and things in your back, they can make a measurable amount of difference.

        And if it was strictly a placebo effect, then it should work with any chiropractor, which in my own experience has not been the case at all.

  9. Any amount of time working somewhere like a grocery store, will fuck up your back. Only 2 years and my back is already pretty fucked. One of the reasons I quit.

  10. I've had multiple surgeries on my spine, plus radiation, to kill/remove the cancer that insists on growing there. I've got enough metal bracing in my neck that I could be hit by a truck doing 80MPH and it would remain intact (the rest of me would be splatted, but the neck would hold). So yeah, I relate to back pain. Getting out of bed takes me a loooong time, and I have sooo done that thing where you tweak your back just taking off a shirt.

    But Joel, I had never considered a yoga block to support my arm when doing tasks that need it. That's freaking genius.

    • It was a totally accidental discovery. I bought a yoga block to replace the cardboard box that I was using to raise my Cintiq up about 4 inches when I drew. It came with an extra which was just sitting on my desk. When I assume drawing position and my elbow went up into it's natural/unnatural position (where I have to keep it aloft for hours at a time), I just slid the block up under my arm and BAM! Instant arm rest on my desk.

  11. It's slightly mean on my part but I always find it just a bit amusing when people who have never needed glasses/contacts start needing them as they age. I've needed fairly major correction since elementary school (things become clear about 2 inches in front of my nose, everything else is a massive blur of who-knows-what).

    I am very thankful that glasses exist, and also that they no longer have to actually be glass. I don't want to think about how insanely thick actual glass glasses would have to be for me.

    • I pay for the featherlight polycarbonate lenses because otherwise I'd have coke bottles that give me lizard eyes. The worst part is my daughter has needed glasses since she was 5 and her Rx is already WAY stronger than mine.

    • This times infinity – I've had glasses since I was 8 and bifocals since 12 (I'm now 41). My husband had to recently get bifocals for the first time at 44 and you should hear the bitching!

      Though weirdly, my eyes seem to be getting better; we discovered at my last eye appointment that the astigmatism is almost gone in one eye, though I'm still nearsighted. Yay toric contact lenses!

      • Mine got slightly better last time I went in too. I had no clue that was an option! (they're still incredibly bad, just slightly less incredibly bad)

        • The body is weird like that. Most of the time, it just deteriorates, but then, randomly, it sometimes just reverses for no reason. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, it just does whatever it wants.

      • Bifocals since I got glasses at 14 or so.

        People used to look at me odd for having bifocals so young, cause they're "old people glasses." Seriously, in school? Down at paper, up at board, repeat? Bifocals were a godsend.

      • I have been ridiculously near-sighted since primary school, but it's improving as I age, too. Ends up that, you know how old people get more and more far-sighted as they age? Well, that's happening to me, with the result that my eyes are actually *improving*. I can now clearly see things up to about six inches away from the end of my nose, up from about half an inch when I was younger.

        Something for near-sighted people to look forwards to, I guess.

  12. I finally went to the doctor about my messed up shoulder when I realized people were asking me if I was cold because I was hunching up to avoid pain. Bodies are HORRIBLE.

  13. I will trade you your eyes and tweaked back for my slightly less bad eyes and inability to stand up for more than a few minutes without feeling like im about to die keeping me bedbound. Wanna trade?

  14. I'm 28, but my back and knees have always been kinda shitty, and I cant imagine they will get better as I age. No major health problems yet, but I assume thats just a matter of time.

  15. I feel your pain Joel. I expect the osteopath to tell me I need a couple of TKR at 45. I'm waiting for Tx to get its act straight with the ACA so I actually have insurance to afford the operations. I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't make enough to qualify for the tax break for Obamacare because I should be on state medicaid. (Thanks Perry, you duck*!)
    I'm not real hopeful Abbot will do much better.
    * can't curse in front of my kids.

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