Monday, January 23, 2012

The A21 Campaign against Human Trafficking

In case you've somehow missed it, human trafficking - organized crime sex trafficking specifically - is so widespread and rampant around the world, noone can or should ignore it.   Simply put, it generates over 27 billion - with a "B" - US dollars a year for the mafia bosses that run the operations, with 1.39 MILLION sex slaves, and majority of them ending up somewhere in Europe.  Greece happens to be what's known as "the center of trafficking in Europe."

Its sad statistics indeed, with none of the world's governments doing anywhere near enough to combat this heinous modern disease that's plaguing our world. 

One of the sharpest movies ever made about human trafficking is called Trade, back in 2007.   The stories of women kidnapped in Mexico and trafficked into the US for sex trade are sobering to say the least.

A short while ago, my wife and I heard an amazing speaker at our church, representing the A21 Campaign organization that's on the forefront of fighting these atrocities headquartered in the middle of it all, in Greece.  They also work in Ukraine, a major source of trafficked women, and other locations.

The scope of A21 Campaign work is to prevent trafficking, support and help the victims, prosecute traffickers, and work with law enforcement.  One of the most effective efforts is their educational campaign in the media and schools;  they also operate a Crisis Care Shelter where they connect the victims with police, offer access to medical care, legal services, life skills training, language training, recreation, and other opportunities to help them with stabilizing their lives.

Their transition program helps with accomodation, vocational and educational opportunities, employment, and gradual progression to independence. 

Needless to say, the A21 Campaign is doing priceless work that is critically necessary.  I urge everyone here to please go to their site and support them, as both my wife and I proudly do.  Thank you.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Steelcase Amia has arrived!

So - I did get my Amia last Friday (in my home office below), after a bit of a debacle with Steelcase - a replacement one this time.  The fist one they shipped came broken and malfunctioned right out of their factory.  Everything worked except the most basic control of all - the height adjustment.  The gas lifter mechanism was shot, and lever had no engagement at all.  After a few calls and emails to their customer service, they did take the old one away and replaced it with one that thankfully works like it should this time.

Disappointment with their quality problems did fade away as I got used to my new Amia - simply put, the more I use it, the more I love it, and appreciate the thought that went into both the seat and back support especially.  Having adjusted the tilt resistance control to my liking, it feels like heaven, i.e. like every good ergonomic chair should.

That got me to think how sad it is that makers of this "class" of chairs do not make available to anyone in easily accessible "big box" office stores.  Their price range makes good design and true comfort simply out of reach of general public.  Yes there are plenty of marketing, supply, manufacturing volume and distribution reasons for this, but sadly its the textbook case of what Karim Rashid addresses when he talks about democratic design, i.e. great design available to the masses.  Why should Steelcases' Amia and Leap, or Herman Miller's Embody and Aeron always be "high end" for mostly institutional buyers?  Why should Office Depot or Staples sell a cheap piece of crap that makes you hurt and gets staticky just by rolling on a carpet for a while?

When it comes to products that would improve health and elevate everyone's seating experience to truly ergonomic and comfortable, I wish furniture makers would eliminate the cheap/entry level chair category entirely, and change their business model fundamentally to simply not offer anything less than a chair like Think or Amia at affordable range.  I know this is idealistic and utopian, but I can still dream, can't I??

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hunting for that Perfect Office Task Chair

I've been putting up with a large choice of conventional/no-name chairs from big box office stores like Stapes and OfficeMax over the years.  Last 2 we got in $80-150 range have been ok/satisfactory, but still "no cigar" when it comes to serious attention to all ergonomic detail.  Given the ongoing back problems I've been dealing with, and spending plenty of time in front of my machine, I decided the time has come to invest into a serious office task chair.  Any good spine doctor will tell you that sitting for any prolonged period of time is about the worst thing you can do for your low back, and health in general, so I got my desk raised at work, and been working standing as much as I can, which helps tremendously, as long as I pay attention to good posture.  But standing all day is impossible, so I decided enough is enough, and went out to find the best possible chair I could afford.

Through places like Crate and Barrel, Room and Board, and Relax The Back, I've researched and tried out best task chairs I could find at retail.  Here are specific chairs I tested, pictured below:  Steelcase's Amia and Think, Herman Miller's Aeron, Mirra, and Embody, and Humanscale's Freedom, regular and headrest version. 

These chairs' prices range is roughly $650-$1800.  Considering cost, comfort, and design aesthetics, I decided to go with the Steelcase Amia, ordered in a beautiful platinum/orange color combination.  What attracted me to it initially was its clean, minimal, and very functional design.  It felt very good, and features multitude of adjustments, including adjustable seat depth, back tension control, adjustable arms, height, back lock, and LiveLumbar flexers in lumbar area that flex with the curve of your back and are also height-adjustable.  Not a bad package for less than $700.  I did like the Embody and Freedom very much, and if price was not a consideration, probably would've purchased the Embody.  Its exo-skeletal design with human spine-inspired flexible supports is fascinating, and feels great indeed when I got into it.  I like its taller back form and proportions also.

Humanscale Freedom was probably the most comfortable of them all, but also by far the priciest.  Coming from the "less adjustment controls is better" school of thought, it uses a balance mechanism to control the recline force required per given weight;  it reclines comfortably with great deal of support, along with the armrests, while promoting motion and blood flow.  What I found a little strange is it did not have a simple back position lock, and thought that reclining force was too loose, and would've preferred the ability to control the reclining force myself, especially for its price range.  But one chair I always had major affinity for is Think, given its minimal lines, angles, simplicity and color schemes.  Surprisingly, with much less control it was a bit more expensive than Amia, but given overall aesthetics, I think it looks better than any other office chair I've seen, especially in group setting with many of them on the floor in variety of color and material combinations.  If we get another chair for us, it will probably be a Think.

So, my Amia is coming soon this week, and I'll probably post further impressions of its performance after I use it for a while.