Q: Whenever I have a paper to crank out, the long hours spent in front of my computer give me a backache. What’s the best way to sit if I want to avoid my essay aches?

A: Our bodies definitely don’t like to stay stationary in one position for prolonged periods and hunching over a laptop without attention to posture and keyboard height is sure to cause pain. Here are five tips from “The BrainMassEdge” (

Keep back straight

Keep eyes positioned 20 inches from screen and in good lighting

Wear comfortable clothes

Position keyboard so arms are comfortably flexed

And, of course, take time out regularly to stretch and move.

A great set of exercises is posted on this UCSB ergonomics website (

—Mary Ferris, M.D., Student Health Executive Director


Q: I keep having nightmares about a bad thing I did a few years ago. Is this normal?


A: It’s not uncommon for us to have stressful dreams about past life events. When I’m working with students, I often talk to them about stress-producing dreams in detail. Just by talking about the stress they feel in the dream, the bad dreams tend to diminish. You can also try writing about your dream. If you’d like, come in and talk to one of the counselors to get out some of the leftover stress the past event is still giving you.

—Janet Osimo, Psy.D. Psychologist

Q: My roommate never wastes food unless it smells repulsive or is abnormally colored or fuzzy. Is it safe to eat based on such smell/see testing techniques, regardless of what the expiration date suggests?

A: The answer is “no.” It is clearly bad when those things happen, but it is possible for foods to be contaminated without causing discoloration or a bad smell. If foods are mishandled, food-borne bacteria can grow and cause food-borne illness, before or after the date on the package. For example, if hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they might not be safe if used thereafter, even if the date hasn’t expired. Other examples of potential mishandling of food: defrosting at room temperature for more than two hours, cross contamination or people touching food without washing their hands.

—Betsy Reynolds-Malear, M.P.H., R.D. Nutrition Specialist