A year in the life

Okay, so not quite a year. More like 10.5 months since last update.

At first, I thought that I should write about the whole lazor-eye thing right away since my memory can be rubbish and I didn’t want to loose the details. Then I thought perhaps I should at least wait till my eyes settled down. Then I just kinda slacked for a few months, as I am wont to do. Luckily, the details haven’t faded much from my mind – I doubt they ever will.

It was the most nerve-wracking experience I have ever had. I’ve always been somewhat “touchy” about my eyes. I contemplated getting contacts once but couldn’t even handle the idea of poking my eyeballs on a regular basis. It amazes me how casual some people can be about that. This is one of the reasons I went with PRK instead of LASIK. I wanted as little physical contact with my eyes as possible, and I was under the assumption that PRK was a sort of all-lazor affair.

I was horribly, terribly, wrong.

Sure, the part the doctors defined as the procedure proper was all-lazor, but the prep work was maddeningly not. After all the various tests they had me do where the computer built up totally cool maps of the structure and shape of the front of my eye (I should’ve asked to keep a copy) they gave me some drugs to help calm me and then we went into The Room.

It’s not a large room, smaller than my bedroom, actually. This can make for not much extra space when there are four people in there. It didn’t help that over half the room was taken up by The Lazor and its associated control equipment. Oddly enough, there was no machine that went ping. They had me lay down, and one of the kind assistants gave me a squeezy ball. This ball was genius, whoever first thought that patients for this need something to squeeze the ever-loving shit out of during the procedure is a god in the nursing field. I feel sorry for anyone that has to go through this without a squeezy ball. I still have that ball, and just seeing it makes me smile for the comfort it helped provide.

So yeah, I lay back and they prop my head up very carefully and begin the prep work. First step is to do a minor re-inactment of the ending to clockwork orange. Pulling my eyelids back WAY farther than I ever open them, and then using tape and some wires to hold them open. Thankfully they are flooding my eye with some sort of ice-cold numbing agent the whole time so I really don’t feel much. Part of me wonders if this is a good thing, since it gives the whole experience a weird sort of other-worldly tint. I’m perfectly awake, with my eye forced open (the other one covered shut) so I can’t help but watch as they are running various washes over my eye. Then the real “fun” part hits.

Have you ever seen those electric toothbrushes that spin? Not the ones that go back-n-forth, but the type that has a round head with bristles that just spins around really fast?

Yeah, on MY EYE!!!

I can’t blink. I can’t turn away (the friendly assistants are helping hold my head still). I’m forced to watch as the doctor holds the spinning brush of doom in his hands and carefully lowers it straight down on my eye. There is no pain, thankfully, but I can feel the high-frequency vibrations shake my entire eyeball in the socket as he slowly grinds away the outer layers of skin covering the front of my eye. He’s very calmly telling me the progress, and reminding me to do what I can to just look straight up. Meanwhile my eye is bouncing around from the spinning brush being moved to various angles clearing away the entire work surface.

No ball has ever been squeezed so hard.

Thankfully, that part doesn’t take very long, and he was quite willing to dump gallons of the numbing stuff all over my eye. When all that was over and he pulled the brush away I noticed the world had a very odd quality to it. Everything was slightly blurry, of course, due to the liquid that had been used to wash and prep my eye. But aside from that, everything seemed brighter. I remember noticing how, in the brief moment I had, all the colours seemed more vibrant and the lights were so bright all sudden-like. Amazing how much more light was getting in my eye now that a few layers of transparent skin had been viciously ground away. Anywho, they were done prepping that eye and so they swing over the arm containing the business end of the lazor machine. It comes into position and I see an orange light blinking in the center. Doctor says to just look straight at the light and I’ll hear a few clicking noises once they get going.

It is an interesting point of contrast how the whole team was so casual about the brush grinding away my eye’s skin, yet I think that was the most agitating experience in my life. Similarly, everyone on the operating team got noticably more concerned once the lazor machine got involved and they kept trying to reassure me while I’m laying there, staring up, hearing the clicking of the lazor firing and feeling tremendously disappointed there are no “pew pew” noises. I know, I know, the skin grows back and the lazor is what could have blinded me. Still, it was like the overall stress in the room remained constant and we just took turns with who was feeling it. I almost felt like I should have offered them the squeezy ball when it was their turn to freak out.

Someone needs to install a speaker on the lazor and have it make sound effects. “Pew pew” is preferred, of course, but even a simple “bzzzt” would be better than the short “click click” it made. And get something in that room that goes “ping”, while they’re at it. At least one of the assistants said “laser charging”. Not quite “I’ma chargin’ mah lazor” but I was willing to take what I could get.

Once that eye was done they placed a contact lens on it and covered it up and we moved on to the other side to do it ALL OVER AGAIN with the next eye. YAY! At least this time I had been through it once so I kinda knew what to expect. Doesn’t mean it was any less stressful, nor did it spare that poor ball.

They lead me back to a post-op room, give me all sorts of instructions I’m only vaguely aware of (thankfully they thought to have my ride in the room also so he can pay attention). It’s weird, I’m not overly drugged up during this but my awareness is now so entirely shot by the experience that I may as well be. I managed to pay enough attention to know what kind of drug schedule I’d be on (four kinds of eye drops, many times a day) and various notes (wear the silly goggles at night, the dark glasses any time I leave the house, don’t drive), and then we head out. They let me keep the ball, which was of course the largest concern on my mind at the moment.

The next week was rough. I had wisely thought ahead enough to take the entire time off from work. Doctor’s orders to not look at a computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time, though, so even though I had all day to do anything I wound up not doing a heck of a lot. Can’t play video games, browse the web, whatever, when you can’t look at a computer. Couldn’t focus enough to read any books. Basically I sat around the house and took my pain meds for the irritation. Oh yes, the irritation. That skin that was ground away? It was growing back. For comparison, have you ever fallen off a bike and had a nice red patch of skin scraped away by the road? That irritated itchy pain you get when it’s growing back? Yeah, just like that. Only, of course, ON MY EYES! And I’m under strict instructions not to rub my eyes for any reason. And you remember those contacts the doctor puts on my eyes after the lazor? They’re still in during the healing process. An entire week I got to sit around and not rub my eyes while the skin grew back under these contacts.

Drugs, lots of drugs.

I go in after a week, and they remove the contacts and proclaim that the skin is healing nicely and everything is going as expected. I began the long slow process of “stabilization”. I had read something about this when I was doing my research, but it wasn’t quite clear to me just how much your eyes will continue to change for months after the procedure. There is a large jump in your vision right away, but even at 4 months out there were still some minor changes going on. The doctors explained it to me as being more related to my brain having to re-learn how to use my eyes. The lenses were done immediately, and the skin healed up in roughly a week, but my brain was still interpreting the signals as though the eyes were still blurry. Also, it was controlling the muscles as though the lenses were still not focusing right. So while my eyes were supposedly “good” right from the start, my brain refused to believe them since it had been going so long with “bad” eyes.

Now, finally, my eyes seem to have stopped changing and I’m pretty sure that what I have now is what it’s going to be. There are quite a few things I wasn’t really prepared for. The most obvious difference stems from my ‘handedness’ in my vision. Most people have a dominant eye, and for the most part it’s not really something you need to think about. You look at something and you see it. In cases where both eyes can see the item, your brain will prefer the image from the dominant eye and just use the other eye as a sort of ‘supplemental’ data. Previously, my dominant eye (my right eye) was the better of the two, so it worked out well. I had a clear(ish) picture from my dominant eye, and the secondary data wasn’t so hot but was good enough for giving stereo vision. Now, however, my dominant eye is not as good as the secondary one. So I’m constantly getting *noticeably* better images from the secondary eye, but my brain wants to toss that info in favor of images that seem fuzzier. It just feels *WRONG* in a way that I’m incapable of describing. Almost like my right eye feels weak or somehow cloudy. Of course, all the vision tests say it’s fine. 20/20 in the right eye, but it’s that left eye that is causing trouble. 20/15 in the left eye is just slightly better enough that the right eye feels “off”, and there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it.

Another difference that I was entirely unprepared for, but that seems reasonable, is I now have a noticeable depth of field in my vision. Photography folk know what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you here’s a summary: You know how in some pictures where there is a line of things going away from the camera (think shots of pool tables with balls scattered about) and one item is in focus but anything closer or farther away is blurred? That’s “depth of field” Well, technically, the distance between the closest and farthest things that are still in focus is the “depth” of the field, but whatever. Previously, since everything was blurry anyway I never really noticed if something close to me was any more or less blurry than the thing I was looking at. Now that my eyes can actually *focus* on an object, I’m stunned by how blurry everything else will get.

There’s also an ongoing issue where often focusing on an object will take a conscious act of will. I’m not sure exactly what is causing this, perhaps my brain is still not quite sure how to make the muscles work, or perhaps they are getting tired from being used in this new manner, but frequently I’ll notice that I’m looking at something but it’s totally not in focus. I just have to think to myself “focus on that”, and sometimes blinking helps, and suddenly it will snap to focus. Not the worst side-effect possible from the procedure, but a curiosity all the same.

All that said, having gone through it once would I do it again? Yup. As I age, my eyes will age just like everyone else’s. They’ve been re-set now to where they “should” be, but there’s nothing magical about the procedure. They will weaken and deform, just like anyone’s eyes, and in another 15 or 20 years from now they might again be approaching the point where lazors once again become a reasonable option. When that happens, I’ll evaluate the choice just as I had this time. If my priorities haven’t changed much then I’ll certainly sign up once again. It was nerve-wracking, and the recovery was painful, but already I can say that I think it was worth it.

pew pew

I suppose I should make a mention of this.

Round about this time tomorrow, I’ll be getting shot at by lasers. It sounds so sci-fi saying it that way. Certainly more interesting than saying “I’ll be at the hospital getting my damn eyes fixed”. I mean, c’mon, fricking LASERS!!!


Am I nervous? Hell yeah. They say that if things go horribly wrong I could be left blind. Given I’ve never heard of a blind IT dude (and can’t really see how I’d make that work), that kinda means I’d have to go looking for a new career. Trying a job search in a field where you have ‘bout 20 years of experience (saying it that way makes me feel seriously old) is hard enough in this economy. Having to move to an entirely new field you have zero experience in would be order of magnitude more difficult.

So yeah, while the odds are in my favor and the chance for Bad Things happening is slim, keep yer fingers crossed fer me. Or at least think happy thoughts for me ‘round 11AM tomorrow. Thanks.

For the curious, I’m doing Wavefront/PRK.


I suppose a more complete review of the decade will needs be done at some point (including the question of if 'the decade' is in fact over) but one thought occured to me the other day. All my girlfriends have been in this decade.


I must agree, though, it is certainly better to have loved and lost. For all the highs and lows of that roller coaster ride, I think the experience could help me later on.

Sent from mobile, please forgive typographical errors.

Oregon has sand dunes!!

So of course, I had to stop at the Oregon Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. Turns out I'm rather happy I did, as the campgrounds around the Siltcoos Lagoon are very nice. Almost bordering on too nice, actually. Very well maintained and comfy ground for sleeping on (being sandy and all).

Weaving around the various campgrounds (there are a few) is a little trail with info placards telling you all about how much humans have screwed up the local ecology. This is a shot of the little bit of open water still left in the Siltcoos Lagoon. Pretty little lagoon. I even got to see some Nutria, though there's no chance my phone could get a shot of them.

Further down the trail, winding along the ridge of where the Siltcoos river cuts through the dunes.

Near one point, I spotted this odd yellow sign nailed to a tree. Seems this particular tree is special and being used to mark the edge of some property. This struck me as odd for two reasons. First, what if the tree is burned down or otherwise damaged through natural causes? Wouldn't a metal spike in cement (like the USGS markers) serve better? Second, this was in the middle of the rec area, so to find a boundary marker there was unexpected. But perhaps I misread it.

Proof that there was actual sand in the sand dunes. It was rather odd to see large trees growing alongside sizeable lakes all on top of sand dunes. I'm used to far less 'life' on the sand dunes I've seen previously.

Being surrounded by wet sand (this is western Orgeon, lots of rain), I did what any decent human would do. I made a sand castle!

I would have a shot of the ocean, but the rain was a little excessive for me to risk the phone.

Sent from mobile, please forgive typographical errors.

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Saturday was wet!!

So I stayed the night at the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park last night, which was nice. Would have been somewhat more exciting if the weather hadn't involved so much rain! I did manage to get a few shots of the campground before the downpour/darkness made it 'challenging'.

My campsite was right alongside a little stream, with large logs marking the boundary. They had clearly been there a bit, as they had beautiful green moss and large mushrooms growing on them. I also got a shot of a row of 'shrooms, but I like the ferm in this one more.

Here's the row of 'shrooms, for comparison. The fern really completes the shot.

Walking upstream a bit to a closed section of the campgrounds I saw another access point to the water. This was a real gem of a spot, since the path was slightly overgrown and at the end of it was a huge old moss-covered tree hanging out over the stream. SOOOO pretty!

And on the way out the highway hugged the coast for a bit and I got a nice shot of some waves with a colourful sky above them.

On a technical note, I'm not so sure I like how this app is over- saturating the pictures. I have the originals, of course, but I'm undecided which is better. Sometimes it works well, like that coastline shot, but other times it seems a bit heavy.

Ah well, back on the road. Northward!

Sent from mobile, please forgive typographical errors.

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Greetings from just outside Trinity National Forest!

Those who want a more precise location can check latitude.

Playing around with an HDR app and it's not too shabby. There are a few quirks about it I'm not overly keen on, and it has some ui areas that could use a little love, but sometimes the pics turn out pretty. Like this one! One thing I do like is it actually combines two photos (light and dark) to get the end result. So many 'hdr' apps just fake it with contrast and brightness tweaks.

Oh, and 299 is a total bitch of a curvy highway!

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Testing picture posting from mobile

So I'm testing out something (yet again) and needed a picture to test it with. So here's a shot from my Summer09 roadtrip.

We stopped at my favorite rest stop to date and were doing a little of the nature walk when we saw this cute little bunny hopping around. Little thing wouldn't stay still for us much, but we tried to get some pictures of it all the same. Here's one.

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ticking away, the moments . . .

So yeah, I feel I must apologize for the recent lack of activity. It’s not that I don’t love you all, I do. Nor that there has not been anything going on, there has.

I think it’s really more of a question of “do I really want to invest the time to properly explore this thought”? And sadly I find the answer is not in the affirmative. I feel rushed at work with too many jobs to reasonably get done in the allotted time, so I’m uncomfortable taking the time there to do this. And when I get home I’m frankly more interested in a number of other things rather than blogging my thoughts from the week. Perhaps that’s the issue, then? I’ll not try to pretend that I don’t *have* time, just that I have plenty of other things to do that are rather more interesting than complaining here. I’ve been doing Twitter updates, but they have left me wanting.

And I’m sure you’ve all enjoyed the lack of seeing my complaints. :)

But fear not, kind readers, for I have remembered that I do in fact have this account! And even better, I now have A System in place to help me keep records of my precious missives! It is something of an ongoing bummer to me to know that I haven’t any really good way to archive my earlier posts. This fancy new toy I’m using now only downloaded back to the end of March 2004. Given I started this braindump in July of 2001 that’s quite a few words that are missing. We could certainly debate the quality of drivel that is absent, but that’s beside the point. What bothers me is that it is currently all locked up in LiveJournal and I haven’t found a satisfactory method for getting it out. And thus I was reluctant to add to the pile of lost thoughts.

But no more! For now I have decided to try using this new toy, and multiple services where the entries are sent, and through the power of automated backups it shall all remain as intact as my email inbox!!

Oh, speaking of email, it would seem ten years ago there was a social for the college radio station being planned. As well as a dinner for the German Club, and a friend of mine and I decided that we’d forego our weekly chess game in light of the impending finals we both faced.

It’s scary to think that it won’t be long before I can take this “ten years back” idea and start linking to relevant blog posts that might mention the event. But when you put it that way this is precisely why I want to start this back up as a regular thing. I like looking back at life and thinking on what I’ve done. I like to have some record reminding me of events and how I reacted at the time. My memory is damn near worthless so I need some sort of external reference. Other people have paper journals, but that never worked for me (I’ve tried a few). So electronic it is. Much like so many other areas of my life have been.

Ah well. Watch this space.