Robert Hahn

inspired by integration

I'm always interested in infrastructure that brings people together and facilitates communication. I'm currently exploring social software, markup & scripting languages, and abstract games.

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noted on Mon, 13 Sep 2004

The Great Eye Experiment

When I was very little, my mom noticed that there seemed to be a shimmer in my pupils. She pointed this out a couple of times to the doctor, but he dismissed it, until finally, probably to placate my mother, he scheduled an eye exam for me. It turned out that not one, but both of the lenses in my eyes were dislocated. Although I don’t remember for certain, I remember that it was speculated that I was seeing triple of everything through these dislocated lenses.

I underwent surgery — I think it was around preschool or kindergarten, I don’t precisely recall — to have a corrective procedure done where they used a laser to grind out the lenses into dust. I don’t recall what the procedure was called; email me if you have a notion. When the bandages came off, I thought they broke my eyes, because I didn’t know then how it was supposed to be. With no lenses, I had no focal point — it was surmised that my focal point was very far away, because I had to have convex shaped lenses on my glasses in order to see clearly.

When I was about eleven or twelve, my mother took me to the doctor to see if it might be possible for me to wear contact lenses. It turned out that this was just able to be possible, although the lenses, which are rigid gas permeable (RGP’s) were so heavy that they kept sliding down whenever I blinked. But I was able to see for the first time without glasses, and I was pretty excited about that. I still had to wear a set of reading glasses if I ever wanted to focus on things up close, because, without natural lenses, I couldn’t focus on anything really close to me at all.

Since that time, life has been good. Whenever I needed a new set of contacts, we’d try to see how close to 20/20 I could get (and as technology improved, so did my ability to see). My reading glasses changed a bit too, from bifocals to progressives, as I began to spend more and more time in front of a computer, and needed support for that intermediate distance.

Three weeks ago, I went in for an optometry appointment at the University of Waterloo, where I learned that my eyes were in really great shape, and that my prescription hadn’t changed since I was 14 or 15. That was more than half a lifetime ago, so I’m feeling pretty good about that. I schedule a contact lens appointment, because I’ve been wearing the pair I’ve got now for at least 7 years (and they’re doing just fine for all that too, thank you very much) and would like to see them replaced.

That appointment happened a little over a week ago, and now I’m ready to tell you my story. This is just one of those stories that needed lots of context before it made sense.

During the appointment, I had to go through this process where I had to wear a set of lenses that was so powerful that my focal point was about 6" from my face. This is done as a way of having a known baseline against which they ‘correct’ until I achieve the best possible vision. But these contacts — if you who aren’t nearsighted, you will probably never understand how exhilarated I felt about wearing them. I was seeing, with my entire field of vision, and without glasses, Really Small Things. i was seeing things like the fine details in my watch, or the hairs on my arm, with a crispness I never dreamed possible. And so an idea was formed. I mentioned it briefly to my optometrist, who said that this has been done before, but I didn’t go through with it yet. The problem was that my insurance only covered enough for either 1 pair of contacts or 1 pair of glasses, and with this idea of mine, I’d need a new set of glasses and contacts at the same time.

So what’s the idea? I realized that I spend well over half my waking hours in front of a computer, looking through a very tiny part of my glasses (owing to the fact that they’re progressives) at the screen. That can’t be good for me. So, I figured, why not get extra powerful contacts that are optimized for the distance to a computer screen, then add on a pair of glasses that decreased the power a bit for 20/20 vision? I talked this over with my wife that night. She’s as excited about the idea as I was, but we’re both frustrated because we really couldn’t afford to cover what the insurance couldn’t cover. I was so excited about the idea I wanted to tell my parents, so I called them up to see what they thought. Also, since my mom has a much better sense of my eye health than I, it was good to have her input. Turns out they thought it was a good idea too.

In fact, they thought it was such a good idea that they wanted to pay for anything my insurance wouldn’t cover! So, mom, dad, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that I’m telling the world that I think the world of you, and that you are the Coolest Parents Ever! Thank you so very much for this gift.

Ok, back to the story. I cancelled my contact lens order the next morning, and scheduled a new appointment to try out this idea of mine. They were ok with it, and an appointment was made for today.

After going over the idea with my optometrist, who was in her last year of undergrad studies, she seemed a bit uncertain about this, and consulted her supervisor/teacher. He came in, reviewed what I wanted, and seemed to think that this was a really great idea for precisely the reasons I outlined above. So we went ahead and tested to see what sort of power I would need to see a computer screen without glasses.

I’ll be getting my lenses next Tuesday. That is when my Great Eye Experiment will begin. Here’s the hypothesis:

If you’re currently wearing contacts to bring your eyes to 20/20 (ish), and you need reading glasses to wear over top of those contacts, and if you’re the sort of person who spends most of the day in front of a computer, consider getting contacts designed to enable reading a screen without needing glasses, then order a set of glasses that adjust the contact lens power to 20/20, with possibly a smaller area for reading stuff up close. What I’m testing is that reading the screen with these special contacts would be a superior enough experience (in terms of increasing clarity and reducing eyestrain) that wearing glasses for the distance viewing becomes worth the price.

I will keep you posted on this experiment. My glasses can’t be ordered until after I get the new contacts in, so it will be two weeks from now, likely, before I can share with you the whole experience. I’m hoping though that if you have eye problems similar to mine, then maybe this account would be useful to you.

tall ship