Musings of The Swede

A splintered mind divided

Time for some resolutions!
In 2012, theswede resolves to...
Ask my boss for a stormbringer.
Get back in contact with some old role-playing games.
Apply for a new tea.
Find a new fetish.
Learn to play the lakewood.
Pay for my darts on time.
Get your own New Year's Resolutions:

This day ten years ago
I was sitting in an office in a high rise building in downtown Cleveland when the rumors about what had happened started to fly. We had no TV or radio, and the news websites were swamped, couldn't get them to load. I opened the much less burdened Swedish news sites and was sitting translating out loud to the whole office what was happening. Then they tripped the fire alarm and evacuated pretty much all of downtown.

What has changed since then? Tens of thousands of Americans killed by inane new airline policies with zero captured terrorists and not a single terrorist act documented as prevented, countless warrantless arrests often followed by torture, and an exploding American budget deficit caused by military spending. At least the PMC companies are making a killing.

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

New York City. You are most definitely from New York City. Not New Jersey, not Connecticut. If you are from Jersey then you can probably get into New York City in 10 minutes or less.

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

Long time no see!
Seems I've been neglecting this field of the Internet. Mostly because I don't really feel the need to write much lately, as life's just chugging along on rails, and things are going pretty smooth. Funny how it's more interesting to sit and write when one encounters wrinkles in the fabric of reality.

It also seems some people have grown a stingier approach to my comments, and misunderstand my rather dry approach. Or maybe I'm just too, shall we say, direct. That's sad, especially when communication is then locked out completely.

Otherwise, yeah, not much to report. Working, sleeping, eating and occasionally traveling. Maybe I'll find something among that to write about. =)

Metaltown 2010
Today I arrived back at home after a visit to Metaltown in Gothenburg, a two day festival with lots of metal and some Rammstein. We booked a hotel a long time ago, meaning we were smack dab in the middle of town in a marvellous room for almost no money at all. Excellent planning makes for good metal, as I always say. Or always would say if I thought of it more often.

The first day had a bunch of not so interesting bands listed. And Rammstein at the end of the day. Thus, we spent the evening going from bar to bar, carousing in general, and made it down to the festival area just as Rammstein was about to go on. Perfect timing, and a very good show which was well worth the effort to get there. Fireworks, flamethrowers, a giant thing which spewed foam on the audience, confetti bombs, and belligerent German music - what more could we ask for? Well, more to drink, so we ended up going clubbing after the show, and came home rather worn and tired in the wee hours.

The next day was full of bands we had shortlisted. We managed to drag our poor, hungover selves downstairs for some food, and then we headed out to see Sodom, a German death metal band with quite an impressive list of albums to their name. Unfortunately they were as tight as a choirboy in the Vatican, so that was quite a disappointment. So we went for a beer, and waited in Finntroll instead, while the rain poured down.

And Finntroll was all that we had hoped for and then some. Really good show, and good music, new and old. After them we went to the other stage for some Amon Amart, which was also excellent, although the sound mix was truly horrible. If that had been done right, they would probably have been the highlight of the festival. After them some more beer, and some Dark Tranquillity on the small, cozy stage. Also a good show, although the sound on that stage wasn't the best. Awesome to see them up close again, it's been way too long.

And after that we waited in the main act of the second day; In Flames. Last I saw them, also on the pier at Metaltown, it wasn't that great an experience, although the stageshow was very well done and high-tec. This time they played more old skool, and the sound was back where they belong - in melodic, heavy death metal land. And the stageshow was even more impressive, with some truly spiffy high tech gadgets, lots of fireworks and things that exploded and burned and stuff. Awesome! But despite Anders Fridéns best efforts the pier didn't sink under Only For The Weak this time either. Maybe next time!

Bangkok is burning
I just can't fathom that Central World Plaza has been burned down. The second largest mall in Asia, destroyed by a rioting, headless mob after many of the red shirt leaders called for an end to the protests and surrendered.

The whole thing is just unreal. This isn't at all what I had expected from the Land of Smiles. I just wonder how much lasting damage this will cause, and if there is any chance the red shirts will achieve anything of lasting value from this level of civil disorder.

As far as I know, my friends in Bangkok are safe and sound, although they're not making any money right now as pretty much everything is shut down. Schools are closed, most businesses in downtown Bangkok have shut their doors and evacuated everyone, and everyone who can be someplace else are.

And admittedly, I'm quite relieved I made it back before this thing escalated after the shooting of Seh Daeng.

Life changing events
I just spent three weeks in Bangkok, almost twice as long as was planned from the start but extended due to the ash cloud over Europe. Being there made me realize just how little I have holding me here in Sweden. Basically, it's my job, which is one that I like very much. Beyond that, there isn't really anything. My parents, and a few people I care about, but that's about it. My social circle in Bangkok is larger than the one I have here, and that one's not very large.

Right before I left my mom went through a medical emergency. And during the post examinations of that, she ran into another one. I'm really worried about her, and about what will happen.

In all, it seems my life is about to go through some major changes really soon. Very major. Hopefully they'll end up taking me in a direction I want to go.

LASIK post-op experience
After the first day return visit I got a new visit booked a bit over a week later. Then I was sent off to use my eyes normally, but with sunglasses during the day and the "bug eye" shields taped on at night, so I wouldn't rub my eyes while sleeping. I also had antibiotic drops to administer four times a day, and tear substitute to use after the antibiotics, and whenever my eyes felt dry. The rules were; do not rub eyes, do no get water in eyes, do not wash face or hair directly, and above all, do not get water in eyes. Did I mention do not get water in eyes? If not, I do it again; it was the most important rule of all.

For the first few days I had trouble reading, although my distance vision was just fine. I got some reading glasses for 60 TBH which took care of that problem (and fell apart after a few days) and basically just went on as normal, but very aware of what I did around my eyes. I had some glare and halo effects in the nighttime and in dark places for the first few days, but at around a week those were pretty much completely gone.

Five days after the surgery the Songkran festivities began in Bangkok. Songkran, or the Thai new year, is an important holiday when the Thai wash away the sins of the old year for a clean new year. Wherever you go, you get splashed with water. Warm water, cold water, ice water, water from water guns, water from buckets, water from hoses ... just water everywhere. It was a blast, and I had great fun, but it was quite a challenge to not get any water in my eyes, let me tellya.

It worked out fine though, and on my return visit after Songkran a final test of my eyes revealed that I had 20/12.5 vision and can read without glasses in decent light. For reading books and such, especially when it's not so bright, I prefer having reading glasses, but that is expected to improve a bit more as time goes. I've also noticed "spots" in my vision, which are caused by degenerations in the eye jelly. I've had those for a long time, maybe all my life, but haven't noticed them because my vision has never been this sharp. At first they were a bit of a bother, but as I'm getting used to them I've simply ceased to notice them.

So in all, the procedure has been quite a success. I'm very happy with the results, and the sense of freedom to not need glasses is exhilarating. The only issue I have is a slight case of dryness, but since it's 35C+ here every day, and when I'm not in the heat I'm in the aircon, I expect that may be a big part of the dryness as well. I have artificial tears to use as needed, and I don't really need them that often. Once or twice in the evening when I sit in smoky, air conditioned bars is all.

The Bangkok LASIK experience
The day after I arrived in Bangkok I went into the LASIK clinic for my preliminary examination. This involved a basic test of my need for visual correction, measurement of cornea thickness, eye pressure, pupil size and the like, and testing for various conditions such as glaucoma. My correction factor was about -3.5 with astigmatism around -1.25, similar on both eyes but a little less on the right eye. My left eye is dominant, which they also measured.

After all the tests and measurements I was given the choice to elect for "monovision", which is basically keeping the non-dominant eye at needing a correction of -1.0 or so, to improve ability to read up close. I tried this with adjusted glasses, and found it was absolutely not something for me. Especially since I can read just fine up close with normal correction glasses.

At the end of the preliminary test I was given eye drops which dilated my pupil to measure the maximum size of it. My pupils enlarge to about 7 mm, which is well within the parameters of the LASIK process.

With everything measured and in order I discussed the various LASIK options with my surgeon. The recommendation I got was to go with one of the two most expensive options due to my complex correction requirement. Since the price difference was less than one set of glasses would cost me, I settled for the high end option as that will retain night vision better and is also likely to produce fewer visual artefacts such as glare, halo and starburst effects.

The preliminary examination took about 3 hours and was finished around noon. A time for the procedure was set at 16:00 (that's 4 pm) and off I went to get a HIV test done. A short, brisk walk in the 100F weather took me to the Bangkok Christian Hospital where the test was completed within an hour for 600 TBH. Had lunch and checked out some shopping areas while waiting for the appointment time, and then went back to the clinic.

At 1600 hours a final set of quick tests to ensure the various compounds used in testing were out of my eyes were done, and I was taken into the surgery area. This involved cleaning, changing shoes and putting a hospital gown over my clothes. Nothing major at all, really. I was given an MP3 player with an instruction soundtrack to listen to while the numbing drops were applied and allowed to take effect. The whole experience was very professional and well managed, and I was well taken care of the whole time. It took about 15 minutes before the drops had achieved the desired effect and I was led into the operation room. I could see fine, but things were a bit blurry since the eye drops had numbed down the responses in my eyes.

In the operating room I was placed on my back on a hard bed with a holder for my head. An uncomfortably bright light was placed overhead, with a green dot in the middle of it. I was asked to look at the dot, which was harder than it sounds - my eye was not happy obeying my instructions - but it was certainly doable with some concentration. The doctor talked me through every stage as it happened, and it was never anything more than a little uncomfortable.

First the flap on the cornea was cut with a microkeratome blade. Left eye first, and the experience was ... strange. Not really uncomfortable, and there was no pain at all, but it was weird to feel a pressure on the eye and then, when the flap was lifted, to see everything become very blurry. The ring of white LED lights became a near-solid mass of light, and the green dot smeared out. When the flap was good on the left eye they did one on the right eye, same procedure.

With both flaps created and pronounced "very good" it was time for the actual laser. My placement on the bed wasn't perfect, and it was hard holding my head steady, but some help from the doctor fixed that. I was told to once again focus on the green light, which would change to green, and just sit still.

My eyes filled with fiery light, looking very much like aurora borealis on top of my eyes. Nothing painful, or even uncomfortable, just very different from anything I've ever seen. I smelled something sharply burning, and realized it was my eyes. After a few seconds it stopped, the doctor checked some values, and they started again. Within 30 seconds, the eye was finished. Some rinsing and careful replacement of the flap, and the same procedure was repeated on the other eye. And then, just like that, the doctor announced I was finished and could sit up.

My vision was very blurry, but I could see well enough to navigate out. I sat down to rest a few minutes, and then my eyes were under the microscope. The doctor declared the eye to be smooth and nice, no wrinkles or aberrations. I had eye shields taped over my eyes, and sent off to the hotel in a taxi to sleep.

The next morning I headed back in for the first day examination. They took off the eye shields, my vision was tested and found to be around 20/20 or a bit better at a distance, but rather lousy close up due to the cloudiness remaining after the laser. The eye and flap were carefully examined and found good.

LASIK pros and cons
I've been seriously considering a LASIK procedure to get my eyes to work for me instead of against me for quite some time. It started with me looking at the various pre-LASIK options available, and I was on the fence for a long time mostly due to the rather high incidence of side effects which I wouldn't find worth it. But LASIK promised to change this, reducing both the severity and probability of side effect, and in recent years it seems to have started to fulfill that promise.

Old skool laser surgery comes in many forms, but the main pre-LASIK type I've been looking at is where the cornea is cut into the shape of an "integrated contact lense" using a laser. The main issue with this appears to be that in the healing process scar tissue will form on the surface of the cornea. This leads to a lot of vision problems which I'm not too keen at.

In order to get around this and improve both result and healing time, LASIK was developed. In a LASIK procedure, a flap of the cornea is cut loose and flipped up, and the shape of a lense is created underneath it. After the procedure is complete, the flap is flipped back down and adheres and heals into place on its own. Vision is never lost, and the patient can see well enough to perform normal tasks (excluding demanding tasks such as driving) immediately.

The main side effect to be expected is temporary light sensitivity. From what I've managed to gather from intarweb research, the chance of this becoming a permanent problem is slim to none. However, it will be an issue for at least a few weeks, up to six months. So I will be wearing sunglasses a lot. I can live with that.

Second on this list, and much more severe, is problems with night time vision. These range from loss of night vision to starburst and halo effects around light sources in nighttime. The early Russian-pioneered laser surgery methods pretty much completely eliminated night vision. Later pre-LASIK methods would severely reduce contrast in nighttime as well as adding starburst and/or halo effects, and this was the main reason I wasn't sold on them.

Modern wavefront LASIK (which goes by many names) supposedly does not have this problem, to the point where the US military does it to jet fighter pilots. This is pretty reassuring, since there are few jobs that place as high demands on vision as that. I'm rather keen on retaining my night vision and being able to drive at night without glasses.

There's still a chance that my night vision will take a beating, even with the most advanced wavefront LASIK, but since the odds are much improved and the severity of complication is likely to be low even if it does occur, it's no longer a deal breaker for me.

Third on the list is the possibility of "higher aberrations". That is, wrinkles on the surface of the eye, or deformations in the actual laser treated surface. These kinds of problems are very rare these days, since procedures are very mature. The highest risk comes from me rubbing my eyes early after surgery, damaging the flap, or something similar. This is always going to be a problem, at least until we have Star Trek "poof you're healed" procedures.

Fourth on this little list is the chance of catastrophic failure. This includes the flap getting severed or buttonholed, severe infection or the laser leaving a meaty crater behind instead of a corrected eye. Apparently the US military have performed 100k+ LASIK procedures, and in one case it lead to such severe problems a disability followed. That's pretty decent odds, and doesn't worry me much.

I'm still considering, but given the present level of pros and cons it looks like I will perform a LASIK procedure on Wednesday, at a Bangkok clinic. I've had glasses since I was 10, and it's time I was able to ditch them for just basic things.


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