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January 23, 2007

Office Day

I woke up thinking the world had ended. Okay, no, but I woke up thinking I was about to be late for an eye appointment. Knowing that if I set my alarm clock as usual I would probably wake up thinking I was going to work as usual and hit snooze too many times, I set the alarm on my cell phone as well. My cell phone, however, keeps correct time, while my alarm clock runs slow. So somehow, when my cell phone alarm went off and woke me up and I looked at my clock and saw that it was 7:58 I thought that it was *8*:58 and that I was scheduled to be at the eye doctor’s in two minutes. An impossible task. I figured out my error before even getting out of bed, but just the same, it was a very traumatic way to start the day.

I went to the eye doctor because I am having LASIK surgery on Friday. Yep, I’m taking the plunge. It seems that technology has marched along well enough for me to feel comfortable taking a laser to my eye. Not 100% comfortable, but comfortable enough for me to do it. This Friday, nonetheless. I went in for my consultation on Thursday of last week, and scheduled the surgery for just barely a week after that. A little crazy. But, I’ve got a bit of a lull before my next major trip and I put aside the money in my Flexible Spending Account at work, so I figured it’s time. Wish me well.

For the appointment today, they dilated my eyes. I forgot they were going to do this, and neglected to bring sunglasses. That’s okay, because they’re prepared for people like me—they have these sweet little tinted plastic sheets shaped kind of like lenses that slide in behind your regular glasses. Very convenient. I don’t know how I would have gotten to work without them, with the bright sun reflecting off the bright snow. Holy cow. It was really, really bright out.

When I got to work, I realized I had forgotten my key card and had to wait for a co-worker who pulled in behind me to come to the door. “Nice shades,” she said. I offered to pick some up for her the next time I was at my eye doctor’s.

“Hello everyone,” I sang, when I made it into our min-cubefarm. “It’s just me,” said Nicole, somewhat dejectedly. I offered to show her my dilated eyes, and she freaked out. She hid behind her hand and looked at me through a slit between the fingers. I knew she didn’t want to watch the surgery on Friday (there’s a window to the surgery room), but I didn’t realize she was this incredibly squeamish. Okay, that’s cool, I said. You don’t have to check it out.

I sat at my desk and started up my computer. I had opened and read one, maybe two e-mails—a little hazy, but actually not too bad—when I was interrupted by the voice of the big boss behind me. “Beth!” he exclaimed from my cube doorway (cubeway?). I turned around. “Hey, I just got my eyes dilated!” I said. “Do they look weird?” I stood up and took off my glasses for him to see. We maintain a very professional work environment. “Can you read?” he asked. “Yeah, well, kind of—I’m doing pretty well,” I said, squinting back towards the computer. “This is actually a serious question,” he said. “I want your help with a proposal we’re putting together.” He wanted me to read it, and offer input. Which was kind of funny, considering that last-minute proofreading has virtually never been part of my job, so of course it would happen to be an issue on the day I got my eyes dilated.

And that’s the story of how I came to edit part of a proposal we’re submitting. Okay, it merits just a little more explanation than that—I actually didn’t even know we were proposing to do this, and I think it’s really cool. So I’ve talked about what I do, and how we measure where things are and how they move. We can do so in small scale networks (several meters) or large scale networks (several 10s or ever 100s of kilometers). So far, we’ve done it with GPS. In this proposal, we propose to buy a fancy instrument for “TSL,” or Terrestrial Laser Scanning. And use it in the polar regions to support science funded by NSF-OPP (the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs). Rather than measuring the location of one point, like we do with GPS, this method measures the distance between the instrument and …. the surface of whatever you’re measuring. So, for instance, you could set up your instrument on a tripod on bedrock alongside a glacier, and then measure the glacier surface in, say, a several hundred meter square area, and then go back a year later and measure again and see if the glacier surface has lowered. Do that for a few years, and if the glacier surface is consistently lower, you could say that the glacier is thinning. Then you could think about the big picture and ask whether the glacier thinning is indicative of global warming, and how this thinning glacier (and others like it) may affect the things around it, like the adjacent ecosystem or the level of the sea. That’s only one application. Think of this as coming up with a really high resolution map of whatever you want to map, in 3D (except that you can’t get underneath whatever you want to map). You could map the topography of your favorite couch. Then, if you wanted, you could measure again after your next party and see just how much your couch has moved. Okay, maybe that’s a boring example. Go ahead, think of your own.

I have to try to go one month without rubbing my eyes after LASIK. That will be hard.

Posted by beth at January 23, 2007 12:39 AM

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In my own defense, I'm nearly blind and have had a long history of unhappy appointments with the optometrist. So I'm way more sensitive and squeamish about eye-issues than almost anything else :)

Posted by: Nicole at January 25, 2007 2:33 AM

How do you not rub your eyes for a month?

Posted by: Jen Yu at January 26, 2007 5:44 AM

I'm with you, Nicole. Well, my vision isn't that bad, and I've only had happy appointments with eye doctors... But I'm totally squeemish about eye things. I'm feeling kind of proud of myself for reading Beth's entry. I could literally feel discomfort in my eyes while I was reading, though...

Posted by: David at February 11, 2007 5:20 AM

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