Monday, November 22, 2010

The Big Digital Flies 1st Class (if only for 45 minutes)

Last week, I traveled to our nation's capitol for 3 and a half days of Informatics presentations. Well, actually only 2 and a half days since I spent nearly all of Sunday in an airplane. The conference itself was pretty good. I got to catch up with some friends from school who are now scattered around the country, and had a chance to think about what kinds of things I'd like to work on in the upcoming months. Also notable was the redesign of the AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association) logo. On the whole I think it was an upgrade, though my boss reportedly had some emotional attachment to the old logo. For your comparison:

Old AMIA Logo
Old (this was the biggest I could find at short notice)

New AMIA Logo

But enough about the actual conference, let's talk about the series of serendipitous events that transpired in my travel plans.

Because I only found out a couple weeks ago that I was going to this conference, I ended up not being able to take the direct flight from Salt Lake to DC and back, but was connecting through JFK both ways. I was a little nervous when I noticed that on the way there, I only had 40 minutes between flights, and also that I didn't have a seat assignment for the 2nd leg.

My nervousness was confirmed when we arrived 10 minutes late to JFK and then ended up parking out away from the airport while a magic hydraulic shuttle bus came and picked us up. Which meant that pretty much we couldn't get back to the terminal until everyone was off the plane. Anyway, I was just getting into the terminal when I heard the last call for my flight over the loudspeaker. I hustled to my gate, expecting that there'd be no way I'd make it, but I was happy to see the gate agent still dealing with some passengers when I arrived. I still was nervous about not having a seat assignment, but after about 5 minutes they gave me one and I was off down the jetway to the plane.

It was a little Canadair puddle jumper with just two seats on each side of the aisle. The stewardess informed me that the lady with the seat next to me was wondering if I'd be willing to switch with her daughter so they could sit together. I was just pleased to be on the plane and really either seat was window or aisle, so not too bad. I said sure, and moved up a couple rows to where the daughter had been sitting. A few moments later a couple showed up and the husband had the seat next to mine. I asked if his wife wanted my seat to sit next to him and she said yes, so she switched me. Only it turned out that her seat was a couple more rows up, in the first class section! Granted it was such a short flight (about 45 minutes of actual flight time) that it really was a limited experience that amounted to some extra legroom, drinking my water from an actual glass, and a free bag of Sun Chips and 1 Twix (Is 1 Twix the two sticks? If so, then half a Twix). But it was still a fun experience and it definitely struck me a little odd the way that just by moving up two rows, suddenly I was treated differently by the flight crew and was given special treatment. I mean, I know I'm sitting up there, but I paid for a economy class ticket. Weird.

On Wednesday when I was returning home, my connecting flight from DC to JFK was run by some airline I'd never heard of (Mesaba? Mesada? something like that) and the time to start boarding came and went without anyone appearing at the gate. Then a bit later, someone came out of the jetway and announced that there was some kind of paperwork-related delay. Another 30 minute passed. I had about an hour and half layover scheduled in New York, but now I was starting to get a little nervous. We were past our departure time and still hadn't starting boarding. I remembered that on my recent trip home from Hawaii, my dad had called some number and talked to someone at Delta who was able to assist us when we were delayed getting to LAX. So I called home and got that number and was able to talk to a Delta representative who got me switched from my 1 stop flight plan to one of the few remaining seats on the nonstop flight that the rest of my Utah/Intermountain colleagues were taking home. It left an hour later than my flight but arrived in Salt Lake 2 hours earlier than I would have been home had I stuck to my original itinerary. Oh, and I had a window seat with no one next to me in the middle seat. On a very full flight. Sometimes you just get lucky, I guess.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Big Digital Gets an Eye Exam

As part of the regimen of preventive care that I'm supposed to do for my diabetes, once a year I'm supposed to get an eye exam, where an eye doctor looks into my eye to make sure that the small blood vessels in my retina are doing okay. You know, because sometimes people with diabetes go blind. Which would be bad.

Anyway, even though I only really need that part of the eye exam done, I still get to go through the part where they see which small letters you can read, and which is better? #1? or #2? and some stuff for colorblindness and a part where there's a picture of a red balloon, where all I have to do is look straight ahead. Anyway, I always get a little tense during the whole testing process because, even though I don't feel like I need glasses, I'd hate to screw up on the test and somehow convince someone that I need some help. Anyway, another year, another 20/20. So no worries about that for now.

Once I get done with the testing part, they put some drops in my eyes to numb them. Which always feels weird. And then they check the pressure in my eyes with some kind of device that they touch to my eyes. But I don't feel it because they're numb. And then they give me the eye drops that dilate my pupils, so that the doctor can look around inside my eye. It takes a few minutes for them to really open up, and in the meantime they drop you off in a dimly lit waiting area that for some reason has a variety of reading materials. I say that because after a few minutes of dilation, things start to get blurry up close and reading is no longer a possibility. Unless it's things that are in large print. Which they don't actually have in that waiting area. I know. I checked.

Eventually, I get taken back to the examination room, where I sit and wait for a while longer, and since I can't read, I try to think of things to think about. Eventually the eye doctor arrives and he get up close and shines a light into my eye and has me look in different directions. While he's doing this, there are moments when I see some weird images superimposed on what little I can see of the dark room. Things that look like blood vessels. I asked him and he said that yes, what I'm seeing is the light he's shining in there reflecting off the inside of my eyeball. So that's kinda cool. Anyway, everything was kosher, come back in a year.

Afterward, I get to experience what it must be like to be far-sighted for the next few hours. It's weird because everything looks normal until I try to look at something up close and it's blurry and I can't get it to come into focus. My vision feels just fine, so sometimes it catches me off guard when I look at something up close and it's illegible. So most reading is pretty much out. It's nice that I can actually check my email by using Ctrl+ to zoom everything up to gigantic font sizes, but even that tires my eyes out after a few minutes. Oh, and bright lights look extra special with lines shooting out of them and multicolored bands at the edges. Thankfully this year, it seemed like my eyes recovered a little quicker than last year.

Also I wondered what my eyes look like when they're fully dilated like that, so I took a picture to share.

Eye Exam 2010

I think if you look close you might be able to see my brain.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Ever have one of those days when your insides a feeling a little...funky...and you say to yourself, "Man, what did I eat yesterday? Chili?" and then you stop to think and...yep. Chili. No? Me neither.