Thursday, April 20, 2006

Google eyed

So now I'm back I've been catching up with my reading. According to the Google Blog, the Google Calendar has just been launched. I've been a particular Google fan ever since they opened up their personalized home page, which has my favourite ever feature: a pair of Google eyes which follow your cursor around. You go cross-eyed looking at them, but they're ever so cute.

So now I've checked out the Calendar, and it's very good-looking. I'd tried using a web calendar called 30 boxes but found it depressingly grey and quite hard on the eyes when you've been staring at the screen for a long time. The Google version is wonderfully colourful and uncluttered, and the best ever thing is that you can separate your life into different areas. You can use different colours for different types of events. So I've used red for work-type things, green for friends, and a clear blue for a special calendar which I mean to use to track my progress in fixing my eyesight. Once it's up and running and full I can apparently set it up for public access so that anyone who's interested can see how my vision is improving.

I suppose the visually impaired aren't Google's only audience, but it's nice to see that they have us partly in mind by making the internet actually possible to look at.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Outdoors is good for eyes

I haven't been posting because I've been on holiday: I volunteered as an untrained assistant on an early-season sailing trip in Greece. It was great. I couldn't afford a paid-for holiday, having given up my job. But I wouldn't have wanted one. The trip was for the handicapped, and their carers, and one of the girls I was looking after was legally blind.

Her seriously impaired vision is the result of retinitis pigmentosa, a fairly common eye disease with no known cure. Often the syndrome begins gradually, with poor night sight and a slowly narrowing field of vision as a person ages, until all they see is a tunnel. Julie's condition had worsened much more quickly &mdash they guess it's a genetic thing &mdash and now she can barely see at all.

It was amazing to see what this girl could do without using her eyes at all. Gradually she learned all the parts of the boat: the ropes, the stays, the boom. She learned them by touch, with all their proper names. The thing about a boat is that everything is very neatly arranged, and a good sailor is supposed to know where everything is without having to look. Julie was wonderful. Like the best seaperson she learned how to listen to the way the boat was moving, to the sound of the wind, to the hum of the hull through the water. With the slightest adjustments she could trim the sail to perfection.

Julie was inspiring, but the whole trip did wonders for my eyesight. Mostly it's what comes from being outdoors all the time, with no straining to see. When did you ever see a sailor who wears specs? They all have 20/20 vision, and I'm sure it comes from spending your days scanning the horizon, looking into the far distance, never struggling to make out ugly things like signposts and unfriendly faces. I hardly wore my glasses at all, and when my jobs were over I'd sit on the front deck of our boat and watch the waves and the birds and the colours. I relaxed. There were flashes of total clarity, of perfect acuity. My eyesight is improving. But will it last back at home?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Snellen eye chart

It's a good idea, if you actually want to measure your progress in fixing your eyesight, to get hold of a Snellen test chart. They're those pretty things you get in the optician's. You can order them from the internet. I'll do this at some point, but at the moment I worry that if I do an eye test every day I'll start to become anxious, and will get depressed if my prescription doesn't constantly improve. The most important thing is to make sure your eyes feel no stress, that they're relaxed. When I'm comfortable with how my eyes are feeling, I'll get hold of a chart.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Smoke gets in your eyes

So now I learn that smoking is very bad for your eyesight. This is terrible news! Smoking is one of the things that has kept me busy and happy while I've been trying to correct my vision. Cigarettes have the effect &mdash probably a trick of the mind &mdash of making me feel relaxed. And when you're relaxed your eyes are also relaxed and you see more clearly.

Apparently, research at the University of Manchester has shown that smoking might be associated with age-related macular degeneration, a disease of the central part of the retina causing distorted vision. I suppose that this much I can believe. Smoking is bad. But it bothers me that people extrapolate from these studies to imply that almost every aspect of your health will be ruined by cigarettes.

I will stop smoking as soon as I can: it's smelly, it's unpleasant being addicted, it's bad for my lungs. But frankly at the moment I'm more concerned with fixing my eyesight, and cigarettes don't have an effect on that.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wearing weak lenses

A while ago I wrote a post about a site called glassesdirect. You type in your prescription and they send you spectacles for just £15. I ordered myself a pair, much weaker than my current prescription. They arrived today.

They're neat black plastic frames (though you can order several types), and seem solid enough. But the best thing is that my eyes feel comfortable wearing them. Since I've been going around most of the time without glasses I've found that when I do wear my ordinary strong pair I get headaches and everything seems strained. This morning I went down to the shops with my glassesdirect ones, and though I can't read street signs I can see enough to negotiate my way in and out of doors, and to smile at the newsagent, and know she's smiling at me. Until my vision starts improving big time, these new weak glasses will be the ones I'll be wearing. At least they make my eyes do some work, and at least they won't (I think) give me headaches.