Went to the optometrist on Friday for an eye-health checkup. He works up the street, and has a great, um, bedside manner--Dr. Peter P. has a wickedly dry, but smart, sense of humour.
Nothing like getting my pupils dilated on a brilliantly sunny day. Dilating the pupils makes things blurry up to a distance of two to four feet. The last time I had this done ended up being very uncomfortable. I was in Boston, and was about a four minute drive away from home. I was going to call a cab, but I could not read the phone book: up close, the text was blurry, and at arm's length, it was too far away to read. So I stumbled around Boston on what seemed to be the brightest day of the year, wearing my underpowered glasses, with my hands shading my squinty left eye (my right eye was closed), trying to hail a cab. It felt like the light from one thousand hot suns was burning my retinas for the whole 15 minute walk home.
This time around, Dr. Peter P. said I could wear my contacts after the procedure, so I walked home in relative comfort--Oakleys on and the brim of my baseball cap riding low.
It was strange not being able to read. All I was able to do was watch TV, and sitting there for three hours until my pupils regained the ability to constrict really underscored a) how often I multitask, and b) how often I read.
I found that focusing on one passive task for a few hours to be difficult, and I found myself getting bored... although my boredom might have been partially due to my impatience acclimatizing to the accents in "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels". But after a while, it was relaxing to acknowledge that despite my desire to go code or read, I was stuck watching TV.
This tangentially reminds me of a conversation I had last week: I think since I moved to suburbia, I have turned to the web more for stimulation (not that kind...) than ever before.
I think it is because when I was in a city, there were sights, sounds, and smells all around, and I experienced them everyday on foot--walking to work, riding the subways, stumbling around half-blind, going to the grocery store, etc.
Now, I drive everywhere, usually by myself. In the mornings, I've got Stern, and in the evenings, it's either Hot 93.7 ("18 jams in a rizzow"), or more likely, a CD. Which means that I essentially sit in a sensory deprivation chamber to work, at work, and on the way home from work... so I crave the elements of community--the familiarity and novelty that comes with a neighbourhood--and try to get them from the web.
Which reminds me of a conversation I had with my co-worker Jeremy about an article that described the concept of a "third place":
"a... place, besides work and home, to meet with friends, have a beer, discuss the events of the day, and enjoy some human interaction. Coffee shops, bars, hair salons, beer gardens, pool halls, clubs, and other hangouts are as vital as factories, schools and apartments ['The Great Good Place', 1989]. But capitalist society has been eroding those third places, and society is left impoverished... So it's no surprise that so many programmers, desperate for a little human contact, flock to online communities - chat rooms, discussion forums, open source projects, and Ultima Online. In creating community software, we are, to some extent, trying to create a third place."
It's a neat article that goes on to describe how seemingly small design decisions can have magnitudes larger influence on the "feel" of a software system. Geeky stuff, but I am going to delve into User Experience and third places more in the future...