Thursday, December 28, 2017

Starting 2018 Off Right With The Maiden Launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket


   There aren't many things more exciting than witnessing the first launch of a brand new rocket. SpaceX is cocked and ready to deliver such a thrill in January of 2018 with their new Falcon Heavy prototype rocket. Recent images have been taken of the Falcon Heavy in launch position at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL (see below.) 

The Falcon Heavy is already in vertical position at Cape Canaveral's 39A launch pad. Photo by John Kraus, johnkrausphotos.com
  
   The exact date for the Falcon Heavy's maiden launch has not been released yet, but this rocket model represents a significant increase in size and lift-capability when compared to the Falcon 9. The first stage of the Falcon Heavy is made up of three Falcon 9 first stage cores, which collectively contain 27 Merlin engines. (A regular Falcon 9 rocket has nine Merlin engines.)



The south-end view of the Falcon Heavy rocket. 27 Merlin engines will collectively produce at least five million pounds of thrust at lift-off. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press. 



   A Falcon 9 rocket produces 1.7 million pounds of thrust at lift-off, and it can carry approximately 50,000 pounds of cargo to low Earth orbit (LEO.) The Falcon Heavy will produce at least 5 million pounds of thrust at launch, and it can carry more than 140,000 pounds of cargo to LEO. All three first stage components of the Falcon Heavy are scheduled to return to Earth for a triple demonstration of rocket re-usability that has become a trademark of the privately-owned, trail-blazing company. 
   A major item to be launched aboard the Falcon Heavy has already been famously reported; Elon wishes to send one of his Tesla cars to orbit Mars. He posted an image (see below) of a "midnight cherry" Tesla Roadster mounted in what appears to be the payload section of the Falcon Heavy. It is not clear if the car will remain mounted inside the rocket when it reaches Mars, or if the car will be released by itself to begin its everlasting elliptical orbit around the Red Planet. 
   The car is also scheduled to play David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on a continuous loop, although it is also not clear who will be able to hear it. ;)




A Space Oddity for sure. Photo courtesy of Elon Musk via Instagram.






Friday, December 1, 2017

I Had LASIK Surgery And I Feel Fine!

If you are considering having LASIK surgery, don't watch any of the videos about it. Seriously. They will only scare you and make things worse. Find a good optometrist and see who they recommend for the surgery. I have been waiting for the right opportunity for YEARS, and it finally happened for me. You will get screened multiple times to make sure you are an appropriate candidate for this surgery. LASIK reshapes the OUTER surface of the eye, so if you have to wear reading glasses because your little ciliary muscle (located deeper in the eye) is more than ~40 years old, LASIK will not help you. Your well-trained optometrist can help explain this. 
   My eyesight has been at least 20/200 for most of my life, and I felt like a cripple without my glasses or contacts. It would literally be unsafe for me to drive a car, even in a dire emergency, if I ever lost my glasses or contacts. This is no way to live. 
   My brother had the surgery done a few years ago, and he was very pleased with the results. He convinced me that it did not hurt, so I decided to go ahead and jump off that cliff! 
   I had my procedure done at the TLC Laser Eye Surgery Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. I could not have been more impressed with how the entire staff treated me. On surgery day, I went in by myself, and I was scared. I kept picturing the main male character from "Ghost in the Shell," and wondering if someone would be able to make mechanical eyes for me if something went horribly wrong. 
Would people still date me if I ended up looking like Batou from "Ghost in the Shell?"

   I dealt with several different people the morning of my surgery. One girl helped me start the paperwork. Another girl scanned my eyes to get my exact cornea topography. One of the doctors talked to me about the LASIK procedure and answered my questions about the monovision option (where you purposely correct one eye for far-sightedness, but leave the other near-sighted. This makes me feel crazy just typing this.) I decided my goal for the surgery would be to try and fix both of my crippled eyes to have the best far vision possible. The lady doctor assured me this was a great choice for me.
   The male doctor who would be conducting my surgery came in and told me some useful information. He said there would be quite a lot of pressure put on my eyes during the procedure, and it would actually help if I opened my mouth. "Like in a silent scream?" I asked, opening my mouth. His eyes widened and he said, "Wow. That's a big one." I laughed, even though I was kind of terrified I was about to be permanently blinded by some freak laser mishap. I told the doctor that I was kind of a spaz, and that I was convinced I would move my eyes during the procedure and mess everything up. He assured me that wouldn't happen because the laser "tracks your eye." He said the laser would automatically stop if the tracking became too far off field, and he could also stop the laser at any time. He was very warm and charismatic, which was a little depressing because I was wearing a hairnet and absolutely no make-up. (You also cannot wear make-up for the entire week after LASIK surgery. Ugh.) He told me to look at the green light during the surgery, so I kept repeating, "Green light, green light, green light" so I wouldn't forget. He told me he would tell me what to do when I got into the surgical room, and he instructed me to go ahead and put a valium on my tongue. I was very happy to do this, and I was even happier when it kicked in a few minutes later. 
   After the valium fog hit me (thank GOD) I was escorted into the surgical room. I slid back onto the table and inched my head into some kind of cradle as instructed. A lady put numbing drops in my eyes, and I told her I had read a blog about a man who said his drops didn't fully numb one of his eyes and he could feel the pain of the laser in that eye. She asked if I wanted another drop, and I said, "If there are no side effects, then YES please." She gave me an extra drop in each eye, and for that reason I will always love that woman. (I could not see her face clearly and I have no idea who she is. But this is a true love story.) A man put a squeezy-ball thing in my right hand, which I held with a death grip, and he asked me if I wanted a blanket. I said, "Um, YES. Thank you." 
   Things moved very quickly. The table automatically moved me from underneath one laser to the next. Something was placed over one eye and pressed down, and my vision went black. I could feel quite a bit of pressure on my left eye, but it did not hurt at all. When the pressure ring came down on my right eye (or whatever the hell it was. It felt like a ring pushing around the edge of my eyeball), it felt like it wasn't placed quite evenly and there was too much pressure at the top of my eye. I almost said, "Let's try that one again!" but the squeezy-ball man started counting down from 10 seconds and I knew I could tolerate it for that long. The laser part was very blurry, and I saw a bunch of uniformly distributed tiny little blurry red lights that were moving, and there was a group of green lights in the center of the red lights. I remembered I was supposed to look at the green light, so I tried to do that. I could not find an accurate picture of what these blurry little lights looked like to me, but the one below is somewhat similar to what I saw. 

   At some point, I felt the male doctor (Dr. Penick) tape back my eyelids, and this was actually kind of pleasant and nothing like the Clockwork Orange imagery burned into my head. His movements were calm and smooth. The material he used felt flexible and lubricated, and there was nothing uncomfortable about it. I heard the squeezy-ball man counting down seconds again, and I concentrated on the green lights as best I could. I swear the whole thing was over in less than a minute. The only part that was really unpleasant was the pressure ring on my right eye. It hurt at the top of my eye for maybe a split second or two, but the same procedure did not hurt my left eye at all. I don't know why there was a difference. Squeezy-ball man helped me get up and he sat me in a chair in the dark hallway. "You did great," he said. I could not believe it was over so quickly, and I said, "You know, that wasn't quite as good as a massage, but it wasn't bad." Without hesitation, he replied, "For a little more [money], we could probably do that for you." 
   I was escorted to another dark room while I waited for my friend to come pick me up. I was told I had about "ten minutes" before the eye-numbing drops would wear off, and I was scared because I have zero pain tolerance. I took an ibuprofen to ward off any upcoming suffering. 
   My friend came in, and I asked him to look at my eyes. He said they looked a little bloodshot. I donned the sunglasses I was told to wear and I very carefully walked outside and got in my friend's car. I was told to go to sleep as soon as possible. I was still wide awake about an hour after the surgery, and my eyes were really starting to bother me by then. They felt itchy and scratchy, and I put in some of the lubricating drops I was given. That helped, and I put on the protective plastic goggles I was instructed to sleep in for the next week. I fell asleep for a couple of hours, and when I awoke, I was not feeling any pain at all. 
   That's it! My vision was a little cloudy, but I could already see SO MUCH MORE CLEARLY than I could right before the surgery. This was truly a life-changing event, and if you decide to do this, this will likely become very obvious to you just shortly after the procedure. 
   I put the two medicated drops in my eyes every five hours or so (these are the prescription drops you have to get before the day of your surgery.) When I went back to the surgery center the next morning, my vision was tested by my squeezy-ball blanket friend. Even with my slightly cloudy right eye, I had 20/25 vision. WOW. Just WOW. I told the man I was worried about ending up like Batou, and he said he usually hears people tell stories about the girl from "Final Destination", where her laser surgery goes wrong and burns a hole through her head. 
            I had a much better experience than Olivia from "Final Destination."

   The lady doctor (Dr. Watson) came in and talked to me, and I told her how impressed I was with the entire staff at TLC in Little Rock. She answered all of my questions, and she even gave me the before-and-after images of my cornea topography maps. 
   I understand that I still have a lot of healing left to do, and I must not rub my eyes for at least a week. I am not looking forward to sleeping in the plastic goggles for the next week, but I AM looking forward to living my life without being handicapped by poor eyesight.