Lasik: 3 years later — was it worth it?

It’s been around three years now since I had lasik surgery. Was it worth it?

I had worn glasses since I was ten years old. Too much reading probably. At first, my prescription wasn’t that bad, but as time went on, the glasses got thicker and thicker. By the time I was 40, I needed bifocals. I got the kind without the lines, which really would have bugged me, but bifocals are a headache in and of themselves — if your head isn’t at exactly the right angle, things are out of focus. Lying on the sofa and wanting to watch TV required a few minutes of arranging pillows so I could see everything in focus, and changing positions meant pausing the show to make adjustments.

Then things started getting worse. My eyes couldn’t handle the stress. I would get flashes that stayed for many minutes — you know, how when you look at the sun and then look away and there would be a kind of exposure that stays in your vision? I’d get those for no reason whatsoever.cyclops

The final straw was when I was in court and I started seeing two images. Scariest thing ever. You ever been to the optometrist and your head is against that machine and the doctor shows you two images, one above the other, and says, “Let me know when the images combine into one?” I was seeing two images without that machine!

So it was determined that I really needed to get a lasik operation by everyone except, of course, my insurance company, which called it “elective surgery.”

I was hesitant, of course — it’s my eyes, what if something goes wrong? (Plus I thought I looked good in glasses.)

The surgery itself was really simple. It took five minutes at most. I laid back, they used a q-tip to numb my eyes, and then it was done. I needed a ride home and couldn’t drive for a day or so, but the next morning was amazing. I woke up and could read the clock on the other side of the room for the first time in my adult life. I stayed home from work just in case but I was fine by later that day.

I also remember the first time I went to bed that night after having the surgery, and just as I was about to lay down, reaching up to my face to remove my non-existent glasses. Forty-five years of doing that every day is a hard habit to break.

One difference I noticed was that there was a halo effect around lights at night, especially things like streetlights. My night vision also seemed diminished. This is normal, and I’m not sure if it’s gotten better over time or if I’ve just become used to it.

My eyes were also very dry after the operation and I had to carry around eye drops and put them in every few hours. It gradually got better so that I no longer need to do that.

Still haven’t figured out how to shoot lasers out of my eyes, though. I suppose that comes later.

The operation was expensive but then again, so is buying new glasses every few years, which can really add up.

I still need glasses for reading and using the computer, but I buy them three for ten dollars at the discount store.

Last week, I decided that I should get bifocals again, with a clear top part and a magnified bottom part. faceThat way, I wouldn’t be whipping off my glasses every time I go between reading something and looking at the person I’m talking to (which happens a lot when you’re a lawyer, as you can imagine).  What a mistake. I had forgotten the problems with having to hold your head a specific way. With the bifocals I had to hold my head up and look down my nose to read the computer screen. Fortunately, the eyeglass people were nice and allowed me to return them for a full refund.

So I’m going back to what I learned to do after the surgery — put the glasses down at the end of my nose so that I can see over top of them. Fortunately, I have plenty of nose for that.

It’s frustrating to have to always carry around glasses with me. I have glasses laying all over the house so if I go into the kitchen and need to read cooking instructions on a package, I’ll be ready. (I used to be able to hold those things up to my face to read them, but not any more.) But given all the advantages, this is minor.

So yes, I absolutely recommend it.

Remembering my Father

It’s Father’s Day

Dad influenced us in many ways without sitting us down and giving us lessons. I can’t remember him ever saying “Now, don’t be a racist” or “It’s important for you to be a responsible person” but we learned by example.

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My family around 1977, but with my girlfriend (now wife) Heidi standing next me.

Dad quit his job at Channel 12 to start his own business, and painted signs in the basement of our home, so he was always there. Each of us later went on to start our own businesses, and while we’ve each had our ups and downs, we’ve all become pretty successful at it.

He was also fiercely loyal to Mom, and loved her tremendously and treated her with respect, and that taught us something, too.

He hardly ever drank, except maybe wine on holidays, and none of us grew up thinking we had to drink to have fun. And he always made us laugh.

When Heidi and I started dating, one time we went on a picnic with my family and as we walked through the park, she was astounded to see Mom and Dad holding hands, obviously still in love with each other. “I didn’t know parents did that sort of thing,” she said. Later, my friend Mark Waid said something similar: “The reason kids come over to your house every weekend to hang out is because everyone wants to be a Ventrella. You don’t realize how unusual your family is.”

And that was true — on TV, the family sitcoms all had families basically getting along. But in real life, most of the kids I knew were from broken homes or unhappy homes. I never realized that when I was young.

So here’s to Dad: You did a good job.

You don’t like women; you just like sex

“Why can’t I get a date?” some men ask. “I like women and I’m a nice guy.”

Then I see them post jokes where the punchline is some variation of “go make me a sandwich” — or they degrade Hillary Clinton’s looks instead of her politics — or they use words like “feminazi” to describe women who support equality.hugh-hefner-how-do-you-get-so-many-bitches

While I hold that nothing should be free from jokes and satire (and yes, I have found some truly offensive things hilarious before and so have you, admit it), when I see you post these kinds of “jokes” over and over again,  it tells me something. People who say “Hey, it’s just a joke” don’t realize how much the kind of joke you tell says more about you than anything else.

And what it tells me is that you don’t really like women; you just like sex with women. It’s not the same thing.

Maybe if you started to think of them as people deserving of respect, even when you disagree with them, you might get more dates and more long-term relationships. Maybe you’ll be more attractive to them if you build them up instead of tearing them down. I mean, isn’t that how you would like to be treated?

It’s not that hard of a concept, really.

 

Don’t die with regrets

Today’s my birthday. I’m getting gray and old. That’s a scary thought, especially when I consider where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.

There are paths I chose in my life that, in retrospect, I wish I had not. But I’d like to revisit a post from two years ago to talk about life regrets.groucho

When I was in High School, I thought I’d be a famous songwriter in a band when I was older. Or a politician. Or an actor. I had so many things I wanted to do. I was sure that by the time I was this age, I’d be rich and famous … but then, a lot of kids think that, don’t they?

So let’s start with this: Try not to have big regrets.

Act on your dreams. No one was ever on their death bed saying, “I’m so glad I never tried to accomplish that dream of mine!”

I’ve done a lot of different things in my life. I’ve been successful at some, and not so much at others. (You’ll forgive me if I reminisce a bit here on the anniversary of my trip around the sun.)

When I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be an actor. So my mom took me to community theater, and I passed auditions and was in a number of plays. (I continued on through High School.)

Then I wanted to be a cartoonist. I ended up drawing comics for my school newspapers through law school.

I thought it would be great to be in a band, so I taught myself guitar, bass and piano. I played in many bands and still do from time to time.

In High School, I decided to start an “underground” newspaper. It became quite popular, although it was more like Mad Magazine than a real newspaper. (I continued to write for the college and law school papers and later did a column for the Allston-Brighton Item, a real newspaper.)

Then I said, “I should write a musical comedy.” I did, and the High School drama coach liked it. The school put it on. It was held over an extra week and got good reviews from the local paper.

In college, I decided to run for the student government and received the highest number of votes of any candidate, and was later awarded the college’s Student Service Award in my senior year.

Then I decided to go to law school, mostly because I was interested in politics. I became involved with the Massachusetts chapter of Americans for Democratic Action and ended up as their President for a year. I also worked as a lobbyist, and was campaign manager for a state representative for a summer.

After law school, I said, “There should be a magazine for animated films,” and started Animato!, which later grew into a real magazine carried in book stores everywhere.

Then I joined up with some friends and began one of the first live-action fantasy medieval role-playing games in America. I later broke away and started the Alliance LARP, which now has been running for more than 20 years. I have chapters all over the United States and Canada, and the Discovery channel recently did a documentary about us. (Yes, you watch it on Netfix and yes, that’s me and Heidi being interviewed.)

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to write fiction, and I have published three novels and a bunch of short stories (no, they’re not self-published) as well as edited four anthologies, the most recent featuring three New York Times Bestselling Authors (coming out in early 2017). I even have an agent now.

Now, were all of these things successful? Absolutely not. I tried to make a living at the LARP but instead ended up living in poverty for a few years. My books are not best-sellers. My bands may have played all the big clubs but we never got a record deal. I gave up on the cartooning and never pursued the acting.

I’ve had regrets about life, just like everyone. But they are rarely of the “I wish I had tried that” variety.

And that’s today’s lesson: Take control and make things happen in your life. There is no “Life Fairy” who will come along, point a magic wand, and make all your dreams come true. Sitting around and watching TV won’t get you anywhere. Get off your butt and do something. Make something of your life.

Make sure that when you’re on your death bed, you have no big regrets.

What “Make America Great Again” really means

Whenever I hear conservative politicians say things like “Make America great again” I have to wonder. The economy is booming. Unemployment is at its lowest rate in ten years. The deficit has been reduced by 2/3rds. The stock market is at its highest ever and gas prices are at their lowest in years.  Foreign policy-wise, ISIS leaders have been killed, Qadaffi was removed, bin Laden is dead, and we have less troops overseas than we did eight years ago.trump

These are all things that, if a Republican were in office, conservatives would be citing to say how wonderful their President is.

So what do they mean when they say “Make America great again”?

It’s clear that they’re not talking about the standard of living, foreign policy, or the economy. What they want is to go back to the old ways. You know — an America where

  • Minorities know their place and aren’t all uppity and saying “Black lives matter”
  • Gays hide in the closet and don’t demand rights
  • Transgender people are treated like they have mental problems and are shunned from society
  • Women let men decide their personal health issues, especially concerning abortion
  • Non-Christians let Christians force their religious views into the laws
  • Immigrants are kept out so that we can keep a white majority
  • No one questions the rich and powerful or demands that they pay their fair share
  • Health care and other needed necessities are only available to those who can afford it

That’s the America they want back — where rich, white, Christian men run things and everyone else sucks it up.

It’s a definition of “great” that only applies to a small minority of Americans who have managed to convince the simple-minded and gullible that America is not about equality, opportunity, and freedom but instead about allowing those in power to force their views onto the rest of us.

 

 

 

“Political correctness” and freedom of speech

The phrase “political correctness” was coined by conservatives who were mad that they could no longer insult minorities, gays, or women without facing criticism in return. When I was a kid, political correctness was called “being polite.”

The problem with most people who whine about “political correctness” is that they have this idea that freedom of speech means freedom from consequences of that speech.

You have every right to say insulting and demeaning things. And we have every right to call you an asshole for saying those things. gervais

Often the people who defend their insulting comments don’t think they are being rude.

“Gee, you sure are fat.”

“Hey! Don’t be so mean.”

“I wasn’t being mean, I was just stating a fact. How dare you be so rude to me simply for stating my opinion! How dare you enforce your political correctness on me!”

That’s how you guys look to us. You look like big whiners who can dish it out but can’t take criticism in return.

If your idea of free speech is that you can degrade others and be insulting without consequence, then maybe you need to better understand the 1st amendment, which guarantees your right to be as insulting as you want but doesn’t protect you from other people calling you out for it.

This is not to say that people can’t go too far. Preventing someone with a different viewpoint from speaking doesn’t support the concept of “freedom of speech” much. This happens too often on college campuses where well-meaning but misguided students won’t let people with different opinions have a forum.

But — and here’s a key that many opponents of “political correctness” don’t get — this is not the same thing as the government doing it. I’m getting pretty sick of comparisons like “Political correctness is exactly what the Soviet Union used to do!” Since the United States government is not forcing political correctness on everyone, no it isn’t. The 1st amendment limits the government from curtailing your freedom of speech. It doesn’t guarantee you a forum nor does it protect you against criticism.

And if the government suddenly came down with laws requiring “political correctness,” I would be the first to be fighting against them. (It’s why I am also against “hate crimes.”)

So, in conclusion, please stop whining about “political correctness” every time someone criticizes you for insulting things you have said. . Grow a thicker skin already, you big babies.

 

Compromise is not a dirty word

Compromising and negotiating is how mature adults handle problems.  They work together to solve their problems.

It’s so sad that our society has so many people who cannot understand this, especially when it comes to politics.

I’m not talking about compromising your ethics. But politics? Law? My marriage? Life in general? angry-baby

I’ve learned, as I’ve aged and become wiser, that I’d rather work with the other side and get 50% of what I want than be stubborn and get 0%.

There are gray areas in the world. Not everything is black and white. Compromise is needed to get things done.

A lot of the arguments I get into with people over politics seem to do with this refusal to compromise; with people who see things only in black and white. (And this includes many on the left as well.)

In some ways, it is like those who strongly believe their religion to the point where there can be no compromise because that means you’re helping evil prevail. Abortion is the best example I can think of there. I am more than willing to compromise on this issue — I agree that there should be restrictions based on medical science. I am willing to change my position as medical science changes.  However, those who think that a collection of cells is a life from the moment of conception will accept no compromise. They will not budge, so how can we work together to solve this problem?

The gun extremists also think that it is impossible to have any compromise because it’s a violation of their civil liberties as guaranteed by the Constitution. They feel that any attempt to prevent felons, terrorists or the insane from having guns is as much of a violation of their rights as throwing someone in jail without giving them a hearing. There is no middle ground with these people.

Libertarians are some of the worst in this regard. They hate all government (except of course the government they like; they are hypocrites, but uncompromising ones). If you say “You know, people shouldn’t discriminate” they argue that it is their right to discriminate and if you don’t let them kick gays out of their business then you are violating their freedom! (They of course, could care less about the freedom of anyone else.)

Seriously, how do you deal with these people? Well, you can’t. You can lead someone to compromise, but you can’t make them think.

And you know what I’ve found? So many of these people are unhappy with life. They lack empathy for anyone else’s view. They’re angry all the time because they are constantly fighting battles they can’t win because of their inability to compromise.

I don’t always get my way. The people I can deal with also don’t always get their way.

And that’s just fine.