On the fourth Date of Christmas, my true love saw with me: “Apollo 11”


Cathy and I saw Apollo 11 last night as part of the ongoing 12 Dates of Christmas gift, wherein she agrees to see a movie with me once a month. It won’t surprise you that I loved this amazing documentary. She did too. I regret I did not wear my MOON SHOT 1969: I WAS THERE shirt. Next time for sure.

You should totally go see it. It’s fantastic, and even though I like to think I know everything about the Space Program, there were dozens of scenes I’d never seen before. Apparently the director stumbled across a collection of 65mm film that had been shot in 1969 for a documentary that was abandoned – now I want to know more about that.

Some of the scenes are just breathtaking. The elevator ride up to the capsule. The launch itself. Tracking shots of Apollo 11 hurtling through the atmosphere. I was wowed by these, and caught myself thinking “well, the scenes on the moon will be a bit of a letdown since those were shot with relatively lame cameras”, but even those were gripping. Director Todd Douglas has done a fantastic job putting all this footage together – including excerpts from 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings.

Watch the trailers. Then go see it. I truly regret that we missed the chance to see this in IMAX; I hope it comes around again in that format closer to the actual 50th anniversary this coming July.

Here’s a neat bit of trivia. The film’s score adds a lot of heart-pounding tension to a plot where you already know the outcome, which is pretty great, but apparently it was all done on instruments and technology actually available in 1969.

Several friends who already saw it told me, half in jest, “Well, I looked but I didn’t see you.” But – you sort of can. As you’ve all heard me mention constantly for the past 49.5 years, Mom and Dad took Michael and me to see the launch in 1969, and I have a very distinct memory of a helicopter flying along the crowd gathered on the beach to see the launch with a cameraman hanging out the door. Sure enough, we see what I think is that helicopter in the movie, and some good footage from it of the million people who’d gathered to watch the launch. I like to think we’re in those scenes, although I cannot exactly say “THERE: THAT PIXEL IS ME.”


Watch for the helicopter above if you see the movie – this is a frame from Dad’s Super 8 film of our 1969 vacation, although it’s certainly not quite the quality of the Apollo 11 film I saw last night, but they both stir fantastic memories. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

Here’s the actual launch from our viewpoint in Parish Park, Titusville, Florida, July 16, 1969. (Fast forward to 6:00 for the launch, and you can skip a lot of completely dark film that Dad optimistically called “The Rocket At Night”)

I hope my children and grandchildren get to experience something this breathtaking and awe-inspiring in their lifetimes. But if they don’t, I’m glad we have this movie.

Pi Day

It’s Pi Day. March 14. 14th day of the third month. And if – for some reason – you insist on writing the date as “3/14”, it kind of looks like π, except that 3/14 = 0.2142857….

We might all be better off celebrating Pi Approximation Day – July 22, which some would write as 22/7, which is 3.142857… That is much closer to the true value, which is, of course


I typed that from memory. Trust me.

So anyway, math lovers will temporarily put aside their advocacy for the one true ISO8601 style of writing the date, which is


for one day, in the interests of the greater good of society. We will write the date wrong, just this once.

Sidebar: The 2000 version of the ISO8601 standard allowed for writing dates with “reduced accuracy”, and allowed you to use the notation “–MM-DD” for a date without a year, so you COULD write “–03-14” and be within the standard. But for reasons I don’t know, mainly because it costs money to download a copy of the standard, the 2004 version of ISO8601 apparently disallows writing the month without also writing the year.

Every –03-14 I always wind up thinking about Pi. I can’t help it. Everybody at work is sending me pi jokes and links to pi T-shirts and this is what happens when you make the mistake of standing up in a large team meeting 20 years ago and reciting Pi to 100 decimal places in order to make some point about Applescript programming; you are now “the pi guy” and every year, it never stops.

do you know a lot of random facts about pi?


are they interesting to lots of other people?


are you going to write a blog post about them anyway?


ok just for now, why do you know π to 100 places?

well I memorized it to 200 places in grade 10, but I’m getting older.

why did you memorize it to 200 places in grade 10?

Because I thought it would impress girls

did it?

It took a while. Cathy married me several decades later. It was worth it.

bilateral laser retinopexy

Let me start by saying it is amazing what they can do with lasers these days, including shooting them into your eyes on purpose to fix things, and if this has anything to do with the work that Waterloo’s Dr. Donna Strickland did to earn the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, then I will take a bold stand in favour of it.

the word of the day is ‘retinopexy’

So … a few months ago I had a Bilateral (both eyes) Laser (Light Amplification Something Something Radiation) Retinopexy (treatment for a detached or torn retina.) and today I had a followup check

This is a picture of one of my (two) eyes earlier today. Doesn’t it look great? Especially with the pupil all dilated like that?


(Incidentally if anybody ever asks you “Have your eyes ever been checked?” you should say “No, they’ve always been brown.” Trust me. Nobody in the eye care business has ever heard this or any other joke.)

Here’s what you can’t see. At the back of the eye, your retina is attached to what we lay people would call “the back part of your eye”. (The doctor described the anatomy of the eye to me in technical terms: “Picture a basketball filled with a water balloon.” ) For a while it was coming apart, but now, my retina (water balloon) part is still attached to the back (basketball) part, thanks to the awesome power of LASERS.

wait, back up

Here’s what happened.

Last spring while sailing on one of them cruise ships in the middle of the Atlantic, it occurred to me that my right eye was bothering me, especially when looking at bright objects like, for instance, “the Atlantic.” Blurry, seeing lots of “floaters”. Had noticed it for months, I thought, like an idiot, I was just “tired” and attempted the home remedy of “rubbing my eyes”.

At the urging of my cruisemates because this was quite the topic of dinner conversation for several nights during which time everyone discussed their theories of what it could be along with a list of possibly similar problems that had happened to them, I made an appointment to see my optometrist – another fine Waterloo person incidentally – for when we got back, and she took a look-see and announced, “Hmmm. Good thing you came in. You’re right, something is wrong. I’m referring you to a specialist.”

the specialist

Off we went to the fine ophthalmology clinic at St. Mike’s. After a round of incredibly powerful eye drops, the doctor did an exam – a procedure since repeated several times, and I will never get used to this – where he basically presses his big eye examining headset thing RIGHT ONTO YOUR EYE and shines a light with approximately the power of the sun into it, instructing you to look left, left and up, up, up and right, right, and I’ll say that it’s not painful but it is just incredibly annoying and you naturally want to shut your eyes, but they (the doctors) would rather you didn’t do that, and you just want it to be OVER, and eventually it is.

“Hmmm.” the doctor said. “Now let’s look at your other eye.”

But wait! The problem is in my right eye! My left eye is fine.

“Let’s look anyway.”

Well, OK, knock yourself out, I guess, but you’re wasting your time looking in the other eye except maybe for reference but … what’s that?

So, surprise! I had two torn retinas.

Visions of complicated processes had been racing through my head; I had been researching things on Google and discovered there was a surgical process that involved doing something to your eye that required you to lie face down for several weeks of recovery. Well wouldn’t that be fun. I could put my laptop on the floor, I could get one of those massage table things so you can stare straight down … You know what, not only might it get me out of travelling to a meeting I didn’t want to do, but there would be great comedy potential in this. I can make this work.

I assume I come back for some complicated surgical thing in a few weeks, then right?

“No, we’re not doing that – we’ll fix it today. Go wait outside for a bit.”

the immediate procedure

30 minutes later I was lying on my back in a dark room, with my eyes numbed by various magic drops, and the doctor performed a Laser Retinopexy in each eye – a procedure where he wears a head-mounted laser thing that I never really did get a good look at it, and leans right in on your eye and shoots lasers at the retina, which if I’m understanding this right, deliberately creates some scar tissue at the back of your eye to hold the retina in place.

During this procedure, you feel tremendous annoyance and desire for it to be over, but not really any pain; you DO see an incredible imaginary purple fireworks show as the laser does its thing.

Afterwards, thank goodness I had Cathy with me to drive as I had no interest in looking at any bright light sources, such as “outside.”

the aftermath

I’ve now returned a few times for followup checks. Everything seems to be fine. My vision isn’t getting better – this is nothing like the procedure they do to correct your eyesight; in this case they’re shooting a laser at a totally different part of your eye. But it’s not getting any worse either. Back to the optometrist for a new prescription and some new glasses – horribly overpriced, due to an eyeglasses cartel you probably know nothing about – but things are better.

I’ve since learned quite a few of my friends and neighbours have undergone something similar. Isn’t science amazing? It makes getting old tolerable.

Many thanks to Dr. Muni and Dr. Paterson, and my cruisemates for urging me to do something.

what did this all cost?

Nothing. Other than parking. Thank you, Ontario health care system.