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September 2023 has flown by, and I’m sitting here with just half a day left to release another Podcast episode. My head is still spinning, so I figured I’d give you an update on what I’ve been up to and how things are going with regards to my cataract surgery, which was performed on September 21, and went very well, so despite the bloodshot eye, there’s nothing to worry about.
KORG Minilogue XD Ableton Live Integration
I’ve also just done a tentative release of a plugin for Ableton Live that I have created over the last few months, called KORG Minilogue XD Ableton Live Integration. The plugin uses Max for Live and essentially enables the user to completely integrate Ableton Live with the KORG Minilogue XD synthesizer hardware, enabling control of every aspect of the synth, including some controls that are buried deep in the device’s menus. They are all at your fingertips with this plugin. Even changes you make to the dials either on the device or in Ableton Live, are recorded along with any notes you play as you record MIDI data. Using the Ableton External Instrument device in the software you will also hear and be able to record the audio from your Minilogue XD right there in Ableton Live.
The software was inspired by the amazing work that Andrew Norris did on his plugin for the original Minilogue, and although I had a version based on his plugin working after a few weeks, I scrapped most of what I’d done in favor of the code from a tutorial on the blog of the makers of Max for Live, Cycling.com. I then added more code to make everything work how I wanted it to and worked on the look and feel to match my own Ableton Live theme Dark Teal, which I’m also packaging up with the plugin, and it is now available for purchase for just $14 or the equivalent in a supported currency. I know this is music, not photography-related, but this project is pretty close to my heart, and I know that many photographers also enjoy making music, so if you are interested, check out the product page at https://mbp.ac/kmxd.
I have more to do with the marketing material, and I hope to create a video soon to show the plugin in action, but I am pretty proud of what I’ve created, albeit, based probably around 90% on the code from a tutorial, but the look and feel is all me, and if you don’t want to use my theme, the plugin will gracefully revert to the colors in all of the standard Ableton Live themes.
So, on to my cataract surgery saga. I had been getting a little apprehensive about having a doctor stick a scalpal into my eyeball under local anesthetic, but as I’d heard, the experience was relatively painless, and an absolute light show visually. You watch as your lens is broken up and then sucked out of its socket. Then, as the new man-made lens is pushed into the space where the old lens was, and opens up to enable you to see again, it was like watching the most amazing Aurora Borealis show imaginable! Every color imaginable danced around and across my vision for the 7 minutes or so that the procedure took. I wish there was some way to record what I saw, as I’d love to share it with you.
I had just a few seconds of vision with the new lens until an eyepatch was placed over my eyes and that would remain in place until the following morning. I was amazed when I saw how clear the world was through my new lens once that patch was removed. Things, at first, seemed almost too sharp, but my brain, as amazing as they are, quickly adjusted to its new window to the world, and now things just look great.
Our original intention was to let the cataract in my right eye run its course, so I could probably get another four or five months of vision out of my right eye before it reached the level of my left eye, but the imbalance between my now good left eye and my deteriorating right eye was too great and in many way disorienting. After trying eyeglasses with no prescription in my good left eye, it became obvious that the difference between the vision in each eye was just not going to work. I have now started using a contact lens in just my right eye, and the stress of the imbalance is now gone. Ultimately though, we decided to book surgery for my right eye at the earliest available date, which is December 4, so I’ll be in good shape visually now for my Japan Winter Tours and Complete Namibia tour in 2024.
The timing was pretty good across the board, really. My eyesight deteriorated rapidly as the cataracts got a hold, but not knowing the cause, I had my glasses prescription changed in November, and then again at the end of March this year. My glasses enabled me to see well for a few months after each change, so I could see fine during my Japan and Namibia workshops, but as I finished my second Namibia workshop, I started to struggle to see again. Also, because we were increasing the prescription to pull out as much vision as possible, I started to feel as though I was being turned to the left all the time.
In November 2022 I’d been told that I had mild cataracts but that they were not enough to affect my vision. It really took a good ophthalmologist to see and let me know that I had a type of cataract that progressed quickly and affected my vision more than a less experienced ophthalmologist would expect. It took a number of visits to different hospitals and clinics to understand what was really happening. Then, in August this year, the ophthalmologist who first told me my rapidly deteriorating eyesight was due to cataracts, followed by telling me that I would lose the ability to focus when I had the artificial lenses put into my eyes. I tried to get them to reassure me that I’d be able to live normally, but everything they said made me more nervous.
I ended up asking the ophthalmologist to write me a letter of recommendation for an eye center at a large university hospital not far from where I live in Tokyo, and once again, the young ophthalmologist who saw me thought that my cataracts were not serious enough to operate. I told them, “I cannot see! If this is not caused by the cataracts, I need to know what is causing it.” They then referred me to a more experienced doctor in the eye center, who knew what she was looking at and agreed to perform the surgery on my left eye.
In the three weeks that I had to wait to see the more experienced ophthalmologist I also armed myself with more information. I spoke to someone at the archery club that I visit about my cataracts and they told me the name of another member that had just had the surgery on both eyes. It turns out that the first clinic I had talked to that gave me the bejeebers about not being able to focus, was talking about mono-focal lenses. They are probably too small a clinic to tell me about the trifocal lenses because they probably didn’t have the required license to use this technology.
On the Japan National Health Service, I can only get mono-focal lenses, but with a hefty additional payment for private medication, I found that I could get lenses that allowed me to focus on near, mid-distance, and far-distance objects, which is what I opted for. I was still scared because I was told that I would only be able to focus on the pre-defined distances, but this is not true. My eyes seem to shift focus depending on the distance I’m looking at pretty much like my own lenses did, but now, I can see incredibly clearly with my left eye, and I no longer need glasses for distant objects as I’ve done since I was nineteen years old.
The only downside to the trifocal lenses is that I see halos around all lights at night. It’s actually quite pretty and doesn’t bother me so much, but last night, as I walked home from the convenience store, I looked up at the full moon as I always do when it is visible, and I got quite emotional as I realized that I would never see the full moon again without its additional new rings caused by my lenses. I was probably feeling a little bit fragile as I’d had a bad day, but it was a poignant thought. I honestly didn’t think I would have such problems with my eyes in my mid-fifties. Even when I was told I had mild cataracts last November, I thought I probably had many years of eyesight left before I had to do anything about it.
As I stand, I will have had both of my natural lenses replaced before I turn 57, and that does kind of sadden me, but I’m eternally grateful to still have the gift of sight. The degree to which my eyesight deteriorated this year was scary, and when I didn’t have a reason for the deterioration, the thought of eventually losing my eyesight became a very real and scary thought. Ultimately, I’ll be able to see without glasses for the first time in almost 40 years, and not just see, but see really well, so I’m incredibly grateful for the technology and the amazing people that have made this possible. I’m gradually going to be able to shift this to one of the many experiences that make me stronger and my life richer.
Working with Collections Video
Before we finish I’d also like to let you know that I released episode 823 of this podcast without an audio element to point you to the video, mainly because of time constraints. I’d made a video last month to talk about Working with Collections as I updated my Namibia portfolio for the first time in around four years. It’s a bit long-winded, but I added chapters so that you can jump ahead easily so watch the bits that interest you. Here is the video again to save you jumping over to the previous post.
OK, so we’ll wrap it up there for now. I have another video to push out next week, as I was interviewed by Matt Jason for his YouTube channel a few weeks ago, and Matt kindly allowed me to share the video with you as well, so stay tuned for that. I think it was a good conversation.
Grab my new Korg Minilogue XD Ableton Live Integration plugin here: https://mbp.ac/kmxd
Join me on our Japan Winter Tours in 2024 – Details here: https://mbp.ac/tours
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