Thursday, August 27, 2009

There's only so much the body can take

The adage goes: "what does not kill you, only makes you stronger."

But what if it does kill you?

Work in this month's department had been horrible - so much as as to break me down mentally and even physically.

I'm on sick leave because of a bout of nausea and diarrhoea, likely due to to the unhygienic practice of working and eating at the same time.

Here's how usual lunchtime goes: hurriedly type out some semblance of a discharge summary, and while the computer takes its obligatory 10-15 seconds to save it, grab 2 biscuits from the package using my left hand, which was previously flipping the pages of the case notes which was previously flipped by hands which had just touched the skin of patients which is probably faecal contaminated.

Yes I do know that it's not polite to wolf down food so rudely. I do know that it's gross and unhygienic. And I do know that biscuits are not proper lunch.

But what other choice do I have?

I can't grab a sandwich; it would take too much time and the nurses who had been pressuring me to get some tasks done on the other side of the building are already threatening me that they're going to inform my superior. I'd made some sarcastic comment about how she was being a bitch and how I have some bleeding patient or some sick patient who needed more attention than her sick obsession with paperwork. Stress makes all of us monsters. I've been catching not just me - but the nicest of my colleagues screaming at pharmacists and nurses for getting in the way of things - even if their intentions are good.

On the worst days we have just 2 doctors to handle more than 30 rather sick patients, a doctor-patient ratio that would be alarming even in third-world countries. It's a mad rush to get work done, and sometimes, it is impossible to get everything done. There's so much we could do for the patients, but simply have no time to do so. No matter how fast we walk, no matter how we make rude noises to get the tardy porters out of our way on the corridors, there's simply not enough time.

The number of corners we have to cut just to stay afloat disgusts me. We don't even have as much time to take proper medical histories and do physical examinations as the classically-overworked emergency department does. We make numerous medical errors in our work, but that's inevitable. It's a choice between giving all our patients substandard care; or giving some of our patients great care and for the other patients - no care at all.

It's exhausting.

It started out with random chest pains and palpitations - the unfortunate effect of chronic stress and anxiety.

There were days I had wanted to simply end it all. Yes, it was that bad.

And yesterday, I got the first sick leave I had taken in about 7 years. I really couldn't work, nauseated with such a bad tummyache.

I must not let my job kill me.

Great and I just received news that this posting will be extended 3 days because of manpower issues.

Life truly sucks. Will this nightmare ever end?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Philosophy of Buying A Camera

Over the past couple weeks, I have been faced with a Sisyphean task - yet again, I had to procure a camera as the old one had died. This time, it's for my brother's wedding.

It's a small private affair, so professional photography is out of the cards. Being the family photographer, I was saddled with the thankless task of capturing my own family members in various states of embarrassment.

The essence of the product

The current camera had died a premature death from overuse - so I had to get a new one. But before we head on to specifics, we have to get our definitions spot-on.

Define camera.

Yes, what is a camera?

To some, it's an oversized fashion accessory that people sling around their necks to express an facade of intellectual artistry.

To others, it's a trophy to prove one's economic worth. Sadly, cameras are often considered luxury goods, which is honestly a fucking insult to the credibility of photography as an art or a profession.

To me, it's a device that takes pictures. To hell with the vanity. It doesn't have to look credible or impressive. It doesn't have to have a level of complexity commensurate to my photographic abilities.

All it has to do is to take pictures effectively, at a level that I am satisfied of.

The absurdity of choice

The problem is existence is that we are forced to make decisions we have to stick with, even before we truly know what we're getting into.

We can only guess how much of the camera's zoom we're going to use, or the number of megapixels we really need.

We could mull and mull over the technical features of the camera and compare them with our perceived needs and wants, but it will only add to our existential angst.

Unless of course, you're a masochist who loves the pain of camera shopping.

In the big scheme of things, do the extra 8 times of zoom range matter to the way you live your life? How about your overall happiness? Or add any meaning to your life?

No, not really. They're all just minor distractions from the harsh reality of camera shopping.

As you can see, in camera-buying one is faced with a myriad of difficult decisions that, in the end, account to nothing meaningful.

The illusion of choice

So it was with pleasure that 2 of my potential choices, the Lumix FZ28 and the Canon SX10, were out of stock in most reputable shops in Singapore.

It was with pleasure that my pockets aren't infinitely deep, and I wasn't willing to spend more than $600 on a camera.

It was with pleasure that I knew I needed the following features for my photography. Long zoom, image stabilisation and manual controls.

It was with pleasure that there wasn't much of a choice left, as the Canon SX110 was the only camera in stock that fit my demands and my budget.

The choices that I was faced with was essentially an illusion. To be specific, I had the freedom to choose, but not to get what I choose.


So what if the wedding photographs turn out to be excellent?

Either way we print them on paper that is going to turn yellow and crumble.

Either way, they fade.

Either way, our eyes go blurry with age.

Either way, we fade.

The photos crumble and disintegrate, and our bodies fail us.

In the really big scheme of things, it's all the same outcome. When we die, the things we do end up as the inalienable past that the future would be based on. However, what meaning does it add to our expired lives?