Archive for October, 2010

Don’t waste time doing things you hate

I am a fairly motivated enthusiastic person. If you ask me what I’m doing at any time then likely I’ll be enjoying it. This can be as diverse as drinking whisky, doing the dishes or engaging in memorizing the course of the facial nerve and its branches.
Following in my fathers footsteps I have come to enjoy a good to do list. Both formal and infomal. The formal ones sit as litttle digital notes synced throughout cyberspace reminding me to buy onions or something.
The informal ones are the idle thoughts lying around in my mind thinking through books to read or recipes to try out or something to study or running an ectricity supply to the shed.
Given an ocean of time I’d still feel like there wasn’t enough.
The informal lists exist as a never ending supply of ideas and tasks all in the effort to stave off boredom.
Boredom scares me. But only because I have got so used to doing and engaging in things that I enjoy.
The usual questions arise like where I find significance and identity. Never mind the impact of all these lists on the people that surround me.

We don’t eat

It is no wonder we continue this abstracting, story-mutilating practice when we read our bibles. “story” is not serious; “story” is for children and camp fires. So we continuously convert our stories into the “serious” speech of information and motivation.

Still disappointed it’s not actually edible. I did try.

Burning Powder

Thought this was worth your perusal. Great EP too.

[Sorry if it didn’t embed right…]

Lowly Knights – Burning Powder from Phil Harrison on Vimeo.

Commuter love – #11

I now regret the five minutes I took cleaning the bathroom before I left the house. That five minutes was the difference in catching the train or not.
I try not to run for trains. Walk quickly yes, but not run. Not that I mind running it’s just it inevitably involves your bag coming open and your keys falling out and then you have to turn back and then you fall over etc…
Walking quickly would have been enough today except my rail pass wouldn’t work on the turnstile. At least that’s my excuse. Seems easier to blame the technology than poor time keeping.
At least it’s a pleasant morning. At least the birds are singing.

Note to self: Don’t die

[If you’ve sat and talked to me lately you’ll realise that this has been floating round my head for a while. Time to fumble with the words for it.]
I spend a lot of time thinking about medicine. Sometimes I think I’d prefer to spend my time thinking about medicine than practising it.
My thinking about medicine has changed fairly significantly since I started on this 11 years ago.
I entered medical school as a naive enthusiastic teenager doing medicine because I didn’t have any better ideas.
I spent 5 years pissing about, playing footy, music and mario-kart and enjoyed it thoroughly and learnt nothing.
I started work as an only slightly less naive 23 year old and made lots of mistakes and had my eyes opened to the ravages of disease that run rampant through these fragile, scared human beings.
I learnt the techniques and the lingo and threw all that tehnology had to throw at people often because it was easier to do something than stop and talk and think.
And then I moved to NZ and had an ocean of space and time to learn, think and work with some cool people and it started to have a big impact on what I thought about it.
I saw people declared brain dead and their organs removed and lives saved because of it. I watched many people pass from life to death. I had patients I really, really liked die on me just a few months after we’d busted a gut (sometimes literally) to get them better.
I spoke to endless relatives, I perfected my sympathetic active listening. I told lots of people their loved ones were dead.
I came home and dad got sick and I experinced most of the above from a relatives point of view. He always said “why not me?”
Dad died.
I went back to work a slightly different doctor. I wept a lot easier. I got incredibly angry at some of the regular stresses, discomforts and humiliation that we put patients through on a regular basis.
I got good at my job. I’m pehaps not the person to ask but I think I got pretty good at it.
And all through this I thought and read. Vonnegut,  Hauerwas, Marilynne Robinson, Wendell Berry . I listened to lots of podcasts on evidence based medicine and came away thinking that even the “evidence” doesn’t support most of the silly things we do. At least not in a way that the people we do the things to would care about if we told them the truth.
I got married. I quit work and the space between changed me again.
Let me try to summarise where I stand and I’ll see if I can unpack it later over a few posts:
  • In modern (for the sake of this I mean the past 50/60 years, though it is more apparent recently) society we believe in a certain sense of entitlement – an entitlement to our four score years and ten. Pensions, retirement, leisure time have all contributed to it, but I beleive modern medicine is the most powerful driving force behind this idea that all human beings have a right to 80 years of health and die peacefully in their sleep
  • as a result  we are unsure of what to make of it and feel no way of understanding our own deaths or those of others in the context of the narratives we identify with in many other aspects of our lives. To try and simplify – we let medicine tell us who we are, how we should live and how we should die.
  • we attribute to modern medicine power and glory because we believe it deserves it. Doctors are happy to show us how wonderful they are and we are keen to believe their story.
  • those with faith convictions often appear as scared and confused by early death as non-believers. People who believe in the sovereignty and goodness of God often seem to find their hope in medicine than God. Or put it this way – God will do fine if medicine doesn’t work.
  • In allowing modern medicine such significance and power in our lives and society (sometimes with better reasons than others) we do violence to our own and others humanity
  • as cynical and critical as I am of big pharma I also believe that doctors (often the most powerul lobby amongst health professionals) are key to this.
  • having said that I believe that the medical-industrial-complex is only so because we want it that way. We want to believe the narrative we’re being sold.
I’m not about to quit the profession or anything – I love the job, in fact I feel more than ever the weight and importance of the job and our relation to how we define health and health care.
It does affect me personally though. Whether I like it or not, part of my identity is linked to this. This affects who I am.
These are just some things that have been going through my head. If anyone has any thoughts of how I could develop this a bit further – in the context of books or even how I could study this in an academic setting then I’d love to hear from you.

Upward over the mounain

Finally made it round to a walk in the hills. Has been far too long.

The photo is of Great Sugar Loaf, which makes it the third sugar loaf I know of. The others are all a lot more substantial. But also a lot further away.

Nice views over Dublin from the top

And some even lovelier people

And some not so lovely views

But autumn is here

Commuter love – #10

At rush hour, the golden hour of public tranpsort, between five and six when people are rushing around desperately trying to be home to make dinner and pick up the kids and whatever else they have to do.

At rush hour stations are busy bustling places. The platfroms throung with punters. Those in suits with briefcases.

But not in the evening. Not come 9pm with the various disparate individuals seeking transportation home. Those running late at the office making apologetic phone calls home. Young guys wtih guitars. Groups of girls with shopping bags. People like me after food and drinks with the guys from work.

Tara St. is like a little floating island of a train station, struggling under the weight of the load it’s asked to carry. The platforms shake as the commuter trains trundle past with their diesel engines roaring.

Today I feel cold. The first day I feel properly cold. As if autumn was only playing with change in the seasons till now. I’m looking forwad to my seat. To settling down in the corner of an empty carriage with my copy of Hauerwas. I like the isolation. I like the loneliness.


Sometimes I worry that I drift off up my own arse in introspection and isolation. I liked Into the Wild because it appealed to me not because i thought it was right. But look at me getting all self-referential. You didn’t come here for the first person did you?

Borrowing Time

The joys of a job with access to a decent library

Spot the difference

























Hint – there’s more than one…



Commuter Love – #9













All that effort all year to grow and be green and then in one spectacular week it changes colour in an act of superfluous beauty at it’s best. Helps me get the difference between that which is good and that which is beautiful that I struggled with earlier.

Commuter love – #8

It’s taken me a while together comfortable with sitting on the floor of the train when there’s no seats. Sometimes, if it’s really busy then you can’t sit even if you wanted to. There’s just no room.

But sometimes, you’re the only one on the carriage with eveyone else smuggly seated, deeply engrossed in the new Dan Brown.

The floor was clean(ish) and it hadn’t rained so peoples shoes weren’t sloshing water all over the place. So I did it. Just plonked myself down leaning against the wall.

The next girl to join the carriage saw the taboo had been broken and popped herself down opposite me. She was wearing a skirt though and seemed to be struggling to maintain her dignity a little more than me. I suppose, like most people, she had a little bit more dignity to maintain.

So nice so smart

Back in the day when I used to hang out with real live people and tell them their chest pain wasn’t anything serious, little old rears used to tell me “you’ll go far young man, you’ve a lovely way with you”.

After I’d disconnected their nitrous and stopped their morphine I would make this joke, asking them “which would you prefer a nice doctor or a good one”.

I used to be suspicious that the two were mutually exclusive but I’d much prefer a humble doctor to both.


October 2010