Discharge procedures

Earlier today, I had gone to help out a relative who had been admitted to hospital, and who was getting discharged today. The procedure was bizarre, to say the least.

A little before noon, a nurse walked into the room announcing that the discharge formalities were being put in place, and asked us if we had insurance cover (we didn’t). She reappeared five minutes later in order to remove the thing through which the intravenous drip and medicines had been administered. We thought it was time for us to leave, and informed people at the relative’s home to get lunch ready. What we didn’t know was that the “release” process would take nearly three more hours.

Every few minutes, I would walk up to the nurse station on the floor, and ask them when the discharge would happen. For the first one hour, they would tell that the bill would be ready “in ten minutes”. Finally I lost patience (my loss of patience doesn’t exactly make me an appropriate choice of personnel to manage discharge, I know) and asked them to direct me to the person who was actually preparing the bill. The bill was ready a minute after I appeared in front of that person, and it had been settled in the next five minutes.

A word here about the billing procedures. The relative’s ward was on the fifth floor, and I went down to the basement (“floor minus two”) to the billing section where I got the bill. I had to then take the bill and walk up to the ground floor to the cash section to make the payment, and once again take the receipt back down to the basement to get a printed bill.

Anyway, I thought most of the ordeal was done and proudly announced to the nurses at the nurse station that the bill had been cleared and they should let us go. But the discharge summary remained, and for the next hour or more, they said it would be ready “in the next ten minutes”. And once it was done, a nurse had to run down to the basement (yet again!) to collect it and get the signature of the doctor on duty. And run back up six floors (in another bizarre policy, hospital staff are forbidden from using the elevators!).

Then there was the set of prescriptions that were delivered to us regarding the medicines we had to buy for the following one week (and I’ll write a separate post on drugstores located within hospital premises). This wasn’t the first time I was helping someone get discharged, and this wasn’t the first time the discharge process took this long. From my own anecdotal experience, and from that of other relatives who I was talking to today, this is more the norm than the exception.

This makes me wonder why most hospitals, without fail, have such screwed up discharge procedures? Is this a matter of such low priority that all hospitals can consistently choose to ignore it? It is not like the amount of work that needs to be done is immense, so I wonder what prevents hospitals from streamlining the procedure? Or, like some hotels do, fix a discharge time so that they can batch process the procedures?

The problem, in general, with people in businesses that makes them feel noble, I tell you, is that they are not willing to heed to advice. And are not willing to question themselves enough. The nobility of their profession, they believe, places them too high to deal with mundane trivialities such as time taken to discharge a patient! And I’ll write a separate post soon on people in noble professions.

The deal with plays

I live near Basavanagudi in South Bangalore, hardly 6 km from the city’s best theatre Ranga Shankara. In the other direction, a (relatively) new auditorium which plays host to several promising plays (KH Kala Soudha) is even closer. There are times when we consider going for a play at one of these locations. To date, however, I’ve been to a performance (can’t call it a play) at KH Kala Soudha once. The only time I’ve been to Ranga Shankara was five years ago, back when i was in college.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I can never muster the necessary incentive to go watch a play. A large number of plays, as I understand, hold nothing much of promise in the stories that they tell. I’m not much of an actor, and don’t have an eye for fine acting which I want to discover. Yes, sometimes the way some stories are told is fantastic, and this is even more so when the play in question is telling a known story (the one play I’ve watched in Ranga Shankara was a Harivansh Rai Bachchan interpretation of Hamlet; where they use Yakshagana dancers for the play-within-a-play, and that was a fantastic way of telling the story).

Still, the thought of having to sit there in one place, without doing anything that might distract the performers, focusing all my energies on the performance, for the “option value” that there might be something really insightful in what the performers are trying to convey is daunting. With widespread sponsorship from governments and corporates, most plays are very reasonably priced, but the attention they demand can put me off.

And then I wonder if the reason I don’t like plays so much is because they’re rehearsed, that everything goes according to a particular script, that every move of the actor has been choreographed! The way plays are structured essentially requires discipline on part of all the actors, and the play could sometimes be seen as just an exhibition of discipline! I must mention here that I have even less patience for other more obvious exhibitions of discipline such as parades.

I read that the Rangashankara ¬†festival is coming up soon, and I do hope I can get myself to at least check out a few plays (especially since I’m now fairly rich in terms of time). However, I must say it will take a lot of convincing on your part to make me come watch your play. If you say “we’re performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and juliet” I’ll say “why should I come watch you when I can read the play?”. But if you tell me that there’s a story that you want to say, which you’re going to say in a particularly unique way, then I might be interested.

Why I can never be a great lone wolf quizzer

I admit that of late one of the unifying themes of this blog has been “correlation”. So what does that have to do with quizzing? Thing is that while I absolutely enjoy qualitative logical reasoning (which is why I still quiz actively), there is very little in common in terms of areas of interest between me and a lot of other quizzers. Specifically, unlike most other good quizzers, I have absolutely no patience for reading fiction (or “literature”), watching movies or indulging in generic American “pop culture”.

Now, it is known that a quizmaster tends to be biased in favour of the topics that he himself is good at. For example, I’ve personally found that the questions I set have more than a “fair share” of questions with a background in Economics or European Football, and nothing related to fiction, or movies. So, given that most good quizzers are good at the topics I mentioned earlier (literature, movies, pop culture), it’s likely that most quizzes will have a healthy dose of these topics. And since I know little about them, and don’t have the required levels of interest to know more about them, it’s unlikely I’ll do well in an individual quiz. Essentially, I’m at so much of a disadvantage in these heavily represented topics that it’s very tough to make up the deficit in the remainder of the quiz.

On a related note, I wonder if fashionable-ness of topics is static or dymanic. I wonder, if twenty years down the line, we’ll still find quizzes being as heavily dominated by the subjects that are in fashion today, or if there will be a new set of subjects that will be in fashion. It’s hard to say because there is positive reinforcement that is at play here. If, for example, a certain set of subjects constitutes a large portions of questions today, today’s “good quizzers” will necessarily be those that are good at these subjects. And given that the pool of quizmasters is usually drawn out of the pool of “good quizzers”, you will have more quizzes that have a large proportion of these fashionable topics. And so forth.

Again, I’m assuming here that a lot of people (unlike certain Chennai quizzers) don’t prepare for quizzes, and that they don’t try to develop interest in certain topics for the sole purpose of being good at quizzes.

Quizzing for Aunties

Dear Random Relatives,

There was a reason that I earlier never told you about the quizzes that I was going for. It was because you would pepper me with utterly stupid and irrelevant and nonsensical questions which I’d usually never had the patience to answer. However, now that I have a wife who is significantly more social than me, and who tells you everything, I’m once again forced to handle those questions. So I’m putting the answers all here in the form of a post, which could serve as a sort of FAQ for the questions you ask, but the FAQ format will significantly constrain my writing so writing this in free form.

Ok, every quiz need not have a topic. That is some stupid thing that is drilled into you be these nonsensical TV quizzes. And when I tell you that, let me tell you that you’re insulting me by saying “oh, general knowledge, ah?”. Quizzing is not about “general knowledge”. It’s much more than that. It’s about thinking, about reasoning, about working out stuff and getting a kick out of it. The “general knowledge” that contributes to this process is not much. And by considering that it’s only because of “general knowledge” that one gets to participate in quizzes, you’re wrong.

Then, I know that your view of quizzes is formed by those shows you see on TV, like Kaun Banega Crorepati, or (in an earlier era) the random quizzes that would come on Doordarshan. It’s unlikely that too many of you would’ve watched the BBC quizzes (such as Mastermind or University Challenge) which came closer to “real quizzing” (in terms of quality of questions, though not in format) so I should perhaps excuse you for this thought. And while on that, let me tell you that not every quiz gets telecast on TV. And the likelihood of a quiz getting telecast on TV is NOT proportional to its quality. An inverse relation here may not be too far off the mark, though.

Next, I don’t mug “quiz books” or “general knowledge books”. Yes, I did at one point of time in life, when I was a little kid and my parents would force me to “prepare” for quizzes by reading such books. However, over the years I realized I wasn’t gaining much by reading those books, most of which had been written by people who could hardly be termed as quizzers (I, however, still “read” questions from actual quizzes. I faithfully buy the KQA yearbook each year, and have similarly purchased books containing questions that have actually been asked in quizzes that I think are of good quality).

Next, I guess you want your son to become a quizzer, right? I want to inform you that the Karnataka Quiz Association (or similar organizations in other cities such as BQC, QFI, BCQC, etc.) organize quizzes for school kids on a regular basis. Send your kids for those. For the quizzes in your school, try get quizmasters who also organize good quality senior-level quizzes rather than getting some teachers to put together some questions. And I don’t think your child gains anything by mugging up those “manorama year books” that you unfailingly purchase each year.

Now, having supplied these answers to you, may I request to check this link before you ask me nonsensical questions about quizzing?

Yours sincerely,

SKimpy

Dropping out

Less than a semester into my undergrad (Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Madras) I wanted to drop out, and start work. I didn’t want to be an “engineer”.

I didn’t know why I’d to spend all my Thursday and Friday afternoons filing away at some piece of iron in the “fitting workshop”. I didn’t have the patience to draw three views of a random object in “engineering drawing”.

And I had the reputation of being one of the studdest programmers in my school. Apart from winning competitions here and there and doing well in acads, I had enormous respect from peers for my programming skills. Given that it was a “high-performance school” (which subjected its own 10th standard students to a test before admitting them to 11th) I guess this peer respect does carry some weight.

So, being good at math, and having the reputation of being a stud programmer, I didn’t know what I was doing studying “engineering”. I wanted to be a programmer, and I wanted to drop out and take up a job. My JEE rank counted almost as much as an IIT degree, I thought. I didn’t have the balls, and I continued.

In hindsight, I’m happy I didn’t drop out. By the end of my second year, I knew for sure that I DIDN’T want to be a programmer. While the theoretical aspects of Computer Science excited me (algo analysis and stuff), I had absolutely no patience for “systems”, or “computer engineering”. I was perhaps alone in my class in my love for Microsoft products (easy to use).

I realized then that I liked only the algorithmic aspect of programming, where one solves a (mostly math) problem and codes it up in a simple program. Huge complicated systems-intensive programming, making GUIs etc. didn’t inspire me at all.

Looking back, all that “major” (i.e. Computer Science and Engineering) stuff that I’ve learnt and internalized was learnt in my first two years of engineering. Of course several concepts that are part of CS&E are taught in the last two years, but I ended up not liking any of that.

Looking back, I do find it positive that I did all those “general engineering” courses. I do find it really positive that we had to do 12 compulsory credits in Humanities and Social Sciences, for that allowed me to discover what I was really interested in, and indirectly led me to doing my MBA.

I have only one regret. That I wasn’t able to switch streams sooner than I could. That IIT, being a one-dimensional technology oriented university, didn’t allow me to transfer credits to a course that I would’ve liked better, simply because it offered undergrad courses only in engineering.

There was a humanities department, where I discovered what I was interested in, but unfortunately it was a “minor” department. It’s been partly rectified now, with the setting up of integrated MA courses, in Economics, etc. (if that course existed back when I was studying, there’s a good chance I’d’ve transferred to it from CS&E). But it’s not enough.

Kids at 17 have no clue what they want to do. What we need are flexible full-scale universities, which allow you to switch from any branch to any other branch after two years of reasonably generalized study (the earlier branch can then contribute to “minor” credits). We need to stop putting our colleges in silos such as “engineering”, “arts and science”, etc. Only then would our universities be truly world class, even from an undergraduate point of view.

And looking back, I’m really happy I didn’t drop out.

Length of Blog Posts

The problem with writing big blog posts is that it is difficult to acquire readers that way. It calls upon too much effort from the reader to read through the entire thing, and then decide whether to subscribe to your blog. As I have observed while looking at friends’ shared items on Google REader, the longer a post is, the greater the chance that I put NED and just mark it as read.

If you write consicely, it is that much easier to acquire new readers. It is that much easier for a new reader to quickly read a few of your posts, and decide that he likes it enough in order to subscribe. More of your posts that get shared on Google Reader are actually read, and there will be more click throughs to your full blog.

Look at some of India’s more successful bloggers – for example the two Amits – Varma and Agarwal. Amit Varma specializes in writing really concise stuff. His posts are usually quotes from some other article that he has linked to, and maybe a couple of lines of commentary (this is about his normal blog posts, not his Bastiat pieces which are longer). Amit Agarwal’s posts are longer but they contain so many pictures that they can be read very quickly.

The point is that these guys’ posts are so quick to read for a new reader that it is very easy to evaluate. If you don’t give potential customers a chance to evaluate you easily, the number of people who even evaluate you goes down and that has an impact on your overall readership.

I know that on this blog I’ve been guilty of writing extra-long posts. I try my best to finish stuff within 500 words but half the time I go beyond 900. Dear Readers, I appreciate your patience and thank you for still remaining loyal to this blog. The problem wtih me is that I never edit or proof-read my posts, and I write them in flow. So the posts represent the flow of thought through my head and that need not be concise. And hence I overshoot. However, henceforth I should make a conscious effort to keep my posts concise. And maybe you should do the same, too.