The collapsing world economy


I recently blogged about what happens when consumers can’t buy anymore and predicted trouble for the retail industry and retail finance, specifically mentioning GE Money. At the end of this week, announcements have been made about GE Money laying off staff in several countries around the world including Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Free Trade with China


So here we are, it’s 2008 and New Zealand has a Free Trade Agreement with China. Lots of people are complaining that it will be one sided and that there are still tarriffs which will keep the balance fairly one sided. But the thing is we need export partners and we need tourism and our ‘friends’ in the USA won’t sign an agreement with us.

A couple of years ago I wrote a song called Mr Bush Why Can’t We Be Friends which was about this issue. New Zealand has always felt a kinship with the USA and yet they won’t give us a Free Trade Agreement. Last year I performed this song in the US and I also sent copies to various people including President Bush and Hilary Clinton.  Of course they didn’t reply, but other people have commented both from my live performances and from sites like Music Forte and the general comment was ‘Don’t judge the country by the politicians’.

But the end result is that we now have friendlier relations with China than we do with America and in my book that is wrong, very wrong. You can hear the song on my Music Forte page. The lyrics are:

Mr. Bush, Why Can’t We Be Friends

©Luigi Cappel 2006

1

We’re the social conscience of the world

We live Downunder and

We just can’t understand the way you think.

In 1984 we closed our ports to nuclear powered ships

We were clean and green

With water safe to drink

Chorus

Oh Mr. Bush I’m asking why we can’t be friends

It’s our environment we were trying to defend

Our men fought along with yours on a dozen foreign shores

Your logic I just fail to comprehend.

2

You suspended us from ANZUS

From joint training you then banned us

And a free trade agreement is out of sight.

Now we free trade with China

But not with Carolina

This is something that we think you should put right.

3

We have a peace-keeping force

That we use to reinforce

The rights of people and democracy.

We sent people to Angola, Yugoslavia and Cambodia

To East Timor, Iraq and Fiji.

4

We were in Afghanistan, Sent a frigate to Oman

We train with Aussie, UK and Singapore

We reserve the right to fight

For our democratic right

But when we want to train with you

You shut the door.

Kiwi’s are proud to play their part in the world and in my opinion fight way above their weight. It’s about time that good things happen to good people and the US stops treating us like naughty little children. We always felt an affinity with the US and still do, but instead of enjoying free trade, we are going to be getting closer to China. I suppose next thing they will call us disloyal!

Sydney Song Summit S3 2008


When you spend a lot of your own money to go overseas to a songwriting conference it is a major leap of faith and this week my faith was rewarded with an amazing conference in Sydney, sponsored by APRA and PRS. I have a new notebook full of ideas which I am hoping will have a huge impact on the future of my career as a songwriter. I am now motivated more than ever, not just to write songs but to write Number One Country Music hits.

I had tears in my eyes through personal presentations by Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb. The latter amazed me when I realised how much his music influenced me. I didn’t realise how much of an impact the chord progressions on songs like By the Time I Get to Phoenix and McArthur Park had on me. I must check out his new album.

The highlight by far was a one hour speed presentation by Ralph Murphy of ASCAP. I learned more about Hit Song songwriting from him in an hour than I have in the last year and I have totally made a personal commitment to use it. It does mean more research and work than I anticipated but I have to admit that much of it was work that I had been procrastinating about anyway. One of my weaknesses is MySpace and communicating with my network. Not that I’m going to stop doing that, but I have to remind myself that this is not just a hobby, it is my future business.

So here I am in the Business Class Lounge at Sydney Airport, an hour early because I didn”t realise that Daylight Savings started this morning. Anyway, here’s to an awesome music year for me in 2008.

Second Time Around


Last night one of my girls was on a dating site looking for a possible partner for one of my friends who’s husband died after playing a game of football. He was one of the good guys who died young.

So she is one of a huge number of people who is looking for love, 2nd time around. Most people have different reasons, the most common being a marriage break up. On this particular site there were over 10,000 men online looking for ……….. well various things I guess, but ultimately for a new ‘life partner’. I put that in inverted comma’s because it is no longer the norm for people to have one life partner even though most of us contend that we are monogamous, I think it has come to mean one partner at a time.

In my youth it was already becoming commonplace for marriages to break up and for people to start again and of course there are the elderly where typically the woman has a much longer life expectancy than the man, so naturally is going to want some new male companionship in her dotage.

Back in the day when life was simple, you stayed on the farm or at your job for 40 years and earned a gold watch, life was more about survival and getting enough money to be comfortable. The pace of the world was relatively slow and people were comfortable with that. Relationships were ‘until death do us part’.

Today life is fast, the world has grown smaller and there are opportunities to taste and try many things. Our standard of living is far higher leaving us comparatively with greater disposable incomes, and the world is our oyster. This opens us up to many more temptations and we go through many cycles of life. We move to new towns, cities or countries, we experience new cultures, we have many jobs, our social groups expand and for a much larger percentage of people, relationships fade away. They die for lots of reasons, but I think the fast pace of life in the 20th and 21st centuries is a major factor. As they say, change is the only constant.

Last year, one of the schools I went to, Auckland Alternative School had a school reunion. One of my old school mates who now lives in Australia was asking if his old girlfriend was coming and although he is in a relationship, that was the factor that would determine whether he was going to come, no one knew what had happened to her and neither of them came. The reunion was advertised on Old Friends which is also a site well known for people looking to find the old school girl or boyfriend.

Of those that did attend the reunion, only a few of us were still in long time relationships, most had split up and were single again or in new relationships. Whilst I have been in a long term relationship, married for many years, I had previously come from a 7 year relationship and I am my wife’s second husband. So I fit the mold as well.

Anyway, next month I am attending Song Summit Sydney S3 which is the first event of its kind for song writers in Australasia. I have applied to perform to a panel of songwriters, publishers, managers, broadcasters, producers and A & R professionals, which the blurb says is ‘not for the faint hearted’. Like American Idol in a way, but hopefully more constructive.

I’ll be performing my new song Old Flame, which to bring this blog to it’s conclusion was motivated by seeing my old school mate and so many other people, looking for that old girl or boyfriend that they lost track of, that could have been ‘the one’. When I look at websites like Old Friends and track the number of people who want a 2nd chance, I am amazed at how many there are. I hope my song goes down well and that they like it’s construction, because I think it is very topical and many will relate to it, which in my book is a key criteria for a good song.

If you’d like to hear it, check it out on my MySpace page and let me know what you think.

The hospital is the best place to be when you are sick, or is it?


Lately there have been a spate of stories about medical misadventure in the news, focussed on hospitals in New Zealand. Tales of drugs being given to the wrong patient, the wrong limb being operated on, things left behind inside the body after the wound has been stitched and lots more. Stories like Mistakes Kill 40 and Death Tally have been around for years.

In my own personal experience I was once prescribed an antibiotic and an antihystamine where the medical documentation stated that they should not be used in combination. The consequence was a major long term allergic reaction. My father in law who has a lanryngectomy has suffered from pneumonia several times as a consequence, not a reason, of being admitted to hospital for other problems.

For years we have had stories of people waiting in corridors in hospital Accident & Emergency areas because there were insufficient beds in the wards for them, even though they had been admitted. Each time one of these stories come out, the hospital spokespeople make out that it is an isolated incident due to a suddent spate of health problems caused by weather or other factors outside their control. Funny then that each time I have visited A&E with various family members over the last couple of years, I’ve had the same experience, summer and winter. For example last year my daughter suffered what eventually was diagnosed as a relapse of glandular fever. She was instantly admitted to the hospital by agreement between an A & E clinic and the hospital. I got her to the hospital around 5 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon and she got to see a doctor at 1:30 the following morning. I assure you I can quote many more cases with the same results from personal, not anecdotal experience.

My younger daughter was a blue baby and had regular visits to hospital for that and as she got older for various injuries from her sport of gymnastics. As a child a common occurence was that they could not find her file, even for appointments scheduled a week or more in advance.

So what’s my problem with that, other than as a taxpayer and concerned citizen? It’s that they have had solutions available for many years that cost dramatically less than the consequences of not having them. I know because I presented many of those tools and solutions to them.

First there is a simple concept of bar coding or using RFID tags to identify and locate files and other plant. This is everything from patient files (even though a lot of information is digitised, it generally isn’t available to registrars and other staff on demand in the wards or at the bedside) to critical equipment. I’ve heard of operations being cancelled or postponed because equipment had been borrowed from operating theatres and not returned.

So what was my solution? Very simple. Every patient folder has a bar code on it, which identifies the patient, their national health code etc. Each staff member has a bar code on their ID card. A bar code reader can be placed at the entrance to all key areas and as critical documents or plant leaves an area, it is scanned and the person removing it scans their identity and when it arrives at the next location, it is again scanned. Now a central data register knows where each file is, where each heart monitor or other item of plant is. Imagine the amount of time and pain that could be saved and avoided!

Then there is the very common problem of people being given drugs they are allergic to. I introduced 2D and 3D barcode readers into New Zealand many years ago, through an agency I managed with a well respected medical technology brand, Welch Allyn. The conept of these bar codes which are now (12 years later) starting to appear on patients bracelets, is that the bar codes can contain large volumes of digital data including crucial information such as allergies, their condition, their blood type and much more, without having to resort to a central database. Anyone that uses a computer, especially attached to a network, knows that its integrity and availability can’t be relied on.

So, at the bedside, I recommended a protocol each time drugs were administered, that the bar code be read with a small handheld scanner with a display, or built into a small handheld computer, and critical information could be confirmed before blood or drugs were administered. It would also ensure that it was clear that it was the right leg or appendage that was causing problems. By using a drug database, which can reside in a Palm sized computer, an alert would be delivered instantly if drugs that are dangerous when taken at the same time might be administered.

This is not a small problem and it is not a local problem, but it seems that only a few hospitals spend the money on using this technology which is readily available. It is usually hospitals that are attached to universities or med schools that invest in the technology. But it isn’t expensive and the cost of not using it is much greater. In Australia for example according to the Sydney Morning Herald, between 85,000 and 115,000 people over the age of 65 are admitted to hospital EACH YEAR due to adverse effects of their medication. And that’s the tip of the iceburg. What about those under 65, but of coursewith the older ones these problems are often fatal. Google in your country and you will find countless stories. This can so easily be avoided.

I’ve often wondered what has to happen before the government steps in. How many New Zealanders and people around the world have to die because of ‘accidents’ that could have been avoided. What is the cost of each one, or even the prolonged treatment of people who’s recovery from illness is hindered due to these problems. The solution is far cheaper than not doing something about it. I thought that perhaps if the family of an MP got caught i situations like this, that then maybe the Minister or others would do something about it, but I suspect that these people would not find themselves in public hospitals where cost restraints are more important than patient’s health and care.

I’m lucky that I can make a choice and I do have a couple of minor procedures I need to undergo soon. I can assure you, I will be using my medical insurance and going private.

But tell me please, what does it take. What are you going to do nect time you take one of your friends or family to hospital and they say take a number and we will see you as soon as possible. When you ask how soon, they tell you “Maybe 2 or 3 hours, because one of our registrars is off sick” and in ‘2 or 3 hours’ they tell you “another 2 or 3 hours because there has been a major car accident that was unexpected”. Are accidents ever expected? How come tow trucks and ambulance organisations know that there are certain spots at certain times of day or night where they should be waiting because an accident is going to happen, but hospitals don’t expect it. Goodness me, it’s 11 p.m. on Friday night and it’s raining. I guess there is no reason for the hospital to expect one out of a million people to cause an accident due to drunk driving is there?

I’m pissed off. This is the 21st century. I don’t live in the 3rd world, we have a modestly affluent society, but we can’t cater to a growing population? I shudder to consider what it’s going to be like in the next 30 years as the baby boomers get older and need more medical assistance because those that don’t succumb to medical misadventure or die in the waiting rooms. The hospitals might still be saying that they were caught by surprise with the extra people who succumbed to the flu this winter.

People are so forgiving. They say the staff did their best under the conditions they have to work in. I don’t disagree, I have utmost respect for the doctors, nurses, orderlies, domestics and everyone else who make the hospitals run, despite their masters. But why should they have to, shouldn’t health be one of our highest priorities?

Now throughout all this I have been talking about public hospitals funded by the state, by our taxes. I have a couple of minor surgeries coming up and guess what, I won’t be sitting in a waiting list for 2 years and then find myself being bumped after having starved myself overnight because they needed their resources for an unexpected accident. I’ll be going private. No I’m not wealthy, but I pay my medical insurance as I have since I was 18 or so and I’m going to take advantage of it.

Anyway, is hospital the best place to go when you are sick? I don’t think so.