Saturday, 14 March 2009

Holidays and healthcare

We just spend 3 days choosing a holiday. Interestingly technology hasn't made it the experience it should have been. Way back when, you'd go to a travel agent and they'd ask what you were after and they'd fix it for you. They were the experts. But now we make our own choices. A million resorts across a thousand countries with god knows how many flight options. We felt lucky to have this power to choose. No more boring old off the peg packages, now we could design our own perfect experience.

But the last three days have felt anything but empowering. Choice paralyses. Go to google, find a good looking site, search search, search. Find a resort. Hopes rise. Got to obligatory Trip Advisor. Find that some loved it and some absolutely hated it. Don't know them, but now I'm not so sure about the resort, And is that really the "best price"? Keep looking. More sites. More data. No decision. So today we picked up the phone and spoke to an agent, chatted for 20 mins, got some advice, called the hotel in egypt, spoke to a nice egyptian man, called the agent back and booked it. Price felt right.

The online experience was about variety, but not choice. We both felt unable to take the action of choice, but we found plenty to choose from. Through neat and tidy human dialogue, choice was made. Confidence was inspired. And this got me thinking about healthcare. From 1st April we'll all be able to choose where we get our treatment. This is generally agreed to be "a good thing". It makes the NHS internally competitive. it gives us what we want - the freedom to choose and be "in control". But I fear it's a bit of an illusion. We'll get what we choose, good or bad. And those who can't get to the data to inform themselves, will make poorer choices. And there's no guarantee that access to data will help either. There's a risk it'll all end up like the travel situation. Too much information. Too many opinions. Too hard to navigate. The opinion one's particulalry hard. How do I know that Mrs Miggins from Bradford is giving good objective comments on her GP practice, and isn't just a hypocondriach or a racist?

What we need is a navigator, someone to hold our hands through choice. With travel it's a skilled agent with good general knowledge of their industry. With healthcare it's the same. Empower the General Practitioner as the intermediary. But most GPs haven't bought in yet. Should be interesting to see if they manage it. In the meantime, I'm off on holiday.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Wood engraving

Just spend a fantastic day wood engraving at Badger Press. I did a lot of lino and aquatint back at school. While most people chased after balls, I was more than happy to hang out in the art room listening to the Orb. Anyway, so lots of love and thanks to my wife for arranging today as a birthday gift.

The approach was good. Only six people and a great teacher - Kate Dicker. Everyone got a small 2" by 2" block of lemon wood to work on, with all tools laid on. You stain the wood white and then, having traced, reversed and transferred an image from paper, you outline the black with marker. Then the tools come out. Lovely little wood and metal jobs with great names like scorpers, spitstickers and gravers. For the next six hours I was fixed on that little block of wood. As ever, it's harder than you think, and I wasn't even trying for a coherent picture, just a small part of a picasso picture for an outline. After a couple of hours I ran a proof through the press and was less than impressed...
Boring. I think I was being overly cautious. I mean - that cross hatching was just marginally more dull to do than to look at. Starting out slowly maybe. So had some lunch, looked through some books for inspiration and then went at it with renewed vigour. Made use of every available tool and wasn't ashamed to gouge out the wood a bit...
This was more like it. I checkered the cross hatch with a square graver, and then with a couple of different sized spitstickers I went to work on the patterns on the right. I'm really please with the mid right hand bit. Looks like the crest of a hill in rain... well a bit like the view from my parent's house with the snow still on the ridge line... Anyway, very pleased with my first print efforts in over 15 years. Tomorrow I've got a larger woodblock to work with, and I'm going for a representational landscape. I feel I'm about to run before I can walk. Wish me luck.