Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A literary perspective on tanking in sport.

Currently I'm reading a novel called HHhH.  It's about Reinhard Heydrich who was chief of the Nazi secret services.

Chapter 112 put the current "tanking" scandal in the AFL into some perspective.

Before I set out and write a post about sport, I should point out that I'm hardly qualified.  I don't know a lot about sport and I don't watch or read much about it.  I take a passing interest.  When I'm visiting my family over summer, I become immersed in the cricket because there is no escape.  And then I start to like it in spite of myself.

Perhaps it is this lack of expertise that initially had me shrugging my shoulders over recent allegations of drugs in Australia's football codes and not sure what to think about tanking.  Somewhere deep down, I had a feeling that tanking was unethical - that there is bad sportsmanship at work when a player or team sets out to do anything other than win.  That's why people watch isn't it?  Because they're invested in the outcome, loyally follow their team or country or favourite player and want them to win!

I have been thinking about the disrespect inherent in doing anything other than playing to win and the leadership failure that allows a culture of tanking to grow.

And then I read chapter 112 in HHhH.  It recounts a story (apocryphal?) of Kiev Dynamo, a football (soccer) team ordered to play a match against a team of German soldiers.  They were playing very well in the first half and were ordered by the Germans to lose the match or pay with their lives. They played their best and won anyway. Depending on which version you read this happened repeatedly and resulted in the players being eventually executed.

This story resonated and I thought about these courageous and honorable sportsmen who were ordered to "tank" and lose the match, but decided their commitment as sportspeople and representatives of their country was more important. They would play their best game and win, regardless of the cost.

I believe this to be a broadly true story; perhaps the details are not precise.  It puts today's allegations of tanking in the AFL into a harsh light.  Imagine not playing your best game because you want to come last and have the benefit of an advantageous draft pick at the end of the season!  Petty when compared to Kiev Dynamo who would have apparently been allowed their lives if they had followed orders and tanked.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Excuse me while I straddle your suitcase.

Walking around these days is a dangerous occupation.  Especially when it's raining.  People have the added weaponry and complexity of umbrellas to stab you with, trip over and shake all over you.

Being packed into airless train carriages on wet, steamy mornings where the windows are fogged up and it's dark outside becomes even more unpleasant when you're struck in the head by someone with a backpack or have a wet umbrella shaken all over you.

I've worked out how to make it rain in Melbourne - go to the hairdresser and have my long, curly hair blow dried straight.  The combination of rain and humidity makes it go fluffy and I wonder why I bothered.

This morning, as well as my handbag and my BIG umbrella, I was dragging a wheeled suitcase behind me.  On days when I'm facilitating, I've discovered it's much easier to wheel everything I need (pens, folders, blu-tack, scissors, notes, ipod and dock) than to drag everything I need.  I also don't end up arriving quite as rumpled.

I discovered a new hazard though - someone falling over the suitcase.  As I walked along the concourse at Southern Cross Station, wheeling my bag behind me, I became conscious of a man walking at some pace beside me.  He was not looking where he was going.  He was busily fixated on some urgent business on his phone (his turn in Words with Friends, status update on Twitter...).  I could feel him veering diagonally and could feel he was going to cross my path.  I tried to get out of his way and then I felt my suitcase stop.  I looked behind myself and saw the man straddling my suitcase, clutching his phone and wondering what was going on.

"Oh," I gasped.  "What's happening here?"

"I'm not sure. It's okay," he replied as he tried to step elegantly over the suitcase.

I waited.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I was worried that if I pulled the suitcase forward or pushed it back he would end up sprawled on the wet concourse.  I waited.

He stepped forward, OFF the suitcase and continued on his way.

Lucky I wasn't a car or the top of the big staircase down to Spencer Street!  I wonder if he managed to get to his destination this morning? I feared for his safe arrival.

Travelling home this afternoon after a long day, I shamelessly put my ear buds in and chose a raucous track.  I'm sure the sound was bleeding through the earphones, probably annoying the people around me, but I'm unapologetic.  I wanted to - needed to - lose myself in the rhythm.  And I did.

But when I arrived at the station and had to walk home after getting through the "touch off" crush created by poorly designed myki ticket barriers, I turned the music off and paid attention.

Have you ever had an accident (big or small) because you've been distracted by your phone?excExcuse

Monday, 25 February 2013

Pondering artists' impressions and corporate gobbledygook

After dinner on Saturday evening, I walked with my friend to the Yarraville train station.  As we crossed the tracks, a man came towards us.  I was cautious until I noticed the police van parked nearby.   There had been an assault in the vicinity on the previous Sunday morning and police were seeking information.

We were shown an artist's sketch and asked we recognised the man.  This is the first time I've been directly asked this question.  I've seen pictures on television, but it felt more significant when asked directly.  I carefully studied the picture.  I needed to get past my initial idea that it wasn't a real person - it's the idea of a description of a person.  Then I said that I didn't recognise him.  I also studied the picture because I wanted to be able to recognise him if he's buying milk at the supermarket.

After leaving my friend to catch his train back to the city, I walked back to where my car was parked on the other side of the tracks, feeling cautious and self-conscious about the fact that I was walking alone.

I think it's an amazing skill to draw someone from someone else's description.  How do you get specific enough in the description to come up with anything other than a picture of a generic humanoid?  Whenever I have been asked to describe someone (or myself) it seems to be a list comprising gender,  hair colour and style, eye colour, height and clothing, which is fleeting.  I'd love to know how the artists do it.


On a different subject, I was bathed in corporate speak this morning while I was on a job.  People were seriously saying things to me like:

  • We're looking for an uptick on that.
  • Let's circle back on that.
  • What's your value add?
  • I understand the customer service value proposition.
After a while I found it hard to concentrate.  These meaningless strings of words washed over me as I struggled to understand.  And this was the biggest problem - the fact that it was up to me to decode the message being sent.  

Whatever happened to plain, direct communication?  What the hell is an "uptick"?  Is it one word or two?

I thought about a police artist trying to sketch a suspect in a situation where that suspect worked for a big corporation and spoke Manager.

"He was a senior leader who understood the value proposition of customer service.  I liked him.  He gave me an uptick on my appraisal and on passed the news to his leader who circled back and value added with me. Yeah, I liked him."


"Oh, he was 180cm tall, brown hair, brown eyes, looked after himself, you know? Sharp suits."

Tough gig.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday slideshow

My weekly post where I feature photos I've taken throughout the week.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen these.

I've also updated my "What I've made" page.  I made a lot of things for Christmas gifts and they had to be a surprise so I couldn't post them until after Christmas.  You might find some inspiration for next's never too early!

It was a warm summer night in Melbourne last night and Yarraville's pop up park was filled with people at 10pm.  It felt like the happy heart of the community.  I met a friend there before having dinner at my favourite pizza place, l'uccellino.  There were lots of families eating take away pizza at that time.

Yarraville pop up park
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 I took this photo standing in the middle of Berry Street (facing east), Yarraville at about 8pm one night.  The CBD is visible and the sky still has a pale pink tinge.

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 We had some gorgeous evening skies during the week.  I took this from the pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River, looking towards the MCG and a tram on the left.  I think this photo represents Melbourne well.

Iconic Melbourne
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 I've never been to the bar which is below the pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River, but it sounded like a fun place to be during the week.  You can see it in the lower left corner.  The buildings of the CBD are beautifully lit and I love the colours of their shadows on the river.

Over and under the Yarra
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I bought these gold shoes a couple of years ago and they are holding up really well.  With the filter I've used on this photo it almost looks like the shoes are glowing.

Golden slippers
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When I was in Bison during the week, I noticed this sign for the Capitol Theatre.  The texture replicates the ceiling of the Walter Burley-Griffin designed building.  It looks like the sign has been attacked by concrete cancer.  I hope it doesn't crumble completely.
Capitol Theatre
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Saving the best until last...on my way to the theatre on Friday evening, I noticed these white spheres floating on the Yarra.  I love the play of light on the water and the straight lines of the buildings juxtaposed against the balls.
Spheres on the Yarra
©divacultura 2013
What have you been photographing this week?

Friday, 22 February 2013

My favourite things - this week

1.  My score on the happiness test!  84 out of 100 where 70 is the benchmark for happiness.  I have to say, I'm pretty happy about that!  It made me think about the fact that my life is not perfect - it never will be - yet I am content and making progress.  Why not try yourself?

2.  My first book group meeting of the year.  At the start of our thirteenth year, we met to discuss Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize winning "Bring up the Bodies".    It was generally favourably received.  I personally liked it much more than the first book, "Wolf Hall" and confessed to weeping during Anne Boleyn's execution, it was so beautifully and delicately written.

3.  Impro Melbourne's season opener of the Maestro format.  I went to the opening night last Sunday night and was so thoroughly entertained I nearly forgot how hot it was and that I was stuck to a vinyl seat.  The most thrilling part of improvisation in any art form is that the creation exists only in that moment, is never to be repeated and you have to be there to witness it.  Sunday nights at 7:30pm at The Space, Chapel Street, Prahran.

4. My wish came true on Wednesday afternoon.  A tiny glimmer of hope.  I don't expect this experience to be regularly repeated, but I wish it would be.

5. This photo.  I took it when walking across the pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River from Southgate to Flinders Street station.  It was about 7:30pm.

Sunset on the Yarra
©divacultura 2013

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Top ten things to print in 3D

It's only recently that I heard about 3D printing.  I'm still struggling to come to terms with how a fax machine works, so today's news that a human ear was created on a 3D printer is amazing!

I have no idea how they work.  I'm not going to spend a lot of time wondering about that, but I am good at coming up with ideas on how to use stuff.  So, here are the ten things that would be handy to just print out.

10.  A baby!  Imagine being able to just print one out, instead of going through pregnancy and labour.  (The television show "The Midwives" is on in the background, so I'm obviously very easily influenced.)

9.  Dinner!  Cooking shows like "Masterchef" would be completely different and even less interesting - a bunch of computer programmers sitting around writing code is only marginally less interesting than watching other people eat.

8.  George Clooney.

7.  A public transport system and ticketing system that works and makes sense!

6. A few gold bars for pin money.

5. A clean water supply for those parts of the world that don't have one.

4.  Black caviar (the delicacy)

3.  Black Caviar (the racehorse)

2. A new planet, so we have somewhere to go when we've ruined this one.

1.  A rocket ship to get there!

Oh, and a pet tiger.

What would you print on your 3D printer?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What's the point of all this feedback on myki?

I'm on the customer experience panel for the myki ticketing system.  My motivation for spending time on this is that I am a committed public transport user. I believe in contributing to my community to make things better.

Each week I try to participate in all of the tasks requested.  I dedicate my time to this and take it very seriously, participating sincerely and honestly.

Sometimes I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall, as changes seem to take such a long time to be made. Sometimes I wonder if changes ever will be made.  The wheels turn very slowly.

Public Transport Victoria regularly provides news and updates in response to our feedback. Most of the time it's unremarkable. Occasionally I read something and think "oh, I'm glad they fixed that!".  This week I just sat and shook my head.

Not long ago we had specifically been asked about how myki calculates fares and applies defaults. Apparently the panel's feedback must have suggested that the rules are complex and hard to understand. The essence of the message provided back to us was there's plenty of information about how it's done and here are all the places where you can read it!

Or on the subject of most people preferring to top up at a myki machine, their response was to tell us they will be launching a campaign to tell everyone about the other ways.

Perhaps out of context some of the impact of these communiques may be lost, but I worry that they are missing the point. If the default position is to defend the system as it stands, rather than thinking about how customer concerns could actually be addressed, I can not see how any aspect of the system will be improved, or what the point of the whole exercise is.

One of my friends today thanked me for continuing to engage with the underperformers who are running Victoria's public transport, saying I'm doing everyone a favour.  I'm no longer sure about that because the result seems so lacking.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Communicating when stuff breaks - it really matters.

Stepping out of the air conditioned, windowless room in which I had been sequestered today, the first thing that hit me was the smell of a fire.  Then it was the colour of the sky.  Then it was the actual heat.  I had been expecting the heat, so I didn't pay much attention to it.  Until I set foot in the tram which lacked air conditioning.  At least the windows opened, but it didn't make much difference.  I was trapped in the metal tube of death and the metal tube of death was going to roast me alive.

We were on our way to the next stop when the tram stopped at a red light.  The lights changed several times and nothing happened.  I was absorbed in my book, so it took me a while to notice what was going on.  About eight trams were in a line down St Kilda Road and there were already three in the space where we should have been able to turn.  None of them were moving.  The first tram of these three had broken down.

We got off the tram and went to the stop where we were directed to the bus stop.  Questions about when the bus could be expected or where it would go were met with the answer, "Go and wait for the bus."

It was at least 35 degrees at that point and I was happy for some shade.

A bus came along pretty quickly with "not in service" emblazoned across the front.  It stopped anyway. The front door opened and people squeezed on.  Questions to the driver about where the bus was going was met with obscure, nonsensical responses given the routes of the trams we had come from.

As we travelled down St Kilda Road, we saw - from the comfort of our forward propelled and air-conditioned bus - dozens of people baking in the heat at the tram stops along the way.  It was clear from the numbers of people and their body language that they had been waiting and while and had no idea about what was going on.

I couldn't open the window of my air-conditioned-moving-forward-bus.  If I could have, I would have done the work of Yarra Trams and advised them about what was happening.

After I left the bus, I wandered over to another tram stop to see if there was any information available about what had happened.  There was.  It came from a helpful, community minded bloke driving a white van.  As he waited at a red light he informed us that the trams were stopped because of a break down back down the line.

What a great thing to do!  And where was Yarra Trams?  Lucky this thoughtful man was driving by.  It's a bit of a chancy communication strategy though.

I've dutifully rung and provided feedback.  As usual, the issue isn't about the break down, it's about the communication with and respect for the travelling public.

I know that research has shown that the most loyal customers are not the people who have never had a problem with an organisation.  The most loyal customers are the ones who have had a problem, and have had that problem well-handled by the organisation.  Rather than viewing feedback and complaints as annoying, a smart organisation will view it as an opportunity to build loyalty.  Perhaps our public transport operators don't care about this because they know Melbourne's travelling public don't have a choice and they are locked into a government contract.

Do you speak up and let businesses know about your experience with them? What happens when you do?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Sunday Slideshow - my favourite photos this week

 After work on Friday, I took a walk along the Yarra River, the part that's called Birrarung Marr.  The Sustainable Living Festival was on.  The evening was gorgeous and I couldn't resist taking some photographs.

Firstly I noticed this bicycle built for seven:  one seat for the power source and six for other passengers.  I thought it was rather spectacular.  I couldn't take a photo from the front because he was travelling too fast!

Pedal powered public transport
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I love the textures of the water in this shot and the reflections on the smooth part.  Rowing looks like a great thing to do.
Rowers on the Yarra
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 I'm sure that the Yarra isn't really as blue as it looks in this photo.  This is taken looking towards Richmond.
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 I love the colours in this planted pot of chillies.  You can see the rowing shed across the other side of the river in the background.

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Back in the Yarraville neighbourhood, I noticed these leaves which look like lace.  I think something is diligently eating its way through them, but the result is pretty.

©divacultura 2013

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Stating the bleeding obvious - or is that burning?

Caution: contents may be hot
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The warning on this coffee cup seems somewhat redundant.

I expect the contents of my freshly purchase coffee cup to be hot.

Wasn't there some case in the US where someone sued McDonald's when they burnt themselves on the hot coffee that was in their cup?

If the contents of my freshly purchase coffee cup were not hot, can I sue?

Imagine a world where we need to be warned about the bleeding obvious!

Oh, apparently we're living in it.

Crazy world!

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Today I was working in a room without windows.
Today I was working in a room with no air.
How can anyone perform at their best in this environment?
The sandwiches were nice.


One day I would like this to happen:
I would arrive at Flinders Street Station.
I would check the monitors to see which platform my train is leaving from.
I would go to that platform.
The train would leave from that platform.
If for any reason, something happened, or I had a question, there would be helpful and informed staff who would tell me about what was happening.  Happily.  Helpfully.

It didn't happen today.
This happened today:
I arrived at Flinders Street Station.
I checked the monitors to see which platform my train was leaving from.
I had just missed the Williamstown train, but the Laverton train was leaving in about six minutes from platform 10.
I went to platform 10.
Upon arrival at platform 10, there was no information on the platform monitor saying that the next train leaving on that platform was the Laverton train.  A disembodied voice announced that the Laverton train would be leaving from platform 8 or 9.
I sighed and proceeded to complete my daily exploration of platforms 8 - 12.
The sign said platform 8.
The train that arrived on platform 8 was a Frankston train.
The Williamstown train left from platform 9.
All of this happened within the space of about six minutes.
I saw staff on other platforms.

One day I would like it to be different.


Today, Yarra Trams responded to yesterday's blog post about dangerously overcrowded tram platforms in Melbourne city.
They responded on Twitter after I tweeted the post to them.  (@yarratrams).
They told me they've tried things to "regulate passenger flow", but it's a difficult spot.
I asked them what they're currently doing.
They asked me if they could refer the post to the "safety people" as they may find some of the suggestions".
I don't know what they're currently doing because they didn't answer my question and you can't tell by looking.


Today I received this email from Yarra Trams in response to the feedback I lodged on their website about the issue of overcrowding:

"Thank you for contacting Yarra Trams customer feedback team. 

Following a determination of the issue you have raised, the matter has been referred to the appropriate area for review. 

A detailed response will be provided to you upon completion of our investigations. 

Once again thank you for contacting Yarra Trams and allowing us the opportunity to respond to your feedback."

Today I pondered the second sentence of that email.


Today I received no response or acknowledgement of these issues from Robert Doyle, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne.


Today I thought about the teachers who were on strike in Victoria today.
Today I wondered why it's so hard for teachers to be respected and remunerated for their valuable work.
Today I thought about wonderful teachers I was fortunate to have during my schooling; teachers who changed my life in some way.


Today I shared a lovely, simple meal cooked by a dear friend.


Today was a great day, with all its imperfection.

How was your day, today?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Overcrowding isn't just on the trams - how about the platforms?

One of my new routines is catching the train to Flinders Street and then catching the number one tram to South Melbourne beach which goes down St Kilda Road.  The tram stop is between Flinders Street Station and Federation Square and must be one of the busiest spots in Melbourne.

The staff at that stop do an incredible job announcing trams and helping commuters find their way to where they are going.  I wrote this post last week about the fabulous announcements made by one of the staff at this stop.

At 8:30 this morning it was so busy there was a queue to get onto the platform.  People were standing in the middle of the road between the tram tracks and the cars stranded because the platform was completely full.

As the lights changed, more and more people crossed the road to stand in a precarious line.  I wasn't able to take a photo this morning, but I did take a photo of the crowd on the platform last week.  Double or triple the number of people and you start to get the idea.

Dangerously crowded tram platform in Melbourne CBD
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From memory there are about nine or ten different tram routes that all feed through this stop.  There is bound to be a lot of people wanting to access the stop.  It was recently upgraded (in the last couple of years?) but I think it is now unsafe.  The trams had to negotiate their way out of the stop very slowly to avoid collecting a waiting commuter on the way!

I've been wondering what the answer is. Holding bays on the footpaths, so that only the people boarding trams that have arrived - or about to arrive - are allowed to wait on the platform?  Remodelling the stop to make it longer, so that it can hold more people?  Perhaps a combination of these approaches so that both the long and short term are addressed.

The other problem is about being able to move along the platform to get to the tram you want to catch when it does arrive.  This morning I waited in the queue to get onto the platform.  As a wave of pedestrians crossed the road, they didn't join the end of the queue, they just blended in with the clump of people.  No one was moving forwards.  As a tram arrived people did move forward, but then there was the problem of the people exiting the tram who were added into the crush already on the platform.  Many disembarking from the front door solved this by stepping directly onto the tracks and walking off that way.

The number 1 tram I wanted to catch this morning (I missed one while I was stuck waiting in the queue off the platform) was third in a line of trams, so I had to make my way to the opposite end of the platform.  I quickly fell in behind two men who were doing the same thing.  Half way through my trek, someone started to push me from behind.  I turned around and asked them to please not push me.  They pointed at the tram and said they wanted to catch that tram.  I pointed out that that was what we were all trying to do and we just had to make our way patiently.

It's not just the traffic, the likelihood of being run over by a tram, but the likelihood of frayed tempers and surging crowds that also worries me.  Thankfully Melbournians are generally well trained and well behaved in crowds.  In their desperation to get to their destination, someone might do something silly

The day after I took the photo above, I noticed a man taking the same photo.  I remarked on this to him.

"Yeah, well I'm from Tasmania and I've never seen so many people!" was his response.

I know that I might sound like a shock jock, but what's it going to take to fix public transport infrastructure like this?  A death?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

What's changed in two years?

Lately I've been noticing my reactions to situations and thinking about how differently I would have reacted two years ago.  As I contemplate that, I am grateful that the situations that cause me to think about this are happening now (when I am better equipped) and not two years ago.

For example, last week I was doing some work for a client in the building that I used to work in.  There are training and meeting rooms on one of the floors in the building so I go there fairly frequently.  Not long after I finished my full time employment, I had to visit this building for some work.  As I approached the building and contemplated going in, I had what I now know to be a panic attack - fast, shallow breathing, elevated heart rate, clammy sweat, hot flush of rash creeping up my neck and a feeling of general terror.  Four years have passed since then and I can now look back and read all the signals about what was going on at that workplace which I couldn't see at the time. Reflection point number one.

Last week as I walked into the building, one of the people with whom I used to work came out of the building.  She said hello and asked me what I was doing there. I responded with the facts, "I'm working with a client."

"Oh which client? What are you doing?"

"I'm working as an actress doing corporate roleplay for senior leadership development in one of the banks."

"You're kidding!?"  (Where is an interrobang when you need one?)

And there they hung, those words.

Most artists will know the common urging from people who aren't artists about it being time to get a real job.  It might be phrased as "your acting/art/music etc is wonderful, but can't you just have it as a hobby so you can go off and get a real job?"  The concern about the real job is usually strongly tethered to the need to earn money.

Two years ago I would have felt the panic rise in expectation of the impending judgement.  This time I didn't.  This is my work and I make a good living.

I said: "Actually I'm not kidding.  This is my work and I make a very good living out of it."

She reacted, quickly seeking to retract.  It was as if she suddenly realised what that statement actually could mean.

We both ended the conversation.  As I walked to the lift I contemplated my reaction.  I'm pleased that I was able to stand up, proudly, for my work and not allow it, and me, to be dismissed, but reading back on this, I wonder how I will come across.  There is more context to the relationship with this particular person that I'm not prepared to lay out here and I don't know whether it's relevant.

This is but one example.  I'm finding in the project I'm managing where I'm back in an office for a couple of days a week, that I'm being confronted with everything I don't like about that environment.  There is some good stuff too, but apart from the work itself, I'm being regularly confronted with the things that are challenging.

With another round of leadership development conversations coming up with another client (I'll be facilitating), it's timely that I am refreshing my experience in a hands-on leadership role.

I recently found myself needing to have an honest conversation with a member of the project team.  As I prepared for it, I could hear myself coaching myself from the sidelines.  A couple of years ago, my reaction and ability to handle that person would have been quite different.  I would have dealt with the situation, but I think it would have taken longer and the landing have been less comfortable.  For everyone.

The value of reflection is something that artists understand and practise  - it is essential to artistry and artistic process, regardless of the art form.  Lately, I'm hearing about reflection in the corporate setting and in medical training.  It makes me happy to see the wisdom of artists permeating other disciplines.  Lately, reflection has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about myself and my growth and how I'm going in my business (which is still less than two years' old.).  I was very pleased to notice that I'm better suited to consulting than being attached to one office and one organisation.  Thank goodness I made the right decision!

What have you reflected on lately? What are you noticing?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Royal colours

After lamenting the result of my black-shoe-shopping trip, I was rather thrilled with today's outfit.  I decided to match the outfit to the shoes, rather than the other way around.

©divacultura 2013

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To round it out I had my orange handbag and a red resin ring.

What did you wear today?  What colours do you like to put together?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday slideshow

I'm bringing back the Sunday Slideshow to share my latest photos since so many of you have responded positively!

Alfie, the Jack Russell features first.  He is a very hard dog to photograph.  He will rarely look at me when I'm holding a camera.  I was very lucky to get this shot and I love the result.  I must have been looking quite delicious for him to be licking his lips!

©divacultura 2013
 I was working at Ormond College at the University of Melbourne during the week.  The building is magnificent, so I took some photos.  Here are two of my favourites - the first looking down through several floors of a staircase and the second looking at the main building from the first floor walkway, covered in leaves.
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 The Sun Theatre in Yarraville is one of my favourite local landmarks to photograph, with its art deco lines and proud sign.  I like this shot because although it was quite overcast, the Sun sign is bathed in sunlight.

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 Walking around the village, I noticed an olive tree laden with fruit. How do you know when the olives are ready to pick, I wonder?
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 On the streets around the village I noticed this wonderful grass and couldn't resist photographing it.

©divacultura 2013
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 And lastly, part of the pattern on a new dress.  I wore the dress to a party last night.  I'm rather pleased with this dress.  I bought it in Grafton when I stayed there on my way back to Tamworth after Summersong.  It was a bargain and I love it!  I wore it with a string of orange beads, some turquoise beads and my orange Fluevog sandals with a denim jacket for when the termperature dropped.

©divacultura 2013

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Friday moments

Yesterday I did something I have never done before.  I completely forgot about a meeting I was booked to attend with a client. I was mortified when I took the phone call and realised that I hadn't even registered that I was supposed to be somewhere else.

It happened because I thought I knew what was written in my diary without actually checking my diary.  Those assumptions will kill you!

Luckily the client was very understanding and we've rescheduled.


One of the phrases I noticed people saying this week:  "Too easy."

It was uttered by a man helping another person.  I pondered this phrase and wondered what it means.

Is it a complaint?  Is the person really saying "give me something harder to do because that really was too easy"?  Or is it an assessment of their own competence: "that's too easy for me".

Then I stopped thinking about it because it was making my head hurt.


I went to buy a new pair of black shoes at my favourite shoe store yesterday.  I knew exactly the ones that I would buy.

They didn't have them in my size.  And they never will now.  Once they're gone, they're gone.

Here's what came home with me instead....

©divacultura 2013
©divacultura 2013

©divacultura 2013

©divacultura 2013

©divacultura 2013

©divacultura 2013


Aren't they lovely?  The black ones were the same as these, except, well, black.

So that was my week's end. Now it's the weekend.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Where do I start?

As I walked past the receptionist today she said to me, "Tanya, I've got so much to do I don't know where to start.  Where should I begin?"

"At the beginning, " I replied.

"But what happens when you don't know where that is?"

I gave her my honest answer: "Start anywhere you like then."

She looked at me for a while, a furrow in her brow.

Then she said: "Is that what you do?"

"Pretty much."

"Gee that's comforting coming from our project manager!"

I played it straight back.  "I'm glad because it's actually what you need to do sometimes when everything needs to be done 'now'."

"Oh!  You're serious!"

It was an interesting exchange.  There are times when everything needs to be done now and it can be overwhelming finding where and how to begin.  I've been in this situation before and I know that a lot of time and energy can be lost if I allow myself to become flustered or to panic.  While you're busy managing your emotions time could be spent on being productive.

I shared my personal three step philosophy with the receptionist:

1. Start where you are
2. Use what you have
3. Do what you can.

It works every time and is very handy in those moments of being overwhelmed.  You can just literally "start".  Forward momentum is very powerful and can give you the energy to keep going.

The project that I'm working on for this client is in the mucky and hard slog stage.  There are a lot of things and a lot of people and many tasks all demanding my attention.  I'm working on this project for only 16 hours per week, so in these early stages I can not afford to spend even half an hour being unproductive.  I'm getting things done, but my list is not getting shorter.  It can be easy to lose perspective and feel like you're not getting anywhere.

The CEOs received my various reports and congratulated me on the amazing progress I have made and continue to make.

WOW! It felt really great to receive this validation and perspective from people sitting on the outside!

Just getting on with it is serving me well.

What's your strategy when you have a lot to do and it's all urgent?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Whimsy in the city and on the trams.

Yarra Trams has either been training their staff in the art of communication or the organisation has been hijacked by frustrated entertainers.  I'm not sure which.

Waiting on the very busy tram platform one morning this week, I was fascinated by the customer service representative who was announcing the arrival of trams.  He took his work very seriously and clearly viewed it as a permanent audition.  He didn't just announce that it was the Number 8 tram to Toorak, he called it like we were all playing bingo.  He also displayed an incredible knowledge of what might be found along each tram route.  I was intrigued by his gusto and imagination.

This afternoon I caught the number 19 tram along Royal Parade back into the city.  As I was seated the driver made an announcement:  "Good afternoon travellers!  How are you all this afternoon?  My name is Daniel and I'm your driver this afternoon.  I hope that you are having a wonderful journey.  This is the number 19 tram and I'll be taking you all the way into the city this afternoon.  But first, the next stop is Haymarket.  Yes, I mean the big roundabout up here on Elizabeth Street.  If you have any questions, please come up and ask me, Daniel, otherwise have a great afternoon."

For a moment I thought the tram had been hijacked, but as I stepped off the tram I said "thank you Daniel" and saw his shocked face.  Why not thank him personally since he had shared his name?


Along the way home, I walked through the City Square - the same square which was the scene of protests in 2011.

It looked quite different today.  The yarn bombers had been visiting and painted the trees with wonderful bright colours.  The whimsy made me smile.
©divacultura 2013

© divacultura 2013

© divacultura 2013

Having arrived home, I received a text message at 5:53pm advising me that the 5:50pm train to Williamstown had been cancelled.  I was pleased that the message was unnecessary, but frustrated at the pointlessness of the message.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Playing the bully - scary and thrilling.

Today my job was to be a bully.  I had to hector, harass and abuse a person in a subordinate role.  This person was going to seek advice from me as a the experienced person who had been identified as their mentor.  In the situation, it was the right thing for them to approach me with questions, but after the encounter, they would have been left disillusioned at least and perhaps traumatised at the most.

On one hand, it is thrilling to play roles where extreme behaviours or emotions need to be portrayed.  It allows me to explore the edges and the depths of what is in me.  It's always an interesting experience as an actor to confront the shadow self and discover the nature of your own darkness.  I also have some experience of bullies and call them up to borrow their behaviours and turn of phrase.

After playing this role repeatedly over the course of the day, I found myself snarling at other people involved in the simulation.  I had to consciously pull myself back.  As I walked down the street, people moved out of my way.  I knew the power of a look - I'd caused people to leave the room I as in just by looking at them.  This is an extremely compelling power to discover.

On the way home I had some errands to do.  I noticed a staff member arguing with a customer in much the same tones I had been using all day.  Again, I had to pull myself back and remember that I was no longer in role.

The reactions of people exposed to the character I am playing interests me.  If I heard someone behaving like my character I would either walk out or ask them to go away.  I would most likely ask them for their name and find a way to draw their behaviour to the attention of someone in authority.

Then I would wonder who their leader is and what messages they have sent that has created this kind of behaviour.

The saddest thing about this character and the scenario within which I am playing it is that she is based on real life experience.  It's exhausting being this person and I noticed that my face looks different - harder, tenser, angrier - when I arrived home this evening.  I immediately washed the character away in the shower.  I know that I have to step into her skin tomorrow.  I'm glad that I can step out again at the end of the day.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Bad news received in public

Travelling on the train on Saturday morning on my way to choir practice is often an interesting experience.  The people using public transport outside peak times appears to be a very different group. It's also much less crowded so when someone takes a phone call, you can hear everything.

On Saturday a man sitting a few seats away took a phone call.  I didn't really pay much attention initially, but something caught my attention when I heard him say that he was in touch with his brother and spoke to him about four times a year.

Perhaps my ears pricked up as I tried to make sense of this statement.  Compared to my relationships with my brother and sister, speaking about four times a year wouldn't really constitute being in touch.  I wondered who had called and what question it was they had asked.

The man had his back to me and I saw his breathing sharpen as he listened.  Then I noticed colour rise up his neck until his face was flushed.

I continued to listen and observe.

"We always said that if something happened to him it would be days before anyone noticed."

Someone has just told him that his brother has either fallen ill, had an accident or died I thought to myself.

"So what happened?" the man on the train asked.

"Where's his body now? Is it in the morgue at the hospital?"

This man's brother was dead.  He'd been told the news when he was alone, yet surrounded by people.  I wanted to reach out to him and offer some condolence or support - not that I knew the man or his brother, but I felt the need to let him know he wasn't alone.

"Yes, well I can't be there tomorrow.  I've got something else on."

That brought me right back to earth.  I had no knowledge of this man or his relationship with his brother.  I still felt sad for him, but felt that a comment from me would not be well-received.

I'd hate to be at a point where a stranger called me to tell me a member of my family had died and my response was to have other priorities.  I suppose that putting effort in after death is a little pointless - what matters is relationships while people live.

I reconsidered my family relationships.  I speak regularly on the phone, email and skype with all members of my immediate family.  I only physically see them about once a year as we are spread all over the country.  I speak to my sister the least, not intentionally; it's probably a symptom of living very different lives on very different schedules.  I resolved to remind myself to treasure all my relationships - family and friends - and make sure I'm doing more than just chatting on facebook.

How are your relationships?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Wooden Music Festival - Melbourne hipster hoedown

Yesterday started and finished with music.  Technically, this morning also started with music as the night before was still going.  What a great way to spend the weekend!

My vocal group had its first rehearsal of the year on Saturday morning.  We've been on a recruitment drive to expand our numbers a little and so hosted an open rehearsal.  This was a great way to see who's interested and allow them to come along and see how we work as well as allowing us to hear them and get a sense of fit.  We were overwhelmed with the response and it was thrilling to hear - and feel - the sound created.  I'm always pleased by seeing new singers experience the bliss of singing in harmony with other human beings.

I planned to have a nanna nap to make sure I had the stamina for a night of music at the Northcote Social Club.  I'm very pleased I did!

I was keen to see the Perch Creek Family Jug Band after discovering them busking at Tamworth a couple of years ago.  They played the Tamworth Country Music Festival this year, but I missed them there so was pleased to find their gigs this weekend in Melbourne.  They are playing as part of the Wooden Music Festival with an incredible line up:  soloist Max Savage, The Bearded Gypsy Band and the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats.

The energy from every performer was electric; from Max Savage with his heartrending lyrics and gravelly vocals commanding attention, to the Bearded Gypsy Band with high energy violin and unusual time signatures, to the Perch Creek Family Jug Band with their sibling shtick and wild joy to the Quarry Mountain Dead Rats with their bluegrass tempo set to kick-you-in-the-face-flat-out.  It was infectious and impossible to stand still.

The crowd was eclectic and at one point I marveled at finding myself in the middle of a hoedown in Melbourne with such a wild crowd ranging from hippies to hipsters and one man who I referred to the as the Black Wiggle of Death.  He was an unhappy looking older man with a black skivvy stretched over his paunch.  His hair was grey and styled like Krusty the Clown.  I couldn't decide if he had stepped out of a French psychodrama, thought he was meant to be at a jazz improvisation night or was the violin teacher of one of the players on stage.  His happiness level did not increase over the course of the night.  There was also the bearded man who accessorised his track pants and t-shirt ensemble with a key on a lanyard around his neck.  His dance style was demonstrated non-stop for the duration of the show - running on the spot and smiling maniacally.  Two girls dressed in daggy nanna dresses, with matching bobbed hair cuts, thick tights and sandshoes, topped their look with a beanie and a beret were all elbows and knees as they Charlestoned the night away.  The Bearded Gypsy Band showed only a hint of chin hair compared to the array showing in the crowd - everything from thick Ned Kelly beards (with the corresponding hair cut) to artfully constructed goatees.

All of this for $18 made for a great night out with friends and a dose of dancing.  The musicianship was incredible and it's great to see bands like these playing for an appreciative and enthusiastic audience. And the audience made for a great show in themselves.

If you're in Melbourne, the Wooden Music Festival is playing again at 2pm today, Sunday at the Northcote Social Club.  If you're not in Melbourne, they are going to be in Sydney soon.  (And probably other places.)