Wednesday, 31 July 2013

To berate or not to berate...?

One of the team was late to this morning's simulation.  The call time was for 8:15am and by 8:30 he had not arrived and I hadn't heard from him.

I called the agency to confirm (again) that he was actually booked.  He was.

They called him.

They called me back.

"He's on his way.  He says he'll be there in about 20 minutes."

"What happened?"

"I'll let him explain his circumstances when he gets there."

Right.  In that moment I had a number of thoughts going through my mind:

1.  Was he okay?
2. Thank goodness I follow theatre traditions and call people to be on set one hour before we film.
3.  Why didn't he ring me?
4. Was he okay?

He arrived at just after 9am.  A little under 15 minutes before the simulation was due to start.   Taking one look at him, I could see he was giving himself a good talking to.

My first question was "Are you okay?"

He was.  He instantly apologised and explained that he'd been out the night before, didn't set the alarm and so had slept in.  Points for honesty.

I asked him not to worry about that for now and focus on the work we were about to do.  I coached him to get his head straight and settle down.  His energy was nervy and sparky - not what was required for a mental health simulation with an anxious (simulated) patient.  We would talk afterwards.

The simulation went ahead and afterwards he apologised again.  I didn't say it was okay - he looked like he was waiting for that.  Then he said, "It's not okay.  I'm disappointed in myself.  It shouldn't happen."

I replied:  "No it shouldn't happen.  Now, do you have my number in your phone?  I'm not going to say anything else because I can see that you're being harder on yourself than I ever would be.  I trust that you'll be here for the next call on time and if something happens you'll call me.  Thanks for your work today."

He left.

I haven't been confronted with this issue for ages. I'm a firm believer that people are doing their best and that adults should be allowed to take responsibility for themselves.  I believe the approach I took will be more effective than an angry outburst.  I think he told me the truth about what happened and that is also to be respected.

What's your approach when a member of your team does something unacceptable?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Yarn bombers hit Little Collins Street

There's been a bit of yarn bombing going on in Melbourne again.  I noticed the banisters at one end of Australia on Collins a few weeks ago had been prettily decorated.

Yarn bombed banisters- Australia on Collins
© divacultura 2013

One section
© divacultura 2013

© divacultura 2013

Today I was at the other entrance, on Little Collins Street, and noticed some more cheerful yarn bombing.

I think I've mentioned before that I like looking at yarn bombing sites, but I really couldn't be bothered - too much work to know that it will inevitably be destroyed.  These yarn bombers are doing some serious work too.  There are lace patterns, stripes and a pretty leaf pattern.

© divacultura 2013

© divacultura 2013

© divacultura 2013

I'm happy to appreciate the work of others who choose to brighten the world in this way.  I love the paisley.

Monday, 29 July 2013

What raised my eyebrows today

Whenever anything happens in the British royal family, I expect there will be a wave of fervour that will cause most unexpected results.

I noticed a pattern on Ravelry offering instructions for me to knit my own Prince George, complete with Kate and Will. On further investigation I notice that I am behind as I missed the earlier offering enabling me to knit my own royal wedding!

One thing led to another and suddenly I'm on the Book Depository website discovering books with titles such as "Knit your own dog", Knit your own cat", "Knit and Purl pets", "Knit your own zombie", "Knit your own moustache".

There are lots of references to "knitting bibles".  I had always assumed that the term "bible" used in this context meant a comprehensive guide to knitting.  Now I'm not so sure.  Perhaps it contains instructions to knit my own bible.  This could either be an actual book or the characters in the bible.

How about this fanciful title:  "Knit in a day for baby".  This is clearly written by someone who doesn't actually have a baby.  I don't have one, but I know enough to know that if I had one, I wouldn't have time to do anything in a day, let alone knit something.  I think I would start the planning for the 21st birthday present early.


I walked past a promotional poster for a show at the Arts Centre and was surprised that a piece of advertising would have such a lukewarm tag line.  I read: "This show is mildly entertaining!" Wow. Can't wait to see that one.

The exclamation mark seemed remarkably out of place!

I looked again.

It actually said that the show is "wildly entertaining!"

The punctuation now made sense.

Another season of "Big Brother" is broadcasting on television right now.  I feel the passage of time as I notice my lack of desire to have a look.


An email from a friend who is currently in Edinburgh advised me that Melbourne's temperature today was actually 3 degrees warmer than the temperature over there.  So much for summer.  I gain a new understanding of why the Scottish woman at music camp that time had no idea what to do with a sarong.

I hope your week started well.

What raised your eyebrows today?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The sound of procrastination and tax avoidance

Did you hear that sound today?  It was the sound of people (ie me and at least two other people I know) procrastinating.

The subject of procrastination was the completion of the BAS for the ATO which tracks how much GST has been collected by your business.  That amount is balanced against how much GST you've spent on business related purchases.  Then you balance that against your sales for the quarter and discover how much you need to pay the ATO or how much they need to pay you.  They've never paid me anything.

There are far too many acronyms in that paragraph...*

Despite having systems to make the process easier, when I receive the envelope with the notice, I dutifully mark the due date in the diary and then proceed to avoid it until the day before it is due to be submitted.  Then I spend a whole Sunday resenting the fact that I have to spend a whole Sunday on tax and then I nearly run out of time because cleaning the bathroom is suddenly a very appealing activity.

That's what procrastination sounds like - the bathrooms in the homes of small business owners being cleaned.  The oven suddenly looked like an appealing prospect for attention at about 11:30 today.  Or I could have alphabetised my spices.  Or cleared the spare room.  Actually with four BAS's to complete in a year I should be able to sort out my spare room...Even an emergency trip to the dentist would have been fun.

Usually I'm not one to procrastinate; I just do whatever needs to be done.  When it comes to anything to do with tax though I have a mental block.  Thank goodness I do have some kind of system or it would be hell.  I have noticed that the due date for completion of the BAS corresponds to desk cleaning and filing day.  Something should be done about that.

It's not that it's difficult.  It's just that I could be doing more interesting things.  Like vacuuming the ceiling or cleaning the skirting boards.

Bernard Black, proprietor of the bookstore in the comedy "Black Books" gives tax avoidance a new meaning in the very first episode.  He is supposed to be doing his tax, but is gripped by creative procrastination - he pairs an enormous pile of socks, covers himself in post-it notes, answers the door and invites the Jehovah's Witnesses in for discussion and a cuppa.  I know exactly how he feels!

What's your preferred procrastination activity?

*BAS - Business Activity Statement
ATO - Australian Tax Office
GST - Goods and Services Tax

Saturday, 27 July 2013

My favourite things - this week.

It's been a strange week.  It's been the kind of week where nothing immediately springs to mind - just the kind of week when it's a good idea to focus on the good moments.  It would be much easier at this moment to write about the bits that weren't so great.  Let's see how I go...

1. I finished knitting the bits of the first cardigan I've ever made for myself.  I have a back and two fronts.  I've put it aside for now while I rally my strength to do the next bit (joining the shoulder seams and picking up stitches for the neck and sleeves).  Even though it's not really a cardigan yet, I'm very pleased with my work so far - nice even stitches, the bits that need to be the same size as each other are the same size as each other!

2. A colleague and I emceed a team dinner for an IT crowd during the week.  The room set up was terrible and not what we'd been expecting.  We were in a marquee next to St Kilda Road, so it was noisy.  We had some audio challenges.  In spite of all these challenges we had the 50 guests laughing and mingling and having fun.  This was our brief, so we did well.  We learned some lessons about things to do differently next time, but overall we left a happy crowd behind us.

3.  At the same function one of the guests recognised me from the Glen Eira Strings concert I emceed in May.  She told me what a great job I'd done, covering the long gaps as musicians, instruments and furniture were moved on and off the stage.  It was great to be remembered and acknowledged in this way.

4. On a cold and drizzly morning, my resolve to walk to the office instead of catching a tram wavered.  I looked over at the crowded platform and it didn't look inviting.  There was no sign of the number 1 tram, so I decided to keep to my commitment (as part of the Global Corporate Challenge) and walk.  My favourite moment was when I arrived at the office about 15 minutes later at the same time as the tram.  I was very pleased that I'd used the 15 minutes to have some exercise rather than standing at a cold and crowded tram stop for ten minutes.

5. I've been having some moments of insecurity lately.  I'm co-authoring a chapter in an academic book.  Academics approach things in a very particular way.  We've agreed to produce a thought dump as a first step as we're living in different countries.  To me, a thought dump is a list of points, or a map of points showing the relationships between the points.  One of the team has produced eight pages of what feels like a polished essay to me.  I started to question what I'm doing and whether I'm qualified to even be involved.  I mentioned my worry about this to one of my colleagues in the field after a day of co-teaching.  She looked at me like I was from Mars and said that my approach was respected and that I'm fantastic!  Wow.  I was jolted back to earth and remembered that my points of difference is what makes me and my contribution valuable.  I'm the expert practitioner in the field about which we are writing.  It was a great moment to note.

How was your week?  What were your favourite moments?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Security breach puts travellers in airport lock down

Brisbane airport - 24 July 2013
© divacultura 2013

This is what confronted me when I arrived at Brisbane airport last night to catch a flight home to Melbourne.  As I walked across to the terminal from the train station, I saw hundreds of people in the terminal and immediately knew something was wrong.  The only time I've seen an airport as busy as this was at about 5:30am over in Perth.

This was different.  For a start everyone was facing in the one direction.  I soon discovered they were looking at the departures board.  The departures board had a list of flights with no departure information.  Definitely unusual.

I approached two women and asked what was going on.  They told me there had been some kind of security breach.  I asked a couple of others and found out that someone had walked back inside the secure zone after they had left.  This meant that everyone who was inside the secure zone had to be evacuated to the non-secure side and go through security again.

I checked my bag in and found a spot on the floor and took a seat.  I was booked on a 7:10pm flight so I wasn't late, but I needed food.  After a day feeling unwell, I hadn't eaten anything and was just starting to feel like something plain - like toast, crackers or a bowl of rice.  The closest thing I could find was a bag of chips in a vending machine, but the vending machine only took coins or a $5 or $10 note.  I had a $50 note in my wallet.  Down the other end of the terminal I found a machine that took credit cards.  I swiped it.  It didn't look like it worked so I swiped it again.  I ended up buying 2 packets of chips.

Settling back on my spot on the floor, I listened to the announcements.  A woman's voice explained that they were now going to call particular flights.  She pleaded with us to wait if we were not on the flights called.  She reassured us that everyone would be called through and no one would be left behind.  A flight to Tamworth was called and a huge crowd surged forward.  It seemed like an awful lot of people travelling to Tamworth!  Soon another announcement from the same woman asked again for ONLY the people on flights that had been called to come through security.  She sounded frustrated.  I looked up and there she was standing beside me.  She looked stressed.

When she finished speaking I said thank you to her and told her what a great job she was doing.  She rolled her eyes and said how awful the afternoon had been.  I repeated that she was doing a great job.  She looked grateful and seemed amazed that anyone would notice and take the time to compliment her.

Another woman then walked through the crowd and started giving contradictory information calling out flight numbers that weren't up on the screen and hadn't been called out by the amplified announcement.  A passenger walked up and said something to this woman.  She didn't look happy.  The staff member gave some directions; the other woman shook her head and sighed.  As she walked away she shook her head and was muttering under her breath.

These scenes were repeated in little clusters across the terminal.

My flight was called and I walked through to security.  The staff there were working very fast.  I said hello and asked them how they were going.  They looked pleased to be acknowledged as human beings as most people going through looked grumpy.

As I made my way to the gate, a man walked beside me muttering about his flight being closed.

"My flight's &%^$ing closed!"

"It won't be closed.  You'll be okay."

"It says it's closed!  I won't be happy."

"You'll be okay," I called to his back as he rumbled down the concourse.

It's interesting to watch people get worked up about something that they have no control over.  Why yell at people who are doing their best to manage in the circumstances?  And why spend time getting worked up about a flight that might be closed instead of spending the time getting to the gate?  Strange.

In the end, my flight was only 10 minutes late.  I was very happy to sit on a seat - airport floors are very hard and cold!

What's your plan  when things don't go to plan?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

TV binge

What greater excuse to indulge in binge TV can there be than winter weather?  I took full advantage of the rain and cold temperatures over the weekend to finish watching the first series of American Horror Story  and the seventh season of Dexter (I only had two episodes of this one left).

I approached American Horror Story with much trepidation.  Horror is not my favourite genre and I'm not great with ghost stories.  Or anything involving mirrors.  Rather than investing in something I wasn't sure I was going to be able to watch, I borrowed the first disc from Quickflix and was immediately hooked.  Although it features ghosts and lots of mirror action, I was okay.  I think I was more involved in the psychodrama side of things - what do people's fears look like? what does a man see when he looks at a woman? who's real and what's imagined?

I watched the opening titles once and found them scarier than the show, so I skipped right past them after that first time.  There's something about sepia photographs of wide eyed infants flashing in quick cut or melting that is spooky.  Then I watched the feature on the DVD about the design of the opening title sequence with its wonderful font and discovered that the impact that the opening title sequence had had on me was exactly what they were aiming for.

Maybe the fact I had my knitting to distract me helped me not be too scared.  I did watch the first episode in broad daylight, fully prepared to not go beyond that, but how can Jessica Lange be resisted? She's always terrific and plays slightly unhinged very well.  And the good news is that I've nearly finished the cardigan I'm knitting for myself - I just need to do the neck and the sleeves.  I hope the cardigan isn't prickly as a result of the context in which it was knitted.

Apart from watching TV, I'm reading a book about TV.  It's by Alan Sepinwall and is called The Revolution was Televised.    It's an examination of the change in television that started with prison drama "Oz", continued with "The Sopranos", "The Wire" through to "Breaking Bad".  I've watched all of the shows discussed except for "The Shield", "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica", the last of which has been on my list for a while.  It's interesting to discover what seem to be "universal" responses to particular moments and characters. And I'm happy to have discovered that "Deadwood" did seem to be missing a fourth and final season. It wasn't just me.

What are you watching at the moment?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Today was so windy...

Wild weather hit Melbourne again today.  At about 3:00pm it was dark with a greenish tinge.  The wind was howling and the rain was pelting against the windows.  The wind is still blowing, a bit more of a whine than a howl now.

Wind can do strange things.

Today was so windy it blew the eyebrows off my forehead.

Today was so windy it blew the dots off my frock, the pinstripes off my suit.

Today was so windy it blew the pom pom off my poodle, the bubbles from my champagne, the froth from my cappuccino.

Today was so windy it blew the lines off my tennis court, the bars from the windows and the curls from my hair.

Today was so windy it blew the notes from my horn, the wool off my sheep and the tail off my pony.

The hair of my dog is gone; so is the nose from my clown.

Today was so windy it blew the trams off the track but put wind in my sails.

Today was so windy it blew the smile off my face.

I wonder where it landed? Who has it now?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Oh that's right, I quit sugar.

It's been a while since I quit sugar.  The days of withdrawal are long ago and now sugar laden substances don't even seem like food to me.  This is the best place to be.

Last week I had a facial.  I used to go once a month and then my financial circumstances changed and I couldn't afford them as often.  Now I can, but I'm time poor.  All of that means I hadn't seen my regular beautician since March.

She commented on how settled and clear my skin is looking.  The usual problems I have with congestion (I've never recovered from living in northern humid lands) were much reduced.  My skin wasn't as reactive and sensitive as it had been.  She asked me what I had changed.

I couldn't think of anything.  I shrugged.  She continued to exclaim about how amazing it was.  Then she asked me if I was still off sugar.

"Oh yes," I replied.

"Well that must be it," she replied.

"Oh yes, I suppose that's right.  It's so long ago and so much part of my life now, that I forget that I've given up sugar."

She continued with the usual reactions about how hard it must be and it sounds like a good thing to do, but that she would never be able to do it.

I rested back on the pillow and relaxed.

This was a great moment of recognition and a reminder that the hard work and struggles of withdrawing from an addictive substance were worth the pain.

The other thing I've noticed is how much my palate has changed.  I should disclose that I recently shared a macaroon with a friend.  I didn't enjoy it and felt sick afterwards.  Won't be going back any time soon.  In the meantime, I now eat my porridge with milk and a sprinkle of chia seeds or a seed and nut mix.  I make my porridge from a mixture of rolled oats and spelt and find they are naturally sweet.  If you had told me this back in the days of brown sugar sprinkled on (or maple syrup on special occasions) I would have had you committed.

I told colleagues that porridge is naturally sweet and I had to run away.

This is a lifestyle change that was relatively straightforward to implement and is paying dividends in lots of ways.  Now I'm off to feed my television and knitting addiction!

What choices have you made lately to improve your health?  What's the hardest thing you've ever given up?  How did you make it stick?

Friday, 12 July 2013

What you need to know when the zombie apocalypse happens.

Here's what I learned from watching World War Z.  I thought I'd share it with you so we're all prepared for the zombie apocalypse when it comes.  You might think that Brad Pitt's new movie is a work of fiction, but it's actually an instructional video if you know how to interpret it.  I've taken the hard work out for you.

1.  Whenever you leave the house, wear shoes you can run in.

2.  Whenever you leave the house, take all essential medication in large amounts with you.

3.  If you're in a traffic jam and need to get out, follow the runaway garbage truck.  It will cut a path through all the parked cars.  Be careful when it tips over though, you could end up being crushed to death.  Never mind the zombies.

4. Make sure you're well connected to the UN and that they have your mobile number.  Stay in touch while you're away, otherwise they'll assume you're dead and throw your family to the zombies.

5. Know how to fly a plane.

6. Know how to use a gun.

7. When refueling aircraft at deserted Korean airbase, put your mobile phone on silent and make sure the wheels of all the bikes you'll be riding are well oiled.  I'd recommend carrying a can of WD40 just in case.

8. Know how to do field surgery to perform things like amputations in the blink of an eye without much blood or pain with only a mini bottle of vodka and a pencil handy.

9. Look for the nearest abandoned RV and steal it.  Just keep's there somewhere.

10. When you leave the RV to loot the nearest supermarket, don't leave the keys in there.  It won't be there when you come back, even if it was really hard to start about 5 minutes ago.  It will be gone in a flash.

11. If you're going to let the refugees in the safe zone sing joyfully make sure you hire a good sound engineer before you let them near the sound system.  For everyone's sake.

12.  When travelling in an aircraft, always keep your seatbelt fastened, low and tight over your hips.

13.  Become some kind of scientist who knows about biology, viruses, bacteria and that kind of stuff.  It's helpful in all kinds of ways.

14.  Carry a roll of gaffer tape.  This is a good life habit to have even when there are no zombies.

15.  See if you can find Brad Pitt.  He's indestructible and can do all of the above.

And the one thing I didn't learn  - and also didn't find out when I read the book - do zombies have bad breath?  It seems like they would.

What did you say - the case of the poor listener and the cafe patron.

THE SCENE: Ordering lunch at a cafe today.

Customer (me) walks in to cafe and looks in the cabinet with all the rolls and sandwiches waiting to be selected.  Customer sees the delicious Reuben sandwich on sourdough and waits to be served.

Five staff stare from behind the counter.

STAFF MEMBER:      Oh hi.  Did you want something?

ME:                               Well yes.  Do you toast those?

(points to delicious Reuben sandwich on sourdough)

STAFF MEMBER:       We can, but personally I think they're better fresh.

ME:                               Great.  I'll take your expert advice.  I'll have that here with a cafe latte please.

STAFF MEMBER:       So we have a lunchbox special...for $15 you can have the sandwich, a coffee and a piece of cake or slice.

ME:                              No thanks.

STAFF MEMBER:     It's a good deal - are you sure?

ME:                               I don't eat sugar.

STAFF MEMBER:    No one "needs" sugar.

(Blank look from customer)

STAFF MEMBER:  Didn't you say you don't need sugar?

ME:                          No.  I said I don't eat it.

STAFF MEMBER:  Oh, wow.  (Pauses)  So is that to take away?

ME:                          No, I'll have it here please.

STAFF MEMBER:  And did you want a coffee with that?

ME:                          Yes please - cafe latte.

STAFF MEMBER:  That will be twelve dollars please.

(Customer hands EFTPOS card over)

ME:                          That's on savings thanks.

STAFF MEMBER:   And what account is that on?

ME:                          Savings.

STAFF MEMBER:  Would you like your receipt?

ME:                          Yes please.

STAFF MEMBER:  Would you like your receipt?

ME:                          You just asked me that.

STAFF MEMBER:  Did I?   (pauses) What did you say?

ME:                          Yes please.

As I took my place at a table, I wondered whether I would receive my food and if food did indeed arrive, what kind of food would it be? Would it be in a takeaway bag or on a plate?

A classic case of poor listening.  

The food arrived and it was nice.  The coffee was great too.  Now, just need to sharpen up the communication skills.

How well do you listen?  Do you go onto autopilot?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

If I'm yelling at the TV, it must be an election year.

I wasn't going to write about politics again.  But it's all that's in my brain today.  It was all the tweeting during last night's episode of Q & A and being home today with the radio on and reading Kerry-Anne Walsh's book, The Stalking of Julia here we are.

This week's new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced a proposal to reform the Australian Labor Party's rules governing the election of leader, putting more power in the hands of members.  Ordinarily I'd be thinking this is a good thing, but its announcement was tainted when Rudd stated it would prevent a leader being told, "OK sunshine, it's over."

This little post-script made it clear that the rush of reformist's zeal gripping the nation's PM had less to do with democracy and was more about himself; after all, he's had the last three years to raise such ideas.  If they'd been adopted though, Julia Gillard may still be Prime Minister which wouldn't have been very convenient for Rudd.

Thought I'd share my tweets from last night when there was a lot of discussion about the proposed changes.

9:42pm: Rank & file members need honest reporting to make decisions on leadership. Um, anyone seeing the flaw?

9:45pm: Unions are made up of ordinary working people. Don't get much more grassroots than that v

That was in response to Malcolm Turnbull's assertions that the Liberal Party is a grassroots party.

9:48pm: Is now the time to talk about a Republic where we can truly choose our head of state?

Again, in response to cries about the Australian people's "right" to choose our Prime Minister.  We don't have that right.  We elect a local member to the House of Representatives.  The party which has the most local members wins government!  Whoever is the leader of the party with the most members is the Prime Minister.  The leader of the both major parties is chosen by a collegiate vote of the parliamentary party.  Last time I checked.

9:50pm: Stop the quotes.

In response to sloganeering ("Stop the Boats") rather than policy making on the vexed issue of asylum seekers.

9:57pm: This discussion wouldn't be needed if position of PM should never have been cheapened in the first place.

Well that one was obviously composed in a hurry! But you get my drift.

9:58pm: The PM is NOT chosen by the people whichever party is elected Malcolm!

See above.  "Malcolm" refers to Malcolm Turnbull.

10:04pm: Haven't we been in an election campaign since we elected a hung parliament?

Again, Mr Turnbull moved me to this tweet as he said that the ALP should either be governing or be campaigning.

10:10pm: I don't watch parliamentary debates. Too much shouting.

Turnbull again as he defended his leader, Tony Abbott's refusal to debate the Prime Minister anywhere but in the parliamentary chamber.  Seriously.

10:11pm: Remote/regional health education and service requires symmetrical broadband.

Six months ago I had never heard the term "symmetrical broadband", now the lack of it keeps me awake at night.  Malcolm Turnbull's belief that there isn't a need for fast speeds for both upload and download to the internet is just plain wrong.  A mental health education program I am currently managing provides education to nursing, medical and allied health students in a regional area.  We currently limp along on domestic broadband and often the service fails.  This needs to be fixed.

10:23pm: What colour was the army in Egypt?

Ok, this one was lost in translation.  As they talked about opposition plans to tackle climate change by killing emissions trading and introducing a green army, I visualised the green army turning on the government demanding action.  See the link?

10:30pm: The questions are making more sense than the answers tonight.

I tuned out, frustrated at the lack of clarity in thought, speech and action.

So that was my night.  No tweets up on the screen this week (I had one the previous week).  It's an interesting way to interact and see others' reactions.

Are you on Twitter?  What do you tweet about?

You can follow me @divacultura

Monday, 8 July 2013

Spirit Award - it's pink!

Last week I won an award.  It was the worst kept secret, but I was delighted every time someone let slip what was about to happen.  I was awarded the Spirit of the Global Corporate Challenge Award and will be receiving a special, limited edition Pulse in recognition.

The award was based on the votes of my team mates and my general participation in the Challenge.  I'm a sociable creature and I like to connect with the people with whom I'm sharing an experience.  I don't mind letting them know that I've been known to march on the spot at the end of the day while I brush my teeth or do the washing up in order to meet my step target for the day.  I've included suggestions for dancing in the loungeroom and shared that going to hear live music is a great way to beat your personal best (if it's the kind of music you can dance to).

I've mentioned before how clever the design of the GCC is.  It really does create new habits and a mindset around daily activity.  I've also found myself feeling accountable to my team.  I spent one weekend in bed ill and as a result, not only did my personal daily step average plummet, but my inactivity had an enormous impact on the performance of the team.  I felt bad, even though there was nothing I could do about it.  My team understood and also noted that they were pretty sure that everyone would be sick at some point.

We southern hemisphere participants do have the added challenge that we're participating during winter!

We're in the middle of another mini-challenge.  Whereas I blitzed the last one and set a new personal best for the number of steps I took in one day, I think I'm going to be hard pressed to succeed this time.  Our challenge is to make 100,000 steps in 7 days.  That's 14286 steps per day.  While my personal best is higher than this - 15,505 steps - given what's happening over the next 7 days achieving this isn't possible.  Rather than being defeated before I start, I've made a commitment to eat my daily target of 10,000 steps over the next 7 days.  I might even surprise myself!

Once I have received my hot pink Pulse, I've decided to continue to share the spirit by gifting my standard issue Pulse to a friend of mine who is newly inspired.  I'm so happy to know that I can give it to someone whom I know will use it - much better than sitting in a drawer gathering dust.

So in the spirit of the Spirit, what's your daily activity habit?  What's your mindset like when it comes to being active?  How do you keep yourself accountable?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Jazz debut - tomorrow night

Tomorrow I perform my first gig as a jazz vocalist.  Since April, I've been taking a  jazz vocal class with jazz legend Bob Sedergreen and now we're at the culmination.

It's been an interesting journey of discovery.  Learning about where jazz came from and what is and isn't a jazz standard have filled my Saturdays.  The pressure of choosing only two songs from such a huge repertoire was exciting and an exercise in trusting that you'll choose the right songs.

I'm in love with my songs, although, as with any love affair, it hasn't always been easy.

The first one, "Waltz for Debby" by pianist Bill Evans was love at first hearing.  The gorgeous melody in 3/4 time sold me within a few bars. Then I heard the lyrics and I pounced on that song.  As with many things, its simplicity masks a very complex and challenging song.  I can't wait to sing it.

My second song is a complete change of pace - "Crystal Silence" by Chick Corea, also a pianist.  All it took was three bars.  It was love; but with love at first sight there's always a risk.  A week later I was unsure.  The lyrics were pretty heavy duty (regrets and longing for lost love) and I couldn't really remember what it was that first attracted me.  Then Bob played it and I remembered.  I think I was actually confronted by the emotional intensity of the song and what it would take for me to deliver an honest performance.  I'm so glad I stuck with it and I'm really looking forward to this performance.

I had entered the class with ideas of singing something funky and was pretty sure I'd be choosing something by Herbie Hancock.  This was a lesson in letting go and following impulses in the moment.  I'm so glad I was able to.

The class started with ten people and now we are nine, from all different places, with various levels of musical training and experience.  It's been so interesting to watch the wrestling and resistance of those who like structure and certainty - what I might call the antithesis of jazz.  I've been thinking how well my training in theatre improvisation has enabled me to be open and embrace uncertainty.  Last week, I noticed that the improv idea of offers and acceptance is highly relevant in jazz performance.  The capacity to listen to what's happening, to listen and respond within the framework of the song, makes the experience of magical for the performers and fresh for the audience.

We'll all come together tomorrow night, backed by Bob on piano, drums and double bass, at 8pm at the Paris Cat jazz club at 6 Goldie Place in the Melbourne CBD.  Tickets are $10 to cover the cost of the venue.

Now, I just need to decide what to wear.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Profound bliss

Is there a bliss more profound
than the removal of too tight shoes?

The toes, creaking and protesting through the day
scream in anticipation
as the wearer hobbles home.

As the boot zipper is lowered -
The escape of air is almost audible.
The feet expand further,
The first wriggle of toes results in deformity -
toes cramping at weird angles -
the blood starts to flow
the bones start to straighten.

The first step,
recalls a duck...
or a heavily pregnant woman.

Caught in the uncertainty of a too late discovery
I wondered
"should I turn back?"
I would miss my train, be late,
and able to walk quickly
Punctuality pressed.

the sheepskin of slippers coddles and cushions
Perhaps I'll wear them forever.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A morning in Monet's garden.

Paying to walk around vast rooms with crowds of people oblivious to others, all with the same purpose: to stand in front of canvas squares, rectangles (sometimes circles) covered in paint and surrounded by wood.  When described like this, visiting an art gallery seems like a strange thing to do.

This morning I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to visit this year's Winter Masterpieces - Monet!  The idea of standing in front of a picture suddenly struck me as odd - perhaps as I was jostled and blocked by a fellow visitor ensconced in the bubble of their audio tours.  A square on the wall seems so unromantic, non-poetic and unlovely.

I wasn't moved to tears as I often can be when viewing art works.  I wondered why.  Afterall, I was struck by the extraordinary beauty of Monet's work.  Then I read somewhere that he painted "senses" rather than "emotions".  I found myself to be more emotionally engaged by the story of a master painter's failing eyesight.  It brought to mind Beethoven's deafness.  What pain this must be when the body betrays the artist's ability to create their art. And then there was a set of the corrective lenses worn by Monet to help deal with the colour distortion he suffered differently in each eye.  They look so small and delicate and vulnerable.  I felt so sad for Monet's suffering.

In the same glass box where the spectacles are kept is Monet's clay pipe and also his artist's palette.  It is timber and the daubs of paint make it look like a Monet painting itself.

The third room with the enormous decorative waterlily panels is glorious.  To get the full story of these pictures you really do need to stand back.  Some of the pictures which are in the smoke and fog suddenly come into focus only from 5 metres away.

As is usual when I visit the art gallery, strangers engage me in conversation about the works.  One woman described feeling overwhelmed and choked up by one of the renditions of waterlilies as she explained Monet's influence on interior design.  She referenced the turquoise ring I was wearing to emphasise her point.  Another woman leaned over and commented on the beauty of one of the pictures.  My companion looked on puzzled by all these people talking to me.  "People talk to me," I explained.

Despite arriving at opening time, there was a very long line and the gallery was extremely busy.  This was on a weekday.  I would avoid weekends at all costs.  And I would ask visitors to the gallery to engage your peripheral vision and be aware that you are not the only person in the gallery.  Perhaps an etiquette lesson should be compulsory before a ticket will be provided.  Imagine - certificate IV in gallery etiquette!

As I stepped back into the grey Melbourne day with its bitter, icy wind I relished the morning I had spent in the sunshine of Monet's garden.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Don't assume that I don't care!

The Big Issue seller was in his usual spot.  He didn't seem to be doing much business.  From a distance, it looked like there was something "off".  Was he doing or saying something to turn people off?  I soon found out.

I always say hello and occasionally buy the magazine.

He waved the current issue in my face and asked if I'd like to buy.

I smiled, said hello and shook my head.  As I did I also said that I had already purchased this edition.

"You don't fuckin' give a shit..." he muttered under his breath.

Ah, there it was, the thing was hurting his business.

Before I had thought about it, I turned back and said, "That's not true.  I do care.  I've already bought this edition and don't want to buy a second one."

He back pedalled rapidly.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean it.  I was talking to myself.  I didn't mean it."

As I walked away I thought about how the conversation would continue - it sounded like you were talking to me; you'd do better trade if you didn't accuse people; if you're going to talk to yourself, do it silently or think about what conversation you're going to have!

As I was walking home this evening, I thought about the assumptions that we make and what would cause someone to default to a reaction based on the assumption that people aren't buying the magazine because they don't care about homeless people.  This man has probably experienced being invisible and knocked back regularly, so it would be a reasonable assumption to make.  No matter how reasonable an assumption can seem it doesn't necessarily make it a truth.

One of the leaders who has been most influential in my life set up a rule in a team we were leading.  That rule was "check your assumptions".  We were rigorous in enforcing this rule.  It became a mantra within the team.  Constant attention to this need to check changed mindsets and meant that we were far less likely to make high-stakes decisions (or even smaller decisions) based on an assumption that was wrong.

It's a good discipline to instill, in both professional and personal life.

What assumptions do you make?  Have you ever made a decision based on a wrong assumption?

Monday, 1 July 2013

IT hijack

It was one of those days when Murphy's Law had been implemented and I didn't get the memo.

I arrived at work at about 8:10am ready for an action-packed day.  The customary Monday morning computer updates meant I had time to make a cup of tea and do a lap of the office and still have time to stare at a blank computer screen.

Then I went to log in and nothing happened.  It wasn't a password problem.  It was as if I didn't exist. On calling the "help" desk, I discovered that I didn't exist.  My contract extension had not been processed, so I actually did no longer exist for the purposes of email and system access.

After about 20 minutes I was able to get hold of my HR contact.  She'd had an accident at work the week before and the day she had planned to process my contract extension was the day that she wasn't at work.

After a further 15 minutes I had email access and all my emails were still there which was a very pleasant bonus.  Then I tried to attach a document to an email.  Then I tried to access documents in my files.  It was as if I had again been extinguished.

A third phone call to the "service" desk resulted.  Within two seconds I wanted to ask for the other guy.

He told me it should be working and sighed heavily.  It was about 9:30am by this stage and far too early to be sighing heavily.  So much for my plans for a highly productive day.

I told him I had a deep understanding of the fact that it should be working and decided to inhale.

He sullenly asked me for my password.  I refused to give it.  I've rigorously educated to never provide my password to anyone.

"Even IT?" he asked.

"Especially to IT, " I responded.

He told me that this would make his job harder.  So far he wasn't making mine any easier so it seemed like a fair trade.

He asked me to try another computer.  45 minutes later he was still telling me that it should be working.

He told me he'd call me later.

He didn't.

I stumbled across the missing folders and reluctantly called the helpful service desk back.  I got the first guy again - the helpful one with a service ethic.  (It doesn't seem right that it's pot luck!)  He showed me how to map my network drives and remarked that it's not often people in the organisation ask to be shown.

Most of the time it doesn't feel like such a request would be welcome.

By 4pm I had full access restored.  Let's hope it holds over night.