Thursday, 31 July 2014

Out in the rain, out on the tracks

Sorry about my absence. Funny how the days sneak up and bleed into the nights and suddenly lots of them have slipped by.

Metro Trains have changed the time table. I haven't quite worked out what it all means, but their great smart phone app, called "Notify" lets me know each morning when my train is due to run.  For example, the 7:20am now departs at 7:18 because of the changed timetable. Great service. Unfortunately, there's been a few occasions where the next communication is to advise that the train has been delayed. Ironically, it's later than it would have been if the timetable hadn't changed. 

Still on the subject of public transport, Melbournians lose their usually excellent capacity to play well with others when it involves rain, peak hour and public transport. As I watched the sky turn from a sunny blue to a terrifying black, I made my plans to exit the building. I finished a phone call from a friend and was just about to take his advice and leave (the temperature had dropped to about 8 degrees with wind and rain thrown in for extra excitement) when my boss stopped me to check in on a few things. By the time I left, it was even colder and much wetter. Huddling at the tram stop, with only a tiny foldable umbrella - rendered impotent by the wind - I found a new definition of misery. This new definition was replaced a moment later as I huddled, damply, on the tram. I tried to wrangle my umbrella so I didn't wet anyone anymore than they already were. Meanwhile, I felt a wet patch growing on my back. The woman behind me was pressing her soaking, dripping umbrella into my back. We adjusted. The tram stopped a the next stop. No one alighted. A few determined people squeezed into non-existent space, pleading for us to move in. We were so squashed that the only way I could create more space was to inhale, so I did. 

The next ordeal was negotiating the stupidly skinny tram platform that was packed with too many people, plus their backpacks in the rain with umbrellas and rain hoods making it impossible to see each other. We stood on our refuge, wedged between the tram line and two lanes of traffic. Opposite, a man squatted down with his camera and leaped to action when we started to cross.

My outfit served me well today, drawing comments from many quarters: 

"That's a very eclectic outfit". I chose to respond with "thank you".

"Your dress is hitched up at the back, let me does it work?" I explained the complex rigging involved and thanked her for being concerned.  She revealed her plan to protect my modesty.

"What a fantastic outfit!" was the best comment of the day, as I interacted with people who are more from "my" world.

Hail, rain and wind are on the cards for tomorrow. I must prepare for the travel odyssey ahead. I shall think of it as character building.

We certainly saw Lorraine today:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The morning commute - on the roads

My work has required me to drive lately. Usually, I catch public transport everywhere, but lately I've been needed somewhere that would require a circuitous route and twice the time to reach my destination if I travelled on public transport. So I have been driving.

One of the major obstacles I must navigate to go just about anywhere is the Westgate Bridge. Under normal conditions, it's about an 8 minute drive from my house. The other morning it took me 55 minutes! This morning during peak hour it took about 15 minutes to get there.

It's interesting to observe driver behaviour when there is heavy congestion. Some people change lanes regularly as if they can find the lane that is moving more quickly. This is fatal, as anyone who has jumped queues at the supermarket knows. The minute you switch, the lane you were in starts to flow and the first day trainee takes over the new lane. Other people sit right on the tail of the car in front of them. It's as if the invasion of space will urge me to move forward more quickly. This is doomed to failure too as usually there's no where for me to go. I like to keep some distance between me and the car in front so that I won't end up in a sandwich when the idiot behind me rear-ends me. Then there's the person for whom driving is a distraction from reading their facebook newsfeed. Threats of long range cameras, fines and demerit points seem to be doing little to change behaviour when it comes to mobile phones and cars. 

Despite some of the trials of public transport (overcrowding, listening to endless sniffing and coughing, along with inane or revealing conversation, delays and cancellations) I miss the main benefit - productive time. While I travel I can read or do something else like read  my facebook news feed, or post to twitter to complain about the overcrowding, endless sniffing and coughing, the quality of the conversation or the fact that I'm stranded somewhere between North Melbourne and Footscray. 

Today, the car trip to the place I was working took 25 minutes, door-to-door. On public transport it would have taken just under 50 minutes and I would have had to catch a train, a tram and then walked. Not very appealing in this cold winter weather.

How do you get to work?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Heavy-handed security at the Forum Theatre - all over water.

During the week I went to see Dan Sultan play at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne. While the venue is pretty, it's really like a giant pub gig. I don't mind pub gigs, but I prefer them on a smaller scale. It turned out to be quite a bizarre night.

My friend and I had both been out and about during the day. She was coming straight from work; I had dropped into home to drop some stuff off and then head straight out again. After dinner nearby, we headed to the Forum. After showing our tickets we were stopped for a bag search on the way in. One of the security guys asked me if I was carrying any liquid (I wasn't) and cast a very cursory glance in my handbag. I walked through and waited for my friend. I looked up and saw her in animated discussion with a female security guard.

I heard my friend tell the woman, "I'm not tipping my water out!"

My friend left the area and we walked into the venue.

My friend had told the guard that she had some water and she was then told that she was required to tip it out. The reason given for needing to waste the water was "we sell water inside".

We hadn't been inside long when a male security person came and asked my friend to leave. Of course I went with her. I thought it was ridiculous that water should be tipped out for the purely commercial reason of securing sales of water for the venue.

This time, there was a different reason given: we might be carrying alcohol. We weren't and offered security the opportunity to smell the liquid. "We don't do that," came the response. Two other security guards stood around us. This was getting ridiculous!

My friend eventually pulled the water bottle out of her bag, only to discover that it was empty.

I've had a look at the "rules" for the venue.  This is an over 18's venue and has this information on their web:

Alcohol, cans, bottles, recording equipment, lazers, studded belts or weapons can not be brought onto the premises.

It says nothing about water. Stupidly, my friend's empty water bottle was allowed in which is technically prohibited. I imagine they are specifically concerned about glass bottles which could end up being used as a weapon or missile. Just about everyone takes their phone into these venues and are visible in their use of them as recording equipment.

The whole approach is offensive: three men standing over a small woman because she was carrying water; unclear reasons being given and the compulsion to waste a precious resource.

The female security guard didn't even look in my friend's bag. She only knew about the water because my friend was honest.

This approach was in direct contrast to the approach taken at Rod Laver Arena when we attended the Keith Urban concert recently. Keith actually spoke to the crowd about behaviour and got agreement that security wasn't going to be an issue. It wasn't.

Even at the Melbourne Cricket Ground they take the lid of the plastic bottle, but let you have the water.

I often think there's a type of person working in security. They seem to derive disproportional pleasure from their petty authority and the fact that they can direct other people. I suspect they are powerless in other facets of their lives. (I know that this is a generalisation, but it's also been my experience.)

I was ready to stand in solidarity with my friend as far as necessary (but secretly hoping we would still get to see the show).

I'm very interested to hear the venue's response. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The phishers almost had me - Beware!

The spammers and phishers are quite clever these days. I was almost caught when I received an email that looked like an itunes receipt. I am a regular on itunes, so it's very usual to receive these emails, but there were two things about this email that initially raised my suspicions:

1. I hadn't bought anything from itunes for a week

2. the email went into my spam folder.

Lots of other legitimate email had gone to my spam folder, so I initially assumed that this one had been caught up in that. On closer examination I discovered that the receipt was for "Kill Bill" box set that I had apparently purchased for $199. I knew that I hadn't and read on:

If this was you, then you can safely ignore this email. If this wasn't you, your account has been compromised. Please follow these steps:

Recover Account 

You will need to provide your billing information to verify you are the legitimate account holder.

This was the give away. I checked one of my other receipts from itunes and everything else was exactly like the legitimate versions, except for the bit I've pasted above. This was a trap to extract my personal details.

I checked my itunes account and saw no evidence of such a purchase. Then I noticed that the sender's email address was not from itunes.

It pays to be vigilant! I've changed my itunes password for good measure too.

Be careful out there.  

Have you ever been caught with this kind of con?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Skin, checked: all clear

The month of March was "Melanoma March" in some circles; the month to raise awareness about skin cancer and melanoma. I was involved in producing a filmed interview of a woman who had survived stage 4 melanoma and hearing her story gave me just the nudge I needed to speak to my GP about a skin check.

I'd never had a skin check, despite having reasonably fair skin and growing up in the sun. I'm now very aware and careful of the sun and wear sunscreen daily. I'd watched family members deal with various kinds of skin cancers (not melanoma) and still had not done anything.

I'm not a very "moley" person. I don't have that many, but I'd noticed a couple of new ones lately and also had one on my arm that was small, but it was raised; I could feel it when I ran my finger over that part of my arm.

My GP checked and said that she thought they were okay but referred me to a dermatologist for a more thorough check. Her concern about the moles was that they were new. I learnt that new moles after the age of about 30 need to be watched. Then she asked me what the bump on the side of my nose was.

"I don't know. Just a bump. Isn't it from wearing glasses?"

She looked at me like I had an IQ of 25 and said she wanted to take a sample. I then had the choice of just watching the other two and making a decision later, or having them off all together now. I opted to get rid of them.

The worst part of the procedures was the injection of the local anaesthetic - especially the one at the top of my nose, right near my eye.
The dressing was worse than the biopsy.
© 2014 divacultura

"I don't know how doctors can do injections like that," I said, trying to make conversation to distract from the horrible sting and pain I was feeling.

"I don't know how you write scripts and produce films," she replied.

Fair enough. Good answer! It didn't make the pain go away.

About 8 minutes later I had a big dressing on the side of my nose and waterproof dressings on my arm. The samples were housed in their own separate jar of liquid and looked innocuous.

Today I received the official letter telling me everything about these three specks of skin. It contains words like "ectactic", "fibroblasts", "dysplastic" and "lentiginous".  The word "malignancy" appeared several times. Thankfully it was preceded by "no evidence of". I couldn't quite relax until I saw the stamp added by my dermatologist. It said "NO SKIN CANCER, RESULT CHECKED BY DR (My Dermatologist).

Thank goodness for that little rubber stamp.

I'm pleased that I took action. I'd rather have things cut off and samples be taken and discover that everything was okay, than do nothing and then later discover a melanoma or other nasty.

Have you had a skin check? Do you wear sunscreen?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Sunday slideshow...on Monday

Walking in the cold winter weather was a good way to clear my head on the weekend. I was blessed with some gorgeous light too. Knitting happy socks is another great way to wile away the winter hours.

Collins and Russell Streets in Melbourne city.
© 2014 divacultura

Could not resist the way the afternoon sun was lighting up this facade.
© 2014 divacultura

Love the way the leaves on the trees catch the afternoon light and look like flecks of gold.
© 2014 divacultura

Knitting some happy socks is a perfect way to keep the winter blues at bay.
© 2014 divacultura

These are made in a yarn called "Allegria". Apt
© 2014 divacultura

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Lights, camera, action!

It's been a very big week. As usual, I was doing many different things for many different people, but this week included something out of the ordinary. I was making two films and my role was behind the camera.

I'm collaborating with a university in the field of clinical supervision and my partner and I pitched that we would make some films as a catalyst for discussion in the workshops that we will design and deliver.

We had two films to make and two days in which to make them. I wrote the script which was more like a blueprint for the narrative of each scene around which the actors would improvise. We had a director, camera operator and audio engineer. My partner was the clinical adviser on set, teaching the actors how to look like they were taking blood pressure and other vital signs and props master. That left me as producer, assistant director and floor manager. After two days, I was exhausted and gained a real appreciation for what it takes to make even a simple film. My job was all-consuming because I was flicking from creative story-telling to manager of the set, people and time frames.

At one point, I heard my name called by four different people. All I could do was take a breath and deal with each person.

Even my broadcast journalism skills had a workout. We did some vox pop interviews of students to get their stories and perspectives about clinical supervision and feedback. I stood beside the camera and chatted with four young men to get them to relax in front of the camera and to incorporate my question into their answer. I remembered the appeal that interviewing had for me all those years ago.

My next task is post-production. I'll sit with the editor and we'll use all the footage we took to tell the story that I wrote. I'm really excited to see how it turns out.

One of my lessons from this experience is that everything takes three times longer than you think and you just have to keep going until you're finished.

The other great thing I noticed was the need to have complete trust in the team you've assembled. Everyone must be doing their job and you must trust that everyone is doing their job. I had no capacity to step in and take over anyone else's job. If I had, that would have left a big gap where I was supposed to be. It's a great leadership experience, because everyone is required and no one can give less than 100% every time and all the time.

My partner took a photo on set which you can see on Instagram. He appeared as an extra, but I was too busy doing all of the things I've mentioned, that I missed taking a photo.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Clear out your unwanted winter clothes for a good cause.

I received an email this week about the need for warm clothes for visitors coming to Melbourne for the International AIDS Conference at the end of July. Many of the delegates are from warm, low income countries.

Details of how to donate clothes are at the end. Thanks for your help.

Spread the word!

Last year's World AIDS Day sign over the Yarra River.
© 2013 divacultura
The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) is the largest ever health or development meeting 
to be held in Australia.  
AIDS 2014 will be held here in Melbourne from 20 – 25 July, 2014 and we need your help! 
Approximately 14, 000 participants are expected to attend the Conference and various associated events.  Many  of  our  delegates  are  coming  from warmer climates  and  some  from  low  income countries. As we know, the temperatures don’t get to high here in the month of July and the MPG is 
partnering with Red Cross to provide low cost warm clothing.  
This is where you come in – we are asking you to dig deep and donate some winter woollies for delegates to purchase during AIDS 2014. Donated clothing will be sold (at very low costs) within the Global Village at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) where the conference will 
be  held.  Proceeds  raised  from  your  donation  will  be  donated  to  Red Cross  to  assist  their humanitarian work, supporting vulnerable people within our community. 
We are looking for donations of women's and men's winter clothing & accessories such as: 
•  Tops, T.shirts, Shirts, Long Sleeve Blouses  
•  Knitwear, Cardigans, Jumpers, Pullovers  
•  Jeans, Pants, Skirts, Tights 
•  Coats, Jackets 
•  Shoes, Scarves, Beanies, Gloves 
AIDS 2014 is only 3 weeks away! Your urgency in donating goods is greatly appreciated.  
Red Cross Shops can collect the merchandise or alternatively, it can be dropped at our head office location, 23-47 Villiers Street, North Melbourne, VIC. 
To make a donation please call Bianca Wendt, Red Cross Shops Merchandise Manager, directly on (03) 8327 7867 or 0408 300 470. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Good deed day.

I felt myself becoming impatient with the doddering woman in front of me at the supermarket checkout. I had chosen the checkout based on it only having this woman to go through ahead of me with her small number of items. The self-service lanes were full and there was a long queue and I had one too many items for the express lane.

The cashier was efficient and friendly but the woman needed to get some cash out and seemed to have stepped directly from 1974 - a time before plastic money was available with just a swipe, wave or press of a button. E v e n t u a l l y the woman withdrew her cash and was finished. I was next.

The cashier asked me to wait one moment while she changed the receipt paper in the cash register. At this point I relaxed. If I had chosen a different egress I would probably not be any further advanced.

When the cashier came back she noticed that the woman who had withdrawn the cash had walked away without taking her purchases. A quick look around didn't reveal her, but she was slow moving and I was pretty sure she would still be somewhere nearby. I paid and said that I would let her know if I saw her on my way out.

There she was, clad in her black puffer jacket, gazing in the window at the butcher's meat display. At least, I hoped it was her as I approached.

"Excuse me," I said to gain her attention.

She looked up immediately, confused and frightened.

"I think you were ahead of me at the Woolworths checkout?"

She nodded yes.

"Well you left your shopping behind."

"Oh! I'm always doing that! Aren't you a darling for finding me!"

"I'm so pleased I did. It would be awful to arrive home without your purchases. It's at the last checkout, on the end," I added, worried that she wouldn't remember where she had been. I pointed her in the direction.

Off she doddered in the general direction of the supermarket. I was nearly going to go with her to make sure she arrived, but I didn't want to impose.

I suppose this is what is called a "good deed". It cost me nothing to help this woman and I know that a few minutes of my time saved this woman money and worry. Ironically, if I hadn't been willing her to hurry up at the check out, I may not have registered enough details to be able to find her again!

I hope a kind soul does the same for me one day when I'm doddering and absent-minded.

What was your last good deed?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Art triumphs over science

I had a satisfying moment yesterday when I was co-facilitating an education session for a group of second year nursing students. My co-facilitator was a very experienced nurse herself and able to cover all the clinical information that I don't know. (I cover the communication and empathy components). I love these sessions because I always learn things too.I

We had just watched a mental health simulation with a female patient who had come to hospital believing she was having a heart attack. She wasn't - she was having a panic attack and it was revealed she had a long history of severe anxiety and agoraphobia. There was plenty to talk about.

My colleague led a discussion about the appropriate drug choices and how they work. We also discussed the side effects and other physical impacts of the drugs. Then we talked about "S.L.U.D.": Salivation, Lacrimation, Urination and Digestion. One of the students asked was Lacrimation was. None of the group knew, but I did.

"It's tears," I offered.

They all looked at me completely surprised. (I'd shared that I had no clinical background.)

"The "Lacrymosa" in the Mozart Requiem, is the movement about crying. I just figured the Latin was probably related."

They looked at me completely surprised again.

This little moment reminded me how handy a broad arts education is. Language is the basis of our communication, understanding and knowledge and I can usually work out most things. It helped me on a game show once when I had to name the South American city who name meant "mountain view". "Monte Video", I answered. I didn't "know" the answer, but I'd worked it out based on the language.

Yesterday's insight wasn't even gained from a language class, but from long exposure to Latin and other languages when singing in choirs!

More and I more I realise how important and useful my broad arts education is. It helps me navigate the world.