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