Monday, September 22, 2014


The dog has fleas. Truffles has been scratching herself so I decided to take a closer look this morning. I flipped her onto her back and inspected her tummy near where she had been licking herself and caught sight of a flea scuttling away. Faaark.

The infestation is, of course, entirely Nathan's fault since he was the one responsible for administering the dog's flea preventative treatments (and ensuring that they were up to date, which I suspected they weren't).

Naturally, I did the worst thing possible...I started looking up information on the internet. The information I read sent me into a mild panic because I was now concerned the entire house may be festooned with the little parasites (and the idea of flea bombing the apartment was not especially appealing). Anyhow, Nathan and I both needed to dash off to catch the train so we decided we'd discuss what to do later.

Once we boarded the train and took our seats, I began telling Nathan about the hassle we would need to go through to get rid of the infestation from the apartment. I could tell – as all attentive partner's can – that he thought I was being a drama queen.

But then, something miraculous happened. Right on cue, a tiny flea larva crawled across a paper bag I was bringing to work. I gently picked up the larva with my index finger to show Nathan. And just as I was holding the tiny little thing and positioning my finger so that Nathan could get a better look, it launched itself from the tip of my finger onto Nathan's jumper. The demonstration worked perfectly...Nathan spent the afternoon washing the dog and cleaning the house.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the accusation

Nathan and I noticed a small, light coloured patch on Truffles' lip last week. Naturally, being hypochondriac dog owners, we took her to the vet.

Vet: It's definitely not a tumour...It looks more like a cigarette burn.
(Seriously, did the vet just accuse me of torturing our dog?)

Me (defensively): That's impossible. We don't smoke. And she lives inside the apartment.


I can't even begin to imagine  how the heavy weights at this toy company were persuaded it would be a great idea to manufacture dolls that 'magically poop charms' which kids then collect and wear as bracelets.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I am back in Canberra for a few days visiting with family and friends.

The security guy who was checking my bag at Melbourne airport was making polite conversation and asked me where I was going. When I said Canberra, the guy asked "Why would you want to go there?" Poor Canberra.

I went to the Canberra Centre two days in a row. I noticed the same elderly lady sitting near the information desk eating chocolate ice cream on both days. My parents say she is always there, eating her ice cream. It must be her routine.

My routine in Canberra is to eat, eat, eat. It is unrelenting. My parents feed me from morning til night. I always gain weight.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

midwinta ball

Nathan and I attended the inaugural midwinta ball last night at the Grand Hyatt. Nathan had organised tickets a while ago but forgot to tell me about it until Wednesday.

The event was black tie. We had planned to hire tuxedos but because it was too 'last minute', Nathan ended up buying a tux (which wasn't that much more expensive than the cost of hire) and I decided to just wear my black suit with a bow tie to make it look a bit more formal. I was feeling a little nervous about being under-dressed but I needn't have turns out that anything goes at a gay gala ball. One guy even wore black leather and chains (I guess technically it was still 'black tie').

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Nathan and I are back in Melbourne.

The work part of my American trip (a conference in New York) went very well. One of my students even picked up a prize for his presentation. While I was attending the conference, Nathan continued his 'holiday' and squeezed in a visit to Washington DC.

We left the US on Wednesday local time. We flew with Delta from NY to LA because our original booking on Qantas was only from Melbourne to LA return – and it would have cost more than doubled the price to make changes to the ticket in order to fly out of New York with Qantas. This turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise for several reasons.

First, Delta was awesome. The flight attendants were the most friendly I have ever encountered on a US carrier (they were actually courteous). Both the food and inflight entertainment were also excellent and, to our surprise, included in the price of our ticket.

Second, not flying with Qantas from NY to LA on Wednesday meant we avoided this debacle. In fact, our flight from LA to Melbourne was half empty because we left without the New York passengers who were stranded in LA because of the delay out of New York.

Third, we had the most awesome flight attendants from LA to Melbourne. In fact, one of the flight attendants, Tarsh, was on our flight from Melbourne to LA a few weeks earlier. And because we struck up a great rapport with her the first time around, she actually remembered us and pampered us with pjs and toiletries from business class.

Now, I just need to get over the jet lag.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New York

After a couple of days relaxing in Boston and catching up with some old friends, Nathan and I took the bus to New York. We have since been doing touristy things. Highlights so far include...

1. Museum of Modern Art

2. Empire State Building

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

4. The Lion King on Broadway

5. The American Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the Cape

Nathan and I are now in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We are visiting a part of the world where I spent almost a year of my life. It has been an extremely nostalgic part of the trip so far and it has been great to share it with Nathan.
We have been staying with my former land lady, a wonderful woman who is now 80. It has been fantastic catching up with her and staying in the old house again.
Yesterday, we took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard which is a popular tourist haunt for the rich and famous and also the location where Jaws was filmed. I did my research beforehand and dragged Nathan to the nearest seafood take away where we proceeded to order (and devour) way too much.
In the evening we took my former land lady out to dinner at a fancy French restaurant in a nearby town.   I was too full from lunch so I ordered the 'starter'. I was told by the waiter it was small. American serving sizes are huge.
Today we head back to Boston for a couple of days.

Friday, July 18, 2014

eating crabs

Just had crabs for dinner in San Francisco. The travelling has started all over again. Nathan and I are here for a few days before flying over to Boston and eventually ending up in New York, where I will be attending a conference.

back to stubble

I had a shaving accident and have to start my beard from scratch. I was shaving my head the other night and forgot I had a beard so I accidentally sheared off the side burns on the right side of my face. Oops. There was no other option but to start again. This is how it was looking before the accident (I was quite enjoying the bearded look)...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

near disaster

Nathan bought a very stylish kettle when I was in Europe. Today, it nearly caused a fire.

The kettle has a very low, almost imperceptible whistle (not sure if it is suppose to be like that or whether our's is faulty). Since I've been back, it has boiled over a few times simply because we couldn't hear the whistle.

Anyhow, I was boiling some water to make tea and went upstairs to check email. Almost an hour later, I heard a weird buckling sound and the smell of noxious fumes ... and then I remembered the kettle. It was so hot that I decided to let it cool down naturally rather than attempt to douse it with cold water.

Phew. Close call.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

my bearded self

Just when colleagues published research suggesting that beards may be on the way out, I have been experimenting with facial hair. 

The recent field trip to Finland turned out to be a good opportunity to ditch the razor (ahem... I was just too lazy to shave). Given that I was (1) on the other side of the world, (2) in a remote field station in the woods, and (3) there was a shortage of mirrors, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

I had been scouring the web for Asian beard inspiration. I read online somewhere that a bearded Asian man is as rare as a unicorn but the few images I found online suggest that it isn't impossible. Here is the proof...

It has also been interesting stumbling across the beard forums where guys (mostly straight, I  think) offer each other support as they try to transition from clean shaven to bearded.

I am now 9 weeks and I have to admit the 'beard' isn't looking too bad (no pictures yet...still a bit too self-conscious). 

Sure, the coverage isn't as dense as, say, my Greek friend Pete (who has a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow) but it isn't too bad...and certainly the follicles on my face seem to be much more accommodating that those on top of my head.

So far the response from friends and family haven't been too bad either....probably because I was hidden from the world during the really ugly 'mangy' phase. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

dog walk

 I took Truffs out for a walk this arvo and got to check out some recently completed pieces of public architecture in my neighbourhood.

First up was the new Library at the Docks. It looks quite modern from the outside. I didn't get to check out the inside because of the time.

On our way back to the apartment, I noticed that the Jim Stynes Bridge has also opened.

back in Melbourne

I flew out of Helsinki on Tuesday afternoon (local time). I was suppose to fly British Airways to London (to connect with my Qantas flight back to Melbourne). However, because of flow on effects from industrial action in France, BA was experiencing flight delays across their European network. Luckily for me, the attentive check-in lady at the BA counter made alternative arrangements for me to get to London on an earlier flight with Finnair.

Qantas now flies London to Melbourne via Dubai. I had not been to Dubai before (or anywhere else in the Middle East, for that matter). The airport was like any other major modern international was full of duty free and luxury brand shops...I could have been anywhere in the world. And just to show how small a world we actually live in, I bumped into one of my work colleagues who had been holidaying in Europe and was on the same flight back to Melbourne.

I got back yesterday morning and slept most of the day. Still, I managed to go to bed last night without any problems and slept through until 5am this morning. Hopefully it means I will be able to enjoy my day off from work today and actually get out of the apartment.

Monday, June 23, 2014


I went to the city of Tampere for midsummer and stayed with my colleague's parents who smoked a beautiful brown trout for dinner.

A photo taken before the fish went into the smoker...
...and after...
Dessert was a delicious rhubarb pie served with crockery made in the U.S.S.R...

what's the difference

Where I am currently...
Where I will be by the end of the week...

Friday, June 20, 2014

tail end of the trip

My stint in Finland this year is almost at an end.

The time has really flown. During last year's visit, I was feeling kinda home sick already by week 3 (the same was true of my field trip to Nicaragua).

This time around, I seemed to have successfully kept my mind focussed on the tasks I had to accomplish (most notably, an invited scientific paper I needed to submit by mid-June). Despite the work, it has also been incredibly relaxing living here at the research station and being able to go for walks in the forest if I needed a break (not to mention trying to gorge on as much smoked salmon as possible).

Earlier this week, I was invited to dinner at the home of one of the researchers. He lives in the nearby village with his wife. They have an amazing home, filled to the brim with old books, paintings and all kinds of interesting 'stuff'. We had a great night eating home-made pizza, singing songs (it was mandatory in between the schnapps), and talking about quirky science stuff like kamikaze sperm.
Tomorrow is mid-summer eve. We are planning a bbq here at the station. I'll then be leaving my students behind (they are still busy with experiments) to go to visit my friend's folks, who live in the city of Tampere (my most favourite city in Finland). Then it will be back to Helsinki for a couple of days before my (sigh) long flight back to Melbourne.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

tonight's dinner

Yummo...locally-caught perch, pork chops and grilled vegetables.

Monday, June 9, 2014

the village

I gave my students a break yesterday and took them on an outing to the delightful village of Fiskars, home of the iconic orange handled scissors.

Fiskars reminds me of a town from a fairytale, like the ones you see in movies such as The Lord of the Rings (Many Finns actually have elf-like features, which only serves to reinforce the illusion).

We went for lunch, and then wandered around the town, checking out the various shops. One of my colleagues bought a tar-scented candle for his dad (he figured it was the most manly-scented of all the candles in the shop).

We also stopped for some locally made ice cream. I opted for blueberry. It was delicious. The girl serving us asked where we were from. We told her we were Australians and that we were in Finland doing research. She thought that this was weird.

Obviously the ice cream girl also found us fascinating because she came out to speak with us while we were eating our ice creams.

It turns out that ice cream girl is a HUGE McLeod's Daughters fan. I never watched the series but apparently they are still showing re-runs here in Finland. She said that in Finland, farmers use machinery to do the work (we didn't have the heart to tell her that Australian farmers use machinery too). I asked the girl what other Australian programs are shown in Finland. She mentioned Master Chef and Dance Academy. So, I guess she must think we are all horse-riding farmers who can cook well and love to dance.  No wonder she though it was weir that we were in Finland doing science.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday breakfast

So what do you do when the only thing left in the pantry is some flour, oil, tomato paste and a can of chickpeas?

Oh, and you've got to feed three hungry students and two work colleagues (and yourself)?


Friday, June 6, 2014

Canberra: an American perspective

Readers of the blog will know I grew up in Canberra and still have a soft spot for the city.

I read in the Fairfax newspapers this morning that The New York Times had published a  travel piece on the Canberra. It's nice to see a positive travel story about Canberra – or that an American newspaper would even think of writing an article about the city. Indeed, if you're American, chances are that you've never even heard of Canberra.

When I was living in the US, the conversation with people tended to go something like this:

American: Where are you from?
Me: Australia.
American: Where in Australia?
Me: Canberra [at this point I learnt to say 'Canberra' really slowly as if I was talking to a 2 year old]
American: Where's that?
Me: It's between Sydney and Melbourne. It's the Capital of Australia.
American: Really? I thought the capital was ____________ [insert 'Sydney' or 'Melbourne'].

Hopefully it will make people more aware of the city (in a good way).

Monday, May 26, 2014

dog cam

I am cyberstalking my dog from afar. Nathan went to Adelaide over the weekend and has put Truffs up in a pet hotel. The video is a bit grainy but I think that's her in the bottom right of the screen shot.

UPDATE: Nathan assured me that the dog in the photo is not actually Truffs, which would explain why the coat looked a bit light (our's is suppose to be a black dog). It was some other Scottish terrier that Nathan saw when he went to pick her up.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

great idea

I love the idea of Child's Own Studio, which transforms kid's drawings into custom made toys. Some of the creations are really cool.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday arts

 I love the photography of Deborah Paauwe. I only wish I had the wall space.


Friday, May 23, 2014

hello kitty?

Nope, just the caterpillar of the chinese bush brown butterfly...

shrimp soup

 It's been over a week since I arrived in Finland. I am settled into my work here at the research station and the students I brought with me seem to know what they are doing and are on top of their experiments.

One of my students yesterday caught a bunch of shrimp that were surplus to his experiments.
So, we used them in our soup last night. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

breakfast day 1

Less than two hours after arriving into Finland, I was already straight onto the smoked salmon. Yum.