Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Train in the heat

It reached the low 40s late last week. Our rail system doesn't cope too well at those temperatures and trains are required to run at a reduced speed due. I was catching a train back into the city in the afternoon and it was moving at a glacial pace. And then it suddenly stopped. There was a signalling fault and the driver announced that he had no idea how long we'd have to wait.

Hmmm...should I stay in the air conditioned carriage or try to figure out another way to get home. I opted for the latter. The crowd waiting at the nearby tram stop ruled out the tram option. I decided to walk to the next station, which is a major stop for several train lines.

It was a hot walk in the searing heat. I was thinking about that poor gay American tourist who passed away on the Larapinta Trail earlier this month. People actually die at these temperatures. I decided to walk in the shade. Of course, several hundred meters from the next train stop, I see the signalling fault must have been fixed as my train slowly passed.  Dammit.

I eventually reached the next station. Getting back inside another air conditioned carriage was the best feeling in the world!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cost benefit analysis

I came across this headline on a news website.
I'm thinking no big deal. I'd put up with a tapeworm if it means getting to eat sushi everyday.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The scary dumpling experience

Nathan and I went to a dumpling restaurant with some of his work colleagues last night.

The food was ok; nothing to rave about. Anyhow, as we were tucking into our meal, there was suddenly a great deal of commotion coming from the kitchen counter. There was loud shouting and banging of kitchen benches. One of the waiters and a chef was having a massive argument.  The waiter was being held back by a colleague to stop him from punching the chef.

All the diners were staring.

I intuitively started looking for the nearest exit...just in case someone decided to grab a meat cleaver (it does happen from time to time).

National Gallery of Victoria

I went to the National Gallery of Victoria at Fed Square yesterday to check out a couple of new exhibitions.

One of the giant paper sculptures in the Louise Paramor exhibition. I really love her work. They were colourful, fun and meandering around the giant sculptures made me feel like a kid.
 I also spent some time at the Del Kathryn Barton exhibition. This exhibition came with a graphic content warning (There were lots of breasts and penises on display).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mantis shrimp

I went to the Queen Vic markets yesterday with the intention of getting some seafood.

To my surprise, one of the vendors had these for sale (albeit a less colourful variety than the one in the picture):
The creatures are called mantis shrimp, so named because they have appendages that resemble the arms of the praying mantis. They use these appendages to strike at their prey (such as crabs) with such force that mantis shrimp are even capable of smashing glass. Disconcertingly, they are also known by another name: 'thumb splitter'.

Needless to say, I couldn't resit the temptation of giving the thumb splitters a try and bought a few to cook up for my Saturday lunch. They were super tasty.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

More fluoro flowers

This week's addition to the dining table...

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fluoro flowers

Couldn’t resist getting these orange corymbia flowers (aka flowering gum) this morning at the South Melbourne markets.

Gay voice

I don't often listen to podcasts but this caught my attention on The Skinny with Mia Findlay.

ABC journalist and producer Mark Reddie talks about the discrimination he faced early in his career because of the way he spoke, which did not fit the stereotypic low, straight anglo voice expected of male journalists. Glad to see he has managed to carve out a successful career despite the discrimination.

Watching the ABC news in the last few months, its been great to see the national broadcaster embracing greater diversity in front of the cameras. Of course, SBS has been leading the charge for some years now. Commercial TV still has a long way to go though.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

London zoo

Misha the aardvark and several meerkats perished in a fire at the London Zoo.

Already, I am reading in the news that some animal rights groups are using the fire to highlight animal suffering in zoos. It's a vexed issue.

Animal welfare is certainly important. But zoos are important too and play a critical role in educating the public, raising awareness of wildlife conservation and, in many cases, are directly involved in research and captive breeding of rare and endangered species. And I know from my own experiences that the welfare of the captive animals and the research carried out on animals in zoos (like research carried out everywhere else) are tightly regulated.

I still remember visiting the Singapore zoo as a kid, which no doubt played a key role in shaping my love of animals and career path as a zoologist. No doubt there are many people like me who have been inspired to go down a similar career path and are now involved in wildlife conservation as a direct result of those first encounters at the zoo.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Bad yum cha

Nathan and I went for 'all you can eat' yum cha a few days ago.

You'd think that a yum cha buffet would be a joyous experience. It was not.

The problem?

They ran out of food!

We knew something wasn't quite right when the food carts being pushed around mostly consisted of the same three things: shark fin dumpling, glutinous rice, and bbq pork buns. Unfortunately, the shark fin dumpling is a no go zone (for environmental reasons) and both the glutinous rice and pork buns are, in my opinion, white people's food.

Where we all the other yum cha classics? Over the course of two hours (I insisted that we persevere even though Nathan wanted to go home), we scored ourselves a few chicken feet, some sui mai and a bowl of congee, but the situation was pretty dire.

There was no sighting of prawn dumplings or radish cakes or even a plate of steamed Chinese broccoli! There was no beef offal or beef balls or even steamed tripe. Wtf?

Eventually I asked one of the trolley ladies what was going on and she admitted that the kitchen had under-prepared and ran out of everything (except for shark fin dumplings, glutinous rice and pork buns).

It got even more dire when even the chicken feet ran out and the staff were resorted to serving plates of marinated peanuts! Peanuts!

It was at that stage that I finally lost hope and we left.

Vale Tommy Watson

Tommy Watson, one of my favourite indigenous artists past away recently.

He actually died a few weeks ago but I only just read about it. Despite being an accomplished artist, with works held in public collections both here in Australia and overseas, it seems like there was very little acknowledgement of his passing.

I remember seeing his works for the first time around 2003/2004 at the National Gallery. The bright colours he used were like nothing I had ever seen before; the dots actually felt as though they were pulsating against the background.

Here are some examples of his work held in major public institutions...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Palm trees and flamingos

I'm loving the print on this shirt. Unfortunately, I can't find a close up but it's basically a bunch of palm trees, flamingos (some wearing sunglasses) and snakes. Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Apple eyesore

I couldn't believe it. I just found out that Apple will be building a new building at Federation Square.

The sad part is that an existing building, currently occupied by the Koori Heritage Trust, will have to be demolished to make way for the new Apple Store.

And the new store doesn't seem to be very well integrated with the rest of the architecture on the site.

I'm reading there is a huge public backlash.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


My trusty pill box is great for reminding me to take my meds each day. But I learnt this week that the box is only as good as the medicine you put into it.

For the past week, instead of taking my regular anti gout meds, I had been unknowingly taking high doses of corticosteroids! Both drugs are white and round and came in very similar looking containers. Oops.

I now have to slowly wean myself off the corticosteroids to avoid withdrawal symptoms (and not compete in any competitive sporting events with mandatory drug testing).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hot day

The weather forecast has caused me to rethink my plans today. I think I'll be relaxing at home under the air conditioner with the dog.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Work of art

Our last Dean courted quite a bit of controversy getting the University to acquire all kinds of weird and wonderful artwork for our work environment. These works are changed periodically. I recently went into the foyer of one of our building following a leak and was amused to see this...
Can you guess which is the actual work of art?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekend flowers

Bought a gigantic artichoke from the florist this week. Decorative and edible!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Over the top

Nathan and I went to a homewares shop in Collingwood today.

It has a bit of an 'ye olde' feel about it.

There was no cash register, the laptop computer was hidden behind an old box and the sales attendants wrote out the receipt by hand.

Fine. I can see what the shop is trying to achieve.

But....with a huge line of customers all waiting for their purchases to be individually hand written onto a piece of paper, the whole process seemed unnecessarily cumbersome and time consuming. It was also resource intensive; it took two sales assistants to process the order. One to pack the item and the other to add the item onto the hand written receipt.

The situation wasn't helped by the fact that many items did not have price tags so the sales attendants had to look up the items on the lap top.

Meanwhile, three other sales attendants stood nearby doing nothing.

Truff's Christmas present

Truffles has a new dog bowl for Christmas.

It was hand made in Melbourne by an architect-turned-ceramicist. And 'yes', it was very expensive. In fact, it costs more than any of the human crockery in the house.

I just need to make sure that my (exceedingly) clumsy other half doesn't accidentally break it in the wash.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Celebrating marriage equality

Even the animals are celebrating the passage of Australia's marriage equality legislation.

Jacaranda in South Melbourne

I'm continuing to draw down my annual leave, which means 2 day working weeks from now until Christmas. Woohoo!

Today, Truffles and I walked with Nathan to his work in South Melbourne and we wandered down a street (I think it was Napier) that was lined with beautiful flowering jacarandas. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos.

I normally associate jacarandas with Sydney and Brisbane. I didn't realise they did so well in Melbourne. Even though most of the flowers were past their prime and the trees are not as big as the ones I found on the web from more subtropical regions (see above example), the sight was still quite stunning.

More science please

I was at home watching ABC News this morning and I see they have a very good looking and charismatic weather presenter.
Of course, I had to do some further research.

His name is Nate Byrne and he is a meteorologist, science communicator, oceanographer and a former lieutenant of the Royal Australian Navy. Can he be any more perfect?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gift wrapping

Gift wrapping seems to be part of the service in many shop nowadays.

When it's free, the demand seems to be especially high. Yesterday, I bought a few things from a shop and was told there would be a 1-1.5 hour wait. I left the items with the shop attendant and picked them up today. They had been beautifully wrapped (much better than what I could have possibly done). I was very impressed.

I had to buy a birthday present today and was able to take advantage of the Christmas wrapping service to get the birthday gift wrapped too. Perfect!


The sales assistant sprayed the perfume on my wrist. I took a sniff.

Me: "It smells like the moist towelettes you get at KFC."
Sales assistant: "Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to dissipate."
Me: "Oh yeah. It smell much better now."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Same but different

I learnt something new today at the optometrist.

Apparently there are frames specifically designed for Asian faces.

I. had. no. idea.

For most of my life, I've had to contend with the challenge of finding glasses that I not only like (easy), but are also large enough for my gigantic head (difficult) and will sit properly on my Asian face (difficult).

Well, Asian glasses do exist. They are specially designed to accomodate small nose bridges and high cheek bones.

And, to my absolute delight, Tom Ford makes Asian glasses! How wonderful is that?

I guess it makes good economic sense given that almost 60% of humanity have Asian faces.

Still no solution to big heads though.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ice tea

I'm kinda obsessed with iced tea at the moment.

A couple of weeks ago I was gifted an assortment of teas as a thank you gift. Among them was a French earl grey. It was delicious and I thought it would work very well as a cold drink. And that's how the obsession started.

Since then, I've been brewing all kinds of different teas and popping them in the fridge. Even Nathan (a caramel latte guy) is getting into them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

This is how to bid on a painting...

Last month, the most expensive painting in the world was sold via Christies.

I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to fork out US$450 million on a painting (I get nervous bidding for artworks worth a few thousand dollars).

This is the action from the auction room...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Raining in Canberra

Well, it seems I should have flown further north to escape the deluge.

It started raining last night in Canberra and hasn't stopped. I do like the sound and smell and sight of rain though (especially if I don't have to be outside).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Canberra bound

I'm going to Canberra today.

It was a spontaneous decision. I needed to spend the rest of the Qantas gift voucher I bought myself a year ago (to earn extra Qantas points).

I was incredibly stupid. I've flown so much this year but I kept 'saving' my voucher for 'later' (I don't know why). Next time I'll know better and  actually use the voucher as soon as I can to avoid flying-for-the-sake-of-flying simply to try to use up the voucher towards the expiry date.

Oh well, it will be nice to go to see the family.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I heart my new orchid

I bought an orchid on eBay the other day. Nathan and I went to pick it up. last weekend. The seller was an elderly man with a think European accent. He had a beautiful green house packed full of weird and wonderful plants.

I told him I bought the orchid he was selling because I liked the heart-shaped leaves. He looked at me with a smile. The species name phyllocardia means 'heart shaped'. Aha! Of course. Shame on me. As a biologist I should have made the connection.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fortuitous day off

I've got a lot of leave scheduled between now and Christmas. I can't take it all in one huge block (too much stuff going on at work, including supervising my research students). So, instead, I've just been picking random days of the week when I don't have anything scheduled in my diary.

This randomness has actually been quite fortuitous. I happened to be on leave when the results of the postal survey came out so I got to watch the event unfold on TV.

And then, today, I got to watch Magda Szubanski (my new favourite person in the whole wide world) deliver a touching speech at the national Press Club. This was followed by a live cross to Parliament House to watch the same sex marriage legislation pass the senate.

I wonder if I'll be on leave when the legislation passes the House of Representatives?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


In the art world, a 'sleeper' describes an artwork whose real value has been missed.

I've certainly read news stories about collectors picking up bargains at auction that turn out to be worth millions.

I don't think I'll ever have that kind of luck.

But I do feel incredibly lucky tonight to have picked up a painting by an artist who I love, at a fraction of the painting's true value.

The story of my association with the painting goes back several years. I first saw it in my friend's gallery. It was the second most expensive work in the exhibition. And there was no way I could have justified forking out the asking price (which was equivalent to the cost of a small car). It didn't matter anyway. The painting was sold.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when the same painting turned up in an online auction catalogue with a sales estimate a mere fraction of the original sale price. I couldn't believe my eyes.

I spoke to my gallerist friend and she was just as surprised as I was. This was a very important painting by a very important indigenous artist, whose works are held in major institutional collections, including the National Gallery of Australia.

I went to the auction tonight. I was very nervous but luck was on my side. I got it for a steal.

I'm stoked.

Gareth Samson

I met up with my retired German friend a few weeks ago for lunch. Afterwards, she took me to see the Gareth Samson retrospective at the NGV. I had not heard of Samson before. The exhibition was amazing. I love his use of colours. There was one gallery space within the exhibition that came with a warning because of graphic content (i.e. penises).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Too much leave

My university is making me draw down my annual leave  before the end of the year, otherwise I will be deemed to be on leave in January whether I want to be or not.

I've decided to select a bunch of days between now and Christmas to allocate as leave days. I don't really have anything planned.

I guess it's nice just to do nothing!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Spontaneous purchase

I went to a designer furniture end of year sale. Big mistake. I didn't realise I needed a fluffy pouf until I saw one. It is not very comfortable to sit on and, even with the heavy discount, still cost a fortune. The dog (black one on the right) is less than impressed.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tale of two restaurants

Nathan and I went for dinner with some friends last night. The restaurant is always busy and last night was no exception. We ordered our meal. They stuffed up one of the orders, which was not a big deal. However, it did mean that one of our friends had to wait a bit longer for her meal to arrive. Still, we felt a lot of pressure to eat quickly, as the waiters kept coming over to try to take away our bowls and plates before we had finished. In fact, Nathan went to the bathroom and when he returned, his plate (which still had food on it) had been taken away without the rest of us even noticing. In the end, the friend whose meal arrived late still had to skol her beer because the waiter wanted to clear our table in preparation for the next customers. By the time we had walked out the restaurant, there was already other customers at our newly vacated table. It was conveyor belt service.

Contrast last night's experience with the lunch I just had with a friend at another restaurant. The kitchen also stuffed up the order. Again, it wasn't a big deal and we waited for my friend's meal to arrive without any complaint. Still, when the bill came, we were taken by surprise when the waitress said they had deducted the cost of both of our drinks due to the 'inconvenience'. It was unexpected and unnecessary but we appreciated the sentiment. We left what would have been the cost of the drinks as a tip.

Monday, October 30, 2017

In the desert

I've been in Israel.

I had no idea that there was a commemoration for the Battle of Beersheba taking place this week and was puzzled by all the Australian flags lining the route to Beersheba.

I've been in the desert most of last week, attending a workshop at a research institute. The days were long and intense but I still managed to do some sightseeing and experience the wonders of the local wildlife.

Here is a view near where I was working/staying. It looks like a scene from Star Wars.
These critters are called ibex. They were everywhere.
Here is a horned viper (it was a tiny baby...and super cute).
And my absolute highlight was seeing scorpions. Under a 'black' light (like the ones they use in a nightclub), they fluoresce brilliant turquoise.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


I  must admit I was initially sceptical of the format but I'm very much a Gogglebox fan. The Aussie version is so much better than the British (snore) version.

There are some new people this season. They are Lebanese Aussies. All three are very attractive. Nathan noted that the guy on the left is always 'man spreading'. I'm not sure if it was complaint.