Monday, May 30, 2016


My colleague from Finland took over the lease from an Indian family in Carnegie last August when he came to Australia for work. The Indians left a bunch of stuff behind, including a pantry full of spices (many of which were unfamiliar to us).

A few weeks ago, my colleague returned to Finland, but not before inviting a bunch of us to his place for pizza. He needed to clear out all the things in the apartment so I took some of the spices (after getting some help identifying them from an Indian PhD student who also came for pizza).

I ended up cooking a delicious fish dish on the weekend with some of the spices (mustard seeds, coriander seed and tumeric). It was delicious.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday outing

After a rather crappy (wet) Saturday, we took full advantage of the 'dry' weather today to go on an outing this afternoon.
After some shopping (I needed to buy some new undies), we decided to go for afternoon tea at the National Gallery of Victoria. The sweets selection looked pretty awesome. If we didn't go for the scones, I would have opted for the macaroon at the front of the photo and Nathan would have gone for the lemon meringue tart.

I had read that the NGV has rehung their Pacific Island collection so I dragged Nathan for a look. This display of highland shields was pretty spectacular.
Nathan was perplexed by this minimalist sculpture titled 'Antarctica'.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

I want one of these...

No, it's not a clothes peg. It's a bench! The Moletta by Italian company Riva 1920.

Monday, May 23, 2016

What's the rush?

On my way to work, I find it amusing when people rudely push past others when leaving the train station – but still have to wait with the rest of us for the bus to arrive.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Nathan and I are off to Bendigo today to see the Marilyn Monroe exhibition with some friends.

I don't care much for Marilyn (I haven't seen any of her movies) but I do like Bendigo. Plus, Nathan and I are both curious to meet our friend's new boyfriend. His last boyfriend was a lovely bloke who, sadly, passed away a few years ago in a car accident. We are naturally excited that our friend has started seeing someone new.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Nathan and I had a great time in Singapore. Alas, the holiday was over way too fast (and I had to go to work on the same day that I got back, which, in hindsight, was really stupid). 

Unfortunately, I did not find my pig intestine dish but I did have some amazing meals, including this chilli mud crab. Yum.
One of the highlights for me was the Garden by the Bay
The science geek in me particularly enjoyed the spectacular cloud forest greenhouse, dripping with rare orchids, ferns and pitcher plants.  

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Off on a holiday

I'm going back to the country of my birth for a few days. The last time I went to Singapore for an actual visit (i.e. walk out of the airport) was in 2002. I'm really looking forward to it. The top item on my 'to do' list is to eat a dish from my childhood...stewed pig intestines with rice noodles (kway chap).

Monday, May 2, 2016

Tree house

How awesome would it be to have a tree inside the apartment. My double storey loft would certainly have the vertical space. Hmmm....let me think about it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


I've been spending my Sunday morning looking through design blogs. I am so in love with the Poul Kjærholm PK22 Lounge Chairs. They are slick and contemporary and a design classic dating back to 1956. I'd love a pair in black.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Poor Truffs

I had to take Truffles to the vet earlier in the week because we noticed a rash on her tail from her incessantly licking the base of her tail. It turn out her anal glands were full (eeeww) and was causing her some discomfort. The vet had to squeeze the glands and the smell (eeeww) was terrible. I had to walk Truffs back to the apartment with an Elizabethan collar around her head to stop her from licking her tail. She was finding it difficult to adjust to the collar. Poor one stage, she walked straight into a lamp post.


Celebrated a milestone birthday this past week (shhh....40). Had the day off and took Truffles to the dog park for a run in the morning, met up with Nathan for lunch at my favourite Japanese restaurant, and bought myself some cushion covers from Marimekko. Perfect week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Korean fired chicken and bubble tea

You know those days when everything seems aligned? Yesterday was not one of those days.

Nathan and I were in the city doing some shopping and we decided to get some bubble tea. We walked past a Korean restaurant and decided that we'd much prefer Korean fried chicken (KFC). We took our seat in the restaurant. Things started well enough.... there was KFC on the menu. Yay.

Unfortunately, when we started to place our order, the waitress informed us that the chicken was boneless. What? Boneless KFC? No way. We decided to go elsewhere.

Now on a mission with KFC on our mind, we walked up Swanston Street to another restaurant I knew that specialised in Korean fried chicken. Alas, it was closed.

So...we walked across the road to yet another Korean restaurant and took our seats. I knew this place definitely had fired chicken on their menu. But...when I started to place our order, the waitress said they had sold out. F*&K!! We left.

By this stage, the appeal of fried chicken had waned (and I did not really find Nathan's alternative suggestion of Kentucky fried chicken particularly appealing...or amusing) so we decided to go back to our original game plan. We ditched the idea of going for fired chicken and made our way to the bubble tea shop.

I started to place our order at the bubble tea shop and was informed that they had ran out of the 'pearls' (i.e. tapioca for making the bubble tea). A bubble tea without the bubble. No way.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Dog day

Today was all about Truffles. She jumped on my chest at 7.30am this morning knowing that it was still the weekend. We took her to the Gasworks Park in Albert Park for a run. I nearly got pissed on by a very old golden retriever who lifted his leg up on the side of the park bench that I was sitting on.

Nathan and I met a lovely woman who was out with her dog. We really hit it off and exchanged phone numbers. Turns out that she works for a big bank and spends quite a bit of her time travelling. She will be in Singapore around the same time as our scheduled visit in early May so we are planning to hang out. Funny how you end up connecting with strangers.

We are now back in the apartment. Nathan is drinking champagne.


It was Nathan's 40th yesterday. We went to Kyneton for a nice lunch at a place called Source Dining. We went to the same restaurant last Autumn (on the day Nathan got made redundant) but it had a different name back then. Not sure why the owners decided to change the name of the restaurant. It didn't matter. The food was as amazing as our first visit. I ordered the roast hare. I've not had hare before and had expected it to taste like rabbit but it was more akin to a very tender piece of beef.

We also visited a funky shop on the same street as the restaurant called Stockroom. The shop had a gallery and there was an exhibition showing by a landscape artist called Greg Wood. Alas, I couldn't resist and bought one of his paintings. I have limited wall space left at home but have just the spot for it when I get it home after the exhibition is over.
After Kyneton, we made our way to Maldon to attend his Godmother's 60th birthday celebrations. I had not been to Maldon before but I think I'm going to have go back. It was a small little town but there were lots of interesting shops lining the main street.

We returned back to Melbourne in the early evening. It started to rain and I noticed the landscape looked just like the Greg Wood painitings we had seen earlier at Kyneton.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Flowers this week

I picked up this Cymbidium orchid after doing the grocery shopping at the South Melbourne Markets. I though the colours were beautiful for an Autumn display.

Cymbidium orchids bring me back to my childhood. I remember the first orchid I ever got was a Cymbidium. It was a dying plant that my grade 5 teacher, Miss Eccleston, gave to me when she really should have tossed it in the bin. Not surprisingly, the plant was soon dead and it would be quite some time later before I got my next plant...a bargain that dad picked up from the local Woolworths. It was the start of my orchid obsession.


Nathan and I just got back from Hobart. It was a short trip away with one of our Finnish friends who had not been to Tasmania before. Hobart is a wonderful city and both Nathan and I talked about how we can both see ourselves living there. The houses are so much more affordable than Melbourne. The food is amazing. And everyone seems so friendly. I just need to get a job at the University of Tasmania!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Zaha Hadid RIP

I was saddened to learn that Dame Zaha Hadid, one of the world's greatest architects ('starchitect'), passed away a couple of days ago. Her futuristic designs may not be everyone's cup of tea but they really did push the boundaries of architecture. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and was a true pioneer in every sense of the word.

Here are some examples of her amazing work from around the world....

Vitra fire station, Germany
Heydar Aliyev culture centre, Azerbaijan
Guangzhou opera house, China
Corones Museum, Italy
Here is her design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which was unfortunately canned due to a budget blow out.
She has designed buildings for Melbourne too, but none have been realised – yet.

Here is her short-listed submission for the design competition to revamp Flinder's Street station.
And this is the design for a residential tower on Collin's Street that is still awaiting approval.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Absent mindedness

My colleague is the most absent minded person I know. In the last 18 months, he has lost his credit card – three times. A few weeks ago, he lost his myki just after buying a month's pass only to discover it again amongst his CD at home after he had already cancelled the card. really shouldn't surprise me that the curry I packed for him to take home last night was left on the train. Sigh.


Extra day off today. That's all.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Whistler's mum

I'm currently hosting a research visitor from Scotland.

Yesterday I played tour guide. We started at the NGV because he wanted to revisit a Rembrandt that he had seen in Europe, which he remembered was loaned by the NGV. We also took the opportunity to have scones at the tea room and to check out Whistler's mother which is currently on loan from the Musee d'Orsay.
After lunch at Chinatown, I took John up to the Lygon Street. We walked over to the museum and then onto Brunswick Street before catching a tram back into the city.

John is a keen gardener so we decided to go for a walk to the Shrine of Remembrance and the Botanical Garden before walking along the Yarra back to the apartment where Nathan had prepared a roast chook for dinner.

It was a nice way to spend Easter Sunday.

Buggered up arm

I think I've buggered up my arm. Well, actually, I'm pretty sure I did.

It happened a few weeks ago.

I was on the bus on my way home from work. It was crowded. I was standing in the isle, each hand holding onto a straphanger (one on each side of the isle). A car suddenly cut in front of the bus, which had to break suddenly. My body lurched forward and side ways, twisting my right arm (still holding onto the straghanger) at a weird angle. At the same time a fat passenger catapulted into the back of my arm. The pain was excruciating.

Since then, I have managed to aggravate it three times with innocuous arm movements....twice when I was  in bed and once when I was moving a small pot plant on the balcony. Each time, the pain has been intense (i.e. rolling around on bed and moaning loudly kind of pain).

I went to see my GP the other day. Of course, when I was in the Doctor's room and was told to move my arm at all kind of weird angles, there was no pain. Grrr. [Oh, as an aside, I think my GP might be gay. I told him that I am feeling very old and experiencing all kinds of aches and pains. He then took out his phone to show me a picture of his (10 year) younger self wearing a tiara. Hmmm....time has not been kind to him.] 

I am going to get an ultrasound on Friday.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Pet owner truths

This video is too close to home...

Good friday traditions

Nathan and I aren't exactly the religious type but for reasons that we cannot fully explain (Catholic guilt? Some weird manifestation of Stockholm syndrome?), we have both carried on the 'no meat' tradition on Good Friday.

Here's an interesting 'no meat' story...I remember a few years ago, one of the grad students in my department gave a talk about these fascinating creatures called capybara, which are basically large water-loving guinea pigs (see below). Anyhow, the student was talking about her previous research back in Venezuela where she had been studying the population biology of these giant rodents, which are also harvested for their meat. Funnily enough, the only thing I remember about the student's talk was that the Pope had, as some stage, made a decree that capybara was a fish so that it could be consumed during periods of the Catholic calendar when no meat was allowed. Hmmm.

Memories of a more personal story of Good Friday takes me back to my childhood. We were at the South Coast of NSW for a family holiday. Maternal grandma, who is a non-Catholic, made buns filled with 'vegetables' for lunch. Halfway into my first bun, I swore I could taste minced meat and could see tiny flecks of pork mixed in with the veggies. Sneaky grandma. Of course, she denied it and became strangely over the top angry at my accusations. Dad (who is a chef, a catholic and a whole lot wiser than I), gave me a look that basically said 'just eat the bun and shut up'.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

International flower and garden show

I'm going to the flower show today. A researcher from Glasgow is visiting my lab over the next few weeks. He arrived yesterday. I know he is a fanatical orchid grower so I figure he might enjoy the show. Getting him out in the 'sunshine' should also be good for getting him over the jet lag.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Another wedding

Another week. Another wedding. This time, Nathan and I are heading off to Emerald. Truffles is invited too.

The groom and I are work colleagues but we've been friends since we were grad students. It's his second marriage. The first one didn't work out but he is still good friends with his ex, who is also invited. Nathan and I liked his ex very much. We like his wife-to-be too!

Of all the guests, I'm kinda excited to meet the rest of my friend's family the most. I've known about them for years but have never actually met them (his first wedding was very low key and took place in Brisbane,). I'm looking forward to seeing his two sisters, one of whom is married (to a guy who used to work with my friend at McDonald's when he was younger). I'm looking forward to meeting his dad and his dad's Thai-Finnish girlfriend (who none of the family likes). I reckon the girlfriend will be a hoot. I'll at least have a love of Finland in common with her. My friend did warn me that his dad and his brother-in-law are homophobic though. Let's see how that plays out.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Star light, star bright

Late last year I was laying on the couch channel surfing and came across a terrific documentary on ABC2 about a transgender woman doing remarkable work with indigenous youth across the Western Desert.

I was super keen to get her to come to speak at my student leadership program this year. That wish was realised this week.

Starlady was amazing and the students were captivated by her inspiring career and life journey. Here is the opening sequence from the documentary that kick it all...

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Recently outed gay types

I seem to be a perennial agony aunt for recently outed gay guys. A few years ago, I bumped into a former uni student on the tram. I said hi and briefly introduced him to Nathan, who was with me on the tram. The following Monday the student sent me an email telling me he had recently come out and wanted to know if I could recommend any good gay clubs (the answer was no because I am not really a regular clubbing type of person and even if I was, I don't think it would be appropriate!).

Fast forward a few years later.... I'm at a friend's 30th in Albury (the same friend who got married this weekend). A burly biker bear (BBB)  comes up to me and, let's not stereoptype here, starts recommending me places to go if I was interested in antiques. Bumped into BBB again this weekend at the wedding. He tells me he recently came out as gay. I told him I kinda figured that out the last time we spoke. He wants to move to Melbourne because Albury didn't offer much opportunities and he is hoping Melbourne will bring him some happiness. I hope it happens for him. BBB seemed like a very nice (cuddly) guy and I'm sure he will be very popular at the Laird. After the somewhat heavy conversation, he takes out his mobile and asked me for an opinion about someone's profile picture on Grindr.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Albury wedding

I have been invited to attend two weddings in March. The first is today. Truffles is in the dog hotel and we are off to Albury. The groom is a tattoo artist and the bride works for the council. Nathan and the groom's sister have known each other since they were kids. Should be fun.

Chopper troubles

There is a helipad on the Yarra near my apartment. And it's starting to piss me off. When I first moved into the neighbourhood, there wasn't much chopper activity at all and I barely noticed the noise. Indeed, the only concern I had was to make sure my apartment insurance covered my property for aircraft impact.

Now the choppers are coming and going at a much higher frequency and the noise is terrible. It looks like I'm not the only one getting annoyed by the increased activity. Grrr.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


I remember the revelation of tasting real Mexican food for the first time on a field trip to the Hidalgo region of Mexico in 2004. It was nothing like the tex mex food I had eaten back in Australia or the US. My grandma would have loved the reminded me of northern chinese cuisine!

Today I went to a lovely taco place for lunch. It's not quite tex mex but I wouldn't say it's completely authentic either. Never mind. It tasted bloody good. And I reckon I could have eaten 10 of the fish tacos.

I did regret ordering this sickly sweet soft drink though. The label says it all. 100% sugar.
My American friend told me later that it's labelled this way to differentiate from the use of corn syrup, which is a common sweetener in the US.

Object of desire

I know its green and un-masculine and has giant flowers all over it but I want this Marimekko duvet cover so bad! I'll have to wait until May before I can order it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brunswick Street art opening

Nathan and I went to a friend's art exhibition opening the other night. It's our friend's first exhibition and he was very excited. There were several other artists exhibiting in the one venue (each in a different room) so the place was packed with people. The different exhibitions varied in quality, as did the quality of the rooms in which the art were exhibited. Our friend ended up in a room with black walls (which he didn't know about until he went to hang his works). He wasn't too sure about the wall colour but I think it showed off his paintings superbly.

I had time to wander around to check out the other artists' works. There was some stuff I really liked and there were some things that weren't really to my taste. Overall, there weren't a lot of red stickers next to the works, suggesting that there wasn't a lot of buying going on.  I guess opening nights are mostly for the benefit of friends and supporters of the artist (and random people walking in off the street for the wine and the cheese).

I heard later that our friend sold several of his paintings in the days after the opening. Haven't spoken to him yet but I know he (and his wife) would be thrilled.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Weird tram call

Someone from Yarra trams left a weird message on my office phone the other day. He claimed to be following up on an incident in January in which I had complained about a tram driver on Swanston Street and needed some further details from me. I rang him back and told him it wasn't me. "I'm very happy with the trams and tram drivers. Thanks", I said.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Truffs is sending me a message

I think the dog is trying to say..."Get off the couch you lazy bastard and take me for a walk".

Great outdoors

Oh boy, I've been so bad with my blogging of late. I have an excuse though (well, several)...Blogger has stopped working properly on my version of Safari, I am technologically incompetent, and I'm not a big fan of Google Chrome (the only remaining option when I want to blog). Oh...I've also been away.

Last week, I was with a new cohort of undergrad students participating in the leadership program I developed for the faculty. We went back to the same place as last year. This time there was a lot less apprehension about partaking in the activities that freaked me out last year, like white water rafting and abseiling. In fact, my hear barely skipped a beat this time (and I have arrhythmia) when I went over the cliff for the abseiling.

I wanted to take a selfie when I was midway down but didn't think it was appropriate. So, instead, I waited until I got down to the bottom and tried to stage a photo whilst leaning back against a rock. Unfortunately, a student 'photo bombed' my shot and gave away the ruse.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy year of the monkey. Speaking of monkeys, here is my Emperor tamarin.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pet fish

This is my pet saratoga (Scleropages jardinii). I've had him (her?) for over 18 years and he was already a subadult when I bought him. Jandamarra (that's his name) lives with my folks in Canberra in a tank all on his own.

He's a very aggressive fish. I've tried keeping him with other fish in the past without much luck. He earlier bit my finger when I was cleaning the tank. Nothing serious but you can see the scrape marks left by his teeth. I don't think he meant to do it...just mitook my finger for food.

A couple of years ago I had to fly back to Canberra because his previous tank had sprung a leak and I had to transfer him to the current aquarium. It's smaller than his old tank but it's big enough for one.

Chinese New Year's Eve

The feasting has begun. Dad made these beautiful buns to have with braised pork belly.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ian Stokes

I'm back in Canberra for Chinese New Year.

I was chatting to my mum and she mentioned, out of the blue, that the window cleaner guy at Dickson had passed away.

"Oh no", I said. "I know the guy. His name is Ian."

I first met Ian back in the late 1990s when I was a volunteer at the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre (WRLC) in Canberra. I was then a Science/Law student studying at the ANU. On a Tuesday night, the WRLC would offer free legal advice for anyone who needed assistance. Law students would see the clients first to take down the facts and then talk to the lawyers in a back room to discuss solutions/options. We would then meet the clients together and the student would then have the opportunity to listen to the lawyers giving the advice to the clients. It was a great learning opportunity for me. And for an idealistic uni student, my time working at the night time legal advice service of the WRLC was immensely rewarding – and the only time I came close to making use of my law training before I embarked on my career as a scientist.

I have few memories of the many dozens of clients I helped. In fact, I can only remember two specific cases. I remember the old lady who came to see us because she had broken her glasses when she tripped and fell in a darkened cinema. And I remember Ian.

I won't go into the details of why Ian had come in to seek legal advice that night. It doesn't really matter. I'm not even sure why, of all the people I met during my time volunteering at the WRLC (i.e. the wonderful lawyers, fellow students and clients), Ian's is the only name I remember. Ian Stokes.

Months later, whilst waiting in my car at an intersection in Dickson, I recognised Ian as he went about his business cleaning people's car windows. He didn't recognise me.

And so it was, Ian was a regular at that intersection in Dickson, long after I had graduated from uni and moved away from Canberra.

Late last year, I was visiting my friend Pete. He and his wife just had a baby. Leaving their place, I happen to drive up to the intersection and Ian was there. He looked very different from the person I remembered. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be the last time I'd see him.

I did a search of The Canberra Times. It was nice to see that Ian was a much loved member of the Canberra community with several articles written about his passing. I wonder what he'd be thinking if he knew of the positive impact he had on so many people in the community and how much he'll be missed.


Friday, February 5, 2016


A couple of days ago I was standing at Flinders Street waiting for my train. I couldn't help but notice a couple sitting nearby. The man was very good looking. The woman was not. He was well groomed and was wearing nice clothes. She was dishevelled and wearing an unflattering track suit. They were physically mismatched.

Was she a beauty when they first met and has since let herself go? Or maybe, it was the other way around?

Just as I was starting to wonder about their back story, the train pulled up to the platform and I realised that perhaps I'm just being shallow.