Sunday, December 4, 2016

Compared to a Mongol

Lady in elevator: How tall are you?
Me: Almost 2 meters.
Lady in elevator: Yes. Of course, the Mongols were rather tall too, weren't they?

Out West

I've been in Western Australia for the past week for work.

The excitement began at Melbourne airport when I spotted a Qantas plane in the new livery, with the kangaroo sans arms. In the evolution of the company's logo, it seems that the roo is getting more and more minimalist.

Once I got to WA, I made my way to Fremantle by taxi. The driver was a south Korean dude who works as a taxi driver part time and spends the rest of his life working as a fly-in-fly-out miner up near Newman. Taxi drivers have such interesting back stories.

I was in Fremantle for a conference. Somehow I managed to stuff up my dates so I had an extra day in WA before my flight home so I decided to visit the University of Western Australia.

Wow...what a beautiful campus. They even have a resident peacock!


A highlight of my visit to UWA was catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in 12 years. We first met when I was living and working in the USA in 2004. She was a PhD student from Sweden. My friend has since married a Welsh guy, had a baby and settled in Australia.

After my UWA visit, I decided to walk into the city along the river, which took about 40 minutes (I think I got a little bit sunburnt). I then spent the next three hours visiting the Art Gallery of WA. God I love that place. AGWA has a really nice collection (not as large or as comprehensive as the NGV but they do a really good job of putting together their displays and exhibits).

All in all, I had a really nice visit to WA, capped off by the taxi ride back to Perth airport where I had a lovely conversation with the Hong Kong born driver, who used to be a chef.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Poo(l) etiquette

There are certain rules governing acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in and around public swimming pools.

I would think that one of those would be to not let your children poop in the pool.

And, ok, assume that it was an unavoidable accident, I would think that the decent thing to do is to tell the other users of the pool (or at least the people in charge of the pool) so they can do something about it (e.g. jump out of the pool and take a shower!).

My students in Townsville found out the hard way that not everyone is considerate when it comes to poo(l) etiquette.

A kid did a shit in the motel swimming pool when my students were cooling off after fieldwork one day (lucikly I decided to take a nap instead). The parents of the kid discretely retrieved the offending floaters and then left without telling anyone. My students only found out when they saw said floaters in the bin.

Oh well, at least the parents had the decency to scoop out the poop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Taxi drivers

Maybe I am simply getting too old but the idea of catching the skybus to and from the airport has become less and less appealing.

Nowadays, I tend to catch a taxi, especially if it's a work trip. And for the most part, I've had very few dramas. That was until my most recent taxi trip back from the airport.

It was my own stupidity really. I caught the taxi to the airport when I went to Brisbane last week and the same driver that took me to the airport also offered to pick me up and bring me home upon my return.

Big mistake.

First...a bit of context. The taxi rank outside the arrivals terminal is very convenient and passengers barely have to wait a few minutes because there is almost always a steady stream of taxis coming through. So...pre-booking a taxi is totally unnecessary.

Given that I had pre-booked my taxi, I had to walk to a different part of the airport. And, of course, my taxi driver was nowhere to be seen. He sent another colleague to collect me and I never saw the taxi. Tens of text messages and phone calls later, he offered to come and pick me up himself. I waited and waited (Nathan called me an idiot). Eventually, I gave up and walked back to the regular taxi rank. And 'yes', just as I was about to hop into a regular taxi, the original guy calls and says he has arrived. Too late. I was gone.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Queensland

I was in Queensland last week. Actually, I went up to Queensland twice.

The first trip was to visit colleagues at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I've not been to UQ before and I was pleasantly surprised. The jacarandas were in bloom and there was wildlife roaming all over campus. It has to be one of the nicest Australian universities I have ever visited. I decided to stay at South Bank, which allowed me to drop into the Queensland Art Gallery before going out to the airport to catch my flight back to Melbourne.

My second trip was decided at the last minute (hence the lunacy of flying back up to Queensland a few days after returning to Melbourne). The second time around I was off to Townsville to help my students collect fish for research. By the time I had arrived, the students had already managed a sizeable haul so it wasn't too much effort to collect the remaining fish (4000 in total) during my visit. I got back to Melbourne early this morning. The students are driving the fish back.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fantastic Friday

I took the day off. I have too much annual leave and am trying to draw it down by Christmas.

I started the day by taking Truffles to the vet for her annual check up.

Our regular vet has left. We really liked the guy, least of all because the first time he ever met Truffles, he was trying so hard to engage with the dog that he was practically licking her face (we figure this guy must really likes animals and should be good at his job).

The vet used to own the practice but he sold his business a couple of years ago to a chain and was unhappy with the way the business was being run. Anyhow, he has now been replaced by a new guy, a South African.

I asked the new vet if he could teach me how to express Truffles' anal glands. He went into a lengthy explanation as to why it is best to have the glands squeezed by a professional. He was pretty convincing so I have decided to leave the task to him.

After I dropped Truffles back in the apartment, I made my way to the Museum to drop off some fish that I had promised the curator (yes, this is how a scientist spends his day off; reinforcing geeky science stereotypes).

Continuing on the fishy theme, I decided to treat myself at my favourite Japanese restaurant and ended up gorging on sashimi.

I was thinking of going to Fed Square afterwards but I heard there has been a gas leak and the whole precinct had to be evacuated so I came home instead.

I think I'm just going to relax for the rest of the day (I'll just ignore the big pile of exam papers sitting on my kitchen table).


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mosquito attack

There are mosquitos everywhere. I've never seen it so bad. They seem to be swarming around outside the apartment, waiting for the right time to mount an attack.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Melbourne Cup

The Australian Research Council (ARC) is scheduled to announce funding outcomes today for research projects commencing in 2017. While most Australian's will be keeping their eyes on the races this afternoon, most academics (myself included) will be keeping their eyes on the ARC website. And a bit like the races, no matter how much you try to maximise the odds, it's all a bit of a lottery.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween

Australian's seem to be really embracing halloween nowadays. I'm glad I live in an apartment block with restricted card access...keeps the trick-or-treating kids away.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Viktor and Rolf

Nathan and I went to the NGV today to check out the exhibition Viktor and Rolf: Fashion artists. Nathan can be seen peeking through the hole of this dress which had been hacked by a chain saw!

True to the exhibition title, these talented designers really are artists. The clothes were amazing. Here are a few other examples...




Dog day

I took Truffles to a dog's birthday party near Daylesford yesterday. The birthday pooch belongs to a lady we met at the dog park several months ago. We hit it off and have now become friends. Poor lady was lamenting yesterday that she is still single because all her male friends are gay. I surveyed the people at the party and she was absolutely right.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tardy

Oh dear, I've been very bad with blog posts of late. I have an excuse though.

I've been having some problems with my leg and feet. It began four weeks ago when my right knee swelled up. Then, after that subsided, I've been experiencing severe pain in various joints of my feet. Several visits to the GP and a multitude of tests later, my doctor reckons it is most likely gout (though I've never had it this bad for this long). Complicating the diagnosis, my uric acid levels have actually been low and on the decline (but evidently low uric acid levels can also trigger gout attacks). Jesus...can't win really.

So far I've been dosed up on anti inflammatories and, otherwise, limping around (and bossing Nathan about). I'll be starting gout meds next week. I must say I'm a little apprehensive because the gout meds are likely to trigger more gout flare ups before things start to improve. Let's see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Finally...

Canberra airport has finally gone international, with Singapore Airlines flying Singapore to Wellington via Canberra and back!

As a kid, I remember travelling overseas from Canberra used to be such a pain. Invariably, it would mean flying to Sydney. And in the days prior to the Qantas-Australian Airlines merger and interlining, it was especially nightmarish for passengers who had to get pick up their bags in Sydney, make their way to the international airport, and recheck their bags at the international terminal.

Coming back wasn't any easier, with the risk of missing the domestic connection from Sydney due to long delays at Customs.

Hopefully the new flights will be viable.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Goodbye sunny boy

Another piece of my childhood has come to an end...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

Saving Sirius

I realise brutalist architecture isn't for everyone. But its nice to see there is public interest in trying to to protect Sydney's Sirius building from demolition. Read about the campaign here.



Sunday, September 25, 2016

Convoluted journey

I had an opportunity to travel to Israel for a work meeting. Unfortunately I had to decline due to other work commitments but it did get me thinking...how does one get to Israel from Australia?

Due to the political situation, some carriers and transit destinations are obviously out of the picture (e.g. Emirates). Also, I understand that flight paths can be constrained. I asked the colleagues who are going and it seems that there are options through Asia but the transit times seem a bit nightmarish.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nathan's Sydney sojourn

Nathan has gone to Sydney this weekend to watch his beloved Western Bulldogs play. I never got into the AFL. I come from Rugby territory (but I must say, I haven't really been into that either).

It's just Truffles and me in Melbourne this weekend. Unfortunately I somehow buggered my knee so might be bed ridden but I'm still hopeful I'll be well enough to get out and about with the dog.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In the news

I read in the news this week that there have been allegations of child sexual abuse levelled against one of my old headmasters in Canberra. The alleged offending occurred before he came to my school.

Whether or not these allegations are true should be left to the courts. What I do know is that this ex-headmaster was not a very nice person. He had really bad anger management issues and would go off at staff and students. Once, in a school assembly, he lost his temper so bad that, after the school assembly was over, when we went back to class, the teacher decided to dispense with her lesson plan and just spent the entire period talking with the students to make sure we were ok.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Not that funny

Some people are great comedians. Nathan's cousin is not really one of them but he definitely gives it a go and routinely does open mic. When he used to do it in Melbourne, we'd go along for moral support. Bless him. I admire his courage. Even though I have no problem giving a lecture to hundreds of students for an hour, I think a two minute comedy routine would be tough. Really tough.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The L word

My friend from Finland is in love...with an Australian. He is currently back in Europe and just told me he got shortlisted for an interview in the UK. It would be a 3 year research fellowship position, a terrific opportunity. Frankly, I think it will be a dream job. But he wants to come back to Australia.

Fine by me, I told him. It would be great to have him here but I can only afford to employ him for a few months at the start of next year so not so great for him from a job security perspective. He says he'll come....job or no job. Love really does make us do crazy things. I told him to keep mum about the whole Australia thing in the job interview. The selection panel doesn't need to know. And if he gets offered the job, he can always try to negotiate a later start date.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Clayton Reserve

I was in a walking mood again. This time I managed to drag Nathan with me (he often declines...says he suffers from asthma of the leg).

We decided to go to Clayton Reserve in North Melbourne with the dog (Nathan grabbed a doughnut along the way...so much for trying to be healthy).

It was a pleasant walk and the dog got to run around the dog park.

A staffie got a bit to excited and put her muddy paw prints all over my new grey pants. Mental note for next time...no nice clothes when going to the dog park.

Albert Park Lake and more eel on toast

I took Truffles on a very long walk yesterday. We started out here in Docklands and ended up making one loop around the Albert Park Lake. It's only the second time I've done the walk around the Lake and I must say it's rather nice, even on a cloudy Melbourne day.

Truffles wanted to chase the coots, but I kept her on her lead (which is probably just as well because I reckon she would have chased the birds straight into the Lake).

The coots seem to be more common than the black swans at Albert Park. I saw a few little goslings. They are very cute. I guess the public are now used to the adult swans having the collars around their necks. A colleague has been doing research on them for quite a few years now. I seem to recall that the different background colour on the collars (white versus black) help distinguish male from female (cant remember which colour corresponds with which sex).

Nathan stayed with a friend at Point Cook on Friday night and got back home when I was still out with the dog so we arranged to meet at South Melbourne for coffee afterwards.

Given my positive experiences with the smoked eel a couple of weeks ago, I decided to head off to the Vic markets in the afternoon to buy another. This time the shop keeper wrapped it up in some white papers so it was less awkward catching public transport back to the apartment. I'm sure no one cares but I was definitely feeling a bit self conscious last time.

Nathan, the dog and I then headed to the bakery to get some more of the delicious seeded rye bread so I can have my eel on toast for Sunday brekky (Nathan refuses to go anywhere near the eel so he's having eggs instead).

Work sadness

I found out on Friday that a former work colleague took his own life on Thursday. It's very sad, especially knowing it was also RUOK day. It's the second suicide in as many years and I've seen at least part of the impact that such a loss can have for family and friends. It's really awful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Windfall

A friend of mine was able to get 600 euros compensation for a flight cancellation he experienced coming back to Oz from the UK.

Given my own flight cancellation a month ago, I decided to investigate further.

I contacted Qantas about my cancelled flight late last week. Sure enough, I received confirmation that I am entitled to a 600 euro refund too! Evidently flights coming out of EU countries are bound by regulations that specify compensation for cancellations and delays. Because I got back to Melbourne almost 8 hours after my scheduled arrival time, I was entitled to the compensation. Yay!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cracked it

I dropped my iphone on the pavement when I was walking the dog. The screen was smashed.

The first thing that came to my mind is how on Earth do people manage to still use their phones with a cracked screen. I see lots of people on the train with cracked smartphone screens seemingly oblivious to the cracks obstructing the view of whatever/whoever it is that they are looking at (or texting). I could barely see anything through mine and it wasn't even that badly smashed.

The second thing that came to my mind was to go buy a new phone, which is what I did. Nothing fancy...an older model iphone (soon to be superseded). I just need it to make calls, text and read the news. Hmmm...I just hope I can find a protective casing for it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Eel on toast

I was feeling adventurous and bought a whole smoked eel from the Vic Markets yesterday, head and all. As with all spontaneous culinary purchases of late, I had no idea how to prepare it. Thankfully I managed to find a good tutorial on the internet.
After overcoming the initial squirmishness of handling a rubbery two foot long eel (it reminded me of one of the formalin-preserved biological specimens in our teaching laboratory), I got down to business deboning the fish, which was quite fiddly.

It was well worth the effort when I sat down this morning to enjoy the eel on freshly baked rye bread with horseradish cream. Yummy.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Myth busters...

...goldfish do not have a 3 second memory.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not in my name

I read on the ABC that a petition against the Safe School's program has been tabled in the NSW parliament, with more than 17,000 signatures gathered from the Australian Chinese community. Interesting how a petition can be seen to represent the views of an entire ethnic group on the basis that it is 'contrary to our cultural and belief system'. Well, the petition certainly doesn't speak for me.

Actions and consequences

Back when I was a uni student, it was not uncommon for law exams to be 'redeemable'. What this meant was that if you got a really shitty mark in your mid semester exam, you could opt to take a longer exam at the end of semester and if you attained a higher mark, you'd get to disregard your mid semester result. One of my law Professors would have none of that though. In response to a student question of whether the end of semester exam was redeemable, the professor simply answered back "Life is not redeemable". You make choices. Things happen. Live with the consequences. It was a valuable learning experience.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gaswork art park farmer's market

Nathan and I took Truffles for a run at the Gaswork art park yesterday morning.

We were pleasantly surprised to see a farmer's market in full swing. Apparently it takes place one a month. We had no idea.

So...Truffles had her run, we had breakfast at the cafe, and I bought a beef brisket for Sunday dinner.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Why you shouldn't lie to your mum

Ryan Lochte, the US Olympic medalist, has managed to piss off a lot of people this week (including the entire population of Brazil) with his false claims of being held up and robbed at gun point.

An article in The Washington Post was particularly stinging, referring to Lochte as a swimmer "lost in the riptide of self-absorption" and the "dumbest bell that ever rang."  Another article in the New York Post described Lochte as "everything the world hates about American".

And all of this seems to have come about because he lied to his mum. Now, there's a lesson for us all...don't lie to your parents!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Internet woes

My laptop is hooked up to an ethernet cable. Remember those?

The wifi on the laptop is D.E.A.D. Getting it fixed is a hassle...I will need to leave it with the repairer for four business days. Given how much I rely on my computer for work (including teaching), I don't think I'll be able to get the laptop fixed before the end of teaching semester.

In desperation, I considered buying a new powerbook last weekend (this one is now 6 years old). The sales guy at Myers actually talked me out of it (bless him). He reckons I should wait because a new version of the Macbook is due to be released soon. In the meantime I will rely on my ethernet cable....my umbilical cord to the www.

Friday, August 12, 2016

I'm back

I'm back from my conference in the UK. I actually arrived back last Saturday and have been busy playing catch ups at work (hence, lack of blog posts). Oh...and my laptop wifi seems to have kicked the bucket.

The conference itself went well but the trip back was nightmarish due to cancellations and delays caused by the plane crash in Dubai. I should be grateful. I got home only 8 hours later than scheduled. A colleague from Perth two extra days to get home and waited in horrific queues to rebook his flights.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Coincidence

Two years ago, Nathan and I went to the US. We took a couple of weeks off to travel before going to New York where I had to attend a conference.

On our way to the US, we had a fantastic flight attendant, Tash, who looked after us extremely well. Coincidentally, she was on the same flight when we flew back to Australia several weeks later. We really hit it off. We found out that Tash was based in New Zealand and in the period that we were in the US, she had also gone on an American holiday with her friend. Ever since, both Nathan and I joke about bumping into Tash again.

Well...it happened. On Monday, I flew to London via Dubai to attend the very same international conference as the one I attended in New York in 2014 (this year it's being held in Exeter). During the Dubai-London leg, a flight attendant came by to pick up my plates and she looked like Tash. When she walked past again, I called her and, sure enough, it was her! The chance encounter was all the more remarkable because I had been in Business Class this time and Task was working in Economy and happened to come to the upper deck to lend a hand.

Tash is now based in London and only flies between London and Dubai.