Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rabbit stew

My colleague went ferreting for rabbits a few weeks ago.

He is not much of a meat eater so he gave me one of the rabbits. I was initially very excited about making something delicious with it and had planned to cook the rabbit the evening I got it.

However, upon seeing the skinned carcass, I got a bit squeamish and popped it into the freezer, where it has sat...until now.

Today, I got up early, found a recipe with a nice picture (see below) and went to Woollies to buy the ingredients.
I got home, took the carcass out of the fridge, and took it out of bag to defrost.

I immediately started to retch.

I'm such a wuss. It's weird. I have no problem chopping up whole chickens or ducks but I think the rabbit just looks too mammalian. I guess I am too accustomed to getting my meat from the supermarket, already processed and looking less like whole animals.

Anyhow, the contorted rabbit carcass is sitting in the sink. I'm going to have to chop it up and cook it – whether I like it or not.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The guy on the street corner

I hate being solicited by people on street corners asking for donations.

Today, I had a rather unpleasant encounter on Oxford Street with a young man working for Oxfam.

Firstly, I feel a bit of context is justified as normally, I would just walk past without making eye contact or politely decline the invitation for a 'chat'. But earlier, in Hyde Park, I was asked by someone else from Oxfam to sign a petition, which I agreed to do (because I do believe in their cause).

Thinking it was for the same purpose, I engaged with the young man to tell him I had already spoken to her colleague.

Big mistake.

It seemed that Oxfam have teams of people out in the city trying to engage members of the public for multiple purposes today.

The guy who stopped me on Oxford Street was wanting me to sign up for monthly donations to provide clean drinking water to help people from war afflicted regions.

Once I figured out what this guy was up to, I was trapped. I politely declined his request for a donation, which was when he started to lay on the guilt trip.

He went on and on about how we are living in an affluent country and that we should all be doing more.

At this point, I should have just walked away.

But, no. Instead, I told him that I am already a supporter of Oxfam, that I buy stuff from the Oxfam shop, and that I used to volunteer my time to door knock for the organisation when I was younger. I told him that I felt I already did enough.

That's when he pulled out the passive aggressive line "It's interesting how most people feel they need to justify why they do not want to donate."

I lost my shit. I told him that his adversarial manner is a complete turn off and risk damaging the organisation.

Realising I was now wasting his time, he then tried to say that he no longer wanted to talk to me.

Now, that must be a first.

I reminded him that he was the one who approached me and I proceeded to rant on for another 10 minutes telling him how much damage he was doing to his organisation and how not to ostracise people who were already on the same team.

Nathan, who was standing next to me the entire time, eventually dragged me away.

An artist's artist

I've been reading up on an Australian artist called Guy Warren.
Guy is in his 90s and is still active (his most recent show was earlier this year in Sydney). And judging by the interviews I've seen on youtube, the man's mind is still super sharp.

Guy is an artist's artist. He is a war veteran, an Archibald prize winner, and is highly respected. One art critic described him as a 'much underrated artist'. Looking at his pictures and the long list of public institutions that have his works in their collections, it's astounding he isn't more well known. I stumbled across his paintings online and immediately fell in love with them.


 Meanwhile,  I see 'artists' with far less talent flogging off mass produced work of extremely low quality having much higher public profiles.



Sydney

I'm in Sydney with Nathan attending a friend's 40th.

The party was on Saturday night at a pub in Willougby. It was a smallish gathering, was fairly mellow affair, and I had great time.

Yesterday, we met up with another friend (also up in Sydney for the birthday) and her two teenage kids for a trip to the zoo. It's been a while since I've visited Taronga. I forgot how spectacular the views are looking back across the harbour towards the city skyline. I was especially envious of the giraffes, whose enclosure offered the best vantage point.

Nathan accompanied our friend's son on a high ropes 'adventure' at the zoo. It basically involves putting yourself into a harness and traversing obstacles in the tree tops above some of the animal enclosures. Two observations. First, Nathan is even more uncoordinated up in the air than he is on the ground (though I concede that walking on ropes does require a great deal of balance and coordination). Second, the ropes course is very demanding and Nathan was well and truly exhausted by the end of the session. Our friend's son, by contrast, barely broke a sweat, and wanted to go back for another round. Nathan said no.

We made our way back to the city by ferry. I had not seen the new (and controversial) Barangaroo development and I have to say I was quite impressed. The new ferry terminal connects visitors along the foreshore right up to Darling Harbour and judging by all the restaurants and tourists, I think it will be good for Sydney tourism.

Last night we met up again with our birthday friend and her family, and went up to the Centrepoint tower for a buffet dinner. I didn't realise that Centrepoint has had a name change and is now known as Sydney tower. Anyhow, the interior of the shopping centre is far more opulent than what I remembered when I visited there as a youngster.

I'd never been to the buffet up in the revolving section of the tower before. It was expensive so I had high expectations. The food was kind of 'meh' for the price. I foolishly challenged our friend's teenage son (the one who did the high ropes course with Nathan) to an oyster eating contest. I won (naturally) but downing oysters for competition is not as pleasant as eating them for enjoyment. I was impressed by the kid's determination. He polished off 15, which was quite remarkable for a 13 year old. I remember detesting raw oysters when I was his age.

We are flying back to Melbourne later today.




Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Covet

If I had a spare $125K, I'd consider buying this Sidney Nolan I saw at a commercial gallery today.

Colony

I had an extra day off today so decided to see the new NGV exhibition Colony: Australia 1770-1861.

The exhibition was arranged into themes, some of which made a lot of sense (e.g. European exploration before 1770; Landing and settlement at Lane Cove), but others seemed a bit random to me (e.g. Newcastle 1804: Tasmanian Aboriginal people). In any event, the exhibition brought back memories of grade 5 history lessons with Miss Eccleston.







Monday, April 2, 2018

Canberra and buffet musings

I'm back in Canberra for part of the Easter break.

I flew up on Saturday afternoon. The plane was near empty. It was terrific. Boarding was a breeze (no queues) and it took only a few minutes to disembark the aircraft.

We went to my folk's favourite buffet restaurant on Sunday. We got there 30 minutes early to line up at the cashier.

Mum and dad told me that the Chinese guy at the front of the queue goes there everyday. He eats, then goes for a walk outside the venue, and then comes back inside the restaurant and does a second bout of eating. That's taking 'all-you-can-eat' to an entirely new level. I seriously can't be bothered.

I stood behind a woman waiting for her to decide which piece of chicken she wanted. She was very indecisive. She picked a piece up with the tongs, held it in mid air for a brief second, and then placed the chicken back onto the server. She then took another piece of chicken and put it on her plate. Alas, it turns out she wanted that first piece of chicken after all, so she placed the piece that was already on her plate back on the server and took back the original piece. All the while, I patiently waited for her to finish so I could grab a piece of f*&king chicken.

Oh, and the roast duck. It's my pet peeve that the chefs at this place are super slow with replenishing the roast duck. I love duck so it drives me nuts.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Happy Birthday

A big happy birthday to everyone's favourite weatherman, Nate Byrne (and his magnificent dimples).

Sharks and dots

Damien Hirst, the British artist famed for his sharks (and other animals) in formaldehyde, has produced a new body of work which he entitled 'the veil series'.

The similarities with aboriginal art from the Utopia region of Central Australia are remarkable.
And so are the US$500,000-1,700,000 price tags.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What were they thinking?

I was fortunate enough to visit the National Gallery of Australia's exhibition Indigenous Australia when I was in Berlin.

The exhibition was touted as masterworks from the NGA's extensive collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. And for me, it was certainly nice to see so many familiar works on display on the other side of the world.

But I was left wondering what the German audience would have thought of the show.

Oddly, there was not a single gallery label in sight. According to the lady at the front desk, "labels are no longer fashionable".

In my view, the NGA missed an extraordinary opportunity to educate the German audience about the spiritual, historical and political context behind the works.

Without any context, most audiences will just see a bunch of pretty painted canvases and barks, and a few odd-looking sculptures and video installations.

Design fail?

I was excited to see a Lufthansa plane painted in their new livery as I boarded my flight out of Frankfurt on Tuesday.

I like the clean, new look. It's very chic. Here is a picture I found online.
But it seems I'm in the minority.

Some marketing and design experts have been highly critical of the new design overhaul. Fans of the airline have also lamented the loss of the iconic Lufthansa yellow from the planes.
And it seems that the company is now having to go back and retweak the blue they have chosen, which looks unintentionally black under adverse weather conditions. Luckily they have only painted two of their planes in the new colours so far.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Venice and Berlin

I'm getting ready for my return flight back to Melbourne. I've had a terrific time in Europe (though it feels like I've been away for ages).

I thought I'd post some snaps from my trip.

Unsurprisingly, given the all the water, seafood is a speciality in Venice and surrounding.
Of course I had to have pizza...
...and pasta (with seafood) too.
After Venice, I had made plans to visit my friend in Berlin. The weather was generally crappy for most of my trip to Europe (though not as bad as the week before my arrival) but I did manage to get a few hours in Berlin with blue sky and sunshine.
One of my most favourite places to visit is the food hall at the up market department store KaDeWe. The food hall is stocked with all kinds of weird and wonderful produce form all around the world (including emu eggs!!).

I remember seeing bright red carabinero prawns during my last visit to the food hall two years ago. These delicacies come from the deep sea off the coast of Spain. I was excited to find out that customers can buy the seafood from the counter and a chef will then cook it up for a small fee.
Naturally, I got me some of those carabineros (I only had two because they were almost 100 euros a kilo). I also had some monkfish.
This is what a monkfish head looks like (basically, it's all teeth). Not the prettiest fish but boy was it tasty.
We wandered around the food hall afterwards and my friend invited on showing the sausage counter. Germans love their sausages.



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Impressions of Venice

I like Venice. The weather hasn't been great but the light rain adds to the charm and romance (Venice is definitely a place to share and experience with someone you love).

It's low tourist season so I guess the place is far less crowded than what one might expect in the Summer.

It's been fun exploring the little laneways, trying not to get lost (so far, so good) and experiencing Italian food in Italy.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Safety first

And speaking of flying, Qantas is rolling out a new safety video in April. The video showcases Aussies being Aussies in exotic locations around the world. It also features one very handsome Qantas pilot.




Europe bound

I'm off to Europe late this evening for a conference in Italy.

I'll be flying Qatar. The travel agent said it's a terrific airline and the service is suppose to be excellent. The online reviews certainly seem to be glowing. Not sure about onetime performance though. I was checking flight tracker this morning and the last three flights out of Melbourne have all been severely delayed (one by as much as 12 hours). I'm keeping my fingers crossed it departs on time tonight.

The vector

My colleague had been in Japan attending a conference. He was not due back at work until next week so I was surprised when he dropped by my office on Thursday.

He had caught a bad cold and decided to come back early. I told him he should be at home resting instead of coughing and spluttering in my office.

He tried to reassure me, in between coughing fits, that he was at the tail end of his cold and was no longer contagious (why do sick people always try to tell others that they are not sick?).

This morning I woke up to a runny nose and a sore throat. Grrr.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New Qantas livery

Qantas has painted one of their newest Boing 787s in an aboriginal design based on a painting by one of the country's most renowned indigenous artists, the late Emily Kngwarreye. Those who know Emily's works might be a bit disappointed. I don't think the design is easily recognisable as being representative of her work. Still, it's great that the national carrier is honouring a great artist in this way.
 The latest addition to the Qantas fleet is one of a number of planes to have been painted with aboriginal designs. Here are a few others.

And my favourite, a design based on the wonderful work of Paddy Bedford.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy New Year

It's the Year of the Dog. I'm in Canberra wallowing (again) in excessive feast.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

July versus September

I'm putting my hand up to host a scientific conference here in Melbourne in a couple of year's time. Its going to be a bit scary but I'm also very excited to showcase our city to an international delegation.

My immediate dilemma is to decide when would be the best time to hold the conference as dates need to be locked in several years in advance.

July would suit folks coming from Europe and North America as it coincides with their Summer break but the weather in Melbourne won't be terribly good (In the words of an Australian colleague I consulted, it will be 'bleak').

September would be better but it will be middle of teaching for scientists in the Northern Hemisphere. Plus, the dates overlap slightly with the AFL Grand Final so accommodation might be problematic.

Hmmm.





Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Nice young man on the tram

I was at the corner of Elizabeth and Swanston Street, waiting for the tram to take me up to the Queen Vic market.  A young man decided to do something constructive. He started to pick up the rubbish strewn around the tram stop. Later on, once we were on the tram, he also helped a lady with her suitcase. There are some really good people in this world.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Proteas

This week's flowers have taken over the dining table. Never mind. We tend to eat in front of the tv anyway. King Proteas and Eucalyptus caesia 'Silver Princess'.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Waiting

I caught up with some Singaporean family friends for lunch yesterday. They were telling me about the Michelin starred hawker stall that specialises in chicken rice. It is apparently the cheapest Michelin star food outlet in the world.

The accolade has been great for business and people are willing to wait. The family friends told me about someone they knew who had travelled from Malaysia to Singapore to try the food. That person arrived at 10.45am, before the shop was even open, and there was already a queue. He got his food at 3.30pm. Apparently it was worth the wait.

I love my chicken, but I'm not sure I have the stamina to wait almost 5 hours for it.

The Michelin star shop has opened an outpost here in Melbourne. Coincidentally, I received a text from another friend yesterday afternoon. It was 4.30pm. He was standing outside the shop, keen to order some take away. He was complaining that there is already a long queue. He'll have to wait.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Plants, plants, plants

Clearly indoor plants have become a 'thing'.

I was wandering around Collingwood yesterday and saw a young lady with two big pot plants under each arm. Less than a block away, three people were walking along the street, each carrying a plant.

I later made my way to the Fitzroy nursery on Brunswick Street and I've never seen it so busy. I could barely move inside the shop.

And it seems that this obsession with plants, driven by young hipster types, has led to plant shops stocking all kinds of rare and wonderful plants that I had previously only ever seen in specialty nurseries. Needing a Nepenthes? Pining for a Pilea? Or desiring a Dischidia? Not a problem. All are available at the local nursery.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Banksias for Australia Day

A nod to Australia Day. Some lovely banksias for the dining table.

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...