Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New York

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

1. Museum of Modern Art

2. Empire State Building

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

4. The Lion King on Broadway

5. The American Museum of Natural History

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

the Cape

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

eating crabs

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

back to stubble

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

near disaster

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

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

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

Phew. Close call.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

my bearded self

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, June 27, 2014

dog walk

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

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

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

back in Melbourne

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

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

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

Monday, June 23, 2014


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

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

what's the difference

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

tail end of the trip

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

tonight's dinner

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

the village

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday breakfast

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

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


Friday, June 6, 2014

Canberra: an American perspective

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 26, 2014

dog cam

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

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

Sunday, May 25, 2014

great idea

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

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday arts

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


Friday, May 23, 2014

hello kitty?

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

shrimp soup

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

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

breakfast day 1

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

Monday, May 12, 2014

Singapore qantas lounge

The first part of the trip is over and I am now relaxing at the Qantas Lounge in Changi, waiting for my flight to Finland.

The shower facilities here are amazing. It's nicer that my bathroom at home.

I'm now making my way through Neil Perry's menu.  Just tucking into some ma po tofu (the garnish is sticking out of my mouth).

Can you tell I don't get into the qantas lounge often?

Europe calling

Am off to Europe for a 6 week research stint. Should be fun productive.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

naughty dog

Truffles ran out of the apartment and did a big wee in front of the neighbour's front door. And, as luck would have it, the neighbour just happens to come home as I was frantically mopping up the evidence.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


A friend flew in from Canberra last night for fondue.

Our friend is moving to Switzerland later in the year and wanted to get rid of her fondue set.

Nathan mentioned he had never had fondue before so our friend decided to hold a fondue party at our place.

Our friend came to Melbourne specifically for the party and flew back already early this morning. It was a crazy idea but lots of fun.