Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everybody. Hope 2009 bring lots of blog-worthy adventures to fellow bloggers and tantalising reading for the rest.

Off to a party hosted by a couple of friends I haven't seen in quite a while. Should get quite a nice view of the fireworks from their city apartment. I'm glad it's not going to be as hot as last year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A lazy morning

I love having time off from work. Today, I spent my entire morning in my "Mr. Grumpy" pyjamas (a christmas gift) reading old postings from fellow bloggers. I am feeling completely relaxed.

I think I'll head into the CBD for a wander in the afternoon. Might mozy over to Melb Central and relax in a comfy chair at Borders and read a few mags, then head over to DJs for a bit of a browse...I love going downstairs and smelling the freshly baked cookies.

Unrequited love

Went out for dinner last night with a friend. L wanted advice following her recent trip overseas where she caught up with a girl that she loved. Unfortunately, it's a case of unrequited love for the girl in question has a boyfriend.

It is hard to offer advice when the advice is painful and not what the person wishes to hear. Nate and I tell L that she deserves a better love, one that is less complicated and, more importantly, a love that is reciprocated. We can offer all the advice we want but I guess, at the end of the day, people feel the way they feel and no matter how irrational to an outsider, the feelings and emotions are real to the person who is feeling them. There shall be no judgement, only support.

Monday, December 29, 2008


This new footbridge just opened near my apartment. It looks very "Sydney Opera House".

Barbie, alternative rock music and the sexual harasser

On Saturday night, Nate and I were invited along for dinner with some friends who were visiting from Sydney. One of the people at the dinner was on vacation from the US. As the evening progressed, she mentioned that she was a freelance writer and had recently been working for Mattel, the toy company responsible for making barbie. Apparently her job was to write the toy descriptors on the sides of the boxes and to come up with names for the toys. How cool is that? What struck me, however, was that Laura actually looked a bit like Barbie with her beautiful long blonde hair, nice tan, and make up (no, there was no Ken in sight).

After dinner, we parted ways with Barbie and headed off with our Sydney friends to the Ding Dong bar near Chinatown. There, we spent an hour or so listening to alternative rock music. I must admit it's not really my kind of music but I did enjoy gawping at the drummer.

Next, we caught a taxi to The Peel. I hadn't been to the Peel for ages and it seems that they have done a complete renovation. The clientele still seemed the same though. We headed to the dance floor and were all happily dancing away when our female friend jumped forward and let out a little yelp. Some effeminate blonde guy had deliberately brushed his hand up between her legs. This was unwise since our friend's boyfriend and brother were both on the dancefloor and were (quite understandably) unimpressed. A few words were exchanged and the sexual harasser retreated with his lips pouted in feeble defiance. It killed the mood for us and we decided to leave. Fifteen minutes later we were seated at a table at Crown Casino sipping away on a giant toblerone cocktail.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The anniversary...

This is my coming out story so readers be warned, this is going to be a long one...

It's 4 years to the day that I came out to one of my parents (it took a further two weeks before I came out to the other).

I had arrived back from the US where I had spent almost a year working in a tiny sea-side town on Cape Cod. There, I had met the most amazing people, including the landlady of the house where I was staying. Ginny, who had just retired as principal from a school for troubled teenage boys, rented me a room in her grand old New England home. She had been sharing this home with boarders since the mid 1970s, mostly visiting scientists drawn to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biology Laboratory.

Apart from me and Ginny, the house was occupied by four others at the time. Dan, the perpetual boarder, was a strange but endearing gentleman who looked like Jesus, played the french horn, hoarded other people's rubbish, and kept piles of newspapers in his room. Luke was a middle-aged guy with the quintessential Bostonian accent who spent his time living and commuting between the Cape (his work) and Boston (his family). Tyler, my best friend in the house, was a newbie who had arrived in the Cape only a couple of months before I did, so naturally, we spent quite a bit of time together hanging out and exploring the Cape on weekends. Finally, there was Brian who worked in a local cafe called The Pie in the Sky, spent his free time going to some liberal christian church and attended the local gay choir (along with Tyler who is not gay but enjoys singing). Brian, a gentle soul was dealing with mental demons in the form of severe anxiety. He was also the first person I came out to.

Coming out to Brian was not something I had planned and happened only weeks before I was due to return to Australia. I had left work early one day and came back to the house to find Brian sobbing away at the kitchen table. He had been sent home from work because he was feeling extremely anxious and had started crying uncontrollably in front of the customers. As I tried to comfort him, Brian started telling me about the trigger for his most recent episodes of anxiety. Apparently he had a minor falling out with his boyfriend a few weeks earlier (Mario wanted to engage in a deep and meaningful conversation about God. Brian didn't. Mario got upset. Brian was sent into a deep depression). The trigger seemed so trivial to me (such was my ignorance of mental health issues at the time). In my lame attempts at a consolation (and perhaps reflecting where I was in my own mind), I said to him that surely coming out to your parents would have been a more traumatic situation. Then, to my surprise, I just started off loading everything on this poor guy who, by now had stopped crying, and just sat there and listened in stunned silence. After I was done (and feeling that I had selfishly hijacked his moment), Brian bursts into tears, so touched was he that I had decided to come out to him first. I almost burst into laughter.

In the weeks ahead, I spoke to a few other people but was conscious of the fact that I needed to come out to my family and close friends back home. Everyone I came out to in the US was fantastically supportive but perhaps the most touching response was from Ginny who told me that I was a wonsderful person who deserved to find someone wonderful to be with. I will never forget those amazingly generous and kind words.

So...back to Australia. I tell my sisters first. They cried. I cried. And then we laughed. I come out to my closest friends and was, once again, met with incredible support. So far, so good. But what about my parents? I had no idea who I should speak with first. I feel that I am closest with my mother but, for some reason, I decide to tell dad first.

My father would go for a walk every morning to the supermarket. I decide to go with him one morning and tell him along the way. I chicken out. Instead, I tell myself that I would tell him on the way back. But I don't. I chicken out once again. And so it went on like this for a couple of weeks...I would walk out of the house with my father. I'd be full of hope going to the supermarket but kept returning home disappointed in myself. At night, in the comfort of seclusion, I would cry in bed. Why was it so hard? Going through my head were the lyrics of a song I heard on the flight back to Australia. The chorus of Gavin DeGraw's song "I don't want to be" spoke to me in a way that no lyrics had ever spoken to me before...

I don't want to be anything other than what I've been tryin to be lately
All I have to do is think of me and have peace of mind
I'm tired of looking 'round rooms wondering what I gotta do
Or who I'm supposed to be
I don't want to be anything other than me

I decided that if I didn't do it soon, I'd never do it. I was also running out of time since I was due to head off for work overseas again in a few weeks time (to Europe). I decided I would tell my dad after Christmas.

But then, on boxing day, disaster struck...tectonic activities off the coast of Indonesia caused an undersea earthquake, sending a catastrophic tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people. The entire family (like everyone else around the globe) was glued to the television. Suddenly, my issues didn't seem all that insurmountable.

The following day, I sat in the kitchen watching the news. It's early afternoon. Dad is there also, already preparing dinner (that's a chef for you). I switch off the television. I tell dad that I need to speak with him about something. I ask him to come with me for a walk. He puts everything down. We step out the house, and I tell him everything.

Friday, December 26, 2008


SBS has to be one of the best things about free to air television in Australia. As stipulated in its charter "[t]he principal function of SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society."

On Christmas eve, SBS aired an excellent french canadian movie called Crazy. The movie revolves around the lives of a family, focusing on a central character by the name of Zac who is one of five sons (in birth order, Zac is fourth). The movie begins at Zac's birth and follows the character until early adulthood. It is a story about personal and family struggles and the coming to grips (and acceptance) of identity (including Zac's sexuality). One early childhood scene in the movie was most poignant. Zac, who was born on Christmas Day, opens his present and is bitterly disappointed by the gift his dad had chosen for him, a hockey set. What Zac really covets was a toy pram which the father had refused the mother from buying. The scene was an especially significant one as it provides the first glimpse of the inevitable identity struggles and father-son conflicts that later ensues. I think it also reflects, very nicely, the complexity of human sexuality and the ways in which it can begin to mannifest.

When I was in the fifth grade, I coveted a doll. Yes, sure, I played with toy cars and planes (especially planes) but for Christmas that year, I wanted a porcelain doll I had seen at a shop called The Australian East India Company at the Woden Shopping Centre in Canberra. It was love at first sight. My first materialistic obsession. I just had to have it. I remember we were studying colonial Australian history at school. As the teacher ranted on about bushrangers and the goldrush, all I could think about was the doll. So much so that I started to draw a picture in the back of my book. The teacher strolls past my desk, notices the picture, stops the lesson and asks (in a loud enough voice so that the entire class could hear), "Is this your girlfriend?" She then picks up the picture and shows it to the rest of the class. Everyone bursts out in laughter. I was mortified.

The classroom experience did not dampen my obsession. That year, as Christmas approached, I remember my dad and I going to the woden shopping centre one Saturday morning. As we went past the Australian East India Company, I insisted that he come into the shop so that I could show him the doll. He wasn't as hostile as the dad in the movie but he didn't seem entirely enthusiastic either. Later, he went to work and I went to the public library. In the afternoon, I returned to the shop to have (yet) another glimpse and, to my absolute shock and horror, she was gone. Gone!

A few weeks later I happen to be rummaging around the garage at home and, hidden amongst the boxes, I found her. Dad must have snuck back and actually bought it for me. On Christmas day, I opened the present with my sisters and cousins and was overjoyed by what I had received (even though I already knew what it was, as most kids probably do). Looking back, I wonder whether my parents were embarrassed by their son wanting a doll for Christmas. If they were, they never showed it. In any case, in my innocent 10 year old mind, I was blissfully unaware as to what all of this would mean.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Greetings

Wishing everybody a joyful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The early Christmas feast

Nathan has to work on Christmas day and is heading back tonight. One of my sisters is also leaving for Melbourne (on Christmas day) to spend time with her boyfriend and his family. As a result, mum decided we should have the big family Christmas feast early this year. So last night, our immediate and extend family gathered at my parents place to wallow in excessive feast.

The preparation was a formidable affair. Dad had spent two days roasting a leg of pork and a huge turkey (apparently mum insisted on getting the biggest one at the supermarket).

It's always a pig out when I come back to Canberra but especially so when it comes to Christmas so I had to pace myself. I had a problem though...brunch with friends, followed by lunch with other friends. At brunch, Dan and Amy hassled me out for being lame and only ordering toast. Admittedly, I think this was one of only a handful of times when I've gone out for brekky and didn't order the biggest breakfast item listed on the menu (if I go out for breakfast, I usually feel a compulsion to be as unhealthy as possible and have the lot... eggs, sausages, bacon, mushrooms and other greasy stuff depending on venue). Two hours later, I was sitting in a cafe with other friends eating arancini. Nathan had a salad.

After lunch, we headed back home and waited in anticipation. It was a much smaller event than last year because some of my relatives were overseas on holiday. I think I refilled my plate at least three times and afterwards had to waddle around the lounge room to help kickstart the digestion process.

Not surprisingly, I decided to skip breakfast this morning. Evidently we are going out for lunch today at a chinese restaurant. No doubt another feast awaits.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Someday soon

Heard a nice song on the radio today on our way to the Royal Australian Mint. With some detective work (and random guessing), managed to track it down to this...

Natasha Bassingthwaighte with Someday Soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Back in Canberra

Nathan and I have gone to Canberra to visit my family. We are only here for a few days so I've only told a few friends I'd be in town. Already, however, I've been spotted by a friend who didn't know I would be back for Christmas. Such run-ins reminds me just how small Canberra actually is.

Took Nate to old Parliament House. One of the rooms had an interesting exhibit about Australia's former prime ministers. Nate reckoned that our first PM, Edmund Barton, looked like Peter Phelps. I thought Watson was quite handsome.

Afterwards, we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia to check out an exhibition of Pacific island art. Some of the pieces had an amazing spiritual presence. One especially intriguing piece even contained human teeth.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The morning after

Kylie concert last night was fantastic.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Work Christmas Party (Part 2)

The departmental Christmas party took place yesterday arvo. It was a relaxed outdoor bbq. Thankfully, despite the morning drizzle, the sun managed to show itself by the time the party started. Nate came in after work and we headed over together. Everybody was suppose to bring a plate to share. I made a pumpkin and green bean salad with cashews (liberally sprinkled with the last of the fetta from my pizza party from last week).

When I arrived, my colleague Elissa introduced me to her boyfriend who looked strangely familiar. Strange, because he is not a local and had flown in from America to spend three weeks in Oz with Elissa. Without wanting to look rude, I said that it was great to see him AGAIN and simply assumed that I must have met him on a previous visit to Australia. Later in the afternoon, the guy walks up to me and says that we must have met previously at a conference somewhere. He started rattling off a few possibilities. And then it dawned on us simultaneously...we had, indeed, met once Oaxaca, Mexico! In fact, he was a good friend on my boss when I was working in the States and so we had hung out at the conference in Mexico. I love my job...its a small enough community that you can meet up with people from overseas and then meet them again in some completely different part of the world years later.

Nate and I left when the dark clouds started looming overhead and we decided to catch the train back to the city. We got off at South Yarra with plans to go for a drink. We had a nice chat walking along Chapel Street, which continued at the Tusk cafe. Nate is thinking about doing some sort of course next year to expand his skills and we chatting about that. We also talked about the future and what Nate might want to do down the track. The conversation was a bit full on at times but it is good to talk openly about these things. Afterwards, we continued our stroll along Chapel, hopped on a tram, and made our way back home to bed.

Kylie concert tonight! Yay!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another food safety violation...

Oh dear...another food safety violation by a Melbourne-based restaurant (with nauseatingly graphic photo gallery on The Age news website). The Meekong Vietnamese Restaurant in Swanston Street is (was?) one of my favourite places for pho, that delectable vietnamese noodle soup of rare beef (and other body parts) bathed in a tasty broth with rice noodles, fresh basil and bean shoots. This is what pho looks like when it is brought out to your table (mmmm)...

The restaurant is a favourite, not only among us regular folk but also celebrities like Jacky Chan (as evidenced by the worn photos plastered around the walls). The sign on the shop front even puts out a most intriguing challenge to p otential customers: "Bill Clinton ate two bowls. How many can you eat?" Now...if this is how the beef looks before it is prepared, I'm afraid I wont be stopping by for pho anytime soon...

Another brush with 'celebrity'

Since I've been in Melbourne I seem to be spotting a fair few 'celebrities' from reality TV in my day-to-day activities. A few months ago, there was the apparent sighting of a former Australian Idol contestant. This week, I spotted an aspiring model. I was on a train into the city and an exceptionally well-dressed and handsome man gets on and sits opposite me. He sported one of those dirty bleached hairdos that matched his complexion so that it was hard to tell where hair ended and face began. I quickly realised that this was no ordinary, everyday Melbourne metrosexual but a contestant from....Make me a Supermodel (I hope this doesn't give away my cringe-worthy viewing practices).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Work Christmas Party (Part 1)

Went to the Faculty Christmas party today (we have a "smaller", more intimate departmental party tomorrow). Wandered over to the marquis that had been set up for the event and quickly noticed most of the people were wearing masks. Crap. I didn't realize there was a theme. Gravitated towards the drinks cart. Found myself a coke, then walked over to the cheese plate and sliced off a generous portion of brie and smeared it onto an under-sized cracker. Cheese was followed by a slice of pizza. Next, I decided to be brave and tackle a hot dog...big mistake. The "sausage" was the consistency of mush encased in what appears to be the same stretchy material used for making the skin ofballoons. Participated in some idle chit chat (mostly about the suspicious content of the hot dog) then decided I had enough and left.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The serenity...

The tram works are over. Yay! No more jack hammers. No more heavy machinery. No more shouting workers. I must admit I'm peversely impressed that the construction workers managed to plough through gail forced winds and torrential rain to complete the platforms over the weekend. And they look reasonably good (i.e. the platforms; not the workers).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tram works

Ah, the joys of urban living. There is some seriously heavy construction work going on outside my apartment today. It started last night and is scheduled to continue non-stop until Monday morning. There are jack-hammers out in full force, the noise of heavy machinery moving back and forth, and workmen dressed in fluoro-coloured jackets talking loudly. The tram stops are being upgraded to comply with disability requirements. It seems like a total waste of money. My tram stops are relatively new and were only put in a couple of years ago. Why didn't they have the foresight to install disabled-friendly platforms back then? Idiots.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The stupid old mole on the train

An old woman got on the train at Flinders Street this afternoon. I hear her shoo aside other commuters so she could get to her seat. Her face is wrinkled like a dried up prune. She turns to her male companion and starts talking about the chinese and indians sitting around her. First they mimic the chinese people sitting in front of her. She then complains loudly about people coming to this country and not being able to speak in english. The indians behind her roll their eyes in disgust.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A fridge full of cheese

Hosted the lab Christmas party at my place yesterday. Decided it would be a good idea to have 14 people crammed into my tiny loft apartment and make pizzas. I asked everyone to bring pizza topping. The concept worked well but for the fact that every second person bought either mushrooms or fetta and then left all the left over ingredients in my fridge. Hmmm...must now trawl the net for imaginative mushroom and fetta receipes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Homeless world cup

The homeless world cup just finished here in Melbourne. I seem to be in the minority here but it seems a bit wrong to fly a bunch of homeless people to a city, give them lots of cool corporate-sponsored merchandise, make a spectacle out of them, and then send them home again back to their former lives.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Picnic, brunch and barbeque (update)

Did the picnic yesterday. It was tough but I eventually managed to find the giraffe swing (which looked more like a weird stick insect than a giraffe). I realised that I get quite anxious meeting up with people for picnics in popular public places. The problem is that I hate walking up to groups of people for fear that I have to make a 'subtle' retreat if they turn out not to be the people I'm suppose to be hanging out with. Worse still, is the possibility that I may join a group, start to pig out and then realise I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd. Not really a problem on this ocassion. Apart from our group, there was only two other groups near the was a big wedding party and the other was a bunch of school kids dressed in their bright red uniforms.

Went to brunch this morning. Of course, I didn't think to factor in possible construction work in the CBD disrupting the tram but, as usual, I'm still the first one at the restaurant (even though I was late). Ended up walking to the cafe from St Vincent's plaza. It was a pleasant stroll. Brunswick Street is so empty at 10ish on a Sunday. Even the beggars were asleep. Decided to be a bit 'out there' and refrained from ordering the biggest brekky on the menu. Went for the 'walnut and apricot toast' instead with the 'maple hazlenut butter' option. It was delicious but not quite sure if it was worth paying seven bucks for two pieces of toast. Thought about pinching the beautiful piece of wood that the toast was served on but, alas, i left my bag at home. Didn't really get a chance to ask Dave about the new girl he was allegedly seeing nor did it feel entirely appropriate to ask if the girl that came along was actually her or not. Instead, Louise and I spent the 40 min walk back to the city trying to speculate. On our way, I saw two things that seemed noteworthy. First, was a gay couple dressed in their polo shirts, walking along Swanston Street holding hands. Very sweet (the holding hands part; not the matching polos). Second was the elderly tranny who crossed the road with us near Collins Street. She was dressed in a conservative cardigan and matching scarf with black high heels. Why is it that some men walk more gracefully in high heels than some women? to the BBQ in Aspendale now. Hope the weather holds up.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Picnic, brunch and barbeque

It's all happening this weekend, two fun-filled days of wallowing in excessive feast with friends I simply don't get to see quite often enough. It begins with a picnic in Fitzroy Gardens later today by the giraffe swings (wherever the hell that it...will google later). Then tomorrow, I'm meeting up with Dancing Dave and Louise for breakfast in Fitzroy. Dave, Louise and I all went to uni at the same time but Louise was the only one to have had the foresight to get a real job after she finished and is now earning squillions. Dave is an enigma. Extraordinarily handsome, uber-cool, and very smart. Over the years, he has had some super nice girlfriends. The problem is that he seems to find relationships challenging and he's not sure why. Perhaps he hasn't found the right one, or maybe some people value their independence too much. Either way, I heard a few months ago that he had started seeing someone so I'm looking forward to the goss. Sunday afternoon promises to be a relaxing affair. Off to Aspendale for a farewell BBQ for a student who is soon to finish his studies and is heading back to Europe. We've had a few people finish up at work. It reminds me how transient the 'life' of my department can be. It really only is as good as the people that are here at the time. it'll be sad to see L go. Hmmm...giraffe swing...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What the?

Number 6 (below) is a bit surprising.

Google's Top 10 Australian searches of 2008:

1. Games
2. Sydney
3. YouTube
4. MySpace
5. Facebook
6. Google
7. eBay
8. My
9. Weather
10. Hotmail

Monday, December 1, 2008

All look same?

Check out 'all look same' and have a go at some of the tests to see how good you are at distinguishing between chinese, japanese and korean culture.

My scores...

I was OK with identifying faces (10 out of 18).

Appeared to be OK with placing modern art into the right culture too (10 out of 18).

Was a shocker with traditional architecture (8 out of 18).

And did my best with identifying food to culture (12 out of 18). No surprises there.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jørn Utzon

The Prizker prize winning architect, Jørn Utzon, died yesterday. Danish-born Utzon was the vision behind one of this country's most iconic buildings, the Sydney Opera House.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

English lesson

I would never teach my grandma english like this...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Apec fashion critique

Well...the Apec forum has just wrapped up in Peru. I don't know about you, but the highlight for me is the costume parade. The organizers of APEC seem to be on the cutting edge of the latest trends and set the scene for what's hot and what's not for the upcoming season. Forget Paris. Forget New York. It's all about Peru this year. And the look? Potato sack race.

In the spirit of procrastination, let's take a quick journey into the costumes of APEC past (feel free to nominate your favourite)...

1. Thailand. Sawadee kup chic. This is a great look for the tropics.

2. Vietnam. I like how the female version comes with a matching dinner plate that can also be worn as a head dress.

3. Chile. Hmmm...I'm liking the colour but not sure about the angles. It makes everybody look like a giant corn chip packet.

4. South Korea. I think I'm going to turn this one into a Christmas card. John Howard looks so cute wrapped up in a bow.

5. Australia. Good ol' drizabone. It's very 2000 Sydney Olympics. In fact, I'm almost certain that these were left over from the opening ceremony.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Most influential

The Age newspaper puts out a list every year of the 100 most influential people in Melbourne and my friend, a biologist, has made the list for 2008. How cool is that? I guess it's not always about the socialites, celebrities and sports stars.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The belly dancer

Notwithstanding the bed moving debacle yesterday, we still managed to enjoy the evening at a lovely lebanese place with a hard-to-pronounce (and easily forgotten) name (don't ask, I forgot).

Just prior to our meals arriving, the obligatory belly dancer came out of the kitchen to the sound of loud lebanese music. I'm not entirely sure what food handling and safety laws she might have infringed from (presumably) getting changed into her skimpy outfit in the kitchen, but I was careful to watch for suspect curly hairs in my samakeg harrah afterwards.

I don't want to come across as being harsh (kudos to her for having the guts to show off her plentiful cellulite and muffin top) but the belly dancer was a little bit on the disappointing side. Let's just say that she was no Shakira (whom, I've been told is not all that shit hot as a belly dancer either).

The whole time she was gyrating to the lebanese music, all I could think about was that dreadful milkshake song by Kelis. She made her way from table to table, wobbling her butt, trying to get the audience to participate. And as the lyrics to that awful (but catchy) tune rang through my head ("My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard..."), some poor bastard decided to get up and join in (..."and their like, it's better than yours..."). He wobbled around aimlessly (..."Damn right...") trying to imitate the 'professional' ("'s better than yours...."). Pulsing and gyrating, wobbling his gut. It was a terrible sight to behold ("...I can teach you,...but I'll have to charge"). And all I could think about, at that moment, was "Thank GOD I had the foresight to sit in the corner".

Moving in the rain and the Luke Perry look-a-likes

What an absolute shitter of a day it was to try and get a bed from the city to Clayton. We waited and waited and waited and waited and the guy with the van simply didn't turn up. So...Nathan, Topi and I packed the bed back into storage and trudged through freezing cold wind and rain back to Spencer Street station. Arranged with the van guy to try again this morning. Fortunately he turned up this time. After packing everything into the van and waving them off (i.e. van man and Topi) I made my way to Borders in Melb Central and planted myself in a comfy chair and flipped through magazines for 2.5 hours...simple pleasures.

Met up with Topi for lunch later at a place called Singapore Chom Chom. Introduced Topi to a laksa, then headed off to Brunswick street to pick up his bass guitar. The Australian idol guy (see below) wasn't there (I swear I'm not stalking). There is something weird about the people that work in the shop...both sales guys today sported skinny jeans and pouffed up hair with extra-long side burns. Either it's the 'in' look at the moment or the shop is secretly a front for Luke Perry fanatics....I felt like I was on the set of the original Beverley Hills 90210.

Friday, November 21, 2008

moving weekend

Helping my friend move house tomorrow. Don't think we could have picked a worst day for it...rain and gail force winds. Hmmm.


A few months ago, Nate and I were enjoying a traditional greek bbq at Betty's place (Nate's friend). Betty's mum (in her 80s) was taking quite an active role in preparing our dinner, standing out in the backyard and cooking all the meat for us and her grand kids (who were all about our age). She seemed genuinely happy and I made the comment that grandma looked so remarkably fit and well for her age.

Last night, Nate and I went to visit Betty's mum in hospital. A couple of days ago was also diagnosed with cancer and has only months to live. Life can be so incredibly unpredictable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bass guitar and Australian idols?

My friend Topi was after a bass guitar so we decided to meet up on Sunday and head over to Brunswick Street together to check out some stores. Only one of the guitar shops seemed to be open but there were a couple of nice second-hand instruments for sale. While Topi was busy testing out the merchandise, I was transfixed on the sales guy and was trying to figure out whether he might be a former Australian Idol contestant. I wasn't quite sure. The guitar shop guy seemed fatter. Might have to go back and suss it out a bit more (no I am not a stalker).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My conversation with Elissa

I never would have thought that a casual birthday BBQ out in the burbs yesterday would be the setting for one of the most incredible conversations I have had with anyone for quite some time.

Elissa is a student who happens to be deaf. As we sat around the table chatting in the afternoon sun, I realised that she was trying to make sense of the conversations that were taking place around her. Conversations taking place within a large group of people is a chaotic affair. People are talking over each other, contributing to the conversations of others mid-sentence, and breaking away into discussions of sub-topics. For someone living in silence, this can be quite a challenge. Elissa tried to engage in the chit chat that was taking place around her but none of us were making it easy. There was, for example, no conscious attempt to try and face her when we were talking so that she could, at the very least, pick up the 30% of what was being said by reading our lips. In our perfect hearing world, we had shut out someone who was living in a world of silence. My friend Val can sign (Elissa had taught her) and made a galant effort to keep Elissa informed. I was intrigued and started a conversation. She was able to make out a lot of what I was saying by reading my lips (or at least fill in the gaps) but we eventually found it easier to use the pad that she had discreetly placed on the table when she first came over, and joined our group.

The first thing I noticed was that Elissa had beautiful writing. Elegant. Strong. Self-assured. She 'tells' me that most people apologise for their 'poor' writing, in response, but she reckons that even a doctor's scrawl is readable to her. We chuckle. I tell her that she should mark my student's exam scripts next year. She tells me about the uncertainty that surrounds her future when she finishes her studies. The university is currently committed to students with disabilities but what happens after she finishes her doctorate? Her comments were thought-provoking. I pause and think about all the battles she had to fight to get to where she is now and the ones that lay ahead.

I quickly learn that Elissa is incredible astute...a skill no doubt developed from having to spend a life time filling in gaps in conversations, reading people's lips, watching our hand gestures, watching the expressions on our faces. She is remarkably understanding. Elissa does not complain, does not expect concessions. She takes the hearing world as it is and tries to carve out a niche for herself within it. As our conversation progressed, I realised that I was engaging with a most incredible person. I told her that the notes we had been scrawling in her notebook had opened up my eyes to things that I had never ever considered. It was a profoundly humbling experience and one that I will never forget.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Skate with mates

Went to a fancy restaurant last night with some mates I hadn't seen in a long time. Was very excited when I noticed 'skate wings' on the blackboard menu. I remember seeing Jamie Oliver harp on and on about how tasty they are so I decided that now was the chance to give them a try. Skates are a kind of ray (aka...the creature that knocked off Steve Irwin) and are related to sharks. The waitress recommended we get some vegetables on the side and assured us that one serve of asparagus would be plenty. One serve comprised just 6 stalks perched on a tiny metal plate (Given that there were 4 of us, this translated to 1 and half stalks each...I guess the waitress is a small eater). Eight bucks! Rip off.

The skate was much more satisfying. Tender. Delicious. Juicy. It was so yummy in fact I even ate the bones. Decided to go all out after the main and ordered some dessert wine. This is a bit unusual for me given that I don't actually drink but I guess desert wine tastes enough like grape juice that even someone who doesn't drink is likely to find it highly palatable (no, I'm not an alcoholic in denial). Had the wine with some kind of weird spanish blue vein cheese. Perfect.

The bus driver

Had to go into the city for a meeting yesterday arvo. Took the bus from work. Just as the bus was about to pull out of the curb, a chinese girl gets on. She is busy talking on the mobile phone.

"Do you want to catch the bus or talk on the phone?" asks the bus driver.

The girl ignores him. She continues with her conversation. The bus pulls out and then breaks suddenly.

"Turn off your phone...NOW!" says the bus driver.

The girl ignores him again, and tells him she wants to buy a ticket. She then hands over a $20 note.

The bus driver takes the money and proceeds to get the change. He hands her a big pile of 20c, 50c and $1 coins and shoves it in her small hand. The coins fall on the floor. She bends over to pick them up and he starts driving. The girl almost falls over. She gathers up her coins, walks to a seat and sits down. She puts the handful of coins into a carry bag...and continues talking on the phone.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My brand new jeans

After wearing the same pair of jeans almost everyday for the last year or so, it was finally time to get a new pair (the old ones had started to disintegrate). I headed off to G-star to go shopping for new jeans. I like G-star because they actually make jeans for tall people. I decided to drag Nathan with me because the last time I went into the shop, I wandered to the women's section and made a bit of a dick of myself trying to sift through women's jeans (I'm such a dag). Anyhoo...we caught the train to South Yarra and walked to the Chapel Street store. I think G-star must have a very strict policy for the kind of people they hire...there was not one ugly sales person in sight (and many sported interesting body piercings and/or were heavily inked). The sales guy that helped me out was breathtakingly beautiful. So much so, he could have handed me an old rag and I probably would have bought it. I tried not to let his beauty distract my mission. I had some very simple demands which I communicated to the sales guy: nothing too fancy (because I am a simple kinda guy) and nothing with legs that feel like compression socks or waistlines that hang so low that there is a risk my testicles might spill out. I tried on three pairs. One was way too tight. Another made me look like I was bow-legged but finally, a pair that fit well, was comfortable and looked kinda stylish. Two hundred and fifty dollars later, I left the store with one brand new pair of jeans in hand. That's my jeans shopping done for another year.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Went with Nate to the Hofbrauhaus on Wednesday night for some traditional Bavarian cuisine. Ordered the pork shank again. Delicious (but I don't think it would be too healthy to subsist on the thing). Nate had the chicken schnitzel. This time round, there was a band playing 'traditional' german music. The whole atmosphere is rather kistch.

Marking exams this weekend...Huff.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Melbourne cup

Managed to miss the entire thing. Didn't put in any bets. Didn't watch the race. It was a total boycott. And it's got nothing to do with the fact that I still had to come to work yesterday. Sure...the rest of Melbourne had a public holiday but my organization doesn't recognize it. I'm not even bitter about the fact that Canberra now gets a day off too (this being a recent development that occurred AFTER I had left the ACT to come to Vic). I'm not bitter... really, I'm not (But why the hell does Canberra get a day off?).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chopping block (update)

A few weeks ago, Nate and I were invited to a South Yarra restaurant that was participating in a reality TV program on channel 9 called the chopping block. The premise is that two restaurant undergo a 'makeover' and vie for the chance to win a load of cash. Anyhow...the episode is apparently showing tomorrow night. I think the chances of actually apprearing on TV is pretty remote since we were seated in a shitty spot and were only filmed for a few minutes. In any case, we have been invited back for another feed to celebrate because the restaurant we went to evidently won.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wanjina update

So the senior curator of aboriginal art got back to me yesterday arvo and tells me my artefact is by Alec Mingelmanganu. This is is significant. Some of his later paintings have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who would have thought that something I initially spotted at a flea market turns out to be by a famous artist?!! I'm thinking I should maybe get it valued and perhaps insure it now.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

polish food, fiddles and my wanjina

Went to Chapel street last night with some friends for polish food at a restaurant with the intriguing name of Borsch, Vodka and Tears. Had a vodka but skipped on the borsch (and the tears) in favour of polish sausages with onions and mashed potatoes. The restaurant was packed, loud and full of atmosphere. A notable highlight was the live music involving an accordian and a very vigorous fiddle. The two female musicians (dressed in polish peasant outfit) were highly skilled at squeezing between the tables and playing their music without knocking over any of the food coming out of the kitchen or gauging out anyone's eyes with the musical instruments.

Afterwards, Nate and I caught the tram back into the city. Outside the National Gallery of Victoria, two women hopped on board and sat opposite us on the tram. One looked very familiar and I soon realised it was one of the senior curators who happens to specialise in aboriginal art. So...I ambushed her and asked her if she'd be able to have a look at an aboriginal artefact I bought from a private collector last year. She was kind enough to give me her email so this morning I sent her some images. It's an image of a wanjina from the Kimberley. I'm hoping the curator might be able to tell me who the artist might be as there aren't many who are entitled to paint these images.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Student evaluations (part 2) now I realise it must be sarcasm. Some additional evaluations just came in for other subjects. Amongst the comments, was this one...

"XXX should show more skin because he is a sexy beast."


I wrote this in Finland as a literary response to my experiences with the incinerator toilet...


The kind of weekend I like best
Is one where I can eat and rest.
Not worry ‘bout the risk of failure
Whilst sitting on an ‘incinerator’

I swear to God (I do not lie)
The toilets here will make you cry.
For I, myself, was traumatized
From thoughts of shit incinerized

With paper you must line the loo
Before you try to pee or poo
And afterwards, when you are done
You must push buttons, one by one

The buttons will open the toilet floor
Into which your ‘stuff’ will pour
Next, the flames will start to grow
And emit the most disturbing glow

And finally, there is the smoke
Do not breathe, it’ll make you choke
For the smell of burning turd, I say
Is sure to make you turn dark gray.

Back in Melbourne

Well...the trip has come and gone. Arrived back in Australia last Thursday and spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday chilling out. Managed to get upgraded to businss class on my frequent flyer points from Hong Kong to Melbourne. It was an unexpected surprise because I had earlier been told that my request had been declined. about a whole new experience for me. I went crazy playing with the seat adjustments and inbuilt massager, pigging out on the food, and using copious amounts of free moisturiser (even though I normally don't moisturise). The flight was over in no time (and my skin was baby smooth)!

Managed to hurt my back yesterday morning...whilst brushing my teeth! Yes...brushing my God-damn-teeth. I had a coughing fit when I went to spit out the toothpaste and somehow threw my back out in the process. I literally had to roll myself out of bed this morning. Grrr...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Took the Viking Line ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm on Sunday afternoon. The ferry between Finland and Sweden has somewhat of a reputation as a big piss up. Due to some dodgy stop over on an island in the Baltic that is outside of the EU, passengers are entitled to purchase a whole range of duty free and everybody seems to go crazy stocking up on booze and cigarettes. When they are not drinking, passengers are likely to be found either in the onboard casino or stuffing themselves on the buffet. I opted for the latter (I dont think I have ever eaten so much caviar in my life!). I retired to my room after dinner and stayed there until the morning when we arrived in Sweden.

Went to Svensk tenn in Stockholm and bought a ridiculously expensive Josef Frank designed textile of weird looking birds to hang on my office wall back in Melbourne. Stockholm is a beautiful, historic city situated on a series of islands and I wished I had more time to explore it but, unfortunately, had to dash off to Gothenburg in the evening by train. Sat next to a woman whose perfume smelt like scented toilet paper (made me glad that I had a mild cold and couldn't smell so well).

Spending the day in Gothenburg today for work. Flying back to Oz tomorrow.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

why students come to my lectures...

I spend quite a bit of effort trying to keep the students interested in my lectures so that they can actually learn something. And just when I thought I may be starting to make some inroads, I come across this (in the latest student evaluations):

"11. I only came to these lecture to look at him."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Middle earth is in Finland

Just spent the last 5 days at a conference near the city of Turku. We arrived at the mysterious conference venue at night by boat. The venue, itself, was like a scene out of middle earth (with a touch of "survivor"), comprising a cluster of rustic-looking huts situated amongst pine, birch and spruce trees on the beautiful shores of the Baltic. After getting off the boat, each conference delegate was offered a weird drink served in a wooden cup. The drink was made from tree sap (but smelt like tar and tasted like cough syrup).

The food at the conference was unbelivable. I don't think I've ever eaten so much fish in my life. I had salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost everyday. These were hot smoked by the shore and was absolutely delicious (though some got a bit tired of eating salmon by the third or fourth day). The final night comprised the most incredible banquet, the star of which was a roasted pig (with head)....not sure how the vegetarians coped but I was in foodie heaven. I even ate both of the crispy ears (the left one first) I didn't eat the snout.

On two of the evenings, we also had access to a gigantic smoke sauna (supposedly the largest in the world). It was partially set underground and consisted of a central furnace covered in a mound of hot rocks. The chamber itself took a whole day to heat and consisted of several raised wooden platforms with enough seats to accommodate over 100 naked people. It was a mixed sex sauna on both nights but (thankfully)nakedness was optional. I spent both evening alternating between the sauna and one of two hot tubs located outside next to the jetty. Those brave enough were also free to take a dip in the Baltic (though, at 6 degrees, I opted to cool off in the open air instead of the sea). Towards the end of the sauna parties, guests were also treated to a face mask made out of peat (but smelt like the mud one scrapes from the bottom of a lake). The mud made my face tingle but, alas, I didn't notice any improvements to my complexion :)

Am now back in Helsinki for a couple of days of shopping before catching the big ferry to Stockholm. Heard the ferry is essentially a venue for a big piss up but I think I'll need to catch up on some work. Sigh.

Monday, October 13, 2008

europe, mushrooms and burning shit

Arrived in Helsinki after a marathon 19 hour flight from Melbourne via Hong Kong. Headed straight from the airport to a summer cottage situated next to a beautiful lake where I've spent the last two days hanging out with friends, picking mushrooms in the forest, relaxing in the sauna, and getting acquainted with the idea of an incinerator loo.

The cottage has two toilets. Apart from the regular outdoor toilet(much like the ones that aussies are accustomed to) there was also an incinerator toilet located inside the cottage (next to the sauna and shower). Using the incinerator toilet was a most unusual (and mildly traumatic) experience. The bottom of the toilet bowl is made of metal and is dry. Before going to the loo, you must first line the bowl with a special waxy paper bag (resembling a coffee paper filter). The user must then sit down and do their business. Afterwards, one is required to stand up and push a special lever which opens a trapdoor-like mechanism on the bottom of the bowl. The bag (and its contents) then falls into a pit where it gets incinerated at around 800 degrees centigrade(yes, you can see the flames). The chimney that ventilates the incinerator is attached to the side of the cottage and, ocassionally, it is possible to make out the destinctive scent of burning turds and piss wafting through the air outside.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Tonight is the night. I'll be flying out of Melbourne to Helsinki via Hong Kong. I think the trip itself will be a relief...It's hard to imagine, but I'm actually looking forward to relaxing on the plane. It's been a hectic few weeks and I can' wait to get to Finland, drive out to a summer cottage somewhere, and spend a couple of days roaming through the forest, maybe go for a swim, experience a sauna, and pick wild mushrooms for dinner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

all mixed up

One of Nate's closest friends just went into the operating theatre for surgery on her back. Nate found out about the operation yesterday. He then rang me up straightaway to tell me about it. The conversation went like this...

Nathan: "It's really risky. The worst case scenario is that she might become incompetent!"
Me [after a brief pause]: "She's already incompetent. You mean she might become incontinent too?"
Nathan: "Shut up"

Monday, October 6, 2008

A complimentary weekend

I received the most unexpected compliments from complete strangers this weekend. It started on Saturday morning when the woman making my tea at a cafe complemented me on how handsome I looked. immediate reaction was that she was (a) trying to get a tip or (b) being sarcastic. Regardless, I accepted her compliment with a smile and went on my merry way. I then headed off to the Garden Expo at Caulfield where I bought myself one of these (a tropical pitcher plant):

Carrying a pitcher plant around the city (I had to catch public transport to get back home) is equivalent to carrying a cute fluffy dog or a good-looking baby...people were absolutely mesmerised...

"What a beautiful plant you have".

"I have never seen such a thing in my life".

"Is it a flower or a leaf."

Then, on Sunday, some woman gives me a fashion compliment whilst I was shopping on Brunswick street. Although I tend to think of myself as having a pretty good dress sense, I don't think I've ever received a fashion compliment before frm a complete stranger. Moreover...the woman was complimenting me on my t-shirt, the t-shirt I got for free about eight years ago that I seldom wear out in public (I made an exception this weekend because I was saving all my nice stuff for Europe). Go figure. It felt that everybody in the world was being nice to me on the weekend. And God darn felt good!

Friday, October 3, 2008


Oh dear...with all that talk about fancy lounges, snack areas and places for people to hang out during the flight, I guess Qantas overlooked one niggling problem with economy... seat pitch.

The long ride to work

Somebody, it seems, forgot to tell our train driver that he/she was driving an express run out of the city this morning. Grrrr... more bitching for the rest of the week. The sun is shining and life is good.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

the little swedish bombshell

I swear there must be another world out there to which I am completely out of tune. A world that ocassionally encroaches into my own hectic little head space, knocks out my inner calm, and sends me into a spin. This morning I receive an email from my colleague in Sweden giving me instructions on my role in the examination of her PhD student. Apparently I have to give a 5 minute talk ("powerpoint would be good"). Fine. Then I have to prepare 5-10 questions to ask the student. No problem (I just hope I don't make the student cry during the inquisition). So far so good (all is manageable...deep breaths. Less than a week before the trip. Try not to panic. Deep breaths. Deep breaths). But then...

"Then we have a coffee break and at 15.30 it's time for your own research seminar. Have you got a title, by the way?" OWN research seminar? What f%^ing research seminar? My heart sinks. Panicked, I dig through my archives and find a couple of old powerpoint presentations. Hmmm...maybe I can cobble something together. Yes...I have no choice. It'll have to do. Cobble, cobble, cobble... This weekend. Disaster averted. I shall cobble together a brand 'new' talk for my research seminar in front of scary (big wig) colleagues on the other side of the world in less than two weeks. Yes. I'll get onto it as soon as I've finished writing my other seminar in Finland, my 5 minute power point presentation for the thesis exam, formulate my 5-10 questions to grill the PhD student (after I have read her thesis), and marking all those assignment. Yes. No biggie. Inner calm returning. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

conveyor belt sushi

Went to one of those conveyor belt sushi places on Saturday for lunch. It's a bit like playing russian roulette...there's no way of telling just how long some of those plates of raw fish might have been sitting on that conveyor belt, gently incubating enteric bacteria. The strategy, I guess, is to target the fresh stuff as they get added to the table. Still...nothing wrong with living a little dangerously from time to time. After all, I figured, I'd still have Sunday to recuperate from any potential food poisoning episode.... Fotunately, none eventuated.

Friday, September 26, 2008

European adventure

Less than two weeks to go before my work trip to Finland and Sweden. I've now decided to spend a weekend in Helsinki after the conference to catch up with friends, and to visit some museums and design stores. I'll then be catching the overnight ferry between Helsinki and Stockholm. My Swedish colleague promised to take me sightseeing when I arrive. Then, it's an evening train ride to Gothenburg for work before making the journey back to Oz.

I've actually never been to Sweden before and am especially looking forward to the Swedish part of the visit. I'm even contemplating the thought of sampling fermented herring, surströmming, a northern Swedish delicacy. The fish are fermented for several months in brine and then canned. Evidently, the smell is so bad that the dish is best consumed outdoors. Opening the can itself of also sounds like a potential safety hazard...due to the fermentation process, considerable pressure builds up inside and to avoid being squirted with fermented fish juice, it's customary to open the can under water (in a bucket). I guess the bucket will also be handy if I react adversely to the taste of the fish.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping, babies and hang overs

Took a train ride on Saturday morning with Nate to Yarraville for a walk. Nice little village with some good cafes near the train station. Had a blue berry muffin (my favourite) and then caught the train back into the city, where we caught up with a friend of mine who had just arrived from Europe (and will be based here in Melbourne for at least the next two years). Having lived out of a suitcase for the last 15 months, T had travelled light and desperately needed some new clothes. Mind you, I've never seen him wearing anything other than black jeans and black shirts which made for a very easy shopping experience (though we did convince him to branch out and buy a grey shirt too).

Went to visit some other friends in Northcote in the afternoon to check out their new baby. I also promised them some fish for their pond (see last post). So...armed with gift for baby and a bag of live fish, I journey by tram to Woz's place and spent the afternoon sipping tea and pulling funny faces at the baby who seemed rather perplexed by my shaved head. Meanwhile, Nate trudged off to a birthday party where he proceeded to party just a little bit too hard...He suffered a massive hang over the next day and had to go to work. I was not very sympathetic....I spent a relaxing day doing domestic chores around the house and then headed off to Prahran in the arvo where I sampled THE best smoothie

Friday night peking duck

I was obviously feeling ambitious on Friday afternoon when I suggested to a couple of colleagues that they should pop round to my place for Peking duck.

"Already have the pancakes", I said. "I'll just go and get the roast duck."

Two problems...Didn't factor in (1) leaving work late and (2) being caught up in hail storm which delayed the trains. And seeing as I had a bucket of live fish with me (don't ask), I had to head off home first before going to Chinatown to get the ducks. Anyhoo...managed to eventually get back to my apartment, offload the bucket of fish and then hopped onto the tram to get back into the city.

At 6.30pm, as I got off the tram at Flinders Street, I realised that there was no way in hell that I was going to get the ducks and be back home in time to prepare it. No problem. I postponed the dinner by half an hour. This gave me just enough time (to the nearest second) to pick up the various condiments I needed from the asian grocery shop (which was packed!) and to pick up two roast ducks from my favourite chinese BBQ place.

Got home, dropped groceries all over the kitchen bench and got straight into deboning the duck (no...I didn't masticate the bones). Of course the guests arrived on time; damn those scandinavians and their punctuality (why can't they be more like Germans?). Made guests entertain themselves while I completed the deboning, chopping, assembly process and by 8.45pm we were chowing down on the ducks. Guests left satiated around 11pm.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reality TV...

Nate and I headed off to South Yarra last night for dinner with a bunch of his work colleagues. The circumstances surrounding the dinner was somewhat unusual....we were going there to make the restaurant look busy for a reality TV show called The Chopping Block. The premise of the program is that two restaurant battle it out for the chance to win a cash prize (and a whole lot of publicity). The show films both restaurants before and after a 24 hour marathon makeover to revamp the venue and the menu. We were there for the 'before' filming. The restaurant was closed to the public and everybody had to sign a release, consenting to a whole list of demands (e.g. being filmed and/or secretly recorded with hidden cameras and microphones). Nate's work colleagues were very nice. I wouldn't class them as adventurous eaters though (half of the group required forks and spoons). We ended up ordering what I would call 'aussie chinese'...dim sims, spring rolls, beef and black bean, honey prawns, lemon chicken and sizzling beef. These are the kinds of stuff I haven't touched since I was a kid. The filming wasn't too intrusive (for us at least)...mostly because the cameramen avoided our table as if we were a bunch of lepers (choosing, instead, to film the pretty people downstairs). Food came out very slowly ... but I guess the program would want something negative to capture on film so that the restaurant can show improvement. I'm not sure the delays were the kitchen's fault since there was a lot of cameras and filming going on.

Monday, September 15, 2008

the broken marble

Bought a marble statue last week. It smashed into three pieces on the weekend (a combination of uneven carpeting and slight breeze from an open window). Managed to piece it back together with superglue. I now have it sitting on the kitchen bench top. Hopefully it's more stable there.

When it comes to smashing works of art, it seems I am in good company. Here are my top three:

1. 17th century chinese porcelain vase smashed at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge by a museum visitor when he tripped on his shoelace.

2. The National Gallery of Australia's 1500 BCE ambum stone damaged as a result of a fall.

3. Casino mogul Steve Wynn pokes hole in the canvas of his Picasso painting with his elbow. He had paid $48.4 million for the painting at auction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The sushi binge

Just finished dinner with a friend last night in the city when I happen to go past a sushi shop in the Target Centre. I guess it was that time of night when they start to heavily discount the sushi before they close the store. So...even though I had just polished off a huge bowl of noodles, I bought myself 4 sushi rolls for $5! Yes...$5. Was tempted to get 8 rolls for $8 but that would've been obscene.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red Pepper

Went out for dinner at Red Pepper last night with a Venezuelan, a Finn and a Swede. Red Pepper is a popular indian restaurant located two doors up from Green Pepper (another indian restaurant). I often wonder if the two restaurants are actually owned by the same people (or whether its a blatant case of one trying to capitalize on the popularity of the other). If I ever opened up an indian restaurant on Bourke Street, I'd call it Yellow Pepper.

The restaurant was packed with indians. A good sign. Walked up to the counter, perused the menu and then ordered the most inauthentic item on the menu...the chicken tikka masala (CTM). CTM is one of my favourite dishes but it is very much the 'honey prawn' of indian cuisine. The origins of the dish is unknown but some rekon it originated in the UK, where it's hailed a national dish. CTM is so popular, in fact, that it accounts for one out of every seven curries sold there. The others in my group went for more authentic dishes. The Swede ordered a curry goat which looked remarkably similar to the curry lamb ordered by the Venezuelan. The Finn asked for the hottest item on the menu, a chicken vindaloo. All were satisfied.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The kylie debacle

After all the trouble that went into securing the tix for the second Kylie concert, it turns out that two of my friends wont be able to go because it clashed with their prearranged holiday to Hawaii.

Fridge update...

I killed the fridge. Well...actually, my colleague killed it when he hacked at the freezer compartment with a bread knife and let out all the refrigerant. So...not communal fridge and bad earth karma for releasing CFCs into the atmosphere and depleting the ozone layer (it was a very old fridge). Spoke to our resources manager about getting a new fridge. She wasn't terribly enthusiastic. Apparently it is low on the priority list.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Got those tix...

It took two well-coordinated people with their mobiles (one on the net in hospital and the other in a queue at Exhibition Street) to secure my ticket to the Kylie concert. The first concert for Mel evidently sold in record time and Nate had to wait in line for the second lot. 20 December is marked with an X.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The fridge

I took the brave step to clean out the communal office fridge in the tearoom last night. I tossed out all the items that had grown legs, sprouted hair or otherwise started to speak in foreign tongue. Mummified and petrified items were sent to the museum, and I tossed all 'use by' items that had long exceeded their use by dates (e.g. October 2007). Had a colleague help me chisel out some of the ice that had accumulated in the freezer to stop the tea room from flooding overnight (as a bonus...we found the remains of what might have been a woolly mammoth).

This morning, I mopped up a reddish coloured soup from the bottom of the crisper and retrieved a most unfortunate pear that had transformed itself from a solid into a liquid and had managed to seep through the grills on the fridge shelf onto the next shelf below. I tried not to wretch.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A day in Sydney...

Woke up at an obscene hour of the morning yesterday to get to the airport for our flight into Sydney. Arrived around 8ish and took a taxi to Newtown to meet up with one of Nate's friends who is a tattoo artist. He just opened up his own business in Newtown and is, himself, completely covered in ink. He was telling us about a fantastic vietnamese restaurant near his work that does the most amazing fresh spring rolls. He took his folks there recently and - completely out of the blue - the restautant owner turns to the tattooist's father and says "your son looks like a junkie but he is a nice boy".

Afterwards, Nate and I headed to Newtown station to get into the city. Here, as we were trying to figure out the train timetable and ticketting system of Sydney's Cityrail network, I suddenly realised that Melbourne public transport may not be the worst in Australia after all (but don't tell Connex). A fellow commuter was quick to point out (when she realised we were tourists) that the Sydney locals call it "Shittyrail".

Arrived in the city and headed up to Surry Hills for a wander before returning back into the city to meet another friend at the Chifley Plaza for lunch. On the way, we were stopped in our tracks by the most amazing floral displays at the shopfront of the city's David Jones store along Elizabeth Street. After a few photos, we made our way to the Plaza for lunch. Ended up having freshly prepared sushi in a food court...Sydney sushi leave Melbourne's for dead).

The buddha exhibit at the Art Gallery of NSW was fantastic. The gallery itself, however, was undergoing some major refurbishment and looked like a giant construction site. Strangely, the facade of the sandstone building was graffitied in chalk. I think it was an artistic statement (since the graffiti was repeated in marker pen on the windows inside the gallery). I wouldn't class it as street art (which I can appreciate)...these seemed more like badly executed random doodles.

The next stop was the tropical house at the Botanic gardens which had a very nice display of orchids and carnivorous plants. Although we both sweltered inside the glass house, we soon realised (after we had left) that it was much better than the rain outside. Nate and I made our way to Circular Quay to join the other tourists at the Opera House (I felt like such a dag) before acatching a train to Town Hall. From there I convinced Nate that he should have scones and began telling him about the most amazing scones I had ever eaten at a cafe at the QVB. Unfortunately, I took him to the wrong cafe (alarm bells should have been ringing when I noticed that the menu offered japanese fusion food which did not sit with my memory of the last time I had visited the actual cafe). Still, there were scones on offer and I was satiated.

Dinner was at Kingsleys on King Street with my cousins but had to stop in at the Apple store on the way to the restaurant. What can I say? The shop was amazing. After a short stint playing with the gadgets, dinner beckoned and we left. Ordered a wagyu steak at the restaurant to see what all the fuss was about. Quickly realised that the fuss was probably because wagyu is deliciously tender and very, very tasty.

Got to the airport for the last flight back to Melbourne. Never seen Sydney airport so desserted before. Got home at 12.30 and was out of it the moment my head touched the pillow.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Those inappropriate, inadvertent messages...

Our boss just forwarded a confidential email to the entire department. Ooops.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Scandinavia 2008

Only a month or so before my trip to Finland and Sweden. Can't wait. A Finnish colleague (and dear friend) has already promised to take me from the airport to a summer cottage for a few days to relax before my conference. No doubt there will be lots of time spent in the forest picking mushrooms (the edible varieties) and I think I'm even up for a skinny dip in a lake (or two) and maybe a stint in a sauna. After the conference, I'm being flown over to Sweden to be an 'opponent' in a thesis defence. The host has offered to take me to Svensk Tenn in Stockholm so I can get my nordic design fix before going to Gotenberg for the actual defence. Yay!

The woman with the beard

Was coming home on Friday and sat opposite a woman on the train who felt the compulsion to pluck the stubles on her chin whilst on public transport. What's with that?

Friday, August 29, 2008

The weekend...

I've decided to wander the streets of Melbourne this weekend (weather permitting). I'll probably start off with some grocery Shopping on Victoria Street, then head into Swan Street to explore some homeware shops, perhaps go for a wander along Brunswick Street, and aim for a relaxing brunch on Chapel street. Bliss.

The beauty of mediocrity

One of my students has been playing around with a program that allows people to merge several different faces together. Here are his efforts so far. Mine is one of 16 male faces that have gone into the image to create an average-looking face (though I cannot see any of my facial features in the image at all). Average features on a face are suppose to be most attractive.


Having spent the last few years zipping all over the globe, I thought it was high time that I actually redeemed some of those frequent flyer points. So...on Wednesday, I'm going to take a day off and head over to Sydney with Nate to check out those buddhist sculptures at the Art Gallery of NSW. Yay!

And whilst I was on the website, thought I'd apply for an upgrade for my upcoming trip to Europe. Never flown business class before so fingers crossed it comes through.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The lost buddhas

Several months ago, I dragged Nathan to an antique's dealer in Armadale and bought myself a stone head of a chinese buddha from the 6th Century (which cost me an arm and a leg). I recently found out that The Art Gallery of NSW will soon to be staging an exhibition of buddha sculptures from the same period. These sculptures were part of a large group of 400 buddhas that were accidentally unearthen in Qinzhou during construction work near a local primary school. The reason(s) why they were meticulously buried remains a mystery but the Qinzhou excavation represents one of the greatest acheological discoveries of recent times. Looks like I will be making a visit to Sydney before mid November to check them out.

The man behind the man

The media (and a lot of fellow bloggers) have been going crazy over the golden boy of the 10 meter dive, Matthew Mitcham.'s a great achievement. Yes...he's hot. And absolutely... I agree that Mitcham is a fantastic role model.

It was nice, however, to also see some attention paid to his partner, Lachlan Fletcher. According to an article posted on the Fairfax news website, "Fletcher has been the one constant over the past two years. He was his rock when Mitcham retired in his late teenage years suffering anxiety and depression. He watched him become a stunt diver at the Sydney Royal Easter show, supported his fight back into the sport and now to win Olympic gold." Good on you Lachlan.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The stinky man on the tram...

I'm still learning about public transport here in Melbourne. Sure...I learnt pretty early on, for example, to always be a little bit wary of empty seats on an otherwise crowded train. I also know that one should never sit down on ANY seat without doing a visual inspection (and if necessary, a discreet touch test) for any potential wet patches.

On Saturday I learnt another new rule...beware of the stinky passenger. In the rush to get on the tram to the city, I ended up sitting behind a passenger who had obviously not showered for several weeks (perhaps he was an englishman). I thought about ignoring the smell since it was only a couple of stops before I needed to get off. Eventually, however, I was overcome by the bodily fumes, and had to get away from the smell. Unfortunately the escape was not an easy one for the stench had permeated most of the tram...fortunately, however, it was one of those extra long trams and I ended up escaping the smell by clambering over a guy in a wheelchair and pushing aside a few other passengers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

The long flight home

Finished up at the conference last Friday and began the long journey home back to Melbourne. As usual, flights were delayed on every leg of the trip but fortunately I didn't manage to miss a single connection.

Got back to Melbourne Sunday morning. Forgot it was still winter. Grrrr. Thought I'd take a short nap after lunch but ended up sleeping for 16 hours...I guess i was tired.

Back at work today. Might have to knock of early.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Peguins and the budgie smuggler

Two summers ago, I wandered down to St Kilda Peir to look for little penguins. What I saw, instead, was a flock of sun-baking, speedo-wearing leathery old men (SBSWLOM) sitting on the rocks. I quickly turned around and walked (ran?) back to shore, hopped onto a city-bound 96 tram and decided never to look for penguins during the day. The vision had pierced myretinas and became forever emblazened in my mind (one of the blokes, from memory, even had a nasty white crusty stain on the front of his speedo...not a good look).

Well...imagine my surprise and trepedation when I read on the Age news website about council's plans to introduce an artificial beach for the summer somewhere along the banks of the Yarra. Evidently, the council was inspired by the success and popularity of a similar beach created along the Seine in Paris every summer. I was in Paris two years ago and, in my opinion, an artificial beach along the Yarra is most definitely NOT a good idea. Not only will it bring flocks of SBSWLOM to the city but also their leathery old wives (the Parisian wives, as I had unfortunately discovered, liked to sunbake topless). And what about the Yarra itself? Who in their right mind would venture into that river? I think it will be a lose-lose situation all round.

American bacon and a white steel band...

Everything is sugary sweet and dripping in fat here in the US. Take, for example, the bacon served during brekky. It's basically a strip of fried, salted lard. Admittedlty it is very tasty (probably because it's a strip of fried, salted lard) and for those that find the bacon a little too salty, there's always the option of drowning it with corn syrup at the serving table.

Last night we had a carribean BBQ with accompanying steel band. The performers were 4 white guys (no dreds) wearing loud polyester shirts playing on contrived instruments trying to masquerade as an authentic carribean steel band. What perplexed me the most, however, were the bits of straw strewn all over the floor inside the marquee (it looked more barn yard than carribean). Some fresh beach sand and a couple of coconuts would have been more pleasing...I really should be an event's coordinator. The BBQ was nice and tasty. Grilled chicken rubbed with a most delectable spice. And 'no', it wasn't wrapped in streaky bacon.

Ithaca and surrounds...

We had a break in the conference and I got to wander down to Ithaca with some friends and colleagues. I must admit that the town itself is kinda small and disappointing (albeit picturesque).

Headed back to Cornell University to visit the impressive Herbert F. Johnsone Museum which houses the University's permanent art collection. It was designed by the Pritzker prize-winning Chinese American architect I.M. Pei who is, perhaps, most famous for his controversial glass pyramid at the Louvre.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Conversations at the sushi restaurant...

Went out with some American colleagues last night for sushi. Perhaps it was the sake but discussions soon turned to the physical appearance of former boss (who was with us at the dinner). Gil is an extremely charismatic guy but he looks like (in my opinion) a troll. He is big and hairy has a big gap between his front teeth and a weird growth on his neck (not quite a goitre and not quite a conjoined twin). In addition, he sports a rather big beer gut and has weird, splaid-out toes that hang out over the sides of his sandles. Evidently women find him sexy but I simply cannot see the physical attraction and neither can his other gay friend. So...this got me thinking. I wonder if aspects of male physical attractiveness are shared between straight women and gay guys?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The conference mixer

Last night the conference attendees gathered under a big tent for drinks. It was fantastic to catch up with friends/colleagues from different parts of the world. Headed up to the food hall for dinner at about 6.30pm. The dinner buffet was unbelievable...roast turkey, nachos, hamburgers, pizza. Not sure if I can sustain this excessive feasting for the whole week.

Hello Ithaca

Left Boston this morning for Ithaca where I will be attending a conference for the rest of the time I am in the States. Realized after flying from Boston to Philly and then to Ithaca that it would have taken the same amount of time to drive. Doh!

Registered for the conference and checked into my dorm room. It took me at least 20 min to find my room number (no, I am not drunk already...just stupid). Discovered that I have internet connection. Hoorah!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My one pound burger

Just got back from dinner with friends at a burger restaurant. I like American hamburgers. It's one of the few things that the Americans do better than the Aussies. I decided to go all out and order a one pound burger! And I ordered it medium rare. In hindsight it was probably a bit excessive and I don't think i'll be having another one pounder any time soon.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Qantas has gone cheap and nasty

So...not only are Qantas planes getting old and tired but it seems that the quality of their brand has also gone down hill (to maximize profits?). I deliberately packed my toothbrush and toothpaste into the check in baggage this time round because I had expected the usual bag of amenity goodies on the plane (socks, eye mask and disposable toothbrush and toothpaste in economy). Unfortunately for me (and the guy sitting next to me from LAX to BOS who had to put up with my raspy breath), they only handed out the socks. an environmentally conscious times, we should be thinking more about cutting down on waste but I dont think it was an environmental decision (at least not judging by all the plastic wrappers they use for cutlery, blankets etc). No...I think that they have simply gone 'el cheapo'. Even the ice cream was not the magnum that I was accustomed to (but pineapple splice) and the snack bag carried none of the familiar treats of years gone past (like kit kats). And the salad I had with my meal was covered in mould!!!

Still, I must admit that Qantas is a long way off from turning into its one world ally, American Airlines. Not only do you have to pay for food but the flight attendants were more interested in discussing shopping opportunities in Boston than serving their customers.

Sleepless in North Andover

Finally arrived in Boston after delays (grrrr). My friend, H, picked me up from the airport and we headed back to her place in a beautiful town called North Andover. H had to drag her little daughter to the airport with her but the little girl was very well behaved (maybe she was freaked out by the sight of a strange man in the car).

Tommorrow, am off to Harvard then to Cape Cod to visit old friends.


Arrived a few hours ago in the US and am trying to stay awake until this evening (eastern time). Managed to get into the American Airlines lounge using a guest Qantas Club card and am enjoying the free food, music and internet access.

Immigration clearance was a hilarious experience. A US customs officer brought a beagle along to sniff through people's carry on bags as they waited in line to clear immigration and customs. When the dog got to a young family, the little boy absolutely freaked out. The kid though that the dog was going to eat his teddy bear and he screamed and screamed, trying to shoo the dog away and yelling out "Get away dog! You go away! You go away". Almost everyone in the line broke out in synchronized laughter (only a kid, I reckon, would get away with something like that in the US).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shopping and Shakespear

Didn't get out of bed until 9am on Saturday. 9 am! That's a sleep in for me. Nate had already left for work so, after doing some laundry, I headed into the city to carry out the last of my shopping for my trip to the US. I had a mental list of things that I wanted to buy. First up, I needed to get a scarf for a friend. I decided to go to Country Road. Unfortunately they were sold out for the season (though the crafty saleswoman did try to pass off a woman's scarf which, in her opinion, can also be worn by men). No thanks. I walked away with a baby's summer hat instead (not on the original list of gifts to buy but there was a baby I can give it to so no big deal. Next, I headed off to the ABC shop at the GPO and got a DVD on kangaroos. Cliched? Yes, but I'm sure the receipients would love it. Then to a book shop on Swanston where I picked up a piece of Australian fiction (The sound of One Hand Clapping) for my ex-housemate/land lady and a couple of classic Aussie children's books. Finally, I headed to Gertrude Street to buy a funky piece of jewellry for my friend Heidi and then back to veg out.

Later in the arvo, I went off to the hospital to visit a friend, have dinner with Nate and wait for him to close up shop so we could head back into the city for Macbeth. It was a reasonablyy low budget production. The sets were rather minimalist and the costumes were less Shakespearean and more Salvation Army op shop. But it's been ages since I've actually seen any kind of play so it was a nice (ie different) way to spend the last Sat night before the US trip.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dead as a canary...

Nate and I are squeezed into the corner of the bar at Hairy Canary. The place was packed. It is 6.45pm and the rest of our dinner party had yet to arrive. The reservation was for 7 (as usual, we were unfashionably early). The rest of the guests turned up on time but our table was still not ready. We all squeezed into the corner of the bar (seven adults and a 3 month old baby) and waited. Eventually a waiter with a shaved mohawk-mullet came over and told us that there was a mix up and that we wouldn't get a table. Instead, he offered to walk us over to their other restaurant... The Canary Club.

Hmmm...The Canary Club. The one restaurant/bar that I had vowed never to return to. The portions at this place are ridiculously small for the extremely high prices that they command. Sure, some of the offerings are quite tasty but the last time I was there, I couldn't help but feel a little ripped off forking out 11 bucks for a slice of 'grilled' watermelon. In fact, after that last dinner, I had to go home to cook myself a bowl of 2 minute noodles (and this was after spending $40 on my meal). This time round, we ordered more substantial dishes from their menu that were touted as being large enough for two to share. Given that there were seven of us eating (the baby, fortunately, had an ad libitum supply of breast milk), we decided to order 4 serves of the 'substantial dishes' and 4 tapas for good measure. The tapas arrived first. The two serves of slow cooked lamb were very tasty. The two serves of squid, on the other hand, were miserable...3 tiny pieces on each plate, propped up with a few sprigs of rocket. With seven people eyeing off the minuscule molluscs, there wasn't even enough to go around. Then came the more 'substantial' dishes for sharing. Yeah right. "Substantial" my arse. I could easily have eaten two serves on my own. Immediately after our dinner, one of the guests remarked that she was still hungry...glad I wasn't the only one.

Don't get me wrong...I don't mind spending good money on food but the food itself has to be good and it has to be satisfying. There is nothing worse than over-priced portions of wankiness served up on a bed of greens.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday shopping

I spent the day in search of presents for friends. It is only a few days before my departure to the US and I have a mental list of stuff I need to buy (centred mostly on toys for my friend's kids). My first stop is the Queen Vic markets, where I pick up some koalas with akubras that belt out 'waltzing matilda' when you squeeze their left foot. The chinese shop owner assures me that these are good quality toys from Australia; not the cheap chinese imports. To try to reassure me, he brings out a sorry-looking koala from under the bench which looks like it was suffering from mange. "See this", he says, tugging at the toy and yanking out clumps of faux kola fur. "This poor quality from China. You buy top quality from Australia". Yeah right. I am not entirely convinced. first of all, there was no "Made in Australia" logo. Instead, a similar shaped tag assures buyers that it was 'designed' in Melbourne, Australia. The word "Australia" was written in especially large font but the grammar on the label gives it away. Sly shop keep. I thought about exposing his scam in front of all the other mingling tourists, and telling him that what he was doing was a contravention of Australian consumer laws. Instead, I ask him if it would be cheaper if I buy two koalas and a small wombat with a similar foot-squeezing musical capability. I figure...what would my friend's kids care? A koala is still a koala and a wombat is still a wombat. And merchants have been ripping off unsuspecting tourists the world over. I was under no grand delusion. I am not a tourist and I know I am not buying Australian made. So no one was being misled in this transaction. I pay for my purchase and head home. I dropped off the toys, had some lunch and then took off to Brunswick Street to look for another baby's toy. This time, it was for a friend's baby whom I will meet for the first time later in the week. Given that sh is a local, a koala from the markets just simply wouldn't cut it. I head to the first funky shop I can see. I go in, survey the scene and gaze upon a bright yellow hand-knitted stuffed lion. That'll do. It looks like something someone's nanna would make and sell at a school fete. Nostalgic, I think. A one off. Perfect.