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.