Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Nathan has a friend who looks like a drug addict. He is skeletal, has intense eyes, facial piercings, lives in Newtown and is covered from neck to toe in tattoos. Despite his appearance, Carl is one of the nicest people you could ever expect to meet. He is decent, honest and thoughtful. When I got back to Melbourne yesterday evening I was pleasantly surprised to see Carl waiting for me at the gate. He and his girlfriend were flying back home to Sydney. And even though their flight was soon to depart from another part of the airport and even though I have only met the guy two or three times, he made the effort. How nice was that? A pleasant surprise (though I think his appearance may have frightened my sister and her fiance).

Catching up with Carl had me reflecting this morning about people judging others by their appearance. The owner of Carl's local asian take-away once said to Carl's dad "your son nice boy but he look like junkie". Imagine that. You go to the shop everyday to buy your vietnamese spring rolls and the whole time the woman behind the counter thinks you're a heroine addict. I'm not any better. I once stood next to a black guy on a desserted train platform in Boston. He wore one of those black puffy jackets, had a baseball cap on his head, and had his hands in his pockets. I actually thought he was going to pull a knife on me. He didn't. The train soon arrived, we both got on, and went our merry ways (well, actually, I ended up catching the wrong train and got lost... bad karma for racist thoughts?). In hindsight, it WAS the end of Winter (the temperature was still minus-God-knows-how-many degrees) so wearing a puffy jacket and having your hands in your pocket actually makes good sense. And yet the things that ran through my head on the platform that day still disturbs me. True, I guess we all make judgements about people based on appearance. but it's not always grounded in reality and it's not always right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Art in the Capital

I went with one of my sisters to visit both The National Gallery of Australia and The National Portrait Gallery yesterday arvo. The NGA was absolutely packed. It seems that the Masterpieces from Paris Exhibition is drawing quite a crowd. But we were there for another reason.

The NGA has been undergoing major renovations. As new sections are starting to open up, the collection has been shifting, literally. The famous Sidney Nolan Ned Kelly series has now moved downstairs into a purpose-built gallery that I was keen to check out.

I was also keen to see an exhibition of indigenous art which included a spectacular piece by my favourite aritist, Tommy Watson, who currently holds the record for the highest price ever paid for a painting by a living indigenous artist at auction (damn I wish I bought one of his paintings when they were a spare $240,000 anybody?). This image of the painting doesn't really do it justice. In real life, the dots in the painting creates an optical illusion that causes them to pulse on the canvas.

After the NGA, we wandered over, past the High Court, to the newest public institution to open in Canberra, The National Portrait Gallery.

There, we saw portraits of many famous Australians (often, themselves, painted by famous Australians). Some of these portraits were actually donated by the actual people who appear in the paintings. I wonder what motivates someone to donate a picture of themselves to the national collection? Is it a selfless act of philantropy? Ego perhaps? Or maybe because the person who commissioned the painting couldn't stand having the picture hung up at home?

Which reminds me of a portrait by Mexican artist Freda Kahlo. The painting came about following a conversation between Kahlo and a woman named Claire Booth Luce who thought it would be nice to have a portrait painted of her friend, Dorothy Hale, who committed suicide. Luce had planned to give the painting to Hale's 'poor mother'. Imagine, then, Luce's surprise, when this arrived in the mail:

The painting now resides in the Phoenix Art Museum.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


A friend (and fellow foodie) gave me this book for Christmas. It's called "Fierce Food: The intrepid diner's guide to the unusual, exotic, and downright bizarre".

The book describes 215 food items, of which I have sampled just over 10%. Perhaps the most bizarre is cordyceps which, upon reading the book, I now know to be a parasitic fungus that has taken over the body of a catepillar. This probably explains why the thing I was eating was shaped just like a catepillar. Duh (see below).

Friday, December 25, 2009

A wet Christmas

Woke up this morning, opened the window, and laid in bed listening to the sound of rain. Simple pleasures. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

BBQ in Kingston

Went to a friend's house last night for a bbq. I wish I brought my camera but, alas, I didn't. Thanks to google image search, however, I have been able to recreate the evening's menu...

Started off with a delcious hot spinach dip which I helped to create. Isn't it beautiful? Mine looked almost exactly like this one except that it had melted cheese on top and was served in a far less fancy dish (i.e. baking tray). But for the presence of spinach and spring onion, the dip would have been 100% saturated fat which is probably why it was so God damn tasty.

Every bbq has to have salad. Ours looked like this but with carrot instead of fetta. We each took a little so we didn't feel so bad about all the dip we ate.

Mmmm....corn. The best thing to have come out of the New World. Doubly good smothered in lime butter and cooked on the barbie.

The centrepiece was the kangaroo. Honestly, I have no qualms eating marsupial, especially when it is cooked well (i.e. rare)....

...and topped with a generous glob of this (anchovy butter)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parma at the pub

Caught up with some friends for dinner last night. Met up at Dave's place in West Brunswick and headed to his local, The Union Hotel. The food there was excellent. As usual, I opted for a parma which turned out to be a great choice.

Afterwards, we went back to Dave's apartment and hung out with a very nice Spanish couple who were staying with him for a couple of days. Dave has a great social consience and has been hosting travellers for quite a while now as part of a programme called couch surfing where people offer their couches (or in Dave's case, his spare bedroom) to travellers. It's quite a nice concept and, as a bonus, Dave gets to meet lots of interesting people.

Am going back to Canberra for Christmas today. No doubt, I will be wallowing in excessive feast for the next week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Release me

I am so loving this right now.

The mysterious case of my trouser button

I was standing in front of the urinal after having just finished my wee. I went to button up my fly and felt the top button pop off (I blame the poor stitching!). I looked down and the button was no where to be seen. Puzzled, I proceeded back to the dancefloor. After a few minutes, I felt something in the bottom of my left shoe and realized it was the button! How the hell did it manage to land in my shoe??!! I surmise that it had either slid down my left trouser leg or was catapulted directly into my shoe.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Christmas parties in one day

Both Nate and I had our respective work christmas parties yesterday. Mine was first. An afternoon BBQ event. Kids everywhere. Family friendly. I ate way too many sausages.

Nate's party was at the Docklands which meant that we could get there (and back) by foot. It was held in one of the old sheds near the water. Fancy drinks. A wok station where you can pick up little bowls of stir fry. A dance floor with DJ. No kids. I ate way too much salt and pepper calamari.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perks of the job

One of the nice things about my job is that ocassionally I get to escape the chore of admin and get out into the sun for a bit of fieldwork. Yesterday was one of those days.

Some colleagues and I headed off to Gippsland to collect fish. We spent the whole day fishing for them using small barbless hooks baited with corn. The fish we were after are not native to Australia. In fact, they are from Central America.

Even though these fish are essentially tropical, they have managed to establish themselves in a huge cooling pond downstream from a power station. The water in the pond was about 30 degrees which is perfect if you happen to be a tropical fish. Indeed, more than just one kind of tropical fish has managed to establish in the pond...During our fishing expedition, we even managed to catch a couple of species native to Lake Malawi (Eastern Africa)!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stuffed chickens and industrial lamps

This is, without a doubt, my favourite shop in Melbourne. It sells the most ecclectic collection of stuff you can possibly imagine, from taxidermied animals, bowling pins and religious icons to old lamps, african masks and laboratory glassware.

In my four years living in Melbourne, I've managed to amass a collection of really weird stuff from this shop including a marble sculpture, a bunch of old metal signs and a gigantic gable mask from Papua New Guinea. On each ocassion, it's been a real achievement haulling my purchases onto the train at Windsor station and dragging them home to my apartment in the city (all the while trying to ignore the weird looks from people along the way).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Greyhound Christmas show

My sister from Canberra is visiting Melbourne this week. Took her to The Greyhound last night. One of my students, who works there as a barman, had earlier told me that they were putting on a staff Christmas show. Arrived a little late so didn't actually see his main performance. Still, the rest of the show was pretty damn good. None of the performers flashed their titties this time. However, I did see a fake fingernail fling off the stage. Luckily no one was impailed.

Lab Christmas Party

Had my lab Christmas party on Friday. In an earlier post I mentioned that I had requested that everybody bring along a hand made gift. Wow! Several students made yummy baked goods. One brought along some beautiful ceramic bowls. Another created a lovely knitted wallet! What a talented bunch of people....Their efforts really put my two legged needlepoint horse to shame.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My slice of Amazonia

I've decided to liven up the aquarium in my office. With a tinge of saddness, I will be getting rid of Sam the Saratoga and creating a community tank for fishes native to the Amazon.

I'm planning on getting a school of Geophagus earth-eaters (not sure what species yet), maybe a giant pencilfish (or two), some catfishes, and a few other cool-looking things.

The revamp will take place in the new year since my office will be without power over the Christmas/new year shut down when the University is officially closed.

Monday, December 7, 2009


It never occurred to me (until 5 minutes ago) that sending a bunch of raw video footage to the ABC without first listening to the audio could be an embarrassing mistake. The footage documents a field trip earlier this year to central Australia. We had not intended the video for public viewing and, in any case, a lot of the actual video shows me and my colleagues sitting in the car gossiping and talking shit. Some of this has, of course, ended up on the footage sent to the ABC who are going to use it for a popular science program...private conversations potentially broadcasted to a million viewers. How embarrassing.

A few battles ahead

Caught up with three friends yesterday, each of whom appear to be facing some formidable challenges ahead.

The friend I visited in the morning with Nate just got out of hospital after suffering a stroke caused by initially undetected damage resulting from a bicycle accident many weeks earlier. She is only 33, which makes it all the more upsetting. My friend's speech is fine but she has blurry vision and seemed a little unsteady on her feet. Her outlook was very positive and it seems that the distress is coming more from the people around her. She is, however, realistic about what lies ahead in terms of recovery.

The other two friends I saw are both thinking about major career changes (one of them currently works with hearing-impaired patients, the other is a journalist). I think it's very gutsy to be able to walk away from something familiar and to push oneself in a direction that is less certain, more risky but potentially also more rewarding.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Needlework disaster

I decided to go to Big W and buy myself one of these needlework craft kits.

I figure that this could be my 'handmade' gift for the lab Kris Kringle on Friday. I mean, how hard can it be? It's suitable for kids as young as six!

Well...four f*&%ing hours later, I've run out of the black, brown and white yarn. My horse has a gigantic head and only two legs (no hooves). It looks like a piece of shit. What a disaster.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's the weekend...yay

I've been playing catch ups all week at the office to try and get back on top of all the work that had accumulated on my desk when I was away.

And although I'm glad it's the weekend, I'm afraid there won't be much time for rest. It's going to be one of those social weekends, catching up with friends whom I've been feeling guilty about not seeing for the last 18 months (Yes...18 months....What a horrible friend I am).

I also need to go and get started on some shopping for my lab christmas party next week. I suggested a Kris Kringle where everyone has to make a gift. In hindsight this was a stupid idea....As if I have the time. Nate suggested I make a picture out of pasta, maybe something like this:

Hmmm...I don't think so.

I need to make something that looks good but is simple and time-effective. I'm half tempted to pass off some home-made rum balls a friend gave to me earlier this week. I can pretend I made them myself. No one need ever know. Sneaky.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Recent movies

The flight to and from Europe allowed me to catch up on a whole bunch of movies that I had wanted to see (but never managed the time).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The shit-talker

I hate people who talk shit. I hate even more people who talk shit with authority. Take the young man who shared my flight from Frankfurt to Melbourne. Mid 20s. Spent a year in Germany. Coming back home. Still a year to go on his VCE. Talkative. I don't know his name but, for the sake of convenience, let's call him Shit talker (ST for short).

At the gate in Frankfurt, whilst we were waiting to board, ST struck up conversation with fellow passengers. He tells them that he went to Galipoli for Anzac Day in January. One of the fellow passenger looked perplexed and asks "Do you mean Australia Day?" The shit talker replied, "No. Australia Day is in February"....Cringe.

It gets worse. ST decides to talk about politics. Apparently, "Howard was the best prime minister we've ever had" (probably because ST isn't old enough to remember any other). On the topic of immigration, ST turns to an American guy and says "There are no Australians left in Melbourne. There is a suburb called Springvale. It's full of Vietnamese people and none of them speak any english. I went there once and I was the only Aussie in the whole street."... Double cringe.

Back from Berlin

I'm back from my whirlwind trip. Had a great time but I don't think I ever got into the European time zone (had a hard time sleeping and was waking up at weird hours of the morning). The conference went well. The food was fantastic...the Germans seem to really love their pork and cabbage. Hunted down and devoured a bratwurst (and a currywurst too).

Berlin was beautiful, just as friends had said. Lots of museums. Architecture was outstanding. Spent a whole day wandering the streets and taking in the city.

Notable trip highlights include:

1. Listening to the flight attendants bitching about vegetarian passengers and exchanging tips on how best to keep unwanted leg and armpit hair at bay.
2. Eating a hotdog purchased from a Christmas night market at Unter den Linden.
3. Picking out postcards from a street side vendor.
4. Shopping at H & M (bought a hat and scarf for me and a shirt for Nathan).
5. Checking out quirky carboard farm animals and dinosaurs at an exhibition called Shitrospective at Contemporary Fine Arts near the museum island (see installation view below).
6. Meandering through the Jewish memorial.
7. Devouring the best breakfast ever on an airplane (sausage, scrambled eggs, hashbrown, mushroom, tomato).

Friday, November 20, 2009

At last...

The exit row seats for my trip have finally been secured. Am now pretty much ready to go. Yay!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bratwurst in Berlin

Less than a week to go. My talk for the conference is pretty much done. I'll practise it today and try and get some feedback.

It's going to be a ridiculously short trip. Fly out Saturday. Arrive Sunday (German time). Conference is from Monday til Wednesday. I have half a day to explore the city on Thursday (and look for a bratwurst hotdog stand). Then it's homeward bound on Thursday night. By the following Saturday, I would have gone half way around the world and back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seat pitch

As far as long-haul travel is concerned, I am one of those people who always turns up extra early at the airport in an attempt to secure an exit row seat. At 197 cm tall (yes, I know I am a freak), such a seat is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Qantas has started charging for the privilege of this extra leg room. That's $160 bucks a pop each way from Australia to Europe.

In truth, I don't mind paying if it lessens the anxiety of potentially missing out (especially if it's actually my work that pays). However, the whole process has turned out to be quite tedious. First up, it doesn't seem like travel agents, or indeed Qantas staff, have much of a clue as to how the whole process works (judging by the long, awkward silences and the 'umms' and 'ahhs'). Second, if you do manage to find out how it all works (and eventually, I did), it would appear that (1) booking an exit seat online involves the use of a fickle online booking system which may not work, and (2) booking over the phone is only good during regular business hours. On top of it all, no one can actually access the system until one week before departure (that's next Saturday for me). the long run, I probably haven't really lessened the anxiety after all...just moved it forward by about a week before departure. The question remains: will I get my exit row seats to Germany or not? I guess I'll know tomorrow (if the computer system works) or Monday (if I have to call the 1300 number).

As a postscript, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article today bitching about airlines charging extra costs onto the price of the ticket. One of the things they discussed was, of course, Qantas' decision to charge for exit row seats.

Man on train...

...pacing back and forth, moving between carriages. Occassionally his head jerks back and forth involuntarily. I wonder what's his story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Different version of the same event

A few weeks ago, Nate and I went to the Greyhound and met up with one of his mates who is a regular there. We later heard that he had been bashed when he left the nightclub.

Anyhoo.I was speaking to one of my students today who works at the nightclub as a barman and he tells me that, contrary to what they had also been told, Nate's friend wasn't bashed after all.... He actually fell over and hurt himself when he was in a drunken stupor. I guess being set upon by a couple of thugs sounds a lot more impressive than falling over and breaking your own nose.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Art for art's sake

I spent my morning marking exams in a coffee shop in the city yesterday. After I was done, I went for lunch in Chinatown before catching a tram out to Richmond to pick up the painting I had bought a couple of weeks ago.

Nate hadn't previously seen the painting and his reaction, upon viewing the canvas, was one of surprise and utter disbelief manifested, rather irritatingly, in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Nate (between bouts of laughter): "Jesus Christ. I could have painted that."
Me: "That's not the point. Look at the colours and the brush strokes."
Nate (still laughing): "It's shit"

By now, I felt like I was the National Gallery of Australia in the 1970s, just after it had bought Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles for a cool $1.3 million. Like Nathan, the Australian public just didn't get it. But look at the value of Blue poles now! It's worth hundreds of millions. Nathan found my over-the-top anology most amusing. So, feeling defeated, I crawled off to bed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The ultimate sea urchin experience

Sea urchins are spiky echinoderms that creep around on the seafloor on tiny, retractable tube feet. Unfortunately for them, they are also very tasty.

Took my dad and one of my sisters to Shoya on saturday night. They had the degustation; I opted for sushi.

Being the greedy pig that I am, I also ordered a side of 'uni', or sea urchin roe. The delicate slivers of yummy softness were presented inside the halved, spiky exoskeleton of an urchin that sat on top a leaf perched on a block of ice. It was almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. The roe was soft and sweet and delicious....Heaven from a bottom feeder.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The health check up

Had to go to the doctor yesterday to get a health check before my trip to Berlin (a condition of international work travel). Was hoping to get all my immunisations in the one hit but, of course, it is not such a simple process...I was going to need blood tests, another appointment with the nurse blah blah blah. On top of it all, I hadn't realised (until I was standing in front of the receptionist) that my medicare card had expired. Sigh. It was one of those days.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The woman with the bags

I was waiting at the train station yesterday afternoon minding my own business when a woman approaches the bench where I am sitting and asks me for help. I look up and notice she has three large bags next to her on the platform. She explained that some guy at the previous station had been putting his bags onto the train when the door suddenly closed, shutting out the bags' owner and stranding him at the previous station. Apparently, as the train was leaving, the woman shouted to the man through the glass doors to tell him to meet her at the next station (i.e. mine) but, after two trains had come and gone, she was starting to panic. I helped her with the bags onto the next city bound train. She needed to get off at the next station. I told her to speak to the customer services people where she was getting off. I helped her get the bags off the train. I felt bad for the lady (who was obviously trying to do the right thing herself) but I'm not sure what more I could have done to was late and I needed to get home.

The email that made me smile

It hasn't been a very good start to the week. The ARC, Australia's national competitive research scheme, released their list of successful grant applicants on Monday. Unfortunately, neither of the research proposals I submitted for consideration got funded.

My disappointment, however, was tempered somewhat by an email from a colleague from Finland who will be visiting Melbourne in the new year. I offered for my friend and her youngish daughter to stay at my place. She emailed me today to tell me that she had told her daughter that I am living with a man. The daughter and I have interacted in the past (when I was working in Finland) and she remarked to her mother that I 'seem so normal' (I guess even kids have stereotypes). Still, my colleague told me that her daughter was very accepting in the knowledge that her mum won't be getting any attention from me and Nathan when they come to stay.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The surprisingly pleasant weekend

I must admit that I had pretty much written off this weekend. It's honours thesis deadline for one of my students and I thought I'd be stuck at home all weekend correcting drafts before the due date on Monday. Fortunately, the student sent me a draft on Friday night which I proceeded to edit that evening (and again on Saturday morning) and that was that. Finished! The rest of the weekend pretty much still ahead of me.

I decided to reward myself with a visit to a gallery in Richmond to see an exhibition of aboriginal art. I had gone to the same gallery a couple of weeks ago with Nathan where we shown the works sitting at the back. The spunky chick who worked at the gallery showed us two paintings that had already been reserved for the National Gallery of Victoria. One was a huge collaborative work comprising multicoloured circles. Another was a smaller, more abstract piece with paint smeared over the canvas in blocks of rich plum and straw yellow. Most of the rest of the paintings were rather average. Some looked like crap.

Anyhoo...on my return visit, the exhibition was up. The spunky chick had hung all the paintings and did an amazing job grouping the pieces together that even the crap ones looked absolutely superb. She tells me that the NGV had decided not to take the smaller canvas because they already had some good works by that artist in the collection. After much deliberation, I decided to buy the painting for myself.

Evening was spent with friends of Nathan's at a vietnamese restaurant that wasn't Minh Minh's. This was most unexpected as it seems that Minh Minh's had been THE venue of choice everytime we go out with these people. The food at the new place was good but very westernised.The dinner was a birthday celebration for the ex of one of Nathan's friend, Ad. The ex is a lovely man...italian, beautiful and a really decent guy (and I suspect most of us actually like him more than Ad). Still, all the people at the dinner were friends of Ad. This I found a little odd. Either the ex has no other friends of his own or the birthday was really just an excuse for Ad to get together with his friends. Regardless, with the exception of Nathan's singing (they had a karaoke), I had a really great time. And no, I didn't kiss the birthday boy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Been chasing reptiles in Newtown in Sydney the last couple of days. The collecting site is an old cemetery just off King Street. At first, it felt a little disconcerting clambering over old graves and flipping over broken tomb stones to get at the lizards but by day 3, we had become quite accomplished at grabbing lizards (whilst avoiding disused syringes). It's amazing how many people use the cemetery, either as a quiet place to sit and read or to walk their dogs.

Just got back to the motel with our quota of lizards. Reptiles are all happily feasting on baby crickets (purchased from the petshop at the Broadway Shopping Centre). Lizard catchers are happily resting up after three days of intensive fieldwork.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Nate and I took a couple of days off work and headed up to Daylesford with some interstate friends. We stayed at a lovely B&B owned by a couple who decided on a seachange and had purchased the building on a whim after falling in love withit during a weekend visit nine years earlier. The building has since been lovingly restored. By far the highlight was the fireplace in the reading room which was a welcomed retreat after a wet and cold drive up from Melbourne. During a brief break in the weather, we decided to leave the warmth of the reading room and ventured outside for a stroll around the main streets. Among the purchases during our foray into town was a gollywog from an antique store (whom we later decided to name "Bob"). In the evening, we took a short drive to the Lakehouse, a restaurant that was highly recommended by colleagues back in Melbourne. We were not disappointed. The food was amazing.

The next day, we went for a stroll up to the Botanic Gardens and then took a drive to nearby Hepburn Springs. A brief visit to the Convant gallery was followed by a drive up to Castlemaine for lunch, afternoon tea in Bendigo and an evening stroll on Mount Macedon before getting back into Melbourne in time for dinner last night at my favourite restaurant, The Waterfront (try the snapper is absolutely amazing).

Chasing reptiles in Sydney over the next few days around Newtown for work. Should be fun!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The art gallery...

Had a rather busy Saturday yesterday. It began with brunch with some friends at a restaurant by the banks of the Yarra and ended with a night out at the Greyhound watching some weird-ass tropical-themed drag finale.

Perhaps the thing that stuck out the most for me yesterday came from a visit to an aboriginal art gallery that is about to put on a show of artworks from one of my favourite (and also one of the newest) art communities located in Western Australia. The NGV had bought half a dozen paintings from their first sellout show a couple of years ago (some of which are currently hanging on the walls at the Ian Potter Centre at Fed Square). It will be a much anticipated show. Several of the paintings have already been purchased even before the show began (including two pieces for the NGV). What struck me, however, was the quality of the works. Some were beautiful but there were also some that were real shockers. Yes, I is subjective and what may be a shocker to one person may be seen as a masterpiece to another but some of the pieces were of genuinely poor quality (even the person working at the gallery was amazed that they had made their way out of the studio). I guess even the best artists occassionally produce crap. However, whereas most non-indigenous artists would be self-selecting, Aboriginal artists may not necessarily share (or understand) the aesthetics of hungry art consumers and, in the aboriginal art world, there is a greater role for the mangers of the community art centres to impose quality control and to ensure only the 'best' works go out to market. The pressure and demand for aboriginal works, however, is intense and poor quality works routinely appear for sale. At the end of the day, I think it does a huge injustic to the artists.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The week after the conference

It's been a week of playing 'catch-ups' at work after the conference in Canberra. It's amazing how much stuff can acculmulate on your desk when you're away. This was also the week that two of my friends decided to come to Melbourne for a last minute sojourn before packing up their belongings (including two dogs) and moving to San Francisco. I will miss them both very much. D and I have been friends since the 4th grade. We hung out a lot and he knew my colleagues very well (even though he was working as a computer games animator andwas therefore outside of science). Funnily, back in the closeted days before he knew I was gay, he used to tell everyone that I was his 'heterosexual life partner'. Thinking back, his comment still makes me chuckle....the poor guy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beautiful Canberra (and a bollywood twist)

My visit to Canberra is almost coming to an end. And what a fantastic visit it has been. I caught up with a bunch of friends and colleagues at the conference last week, including several whom I haven't seen for many, many years.

Took some colleagues sight seeing on Friday which saw us visiting most of Canberra's major tourist offerings (old and new parliament house, the National Gallery, High Court and War memorial).

Nathan came up from Melbourne yesterday to join me at the wedding celebration of one of my oldest friends (whom I've known since primary school). It was a backyard affair, celebrated under a huge marquis with giant japanese laterns and cherry blossoms (pilfered from the streets of suburban Canberra the night before). The bride was so beautiful and my friend looked absolutely dashing in his suit. The ceremony was one of the best I have ever attended. The speeches were amazing, sad at times, but also funny and touching. The bride even quoted Shakira.

After the wedding, Nate and I caught up with some other friends in town for yummy indian food at the Blu Ginger. I also had indian food the night before at a restaurant called Bollywood Dimensions which is owned by a Bollwood dance instructor. The restaurant had a TV playing bollywood video clips. The people in those clips always seem so happy. I've always wondered what they might be singing about. Perhaps this...

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The conference ended today but not before I managed to embarrass myself by going into the women's toilets by accident. You'd think the lack of a urinal would have been a give away. No. I only realized I was in the wrong toilet when I was mid way through my piss and noticed that there was a sanitary napkin disposal unit next to the toilet bowl. It still took me a split second before reality dawned on me. Fortunately, no one walked in.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Myer catalogue

Hmmm...I wonder if this guy in the Myer catalogue is the same guy who works as a back up dancer at the Greyhound on a Saturday night?

Am loving...

...the political works of artist, Adam Hill.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My next work purchase...

After a rather hectic week trying to get all my shit together for the trip to Canberra, it was nice to receive a letter in my pigeon hole telling my that my promotions application has been successful. So...starting from January next year, I'll have the word 'senior' added to my title.

Hmmm....I wonder if I should use the salary increase to buy some new leather elbow patches? Every academic should own at least one jacket with leather elbow patches right?

...or, better still, maybe I can get a new pair of nerdy scientist glasses. This pair looks pretty intellectual dont you think?

...Ohhh...what about a new lab coat? I don't actually own a lab coat. A lab coat adds instant credibility and will make me look 'learned'. Hmmm...lab coat...

Back in Canberra

Am back in Canberra for a week or so to attend a work conference and a wedding. Had to make my flight booking through the work travel provider who seem to go out of their way to make the reservation experience as expensive, time consuming and frustrating as possible. Neither my reservation number nor my name was registering at the Virgin Blue checkin kiosk. I was already frustrated by the same travel provider earlier this week trying to book flights for Berlin (they gave me a quote to Frankfurt instead). I did, eventually, manage to get myself checked in and after a harrowing descent into Canberra (I sat next to a nervous passenger), I was met by family and was wisked away for lunch.

The timing of the conference and the wedding this week was sheer coincidence ...a close friend announced his wedding plans at very short notice (hmmm...I wonder if they are 'with child'). The ceremony is to take place at their house. The dress code is 'lounge suit/garden party'. Not sure what 'garden party' means and, unfortunately for me, the suit I bought in Europe a few years ago is a bit tight after a winter spent wallowing in excessive feast (damn those carbs, hearty soups, and spicy curries). I doubt I'll be able to whip myself back into shape before the wedding, especially with plans to catch up with friends and colleagues almost every night I am here. Sigh.

Being the social butterfly that I am, I've already caught up with two other friends since my arrival early this morning. I met up with two of my best friends, Dan and Amy, for a coffee at the National Gallery. The brutalist building is undergoing major rennovations at the moment. It's all a bit of a mess. I found out that Dan and Amy are soon to leave Canberra to head over to the US where Dan will be working as a computer games animator. Don't think Amy (originally from the US) is terribly keen to head back across the Pacific but, alas, she is playing the supportive wife. I'll miss them dearly. Both were hung over from Dan's farewell drinks last night so, after only a brief catch up, I told them to go home for a siesta. After parting ways, I went around for a quick look at the national collection. I really liked this new acquisition in the Asian section...

Apart from catching up today with Dan and Amy, I think I'm going to try to keep a relatively low profile so I can chill out before the conference and spend more time with the family.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back to the Future

I just received a piece of mail with these unusual stamps stuck to the front. Australia withdrew 1 and 2 cent coins in the early 90s. These stamps were first issued in 1973!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blog reflections

I stumbled across a blog today written by someone on the otherside of the world, a faceless person who, like some many other bloggers, writes about her life and vents about the things that frustrate her. As I was reading the blog, it soon became apparent that I knew a lot more about her than what the blogger had intended the rest of the world to know. The boss she is bitching about is someone I have met. The friends I know probably know her too. Despite being in the public domain, I do not intend to tell these mutual acquaintances. Somehow I feel that it would be a betrayal of privacy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A different perspective

A friend from Sydney was in town and she introduced Nathan and me to one of her dearest friends, a remarkable 66 year old gay man who lived in Fitzroy. He invited us to his home yesterday afternoon for tea. I had such a great time that I ended up dragging Nathan over again today. R is a man who is immensely proud of his two sons. One is an architect; the other owns his own business. R shows us old photos and recounts early memories of his two boys. When he is speaking about his kids, R's eyes sparkle. Unfortunately, these memories are all that he has at the moment because R's sons are no longer speaking to their father. In fact, they haven't spoken to him for 14 years; not since R came out to his family. What a tragedy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Worst brunch ever

Caught up with a friend for brunch on Sunday. We ended up walking over to Waterfront City at the northern end of the Docklands to an italian place. Given that I had another lunch gathering at 1.30pm, I decided to be a lesser pig than usual and settled on the banana porridge (instead of my usual greasy fry up). Big mistake. I've never ordered porridge at a restaurant before but I had expected it to be rich and creamy and gooey and delicious. The porridge I ended up getting was none of these things. It was dry, and coarse and sickly sweet (much like some people I know). It looked like it would be better utilised as a facial mask than something you should attempt to swallow for nutritional gain. Next time, I'm going to stick with the greasier breakfast options.

On the wish list...

Nate and I went for lunch on Victoria Street on Saturday. We checked out an aquarium store that had a tank full of these tiny red shrimp. Now Nathan wants to get some as pets (he spent the whole weekend coming up with names for the shrimp).

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Hospital maternity ward, room 4A. Angry man says to the hysterical woman who had just given birth to his baby: "I'd better be getting my fucking share of the baby bonus". Very sad.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The smouldering trailer

I was walking back from lunch and saw a woman get out of her car at the traffic lights. At first, I thought it was an impending road rage incident about to unfurl. However, it soon became apparent that the woman was actually telling the driver of the car in front that her trailer was on fire. The good samaritan even had a bottle of water handy to douse the flames.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There was an oceanic art auction last night in Sydney. I submitted a form for a telephone bid on several of the lots. I've never been to an art auction before so the idea of placing bids over the phone made the whole experience doubly daunting. The way it works seems straightforward enough. Someone from the auction house rings you up a few lots ahead of the items that you are interested in. The catch is that you have to communicate your bid to the sales rep whilst, at the same time, trying to battle the bad phone reception and the voice of the auctioneer in the background. The pace is also scarily fast...the auctioneer gets through approximately 80-100 lots per hour. The sound made by the fall of the hammer is pretty unequivocal though. So...for my first auction experience, I ended up with this:

...and this...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Perfect breakfast pairing


and this

at Amici Bakery in Prahran. The so called "Italian breakfast".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Extended weekend

Took a couple of days off work to recharge the batteries (and to use up some of my annual leave).

The city on a weekday is a very different beast. I walk behind men in dark suits, past police officers being trained to direct traffic. I check out a few book shops at lunch time, stroll through the Carlton Gardens in the afternoon, and go for a wander up and down Brunswick Street. Relaxing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The September Issue

Today's indulgence...

Orchids, Thai food and the lebanese lesbian

Went to an orchid show with my friend, T, yesterday. It was all the way down in Keysborough and it took us over an hour to get there. Touted as the largest orchid show in Australia, the venue was a large hall divided equally between plant vendors on one side and the show proper on the other. We started at the sales section where I had to exercise extreme restraint with my wallet. I only bought three plants which, given my obsessive compulsive nature (and past fanaticism with orchids) was quite a feat. One of the purchases was an exotic-looking, mottle-leaved plant from the limestone cliffs of Yunnan in China which has a large flower that looks like an inflated green bubblegum and smells like raspberries. As an apartment-dweller, I deliberately avoided the purchase of another intriguing species which, when in flower, was meant to smell like "a herd of dead elephants".

I caught up with some other friends in the evening for Thai food. Z and S are getting married next month and had come down from the south coast of NSW with Z's American parents. Z's mum is a delightfully warm hippy who grows pot for a living back in California. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Z's dad who is a champion poker player and had decided to visit the Casino instead of joining us for dinner (but if Z's mum is anything to go by, Z's dad would be quite an interesting person also).

We caught the train up to Anstey Station and made a first stop at the huge converted warehouse where Z used to live before he moved to NSW. There, I got to see the completed dome that I had started building with Z and his friends last year (which eventually turned into Z's bed room). The warehouse looked amazing and had been completely transformed since my first visit. It is occupied by a bunch of arty types...graphic designers, silk-screen printers and the like. The kitchen and dining area was beautifully wall-papered on the inside with a huge black and white image of a desert island on one side and an understorey rainforest scene on another. An intricate black stencil covered the painted yellow floor. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, illuminating a beautiful old wooden table set with candles and potted palms and philodendrons. After some snacks (strawberries, dark chocolate and cocao beans), we ventured onto Sydney road and made our way to another large cavernous space, Warwick Thai Restaurant, where we were served the most generous-sized meals I have ever eaten (at ridiculously low prices).

After dinner, I bid farewell to the group and hopped onto a tram to get back to Flinders Street. I ended up sitting next to a middle eastern couple who were speaking so loud that it was impossible not to eavesdrop on their conversation. The girl, it turns out, is a lesbian and the two of them were off to go clubbing at Crown. The girl, who had long, dark hair, was asking the guy whether she could pull off the butch lesbian look. Her friend insisted that she would not get away with having too short hair because it would make her nose look even bigger than it already was. "Shut up!," the lesbian retorts (in her woggy-aussie accent), "You can talk. What about your fuckin' nose". I bite my lip hard and try not to laugh, for the lesbian was right. Her travelling companion had the most protrusive nose I have ever seen on a face.

The tram makes it final stop at Elizabeth Street. The man asks me how long it would take to get to Crown. I tell them it's a short walk. I then turn to the girl and tell her to ask the guy to take her to The Glass House instead. "No fucking way", the man quips, "That place is so gay." I smile, wish them a good night, and make my way across the street.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The tackle shop

We have some of the worst designed toilets here in my building. Due to inappropriate placement of mirrors at the wash basin, it is virtually impossible not to catch a view of a penis if you ever happen to walk into the loo when there is someone already standing at the urinal.

Il Gambero no more

I was perusing The Age website earlier and saw a headline about a fire destroying a Lygon Street landmark. The header was ominous. It read "Late-night crowd watches as blaze destroys iconic restaurant". Alas, the iconic restaurant happened to also be one of my favourites: Il Gambero.

Il Gambero holds a special place in my heart. My first introduction to italian food on Lygon Street was at Il Gambero's and I shared the experience with one of my closest friends, Pete, who was visiting from the US. This is the very first meal I ever ate there.

Il Gambero is the restaurant I always take visitors... I love going there because there are no aggressive waiters trying to solicit customers from the street (unlike some of the other restaurants nearby). The restaurant does a fabulous grilled whole flounder and, much to Nathan's delight, you can even earn Qantas frequent flyer points there!

I guess they will eventually rebuild but the thing I am going to miss the most is the giant stuffed fish that hung over the kitchen counter.