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.