Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The cost...

...of wallowing in excessive feast for a week in Canberra is a 4 kg weight gain! How is that even possible?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas greetings

Hope santa was good to everybody!

Love to all,
Ad Rad

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cleaning out the glasshouse

I decided to clean up the glasshouse at my parent's place today which had started to look like a scene out of Jurassic Park...It had become quite overgrown (not by weeds but, strangely, by ferns).

Moving the plants around to get at the unwanted ferns was not as easy as I of the plants, a whopper of a Sydney rock orchid, must have weighed more than a hundred kilos (the fact that it was sitting inside a heavy terracotta pot didn't help with the lifting).

After I was done removing as much of the unwanted ferns as I possibly could, I decided that some of the orchids needed repotting.

Repotting an orchid - as anyone with the experience would attest - is not for the faint-hearted. Apart from the ocassional centipede, slug and spider (the latter seems to freak me out in ways like no other creature I have ever encountered as a biologist), repotting a (large) orchid is, to put it simply, bloody hard work (I now know why Don Burke recommends an axe). My three hours of potting felt like an intense work out at the gym....there was a lot of lifting, grunting, arm flexing, profuse sweating and tears (I very nearly threw up). By the end of it all, I was absolutely exhausted.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I have gout

How ironic. All this year, I have been working to lower my cholesterol and improve my health. I've watched my diet and, in the process, even managed to lose some weight. And just when the doctor gave me a clean bill of health (yep, cholesterol levels are all back to normal), I started getting a pain in my left foot that dad reckons is gout. I also noticed that I have two white hairs on my chin. I think I am aging.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gay curious?

I have no doubt my friend Pete is straight. Still, every now and then, he'd make a passing comment or send me a few photos that makes me wonder otherwise.

As most people are aware, the news these last few days have been dominated by the naked photos of the St Kilda players on facebook. Am I curious? No, not really. Well, maybe just a little (but certainly not enough to go trawling for the images on the www).

So... imagine my surprise when I receive an email from Pete today, not only with a news clipping of the whole sordid saga but also accompanying pictures (as an aside, nothing that impressive). But really...what straight guy would be sending his mates photos of naked men?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Me thinks I should have been a banker...

I've got a pretty good view of the ANZ building from my apartment balcony but I had no idea the interior looked this amazing...

I need to revamp my office space. The carpets are old and stained and I was recently told that an academic had died in the office in the early 80s (I'm hoping that the death and the carpet stains are unrelated).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meat raffle

I'm back in Canberra for the week visiting my folks. I've left poor Nathan behind (he's decided that he'll work through Christmas this year to earn some extra pocket money).

After the debacle flying with Tiger Airways the last time I visited Canberra, I thought I'd play it safe(r) and flew Qantas using my frequent flyer points. The flight was on a Dash-8 (i.e. little propellar plane), which I don't mind since there seems to be a little more leg room than on a boeing or an airbus. It was a pretty bumpy flight though, rough weather pretty much along the entire length of south-eastern Australia.

My youngest sis met me at the airport and drove us to lunch in the city. My parents have become quite obsessed with the senior's lunch and meat raffle at the Labour club in civic (one of the perks of getting old I guess). By the time we arrived, the food was already on the table (grilled barramundi with chips and salad). Ten minutes later, dad had all the free raffle tix lined up on the table (his, mum's and grandma's). An hour later, we left with a christmas ham AND a meat tray (dad is trying to figure out what asian twist he might be able to put on the corned beef).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm back

Apologies for the lack of blogging activity in the past few days. I've been on a field course on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef (yes, life can be tough some times).

I spent a little over a week supervising undergraduate students as they went about collecting data on corals and other sea creatures around the island.

We got to do plenty of snorkelling and I saw lots of sharks, stingrays, brightly-coloured reef fishes, giant clams and turtles (both in and out of the water). There was even a gay wedding proposal...The boyfriend of one of our PhD students came up for the weekend and proposed on the beach late on Sunday night. The rest of us found out on Monday morning and we were all extremely excited (Tony, the PhD student, is one of the nicest blokes you could ever meet and he was soooo happy). Evidently, being the clumsy person that he is, Tony managed to drop the ring in the sea and spent a good 40 minutes searching for it with his boyfriend in the surf before finding it again. Phew.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas tree

I'm not really a christmas kinda guy. Nathan, on the otherhand, LOVES Christmas. Above all else, he loves decorating the christmas tree. Every year he has a different theme in mind. And for the past two months, every time we walked past a christmas tree in a department store, he'd be talking about how fantastic our tree will look this year.

So...imagine my surprise when I came home on Wednesday to find the tree up but with not a single decoration. No Christmas bauble. No tinsel. No fairy lights. Nothing but a hastly assembled plastic tree. I figure he'll put together something soon but several days later, the plastic branches still lay bare.

It took me a while but I finally figured why Nate was less excited about getting the decorations up for the home christmas tree this year...he was preoccupied with putting together the office tree (see below). I'm shuddering to think what he plans for the home tree this year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Queensland bound

I'm helping to run a field course for undergraduate students in a week's time and am heading off to a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef. After the initial excitement had worn off, I soon realised I was ill prepared for my trip and desperately needed to go shopping.

I took advantage of recent sales at the DFO to invest in a good pair of fins, a mask and snorkel.

My priority, however, was a rash vest to keep the sun off my back so I left work early yesterday to go shopping for more stuff. Rash vests are great for guys with perfectly toned bodies but for those of us who simply don't have the time to go to the gym (i.e. lazy), the contour fitting form of these shirts make it very hard to hide unsightly bulges. I figure that a week of intense sit ups is unlikely to make much of a difference to my physique so I decided to go for the lesser evil and settled for a black-coloured shirt, which was (as I very quickly found out) far less unflattering than the white version (so it's true, black really is slimming).

Rash vest in the bag, I tried to look for a pair of bathers. I don't get to the beach much and the swimming shorts I have at home are seriously outdated (they are the size of a one-man tent which means they blow up like a floatation device when I first hit the water before releasing all the trapped air in a most embarassing fashion). Call me shallow but I needed to update my swim wear.

Still, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I ventured up the escalators at DJs and was confronted with an overwhelming selection of swim shorts in a myriad of patterns, colours and forms. I made a half-baked effort to sift through the selection, got a shock when I saw the price tag on a pair I liked (who the hell pays $200 for a pair of swimming trunks?), and promptly decided I had had enough shopping for one day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Birthday surprise

The reason we were heading to Canberra was to surprise mum for her 60th. My siblings and I had invested in a very expensive handbag (purchased from one of those up market stores at the "Paris end" of Collins Street) which I then proceeded to misplace in the Tiger Airways terminal. The realisation I had lost the bag came three hours after clearing security. We were waiting at the terminal to board our delayed flight when I suddenly remembered the bag. The conversation then went something like this:

Me: Where's the Louis Vuitton bag?
Nathan: You're kiding me right?
Me: Shit. Where did I put it?
Nathan: Fuck.

I then tried to retrace my steps. Newslink. Nope. Cafe. Nope. We then ended up at the security check point.

Nathan (to security guy): This might sound like a strange question but did someone hand in a Louis Vuitton bag?
Security guy: No, it's not a strange question. And 'yes' we have it out the back.

Phew. The bag was delivered to mum on the Sunday and I avoided the potential wrath of the siblings.

Tiger tantrums

Nate and I went up to Canberra for the weekend. We flew Tiger Airways so there shouldn't be any surprises that (a) both the outbound and inbound flights were delayed (3 and 1.5 hours respectively) and (b) we were slugged with an extra $80 for not pre-purchasing our luggage (Nathan's fault) and checking in online (a flow on effect of thinking we had to check in in person because we had luggage) . Silly us. The woman at check in was actually surprised how good we were taking the extra charges. in truth, Nate had worked for another low-budget carrier and is always insistent it's the passenger's fault for not reading their terms and condition and, more importantly, we were trying not to attract the camera crew who were standing around filming for the Airlines reality program.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Public interior?

I spend quite a bit of time flipping through interior magazines at Borders (spot the gay). I often wondered how people's homes end up in these publications. Then, on Sunday, whilst chatting to the store manager of a favourite shop on Chapple St (who knows me well enough to know what kind of stuff I have in my apartment) referred me to a freelance writer/interior stylist who is now interested in featuring our apartment in a weekly column she writes for a magazine. I don't think the interior of my apartment looks quite like some of the houses featured in these sorts of things but let's see how it plays out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday Shopping

Met up with Nathan during his lunch break yesterday to do some shopping at the 'new' Myer store in Bourke Street. The upper floors are still a construction site but the $300 million make-over is starting to take shape and is looking really good. There are still some teething problems though. As I attempted to get to the 4th floor fitting room to try on a t-shirt, I was told by security staff that there was a water leak in that section of the building. A few minutes later, a quater of the floor was plunged into darkness.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Birthday surprise

We celebrated brother-in-law's 30th yesterday with a surprise lunch party at Shoya. My sister asked us (Nathan, my other sister and I) to pick up the birthday cake from Brunetti's on Swanston Street. Boy did we get a shock when the lady behind the counter emerged from the back with a towering 'croc en bouche' (I blame Master chef) which we then had to transport along Swanston and Bourke (all the while trying to dodge our way around tourists and Saturday shoppers).

Glad to say that the cake made it to the restaurant in one piece and brother-in-law was suitably surprised when he arrived a short time later and saw us all at the restaurant.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reality check

Some people are born survivors. When confronted with a challenge, these are the kinds of people that can quickly grasp reality and look for tangible solutions to get out of their predicaments. Take the example of Aron Ralston, the hiker who found himself trapped by a boulder whilst canyoneering in Utah in 2003. While many would have languished (and possibly died), Aron took drastic action by cutting his own arm off with a knife to free himself. In so doing, he lived to tell the tale.

At the other end of the extreme are people who seem incapable of confronting reality. My friend Pete, for instance, wasted a great deal of effort once trying to get himself a seat on a plane. He simply couldn't accept the fact that the flight was full and after 20 minute yelling at the airline company still had to settle for a later flight.

More recently, a work colleague has been trying to grapple with the reality of his employment situation. The guy's been on a one year contract and our employer has always been upfront about the nature of the fixed term position right from the beginning. Now that the contract is about to come to an end, my colleague is getting increasingly bitter. He can't seem to understand why his contract is not being renewed. I can see that this will not end well. The more he tries to hold onto an outcome that simply won't eventuate, the less time he is leaving himself to exploring alternative solutions to his employment situation. My colleague is unable to come to grips with his reality and to take the action necessary to free himself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The sculpture

My cubist-inspired piece is on the right.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekend in the Hunter

Went up to the Newcastle for a rock carving weekend with my friends Sarah and Hanna.

Took the plane to Sydney on Friday and then caught the train up to Sarah's place at Morisset. Saturday and Sunday were spent hacking into our blocks of limestone and covering ourselves in dust. I decided to do a figurative piece which became more and more abstract (and a little bit pornographic) as the weekend progressed. I'm quite happy with the finished product, which I have named 'Unitled No. 35'.

Caught the train back to Sydney this morning and then the bus from Central to Canberra. Boy does the country side look green. I don't think I've ever seen it so lush. Yay for 'La nina'.

Am in Canberra today and tomorrow. I have a fancy dinner to attend tonight and then some work stuff tomorrow morning at the ANU but am hoping to find some time to visit the new wing of the National Gallery.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Art opening

I just received some great photos from an art opening I attended a few weeks ago.

The artist, Billy Atkins, is from Western Australia and he came all the way to Melbourne with his daughter for the opening. He is quite the character and has the most cheeky smile.

His paintings (and the stories they depict) are really fascinating: from goannas that are transforming into trees to cannibalistic beings that live beneath the saltpans of Lake Disappointment.

Here, he is explaining to me the creatures depicted in a painting I bought. The centipede represents his sister, Gracie (whose story was captured in Phillip Noyce's film 'The Rabbit-Proof Fence").

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday bar crawl

8pm: Atrium Bar, Sofitel Hotel.

10pm: Bond Bar.

11pm: Robot.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Paid for Pipefish

I went to St Kilda pier today to collect pipefishes for research. The seagrass beds are teaming with these seahorse relatives. And, like seahorses, it's the male pipefishes that undergo 'pregnancy' and give birth. We were collecting them for a genetic study. It was a beautiful day for fieldwork: sunny, warm. However, as is typical with any kind of fieldwork in the city, people get very curious about what we were doing and soon gathered around our nets asking questions.

Curious bystander: "Are they garfish?"
Me: "No. They're pipefish."
Curious bystander: "Are you going to eat them?"
Me: "No. We're doing research on them"
Curious bystander: "Do you actually get paid for this?"
Me: "Absolutely."
Curious bystander: "Wow."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tour guide

I've been playing host to international visitors for the last week. Just as one left, another two have arrived. I've been stepping into 'tour guide' mode. Looking at aboriginal art at the National Gallery of Victoria, checking out graffitti and stencil art in lane ways, shopping on Brunswick Street, eating in St Kilda. Took my friends to the Greyhound last night. Straight male friend didn't dance but straight female friend couldn't get off the dance floor. Typical. Both had a blast but boy are my legs sore this morning. I think I'm getting old. Chapple street today (and maybe a revisit to Brunswick to try the Little Creature dining hall).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spicy sichuan

Ever done something stupid which turned out to be a blessing in disguise?

Yesterday, my friend and I left work early to go for dinner. We ended up hopping onto the bus...that was going in the opposite direction of where we had intended to go. By the time we realised our mistake (which took a lot longer than either of us would care to admit), we decided to just go along for the ride and ended up in Box Hill.

Once we arrived at our unexpected destination, we went for a bit of a wander, a reconnaissance to suss out our dining options. Thankfully my early childhood mandarin lessons paid off and I spotted two familiar chinese characters which told me that one of the restaurants we were contemplating served 'sichuan' food. My chinese literacy is confined to the recognition of maybe 20 characters so I was extremely proud of my achievement.

Knowing that Sichuan cuisine is known for its spice and that my friend likes all things spicy, we decided to give the restaurant a try. We ordered three dishes between us. All were laced with chilli and sichuan peppercorns and were very, very spicy (and salty and laden with MSG). At one stage, I felt the left side of my tongue go numb from the spice but the dishes were extremely tasty (probably due to the MSG). It was definitely an unforgettable dining experience. And yes, I am suffering for it this morning but I reckon it was worth it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Authentic Mexican

After years of searching, I've finally found a Mexican restaurant that serves authentic Mexican cuisine (on Johnstone Street). No more Tex-Mex for me! Bring on the real flavours of Meso-America! The whole tex-mex phenomenon is really baffling to me. The real stuff is so much better.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Acting your age

It seems that people spend a heck of a lot of time and effort to hide their true age. Young people want to look older. Old people want to look younger. When you're young, it is flattering to be mistaken for being older. And when your older, it's flattering to be mistaken for being younger. But when you're in your 30s, it's not terribly nice to be mistaken for a senior citizen. Or at least that's what Nathan tells me. A couple of days ago a stranger on the tram offered his seat for Nathan to sit down. At first Nate thought the guy was getting off at the next stop but then realised that the man had mistook him for an older gentleman. I really should be more supportive but when Nathan told me the story I couldn't help but burst into laughter.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Court

The conference is over and I'm about to head back to the east coast (and the three hour time, getting to work on Monday morning is going to be tough).

The conference dinner was held on the last evening of the conference on Friday night. It was listed in the conference program as starting at 7pm and finishing 'late' which, in Perth, was midnight. So...after being ushered out of the conference centre by some very surly security guys and then taking my very drunk PhD student back to his hotel, I met up with some other colleagues at The Court Hotel for some dancing.

The Court Hotel is probably the least gay nightclub I had ever been to. I'm not sure if it was an unusual evening (participants from The University Games were also in town) but the people making out (and taking up valuable space) on the dance floor were mostly straight couples. Still, it was fun dancing with my biologist friends (we are all so terribly geeky and uncoordinated). At about 2am, surly security guys once, again, started ushering us, this time, out into the courtyard as they were about to close the bar and dance floor inside (what is it with early closing times and security guys in WA?). It had been a long day of conferencing so we decided to head back to our respective hotels.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Riding on the back of WA

So it's true. Western Australia does have a big chip on its shoulder. People here really do feel that the rest of the country is riding on its back. Last night at the conference opening, the chief scientist made the point to tell the international audience that Western Australia makes up a third of the continent and contributes to 40% of the country's export earnings (before showing us all cute slides of kangaroos and quokkas).

A whole bunch of babies

Went to Freemantle yesterday by train. The Freemantly line also stops at the Showgrounds for the Perth Agricultural Show. The train from Perth city was packed...full of young mothers and babies. I found it amusing that a "family ticket" to the show was for "two adults and five children". My Western Australian friend tells me that WA is a good catholic state. Judging by all the screaming children, I can see that he is probably right.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I touched down in Perth yesterday for a week long conference. Some interesting observations:

1. The taxi driver that took me to my hotel was complaining about Perth being a racist city. I thought this was a rather strong statement to be making but I'm not surprised. The driver's comments were certainly consistent with the last time I had visited the city; back then, about 10 years ago, I noticed anti-immigration propaganda plastered on lamp posts. Unfortunately, this time round, I've already heard more racist comments in the two days I've been here compared to the last 5 years I have been living in Melbourne.

2. There are a lot more luxury brand stores in the CBD. My Western Australian friend says that this is a city full of cashed up bogans. I guess he may be right.

3. Tattoos are big in Perth. Guys here like ink blazened across bare torsos and chests (ala Ben Cousins).

4. The public transport system is fantastic. True, there was a strike on the trains the day I arrived but Perth has a touch-style card system that actually works (cf Melbourne's myki) and the trains actually seem to run on time!

5. The Art Gallery of Western Australia is superb. It's a small art gallery compared to most other State Galleries but it has an amazing collection.

6. The public aquarium is one of the best in Australia, rivaling the much lauded Sydney Aquarium.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The pig won

I had the münchner schweinshaxe.... It was hard to resist a good pork.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pig-footed dilemma

I'm off to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner tonight. For the uninitiated, The "Hof' is a German restaurant specializing in Bavarian cuisine. My heart (in an emotional sense, rather than physical) is telling me I should order the "münchner schweinshaxe" (pickled and roasted pork shank)....It's hard to resist the crunchy crackling and the salty, melt-in-your-mouth morsels of slow-cooked flesh. Problem is my head (and my doctor) is telling me I should choose the fish option. Hmmm...what a dilemma. I worry I will give in to weakness... just the mere sight of the above photo is making my mouth water in anticipation.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Genitalia, drag show and a birthday party

What a weekend. It started on Friday with a work meeting to discuss a new scientific experiment involving mate choice in humans. If successful, we will hopefully get an answer to an age-old question: does size really matter? ...Stay tuned.

Saturday night, I went to the Greyhound Hotel with one of my research collaborators. It had nothing to do with science. We just wanted to go and see the drag performance. I've probably mentioned this previously already but I really like the people that go to the Greyhound... Diverse. Happy. Fun.

On Sunday, Nate and I went out to a restaurant in Reservoir to celebrate a 1-yeor old's birthday. Three interesting observations. First, people out in suburbia are, on average, 15 kg larger than their inner city counterparts. Second, restaurants catering for suburban clientele serve up bigger food portions on larger plates than inner city restaurants. Third, people living in suburbia have more children than those who dwell in the inner city (there were at least 4 other kids birthdays on that day).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

An Australian story

The Canning stock route exhibition at The National Museum of Australia was definitely one of the highlights of this weekend's visit to Canberra (aside from the usual wallowing in excessive feast...but, as usual, I digress).

The stock route, which runs over 1900 kms in length from Wiluna to Halls Creek, goes through the Western desert region of north-western Australia...and the traditional lands of aboriginal peoples.

Here is a story with both a white and black perspective. For the former, it is a pioneer story about getting cattle across a vast tract of inhospital land and hostile locals. The route was established by Alfred Canning at the turn of the 20th century with much help from local aboriginals. Some 52 wells were sunk along the route for the cattle and drovers.

The aboriginal perspective is very different. Without a doubt, the route would not have been established without the help of local aborigines (many of whom were forced to work for Canning and his crew against their will). Traditional owners were dispossessed and sacred sites were irrevocably ruined. But the aboriginal stories, as told through their vibrant paintings, also speak of resilence and, ultimately, keeping culture strong.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Busy busy

A couple of weekends ago I was in Sydney visiting friends. This weekend I'm in Canberra visiting my folks. I'll be visiting Perth later in the month for a conference. And am also planning trips to Hobart (for fun), Brisbane (for Valentino) and Adelaide (for fieldwork). Now I just need an excuse to visit Darwin.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The bus driver

In contrast to most people, I don't mind bus drivers, especially the ones that take me between the train station and my work. The regulars always wait for me if they see me running towards the bus and yesterday I actually had a decent conversation with the driver on the way to the train station about, of all things, abstraction (the driver is also doing a Masters in Fine Art). So...Melbourne bus drivers are both learned and kind.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I heart risoni

Pasta that looks like rice.

Morning in Fitzroy

I'm not sure how I've managed to live in Melbourne for the last 5 years and not known about Mario's cafe on Brunswick Street. I walked past it yesterday arvo and noticed the paintings hanging on the walls inside the cafe and decided to pop in for a quick look. The place was packed and I decided then and there that I had to return for food.

Flash forward to late this morning when I managed to drag Nathan out of bed and up to Fitzroy for brunch at Mario's. The food was yummy, especially the breakfast special that Nathan ordered. It was basically egg, cheese and bechamel sauce sandwiched between two pieces of buttery toast. Calories + saturated fat = tasty.

After brekky, Nathan wanted to check out the Kodak Salon at the Centre for Contemporary Photography. The problem was that neither of us knew exactly where it was (other than the fact that the CCP was suppose to be on George Street and that George Street was somewhere nearby). Fortuitously, a turn down a side street got us there. After seeing the exhibition, Nathan is now more determined than ever to get himself a good camera for Christmas (Naturally, I will be his muse!).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend in the Emerald City

Nathan and I headed up to Sydney on Thursday night to visit friends for the weekend.

We spent Friday morning gorging on seafood at the Sydney Fish Markets before visiting my favourite gallery on Dank street in Waterloo. In the evening we caught up with Sasha and Simon who had made a reservation at a greek restaurant where participation in the Zorba and the smashing of plates were apparently compulsory (I did very badly at the former and nearly took out someone's shin with the latter).

Nate and I caught up with Sasha and Simon again on the Saturday night for what was arguably the best pub meal I've ever eaten (at the Cooper's Hotel in Newtown). The TV screens were a little distracting though and I found myself glued to the coverage of the election. We later moved to a bar devoid of television monitors for cocktails where I managed to have a non alcoholic beverage called a tutti frutti (very predictable, I know).

Before flying back to Melbourne on Sunday, we headed out to Fort Denison for a visit. Fortuitously, even without a reservation, we managed to get a table at the fancy restaurant on the Fort and enjoyed a nice meal with the harbour backdrop.

Nate and I returned to wet and cold Melbourne on Sunday night. I wish we had Sydney's winter weather. I think the temps on the weekend in Sydney were the warmest I had experienced since leaving Summer in Finland.

Need to make another trip up again soon (Victor, I haven't forgotten about our outing for pho and Paddington markets!).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Surprise house warming

It's been months in the planning: a surprise housewarming party for my friends Kath and Emile. It's actually a second housewarming to make up for their first one when no one turned up. This time round, to avoid a piss poor turn out, we organized a night that would guarantee maximum attendance and then hatched an elaborate plan.

The plan involved organizing a quiet decoy "dinner" at Kath and Emile's home with one of their friends. This was to ensure that they'd actually be home when the rest of us turned up with the food and drinks....Housewarming parties aren't much fun when you can't get into the house because the occupiers are out on the town. The plan also involved organizing a decoy Sunday activity (a trip to the Camberwell markets) to ensure that neither Kath nor Emile had any early morning plans that might ruin a fun-filled night of partying.

Meanwhile, the rest of us gathered at South Yarra station and then walked to Kath and Emile's house, quietly gathered in front of the door, and then rung the door bell. Emile answered the door and basically stood in the doorway speechless for what seemed like eternity before someone in our group suggested he let us into the house. It was quite the home invasion and it took them a while to come around to the fact that they were now hosting a housewarming party (rather than a quiet night in). I'm not quite sure if anyone knows whether the camberwell market outing is still happening though. I suspect not.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A suitor for Emma

I had the day off again and decided to visit Emma who manages a gallery in the city.

Whilst I was there, a man walks in, says hello, then proceeds to look around.

Emma and I start chatting in her office. Thirty minutes later I realize that the man was still loitering around. I felt bad and told her that she should attend to the customer but she assures me that he has an ulterior motive... the guy wants to ask her out on a date. I told her I should go so he can have the opportunity (I'm a romantic at heart) but she insists that I stay.

Eventually the guy runs out of patience and comes over to the office. After exchanging idle chit chat, he tells Emma he'll come back tomorrow and then leaves. Emma looked relieved. She had only recently come out of a relationship. I tell her that the guy seems nice and, besides, is only asking her out for coffee; not proposing marriage. I thought she should give the guy a go (I felt sorry for him and, besides, he was totally hot). Emma tells me that she is not ready to start dating again and wasn't looking for love. It turned out Emma had an ulterior motive too. You see, Emma is after more male friends. She thinks there is something wrong about the female gender bias of her friendship circle and thought this guy might be able to help her redress the imbalance. She saw him as friendship material (He evidently was thinking something else). I tell Emma that love happens when one is busy doing other things and besides, if the coffee date isn't going well she can always start talking about her ex or her daughter.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The dog

I've sat in train carriages with vomiting children, urinating drunks and smelly vagrants but never before (until today) did I have to endure 30 minutes sitting near a nice-looking dog with a terrible gas problem.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The sales pitch

Last night at an art exhibition preview...

Me: I really like this painting.
Gallerist (pointing to another painting): Yeah but you really should get this one.
Me: But I prefer my one more.
Gallerist (still insiting on the other painting): I'm telling you, this is the better painting. It's the one the NGA [National Gallery of Australia] was interested in.
Me: Maybe they should buy it.
Gallerist: They can't afford it.

By now, we are joined by some random guy who was also at the exhibition...

Random guy: I agree with Grant. It's the better piece. You should get it.
Me to Randy: I like the other one more. Maybe you should buy this one?
Random guy: I can't possibly.
Gallerist: Seriously [turning to me], you should get this one. I'm telling you.
Me: I can't afford it.
Gallerist: Oh...why didn't you say so earlier [He walks off].

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The crying game

Earlier this week, I had to have a difficult conversation with M, a friend from work. As usual, it ended in tears.

The previous Friday, I had invited M and her husband to an art exhibition where they proceeded to get completely plastered. Things weren't too bad at the gallery but it soon deteriorated when we were invited back to the gallerist's house.

For a start, M's husband decided to plant his arse on a piece of furniture that was not meant to be sat on. To this day, I'm not quite sure why he thought it was ok to make himself comfortable on top of a low lying book shelf adorned with pieces of sculpture and a small television set. But let's not over analyse.

The gallerist absolutely cracked it and proceeded to tell him off in front of all the other guests. Sure, maybe the gallerist over-reacted but M's husband didn't help the situation by boasting about his own furniture-making skills and how he could easily have fixed the piece had it been damaged under his weight. Yeah, right. We're talking about a fancy custom made book shelf that was built by a famous Western Australian furniture maker that probably cost as much as a small house in Frankston...not a quick assembled, mass-produced shelf from Ikea called Möög.

Meanwhile, M, who was too drunk to pour herself a drink, spilt sparkling mineral water all over the gallerist's jarah coffee table. Trying to be helpful, M's husband then attempted to clean the spill with the gallerist's collection of imported art magazines. It was about as stupid and as futile as BP's recent attempts at cleaning up the oil spill in the Mexican Gulf.

About this time, I decided that maybe I should go (and to try and drag M and her husband along with me). My exit strategy was simple. I got up and started to say goodbye to the other guests hoping that M and her husband would follow. Encouragingly, M stood up. Discouragingly, after hugging me goodbye, she sat back down. It was then that the gallerist followed me to the corridor and instructed me to get them out of her house. Talk about awkward.

Flash forward to the start of the working week and a different kinda awkward. I call M into my office and proceeded to recount the horrors of Friday evening and the awkwardness it had caused (not to mention the verbal apology and the $20 I spent on buying the gallerist flowers the next day). The whole time M looked at me, her shoulders tense and her eyes glossy. I really should have let her go after she apologised but I made the mistake of trying to then change subjects and, on a more positive note, asked about the rest of the weekend. She bursts into tears and rushes out of my office.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My life in 10 dishes

Inspired by Muzbot, here is my food biography:

1. Nestum. A brand of cereal that was very popular in South-east Asia. Every kid in Singapore probably grew up eating it. The cereal came in a tin and I still remember the wonderful aroma when the lid was opened. Grandma used to mix the cereal with hot water and condensed milk. Delicious.

2. Pork intestines. I guess it might seem disgusting but I have fond childhood memories eating a pork intestine and rice noodle dish from the produce markets when I was living in Singapore as a kid. I last had it when I went back to Singapore for a holiday in 2002 and it was exactly how I had remembered it from when I last ate it as a six year old.

3. Chicken congee. A savoury rice porridge, congee is another childhood favourite. I used to love having a freshly cracked egg in the bottom of the bowl which would poach in the hot congee.

4. Chicken rice. This is pretty much Singapore's national dish. And it's such a humble dish too...poached chicken with a deliciously chicken-flavoured rice. My mum used to work in a shop at the Hilton Hotel in Orchard Road and we would buy the chicken rice for lunch. It was always wrapped in a special grease proof paper. When unwrapped, the wonderful aroma would waft out and I would eat it behind the counter at the shop.

5. Meat pie. I still remember the first time I saw someone eating a meat pie. It was during winter in primary school in Canberra and the kid ended up with the meat all over his fingers. I remember putting in a lunch order for my first pie and how the tuck shop ladies would plunge the nozzle of the tomato sauce squirter into the pie to dispense the sauce. For the record, I NEVER got the meat sauce all over my fingers.

6. Grandma's fish and garlic chive dumplings. We used to go to Sydney to buy spanish makeral and garlic chives for making this northern chinese dish (because Canberra, in the early 80s, was no match to Sydney when it came to good produce). I remember grandma mincing up the fish with a big meat cleaver, roll out the dough for making the dumpling 'skins' and expertly pinching the dumplings together and setting them aside on a giant bamboo tray until they were ready to be boiled. Strangely, my favourite dipping sauces for fish dumplings were tomato sauce or thousand island dressing. Truly east meets west.

7. Rock lobsters. On a family holiday to Tasmania many years ago we ended up staying in the beautiful seaside hamlet of Bicheno. During a walk along a beach, we came across a fisherman with rock lobsters in hand. We ended up buying them from him and dad spent the early evening preparing them at our motel. We ended up having them in salad, as sashimi and, my favourite, grilled with cheese.

8. Dad's peking duck. Did I mention that my dad is a chef? His peking ducks are to die for. It's a rather labour intensive process to get the crispy skin that involves separating the skin from the meat (using either a bike pump or, in the good old days, by blowing through an opening in the skin at the neck). Then the duck needs to be air dried for a bit to remove any moisture from the skin before the actual roasting process. Dad used to make the wafer thin pancakes for wrapping the duck too.

8. Seafood bouillabaise, Finland. My favourite restaurant in Helsinki specialises in dishes made with garlic. The stand out dish, without a doubt, is their seafood bouillabaise. Everytime I go back to Helsinki, I always make a point of going to that restaurant and ordering the dish.

9. Red snapper curry. The Waterfront restaurant on Southbank used to do a delicious red snapper curry dish. The presentation was wonderful with the whole fish fried and presented on the plate, the filleted flesh steeped in a delicious red curry sauce and topped with fresh herbs, chilli and bean shoots. Alas, the restaurant recently changed their menu and my perennial favourite is no longer available. Yes...I complained to the manager.

10. Tuna bake. Nathan's speciality. It wasone of the first dishes Nathan ever cooked for me. And even though the sauce comes out of a jar and the dish is like a billion calories per serve, I still love it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In the news...

Goes to show that you never really know when or where you might be photographed (I'm the bald one in front of the 300K + painting).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oblivious to all the drama

I left home yesterday morning at 7.05 to catch the train to work. I walked into southern cross station and make my way to platform 10. The Flinders-bound train arrives and I get on. The train gets stuck for about 20 minutes somewhere between southern cross and flinders street. Nothing unusual. I arrive at Flinders Street, and walk to my connecting train which was already waiting at the station. As far as morning commutes go, yesterday was actually a good one for me and I was completely oblivious to the fact that there were train dramas until I overheard a woman talking about it to another passenger as we pulled out of Flinders Street.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The art auction

I went to an art auction last night on Commercial Road. It was a real eye-opening experience. First, I had no idea how much disposable income there is out there. People pay serious amounts of money for art. One lot sold for a staggering $110,000. That's like a house in Tasmania! A shitty house, sure, but a house nonetheless.

Second, a lot of older women at the auction last night seemed to have had one two many face-lifts. I guess disposable income and plastic surgery go hand in hand.

Third, auction houses do very well to ply their potential clients with alcohol. There was a lot of wine consumed last night. I guess it drives up the bidding.

Fourth, when it comes to auctions, some people will dig their heels in to secure a lot regardless of how much it costs (and if I was a little braver, should try to drive up the bidding just for fun).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is hairy sexy?

I subscribe to a scientific journal called Behavioral Ecology. The latest issue had a very interesting paper discussing the results of an experiment testing the preferences of women for male body hair.

Women were shown pictures of naked torsos of men with and without body hair and asked which image they were sexually attracted to. Evidently, women prefer hairless men more strongly during the time of their menstrual cycle when they were most fertile.

But what I loved most about the study was the bit in the methods which talked about the male participants who provided the photographs. Each male participant "received a bottle of Koskenkorva compensate for the loss of their trunk hair and time".

Hmmm...I wonder what most gay men prefer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Something dodgy?

I was flipping through an art auction catalogue after lunch today and saw a painting that I had remembered seeing advertised in another catalogue two years earlier by a different auction house. There was something very wrong with the painting though. It had been substantially retouched to the point where some sections had been entirely repainted. The estimated value of the work had also increased substantially (between 5-8 times more than the estimated value when it was in 'poorer' condition two years ago)! Is this acceptable practice I wonder? Maybe it's a bit like buying a run down house, doing it up and then reselling at a high price? On the other hand, the work is being represented as an original even though the level of 'retouching' seems to have gone beyond what one might expect for conservation purposes. After tossing up whether I should just mind my own business, I thought the ethical thing to do is to email the auction house to make them aware of it. I hope I did the right thing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Death by painting?

I went to see one of my favourite gallerists the other day and she proceeded to tell me how she was almost killed by one of her paintings. I always thought that art collecting would be a relatively benign past time compared to, say, sky diving or bungy jumping. But no...according to Brigitte, it can be dangerous.

Brigitte has a vast and impressive art collection and every available wall space, from floor to ceiling, is covered with paintings. Evidently, one of her most beloved canvases, a rather large one, fell on her head. The force of the impact knocked her out. Fortunately she was ok (and so was the painting) but it did make me wonder about some of the many artworks I have hanging in my own apartment but I guess there are worse ways to die than being dispatched by a favourite work of art.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Idle chit chat

I seem to run into two kinds of people in Melbourne: former students and B-grade celebrities. Today, at Windsor station, it was the former.

It took me a while to register who it was because the student had undergone a makeover of sorts and was sporting a funky haircut and wearing very stylish clothes.

The train soon arrives and we both get on and start to chat. The student is now doing graduate medicine. He was going to the city to meet a friend for lunch. He seems genuinely happy.

A couple of years ago, I had bumped into the same student (also on public transport). I was with Nathan. The next day, I got an email from the student telling me that he had recently come out as a bisexual man. Several years later, as we stood in the train carriage discussing trivial things, I am thinking about the other journey he had been taking. I did not feel it was appropriate of me to ask about his coming out but I did tell him how nice it was to see him again and how glad I was that things were going well for him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trip update

Holy crap...can't believe it's been such a long time aready since my last post.

After Stockholm, Nathan jetted off to London for a week to catch up with some friends while I returned to the field station to finish off my experiments. I met up with Nathan on his return from the UK and, together with my friend Topi, headed off to Tampere (Topi's home town).

Nestled between two huge lakes, Tampere has to be one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. We stayed with Topi's parents who live in a beautiful house (which his dad built) on a ridge with a breathtaking view out across one of the lakes. His parents had a lavish dinner waiting for us when we got there, consisting of freshly smoked salmon and new season potatoes. This is where we ate the dinner which is actually on top of their outdoor sauna.

Finns are very proud of their saunas (the word 'sauna' is actually Finnish).

We spent the next day exploring the city and caught up with Topi's sister's boyfriend for drinks in the arvo.

The boyfriend is very talkative (for a Finn), extremely funny and one of the campest straight guys I have ever met. He had already had a few beers when we met up with him and apparently woke up the next morning with very little memory of the afternoon at the beer garden and our dinner at the steak restaurant afterwards.

After Tampere, we all headed back to the field station to celebrate mid-summer. all the big cities are pretty much deserted over the midsummer weekend as everyone heads off to the country side to visit their summer cottages or congreggate with friends around big bonfires. We ended up having a pot luck party with some friends in (of course) the sauna area at the field station.

The next morning, Nate and I had to leave to go back to Helsinki but not before going fishing for pike with Topi. Topi caught two (for scientific purposes) within an hour and, as part of the research deal, was allowed to take a fillet which we cooked up before we left the station.

Before leaving, I also managed to find some wild strawberries around the field station. No, I don't have gigantic hands. Wild strawberries are very small, but boy are they tasty.

Flew out of Finland on Monday evening and got back to wintery Melbourne this morning. A whole month away doing fieldwork... I love my job.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Nate and I caught the ferry to Stockholm on Tuesday evening with my friend Topi. We booked the cheapest room possible which ended up being one level below the car deck. The only other people staying at that level were backpackers and gypsies.

We arrived in Stockholm on Wednesday morning. The beautiful people of Stockholm all seem to be currently obsessing over the upcoming nuptials between Crown Princess Victioria and her commoner fiance, Daniel. There was wedding related merchandise in every shop window on just about every street corner in the city. Pictures of the beaming royal couple (such as this) were emblazened on dinner plates and tea spoons and boxes of chocolate.

After getting off the ferry, our first stop in Stockholm was to the Vasa museum to visit the famous warship that sank in 1628. The Vasa is a bit of an embarrasment for the Swedes. It sank after sailing less than one nautical mile into its maiden voyage (because it was top heavy and had insufficient ballast). It lay at the bottom of a busy shipping lane in Stockholm harbour and was pretty much forgotten until it was rediscovered and resurrected in the early 1960s and is now on display in a spectacular purpose-built museum.

I'm not really a ship kinda guy but I did find the museum very interesting, not the least because of how well the ship had been preserved.... When we entered the building, I could hear a great deal of noise coming from a bunch of chinese tourists and it soon became apparent that one of them had been the victim of a pickpocket. I stepped in to offer to translate because the tourists couldn't speak any english and the museum staff couldn't speak any chinese. The victim had apparently had 2,900 british pounds pinched from her bum bag. Who the hell carries that much cash? Regardless, I guess that was her holiday ruined. After doing as much as I could to help, we resumed our tour of the museum and the ship...with my own bag firmly in my grips the entire time.

After the Vasa, we continued on our aquatic theme and visited the aquarium next door. It was a rather small aquarium but noteworthy for the spectacular rainforest walk-through display that included rain and thunder! As impressed as I was with all the pyrotechnics, I couldn't help but wonder how many times visitors might have fallen or slipped into the pools of fish below because of the sudden change of lighting (the wonky bridge over the pool that housed the pirhanas was particularly steep and slippery).

From the aquarium, we slowly made our way along the waterfront to the old city before checking out the 'newer' parts of the city centre (including a quick stop-over at the local clothing superstore, H&M, at Nathan's request).

We caught the metro back to the ferry terminal in the afternoon. Before stepping onto the ship, we couldn't resist the opportunity to have a photo taken with Moomin troll (the troll is the one in the middle).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend in Helsinki

I went to Helsinki for the weekend for some R & R. The weather, unfortunately, was a little crappy (Melbourne would actually have been warmer) but I had a good time nonetheless.

Nate and I caught up with my friend Marja and we first headed over to the Esplanadi for lunch (I had a delicious salmon soup).

It was 'Helsinki Day' on Saturday and there were a lot of activities going on in the city. After lunch we checked out a market nearby before heading into the design district. On our way to the Design Museum, we walked past some interesting plant stands on the sidewalk that had rubber snakes and lizards hidden in the pot plants. Marja pointed out that it was the entrance to a shop that sold interesting clothes so we decided to go in for a look. I ended up buying a jumper; my first item of clothing with elbow patches.

The owner of the shop was a friendly lady but she wore the most hideous outfit I had ever seen. It was a denim and leather homage to bad 80's rock paired with 90's MC Hammer pants. There was a huge hole cut out the front of the large-shouldered shirt that exposed the sad-looking cleavage of someone who really ought to be wearing a more uplifting bra.

Anyhoo...after wandering around the shops in the design district, we headed back towards the city centre and fortuitously stumbled past the city fire station which was holding an open day. Marja insisted we go in to check out the firefighters and the trucks (she was positively drooling in anticipation). Here is a picture of Marja looking very happy after checking out the fire trucks.

It didn't take her very long to point out the firefighter she liked (not surprisingly, he was tall and blonde). I much preferred the slightly stockier guy with the shaved head but Marja thought his bottom was too big. Nathan shook his head and commented that they were all rather ugly and would just as well die in a fire than call the Finnish fire brigade.

After Marja had finished checking out the firefighters, we walked the (numerous) stairs up to the fire tower and had an amazing view of the city below.

By then, some of the clouds had even lifted and we could see blue sky (though it was still very windy). By the time we descended the stairs, we were all pretty much buggered and so Nate and I parted ways with Marja and headed back to my friend Topi's place where we were staying.

By Sunday, the rain had returned. Nate and I headed back into the city for lunch when there was a break in the weather and, afterwards, walked through a very nice park past the beautiful Finlandia Concert Hall designed by Alvar Aalto (Finland's most celebrated architect). The building itself, with the sharp angles, reminds me of some of the public buildings in Canberra.

We eventually ended up at the Olympic Stadium which played host to the 1952 Olympics. The paintwork outside looked a bit shabby and I thought it was nowhere near in as good a condition as the MCG.

I left Nathan to come back to the fieldstation last night and, on my way to my room, walked past a bunch of Finns and Germans watching the match between Germany and Australia. I paused briefly to check out the score and quietly made my retreat.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The worldly pickled pepper

Finns seem to have a rather weird obsession with pickled peppers. Not any old pepper either. The Finns seem to only eat one sort. This...

Seriously. It doesn't matter what sort of restaurant you happen to walk into, chances are there's a pickled pepper lurking somewhere nearby. It's a bit like a game of 'where's wally'. So far, I've seen them dished out at salad bars, at a Nepalese restaurant on my plate of fish masala, as a garnish sitting on my 'kebab' (drenched in a generous dollop of thousand island dressing), and at a trough next to the pad thai and spring rolls at a 'chinese' buffet restaurant in Helsinki called the Tang Dynasty. Wtf?!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Nathan has decided to abandon me to return to Helsinki. I think he misses the city and doesn't cope too well without television. I'll be joining him briefly over the weekend and again mid-week to catch the cruise ship to Stockholm. Not sure if we're going to be able to get tickets for the ship...there's a royal wedding on this weekend in Stockholm and apparently everyone is flocking over to catch a glimpse of it. A colleague who is joining us will try and secure tickets over the next couple of days (for the ship, that is. We don't give a rats about the wedding). Worst case scenario, we might try to go to Tallin instead. I need the break. I was meant to be taking it easy but am working ridiculously long hours catching up on work from Oz in the mornings (when it is still daytime in Melbourne) as well as the stuff I need to do while I'm here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The two things I dislike about Finland...

There are two things I don't like about Finland. The first is salmiakki (salty licorice). Finns absolutely love the stuff. I'm not sure why, especially as an active ingredient in salmiakki is ammonium chloride (i.e. the same stuff that forms at the edge of vocanic vents and is also found in shampoo and the glue that binds plywood). The second thing I hate about Finland are the mosquitos. They are ravenous and they seem to really like my blood. I just tried going for a walk. It was overcast and they were swarming everywhere. It was so bad, I had to run back inside.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Helsinki snapshot

While I was busy at the field station, Nathan was in Helsinki being a tourist. Here are a selection of his photos.

lily of the valley

The woodland surrounding the field station is heavily laden with the scent of lily of the valley, Finland's national flower. Whilst I was out walking this evening I noticed quite a few people picking the flowers from the side of the road so I grabbed a bunch as well. Now the whole unit smells of the forest.

Friday, June 4, 2010

spices, missiles and quark

Someone has pinched the olive oil and the spices from the pantry. They belonged to someone who would've occupied the unit before we moved in. What's really weird is that our unit is always locked and the only people with keys are the three guys staying here (me, nathan and a work colleague) and the field station caretaker and cleaning staff. My colleague suspects the cleaning lady. I reckon a moose walked in and pinched it.

Apart from vanishing kitchen ingredients, the other bizarre thing about living here at the field station (actually there are quite many bizarre things) is the fact that the Finnish army trains its soldiers nearby and there is always the disconcerting sound of artillery going off. Death by stray missile was not something I had put down on my work risk assessment for the trip.

And one final thing (for now, anyway)...the range of dairy products consumed by Finns far out number what I am used to back home. This trip, I introduced Nathan to the delights of piima (kinda like sour milk) and quark (something that the station staff serve to us for dessert at lunch time and goes well with fruit).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Well, we're finally here. The temperature in Helsinki is not much different from Melbourne (actually, Melbourne is slightly warmer) so it's funny to see people out and about in short sleeved shirts and shorts. My Finnish friend tells me that it's all relative. After months of subzero temperatures, Finns are happy to take off all their clothes when the mercury pops above zero. My biological clock is still out. The sun sets here after 10pm and rises again by about 4am which makes it harder to adjust. Nevertheless, I am sleeping well and it's really nice to be back.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Visits to the GP

Typical...only days before the trip and I've had to go to the doctors, not once, but twice this week!!

My heart has been beating irregularly for the last fortnight. Blood results reveal high cholestrol. My blood pressure is also high (but only at the doctor's office). The doctor has increased my meds and told me to lose weight and do more exercise (surprise, surprise).

I decided to get back onto a healthy eating plan right away, which is a real bitch given my recent discovery of the Laksa King and that chinese restaurant near the Vic markets that does a mean braised pork knuckle. I guess roast duck is out too (at least, for a while). I decided to go sushi yesterday at work. Big mistake...Food poisoning.

I reckon Finland will be good for me...plenty of fresh air, fish and berries. I've been advised to stay clear of the sauna though...extreme temperature changes, the sight of naked men, and a recalcitrant heart are a recipe for disaster.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Saturday on Chapel Street

...started with a hearty bowl of sauerkraut and smoked meat stew at Borsch, Vodka and Tears.

After lunch, my companions and I were joined by Nathan who, by then, had finished work and we headed off to a special exhibition preview at one of my favourite galleries near Windsor station.

The gallery owner had insisted that Nathan and I come to preview the paintings before the show's opening when she found out we were going to miss the actual exhibition because of our overseas trip. The gallerist promised to open up a bottle of red from the artist's family estate (which, I think, was the main reason why Nathan and my other companions had initially agreed to come along). We were joined by a couple of the gallerist's other clients: a dentist, his wife and their two young kids.

We spent the afternoon looking at beautiful paintings, sipping wine (being a non-drinker I agreed to have a very tiny little bit), feeding cheese sticks to the gallerist's dog, and having a jolly good time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Europe bound

Just one more week to go before Nathan and I head over to Europe. It's a work visit for me and a holiday (of sorts) for Nathan (he will be coming along as my 'research assistant').

This will be our 'office' whilst we are away from home:

I will be doing research on these:

I will try not to work too hard so I can leave plenty of time to go into the forest to look for these:

I plan on eating plenty of this at Restaurant Origo (mmmm...seafood buffet):

And before we come back to Oz, I will likely buy a piece of nordic design such as this:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Laksa junkie the perfect antidote for days that are wet and cold (which is pretty much everyday here in Melbourne during winter).

When I was a kid, my favourite laksa was from a singaporean all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Canberra which was owned and operated by an old tyrant of a woman who use to tell me not to eat so much. She eventually closed her restaurant and went back to Singapore and it wasn't until the early 2000s until I discovered a satisfactory substitute in the Dickson Asian noodle house (DANH). DANH was one of those places that uni students would go for their laksa fix. It was cheap and tasty but every fifth bowl would invariably result in some form of mild food poisoning.

Since coming to Melbourne, my desire for laksa had not been fully satisfied....until now. A good food buddy introduced me to the earthly delights of the Laksa King near the Newmarket Railway Station the other night. Oh my God. If this was not the best laksa place on Earth then it must be a close second. The broth is so good I swear it must contain some sort of narcotic. The seafood, too, was cooked to perfection (scallops, prawns and squid were tender and juicy). But the real star was the chunk of fried melt-in-your-mouth eggplant that accompanied every bowl (see photo), an unusual ingredient for laksa but boy does it work.

I think I am hooked... after eating there on Friday, I went there again last night (using the excuse that I had to bring a friend there before he flew back to Europe later that evening). And before the bill was even paid, I was already contemplating my third visit.