Friday, February 26, 2010

The car in the driveway

Narthan called from work to tell me that his sister had to be sedated. Evidently, she was leaving the farm this morning and saw a car blocking the drive way. She tooted her horn a couple of times but there was no response so she got out for a closer look. Turns out that the guy in the other car was dead. A complete stranger had chosen, of all places, to commit suicide in the middle of the driveway. Jayde had to run back to the house to call the police. How full on is that?! The last Nathan heard, Jayde was still feeling pretty distraught. Looks like we might be making a trip to the country tomorrow to see how she is doing.

Cooking disasters

Nathan tries but he just can't cook. Last night he attempted a roast chicken. At first glance, it looked hopeful. The chicken was beautifully browned on the outside. Unfortunately, the inside was still raw. The undercooked chicken was accompanied by a limp salad drowned in a can of beans and half a bottle of greek dressing. Disaster. Still, last night's roast dinner was positively gourmet compared to the time Nathan decided to make a chow mein bake (picture an oven-baked dish comprising stir fry layered between a thick layer of bread crumbs and shredded cheese). About the only thing that Nathan cooks well is a tuna bake (and even then, it's probably because the sauce comes ready made out of a jar).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Letting go

I caught up with a mate last night for dinner. I hadn't seen Ben for years. We went to law school together (and he is one of only two friends that ended up pursuing careers as lawyers...the rest of us never went further than getting our degrees conferred).

When we were emailing each other to organise the dinner, I asked Ben whether he was in Melbourne for work or fun. He replied that he was no longer working. It turns out that after nearly 10 years as a high flying lawyer working in multinational law firms and banks in Asia and the UK, Ben had decided that enough was enough and quit his job. "There is no such thing as a happy lawyer", Ben told me last night, "only happy EX-lawyers".

After quitting, he took his motorbike on a road trip around Japan, came back to Oz and upgraded his diving qualifications, and is now considering going off to Paris to learn French. So many people get stuck in jobs that they absolutely loath. It was nice to see someone taking positive steps to reflect and do something about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday outing

It was one of those rare Sundays...Nathan actually had the day off! We decided to start out day with brunch at Amici Bakery and Cafe on Chapel Street. We could have taken the train (which would have been heaps quicker) but opted for the tram instead. We got off at the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel Street and walked to the bakery/cafe.

After brekky, we decided to cross the road and take a look inside the Chapel Street Bazaar where I nearly regurgitated my breakfast after seeing a fluffy white dog throw up over it's owner(who was carrying it at the time).

From there we walked to Tarlo and Graham to check out more bric-a-brac. Nearly bought myself a stuffed tawny frogmouth, which is a kind of bird that looks stuffed even when it is alive (see photo) but Nathan talked me out of it...I guess we don't really need any stuffed animals in the apartment.

After Tarlo and Graham, Nate and I caught a tram over to St Kilda. Went into a store called Urban Attitude and picked up one of these for my soy sauce (it makes up for the tawny frogmouth).

Had the best gelato EVER at some random ice cream shop, then caught a tram back into the city. A short walk and we were on Brunswick Street having afternoon drinks at The Provincial Hotel. As can be seen from this photo I randomly downloaded from the web, it looks a little run down on the outside but is actually a really nice venue.

More walking, another tram and finally home. My legs are like lead. Nathan is crashed on the couch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Uni 101

The new semester starts in a couple of weeks and our campus will soon be packed with undergraduates. Blessed.

University life can be a real eye opener for many first time undergraduates. It is a time for self discovery, to start anew. Anyone with emotional baggage can choose to leave them behind at the campus gates. Most people wont know who you are. In the dimly-lit lecture theatre, amidst a sea of a 1000 faces, you can be completely anonymous. You can pretty much dress how you want, study what you like, socialise with whom you choose, state your views, join whatever clubs or political groups you wish. No one will care. At uni you can be as chaste as you choose or as debaucherous as you desire.

The vast majority will adjust brilliantly and quickly settle into university life. Some will have way too much fun to the neglect of their studies. And a small minority will find it a real struggle.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Van Gogh no go

Nathan and I tried to see the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition at the National Gallery today. We arrived around 10.30am (the gallery opens at 10) but all the carparks near the gallery were already full. We finally manage to find a parking spot a fair distance away, walked over to the Gallery and got so far as inside the gallery foyer. We took one brief look at the horredous queue and promptly walked straight back out the revolving door.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy New Year (again)

Nathan and I are in Canberra this weekend. We are back for chinese new year (aka wallowing in excessive feast). This is the time of year when chinese people go all out. We greet one another with auspicious chinese greetings. We eat weird things with auspicious chinese names. We visit family and friends and katow to our ancestors in front of make-shift shrines covered in fruit and flowers. And we hand over red packets of money (well, the parent hand it out; the kids gratefully receive). Nathan is being immersed in my culture...luckily, for a country boy, he is not squimish about eating pig trotters with black moss vegetables.

Last night we went out with all the extended family...aunts, uncles, cousins and partners. It's an interesting observation that no matter how old you get (Nathan and I are both 33), if you are at a big chinese gathering you still get assigned to the "kid's table". I guess this was good for Nathan because the "kids" all prefer to communicate in english while the "adults" generally speak (loudly) in various dialects of chinese.

During the dinner, the nosy waitress asked me discreetly (in cantonese) if the person sitting next to me was my 'girlfriend'. I thought this was a rather rude thing to ask on so many levels but then I realised she was actually asking about the girl sitting to my left (rather than Nathan, who was sitting to my right). I politely told the waitress that the girl was actually the youngest of my cousins and gave her a look that made her feel awkward for the incenstuous untones of her inappropriate enquiry. I decided to let her figure it out for herself how the white guy fitted into the story.

The excessive feasting continues today with dumplings (must remember to warn Nathan that some of the dumplings have coins hidden in would be awfully inauspicious if one accidentally choked on a five cent piece).

Happy chinese new year everybody!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


My friend, T, is in a relationship with a guy who cannot commit. This is not the first time T has dated a 'commitment-phobe'. Her ex was one. They were together for 8 years. They bought a house together. They moved overseas together. And then...out of the blue, he got cold feet and voided the relationship. Just like that. The ex has since moved on and managed to very quickly commit to someone else. Was this a case of timing (i.e. the ex was not yet ready in his life to commit) or was T simply not the right one for the ex to commit to?

T is worried her current relationship is heading towards a similar trajectory. The problem is that L can't even commit to buying a house with T. This is setting off alarm bells. T wishes to confront him about it, to force his hand. She reckons that the pain of being rejected is better that continuing a relationship wrought with uncertainty. The fact is that T is a great catch. She is attractive, kind and intelligent. So what's wrong?

I wonder if guys are more afraid of commitment than women. Women certainly feel the tick of their biological clock a lot more strongly. I've also posted before about the so-called trading up hypothesis, a phenomenon recognised by evolutionary biologists whereby animals are expected to trade up when a better suitor comes along.

T spent 8 years of her life with a guy thinking that he felt the same towards her as she did towards him. That's a substantial investment. I don't think she is prepared to sit back and let history repeat itself.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Drinking problem?

I think Nathan's 'friend/former colleague' has a drinking problem. This is the same guy who, only a few months ago, had cut his face up pretty bad at the greyhound after he was allegedly set upon by thugs (it later transpired he had fallen over in the courtyard in a drunken stupor). He seems to always be drunk.

We caught up with the same guy at the pride march on Sunday. At 1pm, he was already off his face. And when we left him at 9pm, he was stumbling back to the Prince of Wales (even though we had advised him that this was probably not a good idea).

During conversation with him on Sunday, he mentioned how he had woken up on new years day in the emergency room of a hospital in New York after he had got himself drunk on vacation.

The problem is that neither Nathan nor I know him that well. And he doesn't seem to have any other friends. I wonder if it appropriate to hold an intervention nonetheless.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comfort words

I just finished writing an email to an interstate colleague I haven't seen for a couple of years. We've only ever met a dozen or so times but he has always been very good to me. Unfortunately, he is suffering from a terminal illness and the purpose of my email was to let him know that he was in my thoughts. It's an email that should have been written several months ago when I first heard he was sick. I guess I was scared. I didn't know if he would react badly to having someone contacting him out of the blue (sometimes these things are deeply personal and people want to deal with it in private). Finding the words can be difficult too. What the fu*k are you meant to say? I had to write a card a few years ago to another colleague whose son had committed suicide. It took me an hour to write the message, which I then tore up and tossed into the bin. The second attempt was better. It was shorter and less encumbered by what I thought the family might want to read and more informed by what my heart was telling me to write. I hope this colleague with the terminal illness reads the email in the same spirit in which it was sent.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Currently enjoying

...a soothing cup of chamomile tea.

Chamomile is a recent discovery for me. I like the taste of the tea, especially with honey. I had no idea it had so many medicinal benefits too. According to Wikipedia, chamomile has been touted as a cure for everything from gastrointestinal conditions and the common cold to open penile sores and vaginitis. Interesting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can we be friends?

The answer is 'no'.

I was speaking to a colleague last night who was having issues with one of his graduate students. The problem is that my colleague tries to be friends with his students. I think this is a recipe for disaster. It blurs the supervisor/student relationship and undermines authority.

When I was a student, I had an excellent working relationship with my PhD supervisors. This relationship has now grown into a friendship but I would never have expected them to be my friends while I was studying, nor would I have wanted them to be. What I needed were people that I could consider credible, who would critique my work and, when appropriate, kick me up the bum if I was being slack. It's a bit like parent/offspring relationships. Some parents want to be friends with their kids (instead of being parents). They're often the ones that end up on the Jerry Springer show.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hot Science

Scientists are no longer the geeky, socially maladjusted people they used to be. A few weeks ago, when we had a hoard of teenagers running around campus for a science summer school, I was taken back by just how cool the kids were. Recently, we had a PhD student start his studies here in our department. He used to be a springboard diver. Needless to say, he had a body to match. And then, today, I was visiting my colleague at another university and noticed this extremely good-looking german postdoc in the tea room with an amazing body covered in tattoos. Talk about hot, hot, hot.