Monday, December 28, 2015

On high rotation

Like all little girls (and quite possibly a few boys too), my eldest niece loves the Disney cartoon Frozen.  Santa got it for her this Christmas and we have been watching it over and over and over again. She never seems to tire of it. I, on the other hand, am well and truly over it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pre-Christmas bits and bobs

Well, Germany is all but a distant memory and I'm at the airport again...this time on my way to Canberra to visit the folks.

It's been a quick few weeks back in the office but the most memorable experiences have revolved around food and drink (they usually are).

First up, this interesting mocktail that a restaurant in Richmond whipped up for me last week (my friend's vietnamese beer sits alongside for scale). It's basically a fruit juice concoction served with a fancy stick of fruit and lots of ice. I'm not sure how much I paid for it but I don't think it would have been cheap. It was tasty though.
On Saturday night, I caught up with a colleague who is visiting from Europe. We went for Korean. It was a super hot day so I opted for this traditional cold Korean beef noodle soup. It was yuk. Definitely not to my taste (I think its the weird sensation of cold beefy messed with my mind. Broth should be hot).

The bad Korean experience was compensated a few days later when I was invited to high tea at the Park Hyatt by a couple of my colleagues. This was more to my liking (even though I regard myself as more of a 'savoury' person). The scones were great.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fish and food

My second full day in Berlin began with a visit to the aquarium at the Berlin Zoo. It is the best aquarium I've ever been to. It absolutely blew me away.

My friend insisted on getting us some curry wurst so I could have a taste. It was indeed delicious.
We then headed over to the Camera Work Gallery, which specialises in photography. The gallery was actually closed but the manager kindly allowed us to sneak in and catch a preview of their coming exhibition.

After getting our fill of art, we crossed the road to nearby Stilwerk, which is a design lover's paradise. I ended up buying a couple of new cushions.

Lunch was a very large schnitzel. The serving size was huge.
We spent the early evening checking out a couple more commercial galleries before I made my way back to the hotel. I have an early start tomorrow as I make my way back to Oz.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I'm in Berlin for a few days of R&R before my trip back to Oz. I had a busy (and fun) first full day in this most beautiful of capital cities.

It began with a trip to the moving Jewish Museum.

Then, a brief stop over at the contemporary art museum, which had very interesting architecture.
Next, my friend Brigitte took me to a Christmas market. No sooner had we walked through the gates, we were sitting down to a delicious lunch of roast goose (this time washed down with some non-alcholic kinderpunsch). My companion had a more grown up drink (a dark ale). I have eaten so much goose on this trip. It's a very German thing to do at this time of the year.

After a quick wander around the market, we were off to this amazing Department store which has the largest deli section in the world. I couldn't believe the sorts of stuff you could get here, from emu eggs to giant grouper fish. Here are some of the more conventional food items...

Dinner in the hotel room was a roasted pickled pork knuckle accompanied by cherry juice (both picked up from a local supermarket). I only managed to finish half of the pork knuckle (rest will be devoured this morning for breakfast). After dinner we went to see a German performance of La Cage aux Folles.

Monday, December 7, 2015


This is where I'm based for the next couple of days. Isn't it beautiful? It feels like I'm on the set of a wonderful European Christmas movie (or a theme park). Some of the buildings look like gingerbread houses.
I did manage to get myself lost on the way to my hotel after I turned up the wrong cobble-lined street but I' not complaining because I ended up wandering straight into a chocolate festival market.

Oh, and for dinner I had the most beautifully cooked goose breast served on a plate of sauteed greens, chestnuts, and gnocchi – all washed down with a big glass of cherry juice.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The good genes

This guy has been blessed with very good genes. Trust me, I'm a scientist. I know these things. For those who don't obsess over reality TV, his name is Nyle DiMarco and he just won cycle 22 of America's Next Top Model.


In transit

I'm still in transit. Here is the plane I took from Dubai to Frankfurt.
I decided to stay at a hotel near Frankfurt airport overnight. There was a huge Christmas tree in front of the hotel.
I'll be catching a regional train later this morning from the airport ahead of the public lecture I am suppose to be giving tomorrow.

Friday, December 4, 2015

An interesting ride to the airport

It was an interesting ride into the airport this evening. Soon after leaving home, we were caught in traffic due to a car accident.

Then, as we got onto the Bolte Bridge, I caught sight of a man perched on the edge of the bridge with his arms outstretched in a pose that could only mean one thing...he was threatening to jump. Two police officers stood a few meters from the man. Another man and a distressed looking woman were standing nearby.

Lastly, as we continued on our way, I saw a guy drop his pants as he stood on an overpass flashing the cars below.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Germany next

I'm back form Portsea (which was terrific, by the way) but there's hardly any time back in Melbourne before I head off again.

Tomorrow night I'll be flying to Germany. I've been invited to give a public lecture about my research. The hosts are paying for everything. Sweet.

I'm going to spend a couple of days in Berlin afterwards visiting with a friend. Brigitte recently retired and has just bought herself a nice little apartment. She is planning on splitting her time between Australia and Germany. Fortunately for me, she just so happens to be in Germany while I'm there. Brigitte has promised me a couple of days of nice food and art. It will be lovely to visit with someone who is familiar with the city and the language.

I'll be back in Oz already on the 14th December. A whirlwind trip.

Monday, November 30, 2015


I'm taking my students to Portsea today for a three day work retreat. I've never been to Portsea before. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Legal tender

I was standing in a queue behind a woman waiting to be served in a shop the other day. The woman took out a five dollar note to pay for her purchase. It had a tiny tear in the corner. The sales attendant refused to take the note and there was a bit of a stand off until another employee told him that it was ok to accept it. Surely a tiny chunk missing from the corner doesn't invalidate the note?! I get more annoyed when I end up with one of those pesky New Zealand 20 cent coins.


Saturday, November 28, 2015


Every time I am about to go away overseas, it seems my body tries to throw me a medical challenge.

I'm due to head over to Germany late next week so, naturally, my right foot decided to start hurting. It is quite possible I brought this on myself after last week's excessive walking. I initially though it was gout but after taking anti-gout meds, I'm now thinking it must be something else because the meds aren't working. I'm going to have to put my feet up this weekend and chill out.

Friday, November 27, 2015

My new obsession... bubble tea.

The 'pearls' or 'bubbles' in bubble tea are deliciously chewy. They are made of tapioca, which comes from the root of the casava plant. I reckon they look like frog spawn.

I'm fairly 'vanilla' when it comes to bubble tea flavours. So far, I've been ordering mostly plain Oolong tea with the pearls, but I got a bit adventurous today and ordered a milk tea with pearls! Next time, I might even go for a flavoured tea!!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Walking weekend

I've done a lot of walking this weekend.

Nathan was away on a photography trip with friends so I took the opportunity to do a lot more walking than I would when Nathan is around (he is becoming increasingly reliant on the car now that we have one).

I decided to take the dog to the Gasworks park in Port Melbourne on Saturday. It turned out to be a fair walk from Docklands, possibly because I have very little sense of direction and took a rather circuitous route. The dog loved it though – and she still had energy to chase the other dogs around once we got there.

My colleague came to stay on Saturday evening and, after dinner, we decided to wander over to the northern end of the Docklands for a drink. This turned out to be a bit of a debacle because I left my keys in the apartment. It was the first time I've done so in the 10 years I've lived in Melbourne but, of course, it had to happen on the one weekend when Nathan was away. I ended up calling a locksmith. It was an expensive evening walk.

Today, my colleague and I had to get to Carnegie, where he is now renting. He had to meet the cleaner to let him into the apartment (the previous tenants left quite a mess and, after a week of cleaning, my colleague decided it was probably better to call in the experts). We caught the train from South Yarra after walking there from Docklands via South Melbourne and Albert Park. It was quite a pleasant walk and I got to see some very nice houses along the way.

I returned to the city after lunch and spent the afternoon shopping. There were heaps of people about. I'd ordinarily be avoiding the Christmas crowds but I have a fancy work dinner tomorrow...and desperately need a new white shirt with longer sleeves that actually fit my arms.

By the time I got home this evening (yes, I walked from the city), I felt like my feet were going to fall off.      

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A walk in the park

I spent the morning glued to the TV, watching the horrific news of the attack in Paris unfold.

By midday, I had had enough. Nathan had to go to work in the morning. I went out briefly to run an errand and then organised to meet Nathan afterwards to take the dog for an outing. Truffs and I were already waiting downstairs when Nathan pulled up at the front of the apartment in the car.

We hopped in and headed to Port Melbourne for a late lunch. We then took Truffs to the Gasworks Arts Park for a run around. She had a great time chasing after the other dogs and we had a nice time talking to other dog owners. It was nice to be in the sunshine and away from the TV.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Catch up weekend

It was a weekend of catching up.

My colleague and friend from Sweden is in Australia for work. He is spending the weekend here in Melbourne so we caught up for lunch. I first met him at a conference in France in 2006. He was about to complete his PhD and was giving a talk about his work. At the end of the presentation, he put up a slide saying he was looking for postdoctoral work. It was a bold move. I offered him a job right after.

My colleague spent several years in Australia. When we first started working together, we both had to get used to the dynamics (he had to learn to be my postdoc and I had to learn to be a boss) but we ended up working very well together and have remained friends. He now has his own Faculty position back in Sweden and his fiance is expecting a baby on New Year's Eve. Things are going well for him.

The last few years hadn't always been rosy for him. He met an Aussie girl when he was here and he was very much in love. She learned Swedish and the plan was for her to move back to Sweden with him. She eventually followed him there – but called off the relationship. He was devastated and it took a while for him to recover. Life can certainly be a roller coaster ride. He is happy now and that's what matters. It makes me happy. He is a good guy.

Apart from catching up with my friend/colleague, I've also been catching up on work. I don't normally take work home but it's exam time and I had a pile of papers to mark. Work has been crazy and there is a backlog. I'm having some issues with one of my current colleagues, which has consumed quite a bit of my time (and led to a couple of sleepless nights midweek). I think it's a power thing. She wants to assert it but is doing so in a way that is entirely inappropriate. She is also doing it in a way that is bordering on being unethical. It is disappointing. I have called a meeting to talk it out with her and have asked for another colleague to be present. I hope we can work towards a resolution. I want to resolve things.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Indulgent Saturday

Nathan and I went for yum cha today at Shanghai Dynasty. As usual, I was greedy and ordered far too many dishes, which I then felt compelled to finish (because I have a thing about not wasting food).

After lunch, we waddled down to Collins Street, where I had an appointment at a Gallery to see a picture I was interested in buying.

The gallery was suppose to have been open at noon but, when we arrived at 12.30pm, it was still closed. I left feeling disappointed. About an hour later, I got an email from the gallerist saying she had been running late. Since Nathan and I were still in the city, we decided to waddle back to the gallery where I ended up making the decision to buy the picture. I think it's Diana. Nathan absolutely hates it and reckon her monarchist grandmother would have a heart attack if she saw it.

Afterwards, we decided to drop into Koko Black nearby for a drink. I was still too stuffed from lunch but Nathan always seems to have room for sweets so he, at least, was able to satisfy his indulgence for chocolates (I decided that if I wasn't so stuffed I would have ordered the chocolate truffle with the salted caramel filling).

We came back home afterwards and I ended up having a nap. It ended up being a perfect Saturday (although I'm still too full so won't be having dinner tonight).

Racial frustrations

I received an email from a student who was querying about the mark they had received for an assignment. This, of itself, is nothing unusual. A small minority of students are always upset about the marks they receive and, as the unit coordinator, students will often email me about their grievances. And it's my job to support them and help them to identify the things they did well and the areas that need attention.

But...this was the first time a student has put forward the contention that a low mark might have been due to him having a non-Anglo name (the basis of his complaint against the person who marked his particular report). I was shocked by the accusation.

In reality, marks are carefully awarded against a clearly stated set of marking criteria. The student's name shouldn't matter – and it doesn't, not in my classes.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Anxious wait

It's that time of year again for researchers across Australia when we find out whether or not the research proposals we submitted to the Australian Research Council will get funded.

I've decided to take the day off from work. It's too stressful to be in the office.

Instead, I've planned to go for a nice lunch and just try to enjoy the day...regardless of the outcome. Fingers crossed though.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tram works

At 3.30am on Saturday, I woke up to the sound of construction work.

At first, I thought it was coming from the new building going up next door but when I looked out the window, I realised that the construction workers were gathered around the tram tracks nearby. That made sense. No one else would get permission to carry out construction work during the middle of the night.

In the 10 years I've lived in my apartment, I think there has been two previous tram works – both of which were carried out day and night over the course of a weekend so that everything could be completed before the start of the working week.

Nathan and I had to go to a wedding in Geelong on Saturday night and I slept like a log when we got home so I was oblivious to the noise. Strangely, there was no construction work during daylight today (Sunday) but they have commenced again as evening approached. Terrific. I think I'm going to need ear plugs tonight.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Aussie rules

I was taking the dog for a walk yesterday afternoon. As I rounded the corner of a building and headed towards a small park, I could hear quite a bit of laughter. When I got closer, I was surprised to see a bunch of chinese people kicking around a football and having a great time. It was a nice counter to the news story I read about this mob and their attempts to exert their right to 'bare arms'.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I got to meet a radio star

When I was a kid, the ABC showed an amazing documentary series called The Nature of Australia. Watching that series was a real turning point for me as a young nature lover and definitely contributed to my decision to pursue biology as a career. The series was narrated by Robyn Williams. He was superb.

Fast forward to last Tuesday. I was waiting in the foyer of the ABC studio in Southbank with several other colleagues waiting to do pre-recorded interviews with Robyn for his radio programme. It was really exciting.

I was up first. Before the interview, I got a chance to tell him how much I had loved that series and the influence it had on me....I was more than a little star struck.

Friday, October 16, 2015


I decided to leave work early today. It's been a very busy week.

I spent the afternoon at the National Gallery of Victoria checking out an exhibition on Australian surrealism. The artworks were, indeed, surreal.
 Elsewhere in the Gallery, I came across this psychedelic room....
...and this wall of mirrors.
 I liked this orange koala with perfect yellow teeth. It made me smile.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


I've decided to add some flowers to my leafy arrangement form a few weeks ago (the leaves have lasted remarkably well). These are Dendrobium orchids.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The built environment

My workplace has been investing a lot of money into improving the built environment in recent years.

Many of my colleagues would rather see the money invested into research, but I think a physically stimulating work environment is important too.

We've had lots of work done to refresh our tired old buildings and to build new ones. The university has also been carrying out major landscaping to open up the external spaces.

However, one of the most exciting parts of the plan to improve physical spaces has to be our art program, which has seen some really interesting pieces being installed in our corridors.

The program has not been without controversy. Some of the works, such as those by this Melbourne-based artist, have garnered a lot of angry emails. Some people (Monarchists?) even find them offensive.
I've realised that many scientists don't get the contemporary pieces now adorning our walls. The works are not meant to be pretty or necessarily even relate to science (though I do find many of them  to be interesting and/or beautiful). Rather, they are suppose to stimulate discussion and to foster engagement – and they are certainly doing that!  

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A good end to a sore week

After hobbling around in pain all week due to a leg injury (sustained from fieldwork last week), it was wonderful to catch up with some friends visiting from Perth.

The friends are always lamenting the lack of decent restaurants in Perth so we decided to go to yum cha in the city.

The restaurant we went to had two options for diners, who can either choose to pay for the number of dishes they select or to make a prior commitment towards an all-you-can-eat fixed price option before starting to eat. We opted for the latter, which resulted in this rather awkward sign being plonked at our table for all the other diners to see.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday flowers

Technically, these are leaves but they make for a nice arrangement all the same.


I've spent the past few days in Gippsland doing fieldwork.

There were lots of people around because of the long weekend, which meant a lot of PR work to explain the research we were carrying out – and to accommodate the many kids (quite a few of whom were called Brodie) who wanted to 'help' hold our fish.

We had to lug buckets of water back and forth to set up our experiments on the fish. It was intense, back-breaking work and I am feeling my age today (sore all over), but it was also heaps of fun.

I seem to eat a great deal of junk food on field trips...this bee sting bun was a bit too much though (especially after consuming two meat pies).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Inside out

Nathan and I caught up with some of his former work friends for dinner the other night. They are a lovely couple who work at the Cabrini Hospital in Malvern. Nathan became friends with them when he was working in the hospital's cafeteria.

The dinner was actually a birthday celebration for the guy. Unfortunately, his wife didn't tell us so it was a little embarrassing that we didn't have a birthday present. We weren't the only ones caught out by surprise so that made the situation a bit better.

The restaurant we went to was Japanese and it specialised in wagyu beef that you get to cook yourself at the table over hot coals. One of the people at the dinner, an elderly gentleman, put his fingers on the grill to see if it was hot. I guess he didn't see the glowing red coals below (which the waiter had only minutes before lowered with a special handle). Not surprisingly, he burnt himself.

Towards the end of the evening, I struck up a conversation with a gay Vietnamese guy at the party who was asking me about my coming out experience. The guy still lives at home with his parent and younger brother. He hasn't come out to them yet (though he suspects his parents know because they have stopped asking him about getting a girlfriend). Apparently, when extended family members ask him about his love life, he tells them he has a girlfriend. Not sure if doing so will make things even more difficult if (and when) he is ready to come out. I can appreciate that the cultural element could complicate things. He tells me about a friend who is in an even worst predicament: not only is the friend gay, Asian and closeted, but he is also HIV positive. I cant even begin to imagine how difficult that conversation would be.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Back to Melbourne

I'm now at the airport waiting for my flight back to Melbourne. The Qantas Club is desserted. I'm the only passenger in here at the moment.

Nostalgic Saturday

It was an unexpectedly nostalgic day for me today.

After lunch, we went to Floriade for a walk. This annual spring flower festival has been going on for many years. I hadn't been for quite some time though (probably not since I was a teenager). It was nice to walk around the garden beds at Commonwealth Park. It brought back a lot of childhood memories of family barbeques and riding my BMX bike with my cousins.
In the afternoon, I visited the National Gallery of Australia specifically to see one painting. I first saw it more than 10 years ago and, since then, the painting has been in storage. Only recently has it been brought back out for display. It is by one of my favourite aboriginal artists, Peter Skipper, and his wife, Mona Chuguna. It is a collaborative work called Husband and wife that tells their love story and how the couple first met. You can see a single pair of black foot prints moving north from the middle of the picture. That's suppose to be Peter's. Then, at some point (to the right of the yellow trees), he meets Mona and the couple, now depicted as intertwining footprints, meander upwards and off the top of the canvas.  How romantic.

To cap off my nostalgic day, we went for dinner at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant closed suddenly about a decade ago but recently reopened in another part of the city centre and they still had my favourite dish...stewed beef with rice noodles in five spice flavoured broth. Yum!

Saturday, September 12, 2015


I'm back in Canberra this weekend to visit family.

Melbourne airport was crazy busy yesterday when I left. I guess a lot of people go away for the weekends on a Friday (duh). So...armed with my club membership card, I headed straight up to the Qantas Club after clearing security to try to escape the crowds – only to find the area completely awash with people (and kids).

I joined the Qantas Club last year in desperation when Nathan and I had a 7 hour lay over in LAX (and the complimentary lounge access cards my sister gave me were no longer being accepted). I'm not sure if the club membership is really good value for money for me, especially as I'm a non drinker (everyone else in the lounge seem to be making the most out of the free booze).

The flight was quick. I was transfixed on an episode of River Cottage Australia. The show makes me want to give up academia and move to the country to grow vegetables and raise chickens and own a jersey cow called Besse. Plus, the host of the show is very handsome (there is something alluring about a guy who can wrestle pigs, go hunt for venison and make rhubarb jam drops...all in one episode).
I was impressed by the food offering on the plane. The impossibly young (I estimate he was probably between 12 and 14 years of age) flight attendant was giving out pork belly buns. Unfortunately I had gorged on ham and cheese toasties and beetroot dip at the Qantas Club (to compensate for my lack of drinking) so was too full to try the buns.

Canberra airport is looking quite spiffy. They are even building a swanky hotel. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the airport, especially knowing that the owners are huge advocates for marriage equality.

Mum picked me up and we headed home. Dad was making dumpling. even though I was still feeling kind of full from the toasties and the dip, I managed to gobble up quite a few dumplings for dinner.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


We were waiting for my friend for brunch this morning and I got a text 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time to say that he had missed the train and will be running late. This is not the first time this has happened and mostly it had not bothered me, at least not enough for me to say anything (even though, in the past week alone, we had already waited 30 minutes for him....twice!).

On this (third) occasion, I decided to say something. When he showed up (25 minutes after the arranged time), I politely reminded him how much he gets annoyed when he has to wait for others (although, in reality, this happens very rarely since most of us are punctual).  He was clearly unhappy. His defence was that  he sent a message. I told him that a text 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time is useless if we have already arrived at the destination. He needs to leave home earlier.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday flowers

It's time for silver gum nuts again. They last for ages. Today I put them into my Alvar Aalto vase.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Radio, Spring clean, and a bird rescue

It's been a busy day.

I had to give a radio interview this morning about my research. The station was close to Nathan's cousin's place so we decided to catch up with him as well. Nathan's cousin studied Indonesian politics at uni but seems to have found success as a musician instead. In fact, he had just arrived back in Oz after playing a few gigs in the US.

We were waiting for the cousin at a cafe and unbeknownst to us, the cafe was actually playing one of his albums. It was a nice coincidence – and the music was actually quite good (we now have several CDs).

Afterwards, we took Truffles off to the dog park for a run. We were feeling guilty leaving her at a dog motel for four nights last week (I think she was mildly pissed off with me when I went to pick her up last Monday morning). The wet weather last week meant that she has been confined to the apartment all week so it was nice to take advantage of today's 'good' weather to take her out.

After the dog park, we returned back to the apartment and noticed that it reeked of dog. So...Nathan and I spent a good part of the rest of day cleaning the apartment from top to bottom. I think it now smells a little better but I cant wait for the weather to warm up sufficiently to give the entire apartment a decent airing.

Later in the arvo, I met my Finnish colleague for a drink at a nearby cafe. We were seated inside next to the window and a magpie lark somehow managed to find its way inside and couldn't get out. The waitress (and the bird) were both freaking out. I asked for a towel, threw it over the bird and carried it outside.

"You look so calm", she said.

"I'm a biologist," I replied.

All in a day's work.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Nathan and I are in Perth this weekend. The main reason for the trip was to see the painting I loaned to the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA) for the Indigenous Art Awards.

We left early Saturday morning and arrived mid morning local time (love the way the time difference works in our favour going west).

After dumping our bags at the hotel, we made our way to Northbridge for lunch. I snapped a photo of this cute lion outside one of the buildings we walked past.
After lunch, we headed to the AGWA. Here is me standing next to my painting. Nathan was surprised I only spent 2 minutes looking at it (I was keen to check out everything else).
I love this bark painting depicting a wanjina spirit.
....and this non-indigenous painting by an artist who is based in Canberra. It's kind of crazy and I love the colours.
This painting was doing my head in. Nathan said it made him feel queasy.
After the gallery, we walked up to Kings Park. There were lots of pretty Western Australian plants in flower.
We had to head back to the hotel for a rest afterwards from all the walking (and the early morning start).

Later in the evening, we headed back to Northbridge (this time by taxi) to meet a biologist friend for dinner at a chinese restaurant. We ordered the snow crab and tried not to think too much about what these deep sea critters would have been eating in the wild (most likely this).

Heading off to Freemantle today.