Thursday, December 20, 2018

The taxi driver

I am heading back to Canberra today for Christmas.

The first taxi I ordered didn't arrive.

The second taxi came – but the driver was an extreme Christian.

The conversation started off fine until I told him I was a biologist. And that's when things took an uncomfortable turn. The guy was a creationist. He was extremely passionate aggressive about his beliefs. At one point he wanted me to explain how bacteria can evolve into humans. I tried to change the subject but he kept coming back to to the Gospel and how God created everything. And that the Sun has always risen from the East because God made it so etc etc. He was getting louder and louder and, as he spoke, he started beating his chest with his palm. It was a tad bit scary.

He asked me if I had a wife. I said 'no' and left it at that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


It's official. I'm an LGBT ally at work. I had my training a few weeks ago and I just got sent my rainbow pin, rainbow sticker and rainbow cards (to stick on my door) to prove it.

When I told one of my (straight) colleagues that I was doing LGBTI ally training, he asked whether a gay man can be an ally. I had to think for a few seconds but the answer is, of course, 'yes': I can be an ally to the L, B, T, I, A and Qs in our community.

The training itself was lots of fun and a real eye opener. It made me realise that I was quite an ignorant gay man. If nothing more comes out of the training, at least I now know what pansexual means (I was pretty certain it had nothing to do with cooking implements but that was the extent of my knowledge prior to LGBT training).

I have been doing a bit of reflection over the past couple of months and have decided my new year's resolution is to try to promote greater diversity in academia.  There aren't a lot of gay Asian professors out there. Visibility and representation are both important.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Party Season

It's the season of work Christmas parties and I attended three this year.

The first was a day time event that took place at the zoo. I was super excited  about going to see the animals but it turned out to be a sweltering day and I decided best to stay indoors at the function venue where there was good air-conditioning. The few colleagues who braved it outside to wander around the zoo saw basically nothing. Even the animals had more sense than to venture out into the heat.

That same evening, Nathan had his Christmas part. I swear that Nathan only works so he can go to Christmas parties. He was so excited and ended up buying a new shirt (covered in tiny pink flamingoes) and a bow tie (in pink!) specially for the occasion. I was very surprised. First, Nathan doesn't normally do microprint. Second, he hates pink. I think he is going through a midlife crisis. 

Unlike my day time party, Nathan's event was super fancy. It was held in the Palladium at Crown, and his company always invites a headline act to perform. This year it was Peking Duk. For those of us who aren't on top of our electronic dance music, Peking Duk is an Australian, Aria-award winning electronic dance duo – not to be confused with the decadent Peking duck served at fancy Chinese banquets. Both are amazing.

My third (and thankfully final) Christmas party this year took pace last Friday. It was at a lawn bowls venue out in the 'burbs. This was probably the least extravagant of the three parties but was just as enjoyable. The food was rather mediocre though. The roasted 'meats' were covered in a thick layer of fat and had been cooked for so long that it was hard to tell whether we were eating animal or cardboard. I would have preferred Peking duck.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


The giant pear sculptures at the National Gallery of Australia are iconic. Until recently, they have been positioned out the front lawn of the Gallery.  A few years ago, I learnt that they were sculpted by an artist called George Baldessin. I have to admit I didn't know much about Baldessin at the time but, after looking into his art, Baldessin has now become one of my favourite artists. 

Yesterday, my gallerist friend and I attended a public talk by George's widow, Tess, at a gallery in Collingwood. Tess is a beautiful, dignified and articulate woman. She spoke about her late husband's early childhood, how he was separated from his mother as a baby, his time growing up in Italy during the war, and his reunion with his mother in Melbourne at the age of 10.  She spoke about his genius as an artist. And Tess spoke about the tragedy of his death and how she had to leave Australia after his passing (Tess ended up living overseas for 17 years).  The talk was well attended and the audience was clearly appreciative.

There has been a resurgence in interest in Baldessin as an artist in recent years. And rightly so. He is terribly underrated. He is currently the subject of a major exhibition (together with Brett Whitley) at the National Gallery of Victoria. And on my recent visit to see the exhibition here in Melbourne, it was great to see some of his giant pears in the gallery space.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Plant sale

I got up super early in anticipation of a 'rare plants' sale at a nursery in Fitzroy.

I caught the tram from my apartment  and arrived at the nursery 6 minutes after the 8.30am opening, only to discover that the shop was already packed...mostly with hipsters.

A nursery worker was handing out numbered tickets because they were trying to control the mad rush (which was very wise) and were allowing only 20 people up to the 'rare plants' section at any one time.

I have to say that the thought of having to wait was tempered by the sight of so many plant enthusiasts. For most of my life, growing house plants was definitely not cool. How times have changed. I guess I should be grateful to the hipsters.

An hour later, I was heading up the stairs. A lot of the plants had already been sold but I managed to pick up a giant chandelier plant (Medinilla), which hails from the mountainous rainforests of the Phillipines. It was the last one left (phew).

I then had to drag the monster of a plant (it is over a meter tall) back to my apartment by tram in the rain.

Dedication (or maybe I'm slightly mad).

Sunday, October 14, 2018

My vase

Andrew wanted to see a picture of the vase I bought several weeks ago. I tried to take a picture but it is impossible to do so without weird reflections and colour distortion. I've decided it is not very photogenic and looks far better in real life. Here is an image I found on the website of the shop I bought it from.

MCG and the tooth fish incident

I attended a conference last week that culminated in a fancy dinner at the MCG.

I've been to the MCG previously for a footy match and the venue is, indeed, impressive when filled to capacity with a passionate crowd of footy fans. It is far superior to Etihad stadium (or whatever it's now called following change in sponsorship).

I've never been to the MCG for dinner before. The room we were in overlooked the stadium. Many of the interstate guests were in awe. For me, staring into the sea of empty seats, it was kind of 'meh'.

The dinner menu was terrific. Main course included Patagonian toothfish. I had never had it before and, honest to God, it was one of the best fish I've ever eaten. The serving of toothfish was not without controversy though. A few of the biologists refused to eat it until the host assured everyone it had been sustainably caught.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


This is a painting by Pierre Bonnard. It is a voyeuristic piece  titled "Toilette ou Femme Penchèe" (Toilet or Woman Bending Over).

On Friday, I had my very own toilette ou femme penchèe experience.

I was at a cafe that has one of those large unisex toilets suitable also for disabled people. I opened the door and there was a woman sitting on the loo peeing/pooing and texting. She said something that was mostly indecipherable (I did hear the words "Oh God") with her head down as if to hide her embarrassment. She simultaneously reaching out with one hand towards me. Not sure if she was trying to reach for the door (which was pointless, since the door was some distance from where she was sitting) or trying to block my view. Lucky there was nothing to see.

To all people using public toilets: lock the door.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Canberra and the American Masters

I've been in Canberra for most of the past week.

The original plan was to come up to help one of my students who is doing some work with specimens from the Australian National Insect Collection (yes, the country has a national insect collection and its based in Canberra). Unfortunately the fancy microscope we needed to us was not working so the student flew back to Melbourne and I took a mini 'sabbatical' at the ANU.

It's been great. I got a lot more work done than I would back in Melbourne (lack of construction work noises across the corridor makes a big difference).

I've been catching the bus to and from the ANU. I've probably used the Canberra buses more in the last few days than in the previous 25 years. Canberra public transport isn't the most efficient but it was far easier than what I remember it to be compared to the last time I caught a bus in the ACT.

Today I went to see the American Masters exhibition at the NGA, which is drawn entirely from the National Gallery's own collection. The exhibition really sheets home what a world class collection of American art is actually held here in Canberra. There were heaps of big name artists in the show, from Rothko and Wharhol to de Kooning and Pollock. Of course, Pollock's Blue Poles, purchased during the Whitlam era, is arguably the most well known. I loved the Morris Louis works the best.

The plan after the gallery was to go meet the rest of the family for lunch in the city. Unfortunately, one of my nieces, after polishing off most of a very sizeable portion of chocolate milkshake at a cafe near the gallery, then proceeded to throw it all up over herself and my sister. So, lunch in the city was cancelled and we went home so my sister could get herself and my youngest niece cleaned off.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Counting pennies

I went into a vintage furniture and decorative arts shop today in Richmond. I started talking to the owner and we must have chatted for an hour.

The owner told me about a man and a woman who had earlier pulled up to the front of the shop in their Aston Martin, and were interested in buying a vase. However, the couple didn't want to pay the asking price and tried to haggle down the price. The owner politely said 'no', and so the couple left.

Unbeknownst to the shop owner, it was the same vase I had admired when I walked into the shop, so I bought it. The owner gave me a discount (even though I didn't ask for it).

I don't have an Aston Martin but I now have a nice vintage vase.

Melbourne Symphony

A colleague invited me to see a performance by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) at Hamer Hall tonight.

I had never been inside the concert hall before and it was really impressive. Indeed, I don't really listen to orchestral music so this was somewhat of an initiation for me. The MSO was performing the New World Symphony. The piece turned out to be quite familiar. I assume I must have heard it in a movie.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lack of client focus

A service provider  in the USA contacted me asking if I'd like to engage them for a conference I am organising in 2020 here in Australia.

They wanted to set up a Skype meeting. I said 'ok'.

They then send me a list of options for meeting times.

Two problems. First, all the times they gave were in Central US time, which was very annoying as I then had to work out what times those corresponded to here in Melbourne. Second, and even more annoyingly, all the times they offered were at ridiculously late hours of the night (1 am, really?).

I wrote back a polite email pointing all of this out and said that I don't think it's going to work. They have since sent me two emails apologising for the mistake. I'm normally a very forgiving kinda guy but lack of client focus is a big fail. Too many alarm bells.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Two deaths

A friend from my time working in the US posted a note on messenger this week saying that someone we knew had died. Will accidentally fell out of a boat. He was 35.

A day later, a close friend reminded me of the tragic death of another young man we both knew. Jared died many years ago but I guess the circumstances of his death still haunts my friend who felt compelled to write about it for a national newspaper. Jared was a scientist working in the US. He was driving home late one night after work. A drunk driver crashed into the back of his car at an intersection. Both cars burst into flames. Bystanders managed to rescue the drunk driver but Jared couldn't be rescued. He was 33.

Two deaths. Both sad. One was a tragic accident. The other was entirely avoidable.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Parallel visions

I went to see the new Baldessin/Whiteley: Parallel Visions exhibition at the NGV today.

I assume that Brett Whiteley will probably be the big drawcard to the exhibition as most people would be familiar with his work.

I, on the other hand, was there to see the Baldessins.

I'm a huge fan of George Baldessin's work, long before I even knew who Baldessin was.

Ever since I was a kid, I have admired the giant pear sculptures that sat on the front lawn of the National Gallery in Canberra.

I only found out a few years ago that they were sculpted by Baldessin (I hadn't even heard of him until then).

Hopefully this exhibition will showcase what a fantastic Australian artist he was.


I caught up with a friend mid week for dumplings in the city.

Towards the end of our meal, four customers walked in, two of whom were transgender.

Before the customers had even taken their seats, I could hear the waiters commenting to each other in Chinese. "They're men," one of them said.

I was so disappointed, especially given the rainbow sticker on the front door of the restaurant.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Henry Golding

And here are some more pictures of Mr Golding...

Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians has attracted a lot of media attention. Not since  The Joy Luck Club (which was released way back in 1993) has a 'mainstream' Hollywood film featured a predominantly Asian cast.

It's been interesting following the media hype surrounding this film – and the lofty expectations. For example, I was surprised to see the actors being criticised for not using their platform at the movie premier to promote Asian fashion designers (seriously?).

The strikingly handsome lead actor, Henry Golding, has copped flack from some media circles for not being Asian enough (he is of English-Malaysian ancestry).

Some commentators have even criticised the film for lack of diversity, suggesting that the film should be renames Crazy Rich East Asians instead.

Get a grip people.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Shrimp stink

I decided to roast some chicken drumsticks marinated in shrimp paste. Big mistake.

The whole apartment stinks to high heaven. I'm worried the stink has probably leached into the corridor and might soon be pissing off my neighbours. I hope they don't come knocking on my door.

 I now recall my German friend complaining about the smell of shrimp paste coming into her apartment from her Asian neighbours. I've become that neighbour.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


I'm in the USA for a conference.

Despite having lived in the US for 11 months, I still get taken aback by just how culturally different it is from Australia.

The striking differences begin upon arrival. The American airport experience feels like a cattle yard (I'm surprised the guards don't use actual cattle prods). The experience starts when clearing immigration and, if you're travelling domestically, continues right up to the gate of the connecting flight, where everyone is required to form one of 5 lines based on whether you are a premium flyer, a first class passenger or, if you're in economy, whether you are seated in the front, middle or back of the plane. Oh, and if you are an American servicemen, you get to go on the plane first.

American food is excessive. On board the plane, I was served a hamburger. Yes, a hamburger! With a side of potato salad and an apple pie. Last night I went to an American diner, which looked like a set from Happy Days. Not wanting to have another hamburger for dinner, I settled on the Ruben sandwich based on the waiter's recommendation. It was big, meaty, and coated with cheese.  Tasty, huge and very unhealthy. That seems to sum up American cuisine.

Today, I slept and then went for an early dinner. I decided to go for Vietnamese.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


Last night, Nathan and I drove to Inverloch to celebrate his maternal grandmother's 90th birthday at the Esplanade Hotel.

Even though Nathan and I have been together for what seems like a million years, I'm still meeting new relatives for the first time (both sides of his family appear to be highly fertile).

On this occasion, I met a new cousin, his wife and two kids. They were lovely. The cousin is a professional photographer and also does some videography work for the ABC involving drones. He was telling me about the various accidents he has had with the drone's propeller. I didn't realise they were so dangerous.

A few of Nathan's other cousins appear to have had new children. Its a sad reflection of how rarely we catch up with them that one of the cousins now has a six year old daughter, and the last time I saw her was at her wedding! The daughter's name is Eden (her father is a born again Christian).

Nathan's grandmother was in good spirits. The last time I saw her was a few months ago in hospital and she wasn't looking too great. She was clearly very happy to be surrounded by so many grand kids and great grandkids. She's actually became a great great grandmother already several years ago.

The blokes at the table next to ours were clearly perplexed to see an Asian guy amongst all the Caucasians. I think they were trying to figure out what my relationship was with the rest of the mob. Nathan's grandmother, mum and aunt do this weird thing where they kiss family members on the lips. I feel a bit odd about this and always try to go for a side kiss but occasionally still get a lip plant. That must have added to the confusion for the blokes at the neighbouring table.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


I recently came back from a two day work trip to Kuala Lumpur to meet some fellow biologists (see picture of wonderful tropical insects).  It was my first visit to Malaysia.

The hotel where we were staying was quite popular with tourists from the Middle East and, indeed, most of the guests were Arab. In that respect, as a Muslim country, Malaysia is very different to the other places I have visited in Asia (Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan). The hotel breakfast had a wonderful spread of buffet options from around the world – but not a single slice of regular bacon (aside from the turkey bacon). I went for Arab, Malay and Chinese breakfast options.

Speaking of food, the local cuisine was, of course, amazing. My only regret was not getting to sample the infamous Malay durian (and it was apparently a bumper durian season too!). One of the colleagues I met actually lives on a durian plantation and he showed me a photo on his phone of durians piled on his back verandah. I was very jealous.

On the last night, we went to an uber fancy restaurant that specialised in modern South American cuisine. Yes, I would have happily eaten Malaysian food the entire time I was there, but I was on a work trip and others wanted to try this restaurant. Besides, the restaurant was highly recommended by a local. It was superb, although none of the items we ordered looked anything like the food I ate in my travels through South America (see below).

Thursday, July 19, 2018


I inadvertently got someone fired today.

There is construction work taking place adjacent to my office and a lot of tradies on site. One of them was smoking in a toilet cubicle this morning and filled the entire men's room with smoke.  I mentioned this to our School manager.

My intention was that our School manager would then speak to the construction manager who would then have a word with the tradies to inform them not to smoke in the toilet.

Well, things didn't go the way I expected.

Whilst sitting in my office, I heard the construction manager walk up to two Chinese tradies working outside my office demanding to know which one of them had been smoking in the toilet.

At first, each of the tradies said it wasn't them. The manager pressed on and was using all kinds of obscenities. Eventually, one of the tradies owned up to it.

He was asked to leave.

I felt really bad.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunny weekend

I made the most of the fine weather this weekend.

On Saturday, I took the dog on an epic walk. We first headed towards Port Melbourne. 

On the way, I spotted this beautiful wattle already in full bloom.
 Truffles and I stopped briefly to look at the Spirit of Tasmania before heading off to the beach for a run.

We then made our way to Albert Park and walked around the lake. According to the pedometer on my phone, we had walked twelve kilometres.

Today, Nathan and I went to Chinatown for lunch. We had intended to go for yum cha but all of the better restaurants were already full so we went to Shandong Mama instead.
 Tonight I made minestrone.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Walking the dog

Truffles and I braved the cold yesterday and went for a nice walk. She was suitably rugged up—and so was I. We did about 10km in total, including a brief stop over at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Adut Akech

I remember a couple of years ago, David Jones put out a fashion catalogue with this incredible model on the cover. It was a bold move. And I remember being struck by the beauty of the image.
The image, sadly, sparked controversy; a consumer complained to David Jones about the cover not being representative of Australia.

Well, the model at the centre of the controversy, Adut Akech, is Australian and—judging by her very busy schedule walking for the likes of Valentino and Chanel in Paris recently—has clearly been doing very well.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Career change

I'm happy being an academic. I love the balance of teaching and research. I love the academic freedom and the flexibility I have in terms of my work time. At the same time, I hope I'd be brave enough to be able to make the switch to something else if the job no longer excites me.

I was at a birthday dinner for a friend last night and started chatting to someone I hadn't met before. I found out that he had previously worked in a circus, been a dancer in a night club, and is now working for a bank. That's quite a diverse career path!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Home alone

The dog and I have had the apartment to ourselves these last couple of days while Nathan embarked on an epic road trip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast.

Friends of ours have decided to move up north. It turns out that the cost of getting cars transported can be quite high. So, our friend's husband left on Saturday to drive one of the family cars up to their new home. Nathan and the friend drove up with the second car early yesterday.

Most of my long road trips have been for work.  Can't say I'm much of a fan of the driving, but my trips do involve plenty of stops along the way, mostly to collect animals for scientific research, which makes it fun.

Friday, June 15, 2018


The new NGV winter masterpieces show is in full swing. I'm waiting for the crowd to level off a bit before attempting a visit. I'm particularly excited to see this Rothko.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Nathan's friend (see last post) was telling us about her new beau (of eight weeks). He has an AVO against him (all 'made up' by the ex-wife according to Nathan's friend) and disapproves of men entering her house because it is disrespectful to him. She thinks he's wonderful. We hear alarm bells.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

One way street

Nathan and I spent the day hanging out with one of his friends who is visiting from interstate with her young son, who we adore.

Some friendships are very one sided. This is a prime example.

The entire day's conversation was all about her (and her wonderful new boyfriend). Nathan paid for brunch (she didn't even offer). In the afternoon, the friend asked us to take her son to our place because she needed to have a nap. Tonight, Nathan and I were both surprised when the friend and her son walked straight out of the restaurant after we finished dinner. The expectation was that we would pay for their meal, which we did (again). There was not even a 'thank you'.

And now Nathan has gone to the hotel to baby sit the son while the friend attends an industry event.

How bloody stupid are we?

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Last week, Nathan and I made a trip to the country to see the Marimekko exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Marimekko is an iconic Finnish textile and fashion brand. Having lived and worked in Finland, I quickly became a fan of some of their printed designs, which are often bold, bright and gaudy. These qualities seem to contrast with the quiet, calm and introspective qualities I tend to associate with the Finnish people. And yet the Finns absolutely love Marimekko. I saw their psychedelic textiles—many are reissues of designs from the 1960s—hanging as curtains in my friend's apartments and I see them worn by little old Finnish ladies in the streets of Helsinki.
A Marimekko exhibition in rural Victoria seems a little odd but I think it reflects a resurgence in the popularity of the brand here in Australia in the last few years, with several stores opening in Sydney and Melbourne.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the actual paintings that eventually were made into the printed textiles.


This adorable creature is a cowfish. It was the highlight of my recent visit to a pet shop. I wish I had the room in my apartment to set up a marine aquarium.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Flowers and stick insects

I had a meeting at the zoo yesterday and was given the chance to go behind the scenes to check out their conservation work with these critically endangered beauties.
Picked up some less critically endangered beauties from the South Melbourne markets this morning on my morning walk with Truffles.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saturday routine

Nathan works on Saturdays. We (i.e. Nathan, Truffles and I) all pile into the car in the morning to go with him to work.

The dog and I then walk home together. It's good exercise. We always go pass the South Melbourne markets and I usually end up getting some flowers (Truffles usually gets a dog treat from the florist). We are both happy.

The past few weeks, I've also taken to catching the tram out to Victoria Street so I can have Vietnamese noodle soup for lunch. Last week I had pho. This week I had bun bo hue.

After my big meal, I decided to walk down to Bridge Road. I visited a commercial gallery that was having an exhibition of 'sharp edge abstraction'. It was food for the soul. Stunning.

Back home, I pottered around the apartment for a few hours and then it was time for the dog and I to walk back to Nathan's work. The dog insists on sniffing every tree along the way so it takes us a while but I don't mind. We tend to get to Nathan's office early and wait for him to clock off. We then pile back in the car and drive home together.

That's my Saturday routine. And I love it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Old school

I signed up for a new Singapore Airlines frequent flyer card several months ago. I waited and waited. It never arrived. Naturally, I blamed Australia Post.

I rang up the airline the other day to see if I could get a replacement as I'm due to travel with the airline for work in July.

The guy on the phone (who, by the way, picked up after one waiting!) was very polite. He told me that the card has gone digital and I would have received instructions via email when I validated my card on how to get it onto my phone. Ooops.

Sorry Australia Post.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Glad to reach the end of the week

Something traumatic happened at work early this week that impacted a lot of colleagues.  I was in crisis management mode for most of Monday dealing with logistics. I thought I was coping well until I got home and had a bit of a cry. I felt much better after that.

I have to say that when things go bad, it was really heartening to see how everybody just stepped up to support each other. I'm fortunate to have great colleagues.

I'm just hoping for a relaxing and uneventful weekend to regroup.

The Field

I visited The Field Revisited exhibition at the NGV last week. Evidently, it was quite the landmark exhibition when it opened 50 years ago – and sparked a lot of controversy.

Unfortunately, the NGV wasn't able to track down all of the works from the original exhibition and is seeking public help to figure out the whereabouts of these 'lost' works.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Livers and a movie

We decided to go for a movie today.

I've been trying to convince Nathan to go and see A Quiet Place but he wasn't keen on horror. It seems that Emily Blunt (from The Devil Wears Prada) is not sufficient enough of a drawcard to entice Nathan into seeing that movie with me. Instead, we settled on the gay teen flick Love, Simon

The movie was showing at Cinema Nova so we headed out to Lygon Street for lunch first. We ended up going to Tiamo, which does a terrific chicken liver dish (I was in the mood for liver after seeing it served on My Kitchen Rules last night). Nathan went for the osso bucco.

The cinema was quite busy. I guess going to see a movie is a popular way to spend Anzac Day.

The movie seemed to have attracted three types of audience members: gay men, single women, and teenagers. Indeed, there was a whole row of teenage girls sitting at the very front and a whole row of older gay gentlemen sitting at the back, with the single ladies scattered everywhere in between.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the film, which had a decent story line and a good mix of funny and sad parts. It turned out to be a very pleasant day.


Anyone who knows me knows I love a good Aesop product, whether it be a bottle of hand wash, the latest perfume, their room spray, or even shampoo for the dog. At some point, I've become obsessed with the brand (and no, this is not a paid endorsement).

Apart from their products, I'm also totally crushing on their stores. Each one is different. All are exquisitely designed.

One of my favourites is their shop in North Melbourne.

Nathan and I took Truffles to the dog park on Sunday and, on our way back, decided to stop along Errol Street for some tea and cake. Afterwards, we walked over to Aesop's just to look at the store.

The lady working there came out and we ended up having a chat. Apparently the sinks and taps are antiques that were brought back from Vienna. And the display bench was previously from a Sydney museum. So beautiful.

Pilfered pilea

The current obsession with indoor plants (driven largely by hipster types) seems to have no end in sight.

And among the most coveted of indoor plants is this beauty known as Pilea peperomioides or the Chinese money plant. 
Pilea used to be virtually non-existent here in Australia (which made it even more coveted). I've started to see it in a few specialist nurseries, often at extremely high prices. It's suppose to be super easy to grow but still remains rare in this country.

So, I was quite surprised to see a young lady with a large Pilea on the tram in the city last weekend. It was such a rare sight that I was almost tempted to ask her where she got it from. But I didn't.

And then earlier this week, I saw this on the Instagram page of one of my favourite nurseries in Fitzroy.
The accompanying message read, as follows:

Yesterday somebody stole our store baby. This is our Pilea a year ago and it has grown a fair bit since then but remained in this lovely blue pot by @lucyvanstoneceramics

If anybody knows where she ended up we'd love her back. If you see anybody sharing a pic of her on social media please share with us. She wasn't the most impressive Pilea in town but she was ours and belonged to a staff member.

Could the Pilea I saw on the tram be the same plant that was stolen from the nursery? 

Unfortunately, I can't remember any details that would be even vaguely useful (if it is, indeed, the same plant). 


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rabbit stew

My colleague went ferreting for rabbits a few weeks ago.

He is not much of a meat eater so he gave me one of the rabbits. I was initially very excited about making something delicious with it and had planned to cook the rabbit the evening I got it.

However, upon seeing the skinned carcass, I got a bit squeamish and popped it into the freezer, where it has sat...until now.

Today, I got up early, found a recipe with a nice picture (see below) and went to Woollies to buy the ingredients.
I got home, took the carcass out of the fridge, and took it out of bag to defrost.

I immediately started to retch.

I'm such a wuss. It's weird. I have no problem chopping up whole chickens or ducks but I think the rabbit just looks too mammalian. I guess I am too accustomed to getting my meat from the supermarket, already processed and looking less like whole animals.

Anyhow, the contorted rabbit carcass is sitting in the sink. I'm going to have to chop it up and cook it – whether I like it or not.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The guy on the street corner

I hate being solicited by people on street corners asking for donations.

Today, I had a rather unpleasant encounter on Oxford Street with a young man working for Oxfam.

Firstly, I feel a bit of context is justified as normally, I would just walk past without making eye contact or politely decline the invitation for a 'chat'. But earlier, in Hyde Park, I was asked by someone else from Oxfam to sign a petition, which I agreed to do (because I do believe in their cause).

Thinking it was for the same purpose, I engaged with the young man to tell him I had already spoken to her colleague.

Big mistake.

It seemed that Oxfam have teams of people out in the city trying to engage members of the public for multiple purposes today.

The guy who stopped me on Oxford Street was wanting me to sign up for monthly donations to provide clean drinking water to help people from war afflicted regions.

Once I figured out what this guy was up to, I was trapped. I politely declined his request for a donation, which was when he started to lay on the guilt trip.

He went on and on about how we are living in an affluent country and that we should all be doing more.

At this point, I should have just walked away.

But, no. Instead, I told him that I am already a supporter of Oxfam, that I buy stuff from the Oxfam shop, and that I used to volunteer my time to door knock for the organisation when I was younger. I told him that I felt I already did enough.

That's when he pulled out the passive aggressive line "It's interesting how most people feel they need to justify why they do not want to donate."

I lost my shit. I told him that his adversarial manner is a complete turn off and risk damaging the organisation.

Realising I was now wasting his time, he then tried to say that he no longer wanted to talk to me.

Now, that must be a first.

I reminded him that he was the one who approached me and I proceeded to rant on for another 10 minutes telling him how much damage he was doing to his organisation and how not to ostracise people who were already on the same team.

Nathan, who was standing next to me the entire time, eventually dragged me away.

An artist's artist

I've been reading up on an Australian artist called Guy Warren.
Guy is in his 90s and is still active (his most recent show was earlier this year in Sydney). And judging by the interviews I've seen on youtube, the man's mind is still super sharp.

Guy is an artist's artist. He is a war veteran, an Archibald prize winner, and is highly respected. One art critic described him as a 'much underrated artist'. Looking at his pictures and the long list of public institutions that have his works in their collections, it's astounding he isn't more well known. I stumbled across his paintings online and immediately fell in love with them.

 Meanwhile,  I see 'artists' with far less talent flogging off mass produced work of extremely low quality having much higher public profiles.


I'm in Sydney with Nathan attending a friend's 40th.

The party was on Saturday night at a pub in Willougby. It was a smallish gathering, was fairly mellow affair, and I had great time.

Yesterday, we met up with another friend (also up in Sydney for the birthday) and her two teenage kids for a trip to the zoo. It's been a while since I've visited Taronga. I forgot how spectacular the views are looking back across the harbour towards the city skyline. I was especially envious of the giraffes, whose enclosure offered the best vantage point.

Nathan accompanied our friend's son on a high ropes 'adventure' at the zoo. It basically involves putting yourself into a harness and traversing obstacles in the tree tops above some of the animal enclosures. Two observations. First, Nathan is even more uncoordinated up in the air than he is on the ground (though I concede that walking on ropes does require a great deal of balance and coordination). Second, the ropes course is very demanding and Nathan was well and truly exhausted by the end of the session. Our friend's son, by contrast, barely broke a sweat, and wanted to go back for another round. Nathan said no.

We made our way back to the city by ferry. I had not seen the new (and controversial) Barangaroo development and I have to say I was quite impressed. The new ferry terminal connects visitors along the foreshore right up to Darling Harbour and judging by all the restaurants and tourists, I think it will be good for Sydney tourism.

Last night we met up again with our birthday friend and her family, and went up to the Centrepoint tower for a buffet dinner. I didn't realise that Centrepoint has had a name change and is now known as Sydney tower. Anyhow, the interior of the shopping centre is far more opulent than what I remembered when I visited there as a youngster.

I'd never been to the buffet up in the revolving section of the tower before. It was expensive so I had high expectations. The food was kind of 'meh' for the price. I foolishly challenged our friend's teenage son (the one who did the high ropes course with Nathan) to an oyster eating contest. I won (naturally) but downing oysters for competition is not as pleasant as eating them for enjoyment. I was impressed by the kid's determination. He polished off 15, which was quite remarkable for a 13 year old. I remember detesting raw oysters when I was his age.

We are flying back to Melbourne later today.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


If I had a spare $125K, I'd consider buying this Sidney Nolan I saw at a commercial gallery today.


I had an extra day off today so decided to see the new NGV exhibition Colony: Australia 1770-1861.

The exhibition was arranged into themes, some of which made a lot of sense (e.g. European exploration before 1770; Landing and settlement at Lane Cove), but others seemed a bit random to me (e.g. Newcastle 1804: Tasmanian Aboriginal people). In any event, the exhibition brought back memories of grade 5 history lessons with Miss Eccleston.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Canberra and buffet musings

I'm back in Canberra for part of the Easter break.

I flew up on Saturday afternoon. The plane was near empty. It was terrific. Boarding was a breeze (no queues) and it took only a few minutes to disembark the aircraft.

We went to my folk's favourite buffet restaurant on Sunday. We got there 30 minutes early to line up at the cashier.

Mum and dad told me that the Chinese guy at the front of the queue goes there everyday. He eats, then goes for a walk outside the venue, and then comes back inside the restaurant and does a second bout of eating. That's taking 'all-you-can-eat' to an entirely new level. I seriously can't be bothered.

I stood behind a woman waiting for her to decide which piece of chicken she wanted. She was very indecisive. She picked a piece up with the tongs, held it in mid air for a brief second, and then placed the chicken back onto the server. She then took another piece of chicken and put it on her plate. Alas, it turns out she wanted that first piece of chicken after all, so she placed the piece that was already on her plate back on the server and took back the original piece. All the while, I patiently waited for her to finish so I could grab a piece of f*&king chicken.

Oh, and the roast duck. It's my pet peeve that the chefs at this place are super slow with replenishing the roast duck. I love duck so it drives me nuts.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Happy Birthday

A big happy birthday to everyone's favourite weatherman, Nate Byrne (and his magnificent dimples).

Sharks and dots

Damien Hirst, the British artist famed for his sharks (and other animals) in formaldehyde, has produced a new body of work which he entitled 'the veil series'.

The similarities with aboriginal art from the Utopia region of Central Australia are remarkable.
And so are the US$500,000-1,700,000 price tags.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What were they thinking?

I was fortunate enough to visit the National Gallery of Australia's exhibition Indigenous Australia when I was in Berlin.

The exhibition was touted as masterworks from the NGA's extensive collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. And for me, it was certainly nice to see so many familiar works on display on the other side of the world.

But I was left wondering what the German audience would have thought of the show.

Oddly, there was not a single gallery label in sight. According to the lady at the front desk, "labels are no longer fashionable".

In my view, the NGA missed an extraordinary opportunity to educate the German audience about the spiritual, historical and political context behind the works.

Without any context, most audiences will just see a bunch of pretty painted canvases and barks, and a few odd-looking sculptures and video installations.

Design fail?

I was excited to see a Lufthansa plane painted in their new livery as I boarded my flight out of Frankfurt on Tuesday.

I like the clean, new look. It's very chic. Here is a picture I found online.
But it seems I'm in the minority.

Some marketing and design experts have been highly critical of the new design overhaul. Fans of the airline have also lamented the loss of the iconic Lufthansa yellow from the planes.
And it seems that the company is now having to go back and retweak the blue they have chosen, which looks unintentionally black under adverse weather conditions. Luckily they have only painted two of their planes in the new colours so far.