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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Venice and Berlin

I'm getting ready for my return flight back to Melbourne. I've had a terrific time in Europe (though it feels like I've been away for ages).

I thought I'd post some snaps from my trip.

Unsurprisingly, given the all the water, seafood is a speciality in Venice and surrounding.
Of course I had to have pizza...
...and pasta (with seafood) too.
After Venice, I had made plans to visit my friend in Berlin. The weather was generally crappy for most of my trip to Europe (though not as bad as the week before my arrival) but I did manage to get a few hours in Berlin with blue sky and sunshine.
One of my most favourite places to visit is the food hall at the up market department store KaDeWe. The food hall is stocked with all kinds of weird and wonderful produce form all around the world (including emu eggs!!).

I remember seeing bright red carabinero prawns during my last visit to the food hall two years ago. These delicacies come from the deep sea off the coast of Spain. I was excited to find out that customers can buy the seafood from the counter and a chef will then cook it up for a small fee.
Naturally, I got me some of those carabineros (I only had two because they were almost 100 euros a kilo). I also had some monkfish.
This is what a monkfish head looks like (basically, it's all teeth). Not the prettiest fish but boy was it tasty.
We wandered around the food hall afterwards and my friend invited on showing the sausage counter. Germans love their sausages.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Impressions of Venice

I like Venice. The weather hasn't been great but the light rain adds to the charm and romance (Venice is definitely a place to share and experience with someone you love).

It's low tourist season so I guess the place is far less crowded than what one might expect in the Summer.

It's been fun exploring the little laneways, trying not to get lost (so far, so good) and experiencing Italian food in Italy.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Safety first

And speaking of flying, Qantas is rolling out a new safety video in April. The video showcases Aussies being Aussies in exotic locations around the world. It also features one very handsome Qantas pilot.

Europe bound

I'm off to Europe late this evening for a conference in Italy.

I'll be flying Qatar. The travel agent said it's a terrific airline and the service is suppose to be excellent. The online reviews certainly seem to be glowing. Not sure about onetime performance though. I was checking flight tracker this morning and the last three flights out of Melbourne have all been severely delayed (one by as much as 12 hours). I'm keeping my fingers crossed it departs on time tonight.

The vector

My colleague had been in Japan attending a conference. He was not due back at work until next week so I was surprised when he dropped by my office on Thursday.

He had caught a bad cold and decided to come back early. I told him he should be at home resting instead of coughing and spluttering in my office.

He tried to reassure me, in between coughing fits, that he was at the tail end of his cold and was no longer contagious (why do sick people always try to tell others that they are not sick?).

This morning I woke up to a runny nose and a sore throat. Grrr.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New Qantas livery

Qantas has painted one of their newest Boing 787s in an aboriginal design based on a painting by one of the country's most renowned indigenous artists, the late Emily Kngwarreye. Those who know Emily's works might be a bit disappointed. I don't think the design is easily recognisable as being representative of her work. Still, it's great that the national carrier is honouring a great artist in this way.
 The latest addition to the Qantas fleet is one of a number of planes to have been painted with aboriginal designs. Here are a few others.

And my favourite, a design based on the wonderful work of Paddy Bedford.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy New Year

It's the Year of the Dog. I'm in Canberra wallowing (again) in excessive feast.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

July versus September

I'm putting my hand up to host a scientific conference here in Melbourne in a couple of year's time. Its going to be a bit scary but I'm also very excited to showcase our city to an international delegation.

My immediate dilemma is to decide when would be the best time to hold the conference as dates need to be locked in several years in advance.

July would suit folks coming from Europe and North America as it coincides with their Summer break but the weather in Melbourne won't be terribly good (In the words of an Australian colleague I consulted, it will be 'bleak').

September would be better but it will be middle of teaching for scientists in the Northern Hemisphere. Plus, the dates overlap slightly with the AFL Grand Final so accommodation might be problematic.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Nice young man on the tram

I was at the corner of Elizabeth and Swanston Street, waiting for the tram to take me up to the Queen Vic market.  A young man decided to do something constructive. He started to pick up the rubbish strewn around the tram stop. Later on, once we were on the tram, he also helped a lady with her suitcase. There are some really good people in this world.

Monday, February 5, 2018


This week's flowers have taken over the dining table. Never mind. We tend to eat in front of the tv anyway. King Proteas and Eucalyptus caesia 'Silver Princess'.

Sunday, February 4, 2018


I caught up with some Singaporean family friends for lunch yesterday. They were telling me about the Michelin starred hawker stall that specialises in chicken rice. It is apparently the cheapest Michelin star food outlet in the world.

The accolade has been great for business and people are willing to wait. The family friends told me about someone they knew who had travelled from Malaysia to Singapore to try the food. That person arrived at 10.45am, before the shop was even open, and there was already a queue. He got his food at 3.30pm. Apparently it was worth the wait.

I love my chicken, but I'm not sure I have the stamina to wait almost 5 hours for it.

The Michelin star shop has opened an outpost here in Melbourne. Coincidentally, I received a text from another friend yesterday afternoon. It was 4.30pm. He was standing outside the shop, keen to order some take away. He was complaining that there is already a long queue. He'll have to wait.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Plants, plants, plants

Clearly indoor plants have become a 'thing'.

I was wandering around Collingwood yesterday and saw a young lady with two big pot plants under each arm. Less than a block away, three people were walking along the street, each carrying a plant.

I later made my way to the Fitzroy nursery on Brunswick Street and I've never seen it so busy. I could barely move inside the shop.

And it seems that this obsession with plants, driven by young hipster types, has led to plant shops stocking all kinds of rare and wonderful plants that I had previously only ever seen in specialty nurseries. Needing a Nepenthes? Pining for a Pilea? Or desiring a Dischidia? Not a problem. All are available at the local nursery.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Banksias for Australia Day

A nod to Australia Day. Some lovely banksias for the dining table.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Train in the heat

It reached the low 40s late last week. Our rail system doesn't cope too well at those temperatures and trains are required to run at a reduced speed due. I was catching a train back into the city in the afternoon and it was moving at a glacial pace. And then it suddenly stopped. There was a signalling fault and the driver announced that he had no idea how long we'd have to wait.

Hmmm...should I stay in the air conditioned carriage or try to figure out another way to get home. I opted for the latter. The crowd waiting at the nearby tram stop ruled out the tram option. I decided to walk to the next station, which is a major stop for several train lines.

It was a hot walk in the searing heat. I was thinking about that poor gay American tourist who passed away on the Larapinta Trail earlier this month. People actually die at these temperatures. I decided to walk in the shade. Of course, several hundred meters from the next train stop, I see the signalling fault must have been fixed as my train slowly passed.  Dammit.

I eventually reached the next station. Getting back inside another air conditioned carriage was the best feeling in the world!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Cost benefit analysis

I came across this headline on a news website.
I'm thinking no big deal. I'd put up with a tapeworm if it means getting to eat sushi everyday.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The scary dumpling experience

Nathan and I went to a dumpling restaurant with some of his work colleagues last night.

The food was ok; nothing to rave about. Anyhow, as we were tucking into our meal, there was suddenly a great deal of commotion coming from the kitchen counter. There was loud shouting and banging of kitchen benches. One of the waiters and a chef was having a massive argument.  The waiter was being held back by a colleague to stop him from punching the chef.

All the diners were staring.

I intuitively started looking for the nearest exit...just in case someone decided to grab a meat cleaver (it does happen from time to time).

National Gallery of Victoria

I went to the National Gallery of Victoria at Fed Square yesterday to check out a couple of new exhibitions.

One of the giant paper sculptures in the Louise Paramor exhibition. I really love her work. They were colourful, fun and meandering around the giant sculptures made me feel like a kid.
 I also spent some time at the Del Kathryn Barton exhibition. This exhibition came with a graphic content warning (There were lots of breasts and penises on display).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mantis shrimp

I went to the Queen Vic markets yesterday with the intention of getting some seafood.

To my surprise, one of the vendors had these for sale (albeit a less colourful variety than the one in the picture):
The creatures are called mantis shrimp, so named because they have appendages that resemble the arms of the praying mantis. They use these appendages to strike at their prey (such as crabs) with such force that mantis shrimp are even capable of smashing glass. Disconcertingly, they are also known by another name: 'thumb splitter'.

Needless to say, I couldn't resit the temptation of giving the thumb splitters a try and bought a few to cook up for my Saturday lunch. They were super tasty.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

More fluoro flowers

This week's addition to the dining table...

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fluoro flowers

Couldn’t resist getting these orange corymbia flowers (aka flowering gum) this morning at the South Melbourne markets.

Gay voice

I don't often listen to podcasts but this caught my attention on The Skinny with Mia Findlay.

ABC journalist and producer Mark Reddie talks about the discrimination he faced early in his career because of the way he spoke, which did not fit the stereotypic low, straight anglo voice expected of male journalists. Glad to see he has managed to carve out a successful career despite the discrimination.

Watching the ABC news in the last few months, its been great to see the national broadcaster embracing greater diversity in front of the cameras. Of course, SBS has been leading the charge for some years now. Commercial TV still has a long way to go though.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

London zoo

Misha the aardvark and several meerkats perished in a fire at the London Zoo.

Already, I am reading in the news that some animal rights groups are using the fire to highlight animal suffering in zoos. It's a vexed issue.

Animal welfare is certainly important. But zoos are important too and play a critical role in educating the public, raising awareness of wildlife conservation and, in many cases, are directly involved in research and captive breeding of rare and endangered species. And I know from my own experiences that the welfare of the captive animals and the research carried out on animals in zoos (like research carried out everywhere else) are tightly regulated.

I still remember visiting the Singapore zoo as a kid, which no doubt played a key role in shaping my love of animals and career path as a zoologist. No doubt there are many people like me who have been inspired to go down a similar career path and are now involved in wildlife conservation as a direct result of those first encounters at the zoo.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Bad yum cha

Nathan and I went for 'all you can eat' yum cha a few days ago.

You'd think that a yum cha buffet would be a joyous experience. It was not.

The problem?

They ran out of food!

We knew something wasn't quite right when the food carts being pushed around mostly consisted of the same three things: shark fin dumpling, glutinous rice, and bbq pork buns. Unfortunately, the shark fin dumpling is a no go zone (for environmental reasons) and both the glutinous rice and pork buns are, in my opinion, white people's food.

Where we all the other yum cha classics? Over the course of two hours (I insisted that we persevere even though Nathan wanted to go home), we scored ourselves a few chicken feet, some sui mai and a bowl of congee, but the situation was pretty dire.

There was no sighting of prawn dumplings or radish cakes or even a plate of steamed Chinese broccoli! There was no beef offal or beef balls or even steamed tripe. Wtf?

Eventually I asked one of the trolley ladies what was going on and she admitted that the kitchen had under-prepared and ran out of everything (except for shark fin dumplings, glutinous rice and pork buns).

It got even more dire when even the chicken feet ran out and the staff were resorted to serving plates of marinated peanuts! Peanuts!

It was at that stage that I finally lost hope and we left.

Vale Tommy Watson

Tommy Watson, one of my favourite indigenous artists past away recently.

He actually died a few weeks ago but I only just read about it. Despite being an accomplished artist, with works held in public collections both here in Australia and overseas, it seems like there was very little acknowledgement of his passing.

I remember seeing his works for the first time around 2003/2004 at the National Gallery. The bright colours he used were like nothing I had ever seen before; the dots actually felt as though they were pulsating against the background.

Here are some examples of his work held in major public institutions...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Palm trees and flamingos

I'm loving the print on this shirt. Unfortunately, I can't find a close up but it's basically a bunch of palm trees, flamingos (some wearing sunglasses) and snakes. Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Apple eyesore

I couldn't believe it. I just found out that Apple will be building a new building at Federation Square.

The sad part is that an existing building, currently occupied by the Koori Heritage Trust, will have to be demolished to make way for the new Apple Store.

And the new store doesn't seem to be very well integrated with the rest of the architecture on the site.

I'm reading there is a huge public backlash.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


My trusty pill box is great for reminding me to take my meds each day. But I learnt this week that the box is only as good as the medicine you put into it.

For the past week, instead of taking my regular anti gout meds, I had been unknowingly taking high doses of corticosteroids! Both drugs are white and round and came in very similar looking containers. Oops.

I now have to slowly wean myself off the corticosteroids to avoid withdrawal symptoms (and not compete in any competitive sporting events with mandatory drug testing).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hot day

The weather forecast has caused me to rethink my plans today. I think I'll be relaxing at home under the air conditioner with the dog.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Work of art

Our last Dean courted quite a bit of controversy getting the University to acquire all kinds of weird and wonderful artwork for our work environment. These works are changed periodically. I recently went into the foyer of one of our building following a leak and was amused to see this...
Can you guess which is the actual work of art?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekend flowers

Bought a gigantic artichoke from the florist this week. Decorative and edible!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Over the top

Nathan and I went to a homewares shop in Collingwood today.

It has a bit of an 'ye olde' feel about it.

There was no cash register, the laptop computer was hidden behind an old box and the sales attendants wrote out the receipt by hand.

Fine. I can see what the shop is trying to achieve.

But....with a huge line of customers all waiting for their purchases to be individually hand written onto a piece of paper, the whole process seemed unnecessarily cumbersome and time consuming. It was also resource intensive; it took two sales assistants to process the order. One to pack the item and the other to add the item onto the hand written receipt.

The situation wasn't helped by the fact that many items did not have price tags so the sales attendants had to look up the items on the lap top.

Meanwhile, three other sales attendants stood nearby doing nothing.

Truff's Christmas present

Truffles has a new dog bowl for Christmas.

It was hand made in Melbourne by an architect-turned-ceramicist. And 'yes', it was very expensive. In fact, it costs more than any of the human crockery in the house.

I just need to make sure that my (exceedingly) clumsy other half doesn't accidentally break it in the wash.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Celebrating marriage equality

Even the animals are celebrating the passage of Australia's marriage equality legislation.

Jacaranda in South Melbourne

I'm continuing to draw down my annual leave, which means 2 day working weeks from now until Christmas. Woohoo!

Today, Truffles and I walked with Nathan to his work in South Melbourne and we wandered down a street (I think it was Napier) that was lined with beautiful flowering jacarandas. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos.

I normally associate jacarandas with Sydney and Brisbane. I didn't realise they did so well in Melbourne. Even though most of the flowers were past their prime and the trees are not as big as the ones I found on the web from more subtropical regions (see above example), the sight was still quite stunning.

More science please

I was at home watching ABC News this morning and I see they have a very good looking and charismatic weather presenter.
Of course, I had to do some further research.

His name is Nate Byrne and he is a meteorologist, science communicator, oceanographer and a former lieutenant of the Royal Australian Navy. Can he be any more perfect?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gift wrapping

Gift wrapping seems to be part of the service in many shop nowadays.

When it's free, the demand seems to be especially high. Yesterday, I bought a few things from a shop and was told there would be a 1-1.5 hour wait. I left the items with the shop attendant and picked them up today. They had been beautifully wrapped (much better than what I could have possibly done). I was very impressed.

I had to buy a birthday present today and was able to take advantage of the Christmas wrapping service to get the birthday gift wrapped too. Perfect!


The sales assistant sprayed the perfume on my wrist. I took a sniff.

Me: "It smells like the moist towelettes you get at KFC."
Sales assistant: "Wait a few minutes for the alcohol to dissipate."
Me: "Oh yeah. It smell much better now."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Same but different

I learnt something new today at the optometrist.

Apparently there are frames specifically designed for Asian faces.

I. had. no. idea.

For most of my life, I've had to contend with the challenge of finding glasses that I not only like (easy), but are also large enough for my gigantic head (difficult) and will sit properly on my Asian face (difficult).

Well, Asian glasses do exist. They are specially designed to accomodate small nose bridges and high cheek bones.

And, to my absolute delight, Tom Ford makes Asian glasses! How wonderful is that?

I guess it makes good economic sense given that almost 60% of humanity have Asian faces.

Still no solution to big heads though.