Thursday, December 30, 2010


The New Year's Eve forecast in Melbourne is a balmy 104 degrees Farenheit. I'm missing the snow, but not parking in the winter in Southie- check out this NYT article on people saving their shoveled out spaces. My favorite space savers I observed during my Southie tenure were an ironing board and a Christmas tree. A cone, a barrel? Come on people, show some creativity! (thanks for the link, Buddes)

And now for a nerdy snow link: snowflakes, as seen under an electron microscope. Purty.

P.S. More posts coming soon- Christmas bon bons, Wilsons Promontory, and more! I promise :)

P.P.S Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Nutbush

Most of the time, life in Australia isn't all that different from life in the U.S.- same language, same ties to colonial England. Sure, they've got weird animals and they drive on the left, but overall it doesn't feel that foreign to me. However, it's the little cultural differences that completely blow my mind. Like the fact that people here put beets in sandwiches. And just recently, I discovered that Australians do a line dance called "The Nutbush" to the Ike and Tina Turner song "Nutbush City Limits." WHAT??!?
I was at my institute's Christmas party, which was a really nice luncheon at a hall, complete with assigned tables, free booze, and a DJ. At one point, a song came on and everyone got all excited- "the nutbush! the nutbush!" and started heading to the dance floor. A group line dance, a la The Electric Slide, was in progress. I was befuddled. "But you must know the nutbush, it's Tina Turner and you're American!!" No seriously, I have never seen this before. However, the steps are quite simple and soon enough I was nutbushing with the best of them. Apparently The Nutbush is known by everyone in Australia and is a popular occurrence at school formals, weddings, and the like. Here are some nutbush videos:

1. a wedding Nutbush

2. hipsters doing the nutbush at a music festival

3. close-up of the steps to the nutbush

The Nutbush? Kicks the Electric Slide's ass.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Links for laughs

Animals with British voiceovers. (via Eri)

Also, I saw a link to Damn You, Auto Correct on a friend's Facebook page and spent almost a hour reading old entries- I was literally crying. I do love a good typo, after all. And there's even a Notre Dame-themed entry!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Bowls and burgers

This weekend I ticked two Australian traditions off the list. The first was a popular sporting activity, primarily among senior citizens: lawn bowls. It's sort of like bocce- you throw out a little white ball ("the jack") and roll out some heavy black balls, and whoever's ball gets closest to the jack wins. The tricky part is that the black balls are weighted on one side, so you sort of bowl them out at an angle and they curve back in towards the target. Bowling takes place at a bowls club, and these folks are serious about their hobby- just check out the snazzy uniforms.
For the less serious competitors, it's much more like American bowling- a good excuse to drink beer and hang out with your friends. Our bowling outing fell into this category. I had a great time and can't wait to go again...I only wish I had a uniform and a hat.

After the bowls, I decided to take on another Australian tradition: the burger. You see, the traditional Australian burger comes with a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onions, the undercooked ham they try to pass off as bacon, a fried egg, and beetroot (a.k.a beets). Yes, you read that correctly. A fried egg AND beets. People put beets on everything down here. It's messed up.

Behold the burger:

You know, it was pretty darn good. I couldn't finish it, though...although I did manage to polish off the fries.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

U2 in Melbourne

The very first concert I ever saw (aside from going to the Beach Boys with my parents) was U2 in 1992 on the Zoo TV tour at the old Foxboro Stadium. My sister Kerry gave me her ticket so I could sit with her (furious) friend while she sat with her then-boyfriend in better seats. I didn't care about the seating. I was 15 years old and thrilled to be there. And it was fantastic.

I wasn't planning to catch U2's latest tour, mostly because I just wasn't willing to pay $200 to sit in the upper balcony of a large stadium. Apparently this sentiment was shared- the crappy seats didn't sell so they dropped the price. When D emailed me on Monday asking if I wanted to get tickets for $40, my answer was an enthusiastic YES! We were joined by a couple friends and fellow U2 fans.

Jay-Z was opening, which definitely struck me as an unusual choice, but we ended up going into the concert just after he finished so I didn't catch any of his set. I'm just glad that Beyonce didn't make a surprise appearance because that I would definitely have wanted to see. Like most U2 concerts, the stage was huge and impressive and has been dubbed "The Claw." The band started the night off right by walking on stage to David Bowie's Space Oddity. I had been a little worried that they'd focus on their newer material or Bono would get preachy, but that wasn't the case at all. They played an excellent show and the set included many fan favorites such as New Year's Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and Mysterious Ways. Even though it isn't one of my favorite songs, Bono made a nice dedication to (Aussie) Michael Hutchence before performing "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." Even though Bono does have a great voice and stage presence, I give The Edge's guitar credit for that distinct U2 sound. They played for a couple of hours and then performed a short encore that included Ultraviolet (Light My Way), which was rather unexpected and, for me, the highlight of the night. When With or Without You came on, I was feeling nostalgic and got Dean and our friend Mel to hold up lighters with me, only to realize that...NOBODY DOES THAT ANYMORE. The crowd was a mix of ages (exemplified by two ladies with their 12 year old sons behind us), but I reckon no one under 20 had ever seen the lighter thing before. Bono did have everyone hold their cell phones up- my how the times have changes.

In the end, it seems like U2 knows what the fans want, and on Friday night, they gave us exactly that. I'm just glad I was there to experience it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Who whoooo

Hungover owls (via Kris)

Baby owl hunts invisible prey (via Metafilter)

Google images of baby owls (Via my own procrastination)

Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
. An Australian 3D animated film starring...owls.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Disturbing Australian ad campaigns

Australian commercials are clearly not made for the squeamish. Worksafe Victoria, the government agency in charge of workplace health and saftey, recently launched an ad campaign that is disturbing, to say the least. First, they aired some commercials that showed people throwing our their backs and breaking their ankles that were pretty graphic- cracking sounds, visuals of snapping bones, etc. Then, billboards like these started popping up around Melbourne. However, the worst was yet to come: a television ad showing a girl getting her hand caught in a bread slicer, including a close-up shot of...a severed finger! C'mon now, nobody wants to see that while they're watching Australia's Next Top Model.

Apparently Australia has a history of shocking advertisements- the pioneers of this tactic, the transportation authority TAC, recently put out a montage of (in)famous commercials for their 20th anniversary. Because nothing says "please drive safely" like a mangled corpse in the road.

Friday, November 26, 2010

An Australian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, as it's all about eating. No presents, no church, just food. Lots of delicious foods- turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash. I do have the snobbish belief that New Englanders do Thanksgiving best- I mean, the first one was celebrated in Massachusetts, after all. I spent three Thanksgivings in Nicaragua- the first year I went to a dinner at the embassy (good!), the second some friends and I cooked up a feast in Esteli with the help of a local bakery and a diesel powered flame thrower (awesome!), and the third was dinner at TGIFriday's in Managua (depressing!).
This year, I had originally considered hosting a dinner but with D in Hong Kong for work I decided I wasn't up to hosting a big dinner myself. I had heard of some Thanksgiving events going on over the weekend, but I want my Thanksgiving on a Thursday, like it's supposed to be, darn it! Luckily my American friend Sofie decided to have a few of us over for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Since she's a vegetarian, I volunteered to do the turkey and made this recipe for turkey hindquarters. It was plenty for the four carnivores in the group and was a lot faster and easier than preparing a whole bird. Plus, I like dark meat and it's less likely to suffer the cardinal sin of turkey roasting: dry meat. We also made stuffing, mashed potato, cranberry sauce (from a jar, alas), green beans and salad. Oh, and very large quantity of wine. The meal came out very well and we all had a lot of fun. Plus, it was sort of neat having Thanksgiving with people who had never celebrated it before- our guests were from Australia, England, and Burma, and were very intrigued by the concept of stuffing. The only downside was having to work the next day.

I'd also like to thank Kelly McMahon for providing the Thanksgiving day laughs...her photo of a cornucopia and invention of the term "pornucopia" on Facebook spawned some hilarious pilgrim-themed porno ideas...sailing on the Mateflower, Pilgrim word-that-rhymes-with Rock, etc...Okay, I'll stop now.

I hope you all had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Music in Melbourne

Oh hello! Apologies for the recent radio silence, I've just been busy. And by busy I mean completely addicted to Bejeweled. But I do have some concert reviews to report.

1. The New Pornographers at the Hi-Fi. The New Pornographers are a conglomerate Canadian/American rock band full of extremely talented musicians. Their tunes are catchy, and they kind of have a Fleetwood Mac type thing going on with both male and female lead singers. I was lucky that they brought Neko Case along on this tour- since she's very popular as a solo artist she doesn't always tour with the band. And I think she's awesome and fully admit to having a girl crush on her. The show was great and I liked the venue, small enough but not horribly crowded. The only downside is that Neko didn't perform any of her own songs, but I guess I'll just have to wait until she goes on a solo tour.

2. I went back to the Hi-Fi a few days later to catch the Australian World Music Expo for a New Zealand themed show. The headliner was hip-hop artist King Kapisi, but my favorite act of the night was the funky Electric Wire Hustle. Overall, it was an interesting show and good for people watching. The audience was almost all New Zealanders, including a lot of young Maori guys with spiky hair and tattoos.

3. One of my labmates invited me to go see Paul Kelly, a legendary Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist who Kris once described as "Australia's Bob Dylan" so of course I said yes. Here's a video of a much younger Paul Kelly performing To Her Door, his most well-known song. The show was at the Corner Hotel, which reminds me a lot of the Paradise in Boston, right down to an annoying pole that I somehow always end up standing behind. He definitely lived up to his reputation- Kelly and the band sounded fantastic and they all looked like they were having a blast on stage, just enjoying playing music together. Tim Rogers from the opening act joined the stage for their encore performance of Neil Young's Cinnamon Girl. Even though I wasn't familiar with most of his songs it was easy to enjoy myself and appreciate an excellent musician putting on an excellent show.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

World Pneumonia Day

Since I'm now working on Streptococcus pneumoniae, I thought I'd let you all know that November 12th is World Pneumonia Day. Did you know that pneumonia is the leading killer of children under the age of five? Most of the 1.5 million annual fatalities occur in developing countries, and many lives could be saved if antibiotics and vaccines were more widely available. If you're interested in donating, the GAVI alliance promotes children's health by facilitating immunization in poor countries.

Book reviews

Here what I read on my long flights from Melbourne to Boston and back...the movies were absolute crap so I'm glad I brought several books.

1. Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey. I made it a goal of mine to read more books by Australian authors, and decided to start with Peter Carey, who has twice won the Man Booker prize and was on the short list again this year. Oscar and Lucinda isn't a traditional love story- set in 19th century England and Australia, it tells the tale of two people who don't quite fit into society and connect through their mutual love of gambling. Oscar is a kindhearted but misunderstood clergyman, and Lucinda is a lonely orphan who buys a glassworks in Sydney with her inheritance. It's a long and dense book, but an enjoyable one, with a refreshingly unexpected ending. Now I want to see the movie.

2. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby. Although I've seen several movies based upon his books (About a Boy, which I loved, and High Fidelity, which I disliked), I've never read anything by Nick Hornby before. Unfortunately, I think I made a disappointing choice. In How to be Good, the protagonist Kate Carr is fed up with her marriage to bitter and sarcastic David. However, David soon changes his tune and decides to become "good," in the most sanctimonious way possible. The book didn't do too much for me, as it's about two unhappy people in an unhappy relationship, but lacks the depth to keep things interesting.

3. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh. First off, Evelyn Waugh is a man. Who knew? And Brideshead is a place, one of those big fancy English houses where the idle rich dwell. The protagonist Charles Ryder befriends wealthy and charming Sebastian Flyte during their first year at university and becomes a witness of and participant in Flyte family dramas for decades to come. Supposedly Catholicism is the major theme of the novel (Waugh converted to Catholicism as an adult), but I didn't notice it as much as the alcoholism and repressed homosexuality. I liked the book but wasn't crazy about it...could it be that I've finally tired of reading about rich English people who live in houses with names? Perhaps.

4. Brava, Valentine, by Adriana Trigiani. Hey, one can't be high-brow all the time. Brava, Valentine is the second in a series about Valentine Roncalli, a New Yorker from a boisterous Italian-American family who takes the reigns of the family business, custom women's footwear. This is the type of book that when you're reading it on an airplane a woman in her 50s with enormous hair, leather skin, and an abundance of gold jewelry will lean over and say to you conspiratorially, "great book." Strangely enough, both of my parents are hooked on the Valentine series. Sure, they're fun to read, and I much preferred Brava, Valentine to the first book of the series, Very Valentine. Still not Pulitzer material, but at least the author dropped the annoying habit of meticulously describing each character's outfit every time they appeared. So I guess this means I'll be reading the next one :)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Visit to Massachusetts

I got back on Sunday after a long flight and a quickish (8 days) trip back home to Massachusetts. The main purpose of the trip was to spend time with my grandmother, who has been having health trouble in recent months. Currently, she's doing well and it was great to see her as well as visit with the rest of my family and catch up with friends in the area. Fall has always been my favorite season, and there's something about fall in New England that you just can't find anywhere else. My mom had planned a big family dinner and surprised us with Early Thanksgiving- turkey, stuffing, and the whole shebang (otherwise known as "all the trimmings")- it was awesome! I was home for Halloween, but this year, instead of attending (or hosting) a wild party I opted for the kiddie version and took my nieces trick-or-treating. I did wear a costume, though. It was super fun; my nieces had a blast and there were TONS of people out- apparently the parents of America no longer live in fear of malicious neighbors distributing poisoned candy. Thank goodness. Check those apples for razorblades, kids! I was also home for election day, which came in handy because I had forgotten to request an absentee ballot. I voted in Waltham and felt reassured that Massachusetts is still the bluest of them all.
Overall, the trip was great but exhausting- I tried to pack too much visiting in for the time frame, and I also ended up scheduling three work-related meetings. Lesson learned: next time I'll be sure to leave myself a couple of empty days where I can chill out and actually feel like I'm on vacation. Or go the outlets and stock up on clothes and shoes- so much cheaper! My best night out was when I acted like a diva and requested that all of my friends meet me at one of my favorite bars, the Beehive.

I must say, though, I'm starting to get used to the long flight. It helps that I'm now a "Premier" customer on United, so I automatically get seated in Economy Plus (more legroom! woohoo!). Oh, and the red wine + codeine combo works wonders for in-flight slumber. On the way back, I had a 5 hour layover in San Fransisco and journeyed into the city to meet up with my SF friends for dinner; it was great to see them and nice to break up the flights a bit.

As for my next of the 4 books I read on the flight.

And I'll leave you with one last photo- one of the breakfast specials at the fabulous J&M Diner, where I had breakfast with my parents before they drove me to the airport. Nothing says Massachusetts like fluffernutter french toast.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Movies and an update

Oh hello, Neglected Blog. I've had a busy past few days- gearing up for a big two day training session at work and preparing for my trip home to Massachusetts...I leave in about three hours (so I should probably finish packing). I'm really looking forward to catching up with family and friends and enjoying some Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and Mexican food cooked by real Mexicans rather than Australian teenagers.

I have seen a couple of movies recently:

1. All About My Mother. This Spanish film from 1999 comes from the famous director Almodovar, known for his unconventional characters and the fact that most of his movies are about women. I've seen several of his movies, and my previous favorite was Volver. However, I must say that now I consider All About My Mother Almodovar's best. It's a stunning film- interesting and creative and a treat for movie/theater buffs, as allusions to All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire pervade the movie. All About My Mother is about a mother, Manuela, whose teenage son dies in an accident at the beginning of the film. She travels to Barcelona to find his father, a drag queen named Lola who never knew that he/she had fathered a child. However, instead of finding Lola, she befriends and unlikely group of misfits: a transvestite ex-prostitute, a famous theater actress in love with her troubled co-star, and a pregnant nun (played by a young and adorable Penelope Cruz). Almodovar's movies aren't for everyone, but one of his strengths is that he portrays the types of people who live on the edge of society, the freaks, weirdos, and misfits, with compassion and without judgement. I thought All About My Mother was fantastic- highly recommended!

2. The Social Network, a.k.a the Facebook movie, stars Jesse Eisenberg (from Adventureland and Zombieland...perhaps they should have called it Facebookland to continue the trend?) as Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. It's written by the people from the West Wing, and as expected, features some great dialogue and good acting, notably Justin Timberlake as the egomaniac developer of Napster, Sean Parker. The Winklevoss twins (played by just one guy, I wonder how they did that?) were hilarious. However, the movie didn't do much for me, basically, because Mark Zuckerberg is big jerk. He has a big chip on his shoulder for being a geek, and if that's supposed to make you sympathize with him, it didn't work. Hey, if you're brilliant and go to Harvard, don't expect people to feel sorry for you. In the movie, he's mean to his ex-girlfriend, he steals the idea from Facebook, and he royally screws over his best friend. I guess I have trouble enjoying a movie when I don't like the main character.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Redneck cooking: Buffalo Chicken Sliders

A while ago my sister Eri asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted her to send me. Having recently stocked up on peanut butter, I requested another American favorite that is unheard of in Australia: buffalo sauce. She sent me three bottles of it along with a NASCAR-themed birthday card. I decided to make buffalo chicken sliders and used this recipe- I love the description: "like chicken wings on a sandwich!" Basically, you buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, pull the meat off of it, and stir in some diced celery, blue cheese (I suppose real rednecks use ranch dressing), and buffalo sauce, warm it up in the oven, and serve on little rolls. YUM!! So easy and really tasty- I served them up for dinner with corn on the cob and salad, but they’d make a great party appetizer.

Movie Review: The Town

After hearing how all of my friends and family back home liked The Town, the new movie starring and directed by Ben Affleck, I was looking forward to it coming out in Australia. I saw it over the weekend, and I must admit, all those aerial shots of the city of Boston made me a little bit homesick. The Town, unlike the recent string of Irish-American crime dramas set in The Hub, takes place in Charlestown rather than Southie. I knew that Charlestown was considered a rough neighborhood but wasn't aware of its reputation as a hotbed of bank robbers. The Town centers around of group of friends who make their living by robbing banks and armored cars. Ben Affleck's character Doug is the ringleader and the likeable one- we see that despite his trade, he's not a bad guy. On the opposite end of the spectrum is his best friend Jimmy, brilliantly played by Jeremy Renner- he's tough, unpredictable, and dangerous. Things get complicated when Doug falls for Claire, a bank employee they briefly took hostage during one of their exploits. I could relate to Claire as the suburban girl who moves into an insular city neighborhood. Overall, I enjoyed The Town but didn't think it was as original as his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone (which is fantastic btw). However, it's definitely entertaining and worth seeing- especially if you're prone to smile at shots of Fenway Park and the North End.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Links! (science themed)

A fascinating article about sabotage in the laboratory, which allows me to use one of my favorite words- saboteur! (thanks, Mike)

Fun chemistry video. No, really. (Thanks, JR!)

And now for something a little more sinister- earlier this month, the US apologized for a study run during the 1940s in which Guatemalans were deliberately infected with syphilis. Yikes! I'll try to remember this when I'm complaining about my latest human ethics application.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I've been up to

Books read:
1. Howards End by E.M. Forster (I'm still following along with my Boston book club, just like a long-distance stalker). Published in 1910, this English novel tells the story of three families from three different classes, whose paths frequently cross. The two Schlegel sisters, the thoughtful Margaret and the beautiful and immature Helen seem like they jumped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. In one of the major plot points, a valuable object bequeathed by a dying woman to a kind acquaintance was hoarded by greedy relatives only to end up, in entirely unexpected circumstances, in the hands of the rightful recipient. This reminded me of the book On Beauty, which I just learned (from wikipedia) was written as a homage to Howards End. I enjoyed Howards End and would recommend it, especially to fans of britlit.
2. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, by Warren St. John. This non-fiction book tells the story of a New York City journalist and Alabama native who returns to his home state to investigate life and times of diehard college football fans, specifically, those who cry "Roll Tide," worship a man named Bear Bryant, and spend every weekend in red RVs. He spends one football season traveling in motor homes to every University of Alabama home and away game and makes a point to meet everyone in the fans' orbit- the legendary crazed fans who stick out among their fellow fanatics, the reviled sports journalist who makes his living criticizing Bama, and the scalper ("ticket broker") who has the tickets they want. Luckily for Warren (and his readers), his gateway companions, the Bices, are a pleasant couple who just plain like their Bama football and add a refreshing balance to the less savory fans in the mix. I'm not normally a big fan of non-fiction, but Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is both funny, insightful, and well-written, and a highly enjoyable read, even for a Notre Dame fan.

Concert attended:
Cloud Control at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne. One thing I miss about Boston is the abundance of live music venues where you can see good bands for under $30. Melbourne does get a lot of good music, but the international bands (i.e. all the ones I've heard of) all charge $80 or more- and as much as I like Todd Rungren, that's just too much to ask. Imagine my delight when I saw that an Australian band I like, Cloud Control, was playing a show that cost a mere $18. Sold! The Corner Hotel is somewhat of a Melbourne institution, similar to the Paradise (it even has a giant pole obstructing the stage). And the show was great! A four piece band from the Blue Mountains who play mellow modern rock.
Download here:

Gold Canary (right click and save as) - Cloud Control

And what concert is complete without a blurry concert photo? None, I say.

Soccer tournament played in:

My friend Alison invited me to join her North Sydney team in a women's over 30 tournament on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Despite the fact that there were literally monsoon-like rainstorms the entire weekend, I had a fantastic time. The team was full of good soccer players who also like to have a good time, and the weekend was an fun and exhausting mix of soccer and partying. The trip reminded me of the time my old co-ed team went to a tournament in Miami, but at least this time we won a couple of games. Seriously, though, I have never played on a wetter or muddier field, and the tournament organizers ended up canceling the last day of games, which was annoying but understandable considering one of the players in the men's tournament broke his leg in two places the night before. They consoled the disappointed footballers by hosting an open bar at 10:30...AM. Since I didn't manage to get a photo of the team in our uniforms, here's one of us at the surf club and another of the waterlogged field (complete with a giant wooden squeegee that the club used in a feeble attempt to remove water from the field).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What's cooking

Now that the weather in Melbourne is warming up, it's grilling time! I made these chicken satay skewers and served them with this peanut satay sauce, basmati rice, and grilled veggies. Yum city.

My other recent achievement was to make homemade pancakes, due to the lack of Bisquick down under. I used this recipe and added a cup of fresh blueberries. Super easy and tasty. I didn't take a photo, but picture some delicious blueberry pancakes and there you go. My parents had brought me some real New England maple syrup so that made them even better than the ones you're imagining.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Science in Darwin

Last week, I went to Darwin to do some lab work with collaborators at the Menzies School of Health Research. Darwin itself is a very unique city, located at the very top of the remote Northern Territories. It's surrounded by beautiful beaches, but you can look but not swim due to crocodiles and poisonous box jellyfish. The heat is sweltering, and the residents are very relaxed and friendly. I was very impressed with Menzies- their facilities and equipment are top-notch, and the scientific staff is both talented and welcoming. The institute does a lot of work with Aboriginal populations, who have high rates of disease and a life-expectancy 17 years shorter than non-Aboriginal Australians (more info here). I went to a seminar on a rare type of cancer that's striking young Aboriginal women in one region of the NT- they did a study on HPV rates in women in the area, and the acknowledgments included a group of tribal elders that assisted in recruiting women to the study.
One reason why I enjoyed the trip so much is that I'm starting to feel like I have an actual career- working with people in my new field (bacterial pneumonia), talking about ideas, discussing projects, making plans for that conference in Brazil we all want to attend, etc...

On my last day in town, they set me up on an eco tour that went to the Adelaide River and Litchfield National Park. The highlight was the jumping crocodile boat ride, where they dangle hunks of raw meat off the side of the boat to attach crocodiles (and the occasional eagle). Here are a couple of pics I took:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oprah, you've outdone yourself

First the trip to Australia, now this?? I fucking love The Sound of Music.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Magnetic Island

I got back yesterday from a lovely four day trip to Magnetic Island, located off the coast of Townsville in northern Queensland, not too far from the Great Barrier Reef. The majority of the island is a national park, but luckily for me, D has friends who live there and love hosting visitors. And they also have an adorable puppy. It's funny, most people outside of Australia assume it's all beaches and tropical weather, but I hadn't yet experienced that side of it. Magnetic Island is indeed a tropical paradise- beautiful beaches, lush palm trees, and warm weather. And since it's not on the main tourist track and only has 2000 residents, nothing is ever crowded. The landscape reminded me a bit of Hawaii, and yes, a little bit of The Island from Lost (especially with that whole magnetic business). Over the four days, we did a lot of relaxing as well as a bit of exploring, inlcuding a hike up to n old WWII gun tower and snorkeling at a coral reef, where and managed to get a sunburn on my ass, which made for an uncomfortable plane ride home.

Items of interest spotted: tree frogs (even saw one in the toilet, aka a "dunny frog"), sea turtle, mama and baby koala, snake, shark (not a scary one, just this guy), lots of birds (including the Magnetic Island curlew) and last but not least, a Dip Sign!! I can't wait to go back- four days was not nearly enough.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The redesign

So I decided to clean up the blog links sections to remove links to some blogs that no longer exist or have been inactive for months, and while I was at it, I started playing around with the new (to me) Blogger templates- DCoE was looking a little too 2006. And ever since I swicthed from Internet Explorer to Firefox, the formatting has been a little off. So, do you like the new look? I'm not crazy about the birds in the upper right corner but couldn't figure out how to get rid of them, and birds aside, I did like this template the most out of the ones available. Maybe I'll insert a cartoon stick figure drawing of me next to the title shooting at the birds. That would be totally normal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

List #44....Secret Australians

Do you remember how Adam Sandler had that Hannukah song about the people in Hollywood who are Jewish? Well, I feel like Australia could do somethig similar. I mean, everyone knows Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are Aussie, and we all saw Toni Colette in Muriel's Wedding. However, since I moved here, I've been trying to watch some classic Australian films (you know, like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), and in doing so have realized that many actors I had assumed were American were actually from Australia.

So now I present List #44... Secret Australians
1. Cate Blanchette
2. Guy Pearce
3. Anthony LaPaglia (from Without a Trace)
4. Elle Macpherson
5. Olivia Newton-John
6. Geoffrey Rush
7. Hugo Weaving
8. Ryan Kwanten (better known to True Blood fans as Jason Stackhouse)
9. Not an actor, but Rupert Murdoch is also Australian.

and as for Mel Gibson, turns out he's a Secret American.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cats in IKEA

I have a love/hate relationship with IKEA. I hate the store's layout, I hate the lack of customer service, I hate their cheaply made furniture, and I really really hate assembling their cheaply made furniture*. Okay, so this love/hate relationship is skewed towards the hating. I do like their meatballs and the fact that you can buy a bag of 100 tealights for like two dollars. And to be honest, when you need a new coffee table because a big, drunk guy fell onto yours and smashed it into bits at your housewarming party, IKEA can come in handy.

I also really like this commercial that was filmed when 100 pet cats were let loose in an IKEA after hours. Here's some additional video footage about the making of the commercial. (via Metafilter) If my catphobe mother catches wind of this she'll never set foot in an IKEA again.

*I came up with a new money-making idea to add to the list: become an expert in assembling IKEA furniture and hire yourself out to put it together in people's homes. I would gladly have paid someone $50 (or more) to piece together six of these BÖRJEs.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Peanut butter jelly time!

I’ve always been fond of peanut butter. My go-to breakfast is toasted English muffins with peanut butter: quick, tasty, reasonably healthy and most importantly, dairy-free (nobody wants to start their day with explosive diarrhea). Over the past few months, this fondness has turned into more of an obsession, or a quest, if you will. You see, Australian peanut butter kind of sucks. It exists, but the major brand- Kraft- makes the sugary processed type (eww). I had some hope for the natural food brand, Sanitarium (which sounds like a place where you quarantine TB patients, not something you’d want to eat), but it was disappointingly bland and just not peanutty enough. However, a peanut butter from New Zealand, Ceres, came to my rescue- it’s just about perfect. My parents also brought along reinforcements in the form of Teddie All Natural peanut butter- my favorite, and made in MA! And in case I run out...they also brought me a 3 lb. tub in addition to the jar. Looks like I'll be able to satisfy my peanut butter cravings for a good long while.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Soccer in Melbourne

One of the first things I did when I moved to Melbourne was to find a soccer team to join, figuring it would be a good way to meet people and stay in shape. However, recreational soccer for adults in Australia is much different than in Boston. There’s no equivalent to the BSSC, and all teams are organized by clubs that have their own home field and clubhouse. Each club with have several youth and men’s teams and one or two women’s teams, and historically, most clubs have some sort of ethnic affiliation. We also played against several universities, and at first I was worried we’d get our asses kicked by a bunch of superstar 18 year olds, but luckily it wasn’t like that at all- apparently they don’t have intramurals so all of the mediocre players join local leagues instead. My team, the Port Melbourne Sharks (motto: Our turf, no survivors!), belongs to a Greek club- most of the players aren’t Greek, but the Greek men who hang around the clubhouse drinking wine and the fact that the snack stand features items like spanakopita does give a certain mediterranean flair. The other difference is that although the level of play is fairly similar to what I was used to, teams have practice (practice? We’re talking about practice?!!) and a coach. A coach? I hadn’t had a coach since high school. At first, the idea of running drills and whatnot struck me as sort of silly for a bunch of out of shape adults playing in a social league, but it ended up being pretty fun. I lucked out and ended up joining a newly formed team, which meant that most of the other girls were new to the area, having moved from abroad like me or recently relocated to Melbourne from other cities in Australia, so everyone was keen to make friends. And they also like fun and beer. Soccer-wise, we weren’t the best squad in our league, but we weren’t terrible, and I really enjoyed playing in an organized league and getting to know a great group of people. Although now that the season’s over, I must admit it’s nice to sleep in on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Book review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So I finally caved into the hype and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. In this novel, journalist Mikael Blomkvist is employed by the aging patriarch of a wealthy family to find out what happened to his niece, who disappeared decades prior. The girl with the dragon tattoo is his assistant, the young misfit hacker Lisbeth Salander. It's definitely an entertaining page-turner, but overall not much more than your standard blockbuster thriller, like a Swedish Dan Brown book (albeit with a surprising amount of sexual violence- based on its popularity, I was expecting something a little more vanilla). My biggest bone to pick was with the writing- it seemed so obvious that the intention was to turn it into a screenplay, which kind of gave the book a commercial feel. The protagonist- he's handsome and charismatic and sleeps with beautiful women! There's also some pretty obvious product placement- Blomkvist doesn't type on a laptop; he uses an iBook. In summary, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is am ideal beach or airplane read, but just wasn't enough to warm my cold, book-snobbish soul. I didn't see the movie- was it any good?

Friday, August 27, 2010

My parents' visit to Oz

It's been a busy week and a half here at DCoE, with my parents coming to Melbourne for a visit. Well, my father technically came here for a conference, but my mom tagged along and a fair amount of visiting was accomplished. While my dad was working, my mom and I checked out some of the local sights, including the National Gallery of Victoria art museum and the Melbourne Aquarium, which has awesome penguins. Anyone who doesn't like penguins must be a sociopath. One thing Melbourne has going for it is great food, and we enjoyed dinners at a steakhouse, a fun Greek restaurant where there are no menus and Greek men tell you what to eat, and a traveling dinner on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant (which my parents, being fans of trains in general, LOVED). D handled The Meeting of the Parents quite well, even when crammed into a tiny table on a moving tram.

Over the weekend, we headed down the Mornington Peninsula, which is only a couple of hours drive (on the left!) from the city and has a lot of beautiful beach scenery and vineyards. Kind of like Cape Cod, only with better wine. The photos below are of us at Cape Schanck and a picture of one of the many vineyards we stopped at.

The next stop was a trip to Scottsdale, Tasmania where father had planned a visit with some Australian work colleagues. Scottsdale is a small, agricultural town and since they don’t get many visitors, especially at this time of the year, they went out of their way to keep us entertained. My mom and I drove out to the forest and hiked to St. Columba Falls (see photo) and then returned to town to join everyone for dinner at Barnbougle Dunes, which is apparently a links golf course (whatever that means) and made the list of the world’s top 100 golf courses. It was night time so we couldn’t see much. After that, we spent another couple of days hanging out in Melbourne, and then my parents headed off on the long flight home. I really enjoyed their visit- it was great to see them and nice to have a few days off from work with the opportunity for some sightseeing and whatnot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A few of my favorite things

Melbourne is a great city, full of cool cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops where people like me end up spending loads of time and money. But my favorite things in the city aren't museums or landmarks or hipster hangouts, they're the quirky little details, like this old vinegar sign- apparently I'm not the only fan of the skipping vinegar girl.

Here are some more examples:

These neighborhood watch signs- they're all over the place, and something about the logo is just so 1970's, I can't help but love them. They also remind me of the old girl scouts logo. Tagalongs and samoas, anyone?

Melbourne in general and my neighborhood Fitzroy in particular are known for street art. I really like this one of a girl in old-fashioned clothes peeking around the corner.

An lastly, here's giant coin purse sculpture (and yep, that's my mom and I sitting atop it).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Things I found in my boyfriend's record collection

Many years ago in Australia, a teenage D collected records. I recently had the good fortune to peruse this gem of collection, which is essentially a treasure trove of 1980s nostalgia and hilarity. Here are photos we took of my ten favorites:

10. My sister Kerry had this on cassette and it ruled.

9. You know, I still dig Huey Lewis.

8. Bette Midler and the cure on the same album? Throbbin'!

7. Some music from this decade did age well.

6. Others, not so much. And now I have "Shake Your Love" stuck in my head.

5. D claims that Wham and Debbie Gibson belonged to his sister...

4. But he fully admits to purchasing the Dream a Little Dream soundtrack.

3. And now for something gayer than Wham- the English techno group Man to Man performing their club classic "Male Stripper." I love the cover art on this one...what goes well with shirtless men smoking? I know! The Leaning Tower of Pisa!

2. The first time was a great time, the second time was a blast...

and finally,

#1. U Can't Touch This.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DCoE's Return to Glory (coming soon)

Remember how my blog used to be awesome? (okay, my words) And now I hardly ever update anymore, and it's kind of lame? Well, all that's about to change with the arrival of....drumroll, new laptop! See, my new work environment doesn't really allow for internet tomfoolery, and my old personal laptop has been on its last legs for months's so slow I can barely send and email, let alone post pictures and blog entries. And I do have some a photoessay pertaining to a certain boyfriend's hilarious record collections. And there are still durians to be had.

But for now, you can amuse yourselves with this collection of bad yearbook photos. (thanks, Jos!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Quitting in style

Did you hear about the JetBlue flight attendant's dramatic exit? Fantastic. (except for the fact he may end up in jail...but maybe the chance to pull the emergency slide was worth it)

And now this story about a girl who quits her job via messages on a dry erase board that she emails to the office. I'm pretty sure it's fake (the girl looks WAY too much like one of those beautiful models who don a ponytail and glasses so they can play a misfit in a high school movie), but it's still pretty entertaining.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Some have you may remember the fascination I developed last year for the juggalos. Well, it hasn't faded. The infomerical for this year's "Gathering" is out and is as absurd as ever. Coolio and Gallagher at the same festival? Snap. And check out this news- juggalo culture has spread to Australia- I swear, I'm not responsible! (thanks for the link, Cupcake)

And now for something entirely different:

A travel article from the NYT about a guy traveling in Nicaragua with his parents. (thanks, Dan)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Concert Review: Band of Horses

I've been a fan of the band Band of Horses ever since I heard their first album, Everything All The Time, but I had never seen them live. Last night, I saw them play at the Palace Theater in Melbourne, and they were fantastic! The guitars sounded great, and I was really impressed by the vocals of frontman Ben Bridwell. He smoked a few cigarettes during the show- I guess you can break the rules when you're a rock star, but I'm surprised it hasn't ruined his voice, which is high and clear and sounds exactly like it does on the recordings. They seemed relaxed and happy on stage and bantered a bit with the crowd. They played a long set that featured mostly songs from their first album, including The Funeral, which rose to popularity partly because of this video. I liked the venue as well- there are a couple of balconies and the whole building is tiered in a way so that you pretty much always have a good view without blocking anyone behind you. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I don't have any blurry concert photos to post. In closing, if you like Band of Horses and get a chance to see them live, they're definitely worth seeing!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend Report

I had a busy weekend in Melbourne, which included the following activities:

I went to see Tim Burton: The Exhibition, which has traveled to Melbourne from MoMA in New York. The exhibition featured a plethora of delightfully creepy drawings....and one Batmobile!

Checked out the State Library as part of Melbourne Open House. We went to see the normally closed Queen's Hall but were far more impressed with the massive reading room.

Made fresh margaritas from squeezed limes! Apparently margarita mix doesn't exist in Australia, so I resorted to the do-it-yourself method. They were really easy to make and quite tasty but a bit on the dangerous side. The margaritas were followed by a soccer club fundraiser at a Brazilian restaurant- it was one of those cheesy dinner show places, but the food was good (meat on giant stakes, oh boy!) and we all good time (the margaritas probably helped with that). I ate a chicken heart. And since D won a dinner for 4 in the raffle, it looks like we'll be back.