Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 12 Pubs of Christmas

My flatmate Susan is from Cork (in Ireland), where apparently a pub crawl called The 12 Pubs of Christmas is the norm in December. The title explains it all- one outing, 12 pubs, sometime around Christmas. We decided to organize a Melbourne version in our own neighborhood- apparently 34 is not to old to be a co-organizer of a pub crawl, for the record.
One of the perks of planning activities is that you get to make them convenient for you (pub #12 just happened to be located around the corner from our apartment, what a coincidence!). Plus, there are a lot of good bars and pubs and I haven't had a chance to check all that many of the out, so why not hit 12 in one day? A few weeks ago we did a reconnaissance mission on our bikes and mapped out a route containing 12 pubs. The date was set, the route and schedule arranged, the flyer designed, and we sent it around to our Melbourne friends, not really knowing how many people other that the two of us would partake.
The big day arrived and we headed out to Pub #1 with our props, a red felt cowboy Hat of Shame, which would be worn by anyone whom arrived late or was deemed to have committed a shameful act. We also happened upon a harlequin romance called Gentle Rouge, with a ridiculous cover and even more ridiculous (and very porny) conent. All latecomers had to read aloud a passage of Gentle Rouge (and there were some doozies, full of words like 'bountiful' and 'thrusted')and through the course of the evening, a few strangers got roped into dramatic readings as well.
One thing that came in handy is that Australian bars typically serve pots, a half-pint size of draft beer, which we drank instead of full pints. Even in my college days I don't think I could have handled 12 pints in a night.
The evening went along much more smoothly than expected- we had about 16 people at the max, and at least some of the group did make it to all 12 pubs, with much hilarity along the way. One bar turned out to be a classy restaurant (oops), one bar was completely sketchy with the worst entertainment I've ever seen (a man playing keyboard and singing along to recorded hits in a room covered in wallpaper and lava lamps...I can't even describe how bad it was), a digital scale provided much amusement to the scientists of the group, and pretty much everyone wanted to talk to us wherever we went (a trashy paperback is a great conversation piece).
I did post the pictures on Facebook and felt a little bit silly- "oh, that's a lovely photo of your baby in front of a Christmas tree. Here are some photos of my friends on a holiday pub crawl! Totally the same thing."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tortilla Española Failblog

If you've ever been to a tapas restaurant, you've probably had tortilla española, which is essentially the Spanish version of a potato omelet. Although the ingredient list is simple (eggs, potato, onion, oil, salt, and pepper), I've never actually tried to make one, mostly because I was intimated by the process, which typically involves flipping the semi-cooked tortilla halfway through cooking. I mean, that's just asking for a kitchen catastrophe. However, today I was craving some potato eggy goodness, so I found this recipe and decided to give it a shot. As directed, I cooked the potatoes and onions in oil, then added the egg mixture and cooked and rested. Then it came time for the big which point I learned that the bottom half of the tortilla was stuck to the pan and the top was a blobby mess. Well, that's what I get for buying my non-stick cookware at the Australian version of Walmart. I reassembled as best I could, but the result was more like scrambled egg with potato than the beautiful tortilla española I had envisioned. The side view wasn't as ghastly, and at least the blueberry muffins (clearly, a reasonable accompaniment Spanish food) I made while the the potatoes were cooking came out well.

Score: Tortilla española 1, Eileen 0.
Now on the Christmas wish list: a decent non-stick pan

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Sorry for the lack of posts- I've been meaning to take photos of the new hospital and post about it but haven't had a chance.
So in the meantime, check out the Top 25 Damn You Auto Correct entries of the year.

I do suspect some of these are fake, but even so, I still laughed so hard tears came out of my eyes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reviews- four books

Lately I've been on a reading-in-bed-before-I-fall-asleep kick, so I've gone through a few books lately, namely:

Room, by Emma Donoghue. You know those creepy news stories where a man kidnaps a girl, keeps her prisoner for years, and the girl ends up having her rapist's child, Austrian basement style? Well, Room is a novel with a similar premise, only it's told from the perspective of a five year old boy, Jack, who has spent his entire life in a single room with his mother, not understanding that a world outside exists. His friends are Rug, Chair, and Dora the Explorer, and he sleeps hidden away in a wardrobe because his mother doesn't want the bad man who comes in at night to be able to look at him. The book is disturbing and completely addictive, and very cleverly written. My sister Kerry sent it to me and I couldn't put it down.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett- after Room I needed something a bit cheerier, so I finally read the book that everyone I know had already read. The Help, set in the segregated South in the 1960s, is the story of white housewives and the black housekeepers who do their chores and raise their children. Although they spend their days together, they don't interact outside of strict societal norms, until one of the town's socialites, Skeeter Phelan, returns from college and decides to scratch below the surface. The Help is an enjoyable read, full of lively characters and a bitchy villian who is just so fun to despise, the type of book you could recommend to nearly anyone and know that they'll like it. My one critique is that I feel it's been overpraised as an "important" book. If it were written during the 1960s, maybe that would have been the case, but since the book was written 50 years after the troubled times it describes, it certainly isn't an Uncle Tom's Cabin or even a To Kill A Mockingbird. However, it's still a great story and well worth a read.

The Wonder Boys
, by Michael Chabon. Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors, so I had high expectations of this book. However, I wasn't a huge fan, mostly because I didn't like the protagonist, frustrated writer and college professor Grady Tripp. He's a 40 year old man who cheats on his wife, obsesses over one of his students, smokes pot all the time, and basically needs to grow the fuck up. He's not quite as awful as the husband in On Beauty or the dad in The Squid in the Whale, but is pretty much a rehashing of the pompous, male academic stock character. The side characters were a lot more likeable and entertaining, despite (or perhaps because of) their flaws.

Lastly, I read We Need to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. I thought Room was disturbing, but it has NOTHING on Kevin. This book is the story of a school shooter, written by his mother in a series of letters to her estranged husband. She wasn't sure she wanted to have children, she resented giving up her former lifestyle, and then her child turns out to be...evil. Is she somehow to blame, or was he just born that way? We know at the start how Kevin turned out, but Eva tells the story in chronological order, from all of her doubts during and after pregnancy, to how difficult Kevin was as a baby, and then things go from bad to worse as Kevin displays an ever deeper streak of cruelty, to which his father is willfully ignorant. As a narrator, Eva writes beautifully and certainly reveals her own flaws...but with every chapter, the story grows darker and the sense of dread expands. I feel traumatized after reading it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. I'll tell you one thing, though, I will definitely not be seeing the movie- the book was haunting enough. I'm going to have to read some Jennifer Weiner next as an antidote!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You'll pry the Oxford comma out of my cold, dead, and unambigously described hands.

Earlier this year, mayhem erupted (in certain circles) when a rumor that the Oxford style guide was no longer in favor of its namesake serial comma hit the press. Since moving to Australia, I've noticed that none of my coworkers use a comma after the word before "and" in a series -i.e. "please invite Ron, Belinda and Steve to the meeting." I think it looks weird and makes it seem like the last two on the list are a pair rather than separate, serial entries. Apparently the Oxford comma is standard in American English but only used to avoid ambiguity in British English. But I think it always makes the meaning clearer, and I refuse to stop using it! The sandwiches on sale are ham, tuna and peanut butter. See what I mean? Long live the Oxford comma!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

World Pneumonia Day

November 12th is World Pneumonia Day. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death of children under the age of five worldwide, and not surprisingly, 98% of these deaths occur in developing countries. The sad part is that the vast majority of them are preventable- these children die because they lack access to vaccination, antibiotic treatment, and basic medical care. The World Pneumonia Day website is a good source of information and ways to help in the fight against a disease that belongs in the past.

My laboratory performs research on the bacteria that cause pneumonia, and recently received a large grant to run a pneumococcal vaccine trial in Vietnam (a grant that pays my postdoc salary- yay!).

On a related note, when I hear the anti-vaccine loons from the US and the UK spouting nonsense and misinformation, it makes my blood boil. Vaccines are safe, and people who are fortunate enough to live in countries where they have access to them should be grateful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Beyond the pale

At the end of winter, I am so pale it borders upon light blue. I've never gone into a UV tanning bed because, hello, thymine dimers much? This year for the first time, I was considering trying to reduce the pale so I didn't spend the first couple of months of summer with lunar legs. I was thinking about getting a spray tan, which has the benefit of not causing skin cancer, but after some discussion with friends I realized they don't work how I thought they worked. "Oh they look pretty good but make sure you exfoliate first because otherwise it will flake off unevenly." What? It comes off? Somehow, even though it is essentially sprayed onto your skin, I thought it just sort of coloring that gradually faded and that I could get one at the start of summer and just build up from there. Apparently not. So I opted for a third choice, a tinted moisturizer. Dove makes one called Summer Glow- "mosturiser with a hint of self tanning agent gradually builds a self tan." Despite the lack of proper grammar and the z-less Australian spelling of moisturizer, it sounded like what I was after. Something to bring my legs from translucent blue up to pale before my trip to Queensland. And it worked! I used it 5 or 6 times before the trip and got just a hint of color, with no streaks! So I thought I'd share in case anyone else is looking for such a product.

For my next consumer report, I'll post a review of the new potato chip flavor to hit the Australian shevles: meat pie and sauce. I kid you not.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Weekend Report

The first Tuesday in November is Melbourne Cup day when the biggest horserace in the country is held, and a public holiday for the state of Victoria. The spring racing carnival is known as much for the fashion as the races, and I went on the Saturday prior to Melbourne Cup, known as Derby Day and traditionally when all racegoers where black and white. I do love a dress-up event, and this is one of the few occasions where fascinators and hats with netting are standard attire. I went with my friend Lauren, we drank lots of champagne, and lost all of our (fortunately very low stakes) bets, but still had a blast.

On Sunday, I decided to show some Halloween spirit- I didn't really get my act together in time to organize a costume party, so instead I invited a few friends over to carve pumpkins and eat pumpkin pie (made from canned pumpkin, not the carving pumpkins). Proper pumpkins are difficult to find in Australia- what they call a pumpkin is actually a squash, and two people did end up bringing acorn squash instead of pumpkins. None of the Australians (or my Irish flatmate) had ever carved a pumpkin before, nor tried pumpkin pie, and found both quite enjoyable. And now the pumpkins look great sitting out on my balcony. And I don't even have to worry about punk kids smashing them because they don't have that tradition here either :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Reviews- one book, one movie, and one show

The first part of this review is a book-movie combo: One Day, by David Nicholls. The book tells the story of Emma and Dexter, college students in the UK who become friends on their graduation night, and follows them for twenty years, through bad jobs and bad relationships, tracking the ebbs and flows of their sometimes friendship, sometimes romance. At first I wasn't crazy about the book- I found Emma self-righteous and irritating, and Dexter self-centered and obnoxious- but they got better as they got older (although Dexter remains a bit of a dick for most of it), and a couple of chapters in, and I was hooked. It's funny and clever and you feel like you actually know the characters, but I must warn you, the book takes a completely unexpected turn towards the end that might leave readers a bit upset at the author.

Onto One Day, the movie. I saw the movie just a few days after finishing the book, so I was interested to see what they would do with the characters who were still so fresh in my mind. The two leads were great- Jim Sturgess is English and handsome and a natural choice for Dex. Anne Hathaway's English accent was a bit hit-or-miss, but she fit the role well, capturing both Emma's sarcasm and self-doubt. The minor characters Ian and Sylvie were perfect but they totally missed the mark with Suki, who was more like a cartoon character than a real person. I liked the movie, but not sure how I would have felt about it if I hadn't have read the book first, because I enjoyed seeing what parts they used for the movie and what omitted.

And now for the show- Okkervil River at The Forum. This Austin indie rock first hit my radar a few years ago with Black, the type of song that has you listening to the lyrics to see if you can figure out the story. To be honest, I wasn't very familiar with their newer stuff but hadn't seen them live before, and a $50 ticket is a bargain by Australian standards. (oh how I miss the Boston live music scene!). They put on a great set that was a nice mix of mellow songs with some peppier rock tunes as well, and inspired me to download a few of their new tracks the next day. (obligatory concert photo lifted from my friend Vinnie)

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The haircut I wanted vs. the haircut I got.

Oh well.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kim's visit- Part 2: Adventures on the Great Ocean Road

After spending a couple of days exploring Melbourne, Kim and I rented a car and drove down the Great Ocean Road, one of the most scenic spots in Victoria. On the first day of the trip, we checked out Bells Beach and spent the night in Lorne. Day 2 we stopped at the famous 12 Apostles (of which there may or may not be 12) and continued on to Port Fairy, a old timey little boating down past the end of the Great Ocean Road. Day 3 we drove back to Melbourne on the inland route, taking a small detour to check out the town of Fram(l)ingham, where we saw a lot of cows and sheep but did not spot a single human inhabitant. I had never been to the far end of the Great Ocean Road before, so it was fun to go somewhere new, and we had nice weather for most of the trip, although it is still far too cold to go in the water, so our surf lesson idea was abandoned.

Back in Melbourne, we did a little more sightseeing and visited Queen Victoria Market and the Ian Potter Centre, an art gallery featuring Australian art, which we were pleased to discover is free admission! We had a farewell dinner at Anada in Fitzroy (yum!) and took some silly photos at a nearby park. And just like that, it was time for Kim to fly back to Massachusetts. I had a fantastic time and it was so fun to just hang out and enjoy Melbourne and its surroundings with a friend whom I've known since I was five years old.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kim's visit- Part I: Adventures in Melbourne

Last week I was graced by the presence of a very special visitor, my friend Kim! After she somewhat recovered from jetlag, we spent the next couple of days exploring Melbourne.

On Sunday, we checked out the weekend art market in Fitzroy, made a quick trip to the city center (known as the CBD- Central Business District) and then partook in some local sporting activities, with a visit to the Fitzroy Lawn Bowls club. My flatmate Susan had made me some birthday cupcakes decorated to look like...lawn bowling! Aren't they great? Tasty, too.

Monday we headed back into the city for a delicious lunch at Flower Drum, a restaurant that a man on an airplane had once told me was the best Chinese restaurant in the world. (I take advice given on airplanes seriously.) We had the four course lunch tasting menu and it was delicious and definitely a good amount of food- the steak pictured would have been sufficient as a meal on its own. After that, we did more sightseeing and shopping in the CBD and went up to the Eureka skydeck- the highest viewing platform in the southern hemisphere! (Australia loves those southern hemisphere superlatives.) It was a cool but clear day so the view was great, and we ate footlong gummy worms and I got mugged by a toddler who snatched a brochure out of my hand. Good thing he didn't go for the gummy worm because I would have fought back for that.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Adventures on the Great Ocean Road!

Saturday, October 08, 2011


Okay, so I am a blog slacker and I have lots to post about (Kim's visit, mostly), but to tide you over I offer this link:

Apparently a haunted house in upstate NY takes photos of people while they are scared. It turns out that these photos are hilarious. Enjoy!

One of my faves.

via Metafilter

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mad about Vlad

One of my friends and I share a strange crush/fascination with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Okay, so maybe his politics can be a bit shady, but you've got to admit that he's one cool dude. Just look at the pictures! He drives race cars, rides a motorcycle, scuba dives, expresses interest in science, plays piano, and snuggles puppies.

(link via Kris)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another year of soccer

One of the first things I did when I moved to Melbourne was to join a soccer team. Last year's team was a lot of fun, but also a bit on the Bad News Bears side- several players had never played organized soccer before, and we weren't the best at actually getting 11 people to show up for an early Sunday morning game. Our old coach (yes, rec sports here have coaches and practice- it's crazy) resigned right before the new season started due to work commitments and things were looking a little bit bleak for the Port Melbourne Sharks. However, as the season began, we ended up getting an awesome new coach and recruiting a few new players from the US, Canada, and England, and well as an Australian who is actually good (no offense but women's soccer is definitely not Australia's forte). We even got new uniforms so we didn't have to wear hand-me-downs from the men's team that were the size of circus tents (although I do miss the old Pinkles pink). We were good, but more importantly, we were fun, so playing this season improved my social life as well as my fitness. We won our last game on Sunday and finished at the top of the league.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten years later

September 11th will never more be just another date on the calendar. For Americans of my generation, it's the event that stunned us, burned forever in our memories the way that our parents recall exactly what they were doing when they found out that John F Kennedy was shot, or our grandparents remember Pearl Harbor. Ten years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, listening to the radio in the morning while I got ready for the day. I heard something on the news about all airports in the United States being closed, and knew right away something bad was happening. I turned on the TV and CNN en Español was broadcasting live from New York, where the first plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. At this point, it was unclear if it was just a freak accident or something more sinister. Moments later, the second plane hit and everyone's worst fears were confirmed.

I spent the rest of the day watching the news, trying to figure out what had happened, and worrying about my friends in New York City and my father, who travels frequently (I knew one of the planes had left from Boston). The town where I lived only had one phone, and I did manage to get in touch with my parents. The next day, I headed into the city to get together with my Peace Corps friends to share information we were getting from back home, and to just be together- it was a strange time to be living overseas, and everything felt a bit confusing and surreal, as I'm sure it would have no matter where you were located. "Dark days ahead" was the message my friend Courtney received in an email from her uncle.

On this anniversary, I'm living overseas again, on the outside looking in, partly spared the inundation of 9-11 reflections and commentaries sure to be taking over the headlines and airways back home. Praise for the bravery and kindness of ordinary people caught in a nightmare, derision for those who used the tragedy for political or personal gain, over the top rah-rah nevar forget! patriotism, and callous cynicism of those who claim we had it coming. I suppose I still haven't sorted out my own feeling on the subject, other than sympathy for those who died and their families, and a vague wish that the feeling of unity and goodwill that rose up out of the aftermath could have lasted longer than it did.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What I've been up to lately

- Watching Deadwood. I love a good Western.

- Reading...just finished Runaway, a book of short stories by Alice Munro, all set in Canada, all featuring women. Some I really enjoyed, some left me a feeling a bit empty.

- Listening...Big Boi (a.k.a 1/2 of Outkast) is touring to promote his recent album and I went to the Melbourne show last weekend- super fun! He took the stage with another lead rapper, a DJ, a guitarist, and two trumpeters dressed in matching Adidas jumpsuits and played a few of his new songs and a lot of older Outkast tracks.

- Hosting! Kris and Rodd came down to Sydney a couple of weeks ago for a weekend visit. Kris already provided a detailed account but I will cover the highlights:

We attended a Rubik's Cube Tournament (as spectators, not participants). As one would expect, the majority of the contestants were nerdy boys, most of them teenagers. We caught the blindfold round...the time starts when the contestants receive a scrambled cube. They look at it, try to memorize the pattern and the required moves, and when they're ready, the blindfold goes on and they attempt to solve the cube from memory. Holy shit, right? There were a couple of kids who finished in under 40 seconds, which was pretty amazing. I had no idea such a competition existed.

We took a jaunt down to one of my favorite spots in Victoria, the Mornington Peninsula. We drank wine at a winery, beer at a brewery, and ate cheese at a cheesery. And we spent the night in a lighthouse keeper's cottage! It was windy. And then we played Settlers of Catan by the fire as we drank our wine purchases. I had a great time, and now I guess I owe them a trip up to Sydney.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Science baking competition

This week my workplace held a special science-themed baking competition. Entries had to be cookies or cupcakes so they could be easily shared, and groups were encouraged to make entries related to their own research. My original idea was to make a periodic table of mini cupcakes (oh come on, you think it's awesome), but since I was off gallivanting with my Sydney visitors (will post on that later) I didn't have a chance to bake, so I was a spectator and taster instead. My group stayed true to our research and submitted bacterial-themed treats that resembled colonies growing on agar plates. I was very impressed with the entries, and my favorites included macaroons shaped like chromosomes and mitochondria eclairs. The winner was cupcakes decorated with sleeping babies from a group who does sleep research on infants- they were cute but the edible baby decorations were a little bit cannibalistic for my tastes. I really hope they hold the contest again next year- it was really fun and tasty!

Friday, August 19, 2011


I still look at nearly every day and was surprised to see a photo essay on a pink, 26 room mansion in Framingham known as the Owl's Nest. How have I never heard of or seen this place? And it gets better- the current owner has three pomeranians, a massive doll collection, and an Egyptian room. Apparently he's rich enough to be considered eccentric rather than crazy.

In other news, earlier this month, a man broke into a house in a wealthy Sydney suburb and clamped a device around teenage girl's neck, claiming that it was a bomb and demanding ransom. The authorities eventually determined that it wasn't a real bomb and removed the device. Earlier this week, the police tracked down and arrested the suspect, a middle-aged investment banker, in Kentucky. Weird!

Lastly, here's a website about the new Royal Children's Hosptial where my lab will be moving to in November. The current hospital was built in 1963 and the facilities are very outdated- for example, there are no vacuum or gas lines in the labs, and renovations are impractical due to the presence of asbestos. They ran out of office space so many staff members, myself included, have desks in a temporary trailer structure known as The Gantry. Although the move itself will undoutbedly be a bit of a hassle, I've been looking forward to the new digs and having my desk in the same vicinity of the lab. I do think that despite that dated surroundings, the current hospital does a great job of making it a positive, happy environment for the kids in for long-term care. They're continuing that tradition in the plans for the new hospital- they polled children to decide on color schemes, and the foyer will feature a two story aquarium.

What I didn't know until yesterday was that the new hospital will also feature a meerkat enclosure, presumably to entertain the pediatric patients. How awesome is that?? Here's an article on the first patient to tour the facility.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Movie review: Jane Eyre

I saw the new film version of Jane Eyre earlier this week, and I liked it much more than I expected. I remember reading the book by Charlotte Bronte in 9th grade and I recall disliking it, which is strange because I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the other Bronte/Austen novels I've read. Perhaps I was too young for it when I read it, or I had trouble getting past the lengthy starting section with Jane as a young child living an unhappy life (orphaned, she ends up in the care of a nasty aunt who then ships her off to a nasty boarding school). All I really remember of the book was someone mean whacking young Jane with a book, and a crazy lady kept hidden away in a tower. Thankfully, Jane's dreary childhood only takes up a small portion of the movie, and we encounter her at the age of 19, employed as a governess at a lonely mansion owned by...surprise! a handsome, rich, and enigmatic bachelor. If I lived in 19th century England, surely such men would be utterly charmed by my wit and spirit and seek to marry me in spite of my plainness and low social standing. And so it is with Jane and Mr. Rochester, however, this story does not have a classic happy ending like many of its counterparts.
I thought the movie was very well done and the strength was mainly in the casting. Australian Mia Wasikowska was perfect as the heroine- stoic yet passionate, wise beyond her years, and not too pretty. And what is a BBC period piece without Dame Judi Dench? I think this might be a rare case where I actually prefer the movie to the book.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Report

This weekend featured a LOT of eating. On Friday night, a Pakistani coworker had invited my labmates to join her for the fun part of Ramadan- breaking the fast at sundown. We went to a Lebanese restaurant that does a special set menu service for Ramadan. Diners are seated at 5:30 to tables spread with an impressive array of appetizers. See all that food on the table? That's just the first course. About ten minutes later, the call to prayer is played, signaling that it's time to break the fast, and everyone digs in. Traditionally, dates are eaten first to get blood sugar up. The mains course included lots of slow-cooked meats and kebabs. The food was so good it almost made up for the fact that the restaurant is alcohol-free.

On Saturday, I stuck with the Subcontinent culinary theme and went to lunch at an Indian colleague's house- she had made biryani, chicken curry, mushroom curry, salad with yogurt, and two types of bread. Face stuffing ensued. I tried traditional Indian lime pickles, which have some much red chili on them they no longer resemble limes in any form, and I actually really liked them- I am a fan of spicy foods, and these hit the hot spot without venturing into pain territory.

Saturday night I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I saw the trailer a couple of months ago and it looked like the type of movie that could go one of two ways: it could be dreadful, like comically awful, or it could be really good- there was no way it was going to be a "meh, mediocre" type movie. I think feel squarely into the Really Good category, minus a couple of over-the-top scenes towards the end (the chimp riding a horse? come on now.). The science-heavy plot was interesting and the special effects team did a great job with the chimps- they seemed real rather than computer-generated, and they did a great job of giving them personalities without dialogue. I must confess that I haven't seen any of the Planet of the Apes film and all I really know about them is Charlton Heston and the Statue of Liberty scene, so I likely missed out on all sorts of nuanced references to the series. All I can say is that I'm glad my line of research involved bacteria rather than apes.

In other entertainment news, I finished the third and final book in the Hunger Games series. The style of books two and three is similar to the first, and I'll leave out plot descriptions so I don't spoil things for anyone. The third book is the darkest of the three and proceeds at a frantic pace until the ending, which seems to come about suddenly. I adored the characters and was dying to know how the story would end, but at the same time I didn't want it to be over. Now I can look forward to the movie- I had avoided reading about the casting because I didn't want it to influence my mental picture of the characters, but now it's kind of fun to see who will be playing different roles

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Census time

The Australian census took place earlier this week- on Tuesday, August 9th. I don't recall ever filling out a census form in the US but they seem to be much more serious about it in Australia- everyone fills out the census form on a specific date, and everyone staying in your house that night goes on your form, even if they are just a visitor. And it's mandatory- you get fined if you don't complete it. Because I am a nerd, I was kind of excited about being part of the census. The questions were fairly standard, age, sex, marital status, a lot of questions on heritage (where you were born, where your parents were born, etc..) and employment, although some of the examples they gave made me laugh- "What type goods or services does your employer provide? Examples: hairdressing, sheep and wheat."
If you like looking at graphs, here are some census data- enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You learn something new every day

Did you know that there is a contraption on the market that allows women to pee whilst standing up? It's called the shewee. After post-soccer beers last weekend, we were talking about peeing, as you do, and one of my soccer teammates told us about the shewee and that she owns one. The conversation rapidly spiraled downhill from there. We asked her to describe it- I was envisioning a catheter, and she said "no, it looks more like a paper airplane."
It actually looks more like a funnel or a plastic chute, at least on the website, which states "It is ideal for outdoor pursuits and long car journeys or for travelling abroad." I'm sorry, but long car rides? That's what rest stops are for. As much as peeing can be an inconvenience, I don't really see the appeal of the shewee. The big problem is that to use it, you'd have to carry it around with you. Where? In your purse? Gross! And you'd presumably have to rinse it, as well. Although it would make for an excellent conversation piece!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Short and sweet

My posts have been a bit on the long side lately, so here's an interspecies friendship story to mix things up a bit:

A chimpanzee babysits tiger cubs in a Thai zoo. Said chimpanzee also wears jean shorts, also known as jorts.

Thanks for the link, Caro!

How I learned to stop worrying and like skiing

I went skiing last weekend. Those of you know know me well realize that this is the equivalent of watching a friend who has been a vegetarian for over a decade chomp down into a t-bone steak. You see, I do not participate in a category of activities I refer to as Non-Shoe Sports. Non-Shoe Sports require putting something on your feet or standing on something that is not a shoe. To wit: skiing, rollerskating, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, ice skating, and the like. Poor balance, bendy ankles, fear of injury, and bad memories of being the child who had to get towed around by the hand at roller rink birthday parties all contribute to two imminent truths: 1. I am terrible at non-shoe sports and 2. I hate them.

I attempted skiing a few times from the ages of 18 - 22 or so, and the big problem was that I didn't know how to turn, so I'd just end up fucking flying down the slope, too fast to brake, so the only option was to tip over and tumble to a stop. Not fun. The other problem was that I always went with friends who were really good skiers, so I'd either end up by myself and miserable, or with someone else and feeling really bad they they were stuck on the bunny slope with me and my disasterness rather than off enjoying themselves on the real slopes. Plus, if I wanted to spend a lot of money on something that I didn't like, I might as well just go to the dentist. I soon learned that I enjoyed ski weekends much more when they didn't involve skiing, and happily opted to sit by the fire and read, drink cocktails in the hottub, or go snowmobiling or hiking while others did the whole ski/snowboard thing.

However, when one of my soccer teammates organized a trip to the snow (That's what they call it here- "going to the snow"- which never ceases to amuse me because I come from a place where the snow comes to you), for some reason, I decided to give skiing a try for the first time in over ten years. Maybe it was the novelty of skiing in Australia in July that drew me in or the assumption that there would be other novices on the trip, an assumption that proved to be entirely incorrect. We drove up to Mt. Hotham Friday night, spent the evening with wine and boardgames by the fire, and Saturday morning rented our gear and headed to the slopes. One of my friends is a former ski instructor and offered to give a mini-lesson, and she soon realized that I was not exaggerating in the slightest when I said I may possibly be the worst skier in the world. The plan was to learn how to turn, thinking that might be the key skill required to avoid the whole crash landing problem, and the first hour was pretty rough. It took me almost an hour to get down the easiest slope on the mountain because I fell on my ass about every 15 feet. When we finally reached the bottom, I dismissed my very patient instructor and practiced on my own for a little while. I had signed up for an afternoon lesson so I decided to stick around and give it a shot. And guess what? It was great! Being around other people who also sucked made it so much more fun! And I even started to get the hang of it...I got off the lift without falling (okay, 50% of the time) and I figured out the turning thing, to the point where I could make it the whole way down the mountain without falling. Granted, I was doing the snowplow most of the way, but I felt like I could actually control where I was going, and I started go a little faster and practicing keeping my skis parallel instead of in a V, and then hey, I realized that I was enjoying it. Then I got cold and decided to quit while I was ahead. The rest of the weekend involved lots of relaxing by the fire, but overall I had a great time. I'm already looking forward to my next trip to the snow, but I definitely plan to stick with the lessons for a while.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What's cooking?

So my new favorite thing is an immersion blender, you know, the electric stick thing that you stick in a pot and BRRZZZZZZZZRRRTTTTTT, and now your soup has a pleasant texture as opposed to the standard "broth with stuff floating in it." However, be sure not to pull the immersion blender out of the soup while it is still on, lest you end up taking a soup shower- and that's not a euphemism.

So the immersion blender and the winter weather (Southern hemisphere shout out!) have put me in the mood for soup. Here are two I've tried lately:

1. Moroccan sweet potato, carrot, and chickpea soup. Yummers!!

2. Tortilla Soup. I did change this one a bit since I wanted to share with my vegetarian flatmate. I subbed veggie broth and didn't add the chicken put put in some diced zucchini, corn, and kidney beans to bulk it up, and then I hit it with the immersion blender- not a full puree, just about a 50/50 mix. I also used tortilla chips instead of frying my own corn tortiallas, because who has time for that shit? Okay, so essentially what I cooked had little to do with the recipe, but it was really easy to make and tasted very good, especially with avocado and cheese and cilantro all over the top.

And to continue on the vegetarian kick, I had friends over for dinner recently and turned it into a parma party and ended up making Martha Stewart's Baked Eggplant Parmesan (I like how it has aubergine in parentheses, cause Martha's so European) in addition to this oven baked chicken parm. The eggplant was a little more work than the chicken but both came out well and made for a perfect winter dinner, served up with pasta, salad, garlic bread, and plenty of red wine.

Sorry, no photos this time around- you'll have to settle for my witty commentary.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Here are some links of interest:

Reagrding the women's world cup, I watched a few of the later round games and the final- which was a great game- exciting goals, tough play by both teams, and even though most soccer purists hate it when a game is decided by penalty kicks, I can't help but love the drama. It would have been nice for the USA to win and they did play a great tournament, but I did feel happy for the Japanese team- they were underdogs who didn't give up when they fell behind, and they deserved to win. Something felt different from the men's world cup, and I couldn't put my finger on it at first- in women's basketball, the game always seems like it's being played in slow motion compared to the men, but that's not the case in soccer. And then I realized- the game seemed to run so much more smoothly because there were relatively few stoppages of play- in comparison to the men's world cup, hardly anyone was diving! They were just out there playing soccer, not rolling around and feigning injury every time they lost the ball. It really made the game so much more enjoyable to watch. I'm not sure if the difference is due to the fact that women tend to dive less than men, or that the final was played between the USA and Japan, whereas South American and European teams are much more notorious for diving. Here's a nifty NYT article about less diving in women's soccer (thanks, JR!).

Other links- Perfectly Timed Photos. Crappy layout aside, there's some great stuff on here.

My new favorite talk/interview show: The Graham Norton Show. On this BBC program, Irish host Graham Norton interviews celebrity guests, but in a much more interesting format that the typical US late-night shows. Kind of like on Conan, all the guests sit together so it's more of a conversation than a series of quick one on one interviews. And because it's British television, they're allowed to swear and tell raunchy stories. Here's a great episode with Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Alex Kingston, and Rob Lowe. Rob Lowe comes across as a bit of a tool but the other three seem relaxed, witty, and hilarious.

Lastly, Rihanna is hilarious in a lot of these photos with fans. It makes me like her even more. (via Metafilter)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adventures in Massachusetts

Okay, I promise this will be the last post on my big June/July trip. In my mind, it's a summer trip, but the whole winter in the southern hemisphere is kind of throwing me for a loop.

After Helsinki and Newport, I spent a week and a half back in my hometown, spending time with the family and catching up with friends. It was great! I must say, though, when you live far away, returning home for a visit is definitely not a relaxing vacation. The entire time was a whirlwind of activity- seeing friends, running errands for my parents, spending time with my nieces, visiting my grandmother, meeting new babies (and getting spit up on by one- I considered it a sign of affection). I did manage to accomplish my two priorities- eating and shopping. Fried clams at Harry's, sushi in Boston, good Mexican food, nice crispy American bacon, Dunkin Donuts iced coffee, and all the things you just can't get in Australia. Since it was 4th of July cookout season, I also packed away my fair share of hot dogs. As for the shopping, between the Natick Mall, DSW, and the New Balance outlet, I may have singlehandedly stimulated the Metrowest economy.

Highlights included an overnight in the city with my sister Kerry and my nieces, and an evening that culminated in a distasteful photo shoot with my arch nemesis: Edible Arrangements. One of their stupid vans always hogged the best parking spot in front of my apartment for my last couple of years in Southie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Around the World in 22 Days

On my last trip, I ended up traveling around the world: Melbourne -> Singapore -> Helsinki -> Reykjavik -> Boston -> LA -> Sydney -> Melbourne

I spent a lot of time on airplanes, and probably took enough weird one-way flights to earn myself a spot on the TSA watch list. One effect of living in Australia is that I've become accustomed to long flights. Here are some tips:

1. Neck pillow and eye mask. I look like a huge dork, but at least I get some sleep.
2. On overnight flights, I try to stay up for the first 2 or 3 hours, during which time I consume 2 glasses of red wine. 1 is not enough, 3 causes too many trips to the bathroom. When I'm ready to sleep, I pop a couple of whatever mild sedative I was most recently able to legally acquire- lately codeine has been my airline drug of choice.
3. Be polite, but keep quiet. Don't run the risk of getting trapped in an awkward conversation with someone you're stuck next to for 10 hours.
4. Bring your own headphones.
5. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up before you board.
6. Movies and books are your friends.

On this last trip, I watched the following:

1. Red Hill- a modern western set in Australia. Really good!
2. The Apartment- A young Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon in a Mad Men era comedy. Enjoyable but not as good as I was hoping.
3. Terms of Endearment- A much older Shirley McLaine stars in a movie about a mother-daughter relationship. Apparently I was on a Shirley McLaine kick. How did I not know until I just looked at IMDB that Warren Beatty is her brother? Anyways, the movie was pretty good, and Debra Winger was fantastic as the daughter.
4. Adam- Girl meets boy, boy has Asperger's. Meh- their relationship never seemed believable to me.
5. Win Win- Everyone's favorite loveable loser Paul Giammatti ends up taking on a troubled teen who turns out to be a star athelete. A bit predictable but highly enjoyable.
6. Just Go With It- A rom-com starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Just as bad as I expected it to be.

and I read the following:

2666, by Roberto Bolano. I've actually been reading this for the past few months and I finally finished. It is LONG and also a slow read- despite excellent writing and an interesting story (the backdrop of the book is the serial killing of women in a Mexican border city), the sheer length of the book made it feel more like a chore than a pleasure. The book is divided into sections with a variety of characters (a reclusive German novelist, a group of four literary scholars, a Mexican policeman, and American sportswriter) who all end up in Santa Theresa, a fictional city based upon Ciudad Juarez and its femicidos. Bolano died before the novel was finalized, and I can't help but think that it would have been better had he lived long enough to fully finish and edit it. The numerical title is never explained.

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I do love good Young Adult fiction and this one is a winner. Set in the future, the United States no longer exists and has been replaced by a number of territories ruled by a Capitol City. As punishment for a previous uprising, every year each territory must send one teenage boy and one girl to The Hunger Games- a fight to the death. Think Stephen King meets Harry Potter, with a female protagonist. I loved it! A creative premise, great characters, and fun and quick to read. It's a trilogy so now I need to hunt down the next two.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Wedding report

After Helsinki and a night in Framingham, the next stop on my trip was Newport, RI for Ern and Pat's wedding. As expected, the festivities were an absolute blast- the bride and groom looked fantastic and so happy, the ceremony and reception were pretty much perfect (seriously, it was like a magazine wedding), and it was great to see so many friends. I was a bridesmaid, which was especially nice considering A. I loved my bridesmaid outfit and B. I didn't have to do anything except show up a couple of days early to drink cocktails with Ern and friends.

It had been cool and rainy all week, but fortunately, by the afternoon of the wedding the weather had completely transformed into a sunny summer day. Ern's uncle performed the ceremony- it's always nice when someone who knows the couple well takes on this role, and he did an excellent job. Plus, we didn't have to sit through a mass. The reception was a traditional lobsterbake (my first!) where lobster, clams, corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage, and a few other goodies are slowly cooked on hot rocks and a bed of seaweed. Deliciousness. As for the entertainment, they had a great bluegrassy-type band and an assortment of lawn games, as well as giant picture frames you could pose in for photos. I enjoyed checking out everyone's outfits- lots of polo and nautical themed attire, as well as hats and gloves. I didn't take too many pictures but here are a few of my favorites (some pilfered from Liz).

Congratulations to Ern and Pat! Thanks for getting married so the rest of us could go to your awesome party.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Five Days in Helsinki

My trip started off with a whimper when the ash cloud disrupted my original travel plans, so instead of spending a few days in Boston prior to a work trip to Helsinki, I flew the other way around the world, stopping in Singapore and continuing on to Helsinki. It’s a lovely city- beautiful buildings, parks, and a lot of coastline- the city sits on the Baltic Sea and is surrounded by small islands. The architecture of the city is dominated by two huge churches, a white, modern looking one and a red brick orthodox one. Since it’s close to midsummer, the light was constant so I never felt any jetlag, partially because I never had any idea what time it was- good thing I brought a sleeping mask. Visiting Finalnd in the winter would likely be a vastly different experience. I had been warned that Helsinki was expensive but it didn’t really seem any different than Melbourne to me.

I arrived a couple of days before my meeting so had a chance to explore the city a bit, mostly on foot. My favorite stop was the market along the waterfront right at the city center. Fresh berries, reindeer meat, furs, knives, and herring- all of your Scandinavian favorites! My prize find was a pair of clip-on amber earrings for my grandmother, who loves jewelry but never got her ears pierced. I also checked out some of the local landmarks and took a ferry out to Suomnelinna island, which has an old sea fortress and a brewery.

Monday afternoon was my big meeting, in which I gave a two hour presentation to a bunch of pneumococcal bigwigs and representatives from the Gates Foundation, who are funding the project. My supervisor is the project coordinator and since she’s on maternity leave I was tasked with giving our steering committee an update on the laboratory portion of the project. It went very well, so yay for that. The next couple of days I attended the conference, which was largely focused on pneumococcal vaccination. The amount of research, time, thought, and money that lays the groundwork for introducing a vaccine into a country and ensuring that it’s safe and effective is astounding. Since pneumococcal vaccines are now being introduced to developing countries (where they are most needed), a lot of scientists from places like The Gambia and the Thailand/Burma border were at the conference, so it was really interesting to hear about their experiences.

Aside from the science, the conference had some other highlights. The hotel we stayed in was a converted prison- the rooms were obviously modified and really nice, but the hallways had a distinct prison feel and the restaurant used tin plates and mugs. The Finnish organizers of the conference had arranged for two social activities: birdwatching at 5am and “traditional Finnish evening with sauna.” I skipped the birds and went for the traditional evening. I was a little suspicious about the sauna when I noticed that there were separate sauna times listed for men and women. It turns out that the in a traditional Finnish sauna, everyone is naked. I walked in wearing my bathing suit but felt like a weird foreign prude so I ended up slipping out of it and just going with the naked Finnish flow. These people seriously love saunas- nearly everyone has one in their house or apartment, and apparently one Finnish prisoners have the right to a daily sauna. The World Sauna Championships were an annual event in Finland until one of the finalists died last year.

After the sauna, we went for a dip in the Baltic Sea (with bathing suits on) and then played a few games of Mölkky, a lawn game that's apparently Finland's answer to cornhole. After dinner and drinks, we participated in another Finnish tradition- cooking bread over the campfire. Instead of marshmallows, they toast sweetened bread dough on sticks over the fire. Yummers!

Overall, I really enjoyed my few days in Helsinki- the city was pretty and clean with a lot of do, and the people were friendly, almost all blonde, and fond of nudity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Eileen vs the Volcano

So that big volcanic eruption in Chile a few days ago (here are some crazy pictures) created a massive ash cloud that's currently hovering over southern Australia and wreaking havoc on flight schedules. I was originally supposed to fly out today (tuesday the 14th) to Boston, hang out for a couple of days, and then fly on Friday night to Helsinki. That original flight was canceled and they couldn't get me a new one until Friday, so I scrapped that whole plan and will be going the other way around, via Singapore and onto Helsinki. (I will still be heading to New England after a few days in Helsinki)

Since I spent much of the day on hold with various airlines, I did catch up on my web surfing, in particular sports coverage- something that I used to be really into but I generally don't follow much anymore. There's been some excitement lately so here's what I've caught up on:

- Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat to win the NBA finals. Yay! I've had a soft spot for Dirk ever since those pictures of him and Steve Nash wasted and posing with a fan circulated around this internet a few years ago. And the Mavs beat my two most hated teams, the Lakers and the Heat, en route to their championship, so good on them.

- The Bruins are going to be playing in Game 7 of the NHL finals, a sporting event that features two of my favorite things: the Stanley Cup, easily the coolest trophy in all of sports, and the Canadian national anthem. I have anthem envy; I admit it. Canada, your bacon is a sorry excuse for ham but "O Canada" was written to be belted out at a jammed-packed sporting arena. Sadly, due to my travel difficulties I will me watching Game 7 in my workplace cafeteria rather than at a beer soaked bar in Boston.

- Bill Simmons has started a new sports/pop culture blog called Grantland (it's named after a sportswriter, not a mythical place that torments academic scientists). I'm not feeling it. I guess I'm over Bill Simmons- I used to really enjoy his columns on the NBA, but his sexist attitude towards female sports fans (see this article as a prime example. Seriously??) sometimes makes me want to punch him in the face. While wearing my Celtics jersey dress. And yeah, his writing can be downright tiresome. Bill, so you like The Karate Kid, trips to Vegas, and the Wire? WE GET IT. As for some of the other names attached to Grantland, I've written about Dave Eggers before and overall I do love his writing, but maybe he should stick to novels and McSweeny's. I also like Chuck Klosterman. But Malcolm Gladwell? Don't even get me started. I read the Tipping Point and thought it was awful. He is my least favorite kind of non-fiction writer, an essayist who portrays his own ideas and theories as facts rather than opinions. He cherry picks examples to support these ideas and often uses correlative data to make causative arguments. The hard scientist in me just can't get past the inherent bias. So basically, I think the whole Grantland concept is stupid, but that's just my opinion.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Upcoming trip

I leave in a couple of days for a multinational, multipurpose trip. First I'll have a brief stay in Boston prior to heading to Helsinki, Finland for a work meeting and conference. My boss is on maternity leave so I'm filling in for her and will be presenting to a group of Very Important People who serve on the steering committee to a big Gates Foundation project our lab coordinates. Wish me luck! Also on the agenda are eating reindeer and herring and going to a Finnish sauna with the other conference goers, and activity that possibly involves seeing my colleagues naked.

After Helsinki, I'm off to Newport RI for a few days for Ern and Pat's wedding, yippeee!

And then it's another week and a half back in MA, catching up with friends and family before I fly back to Melbourne.

I'll do my best to post some updates along the way, so stay tuned here at DCoE.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Free music mix!

My friend Kelly organizes a music club that I participate in. By music club, I mean that we exchange mix CDs, not that we get together and play the recorder. We used to burn CDs and mail them, but for the latest round, we've gone high tech.

Here's a link to my mix if you're up for checking out some new music.
It downloads as a zipped folder. I tried to include a lot of Aussie bands I like, as they don't get much radio play in the US.
Get it soon, though, as the link will expire in a couple of weeks.


Warning: rant ahead

So, I've noticed a trend in the past several years, a trend that I'm not at all fond of. People no longer feel the need to respond to an invitation. And this bothers me.

I like organizing events and throwing parties, and despite my laissez-faire facade (whoa! I sense a theme: French terms commonly used in English), I am something of a compulsive planner. When planning an event, I don't need to have an exact number, but I do like to have a rough idea of how many people will be in attendance. I mean, there's a big difference between preparing a dinner party for 6 and setting up for cocktails and nibbles for 36. Back in the 2000s, we had Evite, but even by 2005 or so that was starting to lose its charm, and people stopped replying. And Facebook Events never really caught on- partly due to the horrible layout, and partly due to the fact that even to this day, not everyone uses Facebook. It's a good way to announce and event but no one feels the need to respond. Generally, when inviting people to something, I send out an email. How quaint. I've come to accept the fact that people generally don't respond to invitations anymore, and in some ways I blame the advent of the cell phone and other technologies. We used to have to be on time to meet someone at a designated meeting spot, otherwise we would never find each other. Now it's all "sorry 20 min late meet me at the bar on the corner thx!" I'm guilty of tardiness as well, so I'm certainly not pointing fingers.

However, not responding to an invitation is something I would never do. Sure, I get annoyed when someone doesn't answer yes or no to a group email about a Halloween party, but I get over it. Lately I've heard from a couple of friends that they've had to chase people down for a response to a wedding invitation. COME ON! Who doesn't respond to a wedding invitation?? Now that's just rude. Imagine my horror when I received an email a couple of weeks ago with something like "Just checking in because I never heard back, I know you're in Australia but are you coming to our wedding next weekend?"

Turns out that I wasn't going, but I had never received the invitation. (Damn you, international post!) And I was absolutely mortified that I was lumped in with the deadbeat non-responders. I always RSVP, even if with regrets.

In summary, if there's one courtesy I believe modern society should hold dear, it's the necessity to respond to an invitation, especially to a formal catered event. Even if you're a maybe, or might run late, at least provide a response. It's the polite thing to do.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ode to convenience

As a city dweller, I've become a big fan of the corner store. Not those soulless chain 7-11s and Store 24s, mind you, but the little independent ones where the selection need not abide by corporate regulations and is therefore far more interesting. In Southie, I lived across the street from a convenience store known simply as The Hub, or as I like to call it "the most convenient convenience store." For a small shop, they stock pretty much anything one could ever want. In addition to the typical eggs, toilet paper, Gatorade, and other convenience store staples, they also sell booze and rent DVDs. Win! And you can even play Keno if you are so inclined. The staff were on the surly side but it added to the overall atmosphere.

Here in Fitzroy, my local corner store (generally called newsagents or milk bars in these parts) is more like a Building 19 version of a convenience store. I mean, look at that store front! I can't even figure out what the store's name is, so I just call it the Crazy Shop. It's fairly large for a convenience store and sells the standard fare plus any random item you may be seeking. A large tinfoil roasting pan? Check. An ashtray? Check. A "No Junk Mail" sticker for your mailbox? Check. Unfortunately, no alcohol sales or DVD rentals, but they do offer a dry cleaning service and sell tram passes, which almost makes up for it. I love the Crazy Shop and average a few visits a week, but I do avoid the food section, as many of the items look like they've been sitting on those shelves since the mid 1980s. The staff consists of three people: Young Guy, Middle-aged Guy Who Wears Suspenders, and Middle-aged Guy With a Bowl Haircut. Or so I thought. A few weeks ago Bowl Cut was wearing what was clearly a woman's blouse with a brooch. I went back to my apartment and expressed surprise that the man from the Crazy Shop was a transvestite. My flatmate's response? "That's a woman." Yikes!! I thought she was a man for an entire year. I kind of feel bad about it, but someone's in serious need of a makeover.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Report

Haven't done one of these for awhile...

Friday- Dressed up like a pirate and went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie with a bunch of my soccer teammates. Since I left my old costume collection back in the USA, I had to improvise- a silk scarf with whales on it that my mother had sent me was put to use, and I fashioned a hook hand out of a coat hanger, cardboard tube, some tinfoil and a sock- MacGyver style. As for the movie, it was fun, and I do say it's more enjoyable if you're dressed as a pirate while you watch. And another lesson learned is that if you ever want to pick up men at a bar, go with a bunch of girls dressed in pirate attire. Seriously, EVERYONE talked to us.

Saturday's most notable achievement was paying off my the last of my credit card debt. Hooray! During grad school I had a bit of trouble living within my means (in my defense, my means were unreasonably low) and managed to rack up over $8,000 in credit card debt within a year. And like a mullet, that shit takes ages to get rid of, especially when you're living on a stipend rather than a salary. However, now that I have a real job and the Australian dollar is doing well, I'm finally starting to get my finances in order. Next up: outstanding student loans.
The rest of Saturday was spent running errands, then going to dinner at a local restaurant and watching a movie (Vicky Cristina Barcelona...Woody Allen goes Almodovar and Penelope Cruz steals the show).

Sunday- Some soccer, some beer, and a trip to Wagamama- a winning weekend, overall.