Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Fudder muckers

So you know those mud run/obstacle course events that are getting popular lately, like Tough Mudder? Well, I did a 5K one called The Stampede. And it was so fun! You enter as a team, and no one is timed, and the start times are staggered, to prevent huge back-ups at the obstacles- so you can be as relaxed or as intense as you desire. Since I was getting over a bad cold and my housemate has an injured back, our team (the Fudder Muckers) was definitely on the more relaxed side of the spectrum- although we did manage to complete all obstacles.  The first couple we designed to get you good and dirty- running through deep, thick mud and then wading across a muddy stream.  Most of the obstacles were fairly easy and involved climbing over things, but a couple were downright mean.  For one, you had a climb up a ladder into a large shipping container that was filled with ice water, wade across, and climb out the other side.  My legs were stinging, but judged by the shouts of "ow my nads!" I think the men suffered more on this one.  Some of the obstacles were super fun- a giant slip and slide down a hillside, and a section where you had to climb over abandon cars- it felt like a scene from a zombie movie.  For me and my spaghetti arms, the most difficult part was climbing over those wooden walls you always see in the boot camp scenes of military movies- luckily since it was a team effort I got a boost to help me reach the top.  The most evil obstacle was right near the finish...a trellis of wires, some of which electrified at 10,000 volts, over a mud pit- so the option was either to slither on your belly like a salamder underneath the wires, or just power through and get zapped- although nearly everyone who went for the run ended up falling into the mud anyways. I went for the slither but a wire brushed my back and I did get shocked, and it fucking hurt! I then burrowed so far down in the mud that it would be impossible to get grazed again.

Overall, it was a great day and I would definitely be up for another one- although not sure I could handle the full 20K version.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Ute muster!

It's been a while since I posted on this old thing, but I do have a tale worth telling. A few weeks ago, I attended a Ute Muster.  Not just any Ute Muster, but the biggest one around- the Deniliquin Ute Muster.  So, "ute" is short for utility vehicle, what we Americans would call a pick-up truck.  Therefore, a ute muster is a gathering of utes and the people that love them, complete with all sorts of country music and the type of activities you might associate with country music and pick-up trucks: bull riding, drag racing, tractor pulls, and more. It's also a great place to experience Australian bogan culture- a bogan being an Australian redneck.  My friend Molly and I scored some free tickets through a friend who works for a company that sells meat pies, because clearly such a food item would be marketed at a ute muster.  So we drove for a few hours and crossed the border into New South Wales for a weekend of bogan adventures.  Friday night we stayed in a hotel in town and caught the free shuttle to the Ute Muster, and it did not disappoint.  More pick-up trucks than I've ever seen, a country music concert, and a carnival featuring, of all things, a Bad Boys II themed ride (because if you wanted your carnival ride to be a tribute to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, you'd obviously go with the sequel).  Yes, I rode it.  (need you even ask?) 

On Saturday, we drove onto the grounds but had to park in the "family" area since we weren't allowed in the "ute-only" area in Molly's little red car ( a blessing in disguise, as several ute muster regulars later told us that they always stay in the family lot since the ute-only lot is known as the "feral lot" due to rampant disgustingness).  It was a full day event, and I must say that the daytime activities were my favorite.  We saw the following events: tractor pull, whip cracking competition, chainsaw competition, tug of war, bull riding, drag racing, WWE-style wrestling, fighter plane flyover, and a horse riding demonstration, Oh, and a lot of souped up utes.  As night fell, we made some friends, drank by some bonfires, and eventually headed to the concert area to catch the 2012 Deni Ute headline act- Kelly Clarkson! Later we ended up at possibly the strangest after party ever in the feral lot- a whole bunch of people dancing to techno music blasting out of some sort of customized DJ ute. 
It ended up being a very fun weekend, and probably the most fun festival I've been to, well, ever. I liked the variety of activities (most festivals are music only) and I've gotta say that country folk are way more friendly and nice than your average Melbourne hipster. And I got to be in a world record for most people wearing blue singlets (tank tops) in one place! Good stuff!  Some pictures below.

we're too classy for this shuttle bus

whatcha gonna do
bull riding

the world record blue singlet count!
obvs we participated

the Deni Ute concert scene

drag racing
hello Ute Muster!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

She bangs*

So I was getting bored with my hair and decided to go for a change. I wasn't daring enough to try a short cut so I went for highlights and bangs.  Yes, bangs (or fringe as they are called here).  They are a pretty big risk, as but hey, why not get a haircut that I'll spend the next two years growing out?  Mostly, I was hoping the end result would be more Marianne Faithfull and less mulletted Eileen, age 11.  The result, probably a bit more towards the latter but at least I'm not bored with my hair anymore!

* For those of who didn't immediately pick up on the Ricky Martin reference, you disappoint me.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bogan burger

So "bogan" is slang for Australian redneck, and one of the pubs in my neighborhood (the Napier Hotel) offers a hamburger that lives up to its name: Bogan Burger.  The bogan burger contains steak, a chicken patty, fried egg, bacon, potato cake (think McDonald's hash brown), beets*, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese, mayo and pineapple.  Oh, and it comes with potato wedges and cole slaw on the side.  Naturally, I had to try it.  I opted to split it with my friend Nicole, because there's no way I was going to attempt to eat this thing by myself.  It's impossible to pick up, so I ended up eating the chicken and the steak with a knife and fork and did the rest sandwich style. Other than the steak, which was a bit tough, it was actually pretty tasty, especially the hash brown.  Although I don't think I'll ever order it again, unless I take up competitive eating as a hobby.

* Australians call beets "beetroot" and put them on everything. This fondness for beets is much, much weirder than marsupials or driving on the left.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Lucky for me (and you, readers of DCoE), I have friends who send me links that they'll think I enjoy, and when I feel like updating my blog but don't have all that much to say, I can post them.  Like right now!

A couple of science-themed ones to start:

#whatweshouldcallgradschool is a tumblr blog of animated GIFs about grad school- lots of nerdy jokes about lab life and scrounging for free food. Love it! (thanks, JR)

Jenny McCarthy body count tracks deaths in the United States due to vaccine-preventable diseases.  I kinda feel like mocking Jenny McCarthy is like beating a dead horse at this point. A dead horse who is also fucking idiot who deserves the beating. (thanks, Jos)

And one for the non-scientists:

Young me/now me is a blog of photos where people reenact old photos.  (aside to my family- we are so doing this next time I'm home)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

What I'm Into Lately

1. Saganaki-  I don't know how this wonderful creation had escaped me before my move to Melbourne, but here, saganaki, a delicious piece of pan-fried Greek cheese, is everywhere.  It's traditionally served on its own with a slice of lemon (eat it while it's hot and squeaky!) but also goes well with salads or on pizza.  To the mad Greek genius who invented saganaki, I salute you.

2. Spanish clothing chains.  So, clothes shopping in Australia is the pits.  The clothes are generally low in quality and high in price, and most of my go-to stores like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor don't exist here (hey, I've upscaled since those grad school Old Navy days).  Oh, how I long for Natick Mall.  However, I've found a glimmer of hope in two Spanish chains- the first is MNG, called Mango in some countries.  I like their clothing, and even though it's not particularly inexpensive, at least it seems well made, and their jeans are a bargain for $50, considering it's hard to find decent jeans under $100 in this strange land.  The other store I've become fond of is Zara- it caused quite a stir when it first opened in Melbourne, and I couldn't handle the crowds and the tendency towards weird European trendiness.  However, once the hubub died down a bit I gave it another chance and found myself two pairs of pants and a dress, all on sale.  So consider me a Zara convert.

3.  And now that we're onto clothing chains, on my last trip back to the US I spent a couple of fun days in New York City, and discovered a new amazing Japanese clothing chain- Uniqlo.  It's amazing. Excellent basics in both men and women's clothing, and a wide range of sizes available (i.e. the jeans were long enough for me, so don't worry that everything will be made for tiny Japanese ladies).  Loved it!

4.  Last but not least, I'm seriously into the new cable television  installed in the work lunchroom (or tea room, as they're called here).  Why? Because I can watch the NBA playoffs on my lunch break- yeah Celtics! On the other hand, the people eating lunch during game four of the Eastern Conference Finals may think I'm insane.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Fifty Shades of I Can't Believe I'm Reading This

So most of you are probably aware of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon- a kinky S&M romance novel targeting an female audience is absolutely flying off the shelves, and it seems like everyone is reading it. I've spotted copies all over town, and whilst I am too ashamed to whip out my dirty book on the tram, other people are not.   It's essentially Twilight for adult females- a romance between a handsome loner with stalkerish tendencies and a young innocent woman, only Christian Grey is not a vamipre, he's a "dominant"  (seriously into whips and chains and the like) and he wants Anastasia Steele as his "submissive".   

My book club selected the first book in the trilogy as our next read, giving me the opportunity to find out what the hype was all about.  First of all, the's not just bad, it's dreadful.  I fully admit to being a bit of a book snob, and sentences like these had me cringing: "The elevator whisks me at terminal velocity to the twentieth floor."  But it was the repetition of words and phrases that made the book nearly unreadable...someone is always gasping or gaping or groaning, and the phrases "my breath hitches" and "I bite my lip" appear at least twenty times each.  I won't go into the plot as not to spoil it, but let's just say there is a lot of sex and most of it is, er, unconventional, and if Christian Grey was not a handsome billionaire, young Anastasia would have run screaming by chapter two.

That being said, and I'm embarrassed to admit, but I did find myself getting sucked's certainly an quick read and I was curious to learn how our Mr. Grey got to be so fucked up in the first place.  A couple of people swore that the second book was better than the first, which is an outright lie in terms of the writing (it's still desperately in need of a heavy-handed editor with a thesaurus), but somewhat true in terms of the plot. And now I have a copy of the third book, so I might just go ahead and finish the trilogy, then read some Steinbeck or Hemingway to rinse out my brain.

I do think it's a great book club selection, as there's a lot to talk about, the book itself and the smash hit it's become.  They say that sex sells, but who knew that included nipple clamps and butt plugs?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Eurovision 2012

Last year, I watched Eurovision, the annual European song contest, and became completely enamored- pure camp, at its finest!  This year's competition did not disappoint- aside from all of the ballads (BO-ring), performances ranged from dancy Europop, heavy metal, and the downright bizarre, and the costumes ranged from slightly ridiculous to completely ridiculous-  sparkly blindfolds and Native American headdresses are just the tip of the iceberg.  I'd say a solid half of the acts looked like they were dressed as space aliens from 1960s television.  Now that I've discovered Eurovision, I'm a bit sad that the US is excluded from participation.  Hopefully they'll start broadcasting Eurovision on US television so Americans will at least have the opportunity to witness the spectacle.  An evening spent with friends, drinking wine and watching Eurovision, is just about the best entertainment around.

Some highlights:

Jedward, the hyperactive twins, were back representing Ireland, and their new dance move inspired my housemate Susan and me to try our own.

Sweden's winning entry was actually pretty good, a catchy pop song by Loreen, who had angered authorities from host country Azerbaijan by meeting with political activists.  Turkey had the most creative costumes- caped male dances who turned into a sailboat. Too bad their song was rubbish.  England trotted out Engelbert Humperdinck but his performance was far too snoozy to win many votes.

However, Russia's entry brought down the house- six elderly Russian ladies singing "Party For Everybody" and dancing around a revolving oven. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book reviews

So in all that time I wasn't blogging I was doing a lot of traveling, and long flight = lots of reading time.  So here are some very brief summaries of what I've read lately:

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. One of my favorite authors writes a book about a female scientist who travels to the Amazon to investigate the mysterious death of a colleague. Could a plot line be any more up my alley? Unlikley.
The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis. Apparently it takes two authors to write a thriller that's like a low calorie version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Confusing at first but got more enjoyable when I got used to the Danish names and figured out who was who.
The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay. An excellent novel about a young boy growing up in South Africa during World War II that chronicles his difficult childhood and the people he met who have a long-lasting impact on his life. So much better than the movie! Highly recommended!  Even though it was a long book, I was sad to come to the end, as I don't think I could ever get tired of Peekay.
The Book of the Night Women, by Marlon James.  The story of Lilith, a slave girl growing up on a sugar plantation in Jamaica in the 18th century. Heartbreaking and brutal as hell. I'll be happy if I never have to read another whipping scene ever again.
The Opposite of Me, by Sarah Pekkanen. After finishing with the night women, I needed some lighter fare to brighten my mood, and this somewhat formulaic chic lit did the trick.  Twin sisters who are opposite in looks and personalities!! 
Straight Man, by Richard Russo.  With this novel about a middle-aged English professor undergoing something of a mid-life crisis, Richard Russo succeeds where Michael Chabon fails, creating a protagonist who is likeable despite his flaws.  Also, serves as a warning to anyone hoping for a career in academia. Recommended!

So I'm currently reading the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey for my book club...let's just say it's terribly written and super porny, but somehow addictive at the same time.  I can't even read it on the train because I'm ashamed to be seen reading it in public.  Although I must admit it will certainly make excellent book club discussion fodder.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


This one's been making the rounds but is definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it yet- artist Nina Katchadourian has come up with a novel way to keep herself entertained on long flights- by taking self-portraits of herself in airplane bathrooms, dressed in the style of Flemish paintings. 

And on the theme of head shots, over on Kristy's blog I spotted a link with information that would have come in handy for, oh, my entire adult life.  How to avoid having a double chin in photos.  The video's a bit long, but if you watch the first minute or so and then skip to the example photos at the end, you'll get the gist.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Back on the Blog?

So I've been neglecting this poor little old blog for a while, for a variety of reasons- mostly because I'm busy, and my workday gets so full of data analysis, writing, meetings, and lab work that it leaves me brain tired at the end of the day, and therefore uninclined to spend more time in front of a computer.  The other reason is somewhat less easy to describe- in a way I've become a little more discreet, hesitant to share my goings on with the internet.  Not because I'm doing anything all that exciting or clandestine, but rather, the opposite.  When I was a bored and depressed grad student it was a relief to sound that trumpet, but now that I'm happy, it feels almost like tempting fate.  Happy people make boring bloggers.
However, I do like keeping a blog, and since I'm so far away, it is a great way to keep in touch.  So I've decided to put a little more effort into DCoE for the next month or so- not anything like the blogging heyday of 2006, but I'll aim for two or three posts a week.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Time to Boogie

So Australians are really into music festivals- those multiday outdoor events that involve camping and listening to a lot of bands.  Being from Boston, which is not at all near any of the big music festivals in the US (Cochella, SXSW, etc) means I've never been to one before- Great Woods doesn't count because no one actually spends the night, at least not deliberately.  Part of me thinks I'm getting too old for these sort of events, as porta potties and intoxicated teenagers tend to be things I avoid.  However, one of my friends from the lab invited me to Boogie, a music festival on a farm an hour or so north of Melbourne.  It's small (around 1000 people) and has a reputation for being very fun and chilled out, so I decided to go.  The lineup was pretty good- featuring Justin Townes Earle, Jim James (from My Morning Jacket), Eilen Jewell, and a whole bunch of Australian acts.  Drinks were cheap and tasty, and the food was to my liking- I ate from the Melbourne Taco Truck for three straight days.  Luckily, the weather was just about perfect- cool and sunny.  My favorite thing about the festival was the special effects guy: they had a screen behind the stage showing images that looked like a kaleidoscope, and when I got closer, I realized that they were created by a guy with an overhead projector- he would put a drawing on the screen and wiggle it around in time to the music.  Fantastic! I tried to snap a photo but I don't think it captures the genius.

Although I did have a good time at the festival, by day three I was most certainly tired of disgusting bathrooms and sleeping in a tent, so unless the Arcade Fire make a festival appearance down under, Boogie may have been my first and last.

Updated to include one more photo: my coworker Jayne and I with Beaker!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Brazilian (vacation)

Hello there blog! I'll come off of unscheduled hiatus with a post about my recent trip to Brazil.  So, there's a big pneumococcal research conference every two years, and the most recent one was held in Iguazu Falls, a huge waterfall park/nature preserve on the borders of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Not a bad spot!  All of the conference attendees from Australia were on the same flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires (aka the Pneumococcal Party Plane), and after a night in Buenos Aires, we flew to Iguazu Falls, and due to a slight planning mishap, landed on the Argentinian side and had to cross the border into Brazil in a taxi to get to the conference, when went a lot more smoothly than one would suspect.  The conference itself was very good but the schedule was jam packed, and between talks and meetings and dinners, I didn't see get to see the falls until after it ended.  We did visit both the Brazillian and Argentinian side, and they were both very beautiful- in Brazil you're at the base of the falls looking up at them, and in Argentina you're at the top, looking down. 

After that, back to Buenos Aires for a night, I flew to Rio de Janerio to meet Ern for a week's vacation.  Guess what? It was awesome!  First off, way less dodgy that anticipated- I figured we'd get constantly harassed as foreign tourists, but to our pleasant surprise, everyone pretty much left us alone.  Granted, we didn't go try to buy drugs in a favela or anything (hey, I've seen City of God, too) but everyone makes such a big deal about how dangerous Rio is, and it didn't seem like that bad at all to me.  Rio is an absolutely amazing city, mountains that give way to beautiful beaches with an enormous city somehow perched within the landscape.  We spent the first couple of days in Rio, doing the typical touristy things- checking out the views from Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf, walking the beach at Copacabana, drinking a thousand caipirinhas, and people watching- let's just say that Ern and I had double the amount of fabric on our persons as the average Brazilian.

 After that, we took a bus about three hours down to coast to Paraty, a small colonial town with a relaxed vibe, which as we soon found out is a popular destination for Brazilian honeymooners.  We took a boat ride and swam at some nearby islands, took a cooking class, and walked around Old Town. It was great, and even though I loved Rio it was nice to see another part of Brazil. After that, back to Rio for one last night of caipirinhas and samba music, and the sadly, vacation was over.  I had a fantastic time and would love to go back and see more of Brazil.  It's hard to sum it all up in one blog post, so I'll just throw in a few photos.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Adventures in Sydney

Last weekend I went to Sydney with my flatmate Susan and our friend Nicole for a touristy fun summer weekend.  We caught up with Kris and Rodd for dinner on Friday night for some delicious tapas and they brought us to a shady nightclub for after dinner drinks.
On Saturday it was time for the primary purpose of the trip: the harbo(u)r bridge climb.  There's a company that leads guided climbs up the top of the big bridge in Sydney harbor, and I had heard from friends that it's a lot of fun and not scary, even if you're not overly fond of heights.  You're not allowed to bring anything up with you (they don't want you to drop your camera onto the passing traffic below), which was actually kind of nice because I didn't have to carry anything extra and wasn't distracted by my camera and iPhone.  Everyone wears grey jumpsuits - I think the idea is to blend in with the bridge, and it was a warm, sunny day so the guide recommended we only wear underwear under the jumpsuits.  Thank goodness, because I would have been roasting if I had kept my jeans on.  I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling, and it didn't feel scary.  You have to climb up and down a few ladders, but you're clipped on by a safety wire the entire time, and one you get on top of the actual bridge it feels like you're walking on a rampway- you're not ever right along the edge.  We lucked out and got perfect sunny, clear, and breezy weather, and the views were amazing.  There are a lot of stairs, but they aren't steep, so I didn't really notice at the time...but my calves felt like they were on fire for the next two days.  The bridge climb is fairly pricey but I'd say it's definitely worth the money- highly recommended by DCoE!

After the climb, which takes around 3 hours in total, we went to a German restaurant and drank enormous (1 liter) beers and ate pretzels.  After that, a scenic walk around the Sydney opera house that included a homeless nap in a park.

Sunday we spent the day at Bondi Beach, and it definitely felt like an Australian summer, much more so than in Melbourne.  All in all, it was a great weekend trip- best of all, we flew on Tiger Airlines (which is essentially the Fung Wah of air travel for your Bostonians) and made it there and back without any dramas!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oscar Contest

Only a couple of days left to enter Kristy (aka Web-Goddess)'s annual Oscar Contest.  Once again, the prize is absolutely amazing- I have no idea how she manages to come up with something so clever year after year.  I don't think I'll do so well, considering I've only seen two of the Best Picture nominees- The Artist (silent! cute!) and The Descendants (depressing! George Clooney in pleated pants!). 

Monday, February 20, 2012


 You know that meme going around about various professions and people's perceptions of them?  I hadn't been paying much attention until I saw the Peace Corps volunteer one- the bucket bath shot at the end is classic.

Well, a couple of scientist friends of mine and I had some time to kill while waiting for a flight to Sydney so we came up with one for scientists.  Eureka!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh sheet

Not long ago I discovered that something I took for a fact is not always true. How do you make a bed?  Fitted sheet on the bottom, then a top sheet, then a comforter/duvet on top, and an extra blanket in between the sheet and the comforter if it's cold.  Right?  This just in:  not everyone makes their bed this way.  Australians typically use the fitted sheet on the bottom and then a duvet on top- that's right! No sheet! They routinely wash the duvet cover, so it's not as gross as I originally thought, but still, how do they regulate temperature when the only choice is duvet or no duvet? The sheet has its place- namely, when it's too hot to sleep with a duvet on top of you but you don't want to be completely uncovered.

I once said to my Irish flatmate something along the lines of "isn't it weird that Australians only put duvets on their beds and not a sheet?"  and she responded that that's how they do it in Ireland, and "sheets are for hotels and Americans."  I still think it's weird. Who sleeps without a sheet?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anagram Generator

Time for some mindless fun:  I found an Anagram Generator online and the top anagram for my name is Needle Ennui.  Then I tried my sisters' names:  Drunken Rye and Reined Nun.  The anagram generator is now my favorite thing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hot in Herre

Last Sunday, I decided that I was up for some sort of exercise but didn't feel like going for a run.  I googled nearby gyms and yoga studios to see what places had drop-in classes on Sunday afternoons, and the only one I found was a bikram yoga studio.  As in that hot yoga that's done in rooms typically over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and all classes are 90 minutes.  I've heard of it but never tried it before, mostly because it sounds horrible and disgusting.  Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot.

The studio was very beginner friendly, which was nice, and since everyone is still on their January exercise kick, I wasn't the only first-timer.  They also didn't mention any bullshit about purifying your body of toxins or anything like that (scientist pet peeve: misuse of the word toxin). When I checked in, they told me to stay towards the back of the room and my goal would be to stay in the room the entire time, and to lie down if I didn't feel well.  I mentally added "don't faint or barf" to the list of goals.

I entered the room, and was a bit surprised to see lots of dudes (about 40% men, whereas every other yoga class I've been to is about 10%), and everyone was half naked.  (me, not so into working out in a sports bra).  So it began, and within the first ten minutes I was absolutely dripping in sweat, to the extent that I had trouble keeping my grip on some of the poses.  I did start to feel lightheaded a couple of times, but a quick glance around the room led me to discover that there were already a handful of people laying down on their towels so I followed suit until I felt better.  The second half of the class was all poses where you were already sitting or lying down, so that was a lot easier.  And it actually went by pretty quickly- before I knew it, we were on the final breathing exercises.  I didn't hate it but I must say I prefer regular yoga.

The studio charges $19 per class, but they run a special for first-timers in which the next nine days after your first class for free.  The cheapskate in me loves a bargain, so I did go back again a couple of days later, with the new goal of actually doing all of the poses and not lying down on my towel.  It was a lot easier the second time, although still as sweaty as ever.   And I just might go again today.

I haven't become a bikram yoga convert or anything, but it does seem like a good way to keep my muscles loose for the upcoming soccer season, so I think I'll try to fit in a class every couple of weeks or so.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Home for the holidays

I'm not a big fan of holiday travel...basically, if you want to fly internationally during late December, it's double the price, and seems to come along with a greater risk of delays due to weather and business (or maybe the risk is the same, but it's way more annoying when your $2900 flight gets cancelled than your $1400 one). And maybe I'm a bit of a Scrooge but I'm just not that into Christmas- Thanksgiving is more my speed in terms of holidays. However, since I was in Australia for the last Christmas I felt a bit bad about missing two in a row so I made the trip back to Massachusetts.
Of course my flight got cancelled, which put in in a pretty sour mood, but at least the one day delay allowed me to attend my institute's Christmas party, where once again, the nutbush happened.
In total, I was home for 7 days and it was pretty jam-packed. I packed a couple of boxes of Christmas crackers in my suitcase (and did start worrying about halfway through the flight that they might be considered an explosive...whoops) and brought them to Christmas dinner- my nieces were not that impressed but the adults really enjoyed the bad jokes and paper crowns. My grandmother kept her crown on for the whole day. The rest of the week was spent hanging out with the family, catching up with friends, and eating at some of my favorite places (Mexican! Sushi! La Cantina! Framingham Bakery Pizza!). Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do a big night out in the city with my Boston friends, nor a lengthy trip to the mall- two of my favorite vacation activities. So although I had a great time, I'm already looking forward to my next trip back.

What I read and watched on the plane:

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin. I picked up this collection of short stories set in Pakistan due to the National Book Award finalist seal on its cover, but it lingered on my bookshelf for ages. The stories feature various characters in modern Pakistan, most of whom are somehow linked to K.K. Harouni, a wealthy landowner whose fortunes and influence are on the decline as the feudal system becomes outdated. Despite its critical acclaim, I didn't like the book- it all felt a bit too cold and distant, and my biggest problem was with the depiction of women, the majority of whom were young peasants who sleep with their employers, with the main exception being a rich socialite who cheats on her new husband. I don't know much about Pakistan, but surely there are Pakinstani women who aren't sex slaves or sexpots.

Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier. This novel, which tells the story of a reclusive young woman who becomes the caretaker of her niece and nephew after her sister's murder, was very different (much shorter and paired down) from the epic Cold Mountain, and I didn't love it, but I did like it.


Our Idiot Brother- Paul Rudd as a stoner who causes upheaval in his sister's personal and professional lives. Pretty good.

The Way- Martin Sheen stars in this Emilio Estevez-directed film as a man who ends up walking El Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route in Spain. Not surpising that they didn't find a role for Charlie. The kind of movie my parents would love.

A Better Life- A father in struggling to raise his son as an illegal immigrant in L.A. A surpising choice for an airplane movie.

Real Steel- Hugh Jackman, Kate from Lost, a little boy, and fighting robots. Awful but entertaining at the same time.

Crazy, Stupid, Love- Steve Carrell stars as a family man who goes through something akin to a mid-life crisis after his wife cheats on him. I had high expectations and thought it was okay but not as funny or edgy as I would have hoped. The babysitter was my favorite character.
Crazy, Stupid, Love

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011: The Year in Review

So I've been a bit slack with the old blog lately, but I'll stick to my tradition of the year end post. 2011 started of shaky but ended up turning into a banner year- I finally had some scientific success that included two publications, I paid off the credit card debt that had been haunting me since 2003, and I found a great group of friends here in Melbourne, people who make me feel like myself and make this place feel like a home.

I can't really list a song of the year, nor a movie of the year, because, frankly, my finger has slipped off the pulse of pop culture. And a lot of the Oscar buzz movies haven't been released in Australia yet. The Muppet movie opens Jan 12th and I am stoked!

But without further ado:

TV Addictions of the Year:
1. Top Gear (British version)- who would have thought that a show featuring British men and cars would be so damn entertaining? But it's great!

2. The Graham Norton Show- My fellow Americans, we have been deprived of the BEST talk/interview late night show in the world. It's so much better than celebrity appearances on Leno or Letterman- Graham's guests have actual conversations, I mean, you get to hear Rhianna talk about an awkward experience with a bikini waxer rather than 30 seconds of plugging her latest album. The format helps viewers get a sense of what celebrities are actually like, as does the fact that the host is a quick-witted gay Irishman. Bradley Cooper? As charming as you think he is. Rob Lowe? Kind of a stiff. Chris Martin? Way less of a douche than I imagined! Elijah Wood? Not only is he the star of Lord of the Rings, he's also a complete nerdy fanboy.

3. Deadwood. I never caught this HBO Western when it aired a few years ago, so I've been watching it on DVD and love it! The characters and dialogue are fantastic; the writers must have had such a great time working on this show. And if you don't like it, you must be a hooplehead.

Places Visited:
Helsinki, Finland
South Island, New Zealand
Newport, RI
Mt. Hotham, Port Fairy, and Dalyesford, Australia
Framingham, MA

Visitors (new category!):
Ern in March
Yuki and Jonathan in April
Kim in October

Most shocking event of 2011:
I went skiing...and liked it.

Most commented post of 2011:
This somewhat melodramatic (and embarrassing in hindsight) one about my break up. But thanks for the love, people.

Literary Addiction of the Year:
The Hunger Games trilogy.

As always, thanks for reading and commenting, and I will try to post with a little more frequency in the new year. Best wishes to all for a wonderful 2012!