Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mexican Food- Yum!

One of the things I love that I can't get in Australia is decent Mexican food. I have had two days of yummy goodness, starting last night with dinner at Simi's apartment. Her mother brought homemade tamales up with her, so my family and I got to enjoy those along with beans and rice. It was fantastic. Today I met Angie for lunch at Chevys restaurant, which has the best chips and salsa (in my humble opinion). This time I had spinach and artichoke enchiladas and they were tasty as always. If only someone would open a good Mexican restaurant in Melbourne- I would be there weekly.

Happy New Year to my Australian friends! We still have a few hours to go here on the West Coast. I plan to watch Anderson Cooper on CNN ring in the new year from Times Square in New York. He also shows the Drag Queen Drop in Key West, Florida, which is very entertaining to watch.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Mellow Week

After all the Christmas excitement I have had a fairly relaxing week. My mom has been off work so we have been hanging out. On Thursday I was on a mission to spend my gift cards. Our first stop was Northgate where we hit Macy's, Bath and Body Works, and the Gap. The Gap was having major sales, and I got a pair of pants for $9.99. Next we traveled up to Vintage Oaks in Novato. I exchanged a couple sweaters at Ann Taylor Loft for pants, and got a few more things at Old Navy (I had done some pre-purchasing from there before I arrived in the US). We also went to Costco, which for those of you in Australia is a large warehouse store where you can buy things in bulk.

Yesterday I went with my mom to Pt. Richmond when she got her haircut so I could say hello to Keith (who also used to cut my hair). He was very surprised to see me, so that was fun. I have also signed up for a 10 day trial pass at 24 Hour Fitness so that I can exercise for free. I did a spin and kickboxing class and the spin instructor even remembered me. I plan to motivate myself to attend more classes next week. The kickboxing class is so much better than the one at the YMCA.

I have really enjoyed being able to sleep in (I didn't realize how burnt out I was) and drive around! Thankfully I have had no issues with driving on the other side of the road. I plan to try and catch up with people next week, and also see more of Lynne and Angie, who have been out of town on vacation this week.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Tonight we had our annual Christmas dinner at my parents' house. I finally got some mulled cider (yay) and my cousin Leilani led us through a wine tasting exercise. She started by having us smell different things that we might find in the wine (50 possible scents!) and then we tasted a variety of red wines. I couldn't really decipher the exact things I was smelling/tasting, which I chalk up to the fact that I'm not a big red wine fan.

Dinner was very delicious, and as you can see we had a wide variety of things to eat. I was happy to have some turkey and stuffing, and the sweet yams with pecans served in an orange were great. After dinner we opened presents and I now have some new gift cards to spend. Then we ate dessert, which included a pumpkin pie and snowball cookies that I had made. Overall it was a top night and one of the main reasons why I wanted to come home for the holidays.

A White Christmas- in Australia?

I guess I didn't have to come home for a wintery Christmas after all. I'm glad some rain is finally falling in Victoria to help with the drought and the bushfires.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Visits and the Hills of San Francisco

On Saturday I headed up to visit Angie at her coffee shop. Lucky for me Katie was there and it was great to see how big she is (18 months old now). She's walking and starting to talk, and is as cute as a button. I brought them their Christmas gifts- various Australiana for the whole family. It was a short visit as the girls had to go get their hair cut, but we will definitely catch up after the holidays.

I went shopping with my mom in the afternoon and ran into Joanne at United Market. We had a quick chat in the aisle about what's been happening at Wilson School and I plan to go see Joanne's new house sometime next week. That night Lynne came over and picked me up to head into San Francisco for dinner and a movie. We ate at Pluto's and I had turkey, stuffing, and butternut squash in an attempt to capture a Thanksgiving style meal. It was quite delicious. We met up with her husband Jeremy and his brother Josh to see We Are Marshall, mostly because the boys wanted to go. It was your typical sports movie- tragedy to triumph, etc. Matthew McConaughey has some very strange acting quirks, and it was distracting seeing Matthew Fox with poorly dyed red hair. I'd only recommend you see it if you really like football.

In the morning Lynne thought it would be good to take me on her new walking route. After bundling up for the cold we headed out towards the Presidio and up a large amount of stairs to Pacific Heights. It's good that I walk so many stairs during the day at work (train station and my building), so it wasn't horrible. Once we were up at the top we wandered around the neighborhood and checked out all the expensive homes. There are some great views of the Bay, and we were out for about an hour. Lynne had me try her latest drink at Starbucks- the green tea latte. It's good- they put a bit of melon syrup in it which gives the drink a unique taste.

After showering we headed back to Marin to meet up with our friend Dominic for lunch at Crepevine on Fourth Street. Ironically, none of us ordered crepes to eat. I hadn't seen Dominic since Lynne's wedding so it was nice to catch up. He's currently living in Utah doing real estate and mortgage lending.

In the evening the Glisson clan kindly invited me over for Christmas Eve dinner. Josh was there as well. It was nice to see Lynne's parents and brother again. We had a great meal and dessert, as well as lots of laughs. We got out Lynne's yearbooks and Lynne and I came to the conclusion that we were dorks in high school. ;-) I also got to look at an album of pictures from senior prom that I hadn't seen before. My hair was very long back then. It was a fun night, and thanks again to the Glissons for including me in your holiday celebrations.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Shopping and Baking

Today my lovely friend Lynne came over to Marin for a visit. We stopped for lunch at High Tech Burrito, and my Ya-hoo! BBQ burrito was delicious as always. We then headed down to The Village for some last minute Christmas shopping. It wasn't overwhelmingly crowded, and I was able to buy those last few gifts I was missing. They have opened an Anthropologie store there, so that was very exciting. I bought a couple tops for myself.

We returned to my house and baked some gingerbread cookies, which turned out well. Lynne stuck around for dinner and we went through some of the wedding stuff she had brought over for my mom. It was a nice night- and also the first time I had seen my mom since arriving home.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Going Back To Cali

I have made it in one piece to a rainy San Francisco Bay Area. After celebrating Michelle's birthday on Wednesday night, I was up late packing and strategizing how much to bring home (I plan to do a lot of shopping while here). The whole flight day was a bit rushed because the taxi took forever to arrive, and I had extensive security screenings in Melbourne- metal detector, customs, thorough carry-on bag inspection, and then a pat down search! The flight up to Sydney was short and sweet and we deplaned right into the gate area for the San Francisco flight. I couldn't leave the gate since I would face a repeat of the security checks listed above.

About a half hour later I was back on the plane for the 12 1/2 hour flight to SF. As expected at this time of year, the flight was full. We had some potentially bad turbulent patches (you tend to get a bit nervous when the pilot asks the flight attendants to strap in), but the pilot flew around the severe thunderstorms over the Pacific the best he could. We arrived early and I made it through customs without being searched. Unfortunately, I forgot to exchange my Aussie dollars for US money and didn't realize until after I was on the Airporter. Thankfully, my Dad came to pick me up and was able to pay for me. ;-) I'm tired and ready for bed as it has been a really long day. It doesn't feel that weird to be home, but I am finding hearing all the American accents to be a bit jarring.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Parties

The Christmas season is upon us, and that means parties! On Thursday after our Branch planning day, we all headed to The Yak Bar for drinks. Friday afternoon was the Department of Education Christmas party. We paid $10 and had unlimited drinks and food. I got a bit sunburned as I was standing in the sun too long. Nothing scandalous happened except for a creepy Santa.

Saturday it was off to Kalorama for Peter and Mark's annual Christmas gathering. I met Fran at her house in Preston and then we headed to the mountains. I hadn't seen Fran in a few months, so it was good to finally catch up in person. Peter did a very colorful decorating job on the deck- using prayer flags and other items he got in Nepal. We had a wide variety of foods to choose from. I finally had Mark's famous sausage rolls and ate pavlova for dessert. It was a fun time.

After we returned to the city I ended up tagging along with Fran and her boyfriend Pete for drinks at The Brunswick Green. It was a gathering of Pete's friends, who were nice to meet and chat with. Fran and I tried to avoid the smokers in the beer garden (not very successfully). The temperature dropped fairly quickly, so I ended up inside by the end of the night. We lasted until the place closed at 1:00 am, and then I headed for home. I was good and even made it to the gym this morning!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Suzuki Night Market

It was a very smoky day in Melbourne as all the smoke from the bushfires in Eastern Victoria descended onto the city. The smoke even entered my building through the air conditioning system. It wasn't a very pleasant day outside, but the air quality got better in the afternoon.

After work I wandered down Bourke Street for some Christmas shopping, and then headed up to the Vic Market for the Suzuki Night Market. I was meeting Julie for dinner, but beforehand I wandered around checking out all the booths. It was better than the average stuff you would find in the stalls during the day. I did pick up a great ceramic sake set for Peter and Mark (I was at a loss as to what to get them for Christmas). The Market was packed by the time Julie made it from work. We got some food from the large selection of vendors and managed to find a table to sit down and eat at. It was nice to catch up as I hadn't seen Julie for a while. I would definitely recommend you check out the Night Market if you are in Melbourne- there are bands, food, and goodies to purchase.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


I have been a bit slack in updating the blog on what is happening in my life. Work is going well. We just had an election here in Victoria and Labor retained power, although we now have a new Minister for Education. It will be interesting to see if there are any big changes in policy or direction. My division should be fine, but the "training" side of things will be leaving the Department so all the post-compulsory people may be moving elsewhere.

I have been participating where I can in projects. I volunteered to work on the speaking and listening portion of the English Continuum. The previous parts of the continuum were done over a couple months- we had about 2 weeks to do the speaking and listening one. Amazingly, it did get finished pretty much on time. I'm also involved with the website team, and that work should be picking up. We are updating and transferring our old sites onto the new student learning portion of the Department website.

Although I have learned a lot in my current position over the past 5 months, I am on the lookout for opportunities to advance, so I have applied for a couple senior policy officer positions. I'm not sure how much of a chance I will have, but there is nothing to lose since my job is still good for another year. Both the positions I'm applying for are ongoing- one is in my current branch, and the other is in the research branch downstairs. We'll see what happens.

The big family news is that my brother is engaged to be married. The wedding is scheduled for October 27, 2007 at St. Raphael's Church (well the Mission part). The day James proposed it was Simi's birthday. He took her out for a picnic lunch at Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon, and had a large "gift" which included two of my five pound weights in the box to fool her. As she opened each box there was a smaller one inside, until she got to the ring box. James took that, got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She excitedly said yes. The wedding planning has already begun, and they have secured Deer Park Villa in Fairfax for the reception. I can't believe my little brother is getting married. I now know when I will be home next, after this trip home for Christmas in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is This Proof of Climate Change?

Last week it was snowing and today Melbourne hit a high of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). Then there are all those icebergs floating off the coast of New Zealand. What is happening down here?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spring in Victoria

Today was a lovely spring day here in Victoria. In Melbourne we reached a balmy 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Melbourne Cup

It's the race that stops a nation, and a public holiday for those of us who live in Melbourne. Delta Blues upset the favorites Tawqeet, Yeats, and Pop Rock to win this year's race. It was a one-two finish for Japan as Pop Rock came in second. The weather today has been overcast and cool, so many of those fashions on the field had to be covered up with jackets and hats held on heads tightly to keep them from blowing away.

Monday, October 23, 2006

You Call That An Earthquake?

Last night we had an "earthquake" here in Melbourne. Many people were talking about it at work this morning- I told them they shouldn't get excited unless it's at least a 5.0 on the Richter Scale.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Ruth!

Tonight I met up with Ruth and her friends for dinner to celebrate her birthday. We ate at the restaurant Cookie on Swanston Street. The place is pretty popular, and they have an extended bar area as well as Thai restaurant. The food was delicious- I had the Pad Thai which was fantastic. Everyone's dishes looked great. The funniest thing was that they delivered the bill in a small children's book. I'll definitely have to go back to try more dishes.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's Bloody Hot!

It's only the start of spring, and yet today we reached a top of 36.6 degrees Celsius (that's about 98 degrees Fahrenheit). Thank God I work in an air-conditioned office.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tesselaar Tulip Festival

This afternoon we headed up to Silvan (in the Dandenong Ranges) for the Tesselaar Tulip Festival. Ruth's family runs the place, so we got free admission. It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of people out there to see all the tulips and take part in the food, jazz and wine weekend. In previous years Ruth has worked the festival with the rest of her family- dressed in a full traditional Dutch outfit (including clogs). This year she got to enjoy it without having to work. We wandered around the grounds and admired the huge range of colors of all the different tulips. It really was amazing to see. After a long wait in the ice cream stand line, we sat down at the tables to enjoy the jazz band. Yes, they did do Tiny Tim's "Tip-Toe Thru the Tulips with Me" but I don't think many Aussies have a clue as to who he was. All in all it was a great afternoon in the mountains.

Friday, September 29, 2006

AFL Grand Final Parade

Tomorrow is the AFL Grand Final match between the West Coast Eagles and Sydney Swans. Melbourne has been inundated by interstate fans of both teams and as is the tradition, today was the Grand Final parade through downtown Melbourne. Since the parade finished around the corner from my building, Adam and I decided to watch the speeches in front of Old Treasury Building before heading to grab lunch. There was a big turnout- around 50,000 people along the whole parade route. The players greeted the crowd and at the end a player from each team held up the trophy they will all be playing for tomorrow at the MCG. I really don't care who wins, as long as it's a good game.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fun with Cake

Here is Katie celebrating her 1st birthday in June. Very cute!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

St. Kilda

Today is my parents last day in Melbourne, so I decided to take them out to St. Kilda Beach. We started at the Esplanade Market and looked at all the arts and crafts for sale. There was actually some decent stuff there and it wasn't too expensive. I may have to head back in the future to get some art for my walls. We also passed by the great music venues on the street- the Espy, Palace and Palais Theatre. Luna Park was hopping with screaming children on the roller coasters. It definitely has that Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk feel to it. Plus the entrance is always amusing to look at.

After working up an appetite looking at all the cake shop windows on Acland Street, we decided to eat at the Stokehouse. It was a good and filling lunch, although I don't remember it being that noisy in there (could be because we were downstairs). Next we walked along the beach and headed towards the pier. There were some great views of the city skyline and the sun was finally shining. We walked to the end of the pier to see the St Kilda Pier Kiosk, which has been completely restored after burning down in 2003. Since it was windy and the clouds had started moving back in, we decided to head for home.

It has been so nice to have my parents here with me this past week. Tomorrow they head off to Canberra, and then on Wednesday they will be in Sydney for four days until they head back to the States on September 17th.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Meet the Tourists

My parents have been keeping themselves busy the past few days by exploring the city. On Tuesday they participated in the Foodies Tour at the Queen Victoria Market. The two hour tour included samples from the booths in the meat and fish hall, fruit and vegetables aisles, and dairy hall. My dad was blown away by the wide selection of items available and wished he had a market like that back home. After the tour they walked through the rest of the stalls, which sell clothes and touristy items.

On Wednesday it was off to the Yarra Valley for a winery tour by the Australian Wine Tour Company. They visited four wineries- Yerling Station, Rochford Wines, St Hubert's, and Domain Chandon. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day, so they didn't get to wander around outside too much. When they returned to the city they came and met me at work, and then we headed off to Brunswick Street for dinner. I decided to take them to The Fitz Cafe, since they weren't too hungry after their day of wine and cheese.

On Thursday, my parents went up to the Melbourne Observation Deck on the 55th floor of the Rialto Tower to get a 360 degree view of Melbourne. They really enjoyed it because it gave them a feel for how big Melbourne is and what the city looks like. After that they headed to the Melbourne Aquarium, and got there in time to catch the shark and sting ray feeding. My Dad's other mission of the day was to get a shirt for my brother from a Melbourne Fire Station. They went up the road to the local Brunswick station and got lucky- 1 shirt down, 2 more to go. That evening we had dinner at Michelle and Ruth's house along with Michelle's parents and sister. It was a fun evening, and Michelle's parents got some tips of what to visit when they are in San Francisco in October.

Today they headed out on the Yarra River for a sightseeing cruise with Melbourne River Cruises. They went past the Arts Centre, Royal Botanical Gardens, and Melbourne Olympic Park. After the cruise they explored the stores and wandered through Myer and Melbourne Central.

The weather is not looking too good for tomorrow, so it may just be a relaxing day in front of the tv watching the footy. On Sunday I plan to take them to St. Kilda.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Touring Melbourne with My Parents

On Sunday my parents arrived in town from San Francisco. They survived the long flight in one piece and it was great to see them outside my front door. After they had a shower we headed out into the city. My parents experienced the same weird sensations I did when I first arrived in Australia about the traffic going the opposite direction. We got on the tram and headed to Flinders Street and then got on the free City Circle Tram so that I could orient them to the city grid and different things to see. After completing the loop we headed back for my place since they were getting tired. I was impressed they stayed up as long as they did, although 7:30 pm is the earliest my Mom has ever gone to bed.

Today I took the day off work so that I could show them around Carlton. We started at Melbourne University and stopped in to say hello to Suzie and Rosemary in the Economics Office. Then we wandered around the campus, admiring the older architecture of the buildings in the center of campus. My parents really liked the atmosphere of Lygon Street, and we had lunch at Nyonya's Malaysian Restaurant. My Dad finally got to try the curry laksa that I have been raving about for years. After lunch we headed down to Medley Hall on Drummond Street, where I lived when I was studying here 10 years ago. It still looks the same as it always has.

Our next stop was the Carlton Gardens and Royal Exhibition Building. It was built for the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880-1881. We had a great tour of the inside of the building, and our tour guide gave us lots of fun facts about the history of events that have taken place there. The hall is huge and full of intricate murals and stencils on the walls. It is painted in Federation colors and looks as it did in 1901 when it hosted the opening of the first Australian Federal Parliament. I was really glad we got to go inside and explore the building- it would be great to hold an event in there.

After our tour we went into the Melbourne Museum and looked at the two floors of Australian exhibits. There's lots of great stuff there, including Phar Lap, the champion racing horse from the Great Depression. We learned he actually died in Menlo Park, which is in the Bay Area. How's that for a strange connection? Before leaving my Mom got a few things at the gift shop, and then we traveled back to my place.

While I am working the rest of the week my parents are going to continue to explore the city on their own. Tomorrow they will be doing a Foodies Tour of the Queen Victoria Market, and then on Wednesday they have an all day wine tour in the Yarra Valley. I wish I could join them!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dinner with the Girls

Tonight I had a very entertaining night with Suzie and Rosemary, who I used to work with at Melbourne Uni. I met them at Suzie's house, which is just around the block from my apartment. It was great to catch up with them and hear what is going on in the Economics Department. While Suzie cooked dinner Rosemary was telling me lots of eye-opening stories about all the scandalous things that have been going on in the department that I had no clue about. It would make the most insane soap opera. We had pasta with eggplant and other veggies, which was very yummy. For dessert it was tea and chocolate. I laughed and smiled so much that my face hurt by the end of the night. We are hoping to make these dinners a regular occurrence.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My Ceiling of Woe

I thought my leaking ceiling issues were over but last week I heard that dreaded sound of dripping again. I couldn't find where the water was coming from until I looked up at my kitchen light and saw that the fixture was full of water. This happened on a Friday night, so of course I had to wait until Monday to speak with anyone at Body Corporate. On Tuesday the plumber came out and checked Unit 23, but there were no obvious signs of leaks, so he figured it must be coming from Unit 24. Unfortunately, we didn't have access to the unit, so the plumber returned the following morning to check Unit 24. After running water from all the taps, it was determined that the leak wasn't coming from there, but from Unit 23 after all. We didn't have access to the unit that morning, so the plumber decided to cut a couple holes into my ceiling to see if he could find the leak. However, he couldn't figure out where the leak was coming from so I had to wait until Friday when everyone's schedules were finally coordinated to get things fixed. It turns out the water was coming from the kitchen sink area of Unit 23 and after putting 3 more holes into my ceiling, the leak was finally found near my ceiling beams! The cause was two segments of pipe that had completely separated from each other because someone forgot to blue-glue the two pipe segments together when the building was constructed. The plumber glued the pipe back together and also anchored it to a beam in the ceiling (they had forgotten to do that too). Now the problem is getting all these holes in my ceiling repaired. I'm waiting to hear from Body Corporate when the plasterers will be coming out (better be early next week) and then once that dries the ceiling will be painted. I am hoping to get this all fixed before my parents arrive on September 3rd.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Essendon vs. Hawthorn

Tonight's Essendon game was a tribute to James Hird, so Michelle and I headed to the Telstra Dome for this week's match against Hawthorn. I was hopeful that last week's win against Collingwood meant that Essendon were finally back on track and getting it together (it's been a bad season). However, the first half was a total nightmare, and Hawthorn dominated every aspect of the game. Their lead at halftime was 61 points!

Thankfully the second half was a bit better. Essendon finally found some defense and offence, although we had a lot of shots at goal that were behinds (1 point) instead of goals (6 points). It was a frustrating match, and if we had made more goals we could have won. However, even though we got close in the last quarter, we ended up losing by 18 points. It wasn't the best way to celebrate James Hird's career, but Hawthorn deserved the win.

Final Score:
Essendon- 15.16 (106)
Hawthorn- 19.10 (124)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Marvelous Melbourne

This is a funny 10 minute short film on the history of Melbourne by Shane and Chris Northey. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

This week at work we had a professional learning forum in our branch around the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), which measures the way you prefer to think, learn, communicate and make decisions. The Whole Brain Model was developed by Ned Herrmann, who discovered that there were four patterns that emerged in terms of how the brain perceives and processes information. A Quadrant is rational, B Quadrant practical, C Quadrant visceral, and D Quadrant cognitive. Our profiles were compiled from a series of questions we answered on an online survey, and it was really interesting to get my results. The HBDI profile shows you which of the four quadrants of the brain you have a preference for- looking not just at left/right brain but also cerebral (upper) and limbic (lower) modes.

Here is a scan of my results. As you can see, my preferences are for the B and C quadrants. Here is what they say my profile means: "The profile is characterized by very strong preferences in conservative thinking and controlled behavior with a desire for organisation and structure as well as detail and accuracy from the Lower Left B quadrant. Persons with this profile tend to worry about details. The primary in the Lower Right C quadrant would show itself equally strongly by interpersonal skills and sensitivity to feelings. It may indicate emotion, and perhaps interest in music and a sense of spirituality. It would also be likely to demonstrate sensory intuition or 'gut feelings.' The two limbic primaries could represent an important duality for the person to resolve within themselves. The opposing qualities of control and structure, constrasting with the emotional and interpersonal feelings can cause internal conflict." Interesting and fairly accurate, don't you think? The dotted line shows how I scored on an adjective pairs exercise, and this is supposed to demonstrate how you react when under pressure. Notice how I withdraw almost completely from D quadrant and have more preference in C quadrant.

In our branch, there are a lot of people who place in the C and D quadrants- and almost no one in A quadrant. Knowing how your co-workers think can help you to understand each other and work together better. The ultimate goal though is to become more whole-brained in your thinking, which means you are able to utilize the thinking preferences for each of the four quadrants. It enables you to take a comprehensive view of any situation and look at it from a variety of perspectives.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why Is My Ceiling Leaking?

On Tuesday night I was starting to make my dinner when I heard the sound of water. I turned around to see a stream of water pouring down from my ceiling off the support beam and onto the carpet. I quickly grabbed a pot to catch the water and rang my real estate agent to ask what to do. Thankfully the water stopped after a few minutes, but I ventured upstairs to chat with my neighbors to see if they had any leaking water. There was nothing evident happening in either of their apartments, and thankfully they were nice and sympathetic to my situation. I woke up the next morning and everything was still dry. It was a good thing that I left the pot on the floor though because when I got home it was half full with water. After chatting with Body Corporate I ventured upstairs again to chat with my neighbors. We suspected that the problem could be with a shower leak that one unit had had repaired earlier in the week. They got the plumber to come back out, and there hasn't been any water since, so I'm hoping that the problem has been fixed for good.

If that wasn't enough apartment drama for me, I've also just gotten notice that my rent will be going up $44 a month when my lease is up in October. I'm not too thrilled about that, but there's not much I can do. Good thing I have a 3% raise going into effect that month as well.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Census Night

Tonight is Census Night in Australia. There was a whole advertising campaign here around the census, which is done every five years and considered a mandatory activity. I filled out my form online, and it was pretty quick and painless. There are the usual questions that you would expect: age, ethnicity, education, religion, etc. They do focus on country of origin and where your parents were born (probably because a large part of the population are migrants). A couple of the more interesting questions asked were about unpaid hours of work (as a care giver or just plain domestic work), and for females how many babies you have ever given birth to (they do have a baby bonus payment here). The last question asks if you agree to have the information on your census form kept by the National Archives of Australia and then made available to the public in 99 years. I figured why not- after all, I don't think I'll be around in 2105.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bic Runga

Last night I got to see Bic Runga in concert at Manchester Lane. Peter was kind enough to let me tag along with him as her shows in Melbourne are sold out. We met up for dinner after I finished work and went to Italy 1 on George Parade off Collins Street. I had the best Ravioli di Zucca I have ever tasted- the sage butter, toasted walnuts, and pumpkin were delicious. After dinner we walked along Swanston Street and stopped at a cafe for dessert. We got the biggest piece of cheesecake (thankfully to share) and hot drinks.

Around 8pm we headed over to Manchester Lane. Since Peter does work for Bic we were on the guest list and got excellent treatment inside the venue. We were given a table in the middle section, which was cordoned off from the rest of the crowd. After about 10 minutes Bic came walking over to say hello to Peter. She sat down at the table next to us for a chat while she ate her dinner. It was kind of funny to have Bic sitting there eating while all the people standing above in the next level were able to look down and watch- they had come to see her perform, after all.

The show itself was great. Bic played material from all three of her albums in the set. I loved hearing all the new songs off her latest release "Birds." Bic has the most amazing voice, and this was definitely the most relaxed I've ever seen her on stage (perhaps because of her trip to the day spa?). She played mostly acoustic guitar, but did a few songs on electric. John Walsh, the guitar tech, came out and played keyboard on the song "Birds." I wish the show had gone on longer than an hour, but she did finish around 11 pm. Peter and I quickly went backstage to say goodbye, and then headed back to his car. Peter was nice enough to drive me home, which was great since it had started raining by the time we left the venue.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Impro Melbourne: The Cave

Tonight a group of us headed up to ...don't tell tom for some improv comedy. The improvisation troupe Impro Melbourne put on the show, and it was quite funny. In the first act they played the game "More or Less." One person was the director of the scene, and as the scene progressed he/she asked the audience if they would like it to continue (more) or stop (less). In the second act a different set of members performed a longer improv piece based off of ideas from the audience. The suggestions were a marriage based on immigration, romance, a road trip, documentary, and sci-fi. Members would "tap" in and out of scenes, which would shift the location of things and characters abruptly at some points. At the beginning it was a bit disjointed as they introduced everything, but they actually managed sew their stories together by the end of the piece. It was really well done.

Unfortunately while we were in the comfy warm environment of ...don't tell tom, the heavens finally opened up (the forecasters had been predicting rain all weekend) and we had to deal with pouring rain and wind on the walk back home. The bottom half of my jeans were soaked, but at least my umbrella didn't turn inside out.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Forget having to celebrate Christmas in July here in Australia to get the wintry experience. I've just booked my flights to the States so that I can have a proper, cold weather Christmas and New Year's with my family and friends. I won't be missing out on the mulled cider this year. I'll be back in the Bay Area from December 21st - January 8th, so if you are in town, I hope to catch up with you. Who knows- I may even make a trip down to Southern California as well.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

BB7: All-Stars

It's summertime in the USA, so that means only one thing- Big Brother is back on the air! I'm so disappointed I am not there to watch it because this summer is all about the BB All-Stars. The public voted for 6 people from seasons 1 - 6 to go back in the house, with producers picking the remaining 8 people.

Even though I can't watch the show on tv here, I am following along on the internet. Having YouTube around this year has completely transformed the viewing of this show because so many people are throwing up bits from the live feeds. And thankfully for me, people are also putting the broadcast episodes up online because even though CBS has the episodes available for free on their website, I can't watch them because I'm outside the US.

Many of my favorites have made it back into the house, including Kaysar, Janelle, and evil Dr. Will. The game play is going to be so full-on this summer it will be interesting to see who makes it to the end. Allison has already be voted out of the house, and everyone seems to be gunning for the BB6 cast. Thankfully Kaysar won Head of Household this week, so at least they are all safe (for the moment).

I wish the Australian Big Brother was more like the US version- I find the game play and strategy so much more interesting to watch. Here they can't even discuss nominations and "playing the game" seems to be frowned upon in the house. The US version also seems to have a much more diverse group of people- differing ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations and religious backgrounds have been represented throughout the seasons. Diversity in casting makes a more watchable show. I wonder, considering all the controversy from this year, if the Australian producers will make some big changes for their next season. I sure hope they do.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Farewell Adrian

Tonight Michelle and I headed over to North Melbourne to wish Adrian farewell as he moves to Los Angeles for his new job in the physics department at UCLA in a week. We started the evening with dinner at Rubicon. Donna and Brenton were there when we arrived, so it was nice to catch up with them. I had the roasted pumpkin pizza with fetta cheese, spinach and pine nuts. For dessert I ate the crepes filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and peanuts. Adrian's friend had a book for everyone to sign, so I wrote about 4 pages of tips for him when he arrives in LA. After dinner we moved down the street to Rrose Bar for drinks and conversation. There was quite the turnout to send Adrian off. We said our goodbyes and headed for home around 11:30 pm. If any of you LA people would like to show Adrian around or have some tips I can pass on to him, please get in touch with me.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Myer "History Making Clearance" Sale

The lure to Myer was hard to resist- ads for a "History Making Clearance" beyond anything they have ever done before. Myer has been bought by someone else, so they are clearing out lots of their stock. Michelle and I decided to meet at the city store in Bourke Street Mall after work and see what bargains could be had. It was an absolute zoo in the store as many other people had the same idea. We started in fragrances, then worked our way through the accessories, shoes, clothes, kitchen and bath departments. Michelle found some good stuff to buy, but I didn't see anything that screamed "buy me" so my wallet stayed in my bag. It was like a feeding frenzy in some of the departments, which was a bit overwhelming (this was the first day of the sale). After a while we decided to escape the madness and headed to Mekong on Swanston Street for Vietnamese pho and spring rolls. It was nice to sit down and enjoy a yummy dinner before heading home.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth!

Happy 4th of July to all my American friends and family. While you get to enjoy fireworks, yummy barbeques, and the warm glow of summer, I worked today in chilly Melbourne. It's interesting being in another country for the 4th, especially one that is populated with monarchists. Can't get overly excited or you might offend them. I also think that being overseas is when you really start to identify with your home country. I can't escape being "American" here. It's funny because in the States you identify with the ethnic background of your ancestors, but here being American is its own ethnicity. I get this odd sense of patriotism that I definitely don't have when I'm home. Who knew it would take being half way around the world to have some pride in where you're from?

A fogless Fourth in San Francisco (very rare!)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Dinner and Big Brother

Ben is back in town for a few days doing rehearsals with Rogue Traders before they head off to the UK and US for some shows, so we decided to meet up for dinner. I walked down to his hotel after work and as I got there he was getting his room upgraded to one of the penthouse suite apartments. The place was huge- probably three times the size of my apartment. It was kind of funny. We decided to have dinner at il Solito Posto, an Italian restaurant in an alley off Collins Street. The food was delicious. I had linguine with calamari and napoli sauce, and Ben had spaghetti bolognese.

After eating we rushed back to the hotel to catch Big Brother. As many of you know, I find Big Brother to be very addictive, and the Australian edition has been no exception. The rules are a lot different to the US version, and it's on tv here every night so I don't have to spend as much time online reading about what's going on in the house. This past weekend has been a very controversial one as John and Ashley were kicked out of the house by Big Brother for sexual misconduct (and rightly so). It's been all over the news here and overseas, with calls from politicians to yank the show off the air. However, I think the real issues are more societal and symptomatic of the laddish culture that exists in Australia. Of course, the politicians are choosing to ignore the bigger picture.

What is amusing though is that Ben was actually in the Big Brother house when John and Ashley got kicked out because Rogue Traders played a mini-concert for the housemates on Saturday night. This was before the housemates knew that the boys had been removed and would not be returning. John and Ashley are supposed to appear with Gretel Killeen (BB host) later tonight, so we'll see how apologetic they are about what happened. I'm not getting my hopes up.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My Apartment

I have been meaning to post pictures of the inside of my apartment. I still have a few more little things to buy (mainly poster frames for my posters- ignore the white walls) but otherwise it is pretty much decorated. Enjoy!

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