Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! It has been a long but fun day. We started the morning with 10:30 am mass at St. Raphael's Church where I saw Lynne, Jeremy and her family as well as my great-aunt Lorraine. Once we got home it was time to finish cleaning and get started on cooking dinner. As has become an annual tradition, my Aunt Chris and cousins Leilani and Meinani came over for Christmas dinner. Unfortunately James was working, plus with the new baby he and Simi weren't going to be able to come down this year.

We started with cheese and crackers and some mulled cider before moving into the dining room for our big meal. My mom made Jello salad with cranberries, and then it was time for the main meal of scalloped potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and broccoli. All of it was delicious, and Lei also brought a couple different bottles of white wine to have with dinner.

After finishing eating we went back out into the living room to digest food and exchange presents. Lei was furiously knitting to finish up one of my gifts- a scarf. When we had a bit of room in our stomachs it was time to hit the dessert table. All of that baking from yesterday was now available to eat. I had a little sample of everything, and the apple pie came out well. It was another successful Christmas dinner, and as always nice to spend time with family over the holidays.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Baking up a Storm

I have spent the majority of today baking assorted treats with my mom for our Christmas dinner tomorrow. I think we may have too much dessert.

Sugar Cookies

Snowball Cookies

Pumpkin-Orange Cookies

Lemon-Cranberry Bundt Cake

Apple Pie

Monday, December 21, 2009


I have spent the last two days helping the US economy by shopping up a storm. On Sunday my mom and I went to Vintage Oaks in Novato and hit Target, Old Navy, Bath and Body Works, Ann Taylor Loft, and Costco. My biggest bargain of the day was a zip hooded fleece sweatshirt on sale for $5 at Old Navy (in fact, I got a lot of clothes on sale there and only paid about $100 total).

Today we went to The Village and Town Center in Corte Madera. I managed to finish up my Christmas shopping at Williams-Sonoma (along with getting some peppermint bark and hot chocolate), got a nice pair of trousers on sale for $16 at the Gap, a laptop battery at the Apple store (very much not on sale), and also checked out J.Crew, Anthropologie, and Crate and Barrel. In the midst of all this we also stopped for lunch at Boudin, where I continued to indulge my love of sourdough by having clam chowder in a bread bowl.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meeting my Nephew

Today my parents and I headed up to my brother's place to have lunch and see my nephew Logan, who is now two-weeks old. Dad made his very yummy clam chowder and we also binged on my favorite sourdough bread from Bordanave's. It was great to meet Logan, who is a cute and fairly mellow baby. I got to hold and feed him briefly while he was awake. It was also nice to catch up with James and Simi and Simi's parents, who are staying with them until the new year. Everyone seems to be doing pretty well considering the huge life changing event. We will be back up to visit them after Christmas to exchange presents and spend more time together.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flying Across the Pacific

Today was my flying day on Air New Zealand: Melbourne to Auckland and then Auckland to San Francisco. I managed to occupy my time by reading, listening to music, and watching the films Julie & Julia, It Might Get Loud, and Funny People. Due to a strong tail wind we actually arrived in San Francisco an hour early! It was a clear and crisp day as we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County. I am happy to be home for the holidays and hopefully the jet lag won't be too bad.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Boroughs

Yesterday Tash and I attended The Boroughs, which organisers said would be "a celebration of the culture, street art and music of New York." Originally scheduled to be at a warehouse on La Trobe Street, the venue was changed to Shed 4 in Docklands. Wilfred Jackal was finishing up their set when we arrived. Both Tash and I were a bit confused as we walked in. First problem was that they were only using part of the Shed, which didn't really make much sense. Their attempt at making it "New York" was to have some opened shipping containers around the floor, graffiti artists painting a wall (they were amateurs compared to a lot of the graffiti you see around Melbourne), some really bad attempts at performance art, and a small skate ramp for the skaters. It was a total fail.

Music-wise the bands really had nothing to do with New York either, but there was a good mix of different styles. The sound in the Shed was horrendous though, which was really apparent for the bands we have seen live before. I wouldn't mind hearing The Hello Morning in an intimate venue as their alt-country sound was so muddy in the venue. The Frowning Clouds played with a lot of energy and had a group of people dancing at the front of the stage. Bachelor of Arts was probably the closest to a New York sounding band, and Hot Little Hands played a good set of indie rock.

Miami Horror had everyone dancing and their single "Sometimes" got a big reaction from the crowd. Up next was Yves Klein Blue, who were fantastic as always. It was great to hear "Getting Wise," "Polka," and "Digital Love." The final act of the evening was Bertie Blackman, who was dressed in a monk's robe for most of the night. In her hour-long set she played the one song I know of hers, "Byrds of Prey," as well as covers of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" and a Fleetwood Mac song. The funniest part of her set though was watching the Frowning Clouds boys with supersoakers running around side of stage and spraying the audience.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I'm An Auntie

Welcome to the world my nephew Logan James. He is a big boy at 9 lbs 13 oz, and is 20 inches long. To think he was two weeks early! I can't wait to meet and hold him in person in a couple weeks when I am home for the holidays.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Veils and Oh Mercy

Last night Tash and I met at The Toff In Town to see the last night of The Veils Australian tour. Opening for them were our faves Oh Mercy, who played a blistering set of music to the appreciative crowd. It was good to hear some old favorites like "Holding On," "Salvation Jane," and "In My Stride" as well as the album tracks "Get You Back" and "Broken Ears." Oh Mercy have had such an amazing year and I'm really happy for all their success and the recognition they are receiving.

I admit to not being familiar with The Veils music although I have been aware of the band as they toured the US with Liam Finn in 2008. This was their last show of the year and you could tell lead singer Finn Andrews was emotional about this fact at times, pondering what he was going to do with himself when there were no shows to play. The tour was in support of their latest album Sun Gangs, and probably my favorite song of the evening was the single "The Letter." They did have some technical issues with the bass guitar throughout the set, but made it through the evening playing with a lot of passion and emotion.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hungry Kids of Hungary: Let You Down Easy Tour

Last night Tash and I headed over to The East Brunswick Club for the last show of Hungry Kids of Hungary's Let You Down Easy tour. The first band on for the evening was Alpine (formerly named Swiss), who had two female lead singers and played a kind of electro/guitar mix of music. The girls had decorative glitter on their faces and would both sing the lyrics at the same time. They are probably a fairly new band, but have potential.

Next up was one of my favorite local bands The Frowning Clouds. It was so good to see these Geelong lads again in their 60s mod clothes (the guitarist even had a burgundy cape on for the first song). Zak and Nick split vocal duties throughout the set. My favorites were "Lovin' You," "Time Wastin' Woman," "Tiger Heart" and "That Kinda Girl." By the end of their set there were a group of people dancing at the front of the stage.

Hungry Kids of Hungary then took to the darkened, smoky stage which had balloons tied around the drum riser. The set was a mix of old songs and new ones they are working on for their upcoming album. Highlights for me were "Set It Right," "Two Stones," "Scattered Diamonds," "Old Money," and the new single "Let You Down." The harmonies were on fire all evening and they did a good job dealing with portions of the crowd that both Tash and I felt were completely obnoxious at times. The surprise song of the night was a cover of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" which had a bunch of people up on the stage dancing with the band. They came back out for a quick one song encore of "Good Times" and then the show was over.

Here's the brand new video for "Let You Down"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Musical Interlude: Female Artists

Here are some of my favorite female music artists:

Bic Runga "Say After Me"

Sarah Blasko "All I Want

Amy Winehouse "Tears Dry On Their Own"

M.I.A. "Boyz"

Bjork "Joga"

Adele "Chasing Pavements"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development: One Year On

Today I attended the Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development: One Year On Forum at the MCG. The first year of the Blueprint has seen the development and implementation of 42 actions across three reform strategies: system improvement, partnerships with parents and communities, and workforce reform. The Blueprint for Education and Early Childhood Development: One Year On report highlights the achievements made in the first year of Blueprint implementation and describes the actions that the Government commits to in 2010.

Both Ministers were there to present on achievements in the early childhood and education portfolios over the past year. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard was going to attend, but couldn't make it at the last minute due to the crazy politics currently taking place in the opposition party in Canberra. We had two workshop sessions to explore themes around the new actions for 2010. I attended sessions on workforce reform and school education where each table discussed some of the specific actions and provided feedback and ideas. The day ended with a plenary session with the Secretary of the Department.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, which is probably my favorite American holiday and the one I miss the most being in Australia. I would always have fantastic dinners with my family and it's just nice to gather around the table together and be thankful for another year. Last year I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner here with friends, but this year I'm not going to get around to it due to having things on nearly every weekend until I fly to the States. As is tradition, President Obama pardoned a turkey at the White House. My parents will be having a Mexican fiesta Thanksgiving up at my brother and his wife's place this year- so jealous!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Four Years

Last month was the four year anniversary of my arrival in Australia. The time has gone by quickly and I definitely feel at home in Melbourne. There are so many things I love here, including the footy and of course the music scene. Rick Slovett wrote an opinion piece published in The Age earlier this year about being an American in Australia. I would have to agree with a lot of what he said, including gaining a love of beetroot (although not yet on hamburgers), which is something I never ate in the US. The anti-American sentiment is always around just below the surface and tends to boil up occasionally, although things have gotten much better since Obama was elected president. At least I am no longer fearful of people hearing my accent on public transportation. America is such an easy target for some, but thankfully I have met people who are genuinely interested in the intricacies and peculiarities of my homeland.

There are times I miss California, but when I read about the current state of the economy I feel lucky to be in one of the few countries that really didn't go through the recession. I have a good job, work with a great group of people, and have made some wonderful friends. I really can't complain. In 2010 I will finally get my act together and apply for Australian citizenship (it's either that or renew my permanent resident visa). I'll still be a dual citizen though because I am not willing to give up my US passport. I guess the only question will be what to call myself: American-Australian or Australian-American?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Seagulls can be a bit of a menace here in Melbourne. If you have ever watched an afternoon Aussie Rules football match at the MCG, you have seen them swarming on the field. I'm always amazed that the players can put up with it and none of the seagulls get hit by a football. The funniest recent seagull incident here happened last month during the Channel 9 evening news. Peter Hitchener was reading a serious news story when a seagull walked past the camera that projects the live shot of Melbourne behind him. It is absolutely hilarious to watch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Up in the Gym

It has been four months now since the Virgin Active Health Club opened up in Melbourne and I have been very good about going 3 - 4 times a week. I pretty much have a set routine now and I am doing a variety of classes: kickboxing, body pump, pilates, and spin. The instructors for the classes I take are all really great and even know my name (one had my name down the second time I did her class- impressive). It definitely helps to head to the gym directly after work, as that was why I was not going that much when a member of a gym closer to home (sheer laziness). I am also seeing results as clothes that were tight or not fitting are now much looser on me. My fitness challenge will be over the holidays when I am in the States, although if I'm desperate I can always do a free trial membership at 24 Hour Fitness like I have done on previous visits home.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to Lose Friends and Steal from People

Last year I flew home to be the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding. One big thing I didn't mention when writing about the event was the fact that I actually paid for everything. After the wedding rehearsal the venue told Angie they had not received the money to pay for the venue hire and catering. Supposedly the check was lost in the mail. If they didn't get payment, the wedding would not be allowed to take place the following day. As you can imagine there was a lot of panic, and I innocently (and turns out stupidly) asked if they would take credit card, knowing that no one was going to be able to come up with the money in less than 24 hours. The morning of the wedding we went to the venue and I put everything on my credit card- around $16,000. Angie said she would get into contact with the bank, put a stop payment on the check, and then pay me back. Easy peasy.

They went on their honeymoon, and I flew back to Australia and waited, and waited for the money to appear in my bank account. I got a lot of silence, excuses and empty promises. It became apparent that there was never a check in the first place, so I was told that she would sell half of her coffee shop business to a friend and then use that money to pay me back. In the meantime I received $600, which barely covered the interest for two months. I flew home again last Christmas and she told me to my face that the sale of the shop was finally going to go through in a matter of days and that I would have my money. In January of this year she wrote that the sale was completed and she had deposited $17,000 into my bank account. In February the money still had not appeared and my emails and phone calls were met with silence. Realizing that I would not be seeing any money and to relieve the stress I had been feeling for the past year I proceeded to transfer money from Australia (when the exchange rate was bad) and also cash in my savings in the US (when the stock market was in the tank) to pay off the credit card bill.

I have for the most part let go of everything because I don't want to waste any more energy on this situation. I still don't understand why someone who had been my best friend for 20 years decided to do this to me. I hope that one day I will get my money back, but I'm not holding my breath. I have learned after the fact about other incidents where she had lied to me, and if I had known more about her financial situation I never would have volunteered my credit card. What also irks me is that her first husband did a similar thing to her- opening up credit card accounts without her knowledge and charging them up, leaving her with debt that took years to pay off. For her to do basically the same thing to me is just inexcusable.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Musical Interlude: Madchester

The Madchester scene came about in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Manchester, England. I was really into this music during high school, and here are some of my favorite bands from the era:

The Charlatans: "Sproston Green"

Inspiral Carpets: "She Comes In The Fall"

The Stone Roses: "One Love"

Happy Mondays: "Kinky Afro"

New Fast Automatic Daffodils: "Big"

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Good China

Last night Tash and I headed to The Empress Hotel to see The Good China play in support of their recently released EP Old Maps/New Roads. We had tickets to go to their EP launch in September, but were bad fans and went to see The Basics that night instead (sorry).

While we were eating dinner we could hear the opening band Oh, Deanna. After they finished we headed into the band room to watch Institut Polaire. They had a fairly mellow set mixed with old and new songs. It was good to hear "City Walls and Empires" which is such a great song. The Good China then took to the stage and played all the songs on their EP as well as a few new ones. My favorites for the evening were "If Pain Persists," "We Found 3 Whistles," and "All Nothing" (complete with hand claps). We even got a cover of The Cure's "Close To Me." It was good to see the Chinas again as they are always a fun and entertaining live band.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pet Peeves

I am usually a pretty mellow and tolerant person, but there are a few things that I encounter when out in public that I find really annoying:

People taking pictures of themselves at concerts
This is the thing that pisses me off the most. You are in a dark venue and getting blinded by flashes because people are so conceited that they feel they have to take pictures of themselves in the crowd. Who on earth is going to look good in a picture taken in a dark room? The worst are those people who do this while a band is playing.

Sidewalk hogs
This seems to be a particular issue here in Melbourne. I constantly encounter groups of people who walk four abreast on a sidewalk. The problems you encounter are either a) trying to get around them or b) when you are walking in the opposite direction and no one moves! It's like a game of chicken. News flash people- sidewalks are just like roads. You only walk on one side of them. I'd love these people to try this behavior in New York City. They would be mowed down in less than a minute.

Riding bikes on sidewalks
Besides people who can't walk properly on sidewalks, the other group you have to avoid is bike riders. When there is a gigantic bike lane on the road I really don't think you need to ride on the sidewalk. You don't see me walking in the bike lane.

Inability to ride escalators correctly
There is a certain escalator etiquette at the train station: if you are standing you keep to the left side so people can walk up on the right. Most people are good about that, but I often encounter people who wait to start walking until the escalator is at the very top and meeting the floor. It's like they are afraid to walk once the steps flatten out. If you are unfortunate enough to be standing behind them you almost end up running into them. The escalator is not going to break if you start walking on it. I won't even get into the people I saw one day who were sitting on the escalator steps as it was going down. How lazy can you get?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine

Today at work I got the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine since they were offering shots for free. It was quick and painless and all over in less than a minute. There has been a lot of paranoia about the vaccine, especially in the US. Australia has already gone through winter and while cases of swine flu were mild for most, it is very contagious and children and pregnant women seemed to be the most affected (in fact a few pregnant women died). As anyone who knows me would tell you, I usually shun any types of medicine or flu shots. However I have gone ahead and gotten the H1N1 vaccine since I will be heading to the States over the holidays and don't feel like coming down with swine flu while I am there (or infecting my newly born nephew). So if you are on the fence about getting the vaccine just go ahead and do it. I feel perfectly fine and even went to the gym for two hours tonight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foxtel iQ

This morning I got my new Foxtel iQ box installed. I had put off upgrading to iQ due to the cost, but Foxtel have recently come out with iQ value packs, and since it was only $5 more a month for the package of channels I currently have I decided to go for it. It's really great because now I can record up to two shows at the same time onto the hard drive, pause and replay live tv, have access to all the On Demand shows, and even program it to record from Foxtel's website. It's like a TiVo and cable box all rolled into one. For a tv addict like me this thing could be very dangerous, but I won't be missing any shows anymore.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Farewell ROVE

Last night Rove McManus announced that he was ending his talk show after 10 years on the air:

As you can see from the gasp in the audience, the announcement was a complete shock. This episode was supposed to be the final one for the year, not the last show ever. ROVE was the only equivalent to a late night talk show on tv here in Australia, and even then it only aired once a week. It launched many comedians' careers and was one of the few vehicles for bands to play live on network television. I really hope that someone comes up with another evening talk show because I have always found it to be a shame that there are no late night talk shows on here (especially when you consider how many are on the air in the States). I wish Rove all the best and look forward to seeing what his next project may be.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Basics- Keep Your Friends Close Album Tour

Last night Tash, Mary, Mel and I met at Mexicali Rose for dinner (surprise, surprise) before heading to The Corner Hotel to see The Basics play to support the release of their brilliant new album Keep Your Friends Close. The opening acts were The Boy Who Cried Wolf (aka Jordie Lane) and Summer Edmunds who both played solo on guitar. They were both decent but we were chatting and didn't end up paying too much attention to them.

We moved up near the front of the stage for The Basics set. Coming out wearing brand new grey suits they started the evening with "Fear of Failure" and played the entire Keep Your Friends Close album. To help recreate the sounds on the album they had additional musicians on stage to play keyboard, guitar, percussion, and saxophone on various songs. Highlights of the main set for me were "The No. 1 Cause of Death Amongst Youth Today," "The Day Mairead Goes Away," and "With This Ship," which had the whole crowd singing along. Kris played on violin while Tim sang "Trouble in his Head" (which was a first). Another exciting moment was when Kris made direct eye contact with both Mary and I during "Like A Brother."

Kris came out at the start of the encore to play "All or Nothing" solo on the acoustic guitar. The rest of the band came out and they ran through "Second Best" (where Wally flubbed the lyrics of the first verse), "Have Love, Will Travel," "Rattle My Chain" and "Hey There!" The boys finished the night with a version of the J.J. Cale song "Cocaine" (most famously covered by Eric Clapton). It was a great night and one of the best shows I've seen The Basics play. Go buy their album- it's fantastic.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Catch Up

I met up with Ruth and Michelle today for lunch at Tom Phat on Sydney Road in Brunswick. I had the pagoda greens which is wok-Asian greens, tofu and rice. The food was good and fresh. After eating we hit up some of the clothing boutiques on Sydney Road. There was some cute stuff but it was too expensive (especially when I can similar items for half the price in the States). The weather here is still hot, so we made a stop at the grocery store to get some popsicles before returning to Ruth's place for a rest and chat. I am off to see The Basics tonight so that should be fun.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Musical Interlude: Finn

The Finn family is crazy talented and I love them- especially Neil.

Split Enz: "One Step Ahead"

Crowded House: "When You Come"

The Finn Brothers: "Only Talking Sense"

Neil Finn: "She Will Have Her Way"

Tim Finn: "Out of This World"

Betchadupa: "My Army of Birds and Gulls"

Liam Finn and Eliza Jane: "Long Way To Go"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Favorite Melbourne Restaurants

Melbourne is the foodie capital of Australia. There are so many great places to eat around town. Here are some of my favorites for lunch and dinner.

Mexicali Rose (103 Swan Street, Richmond)
Good Mexican food is hard to find in Melbourne but this is definitely the best I have had here. It may be more expensive than the same dishes at home, but the food tastes good. If I am going to a concert at The Corner Hotel, you are more than likely to find me having dinner here beforehand.

Cafe on Bourke (50 Bourke Street, Melbourne)
Really good traditional pizzas and you can get a small one for $10. I am particularly fond of the Venice pizza, which has mushrooms and bacon.

Bimbo Deluxe (376 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy)
For a more gourmet pizza this is the place to go. During lunch and after 7pm (except Fridays) the pizzas are only $4 each! What a bargain.

The Cellar Bar (80 Bourke Street, Melbourne)
The sister restaurant to Grossi Florentino next door, The Cellar Bar has the most delicious Italian food and the best waiters in town. Every dish is amazing and reasonably priced, from entree to main to dessert. You can eat inside or out on the sidewalk and watch the city go by.

Shuji Sushi (45 Bourke Street, Melbourne)
This popular restaurant is always full due to their fresh and well priced menu. You can get a wide variety of dishes, but my favorite is always the Bento Box since you get a little bit of everything. Service is also pretty fast.

HuTong Dumpling Bar (14-16 Market Lane, Melbourne)
Matt Preston, The Age's food critic, agrees with me that this is best dumpling restaurant in Melbourne. A fantastic place for lunch, the dumplings are made fresh and are full of flavor. You can get a wide variety of dumplings to share, including their signature shao-long bao, and only be out $12 at the end of the meal.

The Vegie Bar (378 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy)
One of my long time favorite places, you will never go hungry eating here because the serving sizes are so big. There are a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan meals to choose from on the menu.

The Press Club Bar (72 Flinders Street, Melbourne)
The Bar side of George Calombaris' The Press Club has an amazing executive lunch menu where you can get two courses and a glass of wine for $25. The food is so delicious and the baklava is the best I have ever tasted. It's a great place for a celebratory lunch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heat Wave

It has been ridiculously hot in Melbourne since Saturday, and it's only spring! Temperatures have been above 30 degrees, with the average over the last few days being 34/93 degrees. Even at night it still doesn't cool down, so I haven't been able to open up any windows until the morning to try and get some fresh air in my apartment. I have no air conditioning, so my fan is my only savior. I long for the Bay Area and fog at times like these, because at least you knew the heat would only last a few days before the fog returned to cool things down. These temperatures are forecast to continue through Sunday, when a cool change will finally come through. I am dreading how hot summer is going to be. I may need to invest in a second fan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Job Interview

This morning I had a job interview for an ongoing position in my current Branch. The process consisted of a twenty minute reading and writing exercise around a research proposal, and then a thirty minute interview. I thought things went well, but I also know they were interviewing people for most of the day. Who knows how I will measure up against the other candidates.

The interview panel consisted of people I know and/or work with (3 of whom are management in my Branch), which I always find to be a challenge because a)it's hard to talk yourself up to people you work with and b) you have to face them after the interview is over. I have interviewed so many times for jobs in this Department that I should be used to it by now. My current role is a fixed-term position until September 2010, so it's not like I am in trouble if I don't get this. However, policy and research is what I am interested in and there aren't that many ongoing positions in my Division unless people leave. We'll see what happens.

Unfortunately I didn't get the job as my Group Manager wanted someone with lots of research experience and a Ph.D. That is not me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Celebrities Everywhere

Melbourne is not only being inundated with hot temperatures (it feels more like summer than spring at the moment), but also US celebrities. Currently in town are:
- Britney Spears: playing shows at Rod Laver Arena this week and staying at the hotel across from where I work
- Tiger Woods: playing in the Australian Masters golf tournament beginning on Thursday
- MC Hammer: in town promoting some Xbox360 game and was on Rove last night for some "Hammertime" dancing
- Joel and Benji Madden (Good Charlotte): Melbourne Cup and on Rove last night too

The Herald Sun has been all over their arrivals and activities in town. It's quite funny to read their breathless, over the top commentary (i.e. stalking).

Sunday, November 08, 2009

By The People: The Election of Barack Obama

The documentary film By The People: The Election of Barack Obama is a behind the scenes look at Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Filmmakers Amy Rice and Alicia Sams began filming Obama in 2006, nearly a year before he announced his candidacy. The initial idea was to examine the political experience of a promising young politician, but the focus changed once he decided to run for president in early 2007.

The film starts with the building of a grassroots movement in Iowa and follows the campaign through the primary battles with Senator Clinton, the controversy of Rev. Wright, and eventually securing the Democratic Party nomination. It then moves on to the general election campaign and finishes with Obama winning on that first Tuesday in November. It is an intimate look at the Obama family and those key people in the campaign as well as the many volunteers throughout the country who worked to get Obama elected. Having followed the campaign from afar it was nice to get an up close look at everything that happened in this historic race.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Domestic Violence

Today Good Morning America aired part of an interview with Diane Sawyer and pop singer Rihanna about her relationship with Chris Brown and the assault that took place in February. Rihanna admitted her decision to go back to Brown was a mistake.
"I stayed. I even went back after he beat me, which was wrong," she said. "When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result in some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn't be held responsible for going back. Even if Chris never hit me again, who is to say that their boyfriend won't? Who's to say that they won't kill these girls?"

Sadly, my cousin Marie wasn't so lucky. A few weeks ago she was murdered by her live in boyfriend. According to the police report, Girard Grenier admitted to his mother and police that he killed Marie with his hands (likely choking her to death). She was found lying on the couch in their house with blood on her face from her nose. It is so senseless that a 28 year old had to die this way. Police had responded to domestic dispute calls at the house in the past. My other cousin, her sister, had moved out because the fighting, often brought on by drinking, was so bad. Marie had not had the easiest life and I last saw her when we were kids. It seemed like she had been turning her life around in recent years. I just find it so depressing that this has happened to her and so sad for her immediate family- my aunt and cousins.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Future of Australia

The federal Treasury Secretary, Dr. Ken Henry, recently gave a speech to the QUT Business Leaders' Forum entitled "The Shape of Things to Come: Long Run Forces Affecting the Australian Economy in Coming Decades." In his speech he outlines four long term trends (through the lens of sustainability) that will likely have a profound impact on the Australian economy and society for several decades to come.

1) Population ageing
Population ageing will have an even more pronounced impact on GDP per capita growth over the coming decades. By 2049 it is estimated that 22% or a little over one in every five Australians will be aged 65 or over (current rate is 13%). Australia's population is also increasing faster than predicted due to migration and higher birth rates. Today’s population of about 22 million is now projected to rise to over 35 million in 2049, an increase of 13 million people or around 60% over the next 40 years.

2) Climate change
Climate change adaptation and the response to mitigation strategies will have profound implications for the pattern of human settlement on the driest inhabited continent on earth. Taken together, these forces could produce the largest structural adjustment in Australia's economic history.

3) ICT revolution
The ICT revolution is changing the shape of the Australian economy. It holds out the prospect of a significant revolution in the way government services are provided to a rapidly growing aged population and for government service provision in general.

4) The re-emergence of China & India and Australia’s Terms of Trade
The re-emergence of China and India which, because of its implications for global commodities demand, has conferred on Australia a large boost to its real wealth; but, at the same time, set up a set of structural adjustments that will challenge policy makers for decades.

With the population increase, Treasury predicts that Melbourne's population could grow from around 4 million now to almost 7 million in 40 years- a 74% increase. So where will all these new arrivals live? Urban planning in Melbourne has been interesting to watch. Currently most people commute into the city centre for work, and public transport is arranged to accommodate this in and out travel pattern (which makes it difficult to get from east to west without having to travel into the city first).

The state government has produced many documents to manage Melbourne's growth including the Melbourne 2030 Strategy released in October 2002 and the Melbourne @ 5 million update to the strategy released in December 2008. They realize that they need to build up multiple major centers that will distribute jobs and activities so people can work and play closer to where they live. However, the problem seems to be that the government doesn't follow its own policies. The urban growth boundary keeps getting expanded further and further out and they seem more focused on building roads instead of more sustainable public transport for these outer suburbs. In addition, the new Central Activity Districts are in areas that are still relatively close to the city. The focus should be on regional Victoria where major employment should be encouraged and there is space for growth to occur.

A few recent articles in The Age have highlighted many of the issues raised by Dr. Henry and what it means for Melbourne:
- Paul Austin "Perils of a bigger footprint"
- Ross Gittens "Four big bugs threaten our comfort zone"
- Brian Buckley "City's population explosion threatens urban devastation"
- Mary-Anne Toy "The big leap"

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Rewarding Teaching Excellence

One of my big projects at work over the past year has been the development of teacher performance pay models for the Victorian context. The culmination of this work was the release of the Rewarding Teaching Excellence Blueprint Implementation Paper by the Minister of Education in August. The paper explores the purpose for rewarding teaching excellence, the national and international evidence, the two models developed for Victoria, and the trials in Victorian schools. Starting next year two models will be trialled in schools- individual teacher rewards and whole school rewards. The evaluation of the trials will determine whether or not there is a broader roll out of one or both of the models throughout the state.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Melbourne Cup 2009

Today is a public holiday in Melbourne as it's the Emirates Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse. Unlike last year where I actually frocked up and attended, this year I enjoyed the event from the comfort of my couch. At 3:00 pm the race that stops the nation began at a windy and overcast Flemington and it was Shocking who ended up winning- which was a shock because Viewed and Alcopop were the favorites. In the office sweep I had Zavite as my pick, so unfortunately I won't be getting any money when I go back to work tomorrow.

Monday, November 02, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

This month I have decided to participate in National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo for short. The goal is to post at least once a day over the 30 days in November. It is a spin off of National Novel Writing Month, which challenges people to write an entire novel during November. Hopefully I will be able to come up with enough material to post for the whole month. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Oh Mercy Privileged Woes Tour

Last night Belinda came and picked me up and we headed out for dinner at Mexicali Rose. I had a burrito again (this time with chicken) and we also shared some dessert- a chocolate taco with chocolate mousse, bits of brownie, fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was delicious. After finishing we headed down to The Corner Hotel for the last night of Oh Mercy's Privileged Woes tour. We caught the second act, Washington, which consists of Megan Washington and her band. Her music was good, and I enjoyed her countryish cover of Sublime's "Santeria."

Oh Mercy came out to the sound of birds and Alex handed out fruit to the front row. The band played songs from the In The Nude For Love EP and a majority of the Privileged Woes album. The biggest response from the sold out crowd was for the singles which have been played on Triple J: "Seemed Like A Good Idea," "Lay Everything On Me," and "Get You Back." My favorites for the evening were "Salvation Jane," "In My Stride," "In Good Time," and "Broken Ears." We were also lucky enough to get two brand new songs, including one with Thomas on lead vocals. They finished their hour long set with a song from The Triffids. The band have been on the road for so long I am sure they are excited to finally be home.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Little Red

I had a very interesting tram ride down to Richmond last night as the tram was chockers with a large group of senior citizens. My guess that they were heading to Rod Laver Arena was correct as about 40 people got off at that stop. I could also see more groups of older people streaming down from the pedestrian bridge but had no idea who was playing (turns out it was Andre Rieu). Tash also got caught in the Rieu traffic, but we eventually met up at Mexicali Rose so I could treat her to a belated b-day dinner. After eating and chatting we headed down the block to The Corner Hotel for a one off show by Little Red before they head to London for some shows in November.

When we arrived The Box Rockets were playing their set. I really should like this band because they have an 80's British guitar inspired sound, but I still find them to be dull. The next band, The Vasco Era certainly weren't boring and had lots of energy in their set of bluesy rock. I was, however, concerned about singer's throat as his screams sounded like he was shredding his vocal cords.

Little Red came out to lots of cheers from the hometown crowd. The set was an equal mix of new songs and ones from their debut album. There were also a few older new songs like "Lazy Boy" (complete with a faster chorus), "In My Bed," and "Rock Until The Break of Day." Many of the new songs show a maturity and growth in the band's sound but still have elements like the harmonies that you identify with Little Red. The Hunters & Collectors horn section came out to play on several songs and Wilbur Wilde played saxophone on "Jackie Cooper" (as he did on the album). The boys played for an hour and finished up the set with "Coca Cola" and "It's Alright" before coming back on for an encore of "Fight Song." I hope the band have a successful trip to the UK to launch their album Listen to Little Red and also start working on recording the new one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Worst Album Cover of All Time?

I adore Adam Lambert and thought he was brilliant on American Idol, but I cannot believe how shockingly bad his debut album cover is:

Not only is it hideous and dated, but it reminds me of this:

Do you really want me thinking of Tiffany when pondering whether or not to buy your album Adam? It does not give me great confidence about how it will sound. I am hoping the cover is not a reflection of your music, because if it is your career may be over before it even started.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Sarah Blasko

Last night I met up with Tash and her sister at The Forum Theatre to see Sarah Blasko. The opening act was Sweden's El Perro Del Mar (aka Sarah Assbring). She was accompanied for her set by a guitarist and also used some percussion loops for the songs.

Sarah and her band came out and launched into "Down On Love." The entire first set contained songs from her brilliant new album As Day Follows Night. Sarah was wearing the most amazing white dress with these huge structural puffy sleeves. A few songs in she revealed a heart on the front of the dress, and then closer to the end of the set she opened up the top part of the sleeves to reveal this kaleidoscope of geometric shapes in different colors. She finished the set by playing a couple of songs from the bonus Cinema Blasko disk: "Seems Like Old Times" and "Xanadu." After a costume change Sarah came back out and played a second set of songs from her first and second albums. The nearly 2 hour show was excellent and all the songs from the new album were both beautiful and touching. It was definitely one of the best concerts I have seen this year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Liam Finn and Eliza Jane

Last night I headed down to The Corner Hotel for the launch of Liam Finn and Eliza Jane's new EP Champagne In Seashells. The first act for the evening was singer-songwriter Matt Walters who played a nice solo set on acoustic guitar. Up next was Adelaide band Leader Cheetah who sound like a mix of Neil Young and Fleet Foxes. I really enjoyed many of their songs and they are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Liam and EJ came out to loud cheers from the sold out crowd and launched into "Plane Crash." The set was a mix of songs from the new EP and ones from the I'll Be Lightning album. There was the usual banter and Liam is still using loops to layer samples of different instruments and build up the songs. Highlights of the set were "Long Way To Go," "Energy Spent," "Remember When," "I'll Be Lightning" and "Lead Balloon." Liam also played "Red Wine Bottle" off the new 7 Worlds Collide album after someone in the audience requested it. During the encore Elroy Finn came out to play drums on a couple songs, including "This Place Is Killing Me." It was a great and entertaining evening and I'm glad to see Liam continue to gain more success as a solo artist.

Here is a clip of Liam and EJ performing "Long Way To Go" on Sunrise earlier in the week:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Basics Overseas Fundraiser Show

Tonight I met up with Tash and Mary at The Empress Hotel for a very special evening with The Basics to help fund their upcoming trip to the UK. At a bargain price of $5 and the promise of two sets of old material, there was no way we were going to miss this show.

Sadly Tim was the only one wearing his grey suit. Kris said they had recently done a photo shoot wearing the suits in some water and they shrank on them. He was surprised Tim still managed to fit into his. As advertised we got over an hour and a half of music from the boys. They started off with the traditional opening number "Yeah, Yeah" complete with dance moves. It was great to hear some rare songs live such as "Bitten by the Same Bug," "She's Gonna B. Late," "That Girl," and "Second Best." We even got some new songs off the upcoming album Keep Your Friends Close such as "No. 1 Cause of Death Amongst Youth Today," "With This Ship" and "The Executioner." There were also the usual amounts of covers played, including Neil Young's "Old Man" and Cold Chisel's "Flame Trees." The night finished off with a rocking version of "Call It Rhythm and Blues" and The Police's "Roxanne." It was so nice to see the boys and hear those sweet harmonies again. I look forward to the new album finally being released on September 25th and seeing them on their proper album tour in November.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Cuckoos EP Launch

Last night Belinda and I headed to The Birmingham Hotel on Smith Street for what could have been deemed an evening with the Little Red side project bands. This was the first time I have been to The Birmy, and the band room looks like a 1970's den with all the wood panelling. First up for the evening was Taka's band The Hondas. I hadn't seen them since they got a new bass player, and Jarrad sort of has a Phil Lesh look and vibe to him. All three members traded off on lead vocal duties and Taka was shaking his hair all set long. Almost all of the songs were ones I haven't heard before.

Next on stage was The Toot Toot Toots, who had go go dancers to complement their set. They were very entertaining and their sound is sort of a psychobilly/70's rock mix. After them was Dom's band The Greasers. Their set was half songs from their album and half new stuff. Highlights were "No Love Left" and "Shelly."

Last but not least was Tom and Quang's band The Cuckoos. This show was to launch their EP "Perfect View", which I purchased at the door. They have only played a handful of shows, but they sounded great and are a throwback to 50's rock (not a surprise when you consider Tom's Little Red songs). They even had some horn players on a couple of the songs. All in all it was a good night, and I really hope that Little Red gets into the studio soon to record their second album.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Working on my Fitness

No, I have not fallen off a cliff into a deep, dark hole. Instead I have been spending lots of time over the past month at my brand new sparkling gym, the Virgin Active Health Club on Bourke Street. It is good to be exercising again as I quit my old gym over a year ago since I didn't go enough. When I heard that a Virgin gym was going to be opening so close to work I was very excited. I signed up in March, but unfortunately it took them until mid-July to finally open. The wait was worth it though as the place is fantastic. They have five different exercise rooms, a pool, rock climbing wall, a whole floor of machines and weights and even a cafe. My goal is to hit the gym after work 3-4 times a week, which I have been achieving. I am doing a wide variety of classes- yoga, pilates, kickboxing, Body Pump (weights) and spin. So far, so good and I hope to maintain a regular exercise schedule as we head into the spring and summer months.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Awkward Conversations with Management

This afternoon my Group Manager (female) came up to me and said the following:

G.M.: Would you like to go speed dating on Monday?

Me: What?

G.M.: You heard me. Speed dating.

Me: Ummm, I already have plans on Monday night, so..

G.M.: I mean for the Division meeting. We are going to have people talk about their projects while others rotate around the tables.

Me: Oh, I guess that's okay then.

I was horrified for a good minute there. Context is very important in conversations.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire

Today after work Mel and I went to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the exhibit Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire. This is the first comprehensive retrospective of Salvador Dali's work ever to be staged in Australia and it brings together more than 200 of his works from throughout his career in all media including painting, drawing, watercolour, etchings, sculpture, fashion, jewellery, cinema and photography.

Dali's style transformed greatly throughout the years. It was almost overwhelming to see and try to digest all the various pieces in the exhibit. I hadn't realized how many different things he was involved in, including working with Alfred Hitchcock and even producing a line of jewellery. My favorite part though was being able to watch the work he did with Walt Disney in 1946 that was turned into the 2003 animated short film "Destino". If you are in Melbourne you should definitely check out the exhibit, which is open until October.

Monday, July 13, 2009

endota spa

Today after work I headed over to the endota spa on Flinders Lane to finally take advantage of the 60 minutes organic facial that I won at the trivia night a few months ago. It was a fantastic and relaxing experience. I got wrapped up in a blanket and then had a honey and rosehip facial as well as a scalp, neck and shoulder massage. This was the first time I have ever had a facial and I enjoyed every minute of it. I had various things massaged into my skin, hot towels and steam to open up my pores, and spritzes of scented water on my face. The neck and shoulder massage was just what I needed and really relaxed me. All in all it was excellent and I would definitely go back there to try out some other spa treatments.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Boat People and Hungry Kids Of Hungary

Continuing on for a second night of bands from Brisbane, Tash and I headed to The Tote in Collingwood last night to see Hungry Kids Of Hungary and The Boat People. Strangely enough, this was the first time I have ever set foot in this legendary Melbourne venue. There were supposed to be four bands on the bill, but when we arrived we saw the list only had three, which meant we had mistimed our arrival and therefore the start of Hungry Kids Of Hungary's set. I'm still disappointed about that. However, they were as fantastic as I was expecting them to be. We got to hear the new single "Old Money," which is up there as song of the year for me right now. They also played "Scattered Diamonds," "Set It Right," "Tell Me Twice," and "Lenny" as well as some new songs they are recording for an album. I adore their power pop songs and harmonies and look forward to seeing them live again in the future.

The Boat People also played a good set. I wasn't as familiar with their songs, but for some reason I still can't figure out, I do know a song off their first album called "Unsettle My Heart." They played songs from their two albums and some new material as well. "Awkward Orchid Orchard" got a good response from the crowd and two of the Hungry Kids came on stage for their final song of the night "Born In The 80s."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yves Klein Blue Album Tour

Last night I met up with Tash and Daniel at the Northcote Social Club for the sold out album launch for Yves Klein Blue. We got there for the last few songs of opening band Hoshi In The Clouds and got to hear their single "Panda Express." Next up was an entertaining set by Sydney's Philadelphia Grand Jury. They have an indie rock sound and a dedicated person was doing commentary and intros in between songs. "Going to the Casino" got a good crowd response and they finished their last song by handing their instruments to people in the crowd to play- guitar, bass, cymbal and keyboard! It was a unique ending.

It was great to see Yves Klein Blue again and I think they were really excited and touched to be playing to a sold out venue. They played songs from their debut album "Ragged & Ecstatic" including new single "Make Up Your Mind," "Getting Wise," "Summer Sheets," "Dinosaur," and "Queeny." We even got to hear "Blasphemy" from their first EP. The encore began with lead singer Michael Tomlinson solo on acoustic guitar for "About the Future" and then the rest of the band came back on and played a fantastic cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." The last song of the night was "Polka" which had the crowd singing and clapping along.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Good China Residency

Last night Tash and I met up at The Evelyn for the first week of The Good China's July residency. It was an evening of multi-instrumental bands with a large number of members. Starting off the evening was Icicle Melts in their first ever live show. Unfortunately, it showed. The band was just trying too hard to be avant-garde and none of the three vocalists could actually sing- let alone harmonize together. It was all a bit painful. Thankfully next on the stage was Plastic Palace Alice, who were fantastic. They are such good musicians and may have the best rhythm section in Melbourne. They played a few new songs as well as their classic "Empire Falls." Their guitarist also had on an 80s inspired outfit and was quite entertaining.

The Good China started off their set with "A Million Little Pieces." They have been busy in the studio recording their debut EP and each week at the residency they are playing a new song. This week we got "No More Maps, No More Roads" which was a great song. I really liked the way they have changed up the rhythm on the chorus of "Perversion For Profit" and "All Nothing" was a highlight of the night (Tash and I did the hand claps). It was good to see the Chinas live again and hopefully I'll make it to another show of the residency this month.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oh Mercy EP Launch

Last night Tash and I met up at The Toff in Town for the "In The Nude For Love" EP launch by Oh Mercy. The first act of the evening was Hoshi In The Clouds, who have a great dreamy, indie-pop sound. I really liked them, which is good because we'll be seeing them open up for a couple other bands in the upcoming weeks. The next act was Jessica Says. Classically trained singer Jessica Venables had a bit of a quirky voice and questionable fashion sense with her midriff top and skin tight leather pants.

Oh Mercy took to the stage to the sound of Australian birds, which played throughout the night in between songs. All the band members dressed up for the occasion in suit jackets and button down shirts, with Eliza in a white lace dress. Their months of touring have definitely paid off and all the songs sounded fantastic. We got a couple old songs as well as those on the "Seemed Like A Good Idea" single and new EP. Highlights were "Salvation Jane," "In My Stride," and "Needs A Woman." I am looking forward to the release of their debut album "Privileged Woes" in August (and more live shows).

After the gig I headed down to Curve Bar at The Arts Centre for the end of Danny and Ruth's engagement party. They had a big day with a formal family ceremony and lunch at a winery. It was nice to catch up with them as well as Michelle to hear about her recent trip to Africa.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien

This week was the debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. It is nice to have Conan back on tv after his few months away. I am glad that so many of the Late Night staff have made the move to Los Angeles, and it's great to have Andy Richter back on the show. The new Tonight Show set is gorgeous with its Art Deco style and provides a nice connection to Late Night, which was shot in the beautiful Art Deco building that is 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City.

There was a lot of debate about how Conan might have to change the show for an 11:30 p.m. audience, but it feels like the same old Conan to me. There have been lots of remote pieces this week, as well as the return of a revamped "In the Year 3000", the string dance, and even an appearance by graphic designer Pierre Bernard. The new Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band have grown to 8 members with the inclusion of James Wormworth on percussion (The Worm used to fill in for Max when he was on tour with Bruce Springsteen) and they have kept the old Late Night theme with some minor tweaking. It may take them some time to settle in and work out how to incorporate Andy into the show more fully, but overall I think they've made the transition well and I'm happy to be able to watch Conan again five nights a week.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Basics: Nice Harmonies. Nice Looks. Nice Lunch.

Last night Mel came over to my place and then we headed out for our evening on Lygon Street. We started with a delicious Italian dinner at Tiamo, and then dessert at Koko Black. Next it was off to the John Curtin Hotel and their recently opened bandroom to see The Basics.

The first band of the night was Sydney's Dead Letter Chorus. We were impressed with their indie/folk sound and they had a male and female trading off on lead singing duties. Next up was the alt-country stylings of The Wildes. They were good but played a lot of slow songs in their set before two more uplifting, faster tempo ones at the end.

The Basics hit the stage and began their hour long set with two brand new songs. Tim was sporting a stylish mustache he said was inspired by Ray Thistlewaite of Thirsty Merc. They played a fair amount of newer songs including "Home Again," "With This Ship," "Trouble in His Head," "She's the Executioner" and the latest single "Like a Brother." There were also some classics with "Money (Gimme, Gimme), " and the rarely heard "Three Cool Cats" and "Second Best." The encore included an acoustic start to "Rattle My Chain" and a cover of "Besame Mucho." Overall it was a good show although the vocals were too low in the mix up at the front of the stage.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Avenue Q

Tonight I met up with Ruth and Danny to see the Tony Award winning musical Avenue Q, which is opening in Australia for the first time. It is sort of a dirty version of Sesame Street with its mix of puppets and live actors. Here is the synopsis of the play:
AVENUE Q is the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He soon discovers that the only neighborhood in his price range is Avenue Q; still, the neighbors seem nice. There's Brian the out-of-work comedian and his therapist fiancée Christmas Eve; Nicky the good-hearted slacker and his roommate Rod -- a Republican investment banker who seems to have some sort of secret; an internet addict called Trekkie Monster; and a very cute kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate Monster. And would you believe the building's superintendent is Gary Coleman?!? (Yes, that Gary Coleman.) Their lives also intermingle with renowned nightclub singer, Lucy T Slut, and school principal, Mrs. Thistletwat. Together, Princeton and his new found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life.

The play was very funny with its assorted songs such as "Sucks to be Me," "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," and "The Internet is for Porn." The two leads Mitchell Butel and Michala Banas were fantastic and I was amazed they managed to play multiple puppets and voices at the same time. I thought I would end up focusing more on the actors than the puppets, but that wasn't the case. If you have a chance I highly recommend you check out Avenue Q- you won't be disappointed.
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