“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” - Voltaire
This very difficult week fortunately has passed and I can look forward to some relaxation at the weekend to recover. We have had a staff development retreat as well as a two-day workshop, where 45 of our academic staff have attended from all over the nation. Fortunately all went well and they gave very positive feedback about their attendance. All was organised very well and I have had some great help from my colleagues. As well as that, we have had the book launch, we had a group of 40 Korean students come in for a short course, had to entertain some business contacts from the USA and in the midst of all of this, a family member had to have a minor operation, which fortunately went well also.
Last Monday night my boss took us (the American business contacts, two directors and me) out to dinner. We went to a restaurant in one of the Melbourne lanes, called “Gingerboy”. It is located at 27 Crossley St, off Bourke St in the City and the style of food served is inspired by Southeast Asian very genteel street cuisine. The food was delicious and while spicy, never terribly hot, very tasty, sometimes surprising and always extremely well presented.
The restaurant has a wonderful ambience and the décor is very modern, yet draws on classic Asian materials and themes. Bamboo and rich red fabric feature prominently, but there are some surprises. For example, the bamboo-screened walls and ceiling are lit with hundreds of tiny lights giving the appearance of a starry sky. The tables are wooden and there are some interesting light fittings that are Asian retro (like something out of the “World of Suzie Wong”). There is a bustling vivacious feeling in the place but at the same time there is warmth and intimacy. Our guests loved the place in terms of both food and décor.
What did we have? Well the restaurant prides itself on banquet-style food presentation with much sharing occurring on each table. Theoretically, we had three courses with entrées, mains and desserts served. For entrées, we chose the following:
• Son-in-law eggs with chili jam and Asian herbs
• Coconut chicken salad with chili, green beans, peanuts and mango
• Blue swimmer crab wontons, nuoc cham with beanshoot salad
• Spring Bay scallops with smoked chili and black bean dressing
• Crispy chili salt cuttlefish with lemon and roasted sesame
• Steamed wagyu and bamboo dumplings, cashew chilli soy
• Duck san choi bao with water chestnuts and lup cheong
• Deep-fried spicy corn fritters.
The main course selections were:
• Roasted kingfish in banana leaf with lemongrass and ginger curry
• Red duck leg curry, shallots, Thai basil and coconut cream
• Spicy Penang chicken curry with turmeric, garlic and mint yoghurt
• Slow roasted lamb with jungle curry, sweet potato and kang kong
• Steamed jasmine rice
We then shared dessert platters which included:
• Cinnamon sugared battered banana fritters with baileys ice cream
• Tofu cheese cake with panadan jelly, poached apple and dried mandarin
• Toasted coconut slice with spiced strawberry, lychee and fresh mint
• Steamed lemongrass pudding with white chocolate and chili ice cream
• Raspberry and passionfruit splice with mint jelly
We drank some excellent Semillon Blanc with our meal and I must admit that I was very impressed with the cuisine and especially (this is saying something for an Asian restaurant!) the desserts, which were the biggest pleasant surprise for me. Asian restaurants are not renowned for their desserts and what little they have (banana fritters, ice cream or lychees, usually) are terrible. Gingerboy’s desserts were delectable and certainly ended an excellent meal with a bang, not a whimper!
Price-wise, the restaurant is not cheap, but certainly good value. For a three-course meal, allow $100 per person, including wine. Much of the fun comes from going there with friends and ordering lots of different dishes, so that each person samples a large variety of different dishes as we did in a dégustation-type dinner. I recommend this restaurant most highly, so if you are in Melbourne try it out!
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” - John Ruskin
We have had some very warm weather over the past week, but this afternoon, a storm came over the City and suddenly we had thunder, lightning as well as tens of millimetres of rain being dumped on the City. It was quite amazing to see the afternoon becoming dark and the dark clouds to roll in while suddenly the rain fell and fell. I watched from my office window and observed the pedestrians rushing for shelter, trying to avoid getting more wet. The lightning and thunder caused quite a disruption, but not as much as a lightning bolt that crashed just across the street from my office, attracted by the lighting rod on its tall roof, no doubt.
Flash flooding is certain to have occurred and I think there would have been numerous emergency calls to the fire brigade and the state emergency service. It’s rained on and off since then and trying to get home on the public transport was rather chaotic as trains had been cancelled or greatly delayed. My train was delayed for about 20 minutes and when I finally managed to get on it we were packed in like sardines. Fortunately everyone was quite good-humoured despite the delay and the over-crowding. It was a shared adverse experience and a feeling of fellowship prevailed.
Our water reservoirs that supply Melbourne with water are 35.6% full and we are all hoping for some more decent falls of rain to top those dams up. It is interesting to note that in 1997, our dams were 95% full at the same time of the year. Many more interesting water facts are to be found in the Melbourne Water website, a website I tend to visit often, if nothing else to check on the storage levels of our dams.
I can still hear the falling and have the urge to go out in the garden and stand under the falling droplets, letting it saturate me! There is such a blessing in the falling rain and looking at the green, green garden getting soaked is an especially beautiful sight. Tomorrow we are expecting a maximum temperature of about 22˚C, a welcome relief after the days in the mid-30s we ahev experienced.
weather |ˈweðər| noun
The state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat, cloudiness, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc: If the weather's good, we can go for a walk.
• A report on such conditions as broadcast on radio or television.
• Cold, wet, and unpleasant or unpredictable atmospheric conditions; the elements: Stone walls provide shelter from wind and weather.
• [as adj. ] Denoting the side from which the wind is blowing, esp. on board a ship; windward: The weather side of the yacht. Contrasted with lee.
verb [ trans. ]
1 Wear away or change the appearance or texture of (something) by long exposure to the atmosphere: [trans. ] His skin was weathered almost black by his long outdoor life | [as adj. ] (weathered) Chemically weathered rock.
• [ intrans. ] (of rock or other material) Be worn away or altered by such processes: The ice sheet preserves specimens that would weather away more quickly in other regions.
• [usu. as n. ] ( weathering) Falconry Allow (a hawk) to spend a period perched on a block in the open air.
2 Come safely through (a storm).
• Withstand (a difficulty or danger): This year has tested industry's ability to weather recession.
• Sailing (of a ship) Get to the windward of (a cape or other obstacle).
3 Make (boards or tiles) overlap downward to keep out rain.
• (in building) Slope or bevel (a surface) to throw off rain.
In all weathers: In every kind of weather, both good and bad.
Keep a weather eye on: Observe very carefully, esp. for changes or developments.
Under the weather informal: Slightly unwell or in low spirits.
ORIGIN Old English weder, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weer and German Wetter, probably also to the noun wind.
“We grow gray in our spirit long before we grow gray in our hair.” - Charles Lamb
Dredging the old journals once again to find this poem from my youth. Romance seemed so fresh then, now the palate is jaded somewhat and seeks more piquant tastes.
Falling in Love
Your mouth a flower
A sweet flower full of nectar.
Your mouth a trap, a spider sitting on its web.
A spider waiting for a victim
And I, a weak incautious butterfly
That flies, hovers and falls
Into your fatal mesh.
Your eyes double suns shine,
Transmitting rays of light effulgent,
Attracting me to their deadly fires.
The suns hot and indifferent,
And I, a moth, helpless, impotent
Who flies there itself to immolate,
Without alternative or choice.
Your arms green branches
Of the greenwood tree
They seem benign, innocent.
Your hands offer caresses
But in the end mete out death.
A little sparrow I, fly into the darkness
Only to perish immobile in your birdlime
“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” - William Faulkner
Another very busy and very long day today at work. Our staff development workshop is progressing very well and everyone is getting much out of it. There is quite lively discussion and much debate, there is a great deal of group activity, sharing of experiences and inspiration to go and apply in the classroom what has been shared. My presentation was well received and I suspect it made people think a little. That is more than one can hope for in such a forum.
In the evening we had our book launch. There were three books presented, my own textbook of pathology and the medical dictionary that I was working on for the past two years, as well as another textbook on remedial massage, a collaborative work of my colleagues. The function was well-attended with about a hundred people present. Everyone was most complimentary, the wine and the food were very good and the speaker was exceptional.
Our launch speaker was Dr Howard Goldenberg who is a general practitioner and who has written two books. They are personal books about matters that touch the heart. He is in his early 60s and started writing only five years ago. The reasoning for each book is simple. The first book, “My Father’s Compass” is about his father. “He died. I loved him. That’s all.” The second “Raft” is about Aboriginal Australia. “I like people,” he says, “and I like trying to help.” Dr Goldenberg has worked in Aboriginal health in outback towns and remote communities since 1991.
He lives in Melbourne and works as a GP, plus a night a week at the Royal Children’s Hospital. However, about four times a year he goes off for a couple of weeks to somewhere such as Alice Springs, Katherine, Leigh Creek, Elcho Island or Balgo. These experiences of his in remote locations while trying to help people who live in extreme need exemplify what a doctor is and how he can change society for the better. I admire and respect him as a fine human being.
Today was an exhausting but extremely satisfying day. Spent with my colleagues, engaging them in all sorts of activities that exercised their mind and intellect, socialising with them and joking, laughing, sharing stories and experiences. Catching up with some old friends and colleagues and meeting some new people who are doing their bit to make the world a better place to live in. I thank providence for granting me bountifully all of these positive experiences. The opportunities are there for each of us to take advantage of, we just have to work at it in order to achieve what we want.
I’ve had a 16 hour work day today, going in to work at 6:30 am and not getting home until after 10 p.m. We have a staff development workshop and about 50 of our academics from all over the nation have travelled to Melbourne to attend the three-day workshop. I’ve had a couple of presentations to do, but also there was a lot of organisational matters to attend to. Thankfully my PA was at hand and she was able to assist quite a great deal, as were some of my colleagues that I work with on a daily basis. On the whole, the day was very successful and there was a plethora of positive comments about day one of the workshop. I don’t mind hard work as long as it’s appreciated and my goals are achieved. Today thankfully was one of those days!
Yesterday we watched an interesting film. It was a 1999 film, directed by Eric Valli, and French/Swiss/British/Nepalese co-production. The movie was called “Himalaya – l’ Enfance d’ Un Chef” (Himalayas – The Childhood of a Chief), or simply Himalayas, its short title. This is a road movie with a difference. It is set in a remote Himalayan village where life still follows the traditions that are hundreds if not thousands of years old. It is a simple tale of a salt-traders’ caravan that tries to make its way through treacherous terrain in order to reach a neighbouring village where their rock salt will be traded for wheat. Add to that intertribal rivalry, the challenging of the authority of the council of elders by the young and rebellious group of chief wannabes, as well as a tale of a special relationship between a grandfather and his grandson.
The film is exotic and remote, the language is strikingly foreign and the faces wildly beautiful, but at the bottom of the rather simple storyline there are emotions and feelings that are shared with even the most “civilised” of us that watch it. Add to that a superb musical score with some wonderful vocals an stunning scenery that adds to the film and epic quality and you have an engaging human drama that draws you into this foreign and yet strangely familiar world.
There is humour and pathos, magnificence and triteness, strangeness and familiarity all blended into one. The actors are non-professionals whose performance is simply superb, and the expressiveness of their faces is enough to carry across the nuances of emotion their characters demand.
If you can lay your hands on it, try and watch it as it is a gem of a movie. It is inspiring and touching, sad and uplifting at the same time.
“When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’ ” - Howard Ikemoto
For Art Sunday today, French artist of the 18th century. Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, (1699-1779), one of the greatest painters of the 18th century, whose genre and still life subjects immortalised the life of the Paris bourgeoisie of the time. Simple still lives and unsentimental domestic interiors were amongst his favourite subjects. His paintings use restrained and muted tones and there is a great ability to render textures. His unusual abstract compositions had great influence at the time.
Chardin was born in Paris, November 2, 1699, the son of a cabinetmaker. He was largely self-taught, but was strongly influenced by 17th-century Dutch masters such as Metsu and de Hooch. Like them, he devoted himself to simple subjects and common themes. His lifelong work in this deceptively style contrasted greatly with the epic historical subjects and light-hearted rococo scenes that were the mainstream of art during the mid-18th century.
Chardin was admitted to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1728 on the basis of two early still life paitings, “The Skate” and “The Buffet” (both 1728, in the Louvre, Paris). In the 1730s, he began to paint scenes of everyday life in bourgeois Paris. These are characterised by subdued colours and mellow lighting, and they celebrate the beauty of their commonplace subjects and project an of honest domesticity and intimacy. Chardin’s technical skill gave his paintings a very realistic texture. He rendered forms by means of light by using thick, layered brushstrokes and thin, luminous glazes. He was called the grand magician by critics, and he achieved a mastery in still life painting unequalled by any other 18th-century painter. Chardin's early support came from aristocratic patrons, including King Louis XV. He later gained a wider popularity when engraved copies of his works were produced. He turned to pastels in later life when his eyesight began to fail. Unappreciated at the time, these pastels are now highly valued. Chardin died in Paris, December 6, 1779.
Here is his “Still Life with Attributes of the Arts” of 1766.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.