Easy evening in

Nothing like an evening in with some wine (2012 Greenock Creek Shiraz Seven Acre, thank you very much), opera (medici.tv starring Anna Netrebko, Elena Zhidkova, Jonas Kaufman, Thomas Hampson, Ildar Abdrazakob, again, thank you very much). Makes learning R programming all the more enjoyable.

Man, I miss good wine and opera. Not that I’m complaining about life Down Under…

Food for thought… what makes it right?

Food for thought. Just now, I noticed a Facebook post by some dude on a photography forum that I’m on. He was requesting feedback on an innocuous and frankly lovely picture of two girls in a meadow, but my eyes immediately jumped to his profile picture: an unapologetically bold Confederate flag. By the time I’d come across that post, there were already over 100 comments. Intrigued, I clicked to read.

As I’d expected, only a few of the comments actually related to his question about the photo of the two girls. Everyone else jumped on his “offensive” profile picture. One commentator noted: “… the confederate flag was used as a symbol of people who supported the institution of slavery. It also was and is STILL used to promote many racist organizations in the U.S. which makes it offensive to many people. You can’t display it and not expect many people to call you out on it. Freedom of speech is: the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint by the government. It doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with you and think you’re a bigot because of your choice to display the flag, or we can’t bitch about the fact that you use it as your avatar on social media. All free speech protects you from is the government making you take that down as your icon. Members of social media can still tell you that your choice of avatar is ignorant and offensive. And posting pics on a forum and asking for critique with that as your avatar is like going on American Idol dressed in a KKK robe wondering why the audience is booing you before you even get to sing.”

I ‘liked’ that comment. It made sense to me. I didn’t find the flag necessarily offensive, but it distracted me from critiquing his picture. I found myself wondering about his motivations. Then, I noticed that some of the commentators had profile pictures that they’d colored with Facebook’s ‘Celebrate Pride’ rainbow colors. And someone else called out one such commentator who had railed against the original poster’s poor choice of a profile picture: “xxx, you’ve got your flag in your profile pic, don’t judge yyy for his profile pic.”

Fair enough. Just because today, this week, the tide of opinion has turned against the Confederate flag and most everyone I know is celebrating SCOTUS’s ruling (finally, but big massive YAY!), doesn’t make one camp automatically wrong and the other right.

For the record, I get the argument that some people have made for their continued display of the Confederate flag. They had ancestors who had fought, bravely, in the Civil War, for what they had stood for. Not just to fight to keep slavery, because in the first place, that had not been the original intention of war. It’s too easy to paint everything in black and white; actual narratives do not typically fit so neatly into a box. HuffPost gave a more nuanced reason: “The war was fought over state’s rights and the limits of federal power in a union of states. The perceived threat to state autonomy became an existential one through the specific dispute over slavery. The issue was not slavery per se, but who decided whether slavery was acceptable, local institutions or a distant central government power. That distinction is not one of semantics: this question of local or federal control to permit or prohibit slavery as the country expanded west became increasingly acute in new states, eventually leading to that fateful artillery volley at Fort Sumter.”

It is most unfortunate that the KKK and other white supremacists have taken up that flag as their rallying symbol. But for all that, I think it a misstep for all these corporations to publicly pull sales of the flags from their stores, and especially for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to demand the removal of the flag from statehouse grounds. I believe it’s a wrong response. A cop out response. Why not address the real reason why all those people died? Why not go after the banning of guns? Why instead attack those who respect the Confederate flag for own non-racist related reasons?

Anyway, some random thoughts on a otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon.

Gourmet night in

imageOur friend Eric is visiting from the States, so this entire week, we’ve been eating out for dinner every night. To try compensate, I brought in lunch every day. Achievement unlocked! Hehe.

But tonight, we decided winter or no (which is really no considering how gorgeous the weather has been this week), we should give Eric the full Aussie experience and grill some dinner.

Since he was down at the Pyrmont Fish Market, he picked up a beautiful huge slab of barramundi. Jeff and I got some salad ingredients and sparkling wine by our local market. And boy oh boy, this meal matched some of the lux ones we’ve had this week!

The fish, marinated in soy, lemon, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and topped with freshly cracked black pepper, sea salt, ginger and onions, was divine. We wrapped it in foil and cooked it on the barbie. Greens with avocado and tomatoes on the side. Are the avocados in season right now! They were the most aromatic ones I’ve had! And a delightful lively sparkling from Yarra Valley.

So, cheers to good friends from afar, a beautiful (warm) winter day, delicious dinner and wine!

 

 

One week in

Just over a week into the new role. Everything is new, exciting. I am immensely curious and trying to absorb everything while trying to keep my thoughts organized. Feeling invigorated and grateful.

Penning this so I am continually reminded of how alive this feels.

Long Weekend up at Avoca Beach with friends

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All hail the queen! Hehe, thanks to her majesty’s birthday, we enjoyed a long weekend. Jeff’s boss let us use his beach house in Avoca Beach, so Jeff, P&S, and I drove up on Saturday afternoon.

S used to work part time as a chef years ago back when he was studying, so he designated himself head chef for the weekend. We were more than happy to comply: first rate lunches of salad and salmon (complete with crispy skin), and salad and steak, both of which we accompanied with wine.

It’s been a relaxing and fun getaway trip thus far. We went for a stroll post lunch yesterday, then watched the sunset before retreating indoors for movie night.

This morning, I woke up for the sunrise, then napped a bit while Jeff went for a run. Everyone then read or did some work till lunch.

Jeff and I even made it out to the water to try a bit of surfing. The waves here are bigger and more relentless than those we learned on in Hawaii, so it was mostly an hour and a half of getting slammed this way and that. But we both managed to get onto our knees and I even managed to stand a couple times for split seconds. Baby steps. Hehe.

Cherishing quiet moments like these. Especially since P&S will be moving all too soon!

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Kayak Netball

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On my last free afternoon, I joined a game of kayak netball. How hard could it be, I thought, even though I had never played before. After all, I fancied myself a pretty decent kayaker.

Man. The game was intense. Totally don’t have the stamina for the fast sprints towards the ball. And I have zero strategic sense. Hahah.

For all that – our team got roundly trashed – I had a blast. It was the best workout I’ve had in a really long time!

Definitely psyched to introduce the game to Jeff one of these weekends!

Looking ahead

Almost a half year in Sydney; how fast time flies!

New beginnings starting Tuesday. New job, new routine, new people, new friends. Somewhat nervous yes, but beyond excited.

It’s been a really educational and sometimes emotional experience looking for a new job. Initially, I had trouble even getting pings on my resume. But after many iterations, and many chats with different recruiters, the pings became more frequent. My delivery also became more focused, smoother. And as I honed in on my strengths, I developed a clearer idea of what I wanted to look for. Note to self: this is a really, really, really good exercise. It’s too easy to become comfortable, complacent, and lazy otherwise.

And so, as I look back, it’s been a good six months getting used to life in Sydney. The remote working forced me up at odd hours yes, but it also afforded me opportunities to explore Sydney and its surrounds in the evenings, at sunsets. I’ve had lots of fun experimenting with camera techniques, and just practicing my photography skills in general.

Here’s to another amazing half of 2015!

One week in Maui

We recently got back from Maui, Hawaii. It was in part for a wedding, in part an excuse for a family vacation, and in part to satiate our diving craving.

Initially, I was nervous. Would everyone have fun? Or would everyone be left dissatisfied because we had to compromise on activities that suited everyone?

In the end, my anxieties were vastly misplaced. Everything worked out. Jeff and I managed some incredible diving before everyone else arrived. Our night dive at Makena Landing Point was standout: 17 turtles in one cave, a half dozen eels, some crabs – including one feasting on uni.

When my parents arrived, we saw a most breathtaking sunrise from the top of the Haleakala Crater, then took a helicopter ride along the coast of West Maui and Molokini in the afternoon. We also took a canoe outrigger outfitted with a sail out along Wailea, and managed a bit of snorkeling where we saw two turtles.

When Joe and his parents arrived, we snuck in a snorkel trip in the morning while his parents rested. It was my mum and Joe’s first time properly snorkeling, and they had an incredible time. Our guide, Ed Robinson, helped put them at ease and stayed with them the entire time while Jeff, my dad and I kind of did our own thing. We managed to spot a white mouth moray and an octopus too!

We also managed an afternoon drive along the road to Hana. Didn’t quite make it there though, but we did enough of the windy turns to give everyone a flavor of the tropical rainforests that hugged the east coast of Maui.

And we even tried surfing. Including my dad! We were lucky the waves were quite gentle, so it was relatively easy to get up on the board. Itching to go back out on the water again now, but not so much that we want to brave the more frigid waters in Sydney as we head into winter. Hehe.

Then it was to A&G’s wedding. It was a beautiful day to get married. It had rained the night before, so the morning was fresh and dewy. The ceremony was on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and lunch was a fantastic feast of seafood. We caught up with K&D who had flown out from Chicago too, which was fun.

And then, all too soon, the trip was over. But what a fun week!

Pictures here.

Mid week Middle Harbor Paddle

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Took advantage of the fact that while I still have odd working hours that leaves my day free, I joined a meetup group for a bit of a paddle around Middle Harbor.

Another brilliant fall day. It was a bit nippy on the water, with persistent winds. I was lucky to snag one of the two sit-in kayaks though, and could shelter my legs from the cold.

It was fun to explore a new lagoon. Maybe next time, we would be able to paddle further out beyond Spit Bridge!

Bondi to Maroubra Walk

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Cloudless blue sky sort of day on Saturday. The sort of day where you don’t want to coop yourself indoors; shouldn’t. We had a plethora of enticing activities to choose from the various meetup groups we’re on the listhost of. Urban photography downtown? Kayaking? Or one of the many walking options? In the end, we decided to go on the Bondi to Maroubra walk, since I actually haven’t been when conditions are so perfect.

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Great day for a walk – the temperatures was cool, but the sun warming on the skin, so much so that we stared longingly at the rock pools and beaches, wishing we could go for a bit of a dip. The company was fun too. We had maybe 20 walkers, and we had the opportunity to chat to a number of them as we strolled along the coast, from crowded Bondi to the relatively quiet Maroubra.