Spontaneous changes in meal planning can have a great result, especially if it involves pork

Spontaneous changes in meal planning can have a great result, especially if it involves pork

Today’s breakfast. Green eggs and ham Benedict from Ricardo’s Cafe and Patisserie

Hello there. It’s been a quiet week. Not boring by any stretch but there’s not much to write about. I also haven’t been walking around to shoot many photographs. Hopefully, when the days get cooler and there are less flies around Lake Ginninderra I’ll get out more.

I’ve been enjoying each new day and getting into a groove and routine again after the Christmas New Year break.

As the week progressed, it got hot and dry in Canberra. I don’t mind the temperature rising I just want the humidity to rise with it. I’ve been using a humidifier in the flat to stop my skin from drying out. I only turned the air conditioner on on Friday evening because it got to 38 °C during the day. I feel for my friends in other parts of Australia where the maximum temperature peaked above 42 °C. I’m jealous of my friends in the Top End and FNQ where the temperatures are much more temperate and the humidity much more comfortable.

Coffee revelation and a low carb tip

So I’m living a low carb life and most mornings I will have a black coffee to kick start my brain and get moving. From time to time, it is nice to have a white coffee but I don’t keep any milk in the flat. This week I started adding a couple of teaspoons of pouring cream, noting the carbohydrate load is minimal (<1 gram). It’s like a revelation. The coffee tastes great. One morning I also added a couple of drops of peppermint flavouring and that coffee with cream was really nice. I think I can do this more often.

Weight update

I’ve hit a plateau and to be honest despite desire, I haven’t really committed to breaking the 79-kilogram barrier. It’ll happen but it may take some time.

Completing my work move


When the flags go up all is good. I’m surprised most people don’t know these flags. It shows people don’t know me that well.

Do you know these flags?

Queensland and Northern Territory flags Northern Territory and Australian flags


A workmate has entrusted me with a plant. I hope it doesn’t die.

Planning for the new podcast

What will the Yummy Lummy Cooking for One Podcast cover?

I plan to cover recipes, meal planning and reviews. The reviews will range from products, foods and if I can get out and about restaurants.

Writing draft episodes or shows

I’ve written the outline for three shows now and hope to get a couple more done before I start recording next month.

Should there be a YouTube component?

I’m in two minds about this. I could make it a VLOG, but really I think in terms of YouTube I’ll probably focus on recording how I cook dishes that get posted as recipes on the blog.

I’m happy to take suggestions from readers.

Pork belly for the win

Twitter made me do it

Click on the bluebird and check out the conversation with Ubrmthr

Photographs of pork rashers

Pork belly with stir-fried kale slaw

Vegemite and chicken thigh meat

Click on the photograph and read the blog post about how I made this.

Chicken thigh fillet stuffed with Vegemite and cheese served with horseradish beetroot slaw

This week in food


Crispy skinned baked salmon with fennel salad


Roasted chicken thigh and a Queensland Maroons stubby cooler
Roast chicken thigh and fennel salad


The weight loss journey continues with protein for lunch
Chicken wings with avocado and fennel salad


Leftover spicy nutty chicken and kale slaw stir-fry
Pork belly with stir-fried kale slaw


Hot chips and gravy covering a chicken schnitzel
Chicken thighs and sweet corn


Crisy bacon and poached eggs with coffee
Pork belly Vietnamese salad from Rôll’d
Chicken thigh fillet stuffed with Vegemite and cheese served with horseradish beetroot slaw


Australia Day

This Friday is a public holiday. I’m hoping to eat well but who knows. I’m not sure what I’ll be eating.

Focussing on food blogging and enjoying a Bânh mì

Rôll'd Vietnamese Food Gary Lum food blogging

Rôll’d opened in Westfield Belconnen

On Saturday, Rôll’d Vietnamese opened in Westfield Belconnen. There was a good crowd at lunchtime. I wanted to suspend my low carb life for a Bânh mì. I chose a pork belly sandwich with extra 🌶 and a bottle of water. The baguette was nice, the pork was tender and the spicy flavours were really nice. I know there are better custom-made Vietnamese sandwich bars in Canberra, but the convenience of Rôll’d will likely win me over I reckon.

Rôll'd Vietnamese Food Gary Lum food blogging

Rôll’d Bânh Mì wrapped food blogging

Rôll’d pork belly Bânh mì food blogging
Rôll’d pork belly Bânh mì

Sick relative update

My sick relative was discharged from hospital on Friday after five weeks as an inpatient. After a major surgical procedure, post-operative complications including an ileus and a metabolic acidosis with a pH of 7 followed by ICU and then rehabilitation, my relative is now home and feeling better but still very weak. Thanks, everyone who reached out and expressed concern.

Weight update

It’s been a week of little movement and hovering around the 80 kg mark, getting as low as 79 kg and as high as 80.7 kg. I’m not too concerned, although I still need to lose more kilograms. I’m feeling better and moving better so I’m pretty happy.

Dobinsons Bakery Westfield Belconnen

I’ve been enjoying the coffee here and I’m steadily getting through the coffee card. I wonder if I’ll be allowed to have a vanilla slice as my ‘free’ cake?

Dobinsons coffee card food blogging

Dobinsons breakfast wraps food blogging

Dobinsons pies food blogging

New hat and shirt

I bought a new shirt and received a free hat from Brainstorm Gear. I now have Star Trek pyjamas and socks as well as some shirts and a hat.

Me in my new Star Trek hat and shirt Gary Lum food blogging
Me in my new Star Trek hat and shirt 🖖

Food this week

Baked cheesy spam and poached eggs

Baked Spam and cheese with poached eggs splashed with Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces food blogging
Baked Spam and cheese with poached eggs splashed with Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces

Scrambled eggs splashed with Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces

Scrambled eggs splashed with Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces food blogging
Scrambled eggs splashed with Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces


Spice and nut crusted chicken breast with vegetables

Spicy nut crusted chicken breast and cheesy cream stir-fried salad food blogging
Spicy nut crusted chicken breast and cheesy cream stir-fried salad

Coffee and doughnuts at the Canberra Hospital and Health Services

coffee food blogging

doughnuts food blogging
I resisted the temptation

Scrambled eggs and baked spam

Scrambled eggs with spam and Worcestershire sauce food blogging
Scrambled eggs with spam and Worcestershire sauce

Chicken thigh and Coke Zero

To lose weight I’ve been eating chicken thighs for lunch

My view while preparing to eat my lunch food blogging
My view while preparing to eat my lunch

Lunch with a friend at the Hellenic Club

On Wednesday I had lunch with a friend. I even arranged car parking for him.

Hellenic Club car park food blogging

Chicken breast schnitzel with chips and gravy

Chicken schnitzel with chips with gravy food blogging
Chicken schnitzel with chips with gravy

Bacon and avocado salad

Bacon and avocado kale stir-fry with horseradish cream food blogging
Bacon and avocado kale stir-fry with horseradish cream

Gifts from workmates

I love when friends give me food. This is a macaron shell.

Macaron biscuit from a friend food blogging

Baked pork rashers and vegetables

Cooked in a Microwave pressure cooker and then baked with cream and cheese.

Pork rashers and creamy cheesy vegetables food blogging
Pork rashers and creamy cheesy vegetables

Smashed avocado with a tin of salmon and some celery

The avocado was smashed with sour cream, lime juice, chilli flakes, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces.

Smashed avocado, tinned salmon and celery food blogging
Smashed avocado, tinned salmon and celery

Crispy skinned salmon

Crispy skinned salmon with cheesy cream cauliflower, pumpkin and food blogging Crispy skin salmon and beetroot salad food blogging

Whisky flavoured chicken and blue cheese casserole on Yummy Lummy

Click on the drawing and you’ll be taken to the recipe

Whisky flavoured casserole drawn by Gary Lum food blogging
Whisky flavoured casserole drawn by Gary Lum

First week back at work

Focussing on food blogging

During the week I was informed that my blogging and podcasting about health and medical matters could be perceived as a conflict of interest.

After getting to 💯 episodes I’ve removed the posts and media files from the Medical Fun Facts Podcast and will now focus on food blogging at Yummy Lummy.

My other website has also been enjoying a clean out. Given that site is a Squarespace site I’m thinking of using it as a portfolio site for some photography. I’m not sure yet. I still want to podcast, and I’m thinking it will be about cooking meals for one.

Name my podcast

Not many people know that the name Yummy Lummy was suggested to me by a work mate. If I start a podcast, I’m wondering what I should call it. My first thought was something like, “The Yummy Lummy cooking for one podcast”. What do you think? Can you suggest anything better?

My other thought is to somehow incorporate a low carb aspect to the name. It may need to incorporate “❌CHO” as a shortcut for low carbohydrate.

I would like to start a podcast as part of my food blogging at Yummy Lummy.

Food blogging thoughts

With a renewed focus on food blogging, please let me know what suggestions you may have. I’m keen to get any thoughts and ideas.

I’m thinking of putting together an e-book of low carb recipes and providing an audio version of it too.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

First week back at work

Canberra Hospital and Health Services tuck shop Vanilla slice First week back Gary Lum

First week back at work

In the last post I mentioned that in 2018, I want to be more consistent with this diary blog. The aim is to post weekly and share the highlights of every week.

Like the first week of January for many people, it’s a quiet one. Many people are still on holiday or vacation and many workplaces use the time to prepare for the year ahead.

At the end of 2017, I was informed that I needed to relocate my workstation. I have returned to an area I’d previously worked in many years ago. I’m very happy. Normally, and I think this is true for many people, moving workstations is stressful and is a real hassle. This was no exception, but the thought of going ‘home’ made it much easier. It will be good to re-engage in some work that I haven’t focussed on for a while.

One of the nice things about my job is the regular opportunities to stretch into new areas of thinking. Health is really a great place to work.

The view from my workstation First week back Gary Lum

True Blue

To celebrate the return to work after an unexpected extended break I went to dinner on Tuesday night at the Canberra Southern Cross Club Jamison.

I went for the “True Blue” chicken schnitzel, it’s a standard chicken (breast) schnitzel with chips and salad plus caramelised onion, melted cheese, bacon and a fried egg. It’s a huge meal and the schnitzel itself is large. I also asked for a jug of Hollandaise sauce to make this a ‘Courtney’. The only thing that could make this better would be to use thigh meat rather than breast meat. I highly recommend this meal.

Chicken breast schnitzel with caramelised onion, melted cheese, bacon and a fried egg along with chips and salad and a serving of Hollandaise sauce. First week back Gary Lum
Chicken breast schnitzel with caramelised onion, melted cheese, bacon and a fried egg along with chips and salad and a serving of Hollandaise sauce.

Vanilla slice

The really big thing to happen was the publication of a vanilla slice review by Canberra media identity, Jolene Laverty. She published the review in “The Guardian” and she was kind enough to mention a Yummy Lummy vanilla slice review. It gave me a nice bump in my analytics. Please follow Jolene on Twitter @jolene_laverty

After having vanilla slice occupy my mind I was keen to enjoy one and when the opportunity presented itself at the Canberra Hospital and Health Services tuck shop (aka Zouki) on Friday when I work as an Honorary VMO in ACT Pathology.

This was a nice vanilla slice. The icing was a little thick but it had a subtle passionfruit tang to offset the sweetness of the icing sugar. The custard had a good vanilla flavour and was soft and not too full of gelatine. The pastry was fine, but because it was refrigerated and not room temperature, the pastry was a little stiff. Overall though the flavour was good and I’d be happy eating this again and again.

Canberra Hospital and Health Services tuck shop Vanilla slice First week back Gary Lum

Jolene’s kind mention of my review gave me a nice bump in views and visits.

Yummy Lummy statistics First week back Vanilla slice Gary Lum

Weight loss

My weight has fluctuated a little and it’s no surprise given the treats I’ve been indulging in like the vanilla slice on Friday plus a Guzman Y Gomez pulled pork burrito bowl after work. Then yesterday there was McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. I asked for six Nugs and received seven of them (plus sweet mustard sauce).

Pulled pork burrito bowl from Guzman Y Gomez First week back Gary Lum

McDonald’s McNuggets ‘Nugs’ First week back Gary Lum

The nadir this week has been 79 kg but this morning it was back up to 80.4 kg. I expect that reflects not only the extra carbs but also the significant amount of water I consumed yesterday. My evening meal was super hot and spicy and super salty, plus it got to about 38 °C (98.6 °F) yesterday so I was drinking iced water all day to keep hydrated in the awful dry oven-like heat of a Canberra summer. Give me the warm and sultry tropical summers of the Top End any day.

Dobinsons Bakery Cafe Belconnen

Dobinsons has been a Canberra institution in the Canberra Centre in the CBD for many years. A new store recently opened in Westfield Belconnen. I enjoyed a nice flat white coffee there. I look forward to my tenth so I can get a piece of cake.

Dobinsons coffee and coffee card First week back Gary Lum

Dobinsons Bakery Cafe on Swarm First week back Gary Lum

Yummy Lummy

Last night I made super hot and spicy chicken wings after watching Megatoad aka Matt Stonie eat sixty-five wings of varying heat and spiciness on his YouTube channel. Some of my podcasting friends were also talking about buffalo wings so I thought I should cook wings on a stinking hot night 😂

Check out the recipe at Yummy Lummy.

Blazing hot chilli and pepper nut crusted chicken wings ready for the oven First week back Gary Lum

Blazing hot chilli and pepper nut crusted chicken wings served on stir-fried kale and cabbage salad with French mustard and cream First week back Gary Lum

The Medical Fun Facts Podcast

Monday night’s show is about Xanthochromia in Cerebrospinal fluid. Have a listen if you want to know about why CSF can turn yellow. The show drops at 7 pm Canberra time on Monday night. The link to the show notes is https://medfunfacts.com

Xanthochromia in Cerebrospinal fluid CSF first week back Gary Lum Medical Fun Facts Podcast

I’ll never make it as a meal planner

Poor planning on my part led to some bizarre dinner combinations

Poor meal planning led to pork rashers, sweet corn and cauliflower first week back Gary Lum
Poor meal planning led to pork rashers, sweet corn and cauliflower
Bacon and poached eggs with pumpkin and avocado first week back Gary Lum
Bacon and poached eggs with pumpkin and avocado

Other morsels from my first week back

Celery and cheese first week back Gary Lum
Celery and cheese

Spam and eggs first week back Gary Lum

Crispy skinned baked salmon and kale salad stir-fry with French mustard. first week back Gary Lum
Crispy skinned baked salmon and kale salad stir-fry with French mustard.
Low carb lunch of roast chicken thigh and Coke Zero first week back Gary Lum
Low carb lunch of roast chicken thigh and Coke Zero

No 1206 2CC AM radio for a year

Mind the dust. I should have dusted before shooting the photograph.

No 2CC AM radio for a year

For nearly my entire adult life I’ve woken up in the morning and turned on the radio. When I was growing up in Brisbane it was 4QR (which is now better known as 612 ABC Brisbane). When I left home I listened to ABC’s Radio National mainly to get a more national perspective.

Between 1996 and 2007 in Darwin I listened to 8PNN (Parliamentary News Network) on the FM spectrum. It was a new news format and the presenters were interesting. It also pulled in feeds from the BBC (UK) and NPR (USA). I preferred it to Radio National which had a lot of boring programming that I couldn’t give a toss about. Mostly the music and arts stuff which held no interest for me.

Radio in Canberra

When I arrived in Canberra in September 2007 I thought I would change from ABC News Radio and try something local because I had little understanding of Canberra and the local scene. I first listened to 2CN (666 ABC Canberra). I can’t remember the host of the breakfast session but he was boring and uninteresting. Watching paint dry would have captured my attention better. Within a few days, I had switched to 2CC (1206 Talking Canberra). The breakfast host was Mike Jeffreys and he had a terrific rapport with the newsreader whose name was Jane. I liked the talkback format and being able to listen to what Canberra people had to say on various topics and issues of the day.

Mike Jeffreys was replaced by Mark Parton who brought a different style and approach. It took a while but I got used to Mark and we remain connected via Twitter. He’s a member of the ACT’s legislative assembly now so I avoid contact unless it’s purely social with no political dimension. Before Mark embarked on his political career he resigned and was replaced with Tim Shaw. Tim is a very well known personality in Australia), famous because of television advertising in the 1970s and 1980s. He’s a very capable and impressive breakfast radio host too. I grew to enjoy listening to him and his producer, Geoff Koop, as well as the various news readers on the program.

Up until 31 December 2016, I’d been happy waking up every morning, turning on the radio and listening in while I went about preparing for the day. Last year, I had a thought, what if I gave up something I was used to doing. What effect would it have on me? What could I give up?

I felt guilty giving up radio, it was like unfriending someone on Facebook or blocking someone on Twitter for no good reason at all. When 01 January 2017 clicked over, I didn’t touch the radio in the morning. Not even in the car driving to work. I haven’t listened to breakfast radio for an entire year.

I have listened to radio though during the day but it’s only been the Parliamentary News Network when the Australian Parliament has been sitting and when something I’m working on or interested in is being debated by politicians. Otherwise, radio is pretty much dead to me.

What effect has this had on my life?

The immediate effect was the silence. The only noise was from the kettle or food sizzling in a frying pan. The sound of water when I wet my toothbrush, the sound of water in the shower, and the sound of the toilet flushing. Otherwise there was silence. It was strangely peaceful. I felt more peaceful and relaxed.

I found I got through my morning tasks more quickly. I found I was arriving at work earlier because I was ready earlier. Rather than listen to the radio when driving to work, I listened to podcasts. Sometimes, I would drive with nothing playing, no radio, no music, no podcasts and no audio books. It gave me time to contemplate things. Contemplate life. Contemplate my day. Sometimes I found that depressing, other times it was nice to day dream about something I’d like to happen.

Will I go back to morning radio?

No, this year has been a revelation. I’ve enjoyed the time saving and the learning from podcasts. That’s not to say I’ll never listen to talk back radio again. When I’m 70 I will retire to the life of a curmudgeon. I look forward to insomnia and listening to the radio all night and calling in and arguing with the host and criticising others. I have opinions and when I’m free from various workplace codes of conduct I look forward to letting loose.

What else happened this week?

My ill relative has begun a slow recovery after some initial postoperative complications. The road to full recovery will require inpatient rehabilitation and then a lot of work at home to regain fitness and mental agility.

I returned to Canberra this week and missed being in Brisbane immediately on landing. It was good spending some time with my daughters in Brisbane and other close family members. It was also good being able to get around in shorts, T-shirt and thongs the whole time.

A week in Brisbane

The Last Jedi

I went and saw the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise. I really enjoyed it. It will certainly make episode 9 in the series very interesting.

The weight situation

The good news is that while I was in Brisbane I could maintain my low carb lifestyle even though I was also cooking for someone else too. When I measured my mass on Thursday morning after returning to Canberra, my mass had not changed. Better yet, on Friday morning, I measured myself at 79.9 kilograms. I’d temporarily broken through the 80-kilogram barrier. Of course, on Saturday and Sunday after some indulging, my weight was >80 kilograms. The trend remains though in the right direction.

What have I been eating this week?

Celery sticks

Celery and cheese products are a nice refreshing low carb snack.

Celery and cream cheese
Celery and cream cheese
Celery with salmon and avocado with a little cream cheese
Celery with salmon and avocado with a little cream cheese


Cheese and herb omelettes are a great breakfast as are poached eggs with crispy bacon and avocado. It’s also hard to beat scrambled eggs made with just eggs and butter.

Cheese and herb omelet
Cheese and herb omelet
Cheesy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon
Cheesy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon
Relaxing Sunday breakfast. Poached eggs, crispy bacon and avocado.
Relaxing Sunday breakfast. Poached eggs, crispy bacon and avocado.

Crusted salmon and chicken

I’ve become quite a fan of encrusting salmon and chicken with a dry rub made from crushed nuts, iodised salt, black peppercorns, chilli flakes, paprika and onion powder.

Chilli crusted salmon with stir-fried kale coleslaw with horseradish cream
Chilli crusted salmon with stir-fried kale coleslaw with horseradish cream
Herb and seed crusted salmon with stir-fried kale coleslaw with horseradish cream
Herb and seed crusted salmon with stir-fried kale coleslaw with horseradish cream
Spicy nut crusted Chicken Maryland with pumpkin and cauliflower with cheese
Spicy nut crusted Chicken Maryland with pumpkin and cauliflower with cheese


Because I’m now a first degree relative of someone who has had carcinoma of the bowel, I’ll cut down the amount of red meat but every once and a while I’ll enjoy steak. I crusted this one with crushed Queensland nuts, almonds, iodised salt, black peppercorns, chilli flakes, paprika and onion powder.

Chilli, herb and nut crusted rib-eye fillet steak with kale salad stir-fried with horseradish cream
Chilli, herb and nut crusted rib-eye fillet steak with kale salad stir-fried with horseradish cream

Christmas lunch

I’ve posted about Christmas lunch elsewhere but it was too good not to show again.

Special Christmas tool for crushing nuts
Special Christmas tool for crushing nuts
Roast lamb, roast chicken, king prawns, pumpkin, onion, and coleslaw
Christmas lunch. Roast lamb, roast chicken, king prawns, pumpkin, onion, and coleslaw.
Pavlova with whipped cream and mango
Pavlova with whipped cream and mango


I’m letting myself have the occasional milk-based coffee. It’s so good.

Flat white coffee
Flat white coffee

Double shot latte

Treats and temptations

When I broke through 80 kilograms I had six nugs (McDonald’s McNuggets) and blogging friend Mabel tempted me on Instagram to have a bucket of KFC popcorn chicken. I didn’t go a bucket, just a regular box.

Nugs or McNuggets from McDonalds

Nugs or McNuggets from McMcDonald’s

KFC popcorn chicken
KFC popcorn chicken

A mistake not to be repeated

On Saturday I felt like making myself a refreshing drink. I had some frozen strawberries and mint. I also had some bird’s eye chillies. I’ve been eating these chillies pretty regularly lately so it didn’t dawn on me that putting them into a drink would be a problem. I’ve been eating at least two a day with dinner for a few months and have enjoyed the extra flavour these small chillies add to my meals.

I had not thought that adding two raw bird’s eye chillies and blending them into a drink would intensify the heat. OMG, I was in extraordinary pain for 30 minutes. My lips and tongue swelled, they became a bright red and they felt like they were raw and on fire. I treated the pain by applying ice wrapped in a washcloth to my lips.

Never make the mistake I made. Chilli mint strawberry drink.
Never make the mistake I made. Chilli mint strawberry drink.

Last supper before 2018

I wanted a Moreton Bay Bug Thenus orientialis but had to make do with lobster.

I cooked a piece of Chicken Maryland in the oven and served it with some stir-fried kale salad mixed in with the lobster meat and flavoured with horseradish cream and Dijon mustard.

Chicken Maryland with lobster and Queensland nut kale salad with horseradish cream
Chicken Maryland with lobster and Queensland nut kale salad with horseradish cream

Resolutions for 2018?

Do I have any resolutions for 2018? Not really. I hope to stabilise my weight around 77 kilograms. I hope to see my daughters more often in 2018. I hope to be a better public servant and work harder. I hope to increase my professional development as a pathologist and attend a couple of relevant conferences.

I also hope to be more consistent with blogging and podcasting. I’d like to see this diary blog maintain a steady weekly schedule. I’m keen to see the Medical Fun Facts Podcast grow its audience. I also hope this year to add some more reviews to Yummy Lummy.

The Medical Fun Facts Podcast episode 99

The show drops on Monday night, 01 January 2018, at 7 pm Canberra time.

A week in Brisbane

A week in Brisbane

A few weeks ago, at the beginning of December, I wasn’t expecting to spend the end of 2017 in Brisbane. In my mind, I was attending a WHO meeting in Lyon, returning to work for fours days, and then spending a week in Canberra between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day enjoying some warmth and a little humidity.

Lyon to Canberra

That was until a close relative needed to have a colonoscopy which revealed a significant malignant tumour requiring immediate surgery. Then there were complications of the surgery which meant a long spell in intensive care which will need to be followed by time in rehabilitation.

I’m now in Brisbane helping to care for relatives.

The bright side

As is my want, I will try to spend part of my conscious living focussing on the positive aspects of this situation. I will be spending time with family. I will an opportunity to spend some time with my daughters. I will be in my hometown (Brisbane). It will be warm and not hot like Canberra. It will be humid and not dry like Canberra.

I think I’ve written this before and my closest friends know this too, I love warm weather, I don’t like hot weather. Anywhere between 28 and 32 °C is fine by me. In Summer, up to 34 °C is tolerable. Anything >34 °C is not what I regard as pleasant. Certainly, Tuesday’s 39 °C in Canberra would have been horrible.

In addition, through social media and messaging apps, I can continue to stay in contact with IRL and online friends who I rely on to keep me in good spirits. You know who you are JM, FC, SGM, BCM… 😃👍😁

Working remotely

One of the nice things about modern work as a public servant is the capability to work remotely. So long as I have a 4G connection, I can check e-mail and if I go to a shopping mall, I can use the free Wi-Fi to get deeper into the work IT system so I can access files and other areas of the network.

QF1546 waiting on the tarmac in Canberra

Airport coffee, waiting for my flight to Brisbane

Weight situation

Would you believe my weight didn’t go up while I was away in Lyon? I ate croissants for breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea and occasionally dinner. I also ate cream and custard-filled pastries. It must be something in the water because I saw less than a handful of overweight people in Lyon. Everyone looked lean and healthful (apart from those smoking cigarettes).

I won’t be able to measure my mass while I’m in Brisbane but I hope to return to a low carb life. I will have to prepare meals suitable for others including a diabetic and heart disease safe meals. In many ways, a low carb life works well for people with diabetes mellitus.

Please note, again I should point out a disclaimer, I do not provide medical advice in my blogs, even in the Medical Fun Facts Podcast, I will never form a doctor-patient relationship with a reader.

Diabetes mellitus

Getting back to a low carb life and diabetes mellitus though; diabetes mellitus is a small constellation of diseases associated with poor control of glucose. The islet cells of the pancreas produce insulin which is a hormone which helps regulate blood sugar. An insufficient amount of insulin causes an increase in blood sugar. This can create manifold problems acutely as well as chronic problems associated with pathological changes to blood vessels and nerves (blindness, heart disease, impotence, lower limb infections, amputations, kidney disease, kidney failure to name but a few problems). Because of the lack of insulin, people with diabetes mellitus should eschew foods with a lot of simple carbs and especially sucrose (sugar). This means bread, pasta and rice. Sugar and sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, albeit ‘natural’ should not be added to food. A diet rich in non-starchy vegetables and some fruit is good. Meat in moderation is also good along with some cheese. Proteins in small amounts help to sate appetite and ensure that overall carb intake is minimised. Fibre is also important for bowel health. As a first degree relative of someone with a bowel malignancy, I’m now even more conscious of bowel health and maintaining a good fibre content and a reduced red meat intake. If you follow my food socials, you’ll see more salmon and chicken and probably duck.

A low carb life can assist with a more stable and better control of blood sugar. If you’re reading this and wondering about the potential benefits or threats to your health, please see your own general practitioner (or what some people call a family physician). Again, I stress, see a proper doctor, not someone into supplements complementary and alternative medicine (SCAM) services. This includes people who claim to be integrative practitioners who try to combine modern conventional evidence-based science-based medicine with practices not steeped in the scientific method. Always remember good + bad ≠ good. Your GP may not be a nutritionist but your GP is a specialist in your life and can work with you and other professionals to optimise your nutrition.

Blue skies over Chermside

Black and white meeting rooms at the bank

Train Tragedy in the USA

What a tragedy. I paused as I read accounts on Facebook from friends in the USA. It made me think about the amazing train ride I had between Lyon and Paris last week. I finished that ride feeling very positive about very fast trains.

Christmas 2017

This coming Monday is Christmas Day. With Boxing Day a public holiday too, we have a four-day long weekend. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. I’ll be spending some time at the hospital visiting and then I hope to cook a chook for lunch. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to buy some prawns too. It’s not going to be an elaborate Christmas this year.

The food situation

I’ve been cooking for a family member and also taking some time out with other family members. When times are difficult, food is a good way to get some happiness.

Leftover lamb korma with two poached eggs

Scrambled eggs made with eggs and butter

Herb and seed crusted salmon with stir-fried kale and cabbage with horseradish cream

Mangoes in Brisbane are cheaper than mangoes in Canberra

Crumbed fish from the hospital tuck shop

Chicken wings ready for the oven

is worth having in the cupboard. Iodine is critical to the development of the brains of unborn babies and infants.

Iodine deficiency

Herb crusted chicken wings and hot chilli kale coleslaw stir-fry


The Wesley Hospital tuck shop chicken thighs and vegetables

Saturday night dinner to celebrate a little good news

Click on a photograph and scroll through the gallery. This was a Pork and Moreton Bay Bug (Thenus orientalis) spicy chilli kale and cabbage salad with horseradish cream. Here is the post on Yummy Lummy describing how to make it.

Kinn + Derm Chermside

We went for dinner here on Friday night. Read my Google review. We enjoyed chicken Pad Thai, crispy skinned chicken, crunch pork belly, soft shelled crab and a spicy green paw paw salad. Click on a photo to see a larger version and scroll through the gallery.

For dessert, I had a salted Queensland nut gelato

Salted Queensland nut gelato Brisbane Gary Lum

The Medical Fun Facts Podcast Christmas special

A Christmas special is dropping on Monday night at 7 pm Canberra time. Please check it out at https://medfunfacts.com

Lyon to Canberra

The building next to the Appart'City Lyon part-Dieu Gary Lum

Lyon to Canberra

Lyon has been an interesting place to visit. I really only saw the inside of a hotel room, a meeting room and the train station at Part-Dieu. These are the places where I spent most of my time. I went for walks early in the morning and after about 6 pm in search of food and coffee. Because it is winter, it was dark while I was out and it was cold. In the early mornings, it was about –3 °C. There was also a lot of traffic so the walks were not exactly in the fresh air. There was a constant smell of exhaust fumes.

The building next to the Appart'City Lyon part-Dieu Gary Lum

That said, it was a blessed relief to be out of the hotel and its oven-like heating system. I turned the air conditioning off and had the windows open but the building heating was just full on. I would lay on the bed in just a pair of shorts and my skin would dry out like a potato crisp. I always had a mug of water by the bed so that whenever I woke up I could take in some water. There was also a lot of moisturising cream applied. It’s a pity the air couldn’t be humidified. I should have brought a small plastic pipette with me for my nasal mucosa. It got really dry and crusty. After a couple of nights, there was blood from cracks which had developed in my nasal mucosa. Hopefully, the blood washes out of my handkerchiefs.

Fire hydrant Gary Lum Lyon

One really good thing about Appart’City Lyon Part-Dieu

If you ever stay in this hotel, ask for room 423, the Wi-Fi is really good. I managed to download and install updates to Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Camera RAW, Final Cut Pro X and Compressor. These were all large downloads (some >3 GB) and there was no problem. Please note, I didn’t wait to do these downloads for when I’d be away, they just happened to become available while I was away. It was a nice coincidence that I was somewhere with better Wi-Fi than the ADSL I use at home in Australia.

Jet lag and sleep

My sleeping pattern wasn’t too bad. I tended to fall asleep a bit after 8 pm and then wake just after midnight. I’d then fall back to sleep after an hour or so and wake again at 3.30 am. At that point, there was no value in just laying in the bed. I’d get up, shave, shower and make a cup of coffee. I’d then go through work e-mail and personal e-mail and listen to podcasts until it was time to walk to the meeting building which was the building for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on 150 Cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon, France. This was a pleasant 25-minute walk.

See the Google map

I’ve already referred to my experience getting to Lyon and the reason for being here. Check out the most recent blog post.

As I began typing this missive, I was rejoicing in the warmth of the TGV5192 train from XYD (The Lyon Part-Dieu train station) to CDG (Charles de Gaulle International Airport). I had been waiting five hours for this train and the station was very very cold. It felt like 7 °C inside the station, and outside on the platform, it felt like it was close to 0 °C. My fingers wouldn’t move and my ears were freezing. I’d already packed my beanie and gloves deep in my main bag and didn’t want to risk opening that bag on the platform because it was packed very tightly. Can you imagine it springing open and stuff spilling out for all to see.?For those who would recommend it, no, I didn’t bring a scarf.

You may be asking why I spent five hours in a train station. Well, the check out time for the hotel was at 11 am and my train was scheduled to depart at 4 pm. I checked out at 10.30 and walked to the train station. After finding the ticketing agent I was told I could not catch an earlier train to the Charles de Gaulle International Airport unless I was willing to pay close to €100 for a new fair. There was no way I was going to fork out that kind of money just to spend more time at an airport. I spent the time in a waiting area either sitting on a hard chair or standing or pacing. The cold air rushed around the station slowly over five hours chilling me to the bone. Fortunately, with my Vodafone plan, I still had a few GB of data left so along with a portable battery I was able to keep in touch with family in Australia and friends all over the world via social media and a Slack chat space with some podcasting buddies from the USA. You can see what I shared on Facebook.

Bicycles at Lyon Part-Dieu train station Gary Lum

The discomfort of the cold was compounded by an abdominal distress consisting of griping colic and a significant feeling of gastrointestinal uneasiness. This is best described as a lack of confidence in farting. I hate messy surprises. I had a feeling the baguette I ate on Friday night for dinner may not have been that fresh. I hope it wasn’t the chocolate custard in the chocolate eclair because that was a fabulous tasting pastry.

I spent the day sitting or pacing around the train station listening to an audiobook by the QI elves who do the podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish. The book is titled, “Book of the Year”. So far, the highlight has been listening to Anna describe vaginal glitter and magicum. If you’re not familiar with the elves, including Anna, and the podcast “No Such Thing as a Fish”, I highly recommend it. I’d happily recommend their new book too. It’s full of fun facts.

Revelations on visiting Lyon

I’ve learnt some new things while travelling to Lyon. I’m not sure how applicable these observations are beyond Lyon or into France in general.

It costs money to go to the dunny

I remember as a young boy around the age of five having to give a coin to a person to be able to use a toilet in a department store. I also remember a few years ago when I took a holiday in Vietnam that I had to pay for the privilege of emptying my bladder in a ‘public’ toilet. Living in Australia, I’ve taken for granted that when the urge occurs, there are free public toilets which are well maintained all over Australia.

In Lyon, in this train station in Part-Dieu, I had to pay €0.80 each time I needed to attend the lavatory. Given my abdominal discomfort, this could have become expensive.

I wouldn’t have minded so much but the toilets were dirty and the smell was offensive. I truly do not understand what anatomical position people put themselves in to be able to spray the seat and back of a wall with faeces.

The toilets accept credit card payments which make the lack of coins in my pocket less of a problem.

Note for non-Australian readers. The dunny is the toilet, from when we had outhouses and people would micturate and defecate into a metal can, known as the dunny can. The dunny cans would be collected each morning. I will always be grateful to longtime Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones for bringing sewage to Brisbane before I was toilet trained.

Active begging

While there is passive begging in Australia with people sitting on a sidewalk with a sign asking for money because times are tough, Lyon has people in shopping precincts coming around and asking for money. At first, I didn’t understand what was being said and when I said ‘English’ the response changed to ‘Money!’ With a handout and fingers rubbing against each other. In a five hour span, I was asked more than half a dozen times and the same woman asked me thrice. One woman was pushing her baby in a perambulator and asking for money. I only had a credit card so I couldn’t help them. Not that I would be tempted if the person pulled out a smartphone and card reader. I wonder if that will be a thing in the future, begging for credit card payments? Maybe that’s a business model that could be exploited. Maybe it’s already being done somewhere.

The French countryside is beautiful

The train ride revealed some picturesque scenery. Between 4 and 5 pm, the sky is dark, cloudy, and misty, but the fields are green. The farm houses look well kept and the sheep even look orderly. It is very pretty. Some of the farm buildings in some of the fields look like they are hundreds of years old just by the design. I didn’t see a shoddy shed amongst them. Between 5 and 6 pm it was too dark to see anything beyond the window of the train. The scheduling was spot on, board at 4 pm and alight the train at 6.02 pm.

Cigarette smoke is everywhere

It’s remarkable just how common smoking is. I’ve seen school children smoking and outside nearly every building there are people standing outside their offices all sucking in the carcinogenic tobacco smoke. Some are chatting with one another while breathing in each others’ exhaled smoke while some stand solo, durry between fingers while reading or looking at something on their smartphone. Being France, everyone was looking very fashionable, mainly in very dark colours and form-fitting clothes.

I wonder what the prevalence of carcinoma of the lung is in France. I see in the shops, unlike in Australia, the cigarette packets are on display and the packaging features the graphic pathological depictions of malignant disease or emphysema. For non-Australian readers, cigarette packages are no longer permitted to be displayed, cigarette packets must be beyond an opaque locked door. The plain packing in Australia uses a drab green colour (not to be confused with the colour olive). There is a market again for cigarette cases. What is nice in Australia is the significant drop in the number of people smoking.

Living a low carb life would be difficult

Every few hundred metres there seems to be a bakery or patisserie. Croissants and sweet pastry treats are everywhere in abundance. In the same places, there are baguettes, each about 30 cm in length and each looks like they have chicken and brie plus some lettuce and a sauce in them. Some baguettes have cured meats, others seem to have lots of olives in them, and occasionally I see tinned tuna filling a baguette.

In some places, the baguettes look like they require two hands to eat them. I’ve watched people eat them in public. Men tend to get crumbs all over their clothes while women seem to be able to eat a foot long roll of bread with sauce laden filling and not drop a crumb. I really wish I could go on a diet of eating baguettes every day.

At breakfast time I struggled to find a place that would do eggs. I didn’t find anywhere where I could get a couple of poached eggs and some bacon. As far as I know, bacon doesn’t seem to exist in Lyon, I didn’t see any the entire time I was here. I did see ham, but no bacon. I cannot imagine a life without bacon at least once a week.

I ended suspending my low carb life and ate croissants for breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. I had a nice ham and cheese croissant one night for dinner.

I saw little evidence of obesity

Okay, in the train station on my last day, I saw one or two obese people, but other than them I struggled to see anyone who was overweight and I actively looked out for them. Apart from some of the meeting participants (who were from other countries), I didn’t really come across anyone as I walked the streets who I’d say was overweight. This is different to when I’ve attended work meetings in the UK, Canada and the USA. The other obvious difference between Lyon and North America, in terms of sophistication, was the lack of large V8 pickup trucks. One of the thrills of North American trips has been the ability to take in all the big V8 pick up trucks made by all the manufacturers, even Toyota. While it’s unlikely I’d ever choose a V8 Toyota pickup truck over a Ford F-250 twin cab or a Dodge Ram, knowing the option exists would be nice. Australia is so backward when it comes to decent motor vehicles. Soon we will be inundated with hybrids and all-electric engine monstrosities of ugliness. The future of motor cars sucks, long live the internal combustion engine with 8 cylinders in a V configuration and hemispherical heads. Yes, I am one of those people.

When I was in Helsinki last year for work I was also struck but the appearance of vigour and fitness in the Finns. The French also have a healthy look to them. I know they walk a lot, although I did notice a lot of people use scooters on the sidewalks and there were not a lot of cyclists.

Clearly, French fashion helps to show off the general lack of excess body fat.


Last evening meal in Lyon

I enjoyed the baguette which may not have been entirely fresh. It simply had some brie and lettuce along with some olives.

Brie cheese baguette Lyon Gary Lum

The chocolate eclair was filled with a chocolate custard and it was delicious.

Chocolate eclair Lyon Gary Lum

The final breakfast

I had some funny little pork sausages, scrambled eggs, croissants and a caramel pastry.

Pastry and croissant with sausages and scrambled eggs Lyon Gary Lum

The flights back to Canberra

So I’ve mentioned the trip between Lyon and Paris was by rail. It was a fantastic ride and at one point the train was travelling at 300 kilometres per hour.

Can you imagine if we had a fast train between Canberra and Sydney. I would spend more time out of Canberra that’s for sure. I don’t understand why the ACT Government is spending vast sums of money on a tram line from a northern town centre to the CBD, when, in my opinion (which counts for nothing), it should have worked with the NSW Government on a very fast train line between Canberra and Sydney. It could have touted the tourism benefits and draw fresh money into Canberra. Very few people (again in my opinion) living in Canberra will really benefit from the tram. I will never use it given I live in Belconnen and work in Woden. If there was a very fast train to Sydney though, I’d use it frequently to get out of Canberra and spend time in Sydney. Given the price differential in airfares out of Canberra compared with Sydney, it’s entirely possible I could avoid the airline price gouging and get cheaper travel to Brisbane albeit it would some extra time to the journey.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)

I didn’t get much time to explore the Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The train arrived on time but the border control process was lengthier than I expected. Boarding for the Paris to Abu Dhabi flight also began early.

I’m one of those people who likes to board as quickly as possible to make sure I can get space for my bags and so I can settle into my seat before the cabin fills up with passengers. I know this behaviour annoys other people and travelling companions, but that’s me and I’m not about to change.

Are you one of ‘those’ people too?

This Boeing 777 flight is 7 hours in duration and I used the time to get a little sleep and to just relax. In fact, I managed a solid four hours which was pretty good.

On arriving in Abu Dhabi, the weather was pleasantly warm but there wasn’t time to do much.

Passengers deplaned (the word deplane always sounds strange) onto the tarmac and buses were waiting to move passengers to the terminal. The bus I boarded got full quickly and the driver began remonstrating with passengers who were standing to get off and onto another bus. No one budged. I had got on early and was seated down the back so it would have been awkward to get off, and besides, trying to set an example probably wasn’t the thing to do. The driver gave up, got into the cab and began driving but he let everyone know in no uncertain terms he wasn’t happy. He was speaking in what I assume was Arabic given the expression of many passengers who looked like they had arrived home. Some passengers got upset and began banging on the perspex partition between the driver’s cab and the passenger cabin. He eventually stopped. I was very tempted to ask someone what he said, but thought better I don’t know. It wouldn’t have any bearing on my life.

More bad news

On getting into the terminal I quickly connected to Wi-Fi and sent a message to a brother who is caring for my sick relative; who, unfortunately, isn’t doing as well as expected and is now in the intensive care unit. The post-surgical recovery has become complicated. I will be there in Brisbane soon.

Abu Dhabi (AUH) to Sydney (SYD)

Boarding the flight to Sydney was slow going. There are now enhanced security measures at the airport for flights into Australia. Bags are searched and some passengers find this unnecessary and vent their frustration. I’m not sure there is anything to be gained by upsetting the security personnel. They are just doing their job. A couple held up the process for some time because they had bound their carry on bags with plastic freight/cargo tape. They didn’t want their bags opened just scanned via the imagine machines. That resulted in a pair of scissors appearing and the tape being cut. I’m grateful that when my bags were inspected the dirty underwear and socks were well secured in a compartment and no one had to finger my grundies (note for non-Australian readers, grundies are underpants).

The Airbus A380 gets between Abu Dhabi and Sydney in about 14 hours. After a 2 hour stop in Abu Dhabi, all I wanted to do was get some sleep if I could. After drafting my meeting report for my bosses, there’s not much else to do on the flight apart to listen to podcasts, listen to a book on the Audible app, and read a book on the Kindle app. I refuse to connect to Wi-Fi on board a long haul flight. Work e-mail will still be there when I land. As far as I know, work will not pay for onboard Wi-Fi. I hope that situation doesn’t change.

I downloaded quite a few of my favourite podcasts to listen to and I also downloaded “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” narrated by Stephen Fry.

Sydney (SYD) to Canberra (CBR)

Getting from the Sydney International Airport and the Virgin Australia terminal in the Sydney Domestic Airport is always potentially dicey depending on how long it takes to get through border control and customs. I had nothing to declare and only carry on bags so the wait wasn’t too long. The transfer between the international and domestic airports is one of the reasons why I prefer Melbourne Airport. The international and domestic terminals are colocated. There, I said something nice about Melbourne, I know that doesn’t happen too often!

Final words

I arrived back in Canberra on Monday and as soon as I got back to the flat I put all the dirty clothes into the washing machine, bought some groceries and got ready for my flight to Brisbane to begin some carer duties.

Being a Monday, the Medical Fun Facts Podcast drops at 7 pm Canberra time. This week’s show is on the Vagus nerve. I’d love it if you listened, subscribed and shared a comment with me via the show notes or via the Facebook page or the YouTube channel.

Catch you next week.

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Travelling for work

travelling for work Gary Lum de-icing wing

Travelling for work

I’m currently travelling for work. I’m in Lyon and I’m attending a World Health Organization meeting at the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The meeting though isn’t about malignant diseases, it’s about containment of human and animal pathogens and bringing together experts and officials from human health and animal health. The meeting is in Lyon because Lyon is where WHO has its laboratory experts.

How is the bad news?

Last week I mentioned I’d received some bad news. My relative has had surgery and is recovering. The outcome is looking more positive than negative. Thanks for the comments and support here and on the Facebook page.

The flights from Canberra to Lyon

It’s a long trip. I flew Etihad [cheapest fare of the day policy]. The Canberra to Sydney flight was uneventful and Virgin Australia (Etihad and Virgin Australia are codeshare partners) is always a comfortable ride. Checking in at the Canberra Airport though was a little sphincter clenching when I was told I’d have to get my final boarding pass with the relevant airline (not part of the Etihad and Virgin Group codeshare arrangement) when I got to my second last destination. That’s never happened before.

Border control in Sydney was a breeze, the electronic checking of passports is so much easier. The Australian Border Force officer checked that my face was the same as the photograph in my passport and I was good to go.

The flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi was in an Airbus A380. It’s a huge beast but more comfortable than an old Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. The bathrooms are certainly larger. I felt like I could swing a cat and not hit anything. I managed to sleep on and off for about five hours on the flight. The total flight duration was 14 hours and 45 minutes.

In Abu Dhabi, I knew I couldn’t turn on my mobile telephone. I’m with Vodafone and the $5/day global roaming package doesn’t apply to the United Arab Emirates. I managed to get free wi-fi though and using my iPad I could get a progress update on my sick relative. While I was in Abu Dhabi I found a public free to use iMac and opened all my blogs. I hope someone saw them before the monitor went to sleep. Instagram post.

The next leg was from Abu Dhabi to Brussels. This has a flight duration of 7 hours and 45 minutes. I had no more work or reading to do so I watched Wonder Woman and Spiderman Homecoming. They were okay movies, but a bit slow in parts. It was good to see Jar Jar Kirk and Professor Remus John Lupin in Wonder Woman.

I saw nothing of Abu Dhabi because the Sydney flight arrived just before midnight and the Brussels flight departed at about 2 am. It was dark outside.

The Captain on the Abu Dhabi to Brussels flight mentioned strong turbulence over Iraq and Iran and poor weather in Brussels as we taxied for take off. There was some turbulence but it wasn’t like bad thermal turbulence in the Top End. The Brussels weather though was bad.

It was snowing and it was icy. The day before lots of flights had been cancelled. When I got through Belgian border control I had to find a Brussels Airlines service desk. It wasn’t difficult to find. It was the desk with a line of people stretching for about 200 metres. It was a line that didn’t move very quickly. I stood in it for 1 hour and 45 minutes and didn’t get to the desk. The flight I was on had its gate called so I went over to the gate and waited until an airline official arrived. She was very friendly and kind and forgiving of my attempts to greet her in French. She printed a boarding pass for me and my clenching sphincters all relaxed at once.

I assume it’s Belgian chocolate

The flight from Brussels to Lyon takes just over an hour but we spent more than an hour on the Brussels tarmac watching the snow and waiting for the de-icing machine to arrive and de-ice the wings.

travelling for work Gary Lum de-icing wing

The flight was uneventful apart from a bloke whose body odour made my eyes water. He also put his finger in his ear hole and then sniffed it. On landing, Lyon was overcast, dreary and dank. I caught a taxicab from the airport to the hotel and that’s when the next little part of the adventure unfolded.

Appart’City Lyon Part-Dieu

The Appart’City Lyon Part-Dieu describes itself as prestige suites. I think that’s ambitious. The reception staff though are very friendly and helpful.

I arrived shortly after noon and check in was quick but I couldn’t get a room until 3 pm. I was too tired to walk around so I sat on a chair and checked work e-mails and stuff. Soon other meeting participants arrived and we got to chatting. Some people had arrived earlier and had been waiting around, waiting for 3 pm to get a room so they could unpack.

At 3 pm the fun began. Most people got a room key but I didn’t. I had to hand over a second form of identification and at 4 pm I finally received a room key.

The room had a bed, a shower, no toilet roll holders that worked, and a table. That’s basically all I needed. It also had free wi-fi. No iron though. So long as I have a shower, toilet, desk and bed with free wi-fi I’m happy.

After unpacking I ventured out to look for something to eat. When I got back the room was dark and there was no power. I checked the circuit board and everything looked fine. I went to the desk and the reception person checked the main circuit board and everything was fine. I was told I’d be put in another room, I asked for a torch so I could repack. No torch. Fortunately, the iPhone has a torch.

The new room was smaller and not all the lights worked but it did have power.

I did check the bed for bedbugs. I couldn’t see any. No washcloths though and minimal soap. It’s a good thing I don’t need shampoo 🤪

The meeting

The meeting has been good. It’s informative and it is a good opportunity to meet like-minded people from around the world. I’m grateful that the official language of the meeting is English. I’m in awe that all these people from Europe and Africa and Asia all speak English sufficiently to be able to communicate in a science-focused meeting.

I should have spent more time preparing some language skills and getting some basic phrases under my belt before arriving. French is such a mellifluous language and I am sadly butchering it at every utterance.

The food

It’s not possible to live a low carb life when visiting France. I gave up after the first day. I’m eating croissants for breakfast, morning tea, afternoon tea and dinner.

Check out the comments on Instagram.

I can’t read French and I can’t speak French. I walked into a restaurant and couldn’t communicate successfully so I left. I ended up in a patisserie and bought a ham and cheese croissant for dinner because I could point to it in the display case.

The Scenery

It’s winter, I’ve been walking to the meeting venue as the sun rises and walking back as the sun sets. I really have no feeling for the environment. It’s very noisy though. Lots of trains and police sirens.

I’m not sure if I’ll write a second post about this trip. I leave Lyon on Saturday and will be back in Canberra on Monday.

The Medical Fun Facts Podcast

I’m glad I prerecorded three episodes of the podcast before I left Australia. I would not have been able to record a show from Lyon. The next show should drop on Monday 18 December at 7 pm Canberra time and it will be about the Vagus nerve.

Do you do any travelling for work?

Catch you later.

Bad news after good news plus some okay news

MailChimp socks Good news Bad news Gary Lum

Bad news after good news plus some okay news

00:00 / 5:34

Bad news

Last week, I mentioned some good news, sadly this week, I have some bad news.

I had been planning to have a busy and fulfilling week as I prepare for a meeting away from Canberra next week. Unfortunately, on Wednesday I received some bad news about a close family member and a serious diagnosis. To protect my relative’s privacy I won’t go into detail. The news hit me like a hammer to my head.

I pretty much lost all enthusiasm for shooting any photographs (or anything else for that matter) so I don’t have much to share. I’m in a melancholy place.

Going home

Well sort of. There have been some changes at work and I have to move workspaces from my current area to an area I used to occupy. I’m pretty happy with this move.

I’ll be on a lower level which makes walking up the stairs from the basement to the floor I work on more realistic every day. There are also fewer men on the floor, so the toilet experience will be substantially better. I also get a better view out the window. Not only that but I’ll be closer to colleagues working on projects and programs I’m especially interested in. It’s kind of exciting to think I’m coming home.

I won’t be able to move in completely until the new year.

I’m also heading ‘home’ in the sense to Brisbane for a couple of weeks to assist with my ill relative. It’s funny, Brisbane is my hometown but when I think of home I still think of Darwin.

Packing for a trip

So I’m headed somewhere cold and because I have a few tight connections, I really don’t want to use a bag I have to check in. I want to go with just two carry-on bags. I also need my MacBook plus all the paraphernalia associated with working and travelling. My biggest concern is having enough warm clothes in a small bag which I will need to walk with and catch trains. Fortunately, I won’t be gone for long.

People who know me also know I have Ichthyosis vulgaris and so I have significant moisturiser needs. This means carrying bottles and I’m concerned that one bottle is 150 mL rather than 100 mL. I don’t want to be pinged at security.

I bet you’re wondering, “where the hell is Gary going?” All will be revealed in the next post.

I checked the weather and when I arrive it will be –1 °C (30.2 °F). I think I’ll be carrying my Driza-Bone oilskin coat. I mustn’t forget gloves and a beanie. If this wasn’t work-related travel I reckon I’d go with something lighter and warm, but the Driza-Bone looks good and can be worn to a meeting.

Highlights of the week


I received some socks from MailChimp. MailChimp is an automation platform and the tool I use to send e-mails to subscribers.

MailChimp socks Good news Bad news Gary Lum

Weight loss update

Steady going, no real loss but no gains. I worry about the next few weeks with travel and the festive season coming up.
I think 2018 will see a renewed effort. I still want to get to 77 kg (170 lb) and remain about that weight. I’m currently hovering around 81 kg (178 lb) after starting the weight loss process at 87 kg (191 lb).
What did you have for dinner tonight? Salmon and stir-fried kale salad I put some shredded kale, cabbage, carrot, red onion, bird’s eye chillies, and spring onions in a frying pan and stir-fried it with some olive oil. I then added some salmon and cream. I garnished it with fresh spring onions. #lowcarb #weightloss Bad news Gary Lum
A healthful meal. Salmon and stir-fried kale salad
I put some shredded kale, cabbage, carrot, red onion, bird’s eye chillies, and spring onions in a frying pan and stir-fried it with some olive oil. I then added some salmon and cream. I garnished it with fresh spring onions.

Medical Fun Facts Podcast this week

Over the last couple of weekends, I’ve recorded four shows. Yesterday I finished and uploaded the Christmas Day show. This means I won’t have to worry about recording anything until 2018 begins. I’m getting close to the end of the alphabet and while I’m away I need to plan and prepare for how I want to take the Medical Fun Facts Podcast into 2018.
Cover art for the Medical Fun Facts Podcast Christmas special Bad news Gary Lum
Cover art for the Medical Fun Facts Podcast Christmas special
This week’s show drops Monday at 7 pm Canberra time. The topic is the Uvea. While you wait for that show to drop, check out last week’s show on tetanus.

Worlds collide

A photograph of my boss, the Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy on the cover of a journal. I’m on the editorial board for Microbiology Australia. In this issue, Brendan and another colleague write about immunisation (vaccination) policy in Australia.
Bad news Gary Lum worlds collide vaccination immunisation

Getting ready for 2018

My Brisbane Broncos membership card came in the mail.
Brisbane Broncos membership Bad news Gary Lum NRL

Have a good week friends

Take care of yourselves and take care of your health needs.
Gary Lum Square photograph Blue shirt

Good news

Good news Gary Lum JEE WHO IHRs

Good news

00:00 / 5:49

Good news but I can’t say terribly much

Good news is always worth sharing and this has been a good week. That said, there’s not too much I can say. You see, I had a brilliant work week.

I’m mindful of not sharing too much about work. As an Australian Public Servant and a member of the Senior Executive Service, we’re reminded appropriately that ‘at all times’ we must conduct ourselves in a way that maintains the integrity of what we do.

What that means is I should not publicly discuss matters that relate to the policy areas I am actively engaged in. While some colleagues see it as a restriction, I see it as a freedom. It’s why I feel comfortable with this blog, my food blog Yummy Lummy, and my professional blog and podcast The Medical Fun Facts Podcast.

Last Friday, we welcomed evaluators from WHO who came to evaluate Australia’s compliance with the International Health Regulations 2005 and specifically the core capacities. This is part of the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) process that WHO has been undertaking since the recent change from self-assessment to external assessment.

We had evaluators from WHO HQ, WHO WPRO (Manila), WHO One Health Office, OIE, USA, Canada, Japan, China, and New Zealand.

The IHR core capacities are those required to detect, assess, notify and report events, and respond to public health risks and emergencies of national and international concern, as stipulated in Articles 5 and 13, and Annex 1, of the Regulations.

It was great to meet with the external evaluation team on Friday. Over the weekend, members of the JEE team plus colleagues from the department spent time reviewing external sites relevant to the core capacities.

On Monday, my focus was on routine work and a special stakeholder meeting relating to a very important part of my work.

On Tuesday though, the process of formal evaluation took place and began in earnest. This involved nineteen separate panel sessions covering all the core capacities. I had the privilege of chairing four sessions which meant I got to present information on those core capacities. I was really happy to be able to speak about Australia’s capability and capacity in our national laboratory system, biosafety and biosecurity (pathogen security), linking public health and security agencies, and finally radiation emergencies. These are all areas I feel strongly about and for which I have a good working knowledge. This formal evaluation took three whole days of solid questions and answers. It was thoroughly enjoyable though. Needless to say, I was pretty happy with the process. Good news.

Good news Gary Lum JEE WHO IHRs


The only downside of these sorts of meetings is “meeting food”. Don’t get me wrong, meeting food is usually tasty, but when something this big happens, it usually means there are regular breaks and regular opportunities to indulge in scones, spinach and feta rolls, chicken and mayo wraps, freshly cut fruit and litres of filter coffee and tea. Not so much good news!

My weight loss desires took a back seat as you can see in this week’s graph.

Good news Weight Chart Gary Lum JEE WHO IHRS Good news Weight Chart Gary Lum JEE WHO IHRS

Busy weekend

No, not with Christmas shopping but with podcast recording and uploading. I’m going away for a week soon and I needed to prerecord three podcast episodes so I don’t have to worry about them while I’m away. This kept me busy all weekend while the rain was falling steadily across the south-east of Australia.

JEE Mug Gary Lum Good news Core capacities WHO JEE IHRs

I won’t say where I’m going just yet, you’ll find out soon enough. If you don’t subscribe to My Thoughts and Stuff, now is a good opportunity so you don’t miss out on the surprise!

Connecting and reconnecting with friends on social media

Good news, this week saw a return of K to blogging over at Here in the Silence. It is great to reconnect with her and to read her writing. She is such a wonderful person, beautiful in all ways and a terrific writer of prose and poetry.

I’ve mentioned before the podcasters I ‘hang’ with online. We’ve recently moved to Slack as a platform to chat. It offers so many opportunities to share with one another and has the ability to connect with other productivity tools like Trello and Evernote.

It’s funny, most of the people I chat with on Slack are fellow podcasters, but we tend not to chat that much about the mechanics of podcasting. We normally discuss things relating to food, video gaming, and popular culture.

I’ve mentioned before but in this group, we have podcasters from Mouthy Broadcast, Zombie Anonymous, Dork Trek, and the Promenade Podcast. Check them out if you dare.

Podcasts I listen to while walking, driving and working around the flat

Then, of course, it’s great to chat with people on Twitter and Facebook. What I like about this is that after getting to know some people, we’ve built up such a good rapport we now spend quite a bit of time chatting via Messages or e-mail or Twitter DMs.

So what have you been up to this week?

Do you have any good news to share? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

Hit me up on social media like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to share what’s been good in your life this week.

This week on the Medical Fun Facts Podcast

This week I’m talking about Tetanus. The show drops on Monday night at 7 pm Canberra time. You can listen via your favourite podcatcher or watch an Apple Keynote presentation on YouTube or read the show notes at The Medical Fun Facts Podcast.

Good news The Medical Fun Facts Podcast Gary Lum JEE WHO IHRS

My thoughts and stuff Gary’s update on Saturday 25 November 2017

My thoughts and stuff Gary’s update on Saturday 25 November 2017

00:00 / 10:06

This podcast complements the blog post on iodine deficiency

I speak about my recent weekend away, a lecture I attended on Tuesday night about Iodine deficiency, my thoughts on whether Australia should celebrate Thanksgiving and an update on this week’s Medical Fun Facts Podcast.

An excerpt from the blog post:

I learned that in China, Prof. Eastman assisted the people by igniting the government into making a humungous change and iodise the salt which rapidly raised the intelligence quotient of millions of Chinese people living in remote and rural settings. Reducing iodine deficiency is the key.

I also learnt that at the time, Tibet became an unintended control group. There were villages in Tibet where the majority of people had goitres, cretinism still occurred and in addition to intellectual retardation, growth retardation also occurred. Prof. Eastman went in and assisted the locals by introducing iodised oil. The effect was dramatic by reducing iodine deficiency.

What Prof. Eastman also revealed was the population problems in terms of poor intellectual development in Australia. His collaborators used the much-maligned NAPLAN process to compare intellectual development in Australian children.  His group discovered that some time ago the Australian dairy industry made a decision to change milk vat disinfection from iodophors to chlorine without telling anyone. This had the effect of reducing the available iodine in dairy products. Iodine is inimical to bacterial growth so it was a fabulous disinfectant.

In addition, there has been a general move to reduce salt intake and to not add salt to food. While there is nothing wrong with that, instead of buying and using good old-fashioned iodised cooking salt people started following cooking fads and started to buy sea salt and rock salt and sadly Himalayan rock salt. I say sadly because that Himalayan salt, according to Prof. Eastman is murky and dirty looking because of the presence of noxious trace metals that don’t do anything positive for our health. The bottom line was that the little added salt people did use was not iodised and possibly had harmful effects.

Iodised salt is used in bread but with so many people eschewing bread because they believe they have a gluten intolerance (rather than having fair dinkum cœliac disease, this had led to a further reduction in iodine in our diets.

Prof. Eastman’s advice is that pregnant women in Australia should supplement their diets as soon after conception as possible with iodine. The risk of not doing this is having a child who may be a slow learner and all the consequences of that.

Should Australia celebrate Thanksgiving?

When you look up Wikipedia and search for Thanksgiving it’s a revelation to see just how widespread thanksgiving celebration is.

While I know a lot of Australians resent following Americana on everything I wonder if we should spread the message that Thanksgiving could also be an Australian holiday but for different reasons when compared with our American friends. If we did it correctly we could do something to ameliorate the angst associated with Australia Day and the concerns expressed by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who consider 26 January to be what they regard as “invasion day”, that is the day the British arrived and began colonising Australia. I think we should still mark Australia Day (26 January) as an important day but we wouldn’t need a public holiday. We could transfer the public holiday to Thanksgiving which could be celebrated on another day. Thanksgiving could be a day to celebrate reconciliation.

Here is where I reckon we should look at the American tradition and use a specific day of the week, e.g, the third Friday of January every year. This way the public holiday isn’t ‘wasted’ on a Saturday or Sunday and we get a long weekend. Another possible day would be the second Tuesday of November so while the Victorians are having fun getting pissed at a horse race, the rest of Australia could enjoy some nice seafood and a mixed grill on the barbie followed by a pavlova. Morning tea could be filled with vanilla slices (bloody Victorians call them snot blocks) and lamingtons. After lunch, people would have time without affecting the national productivity to watch the horserace and waste the arvo drinking grog so by dinner time they can sober up and get ready for work the next day.

When Australia becomes a republic I want to run for President on a platform a long weekend every month.

I did not know that Thanksgiving is celebrated on Norfolk Island.

What do you reckon? Should we celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia?