Culture, Science, Science and Society, etc.

Calling All to the Night of the Nerds

As some of you may know, for the last 4+ years I’ve been organising and hosting a wee event here in Wellington called Nerd Nite (you guessed it) Wellington.

I’ve made mention of it occasionally here over the last few years, and today seemed as good a day as any to mention it again! For two reasons…

1. We gots mediaaaah (daahling) coverage!

Nerd Nite Wellington #23: Undead, the Universes and Everything has been covered both by RadioNZ and CAPITAL magazine, which is super exciting!

The RadioNZ piece, Calling All Nerds, is an awesome mini-documentary that aired on the Afternoons show in late August. It features interviews with all four of the speakers, and a bit by me (brilliant editing on their part to make me sound like I was making sentences*, well done!).

And CAPITAL mag did an entire _page_ article, again covering aspects of Nerd Nite’s origins and ethos, and a great writeup on the talks of the night. You’ll need to guy a copy to read the article, though (( didn’t think it would be cool copyright-wise to reproduce it properly here), or wait until next month when the free e-version goes up on CAPITAL’s website.

While the point of Nerd Nite - as a free, public education event - isn’t to attract media attention, I’m still pretty chuffed. Why? Because it shows that initiatives can be noticed if one sticks with them long enough. And, far more importantly, wider reach will hopefully mean more speakers, more people interested in coming along, and more Public Nerdity. Huzzah!

* I was really sick and not entirely compos mentis…

Night of the Nerds - CAPITAL magazine. More information at
Night of the Nerds - CAPITAL magazine. More information at


2. There’s another Nerd Nite Wellington coming up SOON!

Nerd Nite 24: Lost in Translation(al Neuroscience) is less than three weeks away - it takes place on Monday September 22nd at the home of Nerd Nite Wellington, Hotel Bristol. Speakers start at 6:30pm but you’ll want to get there well (we take the entire downstairs/ground floor) before if you want good seats :)

The lineup is as follows:


Thinking matter
Andrew Jackson

We all have 100 billions neurons in our brains.  Scientists have been slowly unravelling what they do.  What can science tell us about – why we forget what we were looking for, why we always want more and how to design the perfect date?  I will explore these questions and other issues such as – are there drugs which will enhance the performance of my brain and if so what are they?

Andrew is currently the Deputy Chief Executive in the Ministry of transport.  Originally from England, he moved to Wellington in 2007 and has fallen in love with kayaking and scuba diving in and around Wellington.  He dreams of finally making the trip to the Islands to enjoy those sports in sunnier climes.   He studied science and the philosophy of religion at University, then did a post graduate diploma in economics and law while working in the civil service in the UK.  He had a dream job before coming here, when he worked with the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser.  His role was to explore big issues like the future of drugs, the challenges of obesity and cyber trust, by tapping in to the leading science experts on these issues.  This has given him a thirst for knowledge and solving stuff and an appreciation that there is always someone who knows heaps more than he.

F*** the duck till exploded” –  Linguistic and cultural pitfalls of translation
Marco Sonzogni (@SonzogniMarco) 

Whether it’s a menu or a film, a poem or a manual, translation is never – as many still think – a mere exchange of words. Every form of translation involves a very complex process of cross-cultural negotiation which requires ethical as well as linguistic and aesthetic skills.

In this short presentation, Macro will highlight the challenges and the rewards of translating.

Marco Sonzogni is a widely published academic and an award-winning poet, literary translator and editor. He firmly believes everything can be translated – how is another story altogether.

If Tanizaki only knew: the festish and fashion of women’s shoes in modern day Tokyo
Emerald King, @emeraldlking

In 1999 young Japanese girls’ habit of wearing 20cm+ platform shoes made headlines as high-heel and shoe related injuries climbed to the point where the Japan Consumer Information Center (now the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan) issued warnings alerting the public of the dangers of platform shoes. Even now the site of young Japanese women falling from their sky-high heels is a common, if disturbing, sight on the streets and underground malls of Tokyo.

These fashions (one part strip dancer, two parts Hello Kitty cute) have spread onto the global stage following in the wake of popular anime and games. Gwen Stefani and her ‘Harajuku Girls’ helped to popularise the look with lyrics that proclaimed a love of all things Japanese street fashion. While the reptilian monster shoes featured in the late Alexander McQueen’s 2010 spring/summer collectionPlato’s Atlantis were described by one commentator as being ‘reminiscent of Japanese foot binding.’ Orientalist inconsistencies aside, the statement illustrates how pervasive the image of exotic/erotic Japan remains.

The question that needs to be answered though is what do the Japanese think of these shoes? Or more to the point, what would Tanizaki Jun’ichirou think?

Emerald is a lecturer in Japanese at VUW. Her Facebook page insists that she’s an ‘Academic – Cosplayer – Kimono Enthusiast’ but really she just enjoys slipping literary references into talks about fashion and fetishism.


Nerd Nite Wellington 24: Lost in Translation(al Neuroscience) poster
Poster! Click to enlarge and print out for your school/workplace/laboratory/lair.


Twitter -
Facebook -
The intertubes -


Honourable mention: Kiwi PyCon

Friends! Coders! Internet types!

Lend me your ears…

This year, Kiwi PyCon is being held IN WELLINGTON (eeee!) on the weekend of September 13-14th.

In their words:
“Kiwi PyCon is the annual conference for users of the Python programming language. The conference has a friendly atmosphere that is welcoming for new attendees and experts alike (all talks have an advertised difficulty level).”

I went a few years ago, and I remember it being awesome then. I imagine that will only have continued!

Tickets are selling fast, but I know for a FACT they’re keen on getting more students involved, for example, so check out

Hopefully see you there!**

** Disclaimer: Kiwi PyCon are helping me out with a ticket to the event (I’m between contracts at the moment), but that’s NOT the reason I am spreading the word. I’m spreading the word because it’s a cool event :)