Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I'm up in Hawkes Bay at the Eastern Institute of Technology, for a four-day residential course of practical microbiology. "Why?", I hear you ask! Because I am coming towards the end of my first semester course in Microbiology, as part of my diploma in Grape Growing and Winemaking, which I started at the beginning of this year. This first course, being Microbiology, is all about the science of microbes, and so far we've covered such topics as using a microscope and staining a bacterial sample, preparing a number of agar plates in petri dishes to identify and quantify bacterial samples, and identify an unidentified bacterium from a culture. This is proper science stuff! Even if some people call it stamp-collecting. Some people have a similar opinion of physics.

The purpose of the residential course is to familiarise us with the tools of the microbiological trade. Microbiology is a hands-on science, and it is essential that practitioners are able to do the practical aspects. We've been preparing and staining samples to look at under the microscope, measuring bacteria and yeasts, and also measuring growth rates and concentrations of micro-organisms. We've also given presentations on various microbes that we've studied, and taken a practical test which will contribute to our final course mark. We are also taking work away to write up into a formal report on some of the experiments we've done during the week.

I can do science, me.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Eastend Cabaret

Once more unto the breach of the New Zealand Comedy Festival, and on this night we’re off to the Fringe Bar to see Eastend Cabaret, a comedy cabaret duo from London. We went along with a bunch of friends (safety in numbers) as they’re keen on audience participation! This is definitely a gig for grown-ups, too...don't bring your kids unless you like them traumatised.

After a quick dinner at Big Dogs On Blair, we headed round the corner to The Fringe Bar on Allen Street. We were seated in the front row, which made us a little nervous, but fortunately Eastend Cabaret are consummate professionals and don't pick on anyone who isn't really volunteering, and also were selecting their first victims from the back of the room, where Bernadette Byrne chose two strapping young lads on whose back to ride up to the stage.

The show consists of songs, musically accompanied by Victor Victoria,and the usual chat in between. Bernadette is a European chanteuse in the style of Sally Bowles of Cabaret. The songs, however, are proper 21st-century rude, with swearies included.

We managed to avoid most of the audience participation (Bernadette sat on Kris' lap for a bit, that's all. He seemed to enjoy it), and one of the victims was clearly less than pleased to be dragged up on stage, but generally it was actually all quite good-natured. Without giving too much away, there was a centrepiece which involved a stiffie on a stiff, which was quite funny.  

It was all good dirty fun, and a highly enjoyable night out.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Worst. German. Ever.

The New Zealand comedy festival is in full force, and, enticed only by the title, we decided that we would go and see Worst. German. Ever. This is a show by London-living German comedian Paco Erhard, in which he details all the problems about being German in the modern world. Amongst his many gripes are Berlin's hipsters ("like Cuba Street with snow!"), a bigger drain on the German purse than Southern European members of the Euro, apparently. It was whilst delivering his show in Germany that a woman stormed out, declaring him the "worst German ever!", thus giving him the title for his show. "There's some competition for that title, you know, historically" is his comeback. He then told us why Germans are so good at maths and engineering (because they don't want to study history), and how the teaching of the Holocaust at school was possibly overdone. "I know so much about the Holocaust that I could organise one myself! That surely wasn't the point of all that education?"

A very funny hour's worth of comedy, and we left with tears streaming down our faces. Go and see him if you get the chance.