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Parlance (June 2021)

by Kevin Mercurio

Welcome to my monthly blog series. As a way to catalogue the happenings of the world, this blog will serve as a memento for its state at the time of publication. What I hope is that by clearly writing out top personal, local and global news, along with resources that can help us to develop skills, we can sift through the noise together. Let’s grow into our greatest potential.

Top Personal News

“Be better than you were yesterday.” I told myself that every single day this month. It’s not a unique saying by any means, but certainly a credo of life that can be attributed to yours as well. I felt I needed to wake up and say that mainly because it was a busy month, in terms of research, in terms of hobbies, ein terms of everything. Firstly, I got paid. I. Got. Paid. Actual money. From my scholarship. I’ve never felt more happy to be paid than June 18th 2021, when I received four months of cumulative stipend. You’re damn right I bought a few things to celebrate (ie. haircut, pair of workout shoes, book, just to name a few). I wrapped up the very novel Season 3 of the Metaphorigins Podcast (if you listen to the podcast AND are reading this, please let me buy you a coffee!). I published my first University Times article about the Science Communication Collective sponsored by Ireland’s Department of Health, interviewing four great science communicators that are also postgraduates at my university. I participated in the last Dublin competitive heat, ever, for FameLab Ireland, the world’s largest science communication competition. My talk was on drinking (hehe). Unfortunately, I did not advance into the national finals, but it was a blast “pretending” to be drunk while explaining how the human body metabolizes alcohol (the weird secret is the body actually turns ethanol into an even worse toxin than it already is!). School-wise, after a tiny kerfuffle, I have started my project looking to confirm unknown microRNA-21 targets in our mice models, and slowly working away at a review publication. Hands-on training with the mice also started this month, and dammit why do they have to be so cute. Additionally, I’ve started my first PhD course on Graduate Teaching and the theory behind learning. Learning about learning might seem like a bore, but it definitely opens my eyes to potential career paths for the future, whether I would like to stay in academia or move onto an industry/government position. Being busy is good, just remember to stop and smell the Irish nature every once in a while!

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Lab members out at Fairy Castle!

Top Local News

I thought this day may never come, with local news outlets saying that vaccine shipments on Astrazeneca or Janssen have been late or halted completely. Now, just in my immediate social circle through Trinity, several people have received their first dose or have registered to receive their first dose. As of writing this, registration is open for first dose vaccinations at age 35 and up.Luckily with my birthday in August, this may push me to get the vaccine sooner!

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Obtained from RTE.

Top Global News

Just like each prior month, it was difficult to narrow down global stories to highlight in June. There was the stupid spectator who fled the country after causing one of the goofiest pile-ups in Tour de France. Related with last month’s top global news story, Israel swore in a new coalition government, ending former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic 12 year reign. The new Prime Minister and part of one (Yamina) of three parties making the coalition government, Naftali Bennett, will lead the nation with allies who might only agree that Netanyahu had to go. See the Associated Press article for more information about the new government. There’s also the ruling by a Moscow court that labelled followers of Alexei Navalny’s movement an “extremist” group, essentially categorizing it with true extremists like al-Qaida. Currently, those who support Navalny cannot be persecuted, but recent legislation in some regions have barred Navalny allies from running for office. See Politco’s summary for additional information on what this means for Putin’s power. Another story of similar political strife was also highlighted. In Nicaragua, opponents to President Daniel Ortega have been arrested, suspiciously months before elections are to be underway. As of June 2nd, five potential presidential candidates (all critics of Ortega’s rule) have been detained, there names are Miguel Mora (journalist), Felix Maridiaga (academic), Juan Sebastian Chamorro (economist), Christiana Chamorro (politician and daughter of ex-President) and Arturo Cruz (former ambassador). Check out BBC’s brief synopsis of the situation. However, with Canada Day arriving tomorrow, what I personally believe deserves the most attention are the hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children found buried in old Catholic residential schools. This might be hard to read (it was for me). When you think of Canada, what do you normally think of? What’s your impression of the country as a whole? Of course, today’s Canada is much different than its historic past, as hopefully most countries see themselves down this morally improved trajectory. It has never pained me to be born Canadian, and I have never been ashamed of the country that accepted myself and my family. Not until recently. This has likely been brought up in the past by Indigenous groups, but on May 27th the CBC reported that unmarked graves of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nations Tribe say ground-penetrating radar was used to locate their remains. These deaths are undocumented, meaning that their families were never notified of what happened to them. As stated in the CBC article, “The Kamloops Indian Residential School was in operation from 1890 to 1969, when the federal government took over administration from the Catholic Church to operate it as a residence for a day school, until closing in 1978 […] Up to 500 students would have been registered at the school, according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). Those children would have come from First Nations communities across B.C. and beyond.” This prompted a government response to support groups to search at other old First Nations residence schools, to shed more light on the truth about what was deemed as “cultural genocide”. And then, on June 23rd, the National Post reported hundreds of more unmarked graves (very likely children) at the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. They state three times as many children were buried here, with some estimates reported by the New York Times and BBC putting that figure to 700+. Canada, just like any colonial/european-ized country, is not exempted from its brutal, horrific past. That’s what we should remember this year, if anything. Be aware that no matter where you are from, acknowledge the past, and be better than they were, while striving to build a society that was better than yesterday.

Most Interesting Article of the Month

“The Gatekeepers Who Get to Decide What Food Is Disgusting” published in The New Yorker by Jiayang Fan. I know, I know, this was published in May. But whatever, this is my blog post. This article got me laughing, gasping, googling and then finally realizing that the sensation of disgust is culturally-dependent. The article begins by talking about the Disgusting Food Museum in Sweden, showcasing the most revolting dishes synthesized my human minds. Interesting is that a lot of Asian and African foods were displayed, and yes some Europeans dishes as well, but little from western cultures of America (other than one display for the calorie dense foods of America, which are indeed disgusting when you think about it). Towards the end, the author acknowledges, while making me realize, that Western culture has adapted me to food ignorance, happily gorging down on most pleasant foods without knowing how they are prepared, or in regards to meat/seafood, doing the killing yourself. Read the article here.

Most Interesting Video of the Month

“Inside” by Bo Burnham. “Could I interest you in everything, all of the time?” A video documentary about making a Netflix comedy special during the pandemic filmed all in one small residential room. Songs describing cultural shifts, behavioural shifts and straight up mental shifts, filmed using pretty basic lighting and sound techniques will make you want to watch this special multiple times for inspiration on your own creative endeavours. You’ll need a Netflix subscription to watch the whole special, but here’s a YouTube clip of one of his best songs in the video.

Monthly Book Club

“Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. This is a great, easy to follow history lesson of how we got here, as a species. There is so much information packed into this 400+ page book, so you can easily get lost in many of the various sections of the book. It is split into four definitive sections, each pressing down on the gas of human progression: Fire (gave us power), Farming (made us hungry for more), Money (gave us purpose) and Science (made us deadly). To me, money is what struck me as the most innovative inventions of human intellect. Think about it. A piece of paper defining value which could be attributed to any object or service. No longer did we need to know how many wagons of apples was equivalent to a pair of cute boots. You can read the book online here.

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Obtained from Amazon.

Movie/TV Show of the Month

Dolemite Is My Name. Way late in watching this film, but it’s spectacular. Eddie Murphy stars as a wannabe famous turns actual famous through sheer determination, as well as exploiting the gravitas of his older black heritage. A novel take on the real life American comedian Rudy Ray Moore, Murphy exemplifies to literally invest everything that you possibly can into your ultimate dream. It also has this incredible line, “Dolemite is my name, and fuckin’ up motherfuckers in my game.” Watch the trailer here.

Podcast Highlight

This week, I’m highlighting Science Networkers. Hosted by two incredible science communicators Miranda Stahn and Pooja Bhatti, they bring scientists and science enthusiasts together and, of course, talk science! They’re really innovative in their approach to host events, like through live panels and Discord sessions, both of which I was a part of. Check out their newest episodes and their Twitter for updates!

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Obtained from Twitter.

Monthly Earworm

“Juggernaut” by Tyler the Creator. Watch the music video here.

Quote of the Month

“When corruption is the foundation of the government, fighters against corruption are cast as extremists.” 

- Alexei Navalny (check out his amazing Instagram here)