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Crank (March 2022)
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

Now this was a month to remember. Two trips; a visit from a Canadian brother; research troubleshooting; extracurriculars ending and others beginning; birthday bonanzas; and of course, COVID. I think in this post I’m going to start in chronological order, just because of its packed nature. We started with the kickoff for Pint of Science Ireland’s Dublin Team Meet & Greet, where local volunteers could find out more about the festival and the important role they play in advocating for more science communication events embedded in general public venues. This was actually the first time I was nervous for a presentation in a while, with imposter syndrome kicking in at the most probable of times. Following this was a trip to London with the lovely GF. A three-day trip and first vacation together, we saw the Shakespearean play “The Merchant of Venice”, toured Westminster Abbey, rode the London Eye and cruised the River Thames (on and underneath). Something from my Canadian history must have sprung out because there was a lucid joy mixed with rebellious attitude seeing the royal city in person. The subsequent week was starkly busy in the Moyne Institute with the bi-yearly Postgraduate Symposium celebrating graduate student research in the Department of Microbiology (including meeting your Thesis Advisory Committee members, such great craic that was). Virtual calls back home with my now 61 year old father, along with a somewhat more highlighted (and thankfully shorter) hairstyle were the needed cherries on the cake. This set up for the arrival of my brother, visiting for his second time for the famous St. Patrick’s Day (got right up to the front of the parade sidelines!). Visits from him always accompany some sort of trip, but instead of a road trip down the coast, we went upwards to Ireland’s north and spent two days in Belfast, UK. A fantastic trip jammed with pints, Titanic, markets and history (please do a Black Cab Tour!). Of course, the tourist attractions during his visit didn’t end upon returning to Dublin, as we also toured the Neolithic Knowth and Newgrange along with the Guiness Factory (why does their Gravity Bar have the best view of the city?). Moreover, my students from Scholar’s Ireland finally graduated their program and visited me in my natural habitat (ie. the lab). I am extremely proud of all these students and for their surprise gratitude/acceptance speech during their ceremony (much better than those slap-filled award shows they have on television these days; why you gotta be so mean Will?). And of course, to end it all off, I got a terrible dose of COVID-19 and have been isolating until even now. What I was most surprised about was how quickly I went from healthy to ill, with symptoms including fever, headaches, sore throat and chills (the last being the worst of them all). Extremely thankful to family, friends and of course, Miruna, who has been incredibly supportive during this time. What a way to end: alive, stronger and more worldly experienced than before!

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The archetypical London photo.

Top Local News

Honestly, nothing to make noteworthy here.

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Here's my brother and GF being silly.

Top Global News

I could talk about the War in Ukraine again, as this is certainly still very much happening. But with all that was happening, I had not kept myself in the loop of Global News and therefore feel I cannot do this section its justice (I refuse to write about “The Slap Heard Around The World”). You know what, here it is anyway.

Most Interesting Article of the Month

“How Bad Are Plastics, Really?” published in the Atlantic by Rebecca Altman. Yup, this article was published back at the start of the year, and with my lack of reading pocket articles as of late, this gap is along getting bigger folks. The article begins with a story about the writer’s past, their father, who worked in the plastics industry. It’s an interesting article because it cements the gravity of how dispersed and integrated plastic has become in our society, and why it continues to be mass produced and with such little pushback. It provides an informative history of how, at least in North America (and likely the world) plastics are such a cheap consumer product, with origins to the First and Second World Wars. I mean, my plastics waste is horrendous in not just my personal life, but also my work life as a researcher in biological sciences. It strains me to even consider reducing my contribution to the plastics industry but instills a small but present curiosity of a zero-waste lifestyle. Read the full article here.

Most Interesting Video of the Month

“The Philosophy of Joe Rogan”. This month is a video I did not ask for but very much needed (this is a great series by Wisecrack by the way, do check them out!). This definitely caught my attention as a fellow podcaster and fan of JRE, mainly because I knew Rogan doesn’t have consistent philosophical notions at all, nor do most people. Rogan is unparalleled in what he does, because what he does is obtain and publicize information in long form conversation. From conversation to conversation, it is almost certain that he will display inconsistencies ideologically speaking, and this is because he is discussing niche concepts with people that have the experience in them. He has the biggest podcast in the world, and frequently rejects the responsibility of that influence and his words. In my own reflective thinking, it is conflicting as to whether responsibility should land on the ones that have the opportunity to wield it, or on the individuals who are being influenced. Bottom line, as stated in the video, Rogan is no Socrates nor general philosopher offering a stage for ideas to be challenged, but that is not his goal. His goal is to have discussions that interest him, and that motivation is all that matters whether people choose to listen or not. Watch the video here

Monthly Book Club

“Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon. I’m going to be honest and say that I did not read the book. This was my second try, but unfortunately it is just so dense with exposition that, with such a busy month, failed to hold my attention even for a few pages. Apparently, one of the best American novels ever written though. Read the book online here.

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Movie/TV Show of the Month

“The Sinner” starring Bill Pullman as Detective Harry Ambrose. Yes, this sounds like another investigator show where there's a murder and the main character is trying to put the pieces together. I mean, that’s the plot line for each of the four seasons. Why this show I think does it so well is how the murder happens; it’s always so provocative and unusual. Additionally, Pullman’s character is not mentally put together, despite his genius in solving homicides. In fact, the emotions and experiences of his traumatic past are what guide him through these cases. Check out the trailer for the newest season here.

Podcast Highlight

This month, I’m highlighting the podcast aptly titled “This Podcast Will Kill You”. Although the podcast itself won’t kill you (unless you listen to it on max volume on loop for days?), it dives into various things that will kill you from compounds to infectious microbes. Hosted by Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke who have expertise in ecology and epidemiology, they discuss the biological mechanisms that lead to death and the history of how we got to knowing about its lethal nature today (or what we don’t know about it!). Do have a listen!

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Obtained from Wikipedia.

Monthly Earworm

“Someone Like You” by Adele. Watch the official music video here.

Quote of the Month

“Take my wife’s name out yo fuckin’ mouth!”

 - Will Smith