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Gratitude (October 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

The great October month, marking what I believe to be well into the best season of the year (autumn) is ending. Honestly, there’s not too much personal news to share during this month, since all I have been working on is an academic review based around my PhD project. Oh writing, how I can never get enough of ye. I suppose I can talk a bit about the review. It is on the effect of microRNAs on intercellular junctions during inflammatory bowel disease. Alright, please don’t close the browser out of sheer boredom, because intercellular junctions are actually really cool! They help cells bind to one another and establish communication points, sharing molecules and, most importantly, contribute to homeostasis. In other SciComm news, I ended up joining three fantastic teams: 1) The Undergraduate Research in Natural and Clinical Science and Technology (URNCST) as a graduate student mentor, 2) Pint of Science Ireland as their Dublin City Manager and 3) Dublin University’s Microbiological Society as their Public Relations Officer (fancy term for social media exec). I remember telling one of my friends how I would stop joining things, but man, are these some sweet initiatives (gimme them sweets!). I'm excited to be a part of these teams and will be looking forward to working with everyone! Otherwise, any notable things will be done after this blog is posted, as my brother (cool dude I suppose) will be arriving shortly to not only celebrate his birthday, but travel with me on a West Coast road trip in the Eir! Also Halloween in Ireland (its origin), that’s gonna be pretty SPOOKY! Now, just gotta finish this review… 


Reunited with this bloke!

Top Local News

In local news, as of the 22nd of this month, Ireland is easing restrictions on social gatherings, despite the rise in case numbers. Most interestingly, nightclubs are opening to full capacity, despite the continuance of mask wearing. I don’t know about you, but what is so appealing about dancing in a nightclub sardined next to random people wearing masks (or likely not even wearing masks)? Luckily, proof of vaccination is still required to enter establishments and will likely continue like this.


Obtained from the Irish Mirror.

Top Global News

This may be closer to the most interesting article of the month, but I believe it warrants its own section. Early in October the Washington Post published a glaring story titled “Billions Hidden Beyond Reach”, which explains the global investigation into the Pandora Papers. As described in the article, “The details are contained in more than 11.9 million financial records that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by The Post and other partner news organizations. The files include private emails, secret spreadsheets, clandestine contracts and other records that unlock otherwise impenetrable financial schemes and identify the individuals behind them.” On another note, I also learned that ex-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos actually owns the Washington Post, which is, interesting, to say the least. Anyway, this sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Wasn’t there a leak of similar documents demonstrating the usage of this immoral manipulation of the regulatory financial system by the world’s richest people? Yes, and it even had a similar name, the Panama Papers. I wasn’t the only one confused, as there are articles describing the differences between the two (take this article for example). As the article describes, the Panama papers are “as much as 11.5 million data from the offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, leaked.” The Pandora papers go beyond that, where they “summarize 2.95 terabytes of the business of the world’s elites from 200 countries on the official ICIJ website”. The Pandora papers don’t just call out business elites, but public figures as well; politicians, artists, anyone who has amassed wealth and decided it was best to keep as much of it as possible (by finding legality in settler-trust-beneficiary/shell company procedures). This is different from the Panama papers, calling out those who are, simply put, evading tax payments on their wealth. One may argue, justifiably, that its only financial secrecy from big government, which should be fine, right? And sadly, I don’t have an answer. This global news story should be on everyone’s mind, as it stems off of every financial aspect of our growing, interconnected society. Should policies exist as they are now and allow people to “fairly” work at shielding their wealth as much as possible, or should there exist policies that somehow encourage a more collaborative society that works at allocating wealth to areas that require it? I’m no expert in the economic system we all play a role in, but certainly stories like these incentivize those who are mildly acquainted with the general concept, or not, to become educated. Read the full Washington Post article here.

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Obtained from The Washington Post.

Most Interesting Article of the Month

"Reuters photographer was killed after being left behind in retreat, Afghan general says” published in Reuters by Stephen Grey, Charlotte Greenfield, Devjyot Ghoshal, Alasdair Pal and Reade Levinson. This was published back in August, yes, but it has not lost its gravitas. It honestly made me cry, something I truly don’t do often enough, and made me reflect on how terrible war is, the horror and unfairness of it all, and of course how sheltered my privileged state is. Of course I cannot hate the fact that I find myself in a safe place, but how lucky are we to be able to do anything that we always take for granted: walking outside, wearing the clothes you want to wear, socialize while doing fun activities, etc. The article goes into the final assignment of renowned photojournalist from India Danish Siddiqui, who was killed while recording the account of a mission by Afghan commandos to retake a territory during the early uprisings of the Taliban this year. What makes this even more sad is the circumstances Afghanistan finds itself in just months after his death, where the Taliban have taken complete control of the country. Was this mission even worth anything? The tears came when I realized what is truly tragic in life is how quickly we all move on. If you have the time, and the tissues, read the full article here.

Most Interesting Video of the Month

My favourite comedian passed away last month. Norm Macdonald, born in Quebec City and realized his dream of becoming a comedian in Ottawa at the Yuk Yuks comedy club (great place!), is, and I quote David Letterman, “The comedian’s comedian”. I am by no means a comedian myself (and have the comedic timing of a dead horse), but I think I understand the point being made. Macdonald was an expert in the craft, but he also believed in the joke to the point where the audience actually did not matter. Whether he got a laugh or not, if he thought the joke was good, he was going to say it. He was clearly not for everybody, but extremely respectable in his profession and way of life. One of my favourite videos that I go to when I need a pick-me-up is the Moth Joke he performed on Conan. I won’t say anymore. You can watch the YouTube clip here

Monthly Book Club

“Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Essentially, this is an easy-to-read guide on how to build functional habits to be a better you. The great thing about this book is that it really hammers home the importance of specificity in habit building, as habits mean nothing if it’s just labelled as the end goal. Atomic Habits can be defined as minute changes in our daily activities that compound on each other, bringing out our true potential. Four fundamental rules (and their inversions) help one accomplish this: 1) Make a habit obvious, 2) Make a habit attractive, 3) Make a habit easy, and 4) Make a habit satisfying. My major takeaway was a tidbit line towards the end of the book, and if you don’t remember everything, remember this: Habits can fail not because they are difficult, but because they are boring. You can read the book online here.


Movie/TV Show of the Month

I suppose it’s gotta be Squid Game this month. I had mistakenly thought the show was adapted from an anime or at least from the cult classic Battle Royale, but it was an idea by director Hwang Dong-hyuk that took 10 years since it’s inception to premier on Netflix, after rejection by multiple studios. The hype surrounding the show, in my opinion, is a bit over the top. However, the beautiful layout and unique idea of “freedom of choice” to be implemented into such brutality is surprisingly satisfying… Brutality being that people take part in childish games in order to win a huge cash prize, if they survive. I’d say go check it out, but let’s face it, you’ve probably watched it already. Watch the trailer here.

Podcast Highlight

This month, I’m highlighting a SciComm podcast from the motherland: Nerdin’ About. Hosted by two prominent science communicators Kaylee Byers and Michael Unger, the two banter with experts on various topics related to research in Canada. The podcast is a spin-off from their community-lecture series, Nerd Nite Vancouver, where scientists meet citizens in a pub and speak about science and new research in their fields. They nerd hard. Check them out as they start their newest season!


Obtained from Podbean.

Monthly Earworm

“Organism” by Grandbrothers. Hear the official audio here.

Quote of the Month

“You know that way?”

- Lily Hand, hairdresser who dyed my hair life-crisis-blonde/brown.

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