SciAll’s Cabinet of Curiosities Episode 2 is Out Now!

And just when I was thinking that Science Communicator header was looking suspicious, too…

It’s true—while I’ve brazenly word-vomited enough to justify the title of Author and become a Creature of the Night in order to get that stuff out (Remember, Kids: Suffering Makes Better Art, And That Is True), my portfolio has been lacking in science communication this past year. I’d love to remedy that, though, and perhaps the best place to start would be my semester-long internship with SciAll last fall. SciAll is a nonprofit science communication platform founded by marine biologist Dr. Mike Gil with the aim of making science more accessible to anyone intimidated by STEM fields. Since SciAll is made entirely up of overbooked researchers volunteering their time, I was able to speak with so many intelligent, eccentric, and passionate people from (literally) across the country, and consider myself super lucky to be a part of their work.

In this episode of Cabinet of Curiosities, I collaborated with the University of Michigan’s own Dr. Jenan Kharbush, chemical oceanographer and microbial biogeochemist to tell the story of her STEM career through the lens of her styrofoam cups. We also talked about doodling, whale training, and seasickness. Check it out!

“While most scientists can’t stand styrofoam, chemical oceanographer Dr. Jenan Kharbush has a sentimental connection to these particular cups, and the origin story they carried from the ocean’s depths. In Cabinet of Curiosities Episode 2, “IF YOU FILL A CUP WITH OCEAN WATER, WILL YOU CATCH ANY WHALES?“, we explore minuscule microbes, magnificent whales, and the career paths that connect them both.

SciAll’s Cabinet of Curiosities tells the stories of real scientists through the oddities in their labs. Every scientist has their shrine, and every trinket or talisman has a story to tell. What wisdom lies in the drawers of a wunderkammer? Subscribe to find out!”
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Songs of the Week 03/24/2023

Yea, so, screw conciseness, right? I thought last week’s one-sentence style would be a fun little break from the absolute cinderblocks of song reviews that I usually collapse everyone’s roofs with, but apparently, I must have just bottled up all of my words, because I’m serving up the cinderblock of cinderblocks this week. Get comfy.

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Selling Songs in One Sentence! | Songs of the Week 03/17/2023

Since I’m fourteen pages deep into midterm essays with a flash fiction unit on the horizon, I figured it might be fun to try to distill my love for this week’s songs into one sentence each, which is something that should be easy-breezy, especially considering how deliberate, curt, economical, un-repetitive, and un-repetitive my writing tends to be—the “B” in Max B. Todd stands for Brevity, after all, and as a believer in nominative determinism, which I don’t actually think I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I strive to try and embody this in my every sentence, and that’s the Max Todd Dot Com (Max! Todd! Dot! Com!) guarantee, free of extraneous “bombastic”s and “driven”s and “punchy”s and “swelling”s and “earworm”s and any words I’d never, ever use more than once, because… sorry, hold on, I think I was going somewhere with this.

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Songs of the Week 02/03/2023

Okay, aaaaaaah!!! We’re a little late this week!! Sorry about that, folks. As I mentioned in 2022’s Songs of the Year, I try to prioritize quality over quantity with these, and lately, I’ve been tired enough that writing has felt more like smashing words together expecting that they’ll fit. It doesn’t always flow, that’s for sure, but I hope by just getting letters on a document, I’ll make something worthwhile happen, even without the combined forces of nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine other aspirational monkeys typing at my side.

While we’re on the subject, I felt it was worth following up on Movies of the Month, seeing as a whole entire month has indeed already scuttled past like the mouse rummaging through your pantry (I made you check). Much as I’ve wanted to talk Pinocchio (the good one), Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, and The Menu, I’ve been pretty strapped for time this semester, and when I have free writing time available, I’d ideally like to spend it chipping away at my bigger projects rather than setting more secondary obligations for myself. That’s not to say movie reviews or videos aren’t coming—trust me, I would love nothing (well, a few things) more than to put both out—but until things calm down a bit, I unfortunately can’t make any promises. Ugh, sorry, okay, I need a distraction! Um… okay, uh… songs!! Five of them!

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An Open Letter to the Lego Group (or, What I Did Instead of Linguistics Homework)

Do you ever post something on the internet knowing you’ll look back on it and cringe? I am certain that’s the case for today’s little bundle of joy.

For some much-needed context: I was, am, and always will be a fan of Lego, no matter how grown-up I might get (though I don’t think I’m fooling anybody in that department). Over the past few years, The Lego company has realized that I, alongside many adult builders with irresponsible spending habits, am a profitable demographic, and have begun pushing “Serious Play” (yuck?), an advanced, adult-oriented series of sets across multiple themes prioritizing display. As unashamedly capitalist as it may be, I really am touched by this company-wide acceptance that aging out of imagination is a fallacy, and that exercising the creativity of one’s childhood is not just healthy, but arguably essential in today’s post-industrial hellscape. Unfortunately, the advertising surrounding “Serious Play” (yuck?) is trying so hard to squeeze into some grown-up facsimile that it’s frankly embarrassing. In all fairness, the pragmatism in art and imagination has been laughed off the stage all too often, and convincing the majority of capitalist adults that childlike creativity has lifelong value is a battle best fought incrementally. Through this lens, I can almost justify adult Lego’s sleek, black boxes, display-oriented plaques, and builder-signed instruction booklets. As someone who’s already a believer, though, I can’t help but feel like this advertising—shot in soulless, modern rooms tastefully curated with greyscale turtlenecks and minimalist decor—is an even more offensive betrayal of the values which Lego claims to protect. Like… didn’t you do a whole movie or two about why Lego loses its magic petrified in some sterile display set? Didn’t you pay Will Ferrell for that? Will Ferrell? That can’t have been cheap enough to forget in four or five years.

All this said, I have been hugely grateful for the adult Lego sets I’ve been gifted by my generous family these past few years—any time zoning out with Legos is time well spent, and I hope I’m lucky enough to find that time forever. Still, while starting to build a Star Wars diorama I received for Christmas, I realized it embodied many of the problems I have with these adult Legos, going far beyond just the cynical spirit of the brand—I’d go so far as to say these sets reveal concerning trends. By catering to wealthy, adult collectors, Lego is not only abandoning their core philosophy and demographic, but also perhaps contributing to environmental degradation with extraneous pieces in their adult designs.

Granted, though, I’m just a passionate fan—my only research comes from recent experience and a handful of reviews on adult Lego products, so I’d love to consult a more reputable source. While much of this began as a snapchat video sent to my lovely girlfriend while building the Dagobah Jedi Training Diorama, she encouraged me to share my thoughts with Lego, even though I’m still 80% sure this is the most neckbeard thing I’ve ever sunken this much emotional energy into. So, assuming that this wasn’t a prank, I decided it was worth a shot to contact the designers behind this set. Unfortunately, Lego’s email slots aren’t built for Max Todd-sized ramblings, which is why I’ve laid out my full thoughts below. I guess that makes this an open letter, for accountability’s sake, but mostly for convenience. I’m sending Lego my abridged version with a shady link to this post—in the meantime, wish me luck, I guess. As for that letter…

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