poetry and stories

“The N Days of Science”

On the 12th day of Science, my P.I. gave to me:

12 flasks rotating,
11 pipettes piping,
10 Westerns blotting,
9 films exposing,
8 plates a’reading,
7 probes a’binding,
6 cultures synching,
5 Giemsa’d rings!
4 trophozoites,
3 schizonts,
2 merozoites,
and a project with ample funding!

And because science is nothing without replicates & controls, we have the non-malarial version:

On the 12th day of Science, my P.I. gave to me:

12 IC50s
11 tight ANOVAs
10 sample buffers
9 R2 values
8 incubations
7 double-blind trials
6 good transfections
5 First Authors!
4 papers in Cell
3 Nobels
2 seminars
and a project with ample funding!


Oh, lords of all writer’s block, what have I done
that my paper lies blank and your ire is won?
This should be complete, or at least halfway through.
Not an outline at midnight – make this untrue!
The deadline approaches, so where is my muse?
Well, drat. This note here says she’s off on some cruise.
You wanna play dirty? Alright, chew on this:
I’ll set this damn paper alight, blow a kiss
farewell to literature, there’s always mime!
Guaranteed: in a week you’ll all be in line
to beg for my mercy, a halt, will I cease?
NO! Not till you bring me five muses apiece.
That’s the deal, place your bid, so what’ll it be?
Hell for you, or one measly essay for me?

I think we all know the answer to that question. One of those offers you can’t refuse, style of thing. Anyway, I wrote it after actually finishing a personal statement for med school applications. I must say, only AMCAS would give you not a page limit or a word limit, but a character limit. And of course they count spaces.

Oh, and this is not intended to make any mimes feel bad. The skilled mime is a wonderful sight. The unskilled, however…

In the midst of applications, there is always time for my friend Mroo’s fabulous flourless chocolate cake. There is also always time for singing, even when the neighbors would really prefer that we didn’t. Inevitably, cake and singing led to songs about cake, and I wrote this one to the melody of the infamously bawdy Moose Song. Feel free to sing this next time you’re baking; I know I will!


When I was a young lad, I used to like tarts.
I’d munch all the crunchies and pick them apart,
but the sugar, it burned til my glaze went opaque.
You’d never taste failure like that with a cake.

Cake, cake, I likes a cake
I’ve never had anything tasted so great.
I’ve had lots of sugar in all that I make
but I’ve never had anything quite like a cake.

I tried many recipes, baked every bun
with cinnamon, filbert, or coconut rum,
but nothing I buy and nothing I make
compares to a flour-less chocolate cake!


Meringues are a treat for a Saturday night,
and even cannoli or mousse is alright,
but cake is so simple, delicious and moist
It’s something on me that you won’t have to foist.


There’s artery clogging sweet treats on each shelf
in my pantry I just say, “to heck with good health!”
I cook so gourmet that my oven might break,
but I’ve never baked anything quite like a cake.


So in my old age I am quite satisfied,
though my waistline now measures a hundred feet wide.
I’ve never once tasted a sugar that’s fake.
Die before diet! Let’s have some more cake!

Deck the halls with books on fission
fa la la la laaa la laa laa la
‘Tis the season for revision
fa la la la laaa la laa laa la
yawn, we now are tired of reading
fa la laa la la laa laa laa la
still, we must make one more meeting
fa la la la laaa la laa laa la.

Yup, it’s that time of year, when your bum gets sore from multiple days on end spent sitting hunched over a laptop, tik tak typing away. Just to warm you post-grads with the comfy glow of schadenfreude, I just sent in 28 pages of political analysis on apartheid South Africa and the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Last Friday I turned in a 10 page paper for the same class, just a few hours before an evolution exam(…for which I had just turned in another 6-pager), and Thursday I had a short story due along with about 37 or so pages of revisions. So, I get tomorrow off, but Thursday holds a Swahili final, and Friday is my Evolution final. I think my eyes may be welded to my laptop.

Any cool news from the outside world?

Well, I’m on the job-hunting, exam-prepping stage of the semester, so I figure I’ll just give you guys an art update that doesn’t actually draw time away from my studies. Yeah, I’m a total miser, I know 🙂

One of the major points in my critiques for the Umm Kwakiyya story (see two posts ago) was that, since I dumped my readers straight into the middle of a war zone and allowed the physical descriptions of setting to trickle in over the course of 14 pages, it was a little hard to visualize the opening setting. My classmates recommended that I add another illustration, possibly even a map, to deal with this, and this is what they got:

The House of Assad

It is a bit dashed (I had a 10 page paper and an exam due at the same time), but hopefully you get the picture, as it were. As a size reference, the lines in front of the water wheels are grated catwalks wide enough for perhaps 4 people to walk abreast.

Apparently the post-thesis world is a kind place.

I had a great graduation this weekend (they let us “graduate” before exams this year, since grades aren’t due until Christmas Eve or some nonsense), a great meeting with my dean, got my Evolution paper turned in, made my bosses’ day by bringing in a box of homemade dark chocolate, aced a medical Swahili quiz, had a great review in my fiction writing class, and had my modern anthropology professor delay our 27+ pages of papers by a week. We also initiated an anthology project in or fiction class that will apparently involve a fried s’mores discussion party this weekend.

Oh, and someone just walked up and handed me a Papa John’s sausage pizza.


Alright, so my tardiness and absence can be pretty much summed up by the following mini-comic.

a month in the life

I won’t be really free until Nov 19, when my thesis needs to be printed and turned in. So, of course, this week just had to be midterms. I swear they coordinate this.

Anyway,  here’s a sketch of a few characters from that story that’s due tomorrow. And yeah, if you’re getting a lovely, romantic impression from the random words that show up on the right, consider yourself thoroughly misled. The kid’s reminiscing about life before the bombs. It’s weird, but even though I laugh all the time and stroll around campus whistling and smiling at trees, my stories get darker every time. Enh, maybe it balances out in the long run. Hakuna matata, right?

Umm Kwakiyya characters

The characters are, from top to bottom: Rashida Hamzah, Amina Lubaya, Amani Lubaya, and Sameh Assad.

Also, a quick translational note: umm kwakiyya is probably not a phrase familiar to anyone who hasn’t studied the Sudan (i.e. me until this year). It translates to “Mother of Banditry” and was given to the first modern period of conflict in Darfur’s history. I’m pulling heavily from the conflicts in Chechnya, Serbia, and Sudan for this piece, hence the mix of Bantu and Arabic here.


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