Tuesday, August 30, 2005


On one sunny Saturday in the Buckeye state, I decided to give my friend N a vist. She was supposed to be working in her lab, and I had nothing better to do (!!). I was passing through this happy-to-be-back phase, after coming from a visit to Lebanon. I arrived to the building, and what do you know, my friend has already gone. Fate had it that I passed by a green chalk board on my way out, and I- the ever-bored fellow that I am- contemplated doing something "funny".

With an innocent smile on my face, I took a chalk and wrote N a message on the board. The "fun" part was that the sentence was in Arabic, informing N of my visit to her lab. How cute is that?

Two days later (i.e. Monday morning), life was taking its course. I was meeting my advisor, discussing some ideas, surfing the internet, and listening to the new Charbel Rouhana single. But on the other side of campus, a different story was unveiling.

By lunch time, the security level in N's building was raised to Code Red (exaggeration). N was called upon in a hurry by her Hillbilly secretary and questioned about a matter of severe importance. The matter? "Does she know anything about the Arabic writings in the department?" Now how pathetic and frustrating is that? 19 people (according to the Hillbilly) asked for a translator to check if the writings were a threatening or a "terrorist" statement of any kind. Nineteen dumb-ass university level students and professional scientists wanted to check what the Arabic words I wrote on a board in the hallway meant!!! We are not talking about illeterate Americans here, not even school-level individuals. How can someone in contact with people from different cultures from every corner of the world, working on the latest in educational and scientific findings feel threatened by something written on a chalk board, just because it is Arabic? How can someone be so lame? And how dumb and pathetic would you have to be to allow yourself to live in such fear?

Anyway, the issue was solved with N blowing some steam off, and calling me to tell me about the "funny" incident. We discussed sending a letter to the Grad School office, asking for an appology or something. We will see about that. It is good this didn't happen during my first year, it would have gotten to me. Now I only laugh and pitty those fools.

... funny America.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Curse of the Mus musculus*

I am a scientist. I work with mice. I do make them suffer. I feel bad about it... I really do. I say a little prayer before killing each one of them. Hope they rest in peace.

I would like to convince myself it is for the greater benefit of humanity. And it is actually true (well... unless the benefit of humanity is not a "greater" one- but I digress). It still feels bad though. I mean what should we experiment with? Humans? Some regimes tried it, some are still doing it (Saddam definitely enjoyed it) but it proved inefficient. People are hard to deal with. Imagine having to wait for 9 months each time you make a genetic cross. No way, use flies, mice, frogs or fish... much easier.

What? Not convinced? You still think I am a beast? A heartless sadist? OK here's something to make you happy.

My whole future (at least near future) lies in the womb of one mouse. I have been waiting for this animal to give birth for five months now, and each time it gives me the finger (or should I say the paw?) and shows me who's boss! For God's sake, I only need one pup to finish this project of mine, and be on top of the world. Nobel prize is waiting and a mouse is standing between me and glory. How typical... Is it Karma?? The animal kingdom turning on me now? After all the suffering I've inflicted?

Ahh what the heck, I will wait, it is a battle between the fittest. And we know who won that battle long ago. So here I am, waiting, how long can that mouse hold back its hubby anyway? So there, I have an ally living right in her cage. I'm getting that pup, sooner or later...

But for now, let the Mus musculus enjoy its brief triumph, that Nobel can wait a few more months.

* Mus musculus: scientific name for the house mouse.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Glimpses - Part One

Lebanon, Summer 2005

1- Lebanese are more sectarian than ever. The new generation and the old. The educated and the illiterate. Things will not change any time soon on this level.

2- Nothing will work in the country unless everything is privatized. I am anti-capitalism, but Marx got it right when he thought socialism could only come after a true capitalist society is built. People and societies need to evolve before they go through revolution.

3- If you wanna be cool, be gay. It seems it is hip to be gay these days! Have nothing against homosexuality, until it starts to become a way of life and a trend.

4- You see more skin in Lebanon lingering around in the streets than any other country in the world... except the parts of Africa where clothes are not a necessity.

5- Every guy has at least two girl friends. Every girl has ONLY one boyfriend.

6- Unless you have suicidal tendencies, do not park your car next to another one on the street. This is everyday mother's-advice.

7- The beach is rated (sometimes over-rated, lol). There are the PG13, the R-rated and the family beaches (not so hip!!). This can only happen in Lebanon. In Damour, they DO ask for IDs.

8- Never have a shower before going into a Taxi. It is totally useless.

9- If you hear of a bomb explosion, don't flinch. No one cares anymore, especially if no casualties are reported. When the Monot street bomb exploded, our family gathring was anything but interested in knowing what has happened.

Nine off the book.
More tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back In The States

I am back in the great United States of America. I never thought I will ever say this, but I have gladly returned to the land of The Free. Yes, ofcourse, this is an exaggeration, but the experiences I've been through there were more than enough to convince me that our beloved nation will need some more blood and sweat to become a country. And our people will require a century or so of education and beating before they grasp the concept of a country, a nation, and a dignified human being.

I will be posting glimpses of the things I have been faced with while in Lebanon, both to keep them in mind during visits to come, and for you to get an idea about what I am talking about.

In response to my friend Barney, who was wondering what kind of "racism" I was talking about in a previous blog, I will post a newer story about the issue, with some explanation of what goes on in a typical Lebanese/Phoenician human mind. I will be doing all this as soon as my internet provider fixes my connection at home.

This being said, Lebanon has the best landscape ever, the best beaches, and for whoever is in Lebanon and is reading this, visit Janna Sur Mer, it simply is awesome.

It's good to be back,

Abu Takla.