Posted by: The Amoeba | May 14, 2009

… and sometimes it just takes all night.

This post appeared on Felloffatruck Publications back on 21 March 2007. It’s being pulled from the archives for a reason …


I’m going to make a small wager that most of you kind folk who visit Quilly and me from time to time have been to college, and for a greater purpose than to wander the campus and ogle the pretty girls/boys. Which means you’ve crammed for a test here and there. Probably all night. In a blind panic. At least once.

C’mon, ‘fess up. Even I did it. Mind you, I didn’t want to. But the gf was convinced she needed to stay up and study, and dammit if she was going to pull an all-nighter, then so was I. Misery shall have company or else, buster.

Rocking the books around the clock is a particularly collegiate rite of passage, one of the latest and last of the childish things that one is supposed to put away when you walk out those gates for the last time, with your maturity, and your next ten years or so of debt payments, securely rolled into that scrap of faux parchment. Something you did, and never hope to do again.

Oh, wait, did I just write a never? Ooops …

Welcome to academia. Those lovely ivory towers full of boys and girls who never did grow up, who didn’t get the memo that all-night crammings are something you’re supposed to have graduated from. The hallowed halls that people who are supposed to be smart spend years trying to get into, only to find that the endless streams of papers to write, reports to fill out, and (especially) grant proposals to peddle (which is what your salary depends on in a market that was bad ten years ago and is now twice as tight, if you haven’t found a pork barrel to feed from), means that, guess what? You’re going to be pulling all-nighters.

It does, unfortunately, make some sort of sense, these all-nighters. To put together the longer trains of thought that feature in this business, with every fact illustrated and every utterance on the the topic in seventeen languages meticulously referenced and footnoted, takes time and concentration.

Which the typical office environment, even in academia, doesn’t supply, what with everyone from the babies of double-income junior academics, to prospective freshmen, to colleagues with coffee cups and writer’s block, to deans seeking volunteers for useless committees, to potential big donors wondering how the hell come that machine isn’t going 24/7/365 and giving him some prospect of a return on his investment already, knocking on the door every five minutes.

And the next thing you know, you’re up against deadline for getting that paper into that book, or getting that proposal downloaded or (heavens! there are still Luddites in the halls of academe!) photocopied and mailed. Which means you, yes you, are going to be staying up all night.


Like for instance. I’ve been doing some work on these guys. If you’ve seen anything like them before, you’re doing pretty well. They’re arguably descendents of the first green plants that ever lived on this planet. And that’s a little more than just a bunch of eggheads yelling at each other about it. Y’see, some of these guys were so abundant back, oh, 300 million years or so ago, that they died in great masses and decomposed into this slimy stuff. You’re probably burning some of this in your Buick right now.


And if you’re lucky enough to play with some of the expensive toys that I do, you might even find that the surfaces of these swimming cells are covered with delicate scales that are far smaller than the eye can see.

I’m supposed to be some sort of expert on how to catch, grow, and identify these things, and some folk wanted me to write a paper for a book on them. So I did, sent it in, and waited for them to send it back. Which they did – but by then I was distracted by other things. Like finding food. And when you’re distracted, it’s hard to keep all the thoughts you need in a row to make the writing go well, the illustrations fit the topic and be executed with a reasonable degree of quality control. Until the editors want it now.

Presto. Up all night.

Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be academics.

   – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007, 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. I am jealous. I hope the seaweed appreciated your attentions. I woke every two hours and searched your side of the bed.

  2. I’ve crammed one more than on occasion, usually with me it was due to Procrastination more than anything else. I’ve been known to put things off to the last minute. I still do, the taxes, christmas shopping, doctors appointments, etc.

  3. Oooh, spiderwebs!!

    Sorry, were you saying something about staying up all night? I never did that except to watch movies. Want to take a guess why I never finished my degree? (‘Course, I was an English major with a film emphasis, so I could make the argument…)

  4. OK- since when did the memo come out about all nighters being taboo after college? I missed it. Also, I would miss them. They can be fun and most often will provide the more interesting results in that one span then all the other things gathered throughout the year. I protest this thought that all nighters are only for those in college and must be left behind once we have departed…!

  5. OJM — he wasn’t talking about a party he was talking about work — which he stayed at for about 36 hours!

  6. […] clambered onto his bicycle and peddled off  to work at eight o’clock in the morning and didn’t return home for 35.5 hours.  About twelve hours into his shift, she took him some baked chicken wings and macaroni salad, and […]

  7. Don’t know about the seaweeds, Q. But the staff were happy.

    I would have answered your comment sooner, Bill. But I was putting it off …

    Time for a nap, Lisa? You’ll be seeing the spiders next …

    OJM, I always reckoned I could plan better, so as to make the all-nighters unnecessary (not being one who gets much pleasure out of being unconscious on my feet). Unfortunately …

  8. […] noticed that, on occasion, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba’s labors, or his anxieties, keep him up all night. And how, on such occasions, Quilly may offer to rock him to sleep. With a real […]

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