Tuesday, January 24, 2006

some peace and protection

I was having lunch with a friend who works at a nearby medical complex. One of her coworkers was robbed at gunpoint last year. Recently, another person in her small office was held up a knife point. "If you're going to walk, carry protection," she told me firmly.

"I need Banjo to walk with me," I said.

Banjo is my tall, black, year-old Lab. He's a sweetheart - just a great well-balanced personality. To enjoy his company and his protection on my walk home at night, however, I would have to have him with me at work in the afternoon. He would be a gem in the office. I would bring him if we had a policy that allowed it.

I know there are many potential problems: allergic coworkers, people terrified of black dogs, someone bringing an aggressive dog to work, dogs barking while you're on the phone.

But I think there are many benefits too. The relaxing feeling of a dog curled up at your feet as you write. Not having to worry that your dog is home alone chewing up the sofa because he misses you. The feeling of well being that a dog brings to any environment.

I have written before about how wonderful it was for one week when we were selling our house and I brought my chocolate Lab, Lucy, to work with me.

According to a recent online survey, two-thirds of dog owners said they would put in longer hours if they could bring their dog to work.The poll, conducted by the online dog forum Dogster and the job search engine Simply Hired, reported that nearly one-third of those surveyed said they would go so far as taking a five percent pay cut if their dog could come to work with them. I would do that too, just for the peace of mind.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

We all make mistakes…

Editors live in fear of typos hitting the press. We dream about all the horrible things that can happen when we commit type to paper. We wake up in a sweat, fearing the annual report is going to hit people's mailboxes and that we've left the "l" out of "public." We make printer reps and designers crazy as we read bluelines letter by letter.

"How could this have happened???" reverberates in our heads as we imagine a man in a suit standing in our doorway with smoke curling out of his ears.

So I pity the editor of The Chronicle Review. While I was on hold yesterday, I was studying the cover of the November 25, 2005 edition folded on my desk. I read the 40 point headline: "The Challeges Ahead for Higher Education."

I think when this first came out, my eyes filled in the missing letter. Sitting doodling as I waited for someone to answer my call, however, the typo jumped out at me.

Mistakes happen. All the editors and proofreaders have gone home and the designer has to make a last-minute adjustment to the type. Her finger slips and deletes a letter. The designer is the editor and mental fatigue sets in.

No matter how carefully we proofread, we will always miss something. I like to have as many eyes as possible look over a piece before it goes to the printer. I like to put important pieces down and read them again the next day.

One of my English professors, dismayed at the number of typos he had found in our work, handed out pieces of cardboard and scissors to the class one evening. He made us sit and cut out a hole the size of a line of type on letter-size paper. We were told for our next assignment we were to hold this frame over every line and read it twice. We would fail the assignment if we had one misspelled word, one comma out of place.

Of course, looking for typos can be an obsession. At restaurants, I enjoy scanning the menu looking for errors. One of my favorite usage errors hung on the wall of a post office, where I learned that a person's disappearance may have been the result of "fowl" play. I imagined a flock of hens attacking the poor soul.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I have been trying to come up with a new cover concept for the summer/fall class schedule. Maybe because it's bleak January, but I have a desire to express enthusiasm and energy on this cover. I'd like to find an image full of vitality.

The word "jump" sprang to mind. Jump into new classes. Go for it. A few slogans "leapt" to mind that could be joined with the image.

I quickly found the neat image above while searching for jumpy images. What fun!

Combining concepts, images, and words is the most joyful part of my job. Doing so exercises many mental muscles simultaneously, something that, frankly, doesn't happen enough for must of us. It can't be happening as we go around with such dull expressions. Look at the faces around you as you walk down office halls, type e-mails, or sit in meetings.

By the way, the above image was purchased from a great, low-cost website istockphoto, which all publications people on a budget should know about. Photographer for the above photo is Diane Diederich.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


At Bradley we are fortunate to have off the week between Christmas and New Year's. Trudging back into the building yesterday morning, I was greeted by several people who wished me a happy new year - and some who quickly added that they would have enjoyed another week off.

Well, I am hoping for a good new year, but this one didn't get off to a great start. I would also enjoy another week off, but I also feel a little safer here in my cubicle! I didn't explain all this to the well-wishers, so I will do that here.

First, I think we are much more vulnerable than we usually let ourselves believe.

New Year's Day. I am driving down Interstate 55 for a family gathering. At my nephew's request, I bring along my dog Lucy.

I hear a bang from underneath the hood and see white smoke out the back. I pull off the road. A patrolman will pass by soon.

I call my sister. She can get here in about an hour.

I call the motor club. They can't locate any help. I have in my purse the number for a Peoria towing service. They will come, but I have to pay in cash. I look in my wallet. OK, I say hesitantly. I'll worry about that once he gets here.

No one else to call now.

A brown ribboned cornfield to my right. An old farmhouse in the far distance. Lucy watches the traffic rip past us. She is trembling. The trucks shake the car as they pass.

I am alone. No one seems to see me.

The patrolmen are sleeping in after New Year's Eve.

I sit for an hour. No one sees me.

My sister calls my phone. "I see you, I see you!" She goes to the next exit and turns around so she is heading my direction. We unload everything of value from the car and then help Lucy into the van.

I feel like laughing and crying. She has some cash.

Before heading home, we find a Starbucks. Ice water for Lucy and huge lattes for us. We sit in the van for a while and savor the calming hot liquid. We aren't anxious to get back on the highway.