Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Last look

In October 2004, my sister found two fur-ball kittens abandoned near her home in Chicago. Her landlord, who lived in the flat below, had a no-tolerance policy towards animals - and a tendency to enter the apartment whenever she felt like it. These were just about the cutest kittens my sister had ever seen and they seemed exceptionally bright and affectionate, so she hated to just drop them off at the shelter. She called and asked if she could bring them down. "They are so adorable," she said. "If you can't keep them, I know you'll find homes for them immediately."

The next Monday, I had the above picture as my computer's wallpaper - I knew someone would see them and fall in love. It was probably that afternoon that my coworker Andy came by and saw the photo. He had been thinking about getting his family a pet. I told him that cats really do better if adopted in pairs - they can terrorize each other rather than the humans around them. He loved the look of the black cat - and just didn't know if two was a good idea. Well, I said, the grey one has had diarrhea, so I needed to take her in to the vet anyway.

His family loved the kitten…and Andy's daily reports told of him eating lots, growing at an alarming rate, using his litter box right off the bat, and being one happy cat.

At first the vets thought Sophie was smaller than her brother just because of the gender difference - and that the diarrhea may have been caused by the kitten formula I put on her food to soften it. When I brought her in for her first shots, however, I explained that she still had diarrhea and didn't like using her litter box. Sometimes she would just sit hunched up and cry if I picked her up. This was Thanksgiving weekend and all of my family was at my house. That Friday, the vet called to say Sophie's x-rays showed some abnormalities in the intestines. The enthusiastic young vet who had just joined the clinic said he could open her up and take a look.

To explain my agreement with this plan, I have to say that I had already fallen in love with "Soph the Moph." She loved to be held - she never scratched - she had beautiful eyes that would look into mine intently. She found the dogs interesting. "Or, we could euthanize her," the vet said.

"No, let's see if we can help her," I told him.

It turned out she had a deformed intestinal tract. The vet called me from surgery and said he could try to cut out the deformed areas and stitch her back together. Intestinal surgery in cats, he warned, is often unsuccessful.

I got my whole family to think positive thoughts for Sophie's recovery. And, much to all the vets' surprise, she recovered beautifully. Well, maybe "beautifully" is too strong. She thrived. She ate well and she started to gain weight. She had very soft stools, however, and never did master the litter box. I can't count the number of times I would come home at lunch and find her hunched up, looking uncomfortable. The clinic showed me how to give her antinflammatory injections. We did find a miracle food for her. If I gave her a tablespoon of pumpkin every day, she kept fairly "regular."

One day this spring, I realized that I hadn't had to take Sophie in or give her a shot in several months. She seemed to have outgrown her problems. She loved being outside in the yard. She was a fearless mouser, always dumping her prey on the back porch for my approval. She remained the sweetest kitten ever - she loved to cuddle or have me hold her near my face and talk to her. I found her personality so charming that she could just make me smile by walking in the room.

A couple weeks ago, I noticed that she was limping. Then, she developed horrible blackish-brown diarrhea. Once the vet clinic hooked her up to fluids, she perked right up, ate, and her leg felt better. When I brought her home, she wouldn't eat and her limp got worse. She lost weight dramatically and wouldn't eat anything but a little chicken broth. She became skin and bones and only wanted to lie under the bed.

Monday was one of the most horrible mornings of my life. I had been stung by wasps the day before and was having an allergy attack. I got up throughout the night to check on Sophie.

I called the vet clinic first thing Monday morning and told them I thought she needed to be euthanized. I thought when I took her in they would disagree with my assessment. Instead, the vet said "I think it is time."

I held my Sophie through the procedure, with tears streaming down my face. Our eyes were locked on each other's - until hers gave up.

Andy stopped by my office this afternoon and I shared with him again the photos of the kittens. He told me that Sophie's brother was now 17 pounds! I hope he lives a good, happy, long life and brings his family as much joy as Sophie brought me.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Cubicle in a Bucket

Hiring a temporary employee?
Cubicle overtaken by ants?

If you need a temporary cubicle solution, the brilliant minds at inflatedesign have developed what they call OIAB - or Office in a Bucket.

It looks weird at first, but I gave it some thought and realized some advantages: Sound isn't going to carry in or out very well in an office the consistency of marshmallows. You wouldn't have to listen to everyone else's water cooler conversations. Since the cubes are soft, you could squish lots of them together if you have limited floorspace. If you are a bit of a klutz, like me, you wouldn't have to worry about tripping over you chair and slamming into a metal cubicle brace. You'd just bounce back. It looks waterproof, so if you run out of space, you could start lining these puffs up on the parking lot.

Big drawback: no thumbtacks on the walls.

For more photos go to

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Undergrad Catalog

One of the most important jobs I do at Bradley is edit, format, and proofread the undergraduate catalog, which comes out in print but is also available online at

To begin, I collect all the Senate-approved curriculum changes and course additions, deletions, and modifications. I modify the catalog text accordingly. I also read the front matter and faculty/staff listings for other changes that have occurred on campus during the year. Then, I send a proof to the campus community for review. The pages come back marked up in red with more changes.

I make the additional changes and then proofread, double check, triple check. I send this to the printer and then read the blueline proof carefully. Some would call this an incredibly tedious task. And it is. But it is also incredibly important, so I do enjoy it.

For the past several years, summers have been an overwhelming time in the Publications Office: the undergrad and grad catalogs, the telephone directory, newsletters, and more all demanded attention. Last fall, however, a new employee joined me and I have had more time for some long-neglected tasks. I took the time this year to update the font, column width, and header styles of the catalog. So, in additions to the tedious editing tasks, I also reformatted every line of the catalog.

I like the updated look. The 1950s Optima font has been replaced with the easy-on-the-eye sans serif font Myriad. The bloated columns have trimmed down and stand farther apart. The top margin has been widened for more white space—the page, I hope, will be more relaxing to the reader (prospective students and their parents, who have enough anxiety).

Optima, designed by Hermann Zapf in 1958, is very clean and crisp, but tends to be a bit sterile. Its popularity for use in newsletters, brochures, and advertising copy makes it a bit overused for the past 30 years. Still, for its time, it was a stylistic triumph.

The switch to Myriad, designed in 1992 by Twombly and Slimbach of Adobe Systems, represents a movement away from an institutional look for the catalog to a more friendly, personal style. I use Myriad for the schedule of classes and many other publications. I have Myriad Pro, which provides a wide variety of weights—so I am able to use it for heads and body text. I think it has a simplicity with flair and substance. It also is very well kerned and doesn't pose any problems in intricate combinations of letters and numbers. It is the perfect fin de siecle font!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Peoria Pickpockets

I'm sure in Peoria's storied past, when it was known throughout the midwest as a place for booze and prostitution, pickpockets were in their glory. It's a "profession" at least as old as prositituion. It seems Peoria pickpockets are enjoying a resurgence. I received an e-mail message today that told of a colleague's misfortune at Barnes & Noble.

I don't want what happened to me Sat. afternoon at a book discussion group in the Barnes & Noble Cafe to happen to anyone else: my wallet was lifted from my purse when I was sitting right there, with it beside me on the floor and closed, where I could see it out of the corner of my eye. None of the other four participants noticed anything, either. It's just that my purse was much lighter when I picked it up to leave . . .

The interesting thing is that the police, when I filed a report, said that this is a problem both there and at Borders Cafe, and to a lesser extent at Panera's, both of them.

At all of these places, customers are invited to sit down, relax, read a book, sip a coffee. Get comfortable—and less cautious. That's great, just don't take your purse. From what I have read, the great pickpocket works alone and completely blends into the environment. At Barnes and Noble, she is probably reading "The World is Flat" and enjoying a latte.

When I'm going to be in a crowded place, I like to put my ATM card, license, and keys in a secure pocket and leave my purse at home. A purse is such a target. If you have to carry one, get one that closes securely, has a shoulder strap, and looks kinda cheap. Designers create some gorgeous purses, but most are better suited for dressing-table decorations than everyday use. They draw attention to you, make you look like you have money, and often fall open easily.

Being safe also, I believe, means wearing sensible shoes. How are you going to run in heels? Wear them out to dinner or the opera, but for daily treks to work or the store, leave the pumps and spikes at home.

I had a strange experience in a grocery store the other day. Staring dumbly at all the tomato sauces I could choose from, I didn't notice two young men enter the aisle. Until they started to seriously invade my space. I began to move along and they moved too, brushing up against me at one point. I was not relieved of any possessions—maybe they were in training.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Labs Like the New Look

After months of sporadic work, I am finally ready to move my computer out of the living room and into the freshly painted office.

I have never experimented with painting a room in fun colors, so this was new. This room appears to have had some type of damage (fire, water, mold?), because it received a cheap and fast drywall and trim redo at some point. Nothing is square. The last time it was painted, someone carelessly splashed paint all over the oak hardwood floor, which had also been damaged by a leaky radiator.

A set of doors in this room exits to a small covered patio. I would like to get these in operating condition so the Labs and I can take our breaks from work and walk out onto a patio filled with beautiful pots of flowers. (Now it is just dirty with chipping paint, but I can dream!)

After this transformation of my home workspace, I want to spruce up my office . . . er cubicle at work. I was so busy when I moved in that I just tossed things into drawers or in various piles. Maybe this summer I will find time to straighten and find some more artwork for the beige walls. I would also like to buy a potted tree. I'll find room for it . . . do I really need that side chair?

Actually I am much less depressed about my cubicle since my trip last week to City Hall. The people I saw were in cramped spaces with cheap, ugly cubicle partitions. They can hear each other's keystrokes and breaths. My cube is palatial by comparison. I will, however, continue to complain about not having a window. Since darkrooms are disappearing, there is really no reason for anyone to have to work in a windowless space!!