Sunday, August 26, 2007

knee deep in catalogs

I haven't felt much like writing this summer. I have been knee deep in editing and proofreading the undergraduate and graduate catalogs. The phone book and the schedule of classes have been hovering in the wings.

The printer who has produced our catalogs and class schedules for the past 15 years went out of business. Finding a new, reliable printer has been quite a task. Then, the new printer had exact requirements for how they received the files.

We do have a new president on campus who promises to bring change and excitement. I believe this is a good thing, and I am looking forward to a new era at Bradley!

In the fall I hope to back to blogging… and back to normalcy.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Thick as Flies

I walked home from lunch the other day in tremendous heat and humidiy. As I gained the steps, I noticed flecks on the window behind the mini-blinds. I walked in the back door, lifted the blinds, and realized these flecks were a bevy of flies.

The spectacle of 60 to 70 flies hanging on my kitchen window rapidly took away my appetite. So, I rolled up a newspaper and began swatting away. Whack, splat, whack, splat. I got out window cleaner to tidy up the carnage splayed across the glass and soon realized that ammonia-based cleaner did double duty: it suffocated flies and cleaned up their carcasses at the same time.

After work that day, I called up my mother to see if she too was overrun with flies. She had not suffered the same plague, it seemed, but she did recall her childhood when flies were a pestilance.

"They were thick," she recalled. "Sanitation was bad and flies were everywhere." She said she would help her mother cover everything in the kitchen before spraying it down with a pesticide.

"Thick clouds of flies - they would be everywhere," she said.

She also opined that my recent infestation could have been caused by eggs hatching in the windowsill. I suspect it is from the screen that the dogs broke out, however.

Whatever the cause, a thick swarm of flies in the kitchen is one of the grossest things I have encountered recently.

It rivals only the flying ants that we had in our basement cubicles a few weeks ago.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

living with imperfection

I was working on the undergraduate catalog recently and noticed a typo that had appeared in last year's edition. It must have happened as a last-minute slip of the keyboard because I always run spell check (an hour-long process on a 300-page catalog) just before sending to the printer, and spell check should have caught this error. After a few moments of embarassment, I thought: it happens. Move on.

I'm not a perfectionist, having recognized long ago the unhealthiness of such a tendency, but I do like to make my work as error-free as humanly possibly. Sometimes I look at a story or a newsletter in the blueline stage and wish I could redo or rewrite the whole thing, but at such times I assure myself that I am probably a harsher critic than most other readers.

I wanted to walk back to work today after driving home for lunch. As I headed out the door, I noticed on the counter a packet of fliers that I had promised to distribute in the neighborhood. I thought I could complete part of this task on my way back to work and finish it on my way home.

In our neighborhood of old houses, we all struggle to maintain structures that have already endured over a century of living. We have tall trees dropping their limbs, we have rotting wood, we have crumbling sidewalks and crumbling foundations. We fight against the aging process. But weeds grow, paint peels, concrete chips, and cobwebs accumulate.

I want my house to look beautiful, and I often dream of winning the lottery because I know, on my own, I can't make my vision happen. But, as I walked up to all of my neighbors' porches today, I was surprised, as I got a close-up view, that they too have weeds they can't keep up with, paint that is chipping off, and shifting concrete.

I look so critically at my restoration efforts, but today I realized that everyone on my street struggles in the same way. As I walked across my neighbors' lawns towards home, humidity dripping from my scalp and raindrops pelting the pavement, I thought of a line from W. B. Yeats:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Bring on the rain

Almost every morning recently as I walk into my office in Swords Hall, I dodge the spray of water from the sprinkler hissing away in front of the building. At home, I can see the outline of old gravel paths, long since covered over and planted in grass. The roots can't grow deep over these artifacts, so a drought such as the one we are now experiencing, reveals the old walkways.

My water bill skyrockets as I turn on my own sprinklers in the evening to preserve the new perennials I have planted in my garden in the front and to encourage the growth of the wildflower seeds I planted out back.

Today it looks like rain. The sky is rumbling and turning grey. A brief storm blew in over the lunch hour, but was gone by the time I had read the paper and eaten my sandwich.

In year's past, heavy rains this time of year have flooded our basement offices in Swords, but I don't think we have to worry about that this year. We had lots of rain in early spring, but recently the precipitation has been sparse. So bring on the rain. Saturate the grass and the trees and the flowers. Bless the green growing world with water.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dog slobber on windows

When I work past 5:00, which is often, I usually run into Kerry, the gentleman who cleans our basement after we leave. This evening, I asked him how he had gotten the glass blocks by our outer door to sparkle so nicely. "Murphy's Oil Soap," he said. "I used it on everything."

"I love that stuff," I told him. "It doesn't hurt your hands and it smells good."

I would never in fifty years have thought of using oil soap on windows. "Do you think it would get the dog slobber off my windows," I asked. "Windex is worthless on it."


So, I went home and tried it. Sure enough, the dog slobber wiped off and the windows actually sparkled. I decided to Google Murphy's Oil Soap to see what else it could be used for, since Kerry had said he used it everywhere.

What I found surprised me. Google actually points one to diatribes against tried and true MOS. Hardwood floor manufacturers claim it leaves a nasty oily residue and should never be used. Blogs proclaim that it dulls wood.

Is this a conspiracy? An urban legend? If MOS can clean glass without leaving residue, how could it be so awful for floors?

By the way, I also used it, while I was in the groove, to clean my white kitchen cabinets. It wiped away coffee drips and various other stains pretty nicely, and I was thankful to Kerry for reminding me of this helpful environmetally friendly cleaner.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

roadkill 2

Okay, the first entry entitled "roadkill" was a bit much, so I can't believe I'm writing a sequel so soon.

My sister-in-law wanted to borrow my Depression glass ice bucket for a party. I wrapped it in a paper bag and set it on the floor of front seat of the car so I wouldn't foget to take it. This afternoon I decided to drive over to Haddad's and return some of the glass milk bottles that are gathering on the kitchen counters and the kitchen floor. I set a bag of them on the seat of the car.

As I was driving down Western, a cute box turtle comes sauntering across the road. I tried to stop, I tried to steer around it, but I completely failed. One tire nipped the turtle, the glass milk jars broke as they tumbled from the seat, and the ice bucket cracked as the bottles fell on it.

I turned around. I wanted to just stay home, but, I'm a modern creature. Should I change my plans for one crushed turtle?

I threw out the broken glass, loaded up more milk bottles, and got back in the car, using side streets so I wouldn't have to pass the carnage.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


A shovel scrapes the pavement. It apparently doesn't get it all. As I walk on I hear schkoop, schkoop, schkoop as the shovel digs into the asphalt. Then, a thud and a grinding sound as the Waste Management truck revs ups its compactor.

On the way home from lunch I was startled by the dead possum in the road. Its trunk was smeared into the pavement. Its head, off to one side, hadn't yet been crushed by tires and its mouth gaped, baring a row of white teeth. Good God Almighty, I think, is this how we value life? Is this what we have to show for our $3.50/gallon gasoline consumption?

Then, you think, by some tidy process this will all be cleaned up so you don't have to look at it anymore. But let me tell you the process isn't one bit tidy. It's a metal shovel scraping blood, bone, and muscle off of the asphalt.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


As you know, many cubicle dwellers have a heightened appreciation for the outdoors, especially those of us who dwell hours a day in a basement cube lighted only by fluorescence. So, a few weeks ago, I had the urge to plant a vegetable garden in my yard. The weather still quite cool, lettuce seemed the appropriate start. I had decided to do the garden in rectangles separated by paths, rather than one big chunk. So, I got out the tiller and dug up a small rectangular plot and seeded it.

Two weeks later, it was time to turn on the pool pump. The GCFI switch in the basement tripped and would not be reset. We called in an electrician, who speculated that my little lettuce plot had probably damaged the underground wire to the pump. I don't think I tilled more than four inches down, so this seemed incredible to me. Once we dug up the yard to find the buried wire, however, it was clear that the spot I had chosen to till was not only directly above the wire, but directly above the one spot where the wire lie right beneath the earth's surface.

The electrician patched the spot. And then a big rain came and the switch tripped again. My brother, the ultimate handyman, decided that we shouldn't mess around trying to fix the damaged wire, but should dig a deeper trench and splice in a new one.

He came last weekend and we dug, put a new wire in conduit, put in a new and more stable switch at the pump site, and covered in the trench. The splice, however, he decided, should remain above ground, as burying it could be tricky. He spliced it, wrapped it in a glass jar, and then proceeded to Menard's, where he and my husband found the most fake fake rock I have ever seen!

Yeah, it looks like that glacier just left it here by the driveway. And that plastic sheen, that's just years of sun.

Well, I can't complain, the pump is now working, and I've found another area of the yard - way in the back - to till for beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Of course, our new neighbor, a fat groundhog, lives in that quadrant of the yard, so I'll have to find fencing to keep him out of the produce.

Yes, life is good.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I don't remember receiving assignments as grade-schooler that required parental help. How could a 5-year old, on his own, be expected to compile a report on "anything French?"

I love computers ; } and anything French

My sister moved last weekend. I personally packed her old PowerMac G3 with loving care. I put it in the back of my car so it wouldn't be jostled in the big van of furniture. I unpacked it myself, with a wonderfully satisfied feeling that all would be well. I had to leave before we had time to set it up.

The next day she called to report that the machine wouldn't even hum or blink - it was DOA. I offered a few suggestions, none of which worked. Now, their Internet connection isn't working, so the laptop is pretty much out of commission also.

She called in a panic: her kindergartener has a report due tomorrow "on anything French." She had some French lavender soap. Maybe he could report on France and lavender, if I could fax some information (from my Internet connection) about lavender. "I don't have a fax machine," I said. "And I'm too tired to trudge back to the cubicle to use the office fax machine."

Luckily, I had heard a report in the car yesterday about all the excitement in France over the election of the new president. "Walk to the corner, buy a paper, and he can probably get enough from the photos and cutlines to suffice for a kindergarten report." Problem solved.

But the computer and Internet connection failures? Oh, that's for another day!!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

walk, work, walk, eat, walk, work, walk

Coworkers have been trying to walk on their lunch hour and have invited me to join them. I usually go home at lunch to let out the dogs. Yesterday, they said, they walked past my house and saw the dogs sitting on the porch (waiting to get back in and share my sandwich, no doubt). More interesting, they said the walk to my house and back to campus was almost a mile, according to a pedometer. OK, that's it. I have to start walking to work. Walk, work, walk home, share a sandwich with the dogs, walk back, work, walk back home, work in the yard. I got out of the habit with the awful dark winter, but now there's no excuses. Get off my butt, save gas, and get in nearly 2 miles per day.

Monday, April 30, 2007

A new cubicle desk

I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of my new cubicle desk. I changed cubicles over a year ago and didn't bring with me my convenient U-shaped desk with the curved corner for working at the computer, which, by the way, is what I do most all of the day. The new cube has two parallel desks, both of which were left over from other people's moves. One holds the computer, the other is for proofreading and writing. I have to turn 180 degrees to switch between the two.

We've been rearranging office spaces again, and, in the process, the subject of my inconvenient desk came up. So, I'm getting a new U-shaped configuration that will let me spin at 90 degree angles between work surfaces and be able to talk on the phone and access my computer at the same time.

I am thrilled. When you are a cube dweller, spatial reality become your reality!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

10 things I hate

(A local publication has a "10 things I crave" column in each issue. I have a different take on the genre.)

10 Things I Hate

1. Packing Peanuts
Free with any purchase in the Pottery section of Ebay.

2. Rats
Under your bird feeder, Peoria

3. Music with no soul - Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, George Michael, et al.
Borders, Barnes & Noble, Co-op.

4. Free-with-Chicken-McNuggets big plastic toys meant to entertain kids for several minutes and then be thrown in the landfill.

5. All those horrible plastic objects made by slave lablor and meant to entertain us for 2 minutes and then be thrown in the landfill.

6. Cell phones.
Sprint stores, Cellular Connection, etc.

7. Broken bottles on sidewalks.
Moss Ave., Peoria

8. Coffee that tastes like dirt.
Restaurants and cafeteria's throughout central Illinois.

9. Super high-heeled, razor-point shoes that prohibit women from running if assaulted.
Macy's, Bergner's et al.

10. I"m still thinking.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stress of proofreading

As you can imagine, I do lots of proofreading in my little cube in the Publications Office. I sit with my reading glasses - now proudly hanging from my neck on a gold chain - under a hot halogen lamp that illuminates the page like noontime sun. As you can also imagine, I get to proof some pretty juicy stuff - donor lists, newsletters, catalog copy, letters to constituents, and more. On my left, The Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, big dictionary, and the Harbrace handbook. On my right, several red pens and sharp Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

It can get pretty tense.

Today, for example, I was editing a newsletter with an astonishing number of typos, misspelled names, and just plain jumbled sentences. Would I make it to the end without running screaming into the hall? No, the outcome was worse. After popping two pieces of Eclipse super mint blast gum into mouth, followed by a swig of cold water, I felt something hard hit a molar. I fished out a piece of tooth that had broken off.

I hate to admit this to anyone, but I will tell you: I haven't been to the dentist in four years. The last time I went work was being done in the area now in question and I experienced, to quote an ex coworker, "mindbending pain." The dentist provided shot after shot of Novocain and they didn't numb that tender area between the tooth and gum. I gave up complaining and he continued to drill, scrape, and pick. When he was done, my face was white as a sheet and I had to peel my hands from the vinyl on the chair. I staggered out to my car, vowing never to visit a dentist again as long as I lived.

Well, then, today, what to do with this chunk of tooth in my hand and a gaping hole in my jaw?

I opened the phone book. "We cater to cowards," one ad said. "We can see you today," another offered. "Gentle dentistry." I dialed one of the numbers and a cheery voice answered. They could get me in at 2:00.

I made it to the office and sat nervously in the waiting room. When I was called back I told them I didn't know if I could do this and I told them my husband's number, feeling sure I'd pass out in the process. Before the technician left, I told her I had the tooth in my purse, if they'd like to see it. I produced a clean white envelope. She opened it and exclaimed, "it's a crown - we can probably just glue that back on."

And that's what happened. No shots, no drugs, no drill, no whirring high-pitched equipment shoved in the mouth. Just some icky cement and pressure.

But, the dentist said. You need to have the tooth next to it looked at when you have time. We'll see.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Love the Library

On my recent visit to the Bradley library, I brought back my overdue book, which I placed in the appropriate bin. I found a new book to read and proceeded to the circulation desk. I was worried my overdue book would be noticed and I wouldn't be able to check out another one. "No problem," the young man said. "It must be because you are faculty/staff." After a friendly conversation, he told me the book would be due back next October. The book, a complete collection of Eudora Welty's novels, might take me that long to finish, I laughed.

I left feeling good. No fines, no holds, no reprimands. It reminded me of my trips to the Topeka Public Library when we lived in Kansas. That library welcomes visitors with a colorful, comfortable children's section by the front door. Next, you walk through a huge movie, music, and new book section that reminded me more of a being in a store where many treasures could be found. The main part of the library had stacks and stacks of good books. The best part about this library, however, was that they never charged late fines. When you checked out a book or CD, you were provided a due date, but were not treated like a criminal if you didn't return the item in time, as you are at so many libraries.

A recent item in the Peoria Journal Star told of the Peoria Library waiving late fines if patrons brought back their overdue items with a donation to the local food pantry. "People fear library fines more than parking tickets," the library director told the paper. So, why bother with them? People should love their public library, not fear it. Every library should be open and inviting with friendly staff. I believe that if people feel good about their library, they will return the items even if fines are not charged. Of course, some people won't. But isn't that true even with fines?

From the current Topeka Public Library website:

Question / Issue

What are the overdue fines?

Answer / Solution

No, we don't charge overdue fines.
However, we will charge replacement costs for items long overdue or for damaged

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stand up and cheer on your Bradley Braves!

Since working at Bradley, I have, over time, become a Braves basketball fan. I learned a lot about the players when researching for a publication after the Braves went to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. I was very impressed by what I read, saw, and heard about these remarkable young men. Every once in a while I would see them on campus and was very impressed by how they interacted with others. They spend so much time in the spotlight but maintain humility.

I followed the team closely this year, so, when they played the first round of the NIT tournament at home, I had to get tickets. The atmosphere from the get go was electric as we took on a Big East team, Providence. The teams seemed very evenly matched and the score stayed quite close. I totally got into the game and wanted to cheer on our players, who were outmatched in size, but not in heart or determination.

I stood up, jumped, threw my fists in the air, and cheered on the team.

"Ma'am, could you sit down," I heard someone call.

"What," I said, turning around, "this is very exciting."

"I know," said the gentleman, "but my wife can't see. There's an appropriate time to stand."

I sat down.

Bradley's lead dropped. The game tied.

In the post-game show on WMBD, Coach Les and the players said they couldn't believe the support they received from the crowd. "They were loud.!"

Bradley players have a lot of heart. Bradley fans love their team, but have a disconcerting habit of being a little staid. They cheer and stand at "appropriate" times. If they'd look across the arena at the student section, however, they'd see some people who love the game and their team. They'd see people on their feet and cheering for the entire game.

Jim Les is trying hard to build an exciting, first-class program. Fans need to join in that effort, remember this is basketball, not the symphony, and stand up and cheer!

Whenever they feel like it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A visit from Cedar Waxwings

Never in my life have I wanted a tree to be cut down. At my current residence a Golden Rain Tree was planted right near the driveway. In early spring, it drops bushel basketfuls of yellow, sticky berries. These cling to your shoes and the dogs' paws. They end up in the carpet, on the couch, and on the car floorboards. In fall, more bushels of little twigs fall down. If lightening struck this tree, I would be overjoyed. I would plant, in its place, a chinquapin oak.

I awoke the other morning to a choir of squeaky chirps. I looked up and the Golden Rain Tree was filled with 60 or 70 Cedar Waxwings. They love berries, but this is the first year they have visited our tree. They are doing a great job of clearing away the berries. They even swoop down to the drive and suck up berries that have already fallen. Their cousins the cardinals have noticed the acitivity and seem to be trying the berries themselves. Some of the waxwings have moved to the maple tree in the back yard, which is dripping sweet sap. I hope these birds stay until their migratory instincts tell them they have to move on.

I would pay them to come back next year and eat these berries.

Monday, February 12, 2007

more evidence on the value of napping

Here's another article suggesting the importance of napping - even at work. One company provides a nap room, with leather sofas, pillows, low lighting, and, of course, an alarm clock.

Go to the CNN story about napping

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A cot in every cubicle

I am an avid napper. When Napster was having trouble I thought about seeing if I could buy their domain name and fill it not with music but with nap-related tips and stories. I have designated two stations on my XM satellite radio receiver as official nap stations - one is sort of New Age "space" music, the other is the Folk Village. On Saturdays I often get up, work a bit, and then fix a big bowl of pasta with steamed vegetables. Then, of course, I'm ready for a major nap. I have three Labs (renowned for being serious nappers). Carlos lies on the floor by the couch. Lucy keeps my feet warm. The 89-pound Banjo slips between me and the couch. I'm not sure how he does that but as long as he doesn't push me off, it's fine.

You can see why the following AP story caught my attention. Once the study is complete, I think nappers should unite and invite monsieur Bertrand to the US. He's a hero already!

Just imagine how much more productive we could be if, when feeling a bit weary, we could take five and then fix a cup of coffee and hit the keyboard refreshed.

By Associated Press
Updated: 1/31/2007


The French already enjoy a 35-hour work week and generous vacation. Now the health minister wants to look into whether workers should be allowed to sleep on the job.

France launched plans this week to spend $9 million this year to improve public awareness about sleeping troubles. About one in three French people suffer from them, the ministry says.

Fifty-six percent of French complain that a poor night's sleep has affected their job performance, according to the ministry.

''Why not a nap at work? It can't be a taboo subject,'' Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said Monday. He called for further studies and said he would promote on-the-job naps if they prove useful.

France's state-run health insurance provider will send letters explaining the importance of good sleep. The Health Ministry's Web site offers tips on how best to get a good night's rest.

The ministry's online ''Passport to Sleep'' recommends cutting down on coffee, tea, colas, and athletic activity after 8 p.m., shunning TV time or working late in the evening, and listening better to the body's own sleep signals, such as yawning.

Bertrand said sleepiness causes 20 percent to 30 percent of highway accidents across France each year.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

At least I don't have the bug going around

My lower back has been painful for the past week, a typical "hitch in my giddyup." If I sit in one place too long I can't stand up straight. I awoke this morning and turned over to hit the snooze button and the pain took my breath away. For a few moments I felt paralyzed. I eased myself out of bed, hung onto the stairwell, and made it downstairs for a cup of coffee. When I sat down on the couch, the pain hit me like a train again.

I was supposed to take our old dog, Carlos, in for tumor removal surgery this morning. My husband said he would take him, thank goodness. I went back upstairs to lie down. Andy came up to get ready and said I should hang from my arms to straighten out my spine. Uuggh I shouted back. He assured me it would really help.

"But where could I hang from?," I asked, ignoring the fact that I know Andy hangs from the tree outside every morning (which probably startles some passersby in the early haze).

"The magnolia tree outside."

"It's cold!"

Finally I crawled back downstairs, put on coat and shoes, and went outside. I did the prescribed "hang." I couldn't make it back upstairs so I fell asleep on the couch. I slept very soundly. When I stood up, I could unbend a little better.

The vet called to tell me he was starting Carlos' surgery and we discussed which tumors would be removed. His voice sounded hoarse and raspy. He said it had started with laryngitis and then, he thinks, has progressed into walking pneumonia. He said he felt good enough to do the surgery but says this bug is hitting older people really hard.

Andy lost his voice for about four days last week, which apparently is the first symptom of this nasty bug. He didn't seem to get any further symptoms, but for people with compromised systems, it can get pretty bad. The vet told me he had an uncle die from pneumonia and another is currently in the hospital with it.

Well, I haven't lost my voice and don't have a cough. That's a blessing, since I didn't get a flu shot this year. I guess if I keep doing hang-from-the-tree therapy, I'll soon be better.