Wednesday, July 29, 2015


verb, intransive. Used as "pore over" or "pore through". To be absorbed in the reading or study of. To think intently. To ponder.

After she exchanged a couple of emails with the client who contacted her after being recommended by one of her few steady customers, Lorrie settled down to an afternoon of fact-finding.

The prospect wanted several labels printed for his product displaying a logo and descriptive text. After she asked for a high-quality digital version of his logo, he admitted that he didn't have one yet, then launched into a description of what he would like. Suddenly, the job had expanded into the creation of a corporate image. Additionally, he wanted his as-yet-nonexistent logo embossed and foil-stamped on the labels.

Lorrie had been in the printing business a long time, but had never designed anything for embossing and foil-stamping. She knew enough about it to know she needed to do research before she produced any work. She spent the bulk of the next day poring over tutorials that printers with websites had had the decency to post. It didn't matter what the subject was, she thought, if you knew what to type into a search engine, you could learn a lot about it in a few hours. Fortunately, she knew so much about the industry overall that the instructions for how to prepare the art were simply an extension to what she already knew.

"I can do this," Lorrie mused as she gazed at the illustrations she had downloaded from a couple of image banks. "I can put this and this together and simplify it enough to make a gorgeous emboss. It will look wonderful under the gold foil. It will look so elegant that my fee for setting it up will seem like a bargain!"

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


verb. To say something to express one's disapproval of or disagreement with something. Also a noun.

John spread the color printouts of the brochure he had written and designed over the past three days on Curt's desk, forcing his face to remain impassive. He knew this would be a great kickoff to a promotional campaign that would wrench the company out of its recent doldrums and bring in new business.

"What do you think?" he asked Curt.

Curt stared down at the sheets, showing photos of the company's equipment being operated by its employees. Descriptions of what those machines could do were placed adjacent to the photos, and specifications were included in a boxed section. The piece was designed to be folded into thirds like a business letter, sealed with a clear round tab and mailed after a name and address had been written on the back panel. John thought it was brilliant.

"I don't want to mail people something that just lists the names of the equipment and all these measurements," Curt objected, his face like stone. "That's boring! We need to promote what we can do, not what machinery we own."

"The copy can be changed," John admitted. "We can make it anything you want. What do you think of the overall appearance? Does it make you want to read the copy? If this wasn't your company, would it make you want to pick up the phone and call us for a quote?"

"No." Curt's face hadn't softened. "All I want to do is pitch it into the trash. It looks like the other dozen pieces of mail that come in here every week trying to get me to spend money."

John felt crushed, but refused to show his disappointment. "Then give me some guidance. I spent a lot of my own time on this. I just want to help the company be successful again. We have to do something!"

"This isn't it," Curt stated, finally meeting John's gaze. His eyes were cold. "You need to think out of the box if you want to impress me."

John picked up the printouts and left the room with them, hurt and bewildered. He had entered thinking that the company's descent into its third straight quarter of red ink would finally convince Curt that it was time to start advertising. He had been wrong. As he entered his studio and sat down at his computer, he shook his head. He feared he was working for a company headed for failure. If Curt wouldn't agree to advertise, it was only a matter of time. John looked at the monitor and made up his mind. Instead of eating lunch in the break room, he would stay at his desk and start searching for job openings online today, and he would do so until he found a new job. This ship was going to sink and he was determined not to go down with it.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


verb, transitive. To stupefy with or as if with a drug. To make something have a soporific or narcotic effect.

As Diane entered the central reading room with her classmates, her gaze ascended to the skylights in the ceiling of the vast space and for a moment, she struggled to breathe. Never, ever, not once in her brief life had she seen a place more marvelous, more filled with wonders.

She wrenched her attention to what her teacher was telling the class.

"... more than half a million books, on every subject you can think of, class ...."

Diane believed it. She could see some of them, in stacks that occupied at least half the floor of this huge room. She knew there were more somewhere else.

She knew her mouth was gaping in amazement. She didn't care. She trailed along with the other fourth-graders as Miss Zimmer led them to the globe near the information desk. It was three feet in diameter.

"Find Cincinnati for us on this globe, Gary," Miss Zimmer singled out one member of the class.

Gary stepped to the globe and turned it until the United States was uppermost. There, on the upper right quadrant of the land mass, was a shiny spot where Cincinnati, Ohio was located. So many people had pressed a finger to the globe's surface there to indicate their location on it that the paper had been worn off.

The tour continued, but the evidence of the multitudes who had entered the library and contributed to the wear and tear on the globe would be one of Diane's most vivid memories of it.

Thirteen years later, she entered the University of Cincinnati and frequently rode the bus from the campus downtown on a Saturday so she could use the library's vast resources to research a paper. It was so much more pleasant to use than the university's library, with its closed stacks and slow access system. It was impossible to browse there. Diane much preferred the public library, where a brief look in the card catalog would give her a call number or two, which were like keys to unlock a treasure. She would navigate to them in the stacks, narcotized by the subtle scent of books in the thousands--their pages, bindings and glue--and find, not only the books that bore those call numbers, but dozens more that stood near them, like relatives in a vast family gathering, waiting for her to open them and find exactly what she needed to earn that "A."

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


verb, intransitive. To engage in plots and intrigues; to scheme.
verb, transitive. To plot a malicious act.

The ruckus from the saxophone section behind her erupted just as Betty and the other flutes were inhaling in preparation for the intro to the next piece. The director's arms shot outward in the signal to stop playing. Betty propped her instrument on one thigh and gazed sadly at the sheet music, following the run of notes across the page as Mr. Reynolds chastised the sax players. She was in band because she loved music and loved playing music. She didn't understand why the students who always misbehaved and disrupted practice were here.

Betty had been disappointed when seat assignments were posted after the brief auditions at the end of marching season. She had earned First Flute, but she was first in the lower band. Band members were so numerous they had to be split into two groups for concert season. The best players were in the elite "Concert Band." The dregs were relegated to the other group. They played less-challenging pieces, and that was where all the discipline problems were.

As Betty listened to the continuing noise as Mr. Reynolds tried to impose order, she made up her mind. She was getting out of this crummy band. There was a system of "challenges" set up for that purpose, and she decided to use it.

After the period ended, she went to the band office and signed up for a challenge. Mr. Reynolds didn't comment as he marked his schedule and told her what piece to practice. There would also be a sight-reading contest, on a piece neither she nor the last-seated flutist in Concert Band had seen before. There was no way to practice for that. All Betty could do in preparation for it was randomly choose pieces out of the books of popular-song sheet music she had at home and attack them.

Betty watched Jenny--the flutist she was challenging--in a class they had together the next morning and wondered if the other girl was aware that Betty was machinating to get her seat. Jenny was the better player--that Betty knew. She had taken up the flute a year before Betty had, and her parents had paid for private lessons. Betty quelled such thoughts as she focused on her class work. It still might be possible to get into the good band, if she practiced hard every day. She had begun the previous afternoon.

How would she fit practice into the the rest of the week? She had play rehearsals every day immediately after band, then the bus ride home, then dinner, chores and finally homework before bed. She had to find a way, or her plan would fail.

The speech and dramatics teacher called her and her fellow actors to rehearse their scene first that afternoon. Afterward, she approached him.

"Mr. Boyd, is it okay if I duck out for half an hour to practice for my band challenge?"

He smiled at her, wishing all his students were as hard-working and considerate as Betty. "Of course. Take longer if you wish. I have a lot of work to do on other scenes. We won't need to go through yours again until much later."

She gushed her gratitude and left the auditorium. She found an empty practice room and spent the next hour working on the challenge piece.

She repeated that process for the rest of the week. On Friday, all the practice rooms were in use, so she practiced in the stage crew's lighting equipment room.

After band on Monday, she went to the practice room Mr. Reynolds used for challenges and did a brief warm-up. Mr. Reynolds joined her, then Jenny trailed in and got her flute out of its case.

As challenger, Betty was required to play first. She performed the challenge piece with one minor flaw and was fairly pleased at the end. She knew she stood a good chance of winning, even with that mistake. She moved on to the sight-reading piece apprehensively, but it wasn't as difficult as she had feared, and she got through it without too many halts and missed notes. Betty heaved a big sigh as she finished, knowing she had done her best.

Then it was Jenny's turn. After a few bars, it was obvious to Betty that the other girl hadn't practiced the challenge piece at all. Several times, she came to a complete halt. Her tone was breathy and her fingering clumsy. How had Jenny ever gotten into Concert Band? She played the sight-reading piece even more badly than she had played the challenge piece. With no surprise, Betty nodded when Mr. Reynolds announced that Betty was to take Jenny's chair in Concert Band the following day.

It was as wonderful as she had expected it to be: a full hour of practice on interesting music, without the frequent interruptions of noisy sax or brass players. She would do anything to stay in Concert Band for the rest of the school year, and the rest of her time in high school. As they swabbed out their flutes and packed them up after practice, Betty eyed the flutist who occupied the next-to-lowest seat and narrowed her eyes. Her best insurance to achieve her goal was to challenge her and win, thus placing herself one chair out of danger.

"Might as well strike while I'm hot," she thought, and headed for the band office to sign up for another challenge.

Definitions adapted from The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005 (eBook Edition, copyright 2008), and from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam Company, Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, 1965, depending on which is more convenient to hand.