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December 2009 Archives

December 1, 2009

Audio/Visuals: Rockin’ mnemonic


University of Chicago medical student John Paro has set study aids to music, writing tunes such as “The Pelvis Ho-Down” and “Bought the Pharm.”

December 3, 2009

Audio/Visuals: Class action


The University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program uses rigorous training methods to lower teacher turnover.

December 7, 2009

Phoenix Pix: December 7-11, 2009

Rockefeller Chapel

Campus was beautiful and quiet on the first day of December.

Photo by Mairead Saleh, U-High'02.

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December 8, 2009

In style


“I did my job. It’s his byline, not mine. My colleagues will sympathize when I rail about this. This will make a great dinner-party story. Someday I’ll write a book.”

Channeling the workplace dramas of copy editors everywhere, Carol Fisher Saller wrote that book, titled The Subversive Copy Editor (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Saller, a senior manuscript editor at the press, is the person who (usually) patiently responds to the 3,000 questions submitted each year to the Q&A section of the Chicago Manual of Style’s (CMOS) Web site. The book was "the cumulative effect of reading a lot of anguished questions."

Never read the Q&A? Here’s an example. Note Saller's trademark wit, which, after reading 3,000 of these questions, the average person would be incapable of summoning:

Q: “The menu in our cafeteria shows that enchiladas are available ‘Tues.–Fri.’ However, when I ordered one on a Wednesday, I was informed that enchiladas are available on Tuesday and Friday, not Tuesday through Friday. When I informed the cafeteria manager that this was incorrect, she seemed shocked and refused to change the sign. Please help determine who is correct!”

A: “Although the sign was incorrect, I’m not sure you should annoy the person who provides the enchiladas.”

The Subversive Copy Editor isn’t another style guide; rather, Saller has written a relationship manual for current and aspiring copy editors, offering suggestions for process and organization as well as how to deal successfully with editors and writers while turning out clean, well-styled prose.

I went to the Graham School last week to hear Saller discuss her book and her career. As the Magazine's proofreader for nearly a year-and-a-half, I was hoping to glean a few tips from the grammar guru herself. (You can imagine how daunting it is to be responsible for grammar and style in a magazine published by the same institution that publishes CMOS.) Despite a journalism degree and Catholic-school education filled with diagramming sentences and memorizing lists of prepositions, I’m still learning the trade—and I'm not alone. Around half of the attendees were fellow copy editors looking for wisdom. Several were hoping to one day wield the red pencil and wondered how to stand out during a recession that hasn't been kind to journalism. The master offered three suggestions for success:

  1. Read—but don’t focus on memorizing—style manuals.
    Chicago, MLA, and the Associated Press—which updates its guide annually—are good places to start. Don’t think you have to know all 861 pages of CMOS by heart; no one, not even Saller, does. But if you know the basic rules of grammar and the most common issues of style, and if you have a good feel for the type of information you can find in a style guide, you’ll be in good shape.
  2. Find a mentor to check your work.
    There will always be someone who has been editing longer than you have and who knows a few more CMOS rules than you do. She can help. And if you find yourself disagreeing with your editor about whether you need a comma after the word “because,” “fantasizing about your defense is a good learning process.”
  3. Read, read, read.
    “The best editors are good readers,” Saller noted, because voracious readers understand what makes good prose. And your reading list needn’t be limited to the style manuals of rule No. 1. Fiction, nonfiction, reference books, cookbooks, blogs, and even comic books count.

Before we headed home to curl up with our own well-worn copies of CMOS, an audience member wanted to know: why subversive?

“People in copyediting already know that you have to break the rules sometimes,” Saller said. “But it’s a dangerous idea to a lot of people.” Spend a few minutes reading the panicked questions submitted to the Q&A, and you’ll agree.

“Plus,” she added, “The Sensible Copy Editor probably wouldn’t sell as well.”

Elizabeth Chan

December 10, 2009

Fear and loathing in Mandel Hall

vaccine-crowd.jpgI’m not one of those people who thinks that vaccines are somehow worse than the disease. I’m all for vaccines. Tetanus, yellow fever, bubonic plague, hoof and mouth disease—if there’s a vaccine for it, Doc, I’ll take it. So when the University announced free H1N1 (“swine flu”) vaccinations last Friday, I was ready to bare my shoulder and take it like a man.

1:30: My comrade Katie Muhlenkamp also wanted to take advantage of the vaccine scene, so we met in the foyer of the Reynolds Club. I had expected a mob, but there didn’t appear to be many people at the vaccination clinic—a few dozen at most. We walked back towards Mandel Hall to join the line.

1:31: Our initial impressions were deceiving: the line went back through the entrance to Mandel. Still, I’d seen worse at the office picnic. We walked into the hall toward the end of the line. Then we noticed the scores of people quietly sitting in the rows. A student helper told us the wait was two hours. Two hours!? Katie had to go to a lecture at Pick Hall at 3:30, and I had plenty of other work to do, but I had to weigh that against my desire to be H1N1-free for the winter. Maybe it was like a restaurant, where they said the wait was half an hour but seated you in 12 minutes? We opted to give it a shot.

1:41: The many students sitting in neat rows in Mandel had brought laptops or other reading; neither of us had thought that far ahead. I started regurgitating everything I learned from BioSci 15106 (Plagues: Past and Present) as a fourth-year about influenza, live vs. inactivated vaccines, Guillain–Barré syndrome, and the vaccine industry. Katie nodded politely the entire time.

2:00: An announcement is made—no more people can join the line, and anyone who leaves now will not be readmitted. I brace myself for the sudden rush for the doors, like steerage-class passengers desperate to get off the Titanic, but everyone seems to take it in stride.

2:04: The “line” where we were waiting was actually a row of seats in Mandel. Every few minutes, another row would stand up to form an actual line and slowly shuffle toward the vaccination tables. At some point, I had an epiphany: measuring the rate at which each row stood up would allow me to estimate how long we had to wait for our vaccine. I announced my plan to Katie, who laughed and said, “You’re weird.”

2:06: We see our coworker Carrie Golus well ahead of us in line. She's probably all smug for having the foresight to get here early. I make a mental note to friend her on Facebook, then unfriend her to hurt her feelings. That’ll teach her.

2:13: The gap between rows is just under five minutes, meaning that we would get to stand up by 2:50 and then wait who knows how long to get our vaccines. If only my boss had bought me an iPhone, I could remain in contact with her and be so much more productive! (Hint, hint.)

2:28: Nuts to this. I had work to do and felt guilty about being out of the office for so long. I bade farewell to Katie, who soldiered on without me. But now I’m aiming to go to the make-up flu session this Friday. I can picture the syringe going into my deltoid now. Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff.

Benjamin Recchie, AB'03

December 14, 2009

Phoenix Pix: December 14-18, 2009

Snowy Max Palevsky

Construction workers lower rebar to the bottom of Mansueto Library work site.

Photo by John Pitcher/University of Chicago Library.

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December 15, 2009

Audio/Visuals: Civil rights and democracy


Sojourners magazine's assistant editor Jeannie Choi interviews African American historian and scholar Vincent Harding, AM'56, PhD'65.

December 22, 2009

Phoenix Pix: December 21-25, 2009

Snowy Max Palevsky

Early December snow covers the benches outside Max Palevsky Residential Commons.

Photo by Catarina Oberlander, '13.

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December 23, 2009

Audio/Visuals: Lie down, Chicago Bears

Lie down, Chicago Bears

Frustrated by the Chicago Bears' losing season, Joe Schmitt, AB'91 (front row, center), penned new lyrics for Al Hoffman's classic "Bear Down, Chicago Bears."

December 28, 2009

Phoenix Pix: December 28, 2009-January 1, 2010

Snowy Max Palevsky

Trees strung with twinkling lights brighten the quad.

Photo by Ruthie Hansen, AB'06.

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December 30, 2009

You read it here

In 2009 we tried some new things on our blog UChiBLOGo and kept things interesting in the pages of the Magazine. Some ideas played out more successfully than others. Here are some of 2009's highlights, by the numbers:

Five most popular magazine stories, online

  1. "Chicago Schooled"
    Michael Fitzgerald, AB’86, writes about how the visible hand of the recession has revitalized critics of the Chicago School of Economics.

  2. "Life under wraps" and "Meresamun: A life in layers"
    On display for nine decades, the coffin of a 2,800-year-old Egyptian mummy Meresamun has never been opened. But CT imagery peeled away paint, plaster, and linen to reveal the woman inside.

  3. "The Founders connect online"
    Leila Sales, AB'06, imagines how John D. Rockefeller and William Rainey Harper's relationship during the development of the University would have blossomed over Facebook.

  4. "Make no little quads"
    Jay Pridmore's look at how Chicago’s Hyde Park campus is undergoing its biggest building boom in a century was almost as popular as its complementary Flickr set of additional photos and images.

  5. "The fighter still remains"
    Cocaine and crack once consumed Mark Allen, AB’01, but now he battles his demons in the ring.

Five most popular blog entries

  1. "Unspeakably hilarious"
    Like us, even the editors over at Newsweek—who linked to this entry from their front page—couldn't get enough of linguistics expert Arika Okrent's (PhD'04) amusing list of made-up words.

  2. "Who is Dan Pawson?"
    Magazine copyeditor Elizabeth Chan's interview with Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner Pawson, JD'06, includes plenty of charm—and zingers aimed at Law School faculty.

  3. "A presidential drugstore"
    Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93, takes a trip to Hyde Park's Walgreens to look at its transformation into Barack Obama Headquarters.

  4. "2B or not 2B? That's the question. 2B is the answer."
    After publishing a poem in the New Yorker, English PhD student Michael Robbins, AM'04, chatted with UChiBLOGo's editors about his poetic influences, following his sister to Chicago, and his current project intersecting Wu-Tang Clan and the twin towers.

  5. "Chicago gothic"
    Although it started as a last minute replacement blog entry, this behind-the-scenes look at the installation of artist J. Seward Johnson Jr.'s God Bless America (2005) outside the Magazine's office building downtown near Chicago Booth's Gleacher Center held its own among planned entries.

Audio/Visuals: End of an era

Packers, Willie Davis

University of Chicago trustee emeritus Willie Davis, MBA'68, reminisces about his time as a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers.

About December 2009

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in December 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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