Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias I've been feeling really crummy lately.

I had attributed it to the outbreak of political candidates in Vermillion.

The 10 candidates vying for mayor and four positions on the city council have been working very hard for about the past three months, and one of the requirements of a news reporter is to work almost, but not quite, as hard as they do.

Example: We use a press, the U.S. Postal Service, the Web, and newstands throughout Vermillion to distribute thousands of newspapers across the region and a few billion electronic versions of the Plain Talk throughout the universe every month.

Local political candidates are beginning to catch up with this modern technology (our newly elected mayor, for example, has a Web site).

They must still, however, work quite hard. You see, many office seekers, not wanting to leave anything to chance, rely on more than new-fangled media. A month before each election (when the snow has finally melted) they bring out a form of political communication that first appeared when a Cro-Magnon decided to tidy his home's appearance by planting grass in front of his cave.

The yard sign.

Delivering signs to yards, driving stakes into ground that hasn't fully thawed in April, being chased by packs of dogs or irritable homeowners who mistake you for a vacuum cleaner salesperson � it has to wear you out.

It's a wonder we don't have one or two candidates keel over from exhaustion each election year, never to be heard from again.

As the Germans say, gesundheit (literally: "what's your point, Dave?").

Well, it turns out politics may not be the reason a nasty bug decided to attack me last week.

It appears I am my own worst enemy, according to British researchers from a company called Analysts with Open Ergonomics.

These scientists claim that piles of paper, stacks of folders, and last week's half-filled coffee cup on my office desk mean one thing: I'm likely to get sick.

The researchers conducted a study for Japan's NEC-Mitsubishi and concluded that cluttered desks contribute to worker sickness, reports the BBC News Online. It even has a name: Irritable Desk Syndrome.

The opposite is also true. A tidy desk leads to healthy bodies.

The study's purpose was to analyze the desks of 2,000 NEC-Mitsubishi employees and determine specific ways employees can improve their work areas.

The results:

* Fully 40 percent of those surveyed said they were infuriated by the clutter on their desk, but couldn't be bothered to do anything about it. (I hear ya, bro!)

* Another 35 percent admitted they suffer from back or neck pain because they knowingly sit at their desk in an awkward position.

Lead study author Nigel Robertson, who calls himself a "deskologist," said that cluttered desks should be treated as a serious problem.

"What most individuals fail to realize is that desk symptoms typically escalate very quickly, from persistent discomfort to chronic pain which can end a person's career and reduce their quality of life in a wide range of ways."

What can I do, Nigel, before my desk kills me?

"The two essentials for less stressful, more productive desk management are: Don't endure, act today; and do it yourself � don't wait for someone else to fix it for you," he said.

Plain Talk Editor David Lias promises that as soon as he feels a little better, he'll clean his desk, which may never happen, since his desk is making him sick. You may contact him at

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