October 19, 2006


2007 Calendars: Engagement – Dilbert; Day-to-Day – Duh!; Cartoons from “The New Yorker”; Space; Teacher’s Sticker-a-Day; Tangram Magnetic Puzzle-a-Day. Andrews McMeel. $12.99 (Dilbert); $11.99 (Duh!, New Yorker); $13.99 (Space; Tangram); $9.99 (Sticker).

     Andrews McMeel is the feel-good calendar company, offering a catalogue replete with jokes, well-known comic-strip characters, uplifting quotations, self-help, and even – here and there – some insight.  If you don’t feel good very often while working at your desk, it’s worthwhile giving up a little of your desktop to display a calendar to help lift your spirits.  If you like to track your appointments on paper, in an open-flat, spiral-bound engagement calendar, consider using one that reminds you of how funny the office (okay, other people’s offices) can be.  That would be the Dilbert Engagement Calendar, which for 2007 features Wally, the master of laziness, on the cover, saying, “I used the week to develop some new coffee-slurping noises.”  How’s that for being successfully passive-aggressive?  And if your boss notices you reading the Scott Adams cartoons – Wally teaching Asok to avoid work by walking briskly and pretending to be angry, Alice enduring a performance review, Dilbert pointing out that the company’s core competence is “sitting around a brown table” – you can simply start writing notes in the space on the left-hand page, or tracking meetings or phone calls on the right.  See?  You’re working!

     Of course, engagement calendars take up a little more desk space than day-to-day ones, so maybe you would prefer something like Duh! The Dumbest Things Ever Said or Done.  The out-and-out jokes here are not the funniest items – it’s the reality stuff that gets you: George W. Bush reminding C students that they can become president, or a store offering to sell stereo equipment for “299 bananas” (meaning dollars), then being forced to sell it to people who brought in 299 pieces of fruit.

     Not quite intellectual enough for you?  Then consider Cartoons from “The New Yorker,” that magazine repository of all things high-toned.  Here are the usual subjects – money, sex, love, health, etc. – in typical New Yorker style, which means gunfighters arguing whether a garment is a shawl or a poncho, and dogs discussing whether it’s better to blog or just keep barking.

     Prefer something more uplifting?  You can lift your senses through the office walls and ceilings and all the way to the stars with Space, an assemblage of gorgeous photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, Voyager and Viking missions, and other robotic spacefaring explorers.  The calendar includes important space-related anniversary dates, information on planet and star activity, and captions that not only explain what the photos are but also show why Earthbound astronomers consider them important.  For example, the Orion nebula, which is 1,500 light-years away, is one of the closest celestial regions where stars are being actively formed.  Not a bad piece of information – and there are plenty more here.

     Prefer something more interactive?  The Teacher’s Sticker-a-Day and Tangram Magnetic Puzzle-a-Day calendars will engage both your brain and your hands.  Sticker-a-Day makes a great gift for a favorite teacher, or you can use it yourself for your own kids at home – or for lightening up office life.  Each page contains – in addition to basic date information – removable stickers that you can use to compliment someone’s work, dress up a memo or invitation, or just for fun.  Hmm…might be a stretch to send back a memo to a colleague with a caterpillar sticker bearing the word, “Creative!”  But remember: these are fine for home or school even if they don’t fit your particular workplace.  As for the Tangram puzzle calendar, it’s wonderful anywhere – if you don’t mind getting pulled into spatial-awareness problems that are a lot harder than they look.  Although often used by teachers and counselors in schools and therapy, Tangram puzzles can be just plain fun.  The calendar includes seven magnetic pieces that you have to arrange into a different shape each day.  Look simple?  It’s not – don’t be surprised if you find yourself turning to the included puzzle solutions.  But better to try the puzzles out with colleagues or even the boss – relaxing everyone and doing some networking at the same time.  The result could be a year that’s just a little more interesting than it would otherwise be.

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