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November 30, 2009

Please go to college?

Speaking of difficult things to ask for, here's an issue I've been struggling with: When do you butt into someone's life if they're not family? (Because, I don't know about you, but in my family we're up all in one another's business, like it or not. But with strangers and even friends, it's different.)

As I've mentioned, a young houseguest has been staying with me for the past few days. I'll leave her background and history out of this, since I know I wouldn't want mine discussed online. Let's just say that for a variety of reasons, she dropped out of college and has been working. Her explanations are manifold. But her logic is wanting.

Last night, I put aside any respectful distance normally accorded to people I don't know that well and I butted in, mom style, big time. My message, more or less, was, "Go. To. College. Put everything else on hold and re-enroll. You need advice? I'll advise. Need help applying? I'll help. Need an advocate to explain your GPA? I'll advocate. Need money? I'll help you do the FAFSA. Just trust me: college is the most important thing you can do for yourself. You think your job is fine now, but what happens if you're fired or they downsize and you can't find work because you have no degree? You want to help your family? You'll be that much more valuable when you have a degree. You think math is hard? Everyond has a hard time with certain subjects. That's why there are tutors and office hours." And so on.

Not sure how much sank in, but one can hope...

I know. It's her life. She's an adult. I have no responsibility to care for her, or even about her. But that's what people around her have been saying her whole life. If someone didn't care when she was 12, maybe someone should when she's 22?

What do you think? Would you butt in? What's the best argument you can make for telling someone to go to college when they think it's better to have a job?

By the way, if you want to get advice on your own asking dilemma, please go to the previous post and leave a comment (click here).

Asking Advice Exchange

After being at this asking thing for more than a year, I realize it's no fair. Every time I'm presented with a difficult situation, all I have to do is write about it here and people offer suggestions, words of wisdom or encouragement.

Why not spread that love?

Here, then, is an invitation to participate in The Daily Asker's Advice Exchange, a new weekly feature that will take place every Monday. Starting today!

If there's something you'd like to ask for, but are hesitating, or if you recently experienced an asking flop, write in. Tell us about challenges or pitfalls, why you're unsure or nervous, or what might have gone wrong. You can be as anonymous or, um, nonymous as you want. Then, for the rest of the week, people can reply to your query. I'll chime in, and so, I hope, will others. Maybe our wisdom can help you resolve some tricky negotiations or situations. No question or dilemma is too simple or -- dare I say -- too ambitious. Bring it on!

collectively thine,

La Roxy

November 28, 2009


A job saved and an ideal schedule in one fell swoop!

A romantic stroll!

A potential rip off/act of negligence at the auto shop kept in check by requesting accountability! (Even if they didn't break the bolt, at least they know that you're not 'asleep at the wheel' -- and you know they were being honest. Plus, it's completely your prerogative to inquire; what if they had broken it -- if you hadn't asked, and consequently felt compelled to research it online, you might have never known.)

Uncertainty put to rest!

A valiant attempt at a discount!

And salad dressing! (and moral support -- thanks ;) )

= Awesomeness.

I'm already looking forward to next week's dispatches.

And get ready, Monday, to share a problem or challenge if you're so inclined.


La Roxy

Please don't add me to your creepy database?

Mr. A and I have a houseguest from Boston staying with us for the Thanksgiving weekend. The short version of how I met her: Craigslist. The medium version: One of us needed something translated in order to contact a long lost grandma in a distant country and turned to cyberspace for help, and the other did the translating. The long version: Well, come over, plop into an armchair, pick your poison and I'll tell you all about it.

Since she's young and wowable and in love with all living creatures, we took her to Sea World today. (Also, Mr. A has never been, and the last time I went was around 1990.) I had a spectacular time, crowned by the discovery that otters are my new favorite animals. How adorable are they? Seriously!!

Before this day o' maritime bliss, however, something creepy transpired.

Every park goer waiting to pass through the turnstile at the entrance was being instructed by a smiling employee to place his or her hand inside a small plastic machine for one second. They all did it, then passed through. I didn't think much of it -- figured it was a stamp or maybe the ticket processor or something -- until I got closer and read the instructions: "Place fingertip on pad for scan." (Not an exact quote. Should have photographed it, but I was too busy being appalled.)

Sea World, it turns out, is collecting the fingerprints of all their visitors. That must be millions of most intimate records, tied to ticket barcodes (who cares), but also, for anyone who purchased a ticket, credit card and/or address info. What Sea World is doing with that material, how long and how securely it is being stored, is something only Sea World knows.

I told Mr. A what the machine was for, and he agreed: Creeporama.

Our turn.

"Please scan your ticket here, then place your finger on the glass." Smile.

"Here's my ticket, but I don't want to be scanned," Mr. A said, handing over his ticket.

"It's for your fingerprint." Smile.

"We are not comfortable with that," I said.

"You need to put your finger there so you can get in. It's to make sure you don't use your ticket twice." Smile drooping...

"I'm sorry, but I'm not okay with that. Is that necessary, or is there an alternative?" I asked. "You can look at my ID, or call over a manager so we can work this out. Sorry if I seem paranoid, but I have no idea what you're doing with that information and there's no reason for me to trust Sea World's employees."

(Maybe it was an overreaction. What could they do with my print, really? It's an admittedly abstract threat, and infantescimal chance of it materializing at that. Yet the idea gets me. And ideas matter. A print here, a scan there, and eventually you stop being vigilant and "they" know everything, Sea World didn't ask -- they instructed, and assumed compliance. Perhaps that's what bothers me most.)

"We're not going to do anything with it! It's just for Sea World's database!" she stammered. (And there you go. Their database? That was her exact word. I'm not making this up!!! I wish I were.)

Mr. A spoke up again.

"Do you have a congressional electronic non-disclosure form? You are required to present it to anybody who is required to provide a fingerprint."

She looked incredibly pained. Who were these idiots? It's just a fingerprint! Meanwhile, the line was getting longer and I got one glare (that I noticed). Just think -- hundreds or thousands of people passing through her creepy turnstile... did no one else care? were we the first to speak up or give her attitude?

"I don't understand what your problem is," she sighed. "I'm just trying to make sure that you don't give your pass to someone else."

"That's perfectly reasonable. I'm happy to help you make sure that doesn't happen. Would you like to write my name or driver's license number on it?" I offered.

"Ok, that's fine. Then can I please see your IDs"? She wrote our names on our passes and let us go.

Inside, I turned to Mr. A and gave him a victory hug. "Congressional electronic non-disclosure form? Where did you pull that out from? I had no idea about that!"

"I made it up," he confessed.

Don't worry, Mr. A, no one ever has to know... ;)

UPDATE: I had to find out what was up with that policy. Here are a few angles, if you want to take a look.

"How stupid":

"Who owns your fingerprint"?

Some background on themeparks and biometric record keeping:

I haven't found any sites defending this specific practice, but I also haven't looked very hard. Here's an alternate view about fingerprints in general:

[image via Fine Art America.]

November 27, 2009

I Am An Awesome Asker

Where I is You

Inaugural Edition

Pass the turkey? Could I have Friday off work? Please help me unload these groceries? Cut me a deal on this flat screen? Would you like a back rub? Can I bring my special someone home for the holidays? Stop staring you freak?

Whether you frantically stuffed yourself at Thanksgiving dinner or had a perfectly serene week in Montreal, Mumbai or Munich, now is the time to both shamelessly and enthusiastically report an asking accomplishment!

It's the first time, so consider it a test run. See previous post and comments on this post for details.

November 26, 2009

Giving thanks, and introducing two new comment days!!

Today I'm giving thanks for your presence, ideas, answers, insights, questions and curiosity, and for granting my adventures in asking a different sort of meaning by reading about them and, perhaps, taking more asking risks as a result.

Thanks, as well, to everybody who selflessly gave, to me and others, during my year of daily asking, and to those who encouraged me throughout the endeavor. Your generosity and open-mindedness will not be forgotten.

And thanks to C K, Ish and Rachel for their feedback on the changes I proposed! Here's what I'm thinking:

Are you a new reader? Or with me from Day One? An experienced asker or a total noob? I invite you all to participate in two new comment threads and take this blog to the next level.

On Mondays we'll hold the Asking Advice Exchange. If there's something you'd like to ask for, but are hesitating, or recently had an asking flop, write in. Tell us about challenges or pitfalls, why you're unsure or nervous, or what might have gone wrong. Then, for the rest of the week, people can reply to your query. I'll chime in, and so, I hope, will others. Maybe our collective wisdom can help you resolve some tricky negotiations or situations. No question or dilemma is too simple or -- dare I say -- too ambitious. Bring it on!

Fridays we'll hold a comment thread called "I am an Awesome Asker," where I is You. Report, both shamelessly and exuberantly, what a very awesome asker you are. Maybe it's a request that grew out of the Advice Exchange, or maybe it's totally different. Whether it's at work, in your personal life, in a retail setting or just some kooky risk you took, we want to hear about it! (And remember, not every asking is life changing -- baby steps, or silly/fun requests, are awesome, too!)

We'll start tomorrow, so meanwhile, get your asking anecdotes ready!!


La Roxy

November 25, 2009

Woman orders chili from Fastburger, changes mind

By Cudgja Pleze
Asker Daily News Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- What's worse than ordering chili from Wendy's and finding a finger in it? Ordering chili from Fastburger and finding no finger in it. What's what Issa Bella, 22, a tourist from Boston, discovered late Tuesday night, when she dug into a cup of the gooey stuff from the popular hamburger chain and felt completely underwhelmed.

"That shit was nasty," Bella said. "Wendy's is way better, even with all the fingers floating in it. This was nasty and I couldn't even sue."

An expert in all things chili, Bella said that after the first bite, she simply couldn't keep going. The chili was too greasy and soupy, with nary a bean, she said.

A Fastburger spokesman issued this statement: "Bite me and my beanless chili."

When Bella retched and dropped her spoon dejectedly, that's when La Roxy, her dining companion, intervened.

"I just asked her, 'Why don't you just ask for something else? If you don't like it, you shouldn't be stuck with it.
It's not like they're going to attack you with a cleaver if you try. Worst case, they say no. Just try,' " Roxy said she told her friend.

But Bella, who wasn't used to speaking up in such circumstances, demurred.

"I was scared," she explained. "I never ask for things, and it was hard to get up the courage. I asked La if we could hold off until next time, and La said there wouldn't be a next time and why would I ever order that barfalicious chili again. She had a point."

They practiced a few times until Bella felt comfortable stating her request a pleasant way. Then the two women approached the counter together and Bella asked.

The employee working the counter agreed. As a result of her initiative, Bella received a medium sized soda cup and access to the soda machine. She opted for iced tea, her favorite drink.

"It felt weird to ask. Because I never do that," Bella said. "But I'm glad I did it. Go Redsox!"

November 24, 2009

Three changes to the blog

My car passed the smog test!

Didn't have to ask for a thing.

What a lark.

So now I can use this big blank blog post to let you know about three changes here.

First, I've added a new search box to the right column.

Second, I'm about to start labeling posts again, with tags like "career asking," "travel" and "bargain hunting." I stopped in July, but I think some readers found them useful, as did I. If there's a category you'd like to see, let me know.

Third, because I love your comments and the cool ideas that emerge from them, I'm introducing a new feature. It's called Readers suddenly start writing lots of comments. Here's how it works. My fantastic, witty and wise readers suddenly start writing comments, lots of comments, and I smile. And then you read the comments and feel enriched and invigorated by the exciting dialogue going on, and then you smile. And then everyone does more asking.

Now, seriously. About that last one. I've been thinking of ways to encourage a dialogue here, but I understand that many of these posts are hard to reply to. "La Roxy asked for some ham. What the hell am I supposed to say to that? Congrats, Animal Killer? Hmm."

But here's an idea. If there is something you're thinking in reaction to a post, anything at all, and you're not articulating it, please consider this an invitation to speak up. Whether it's "cool" or "what were you thinking!?" or you want to discuss your own negotiations or want to compose a disquisition on the origin of gendered salary practices in biblical Jerusalem, I'd love to hear it -- and I imagine readers would, too. Because in the past, your ideas and suggestions have led to many interesting new directions.

To that end, I recently installed a tricked out new comment system, which should stop eating your submissions, as yummy as they are (like Blogger does).

So I encourage you to challenge my positions and choices of action, to share experiences and perspectives, and to let me know about interesting asking or negotiation themed articles or blog posts you may come across. And if any of my posts end with a question, that's definitely an invitation to talk back. Don't be shy!! =)

Basically, let's just pretend like we're all at a big party, at your cousin's house, yeah, and there's this crazy person who keeps asking questions, and you really want to comment about it on her blog. Or something.

Now the gears are turning. Maybe I'll start a comment contest, or a weekly "what I asked for" smorgasbord? Or do you just want to read in peace and stop being pestered to chime in, thank you very much?

What do you think?

Crash my party?

About a year ago, I spotted a woman in the grocery store buying ingredients for cucumber martinis and I asked if I could crash her party. That was at the beginning of the asking experiment, and it was more or less an excuse to get over my inhibitions. (By the way: she said yes!)

Yesterday I did the opposite -- invited a random woman in the grocery store to crash mine. This time around, I wasn't the least bit nervous. And she also said yes!

In two weeks, you see, I'm hosting a blind wine tasting, where people are invited to bring any red Italian wine that's not a Chianti. Mr. A and I will supply the Chianti, and then everyone has to try to guess which is which. (We're no experts, so truly, it's an excuse to get tipsy.)

Last night I went to BevMo to stock up for Thanksgiving, so I decided to pick something up for the tasting.

I asked their wine expert for advice, since I wasn't sure which of their Chianti options was the most classically styled. She started telling me about roughness and currants and how she recently aced a blind tasting and various other things I know very little about, and by the time she made a recommendation I had an idea: what if she could come? to the tasting?

"So, this might be a little forward, and I imagine you're always getting asked to parties, but would you like to come? To this blind tasting? It's at my house -- it would be awesome if you could make it!? I hope you don't mind my asking..."

"No, I get asked to parties all the time. Sometimes they're more casual and I go as a guest, and sometimes I get hired to teach about wine."

"Would you want to be paid? Maybe I could arrange a contribution from the group, or I could say thanks with a bottle of your favorite wine? Basically, we just amateurs getting together and exploring, it's nothing very professional."

"Then no, you wouldn't need to pay me, if it's just some friends getting together."

"Yeah, it's a bunch of my friends. We do it every month, and different people come every time. So it would be fun if you could make it to this one -- next Saturday -- or one in the future. You could be our resident expert! What do you think?"

"Ok, sure! I'd be happy to talk about the Chianti, if that's what you want. Let me give you my number -- here's cell and here's work. Just call and give me the details."

With that, I left the store possessing one fine wine, and one very cool possibility. Hope she can make it!

Alert: Auto askings looming

My car registration is due today, which means an opportunity for asking is just around the corner: the smog check.

As those following this blog for some time know, my darling 1995 nissan maxima has been on life support for the last year. It comes close so to the brink, and then fights on, thanks to repairs by Mr. A and, for the more complicated stuff, my trusty mechanic, Les.

What that means, smog wise, is that my car just might, might fail the test.

Before living in Boston for seven years, I would have accepted the test result and planned accordingly.

But in Boston, I learned something awesome. The price of a safety inspection? $29.95. The price of a safety inspection pass certificate? Asking for one, and/or a crisp Jackson.

My car has tinted windows, you see, and that's legal in Texas (where I picked it up from my dad). But they were too dark for Massachusetts. So every year, for five years, I asked, begged, and cajoled the safety inspectors to let it slide. And once, someone I know may have offered a generous "tip" for their accommodating services. Because removing the tint would be costly or (if I did it myself, which was more likely) create a hazardous (and nasty looking) zebra print. Also, I knew I was just passing through. Any year in Boston could have been my last. Why go to all that trouble for something as arbitrary as the tint percentage of the Commonwealth's motor vehicle code?

This time around I'm not planning on bribing anyone, but if there's some small hitch, and it's not some crazy safety problem, I will definitely ask for a break.

What all that means, car wise, is that I really am overdue for an upgrade. I know I've been threatening to do this since last fall, but now I mean it. I've stashed some cash. All I need is time. Once I turn in a complete draft of the dissertation I'm going to hit the lots.

And I hope you, gentle reader, will tag along as I delve into the negotiation process and try to get the best deal known to askerdom!

November 23, 2009

Quest for my dream ham (Part II)

Here's the thing. I love it.

Meat, that is.

I'm a conscious and conscientious consumer, and believe me I'm distressed about the entire food industry and culture of the USA, but given the choice between a plate with a soft, fragrant, grass fed, happily roaming cow-turned-steak seared to rare-medium perfection and one without, I know what I'd go for.

Which brings us to Saturday morning, before the craziness that was the weekend truly kicked off.

Ever since I moved back to San Diego I've been meaning to stop by a shop called Sausage King, but either it was closed or I was in a hurry. This place is run by an old German couple who have been selling cured and butchered meats for almost half a century. My mom used to buy steaks for our family there, and when I was a little girl it was a regular destination. In particular, there was this amazing ham she used to give my sister and me, on rye bread over a thin layer of butter, which we ate on Saturday mornings while watching the Smurfs. It was practically a ritual.

Well, on Saturday I randomly drove by, saw the OPEN sign -- and realized I had some time. So I parked around the corner and immediately, the scent of smoked tenderloins greeted my yearning nostrils.

I walked in, and the store was unchanged. The same dim room, the same array of sausages hanging from the ceiling, the same selection of Mitteleuropean sweets crowding the shelves. The couple looked different, though -- and I'm sure I was unrecognizable to them.

"Hello, how can I help you?" the woman behind the counter asked with a soft German accent.

"Hi. I used to come here when I was a little girl."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes. And now I was in the area, so I thought I would see if you have a type of meat I'm looking for, which my mom used to buy here. I don't know what's it's called."

"What did it taste like?"

"It was smoked, and very soft. And there was some iridescence on it. I wish I could remember its name. We had it on sandwiches."

I called my mom quickly, but she couldn't remember, either.

"Maybe it's this one," the woman tried. "It's a bit like a prosciutto." Sounded good, even if it wasn't right. I ordered half a pound, which she sliced. As she wrapped it up for me, she gave me a scrap to try. It was totally different. Really salty and slimy, actually. Definitely not my dream ham.

But I had ordered it, so now I was stuck with it. Half a pound. Maybe I could salvage it -- use it like bacon, building it into an omelet for Mr. A? Or cut up and mix in with something blander, for a smokey kick? Dry it, wrap it and give it to my frenemy for Christmas?

I approached the counter to pay and noticed there was no credit card machine.

"Do you take cards?" I asked.

"Cash only," she replied.

Well, there was an out. I didn't want that ham and I didn't have cash.

Instead, I heard myself telling her I'd be back in a minute and I reluctantly set out to find an ATM. Of which there were none in a two mile radius. So I drove 10 minutes to my bank, and even waited in line 10 minutes, just to collect the cash for that poor excuse for a prosciutto.

I'll be honest with you. I came so close to bolting. I mean, come on. Spend half an hour and $5? For some damn ham you don't want, at a business that doesn't take cards? What is this, Berlin in 1987? There are plenty of good meat suppliers in San Diego, some a few blocks from my house. I should totally just leave her, and the ham, hanging.

But here's the thing. I couldn't do that. Not to a small butcher shop that has withstood the rise and fall of several grocery stores just blocks away, where my mom went to buy our meats. Not to the Sausage King.

When I walked in, the lady's face lit up.

"You came back!"

"Of course!"

"I thought you changed your mind. I put your meat back, but it's still here."

"I drove to my bank, which was kind of far. I would never just disappear!" (Never dream of it...)

As she rang me up, she and her husband told me how old the shop is, and how they've been featured 17 times on that thing, the website thing...

"The internet?" I asked.

"Yes, that."

Meanwhile, I thought I would give it one more try.

"So, this ham I'm getting isn't the one I was looking or. It looks more like this one, pinker, less red..." I said, pointing to something else.

"Oh! Now I know! It must be the Schwarzwald! We still make it, but we're out now. But we'll make some in a few weeks. Here's our card. Call and I'll set some aside for you."

Das ist gut. Ja!

Gained: Didn't act like a jerk. And, fingers crossed, tracked down my beloved mystery meat.

May I have some ham, ma'am?

Ich bin had quite a weekend. In chronological order:

--I relished the reunion with my freshman year college roommate, who I hadn't seen in 7 years. Turns out she is as gentle and wise today as she was back then. It was a tremendous pleasure to see her again.

--Mr. A and I savored a frenzied flamenco show in L.A. at El Cid, in the course of an evening he exquisitely organized and executed.

--I had piping hot coffee thrown in my face and eye in the process of an exuberant hug between two exuberant dudes. Worry not: after an hour of stinging and a phone consult with a nurse I'm none the worse for it.

--My fam rang in my sister's 25th birthday, for which she flew down from Seattle. Every time she has a birthday I feel she's catching up to me -- until I remember I'm a year older, too.

--I observed a heated debate between an aspiring vegan and a carnivore, with, er, meaty repartees that included: "Show me one piece of evidence that animals have given their consent to be slaughtered." "You show me one piece of evidence that they have not." And "Who would you rather execute, a chicken or a human?" "I would take the bullet myself."

Which brings me to the subject of the asking I had set out to write about before this detour: meat.


November 20, 2009

Happy is she who need not ask

A play in one act


Lawlor, an intrepid plumber with an endearing southern lilt; Marvin and Melynda, a young couple with demanding schedules who are, temporarily, sharing a car; and Stanley, a leaky toilet with a leaky leak.

Time: The present.

Location: Growing coastal metropolis; neighborhood with tree-lined streets; pick a house, any house.

Marvin and Melynda skip in from stage left.

Melynda: Lawlor's coming tomorrow morning, and he said fixing Stanley is going to be a nightmare.

Marvin: Why?

Melynda: He had me describe Stanley's symptoms on the phone, and when I did he said that he's going to have to shut off the main water line and replace a bunch of parts. It's going to take hours. That's why he didn't come tonight. Didn't want to risk leaving us with no water overnight.

Marvin: That was thoughtful of him. That Lawlor sure is something. When is he coming?

Melynda: At 9. Do you want me to drop you off and come back to open the door, or should I just borrow my mom's car?

Marvin: You take the car, I'll stay home with Stanley. You have a busy day tomorrow, dontcha?

Melynda: Really?

Marvin: Yeah.

Melynda: Ok!

Narrator: And with that, Melynda sighed a happy sigh. Her Friday would be a lot easier that way, now that she didn't have to run back and forth across the city to drop off Marvin, open the door for Lawlor, wait for him to finish and then make it to an appointment. And she recalled that even happier than the woman who asks is one who doesn't need to.


[image via]

November 19, 2009

Unfortunate asking on the horizon


I just crossed an intersection with a stoplight camera. I entered on green. The person in front of me slowed down, so I did too. Meanwhile, the light turned yellow and red before I made it out of the intersection.

Does anyone know if entering on green means you're safe no matter what?? I've heard that, but not sure if it's true. Guess I'll find out now.

Here are my options if I do get a ticket:

1) Hope it's from a private company, since those tix are worthless.
2) If it's legit, then appeal on various grounds. I'll think of something, or ideas are always welcomed.
3) Ask for clemency.
4) Light a candle to St. Didacus. I don't think he's the patron saint of anything, but in any case it can't hurt.

The last time I got a traffic ticket was in 2005. That turned out to be a complicated mess. I will spare you the details. Rather, I will spare myself the memory.

What about you, gentle reader? What's the most annoying traffic or parking ticket you've ever gotten? Do tell. It won't make me feel better knowing you also got burned, but at least we can whine together.

UPDATE: Wow -- I just looked up St. Didacus and found out he's the patron saint of San Diego. That was a totally random choice! I had no idea!! Maybe he's looking out for me after all. Now, if only I were a believer, in the ecumenical sense, that is...

November 18, 2009

Why are well paid women so bad at negotiating their salaries?

You've probably already heard the news, but just in case, lemme spell it out: Women earn less than men working the same jobs.

On Monday the NYT blogged about an interesting study conducted by the compensation website Payscale.

The findings were twofold. First, pay disparities between men and women increase with salary. Thus the difference in compensation between higher earning women (in the study, above $100k) and their male counterparts is greater than that between lower earning women and their male counterparts. Second, when one adjusts for factors besides gender that can influence compensation (these aren't specified, but I'm guessing it's stuff like quantifiable performance results, cost of living, schedule availability, time worked, seniority, periodic performance reviews, etc), then the pay gap shrinks.

Regarding the first finding:

If it seems odd that successful (in this case, highly compensated) women are worse at narrowing the gender gap than those who earn less, Payscale offers this theory: for high paying jobs, performance is a more subjective matter. An engineer banking $67k per year has some tasks to fulfill, and success in meeting those tasks results in higher or lower compensation. But the criteria for judging a CEO or law firm partner or marketing veep are fuzzier. So, Payscale proposes, there's more room for latent value judgments/discrimination.
In other words [...] jobs in which quality is easier to measure are more likely to be compensated based on merit, so equally qualified men and women are likely to receive equal pay. On the other hand, in jobs where quality measures are more subjective, meritocracy may not rule, and men may be better compensated for reasons other than their qualifications. For example, perhaps men are subconsciously viewed as more competent than women, or are more adept at negotiating for raises.
Frankly, I don't buy it. Maybe I'm just a grad student who knows little about the business world, but isn't success in many high paying jobs just as quantifiable as in low paying ones? I mean, yes there are the gurus who get paid to sit around and lend their name to a brand, but aside from those exceptions, isn't performance very measurable? How many clients did you bring in? How much did the stock grow when you were in charge? How well did your revenue withstand the recession? etc. Please correct me if I'm wrong, business-savvy readers.

But if that's true, then my very off-the-cuff speculations are as follows:

1) People tend to be rich and successful at the end of their careers. So those top earners are older. And perhaps those older women are inured to the cult of acquiescence. Women starting their careers today, hence earning less, are doing a lot more asking, I hope. That would explain the smaller gaps in the lower earning bracket. With time, I hope to see the gap close at all levels of the compensation slope.

2) But what if the disparities are not due to where these survey responders were in their careers, but rather about the positions themselves, or the people in them? Indeed, what if there's something about engineering or other 67k jobs that helps foster equal pay, and something about the jobs at the top earning bracket that leads to discrimination?

Here's the most interesting point the writer, Catherine Rampell, makes:
The implication is that in most jobs where a wage gap exists, it is probably not due to overt discrimination, with bosses deciding, Mad-Men-style, that women should receive unequal pay for equal work. Rather, in most jobs, the different career choices that men and women make — or perhaps the different career opportunities men and women have available to them — account for big differences in pay, says Al Lee, PayScale’s director of quantitative analysis.
I image that higher paying, higher powered jobs have more room for such choices. Who do you befriend. Who's your mentor. Is your title worded the right way. How do you present yourself, verbally and nonverbally, in the job application process. Did you play golf with the right person. Are you perceived as competitive or a softie. Is your spouse staying at home and caring for the kids or must you cut back on overtime to do that. Is your office strategically located.


When you're at a low or mid-level job, maybe those difference don't count for much. But in high powered, high stakes positions, all those nuances and unspoken attributes converge to create something called "value."

And somehow, women are missing that point.

I'm sure there's more to it than this. The thoughts are still fresh on my mind. Help me out. What do you think? What am I missing? What explanations do you see?

November 17, 2009

A delicate professional situation

I asked for something delicate at work today.

I don't know the results yet, and I'm not quite comfortable discussing the issue yet, since I know some people from work read this blog, or might in the future.

(Yes, as a semi-anonymous blogger I've done a fine job of revealing my identity to the people who probably shouldn't know it, and keeping my identity an airtight secret from those who probably should. No wonder I failed the foreign service exam. I'd make an disastrous spy.)

Before I write about that, I want to say something else.

I've wondered recently, ever since spending some time in an office setting again, if this blog could backfire. Once my name gets out there, as undoubtedly it will one day, could potential employers feel solidarity with the bosses I've written about and decide not to hire me for that reason? Could they worry that I've started another blabbermouthed venture I'm not telling them about? Of course, I don't think I'm writing anything too touchy or objectionable, but how can I know what a potential employer would think?

So what do you think, readers? Am I screwing myself?

No matter what I'll keep writing this, because I think the topics of women's compensation, negotiation/asking skills and workplace opportunities (which guides this blog's mission above and beyond the fun adventures in asking) are too crucial to fall silent about.

But I can't help but wonder.

Shopping strategies from a Soho pro

i like

I just had to post this comment in reaction to yesterday's post about Soho. Fortunately, there's more where it came from -- Cents in the City, a blog that could easily become my next obsession! The comment:
You think it's bad just wandering around Soho with the intention to shop, try working in Soho! Last week I was on my lunch break and heading over to my shoe guy in order to give some old heels an extended life. (How frugal, right?) I was walking down Lafayette and somewhere between Prince and Houston I noticed a sample sale.

Beautiful Cole Haan coats called me in for just a peek. (Just a peek since I should be buying Christmas presents and not spending on myself.) On a rack of $50 Oscar dresses I found one random Marchesa dress. Despite the warning signs that I had no idea how much it cost and it was a size smaller than I normally wear I figured, heck, I might as well try it on, As I was maneuvering the dress over my head, I was simultaneously Googling the original price on my cell. If it fit I would have two options; I could keep the dress to myself or attempt to sell on eBay and if it didn't sell I'm sure I'd find a use for it. If it didn’t fit, I would just continue on to my shoe guy.

Needless to say the dress fit. It is a little tight around my hips, not in unflattering way but more of a makes it hard to move way. It turns out the sample sale prices was $50. My Google search revealed it originally retailed for $600! Of course I had to buy. After modeling for various friends, the verdict was it's too pretty and I looked too amazing in it to sell.

Lunch hour shopping in Soho has helped my wardrobe, but it can be an unnecessary hit to the wallet.
So, if I may extract a few takeaway tips, for other frugal shoppers/askers out there:

1) Comparison shop like crazy, using Google or whatever other means at your disposal, to make sure you're getting the best price possible. (And hey, if you're not getting it, leverage that info, ask for a discount or price match.)

2) If you spot a good deal, even if it's not a good fit for you, turn around and make a buck off of it.

3) When you do find a good product, invest in repairs rather than tossing. New heels can make one $100 pair of boots outlast three pairs of crappy cheaper ones.

4) Look for opportunities everywhere, including on lunch breaks, errands, and when you least expect them. That's especially true for asking. The best experiences have cropped up when I wasn't looking for them.

5) Shopper's remorse works both ways. Yes you can buy some ridiculous plaid orange flannel pants thinking they're hipster cool and then kick yourself later. (That was, ahem, me at 15.) But the reverse is true. If you find a dress that's too hot to handle, $50 is a small price to pay compared to the years of therapy you'll need as you go over the missed opportunity with a coterie of experts.

Congrats on your stupendous purchase!

November 16, 2009

If all decisions were this easy, I'd be very poor and very well dressed

You're on Prince Street, in the consumer-friendly neighborhood of Manhattan known as Soho, and you've just walked into "Nolan," a small shop with huge windows and a sample sale.

You spot two dresses you like.

One is black, cut right above the knee, in a warm and cozy fabric, with regular folds at the waist that give it that little something extra.

The other is navy blue, with a peephole v-neckline and a button-up back, in a flouncy silk-cotton blend.

One is winter.

The other is summer.

One announces "responsible." It can go from job interview to lunch with the in-laws to matinee at the symphony.

The other whispers trouble.

Each is splurgeably priced, but together, they are too expensive.


Solution: You get the price down on both!

Dress one was $100 (from $230), dress two was $90 (from $220). I took them both up to the counter, looking undecided, and made a tentative case: "I like them both, but I'm not sure which to get."

The guy looked at me like, "And what am I supposta do."

I continued: "So I was wondering, do you think you could do some kind of discount? Perhaps 10 percent off, or both for $175?"

"That's too low. I'm sorry."

"I see. It's just that $190 is over my budget."

"I can do $10 off. That's it. Is that ok?"

I thought about it. $180 for two very different dresses. Haven't gone shopping in ages. I've been working and saving -- and every time I wear them, I'd remember this trip.

"Sure. That's fine. Thank you."

He rang me up and handed me the receipt to sign.

"Your total comes to $169."


"$10 off of each dress."

"Oh, really?! Great! Thanks!"

The shop's handwritten business card states the address is 2 Prince Street. I just googled the phone number on the card, just because, and it traces back to an electrician in Jersey. Only in New York!

Can you give me a tour of the UN?

Hello from 10,000 feet!!

Gogo, an in-flight wifi provider, gave out free passes to everyone on my plane before boarding. As a result of that freebie, which I didn't even have to ask for,

1) I'm-a disclosin', per FCC rules.

2) I'm admitting my bias: Let the record state that given the choice between a flight without free wifi thanks to Gogo, and one with it, I would opt for the latter. Now you know.


3) I'm happy!! Because I have some askings to report.

In chronological order:

At the conference, I met a guy who gives tours of the U.N. He shared a few funny stories about the sheltered people taking his tours -- like people who think African is a language. At the end of our chat, when he told me to let him know if I ever want a tour, I took down his contact info. I didn't plan on following up so soon, but today I found myself with a few hours to kill -- in New York.

So I dropped him this email:

BODY: Hi Name,

We met briefly at Yale this weekend, when you kindly invited me to get in touch if I'd ever like a tour of the UN.

I'm actually in NY today with some free time before I head back to California. I have no idea how it works -- if one needs advance tickets or a reservation -- but if you have room in any of your tours today, I'd love to come and at last see the UN in person!

Thanks, best wishes,
La Roxy
He replied in a matter of minutes, saying that I should give him my number and if he can make it happen, he'll let me know. I shot back my number.

Alas, I write to you from the flight after no phone call. I had an awesome afternoon (including one retail asking, detailed in the next post), so no regrets. Even though it didn't work out, I appreciate whatever efforts he made on my behalf.

Now I really want to take that tour! Can't believe I've been to NY so many times and never visited the UN. Am I not, like, the cliche of the sheltered, dumb American? Ohmigod, time to, like, recitify that, and improve my cross-cultural understandings. I'll stop for tacos or pho when I get back to Cali.

UPDATE: The guide just wrote back to say he was swamped all day with school groups, but to try again next time I'm in NY. I shall look forward to it. Thanks again for the invitation!

By the way, here are a few pics of the self-guided tour I took instead:

Sunset reflecting off of some building near JFK.

Trash, East Village. I'd love to ask that shoe where its other half went.

Preschoolers in Morningside Park.

November 15, 2009

And sometimes, asking is just a pretext...

...for trying on a lab coat and taking the pulse of some unfortunate bloke's cranium!

I met my friend at his hospital last night, where he's studying dental surgery. It was raining all weekend and the place was deserted, so he had time to give me a tour. And when I saw the lab coats in the residents' lounge, I couldn't resist.

Cranium's diagnosis: Death.

And mine? Acute Askeritis.

November 14, 2009

Sometimes, asking is just a pretext...

...for getting your name out there.

Case in point: At the conference today, I met a distinguished expert the field of financial and economic analysis. We were both ditching a boring session, met in the hallway and ended up trading opinions about it. Opinions led to a longer conversation, which led to questions about one another's careers in the past, present and future. Which led to a statement from him about an issue I care deeply about.

At which point, I blurted out, "Would you like to co-write a book about that?"

He looked at me blankly, I guess taken aback.

I clarified.

"Not that you would have any reason to collaborate on a book with me. I mean, you've been writing your whole life and I'm just starting, but perhaps we could start with an article, or basic research, or I could help you if you took this on as one of the longer projects you were talking about. I think it's tragically undercovered. No one has the courage to write about it."

"You think so." He paused. Skeptical or just unconvinced? And then, at last: "Do you have a card?"

"I do."

Our talk moved to other subjects, and then we sat together for the rest of the conference. How awesome would it be to collaborate on a research project with this expert, thanks to a split second of sauciness? Even if that does not happen, and I realize that most likely it will not, I hope that, at the very least, he'll remember me. Next time his organization is looking to hire someone. Hint hint hint.
[image via somevelvetmorning]

Please use your inside voices?

I was raised with the guideline that it's far worse manners to point out someone else's lapse than to be rude in the first place.

Today, an addendum:

Whether you believe that manners are merely antiquated, elitist conventions or that they actually born out of, and remain continually relevant to, some sort of social logic or utility, that guideline makes quite a bit of sense. Unless the offender is talking loudly. A seat away from you. About lash curlers. On a 6 a.m. flight. While you and everyone else are trying to sleep.

Then you can tell her to shut the eff up.

The situation was not quite that dire, but I did ask for silence on the flight from San Diego, and this is how it happened. (By the way, like most of my askings these days, it only dawned on me after the fact.)

The flight was full, and the general 'tude from about rows 10 to 25 (i.e. the front half of economy) was zen. People were in the mood for sleeping, reading, listening to ipods.

And they would have, were it not for the people in the row behind mine: two sisters who were headed to NY for the first time. Like, everrrr!!!

By the time the plane took off they had told their immediate neighbor and several flight attendants how happy they were, how old they were, what their jobs had, why their career paths are better than the alternative tracks within their fields, how long they hadn't been on a plane, how much they love lemonade, and the very same details about their girlfriend in NY, with whom they were staying.

An hour later, they were still going.

An hour later, I had registered a few exhausted gazes from people near and far. Some appeared sympathetic toward me, since I was sitting really close to them, but most were were just-shoot-me glares issued to anyone who cared to notice.

"I thought they'd be quiet by now," whispered the woman across the aisle. "But I guess not."

"Yeah," I whispered back. "I think they're set on talking the entire flight."

Later: Woman from about five rows back caught my eye. I shrugged as in, "Sucks, I know, but what can ya do?" and she shook her head defiantly, as if to say, "This is wrong. This is unjust. It makes me want to pull their spinal chords out through their prattling mouths and use them as props in the new indie romance I'm directing."

And that's when it dawned on me.

What if everyone stopped treating them like adversaries or low-life louts and treated them like what they were -- excited young women who hadn't flown in ages, and who maybe they had no idea they were bothering anyone.

I turned around and smiled. They immediately stopped talking and smiled back. And then I put it as gently as I could.

"I noticed? That people are looking in this direction a lot? And I think? maybe? it's because you're talking kind of loud?"

The older one, who had been talking about lash curlers, put her hands to her mouth in horror.

"I'm sorry!"

They used their inside voices for the rest of the flight.

And I finally got some sleep!!!
[image via]

And on the Third Day...

I’ve been on the East Coast since Wednesday, but no askerly magic.

Sure, I’ve asked – around. For directions, and what platform a train leaves from, and how much a hotel room costs.

In my last trip to these parts, same time last year, I had dinner with a New Yorker, I asked my bus neighbor to be quiet, I secured a couple of discounts from Soho street vendors, and I sought mercy from a pair of heartless library bureaucrats at my grad school.

Today things are calmer. I’m in New Haven for a conference in my field, and bold assertions, risks or negotiations are not the first thing on my brain. Instead, I’m listening, learning, reflecting, taking it all in.


I have three days left of this trip. I fly back Monday.

People can cross deserts in that much time, coordinate last minute diplomatic forums between heads of neighboring warring states only to have them fall apart that morning because of an accidental and easily misinterpreted gun shot, devise solutions to complex mathematical conundrums, insert or extract artificial heart valves on half a dozen people and even brine a turkey.

The least I can do come up with something good to ask.

[image via ffffound]

November 09, 2009

How to Get Your Way (Italian style)

"Let's stay in! I'll cook."

These were Mr. A's words to me on Thursday night as we mulled over dinner plans.

"Are you sure you want to cook? You're not exhausted after work?" I answered.

"No, I'd love to make something."

That sounded wonderful in theory. In practice, I had one concern.

"You're prepared to clean up? Because I already did dishes for an hour today and I'm not doing them again."

"How about we go out!"

"Great idea!"

Thus we found ourselves in line at Arrividerci, a delectable ristorante in Hillcrest, the once-hipster part of town now known for its good food.

The hostess told us it would be 20 to 25 minutes for a table. Perfect -- we weren't starving yet, and there was a used book store a block away we'd been wanting to check out.

After spending 20 minutes browsing -- and $30 on four books (I didn't ask for a discount -- recently I've been feeling so sad about the state of the book industry that I've stopped trying to get breaks there) -- we trotted back to the restaurant, nudged our way through the line and approached the counter. I scanned the waiting list and saw that every name before ours was crossed off, save for one couple. Just in time.

"We're back. Mr. A.," I told the hostess, pointing to his name on her list. "How long do you expect?"

"20 to 25 minutes."

And that's when it happened. I felt the wrath of 1,000 eye-lined bleached-and-teased divas swelling within me. And I ceded to their indomitable power.

I eyed the hostess up and down (both for effect and to make absolutely sure she was Italian), and then I let her have it.

"Excuse me, but are you joking?" [Scuza, ma ci stai prendendo in giro?]

"Because THAT is ridiculous. 25 minutes ago, you told us 25 minutes. Now it's 25 minutes again?"

"I have several reservations in front of you!"

"You knew that half an hour ago. So clearly you can't be serious. If you had told me 50 minutes the first time I asked, I would have gone somewhere else. Instead you lie to me, and to everyone waiting outside, and make your restaurant look like the best one on the block. This may be an Italian restaurant, but not even in Italy have I been treated in such a way."

"But other people have reservations now!" she gasped. (Poor woman! More how it really felt to be berating her, below...)

"I get you're busy. What I do not accept are your lies. What do you expect me to do now. Wait another half an hour? So you can lie to me again?"

People were staring. A manager rushed over. "What's going on!?" he interjected.

"They want a table. They're on the list, but I told them it's impossible, the reservations" she stammered.

"How many of you?"

"Two," I answered.

"The next table is yours. I'm terribly sorry."

"Thank you very much."

We were seated on the patio.

Mr. A was studying me with a mixture of terror and something bordering on lust. And I was going over the scene in my head. I had just mouthed off at a harried hostess. I had raised my voice, which is something I never do. I had intimidated someone into giving me my way and probably gotten a stressed employee in trouble. On the other hand, it's not that I snapped. I stood up for myself, Italian-style -- something I would never have done a few years ago, or even at the start of this Daily Asker experiment.

In Italy, as I've learned from La Divina and her friends, customer service is non-existent. There's no Twitter to whine on, there's no "consumer experience representative" to contact. There's just the crowd. Who can hear you. And who's probably just as frustrated as you are.

So they makes scenes. Highly choreographed, highly effective scenes. Always the women. Always starting with the line "Are you joking?" and always ending with a sweet apology after the results are obtained. That's exactly what La Divina did when the furniture store repeatedly failed to deliver a lamp she ordered, and when her clients made comments that she must be the secretary because she's too hot to be a decision maker. (I think it's part of the same curriculum as "how to get out of any parking ticket with pout number 27," "never call a guy on the phone or arrive on time for a date before you f*ck him" and "burn dinner every so often." Conniving or common sense? Feel free to debate, below.)

So at the end of the dinner, I approached the hostess with a smile. Before I opened my mouth she apologized. In English this time.

"I'm really sorry. It was very rude to keep you waiting."

"No, I'm the one who should apologize. That was not nice of me to get agitated like that. I was simply surprised, because I know what a great restaurant this is, and how well people are normally treated here."

"Yes, I'm really sorry. In Italy, where I've been a waitress for six years, I've never seen such scheduling difficulties. This is a bigger dining room than what I'm used to, so it can be difficult."

"You're right. You have a very stressful job, and I made it harder tonight. I'm sorry."

"That's okay. I'm glad you finally got a table."

We left a really nice tip. An American touch!

Streeeeeetch and smile


That felt good.

Six blog posts yesterday in a couple of hours...

I missed that.

Now the gears are turning. I've started jotting down all the recent requests I wanna tell you about, and I've been thinking about the stuff I plan to reach for, through asking.

More soon,

La Roxy

November 08, 2009

"Getting to Yes"

This week and next I'll be in New England for five days. The goal: attend a conference in my field, see friends and colleagues, and, most importantly, inhale the true autumn air.

But to get to that point, I first had to get the green light from my supervisor here. (I'm working part time these days.)

My strategy for getting to yes: make it very, very hard for her to say no.

I offered to get things done ahead of schedule and be available remotely for last minute/urgent problems. I explained that this was critical for my professional development. And I gave her a chance to let me know what she'd need from me, if I were to be gone for a few days.

I made it so easy for her to say yes that if she said no, that would not be the kind of place I'd want to work anymore. In which case I would quit. (Please note that I'm not being cavalier -- I value this job, but my first priority right now is to be a grad student and to consider my career post graduation; so any job that would stop my academic or professional progress would have "quit" written all over it. In obnoxious fuschia, no less.)

Lo and behold, she said yes.

Asking for time off from work is no big deal, right? Millions of people do it every day, around the globe. Unless they're French or Italian, in which that time off arrives on their doorstep every year wrapped in a big silver bow and sprinkled with lavender scented cocoa powder. Because those happy f*ckers really know how to legislate vacation time.

In any case.

For me, this asking was significant because it contrasts dramatically an experience I had in 2007. I was interning at Big Powerful Corporation, living by my lonesome in Boston. Mr. A had moved to California at that point, to the same city where my family lives (i.e. San Diego).

So it made sense to spend Thanksgiving with them.

I inquired if I could have the Friday after Thanksgiving off, so I could travel to be with my family.

My boss said no.

Not only did he say no. He made me understand that I was being impertinent for assuming someone else could be on call that day, in case there was work to be done, when I was the newbie. He berated me for being selfish and clueless. I continue to understand that reasoning; after all, it was a very hierarchical organization, and it's the kind of business where you can't fall asleep at the wheel or just shut down for a day. On the other hand, there were alternatives -- the most reasonable being that I would work remotely that Friday. And I disagree with his method of declining my request.

Well, La Roxy of 2007 just nodded and sat back down at her desk.

And then she moaned about it in a long phone call to Mr. A.

He ended up coming to visit instead.

Happy ending?

Doubly so.

We had a charming holiday. And I learned a few things about asking in the corporate world. If you're going to request an exception or exemption like unscheduled time off, make it easy for the other party to say yes. Never accept a judgment from on high without at least trying to make a case. And unless you have mouths to feed or your livelihood depends on it (which, I realize, is the vast majority of cases out there), value your spine more than a potential rec letter...

Will you be my friend?

A while back, if you'll recall, I was on a jury.

It was a case involving

--the sexy version: Fraud! Conspiracy! Grand Theft! Burglary! Counterfeiting! Computer Forensics! and a Fugitive in Utah!

--the spam version: a bunch of scam artists returning merchandise to WalMart using fake receipts.

After the trial (which I wrote about here), it occurred to me that one person there had made an impression: The prosecutor. He seemed smart and witty, and I decided it would be nice to keep in touch. Normally I would have asked for a business card, but I didn't think to do that at the courthouse.

So, a few days later, prepared for the very real possibility that he would decide I was a stalker or worse, a sycophantic trial law fanatic, I decided to ask. For his friendship. Over Facebook.

My query went something like this:

"Is it against the law for a former juror to friend a lawyer post trial on Facebook? If so, please disregard this message."

He replied that it was A-ok.

That is the story of how I befriended a cutthroat district attorney, the kind of person whose path I would never otherwise cross (I hope). Since then, Mr. A and I have had dinner with him, he's hung out with my friends at a wine tasting, I've discovered he is indeed someone I'm happy to have met, and it makes me think how fun and random life can be if you let it.

On salary negotiations during a down economy

A few months ago I started a part time job. That's one reason I've been so absent here.

After the department head made the offer, I researched salaries in the field. I went into the negotiation prepared, calm, confident. I made rational and compelling arguments for why I was worth an extra 10 percent. And I still didn't get what I wanted. In fact, the employer didn't budge one dollar. With the current economy, recent layoffs and furloughs, there was no room in the budget, I was told. I did get some measly benefits, which are good in name only since as a part-timer I only qualify for the lowest rung (and, consequently, still pay for insurance out of pocket).

I still took the job.

Should I be ashamed?

Maybe, maybe not, but I certainly felt disappointed. In myself.

A few weeks later came the second blow. Once again, I requested a raise from a freelance employer, stating what I thought were some good reasons. The answer, again, was that there's no flexibility in the budget. We concluded that conversation on a positive note -- him saying sorry he can't, me saying I look forward to revisiting the topic in a few months, and both of us reiterating that it's great to work together.

All this has left me wondering why I'm not a skilled negotiator even after more than a year of practicing. Or is this solely due to the economy? For within the past few months, over emails and phone calls, readers of this blog have shared their own stories with me about trying to negotiate salaries and failing. They've all taken the job offers, even without meeting their target salaries.

I don't know what to make of this: are we selling ourselves short? Are we, as young and eager women, making mistakes by accepting these jobs? I'd love to ask Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don't Ask: How does the down economy change the negotiation game?

Or, are we simply lucky to find employment at all these days?

Only time, and a sustained drop in unemployment, will tell.

Right now I do know two things. They say that the only way to get a raise as a freelancer is to start working for a new employer. And sure enough, a few weeks after those negotiations bombed, I got a call from a new client, offering almost double what I made at the old job.

Second, the accumulation of unsuccessful negotiation attempts only makes me more determined to get it right. So far, for me at least, the jobs with salaries I've tried negotiating were sort of practice runs -- part time, short term, or freelance. I very much hope that when the time comes to determine a salary with significant impact -- for a full time, long term position -- I will have enough practice, and the economy will be strong enough to meet my entirely reasonable demand of just compensation.

House Salad Dressing Recipe?

This is from a few months back. I'd meant to write it and it slipped my mind. Now I'm sharing, if nothing else, so you can try the recipe for yourself.

One night, late, I was taking a walk with Mr. A when we crossed in front of my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. I won't say which, because I'm about to give away one of its secrets: the house salad dressing recipe. This stuff is so good that I sometimes go there and have an elaborate meal just to eat their simple garden salad.

That night, I saw two employees talking and relaxing outside after closing up, and I knew that was my chance.

"Hi. Can I ask you something? About the food here?"

"Sure, what?"

"The salad dressing. It's amazing, and I've tried to make it at home. I sort of got it, but I know I'm missing an ingredient."

"Which dressing?"

"The simple one, on the house salad."

"You mean the vinaigrette? The one with olive oil, balsamic, brown sugar, soy sauce and mayo?"

"Yes! That's it!! It has mayo in it?! That's how it's so creamy! Thank you!!"

"You're welcome."

Result: I still go to that restaurant all the time, only now I make the dressing at home to tide me over between visits.

I should also add...

...that I have really appreciated your comments and gently prodding questions during this absence.

C K, Single Women Rule, T: Thank You.

I was also heartened to see that people have been stopping by while I've been away. I avoided the blog stats while I wasn't writing, figuring that if I stopped writing, people would soon forget. And I wasn't quite ready to process that. Instead, I logged on today for the first time in months, and I see that readers from around the world have still been checking in to follow my adventures.

Knowing that means a great deal to this Asker.


Out but not down

Dear Readers,

I've been out for a few weeks, but not down...

The truth is that ever since the year of asking daily wrapped up in July, I've been wondering to what extent I should keep up this endeavor.

Part of me thinks it's important to keep on asking and writing about it. But another voice replies that it's perfectly normal to ask, and that I should stop making a big fuss about it.

To complicate things a bit, I've started a part time job, I'm rushing to finish the dissertation, and I've started a new writing project. All those elements have contributed to a pause in blogging about asking.

But not the asking itself.

I'm still doing that, since now I can't imagine life without it.

It's not daily, but rather at the moments when I think it truly matters.

With no promises about the scope or longevity of this blog, I'll now post a few of my recent requests. Once things calm down, I really look forward to writing again regularly.

With affection,

La Roxy