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April 07, 2010

Writing, writing, writing

I'm a little more than a week away from submitting the final draft of the dissertation, so this post will be short.

1) I have been loving your asking stories. It's going to be an awesome collection -- they run the gamut in styles, approaches and objectives, even continents. If you haven't sent in an anecdote yet, please consider doing so. My aim is to compile as many concrete examples of successful askings, negotiations and the like and then post them as a reference for people.

2) A preview of what I've asked for these past weeks, and which I will report here, once I'm back in daily writing mode:

--Asked for a pay rate higher than what a client offered me
--Asked for a professionally oriented opportunity that I am still smiling about
--Sought permission from my adviser to do something drastic
--Sought strategies about handling a conundrum
--Asked if I could help someone with her job search
--Asked someone else the same thing
--Also: follow up on the parking ticket appeal
--And a reflection on why askers make good givers

3) A friend and reader alerted me about this rousing blog post about our favorite subject:

It's from the Harvard Business Review and has a wealth of info, concrete strategies and perspectives in the comments section. The original poster's stance -- that a nice women can ask -- is of course laudable, too. So, while you're not reading this, do read that!!

4) The image above: What I'll be doing the weekend of April 16, once I send in the dissertation... I'm thinking some place in the mountains, cozy, with a hammock, a porch and a mystery novel. And no balconies.


April 05, 2010

Excuse me, but are you avoiding me?

And here is another recent asking. From a few hours ago, actually.

I was just in a cafe, working, when I noticed an acquaintance walk in. He glanced my way and darted past. Or at least, it seemed like he did.

This is the second time this exact interaction has happened, in the same cafe, with this same person.

The thing is, a few months ago I wrote something about him. Not on this blog, but for a freelance gig. Long story short, I did a review of one of his new research initiatives. My review was widely circulated in his institution. I said good things about him and his work, but when I saw he was avoiding eye contact and rushing to the opposite end of the cafe, not once but twice, I started wondering. Had I offended him? Maybe he didn't like what I had to say? Maybe I got something wrong or, despite being positive, came across as superficial or ironic?

Who knows.

He walked by a few times ordering a drink and looking for a table (there was an empty one next to me, which he didn't even look at) and I tried to catch his eye, but no luck.

I thought about waving or approaching him, but I didn't want to seem confrontational, especially if I had inadvertently offended him.

On the other hand, I didn't want to leave things hanging and I couldn't think why his feelings would be hurt.

Finally, on my way out I walked up to him and, with a smile, said: "Hi! How have you been since we met to discuss that report I was preparing? Did you get good feedback on it? Or was there anything about it that might have offended you?"


He looked relaxed but a bit taken aback. "No, what do you mean?"

"Oh! Ok. I just noticed you came in and I was trying to smile and you seemed in a rush to get away. I would be sorry if I hurt your feelings or caused trouble for you at work."

"Did I do that? I am sorry. I didn't even realize it was you. My head was totally in the clouds. I'm so sorry."

"No, no problem!"

"On the contrary. A lot of people saw it. I was surprised by how much feedback I got after that. Thanks again. How have you been?"

We ended up chatting for a few moments, he told me about his upcoming book, and before I left we shook hands.

I'm not scared of writing things that earn disapproval. Despite what my anonymity here might suggest. (In fact, in my offline life I put my name on what I write and say what I believe needs to be said. It's gotten me yelled at, and even threatened, more than once.)

But in this case, he was a nice person, and I'd written something nice, so I just wanted to clear the air.

Glad I did.

[image via -- incidentally, a useful and quick summary of theory of the gaze]

Have you had trouble commenting?

A reader told me she's been having trouble posting comments here through the Disqus system. I did a test run and it worked for me. Have you had trouble commenting? If so, would you please let me know via email? thedailyasker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Alternately, feel free to leave a comment here to test things out. How's this for a thread: Give the name of one person from your day to day life who you consider to be an inspiring asker. If you can't think of anyone, say so. That is also interesting.


ps: This is not just a ploy to get more reactions. I really am just trying to diagnose this bug. Though I wouldn't turn those down, now or in the future... :)

If I should die before I wake

Emerging from the editing hole with two askings to report:

Yesterday's earthquake caught me at the house of Mr. A's cousins at the end of our second lunch of the day (the first was at my mom's). Everyone ran outside, we started talking about the other earthquakes we've experienced and The Big One. Later that night, I got some news about some of my family members -- good and bad news, about a milestone and a health condition.

I think the day's turn of events prompted Mr. A to ask me a question.

"If something awful happens and you end up on a respirator, paralyzed or incapacitated, what do you want me to do?"

I haven't formed a very strong opinion about this, but I do have certain beliefs -- I like my life. I'm still young. I wouldn't want to die if I had a chance of survival. I also wouldn't want to be hooked up to a machine for decades if I'm brain dead -- which led me to give him a half formed answer.

Then, I turned around and asked him the same thing.

We talked about a few more scary things along these lines before deciding we need to think about these issues more carefully and write everything down. Just in case. Then we curled up on the couch to watch an Amish murder mystery on Hulu.

Strange day, indeed.

[image via For We Are Many]

April 01, 2010

Want your cell phone back?

I was walking out of my office yesterday evening when I spotted something on the sidewalk: a Blackberry.

I picked it up, got into the car with Mr. A, looked up the owner's name and scrolled through the contacts until I spotted one that said Home.

No answer. I left a message.

Meanwhile, new emails were coming in and as tempted as I was to glance at the messages in his inbox (and believe me, I was), I didn't. What I did do was Google him. Turns out he is a doctor. What if the people calling him were patients? Colleagues requiring emergency consults?

"My phone, the Blackberry I'm using now?" Mr. A began telling me. "I bought it from someone, and the previous owner left all her personal info in it. All of it."

"Like what did you find?"

"Let's see. She moved away from San Diego to Las Vegas. She dabbled in real estate but it didn't go too well, and her finances were in shambles. She's a dancer, a dance teacher actually. Let's see... she had a relationship with this guy, and they ended up getting married, but part of the deal was that he was getting a green card. She wasn't sure how she felt about that. He's Hungarian. At least, that's what his name looked like."

"This was all in her phone!?"

"Yeah, the emails. They went back for months."


The next morning (today) the phone had a missed call from the doctor's home. I called back. No answer.

"Hello, this is La Roxy again. I saw you called. I still have your phone. Don't worry, it's in good hands. But I'm wondering if you'd like it back soon?" I asked. "I'm around all afternoon if want to pick it up. You can reach me at 123-123-1234, or call your own number. Thanks."

I looked through the contacts to see if there's any other number I should try. Maybe one said Work, or Mom or something? Some names I recognized (the restaurants he eats at, local places he frequents, a pharmacy) and some were foreign (hospitals, employers in Europe, hotel perk programs he's a part of, many many people).

Moments later, it rang. It was his assistant, saying she'll pick it up tonight.

Now I've put the phone away. But I'm still thinking about how much you can tell about someone just by seeing who he or she calls. Let alone all the other mountains of info stored on the average smartphone. In my offline work, I'm very aware about the traces people leave and the things you can learn about them in unexpected means and places, but still. I was sobered.

Also tonight, I'm going to delete anything I wouldn't want a stranger to read, or post online, from my phone...