Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Century Post


This is my 100th post!

Speaking of approachability, Emily had an interesting experience yesterday evening. After she left the office, a veteran approached her and asked for help, saying that his appointment for that day had been rescheduled at the last minute and he had missed the last bus back to a very distant suburb. He told Emily "You don't seem snobby." So now she's wondering: "Does that mean I don't dress as well as I could?"

Interesting points by Corrin, Mama Edge and Mama Coyote - mothers all! - about approachability and competence. Funnily enough, I'm most often approached when I'd prefer to be left alone. I might have given off an air of "People keep coming to me for help," and of course people like to follow the crowd. They figure if so many others turn to you for help, they must know something.

And when you seem exclusive, that often makes people want your attention more. Don't take my word for it - let two of the world's greatest entertainers show you how to, well, bedazzle people. (Short video clip; SFW)

On the other hand, when you feel and act desperate, you most often don't get anything (except maybe a little peace and quiet).

Mama Edge, maybe your dad could walk around offering free health screenings to everyone within range. Then people may just give him a wide berth.

Happy New Year!

PS: Be safe - don't drink and drive. If you're in the Washington, DC metropolitan area tonight or New Year's Eve (10pm-6am), your designated driver plans fell through, you're 21+ and not sure if you're safe to drive, call (800) 200-TAXI/8294 (or #TAXI/8294 from an AT&T cell phone). You'll get a cab ride home, and the first $50 of the fare will be covered. (Tip not included.) Find out more.

(In other parts of the U.S., Google "sober ride" and your city - you may be able to take advantage of a similar program.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

May I Help You?


One thing that alternately gratifies and bugs me is how often strangers look at me and think I'm their go-to person.

For example, I used to work as a computer lab consultant in graduate school. Lab consultants are basically face-to-face help desk people, so if you go to a computer lab to use a PC there and run into trouble you can ask for help. (Also, they enforce lab rules such as no food or drinks in the labs.)

People used to actually approach me when I was off-duty, and not all of them seemed to even understand the concept of "off-duty". Some of them became visibly and audibly unhappy when I told them that I was off the clock and therefore not available to help them. The kicker: A couple of times they even approached me in totally different places, such as a cafeteria, or another office where I also worked.

Once in a while, when I'm walking in a store, someone will ask me where such-and-such is located or something like that. If I know, I say "I think it's over there, but just to be sure you should ask someone who works here - try the customer service desk over yonder." If I don't know - or don't feel like being bothered - I would say "I don't know - you need to ask someone who works here" (plus point the way if I know it).

A few nights ago, I waited for Emily at a Metrorail station. A gentleman came up to me and wondered if the area was the only place at the station where passengers got off the escalators from the train. I responded that as far as I knew it was, but to be sure he should talk to someone who worked for Metro, and pointed to the station manager's booth.

He opted to stand there and wait in the same general area I was in. A few minutes later, a uniformed Metro station manager saw us - and came up to him, asking if he needed help. He asked her his question, and she confirmed that yes, all the passengers getting off the train at this station came through this area. She did not give me a second glance.

Life is interesting sometimes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

In the News

I recently spoke on Blog Talk Radio, specifically Nellie Jacobs' "Igniting Imagination" with her co-host of the day, Derrick Hayes. We talked 4:09-7:53 (right after Mr. Hayes' introduction), discussing my background and how I came to found A SPLINT.

Also, I contributed to Meryl Evans' recent piece on "little white lies" - in particular, I made the case for why honesty is generally the best policy, and we Aspies are especially good at it. Ms. Evans gives a good cross-section of perspectives - it's not simply "To lie or not to lie, that is the question."

Speaking of things we're particularly good at, more and more employers have come to understand that our attention to detail, strict focus and perseverance, among other traits, are advantages in many cases. Hat-tip: J. Willardston Smith.

What do you think?

EDIT: Extra hat-tip to Steve Foerster, who has since independently sent me a copy of the link about employers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Shower of Blessings


Just 17 years ago today, I decided - based on the honest encouragement of a friend of mine at the time - that showering regularly would be a good idea. And I've stuck to it.

Meanwhile, kudos to Judge John McKenna* of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where I used to live. Once or twice in a blue moon, I like to visit courtrooms and watch cases. I happened to be in his neck of the woods today and had a few spare minutes, so I decided to drop by.

He was trying a young man who had been accused of violating his probation. The gentleman denied it, and they were preparing to set the case for trial later on when he could get an attorney. Judge McKenna looked down at his file, and saw something interesting. He had the bailiff pass it to the prosecutor, and asked him to read into the record what he saw.

The file showed a conviction for a prior offense - but no sentence. Hence, whatever might have happened at the original trial, as far as the record was concerned there was no probation for the defendant to have violated. In the law, if it isn't written, it didn't happen.

The judge's pithy assessment: "A judicial goof." He dismissed the case and the defendant walked free - free of jail time, free of legal bills and free of pending charges that would have complicated his imminent military enlistment.

Congratulations, Judge McKenna. Admitting you made a goof and then giving the other person the final benefit of the doubt makes me think more, not less, of you. Maybe more people in authority will follow your example - it makes all the difference in how much I respect them.

What do you think?

[*] FWIW, he also acquitted me on a traffic ticket a couple of years ago, when I was completely innocent anyway. Also, he and Emily are fellow law professors - though she doesn't know him personally.