Ask

If you need it, ask!

So, now you’re looking at me like I have three heads and all of them are made of Spanish Crystal. And somewhere one of you is looking at the ceiling, which we all know is where G-d resides, and asking “She’s saying that? SHE? When her family went through times from heck because for years she refused to put up a donation button? The woman who refused to have a blog fundraiser for twelve years, despite Jerry Pournelle himself telling her to do it? Is this a joke?”

Chill, this isn’t about money. Money comes into it sideways, kind of, but money is weird, because if you get used to asking then you’ll start treating money differently and might not realize there are other ways of getting it. Which is why I’ll run a fundraiser annually, yes, but I’m not coming to you for every little burp or issue. (There aren’t any, just making a statement of fact. I mean, I’m doing the fundraiser because I do the work, not for need. And GETTING the stuff to you guys is giving me white hairs on my white hairs. How is it Chinese spammers can fill my mailbox, but we get shut down trying to send two pictures and a wav file? Seriously. Never mind, all else fails I’ll post links here and put it on an honor system, but seriously. Just frustrating. End of digression.)

We all have weird relationships with money, and those of us who went through really tight times as kids have worse ones. And because I know myself and my bad habits (my relationship with money is like my relationship with food more than it should be) I never presume to give other people advice on that.

But life is more than money, even if it feeds into money.

And some of us, those of us who feel like we’re here by accident or happenstance (or disaster for the people responsible) or like we’re some gigantic cosmic joke; those of us who were “born owing money” and feel like we need to justify our existence every day are always afraid to ask.

I’ve known for a long time that one of the pathways to success in my field was to be enormously personable and interesting and then to approach people and ask for help. “Hey, my book is coming out, give me a blurb.” “Hey, I heard that you have an anthology coming out, an you help me?” Or at the very beginning “You’re a regular at Analog. Would you read my short and maybe recommend it to Stan so I get out of the slush pile?”

I saw people do it around me all the time. People with fewer contacts. People who were, let’s face it, though I didn’t think of me that way all the time, less attractive than I was. I mean, when I was trying to break in, I was twenty something, slim and exotic looking and my shyness manifested as smiling a lot.

I didn’t use it. I never asked. Yes, some of it was pride “I’ll do it by myself or dye trying.” But let’s face it, it wasn’t all of it. And I’m not stupid. I saw people way less talented than myself (You know. Particularly at the beginning, before the brow beating, you know. You see it) and who worked less hard climb ahead and get called so creative and amazing and extraordinary because they asked. They took that first step.

Most of it was “What if they say no?” “What will they think of me?” “They’ll laugh in my face” “I’ll sound like an idiot.” And on and on and on.

And so I never asked. And I paid the price. 13 years to break in and a career of fits and starts.

And there were asks in there I didn’t even know you COULD do. I kept hearing my colleagues talking about discussing plots and brainstorming with their editors and agents. People who were at my level (and then went higher.) I don’t even know where the opportunity for that came in. No seriously. But then when I had to — rarely — contact my agent or editor it was always conscious of “I make them so little money. I don’t have a right to take their time.”

Was it true? Or did they feel like I was shutting them out?

I don’t know. And now it’s much too late to ask or care isn’t it?

The point though is the problem is not just there, not just at the professional level, not just with me as supplicant.

I have trouble asking people I hire to do their jobs. Which is why I do my own covers, unless I know exactly what I want and a friend does them. Because it feels like I’m imposing. And yes, this includes house cleaners, which is why I don’t have house cleaners unless I’m sick and recovering. Even when we could afford them or even like now, when it would be an investment to allow me to finish healing and get a head start on writing. Because even though I’m paying, I get trapped in my own head “Did they mean to do it that sloppily?” “No, they just forgot.” “Don’t be demanding. You’ll come across like a rich bitch.”

And I end up paying more and more for less and less, and getting resentful, then going back to doing it myself.

I have trouble telling my husband “Hey, we haven’t had any time together. How about today we take a break and go for a walk.” I have trouble asking “Can you do the dishes? I need to finish this short story.”

(So when you guys talk about my being overwhelmed, it’s often a result of this. It’s everything.)

Thing is, I’ve been on the other end of this “just ask” — more so, as somehow, despite myself people have got the bizarre idea I have some sort of pull — when new writers ask for help. “Hey, will you read my book and push it?” “Hey, will you help me figure out what I did wrong with my short story?”

Now 90% of that I say no, or “Send it and I’ll try” which means “No” because I’m so CONSTANTLY overwhelmed. And ADD. And the last ten years, two moves, launching the boys, etc, have been like a breathless race, even without counting my politics writing and you know clown world.

If you send me things, even if I say I’ll do it and MEAN TO — my best friends have run into this — I tend to forget. So, if you’re inner circle (you’ll know if you are) and I told you I’d do it then never answer, I didn’t hate it. There’s a 99.9% chance I never opened it. Because it fell off my head. It will come to me again, in the middle of the night, and I can’t remember the title or find it on my computer.

So, I’m rather lousy at this stuff (And yes, I owe one of you a novel beginning review, and you’ve sent it, but I’ve been sick. And no, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t poke me, say once a month, because now that I’m better I’m catching up on everything, and stuff gets lost.) And I don’t in general help just anyone who asks out of the blue, because I’d never do anything else. (Same reason, having done the fundraiser, I have established a maximum monthly out of pocket to help friends and acquaintances in need. Otherwise it would all be gone in a month.) And also because I hate reading unpublished books. Understand, everything I read goes into the hopper at the back of my head, and all I need is someone who doesn’t understand what plagiarism is trying to sue me because I used a character of the same name, or who had the same color eyes or–)

BUT and this is the very important thing: I DON’T RESENT PEOPLE WHO ASK.

In fact, I tend to remember them better, because they’re trying so hard. Which means later on, when someone asks “Hey, do you know someone who has a book on blah” and I vaguely remember, I’m more likely to poke them back and go “Hey, is your book the one set in 19th century NYC, or do I have the wrong person? Oh, it’s you? Cool. I just heard of this start up that’s looking. Here. Let me put you in touch.” (These days it’s mostly short stories and anthologies, but you know –)

And yet I’m still reluctant to do it, which is stupid and irrational.

-What if they say no?

Well, by not asking you’re 100% guaranteeing the answer is no. How could it get any worse?

What will they think of me?

Most of the time they won’t think of you at all. No SERIOUSLY. The number of people who ask me to read their books is such that if I remember 1 in 19 it’s a ton. Now, if they keep asking after I explicitly say no I’ll remember and not in a good way, but that’s rudeness, not asking. Most of the time they won’t even remember you. If they do, it’s because something impressed them positively. (Unless you’re being a loon or a nag.) And that’s to the good, because most people are decent and will try to help, somehow. So, you know, if their network spits out something, they might give you a leg up.

They’ll laugh in my face

Very few people are actually demons. No, seriously. And if someone laughs at you and treats you with derision for asking, it diminishes them, not you. It just means you probably wouldn’t want them to “help” you. Walk away the better person.

I’ll sound like an idiot.

I doubt it. And if you do? We all do at times. The thing is you’ll remember those embarrassing moments FAR long than anyone else involved. If you think about it, you’ve been there for a bunch of other people’s embarrassing moments. Do you give it much thought? Well, no. It just happens, right?

The thing is, the few times I’ve managed to break my own barriers and ASK it turns out well with amazing regularity. Like, when we absolutely needed money, so I sent an unasked for resume to a college, with my credentials and the list of things I could teach (back in the eighties) I ended up with a great job that I leveraged into a better job. When I asked a friend for an introduction to a publishing house, I got to extend my traditional career 20 years beyond where it would have died.

And so on. But I still have trouble asking. And I’m still trying to fight to ask.

Literally, if you don’t ask, you never know. And you’ve been given a life, you should use all its opportunities.

(And sure, if you’re religious you should be asking there too. But most importantly you should be telling Him “This is what I’d like. I don’t even know if it’s what I need. So I’m handing it off to You. I want this. What do You think? How do I get to where I get it? Or I get to want something that’s actually better? You drive.” It makes a difference. Trust me.)

BUT on this side of things? ASK. Ask for everything. Ask even if it seems crazy.

Sure, I’m not going to write to the one billionaire fan and ask him for a million dollars. Sure, maybe he’d laugh and give it, but I doubt it, because gift taxes. OTOH I also don’t need it, and let’s face it it would create a whole other level of problems, because we’d have to set up to manage it so it would eat my life and my writing. So, you know, that would be a crazy ask.

I might however ask my husband for a walk in the park. Ask my friend to help me figure out why the paperback cover for Darkship Renegades isn’t loading. Ask my copy-editor when the next book will be ready so I can schedule the week… In fact, I am going to.

And you? Ask. Ask your spouse if he/she will cook/do dishes tonight? Ask your kids to pick up their rooms. Ask that pretty girl/handsome guy out. Ask your boss for a raise. Ask that impossible dream-job if perhaps they could use you. Ask that house seller if he can go 20k lower (A year ago that would be laugh worthy, but the times they are achanging.) Ask for extra napkins. Ask your cat to stop climbing on you (okay, that part IS crazy.)

JUST ask. You’d be amazed how many times that’s all it takes.

Remember I did the posts on everything being broken? The mechanisms for getting jobs are broken. The mechanisms for getting into relationships are broken. The mechanisms for establishing networks are broken.

This is true. It’s not an exaggeration, either. The entire structure of society, the unspoken rules, have been smashed with a hammer the last fifty years.

But it’s amazing how much you can slice through the fog by just asking.

And sometimes the people on the other end of the request are just as desperate. “Why is no one applying?” “Am I that ugly? How come no one asks me out?” “I’ve been working here for a year. How come I don’t know anyone. Don’t the guys ever go out for a beer or something?”

ASK. Asking might not be scripted or traditional, but done with politeness, at worst you’ll be forgiven for your enthusiasm.

Go. Ask.

203 thoughts on “Ask

  1. If you do ask your zillionaire friend for a zillion, ask your lawyer friend for trust advice. That will take care of zillion management and you can go back to writing. Glad to help and I’ll ask for a nominal percentage of that zillion when you get it. (grin)

  2. How much do you get paid for any of your books?

    Why shouldn’t you get the same compensation for your blog?

    (This is the same thing I tell my youngest son, and he still hasn’t figured it out.)

    1. This is the same thing I tell my youngest son, and he still hasn’t figured it out.
      ….

      A broken record with our son as he entered college. “Get the Crib Notes!”, “Join study groups!”, “Create study groups!”, “Ask the TA!”, “Ask the professor!”, “That is what they get paid for!”, “Don’t do what I did my first degree” (got it, by the skin of my teeth, didn’t flunk out, too stubborn to quit). “Do what I did for my second degree. Be a pest.”

      Granted the experience I had getting my first degree paid off in spades when I started my second career (related to the second degree) because there wasn’t anyone to ask for help (for the actual work). So stubborning (definitely a word!) whatever out until I figure out a solution was a good thing. But in general? Not so much.

      1. I have a simple reminder. If you don’t ask, the answer is always NO. To cope with the 7 nos of bureaucracy, asking is required. You must wait the half hour to tell the advise nurse how you have fallen, and your dominant arm no longer works, and ask for help, or you will never get the xray on Robert E. Lee’s birthday.

        You will only learn what you don’t know, if you ask when you don’t know. The problem is that we don’t want to need help, we pretend “everything is fine”.

        When I fell on the bridge last week, and slammed my body into the ground, my wife thought I was a jerk to not accept help offered to help me up from the ground. I lay there trying to figure out what help I needed. Not to just be yanked up by someone who had no idea of my need.

        This is where asking is important. You are likely to be the best informed about what you actually need. Am I bleeding? No. Am I breathing? Yes. Did I hit my head? No. Is my wrist now at a “funny” angle? No. Can I raise my right arm? No? This can tell you what help you need to ask for. But ASK.

        1. When I fell …
          ….

          Fall 2021. We’d barely pulled in to park at the Custer National Monument parking lot (where the bathrooms, the museum, and the national cemetery are located), than an elderly lady fell on the sidewalk. We immediately hopped out, hubby ran over (along with a lot of other people). Meanwhile I grabbed the first aid kit from the back. By the time I got there, a Ranger was also there. She kept trying to get up. No one would let her. It was obvious she’d hit her head in a couple of places (bleeding). Gave hubby the first aid kit, then he had me get paper towels both wet and dry. Had lots of help getting them. It took her husband to convince her she needed the help, including EMT’s who the Ranger called. They took her to the clinic.

          Fast forward, that same day. We’d walked up to the internment and the fenced area where Custer and the group surrounding him met their fates, and the Spirit Circle monument to the natives (relatively recent addition). Hubby ended up heading back before Pepper and I when he realized, in the commotion, he’d left his wallet in the front of the car. I didn’t see what happened, but by the time I got back to the car, he is sporting a bunch of bandages. Mostly on the “does not carry the SLR digital camera” side (hand, arm, elbow). He’d fallen (would not admit how). Had a crowd to help. Including the same ranger. Hubby said the Ranger gave him a bad time about not taking the same advice (which he too was expressing). His excuse was that being hauled off to urgent care would leave me not knowing what was going on … Idiot. The problem with him, and the prior lady, is the blood thinning medications (elderly complication) they are on. They bleed profusely. (Not all elderly, I’m not on them. But a good way to guess.) Plus high elevation. Not the first time he’s fallen on these trips. The last time prompted us to sell the RV trailer and truck. At least in 2021 I didn’t have to learn a new skill to be able to be the one tor drive. I’d exclaim “MEN!” but truth be told … I’d probably do the same. Note this was part of the trip that we could have just found a place to stop for a bit, not headed for specific reservations.

          1. Good of you and your hubby to help, but a shame he hurt himself. I hope to actually stop at Little Bighorn some time. Did you think it was worth it? Last year, we went past on I-90 heading to and from my wife’s family reunion in Western Montana, but we we were too pressed for time on the way out and everything was closing up about the time we reached it on the way back.

            1. 100% worth it. Here there be Ghost. 100%. It is worth the 4 or so hours to experience it.

              Actually two parts of the monument separated by reservation land. It is worth taking that drive out and back. Wild horses can be seen between the two official monument lands. It is worth parking at the main parking lot and walking up to the three memorials above the parking lot. As already mentioned there is the original monument mass grave where those who fell in the immediate area with Custer are still interned. Custer was originally interned with everyone, but disinterred and moved east. His brothers, who died with him, are still interned there (I think). A smaller monument noting a second cairn for the horses killed (found on more recent archeological dig). The recent-ish addition of the Native Circle Memorial of Reconciliation. It graphically depicts and describes the various sects and tribes that took out Custer. The museum is worth a walk through.

              Seeing the battle sites on the ground has to be experienced. Seeing the markers where it is known both sides fell (Calvary White, Native Red) tombstones (not buried). The concentration of where the majority fell with Custer. The native prairie! My reaction was “That was walked on!” There is cactus. A lot of it. There are prairie rattlers (Pepper was NOT allowed near the path edges!) Not only that but Custer essentially had the high ground above the village, and he lost!

              1. It’s moving, and worth the time. Custer … Was one of the least competent commanders I’ve read about. Yes, there were worse (see the Crimean War), but he’s down there. Seeing the place really makes the battle more understandable in terms of movement and outcomes.

                1. Custer was obviously a Diversity Hire! 😛

                  OK, kidding, but I’m sure Custer was promoted through politics and pull, rather than ability. Being related to the ‘right’ people, and kissing the right asses.

                  1. “Custer was promoted through politics and pull, rather than ability.”

                    Mostly, he was promoted by his courage under fire, and the fact that he LOOKED like a dashing cavalry officer. The Confederate cavalry was heavily romanticized for their dash; the fact that it led to things like Stuart being decoyed away from Gettysburg wasn’t appreciated.

                    He was promoted from either Lt or Capt to brevet major general: no seasoning, no experience, and he was leading a division. He may have been the first military media celebrity of the modern communication and media (photography).

                    And that’s what got him killed: He hares off with part of his force, no artillery, no Gatlings, and promptly stuck his dick in a garbage grinder.

                    1. His arrogance had him sacrifice his higher civil war rank to take the calvary of Colonel to be in the field to solve the “Indian Blackfeet” problem forever and be a shoo in for President at the next election. His arrogance took his brother Major Custer, another civilian brother Dr. Custer, and (I think) a younger brother who was part of the supply train, down with him at the last stand. Along with all those who rallied around him. It isn’t that the other half was late, well they were, but they had their own problems and casualties. The natives weren’t hiding in wait (like depicted in the movies, like Little Big Man). They charged up from the valley where there were tepees pitched with their families. That climb out of the flat valley is NOT a gentle climb, even using the gully approaches. It is very steep. All wide open. All on horseback. The site. The signage depicting the various stages of the battle, the individual grave headstones marking where Custer’s forces and natives fell (the figures are 30 – 60 natives, max), is just impressive. It isn’t just a monument. It is a graveyard of those of the calvary who fell. But not of the natives. The latter were removed by their tribes and interned based on their believes long before the cleanup crew arrived.

                  2. The Reader thinks that has been true in all militaries across history. Peacetime allows the armchair officers, ass kissers and bureaucrats to get ahead. An actual war gets them quickly shunted aside (the US during WW2) or executed (Stalin and Putin’s Russia). The speed at which George Marshall and Ernest King replaced flag officers that couldn’t hack it (with the notable exception of Douglas MacArthur who was protected by FDR) still amazes me when I read about it.

                    1. Custer wasn’t a peacetime officer. He was an officer in the Civil War northern army, who rose quickly in the ranks. Flamboyant. He was lucky, not good. He doubled down on his luck which ran out at the little Bighorn.

                    2. I was going to respond but quickly realized I’d violate our host’s prohibition on the Civil War. So I’ll be quiet.

                    3. Custer served during the Civil War. Once when McClellan said that he couldn’t have them ford a stream because he did not know how deep it was, Custer instantly rode out into the middle of it and called back, “It’s this deep!”

                2. Plus. Holy S*** you can see a long ways there! I know it is very common on the east flanks of the Rockies. Most of you take for granted.

                  PNW grown this distance seeing is unknown in our neck of the woods.

                  Before I saw the site in person, I thought it was a spot we could skip. So did hubby. We got talked into making a route that would include a stop there. Our perceptions have taken a 180 flip. Not a site to miss seeing if the chance is available.

                  Just think. We could have had Custer for President! Custer was aiming for the White House.

      2. Much the same with my children in college: “make a community for yourself, find friends.”

        After graduation: “get out of your apartment, don’t make it a prison.”

        One listened, one didn’t. I worry about the one that didn’t.

        1. get out of your apartment, don’t make it a prison.
          ….

          And “Don’t live to work. Work to live.”

          Ours hasn’t listened to either of these. I worry too. He is getting out with others who are single. Just no women in the crew that hangs out together. As far as “apartment” substitute family home. Sigh.

          But he is looking for smaller homes to buy, as prices drop. Inventory isn’t up locally, yet. The problem is that locally houses quit coming on the market if nothing is selling, or prices dropping (saw it in ’80s, and again in late ’00s). It takes something to bust it open (for various definitions of something). We’ll see what happens.

  3. (Self consciously takes tattered fedora off head, Evinces his best Walter Brennan voice) Pardon me ma’am, but iff’n you don’t mind, you know, when you gets a chance, I have a book I just published, and ah, I could use a review an’ such. Now, I don’t mean nothin’ by it, and all, and I know you’re busy, but If a person like you could – you know, I gave you a copy at Fencon – maybe just the first chapter or so… Well, anyway I’ll be goin’ now, my pal John is down by the crick waitin’ an well, this ocarina won’t play itself an’ I hear the fish are bitin’ today. So…. Thankee and have a good day.

    1. You know, it’s actually way easier to send me the ebook. I know you gave me a copy, but remember I’m still unpacking the library. I think it got mixed in with…. waves. And will only be found when I finish alphabetizing.
      Now, not promising I’ll read. But it COULD happen.

      1. (Continuing in character) Well Ma’am, I thankee, and any consid’ration would be a gracious plenty. I know I’m still not of a’knowin’ when it comes to this ol’ electric books thing. But I’ma learnin. Mebbe by the time I gets my second book out, or maybe a third’n I’ll get the hang of it.

  4. “What will they think of me?”
    My mom, God rest her soul, was extremely shy. I finally realized she seemed to have an absolute emotional conviction everyone, everywhere, all the time, was watching her, waiting for her do something, anything, they could use to laugh at her behind her back. She KNEW it.
    My first thought was to wonder how many times she walked in on people she trusted who were doing that.
    My second was that to truly believe that requires a huge, bass-ackward ego. Realizing most folks just don’t care that much about you is a relief.

    1. I don’t know.

      What could be worse?

      Believing that the Universe was “out to get you” or believing that the Universe “doesn’t care about you one way or another”? [Crazy Grin]

      1. The Universe tends to be perverse about such things. Ignoring the paranoids, and tweaking the… is there even a word for such? I know that, at time, the Universe has been Seriously Weird at me. But then… maybe I am just slow enough to notice?

        1. I think the Universe will only punish you if you are arrogant or an unkind braggart…It has punished me for even small transgressions in that area, and I learned to behave as a result…

        2. The ruminance you require, friend Ox, might be hubroids, to designate those egotists who concieve themselves the orbital galactic center, each. Those of whom Solomon said their “pride goeth before destruction,” and the bards said that the gods “would first make mad.”

      2. Every Engineer understand that the perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum but that is really just a metaphor. The Universe is not “out to get you” in any meaningful sense of the words.

        Your fellow human beings, on the other hand, are a different story.

      3. I agree with parabarbarian, but this also came to mind:

        You are a fluke
        Of the universe.
        You have no right to be here.
        And whether you can hear it or not
        The universe is laughing behind your back.

        And no, I managed to ignore that “advice”.

    2. My wife of many years, unfortunately, has a similar issue and yes, she did. Specifically, her female siblings who trash-talked her to their peer group in HS and beyond sometimes obviously within earshot. Those two, as time has shown had nothing to brag about, but my girl persists in thinking people say bad things about her. I’ve told her many times that other people, to be kind, don’t waste time on this because they are obsessed with thinking about themselves. It doesn’t matter, because the scar is healed over but the poison inside remains.

      1. Traditional activity for younger siblings. At least at the HS we attended. I made a choice as my next sibling entered HS. My sister. I get to pick on her, if I so choose (didn’t but none-of-their-business). THEY do not. Youngest sibling entered HS fall following middle sister’s graduation. Probably a good thing, as I was not exactly in the “popular crowd”.

      1. I think we all ‘catch a dose’ at one point or another. Sometimes it’s big things, like having your entire class in grade school turn against you and shun you because you disagreed when the class bully called a girl a slut. Other times it’s the little things, like when a sibling tries to kill you. You do your best to suppress those bad memories.
        There are times though, when I think a sign should be placed in all delivery suites in the hospitals, to wit: “ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE”
        Too bad babies can’t read.

    3. Mama Raptor is like this. Every time anyone comes over, the house needs to be absolutely spotless and there has to be food for our guests, even if she’s known them forever and they’re only stopping by for five minutes, because what will they say if they find the house a mess and Mama Raptor lapsing on her duties as host?!

      I’ve told her the people who will trash-talk her because there was a speck of dust on a table or a hair on the floor, or because she didn’t have a full spread of fruits and cheese and crackers (at minimum) waiting for them are the sort of toxic assholes that aren’t worth knowing. But the message won’t sink in. The scars are deep, and given what I know of her childhood (at least one horribly abusive parent, probably two) I can’t say I’m surprised.

      Me, I have a slightly different problem: fear bordering on absolute conviction that if I screw up at work, even a little bit (miss a deadline, misunderstand a question or request, say the wrong thing to the wrong person , etc.), I’ll lose my job and become unemployable. Chalk that up to bouncing from one toxic work environment to another for almost my entire working life (though I’m finally out of that, thank God) combined with a tendency to immediately imagine and fixate on the worst-case scenario (a trait inherited and, sadly, reinforced by Mama Raptor).

      I know it’s not healthy and I’m messed up to some degree. Once I get myself reestablished – planning on moving across the state by the end of the summer – I’m probably going to seek out therapy.

      1. Whenever I get a note from the Headmaster or Dean that isn’t obviously an all-hands note (like, oh, dress-code relaxed during homecoming, or food in the workroom), I get an adrenaline dump, because I KNOW it is a furious parent who is suing because of [thing]. Has this ever happened? No. But all the [stuff] from grad school and reading about parents suing schools and colleges because Precious Child didn’t get all A’s imprinted. Darn it.

        1. You’re gonna hate me for this, but that actually happened in my grade school district quite frequently. Parents would threaten to sue, and the district would (usually) cave because the then-superintendent (who was a real piece of work to begin with) had an unwritten but very well-known rule: if a teacher caused the school to get sued for any reason, they would be fired. And if they couldn’t be fired, he’d make their lives hell until they quit. Parents quickly figured this out and took full advantage of it. And their little brats quickly figured out that they could do no work whatsoever and still get good grades because Mommy & Daddy would yell at the school district and suddenly they had an Ivy-League worthy GPA. Caused at least one teacher (that I am aware of) to quit mid school day after being called into the office and ordered to change a student’s grades to make sure they got an ‘A.’

          1. My sister tells the same story. She refused. She just flunked the kid. When called on it by the principle she just stated, “You can change the grade, I won’t”. Parents who screamed at her the response was “All they have to do to get at passing grade is turn in homework. Which they have time to do in class. With the answers on the board.” It still had her tied up in knots. Up and until the principle called her in to request her to retire (cutting budgets, she was one of the highest paid teachers for the district, but also the most likely to have a parent complain to TPTB). She said “Pay out my contract, accrued leave, and PERS insurance, I’ll retire immediately.” She said she shocked him. The district had to pay for two subs for 4 months to replace her.

          2. Exactly. I’ve been very fortunate thus far. I also document All The Things, just in case. (What the Grumpy Literature Professor called “The Pearl Harbor File.” I read that blog post while in grad school and never forgot it.)

            1. Alas, no. Don’t know who he was sleeping with and/or had blackmail material on, but he held that job for a good long time. He finally left a few years after Mom quit in order to take care of my grandmother (long after I’d graduated). Not sure if he retired or if the school board finally got sick of his nonsense and declined to renew his obscenely generous contract.

                1. Honestly, this dude was so blatantly corrupt (IIRC he got the district to pay for his personal car and his kid’s private education, and nearly every female teacher hired during his tenure was blonde, busty, and dumber than a bag of hammers – do the math) that he deserved to be made an example of.

          1. Hubby was going to teach HS math … Until his first student teaching assignment. Decided that strangulation was frowned on. Dropped the program and changed to Forestry. Fine with me. Oregon State School of Forestry, Forestry Club, is where we met. Actually hubby is very good with kids, clear on instructions and expectations, fair. This is direct observation with him working with different teams both as primary and secondary coach, and scouts (10 – 18) and venture (18 – 21) levels (cubs too, but I did most of that). But he didn’t brook any BS from the kids, or the parents, and followed through.

            Okay. Follow through was mostly records, sports anyway. He set the procedure I followed it. Complaints. Procedure reexplained. Records following procedure followed. Parents often bitched, but they got told, it was their fault (even if it was the child not wanting to come to practice or a particular game).

          2. Same here. Mom wanted to me to be a teacher, but she was a special education aide when I was in middle and high school, so I got to hear ALL of the behind-the-scenes horror stories of what the faculty, administration, and parents did…. and got away with. Decided pretty early on that I wanted NOTHING to do with any of that.

      2. One of the things I inherited from Mom was a trivet that had a place of honor on the kitchen wall. Quoth the trivet:

        “Come in, sit down, relax, converse. The house doesn’t always look like this. Sometimes it’s even worse.”

        Something about three sons in the household…

        One of her sisters was a piece of work for many years, but there was a big reconciliation later in life. OTOH, Dad’s mother was irredeemable and got under Mom’s skin until Dad put a stop to it. He got disinherited for this. I’m damned proud of Dad. (And Mom, rest their souls.)

      3. Yeah, I feel that one, especially since right now I’m facing the choice of sticking with my current employer and jumping into an even more toxic environment or trying for something different. And of course the trying for something different brings up a lot of the stuff in the post, mostly along the lines of being afraid they’re thinking “Who the hell is this rando from Butt Fruit Land? Joke application, I’m sure! Rejected!” Among other things of course.

    4. Eh. Back before the severe hearing damage really started hitting, I heard a lot more than I’d like. The things folks say in private about other people, well, some of ’em are pretty nasty.

      Sometimes they even believe it, too, but pretty often they don’t. It’s not that they think the person they’re talking about is that bad, but they want to present themselves in a certain way to the party that they are talking to. At least, that’s how it appeared to me.

      I stopped worrying so much about other people’s opinions of me when I realized that it couldn’t be as low as the opinion that depression had of me. No way possible. That lead to realizing the depression was full of bullfaeces (once sufficiently analyzed and separated from reality, it’s pretty easy to recognize).

    5. Not your mom, but I know how it is for me.
      Less walked in on someone doing it, than noticed how utterly gossipy a lot of folks were, and then they’d flash over to faking they were polite.

      Add in not being able to tell when to not say something that someone told you, and you learn a flinch response that you’re always wrong– so saying anything at all is very important.

    6. Eh, it takes very few incidents of being blindsided by rumor mills grinding behind your back to make you paranoid.

    7. I walked in on that often enough for it make an impression, and not a good one.

      Intellectually I know that not everyone is watching me, that not every laugh or snort is a comment on my behavior, but convincing the emotional child who experienced just that over and over is near impossible.

      Past history is not a predictor of the future. Ok, I get that. But it sure feels like it is.

  5. Going to have to figure out what asks I can do: Things just keep happening.

    Now have an urgent dentist visit scheduled tomorrow morning just when work has cut back paying hours. On top of other upcoming things I was trying to save for. Augh.

    I think the worst part is the accumulated “How am I going to cover the bills?” nerves locks up the brain from useful writing.

    …I have a place to live, and my roommate is probably going to float me my half of the rent, so it’s not desperate. But argh.

    1. I spent several years in “how am I going to pay the bills this month,” and it can lock up everything, paradoxically including the ability to better pay the bills.

      One of my “just ask” hurdles was getting people to give referrals and references. When I realized that I actually could ask any and all of my younger coworkers, who were very talented and, unlike the old guard whose approval I had needed when I started and for some reason still thought was necessary, actually WANTED to help.

      And although I didn’t specifically ask them for tips on job openings, once they knew I was looking, they did tip me off — and I ended up getting my current job that way, hired by someone who knew them well. And it pays almost twice as much. And might as well have been created by someone who knew me and was thinking “let’s create a job that this one specific guy is going love.”

      So…yeah. I’m one of those who for many reasons shies away from asking and sucks at networking. But if I can make it work for me (once, at least), as lame as I am, anybody can do it. Hell, I could maybe even do it again if I had to. 😊

      1. Unfortunately I had no such coworkers, due to spending over half a decade as full-time caregiver, and one family-engineered social disaster after another for decades before that.

        Never get involved with a narcissist. They sabotage you subtly behind the scenes and you won’t find out what happened for years, if ever. And if you have one in the family… well. Run.

  6. honestly, some of us may have asked, and then in the flow of life forgot that we asked, while our subconscious files it as “don’t ask again, she is obviously too busy for your stupid ass.”

              1. I held out for 32 years, but I had to leave when my beloved noted that resisting the training was making me bitter.
                Mind you, we were in the SCA and science fiction fans, so we’re partially immune.

                1. Gosh, Government employee? check. 32 years? Well, that depends on “do you count military time, or not” if yes, check 41 years here, if no missed it, only did 21 as a civilian. Training making me bitter? Not as much as other things, but yeah. SCA? Check (HL Morrigan Graham at your service) S/F fan? well, I’m here ain’t I?

              1. Solution to chicken or egg problem I came up with as a teenager. First define chicken egg. Is it an egg laid by a chicken, or an egg containing a chicken? If the latter, then the egg comes first, as a creature almost a chicken lays an egg which contains a mutated embryo which is a real chicken. If the former the chicken comes first, hatched out of an almost chicken egg.

      1. I get that, and neither did I. Please remember that with the way we’ve expanded the spectrum, everyone is on that puppy now, and some (most) of us have better days and worse days of ADD/ADHD, hyperfocus, etc… Add in Oldtimers, and the modern world of whatever is in your face RIGHT NOW is the thing demanding your attention,
        (most times I think the modern computer and internet are more a curse than a blessing, and then I suddenly have to look up how many rounds of what type of ammo the Mosquito night fighter carried, or some other esoteric bullshit and change my mind again) and we get even more scatterbrained. It’s a curse.

        1. I used to use that as an excuse. “Sorry I haven’t gotten that to you. I’ve been buried under a brazilian things that are more demanding but not more important. I’ll get that to you right away.”

    1. Took a quick look. Wow. Do you make this stuff up? I am impressed. One question: a figure was listed as a XX Succubus. (don’t remember the rest) She looked a bit, um, spiky? I thought they were supposed to seduce unwary men. I’d have to take a hard pass on miss bull briar there.

      1. Do you make this stuff up?

        No. The only model on the site I designed myself is the christmass tree desk ornament. I buy merchant / seller licenses from the artists and am then allowed to sell printed models.

        See here for a more detailed – and fascinating – analysis of the market: https://www.bitsaboutmoney.com/archive/payments-and-plastic-in-the-fantasy-supply-chain/

        One question: a figure was listed as a XX Succubus. (don’t remember the rest) She looked a bit, um, spiky? I thought they were supposed to seduce unwary men. I’d have to take a hard pass on miss bull briar there.

        Well, presumably that is her battle dress, and it would come off for more traditional seduction. Unless the seduction was purely to get close enough to kill the target.

        Also have you seen goths and / or metalheads and / or punks? 😀

          1. sniffs Some Goths don’t climb trees. We lurk in shadowy doorways, or the back corner of the diner at 0500, or in that really dark corner of the office where light never seems to penetrate. Usually arguing quietly over music and fashion and the best way to get scuffs off of black patent boots.

            1. Vaseline, I believe.

              And then there is the tribe of temporary Goths, the VisitingGoths, shortened by History to ‘Visigoths’. And, if you were thrown out of Goths or Visigoths, you became an Ostrogoth, or an OstracizedGoth.

              1. Hundred Acre Wood or Down Under they seem similar. Jagulars will steal your honey, Likely dropbears would want your Hall’s Mentholyptus cough drops but similar otherwise.

      2. She’s a succubus. So unless she’s aiming to look Evil Hot, she probably shapeshifts.

        Having said that, ugly succubi does seem to be a thing the last decade or so , with some (typically those used as a straight-up combat encounter, with no social interactions with the party) crpgs having succubi whose physical appearance would absolutely not aid in seduction.

    2. She’s both beyond my budget and skill level but I’m glad you got Terra and her Magitek Armor up for sale! Hope you sell a few to skilled crafters!

  7. The good book say’s, ‘Ask and you shall receive’. The problem being you don’t always get the answer you want. I am divorced, on a fixed income, health issues, just like everyone else our age. I don’t ask because I don’t want to be another woman’s/person’s beast of burden. Nor do I date, because I don’t want to be another woman’s beast of burden. I discovered much of myself by looking in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Morality and ethics suck when you actually find you are infected by them. I’ll do for myself today, I’ll ask when I am ready. I just hope the answer is better the next time I ask, don’t we all.

    1. Dignity and self respect are survival tools for the morally infected (inflicted?). One must act in accord with one’s own moral code and conscience. This will rub some people the wrong way. Screw ’em (metaphorically speaking).

      The keys out of the trap of obsessive self reflection and depression are realistic goals, accurate self analysis, and incremental progress. You don’t get better overnight. Or over a single week of effort. It’s not a race. It’s a duty to be take up daily.

      Momentary bliss is overrated. Meaning and tangible results are not. Chase the latter, not the former, if you want to be proud of the man you are.

      Or something like that. We are all of us works in progress. Some days we fail. I do, often.

      1. One thing I’ve heard of is to not ask for something one is truly entitled to. Be it WIC benefits, free lunch for your kids, or unemployment while you look for work. Yes, some benefits can trap one. But know how to use them to boost out of needing them.

        Never qualified for the first two. But we regularly qualified for the last. We had the process down to a science.

        I’ve had people tell me they could never sign up for unemployment. What the heck? That is a benefit every employer pays for.

    1. Yep. “Why did you think you had to/could do it without help/needed information/clarification? Why didn’t you ask? Now we have to go back and redo [chunk of assignment/manuscript/whatever].”

  8. ““I’ve been working here for a year. How come I don’t know anyone. Don’t the guys ever go out for a beer or something?””

    Sometimes if you want this to happen, you have to arrange it yourself.

    Which isn’t that hard to do, really. Getting over the inertia to make the arrangements is the biggest hurdle.

  9. And sure, if you’re religious you should be asking there too. But most importantly you should be telling Him “This is what I’d like. I don’t even know if it’s what I need. So I’m handing it off to You. I want this. What do You think? How do I get to where I get it? Or I get to want something that’s actually better? You drive.” It makes a difference. Trust me.

    This, definitely and most impressively this. It isn’t even absolutely necessary to be religious or spiritually faithful, either; just willing and able to have faith in the Universe at large, much in the same way that many of our Founding Fathers were (it is said) not so much conventionally religious but very much believers in an ordered, beneficent (if also sometimes chaotic and not at all agreeable) Universe around them — IIRC this is “deism” or something close to it.

    It’s entirely possible that this country exists as it does, exactly because of that kind of faith. Not as a sufficient condition, but as an entirely necessary one.

    Meanwhile, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” — as my instant Internet lazysearch tells me it was said — is definitely not at all a literal endless Divine-operated vending machine of goodies on demand, that’s been my own experience and lots of other people’s too. But in many ways it’s something a lot better; by comparison to just “doing everything yourself” the self-reliant (but hard) way, it works better for you and especially in the long run than the “do it all by myself” route or even the “put in your penny, get out your goodies” system many of us might think we’d want to work instead.

    I do know the only way my writing ever got much of anywhere, even with years and decades of working, trying, and learning (off and on through everything else) is when I finally managed to get myself out of the way a lot more effectively, and let the thing do itself. Even for values of “got anywhere” that amount to doing vignettes and bits and pieces of longer stuff.

    With a not-inconsiderable amount of help from this place, here, of course.

    But be aware, if you do ask, you are (my experience again, not just others’) quite likely to get asked for stuff in return — not just muse-mugged like our Esteemed Blogmistress seems to be all the time, or like Dorothy Grant (IIRC) was by a sudden urban-fantasy story the other day, or I’ve been by a Martian calendar of all things (or actually, a matched pair of them) recently. (Does that one sound like an interesting guest column, BTW?)

    You are going to be expected, or given the chance to, be the instrument of what you’re asking for on behalf of other people too. My experience (again) is it’s not just still worth it, it’s actually even more so…

      1. Likely will take a few days, or maybe a week or more, before the written-up version is ready to ship off to you (and that’s barring further, ah, exciting surprises around here).

        But it’s pretty involving and specialist stuff, calendar design, and it ends up getting seriously mixed up with assorted astronomy things, and also some history and human-factors things. All of which subtlety ought to be quite explainable by now, hopefully interesting as well.

        Basically, one is 24 months of 28 days, except 21 days every couple of years or so, another is 18 months of 37 (+ or -) days; the first one is good for predictable business etc., the second matches the seasons better (and the ~37 day cycle of Earth days vs. Mars days). Both run on the same 76-year calendar cycle together. A clock (like ours but a bit slower) and even a year count system come free with the package too. (And I had to come up with some such thing in any event, as “Redtime” for that ‘Federation’ invasion-by-Earth story I keep working on.)

        It’s been amazing how much “prior art” there is on this, though, at least since (IIRC) the 1930s but some of it… rather substandard. For instance, it’s true that a Martian year by the seasons (“tropical year”) is very nearly 687 days, 686.97-something, which makes some things easier.

        Only, that’s 687.0 Earth days, not 668.6 Martian solar days, woops. Even the redoubtable Edgar Rice Burroughs stepped in that gopher hole (and we’ve been able to see Mars rotate, on a roughly 40 minute longer day, almost as long as we’ve had telescopes). He wasn’t alone in it, either.

        More to come…

  10. Hum. Thinking about it, in my opinion, most men, self included, can and will ask for about anything, including occasionally a bit of help, for about anything, no problem asking, anything, except directions.

    Hey, it’s the DNA. 😉

        1. You don’t want to be there now anyway. They’re burning cars without benefit of dragon.
          BTW, you don’t want to drive in downtown Philly, either. Arrrgh!

          1. I’ve heard about that garbage. 😡

            Still, I’d like to meet (in a dark alley) the person responsible for street names in Atlanta. 😈

            1. Then there was the committee that turned the drunk mule loose and where it went, Ponce De Leon Ave went . . . (Lived in Decatur for four years during College 1.0.)

              1. And fire departments hate that.

                There’s a town in NorCal called ‘Walnut Creek’ and it is known for everything-Walnut-named. Fire Department finally convinced the City to reject new street names with ‘Walnut’ in the name.

                1. My mom retired to Walnut Creek back in the late ’80s. She passed on in the early ’90s, before the whole state turned to feces.

      1. I can ask for directions. Even have, on several occasions.

        However, left to my own devices, I’d much rather figure things out for myself. I retain the information better that way. If I know where I am and where I am intending to end up, and there is still gas in the tank, I will get there.

        Eventually.

        But, I also have paper maps. And on-the-phone maps. Just in case. So I don’t have to ask directions, of course.

        1. Dad took Mom and me (both brothers were otherwise occupied) on a long road trip from $MIDWEST_METRO to much of the southwest. After I consumed the paperbacks I had stashed, I got the maps and started to to the navigating. Mom was able to sleep in the car and took full advantage of this.

          The habit stuck, and when I graduated Uni and moved to Silly Valley, I took the opportunity to explore the back roads in the area. When I started riding a bike seriously, I continued the habit. After a while, I could do some looooooong bike rides without benefit of maps. (Tried the rec.bikes “century of the month” club, though life got in the way a few times that year. Made 7 or 8, I think.)

          It takes work for me to get lost, but most of the time, I’ll “ask” the paper map when in doubt. One of the vehicles has a GPS map system, and I’ve been known to argue with it.

          1. I think that I “caught” my habit of “trip planning” from Dad.

            Every summer from when I was around 6 or 7, we could go on vacation and for months prior to our vacation, Dad would get travel maps and plan out “how we’d get there” and “where would be a good place to rest”.

            Of course, if it was “familiar” territory, he wouldn’t worry about maps.

            But then, Dad would be known for “going the backroads” when going from known places to home especially if time wasn’t a factor.

            This habit was very annoying for Mom. She was afraid that Dad would get them lost.

            I don’t think Dad was ever lost, but getting home might have taken longer than he planned. 😆

            1. My husband is that way. We drive a lot of back roads. Less going or coming home, as towing makes that a little more difficult (turning around is a lot more difficult). Now it can happen coming home, when the time is less critical. Going OTOH has to be planned out as reservations are required, at least initially. Our last trip, Fall 2021, started at Rocky Mt National Park. But we didn’t have reservations for the later parts of the trip. Stops before Custer National Monument, afterwards in Red Lodge (that was fun, NOT) before going over Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone. Yellowstone and Tetons. Both Red Lodge and Yellowstone hotels were not pet friendly. Not a problem service dogs aren’t pets. Got asked for “documentation”. Not legal to do that in the US, sigh. First time hubby has ran into that. Problem with Red Lodge was it was the last room in town. Handled it. But dang.d

              1. Only “bewildered” for a few hours at most.

                Although, there was that yellow-brick road that Dad wanted to follow but Mom convinced him not to. [Very Big Crazy Grin]

                1. “Park rangers don’t get lost, but occasionally we are geographically embarrassed.” Australian ranger at Ularu.

                  I also like “geographically challenged.”

                  1. I’m directionally challenged. Apparently it’s physical, not psychological. But it’s a heck of a time remembering which faucet is “hot” when the new streamlined ones don’t have any indication.
                    The process this morning went something like “Most people are right handed.”
                    “So right hand will be cold”
                    “My right hand is the one without wedding ring.”
                    “So if I turn the right on, cold. Left hot.”
                    THIS tentatively and I still tested the water for a while before making sure I wasn’t going to burn the cats when I put it in their fountain.
                    ….. now imagine doing that while driving. (It involved me standing stock still in front of the sink talking to myself for a good 20 seconds.)
                    Yeah. I rely on GPS. Sorry.

                    1. We have a friend who does not remember ‘right’ and ‘left.’ (Not an age thing – more than 20 years ago, same condition.)

                      She quit driving a few years ago, but it was always ‘driver-side’ or ‘passenger-side’.

                      Faucets? I take pictures of plumbing in UK/France – Ok, what does this thing do?

                    2. It’s called left-right confusion and is not uncommon. My daughter has it. Much merriment is had at her expense, particularly as she is so competent at most other things in her life.

                    3. Unless I drive an area regularly, I need a GPS too. Specifically in town. At least GPS there is going to be accurate. Using GPS to ensure we get the correct exit off freeway off 3 or more lane freeway … Priceless. No arguing. GPS even tell one what lanes you should/can use. Maps? The argument went: “You need exit”, squint, “Y, coming up”. “What lane?”. “I don’t know.” It isn’t always the furthest right either. Then we’d get the correct exit, but the wrong lane, have to work our way around side streets to get where we needed to be; all 42′ – 50′ of rig … Made a great start to trips sometimes. We survived this, multiple trips. Now we don’t have an RV, but the GPS is priceless.

                    4. In third grade, we were taught the recorder. For years after, I relied on muscle memory and the left hand being the one on top.

                    5. $AUNT(s?) hated that Grandpa would give directions while teaching them to drive like this:

                      “Right here…”
                      ~start to turn right~
                      “..,turn left!”

                    6. My husband’s gestures for “left” and “right” are hard to tell apart unless you are facing him directly.

                      Which is counter-indicated when driving the car, although I won’t say if I’ve ever been tempted…..

                  2. Scouts, youth and adults, are occasionally “Geographically Challenged”. Especially when they swear the “map is wrong”. But with triangulation to known visible high points declare “Didn’t think we’d come this far!”

                    1. My nearest brother, the Eagle Scout, is particularly hilarious when it comes to directions. Put him on his feet with a map and compass and he can, for example, locate and retrieve a set of gear that a group of scouts dumped in an unexpected blizzard. (In summer, BTW. Wyoming.)

                      Put him in a car, and his directions will take you into the ocean.

                    2. Not an Eagle Scout (that option came some 50+ years too late for me) … I am the same. As long as I am on foot, with a compass and map, I’m fine. Wilderness or not. Put me in a car OTOH, I’m hopeless. Worse if it is a multi lane freeway say in Phoenix, LA, etc. (Portland is a lousy 3 lanes, I used to be able to handle Portland, don’t like it, but I can. Eugene, where I was raised and where we are now, has 3 lanes on I-5, for 2 or 3 miles, maybe …) Hopeless in that I use the phone GPS in Eugene/Springfield, and I was raised here! To be fair to me I was on a bicycle until I left home, which limited range.

            2. When moving to California in the mid eighties I asked Pop for directions/advice on getting to his house in San Pedro from mine in St. Pete. His direction trans continental involved 3 left turns and one right onto his street 2900 miles away. That really reflected how he taught us to think. Of course he was also responsible for BM guidance systems so thinking big picture was perhaps easier.

              My family always wonders why I do not ask for the things I need and seems to be combination of prideful self reliance and utter terror at rejection. Trying to conquer both, but is a work in progress. We are all broken in some way.

          2. The Reader was on Kauai with family back in 2008. GPS was ‘hinky’ the entire time. Fortunately we had paper maps (never travel without them) but still had to ask for directions a fair amount. Found out later the source of ‘hinky’ (still can’t tell).

            1. Well acquainted with GPS hinky. Pretty much the west, off the main highways (except large cities) vehicle Google GPS is hinky. That is not counting the military or other sensitive areas. Oregon doesn’t have any of those, but other states do. Some areas we’ve driven you don’t only need maps, you have to have the correct type of maps. General maps from the corner gas station or tourist stop, even National Geographic maps, are inadequate. Must stop at a district Ranger station and by the USFS sectional maps. Trail maps available at REI are reliable. Road maps not going to trail heads, not so much. Even the USFS district maps can be wildly off. Used to be because new logging roads not plotted. Now, it is because roads are being decommissioned. Must admit however, that Google maps, due to known Oregon tragedies, will not let routes be planned that are closed during the season being plotted. I don’t know how accurate it is for the USFS, but try to plot now, a route through Yellowstone, the Tetons, Glacier, or even Tuolomne pass in Yosemite, and you will get routed around. Even if the route planning is for when the roads are normally open. We even had problems for Canada Route 1 between Golden to Banff. Took awhile to dig out the problem. They have the highway closed to reconstruct the canyon area between the two. Do not know if it’ll be open when we go in May or not.

              1. Oh, yeah. Me parents live up a road that is a perfectly well paved country road right up to their shop door.

                The GPS keeps telling people that a dirt track with a small tank trap on it, which branches off that road, is that road.

                1. Nieces wedding was at a winery venue. GPS steered us wrong. When we backtracked there were signs directing us where we should have gone. But the other direction, not so much. What we should have done, instead of turning right at the road T, is take the lane into winery driveway just to the left of that intersection. Sign was not visible from the stop sign, from the direction we came in.

              2. Google Maps doesn’t have to be in the West to be hinky. Three years ago in rural New Jersey, I got turned around a bit because it was a night and it’d been a couple decades since I’d driven that area much and things had changed. I used Google Maps to find a route back to the hotel. Instead of having me turn around or continue on or turn at a major intersection, it sent my down a sketchy looking side road that I could have mistaken for a driveway. After a bit, the pavement ended and became a sandy-dirt track. It continued down through a rocky stretch that crossed a dry creek bed before continuing as a sandy-dirt track back to a paved road.

                Earlier this year it tried to take me through the streets of downtown Cincinnati that had been closed off for the Oktoberfest. Saturday in Indiana, trying to get to a supermarket, it sent me down a closed street to the back entrance, which involved driving around the whole building, when I could have simply gone another couple hundred feet on the street I’d been on before (didn’t realize it until I got there).

                As to unreliable maps, there are so many paper and electronic maps that indicate the existence of roads that have been closed by the Forest Service that it isn’t even funny.

                1. Bend, Oregon, has many roads that their roads department added to the maps, but neglected to actually build…..

                  (Google’s also very bad about lookign at crowsourced updates, like the FIVE YEAR OLD SCHOOL ZONE that means they route a ton of traffic past one of the newer Waukee area schools. On a narrow road. That then goes through residential zones…..)

                  1. “Paper roads” can be a pain when they make it into electronic map systems, especially when there’s a “paper” segment in the middle of an otherwise built street, and directions using the data assume the road is truly continuous.

                2. As to unreliable maps, there are so many paper and electronic maps that indicate the existence of roads that have been closed by the Forest Service that it isn’t even funny.
                  …..

                  It has gotten really bad. So much for taking a day and driving the forest roads. Most are gated off. More entrances are destroyed. And TPTB, be elected, or press can’t figure out why wildland fires can’t be extinguished. (Not that the roads made good firelines themselves. The 2003 Santiam fire jumped the highway at the pass (which is more than two lanes through that section), and the 2020 North Umpqua fire jumped the two lane paved highway. But at least crews could get there when the fire was smaller.

                  1. Couple years ago, one of the SoCal fires jumped something like 12 lanes plus median of I5. Nasty winds that week.

                  2. I know it is far worse out in your direction, but I’ve had a couple annoying instances just at Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. Worst was probably at Red River Gorge Geologic Area where they put a gate across the road out to the Double Arch trailhead. Having to walk the extra 2 miles round trip was annoying but losing the parking spaces at that trailhead was even worse.

                    1. Gating off onto forest roads doesn’t count the private timber access. Not 100% cutoff (because not following it that closely, so hedging). Makes sense. Between timber theft, hidden forest grows, and now the homeless? Do not blame the timber companies at all. Or the USFS/BLM. Least anyone think legalizing a certain crop has done away with the illegal grows? I know of ocean front properties for sale in Nevada, and Utah, right on the Pacific … Honest! 😉 (wink, wink)

  11. Okay. You talked me into it. This Thursday, 1-26-23, and Friday, 1-27-23, I am making my novel, Crossing Over, about a possible 2nd American civil war, or revolutionary war, FREE on Amazon. Why am I making it free? Because I know it’s damn good and if the right person or persons read(s) it, maybe they tell others, or nominate the book for something… anything to get some eyes on it. Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Over-Paul-Clayton-ebook/dp/B07M9WNQNB?ref_=ast_sto_dp

    Thank you!

      1. Sarah, okay, I’m probably too late here (I’m taking care of someone who is sick and am not always available). I don’t know what email addy you mean at ‘hot mail.’ And I don’t know what ‘insty’ is either. Sorry about that. And thanks.

  12. Yup. At 11, I walked in on a complex and thoroughly calculated bit of bullying aimed at me. It’s been more than 30 years and the scar is still there and affecting my range of psychic motion.

    1. Alas, some of them take it a generous gift of a way to make you particularly miserable. . . .

      The ones who promise to do it and claim afterward you’re lying are among the milder forms.

  13. It is clearly a part of Western Civilization that helping others is a Good Deed. It is also a Good Deed to give someone the opportunity to perform a Good Deed. Obvious conclusion? If one needs help, one is SUPPOSED to ask.

  14. I mentioned (in a joking manner) that I don’t “need” to ask directions because I can read a map but there’s a strong element of truth in that because when driving/traveling some where I’m not familiar with I check out maps to “see where I’m going”.

    Of course, this habit prevented some big problems a few years ago.

    I was working in the Detroit area and was being transferred to the Colorado Springs area.

    Looking at where the plane would be landing and where the motel was, I spotted a big problem.

    The motel was in the Springs but the airplane would be landing at Golden Colorado.

    As Sarah can tell you, Golden Colorado is a suburb of Denver and was not close to the Springs.

    Fortunately, my employers corrected that mistake. 😀

    1. Better driving down to the Springs than flying Denver to CO via Frontier Airlines. Eventually I learned to get a different airline down.

  15. who refused to have a blog fundraiser for twelve years, despite Jerry Pournelle himself telling her to do it

    So, experiment completed and data analyzed, now we know for sure… Jerry was right!

    And let’s hope the remarkable Dr. Pournelle was right about a lot more things, too!

    (Somewhere in all the “A Step Farther Out” columns he did, I’m pretty sure I remember rightly by now, there’s a little scene featuring imagined planet-dwellers holding up signs, either “[SF and/or science writer X] WAS RIGHT” or “JERRY WAS RIGHT” — well, about the Strategy of Technology, about Sarah Hoyt’s self-funding blog, about… but alas, as he used to say… the sad and sorry state of today’s infiltrated and compromised “education” system. Yes, he was.

    But notice, I didn’t even have to make up the JERRY WAS RIGHT signs, he did that for us too; just like he wrote about the “skinsuit” spacesuits I featured in last night’s vignette, and IIRC worked a bit on them in his previous life at NASA or wherever.)

    Peace and blessings be unto thee, wherever exactly you may be, Dr. P. Some of us owe what can now never be repaid… except maybe forward.

    1. Lord, yes. Add that to parental history of “you KNOW what you did wrong!” and my head is an interesting place sometimes.

      (Tangentially, seen on shudder Tumblr: “It’s not PTSD. It’s spicy deja vu.”)

      1. Normally not only didn’t I know what I’d done wrong, but found out years later my attempts at guessing weren’t even in the next zipcode.
        And what I had “done wrong” involved mom reading clues that were only half there and confabulating a far more devious and not ADD me having a cunning plan.
        Head>desk.

  16. Sarah, the subset of your fandom I represent has only one demand: Stay Healthy!

    On a TMI level:

    Last Thursday, a Youtuber whose videos helped take my mind off chemo, and radiation, and multiple surgeries, and stuff I won’t talk about, passed away from complications with Covid. Left a lot of fans heartbroken, even though he was basically “just a videogamer with a sense of humor”.

    I figure with the other friends and family I’ve lost since 2011 (when my Dad passed way), I’ve reached my quota until about 2045. And I’m not issuing any exceptions, so don’t ask.

                1. That was my impression. That got reinforced in the next strip, where an older guy in a red hat is the one who saves the kid.

                  1. For those of you who have not been following, he is definitely a conservative. Was a political prisoner for a time.

  17. Heh, it’s almost like you’ve been around for a few particular conversations with certain Huns… Most of that is true for me in one way or another and it doesn’t help that in my past I frequently got brushed off because people were too busy (a lot of people I know), verbally abused for asking for anything including clarification on tasks that I was messing up and getting punished for (my stepdad), and help just…seeming to constantly vanish in one last minute obligation after another almost every time (story of my life). With the escape in its final stages it’s especially nerve-wracking and hard but there are definitely things I won’t be able to do without help, so hopefully some of the ideas me and others are discussing will pay off…

    1. Yeah. Been there. Done that, Mr. Baron.

      Ask anyway.

      It’s top kek how the folks most likely to get burned for “asking wrong” are also the most likely to wish that the “wrong askers” would hit them up. 😋

      The Deity really does have a sense of humor.

  18. I don’t know if this would help anyone, but redballoon.work is a site for finding a job at a non-woke company.

    1. The snow hasn’t made it here yet, but we’re supposed to have a brief period of wintry mix followed by light snow just after 8. It won’t be cold enough for it to stick… but our large number of elevated highways will provide lots of skating opportunities.

      1. Cold here (for degrees of cold, we are still in the > 0 F). Dry. But talk of possibility of freezing fog. Won’t that be a joy … Skating opportunities.

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