Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Get unstuck by enlisting a moron (me)

All I did was go to Home Depot for caulk, so when I got greeted by angry spousal eyes upon my return I was pretty sure whatever it was, it wasn't my fault. Still, I was scared. Odds were on the dogs, I quickly calculated, because our daughter seemed to be keeping herself busy with coloring. As my wife began to explain her predicament, though, my canine buddies were off the hook too (at least on the current problem).

It seemed like a simple task and one she'd done many times before. We had some relatives coming for a visit and wanted to complete decorations for our new house before they came. As part of this effort, my wife was making custom curtains, something she'd done for other houses we've owned but it had been awhile. Most of the procedures came back to her quickly, but one didn't.

She read directions 15 times, she looked online, but nothing seemed to help. The tension mounted. As she put it, "I spent $300 on fabric and supplies so I didn't want them to go to waste. I mean, that's at least 3 pairs of good shoes!"

We've all been there. Stuck, frustrated, and under a tight deadline. You can't get something to work the way it seems like it should no matter what you do. Maybe you need help, but it isn't available from the experts you really need. What do you do then?

Sometimes your thoughts get all spun around and it helps just to explain your problem to somebody so you can get them straight again. That's what my wife did to get unstuck. In this situation, all I know about sewing is where the machine goes in the closet. I'm a sewing moron.

Despite my lack of knowledge, I encouraged her to explain to me what the problem was. She knows as much about Java programming as I do about making curtains, but I've found over the years that by trying to explain a problem to somebody with no prior knowledge of the material, it forces you to think through your steps more precisely. Often, you discover your own mistake with a step you didn't realize you missed because your expertise clouded your troubleshooting approach.

That's exactly what happened here. Once she started to explain what she tried, she realized about half way through her spiel that she'd measured something incorrectly, and her problem was solved without me having to say a word.

The finished product hangs in our living room, which is pictured below:


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 7:15 AM   3 comments


At 1:20 PM, Blogger Élistariel said...

That's kind of funny. Nice curtains by the way.

At 2:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is that "Mar - Venus" Thing.

She does not want you to solve the problem (as if you could, eh?) but by giving her someone to talk to about it, it ends up solving itself.

Bill Austin
Famous Quotes

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Hey Bill,

There've been plenty of times where I was stuck on some piece of Java code that she patiently sat through while I figured out my own problem. This was my turn to return the favor and the story ended up being a lot more interesting than if I had started a blog post with "There was this one time where I was stuck on this Servlet Filter . . ." 8).



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