Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

I think Elton John, or perhaps Bernie Taupin, had the right of it.

Two of the things human beings seem to have the most trouble with for some reason are two very short phrases, sometimes related:

  • I’m sorry.
  • I was wrong.

Recently, I was put in mind of this, as I sometimes am. Sometimes it’s something that comes to mind because I seem to be saying both a lot. Sometimes it’s just random, because I’m strange.

Anyway, these are very simple things. Yet, simple does not always mean easy. No, these are not easy things at all, not for most of us, but they’re quite simple. My basic philosophy on both “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” is this: offer them without reservation, without conditions, with no strings attached, sincerely, and from the heart. It’s a tall order. It’s something most of us are very reluctant to do. Well suck it up, buttercup, because that’s the only way that those things actually work. They have to be offered with no strings, with no reservations, with no conditions, sincerely, and from the heart.

A long time ago, I got a really great lesson in how not to offer an apology. It made such a strong impression on me that I refer to it still, and i bring it up in my mind when it’s my turn to say I’m sorry, so I know both how to do it and how not to.

One day, I came home late. It wasn’t really late, but it was later than I was expected. But I was going to university, and sometimes things happen that keep you out a little. So I walked in the door and I got an earful about how I should have called, why was I late, I was selfish and only thought of myself, and a whole host of things. This speech left me angry, resentful, and pretty miserable. In this state of mind, I went back to my room. In a short time, my mom came back and said, “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you pissed me off.” Rather than its probably intended effect, the apology had rather the opposite effect. It isolated me further, made me even more resentful and angry, and was the one thing that sparked my intention to move out as quickly as possible. Probably not its intended effect, but that’s what happened. Looking back on it, I think, in just a few words, it broke every one of the rules I’ve made for myself when offering up an apology. So in that respect, it was valuable; it taught me how to do it and, as importantly, how not to.

The rules are simple, but, as I said, not easy. Here they are.

  • Say the words. I’m sorry. Or, I was wrong. Then, shut up.
  • If you need to explain what you’re sorry for, do that. But “I’m sorry” has to be the last thing. Because, shut up (See above). Something like, “When such and such happened, this is how I reacted to it. I was wrong to have reacted that way, and I’m sorry.” Then, shut up.
  • Mean it. If you say it and don’t mean it, the person to whom you are apologizing will know. Whether you mean it or not always tells. Always. So you’d better mean it, or else don’t even bother.
  • Don’t justify. Remember “Shut up”? Yeah. Don’t justify. Don’t qualify. DOn’t…do….anything else. You can explain if you need to, but explain, don’t justify. “My intention was [insert good intentions], and I’m sorry that that isn’t what happened.”

It’s true that sometimes, “I’m sorry” won’t fix everything. Still, if done right, and sincerely, it sure can help. When asked “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”, I’d have to say that, while being right has a certain amount of satisfaction attached to it, being happy is much, much better. (This is coming from a guy who has both been wrong a lot, and also insisted on his rightness a lot.) But being happy is a lot better, and I believe learning the art of the apology, a thing I’m still learning every day, has made my life and my relation to other people much more fulfilling.

Words That Sound Alike But aren’t

Just posted the below to a blindness-related buy/sell/trade list. People were asking to see it, so here it is…



Sorry, this is bugging me a little, and I’d really like for people to put their best foot forward. Like it or not, people judge you by the words you use, so it’s probably a good idea to use the right ones, so people don’t misjudge you.

If you’re selling something, that item is “for sale”. That’s s-a-l-e. You may have something to sell, that’s s-e-l-l, and the item you’d like to sell is for sale, that’s s-a-l-e. Of course, you can have a boat for s-a-i-l (well,OK, s-a-i-l-i-n-g, but only if it doesn’t have a motor).

So, I’d like to sail my boat, which I’d like to sell, and I’ll have it for sale at the end of its sailing voyage, but the sail is not included in the sale, sorry. This should make its selling price lower than if I included the sail in the sale. Confused yet? Isn’t English wonderful?

An Annoying Encounter: Be Careful Out There

The more I think about this, the more annoyed I get.

About an hour ago, I had an encounter with someone who came to my door as I was making my lunch. Melanie’s nurse answered the door (interestingly, Fiona didn’t bark, and only Alena heard the knock), and told me that there was this guy who wanted to talk to me about my alarm system.

As we are giving serious thought to replacing our alarm system, I was intrigued. Of course, I was also intrigued that some guy would be asking about this, especially as our alarm system monitoring contract is coming up soon for renewal. It’s one of the reasons we’re looking at a switch, we want a cheaper alternative. We’ve been looking at SimpliSae because monitoring is less expensive and there’s no contract. The disadvantage would be having to replace, not just the alarm panel, but also all the sensors. Still, we’re annoyed enoughwithcontracts and inaccessible touch screen panels that I’m OK with that.

So I go to the door, and there’s this guy. And he says he’s with GE, who manufactures my security system, and starts asking about it. I tell him, yes, my contract is nearly up, and we were looking at a change. After one thing and another, he says he can get me a security camera, as well as cut my monitoring per month by $5, and would I like to replace the touch panel keypad with one that has buttons? He can get us that and the camera for free if I sign up today. Well, of course, after getting pressured into other sign up today or it’ll be gone tomorrow things, I asked him for his card, I’d like to talk it over with my wife and get back with him. He said he was only seeing a couple of houses today, and what’s there to think about anyway? Immediate red flags. I told him, again, if he didn’t have a card for me to get in touch with him, because I wanted to give it some thought, there wasn’t much more to discuss. He said he had one, but he didn’t seem all that eager that i should have it. Eventually, I just said, “I think we’re done here”, wished him a good day, and closed the door.

Matt, melanie’s nurse, told me that he was wearing an APX hat. APX was the company we’d initially got set up with on our contract. Trouble is, they haven’t been APX for a couple years. And he told me he was with GE, not APX or Vivint, the current name for APX. Him telling me that didn’t set right with me in the first place.

So what can I take away from this?

1) Don’t get pressured into anything. If you can’t sleep on it, or if the guy at the door isn’t willing to give you his card or some way to get in touch with him later, that makes your decision for you.

2) OK, even if he says “this deal might not be available tomorrow”, he should still be willing to give you some contact info. But anyway, I’d find anything that’s “sign up right now, I’ll do this and this and that” a little suspect, especially since he didn’t disclose the length of any new contract.

3) Go with your gut. Something felt wrong about the guy.

4) The alarm contract is not in my name, but he called me by name. True, it’s my legal name and not Buddy. He would have maybe gotten this from the real estate records or somewhere? Of course, I sort of noticed that at the time, but didn’t analyze until later.

Anyway, be careful, guys. I think this guy might have had me pegged for an idiot.

So, who’s going to be that someone who does something?

I just posted the following on Facebook:

We are very sad. We found out Andre, the boy we wanted to adopt, still hasn’t been adopted. We still would love to find a family to adopt this 11 YO Ukrainian blind child; we still grieve that we can’t.

Two people liked my status.

I’m not sure what that means. The Facebook “like” button is strange. It could mean “I like this”, or it could mean “This is interesting”, or it could mean “Yeah, I agree”, or “I want to see this later”. Putting that aside for the moment though, it puts me in mind of something, maybe a challenge. Maybe a challenge for everyone, including me.

All the time, whenever we see something awful, or heart wrenching, or unjust, someone is bound to say, “Someone should do something about that.” It might be, “There ought to be a law”, or “How sad, why doesn’t someone step in”, or words to that effect, but it boils down to “Someone should do something about that”.

In our case, it’s adoption. Don’t get me started. Well, except this is my space, and I’ll get started if I damn well please. Generally speaking, when someone or some couple wants to adopt, and I’ve seen this time and time and time again, they want to adopt healthy babies. The younger and healthier, the better. In the case of international adoptions, Ukraine in particular since that’s where my experience is, people want kids as close to 18 month old as possible (because Ukraine doesn’t adopt them out any younger), and with “minor, correctable conditions”. “Minor correctable” basically means that they don’t want the kids with any sort of significant disability, so the kids with missing limbs, CP, kids who need wheelchairs or have seizures, no one wants those. Kids that are older, no one wants those either. Kids who are older and have some sort of disability? Forget about it.

But those kids need families, too. Moreover, they need families because once they age out of the system, they will not have the opportunities that the “healthy” kids have. You think it’s bad for people with disabilities here? We’ve got it pretty good.

Our adoption facilitator told us once that he didn’t like it when adopting parents talked about going over to “save” some child. He said, “They aren’t saving that child at all.” And, in the main, he may have a point. But the kids that most people don’t want really would be saved if they could just find homes with loving families. Our Alena, for instance, would, we were told, be dead by now had we not adopted her. She would be dead because the orphanages couldn’t keep her meds up. This is what they said before they knew of her seizure disorder, while they had her on prednazone from the age of two months old. Yeah, if they dropped her off that cold turkey, between that and the seizures, she probably would be dead. A world without Alena hardly bears thinking about.

There’s a place, a terrible, awful place, where kids that are severely disabled, are sent. Conditions there are described as being very like a concentration camp, with beds only 18 inches apart, where non-ambulatory children and young adults are left to sit (or lie) in their own waste. And that’s just the start. See a video (in Russian) here and see photos here.

These are, of course, the worst examples. We are fortunate that Alena was in a great facility when she was a toddler, and the one she got transferred to was also good, if a bit grim in atmosphere. Andre was in the same baby home as Alena, and he apparently is now at some school for blind and visually impaired children, although we aren’t sure what that really means.

All that to say this. Whenever we mention these kids to people, it’s of course the whole “Someone should do something” deal. Yet, when people look at adoption, they don’t give any thought to the kids with disabilities, or the older kids; “someone” is, apparently, “someone else”. Nope, not my family, not in my house, but someone really should do something.

So, who is someone, and what is something?

Sure, we’d love to find a home for Andre in particular, and in Buddy’s ideal world, all kids, no matter how old and with what disabilities, would have loving homes and families. I get that we don’t live in Buddy’s ideal world. Some people really can’t adopt these kids, because they’ve raised families already, or don’t have room for kids, or they’ve got a whole passle of kids already (or have all they can handle, anyway). Some people don’t think they can handle kids, or won’t have the patience or wherewithal or time or skill or resources to handle any sort of disability. Some people don’t want to take on the emotional baggage or damage that comes with an older kid. Yeah, I’ve heard horror stories, too, and I’m not saying that these aren’t real issues, because they are.

So if you can’t adopt, what can you do to make a difference? What thing can you, being someone, do?

Check places like His Kids, Too and other charitable organizations. His Kids has several aid programs that they administer, not just for kids in orphanages, but feeding the elderly, Bible camp in the summer, and so on. The director travels several times a year to distribute medical supplies, clothing, food, and other necessities. Anyway, check them out. There are no doubt other such organizations, but teresa and her crew are the ones who helped us through our adoption.

So, will you be someone who does something? Could be about this, could be about some other thing. But next time you say, “Someone should do something”, why not give some thought to how you can be someone?

Of Analogies, Politically Correct Language, Freedom, and Inaccurate Metaphor

Today, the following brief conversation came across on Twitter. While the first comment was disturbing to me, the follow-up reply really has me bothered on a couple of levels. I don’t think 140 characters (or several lines of 140 characters) are enough to really address my feelings on this, so I’ll take this space to do so instead.

Laura: I think every #Obama supporter should be given a wheelchair since they are #deaf #blind #dem (dem is the new dumb).
Buddy: @thatquirkylaura Wow. I don’t even know how to react to this. Esp as a PWD.
Laura: @bbrannan “PC” lies in Cultural Marxism. I believe in free speech, creative thought & if ur overly sensitive, u shouldn’t follow me.
“Betsy Ross”: . @thatquirkylaura @bbrannan political correctness is leftist censorship – tyrannical systems demand it #tcot

This probably shouldn’t bug me nearly as much as it does, but people are funny like that, I guess.

So let’s start at the beginning.

Every Obama supporter should be given a wheelchair since they are deaf, blind, and den (den is the new dumb).


Last I checked, wheelchairs went to people whose legs didn’t work. Last I knew, there was no connection between ears, eyes, and speech centers, and legs. Moreover, “dumb” only meant “stupid” in recent years, where its original meaning was more like an inability to speak. “Deaf and dumb” meant someone could not hear nor could that person speak. I’m not quite sure how this morphed into a loss of mental faculties, but it did. In any case, to equate disability with inability or lack of intelligence or discernment is so last century, besides being inaccurate. Such comparisons have always bugged me; as a blind person, having my blindness equated with mental slowness has always bugged me. I’m certain that deaf people who cannot speak feel this even more acutely. Even putting that aside, how did wheelchairs get into this anyway? It’s just a very bad metaphor, and in no ways accurate.

Now to the replies. Those probably bothered me even more than the original post. Oh, sure, I have real problems with the original very flawed metaphor. Were the politician a different one, the flawed metaphor would have been equally offensive. That’s OK though, this is America, and here, we absolutely have a right to be boorish, offensive, bigoted, and, above all, we have an absolute right to make idiots of ourselves. I’d be the last person to take that right from anyone. But the veiled (or perhaps, not so veiled) accusation that I was attempting to abridge anyone’s right to free speech isn’t what I take issue with, and it isn’t what really bothers me about the replies. OK, it bothers me a little, but it isn’t the biggest problem I have here.

In the main, I agree with the sentiment. Political correctness has perhaps built more walls between us than it has torn down. While I don’t believe that “words are just words and don’t mean anything”, neither do I believe that saying the right words will change what is in somebody’s heart. Yes, words mean things, and the right words, or the wrong ones, can be very destructive, but not saying something for fear of being offensive where no offense is meant can be equally harmful. Both ways can lead to misunderstanding and to a place where a meeting of minds cannot possibly occur.

So then, what’s my problem, beyond the use of a flawed and inaccurate metaphor? Do I really want to silence speech that I find disagreeable?

To the contrary, I believe that freedom of speech is vital to a growing, hanging, thriving, and vibrant society. Like Voltaire, I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Whether I think that flawed metaphors that call into question the intelligence of a whole class of people is “creative” is irrelevant, though for the record, I really don’t think it is very creative at all. Having seen other work from Laura, I know she is capable of much more creative thought. That isn’t the point though. What bothers me about these responses is that the thinking here appears to be that freedom of speech also means freedom from criticism. It does not. Freedom of speech works both ways. If you are free to say a thing, I am free to refute it, to be offended by it, to disagree with it, or to call you out on it. I am also free to agree with it, praise it, or expound upon its virtues if I so choose. You are free to react to my reaction. It’s a wonderful thing. By such a free exchange of thought, perhaps we all grow and change and become better human beings. But to suppose that freedom of speech also means freedom from the consequences of that speech is pure folly. All freedoms, and all rights, come with equal responsibilities attached to those freedoms. Remember that freedom of speech also means freedom of speech that you don’t happen to like, or for that matter, that I don’t happen to like. But it also means that ifI don’t like some speech, I am free to express that opinion and what I find disagreeable about it. Does it mean you’ll agree? Of course it doesn’t.

Laura, all I said was that I didn’t know how to react to your statement. Rather than asking what I meant, you automatically assumed I wished you to be silenced. I do not. I think I understand what you were going for, but it just didn’t work. It really didn’t. You are capable of so much more. Equating one disability with several other unrelated ones really doesn’t take a lot of creativity or time. What ever happened to Eight Storms Brewing, anyway? I really enjoyed that, although I think I enjoyed it in its first eight brother and sister daemons incarnation a bit more. (I understand how that’d be hard to pull off though.)

An Idea For the 2012 FDIM Buildathon

Hi y’all,

I just received the following Email from Wayne, N6KR, at Elecraft. FDIM stands for “Four Days In May”, a sort of convention within the Dayton Hamvention, sponsored by QRP International. The Buildathon is an event where a bunch of people get together and build a kit from a bunch of parts. What Wayne suggests here is very exciting. Speaking as a long-time blind ham, I for one would be very excited to be able to build something and take part in an aspect of the hobby that I have to this point not been able to enjoy.

I can already see some objections by some blind hams to some of the stipulations Wayne has listed. I would be interested, personally, in your thoughts on this. I, for one, am totally in.

Here’s Wayne’s Email, which I was copied on:

Hi Ken,

Hope things are going well for you this year. I’m really busy with the KX3 and other products, as you can imagine.

We have a number of blind customers using K3s, etc. I was discussing with one of them (Buddy, copied on this) the fact that there are no radio or electronic kits (that we know of) that could be constructed entirely by a blind hobbyist. I then mentioned that I’d think about how to do this 🙂

Then I realized this would be a novel theme for the FDIM building contest in 2012, assuming it hasn’t already been tried. It would be a challenge for both the kit designers and target builders. For best results, they’d need to work together.

The most important thing about such a kit is the sense of empowerment it would provide the blind builder. From all my conversations with blind hams, it’s clear they feel left out being unable to participate in some basic hands-on aspect of the hobby. I’m sure that’s true of would-be blind builders in other genres as well. (Buddy may have thoughts on this.)

Even a simple kit would be a challenge. Here are some potential constraints (again, Buddy will know better than I):

– probably no soldering (safety concern)
– suggest twisting component leads, or use spring terminals
– no high voltages
– all components that have the same size/shape must be carefully tagged or bagged
or have a tactile label
– all components with more than two leads (e.g., a transistor) must have
an asymmetrical package so leads can be clearly identified; better yet,
one lead can be extended beyond the others
– no use of color codes (obvious!)
– nothing sharper than a component lead
– hardware should be large (#4 or larger)
– if a PCB or other substrate is provided, it should be asymmetrical or have
tactile guides
– if knobs are used, they should have tactile pointers
– manual either in Braille or in accessible electronic format (use with a PC screen reader)

With care, one could build a simple transceiver that satisfies all of these constraints.

Anyone entering such a kit into the contest should pair up with a blind builder — or try building it blindfolded — to prove that it works.

Any interest in this idea?


Budcast #10: No More Cruises, And No Cruise Podcasts

I know I promised audio sound seeing tours from our cruise, but sorry to say, you’re not getting any. Two reasons, one technical and one not, both explained on a very emotional Sunday morning, the last full day at sea. This is raw, unpolished, unedited, and unashamedly tearful, so if that kind of thing bothers you, it won’t hurt my feelings if you skip it. Just don’t ask if I had a wonderful time on my vacation.

For those of you tuning in late, Melanie and I took a cruise with Royal Caribbean on Navigator Of the Seas for our tenth wedding anniversary. We figured we should really do something that we might not do every day, so we made arrangements for Alena, and we signed up for a four-night cruise. It was memorable, but not in any way you’d like much.


I recorded this, as I said, on the morning of the last full day at sea, less than a full day after the events portrayed here happened. Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better afterwards, apart from being able to function without bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. But I thought it was important to capture this moment without diluting its full effect. Besides, I think it will be much easier to tell people to listen here rather than telling the story a thousand times.


So, sorry this wasn’t better. Believe me, I wish it were.

Budcast #4: Buddy Rants

We depart from the usual format (whatever that is) to free-form ranting. In this episode, Buddy gets angry about stupid people. Some strong language, and definitely strong opinions. This episode may just change your opinion of Buddy if you thought he was a level-headed and well together kind of guy. If you were under no such delusions, all the better. Comments and lively discussion are welcome.

Budcast #3: Random Musings And A Walk To Harbor Freight

In BudCast #3, take a walk with me to Harbor Freight to exchange an air pump. On the way (and on the way home), we meet neighbors and friends, stop in at Radio Shack, and of course, exchange the air pump. Today, we discuss lots of things in brief:

Also, it’s out! The new album from Those Who Dig, “Little Bitty Barley House”, recorded live this past fall, is out. Go andget your Mitochondria fix now, and tell ’em I sent you. OK?

A Wasted Saturday Of Overwhelm

It’s amazing how doing nothing can wear you out.

I can’t even blame the past week of having visitors staying with us, because when our friends Brian and Melanie come to visit from Canada with our 21-month-old godson, we always have a fantastic time. They’ve really become extended family. They went home yesterday, and while the house is quieter now and it’s great to be back in our usual routine (whatever that is), they aren’t the reason for a wasted Saturday.

No, I just had everything I have to do catch up to me. I have a zillion things that need done with my work with IAADP. The president of the organization called me today and we discussed what needed done and which of those things needed to be priorities and done now, and which things can be done later. Of course, lots of them need done now rather than later. The helpful Email summarizing our conversation amped up the stress a bit more.

Then, there’s the stamp for another organization. I forgot all about it. Fortunately, I think I got that out of the way and it can be ordered and set up to not be all crappy looking or something.

Everything just caught up to me today, I guess. So about four this afternoon, I went to have a little lie down. Five hours later, I woke up again. An had to feed critters. What a waste. Hopefully tomorrow is more productive.