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The HeliOS Project is now.....
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Difference Between an Excuse and a Reason.

***A cautionary note...some of the subject matter here might not be comfortable for some or a bit rough on a sensitive stomach.  Just so you know.

I was in 4th grade when a substitute teacher filled in for Mrs. Ping that day.  Her name was Elaine Schroder and she was absolutely gorgeous.  Long and flowing auburn hair with a figure that even distracted a 4th grade boy.

At least his ability to focus on anything else.

She stood patiently at the front of each row of seats as the homework assignment from the previous day was handed forward.  Once they arrived at the front desk, she would count the pages and look up to see if each page corresponded with the person in that seat.  Then she would move to the next row.

Jane Berry sat right behind me and she was the last seat in that row.  As I turned to her to get her homework page, she told me she didn't have one.  I then passed mine forward and watched as the stack grew bigger until Ms. Schroder took them.  She thumbed through the pages then looked right at me.

She wasn't looking at me, she was looking at Jane.

"Jane, where is your assignment?"

Jane mumbled something about forgetting it at home.

Elaine Schroder might have been beautiful but she was also fearsome in her rebukes.

"You forgot it Jane or you just didn't do it?  There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.  I think you've just given me an excuse."

The classroom was uncomfortably quiet as Ms. Schroder's unwavering stare bore into Jane.  Finally she broke the crushing silence as she moved on to the next row of desks.

"Jane, an excuse is simply a lie that most people don't want to challenge."

That has stuck with me for almost 50 years.

The difference between the two again came into play two days ago.

I had posted on my G+ page that we were now ready to go full time with Reglue as my health had improved enough to allow that to happen.  I have been off of work for almost 15 months, recovering from a radiation and chemo therapy regimen that is reserved for the most advanced stages of cancer.

I mentioned in that posting that it was almost like starting over, reconnecting with my shop, my inventory and rebuilding our client list.

Somebody I both respect and admire messaged me privately from that posting.  I've looked up to this person as a leader and as an upper-tier member of the Global Linux Community for a number of years.  I was humbled that he even knew who I was, given...well given who he is.

What I expected to be a welcoming and friendly message, turned out to be a blistering dressing-down. I was told that I had failed both the kids we serve and the Linux and Open Source Community that helps fund our effort.

I was informed that this person was washing his hands of anything we do in the future and that a 15 month respite was nothing more than an excuse to be lazy and take advantage of the good nature of the people that support this program.  Unfortunately, he is or was a generous contributor to our effort.

Stunned....sick-to-my-stomach stunned.

That's the only verb I can assign here....


This 16 month ordeal with cancer has been brutal.  I haven't complained about it, I haven't bemoaned my fate or circumstance...I simply went through the treatments that were necessary to save my life.

A life by the way that one doctor prognosed to be over in October of 2012.

I kept a positive attitude and just dealt with it.

The real problem wasn't the cancer.  I was pronounced to be in early stage remission 3 months ago.  I'm not really out of the woods yet, but tests to this point show no state of measurable cancer in my throat or lymph nodes.  The treatments I received over 4 months are responsible for that.

But there was a price.

There always is when trying to achieve something valuable.

The combination and intensity of my particular chemo and radiation therapy almost killed me.  

No, I mean almost killed me.

I lost 61 lbs during treatment.  I took nourishment via a stomach tube and I spend entire weeks in a severely dehydrated state from diarrhea and being constantly sick to my stomach.  I had second and third degree burns in my throat and even morphine couldn't stop the freight train of pain.  It was a full 3 months before I could even think about solid food.  It destroyed or altered my Salivary gland and taste buds, some of them permanently.    

Ice cream had the texture of sand and my sweet receptors interpreted anything sweet as being bitter and left a horrible taste in my mouth for hours.  I didn't swallow at all for 5 weeks.  Cisplatin, the main chemo drug used to kill my cancer permanently took 60 percent of my hearing and damaged my kidneys to the point of probable failure in five to ten years.

Radiation treatments took almost a quarter of my muscle mass.  My red cell count was so low that I under went a transfusion to correct the problem.  Twice.  

Even with corrective lenses and large monitors or television, for all intent and purpose, I am blind in the sight range of 3-25 inches.  I can see color and shadow.  My distance sight is fine.  It's just that short range that gives me trouble.  That too will never get better.

But through all of this, I saw hope.

I consider every above malady and condition as nothing more than the price of admission to the rest of my life.

And for the rest of my working life, I will steer Reglue into productive waters.  I will see to it that a minimum of 125 disadvantaged kid get a usable and sturdy computer in their home every year.  I will continue to advocate Linux and the Free Open Source Community and I will do whatever it takes to make these things happen.

Should anyone else feel that I've let you or our targeted clients down, all I can say is....well, there really isn't anything to say to you.  

I am not going to apologize or seek forgiveness.  I've done nothing wrong.  In fact, I've received dozens of emails, in-person visits and phone calls, asking me if I am absolutely sure that I am ready to go back to work.

Indeed I am.  Thank you for caring enough to ask and offer your help.  My legs are still a bit weak but they will strengthen as I use them more in the coming days, weeks and months.

So to you, my disappointed friend.  Yes, I took time off to heal and to get better because physically that was all I was capable of doing.   

And just for the record.  You are no longer the Icon as I once saw you.  You're just a person with no real understanding of what it takes to come back from this measure of cancer treatments.

And as angry and disappointed I am in you.....

I would never wish what I went through upon you.

All-righty then.


Larry Cafiero said...

What an insufferable oaf (OK, that's not what I really wanted to say, but you say no potty mouth -- which this clearly deserves).

Fred the Grumbler said...

Whoever that person was, there has to be some kind of miscommunication. I can't believe that he'd so oblivious to your suffering.

You're an example of courage and perseverance.

Ignazio said...

FWIW, I share your opinion - the guy must not have had any idea what it's like. I don't either, but I appreciate what "otherwise busy" means. This job is not your homework; the obligations you feel you have come from yourself, not from some contract you could be in breach of with this esteemed mister.

Thomas A. Knight said...

Ken, there's a reason I've stood by you.

You're an inspiration to this world.

There was no excuse for taking 15 months off from Reglue work... but you had a very good reason. Still, you and I both know that it wasn't 15 months off work. Even when you were at your darkest, I know you were trying to find ways to keep doing your work despite your illness.

Don't ever change, Ken.

Justin said...

Ken, you and I moved 100+CRTs in the heat of the day. You kept up with someone quite a few years younger than you. If anyone thinks you're a slacker, I've got a picture of a very full truck you can slap them in the face with.

Also, I'm glad you're doing better. We need more guys like you in this world, and I'm glad I've been able to help.

Unknown said...

Dear Ken,

I must write in my own language because, for me, that is the way to show my appreciation for your work and effort to make this world a better place to be.

"Hvala ti Ken za svako decije lice na koje si nacrtao osmjeh
Dug je put pred tobom, i mnogo borbe i bola za istrpjeti, ali svaki novi osmjeh koji nacrtas bice lijek za tebe.

Tvoj prijatelj iz Crne Gore,

Miso Vranes "

Dear Ken, thank You for every child's face that you drew the smile on.

It is long way for you to go, and a lot of fight and pain to suffer, but every new smile that you draw on children faces will be a new cure for you.

Your friend from Montenegro, Europe

Miso Vranes

Pia Bradshaw said...

I admire you for having enough respect for yourself to know when to put your own needs before that of your work. As we say in NZ maori 'Kia kaha'

Pia Bradshaw said...

I admire you for having enough respect for yourself to know when to put your own needs before that of your work. As we say in NZ maori 'Kia kaha'