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Update: The builder who sent the note that sparked this story sent along another that better explained his thoughts, and I admire him for doing so. It is just below. I want builders reading the story to understand that it isn’t about spelling, the central point is that we all have things that cause us to loose focus on available learning. In Dave’s case he pointed out my spelling and grammar is a distraction; It is no different than myself not learning from Chandler Titus because he didn’t acknowledge me. The point I want everyone to know is that aviation doesn’t afford the luxury of allowing any distraction, big, small, personal or public, from getting between you and what you need to know.-ww. .
William: I meant to compliment you on a daily offering that was not only insightful, but grammatically clean—positive reinforcement works better than criticism. I appreciate your quest for mechanical perfection, which results in excellence and progress. Keep writing. I learned something. Dave N475dg
The letter below showed up in the comments section of my story about making 2015 your year in aviation. It was not a private email, the sender was saying it to all readers:
Congratulations! No grammatical errors, misspellings, or misuse of apostrophes. Seriously, this makes it easier for some of us to take seriously. Dave ——————————————————–
To Dave and all the other people who don’t take what I write seriously because it has spelling and punctuation errors:
I began to read and write very young, before I was four. I started school more than a year early, and was always very bright. When I was a 10 years old and we were living in Thailand, it was a very safe place and I was out riding my bicycle many miles from home. On an empty country road I was hit by a driver in a car who left me for dead. Several people saw this, but there were strong spiritual, cultural and legal reasons why they did not offer any assistance.
I awoke in the ditch after something like an hour. I found my way home, under the illusion that several years had past. I was in the 5th field hospital on Sukumvit road for a week, beside soldiers fresh out of Vietnam. There was a long year of tests and nightmares, not a lot of fun for a kid.
The end result is that I have a particular type of brain injury, and I have never been able to spell nor see grammatical errors since, and I can only read at the same pace I can speak. In written text, even common words like ‘went’ look correctly spelled to me as booth ‘went’ and whent’ before spell check, my only ability to differentiate them was by pronouncing them at a snails pace. Looking at something I wrote at 4 am, I have no ability to tell if the spell check was on or off, and it doesn’t work well for me.
In conversation with me you would never suspect anything like this, but that is because conversation is 100% phonetic, and this is the pathway in my brain that gets all the work. In the last 42 years, the phonetic elements have been worked to the point that I have a phenomenal memory for spoken conversation, and I can retrieve quotes from books I read a decade ago, because when I read them, I did so slowly, pronouncing everything to make it phonetic instead of visual. None of the last 3 trucks I have owned have had a radio. I don’t need it. driving down the road late at night, I can remember note for note any song I have ever heard a few times.
Being practical, I have a lot of things to share about airplane building, and the choices are to burden my wife with doing this for all the material I share, or not writing it. If you like the direct honesty of the tone, I will tell you that it comes out at 4am, and if it is fed through the editing process, I am given a few hours to consider how some people will take it wrong, and invariably, it gets diluted or deleted, because when I think about our national obsession with criticizing the work of others or taking offense at things, I often never send things because when you are speaking of subjects like people you loved who’s life ended at 23, it is unpleasant have to consider people who critique it for bad grammar.
A bigger point, that directly relates to me sharing what I know about the serious subject of building your plane. I have pointed out many times, that a builder has a moral obligation to his passengers to gather proven information on how to build the best plane he can, from All sources, not just ones he finds pleasant. The very honest story about Chandler Titus below is directly written on this subject. If it has grammatical errors, I don’t want to hear about it. .
Although I have a lot to share, Some people are not going to take it seriously because it doesn’t meet his grammatical standards. This is nothing new to me. Last year, I directly told a guy, in person, not to do something, and 50 minutes later he tried it, and wrecked the plane. His friend offered the observation “If you had short hair, he would have listened, but he wanted to prove that he didn’t listen to people he perceived as hippies.”
Many people think that my contribution to what they might know about planes is somehow limited to how to bolt a particular engine together. In reality, I could teach any 12 year old how to torque rod bolts. Learning concepts like how it is your moral obligation to learn from people, even ones who are unpleasant, have long hair and don’t spell correctly, does far more to reduce your risk and that of your passengers than anything I am going to show you about manipulating wrenches.
Chandler Titus, 25 missions in a B-17 Ball turret, Pilot in the Berlin Airlift, worked at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for more than 50 years. Read the story to understand that very limited amounts of your potential knowledge will come in ‘nice’ packages. .
“Maybe half the stuff I know about planes comes from people I would never have chosen as a friend. I am fully aware there are many good reasons to dislike me. Do not set your goal on being friends with me, set it on learning everything I can teach you. That exchange in itself is a better basis for friendship than initially ‘liking’ someone. Trust me, on my worst day, I could run the White House protocol and etiquette department compared to Mr. Titus. I don’t know what he knew, but I am 50 times the people person he was. If I am not your kind of person, don’t let it stop you from learning what I have to share.”