About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Intent of an Accident

Ok, so today I'm going to discuss the catalyst that put me on my accident posting...

My second boy seems to be studying to become a lawyer. A crooked lawyer, to be sure, but some maturity may straighten his crooked out (and you *know* what I mean...), but he's certainly angling to be a lawyer.

He has very adeptly and ingeniously managed to pull together snippets of things that I've said over the years, and put some of them through his pretzel-logic machine to use them for validating his actions. Usually his more dubious actions.

The one that most recently had me shaking my head was his use of my admissions that people make mistakes. They are an important part of our education, and our growth as people. We all make them, and Billy Joel will tell you that they're the only things that you can truly call your own.

So the second jamoke decided that he could use this as permission to do things that he knows that he's not supposed to do. Like break curfew (for instance). Or eat certain foods that were being saved for certain events (for instance).

Thus it was that I found the need to discuss with the ingenious idiot the difference between an actual accident and an error in judgement. The distinction of the various kinds of "mistakes", if you will.

For instance, we can not use the "I made a mistake" defense to absolve one from a punishable offense. As in, "I made a mistake when I robbed that bank. Oops...sorry [tee hee]." I often like to use extreme examples when I try to explain such nuances.

Among the more mundane examples:
"I didn't intend to drop that glass...sorry."

"I got angry and threw the glass on the floor to shatter it...sorry."

"I was swinging the stick and didn't see that person there; I didn't mean to hit them."

"He made me sad, so I hit him with my stick...sorry."

I feel a little like George Carlin when he was going through "is a clean" and "is a dirty": Mother is a clean, Muddah is a dirty...hehe

A lot of what makes a "mistake" (or an "accident") acceptable is intent, I think. Well,  more specifically, LACK of intent. You can't justify unacceptable conduct by claiming that you have to be allowed to make mistakes.

And with that, I'll abandon these thoughts on accidents, mistakes, and malice. However, I will revisit stupidity, since I happen to have an abundance of that.


  1. Of course, one has to ask, did you look around before you started swinging the stick? If not, then it was not an accident, it was stupidity. Just to throw one more monkey into the wrench. See...I've had a lot of experience with stupidity myself.

  2. One of my mother's phrases might fit. She said that some people were stupid by act of god and others by malice.
    And yes stupidity and I are regrettably not strangers.

  3. One of my favorite lines from the old "Home Improvement" show with Tim Allen, the older boy threw a brick through someone's window, and claimed "I didn't mean to break the window!" and Tim said "Well what did you think it was going to do, stick??"

    I remember laughing at that line for a long time.

  4. Ah, you've invoked the spirit of the Great One. While I don't have any experience whatsoever with kids (or with responsibly owning my own mistakes), I do always appreciate an excellent Carlin reference. Best of luck with rattling your boy's pretzel machine.

  5. That's the same logic that makes Roz say I am 'hurting her feelings' when I tell her she is naughty for doing something. I am fearful for the future...

  6. I used to get "I didn't mean to" a lot, and I'd respond with "You didn't mean NOT to either".

    We all wrestle with the same monster...