A Few Words About My Dad - March 2017 Update

original : http://sawv.org/a-few-words-about-my-dad.html


this page was created and updated on mar 7, 2017.

this is an edited version after running the text through http://www.hemingwayapp.com. sometimes, this web app misidentifies words, calling nouns, like my use of "monitor", a verb.

a pet phrase of mine is "elegantly simple", and i refuse to eliminate that adverb. only the best receive that description from me. i think that the first time that i heard that phrase was around 1990 or 1991 when i began studying the C programming language. the phrase either described the language or the C code that comprised the C compiler.

i'm thinking about a text essay loaded within a native app, like this interesting project from 2012: https://www.robinsloan.com/fish

i'm a fan of the open web, but i thought that this might be an interesting project to do to learn mobile app development before starting something larger, such as a mobile front-end app for my kinglet code that powers soupmode.com, which is a private, web-based messaging app.

hemingway app stats on the initial text before refinement:

i'll try to learn how the app determines hard and very hard to read sentences. Length? Two or more independent clauses?

stats after refinement:

it seems that the difficulty for a sentence is based upon character length.


On Feb 2, 2016, doctors diagnosed Dad with stage four pancreatic cancer. He died at home on Aug 16, 2016. On the morning of Aug 20, I wrote the words below that I read that afternoon at my Dad's funeral service. I included my interests in design and programming.


Dad prioritized his life around three key areas: family and friends, the home, and work.

He led, mentored, and taught by his actions. He wasn't showy. He moved with a quiet, laser-focused intensity. His valuable wisdom was available to astute observers.

In his spare time, Dad enjoyed a wide variety of interests, and he shared many of his activities with others. He used books, magazines, and radio and TV programs to learn more about his hobbies.

To me, this meant always be learning and never stop trying new things. The phrase, "You cannot teach an old dog new tricks" does not apply.

Dad would have made a good designer. He had enviable observation and problem-solving skills. He loved to tinker with objects, trying to improve things.

A computer programmer friend had a quote taped to his monitor that read, "It's simple to make something complex, but it's complex to make something simple."

Artists, crafters, athletes, and entertainers make their final outcomes appear easy to replicate. But we don't see the effort that they exerted over many years.

Dad worked hard to make life easier for those around him.

The word "design" can have many meanings. It does not mean only how something looks because aesthetics without utility is art.

Good design is intuitive and useful. Good design makes something work. It solves a problem.

The legendary designer Dieter Rams created a list of 10 principles for good design. Some of these can describe Dad's life.

Dad created tools and configurations to make life easier at home and to support his hobbies. It wasn't always obvious why things were easier because good design is unobtrusive.

The law of diminishing returns states that the benefits gained are less than the amount of energy invested. It may not be worth it to spend the time that's required to achieve that final 5 to 10 percent. Dad disobeyed this law often.

Many times, I observed Dad, using a considerable amount of time to perfect a mundane task. I thought to myself, "That was good enough, Dad. Let's move on. It's not that big of deal."

But to Dad, the phrase "good enough" could have meant "acceptable mediocrity."

It's possible that Dad did not want a half-way approach to creep into any aspect of his life for fear that it would become normal behavior in the important areas, such as work and family.

If something could be improved, then the time spent was worth it. Dad completed tasks with care. Good design is thorough down to the last detail. And Dad focused on the details, regardless of size.

He liked things to be orderly and neat. Dad's quest for perfection could cause him some frustration that became evident around close family, but he was patient and kind.

Dad had kindness. Even in his final days, he expressed concern for others.

Dad had patience. He liked to grow tomato plants from seeds. He liked to invest in the stock market. He disapproved of shortcuts. He knew that good things took time.

In today's ephemeral world, consumers discard powerful computers, such as mobile devices, after only a few years of usage. But Dad was a bit of an outlier with his preference for objects that had longevity. Good design is long-lasting.

Dad lived it. His marriage with Mom lasted over 50 years. He worked at the Barnesville Hospital for over 50 years. Old TVs, radios, computers, anything that worked and was still useful, Dad kept because doing otherwise was wasteful.

He repurposed found items if he thought that the objects still had life. Good design is environmentally-friendly.

Dad hated to waste anything. One evening while fishing at the Barnesville reservoir, I watched Dad struggle to retrieve a 25-cent fishing bobber that got tangled in a shrub.

Dad liked to laugh. He had a sharp, sneaky sense of humor that would seem to strike from nowhere, during a casual conversation.

He enjoyed telling and listening to stories. He saw no problem with retelling the funniest stories over and over.

He was not a socialite, but he cherished his time with family and friends.

While Dad may not have traveled afar, I considered him worldly because of his intimate knowledge of local flora and fauna. This enabled him to be a skilled hunter, trapper, fisherman, birdwatcher, and gardener. With his love for nature, Dad knew that the world was bigger than what existed for humans.

One of my favorite Dieter Rams design principles states: "Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials."

Less but better, that describes how Dad approached life.

A design firm that I like to follow has a slogan that states, "Reduce to the essence." To me, that means remove the superfluous, remove the extravagance, and focus on the elegance.

Dad lived an elegantly simple life, and we benefited.