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The Ultimate Craftsman

Posted by aim on June 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM PDT

Some of us are just driven to create; we arn't happy unless we are making something - houses, software, furniture, blogs, chocolate cake. Turns out that software engineering is a pretty good gig for such a person (modulo the perils of skill-set depreciation). And although society has a tendency to associate creativity with artistry, it's often more about craftsmanship, and I inherited this gene from the ultimate craftsman: my Dad.


My Dad (James Moore), Berkeley graduate and electrical engineer employed at the Livermore Lawrence Labratory for 38 years, was (is) a genuine geek. This goes beyond the glasses and pocket protector; he approaches everything with the critical sense of an engineer -- break it down, analyze, build it up. Growing up I don't recall us paying anyone to fix anything, ever. My childhood home is full of his handy work, from little custom shelves to hold his electric razor and gadgets, to a housing for a Lite Brite which includes drawers to sort the translucent colored pegs.

His engineering precision influences most of what he does. When he taught me around age 6 to snow ski, the lessons began at his desk, where he drew scale drawings of a chair lift to explain the physics of getting on and off the lift (until then, I'd pictured hopping 15 feet straight down, so this brought relief). Each day he went to work, my mother packed him the same lunch, which included a baggie containing 3 oreo cookies; he always ate two and brought back the third, which was my mother's ingenious way of getting the baggie back. A devoted PC hacker, he wrote BASIC programs to calculate golf club handicaps and when I gave him a copy of Visual BASIC (what program doesn't need a GUI?), he returned it for some low-level software to write his own printer drivers.

I think this nuts and bolts approach to life is how he survived raising four daughters. That enduring grin you see in the pictures is likely a direct result of estrogen asphixiation (especially in the 80's,when we were all teenagers) -- even our family dog and cat were girls. Yet there was never a moment where I wondered if he wished I was a boy. He's always showed nothing but pride in his girls (except maybe the time where he chased me around the dining table for what I'm sure was some awful adolescent backtalk -- and I'm certain I deserved it :-).

So Dad, whether you were helping me with calculus, rescuing me from college car breakdowns, or explaining the doppler effect, your unwavering love and precision has everything to do with why I'm still an engineer. You taught me to be a craftsman in life. Happy Father's Day!

I'll convince you to switch to a mac yet...


What self-respecting hacker would use VB? :-) Nice article.