Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bill Atkinson's for iOS - weekly messages to my Dad in his nursing home

I plan to expire at 85, 10 years later than Ezekiel Emanuel [1]. My Dad is a bit less directed; at 92 he recently moved into the longterm care unit of the veterans facility in Ste. Anne’s Hospital, Montreal island [2].

Since I live in St Paul Minnesota, and have a good number of child obligations, that’s a long way for a visit. Unfortunately, like many elderly men, he despises phones. He’s also resolutely low tech. 

Which leaves 2,700 year old technology — postal mail. 

The problem with postal mail, of course, is that the sending process takes time — and I don’t think Dad is into long letters anyway. Which is why I buy credits every few weeks with Bill (HyperCard, Paint, etc) Atkinson’s for iOS.

Atkinson developed this app in part to showcase his nature photography, but that’s now how I use it. I pick family photos Dad would like to have by his bed; I send one card a week with a short note of family news — and a reminder of the names and ages of 3 of his grandchildren.

I can reuse prior cards as a template, substituting a new photo and new text. The entire process from beginning to end takes about 2-3 minutes, I’ve a ToodleDo task that reminds me to send them weekly. I like the (rare) clarity of Atkinson’s pricing and the “buy credit” approach — my AMEX info never leaves the phone.

Cards are mailed from Silicon Valley and take 10-14 days to reach my father (Canada Post is notoriously slow).

I’m rather fond of this app.

[1] Obviously I approve of Emanuel’s essay, but I must say that by his logic most humans should be dead by age 20. His primary concern is to expire when he is past some absurdly high utility threshold; given his history and genetics a 75 yo Emanuel will still perform above the rest of us. I’m not worried about being vital or useful, I just want a 75% probability that I die in control of my life. So preventive care stops at age 75, cancer/cardiac interventions stop at age 80, antibiotics stop at 84, base jumping and cave diving start at 85.

That said, when I inspect Emanuel’s strategies I think he has rather good odds of making 82. If he really wanted to expire at 75 he’d need to be much more aggressive.

[2] WW II took a lot out of my father — who had more Aspie traits than I have. Maybe even a full diagnosis, though brains change a bit in 80 years. That’s not a good foundation for being a signalman on a frontline tank festooned with antennae (bullseye redundant). So whatever the Vets do now is small recompense. It does help he was a young Canadian in the war, and that Canada’s later wars were far smaller; he inherits facilities built for a lost generation. He’s been remarkably content there - so far.

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