Saturday, April 2, 2011

BASIC Principles

When trying to understand life and death, it's a good idea to consider basic principles. One basic principle is that you should never underestimate your Mother!

Recently my sisters and I found a book that my Mother used to teach BASIC programming in the 1980s. My mother was an Economics professor at Lake Michigan College and other institutions. I knew she taught her students BASIC, but I assumed she just taught them basic BASIC, so to speak. I figured a simple PRINT, and maybe a READ and DATA statement or two, along with an END of course, would be good enough for her students.

By the 1980s I had escaped the bitter cold of Michigan and moved to sunny California. I thought I was hot stuff. I worked for Matson Navigation writing assembly language software to control automated overhead cranes in container shipyards. I worked for Apple Computer writing Pascal software to allow the Lisa Computer to access mainframes. My Mother couldn't possibly know as much as I did.

Now, looking at the programs in her BASIC textbook, including her hand-written notes, I realize I should have paid more attention. Notice the program in the pictures above. Not only does it have READ and DATA statements, but it has a subroutine and loops. Plus it solves an important business problem regarding the expected probability of demand and how much product to produce to be profitable.

I should have paid attention to Mark Twain who so famously said, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." I was way past 21 before I realized how knowledgeable, smart, and downright fun to have around my Mother was.

Now it's 2011, and my Mother passed away on 03/06/11. Today I return to basic principles and I remind people to really talk to their Mothers. Find out her areas of expertise, her passions, her intellectual capacity. See her for the unique individual that she is, not just the person who gave life to you and your siblings. You might be surprised! Never underestimate a Mother.


  1. You are my Basic Principal. Love, Alan.

  2. I wonder if people think the picture of the woman with all the computers is me!? Nope, it's my mother.

  3. I recognized your mom at those computers right away! And I appreciate the Mark Twain quote.

    Glad you are taking the time to reflect on and write about your mother and the relationship you had with her.

    Liz Opp(enheimer), The Good Raised Up

  4. Ya look just like her in a lot of ways. In my case, it's my father's stories - oft dismissed - that I wish I had paid much more attention to.