Sunday, June 3, 2018

Everybody should have a "What If" bag

This weekend, I was debating whether I should rent a car and head out to Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile. There were a lot of  "What If's" that ran through my mind.

  • What if I get in an accident? My car insurance doesn't apply in Chile.
  • What if I don't know where I'm going and get lost?
  • What if they don't understand me at the rental car office? My Spanish could be better.
  • What if I get tired and don't want to drive back?
  • What if I don't find anywhere to park the car near my apartment?
  • What if  don't have anyone wants to go with me?
  • What if I don't  drive as well? I haven't driven a car in 4 months.
  • What if I don't get enough work done and fall behind schedule? 

Since you are reading this, you may have guessed I did not die in a fiery crash. Also, I went to Valparaiso.  It looked like this:

I also went to Viña del Mar, which I liked better, it looked like this:

And I stopped to go for a hike twice on the way there, it looked like this:

And this:

Here is a secret to life that I am passing on to you- have a "what if" bag.  I was at the Arnold Classic in March when Ronda got inducted into the sports hall of fame and one of the many bits of swag they gave out was a string back pack.

When Ronda was here, she forgot many things (if you know her, this does not surprise you at at all), including a small bag for - I don't know, for small things.

My What If Bag

These two comprise my "What if" bag.  What if I DO go and what if I DO decide I want to stay in Viña del Mar over night?

Have a "What if I DO" bag. Throw in a toothbrush, a change of clothes and a phone charger. There's really not much you need.

When I checked into the hotel - which I had booked on my travelocity app when stopped at a light two blocks away  - the desk clerk asked,

"Is this really all you have for luggage?"

I told him,

"Yes. I wasn't sure if I was coming, but now here I am."

We both laughed and the bell hop insisted on carrying my "What If" bag to my room.


What if you wanted children to learn math, history and English all at the same time?  Making Camp Bilingual will teach you about Ojibwe history and culture, refresh your math skills, increase your vocabulary and improve your Spanish. All for $1.99. How could you NOT check it out?


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Miracle Kim, Chile's Boxing Marvel: And you thought you were tough

Chilean Boxing’s Small Miracle

Next time you think you’re a bad ass, ask yourself if you’d compete in a gym that doesn’t have heat. It was 50 degrees outside but it was a damp night and felt a lot colder. I asked the photographer from the local TV station why they didn’t turn the heat on and she said,

“This is a poor area. The gym doesn’t have heat.”

Oh, by the way, there are 14 matches and the last one is Miracle Kim Sandoval, the one I came to see.

I was in Concepcion this month at a conference on women defying stereotypes. Since I’m president of a company that makes applications to teach math and English, I was mostly interested in the talks by women in technology, science and entrepreneurship. However, there was a 16-year-old speaker, Kim Sandoval, who is the women’s boxing champion of Chile and a silver medalist in the South American championships.

It turned out that Ronda was one of her role models in getting into combat sports, and Kim lives in Santiago, so of course we had to have lunch when Ronda was in town last week.

Kim La Pequena Maravilla Sandoval , or as Ronda nicknamed her “Miracle Kim” because she’s a small miracle is super popular in her community. How popular?

When she was the headliner at an event in a local gym that went past midnight in one of the worst urban neighborhoods in Chile  every single person stays, despite the lack of heat.

Kim’s mom, Jacquelyn, has organized this event. The family has very little money and from what I overheard, they get very little backing from the boxing federation. When I asked someone in the crowd why that was, he shrugged and said they don’t like her mother because she advocates for Kim, speaks out when she feels the athletes are not getting adequate support, and that old guys running the sport don’t like a woman that speaks up. Boy, did that sound familiar!

The event was a bit of a small miracle in itself. I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in Los Angeles and North Dakota. You know how it is, you go watch things your friends’ kids or in or that your friends are coaching. Payback for the many friends I have dragged to judo tournaments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d say the level of boxing overall was similar to what I’d seen in tournaments in the U.S. As with any event, some boxers were noticeably better than others. Nobody was seriously injured and a lot of young boxers got experience.  Except for the lack of heat and the lights going out at one point, and staying out until, I presume someone found a circuit breaker, it was a good event. Organized and well-run. It seemed to be put on by the people in the community with just about zero official support except for a couple of referees and a couple of police officers there for security .

I could totally relate to Kim’s mom’s realization that her daughter needed something, in this case more competition, and just creating it out of thin air.

Still, this kid is only 16 years old, her opponent is 28 and teaches boxing. 2 hours before her fight, in a freezing gym, Kim is hanging around the one, tiny  propane camp heater someone brought, and talking with her friends. She goes over to encourage a friend who lost his match.

At first, I’m not sure if she is not taking this fight seriously enough or if she is doing the exactly right thing. Like I always told Ronda, you see these people warming up all day at judo tournaments and their first fight isn’t for 6 hours. By the time it comes up, they are exhausted. The smart thing is to relax an start getting ready 30-45 minutes before you come up.

Sure enough, 45 minutes before her fight, Kim heads to the locker room. When she comes out, for her match, it is clear who the fan favorite is. I’ve never seen her box.

Well, I know very little about boxing but 3 rounds later, it’s clear who the winner is. After tearing into her opponent and winning a unanimous decision, Miracle Kim insists that Jacquelyn join her in the ring and the whole crowd joins her in singing her mom happy birthday.

Mark my word, watch this kid. She’s coming for you, training there in your fancy gym with that pansy ass shit like heat and lights that work.

If you'd like to see some video from her fight, scroll down


When I’m not at boxing matches, I’m making games.

Check out Aztech: The Story Begins .

Random fact: We made this bilingual game to teach math in classrooms where kids might speak English or Spanish but about 10% of people say they play it to improve their Spanish. Play it on the web or download it for your iPad from the App Store.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Why I have no intention of being nicer

Imagine this situation:

A guy, lets call him Bob, is doing business with someone and they make a mistake that costs him significant money or inconvenience. They incorrectly charge his debt card by a huge amount making his bank account overdrawn, the travel office in his company forgets to book his ticket so he's standing at the airport counter with no seat to that conference in Paris because the flight is sold out. The person who made the mistake says they are sorry, but there is nothing they can do to correct the problem. After all, what can they do?

Should Bob:

A. Accept their apology. The person is sorry. Everyone makes mistakes.
B. Say, "Fuck that. I am not paying for your mistake. Your company is going to fix this."
C. 'Ask nicely' is not an option because he already tried that and we are back to A or B

Or, try this one.

Bob, who is apparently having a really bad day, is standing in line in a dark theater waiting to go see the latest blockbuster. The guy in line behind him starts rubbing up against him, clearly excited to see him, if you know what I mean, and I am sure you do. Bob turns around and says, "Hey!" Pervert Pete says, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you'd be into it."

Should Bob:
A. Accept his apology. After all, some people would be into it. An honest mistake.
B. Say, "What the fuck? Do that again and I'll punch you in your fucking face!"
C. 'Tell him firmly but politely' is not an option because he already tried that. Choose again.

Do you have your answers ready? If you wouldn't mind, I'd really appreciate it if you post in the comments if your FIRST response was A, B or C. You can do it anonymously, if you want. All comments are moderated, so they won't show up right away.

Now here is the second part and this takes more honesty than most people have, seriously. 

Think about if the situations involved Mary Lou instead of Bob. Would you have had the same response? Most people would say yes but virtually all research says no, you wouldn't. Here is a discussion of one study finding "men's anger works for them but women's anger works against them'". There are literally hundreds of such studies. If you are interested in finding more, I trust you have access to a search engine since you are reading this.

I have never aspired to be a nice woman. 

I have tried to be a good person, a fair person, a kind person but nice has never been on my list. I'll tell you why ...

Nice women get screwed over.

Recently, I was in a similar situation as Bob and I said, 

Fuck that! I'm not accepting your apology. You need to do something.
The situation was resolved and later I was told that I should have handled it nicely. I disagree. Initially, the suggestion was maybe it wasn't a big deal, like I could get to the conference a day late and so what if I missed meetings with customers.

Women get that a lot when they object to being mistreated.

"What's the big deal?"

I have seen this happen over and over. Whether it is a promotion, an upgrade to first class, the opportunity to speak at an event or an executive who sends you a picture of his dick, 

Yes, I understand you being unhappy, but you could be nicer.

Let me make this clear:

I am NOT "unhappy", I am fucking pissed and I have every right in the world to be.

Really the only reason I refuse to be nicer is that I strongly believe in being the change you want to see in the world and modeling that for my children and grandchildren. Very often, it is suggested to women, but not men, that they should overlook mistreatment, from sexual harassment to abysmal service, and, particularly, they should overlook unfair treatment in favor of men.

When I was a kid, my mom told me a story about how a girl in her high school class got the most votes for class president but the nun who was running the election announced that the boy who got the second-most votes would be president because it would help him get into college and that girl didn't need to be class president. My mom said no one spoke up because, "What good would it do?"

In my life, it has been suggested to me that I give up raises, promotions, offices to a man who 'needed it more' for either his family or his ego. It has been suggested that I should let bygones be bygones with people who have been blatantly dishonest in deals because "we need to get along" or "you don't want to get a bad reputation."

In short, throughout my pretty long life, over and over, I have seen "Be nice" said to girls as code for "Let me take advantage of you."

I'm not fucking having it.

And neither should you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Answers to Random Questions on My Life

I've gotten asked the same questions a lot lately so I thought I'd answer several of them while waiting for my flight.

You're living in Chile, the country?

Why do people ask me that so often? Is there some city - like Chile, Nebraska - of which I was previously unaware? Yes, I'm in Santiago. You can read about my adventures on the 7 Generation Games blog, including doing business in my second language.

Why weren't you at Wrestlemania?

I missed watching Ronda's Wrestlemania debut live because I was at a software conference (SAS Global Forum) that had asked me to speak months in advance. Dennis got a WWE pass that let us watch it on the computer, so I did that and skipped most of the opening session of the conference.

You can watch the video of me talking about non-traditional career paths here, and boy has mine been non-traditional!

I did skip this conference once, when Ronda qualified for her first Olympic Trials as a teenager. I was co-presenter on a paper but my co-author volunteered to give the paper so I didn't need to attend.

 A few people asked me if I had considered skipping it this time but that's not my style. If I say I'll do something, I don't mean, "Unless a better offer comes along." Also, let's be honest, if I flew back to the U.S. from Santiago every time Ronda did something amazing, I'd be pretty broke pretty fast. I already came back for 2 days to see her get inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame and get her sixth-degree black belt last month.

If I'd gone to New Orleans, I would have never met this bear

What happened to the parenting book?

I did the first crack at it and Maria did the rest.  It's free, for a limited time, and should be out in a week or two. Follow that link and read it carefully or you may end up with a picture of dirt instead and then don't say I didn't warn you. Maria has been crazy busy, flying to Trinidad, repping the family support at Wrestlemania in New Orleans, getting our Strong Body Strong Mind campaign going and so the book has been taking a while longer.

Starting a new company in a new country in a new language sounds crazy, do you really like that?

When I told my sister I had gotten selected for Start-up Chile she said,

"If you're happy, then I'm happy for you, but leaving my house, moving to the other side of the world, starting all over again in a new language sounds like my definition of hell."

A woman I met at the conference, who is from Rumania commented that people who relocate have a different attitude toward change. I think that must be so, because I am finding life pretty good. More of my time than I'd like has been taken up with organizational and legal stuff - incorporating the company, interviewing, writing contracts - and all of it being in a second language has taken me twice as long. Overall, though, life is good, and I even managed to knock out a good bit of code for our next game while sitting in the airport.

Have you done any judo in Chile?

Nope. Honestly, many days have been me getting up to go to my first meeting then answering a few emails before rushing to the next meeting and finally getting time to eat "breakfast" around 5 o'clock. Just when things were starting to settle down a little, I caught a plane to Denver. Okay, now my flight to Panama is boarding.

So, until next time, check out AzTech: The Story Begins because believe me, being bilingual has a lot to recommend it. You can play in English and learn math and history if that is more your line.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thoughts on the Arnold Sports Festival

I wrote this on the flight back to Santiago from Columbus 2 weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to posting it! You can follow on my crazy life and how "I'm learning a gang of shit" in Chile on our 7 Generation Games blog.

I just came back from 3 days at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio.

It was certainly a whirlwind trip - 13 hours to fly from Santiago, meeting up with my old friend, Steve Scott to go watch the power lifting and throwing the caber.

 I met up with my lovely daughter, Ronda and her husband for lunch, attended a fundraiser for the After-School All-stars , was promoted to seventh-degree black belt along with Ronda getting her sixth-degree black belt, attended the International Sports Hall of Fame to see Bas Rutten, Ronda, Drs. Jan and Terry Todd and Phil Keoghan get inducted.

 That was a touching event. All of those inducted had been pioneers in getting mainstream acceptance for their respective sports and then gone on to have impressive careers after competition. Think of the 44-year-old guy in the bar talking about scoring the winning touchdown in the high school state championships. Now, imagine the complete opposite of that guy and you have the inductees.

 It was particularly cool to see Jan Todd get an award because she’s older than me (yes, such a thing is possible) and women lifting weights was just not something respectable married women did. When she said,

 “I’m proud to have been a small part of young girls like Ronda Rousey not having to grow up wondering if it’s okay to be strong” 

- if I was the crying type of person I would have cried, but I’m not, so I didn’t, but the thought was there.

 There were 200,000 people at the event, and I heard there is a similar event in Las Vegas as well as several regional ones. There were a lot of top-level weight lifters and professional body builders (I didn’t even know that was a thing) .

There weren’t 200,000 Olympic contenders, though. Most of the people were interested in being somewhat physically fit, probably worked out at something, whether it was lifting weights or fencing. They participate in events like throwing the caber for fun.

 It left me wondering why we don’t have more focus on getting mentally fit. 

Yes, we have events like the academic decathlon, but I don’t see much of the mind equivalent to the person who works out once or twice a week. 


Maria hates my “push-ups for your brain” analogy, but we make games that are like that. Doing push-ups alone won’t make you an athlete, but they will help, and you can do them almost anywhere and for a long time or just 30 seconds. The more often you do push-ups, the stronger you will get, and that strength will help you in the other physical activities you decide to do.

I've been talking with some friends about doing a Strong Minds/ Strong Bodies campaign to encourage people to get and stay smarter as well as stronger.

It's on my list of 1,000,000 things to do. However, like this blog post, I DO eventually get to them.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Secret to Success Came from Judo but It Could Have Come from Bobsledding

It's been a while since I posted here because I've been getting settled in Chile. If you didn't know I was in Santiago setting up what we fondly refer to as 7 Generation Games South, then clearly you don't follow closely enough on social media.

You can find THIRTEEN 7 Generation Games Social Media accounts here and several of the personal accounts of our founders here. It's almost as if we are encouraging you to stalk us but

A. No, we're not into stalking, and
B. There is no B.

Santiago Art Museum

However, you are welcome to follow any of our accounts in a friendly, non-creepy stalker-ish way and then you will know things like the I am in Santiago working on getting our bilingual games into the Latin American market and meeting all kinds of crazy challenges. For example, today I was practicing giving the pitch for our start-up in Spanish. Afterwards, the person I was practicing with asked me (in Spanish, so I was rather proud of myself that I understood it all) :

"You were a world champion, your daughter is getting inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, your other daughter is a CEO, you'll turn 60 years old in Santiago working on your start-up. You have a Ph.D. What is the key to success?"

I asked her,

"Success in what? In sports? In education? Parenting? Business?"

She said,

"Anything. You pick."

I thought about it for a while and I finally said.

Perseverance. I think not giving up is the key. For example, today was not my day. I was working on something for two hours and the whole thing got wiped out and I had to start over. Just a lot of things went wrong. Everyone got on my nerves. I missed a meeting because another meeting ran late. I didn't get back to several people because I was recreating the site that got deleted.
We've been working on this company for a long time and the first few years were just making the games and getting them not to break, making sure that kids were actually learning. That took THREE YEARS of development, fundraising, testing and data analysis. Now it's been another year and a half of trying to get people to notice our games, download them, try them out and we're just now set to hit 10,000 users.

At a computer? You can play Forgotten Trail and maybe be our 10,000th user!

Why Forgotten Trail? This does relate to my point. Mid-way through the game, when a main character, Angie, gets discouraged, Ronda comes running up the hill, sits down and gives her a heart-to-heart talk. Angie says,

But it's just so hard to walk all the way across the country. I just want to give up.

Ronda tells her,

Where did you start from? At the bottom of this hill? No? North Dakota? Well, look how far you have come. You don't expect to run one 100-yard dash and win the Olympics, do you?
Ronda, as a game character

This gets to my point which by now you think I don't have, oh ye of little faith.

It took me 14 years from when I started judo to when I won the world championships.

There were a lot of naysayers during that time. A lot of setbacks.  I was ranked number one in the U.S. when I got pregnant and Eve went to the world championships instead of me. Two years later, I had knee surgery three weeks before the world trials. I still won - and yes, of course it hurt, really badly.

Plenty of people who were not as successful at judo, business, education or parenting worked very hard but they didn't do it as consistently. When they had a day like today, they said, "Screw it!" and took the rest of the day off instead of doubling down to fix what needed to be done. They worked really hard 80% of the days and that 20% they didn't feel like it, they slacked off.

It's like winter in North Dakota, most people think they can handle it if they come for a few days, even if it's 20 below. They don't realize that it isn't how cold it gets in North Dakota that drives people crazy (although that's pretty bad) , it's how LONG it goes on.

The secret to success is getting up every day and starting with the same enthusiasm, no matter how things went the day before, and doing that day after day after day.

Have a game on us! Making Camp runs in iPad, Android, Chromebook and any computer with a browser. Learn about Ojibwe history, outfit your wigwam and brush up on your math skills.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Four things I wish I'd told my children before I peaced out

I'm heading to Santiago, Chile on Friday morning, as part of Startup Chile. Although I will be back in the United States a couple of times in the next 7 months, I doubt I'll be back in California and, the way our lives are, I doubt I'll see my daughters much, if at all.

Last week, I met up with Ronda before she headed to Colombia and I knew I'd probably see her only for a few hours over the next several months, when she's getting inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, and then I need to get back to Chile and she needs to get back to wherever the hell she's head off next (as if the lady heading to Santiago has any room to talk).

 I felt like I should have had some more profound things to say than,

"I love you and don't forget your passport."

Later in the week, I had brunch with my daughter, Jennifer, and her family and she commented,

"Do you realize that this will probably be the longest I have been apart from you since I was born?"

Jenn went to Santa Monica College, then to San Francisco State University, which is a short plane ride away, then went to graduate school at USC and then to work in Los Angeles.

Jenn's Baby is just as cool as she is

That REALLY made me feel like I should have some profound advice, but we were kind of busy between the mimosas and chocolate covered strawberries and checking out the duck pond.

So, a little belated, here are some things I want my daughters to remember.

1. Good people snowball. I met a really good guy, Fidel Rodriguez, when he asked me to speak at a youth conference he organizes. He introduced me to Hector Verdugo, at Homeboy Industries, where they do wonderful work helping people move from gangs to college and jobs. When the staff from Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Project were in town, he invited them to visit their project. It reminded me of a lecture I attended by Sidney Harman where he talked about being friends with an attorney in his neighborhood just because he was such a good person. That attorney introduced him to a young minister - Dr. Martin Luther King. Make an effort to spend time with good people.

2. Don't live your life to impress other people and you'll be a lot happier. Jennifer is the least well-known of my daughters, so much so that many people think I only have three children.  She is a good mother, a good teacher, a good wife and does pretty much what she wants. I am 100% certain that Jenn doesn't care at all whether you even know she exists.

3. After the first unthinkable challenge you overcome, the next one is easier.  Maria quit a safe journalism job to co-found 7 Generation Games . I went to Japan for my junior year of college, speaking little Japanese and knowing no one. Now, that I'm heading to Chile, I look back and think "If 18-year-old me could handle Tokyo, I'm sure I can succeed in Santiago with all of the resources and knowledge I have now." Julia is planning to study in Costa Rica over the summer. All of these choices are on the right path, wherever it happens to lead.

Whether it is changing careers or changing countries, take that leap of faith! You'll have a bigger, better, more fearless life and you won't regret it.

Mayan jungle
Support my day job! Get AzTech: Meet the Maya Get it for your iPad, in the app store
4. Everyone falls. It's getting up that matters. I used to think that judo saying, "Fall down seven times, get up eight" was stupid. I was wrong. Ronda has had some hard falls in the last couple of years. She picked herself up, decided what would make her happy and went forward with it. (Oh, if you are thinking of posting some comment about "Oh, are you proud of how she swears, and does X, Y and Z"  Go fuck yourself. I am damn proud of her. She's not perfect but neither are you and too bad that your mother doesn't love you as much.) We all make mistakes. You probably don't talk to anyone else as much as you talk to yourself in your own head, so don't beat yourself up (verbally) when you make a mistake.

Have to get back to work and packing. Help a sister out and check out one of our games. You can even get Making Camp for free.