Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What If You Took the Other Fork in the Road?

I usually only read poetry when threatened, as in "I will flunk your sorry disobedient ass if you don't read this poem" - and often not even then, as witnessed by the F I received in English during my three weeks before I was expelled/ dropped out from Alton High School.

One of the few poems I actually like is by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, which ends:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 Most of us encounter forks in the road. The past three days I have been in St. Louis, MO where I have done some social activity every night, meeting up with 37 different relatives (that is an exact count, not an exaggeration), some of them more than once, and an additional 23 boyfriends, old friends, new friends and random people who wandered in.

I moved away 39 years ago to spend a year in Japan. Then I came back to finish my senior year of college and moved away again.

What would it be like if I had done like many of my friends and family did - graduated from college and stayed put?

What did I miss by leaving? It's nice to have family around. Everyone asked about Ronda, but they also asked about the other three daughters, their husbands, the grandchildren. It's a different experience being around people who knew me when I was broke, single, not yet a college graduate, not yet a lot of things.

No one has to impress anyone, fill anyone in on a back story or history, because they already know it - what your parents were like, how many cousins you have, when you got divorced.

Even if they think you are a bit of a pain in the ass, they are at least civil to you because, as Frost said in another poem,

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’

 Okay, that has about exhausted all of my knowledge of poetry.

I was talking about this tonight with my friend, Laura, who I have known since high school (how crazy weird is that?) She pointed out that if I had never moved away, I would definitely not have ever met Ron. I wouldn't have had Jennifer and Ronda. I wouldn't have met Dennis and had Julia. It's highly doubtful that I would have started a gaming company. I wouldn't be working with people on three different American Indian reservations.

In short,  I would be a different person.

The way you choose to go, determines who you are - to an extent.

Although it's impossible to know, I think if I had stayed in St. Louis I would have still gotten a Ph.D. at some point, still gotten married. I don't think I would have been a bad person or an unsuccessful one, but my whole life definitely would have been different.


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Oh yeah, I wrote this book, too. 
My publisher would like it if you buy it, and you will learn judo, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Truth, Justice and the American Way

My not-yet-new-year's resolution was that I should not focus on business all of the time and hang out with friends.

Today was the fourth time in two weeks that I met up with someone just because I liked him (four different people, by the way). I've never been much of a social butterfly, so for me, that is a lot.

Coincidentally, all of those conversations at some point turned to values, like, truth, justice and the American way.  That's from the old Superman TV show, for you young 'uns.

Perhaps this is a generational difference, and I know it is not everyone in my generation (witness the only finding four people outside of my family and work that I wanted to hang out with).

Still, it seems to be trendy to mock ideas like "values" and believe that it's all just a matter of opinion. I had a long, interesting conversation with a very intelligent young person this week who asked me whether it was possible that my principles could be more important than people in my life.

I thought about this a lot and the answer is  - I'm still thinking about it.

There are some things I believe in my heart and if you disagree with me, well, I think you are wrong, but that doesn't make you a bad person. I still think you are wrong, though. For example, I believe that the Catholic church, for all its many faults, can be a force for good in the world and I support it. If you bring up the fact that many people in the church have done bad things, I agree with you, and even if I don't agree with the conclusion you made, we can still be friends.

No one is perfect. Certainly not me, and I'm not running around telling other people to be perfect.

There are values, though, that I feel are as much a part of me as my skeleton.

  • Your family comes first. Family are the people who will be there after everyone else is gone. As Robert Frost said, Home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in. If you treat your family like they are toilet paper - to be used to clean up your shit and then disposed of when you don't need them - then I'm not sure we can be friends.
  • Be honest - I don't mean brutally honest, which is often more brutal than honest. For example, I know someone who is an artist and my lovely granddaughter was going to see her artwork. Beforehand, I told her, "Even if you think it is the ugliest thing you ever saw, you are not to say so." Fortunately, Eva happened to think her art was amazing. Don't lie to people about your intentions, your behavior, your credentials. Don't lie. If when you tell me something, I don't know if it is true or not, we can't be friends.
  • Be kind - If you have to choose between being honest and being kind, most of the time, you should choose kind. Mine isn't the sweet, warm, fuzzy kindness, but I feel an obligation to help people when I can. The opposite of kindness is not caring if your actions hurt other people. I am frankly appalled by the attitude of "It's not my problem" , if I ran over your kitten/ hurt your feelings/ caused you to lose $10,000. 
  • Don't waste your talents. They are a gift from God. 
 When I have discussions about this, sometimes people bring up, "What about that one time you did this -- " as if not living consistent with your  values 100% of the time makes them not important or just an opinion.

I've broken bones several times, but I still have a skeleton.

As you can see, I am still thinking about this, a lot.

This is my day job -
I make cool games that teach math and social studies and run on Mac and Windows. They're fun to play and you'll learn stuff. Buy one for you, give as a gift or donate to a school.

--- and I wrote a book on matwork, too.
How about that!

You can get it here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Judo Taught Me about Business: Part 586

I probably have an odd view of judo for a world champion, which is that I don't think judo as an actual sport is all that important.

Between men and women, there are 14 Olympic weight divisions in the U.S. National Championships, and I couldn't name one person who placed in any one of them last year.

So, why do I still teach judo after 45 years ? Because there is a lot you can learn from it. I don't think these lessons are unique to judo. You can probably learn them from band or jiu jitsu or football, too, but judo is what I happen to do.

One of the first things I had to learn when I switched from competing to coaching is:

Everyone is not you.

This is an especially important lesson to learn if you were extremely successful in your endeavor. The average person is - well, average. The typical kid, like my lovely youngest daughter in the top photo, just wants to hang out with their friends and have some fun.

It's easy to fall into the trap, especially with young people who remind you of yourself, say, who appear to have some athletic talent, to be convinced that they SHOULD be like you. If they could only see the possibilities, how great they could be ...

In fact, though, they are not you.  Here is my lovely youngest daughter seven years later.

She is captain of her high school soccer team and will be playing college soccer in the fall. She went from a judo player winning the state junior championships to the national junior championships to being a soccer player.

Everyone is not you ... and that is perfectly fine.

Now that I run a company that makes games, I am continually running into people who insist that our games are made WRONG because the game is not what they would have liked to have played when they were in school. Those people have a very good point and we try to address it, because there are some kids just like they were and if we are not meeting the needs of those students, we need to work on that.

However, they are also missing a second point.

There are actually a lot of people who play games who are not like them. Puzzle games are very popular (think Bejeweled, Candy Crush) and so are first-person shooter games (think Call of Duty). Is one right and the other wrong?  That question doesn't even make sense, does it?

So, one of many, many things I learned from judo is that everyone is not you and even if you are super successful at what you do, if you want to be even half as successful at providing a service to people, be it video games or judo coaching, you have to learn to accommodate those differences.

See what we make - games that make you smarter. Download for Mac or Windows. Under ten bucks!

Buy a game this month and get Forgotten Trail for free.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Religion Explained As Directions to Ma's Doughnut Shop

Someone made a video explaining sexual assault in terms of tea. It was brilliant.  For example:

If someone asks you for tea, you make it and you come back in the room and they are passed out drunk, you don't pour the tea on them just because you made it. Unconscious people don't want tea.

I was flying home today through multiple airports where I passed people wearing hijabs and cowboy hats and yarmulkes and it got me thinking for some random reason about how religion is like directions to Ma's Doughnut Shop in Trenton, New Jersey.

Say you think Ma's Doughnut Shop is north of Broadway & Main and I think it is south. There are four possibilities:

  1. I'm right.
  2. You're right.
  3. Neither of us is right. It's east or west of Broadway and Main.
  4. It's impossible to be right because Ma's Doughnut Shop does not exist. Maybe it never did exist, or it closed down five years ago.

Here is what is perfectly okay :
  • I can tell you that I think I am right and I don't believe the same as you. I think you are wrong. 
  • I think I'm right but I don't tell you anything because you can go off north if you want. I don't really care what you do.
  • You can tell me that you think you're right and that you think I'm wrong. 
  • You can think you are right and keep it to yourself, because what do you care if I go south.
  • We can argue and try to convince each other until we get tired of talking.
Here is what is NOT okay.
  • You shooting me for thinking Ma's is to the south.
  • Me grabbing you and trying to force you to go south.
  •  Me shooting you for thinking Ma's is to the north.
  • You trying to force me to go north because that is the correct direction.
  • Refusing to hire someone because their belief about the location of the doughnut shop.
  • Refusing to rent or sell a home to someone because of their Ma's Doughnut views.
  • Refusing to allow anyone into the country because of their Ma's Doughnut orientation.
I'm Catholic. That's very important to me in my life. But it's MY life. If you are Jewish, Muslim, atheist or worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's your right. I disagree with you - a lot, actually - but we have this thing called freedom of religion in America.

So, while I feel pretty confident that I'm going to end up eating some chocolate doughnuts while you'll be cooling your heels in Hoboken, you've got every right to keep heading north every weekend.

It's the giving season 

Give the gift of fun and learning to your favorite person, or donate to a school.

To donate: click the link above. You can select the game you want to donate. When you check out, you can name a person or school to receive your gift. If you don't specify, we will select a deserving recipient.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Everyone Teaches for a Different Reason

I was going to say, "Everyone teaches martial arts for their own reason" but then I thought, scratch that martial arts part. Everyone teaches anything for their own reason.

My own reasons are a bit personal, I think.

Some people say, "I learn more from my students than they do from me."

Although it sounds really good, I can't honestly say that. Maybe if I had grown up in Santa Monica and had a perfect little life, I would learn from my students what it means to overcome adversity. Believe me, I know. I know the challenge that it can be to get out of bed and go to school knowing that you'll have to sit in classes where other students are disruptive, when you'll probably have to get in a fight just to go down some street to get home from school.

I didn't learn that from my students. I learned it when I was my students' age.

One benefit I do get from teaching is to review the basics of judo, and you can never go over the basics too often.

Some weeks, judo practice is the only exercise I get, despite best intentions to the contrary. The main reason that I started a judo class at Jamestown College, over 25 years ago, is that I was so busy with work, family and a pile of other responsibilities that I would never have gotten to class except that I was teaching it and I had to show up.

It's been that way ever since.

While it may make me sound like a jerk, I don't feel obliged to teach judo "to give back". I've held more offices in judo organizations than I care to remember, started as an assistant instructor when I was 13 years old. I also run a company that makes educational software that teaches kids math. Frankly, I feel I have done my share of 'giving back' as much as I was given.

So .... why am I teaching judo on Friday and then spending the next two days doing a judo mini-camp with 20 kids that includes practices, tutoring, team dinners and a Christmas party?

I do it because my students are worth it.


My day job - 

Games that make you smarter. Learn math, learn social studies, try not to die in the woods, or in the rapids or when the bear attacks you ... just try not to die, okay?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You Have to Rescue Yourself

Everyone has a story and you can learn a lot if you just shut up and listen. 

I spent the past week in North Dakota, meeting up with lots of old and new friends.

I gave presentations at Minot State University, the Minot Job Corps and the Boys and Girls Club in New Town, North Dakota on the Fort Berthold reservation.

I also met a lot of people and heard a lot of their stories about overcoming (or not) everything from alcoholism to domestic violence to methamphetamine addiction. Different people, in different cities in different situations said pretty much the same thing :

It comes down to this: you have to rescue yourself.

It IS terrible and wrong that your husband beats you, but he probably is not going to stop, as harsh as that is to say. The police can arrest him, your friends can offer you a place to stay but YOU need to decide that you are better than this, take your children and leave.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence 10 times, been sent to treatment four times and have just been released from jail, your family may be willing to help you, there may be an open bed at a treatment facility, but YOU need to decide to go.

Sometimes when I say things like this, people object and say,

You don't understand, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Actually, THEY don't understand, because I don't think it sounds easy at all. Listening to someone talk about leaving her husband, being homeless with three children while she looked for a job - that didn't sound easy to me at all. What an amazing amount of strength and courage that she did it, though!

I know a lot of people who have been alcoholics and the hardest thing they have to do, as far as I can see, is honestly admitting they have fucked up. One man told me,

At AA meeting they have you say that you are an alcoholic and you have no control over your life. I said it but I didn't mean it. Not me! I was (a professional athlete)! I had a nice house, nice cars, women! There was nothing wrong with me!

Ever hear the phrase "painfully honest"? It takes a painful amount of honesty to look in the mirror and admit that you are wrong, what you have been doing is wrong and bad and (if you are an addict) it has been bad and wrong for a long time.

I heard a lot of stories by and about parents this week who gave their adult children money for drugs so they would not have to go through the pain of withdrawal, so they wouldn't steal the money for drugs and go to jail, who didn't turn them in when they DID steal the money, family members who denied being beaten by a relative.

Even if it is not that extreme, though, I think we all end up sometimes in situations where we are waiting for someone else to rescue us or trying to protect someone. That is fine if your four years old but not when you're forty.

Since I'm in the airport and have a few minutes to blog, let me give you some advice: Rescue yourself.

If you had a really good friend, a child, someone you loved, here is how I think you would treat them:
  1. You'd be honest with them, even when they didn't want to hear what you had to say. If they were in a bad situation, you would tell them. 
  2. You'd have the courage to face up to other people, even to that person him or herself, and help them make a change, whether it is moving with them to a new city, changing schools or filing charges against an abuser.
  3. You'd have the strength to continue on, even when people around you questioned your commitment, your motives, even when it was hard and you were tired and the road ahead to get a degree to get a job so you could support yourself, or to finish treatment or pay off your bills seemed so long.
That's what we do for people we love and if you would do that for your children, your best friend, then why can you not do it for yourself?

Plane boarding. Gotta go.


This isn't my real job, writing this blog - I make games that make you smarter. Honest, play for a few weeks and your math skills WILL be better.

All that stuff from 5th grade you forgot, yeah, it comes back to you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gompers Judo Christmas Camp: With a LOT of help from my friends

Just when you need more faith in humanity, your friends come through. For those of you who like to hear good news, here is what is up with Gompers Judo

  1. My friend, an anonymous benefactor bought Adidas judo gis for everyone. Many of our gis initially came from friends whose children had quit judo or outgrown their gis. Over the years, those had gotten pretty beat up. A year ago, Jesse Moya, of Moya Brand, had donated gis for every student - but kids in middle school grow FAST so many had outgrown theirs, and we had new kids join. So, look how cool they are all in judo gis that fit!
  2. Our friends at Gracie Barra Newport Beach offered up their school for two days on a weekend in December, for free, and instructor Tom Reusling offered to help teach.
  3. My friend, Steve Seck, 1980 Olympic team member in judo is coming to teach.
  4. My other friend, Gary Butts, a judo black belt and Marine Corps wrestler is coming to teach.
  5. My other friend (how did I get so lucky!) Patricia Gill, is a college admissions counselor and she's coming to speak with our students about college requirements and what courses they should be taking in high school.
  6. My friend (yes, I have another one), Brian Marks is one of the most renowned kata instructors in the country. He is coming to teach kata to get our green belts ready for their brown belt test. Another talent of Brian's is Christmas decoration. Yes, he has one of those unbelievable houses with the kid-size train set you can ride, slides and light displays that people drive to Orange County to see. He has invited us to his house after the team dinner on Saturday for a traditional Christmas party with cookies and hot chocolate.
  7. My lovely youngest daughter and HER friends are going to come in the afternoon to tutor students between practices.
  8. My lovely niece, her fiancé and HIS friends from U C Irvine's doctoral program in mathematics are also coming to tutor students.

I once commented that I felt I had better friends than I deserve to which Jacob Flores, Jr. (the son of one of my very best friends) commented,

I don't think that's possible. I think people get exactly the friends they deserve.

Damn! I sure hope he's right, because if he is, I must be far more amazing than I think!

In the Christmas spirit ?

Buy games that teach math, social studies and FUN !

Buy it for yourself, for a gift, or donate to a school.

Buy Fish Lake or Spirit Lake and we'll throw in a beta license for Forgotten Trail for free. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Random: What you don't see at a judo tournament

On Sunday, somewhere between working, mass, dropping Maria, Eric and children at the airport, I managed to fit in an hour to watch the Mojica Judo Tournament in Baldwin Park.  I went with a mission - well, a mission other than not missing my one chance a year to tease Tony Mojica about wearin a suit. (Evidence duly attached.)

My mission was this: I wanted to test my hypothesis that judo players do not do either counters nor combinations in tournaments. I decided to watch 10 matches and record how many times I saw either a combination or a counter. I was there around 12-1 so I was watching mid-range players. The tiny little kids had already competed and the black belts weren't up yet.

Here are my results, which were pretty consistent with what I have discovered at every camp, clinic and tournament that I've observed:

Players very rarely do counters, combinations or transition. This includes combinations of a standing technique and mat technique, two standing techniques or two matwork techniques.

In the ten matches I observed,  I saw zero counters, one attempted (unsuccessful) combinations and three transitions from standing to matwork (two attempted by the same person).  Let's look at this in percentages. Of the 20 players in those two matches, 0% did a successful combination, 5% attempted a matwork combination, 0% attempted a matwork combination, 0% attempted a counter and 10% did a transition from standing to matwork.

There should be a hint for you in here if you are an instructor or a competitor. Work on counters, combinations (particularly on the mat) and transitions to standing to matwork.

 It's a winning strategy to be strong where others are weak.

It's an even more winning strategy to be strong where others are non-existent.


Buy a game this week and we'll throw in a copy of our Forgotten Trail beta for free ! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It Stripped Me of Everything I Knew

I've been trying to cut back to working 10 hours a day. I figure that makes 70-hour weeks and our investors should be happy with that.

In my spare time, I have been reading and I even watched one movie with my lovely family. In the evening, I read books that have no professional benefit whatsoever.

I just finished  The Hot Seat: Love, War and Cable News, by Piers Morgan,

In his first TV interview he asked Oprah Winfrey how many people she trusts and she answered,

 Probably five or six that I ultimately would trust no matter what, and if I were to be betrayed by those people, then I would say I don’t know anything. There’s a wonderful line in a Toni Morrison book that says, ‘It stripped me of everything I knew.’

 That line came back to me again when I was reading a book tonight, Knocking on Heaven's Door, by a woman dealing with both of her parents dying.

My husband died when I was 36 years old. It stripped me of everything I knew. We were going to have another baby after Ronnie, who was 3 years old, when he had his accident. My whole life seemed to be in three pieces. Before the accident. After the accident. After he died.

We were going to have four children and live out in the country. He was getting his pilot's license. He said flying was even better than sex because you could do it for hours. I was going to get tenure at the university, become a full professor and then retire. The kids would grow up picking wild blackberries and learn to ride horses. Ron was going to teach them to drive a stick-shift and shoot a gun and I was going to teach them math and not to have a country accent, that words like huntin', fishin' and darlin' actually have a 'g' at the end and it's pronounced "business" not "bizness". We used to laugh about that a lot.

Then he went down that hill and broke his back and then he died, piece by piece over the years until he died altogether.

It stripped me of everything I knew.

I have a good friend who lost his wife when he was relatively young and had young children at home. Let's call him Bob. We talk about it sometimes and agree that there is no question that it changes you. People who have not been in that situation can sympathize but they can't really understand.

I've read studies that say that whether people win the lottery or become paraplegic as a result of an accident that within the year they are just as happy as they were before the event. Maybe so. I know both my friend and I have gone on to live productive, generally happy lives. Still, it changes you.

This was brought home to me recently when some random people I did not know were saying vicious things about me on the Internet. An acquaintance came up to me and politely expressed sympathy, made some nice comments intended to cheer me up. 

Seriously, it was a kind, well-meant gesture and I appreciated it, but after he walked away, Bob and I doubled over laughing. We had seen tragedy and BasementBoy007 saying on a forum that you should shut the fuck up you grey-haired old lady is definitely not a tragedy.

They (whoever "they" are) say everything happens for a reason. Both Bob and I dispute that being widowed (widowered?) made us better people, but there is no question it changed us.

If you had asked me two years after Ron died, I would not have hesitated and said there is no compensation and nothing would change my mind about wanting him back.

Now, I have a wonderful 17-year-old daughter who I would not have had if my husband had lived, if I hadn't remarried. Would I turn back the clock? I think of her and the answer is clearly, "No."

One thing I can say for sure - if you experience the death of someone close to you, it changes you. Things may get better. I suppose it's possible they may get worse. One thing I know for sure is that they will never be the same. You will never be the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Life of a Lie: It's quite simple

 My very good friend and business partner for decades,  Dr. Erich Longie, talks about living the life of the truth or the life of a lie.

Erich is an amazing guy. When I met him, he was academic dean of the tribal college on his reservation. He eventually became college president, the first member of his tribe to earn a doctorate, co-founded Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. with me and April St. Pierre, co-authored articles in scientific journals and a bunch of equally super-impressive things.

Before I met him, he was an alcoholic, broke his back in an accident, was in rehabilitation - both the physical kind and the drug and alcohol kind. It's hard for me to reconcile the person I have always known with the stories I hear about him.

Erich says that it's quite simple, really. You either live a life of the truth or a life of a lie. If you are an alcoholic, you are living the life of a lie. You are telling your boss lies for the reason you didn't make it to work or made a mistake - the truth is you weren't sick or distracted, you were drunk. You are lying to your spouse or parents about why you came home late or didn't show up for some family gathering. You are lying to yourself that everyone gets a DUI now and then, it's normal to get fired from your first job.

You don't have to be an alcoholic to live the life of a lie.

One day, my husband was looking at some site for people who want to have affairs. He wasn't looking for an affair. He was actually sitting in bed next to me reading it out loud on his laptop. On the home page, it said,

If it bothers you to constantly lie, you should not have an affair.

We both fell over laughing, thinking, who the heck at that point says,

Okay, I'm cool with the constant lying thing, what else you got?

Those sites seem to get a lot of traffic, though, and I'll bet it's not all from people like us who are reading just to laugh at them.

I'm not perfect. (God, am I not perfect!) However, I try as much as possible to live a life of the truth. I love my children, grandchildren and husband. I try to the best of my ability to make games that make people smarter - in math, social studies and English. I do studies to test whether what I'm doing works. I hire people in the U.S. , preferably California, because I want to support the community where I live. I teach judo to kids at Gompers Middle School because I genuinely believe they are some great kids and I am blessed to have terrific instructors like José, Will, Blinky, Jimmy and Steve to help me out.

What you see is what you get. 

I have another friend, a software developer named Joe Perry, who told me once,

People like to say, "It's complicated", but it's really not. Do you respect the people you work with? Are you proud of the work that you do? 

Just this week, I had a conversation with someone who told me something that was somewhat important to me. I asked him if he was sure what he said was true. He said,

I swear on all the saints and the Blessed Virgin, on the grey head of my sainted mother, may she drop over dead. It happened exactly as I told you.

Funny thing, I happened to find out a couple of days later that he had lied to me. Hope his mom is still fine. Obviously, I'll never trust anything he tells me ever again.

Joe is right. People like to throw up a lot of smoke screens, but it comes down to this: Is what you are saying true? Is the impression you are giving people true?

If not, you are living the life of a lie, and that never ends well.

Since I'm in a pattern of quoting smart people I know, let me end with some advice from Dr. Jane Mercer, a famous and very kind sociologist who was on my dissertation committee. (No, my doctorate isn't in sociology but that's irrelevant.)

On the wall of her office she had taped this Turkish proverb:

No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Count Your Blessings

Someone on a mailing list on startups sent  a link to this article:

8 Things to Remember When Everything is Going Wrong

It made me smile several times while reading it, and that alone is worth passing it on. These tips weren't written just for startups, although having started work 14 hours ago, I can certainly relate all of these to my work life.

My favorite was of the 8 things was this:

Everything in life is temporary. Every time it rains, it stops raining.

Notice that I said I started work 14 hours ago. I didn't work for 14 hours straight because after about 10 hours, my husband and I went for a walk along Ocean Avenue, just as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean.

We talked about this idea that everything is temporary. There are people I knew who were in the Olympics who ended up barely scraping by while others who lost in the Olympic Trials went on to have wonderful careers and wonderful lives. If you had looked at them on any one particular day, you might have thought, "This person is a winner and that one is a loser." 

And yet, if you looked at the same people three years later, you might find the situation completely reversed.

To their 8 things, I will add my own, ninth, suggestion - Count your blessings.

If you had looked in on my life 20 years ago, you would have thought I was in a sad state. My husband had died. I was working three jobs to support my three young children and I was always tired. There were medical bills, funeral bills, tuition bills, tax bills.

Yes, it was hard. As I was thinking about it today, though, sad as it was, I have been truly blessed. Not once, but TWICE I have had the great good fortune to be married for years to a man I loved.

Having a good marriage is one of the keys to happiness. Most people wish for it once and I got it twice. Certainly, everything is temporary, so appreciate your blessings now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Addiction, Who Is It That Has to Change?

Something has been on my mind a lot lately, ever since I started working on this grant on methamphetamine abuse (and no, crazy conspiracy theorists, this is not a veiled reference to any of my daughters).

As I was saying, I was working on this proposal with the Circle of Life program on the Fort Berthold Reservation, and we were reviewing the current research on family therapy for people addicted to meth. They are the substance abuse prevention and treatment experts and I am working with them to create a game that models what effective counselors do, just like our current games model what effective teachers do.

All of these treatment models assume that everyone in the family has to change. Now, I will admit up front that neither I nor anyone in my family has ever been addicted to anything, so I have no personal experience. I'm certainly willing to consider that if your 13-year-old son or daughter is addicted to meth, you took a wrong turn somewhere on the parenting journey. For one thing, how can you not know where your kid is for that amount of time?

It seems like, though, a lot of this treatment requires the people who are NOT addicted to change. When I read statements like,

"If you are too critical about their appearance, drug use or other behavior, you'll drive the person away and then the opportunity for treatment will be lost." 


"Because access to the drug is so important to an addict, you may need to accept having the dealer around until you can convince your loved one to enter treatment."

I found it all very confusing, and there is a reason that I focused on statistics and assessment instead of counseling. That's why I was wise enough to partner with the Circle of Life people. I know my own weaknesses.

Isn't denial supposed to be one of the problems of people with addiction? So aren't you feeding into that?

But then if you go along with the denial, or don't confront the person, then it's enabling their addiction. But if you don't go along with it, then it's not accepting the person and then worsening  their problem or driving them away?

It's all very confusing to me, and I think it is not just me because the rate of failure in therapy is pretty high. Not as high as the failure rate for startups, but still pretty high.

Speaking of startups, my required shameless plug 
.... check out 7 Generation Games - buy 'em

If you don't have ten bucks, try them free here.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why not compete at 'walking around weight'

Many years ago, I was in Europe cutting weight before a tournament and the team manager, as usual, appointed due to being someone's friend rather than any actual qualifications, made the comment,

"I don't see why you are starving yourself. Why don't you people just compete at whatever you weigh?"

Now, for many reasons, including referring to the athletes on the team as 'you people',  this person was an idiot.

1984 World Team Photo. Thanks to Jean Kanokogi
(By the way, the manager in the photo above was the late Elizabeth Lee, definitely not an idiot.)

Recently, someone else, definitely not an idiot who recently brought up the question of why people can't compete at their walking around weight is mixed martial artist Roxanne Modafferi.

So, let me answer that question:

It's somewhat like the prisoner's dilemma. In case you don't know, that is a problem where acting in your best interest depends on knowing what other people will do. The typical example is two people arrested for a crime and offered a bargain - confess and testify against your partner for a lighter sentence. If neither of you confess, both of you may go free. However, if you don't confess and your partner in crime does, you'll get a longer sentence.

How does this relate to making weight? Well, if NO ONE cuts weight, then if you go in at your 'walking around weight', you can expect to be about equal in strength and size to your competition.

However, if you don't cut weight and your opponent does, you may weigh 125 pounds and be fighting someone who normally weighs 140 pounds but did not eat for two days before the weigh-in and sweated off 10 pounds by jogging in the sauna. If you are close to equal in skill and conditioning, that extra 11% in size your opponent has can be the tipping point.

Since everyone assumes that their competitors will be cutting weight, everyone cuts weight.

Almost everyone. In the picture above, the person to my left is Lynn Roethke. We weighed the exact same weight and Lynn competed at 61 kg, the division above me. If you asked me (and you ARE reading my blog), her biggest asset was her speed, which was an even bigger asset in a heavier division. I wasn't that much faster than the average person, but I was stronger, which is an even bigger advantage in a lighter division.

So, not EVERYONE cuts weight, but everyone does seek to optimize their advantages, which usually involves cutting weight. Certainly, as an athlete, there is zero advantage to having extra fat on you.

Speaking of idiots ... I have been hearing nonsense all of my life about how cutting weight, or even competing in sports, causes women to be sterile, have miscarriages, etc. No. It doesn't. 

The eight women on that team had 13 children, that I know of. I'm pretty sure there were more than 13 but I haven't kept in contact with everyone. The two who didn't have children  never married because, as far as I know, they never felt like it.

Yes, if your body fat percentage drops too low, you quit having your period. It's not a permanent condition! Once you put weight back on, you start up again and if you follow the normal procedure for these things (ask your mom to explain it to you), presto - baby!

Do you feel smarter? Know what would make you feel even smarter? 

Buying games made by my wonderful company, 7 Generation Games.

Learn some stuff about Native American history and math while you play.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Throwback and some thoughts

Thank you very much to Jean Kanokogi for sending me this photo of the world team

It's funny how one picture can conjure up so many thoughts. Both the coaches, Rusty Kanokogi and Jimmy Takemori, have passed away, as did Elizabeth Lee, the manager.

When I was younger, I didn't always agree with any of those three on their views of judo, careers or life in general. However, they all lived according to their own beliefs. What I learned from them most was that you don't have to agree with someone to respect and appreciate them.

If you look carefully at this picture, you'll see that everyone is sitting properly with  their knees bent and hands on their legs except for me. It was not, as everyone believed back then, that I was sloppy and disrespectful of Japanese etiquette. It was because my knee was damaged far more than I let on to anyone but my closest teammates at Tenri Dojo. I had my fist down on the mat supporting my weight because my knee really couldn't bend. That's also why I had to lean sideways. I had that knee replaced a few years ago, but back when I was competing, that type of surgery did not exist.

You'll also notice my hand is taped up. I don't know what the hell I did to my thumb in the Tournoi d'Orleans that year but it was the only international tournament ever that I didn't place. (Sorry, fifth is NOT a place.) It's gotten worse as I got older and now that thumb doesn't work at all. I'm always thinking I should go to the doctor about it but I don't feel inclined to have another surgery. 

So, yeah, I was pretty banged up but I won anyway. I think this photo must have been taken after the world championships because I was smiling.

---- continued after the SHAMELESS PLUG ---

I co-authored a book on matwork. It's about winning on the ground. Hence, the name.

You can get it here on Barnes and Noble - write a review , while you're at it.


It was a good reminder, though, of the choices you make about the price you're willing to pay. So, it cost me a few body parts to win. I've never regretted it.

It was a good reminder today, as I am in the middle of "the grind" , as Ronda calls it, with our company. There seems to be a vicious circle with our company where I need more people to do the work but getting those more people requires writing the job requirements, raising investor funds for writing grants, that means I fall further behind on the other work so I need those people to start last week ....

I better get back to it, since no one seems inclined to do my work for me.

You can check out our games here. Fun, educational and done by me!

7 Generation Games - My Day Job!  Buy one for ten bucks.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Judo Drill Day and Assistant Instructors

On Friday, I have to be at a a company event in Santa Monica by 5:30 and it takes at least an hour to get from Gompers Middle School in rush hour. I hate to miss class. So, what do I do?

Here is my plan. Feel free to steal it. Half of it I stole from other people.

I'm going to run class from 3:30 - 4:15.  I plan to do is a series of drills for their matwork and throws. After I leave, the assistant instructors, who are all green belts, but certified teachers/ paraprofessionals which means they have superb classroom management skill, will go through the same drills.

I think repetition can be a good thing, as long as you don't over do it. It’s my same idea in math, to sometimes teach and then re-teach and students remember better.  Hopefully, we can get through this series three times in the 90 minute class. Even twice is good. Students will be able to see a noticeable improvement in their matwork skills particularly the second time around. With both math and martial arts I see instructors often move on too quickly to the next concept or skill before students feel confident in the first one taught.

---- Shameless plug -

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----- Back to our regularly scheduled program

Here is the drill series and how long I have planned for each one.
  • The pushing and pulling drill. When I say, "Push!" you both push against each other. When I say, "Pull!" you I got  this from Jim Pedro, Sr. He does it for longer with his elite athletes. The main purpose is to build up strength and stamina in the exact muscles you use for gripping. A second benefit is that you learn to react to changes in direction from your opponent. Do this for 1 minute then switch partners. After another minute, switch partners again.  (3 minutes)
  • Running back and forth in groups of 3 or 4 fitting into your throws. You have one person at each end of the mat. Either 1 or 2 people are in the middle. The middle person runs to one end and fits into a throw. Then, they run to the other end and fit into the same throw.  Do this for 2 minutes then rotate in so that another person from the group is running. I got this drill from Venice Dojo. It is primarily conditioning but it also lets you watch and see if the students are gripping correctly and placing their feet correctly when they step into the throw (6 minutes)  
  • Another 3 person drill where one person fits into a throw, another is the person being thrown and the third is holding the uke (person being thrown) by the belt and the collar. In this drill the person throwing can go in really hard and the uke doesn’t get slammed. Each person goes one minute and then they switch positions. (We did this for something that was filmed recently on how I was training Ronda when she was young. It brought back a lot of memories.) (3 minutes)
  • Matwork drill where one person is on his/her back and the other person gets as close as possible without touching him/her and when you say Go they have 10-15 seconds to pin that person. Do this 3 times then switch partners and do another 3 times. This drill develops reaction time and teaches both the person on the top and bottom to react right away to better their position. (3 minutes)
  • Matwork uchikomis. Get a partner and do your favorite matwork move 15 times right and 15 times left. I've been doing these for 40 years and it is one of the keys to my success. (5 minutes)
  • Spinning matwork drill. One person is on all fours (hopefully with elbows bent or they deserve to be armbarred) and the other person is on their back. When you say, "Spin!" the top person spins around in one direction, leaving all of their weight on the opponent. When you say, "Reverse!" they spin in the other. When you say “Attack!” they both attack. Give them 1 minute, then switch positions. After they’ve both done both positions twice, switch partners and do it again. I got this from Venice Dojo, too. It develops quick reaction from whatever position you are in and provides practice in matwork in a competitive situation (8  minutes)
Of course, those minutes don’t include the time to move between drills, get new partners, water breaks.

--- Another commercial break
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Friday, September 18, 2015

I So Suck at that Don't Worry Be Happy Thing

I can't think of many things in my life that I would change. I certainly wouldn't want to be famous. I look at how every thing Ronda does or says gets blown out of proportion, for good or bad, how everyone is all up in her business all of the time, and I know I would never want that.

Even if what I did this afternoon wasn't all that exciting - I worked on a grant proposal while waiting for my granddaughters to finish dance class - I still don't want pictures of me doing it showing up on the Internet.

I have a Ph.D. that I enjoyed getting 25 years ago and what I learned I put to use to this day. Education - check.

I really love the work I do. If I could pick any job in the world, I would pick CEO of a video game company. That doesn't mean every second of what I do is exactly what I want - I would rather write software all day than grants - but hey, no one has everything how they want all of the time.
Career - check.

Speaking of my career - if you'd like to download a free demo of the games we make, you can check them out here

I've been married for 18 years to one of the calmest people on the planet (a requirement to live with me), who is also brilliant and a great father and grandfather. I have four wonderful children who I love very much and the world's most amazing grandchildren.
Family - check.

At 57, I can still make the same weight division in which I won the world championships 31 years ago. I had my knee replaced, so I can hike in the mountains for fun and teach judo every Friday.
Health - check.

My bills are paid. I don't live in a 30-room mansion and drive a Lamborghini. I live in a townhouse by the beach in Santa Monica and drive a Prius, but I like where I live and I live 10 blocks from the office so I don't even really need a car. Recently, Ronda gave me her Range Rover so I had a car that I could drive a bunch of kids from Gompers Judo to events. I do not want what I have not got.
Money - check.

I have some really good friends, and although now that Ronda is doing great and the business is doing good, more and more new "friends" are appearing, I'm pretty adept at telling the former from the latter. I'd like to see my friends more, but when I think about them, I feel blessed with the number of people in this world I can count on.
Friendship - check.

So ... why every day am I worried about stupid stuff? I'm worried that my kids will make bad decisions, that we won't sell enough games to increase our part-time staff members to full-time, that the newest hire won't work out, that I didn't spend enough time talking to the stranger on the street telling me how reading Ronda and Maria's book changed his life ...

I don't just borrow trouble from tomorrow, because today is pretty good and tomorrow looks pretty good, too. I borrow it from six months from now.

If you're the same way, I'm sorry that I cannot really help by telling you why that is. I THINK in my case it is because it has worked out for me. Early in life, I did not have a whole lot to fall back on so I always had a Plan B and a Plan C and a Plan D and a Plan E and was constantly evaluating everything. However, while worrying all of the time might be responsible for much of the success that I have had in life, now that I don't really need that any more, I can't shake the habit.

If you're in the same boat, I can tell you that two things help me:

  1. Pray. I'm not one for running out and converting people. I think your religion is between you and God, but for the record, I'm Catholic and praying helps me a lot. It's the thing you can do when there's nothing else you can do.
  2. Count your blessings. I try to remember this because it helps immensely. Whenever I get stressed about things, my wonderful friend and mentor, Bruce Toups, calls me on it and says, "And look how far you have come."
There is a third thing that is Ronda's idea and involves water buffaloes but I am not so sure I agree with that one.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why the arguments for suspending Nick Diaz for 5 years are stupid

Well, it certainly looks like the entire Nevada State Athletic Commission is made up of a bunch of small dick vindictive little piss-ants.

It is possible that is not the case. I'm not in favor of trial by Instagram so it is possible that there are extenuating circumstances of which I am not aware that justify their actions - like maybe while Nick was smoking a joint he shot one of their mothers or something.

However, let me address a few stupid arguments I have seen people make, and I'd like to preface this with two things.

First, the Diaz family has been unfailingly kind, polite and respectful to my daughter and that began long before she became successful. I can't say that about too many people. Any time I have met either Diaz brother they have been as polite and respectful as you would hope someone to be to your mom. It's not just me. Other people who have met them have made the same comment. Away from the media, I have never seen or heard anything but good about them.

Second, my points below apply to anyone. So, although I have reason to like the Diaz brothers, I would hold these positions equally if I did not like them.

Stupid argument #1: If you break a rule, you should expect to be punished.

In America, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We hold this so strongly that it is in our original Bill of Rights. The eighth amendment to the constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Look it up.

I live in Santa Monica where parking tickets seem to be the city's main source of income. If I park on the right side of the street on a Monday when they are doing street cleaning, I expect to get a ticket. There is a sign posted saying not to park there on Monday. I do not expect the traffic police to knock on my door and shoot me with a bazooka, impound my car, run over my dog or any other punishment far out of proportion to the crime.

Stupid argument #2 : If you break a rule more than once, you shouldn't be surprised if they throw the book at you

Let's take a look at driving laws. If I talk on my cell phone while driving, the first offense is $20. The second offense and subsequent offenses are $50.

I've actually gotten two tickets for that and paid them both.

If I get a third ticket and they throw me in jail for three months and I lose my job, I'm going to argue that was vastly out of proportion to the crime.

What exactly would punishment like that accomplish? The point is to "teach me a lesson" so that I quit talking on my cell phone?

Why does the state of California not see that some people might just pay the $50 and keep using their phones while driving? I suspect they do see that but our state government officials realize the stupidity of causing people to lose their livelihood over relatively minor offenses.

Stupid argument #3: They have to make an example of people who continually break the rules. Otherwise, why have them?

Making an example of someone sounds uncomfortably to me like you are not treating everyone equally, and for any body doling out punishments, that's a pretty creepy thought. What exactly is this example supposed to teach? Don't smoke marijuana?

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health TWENTY MILLION PEOPLE USED MARIJUANA IN THE LAST MONTH. That's 7.5% of the population aged 12 and older. 

I kind of doubt the NSAC ruling is going to dent the marijuana smoking population much.

Does this mean that they should just continue to give relatively minor punishments to people who repeatedly commit relatively minor offenses? Yes, yes it does. No matter how many tickets I get for talking on my cell phone, I don't think it is right for the state to impound my car to make an example of me.

Stupid argument #4: It is okay to penalize someone far more for a marijuana violation than steroids or cocaine because "He did it more than once"

So, let me get this straight ... by this reasoning, if I shoot my neighbor tomorrow, I should get a lighter sentence than if I go over and spray "You suck, neighbor!" on her front door for the third time.

There is a law against vandalism and I shouldn't do it. However, no matter how many times I do it, it doesn't cause the same harm to an individual or society as shooting someone.

Similarly, if you take Performance Enhancing Drugs, which really DO give you an advantage in an athletic competition (and have we forgotten here that the A in NSAC stands for Athletic?) then that should be penalized more severely than an inconsistent result on a test for a drug that does not provide you a benefit nor put your opponent at risk in an athletic competition.


There may be something here I am not seeing, but what it looks like is a few people got offended that they weren't receiving what they considered the proper amount of deference and assuming they were untouchable and above questioning in their little fiefdom, decided to mess with an athlete's life to teach a lesson to the rest of the peasants to stay in line. I have seen that kind of crap far too many  times in my involvement in elite sports and it makes me sick. 
This is my day job - making games that make you smarter.

You can  play them yourselves or donate one to a child or school so they don't grow up to be a dumb ass or on the NSAC , but  perhaps that was redundant?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Variety (and guest instructors) are the spice of life

If you are ever at a gym where they discourage you from training anywhere else - run, don't walk, away from them as fast as you can.
I'm not saying if they discourage you from training at a particular gym. I've probably never met your instructor but I'm perfectly willing to give him or her the benefit of the doubt that Bob's Gym 'o Slimeballs is a terrible place to work out.

However, here is a fact:

Anyone who claims to know everything about martial arts is either a liar or insane. 

I'm pretty good. I've got a gold medal from the world championships and a few other medals to back that claim up. I'm not so dumb to think that I know all of judo or that there aren't people better qualified to teach certain techniques than me. That's why I'm always THRILLED when we have guest instructors.

Let me give you a few reasons:

  1. Each student gets more individual attention.   As you might be able to see, we have a pretty full mat, with another instructor, we can divide the students into groups.
  2. Almost all classes have a mix of experience and ability. Gompers Middle School Judo is no exception. This being the beginning of the year, we have several brand new students, a few who began at the end of last year, and a group who have been in judo a year or more. With a guest instructor, you can divide the class into novice and advanced and teach each group appropriately.
  3.  No one is equally good at everything. Whoever visits is probably going to be good in some areas that are not your strength. Having that person teach will aid your students in that area.
  4.  Having a new person adds some variety and they may be a bit more attentive and work harder. No matter how awesome you are, your students have seen you hundreds of times.
  5. Inviting in guest instructors is being a positive role model. It shows your students that you are not arrogant, that you recognize many people in the world have knowledge to contribute, not just you.

So, you can understand why I was so delighted this month when we have had not one but TWO guest instructors stop in to visit. Friday, Steve Seck, Olympian, national champion, international gold medalist and teacher at King Drew Medical Magnet High School stopped by.

I asked him to teach uchi mata, because he is really, really good at it. In fact, he was one of the people who taught it to Ronda when she was little. I brought her to LA City College where he was teaching at that time for that express purpose.

While he taught uchi mata to our more advanced students, I worked on turnovers to a pin with our new students, then taught them falling and then taught them a throw.

At the end of class, Steve talked to the students about the opportunity to attend a magnet high school, specifically his, and encouraged them to apply. This is really important to start thinking about early in the year, and I could tell that many of the students (and the parents who had come to pick them up), were paying close attention.

Two weeks ago, Michael Fujimoto, a very successful competitor who had represented the U.S. internationally as a junior, stopped in and taught seoi nage. Being young and in shape, Mike also did randori with several students, giving them a challenge that they are not going to get from someone old and half their size like me. At the end of class, Mike talked about the University of Washington, where he works, and encouraged students to look him up if they end up attending there. (Are we seeing a pattern?)

 Two of the least utilized resources in judo, in my opinion, are guest instructors and assistant instructors.

If you are trying to be the big wheel and teach everything yourself, you are cheating your students. Cut it out!

----------- REQUIRED PLUG

I haven't blogged in a while because I am busy making games, improving games, designing games, meeting with schools to tell them about our games.

Feel smarter after reading this blog? Go to this link and get a game to be even smarter.

Already really smart? Donate a game or two to a school so they can be as smart as you.

Friday, September 4, 2015


Life has been really crazy lately and I haven't been blogging as much. We're in the Boom Startup Ed Tech accelerator, raising funds from investors to bring 7 Generation Games to the next level.

So, I've been flying back and forth between here and Salt Lake City, which is just amazingly beautiful.

As always, life has its share of good and bad.

Good: Gompers Middle School Judo is back in session, with many of our wonderful kids from last year and some new ones.

Every week, I think that I really don't have 4- 5 hours to spare from work to drive in rush hour traffic to south LA and back and teach for an hour and a half. Every week,  I feel blessed and privileged to spend a couple of hours with some of the best people I know.

Caution: Rant ahead

I absolutely HATE those coaches with the attitude that,

"You need to prove to me that you are good enough for me to coach. Work out here for six months, a year, two years and maybe I will honor you with the grace of my coaching."

Okay, seriously, who the fuck do you people think you are? Who raised you and what the fuck was wrong with them? I'm a world champion, Ph.D. and have founded multiple companies. Every single person that comes into Gompers Middle School Judo program, I try honestly and sincerely to teach them to the best of my ability from the very first day. They made the effort to overcome their fears to walk through the door. They are the child of someone who loves them very much, just like I love my children (no matter how old they are) and I am going to treat them with the same kindness and respect that I hope someone treats each of my children.

Let me tell you something - if you are a coach and you make someone train at your gym for 3 months, 6 months, a year or more until you condescend to train them it is not because you are such a great coach that they need to earn your attention. IT IS BECAUSE YOU ARE A FUCKING ASSHOLE.

On to another thing (I told you this was random) ...

Bad then Good: I sincerely apologize to everyone who told me they bought/ purchased games in the last two weeks. I was getting very down thinking we had zero sales AND the world was full of a bunch of liars. Turns out the email on the sales reports was being misdirected. Oops. Hope you enjoyed the games!



I wrote a blog about the Ronda bubble and half a dozen people (including a couple of women!) called to be reassured that they weren't the man I was talking about who wanted me to go with him to tell Ronda she was headed in the wrong direction. Of course, it was none of them because wouldn't you think if I recounted a conversation we'd had, you'd recognize it?

This further reinforces my belief that if someone is a true dumbass you can write about them freely as long as you don't use their name and they will never recognize themselves. Such is the nature of dumbasses. Maybe I should do a wikipedia entry on that.

I was thinking today about a young woman I know who is extremely bright. She ought to be working towards her Ph.D. She is truly fascinated by science and would be a brilliant success. Instead, she picks up with one loser boyfriend after another that she is trying to rescue, and is just limping along taking random courses, still finishing her bachelor's degree. Why is it that some incredibly talented people just can't see how good they are? This isn't a rhetorical question. I really don't know.

If I ever figure that out I'm going to patent it, sell it and I won't need investor funds because I will have billions of dollars and be laughing my mad scientist laugh - moo ha ha - as I fly over you all in my helicopter on my way to my private island with a herd of winged zebracorns.

Well, I suppose I should go to bed since I have to work all day tomorrow (and every day over this 3-day weekend) because that's the deal when you run a startup.  You can jump in and buy our games, or donate one to a classroom. They're fun and you'll learn stuff.