Saturday, June 27, 2015

My bullshit per day ratio has been exceeded

This past week, I have heard more lies and supreme hypocrisy than any time in my life. My bullshit per day ratio has set a personal record.

I don't even know where to begin. There are those people who try to rewrite history,

"Oh, it really wasn't that bad. We got along okay."

This happens particularly if you are successful. A good friend of mine told me that since he has done well, there are lots of people coming up to him saying,

"You remember the good old days when we all did judo?"

and his response is,

"You mean back when I was young and you were a complete dick to me? Yeah, I remember it."

(You can tell there is a reason he is a good friend.)

Related to that are the people who want to forget history.

"Let's not get all up in who lied, cheated, stole or stabbed who in the eye. Aren't we big enough people to overlook it?"

Notice that it's always the lying, cheating, stealing, stabber who says that and never the stabbed.

The answer, as a lovely person said tonight is,

"Gee, I would have come over there and pissed on you when you were on fire, but I was running late to a meeting."

Along the lines of people who want to pretend they aren't a waste of oxygen are those who see their "friends" being treated badly and don't say a word or lift a finger. I brought this up to someone today who said, very self-righteously,

"Well, I try never to get involved in politics."

I said,

"Oh no, you're not getting out of this with me. This wasn't a discussion of the fucking federal trade deficit. This was someone being abused and you didn't do a thing!"

As an old friend was fond of saying,

"Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, honey."

I'm not going to ask the people who are lying, cowardly assholes to own it and just admit that they are taking advantage of people or pretending to be a friend. I'm pretty certain that people like that are trying to convince themselves that they are worth the $3,000 they charged you to take your cat to the vet, "Because it could have died if it didn't get its shots and I know you love that cat. "

The best comment I heard recently, about someone whose relative had abused his trust,

"Just because we don't say anything doesn't mean we don't know."

Sometimes, if you think you are getting away with something, it is only because they are waiting for the right time to bring the hammer down.

I have always truly believed that people get what they deserve in the end. That should make some of you feel comforted and others very afraid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Other Side of Bullying

When the subject of bullying comes up, I often hear people urging,

 "Teach your child to stand up for himself. Have him kick that bully right in the nuts so he can never reproduce little bullying clones of himself!"

and they think I will agree with them, which I only partially do.Yes, it is good to teach your child to defend him or herself, although it may be a little harsh when you are advocating playground castration of second-graders.

There are two other aspects to reducing bullying, though. Here is one important one - Teach your kids not to be little assholes. Those bullies belong to somebody and that somebody is probably thinking, "Not my kid."

 Have "The Talk" with your children

I don't mean talking about sex (though you should probably do that, too) but talking about bullies and "mean girls" at school. When I would see Disney channel shows where the hero / heroine is left out or picked on by the popular kids, I would launch into what Jennifer calls "Mom Lecture #734" where I would say,

 "See those kids with the flashy cars and the blonde hair, that just pushed that kid down and everyone laughed? Those kids are little assholes. They think they are all cool but they'll probably end up working at the gas station after their divorce while that kid they are picking on will be president of Shell Oil or win the Nobel prize for medicine." 

 Julia made the mistake of buying a shirt that said, "You can't sit with us." 

 I went into full mom rant mode about how I hated that attitude and I could not stand those girls who told other people they couldn't sit with them. Who the fuck did they think they were, anyway? What the hell kind of person is mean to other people for no reason? Finally, Julia said,

"Mom, calm down. I know how you feel about mean girls and I'm not on the Disney channel. It's just a shirt they sold in the Promenade." 

 I think it "accidentally" got ruined in the dryer the next week. What a shame.

Here is the second part of reducing bullying - teach your child to stand up for other people as well as him or herself Again, don't raise a selfish little cowardly asshole who thinks,

 "As long as no one is picking on me, it's okay. Every man for himself!" 

 Why should your child stand up for other kids? Because it's right. It's kind. Teach your child to be kinder than necessary, to be a person who is strong but not mean. Not only will there be less bullying, but you will have a good kid. What about those "other kids" who don't learn to stand up to bullies? They are their parents' problem, but if you raise your kid to be a decent human being, their parents will have fewer problems and so will you.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Joys of Air Travel with Snorey Bob

Last week, which was the last time I had a free minute, I gave the bonus tip that it helps you sleep if before bed you start counting the things you have for which to be grateful.

My lovely niece, Samantha, has pointed out to me that people do not appreciate the amazing world in which we live. Everyone gets off a plane and complains how miserable it was after FLYING ACROSS THE CONTINENT THROUGH THE SKY.  If you think about it for a minute, that's some serious Harry-Potter shit there. I mean, if you were actually on a broom I'll bet it would be a lot less comfortable than sitting in row 34F , what with the wind and all, and you probably wouldn't be going in excess of 350 miles an hour.

Yes, but ....

Let me tell you about Snorey Bob.

I was on the plane, planning to go to sleep on the flight, but the noise from the prop engine was keeping me up. We get up in the air, and the noise stops, which is a little disturbing. Then, it starts up again. Thinking that's weird, I turn around to the direction of the noise and realize it is a guy a few rows behind me on the other side of the plane. Some unfortunate young woman is sitting next to this guy. Deciding to make the best of a bad situation, she puts her headphones on and I can only guess cranks her music up to maximum volume.

I am watching this because I cannot imagine what it is like to have to sit right next to this noise. I'm trying to give Snorey Bob the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is one of those people who has a fear of flying so got shit-faced drunk before getting on the plane.

Fortunately for her, he wakes up after a while. Not so fortunately, he starts coughing - and coughs his spittle all over her and the tray table in front of her.

She doesn't smack him. In a display of the world's greatest manners, she pretends to not even notice!

When I fall asleep eventually, one of the first reasons I was grateful was because I was not sitting next to Snorey Bob.

Finally, the plane lands and we are sitting on the runway for half an hour for no reason I can fathom other than that this seems to be the thing with planes these days. Someone's phone starts ringing - and ringing - and ringing.  I assume, as does everyone around me, I think, that someone left their phone in their luggage in the overhead compartment. Still, we are sitting on the tarmac with no apparent intent to move the plane any time soon and the foghorn blaring sound is getting old. You would think whoever it belongs to would consider getting up, opening the luggage compartment and silencing their phone. I am surprised it doesn't go to voice mail or the caller doesn't give up, but no.

After over 10 minutes has passed, Miss Manners politely turns to Snorey Bob and says,

"I think your phone is ringing."

At which point, with a look of wonderment, he reaches into his pocket and learns that - he has a phone! And it is ringing! I can only assume it is his wife and she is not hanging up until he answers so that she can tell him that she is divorcing him because, seriously, what the fuck?

He probably assumes so, too, because he hangs it up, without answering. At which point it starts ringing again.

And THAT, my dear Samantha, is one of many reasons that people hate flying. It is nowhere near as cool as it sounds.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

More Advice on Life: Enjoy it While It Happens

"Advice # 4: Appreciate how great life really is."

Most of us, if we have 99 things go right will be focused on the one that went wrong. Maybe that is a good way to make sure we don't leave sponges inside patients while doing surgery (hey, I got 99 of 'em, what do you want, perfection?) Still, we could all do with a little more stopping and thinking how amazing life is instead of grumbling over the small stuff.

Today, I was really irritated because I had to fill out some very lengthy forms. I had to fill these out because my company received a $100,000 grant to develop a prototype of a game to teach statistics to children who are limited in English proficiency. I'm super excited about the project and the people I will be working with. It's a project I wanted to do for a long time and now I finally get to do it. Yet, I caught myself being all bent out of shape because I had to fill out a form. How dumb is that?

Someone made the brilliant comment the other day,

The human race would be a lot happier if people didn't forget so quickly all the good things that happen to them.

Too often, we overlook the many good things that are happening all around us because the waiter is too slow bringing our beer while we are having a drink with good friends watching the sun set over the bay.

Because I'm feeling extra blog-generous at the moment, here is a bonus advice:

"Advice # 5: When you go to bed at night, try to count 100 things in your life that are great and that make you grateful."

If you have trouble going to sleep at night, it's a good bet thinking about all of the good in your life will relax you and you will never get to 100 before you fall asleep. Don't tell me you don't have 100 because that means you ignored advice #4.

Good things don't have to be winning the lottery, having a book on the New York Times best seller list. It can be having enough food in your refrigerator, living in a place with good weather, having a nice comfortable bed with clean sheets on it, having a job to go to in the morning, someone who brings you coffee in bed, living in a time in history when women get to vote, we've gotten rid of slavery and invented the internet.

Right now, I'd go to bed but I'm on a plane headed to Washington.

I'm flying through the sky, using a computer that connects to the Internet through a signal beamed down to earth. How cool is that?

I spent all Saturday in Beverly Hills at a training session on 3D Game Development sponsored by Microsoft (thank you Microsoft, you don't suck nearly as much as I had originally believed). I'm going to be in Washington for three days learning about research done by small businesses around the country. Before that, though, I'm going to take a nap, hit the gym and then analyze the data to see how people who played our games last year improved their math skills.  I like data analysis so that is one of the things that make me grateful. See how easy that is?

And the flight attendant is bringing me coffee, for which I am immensely grateful!


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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Advice on Life #2 (and # 3)

Yesterday I gave you my Advice #1 on Life, Let Go of the Past

Many people can't let go of the past because they feel that there should be JUSTICE, DAMN IT! This almost always boils down to them wanting someone else to be different in some way.

"Advice # 2: Don't let your happiness be determined by other people."

They want their dad who was an alcoholic, their spouse who filed for divorce, the parent who left - to pay, to feel just as bad, it's only FAIR!

It reminds me of a line from Labyrinth, where the girl says

"That's not fair!"

and the Goblin King answers, 

"You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?" 
To take another line from Labyrinth, how she defeats the Goblin King at the end is to tell him,

"You have no power over me!"

As long as you continue to be concerned whether someone feels sorry for what they did, misses you, comes crawling back or whatever you think it would take, you're giving people from your past power over your present.

Am I suggesting that you just "let them get away with it"? After you've filed charges, filed for divorce, moved to Canada or whatever to dispose of the situation, I am suggesting you move on with the confidence that they already aren't getting away with it.  As my friend, Serge, pointed out,

Those people already have the worst punishment that there is - they have to wake up in the morning and be them.

There are some people in life who have treated me pretty badly, and if tomorrow morning, I woke up as one of them instead of me, you could hear me screaming all the way to New Jersey (which is not in Canada, FYI),

"NO-O-O-O !"

If you don't feel that way, then it's time for you to change your life. I have always strongly felt

"Advice # 3: Success is the best revenge."

It will probably grate on the people who openly or secretly wish you ill that you are having a great life. They'll wish they hadn't been such jerks to you back in the day so you would hang out with them now. Even if they don't think about you at all, you're still having a great life. There is no downside to this strategy.


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Advice #1 On Life

Like Alice, of Wonderland fame, I sometimes find it necessary to give myself good advice.

A few weeks ago, I attended a training session for community volunteers on the Fort Berthold Reservation. There was a lot of good advice administered that I should take to heart more, including this:

"Advice # 1: The past is in the past. That's why they call it that."

You cannot go back and have a happy childhood. Maybe someone hurt you, didn't sufficiently appreciate you, bullied you. Maybe YOU were the hurtful, unappreciative, bullying person. You had a boss that was a jerk, a teacher that treated you unfairly. You got drunk and did something stupid - for seven years straight!

Whatever it is, there are three possibilities.
  • You realized you did wrong and were man enough or woman enough to apologize and try to make it right, if possible. You bought a new birthday cake to replace the one you threw up on, told the kid from band camp that you really don't think he looks like a salamander.
  • The person who did you wrong tried honestly to make it right.
  •  You got the hell out and never saw the people in that hick town again, the person died before you could make it up to them or for any other reason nobody made it up to anyone.

Here's the important thing, whichever of those three things happen -and in most cases, it's the third one - MOVE ON.

When I had three small children, my husband died. Having a spouse die, especially when you have a young family, is just about the worst scenario that can be imagined.

A few months after Ron died, I met a woman at a conference and some how we got to talking about being widowed, about not wanting to change houses or jobs right away, the difficulty of adjusting. I asked her how long ago her husband had died and she said,

"Thirty years ago."

Whether twenty years ago you were widowed, abused, the prom queen or in a major motion picture, the past is in the past, you can't live there, no matter how grand or awful it was.

Take the lessons learned and you'll go into the future with more bravery and wisdom than you had in your past.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Judo for Everyone

Recently, a high school student asked high-ranking judo instructors, (including me), for advice on how to make judo more inclusive for students with special needs. Since I put some actual thought into my answer, I thought I would post it here.

I have taught judo to students with Down Syndrome,  mental retardation, epilepsy, visual impairment and severe learning disabilities.
Now I teach judo at a middle school. I’d say the key to inclusion begins with the instructor.

There are a few things I do:
  1. I have zero tolerance for any kind of meanness - teasing, bullying, and will call anyone on it in front of the class.
  2. I watch out for cliques. If someone doesn’t have a partner, I will assign partners. When we go out as a team, if anyone is sitting by him or herself, I have them go sit with a group of other kids. I have a good idea of those who are the most welcoming to other kids. 
  3. I publicly praise my students a lot, both individually and in groups when I see them helping or being kind to another student. I tell them a lot at the end of practice the many things I enjoy about teaching them, and that is one of those characteristics I often point out.
  4. I recognize students for academics as well as athletic ability. I have friends from universities who send me college t-shirts. I give them to students who bring their grades up - these may be students who brought their grades from Ds and Fs to C’s and D’s or students who have all A’s.
After this answer, I received a follow-up question,

When dealing with such a diverse group of students how do you address the needs of an individual while trying to advance the entire group? In other words, how do you address individual needs?

One way to make sure that you address the needs of an individual while advancing the entire group is by making productive use of assistant instructors. Generally, I have from 1-4 additional instructors in the class. While many clubs have one “O-sensei” who teaches while the other black belts stand around, I think that is silly. Any time I can get a friend to come as guest instructor, I take advantage of that, and that leaves me free to help any students having trouble. Also, you don’t need to be a black belt to help out. I have three teachers from the school who are green belts. They can help a student learn how to fall or do a shoulder throw - and they do. One silly idea we have in judo is that you need to be a black belt to teach. Look how many soccer players learn from high school kids or someone’s mom or dad.

I think it benefits adolescents to figure things out on their own and get some practice in. I’ll correct one person, then move on to the next, letting the first person practice on his/ her own.

Another soap box of mine is that I think we try to teach far too many skills in one lesson and don’t give enough practice time.

Yet another thing I do is teach a basic skill to the whole group, say, a shoulder throw, and then split off the more advanced students and have them do a combination with that throw or a counter to it, while the less advanced students keep working on perfecting the first skill.

One last strategy is to have the more advanced students help a newer one. So, if I have three advanced students, I will put one new student in their group and tell them all to help the new person. All of my students are pretty nice people so they are usually willing to do it, and since it is 3:1 , you will have two students working while one helps the newcomer, and they can switch off, so each is only teaching 1/3 of the time.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Answers to Personal Questions: Ask Me Anything

 While I'm not cool enough for a reddit ask me anything, I do get a lot of the same questions from people over and over. So, I thought I would knock them out here.

Why haven't you been blogging or on social media much lately?

It has been a while, hasn't it? I was sick for about two weeks. Not deathly ill but sick enough that I stayed in bed for a few days, and even when I got back to work, I was only working six or eight hours a day and sleeping the rest of the time. Once I wasn't in bed half the time, I had a backlog of actual work to do. Today is really the first day I have felt 100% my usual self.

What's the story behind Ronda selling her Honda?

Last year, Ronda gave the car to Julia for her 16th birthday. It turned out to need new tires, work on the electrical system, all of which we (good old Mom and Dad) paid to have done.  Because Julia drives 150 miles round trip every weekend to come home (she attends boarding school), it's very important to us that she have a reliable car. When at the last maintenance check the mechanic said it was going to need a new transmission eventually, we decided to give her our old car instead, which is five years old, and sell the Honda.

Why didn't you just keep the car?

We live in the city. It's hard enough to find parking for two cars, much less three. Dennis works in an office at home and I'm out of town half the time meeting with clients, funding agencies, schools that use our games or speaking at conferences. We don't need three cars.

Why not just give the money to charity?

Because Dennis spent $3,000 fixing the car, he thought it would be nice if he got it back if we sold the car. So we listed the car on ebay for $3,000. Julia is 17 years old and in high school. It's her car. The bidding is pretty high for the car now and I intend to strongly encourage her to give some of the money to charity but it has to be her decision. Any money she keeps is going to a) Soccer camps and b) saving for college tuition.

Why didn't Ronda's sister clean out the car?

I seriously wonder what kind of people ask this question. What were they like as teenagers? I've never known any teenager to clean up anything voluntarily.

When we got the car, I took a bunch of stuff out of it - gloves from Ronda's first pro fight, boxing gloves, wrestling shoes and God knows what else, because moms clean stuff. It's part of the job description. There was SO much stuff in there that I pretty much just said, "Screw it!" after I had cleared out most of the seats and the trunk, so Julia could bring her laundry home from school and fit her soccer stuff in it.  I missed some stuff under the seats, in the glove compartment and in whatever you call that compartment between the seats. So, sue me. Suzy Homemaker, I am not.

Are you teaching judo at all over the summer?

Not really. I'm catching up at work while Gompers Middle School is out for the summer. I know the students would like to have judo and I'd like to have the time to teach, but I just don't. I will be in Louisiana, June 19, teaching a seminar before the freestyle judo nationals, but other than that, I'm doubling down on game development until school starts back up again in August.

Do you ever stop working?

Actually, I try to take off 1 day a week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday. It's crowded in Santa Monica on the weekend, so I'd just as soon work. On the other hand, everything from Disneyland to the Aquarium of the Pacific to traffic to San Diego is less crowded in the middle of the week.

Why don't you blog more about judo?

See my next post (-: