Saturday, January 30, 2016

Swain/Dollamur is Our Fairy Godmother

Today was unbelievable. I cannot say thank you enough to Mike Swain and Dollamur .

We have some great kids at Gompers Middle School and there are some great staff members at Woodcraft Rangers who provide us a lot of support, but until today, we did not have the greatest mats. In fact, they looked like this

We have a few tatami in the middle and some very, very old gymnastics mats around these that are supposed to be a "safety area". As you can see, though, we have kids who are just learning to fall practice their falling on the gymnastics mats and the matwork spills over onto those because we just don't have enough real mats.

Of course, when we do randori we have to keep to the center of the mats and we can only have 4 people practice at once because it's just not safe. I'm emphatic about that because that is what destroyed my knee when I was a teenager, getting it caught between the mats and then getting thrown.

Every 10 minutes or so, we have to get off the mats, push the mats back together, push the safety mats up around them, because, again, as you can see above, it all comes apart.

Sunday, I went to Riverside Youth Judo Club and a couple of very kind people in the judo community paid for us to take 8 of their used mats, which helped expand our usable mat area, and they loaded them into the car for me. I left thinking these must be the nicest people in the world and my week couldn't get any better.


Mike Swain and Dollamur heard about our program and donated a TRUCK LOAD OF MATS !!!

The super nice people from Orange County Judo Training Center rented a truck and brought the mats to us, along with a lot of muscle from their judo club to unload and lay these out.

You better believe that our kids were more than happy to help put the mats down. Many of them came early because they had heard we were getting new mats.

Now look at it !

Just because I want to say this again.   Here is our before picture.

And after

We still have more to do. As you can see, we haven't finished up putting up the mats on the walls for padding. The school plant manager is meeting with his supervisor from the district next week to get the blackboards taken off the walls and paint the room.

It's just becoming more amazing every day. A couple of the kids who came at the regular class time stopped at the door for a second wondering if they were in the wrong place.

All I can say is - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thank you to Riverside Youth Judo Club, to Orange County Judo Training Center and most of all


You guys made my year! I'm still smiling typing this.

And you know what else? We didn't have to stop practice and push the mats together even once.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Karma Doesn't Miss You

There is a funny sign going around on the Interwebz

Hey, Karma - I have a list of people you missed!

Actually, though, if you look a little deeper, you don't have to wait for karma to get those people. It's getting them every day. I was talking to my friend, Becky, yesterday and mentioned someone we knew that had always been a jerk to both of us, and I said,

She's already gotten what she deserves. Imagine if tomorrow morning, you woke up and you were her. Instead of me calling you up to talk or flying out to visit you, you had to hang out with her friends, and instead of your husband, you looked over on the other side of the bed and saw her husband.

At that, Becky made a face that looked something like this. (She doesn't normally look like that).

flesh-eating zombie

And a sound something like this:


Then she said,

Ew, ew, that's disgusting, why would you dislike me so much to even say that to me? Now I have that thought in my brain. Gross!

Eventually, people get found out. Every day, though, they have to wake up with the knowledge that they are them.

We're surrounded by examples of "daily karma". A few weeks ago, I was in a hurry to get to judo practice and when I got there, I looked in my bag and I didn't have my black belt. So, I fished around in the box of spare judo gis we have for new students, and the only belt I could find was a white one. It was kind of weird to wear a white belt, since I have been a black belt for something like 38 years. After a minute,  I started teaching class, and totally forgot about what color belt I was wearing, because I really AM a black belt. By the time class had been going for a minute, everyone else forgot about it, too.

People who aren't really a black belt/ world champion / Ph.D. or whatever they are falsely claiming, never have it that easy. They have to constantly TELL you that they are a black belt, etc. I've seen grown men tearing apart a locker room desperate to find a belt to PROVE they are a black belt. If they don't have their black belt, or their little group of followers they have convinced they have some credentials, they just kind of shrivel up.

It's not just martial arts. Have you ever seen some petty tyrant supervisor from work outside of the company or after he lost his job? The guy who was terrifying to the seven people in his department, outside of it is just some little old man trying unsuccessfully to get the attention of the clerk at 7-11.

Karma gets those people every day because they have to worry about being found out. They have to face deep down the reality that who they really are, what they have really accomplished is not at all what they are claiming. Even if no one else knows, they know.

Other people DO know. If you claim you are a statistician and an expert in SAS programming, the last people you want to hang out with our statisticians and SAS experts. So, you avoid like the plague people who are the real deal. This is another way karma gets you, because you probably like statistics, judo, psychology or whatever you are lying about, that's why you are pretending to be  good at it.

On the flip side, good people attract other good people to them. If you are a fraud, you might fool one or two people, but if you are a legitimately hard-working, good, honest person, that's what you attract to yourself.

Look around you and you'll see that the best people you know are surrounded by friends and families who love them, loyal co-workers and teammates. The worst people may have a beautiful wife - who is spending all of their money and will be gone the second the credit card is maxed out, or who is dumber than a box of rocks. They may have "friends", as long as they are paying the bills or pretending that their "friends" really were world champions, too.

As my friend, Serge, says,

Karma already got those people. Tomorrow morning, they'll have to wake up and be them.

Feel smarter after reading this blog? Want to be even smarter?
Check out 7 Generation Games. My day job.

Monday, January 18, 2016

You can never be around too many good people

Me, Juan and FlavioIt's been CRAZY busy here at 7 Generation Games. We had a grant proposal due this week AND the first testing of Aztech in an actual school. There is also a USDA proposal due in just about a month. So, the last thing in the world I had time to do was to take off for an entire day on Sunday to take students from a middle school where I volunteer as a judo coach to attend an afternoon judo seminar.
However, you can never be around too many good people. Flavio Canto, the Olympic and Panamerican medalist who was in town from Brazil teaching is one of the best people I know. He founded and runs a program in the poorest regions of Rio de Janeiro ,  providing education, housing and after-school programs for over a thousand students. I find it interesting that most of the media you can find on Flavio talks about his medals, his TV career and little about all of the good he does for a group most people care very little about helping.
The seminar was sponsored by the Orange County Judo Training Center. Again, their head instructor, Juan Montenegro was a successful judo competitor and now, coach. More impressive than that, though, to me, is what he did a year ago. 

Our judo club at Gompers was in the second floor of an old gym back then. We had one water fountain, down two flights of stairs (and honestly, pretty disgusting) for 20 kids to get a drink during judo practice. A teacher at the school had been buying water so the kids could have enough to drink during practices when it was 80 degrees outside and a lot hotter than that in the gym.  Juan stopped by with a check from his club to pay for water all year long.

Completely aside from the judo, given the opportunity to associate with people like that, we had to go.

Gompers judo kids at the clinic
 Our students had a great time and learned a lot. In between the two adult sessions, Juan and his partner-in-not-crime, Brian Dooley, encouraged me to speak to the group about the educational games our company makes and why I chose to go into math education and making games while other world champions continued their career in judo. There's actually more of a connection than you might think.

At the end of it all, to my great surprise, their club sponsored game licenses for an entire school. (I know just the school to get these, too. I'm meeting with them this week.)

Me, Juan and a giant check
There is a lesson here - you can never be around good people too often.

I have more to say about that, but since I just finished my part of the game that goes into the school tomorrow and for once am knocking off work before midnight, I'm going to write a post for my other blog on prevalence and incidence of low birthweight. (Don't judge me!)

Learn more about our games here .... amazing stuff is happening.

Sponsor a school or classroom this month and they will get FOUR games in the next school year, two that we have out now and two that will be completed in the next few months.

Or, just buy a game for yourself and I'll send you the link to our game in beta, Forgotten Trail, as an added bonus.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to make the world better without winning the lottery

So ... Powerball is up to $1.3 billion and just like every time the amount to be won gets into the hundreds of millions, there have been all kinds of articles asking people what would they do if they won the lottery.

Inevitably, people say things like;

First, I would give half to charity.


I'd give 25% to the church.


After I paid off all of my bills, I'd give 10% to the church.

I was curious about this, so I asked a priest whether the church really received millions of dollars from lottery winners. He just laughed and said, "No."

I actually bought a lottery ticket for the first time in my life tonight. I didn't even know how or where you get them. Apparently, you can get them pretty much anywhere except church.

Truly, my life wouldn't change drastically if I had a billion dollars. I don't want a bigger house, a flashier car, a private jet. Most of the places I want to visit, I've already been.

I realized that if people were really serious about giving to charity, they'd do it now and not wait until they had an extra billion dollars. So, I had just put some money in the bank. It wasn't a major amount - miscellaneous reimbursement checks. I decide to take one-third of that and donate it. I happened to randomly see this article on a Catholic charity in Chicago whose boiler had broken and they were working in the cold.  I absolutely loathe being cold and I think the things they are doing like after school tutoring and feeding the hungry are exactly what I want to support, so I donated it to them.

So, here is my idea .... everyone who claims they would give to charity if they won the lottery - which is probably all 50 million or so of you - should donate something to charity today. It doesn't have to be a lot. Maybe you can only afford $5 or $10. Let's say the average person could afford $20.

$20 x 50,000,000 = $1 BILLION DONATED TO CHARITY

Even if you don't win the lottery, with that much money going to good causes, we'd all be winners.

What I'd Do With a Billion Dollars

The main way more money would change my life is that I could spend a greater  proportion of my time working on making our educational games better and demonstrating our games for parents and teachers, rather than continually writing to granting agencies and investors asking for funding and writing reports on what we're doing with the funding.

If you want to help out, check out our games. You may have no money left to buy one since you just donated your extra cash to charity (you sweetheart, you) but you can still help out by telling your friends who are parents or teachers, sharing our Facebook page or downloading a free demo and trying the games out.

You don't have to stop sharing because Christmas is over.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

4 Things I Call Bullshit

1. The story that some hero / heroine is going to save the world from destruction. I know, it's fun to watch all Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Men in Black - you name it.

I'm pretty sure that the world is not going to be saved like that. It's going to be millions of people like Doctors Without Borders , teachers who take the time to help students after school and parents/ grandparents who sit down at lunch with children and talk to them.

2. Rich people paying taxes are being penalized for success. Most of the richest people in America - the Waltons, Kochs, Mars, Cargill, etc. INHERITED their money. That's right, the only success they had was at the fertilized egg level.  I pay a lot of taxes and it goes to things like roads, schools, life guards at the beach, the public library, social security, all of which benefit me and the country.

3. Martial arts instructors with fake credentials don't hurt anyone. This is bullshit on so many fronts. Anyone who wants to be a serious athlete only has a limited window to achieve success and holding them back for a year or two until they wise up to the fraud can prevent them from ever reaching their goals. Besides, lying is wrong. I shouldn't have to explain this to you.

4. That anyone is ever 100% responsible for their own success, or related, that the world is equal. I can lay claim to that more than most people - I worked full-time to pay my bills in college and graduate school, started a business after my husband died. Still, I received scholarships from high school all the way through my Ph.D. One of my hugest advantages was being born in a time and place when women had equal opportunity to get an education and have a career. Along the way, everyone from my mom to Frank Fullerton to my doctoral dissertation advisor helped me get to where I am.

There are actually more things but I have to get back to work.

This is what I do for a job, make computer games that teach stuff. Click here to buy one for under ten bucks!


I also wrote a book on matwork. If you like to pin, choke and arm bar people, it is totally your thing.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Eight Things My Mom Did Right

One thing we learn to do as we get older is forgive our parents for not being perfect.

I didn't have a perfect childhood - no one does.

Several times this year I have run across people who I knew 20, 30, even 40 years ago. We were living in the same town, attending the same school, working at the same place. Some how, my life diverged from theirs, for the very much better.

Part of the credit goes to good old mom. Listen up, parents, because almost all of these things are free, because God knows we didn't have much money.

  1. She taught me to read.  When I started kindergarten I had just turned five years old and was reading books when I was supposed to be coloring. Yes, I got into trouble for not following the rules my first day of kindergarten, a precursor to my academic career. I know you can read because you are reading this blog. If you can read, you can teach your child.
  2. She got me a library card. I still remember the excitement when I got my very own card. I was in kindergarten. Did you ever see that scene in Matilda where she is coming home from the library pulling a wagon piled with books? That was honest-to-God me by the time I was in fifth- or sixth-grade. 
  3. She took me swimming a lot. When we had a YMCA membership, we went there almost every day. She also took us to the lakes near our house, and in the winters, to the ocean by my grandparents' house in Florida. I swim pretty regularly to this day. I travel a lot and almost every hotel has a pool. Thanks to mom, I weigh the same as I did when I won the world championships 31 years ago.
  4. She got me into a better elementary school. My mom got us an inter-district transfer before there was such a thing. Actually, we went to Catholic elementary schools, which were free back then, and Mom talked the priest into allowing us to attend the best school in town instead of the school in our parish.
  5. She taught me to ice skate. I think it was actually more taking me to the rink, putting some used skates on me and telling me to have fun. In much of the Midwest, there are outdoor rinks that are free all year. I went skating tonight with two of my lovely daughters and two granddaughter (it was far from free in Santa Monica!) and it was something fun that we still share.
  6. She got me into a private high school on scholarship . She found out about the school, filled out all of the paper work and then she drove 10 miles out of her way to work every day so I could attend.
  7. She got a job at a top private university that offered free tuition for the children of employees. There were not many opportunities for women back then and I'm sure her job as a secretary bored her out of her mind many days, and it didn't pay much. It was up to me to get the SAT score to get accepted, but knowing that it would be free was a big incentive. Thanks to the free tuition, my scholarship and full-time minimum wage jobs paid my living expenses and I was able to graduate owing $900.  
  8. She taught me to cook. Even though my children have seldom witnessed it, the fact is that I can cook. Learning to cook is one of the best ways I know to understand equivalent fractions and conversion from different systems of measurement (like cups to pints). It also enabled me to save money when I was a broke graduate student by working at the co-op, getting fresh food cheap and making it myself. I just this minute ate some turkey soup I made from actual turkey and vegetables. It was delicious.

I get so tired of hearing people whine about things their parents didn't do. There are certainly parts of my childhood I wish were different.

Maybe we should all take a moment and reflect now and then on the things that went right.

Thanks, Mom.

P.S. Why didn't I talk about my mom signing me up for judo class? Because that, and some other things she did, are pretty specific to me, but I think these 8 or something similar could probably done by millions of mothers around the country.


Want to do something for YOUR mom? Click here to donate a classroom license to a school in her name, or just a license to a single child.

Don't have $$ but want to help your own child?

Check out a free game demo of Spirit Lake and Fish Lake here.
(After trying these out, you can buy the game for $10)