Friday, April 29, 2016

Erasing the stigma: Ronda lends another helping hand

Last night, I was asked to introduce my daughter, Ronda, at the Erasing the Stigma awards.  A lot of people think they know Ronda, but there are a lot of things about her that they don't have any idea about.

One of those is that she does a lot for charity and you never hear her bring it up. She's supported several organizations for years, like Woodcraft Rangers  - which provides after-school programs and Didi Hirsch, which provides mental health services , donating money, holding events to raise more money and attending their events, doing everything from teaching judo to kids to helping with programs at fundraisers.

Last night, when she was at the Didi Hirsch fundraiser, I was asked to say a few words about her.  Here is what I had to say:

Often, in interviews, Ronda has said that she takes inspiration from her mom.

 One of the advantages of getting old is that you may have the privilege to live long enough to take inspiration from your children, and today I wanted to talk about how Ronda inspires me.

It has been said that anyone who ever contemplates suicide should remember this

You will one day experience joy that matches this pain

Ronda embodies that statement. I have seen her fail on a world stage at a very young age - the youngest person in the 2004 Olympics, coming home empty-handed - and using that as motivation to win the junior world championships, taking the gold medal in a match that was an amazing 4 seconds.

Failure isn’t permanent.

Some days your dreams are crushed. Other days, your dreams come true.

She struggled with a speech disorder, her father’s death and bulimia. When she started to gain some fame, she used that to draw attention to eating disorders, running a clinic, “Don’t Throw Up, Throw Down” to raise money for Didi Hirsch.

 Some people told her that she should have called it something more proper and she refused, saying that is the reason people often don’t seek help, the reaction they get from society, “Ooh, that’s gross”

 I run a startup. It’s a long, exhausting road with a lot of rejections and failed first - and second and third - attempts. Whenever I get discouraged and ready to quit, I take inspiration from Ronda.

 Call it as you see it, accept that everyone has problems, has issues. Don’t be ashamed of yourself for not being perfect. Never give up - and one day your dreams will come true.

I love you, Ronda and I'm proud of you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm Visiting Tulsa and Giving out Armbars for Mothers Day

If your mom would like arm bars for an early Mother's Day present, tell her to come to Tulsa. Continuing in my slacker tradition of letting other people do my blog posts for me, here is the information on a clinic I will be doing on May 7th at the Tulsa Judo Club.

I almost NEVER do clinics. In fact, the criteria these days is pretty much that I have known you since I was 12 years old or the answer is, "No", because I am super busy getting out Forgotten Trail, doing a site visit in North Dakota, presenting result on how effective our games are in teaching math all around the country , hence the blog slacking.

It just turns out, though, that I HAVE known Martin Bregman since I was 12, so off to Tulsa I go. You can read all about it below.

If the print is too tiny or you use a screen reader for people with visual impairments (I'm looking at YOU, Tina), the link to a readable pdf is here.

Speaking of Forgotten Trail - it is on sale for a mere $5. 

 Buy it now! Be more than ordinary !

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Answers to Ronda Questions

I have been CRAZY busy with 7 Generation Games work the past few weeks - at the National Conference of Teachers of Mathematics in San Francisco , then, at the SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas where, among other things, I presented the factor analysis of the Fish Lake pretest as part of the post-conference tutorial and then on to Grand Forks, North Dakota where I talked about the importance of including teachers and students in developing educational games.

So ... not much blogging and a young woman writing a term paper asked me questions about Ronda. Since she is a judo black belt and used to compete against my little Julia years ago, of course I answered her. Since I have no time these days and am a fan of multi-tasking, I thought I'd make the less personal questions into today's blog post.

What was the reason for getting Ronda into judo?

She saw me teaching judo and wanted to try it. I was not excited about the idea because I thought people would expect too much because I was her mom. On the other hand, she had problems speaking (she was in speech therapy for years) and we had just moved to a new state, so I thought it would be a good way for her to meet other kids and make friends. You do judo with a partner, so even if she was too shy to talk or couldn't come up with the right words, at least she would be doing drills, randori with other kids and I figured eventually she would get to know kids and make friends, which is exactly what happened.
How did feel when she won the bronze medal in the Olympics?

I was happy, proud, sad and disappointed all at the same time. I was proud of her for winning a bronze medal. I knew if things had gone a little differently she could have won. The difference between first and third at that level is paper thin. I was really sad her father was not there to see it. He would have been so thrilled!

Did you feel that she was following in your footsteps when she was in judo?

Yes, and I tried as much as possible to ensure that she received instruction and coaching from people in addition to me so she developed her own style. In retrospect, maybe I did that too much because I think she probably devalues my knowledge somewhat because if I knew so much why did I send her away so often. That's okay, though. I know I did what I thought was best and I would rather have her underestimate me as a coach than as a mother.

What was your reaction when she made the announcement that she was going to be going into MMA?

I told her it was the stupidest fucking idea I had ever heard and that coming from her that said something because she had had some dumb ass ideas. She throws this in my face every time we have an argument. I never had any doubt she could win. My two concerns 
  1. That she would never make any money at it. Women's MMA had very few professional opportunities back then and the few that existed paid very little. Ronda is very intelligent and I was concerned she would waste the years she could be in college doing some sport that would never get her anything and she'd be putting off getting an education, starting a career or having a normal family life. I was wrong about the financial part.  I am still convinced, and I think it's obvious, that I was right she is very intelligent, multi-talented and had other career options than getting punched in the face.
  2. MMA and the entertainment industry in general can be a toxic environment. Look at the number of people who are in rehab, arrested, fail drug tests - they can't all have been raised wrong. I still think I'm right about this, although Ronda has navigated the hazards far better than most people.

Check out the games taking all my time! Buy one! Get smarter ! Give one to a school !

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Family texts

Do you ever have those ideas that you talk about forever but never seem to do anything about? Well, one of those I have had was making a book of our family group text. I am admittedly biased, but I think my family is hilarious.

Witness most recent post from me:

Emilia and Joy's grandson were playing in the pool.
Him: Ha ha, you can't shoot me because I am invisible.
Emilia: Actually, you're not.
(Shoots him with water pistol.)
Ronda: Yay! Our side of the family wins!

She only looks sweet and innocent
Here are some random ones over the last few years


Maria: We got a new puppy! We named him Edison. (picture of puppy)

Jennifer: Oh my God, that is the cutest dog, ever!

Ronda: (picture of Ronda’s dog, Mochi). Mochi says “Fuck you, Jennifer!”

Ronda: I miss home.
Me: We miss you, too. If you're gone much longer, I'm going to have Julia just start going around the house and randomly losing shit.

Text from Jenn: I went running three days in a row.
Text from me: Who are you and why do you have my daughter's phone?

Text from Julia: Mom, what time do you wanna come get me from Jourdan's house?
Text from Me:  I'm in Florida
Text from Julia: Um, yeah, well maybe I'll call Dad then.


I obviously did not put the best ones here because then why would you buy the book?
I am sure this book is going to be a best seller based on the fact that my family is "hilarifying" as Eva puts it.

So ... we were all at dinner tonight discussing it and Ronda and Maria thought we should actually have it illustrated with a combination of artwork by Eva (see her artwork and more texts in the video here) , Ronda, who is a very good artist, and maybe see if we can include some photos from the amazing Hans Gutknecht .

We are seriously thinking of doing this as a Kickstarter, with an ebook for $5 because we're all good with technology and a print book, for, I don't know, more than $5 .

It was suggested to me at dinner that perhaps this should be my part of raising money for the company to expedite software development and bolster our marketing efforts while someone less inclined to tell people who irritate me to fuck themselves should be in charge of meeting with potential investors.

FYI - the fucks will not be redacted from these texts, because, as Maria pointed out, it's not as if no one has ever heard us talk.

If we decide to do this then I have to do a sample "chapter" or so  with photos and do a whole Kickstarter campaign. That sounds like work so I'm wondering if there is enough interest. I kind of think I should do it just because we've been talking about it for years.

Tell me, what do you all think?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What the hell is going on at USA Judo & Why is No One Upset about it?

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. - Martin Luther King, Jr. 

If eight years from now, there is no one doing judo at the Olympic level in this country, we only have ourselves to blame.

Lynn Wooldridge-Thursby filed a complaint with the U.S. Olympic Committee regarding the mismanagement of funds and many other problems in the national governing body. The result was that USA Judo was put on probation.

Really given the findings, I should be astounded that people aren't up in arms and that no one has been fired. I'm not astounded, though, because, sadly, I have come to expect corruption and cronyism in international sports. The whole FIFA scandal didn't surprise me in the slightest.  The same is going on in judo but as long as people can get their slight piece of the pie or $1,000 here or there to go to a tournament or on some list as the toughest 11-year-old in America no one speaks up.

Lynn tells me, and I know it is true because I have been in her position many times, that she gets all kinds of calls and texts "off the record" from people saying they support her but when she says, "Well, then, SPEAK UP!" they crawl back over in a corner on their bellies like a reptile.

To summarize some of Lynn's posts
  • 8 years ago, the board transferred $2.3 million to be managed by a private fund. Last year, they returned less than $800,000 with no accounting for what happened to the other $1.5 million
  • The CEO of USA Judo charged $20,000 of personal expenses on the corporate credit card which he was allowed to repay over time
  • The CEO of USA Judo sold USA Judo inventory through his own personal corporation and kept the profits.

So, if you didn't know. Now you know. THIS is why I spend all of my time and money working with the Gompers Judo program  - because I know my efforts go to supporting fine young people making themselves into even better people.

There is a lot more and Lynn has posted links to all of the documentation of this.

Here are a couple of Lynn's posts on Facebook in their entirety

Who's hands are in the pockets of USA Judo? Who benefits from their relationship with our organization?
We know the CEO has benefited at the expense of the organization and taken funds rightfully belonging to USAJ.
We know funds have been spent or squandered unnecessary when athletes weren't being paid.
We know millions were transferred out of the control of USAJ into the hands of a small group of individuals and there is NO accounting for where or how those funds were spent. They returned a mere 770,000. to USAJ.
What you may not know is~
How much USAJ has paid family members of employees? (Including extended family)
How much was & is being paid to business partners of USAJ employees? 
(One example)
The North Miami training site received government grants of 200,000. during 2008-2009. This company was owned by Jose Rodriguez and Jhonny Prado.
How many sponsors listed on our website are actually paying money to be a sponsor and how many are not?
How much is paid to manage the coaching program with NONE of those funds coming back to USAJ? 
We have 850 - 1000 coaches. How much are the annual fees and clinics?
This same individual chairs the coaches education program, the promotion board and heads the committee selecting the Olympic coaching staff.
Obviously we don't have enough volunteers.
Why is all this happening when we have "conflict of interest" policies? Where is the Board? Aren't they supposed to oversee and safeguard our organization? Why are they looking the other way?


I wish I could say this is an April fools joke but I'm afraid the joke is on the members of USA judo, and it's not funny.
American Judo Fund (AJF)
This was a nonprofit organization that was set up by our board of directors in 2007 . It was a separate organization with no affiliation or responsibility to USAJ with the exception of some shared board members. I was told this was done in order to safe guard funds from lawsuits. These funds came from the USOC LA Olympic one time profit sharing gift and and the lifetime member - scholarship fund before being transferred in 2008.
The previous Board of Directors worked hard to safeguard these funds for the future of USAJ. They invested with the USOC investment pool.
Yearly earnings on investments ~
2004 - 225,273.00
2005 - 53,686.00
2006 - 296,960.00
2007 - 354,049.00
2008 - 28,604.00**
5yr total - 958,572.00
(See 2008 form 990)
In the beginning of 2007 the investment fund was valued at 2,480,801 and at the end of the year 2,567,532. (See 2007 form 990)
USAJ transferred 2,310,006.00 (yes, over 2 million dollars) out of its control into the AJF during 2008.**
In 2015, the AJF returned the balance of USAJ funds back into their control.
The amount returned was a mere 771,250.52.
What happened to USAJ's money while entrusted to the AJF? Why is there no accounting for where the over 1.5 million dollars was spent? And more importantly, how much of this nest egg is left now?
Our CEO, when he first started working for USAJ charged a lot of personal expenses to the USAJ credit card. Not a couple hundred but around 20,000.00. This was discovered and he was "allowed" to repay the funds while retaining his position.
Fast forward 8 years and he decides it's OK to sell USAJ inventory through his own personal corporation and reap the profits for himself. USAJ paid for the warehouse, staff and other associated overhead expenses. Do we know how much inventory he "helped himself to"?
The bigger questions remain.... 
Why is he still here? Why is someone running our NGB that puts his personal interests above that of the membership and athletes? Why is it OK for him to take the profit the NGB so desperately needs, while the NGB pays the bills for his little personal business enterprise? He has admitted this and more. 
This is WRONG. 
This brings up some other questions... 
What else has he done to enhance his personal revenue at the expense of the NGB? It stands to reason these are not isolated incidents.
What has the Board of Directors done to solve this problem? 
If you are misappropriating company funds for your own personal use, in any other situation, YOU ARE FIRED. You are not allowed to resign or hang around and cause more harm. The Board has had numerous opportunities to straighten this out, instead they look the other way or bury their heads in the sand.
Don't the athletes and membership deserve better? Isn't it your job and responsibility to ensure this doesn't take place? When unethical actions do take place and are admitted to, isn't it your responsibility to take immediate action?
Why is he still the CEO of USA Judo? Why are you allowing him to resign? The Board should STILL take action on this matter! Please terminate our current CEO and find us a respectable, honest and hard working CEO that has USA Judos best interest at heart.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thank God I Did Sports Now that I Run a Startup

I spent 14 years of my life competing in judo. For years, I trained two or three times a day, running in the morning, lifting weights during my lunch hour and judo in the evening. I used up all of my spare cash, vacation time, sick leave and a lot of money donated by Bruce Toups and Frank Fullerton (THANK YOU!!!)

Was it worth it? I mean, seriously, what good does it do me to have a dozen ways to do an arm bar and a couple of effective throws? I'm not as young as I was and I can't do the techniques as strong or fast as I once did.

Honestly, what difference does it make if I won some gold medals?

The answer is that it was absolutely worth it and it does have something to do with the medals.

I run a start-up, 7 Generation Games. We do good work, making games that teach math, social studies, English and Spanish.

Running a start-up is so much like training for international judo competition that it makes me smile just to think about it. Let me give you a few parallels.

  1. You have to work for a really long time before you see a pay off. I started in judo at age 12 and won my first senior national championships at 19, seven years of hard work later. 
  2. You are surrounded by people who tell you that it is a silly waste of time and you should do more of a sure thing. If you must do sports, swim or run track. At least you can get a college scholarship. Better yet, be an accountant. They always seem to have jobs.
  3. It gets easier and then harder. It's not a straight shot to the top.  Once winning at the national level gets easy, you are moving into international competition and everyone you fight is the best in their country. It's the same way with our company. We get better and better at making games. It gets easier to make new levels. At the same time, now we have more than ourselves to support, artists and developers, so we have to bring in a lot more money each week.
  4. You'll see people get funding who have far less accomplishments than you. Every team I made was based purely on who had won the most  tournaments or winning a trials. Any time there was a selection by a committee, it was someone other than me who was selected. It's been kind of the same with investor funding. We've received a number of federal grants, had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, completed an accelerator program and we are still here after three years while many of the companies who received ten times the investor funds we raised have closed their doors. 
  5. You find yourself in an unfair situation where your competition has more funding than you, maybe more skilled people helping them than you do and all you can do is just work harder.
I feel a lot of those same feelings from my competition days lately. We have one game that we have been working on for a year but we haven't been able to all work on it full time because we had commitments to meet on our existing games, data we had promised schools, etc. It's a constant race to get products out on the market and sales in before we run out of money. Once we get a new game out, it's the same race at a higher level (see #3).

Lately, when we are so close to getting our next game out, but we have work we need to do and bills we need to pay ... it's easy to get discouraged, want to give up and go back to a safe 9-5 job. That's when I smile and remember that 40 years ago, I decided to do judo instead of being an accountant and it's a little late to turn back now.

Check out our games Spirit Lake and Fish Lake here

Forgotten Trail is available for pre-sale in two weeks ...