Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Most Useful Life Lessons I Learned

There were many reasons I admired my grandmother. She was born on a little island in the Caribbean in 1900 and died at 99, having lived in three countries, through two world wars and the invention of everything from the airplane to blow dryers to the internet. What I always aspired to most was her level of unflappability. 



One of my lovely children sent this text today.

How to be a grown up at work - replace fuck you with ok, great
To which a second lovely child replied

I use my “fuck you -> ok, great” replace-a-lator 5000 a lot. Mom’s has always been a bit faulty and even more so in old age

Actually, while it may be that I have very little tendency to hold back if I feel inclined to tell you to go fuck yourself, that inclination has come less and less the older I get.

There have been a lot of milestone events in the past few years - my second daughter getting married, my youngest daughter graduating from high school, my next-youngest daughter appearing in movies and TV shows, a book authored by two daughters winning many awards.

My company, 7 Generation Games, survived its third year in business, which is quite an accomplishment for a start-up. We released our third commercial game and two more demos for upcoming games.

I don't want to make this sound too much like those Christmas letters where they brag about Johnny's discovering a cure for cancer while Janey wrote a poem that won an Oscar for best screen play. "Even those are normally for actual screen plays that are made into movies they made an exception for Janey because of her amazing talent." Oh, and here is a picture of our family on our summer vacation to the moon.


My point is that a lot of good stuff has happened that has caused me to stop and reflect, because, in my life, a lot of bad stuff has happened as well. If you're really interested in the bad stuff, you can listen to our first two podcast episodes, or you can just take my word for it

I'm getting to that age where more and more people I know have died - all of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers - the majority of the 'older generation' is gone now. I've also seen many people die far too young, of heart attacks, accidents, cancer and a few from suicide or murder.

I've seen a lot of people I care a lot about experience great hardships, everything from losing a child to losing a spouse to losing their ability to walk, hear, see or speak. There has been plenty of failure in my circle of friends and family over the years - divorce, bankruptcy, business failures, dropping out of school, losing matches or missing out on teams.

As I get older, I'm starting to dimly perceive the roots of Nanny's composure. When you get old enough to have seen a lot of lives played out and summed up, I think you learn a few things.

  1. The most certain fact about life is that it goes on. Whether you totaled your car last night or won the Nobel prize, in the morning you still need to get out of bed, brush your teeth, eat. No matter how great or rotten things are, life has a tendency to regress toward the mean. (Random fact: Did you know that the phrase "This too, shall pass" is not found anywhere in the Bible? Regardless, it is still fundamentally true.)
  2. Life goes on - until it doesn't. You never know. So, if you want to do something, whether it is visit a good friend, get a Ph.D., start a company, earn a black belt or tell your family you love them, don't put it off too long. Prepare for tomorrow, but not so much that you forget to live today.
  3. People have much more control over life than they think they do. I've been so blessed to have good friends around me my whole life and I have seen people overcome incredible challenges. Just don't give up and it's amazing what you can accomplish. You can be happy and have a good life in a million different permutations. It is really NOT true that you will never be happy unless Bob the Builder from shop class notices you and sweeps you off your feet. Nope. Not true. You can be just as happy being Mrs. Thomas the Tank Engine.
  4. People have much less control over life than they think they do. This might seem a logical contradiction to the previous lesson, but it isn't. Sometimes, things just happen. A tree falls on your house. Someone you love drops dead. The company where you have worked for 20 years goes out of business. You run into an old friend who tells you about an opening for the perfect job for you.
  5. In short, you have much less control over what happens to you and much more control over how you respond to it. Or, as gamblers say, what matters isn't the cards you're dealt but how you play them.
I think if you take these five lessons to heart, you, too, will be less flappable.
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Saturday, June 11, 2016

What are you people thinking? It's inconceivable


 This is the meaning of the word inconceivable (no matter how much you were steered wrong by the use of it in the Princess Bride) … when you cannot even begin to imagine something. 

There are times when, no matter how hard I try, I cannot imagine what is going through a person’s mind when they make a decision.

Take the recent case of the judge who gave 6 months in jail - of which he will probably only serve 90 days  - to a rich, white kid from Stanford who raped an unconscious woman.

This is not one of those he said- she said cases. There was DNA evidence. There were two eyewitnesses. He was caught red-handed (or red-penised) at the scene of the crime. The victim pressed charges and read in court a tragic description of how she had been raped at how the rape had affected her life. The prosecutor asked for a 6-year sentence.

Then, the judge, someone apparently intelligent and schooled in the law, comes to the conclusion, 

Oh, that wasn’t so bad. He’s only raped one unconscious person, as far as I know, and he swims fast, so let’s not give him any more than 90 days in jail.




To me, it makes absolutely no sense. Someone added up 2 + 2 and got grapefruit.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Signs You're Hanging Out With A Sociopath

Since I'm still trying to convince Maria and my husband to have the next More than Ordinary podcast focus on relationships, I decided to write about it here until they come to see the error of their ways and go along with me.

LESS THAN ORDINARY

First,  let's talk about less than ordinary relationships  These traits don't seem to change very often so I would be for requiring certain people have
Warning: I'm the person your parents warned you about

tattooed in a conspicuous place.

Since that has not happened, let me give you Mama AnnMaria's red flags that you might be hanging out with a dirt bag

Fake honesty

For example, I worked with a guy who was having problems in his marriage. In explaining what happened he said
I made a mistake. I was having an affair with this other woman. My wife found pictures on my phone and saw the charge for the hotel on the credit card. When she confronted me about it, I was honest with her
Okay, what is it with you people charging hotels? This is far from the first person I have heard of doing this. If you have to be bumping ugliest with some stranger, can't you and McCheatypants between the two of you come up with the cash to cover four hours at the Sleazy Slime Motel?

Anyway, what I told my co-worker, Bob Loosedick , was
What the hell, that's not being honest. She caught you dead to rights with nasty pictures and evidence from your MasterCard. Saying, "Yes, that is my phone that you took out of my pants pocket" isn't being honest, or not denying it and saying, "No, I'm not cheating, I'm studying to be a gynecologist."

You weren't honest. You were CAUGHT. There's a difference.

It's the same thing with these stupid women dating guys in prison who say,
He's an honest guy. He doesn't deny that he beat the old lady with a lead pipe to steal her Yorkshire Terrier to sell it for body parts to buy crack.
Honest would be not be stealing in the first place. Similarly, if after denying you committed a crime, then getting convicted with DNA, security camera, eye witness and dog bite scars as evidence, admitting you did it when going up for parole isn't honesty, it's strategy.

Yorkshire Terrier named Bob

Fake Remorse

Ogden Nash said that he'd

Rather have a rude word from someone who had done me no harm
Than a graceful letter from the King of England saying he's sorry he broke my arm

I've more than once had words with someone who thought their being sorry about some behavior should excuse it. You know when the time to be sorry about doing something that would hurt me is?  Before you do it. And then don't fucking do it.

Then, they whine about it.
How can you not forgive me? I feel so BAD about running over your Yorkshire Terrier and getting you fired because I lied to your boss about you being the head of an international sex slave dog trafficking ring.

Ok, let me get this straight. YOU did something rotten and I should be okay with it now because YOU feel bad. If the biggest concern in my life was your feelings that would make sense but excuse me instead if I am concerned about my veterinarian bills and finding a new job before I get evicted. Also, people give me dirty looks now at the dog park.

Tell me again just how you're feeling bad is supposed to be an improvement in MY situation that you caused?

Fake Appreciation

Watch out for people when your relationship is 99% one way.

If there is ever anything I could do for you ...  I hear that a lot.

Thank you so much for flying to Antartica and teaching judo to penguins for me.


Writing this, I thought of a couple of friends at whose request I have given thousands of dollars to charities and non-profit organizations they support over the years. In that same period of time, we have run two Kickstarter campaigns that they have not supported in ANY way - not backed us for $5, tweeted out a link, posted on Facebook, emailed to a friend, nothing. They've never bought a single one of our games, never donated one to a school. The cheapest game is $4.99 so it isn't as if it is a hardship on them. How hard is it to email a friend who is a teacher or a parent and say, "Check this out".  They aren't bad people, but they are kind of bad friends. They are just so caught up in their own 'crusade' that they never think of anyone else. However, thinking about this, I'm going to be giving that money to different causes next year. There are lots of really good charities out there. *

The people you really have to watch out for, though, are the sneaky ones that try to PRETEND that you are doing each other favors.

 "Here, I brought you back this postcard from my trip to Nebraska. I came over here personally to give it to you and talk to you about investing $9,000,000 in my chain of Marijuana Dispensary and Pasta Restaurants called Pot O' Spaghetti. Because we're such friends and all, that's why I bought you the glossy postcard even though it's 3 cents more expensive. Also, here is a piece of string I had in my pocket that you can use to hang the postcard up over your desk."

* P.S.  Random weirdness. There will be people who say to me, "I can't believe that you'd be so petty to quit supporting a charity because your friends never bought a $5 game from your stupid company."  I notice this happens to people (not just me) all the time - they can give thousands of dollars or countless hours to a charity and end up with people mad at them because they didn't give more or didn't give it for more years.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Training to beat the world

Let’s assume you are over 15 or so. I just don’t believe someone at twelve or thirteen should be training to beat the world. Whether or not a person can win isn’t the issue with me. It is simply a moral issue that I don’t believe people that young should have that kind of pressure.

Quick fixes: Are you as in condition as you can possibly be? Most American judo athletes are not.  

1.    Get in better shape. Run! I hear the same refrain often, “But I run four miles a day on the cross-trainer”. “I do aerobics class three hours a day.” Honestly! You are doing the same workout as the stockbroker who wants to work off the calories from his martinis after work. I joined my college varsity track team. That was my running workout for judo. I set school records in the 1500, two-mile, three-mile and two-mile relay. (Don’t be impressed. My school was noted for academics, not sports. I was the “fastest of the smart people.”) If you are on a track team and running in races, you are pushed in a way that you are not jogging on the running trail. After college, I entered 10k races. I ran with people who were training for 10K, marathons or triathlons.  Other options are to have a friend come to the track with you and time your splits and your total time. Keep a record of your mileage and times and try to beat those each week.

2.    Lift! This is the same as above. Do more. Get stronger. It really is that simple. You don’t have to put together your own weight-training plan. I know people who pay hundreds of dollars a month for a weight-trainer. Some elite athletes work with volunteer weight trainers. Still others design their own training program. The specifics aren’t nearly as important as the fact that you are moving upward. Of course you will have cycles where you are easing up on the weights the few days before a major tournament. You will probably alternate between days when you do a lot of reps and others where you push for the maximum. However, if you are doing the same weight training program today that you were two years ago, I think you have a problem.





Other things being equal, if you are in better condition and physically stronger than your opponent, you will win. Since this is an area you have so much control over, it makes no sense to not do whatever you can.

Now to the judo part…. Comfortable and easy are two words that do not go with world champion.

3.    Your goal at judo should be to train harder than anyone else on the mat.
Be the first one there and the last one to leave. Don’t spend half an hour stretching and fifteen minutes doing conditioning exercises. Get there early and stretch. You already had a conditioning practice. Go every round. Try to get people who are bigger and stronger than you who you can go all out against.

4.    Guard against becoming a bully. If you can throw around everyone your size, then you need to vary your workouts so that you are not just drilling people weaker than you into the mat. That may mean working out with people bigger than you, but you want to be within reason. I am being a bit of a hypocrite here because several times, I entered tournaments in the 48 kg and Open divisions. I won both divisions every time, but I do believe that it was stupid moves like that which caused all of the injuries I had in my career. I fought through those injuries and won anyway. However, it is very possible that I would have had a longer career and won more if I had used better judgment. I would definitely be in better shape now.

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This is my day job - making games that make you smarter



You can get all three games for under $20. They run on Mac and Windows. You'll learn and have fun.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Wrong Turns on the Road to the Top of the World

I came across a file with three blog posts I had written years ago and never published. I must have jotted it down in when I was stuck in an airport back before they had Internet everywhere, and forgotten about it.

Here is the first one.

NOT THAT YOU ASKED ME: It’s a long road to the top of the world and most of you are making wrong turns

I have read a lot of the advice about winning at judo lately, and I find that much of it does not agree with my own experience. Below are my recommendations for the road to the top of the world.

1.    Under age 10: Have fun! Learn stuff! If you do start judo at this age, it will help you later on if you get a solid technical base and someone has an eye out to bad habits that will be hard to break and cause problems later. For example, being in the referee’s position from wrestling may not matter at this age, but at 17 it will get you a broken arm – and it will be a hard habit to break if you have been doing it seven years.



2.    From 10-13: By this age, you need to start attending judo practice three or four times a week. Enter every tournament in your local area. If you can beat everyone in your age group, enter two age groups. Do not be one of those people who avoid a person who can beat them. In fact, stalk people who can beat you.  Follow this advice now and for the rest of your competitive life. What I mean by that is, try to fight those people who can beat you at every opportunity. If they are a year older, when they go up into the next age group, be sure you enter both age groups every tournament. Losing means you have a weakness and you need to find it and fix it.

3.    Age 14-17:
Make a commitment. Start doing judo at least five days a week, preferably more. Run every day. Start lifting weights. When you are young, try to go to a program for young athletes. A maximum weight-training program probably isn’t a good idea for most 14-year-olds.

4.    Age 17-20: 
By the time you’re 17, you should be working out at least twice a day, every day. Some days you can do conditioning and judo, some days will be two judo practices or two conditioning practices. In my opinion, anyone who doesn’t work out at least twice a day is not serious. In the last few decades, there has not been an international medalist from this country that I, and people like me, did not know their name by the time they were 19 years old. This doesn’t mean that they won the U.S. Open at 19 (although I did). It does mean that by 19, and usually years before, there was a buzz going around – “Watch this Pedro kid.” “There’s this little girl named Liliko out on the east coast, coached by her dad, have you seen her?” You should be training hard enough that you stand out from  the crowd.

5.    Age 21-30:
If you really want to win, the first priority every day of your life is getting your workouts in and making them harder. Here is where a lot of people fall down. They are training every day, sometimes twice a day, but they are not winning.

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My day job is making games that make you more than ordinary. Check out Forgotten Trail and see what I mean.


 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Four daughters, a dolphin suit and a caged weasel


I was listening to the Moth podcast today - recommended by my daughter, Jennifer and well worth the time, by the way - and a man was telling a story about rowing across the English Channel in a bathtub.

He even wrote a book about it called All at Sea: One Man, one bathtub, one really bad idea.

Listening to it, I had a very good idea. He made the point that you could do something really hard like climb Mount Everest or circumnavigate and the British public will say,

"Pssh! That's not that hard"

(The above is how I imagine British people talk.) However, he says, climb Mount Everest in a dolphin suit or walk around the globe carrying a caged weasel and people will say,

"Woo-hoo. Amazing! Get that man a medal!"

(I may have paraphrased about the weasel, but you get the idea.)

I've been trying to get more attention for 7 Generation Games, particularly our new game, Forgotten Trail, which is really good and going to be even more awesomely good because it is online and we can update it easily every month.

So, here, I thought, is an opportunity. Find something difficult that people do, like kayak the length of the Potomac or hike the Appalachian trail and then do it with all four daughters, while one of them is wearing a dolphin suit and carrying a caged weasel. That should attract attention! We could trade off on carrying the weasel.

Actually, this may be a ferret


Now, I only need three things:

  1. An activity to do. It can't involve too much running - no 100 mile races or anything like that, because I had one knee replaced and just came back from seeing the orthopedist about the other. Also, I HATE cold weather so tobogganing and other ice related things are out. We could walk every trail in the Santa Monica mountains or swim a mile in every pool in the United States - the weasel will have to be on the pool deck. We could drive cross country and stop at the dumbest tourist attraction in every state - world's largest statue of a buffalo, Corn Palace and largest ball of twine, I'm looking at YOU!
  2. A dolphin suit.
  3. A caged weasel.
Oh yeah, I also need to get the daughters on board and engage a camera crew.

I left messages with two of the daughters:

Hey, I have an idea that involves all four of you guys, a dolphin suit and a ferret. Call me back!

Neither of them called me back, ungrateful little bitches!

The third one answered her phone and said (I am not making this up)

I'll call you when I get inside, Mom. The Uber driver is just dropping me at my house. I just got back from having the cat shaved.

This revealed two things to me:

  1. Uber will  pick you up from just about anywhere, and
  2. Said daughter already possesses an animal carrier and experience carrying it around with a live furry creature inside.
This is not the first time she has had the cat shaved. Last time, her youngest sister, on seeing a cat with a Mohawk on its head and pretty much bald everywhere else asked,

What the hell did that cat ever do to you?

Her sister replied,

She questioned my authority.

Now I know that readers of this blog have a wide range of experiences and creativity, so it would be greatly appreciated if any of you could provide me with:
  • A recommended activity for setting a record, doable by people with bad knees and an aversion to cold. 
  • A dolphin suit
  • A weasel or possibly ferret
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 OR ...

You could just buy Forgotten Trail. It's only $4.99. 



Play it. It's more than an ordinary game.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

More than Ordinary

What's your podcast about?

That's a question we've gotten from everyone from family members to friends in the entertainment industry since Maria and I have been locked into my office for the past week recording our first nine episodes.

It's about self-improvement without all of the new age-y bullshit.

The podcast is about being more than ordinary in parenting, education, sports, careers and life in general.

We start out talking about our personal lives so that you know a little bit more about why we might have some insight into being more than ordinary.

As Maria commented in the first podcast, people often think they know us or our family because they read something on the Internet, followed us on twitter, or read a blog post or two.

 


There are a lot of our history and thoughts we keep to ourselves, but, since we think that it is reasonable for someone to ask,

What makes YOU qualified to talk about success, overcoming adversity, standing up for yourself, fighting stereotypes, setting goals, perseverance or any of these other topics? Why should I spend 15 minutes of my time listening to you guys? What experience do you bring to the table that I haven't heard a thousand times?

We'll answer that and a lot more - don't worry, we're not going to get all reality TV show over-sharing on you. I think you may find though, that, as the drunk girls always say, "You don't know me. "

(And no, I'm not drunk as I write this. That picture was from yesterday. I have not been drinking non-stop since then. Honest. )

Maria and I are big believers in taking risks, in giving up what you want now for what you want most. We're also realists.

It sounds great to say,

Follow your bliss! 

You know what else sounds great to say? "My bills are paid."

Also, "My house is clean." And, "Sure, we have enough money to go on vacation in Italy."

 So ... that's another podcast topic, things that sound good to say but don't go far enough.

If you'd like to be informed when our podcast is up, how to subscribe and other podcast-y things, email info@7generationgames.com

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Another way to be more than ordinary - buy our games!


Have fun while learning social studies, math and increasing your vocabulary. If you're already amazing, share some of your mound of riches by donating a game to a child or school.