Thursday, October 20, 2016

Seeing Further Down the Road: Why Your Parents Think Different From You

At the National Indian Education Association conference this month, I was presenting our research on 7 Generation Games with Bruce Gillette, who I met in 1990 when he was a student at Minot State University and I was a brand new assistant professor right out of graduate school. After 8 years in southern California, I had moved to North Dakota, bought a house in the country and started a new career. It was a whole lot of changes.

The conference was held in Reno, NV and the last time I was in Reno was also for a conference, on SAS statistical software in 1985. After 6 years of marriage, 5 years working in aerospace, 3 of those years in San Diego, I was getting divorced, moving to Riverside and going back to graduate school. After 14 years competing in judo, I'd just retired from competition, having won the world championships a few months earlier. It was a whole lot of changes.

Bruce is an addiction counselor, and he spends a lot of his time giving advice to young people. He made a really good point,

"Sometimes, you tell young people that their choices are going to cause them problems, but they won't listen to you. They don't have your experience. They don't always realize that, from where you are standing, you can see further down the road."

My other friend named Bruce, when I get down on myself about something I did stupid when I was young (it's a long list), will always cheer me up by reminding me,

And look how far you have come.

The point is that some things that loom large when you are young can be seen from the perspective of years as not nearly as big as you thought.

Yes, getting divorced was awful and fighting over custody was worse, but no one died, I went on to get married again (twice!), my daughter turned out to be a wonderful human being.

It was a huge shift from international competitor and industrial engineer to graduate student and researcher. There was a big cut in pay, a complete change in hours from a 9-5 job to classes and labs in the evenings and studying or working around those, plus having three children age five and under.

Moving to North Dakota living out in the country was a lot like Green Acres (everyone under 50 will have to click this link to find out what Green Acres was).

My point is, there were a whole lot of changes from point A to where we are now. There were many times when I thought,

"I can't leave this job/ man/ city / school/ club because .... "

and, yet, I did. Sometimes, I wasted time when I could have moved on to a better school, relationship, job, etc. because it seemed like it was SUCH A BIG DEAL to change. When I look back, though, many of those times, whether they were amazing or quite the opposite, were just a small part of my life. Whether it was getting a grant funded, a raise or winning a tournament, at the time I might have been furious, ecstatic or heartbroken - but a few years later, I could barely remember it and all the details that made such a difference at the time had completely slipped my mind.

So, the next time you and your children (or parents) cannot see eye to eye, think about whether maybe it is because one of you can see further down the road.

Speaking of which, you can actually walk down the pages of this map (virtually) if you play Forgotten Trail. Runs on Mac, Windows and Chromebook.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Ernie Smith: another judo legend

I have known Mr. Smith  over 40 years. At local tournaments, I would sometimes compete against his daughter, Sheryl.   When I was older, and coaching, I would often bring students to his tournaments. In between there, when I was competitor, one of his students, Belinda Binkley, was on the US team with me as a teammate. Years later, when my daughter, Ronda was competing, another of his students, Chuck Jefferson, was leading a camp she attended.

So, in short, I had known Mr. Smith as an outstanding coach. The fact that he's a fairly high level referee was to me not particularly relevant or interesting. I never really known him as a competitor.

 I knew he had trained in Japan and competed as a member of various military teams when he was in the Marines. There was never any question in my mind – or anyone else's – that he was an all-around outstanding judo player. He had been successful as a competitor, beyond successful as a coach and respected as a referee. I should also mention Delores Brody who was probably his first international gold medalist  – She was a little before my time and by the time I met her she was quite a successful professional working on her career.

Perhaps the most interesting insight into Mr. Smith's judo career, though, came in response to the question and answer segment of the event. Frank Sanchez Junior asked,

For those of you who trained in the US and were part of the military after the war, where did you find the racism to be worse, in the US or in Japan?

Now, if you aren't familiar with history of judo in this country, just let me summarize it by saying that there was a lot of discrimination against non-Asian players in America after the war. However, Mr. Smith answered,

I grew up in East Texas. For all of my life growing up, I was not allowed to eat your restaurant unless a black person owned. There were separate bathrooms, separate schools. If you rode on a bus and you were black, you had to ride in the back. Of my 21 years in the Marine Corps I spent 12 in Japan or Okinawa by choice. When I got to Japan, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I could eat anywhere, sit anywhere  – so, by comparison to what I had experienced growing up Japan was heaven.

I sat there and thought about that because a lot of the civil rights battles had happened before I was born or when I was a small child. During some of that time, my family was living overseas because my father was part of the military, so I never really experienced it firsthand. It was a revelation to me that someone I had always put on a pedestal had spent his early years being put down simply because of his race and managed to achieve so far more than anyone expected him.
 and other exciting news – – – my company just released our first app for  the iPad. Please download it and give us an amazing review. It's fun and you will learn history and math.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

History in person at judo legends event

I'll be honest – not only agreed to come to the judo legends event  because Hayward Nishioka  asked me to speak and I have known Hayward two thirds of my life.  Unlike a lot of people in judo who I have known much of my life and can't stand, Hayward is someone I truly respect and value the great contributions he has made to judo.

Tosh Seino was the first speaker.  I have always known that he was a great judo player. As you can see from the photo above, he's not a very big person and yet he was very successful in competition back in the days when weight divisions were optional.

What I didn't know is that he and his family had been in the Tule Lake  concentration camp. Even though, they were third generation Americans, like other Americans of Japanese descent they were forced to leave their homes and relocated to camps.

Tosh's  father was one of the "no no boys". If you don't know what that is, let me tell you – during World War II, Americans of Japanese descent were required to complete a loyalty questionnaire. The two questions to which Tosh's  father and others answered "no" were these:

Question number 27 asked if Nisei men were willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered and asked everyone else if they would be willing to serve in other ways, such as serving in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Question number 28 asked if individuals would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and forswear any form of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan.

 As if, being interned in a concentration camp as a child was not enough, after the war, the family moved back to Japan. Tosh  moved back to America  by himself when he was only 17 years old. He lived with the family that paid him $50 a month, plus his room and board, for chores. Fees for the judo club for $10 a month. When he change to a new family, he only received $40 a month and so he cleaned the dojo to pay his fees.

Think about this moment. We have one of the best judo players in the country who is mopping the floors to reimburse the dojo for training him. That is a level of humility we don't see anymore.

Being a judo champion is an admirable achievement. Even more admirable, is doing it after losing everything you own for no fault other than being the wrong race. Even more admirable is coming to a country where you barely know the language, because even though it's your country, you left when you were a small child and came back in your teens all on your own. Even more admirable than being a judo champion, is doing what many immigrants do, learning the language, working a series of menial jobs and nonetheless managing to get education and  become a respected member of the community.

The judo legends event was a great idea. It was an opportunity to hear people speak who are living history. It was a reminder that there are legends living among us  and that we are very fortunate to know them.

 PS. I'll do more blogs on others featured at this event but I wanted each person to be recognized separately because they all are really amazing.

 and other exciting news – – – my company just released our first app for  the iPad. Please download it and give us an amazing review. It's fun and you will learn history and math.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Too bad you can't come to the judo legends dinner – but here's kind of my talk

(The judo legends event is sold out, but if you had a mad desire to know what was going on there, here is the outline of my talk which Hayward Nishioka  only asked me to send him 4,182 times before now.)

These days my time available for judo is very limited. I coach a wonderful group of young people at Gompers Middle School in South Los Angeles and that is all the time I can spare away from running a company that just got voted one of the top 50 startups in the US. However, there are some people that you can't say "no" to and Hayward is one of them.

Gompers Judo

So he called me and asked,

"What are you doing on October 2?"

 I responded I guess whatever he's about to tell me. As you probably know, I am America's oldest living world judo champion. I don't want to talk about that today, though, except to say that if you personally ever have the opportunity to stand on the podium and be the undisputed best on the planet at something you should do it because it is unimaginably cool. It is even better than sex, but you have sex a lot more times so that's got something to recommend, too.

 Now that I'm old and able to reflect back on life and have 4 wonderful children all grown to adulthood I've given some thought to whether it was all worth it. What did I get out of 46 years and counting in judo? 46 years! That's pretty incredible. Amazing I'm not dead.

There have been times when I wondered if it was a waste of time. I have a doctorate, published scientific articles, founded companies and there are the 4 aforementioned children. One might think that judo has been a distraction from what ought to be bigger priorities – certainly our investors sometimes think so and ask me what I'm doing at a judo clinic in Wyoming or Louisiana instead of making money for them. Certainly my professors when I was in college wondered why the heck I was gone every weekend at a judo tournament and sometimes even missed class for something as frivolous – to them – as the collegiate national judo championships.

(Hint: You can calm our investors by buying or donating our games here.)

 I'm going to ignore Hayward's advice to pick one idea  and just ramble on the way I think best. It's what we do in our podcast every week  and it seems to work for thousands of people. My point – and I do have one – is what exactly did I get out of almost 1/2 century in this sport?

 I started judo because I was a short, fat little girl. My brothers' nickname for me was 'Stumpy', because I was built like a little tree stump. My mother told me I could not spend my entire life sitting in my room eating and reading. Did I mention I also had super thick glasses? So one  year, she managed to get together the money for a family membership to the YMCA. She drove me there push me out of the car and said "go join something".

Then she drove away.

 You may not remember before title IX. Back then it was perfectly legal to say, "we don't allow girls in this sport or club". My choices were limited. I could run track, which if you're a short fat little girl is not a great option. I could've joined the swim team, but that was expensive and besides, if you're a fat girl, you don't really want to put on swimsuit. Judo was free if you had a Y membership. They also allowed girls. Isn't that weird? That they "allowed" girls. The instructor had a sister who had wanted to do judo and so he allowed other girls so she would have someone to train with. By the time I came along, she was a black belt. So, I was probably one of the few women in this country who was taught by female black belt early on.

 If I told you the name of any of my early instructors you wouldn't know a one. That's a pretty important point. My mother had very little extra money. I took judo for several months before I had a judo uniform. I remember that it costs $12 and there were 3 of us, me, my brother and my sister who all took judo. My mom insisted that we stick at it a few months before she put in the money to buy each of us a uniform to make sure we were serious because that was a lot of money to her. I got my first uniform shortly before my first tournament. I walked there, fought, won and walked home. I was 12. After I had been in judo a year, we could not afford another Y membership. That's when the instructor stepped in and said the YMCA would offer me a membership if I would be an assistant instructor – I was 13 years old. He knew that my mother would never accept charity.

 For the next several years, I took judo lessons at the Y. I absolutely loved judo from the very beginning. My brother did, too. We had a garage behind our house, too run down with boards falling down to park a car safely in. There was a lot of random stuff thrown in there including an old mattress. My brother and I spent a lot of time throwing each other on that mattress in the garage. We both made brown belt and then my brother discovered girls and decided they were a lot more interesting than judo.

 People always laugh when I say that if it wasn't for judo I would be in prison right now but it is the God's truth. When many of my friends were doing drugs or knocking over liquor stores, I was at judo practice. It was not that I was a better person, I was just in the right place at the right time.

 Because of judo, I met people like my first instructor – his name was Bill Shelton, in case you are wondering, a guy who had gone off to Japan in the Air Force, got his black belt, and come back to a small town where he had grown up to teach judo. I know at least 2 other judo clubs in this country, one in Missouri and one in Illinois, run by people that he taught. 3 of the people from the club had children who were nationally ranked players.

 Because of judo, I met people like Bruce Toups who not only funded a lot of my trips when I was young – because my mom could have sent me to Europe about as easily as she could send me to the moon – but who was also a really important mentor to me after I retired from competition and started one business after another. I met people like Frank Fullerton who has always stood out in my mind is the standard of integrity I wanted to meet. With Bruce, he funded a lot of my travel overseas just because he wanted to see that American flag go up when they gave out the gold medals. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I was flying back from Athens and happened to be on the same plane as Frank who turned to me and said "I'm glad you turned out to be worth all the trouble." 

When I think back on it, yes, it was worth it. Perhaps, not for the reasons that you might think don't get me wrong – winning is awesome – I highly recommend it. 

When I add it all up, what I gained from judo was from the good people that I met. Not all of them are good – some of them were pretty damn awful – but the good ones made up for them. Most of all, were the good ones who were around when I was young and helpless and needed them. Now that I've been somewhat successful and my lovely daughter Ronda has been successful as well, there are a lot of people who want to be my new best friend. The people I will never ever forget are those who when I was 13 or 14 years old and had nothing - and I was not a promising or rewarding child, believe me – who nonetheless provided me with instruction, guidance, discipline and role models and changed the trajectory of my entire life. I will never forget them. Just in case you wonder what I was doing at a  kata camp this summer – it was because Eiko Shepard was one of those people.

 That's the reason that I focus the limited time I have for judo working with young people in South Los Angeles. It's great to win a world championships but  even greater to change somebody's life.

 And that's all I know about judo.

 PS – I had my thumb replaced a few weeks ago, which is my 2nd joint replacement. A few more and I will rival the tin man. I already set off security every time I go through an airport. Anyway, I had to write this whole thing using voice to text software. So please excuse any typos. I head out to South Dakota tomorrow but I will be back by Wednesday and show up wherever the hell this thing is this weekend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

No pain, no gain? Not exactly

The first time I won the national championships my motivation was to prove everybody wrong that thought I couldn't do it. The last time I won the national championships, it was for practice.

Even though I competed for 14 years, I can't remember a day that I wasn't really happy to be on the mat. We had some hard practices – don't get me wrong. In fact, there was some days that I just lay on the mat after practice at Tenri  Dojo and I swear if the building had caught fire, I was so tired I would have just laid there and burned up with it. Those were great days!

I never understood people who talked about practice as if it was a chore. It was the best part of my day! I dreaded driving in rush hour traffic for 2 hours to get to East Los Angeles. Sometimes I felt as if I really needed to spend more time at work or with my daughter.  However, the actual physical act of judo itself I loved. There was never a time that I thought of it as a pain or something I didn't want to do.

I never understood those coaches who said,

"Sure, they'll hate practice but they'll love me when they win."

You spend so much more time practicing than you ever do competing, what's the point of feeling miserable for 300 days in a year just so you can feel good for a dozen?

Recently, someone asked me if you lose your reason for competing, can you get it back?

Speaking from personal experience, I don't know if you can get the same reason back but you can find a new reason.

As I said, when I was first competing my motivation for winning was to prove people wrong. I was not exactly the child who would be picked most likely to succeed. If there had been a yearbook category for "student most likely to end up in prison", I would have won the vote hands down.

Several years after winning my first national championship, I was still competing. By then I had graduated from college, bought my first house, earned a Masters degree and was working as an engineer. No one expected me to go to jail, no one made fun of my clothes from Goodwill – because I actually bought my clothes  at Nordstrom's by then because I had a job and money.

My friend, Lanny and I were talking about the last national championships I won and he  was the one who made the comment,

"I hated the people like you who won the national championships just for practice."

It was true, too. By then, my goal was to win the world championships and the nationals were just a tournament to get ready for the ones that really counted. I wanted to win the world championships  because no American had ever done it and also, to a large extent, just because I thought it would be really, really awesome to be best in the world at something. I really like judo, so that seem to good something to be best in the world that.

I'm not saying that you can't go to practice  every day, be miserable, gut it out  and still win. Maybe you can. What I'm saying is that I know for sure that's not the only way.

 PS: I use Dragon voice input software to write this blog because I had hand surgery – they took a tendon from my arm and made me a new ligament for my thumb as well as some other equally painful stuff, like sawing off the ends  of a couple of bones in my hand.

Several people have asked me if that was related to judo. I asked the surgeon and he said very likely not, that he does a couple of these surgeries a day and I'm the first person he met that competed in judo. It's more likely genetic. My grandmother had  very severe arthritis, too, and she never did judo a day in her life. In fact, she often warned me that no man was going to want to marry a woman who had a pile of sweaty judo gis  in her house. In the summer time when my gi would be  soaking wet with sweat after practice she would pick it up at the end of a broomstick  and carry it to the washing machine, refusing even to touch it.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Critics, ass holes and how to tell the difference

I appreciate criticism. I really do. For example, we were recently green lit on Steam, which made me very excited.

 To all of you who voted for us – thank you very much! It was interesting to me that a lot of people gave specific criticisms to us about the game, and some of those people voted for us too. One of the criticisms that came up a lot was that the graphics could be better. I actually agree with this but I don't make games just for myself and we are little company and we have to set priorities. Our first priority is making games that really work to teach kids (or adults, we know some of you guys play as a stress reliever, we don't judge you – Maria says that she judges you – just ignore her).

Getting feedback that graphic seems to be the area where players and potential players think that we should expand our efforts is extremely helpful. As soon as I finish the task I'm working on now, which will be in a week or 2, my next thing is to move on to improving the graphics in Fish Lake and I'm very excited about that. I never thought that I or our games were perfect and having a group of people who play games a lot and hence have a good background to judge them point out that in their considered opinion this is the biggest priority and not, say, game mechanics or the educational component or something else is useful criticism.

Now let's turn to the people who are not useful. When someone posts, tweets, etc. about my game or just about anything else "YOU SUCK!" Or, "you will never succeed because you have X flaws" they aren't being a critic or "telling it like it is", they're just being an ass hole.

Everything has flaws. I'm writing this blog with the latest version of the Dragon naturally speaking software that came out for the Mac less than a week ago. It has some significant flaws. It has crashed Google chrome twice tonight. It doesn't work nearly as well is the Windows version that has been out longer. I could give you a long list of things that it doesn't do. However, that doesn't mean that it is a failure or no one will ever buy it. (Thank you, Ronda, for the birthday present, by the way.)

In fact, it's probably the market leader in voice to text software.

Disneyland and Disney World are super expensive and crowded. Often, the ride you really wanted to go on is closed for repairs or something.  Yet, millions of people go to the Disney theme parks because they have fun on the rides, enjoy the shows or grew up with characters like Mickey Mouse.

 Similarly, while this software occasionally puts in random letters, spells my daughter Ronda's name with an H and I have to correct it manually every damn time and other annoyances, it actually does a pretty good job of writing what I say and saving my hands.

 You don't have to be perfect in every way to succeed. You just have to be good at some things that are important.

  So, critics tell you what you can do to be good. Ass holes just tell you that you're bad because you're not perfect.

Learn from from the critics. Ignore the ass holes. Have a nice life!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Quit blaming your parents!

I've been reading a good book, Rules for Aging, and one of his rules is

After 30, quit blaming your parents

This chapter only has one sentence. "Better make that 25".

I was amused reading this chapter but not in a completely happy way. Recently, I have run into four people who really really need to take that chapter to heart. Two were in their 30s, one in his 40s and the fourth in his 50s! All of them were blaming their parents for how their lives had turned out. Three of them had done a lot of drugs to the point where I was a bit surprised they weren't dead. All of them had done time in jail for minor offenses and had a hard time keeping a job.

The description I just gave makes them sound like complete losers but all of them had times in their lives when they looked pretty much like everyone else. They all had periods where they were sober, employed and in relationships. I can't tell you what went wrong because I don't know. What I do know is this, a big part of their problem is a failure to take responsibility for their own mistakes.

Two of them blamed their fathers and the odd coincidence here is that I had met both of their fathers at different points. Their complaints were that their dads were gone too much working and that they were never the type of people to talk about their feelings or tell their sons that they loved them.

I'm listening to this shaking my head and thinking,

Seriously? That's all you've got? Your dad wasn't warm and fuzzy enough so you're going to shoot up heroin?

No, don't even! Don't tell me how tough it was not having a dad to tuck you in at night and tell you he loved you and give you a kiss on the fore head because I don't fucking want to hear it! Your problem is that you don't realize it's YOUR problem. Your father was raised in the time that he was when men didn't do that sort of thing. He did the best he could and better than most. The fact that you didn't find it good enough for you when you were growing up is unfortunate but in no way makes it your father's fault if you decide to be a complete fuck up now. The best you could do is go into rehab. I mean that very very seriously. I presume that your father is very hurt by your drug abuse and other problems but guess what, he's older than you and will be dead eventually and you'll still have all these problems.

The other two, older people blame their mothers. In one case I did know the mom and I'd say some of what her son said about her was accurate. She never made him suffer the consequences of his own actions. You know the type. If he failed an exam at school because he didn't study she was the mom yelling at the teacher for not making the class interesting enough. If he stole money from a friend, she was the one blaming society that her son had to "suffer" from seeing others his age who had more than him just because they were lucky enough to be born to richer parents.

I didn't know the other mom but she seemed to be just the same. Even though her son was in his 50s, she would call his employer and say that he was sick when he was actually hung over. She met with his parole officer and I don't know how many other people in his life that he should have been meeting with himself.

I actually understand those moms because I know as a mother myself that you always want to help your children – even if you don't always know the right way to go about it.

What I don't understand is those adults who constantly use their parents at as the "bad guy" either to excuse their own bad decisions or deliberately make bad decisions to show "she's not the boss of me".

Here's what I have to say – Man up! Or, not to be too gender specific, Woman up!

After a while, you need to take full responsibility for your own life. Some of you, pretend you are because you are doing the exact opposite of what your parents want you to do and you think that proves you're independent. Ha ha ha ha ha – excuse me, while I laugh with no amusement what so ever because I have been in exactly your shoes. Doing the opposite of what your parents want to show you are independent does nothing of the kind. You're still being controlled by trying to prove that you're not controlled.

Try to figure out the right thing to do and then do it.

Quit being a whiny spoiled brat and resenting that you didn't have the perfect parenting. No one did. Some people had good parents who tried their best. Some people had not very good parents who tried their best. Some of you were swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Which ever it was, you have two choices now that you are an adult:

Make a life for yourself that doesn't suck.
Or continue blaming your parents.

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