Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mostly harmless

I often think we admire the wrong traits in people. On the long (three hour!) drive from Fort Totten to Minot in the snow, my mind had a lot of time to wander, when I wasn't concentrated on staying on the highway I could barely see under the ground flurries.

 Ground flurries, for those of you lucky enough to spend all of your life in non-snowy places like Southern California, Honduras or Australia (does it ever snow in Australia? Quick! Somebody let me know!) Ahem, ground flurries happen when it is not actually snowing from the sky any more but there is a whole lot of snow on the ground and wind that blows the snow around so you have snow flurries anyway. If it blows the snow into a mound, that's called a snow drift, and the highway had those, too.

 I digress. I was going to talk about a couple of people I like who crossed my mind in my wanderings. I like both of these guys and since I call everyone who shall remain nameless Bob, let's call them Bob1 and Bob2.

Bob1 is somewhat successful in the entertainment business and every time I talk to him, he is telling me a story about some famous person he has been with or some other famous person he knows. Some of my more judgmental relatives (you know who you are!) might call Bob1 a name dropper and might not like him. He IS a name dropper in the sense that he always wants to make sure you know that he knows Mr. Famous who won three Oscars, a Grammy and a megaphone.

However, Bob1's stories are actually pretty interesting and always true. They're about how he and M. Famous were doing this movie in Thailand and they decided to go to ride elephants and since Bob1 had been a gymnast in college and so was Famous, after a few shots they were doing handstands on the elephant. Okay, I totally made that one up, but you get the idea and Bob1 could definitely do a handstand on the back of an elephant after three shots of Jameson, which is one think I like about him.

The thing I like most about Bob1 is that he is not only amusing but he is completely harmless. Most people think of that as not a particularly complimentary term, but I mean it that way. I've never known him to say a false thing about anyone, to do a single mean thing. He isn't rude to waiters, doesn't kick dogs, wouldn't take advantage of you in a business deal and would feed your cat while you were out of town. Can you honestly say that you've never hurt anyone?If so, you are a better person than me.

 Bob2 is very similar. Also very rich. Every time I talk to him, he is telling me how much money he has and about the new thing he just bought. For some reason, I find this hilarious. I know he does this to impress people and, again, some people might think he's kind of a jerk for that, but again, he's harmless. I AM interested sometimes in the new Lamborghini or Van Gogh or whatever he has bought himself. Not in a "oh, you are so awesome, I wish I was you" but honestly, like, "Oh, so that's what that looks like. " Or, "So, that's where you would go to buy a customized genetically modified Christmas tree shaped in your own self-image." Bob2 made his money the old fashioned way, by working, and if he wants to spend it on the world's largest ball of string, he's not hurting anyone.

Before you jump to conclusions and say, "They're not helping anyone, either" I would disagree with you. First of all, you don't know that and secondly,you're wrong. They do help people in various ways, sometimes a lot. That's not the only reason I like them, though. Plenty of people who give to charity or help out their friends are awful human beings who made their money on things like predatory loans to poor people on whom they then foreclosed and sold their homes for pennies on the dollar, or as lawyers defending those practices.

What I find funny is if you asked Bob1 why I liked him, one of the reasons he tells you might be all the famous people he knows. Not only do I not care but I don't know the difference between a Grammy and and Oscar and I don't think a megaphone is an award but I don't care. I'd be just as interested in his stories if he was hand-standing on elephants with my neighbor, Shannon, next door. If you asked Bob2 why I liked him he would immediately tell you it's because he's rich followed by a summary of how much money is in each of his investment funds and bank accounts. The truth is that one of the things I like about both of them is that they are harmless and I think that is a good thing.

And if you recognize yourself here, please don't stop working into the conversation every time you see me, "You know, I'm really rich" because I find it hysterical.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The meaning of life, oysters and alcohol

I've been working crazy hours for so long, sometimes I forget what year it is. It's been good, but busy. Business is growing.

You can read more about 7 Generation Games and our excitement here.

That's not what I wanted to talk about today. Rather, I wanted to discuss how to change your life when you feel that you are getting burnt out. This has something to do with judo but since it also has to do with advice about my daughter's fight coming up, ask me about that in January. (Cryptic, much?)

Many people feel as if the solution to burn out is to move to a tropical island, retire, take up knitting, have an affair with someone one-third their age or other dramatic flame out. Those things seldom turn out well.

I read a book on 100 things to do in your retirement and 96 of them sounded pretty lame to me. Teach a class - I already teach classes in judo, multivariate analysis and biostatistics - how is that retiring? Knit. Plant a garden. Take a painting class at the senior citizen's center.

 Write a book (done that)

 So, what is left? Actually, for those who don't have the time, money or inclination for an around the world cruise or becoming the oldest recruit in the Foreign Legion or bungee jumping, let me make a suggestion - modify your life in a moderate way.

For example, I decided I needed a new, fun goal and more time away from work. So, I decided to go on a quest to find the best oyster shooters in southern California. This combines three things I like - oysters, alcohol and going out with my husband. If bar-hopping was involved, I was willing to make the sacrifice for the benefit of research.

Day 1: Herringbone in Santa Monica. The oyster shooters are delicious and pretty cheap ($4). The service is slow.

Also day 1 : Casa Martin, also in Santa Monica - alas, no oysters of any type but they did have margaritas which were okay, and tortilla soup was good. There was also a table next to us with four guys from Australia who drank more beer per person than I had ever seen consumed at one sitting.

Day 2:  Blue Plate Oysterette, Ocean Ave, still in Santa Monica. I've walked by this place for years and they were always too packed for me to wait. Amazingly, today, they weren't full. The oysters are excellent but the restaurant only has a beer and wine license so no oyster shooters for me.

Also day 2: Water Grill - also on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. The drinks were excellent an so were the oysters. Sadly, while one can get both oysters and alcohol at Water Grill, the combination of the two was not on offer.

So far, I have learned
... you can't trust the internet as to what restaurants serve oyster shooters,
... a good restaurant to go to if you have a cold and want soup,
.... Australians can put away the beer,
.... and, most importantly, not everything has a serious purpose.

(P.S., No one pays me diddly squat for mentioning them on my blog. Some have considered bribing me NOT to mention them.)
Don't be too serious. Download Making Camp on your iPad for free. Learn and play. It's all good.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Life from a different perspective

Last week, I was running late to a meeting so I parked at the last meter on the street in front of our building instead of across the street in the parking structure. When I came outside an hour later, there was a police car with its lights on, two cars that had smashed into each other coming around the corner - and my car! You know those accidents where one car hits another car that hits the car in front of it?

Well, this car came to a stop about 18 inches before where I was parked.

I hopped into my not-involved-in-the-accident car and drove off to my next meeting.
Lynnie the Guinea Pig
Lately, my guinea pig, Lynnie, hurt her foot. I thought it would just cost me $10 to get her nails trimmed. Instead, I ended up calling 7 different veterinarians until I finally found one that saw guinea pigs. In about half an hour, the vet took care of her and I left $200 poorer - which I'm sure many of my friends and family would be appalled I spent on a guinea pig. Yes, I could have drowned her, bought a new one at PetCo for $30 and given the other $170 for starving children or clean water or the Julia De Mars Patagonia Shopping Fund, but I didn't. She's a nice little Guinea pig and I like her and my grandkids like her. Now, she is running around like a brand new critter, so it's all good.

Next door to the one place I found that saw guinea pig emergencies (this is why I love LA - we have everything!) is the pet cancer center. There were some very sad people and some very sick looking animals. I was telling Eva, my granddaughter who came with me to the animal hospital, that is really a case that has no good outcome. You spend thousands of dollars and usually your pet dies before too long anyway. Your BEST case scenario is that you spend thousands of dollars and lots of your time caring for it and your pet lives, which still sucks because you end up thousands of dollars poorer. The people in this place didn't look unusually wealthy - just unusually attached to their dying pet.

Well, I had no intention of spending thousands of dollars on a guinea pig (sorry, Lynnie), so my worst case scenario would have been having to tell the vet, 'You'll just have to put her to sleep' , while holding my hands over my granddaughter's ears. I'd end up with a traumatized grandchild and a dead guinea pig. (This is probably the last time Maria is letting Eva run errands with grandma.)

When I dropped Eva off at her house, I parked behind Maria's car in the alley. I am not sure I was illegally parked but I'm not sure I wasn't either. After three minutes, I was back in my car no one had run into and on my way.

Driving home, I thought of how often I hear people in my neighborhood talk about  a 'bad day" and it goes like this:

    I had this meeting with an important client and the line at Starbucks was 20 minutes long. It was the drive thru so I couldn't get out and now I'm running late. A block from their office someone makes an illegal turn, I slam on my brakes and coffee spills all over my shirt! I get to the office and AS IF MY DAY CAN'T GET ANY WORSE - I run into my ex-girlfriend who looks at my coffee-stained clothes and sniffs, "Nice look for the pitch, Babe."

I hear this line a lot "AS IF MY DAY CAN'T GET ANY WORSE"  - and think,

    "Are you kidding me? Your day could be one hell of a lot worse."

Personally, I really do think quite often, "Wow, my day could have been a lot worse." I don't mean in the way where when you lose your job you think, "At least I'm living here instead of in a war zone and my legs haven't been shot off."

I mean in the way that probably happens to most of us every day. Someone easily could have hit my car - twice (that's it, I'm parking in the garage from now on). It could have been that the vet had to put my guinea pig to sleep. That coffee could have spilled all over me when I stopped at that light before the meeting.

I often remind myself, even on those running to meetings, going to the vet days,

    "You know, this day really isn't that bad."


You can play Fish Lake here if you have a Mac or Windows computer. Under 10 bucks and you can canoe down Rapids or hunt deer.

You can also donate a copy to a school or give to a friend.We've made about 100 revisions since our last update (for real) and all updates are always free to paying customers. It's only $9.99 . Less than ten bucks! 

If you think I'll just waste the money on guinea pigs and don't want to buy or donate our games, you can play Making Camp online here for free


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Believing vs Wishing

When I was 15-year-old brown belt, I lost in the national championships to a woman named Linda Richardson. She arm barred me. I got third. I'm still pissed. Linda won the British Open that year, I think.

Actually, Linda was a pretty nice person, a very successful competitor and she had embroidered on her black belt the words:

Belief is strength.

I was thinking today how many people misunderstand that idea to mean that if you really believe hard enough that you'll win, that somehow in the middle of a match it will magically come to you and you'll triumph.

That's not believing, that's wishing.

A few years after I lost to Linda, I was 18 years old and in the finals of the U.S. Open. Diane Pierce, who had by then won the national championships at least six years in a row and also won the British Open, beat me by an arm bar. I'm still pissed about that, too, but at least she made up for it by giving me some very good advice at the time, and, years later, when I moved to Los Angeles and she was coaching, helping me a lot with my arm bars.

You might think, based on the fact that both of those losses were by arm bar, that I wasn't particularly good at matwork, lost a lot or was a sucker for arm bars. None of those things are true. I was pretty good at matwork, although I eventually got even better, and I lost very seldom.

The fact is that in both of those matches I was overconfident, because I did win a lot and both of those women were very, very good. After each loss, I tried to look at what they did that I didn't do. It was quite simple. They had been doing judo longer than me and they trained more times a week. Hours on the mat matter.

After each loss, I didn't go home and just say,

Oh, I know I can beat them, they aren't really better than me. I believe in me.

That's not believing, that's denial.

Instead, I practiced more often. I moved to Colorado Springs and then to southern California so I could have more opportunities to practice. Also, running along the ocean in San Diego is a lot nicer than running in the snow in Minneapolis or 100 mindless laps around the field house at the University of Minnesota.

I truly believed that I could beat both Diane and Linda eventually. It never happened. We never fought again. They both retired a few years after I fought them - Diane because she was much older than me and Linda because she realized there was no money in judo and went off to start a career. Although I never had the chance to beat them, that belief and the training it drove me to do led to me winning a whole lot more and at a larger scale than either of them did - because of losing to them.

We have several new students in our Gompers Judo program this year, just like every year, mostly sixth- and seven-graders. I noticed during the warm-up that a few of them had a hard time doing all of the push-ups and sit-ups. We did 20 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups in a circuit. After a 10 second rest, we'd start again. For a lot of kids, 60 push-ups and 60 sit-ups in a couple of minutes is a lot.

I told them all that they should be doing exercises at home. I don't care if you don't have a gym membership, there's no place to do sprints and you can't jump rope or do jumping jacks because you live in a second-floor apartment. Everyone can do push-ups and sit-ups during the commercials while watching TV.

If you really believe you can be an athlete, a champion or just be better, you will get up and do those exercises.

Belief makes you stronger because of the way believing makes you act. No matter how old you are.

Learn the difference between believing, wishing and denying. 


This isn't a map to victory (sorry). It is from the game Forgotten Trail. Runs on Mac, Windows and Chromebook and teaches statistics and Native American history. Only five bucks!

What's that you say? I only have an iPad? I don't have $5 ? Well, then, get our free Making Camp app here.

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.

What's that you say? I only have an iPad? Well, then, get our free Making Camp app here.

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.