Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It Stripped Me of Everything I Knew

I've been trying to cut back to working 10 hours a day. I figure that makes 70-hour weeks and our investors should be happy with that.

In my spare time, I have been reading and I even watched one movie with my lovely family. In the evening, I read books that have no professional benefit whatsoever.

I just finished  The Hot Seat: Love, War and Cable News, by Piers Morgan,

In his first TV interview he asked Oprah Winfrey how many people she trusts and she answered,

 Probably five or six that I ultimately would trust no matter what, and if I were to be betrayed by those people, then I would say I don’t know anything. There’s a wonderful line in a Toni Morrison book that says, ‘It stripped me of everything I knew.’

 That line came back to me again when I was reading a book tonight, Knocking on Heaven's Door, by a woman dealing with both of her parents dying.

My husband died when I was 36 years old. It stripped me of everything I knew. We were going to have another baby after Ronnie, who was 3 years old, when he had his accident. My whole life seemed to be in three pieces. Before the accident. After the accident. After he died.

We were going to have four children and live out in the country. He was getting his pilot's license. He said flying was even better than sex because you could do it for hours. I was going to get tenure at the university, become a full professor and then retire. The kids would grow up picking wild blackberries and learn to ride horses. Ron was going to teach them to drive a stick-shift and shoot a gun and I was going to teach them math and not to have a country accent, that words like huntin', fishin' and darlin' actually have a 'g' at the end and it's pronounced "business" not "bizness". We used to laugh about that a lot.

Then he went down that hill and broke his back and then he died, piece by piece over the years until he died altogether.

It stripped me of everything I knew.

I have a good friend who lost his wife when he was relatively young and had young children at home. Let's call him Bob. We talk about it sometimes and agree that there is no question that it changes you. People who have not been in that situation can sympathize but they can't really understand.

I've read studies that say that whether people win the lottery or become paraplegic as a result of an accident that within the year they are just as happy as they were before the event. Maybe so. I know both my friend and I have gone on to live productive, generally happy lives. Still, it changes you.

This was brought home to me recently when some random people I did not know were saying vicious things about me on the Internet. An acquaintance came up to me and politely expressed sympathy, made some nice comments intended to cheer me up. 

Seriously, it was a kind, well-meant gesture and I appreciated it, but after he walked away, Bob and I doubled over laughing. We had seen tragedy and BasementBoy007 saying on a forum that you should shut the fuck up you grey-haired old lady is definitely not a tragedy.

They (whoever "they" are) say everything happens for a reason. Both Bob and I dispute that being widowed (widowered?) made us better people, but there is no question it changed us.

If you had asked me two years after Ron died, I would not have hesitated and said there is no compensation and nothing would change my mind about wanting him back.

Now, I have a wonderful 17-year-old daughter who I would not have had if my husband had lived, if I hadn't remarried. Would I turn back the clock? I think of her and the answer is clearly, "No."

One thing I can say for sure - if you experience the death of someone close to you, it changes you. Things may get better. I suppose it's possible they may get worse. One thing I know for sure is that they will never be the same. You will never be the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Life of a Lie: It's quite simple

 My very good friend and business partner for decades,  Dr. Erich Longie, talks about living the life of the truth or the life of a lie.

Erich is an amazing guy. When I met him, he was academic dean of the tribal college on his reservation. He eventually became college president, the first member of his tribe to earn a doctorate, co-founded Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. with me and April St. Pierre, co-authored articles in scientific journals and a bunch of equally super-impressive things.

Before I met him, he was an alcoholic, broke his back in an accident, was in rehabilitation - both the physical kind and the drug and alcohol kind. It's hard for me to reconcile the person I have always known with the stories I hear about him.

Erich says that it's quite simple, really. You either live a life of the truth or a life of a lie. If you are an alcoholic, you are living the life of a lie. You are telling your boss lies for the reason you didn't make it to work or made a mistake - the truth is you weren't sick or distracted, you were drunk. You are lying to your spouse or parents about why you came home late or didn't show up for some family gathering. You are lying to yourself that everyone gets a DUI now and then, it's normal to get fired from your first job.

You don't have to be an alcoholic to live the life of a lie.

One day, my husband was looking at some site for people who want to have affairs. He wasn't looking for an affair. He was actually sitting in bed next to me reading it out loud on his laptop. On the home page, it said,

If it bothers you to constantly lie, you should not have an affair.

We both fell over laughing, thinking, who the heck at that point says,

Okay, I'm cool with the constant lying thing, what else you got?

Those sites seem to get a lot of traffic, though, and I'll bet it's not all from people like us who are reading just to laugh at them.

I'm not perfect. (God, am I not perfect!) However, I try as much as possible to live a life of the truth. I love my children, grandchildren and husband. I try to the best of my ability to make games that make people smarter - in math, social studies and English. I do studies to test whether what I'm doing works. I hire people in the U.S. , preferably California, because I want to support the community where I live. I teach judo to kids at Gompers Middle School because I genuinely believe they are some great kids and I am blessed to have terrific instructors like José, Will, Blinky, Jimmy and Steve to help me out.

What you see is what you get. 

I have another friend, a software developer named Joe Perry, who told me once,

People like to say, "It's complicated", but it's really not. Do you respect the people you work with? Are you proud of the work that you do? 

Just this week, I had a conversation with someone who told me something that was somewhat important to me. I asked him if he was sure what he said was true. He said,

I swear on all the saints and the Blessed Virgin, on the grey head of my sainted mother, may she drop over dead. It happened exactly as I told you.

Funny thing, I happened to find out a couple of days later that he had lied to me. Hope his mom is still fine. Obviously, I'll never trust anything he tells me ever again.

Joe is right. People like to throw up a lot of smoke screens, but it comes down to this: Is what you are saying true? Is the impression you are giving people true?

If not, you are living the life of a lie, and that never ends well.

Since I'm in a pattern of quoting smart people I know, let me end with some advice from Dr. Jane Mercer, a famous and very kind sociologist who was on my dissertation committee. (No, my doctorate isn't in sociology but that's irrelevant.)

On the wall of her office she had taped this Turkish proverb:

No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Count Your Blessings

Someone on a mailing list on startups sent  a link to this article:

8 Things to Remember When Everything is Going Wrong

It made me smile several times while reading it, and that alone is worth passing it on. These tips weren't written just for startups, although having started work 14 hours ago, I can certainly relate all of these to my work life.

My favorite was of the 8 things was this:

Everything in life is temporary. Every time it rains, it stops raining.

Notice that I said I started work 14 hours ago. I didn't work for 14 hours straight because after about 10 hours, my husband and I went for a walk along Ocean Avenue, just as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean.

We talked about this idea that everything is temporary. There are people I knew who were in the Olympics who ended up barely scraping by while others who lost in the Olympic Trials went on to have wonderful careers and wonderful lives. If you had looked at them on any one particular day, you might have thought, "This person is a winner and that one is a loser." 

And yet, if you looked at the same people three years later, you might find the situation completely reversed.

To their 8 things, I will add my own, ninth, suggestion - Count your blessings.

If you had looked in on my life 20 years ago, you would have thought I was in a sad state. My husband had died. I was working three jobs to support my three young children and I was always tired. There were medical bills, funeral bills, tuition bills, tax bills.

Yes, it was hard. As I was thinking about it today, though, sad as it was, I have been truly blessed. Not once, but TWICE I have had the great good fortune to be married for years to a man I loved.

Having a good marriage is one of the keys to happiness. Most people wish for it once and I got it twice. Certainly, everything is temporary, so appreciate your blessings now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Addiction, Who Is It That Has to Change?

Something has been on my mind a lot lately, ever since I started working on this grant on methamphetamine abuse (and no, crazy conspiracy theorists, this is not a veiled reference to any of my daughters).

As I was saying, I was working on this proposal with the Circle of Life program on the Fort Berthold Reservation, and we were reviewing the current research on family therapy for people addicted to meth. They are the substance abuse prevention and treatment experts and I am working with them to create a game that models what effective counselors do, just like our current games model what effective teachers do.

All of these treatment models assume that everyone in the family has to change. Now, I will admit up front that neither I nor anyone in my family has ever been addicted to anything, so I have no personal experience. I'm certainly willing to consider that if your 13-year-old son or daughter is addicted to meth, you took a wrong turn somewhere on the parenting journey. For one thing, how can you not know where your kid is for that amount of time?

It seems like, though, a lot of this treatment requires the people who are NOT addicted to change. When I read statements like,

"If you are too critical about their appearance, drug use or other behavior, you'll drive the person away and then the opportunity for treatment will be lost." 


"Because access to the drug is so important to an addict, you may need to accept having the dealer around until you can convince your loved one to enter treatment."

I found it all very confusing, and there is a reason that I focused on statistics and assessment instead of counseling. That's why I was wise enough to partner with the Circle of Life people. I know my own weaknesses.

Isn't denial supposed to be one of the problems of people with addiction? So aren't you feeding into that?

But then if you go along with the denial, or don't confront the person, then it's enabling their addiction. But if you don't go along with it, then it's not accepting the person and then worsening  their problem or driving them away?

It's all very confusing to me, and I think it is not just me because the rate of failure in therapy is pretty high. Not as high as the failure rate for startups, but still pretty high.

Speaking of startups, my required shameless plug 
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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why not compete at 'walking around weight'

Many years ago, I was in Europe cutting weight before a tournament and the team manager, as usual, appointed due to being someone's friend rather than any actual qualifications, made the comment,

"I don't see why you are starving yourself. Why don't you people just compete at whatever you weigh?"

Now, for many reasons, including referring to the athletes on the team as 'you people',  this person was an idiot.

1984 World Team Photo. Thanks to Jean Kanokogi
(By the way, the manager in the photo above was the late Elizabeth Lee, definitely not an idiot.)

Recently, someone else, definitely not an idiot who recently brought up the question of why people can't compete at their walking around weight is mixed martial artist Roxanne Modafferi.

So, let me answer that question:

It's somewhat like the prisoner's dilemma. In case you don't know, that is a problem where acting in your best interest depends on knowing what other people will do. The typical example is two people arrested for a crime and offered a bargain - confess and testify against your partner for a lighter sentence. If neither of you confess, both of you may go free. However, if you don't confess and your partner in crime does, you'll get a longer sentence.

How does this relate to making weight? Well, if NO ONE cuts weight, then if you go in at your 'walking around weight', you can expect to be about equal in strength and size to your competition.

However, if you don't cut weight and your opponent does, you may weigh 125 pounds and be fighting someone who normally weighs 140 pounds but did not eat for two days before the weigh-in and sweated off 10 pounds by jogging in the sauna. If you are close to equal in skill and conditioning, that extra 11% in size your opponent has can be the tipping point.

Since everyone assumes that their competitors will be cutting weight, everyone cuts weight.

Almost everyone. In the picture above, the person to my left is Lynn Roethke. We weighed the exact same weight and Lynn competed at 61 kg, the division above me. If you asked me (and you ARE reading my blog), her biggest asset was her speed, which was an even bigger asset in a heavier division. I wasn't that much faster than the average person, but I was stronger, which is an even bigger advantage in a lighter division.

So, not EVERYONE cuts weight, but everyone does seek to optimize their advantages, which usually involves cutting weight. Certainly, as an athlete, there is zero advantage to having extra fat on you.

Speaking of idiots ... I have been hearing nonsense all of my life about how cutting weight, or even competing in sports, causes women to be sterile, have miscarriages, etc. No. It doesn't. 

The eight women on that team had 13 children, that I know of. I'm pretty sure there were more than 13 but I haven't kept in contact with everyone. The two who didn't have children  never married because, as far as I know, they never felt like it.

Yes, if your body fat percentage drops too low, you quit having your period. It's not a permanent condition! Once you put weight back on, you start up again and if you follow the normal procedure for these things (ask your mom to explain it to you), presto - baby!

Do you feel smarter? Know what would make you feel even smarter? 

Buying games made by my wonderful company, 7 Generation Games.

Learn some stuff about Native American history and math while you play.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Throwback and some thoughts

Thank you very much to Jean Kanokogi for sending me this photo of the world team

It's funny how one picture can conjure up so many thoughts. Both the coaches, Rusty Kanokogi and Jimmy Takemori, have passed away, as did Elizabeth Lee, the manager.

When I was younger, I didn't always agree with any of those three on their views of judo, careers or life in general. However, they all lived according to their own beliefs. What I learned from them most was that you don't have to agree with someone to respect and appreciate them.

If you look carefully at this picture, you'll see that everyone is sitting properly with  their knees bent and hands on their legs except for me. It was not, as everyone believed back then, that I was sloppy and disrespectful of Japanese etiquette. It was because my knee was damaged far more than I let on to anyone but my closest teammates at Tenri Dojo. I had my fist down on the mat supporting my weight because my knee really couldn't bend. That's also why I had to lean sideways. I had that knee replaced a few years ago, but back when I was competing, that type of surgery did not exist.

You'll also notice my hand is taped up. I don't know what the hell I did to my thumb in the Tournoi d'Orleans that year but it was the only international tournament ever that I didn't place. (Sorry, fifth is NOT a place.) It's gotten worse as I got older and now that thumb doesn't work at all. I'm always thinking I should go to the doctor about it but I don't feel inclined to have another surgery. 

So, yeah, I was pretty banged up but I won anyway. I think this photo must have been taken after the world championships because I was smiling.

---- continued after the SHAMELESS PLUG ---

I co-authored a book on matwork. It's about winning on the ground. Hence, the name.

You can get it here on Barnes and Noble - write a review , while you're at it.


It was a good reminder, though, of the choices you make about the price you're willing to pay. So, it cost me a few body parts to win. I've never regretted it.

It was a good reminder today, as I am in the middle of "the grind" , as Ronda calls it, with our company. There seems to be a vicious circle with our company where I need more people to do the work but getting those more people requires writing the job requirements, raising investor funds for writing grants, that means I fall further behind on the other work so I need those people to start last week ....

I better get back to it, since no one seems inclined to do my work for me.

You can check out our games here. Fun, educational and done by me!

7 Generation Games - My Day Job!  Buy one for ten bucks.