Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What If You Took the Other Fork in the Road?

I usually only read poetry when threatened, as in "I will flunk your sorry disobedient ass if you don't read this poem" - and often not even then, as witnessed by the F I received in English during my three weeks before I was expelled/ dropped out from Alton High School.

One of the few poems I actually like is by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, which ends:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 Most of us encounter forks in the road. The past three days I have been in St. Louis, MO where I have done some social activity every night, meeting up with 37 different relatives (that is an exact count, not an exaggeration), some of them more than once, and an additional 23 boyfriends, old friends, new friends and random people who wandered in.

I moved away 39 years ago to spend a year in Japan. Then I came back to finish my senior year of college and moved away again.

What would it be like if I had done like many of my friends and family did - graduated from college and stayed put?

What did I miss by leaving? It's nice to have family around. Everyone asked about Ronda, but they also asked about the other three daughters, their husbands, the grandchildren. It's a different experience being around people who knew me when I was broke, single, not yet a college graduate, not yet a lot of things.

No one has to impress anyone, fill anyone in on a back story or history, because they already know it - what your parents were like, how many cousins you have, when you got divorced.

Even if they think you are a bit of a pain in the ass, they are at least civil to you because, as Frost said in another poem,

‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’

 Okay, that has about exhausted all of my knowledge of poetry.

I was talking about this tonight with my friend, Laura, who I have known since high school (how crazy weird is that?) She pointed out that if I had never moved away, I would definitely not have ever met Ron. I wouldn't have had Jennifer and Ronda. I wouldn't have met Dennis and had Julia. It's highly doubtful that I would have started a gaming company. I wouldn't be working with people on three different American Indian reservations.

In short,  I would be a different person.

The way you choose to go, determines who you are - to an extent.

Although it's impossible to know, I think if I had stayed in St. Louis I would have still gotten a Ph.D. at some point, still gotten married. I don't think I would have been a bad person or an unsuccessful one, but my whole life definitely would have been different.


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Free demos - this is my grown-up job.


Oh yeah, I wrote this book, too. 
My publisher would like it if you buy it, and you will learn judo, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Truth, Justice and the American Way

My not-yet-new-year's resolution was that I should not focus on business all of the time and hang out with friends.

Today was the fourth time in two weeks that I met up with someone just because I liked him (four different people, by the way). I've never been much of a social butterfly, so for me, that is a lot.

Coincidentally, all of those conversations at some point turned to values, like, truth, justice and the American way.  That's from the old Superman TV show, for you young 'uns.

Perhaps this is a generational difference, and I know it is not everyone in my generation (witness the only finding four people outside of my family and work that I wanted to hang out with).

Still, it seems to be trendy to mock ideas like "values" and believe that it's all just a matter of opinion. I had a long, interesting conversation with a very intelligent young person this week who asked me whether it was possible that my principles could be more important than people in my life.

I thought about this a lot and the answer is  - I'm still thinking about it.

There are some things I believe in my heart and if you disagree with me, well, I think you are wrong, but that doesn't make you a bad person. I still think you are wrong, though. For example, I believe that the Catholic church, for all its many faults, can be a force for good in the world and I support it. If you bring up the fact that many people in the church have done bad things, I agree with you, and even if I don't agree with the conclusion you made, we can still be friends.

No one is perfect. Certainly not me, and I'm not running around telling other people to be perfect.

There are values, though, that I feel are as much a part of me as my skeleton.

  • Your family comes first. Family are the people who will be there after everyone else is gone. As Robert Frost said, Home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in. If you treat your family like they are toilet paper - to be used to clean up your shit and then disposed of when you don't need them - then I'm not sure we can be friends.
  • Be honest - I don't mean brutally honest, which is often more brutal than honest. For example, I know someone who is an artist and my lovely granddaughter was going to see her artwork. Beforehand, I told her, "Even if you think it is the ugliest thing you ever saw, you are not to say so." Fortunately, Eva happened to think her art was amazing. Don't lie to people about your intentions, your behavior, your credentials. Don't lie. If when you tell me something, I don't know if it is true or not, we can't be friends.
  • Be kind - If you have to choose between being honest and being kind, most of the time, you should choose kind. Mine isn't the sweet, warm, fuzzy kindness, but I feel an obligation to help people when I can. The opposite of kindness is not caring if your actions hurt other people. I am frankly appalled by the attitude of "It's not my problem" , if I ran over your kitten/ hurt your feelings/ caused you to lose $10,000. 
  • Don't waste your talents. They are a gift from God. 
 When I have discussions about this, sometimes people bring up, "What about that one time you did this -- " as if not living consistent with your  values 100% of the time makes them not important or just an opinion.

I've broken bones several times, but I still have a skeleton.

As you can see, I am still thinking about this, a lot.

This is my day job -
I make cool games that teach math and social studies and run on Mac and Windows. They're fun to play and you'll learn stuff. Buy one for you, give as a gift or donate to a school.

--- and I wrote a book on matwork, too.
How about that!

You can get it here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What Judo Taught Me about Business: Part 586

I probably have an odd view of judo for a world champion, which is that I don't think judo as an actual sport is all that important.

Between men and women, there are 14 Olympic weight divisions in the U.S. National Championships, and I couldn't name one person who placed in any one of them last year.

So, why do I still teach judo after 45 years ? Because there is a lot you can learn from it. I don't think these lessons are unique to judo. You can probably learn them from band or jiu jitsu or football, too, but judo is what I happen to do.

One of the first things I had to learn when I switched from competing to coaching is:

Everyone is not you.

This is an especially important lesson to learn if you were extremely successful in your endeavor. The average person is - well, average. The typical kid, like my lovely youngest daughter in the top photo, just wants to hang out with their friends and have some fun.

It's easy to fall into the trap, especially with young people who remind you of yourself, say, who appear to have some athletic talent, to be convinced that they SHOULD be like you. If they could only see the possibilities, how great they could be ...

In fact, though, they are not you.  Here is my lovely youngest daughter seven years later.

She is captain of her high school soccer team and will be playing college soccer in the fall. She went from a judo player winning the state junior championships to the national junior championships to being a soccer player.

Everyone is not you ... and that is perfectly fine.

Now that I run a company that makes games, I am continually running into people who insist that our games are made WRONG because the game is not what they would have liked to have played when they were in school. Those people have a very good point and we try to address it, because there are some kids just like they were and if we are not meeting the needs of those students, we need to work on that.

However, they are also missing a second point.

There are actually a lot of people who play games who are not like them. Puzzle games are very popular (think Bejeweled, Candy Crush) and so are first-person shooter games (think Call of Duty). Is one right and the other wrong?  That question doesn't even make sense, does it?

So, one of many, many things I learned from judo is that everyone is not you and even if you are super successful at what you do, if you want to be even half as successful at providing a service to people, be it video games or judo coaching, you have to learn to accommodate those differences.

See what we make - games that make you smarter. Download for Mac or Windows. Under ten bucks!

Buy a game this month and get Forgotten Trail for free.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Religion Explained As Directions to Ma's Doughnut Shop

Someone made a video explaining sexual assault in terms of tea. It was brilliant.  For example:

If someone asks you for tea, you make it and you come back in the room and they are passed out drunk, you don't pour the tea on them just because you made it. Unconscious people don't want tea.

I was flying home today through multiple airports where I passed people wearing hijabs and cowboy hats and yarmulkes and it got me thinking for some random reason about how religion is like directions to Ma's Doughnut Shop in Trenton, New Jersey.

Say you think Ma's Doughnut Shop is north of Broadway & Main and I think it is south. There are four possibilities:

  1. I'm right.
  2. You're right.
  3. Neither of us is right. It's east or west of Broadway and Main.
  4. It's impossible to be right because Ma's Doughnut Shop does not exist. Maybe it never did exist, or it closed down five years ago.

Here is what is perfectly okay :
  • I can tell you that I think I am right and I don't believe the same as you. I think you are wrong. 
  • I think I'm right but I don't tell you anything because you can go off north if you want. I don't really care what you do.
  • You can tell me that you think you're right and that you think I'm wrong. 
  • You can think you are right and keep it to yourself, because what do you care if I go south.
  • We can argue and try to convince each other until we get tired of talking.
Here is what is NOT okay.
  • You shooting me for thinking Ma's is to the south.
  • Me grabbing you and trying to force you to go south.
  •  Me shooting you for thinking Ma's is to the north.
  • You trying to force me to go north because that is the correct direction.
  • Refusing to hire someone because their belief about the location of the doughnut shop.
  • Refusing to rent or sell a home to someone because of their Ma's Doughnut views.
  • Refusing to allow anyone into the country because of their Ma's Doughnut orientation.
I'm Catholic. That's very important to me in my life. But it's MY life. If you are Jewish, Muslim, atheist or worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, that's your right. I disagree with you - a lot, actually - but we have this thing called freedom of religion in America.

So, while I feel pretty confident that I'm going to end up eating some chocolate doughnuts while you'll be cooling your heels in Hoboken, you've got every right to keep heading north every weekend.

It's the giving season 

Give the gift of fun and learning to your favorite person, or donate to a school.

To donate: click the link above. You can select the game you want to donate. When you check out, you can name a person or school to receive your gift. If you don't specify, we will select a deserving recipient.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Everyone Teaches for a Different Reason

I was going to say, "Everyone teaches martial arts for their own reason" but then I thought, scratch that martial arts part. Everyone teaches anything for their own reason.

My own reasons are a bit personal, I think.

Some people say, "I learn more from my students than they do from me."

Although it sounds really good, I can't honestly say that. Maybe if I had grown up in Santa Monica and had a perfect little life, I would learn from my students what it means to overcome adversity. Believe me, I know. I know the challenge that it can be to get out of bed and go to school knowing that you'll have to sit in classes where other students are disruptive, when you'll probably have to get in a fight just to go down some street to get home from school.

I didn't learn that from my students. I learned it when I was my students' age.

One benefit I do get from teaching is to review the basics of judo, and you can never go over the basics too often.

Some weeks, judo practice is the only exercise I get, despite best intentions to the contrary. The main reason that I started a judo class at Jamestown College, over 25 years ago, is that I was so busy with work, family and a pile of other responsibilities that I would never have gotten to class except that I was teaching it and I had to show up.

It's been that way ever since.

While it may make me sound like a jerk, I don't feel obliged to teach judo "to give back". I've held more offices in judo organizations than I care to remember, started as an assistant instructor when I was 13 years old. I also run a company that makes educational software that teaches kids math. Frankly, I feel I have done my share of 'giving back' as much as I was given.

So .... why am I teaching judo on Friday and then spending the next two days doing a judo mini-camp with 20 kids that includes practices, tutoring, team dinners and a Christmas party?

I do it because my students are worth it.


My day job - 

Games that make you smarter. Learn math, learn social studies, try not to die in the woods, or in the rapids or when the bear attacks you ... just try not to die, okay?