Well, I don’t know about you, but I am anyway, and I’m guessing if you are reading this that you probably are, too.

If you read the bottom half of the internet (a.k.a. the comments section), you’ll find that any mention of privilege sets some people off …

I’m not privileged! My parents didn’t have any money when I was growing up! We bought our clothes at K-Mart when we were lucky and the thrift store when we weren’t. When I was in college, I worked for $2.12 an hour ! I work 60 hours a week! I raised 3 children while going to school and holding down a full-time job.

Yeah, me, too.

I’m still privileged.

Being without privilege when you were young and being privileged as an adult are not mutually exclusive.

I’m typing this on an iPad with a Logitech keyboard, on the 12th? 15th? flight this year and it’s only July.

Before I got on this flight, I was in the United lounge, drinking free Chardonnay and working on my laptop. A lot of other people were working there as well. It is a lot easier to work in the lounge because it’s quieter and there’s lots of outlets and plenty of comfortable chairs.

view of planes from United lounge

While Darling Daughter Number 3 arranged for the lounge and this flight to Rio, I paid for all of the other flights this year, the iPad, keyboard, laptop and all of the software on it, with the money I earned from working really hard. I also bought an iPhone and paid for a service with a personal hotspot.

My point is that since I walk around with thousands of dollars in technology in my briefcase (and many of you do, too), it is a lot easier for me to spend six hours en route writing a conference paper, analyzing data for a research study, editing graphics or video or programming the next level of a game. It’s much easier for me to get 4 hours work done in whatever hotel I find myself in the evening.

When I need to learn something new, whether a programming language or how to use Photoshop, I can buy a book on it or watch a course on lynda.com because I have an annual subscription. I don’t have to get on a waiting list at the public library behind all of the other people who want to read the latest book on the newest JavaScript library.

If I think it would benefit me to take a few days off and attend a conference on Unity 3D, SAS software, small business innovation research or serious games, I do it. I don’t have to go through three layers of management to get permission.

Being privileged and working hard are not mutually exclusive.

It’s like Dave Winer said – Money sweats.

He was talking about interest, that once you make money you get paid money just for having it. It’s also true in technology careers – once you have made some money, you can use that money to buy you advantages that keep you ahead of the competition, like practice with the latest version of whatever software you use, or 20 more productive hours each month, as you sit in airports.

It’s true in athletics as well. The better you get, the better coaches, nutritionists, strength trainers you can afford. You don’t have to take public transportation or work a full-time job at Starbuck’s, so you have more training and better training than the competition, even if they are working just as hard.

In America, a great many of us are privileged. If more of us recognized it, maybe as a society we’d be a little more humble, a little more grateful and a little more generous.

red line

Want to share a little privilege? You can donate 7 Generation Games to an individual, classroom or school. Check out the games here.

It was recently noted on our company twitter account that I’m out of town so often that I’ve come to resemble the Travelocity gnome in more than stature.

view from plane windowI’ve been traveling on business for nearly my entire career. Despite the proliferation of Google hangouts, Skype, Webex, Go-to-Meeting, FaceTime and God knows how many other technological innovations, there are still a lot of situations that require me to head out of LAX to points north, south, east and west.

This lifestyle has definitely shaped who I am.

I’m always surprised at people who travel frequently and come home to a seven-bedroom house.

The reality shows on the “tiny house” movement fascinate me, in part because of the creative uses they make of space in their designs, but also because I can see myself living in a very small space. After all, much of my time is spent in one or two rooms in a hotel.

For me, living out of a suitcase for weeks out of every month has meant that I have pared down greatly the amount of clothes, books and other personal possessions I “need”. The Invisible Developer points out that we could not live in a tiny house because his stuff alone would fill it up. That’s what happens when you stay put – you accumulate things.

It was a big advantage for me growing up in a house with a lot of siblings and not a lot of space. That may not sound like an advantage, but the result was that I had to be able to study wherever I found a spot that was unoccupied – in the room I shared with my sister and younger brother, in the attic, on the back porch, a corner of the living room table.

To this day, I can work anywhere. I’m typing this on an ipad as the plane is landing. I’ll sit in the airport and review a data analysis for a client that I’ll download on to my laptop using the personal hotspot from my iphone. When I get to the hotel, HOPEFULLY there will be cell phone and Internet access so that I can finish the online course I’m taking on a new game development library. (Thanks, lynda.com !)

I really do travel far and wide, which means there are few things I can depend on having – no, not even internet or cell phone reception. This seems self-evident to some people but inconceivable to those inside the Silicon Beach/ Silicon Valley bubble.

Before I met The Invisible Developer, the longest I had ever lived in one house was 4 years. I’d lived in Japan, Canada, Pakistan, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and no doubt other places I’ve forgotten by now. Since I had moved so often, traveling to a new place wasn’t all that different from being in the relatively new place where I was living.

After 18 years in Santa Monica, I’ve gotten used to a location, and for the first time I find traveling a trifle unsettling because I have actually gotten settled somewhere. That’s been reinforced by the fact that I work out of my home office a lot. Working at home is convenient because it is where all of my stuff is and it’s full of people who know me,

Maybe that explains why I’ve started to give some thought to traveling less. I don’t think that will actually happen, for a while, though. If I were to just stay home and write code, I could make a fairly good living, but then someone else would be flying hither and yon to meet potential partners, customers and investors and the final decisions would rest with that person. With responsibility comes a certain level of discomfort, regardless of what you told yourself it was going to be like “when I’m running things”.

I’m not ready to turn over the reins just yet – which is why I’m finishing this from a plane to Minneapolis where I was re-routed after my flight from Denver to Minot was cancelled. So, now, I’ll finally get a Minneapolis to Minot flight that lands around midnight and then drive 2 hours to Spirit Lake.

Wake me up when the glamorous part of travel starts.

————-

Want to see what the heck I’m flying around doing? 

Boy walking in rain

We make games that make you smarter.

People often ask me how I get so much done. Over and over, I have found one of the simplest ways to increase productivity is by not reading my email in the morning. Some days, I don’t get around to reading it at all.

This evening, when I finally opened my email, I had over 1,100 messages. In less than an hour, I have winnowed it down to 480.

As you can imagine, the majority is spam – offers to optimize my site for search, improve my sex life and sell me dishes. For some reason, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma and the like are convinced I’m a good market for housewares. Bizarre, because the only thing domestic about me is that I live in a house and the only thing I make for dinner is reservations.

The spam takes a few minutes to sift through.

Then there is the large category of email that is unnecessary. If you are guilty of any of these, do the community a favor and reform.

  • Notifications I don’t need. It’s nice that someone wants to thank me for speaking at an event, that students from Billy Bob Elementary appreciated the donated site license. I appreciate that you thought of me, I do. I don’t, however, appreciate it so much that I’m going to put off starting work for an hour to read all of this. Sorry, not sorry. I also don’t need to be informed that I have changed my password (I know, because I did it) or that The Spoiled One has a game at 3 pm in San Francisco ( do they think I didn’t notice she was gone?)
  • Copies of email that I don’t need to be copied on. If someone else will be attending an event on behalf of our company, held a meeting or has been assigned an action item, nice. I don’t need to be informed and I don’t need a copy of the agenda of meetings I won’t attend unless there is an item along the lines of, “In an attempt to curry favor with the venture capital gods, we will be making a human sacrifice of the CEO in the lobby at noon on Wednesday.” – in which case I might want to avoid the office mid-week.

The biggest reason for not reading my email, though, is that I already have an idea of what my priorities are for the day and I start on the highest priority first. There has yet to be a day when I looked at my to-do list and it read:

Priority #1 : Read email.

The real time suck in my email is the emails from people who want me to do things – complete this form, write this letter, review this contract, give me your opinion on this, let me know when you can schedule this meeting. The key point here is that all of these involve someone else’s priorities.

There is such a temptation  to take 5 or 10 minutes to respond to each of these requests, or to at least consider it, then decide it is not a priority and I’ll do it later.

Occasionally, I do miss something that I needed to know. However, that inconvenience is minor compared to not starting off my day with an hour or two of reacting to what other people request, rather than acting on priorities for my own company.

—————

Angry guard faceCheck out our 7 Generation Games Youtube channel for videos on math and Native American culture.

 

It seems as if parents can do no right. Parents who are very involved, who coach their children’s sports teams, who insist that their child not skip practice are criticized for living through their children. However, as every Disney after-school special ever will tell you, God save the child whose parent has an actual job to pay for all those basketball camps, private schools and plane fare to tournaments because that means they won’t be there to see their child score the winning goal/ star in the school play which explains why their child is the class bully/ mean girl. The hero of the moviet then understands why mean girl/ bully is that way. It is because the parent ads to have a career that might conflict with sitting on the sidelines watching a Little league game.

You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The people who told me I’m not involved enough have been people who have different priorities and opinions from me. They mean well but I beg to differ that my child will NOT be scarred for life if I don’t see her performance as tree #4 the school play. It is not a bad lesson to learn that someone can love you and simultaneously have a life of their own with their own goals and desires.

So, the people who judge me as not involved enough will get together and talk shit about me at the PTA meeting and Booster Club and all of those other things I don’t attend. It’s not something I drink champagne and celebrate, but it doesn’t worry me all that much, either. I’m doing the best I know how.

Child in woods
One thing I have learned personally over 32 years of raising children – no one who has accused me of being over involved in my children’s lives had their best interests at heart.  This group included a minority a who didn’t know me or my children and didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. The majority of  the time, when a someone has told me that I was too involved with my children and needed to back off, they were trying to take advantage of my children and didn’t want me to get in the way. THAT’S the group you have to guard against.

It reminds me of the time, years ago, when I was at the park with my 5-year-old daughter. There was a boy who looked about 11 playing on the playground. He asked me,

“Don’t you think that’s weird that you watch your daughter every second? Don’t you trust her?”

 

I told him it was other people I didn’t trust.
He said,

“Well, I feel sorry for you and your daughter. You must have a really depressing life.”

The rest of the story: 6 months later, I heard about that boy being arrested for molesting a young child in the same park.

My point – when someone tells you that you are too involved in your child’s life, ask them flat out,

“Why are you telling me this? Are you implying that you know my child better and care more than I do?”

On a darker side, ask yourself,

“What does this person gain by me being less involved?”

And watch that person like a hawk.

—————

On a lighter note, you can Not Get Dumber Over The Summer on our site for Kids and Teens

No creepy pedophiles allowed.

videos

Everyone should pause every now and then and ask themselves this question:

What would you want to be doing if you weren’t doing this?

Whatever “this” is, your answer will be revealing. If you excitedly exclaim,

“I would start a restaurant, using my grandma’s recipes, but it would be more of a modern look – kind of a Tuscany theme. The Venice area is coming up, I’d open it there.”

… then you have spent far too much time thinking about what you could be doing instead of what you are doing now. Maybe you should really take some steps to do something else instead of whatever your “this” happens to be.

If you ask me what I would be doing if I weren’t making games and analyzing data, I’d be hard pressed to give you an answer.

My first answer would be to protest,

“But I WANT to be doing this.”

It’s not that I haven’t thought about it. If I was not working, I could be doing any of these things:

  • Going to the Aquarium of the Pacific with my family (I have a membership),
  • Going to Disneyland ( I have a membership)
  • Going out to eat with my family
  • Writing a paper for a conference
  • Teaching judo
  • Riding a bike on the beach
  • Reading a book

All of those are perfectly fine things to do – as evidence, I offer lunch today with The Perfect Jennifer and Darling Daughter Number Three =  but notice that none of them is a full-time gig.

Darling daughters If I could not be doing what I’m doing now, I wouldn’t mind going back to teaching college. I wouldn’t mind going back to teaching middle school if they would start classes at some reasonable hour, say 10 am.

I have two memberships to tourist attractions because I tend not to take off work very often. The memberships mean that I have some incentive to get out of the office. It’s not going to cost me anything to go to Disneyland and it’s wasting money if I don’t go because The Invisible Developer paid for me to have a membership.

Maybe if your list of other things to do is too long, or when you come to one, you think longingly,

I really SHOULD go for a walk on the beach! I can’t remember the last time I did that!

…. you should take a break and do some of them.

At the moment, I’ve been doing better than usual at meeting friends for lunch, going to movies, calling my mom and cleaning the house. Asking myself on a regular basis,

“What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?”

forces me to focus on the things that I am NOT doing, whether it be in my business or personal life, and an evaluation of whether what I’m doing at this moment is worth giving up those other things.

Most of the time the answer is, “Yes.”

If, for you, most of the time the answer is, “No”, well, I think you know what you need to do.

+++++++++++

FEEL SMART AFTER READING THIS BLOG?

WANT TO BE EVEN SMARTER?

Check out 7 Generation Games – Games that make you smarter

Rocks

This IS my day job.

In the past, I have questioned the extent to which we really suck at math in the U.S. While I’m still a bit skeptical that the average child in developing countries is doing dramatically better than children in the U.S., one thing is pretty clear from our results to date, and that is that the average child living in poverty** in the U.S. is doing pretty darn bad when it comes to math.

About a week ago, I discussed the results from a test on fractions given as part of our Fish Lake game evaluation. The pretest score was around 22% correct. Not terribly good.

There were also two questions where children had to explain their answers:

   Zoongey Gniw ate 1/3 of a fish. Willow ate 1/3 of a different fish. Zoongey Gniw said that he ate more fish. Willow says that he ate the same amount as she did, because they both ate 1/3 of a fish. Explain to Willow how Zoongey Gniw could be right.

3 different ways of showing 1/4

 

Explain why each of the above figures represents ONE-FOURTH.

Answers were scored 2 points if correct, 1 if partially correct and 0 if incorrect.

Out of 4 points possible, the mean for 260 students in grades 3 through 7 was .42. In other words, they received about 10% of the possible points.

These two questions test knowledge that is supposed to be taught in 3rd grade and 96% of the students we tested were in fourth grade or higher.
PUH-LEASE don’t say,

 

“Well, those are hard questions. I’m not sure I could explain that.”

 

If that is the case, feel sad! These are easy questions if you understand basic facts about fractions. “Understand” is the key word in that sentence.

SO many people, including me, when I was young, simply memorize facts and repeat them when prompted, like some kind of trained parrot, and with no more understanding.

When understanding of mathematics is required, they fail. Yes, some of the items tested under the new Common Core standards are harder. That doesn’t show a failure of the standards or tests, but rather of the students’ knowledge.

This is one of those cases where “teaching to the test” is not a bad idea.

** The reason I limited my statement to children living in poverty is that the schools in our study had from 72% -98% of their students receiving free lunch. Being a good little statistician I don’t want to extrapolate beyond the population from which our sample was drawn.

 

 

I think I need some advice on appreciating how great my life is.

I haven’t been posting for two weeks, I realized today. First, I got sick  and then when I got better, I was so far behind in working on our games that I just squashed bugs and held design meetings for days.

Now, I’m 99% back to my usual self. Here is what has happened lately, in semi-chronological order.

  1. The Spoiled One was elected senior class president at the La-di-da College Preparatory School, where they also renewed her scholarship for a fourth year and she earned a perfect 4.0. Actually, I think it is higher than that because Honors and AP classes count for 5 points in GPA. She was also signed to a club soccer team. It’s not very usual to start playing club soccer at 17 but she’s not a very usual kid.
  2. Darling Daughter Number 3 and Darling Daughter Number 1 co-authored a book that appeared on the New York Times best-seller list this week.
  3. In the past year, The Perfect Jennifer has gotten married, moved into a house and had her contract renewed to teach yet another year in downtown Los Angeles where she continues to be a blessing to her students (and lots of people consider her that besides me).
  4. Darling Daughter Number 3 had three movie premieres, including one this week, for Entourage I just watched it tonight with The Spoiled One. It was good.
  5. I spent all day on a set today for a commercial. Since there were big signs about not posting on social media, you will just have to wonder until it comes out.
  6. We received another grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop games for rural schools serving English language learners.
  7. Last month we had a successful Kickstarter campaign to develop another game, Forgotten Trail, to teach statistics.
  8. Darling Daughter Number 1 had a healthy baby and moved into a house, with her husband and three lovely children, that is about half a mile away from us.
  9. In August, I will be flying to Brazil to spend a week with all four of my daughters, while Darling Daughter Number 3 defends her world title.
The Perfect Jennifer and Niece

The Perfect Jennifer Teaches Tree-Climbing

So, basically, everything good you could imagine happening to anyone has happened to me.

Instead of savoring how awesome my life is, most of my time I focus on how much more I want to do on these games, teaching statistics, teaching judo, writing conference papers, reports, journal articles. Not that all of those things aren’t useful and important, but it occurred to me today that I’m certainly not unhappy but I feel as if I should be tap-dancing happy and no tap-dancing has been happening.

Why?

Are you kidding me?

If you are a programmer, analyst, statistician, professor or student who uses SAS this is an opportunity to get to know your people and to get known.

I’m in Dallas for the SAS Global Forum, which I try to attend whenever I can. Yes, I could watch videos on the Internet, read books, read web pages, but I often don’t because I have a to-do list a mile long.

By presenting at the conference, I have to review what I am doing in teaching with SAS Studio and why.

SHAMELESS PLUG: My session on Preparing Students for the Real World with SAS Studio is a good one for both anyone who teaches with SAS and for anyone who is new to the SAS world and wants a good introductory session.

Since I am at the conference, I have a little bit of downtime to look into SAS resources. My new favorite is SAS communities. It’s a combination forum and free library. I must have looked into it at some point, because I had an account, but it seems to be more active now. I even submitted an article and poked around in the forum.

Then, of course, there are all of the sessions that I will attend, conversations  I will have with people, books I will hear about and buy, to read on the plane ride home.

It’s a week of learning.

But , but, you stutter like a motor boat, it’s expensive and far away. I can’t afford it. Besides, I would feel uncomfortable presenting at the same conference with all of those people who wrote the books on SAS (literally).

The expensive part I get. The not feeling like you could present at the same conference part is just silly, so I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.

If travel and cost is an issue, present at your local conference. The call for papers for the Western Users of SAS Software (WUSS) is open. Do it now!

It is painless. You submit a 300-word abstract. You can submit a working draft of the paper at the same time. That’s not mandatory but it improves your chances.

There is even a mentoring program where old people (like me), will help you revise your program and get ready to present.

Writing and presenting the paper will force you to think about what you are doing and why. You will likely make some contacts of people who will be potential employers, collaborators or drinking buddies.

What are you waiting for? A personal invitation?

Fine! Here you go.

gif_invited_0100

 

Need a topic? Here are 10 I would like to see

  1. The 25 functions I use most.
  2. Uses of PROC FORMAT .
  3. Multinomial logistic regression.
  4. The many facets of PROC FREQ.
  5. Factor analysis
  6. SAS for basic biostatistics
  7. Macro for data cleaning
  8. Model selection procedures
  9. Mixed models vs PROC GLM
  10. SAS Graphs without SAS/Graph (because SAS/Graph appears to be written in Klingon)

My point is that if I sat here and thought of 10 off the top of my head after two glasses of Chardonnay and half a glass of the champagne someone who will remain nameless bought at Costco and brought here from a state in the WUSS region, then I’ll bet you could come up with something really awesome stone-cold sober and given more than 60 seconds.

Let’s recap what we have learned here, shall we?

  • Join SAS communities,
  • Attend conferences, whether national or global,
  • Don’t be a wallflower – present!
  • Texas steak and wine is a good combination (not particularly related to SAS but true nonetheless)

waiter carrying champagne

Is that enough acronyms for you? I’ll be speaking at Celebrating Equity: Women in STEM at ELAC.

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

ELAC – East Los Angeles College

It’s 12:15 – 1:15 pm and it is free. There are six panelists (including me).

Download Women in STEM Poster

I presented last year and our company also had a booth. We hired two people who I met there.

Often, I hear people say that their company is all white/ Asian /under 40 because all of the developers / animators/ audio engineers  that applied just happened to fit that demographic. Here is a thought – perhaps you could go to, say, a college that is predominantly Hispanic and just maybe Hispanic potential employees might meet you there.

Here is another thought – perhaps if you attended events targeted at women in STEM, you might meet some there.

====

Wonder what a game would look like if it was created by a design and development team that was predominantly women?

Player needing help

 

Back us on Kickstarter, play an awesome game and wonder no more!

Any time I hear someone brag,

“I’ve never used X in my life,”

I automatically assume that whatever it is, they haven’t learned it very well. Just about everything I’ve learned has come in useful, and the better I learned it, the more useful it is.

Take statistics, for example. There is nowhere in my life that knowledge of statistics isn’t helpful. Darling Daughter Number 3 competes in mixed martial arts and I’m the worrying type.

Ronda armbars

Darling Daughter 3 Defending World Title (Photo by @HansGutknecht )

Whenever her next fight is announced, the very first thing I do is check the fight odds. For the one coming up in Brazil, she is a 15-1 favorite. Knowing that makes my stress level go down a little. I’ll still drop by her gym a time or two during camp just to reassure myself that all is going well. As I said, I’m a worrier.

Player needing help

Back our Kickstarter game, Forgotten Trail!  Read more about what I’m worried about today here. Watch the video. It’s only 2 1/2 minutes!

The latest thing I’m worrying about is our Kickstarter campaign, but here again, statistics cheer me up. Two years ago, we did a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $20,000. I should have researched a bit better in advance because even though Kickstarter touted  the 44% success rate that is an average (there’s that knowledge of statistics again). Things that were less likely to get funded were projects seeking over $10,000, game projects and projects not featured on Kickstarter. We fit all three. Pretty depressing. In fact, looking at the statistics after we had started our campaign last time I found that less than 5% of campaigns raised over $20,000.
Well, we made it. You’d think we have learned our lesson, but due to a couple of reasons, I’ll go into another day, we decided to do ANOTHER Kickstarter two years later. So, here we are today.

tired girls on hillThe bad news is that the success rate on Kickstarter has gone down. The overall success rate is now 39% .  The semi-good news is that the success rate for games actually ticked up a bit – it was 33% two years ago and it is 34% now.

The really good news: success tends to be all or nothing – 79% of projects that raised 20% of their goal ended successfully funded. Of projects that raised 41% of their goal, 94% went on to be successfully funded. We’re at 42% and we still have two-thirds of our campaign to run, so I’m feeling somewhat less worried.

So, now that you know what the odds are, help a sister out and go back us. I know you have access to the internet, because you’re reading this!

 

 

 

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