I read a blog post where the author said the women who dropped out of programming “should have been discouraged” because it’s not for everyone and many women try to use smiles and flattery to get men to do their work for them.

I actually have had the experience the author cites, but with both men and women. It’s true there are some people in the tech field who are very introverted or socially inept. They are willing to help you with your technical problems if you will just stop by and have a cup of coffee and chat with them.

I’m not that person. I have a husband and four daughters. Interestingly,The Invisible Developer, who is so introverted as to be never seen in public is also not that person. He has me and aforementioned four daughters. That is enough for him.

Clearly, people who want you to do their work for them are annoying, however, I haven’t found them to be limited to one gender at all.  Lately, I’ve been wondering whether they are like that in SOME  cases because they don’t believe they can learn to do it themselves. I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know, though, is that over the years I have known many people to succeed in areas I would not have given them a chance. Two very fine physicians that I know didn’t attend the best high schools, have the grades as undergraduates and honestly,  I didn’t think they had a prayer of  getting into medical school, much less succeeding. Neither got accepted in medical school the first year that they tried. People I would not have given the chance of a prayer in hell of becoming elite athletes have often gone on to surprise me, including a couple who won Olympic medals.

Life discourages people enough. Don’t add to it!

That advice is particularly true for programming. The last couple of days have been discouraging. We had our next install almost ready and then I found some bugs in it. Then we thought it was done, and I found some more bugs in it.

Yes, he's a man and we work together to fix stuff

The Invisible Developer is upstairs fixing those and testing the latest version. I am downstairs fixing his code on the next game (so much for women wanting men to do their work for them, and he is definitely a man. I can point to fact of having collaborated in producing The Spoiled One as irrefutable proof of said manliness. Photograph attached.). Actually, he’s brilliant and totally capable of fixing it himself, but he was already working on the other game.

Everyone’s code, if it is the least bit complicated, is going to have bugs in it. Sometimes it can take you days to find them.

Some days we succeed in writing quizzes where students can drag and drop answers, video clips with sound and animation play in response to correct answers with dialogue in English and Dakota, and then the student is transported back to a 3-D virtual world to continuing playing.

Other days, nothing happens. Just nothing. There are no errors in our consoles, just a screen looking obstinately back at us refusing to do what it’s supposed to do.

Programming is discouraging some days on its own and the LAST thing you need those days is someone saying,

“Maybe you’re just not cut out for this. “

I was complaining about how today had just not been productive, that I wanted to have the latest fixes on Spirit Lake in the hands of the teachers today but it wasn’t saving the game state frequently enough. While The Invisible Developer worked on that I found that some of the quizzes in the next build of Fish Lake were telling the student the answer was wrong even when it was right.

The Spoiled One said,

“Don’t worry, Mom. You’ll figure it out. You have time. Life is long.”

You know what? She was right. We figured it all out today. People should be encouraged. I’m proud of that she has figured this out at not-quite-sixteen.

One of the many questions on start-up accelerator applications that make me go “Hmm”, is this question :

How many lines of code have you written?

I have heard of, but thankfully never worked at, organizations that evaluated their technical staff by the lines of code written.

Let me give you two stories that illustrate why this is a bad example.

fairy

Once upon a time ….

Many years ago, I worked at an organization that decided the programming staff was overpaid and generally had a bad attitude. (No, this wasn’t due solely to me. In fact, unbelievably, I was one of the easier to get along with people on the technical staff).  So … they hired some people at low salaries who had, I believe, a three-month training course in SAS. Most of the senior people avoided the cube farm where these new hires were housed, believing that it would be apparent soon enough that you get what you pay for.

I would generally come in around 10:30 or 11 and leave the office around 8 pm. I couldn’t help but notice several times that some of these new programmers were still there when I left. Leaving one evening, I saw one woman in tears in her cubicle, so I stopped and asked what was the matter. She said she had come into the office at 6 a.m. and was still waiting for her program to run. I sat down with her and looked at her program, which was a simple thing to create a few total and subtotal scores and get statistics on these by state. Her program looked like this:

 

LIBNAME  in “directory”;

Data Alabama ;
set in.us ;
If var1 = .  then var1 = 0 ;
If var2 = .  then var2 = 0 ;
If var3 = .  then var3 = 0 ;
Total = var1 + var 2 + var 3;
If state= “Alabama” ;

run;
Proc means data = alabama ;
var total ;
run;

REPEATED 50 TIMES (50 states + Washington, DC) for a total of 562 lines of code (there is only one Libname statement).

The reason it was taking so long is that she was reading in this dataset with millions of records 51 times. There are many ways this could be fixed. Since I was on my way home, I sat down and did this.

libname mydata “directory”  ;
data test ;
set mydata.us ;
total = sum(var1,var2,var3) ;
keep total state ;

Proc tabulate data= test ;
class state ;
var total ;
Table state ,(total*(n*f=comma12.0(mean std)*f=comma8.2) );
run ;

My program was 10 lines, read the dataset in once and produced a nicely formatted table.

So, was she 60 times more productive? I don’t think so.

Story number two happened in the last week. I have been working on improving our two games, Spirt Lake, and particularly Fish Lake. A major improvement has been merging multiple scripts into one.

Here is what we did with our prototype, since we had to meet a deadline:

  • Wrote a script to handle multiple choice tests.
  • Wrote another script to handle tests that had an integer or decimal answer.
  • Wrote a third script to handle tests that had a fraction as an answer, like 4/5 , to be sure it also accepted 8/10, etc.
  • Wrote a fourth script to handle tests where the answer was dragged and dropped.

etc.

Now obviously, de-bugging would be simpler if we have only one or two scripts. So, this week, I have been taking a couple of scripts and making them more generalizable and deleting many others.

Another thing I’ve done is create a CSS style sheet for each game and included that link in files instead of having the common classes defined in each page.

 

The number of code in the project has gone DOWN by hundreds of lines, but I think the ease of maintenance and documentation has gone UP.

Now, if you asked me how many lines of code I have written in my life, that might be a relevant question. (True story, I once worked on a job where I did repeated measures ANOVA so many times for so many projects, I got so bored, I started writing statements backward beginning with the semi-colon.)

Well, I better get to bed since it is well past midnight, I have seven teenagers sleeping over at my house and I have to get up in the morning and take them all to Disneyland for The Spoiled One’s birthday.

7 Generation Games Logo

BTW – You can buy Spirit Lake: The Game here 

The Invisible Developer had commented that I write an awful lot about SAS and maybe I should write about some other language. For Christmas last year, someone gave me an impact.js license so I made a little game where players drop snares to catch rabbits and collect berries. This doesn’t have much educational value,  I was just playing around. I thought it would be amusing to have the food items they collect in the game be equal in value to the number of calories in that item.

If you have impact and wanted to do this yourself, here is what you would do.

1. Basic stuff - include game.entities.berry, game.entities.rabbit and any other food item in your main.js script. It goes right at the beginning with any other entities you require

 

ig.module(
‘game.main’
)
.requires(
‘game.entities.berry’,
‘game.entities.rabbit’,

– more stuff –

)

2. Create the score in your game info function that stores information

GameInfo = new function(){
this.food = 0;
— other stuff you want to initialize
}

 

3. When you extend the game to add your own cool stuff include an addFood function

MyGame = ig.Game.extend({

– init and other functions

addFood: function(amt){
//pickup item
GameInfo.food += amt; //add caloric value to the food score
}
,

– draw and other functions

 

4. To each entity script, add a function that defines how the player gets the food. Here are two examples.

Collecting berries

In the case of the berries, the player will just walk by the bushes and collect the berries. Think Pac Man!

In your berry.js file add a check function like this

EntityBerry = ig.Entity.extend({

— other stuff

check: function(other){
if (other.name == “player”){
ig.game.addFood(5);
this.kill();
}}
})

So …. it is about 5 calories per berry. When the player walks by a bush and comes into contact with a berry (picks the berry), the berry disappears and the player’s food count goes up by 5.

Snaring rabbits

Here is a second example. In this one, they drop snares around the virtual woods and when they snare a rabbit they get 1,000 points which is the approximate calorie content of a dressed rabbit, according to the USDA Nutrient database . I assumed this yielded an average of 2 pounds of meat.

For my rabbit I have extended the rabbit.js script as follows

EntityRabbit = ig.Entity.extend({

— other stuff

kill: function(other){
ig.game.addFood(1000);
this.parent();
}
})

But what is going to kill my rabbits? The snares, of course, so I added this into my snare.js script

EntitySnare = ig.Entity.extend({

— other stuff

check: function(other){
if (other.name == “rabbit”){
other.receiveDamage(100,this) ;
ig.game.addFood(1000);

}}
})

Since the rabbit only has 100 health points, that kills it off so your rabbit disappears and your food value goes up by 1,000.

As you can see, you could easily add shooting deer, buffalo and other food in the same way.

——————————————–

After I had played around with this for a bit, I thought it was a waste to just trash it so I put it into our upcoming game, Fish Lake, in between levels. When they finish Level 3, they play this game and then go on to Level 4. Our main game is 3-d, this is just a little interlude. I like to throw surprises into the game so kids like it and keep playing.

—————————————-

Someone in Los Angeles was very upset by our Spirit Lake game where players shoot wolves and buffalo. She said she just could not kill animals. (The Invisible Developer asked me if she was aware that they were virtual animals and not real.) I told her that our games are based on Native American history and history is what happened, not what you think should have happened or wanted to happen. In fact, there is a very touching story in Fish Lake narrated by Debbie Gourneau of the Turtle Mountain reservation on how many people died of starvation and how many more would have died were it not for the jackrabbits.

——————————

buffalo in the snowClick here to get Spirit Lake: The Game for $9.99

 

P. S. The amount of information produced by USDA is nothing short of amazing, and I don’t say that just because they funded are grant. They really are incredible.

 

 

Most start-up events waste my time. Founder Friday Women 2.0 was one of the few exceptions.

Generally,  at start-up events, the people who have an actual company make up a tiny fraction of the attendees, being out-numbered at least 5 to 1 by people with “an idea for a company”. The remainder of those in attendance are in insurance, law or other companies selling to start-ups. Nothing wrong with that and at one event we actually met a company we signed a contract with, so it’s not always a waste of time.

I think most people running actual companies are like me, they are too busy doing things to have a lot of time to spare for drinks with people talking about what they are going to do.

Our Chief Marketing Officer insists that I get out of the office and network. She believes everyone in the company, regardless of job title, should pitch, present or exhibit our games at least once a month. So … I agreed to put up a table at Founder Friday ‘s Women 2.0 event in Los Angeles.

There are only two guarantees that your time at a start-up event won’t be completely wasted; 1. You get to pitch/ present your company or 2. There is a speaker you can learn from.

Founder Friday, Women 2.0 had both. I did get to discuss 7 Generation Games with a number of people, but most helpful for me was the speaker. I tweeted about the event and a couple of people asked me her name. It was Jody  Dunitz, and she is an investor with the Tech Coast Angels, which is the largest angel investor group in the country. Most of her talk was about how she personally decided whether a company was a good investment. Here are the main points from my notes:

  • She looks at three things.
  • Look at the product first. It must be innovative in some way. Status quo is a huge barrier to overcome. You can have a greatly superior X but if people already have an X then they are very inclined to stay with that. (Take the example of a car. You’re probably not going to go out and buy a new car right now just because a better car came out on the market. If you have a Prius, when it comes time to buy a new car, you’re likely to just buy another Prius. )
  • You need to have a product. “There has to be some there there.” Too many people have just an idea but no actual product. It can be a prototype, a minimal viable product, but there has to be something.
  • You need to have a way that you are going to make money. Too many people say they are going to scale up and then be acquired for $19 billion. You need to have a way that you are going to make revenue.
  • Second, she looks at the team. Some investors may look at the team first.
  • She is extremely reluctant to invest in a company with a sole founder. To make up for being a sole founder they would have to have some other aspect of the company  that was really extraordinary.
  • There isn’t a magic number of founders to have on your team but whatever the number is, it’s more than one.
  • The key member of the team is the CEO. The CEO should be knowledgable about all aspects of the company. He or she doesn’t have to write code but should at least understand the technical aspects of a product and not have to go ask the CTO. The CEO should understand the financial situation and not have to go ask the CFO.
  • Third thing she looks at is valuation. Founders always think their company is worth more than investors do. Founders look at how much time and effort they have put into it. Investors look at how much money they think they can make.
  • Angel investors look for a 10x return in 5-7 years. It used to be 3-5 years but there is more competition from accelerators, incubators and different investor groups now, so the horizon has gotten a bit longer.
  • Growth in venture capital has not matched the pace of growth in angel investment, so a higher proportion of companies than previously now get angel funding but fail to get venture capital and die.
  • Angels are looking for a 10X return. They need a high return to make up for all of the companies that fail and don’t make anything.
  • If your company looks like it may pay 10-20% returns, they aren’t interested. In that case, it would make more sense to invest in something like Apple stock.
  • Startup companies at the Angel level are usually valued at $2- $4 million
  • When founders are deciding whether an angel investor is a good fit, the first thing they should look at is rapport, do they get along. Is this person interested in their company over and above the money it can make? Will the investor bring something to the deal in addition to money – connections with key customers, knowledge of the industry.

Two main points I took away from it for me personally are,

  1. Our team is doing a lot of things right.
  2. We need to stress more how 7 Generation Games is different from other educational gaming companies. I got right on that.

hunter on horseback

7 Generation Games – Grand Theft Auto – but with horses and math, and for kids. 

For $9.99 you can quit arguing with your kids about math homework.

Got interrupted by coding, meetings, flying across country, teaching judo, more meetings and flying back across country. Just finishing The Hard Thing about Hard Things and and I thought it was a terrific book EXCEPT for the part about not hiring people from your friend’s companies. I completely disagreed with this, and even though I admired what Horowitz has done and appreciated the great advice in his book, this part would make me very reluctant to ever work with or for him, not because he’s necessarily a bad person or manager but because it reveals a completely incompatible view of the world and business.

In short, he says that you don’t hire people from your friends’ companies. I just read a rather damning article about the collusion of tech companies in artificially lowering wages of engineers and programmers by a “gentleman’s agreement” not to hire one another’s star employees in Pando Quarterly..I hope Horowitz’s friends lose the anti-trust lawsuit and pay a lot of penalties because I believe they are wrong.

His argument is that if your friend’s company is in dire straits that person is a major loss, if they are that good, and why would you do that to a friend? He equates it to dating your friend’s ex-husband.

I completely disagree.

What about the poor man/woman who is a superstar programmer , manager, sales person at company X. They are great at their job, that’s why you are interested in them. They want to leave company X because it is circling the drain, or maybe they just want more money or a shorter commute. They have worked very hard their whole lives to be a superstar whatever and they would be good at the job. They would be good for your company. And you refuse to hire them not because they are unqualified but because your friend doesn’t want to release them. This is so much like indentured servitude or slavery that it creeps me out. Your master must release you. Ick.

It is NOT like dating someone’s ex-husband. It is like beating their friend in a match. You get over it.

This came up in a story at lunch today with some friends. MANY years ago, I was on the U.S. team and one of our athletes came out as a lesbian while we were on the European tour, when her girlfriend showed up. The rest of the team had a meeting without her present, called by the manager, and discussed “what to do about it”.

I said,

“At the last tournament, the only two people who won gold medals were me and her, and so the way I see it, the only person who has any room to talk is me and I don’t care if she has sex with small desert animals as long as she brings back medals for our country. As far as who would be willing to room with her, I’ll room with her.”

After that, a couple of other women on the team spoke up and agreed with me. So, nothing was said and she roomed with someone else on the team, because we weren’t particularly good friends at the time.

One of the women at lunch asked why we weren’t friends and I explained that she had beaten a very good friend of mine and replaced her on the U.S. team. The same woman asked why I offered to room with her then, and I said,

Because we were team mates.

To me, it made perfect sense. Yes, I was not happy my friend wasn’t on the team. I liked her. I would have liked to have roomed with her. I was also really sad for her that she was not on the U.S. team. However, I sure didn’t expect someone else to lose out to their own detriment to benefit my friend. Moreover, I wanted my team, the United States, to win, and that meant having the best people.

It seems as if Horowitz decisions harmed people who were outstanding performers who had done no more wrong than choosing to work for one of his friends, reducing those “stars” opportunities and maybe offering less than optimal employees for his company.

I think he was wrong to do that.

 

 

If you are planning on working in business in any way, whether you are still in college, two years into a start-up or thinking of joining a young, growing company,  read this book – The Hard Thing about Hard Things. I just saw it is the number one business book on Amazon and deservedly so.

Two words describe it best – honest and accurate.

However, this is a blog, not a tweet, so I’m going to add a few more.

It was great to read his discussion of the times when the software was not perfect because we face that every day. Last year, we did our very first alpha version of Spirit Lake: The Game and was it ever a rough draft. Thankfully, we were working with some schools who were very cooperative and having a person on site to step in and fix problems was a godsend. This year, we are in a lot more classrooms and every time something is not perfect, I catch myself thinking, oh, God, why didn’t we wait until we had the all in one install? Why didn’t we add the read-it-to-me function before we put it in the schools? Why didn’t we …

Then I realize, just like in the book, that you HAVE to release less than perfect code because your customers will help you see what really needs to be changed. Also, you just can’t wait because other people will move into the market and take the customers while you are working on your perfect code.

While too many business books present successful businesses as one success after another, that’s not real life and Horowitz is honest enough to say so, to talk about the large customers that they lost, the drop in stock value, the customer that was furious with their quality problems. The truth is that companies who succeed have problems along the way, and if you don’t realize that, you’re going to panic when your company inevitably has problems with cash flow, quality, changes in the market.

One thing that Horowitz just teaches by example is the intense focus that goes into running a successful start-up.

It’s almost never that  a book causes me to change my behavior, but this is that rarity.

As I wrote earlier, I have been dropping other commitments to focus just on 7 Generation Games. After reading The Hard Thing, I have gotten much more emphatic about it. No, I cannot take your consulting contract. No, I don’t know what you will do now. Reading about the hours Horowitz had to spend to save Loudcloud, and with three children at home, no less, made me certain that I was on the right track. If this company is so important to me that I want people to buy from us, investors to invest in us, then it can’t be less than a total commitment.

The other encouraging part of the book was how their corporate fortunes went up and down. At one point, it seemed that EVERYONE used Netscape. I wrote my first website using Netscape Composer. Now, Netscape is a thing of the past but Horowitz and Andreessen are not. If your thing you are doing is no longer viable, then you don’t lament or decide you’re a failure. You go on to a new thing.

While our company is in the technology sector also, I am guessing that anyone running any kind of business can benefit from reading this book. Whether you’re writing software or baking pies, you need to hire people who fit the job and sometimes they were great when you were part of a huge grocery chain but now, spun off as Jo’s Pie Shop, they are not making it and you have to let them go. I suspect no matter what business you are in, the first months, years even, are full of decisions that are not optimal because you had to start delivering your product or service when it was due not when it was perfect.

Thanks to years of speed-reading classes at St. Mary’s Elementary School (seriously, thanks), I read a book or two every evening before I go to bed. That’s hundreds of books a year. This book is the best one I’ve read in years.

Disclaimer: No one gave me diddly-squat for writing this post, not even a free book. I bought it on Amazon.

 

Yesterday, I did the Happy Dance in my office when we finished version 2.2 of Spirit Lake.

I said that despite taking me away from virtually every other interest in my life, being obsessed with a start-up is worth it.

WHY?

In thinking it over today, I realized that 7 Generation Games meets every possible desire I could have

Julia16Mental – making a game truly challenges me both intellectually and creatively every day. It began with creating, with my partners, a vision of a virtual world – what would the people look like, the scenery, what would they do? How would this dovetail with math? How can we make it interesting enough that children keep playing it? On top of all of these questions is how to write the code to get it to run, record data and for all of the parts – database, 2D program, web input forms, 3D programs – to work together. There really isn’t anything more satisfying in life than seeing something that started out existing only in my brain becoming real. It’s exactly like being a parent except that 16 years from now the games won’t tell me I’m ruining their life by refusing to sign them up for a club soccer team.

Emotional – there is the good part of the emotion of working on 7 Generation Games. We are sincerely striving to make it easier for more kids to learn math. When our games succeed, students improve their chances of passing grades, graduating from high school and going on to college because math is a hierarchical subject. If you don’t understand division, you aren’t going to get fractions. If you don’t understand ratios you’ll fail geometry and statistics. They also learn Native American history, pick up some words in native languages and even increase their vocabulary in English. There is also the elimination of the negative part of working many other places. I can make my own hours and since I am allergic to mornings, I can get up at 10 a.m. Because I telecommute, I almost never have to drive in LA traffic. I seldom have to wear a suit. I work only with really smart, motivated, interesting people. The teachers who use our games and provide us feedback are a delight because they are the ones who are on the forefront trying new things, and not shy about giving their ideas for improvement.

Physical – if we’re going on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this is the basic ones, food, shelter, heat, etc. While our Chief Marketing Officer joined up because she expects us to make a lot of money, and I’m not averse to that, we do make enough to cover the bills. We’re not yet making what we would be if we had taken corporate job offers, but it covers private school for The Spoiled One, trips to see Darling Daughter Number Three continue to dominate the world in mixed martial arts, wedding expenses for The Perfect Jennifer and visits to The Even More Perfect Grandchildren. My goal is to be like Bill Gates, both in making software a billion people use and in giving away a billion dollars.

Today I worked on making a game more fun for kids. Tomorrow, I will work on putting in new ideas, new challenges for helping kids learn more. Yes, I actually get to do this for a living as a grown-up. How awesome is that?

Buy our game. It’s awesome. Best $9.99 you’ll spend today.

7 Generation Games Logo

Really useful advice for start-ups on How Not to Die from Paul Graham emphasized

 The number one thing not to do is other things. If you find yourself saying a sentence that ends with “but we’re going to keep working on the startup,” you are in big trouble…. We’re taking on some consulting projects, but we’re going to keep working on the startup. You may as well just translate these to “we’re giving up on the startup, but we’re not willing to admit that to ourselves,” because that’s what it means most of the time. A startup is so hard that working on it can’t be preceded by “but.”

In particular, don’t go to graduate school, and don’t start other projects.

As my co-founder, Maria and I discussed today, that is absolutely true but it’s also true that it may take some time to get to the “Nothing but the startup” point. In our case, we had existing contracts we needed to fulfill, mine with consulting clients and hers with ESPN and Fox News Latino. You also have to be in the financial position that you can afford to not only work at a reduced salary for years but at the same time pay for expenses – artwork for the game, animation, travel expenses to demonstrate the game. As you grow, there are other expenses for tech support, promotional items like the posters the teachers put up in the classrooms, the $25o I just paid to have a table at Women 2.0 Founder Friday in Los Angeles.

artwork from the gamePaul Graham’s article was the second-best advice I have read on starting a business. The best was a book by Paul Hawken I bought over 20 years ago called Growing a Business. He advised a couple of things. One is that you learn how to do as much for yourself as possible instead of paying for expensive “experts”. Justin Flores does our artwork,  with occasional contributions from Gene Wilson, because I totally suck at art. Other things, whether it is CSS or sound editing with Garageband, I just learned. I took a class at MacWorld one year, bought some books. Yes, I took several books out of the library, too, instead of buying them. Hawken’s other advice was to keep your operating costs as low as possible, thus making it possible to follow the advice of Graham 20 years later which is to just do your start-up.

We have an office upstairs where The Invisible Developer works, shielded from all human eyes, and an office downstairs where I work and so does Marisol, Maria when she is in town and the occasional intern. Because we have been in this location in Santa Monica for over 30 years and the city has rent control, the rent for our space comes up to under $500 a month. The down side of that is that it is not at all feasible for us to move. The Spoiled One would like us to move to Ojai. I’d really like to live somewhere we could have a dog, but it is not in the cards.

Doing “nothing but a startup” means saying “No” a lot, and saying “Yes” to the right things.

If you are  doing “nothing but a startup”, it is not just that almost all of your time and attention is going to be focused on that, but almost all of your decisions, too, are based on “how will this affect our company?” This can be something like can we move or more amorphous like the topics you learn more about. I did a lot of SAS programming for over 30 years and now I’m doing much less of that and more javascript. I’m skipping the SAS Global Forum for the first time in several years and will probably go to an HTML5 conference in San Francisco instead.

It’s good to be learning new stuff  in a new area, but there is also new stuff in the old area – like the SAS model selection procedures, that I really wish I had time to learn. I’ve been writing on my blog less. I quit teaching at Pepperdine University as an adjunct because I just could not commit the time to showing up once a week for four months straight.

It’s absolutely beautiful weather most of the time in Santa Monica and I rarely make it outside because I am working. I’ve quit volunteering nearly as often. I teach judo once a week at Gompers Middle School and several times a year, I have to get a friend of mine to substitute for me. I’ve resigned from all non-profit boards I used to be on except for one, and when the board chair term expires this year, I’m stepping down from that.

As consulting contracts have expired, I haven’t renewed them. I’ve turned down several offers to teach classes, present at conferences and take on new consulting clients.

I wrote a book on matwork for judo and mixed martial arts last year, but I’m not working on another book.

All of this has now enabled me to spend 8, 10 or 12 hours a day most days doing nothing but working on 7 Generation Games (while only getting paid for less than half of those hours!) and the result is that we are progressing far faster than we were a year earlier.

Is it all worth it? Yes.

 

 

When I add up all of the ad revenue from this blog on top of the business it garners, in a good month it might average out to $30 an hour and in a not-so-good month maybe $10. Since my consulting rate is a heck of a lot more than $30 an hour you might wonder why I bother. If you read this blog regularly you can guess that it is the same reason I do most things, for the hell of it.

However, occasionally there are some perks that are priceless. One of those was the opportunity to be on the call this morning on the White House call with Sam Kass, Executive Director of Let’s Move. Thanks a million to Blogher for setting this up. I am SO-O not a morning person and the call was at 8 a.m. Pacific time. I almost tried to get Maria to fill in for me but she tactfully pointed out that it would be hard for her to pass off for me because she did not sound sufficiently old.

So, barely awake on my first cup of coffee, I still learned a lot on this call. There were many bloggers, with diverse interests, and the question and answer session at the end revealed that. A nutritionist asked about the likelihood of stopping junk food and soft drink sales in schools. A food blogger asked about the quality of school lunches. When Sam Kass mentioned documented higher math scores among students with free breakfast programs, of course I perked up and asked for more details.

 

me with daughters

(Maria is on the left. I’m the wrinkled one on the right. Darling Daughter # 3 is in the middle, apparently exhausted from 66 seconds of effort. Thanks to Hans Gutknecht for the photo.)

Now, I’m good at math and I thought if three hours after school are important – often the time between when kids get out of school and their parents get home – and you have at most one hour of physical activity, what are kids doing in after-school programs in the other two hours. Surely, they can’t spend two hours just eating fruits and vegetables, right?The most interesting part to me was the lengthy discussion of the three hours after school as being vitally important. This is a personal interest of mine, since for the last three years, I have volunteered at an after school program teaching judo. (The daughter in the middle started that judo program five years ago and taught it for the first two years.) It was also interesting, though, because he mentioned the importance of 60 minutes of physical activity a day, at least 30 minutes of it occurring in school seems to be a goal.

Our games are used in a couple of after school programs, and that’s great. However, the games we have available now are aimed at mathematics in grades 3 through 6. What about older kids?

I visit a lot of disadvantaged communities and one of the disadvantages students have is that they don’t really have much idea of the type of opportunities out there for future careers, what people do or how they get those jobs. So … I thought one thing I could offer immediately is an inside look at making computer games. Not one to let grass grow under my feet, I sent an email this evening to 30 teachers I know and linked to a few parts of the game we are working on now. These are in pretty rough form. However, if the students check in every day after school they can see what we have done in the past 24 hours. It should be fun for them to see how the game takes shape. Some of the pages don’t have sound yet. They don’t have the bells and whistles and “yoo-hoo” that comes up when a student passes a quiz or goes up a level.

That whole “Take your child to work day” isn’t available to a lot of students, and if they live in a small rural community, the kind of jobs they can be taken to is limited. So … I decided to reach out to students after school and take a whole lot of them to work with me for the next six weeks. Too often, whether it is software or scientific research, students are presented with the final product and think it is made by people who are far smarter and more talented than them. If they only saw how rough it is at the beginning and the amount of hacking into shape it takes — and now they will.

As I mentioned yesterday, banging away at 7 Generation Games has led to less time for blogging and a whole pile of half-written posts shoved into cubbyholes of my brain. So, today, I reached into the random file and  coincidentally came out with a second post on open data …

aque

The question for Day 11 of the 20-day blogging challenge was,

“What is one website that you can’t do without? Tell about your favorite features and how you use it in teaching.”

Well, I’m a big open data fan and I am a big believer in using real data for teaching. I couldn’t limit it to one. Here are four sites that I find super-helpful

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research has been a favorite of mine for a long time.  From their site,

“An international consortium of more than 700 academic institutions and research organizations, ICPSR provides leadership and training in data access, curation, and methods of analysis for the social science research community.

ICPSR maintains a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences. “

I like ICPSR but it is often a little outdated. Generally, researchers don’t hand over their data to someone else to analyze until they have used it as much as their interest (or funding) allows. On the other hand, it comes with good codebooks and often a bibliography of published research. As such, it’s great for students learning statistics and research methods, particularly in the social sciences.

For newer data, my three favorites are the U.S. census site, CHIS and CDC.

census logocensus.gov data resources section is enough to make you drool when it comes to open data. They have everything from data visualization tools to enormous data files. Whether you are teaching statistics, research methods, economics or political science – it doesn’t matter if you’re teaching middle school or graduate school, you can find resources here.

 

Yes, that’s nice, but what if you are teaching courses in health care – biostatistics, nursing, epidemiology – whatever your flavor of health-related interests, and whether you want your data and statistics in any form from raw data to publication, the Center for Disease Control Data & Statistics section is your answer.

Last only because it is more limited in scope is the California Health Interview Survey site where you can get public use files to download for analysis (my main use) as well as get pre-digested health statistics.

It all makes me look forward to diving back into teaching data mining  this fall.

← Previous PageNext Page →