Category Archives: Family

12-Year-Old Creates Game for iOS, Android, and HTML5 – Gravity Lines

Over 8 years ago I wrote a post titled 10 Things I Learned From My 4-Year-Old and it generated a lot interest and controversy on Reddit. Today my son Niklas is 12 years old and he still teaches me things everyday. Now he has accomplished an amazing thing that I promised him I would share with all of you.

At 12-years-old Nik has published his first app to iOS and Android! I’ve linked to it at the bottom of this post and I want to encourage you to download the app, rate it, and give it a review.

Gravity Lines

It is a simple game where a line moves along a platform and you tap the screen to flip it to the other side trying to avoid touching other lines. It was inspired from the games Geometry Dash and Flappy Bird.

Nik spent hundreds of hours programming this app and we had a lot of challenges and stress along the way. The first challenge was that Nik insisted that we publish it for both the major mobile platforms, iOS and Android. At first we thought he would have to program the app twice, once for each platform. The other challenge was that to build an app for iOS you must own a Mac and pay $99 to become a registered Apple developer. We didn’t own a Mac and neither of us were Apple developers, so Nik put his money where his mouth was and spent half his life savings purchasing and Mac mini and registering as a Apple Developer (which we had to register under my name since Nik isn’t officially old enough to register for anything on the internet). From there he found a library called LibGDX at BadLogicGames that allowed him to program his app in eclipse using java and publish to four platforms from one code base, iOS, Android, HTML5, and desktop.

Please understand Nik did ALL the programming and ALL the heavy lifting here, I helped answer a few questions, get him pointed in the right direction, and setup the Apple development environment, but Nik did all of the rest himself.

Over the last year or so Nik has started an after school programming club which sold out the first day it was offered as an official club. He has also started the Pizza Scripters which is a group of kids his age who love to code and want to encourage other kids to code by publishing their work online in the hope that showing what is possible will inspire other kids to take up coding and push schools to start offering coding as a core competency like reading, writing, and math.

So go ahead get Gravity Lines for your device!

Gravity Lines Lite (Free, Apple iOS)
Gravity Lines Full ($.99, Apple iOS)

Gravity Lines Lite (Free, Android)
Gravity Lines Full ($.99, Android)

Once you’ve played it, please take a few moments to rate it and review it.

You can also play Gravity Lines Lite on the Pizza Scripters website for free.

Birthday Today – 45 Years Old!

You know, when I was 15 I didn’t think I’d live to see 18 and when I made 18, I didn’t think I’d live to see 21. Well here I am at 45 and in the best shape of my life.

I’ve included a tribute to all of us who grew up in those days and made it. Here’s too ya!

Just curious, if you’re still reading this blog, drop me a comment and let me know.

Supply Side Home Economics

I’m tired of everyone telling us how to save money. What we need is people telling us how to make money.

Like a lot of people today, maybe your budget is tight. Maybe you read Money Magazine looking for a few tips to get ahead. Or maybe you read Get Rich Slowly (one of my favorite blogs). Most money sources have oodles of tips on how to save money and make your fixed budget go further.

Common Tips About Money:

  • Cutting coupons
  • Eat out less
  • Quit buying books and use the public library
  • Bring a bag lunch to work
  • Shop at the Salvation Army and the Goodwill
  • Buy in bulk at a warehouse club
  • Refinance your home
  • Send away for rebates
  • Get DVDs from Redbox
  • Use 0% credit card offers
  • Increase your insurance deductible
  • Keep your used car
  • Limit gift giving
  • Take advantage of matching 401k funds
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Stop Smoking
  • Avoid late payments
  • Replace light bulbs
  • Buy energy efficient appliances

I’m sure you’ve read dozens more. These are great ideas, but… they won’t solve most people’s money problems. They’re too minuscule. Too incremental. They’re a good start at getting your debt under control, or dealing with a lost job, but in the long run, they won’t get you were you want to be. They are temporary fixes to a lifetime issue.

We all want more money for one reason… It gives us freedom to pursue our goals, to travel, to grow, and to create the life of our dreams.

If you focus all your attention and energy on saving money, you aren’t focusing on the solution. You are focusing on the problem. The solution is creating wealth. To create wealth, you need income and you need to grow it. So if you’re focused on coupons and light bulbs you aren’t focused on the long term. You’re focused on a band-aid fix.

What is Supply Side Home Economics?

In 1997, Christine and I decided we would focus 80% of our money consciousness on the supply side. That means – we focused on creating more income for our family – the supply side of money. That doesn’t mean we don’t negotiate. We recently reduced our phone service by $30 per month. We also cut our cable and internet bill by almost $500 a year without compromising service. Focusing on Supply Side Home Economics means spending 80% of your energy on generating income.

Think about it…

If you make $50,000 per year and you spend $50,000 per year, you’re broke. But if you increase your income to $70,000 and you don’t change a thing, you’re solving your money problem. The bigger problem is… too many people spend everything they make no matter how much, but that’s another blog post…

How to start?

Look for opportunity everywhere. Instead of spending an afternoon chasing down a 50 cent discount on milk, work on a business. Sell stuff on craigslist. Sell stuff on ebay. Create new internet sites. Look for ways to help other people get what they want.

As noble as conservation and frugality is, it doesn’t create economic growth. Hunkering down and not spending will not get the economy out of this slump. Creating wealth will. Likewise, hunkering down will not get you or your family on the path to prosperity. Focusing on growth will.

With the technology available today, at near zero cost, there is no reason why you or anyone else can’t create $500 – $1000 in new income in your spare time.

How do you get there?

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What do you have around the house you can sell?
  • What unique knowledge and life experience do you have?
  • How can you offer that knowledge and experience to others?
  • What value can you provide others?
  • How can you give them more value than you charge for your goods or services?
  • How can you help others sell their stuff?
  • How can you teach others your unique skills and knowledge?
  • How can you gain valuable specialized knowledge?
  • What makes you unique and how can you offer that to others?

Economic Fact:

When you create more wealth for yourself, it makes us all wealthier. It isn’t zero sum. The pie grows for everyone. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. So help humanity by making yourself wealthier. Here’s a great place to start (don’t let the hyped up title throw you off, it’s great).

9 Year Old Helps Pay for Own Heart Surgery by Publishing eStory

Don’t you love stories about children who can face life threatening hardship with bravery, optimism, and cheerfulness? When their young minds comprehend not only the physical challenges facing them, but also the financial challenges, and seek out and find solutions?

Let me tell you about Malkolm.

I first heard about Malklom a couple of days ago when my wife (Christine) was reading the eBay power sellers board.

Christine said, “There’s this woman who sells DVDs on the eBay power selling board. She has a 9 year old son with a heart problem. His heart muscle is thickening and he needs surgery or he could die. His mom has insurance and it pays 80% but they are still going to have a difficult time paying the other 20%. Malkolm was worried about the cost of his surgery. He had written some award winning stories at school, so he asked his mom if he could sell one of them on eBay to help pay for the surgery. His mom was so overcome with emotion she had to fight back the tears. With encouragement from other eBay sellers, they decided to give it a go. Now he’s selling his story on eBay for $10. They sold over 100 in the first 12 hours.”

“Should we buy one?” Christine asked.

“Go for it! It’s only 10 bucks and you’re sure it’s legit, right?” I said.

“Yeah it’s legit. Lot’s of people know her on the power sellers board. She’s been there a long time and other sellers are helping” she said.

So we bought one. And I must say… It’s fantastic writing for a 9 year old. Here’s an excerpt:

I keep on striding down the road, and a nice little house steps into my view. There is a closed window, and a small candle glows inside. I hear a voice: “Goodnight, Katie.” A small voice replies: “Goodnight, mommy.”

I think to myself, “I think I’ll take a peek.” I jump toward the window, trying to get their attention. As soon as I smack against the window, I black out.

It’s the best 10 bucks we’ve ever spent.

You can read more about Malkolm here, he has a blog, and you can buy Malkolm’s story here.

His surgery date is March 24th 2010.

Last I heard he has sold over 250 copies.

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned From MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

If your kids are like mine, and don’t care for team sports, MMA is an excellent alternative.

My son does MMA training 3 nights a week at the American School of Martial Arts in Savage MN. When he chose to take Karate, we visited several different schools, and he decided on MMA. He liked the school, the instructor, and the structure. He can quit any time he wishes. But he knows, if he quits, it’s final, and I am never taking him back (just a little lesson about the power of decision).

7 Things My 7 Year Old Learned from MMA

Goal Setting – It started with learning a Kenpo technique called the Snapping Twain. He was determined to do it correctly. Then he began focusing on earning stripes for his belt, and later decided to earn his first belt. The goals he sets in MMA are not easy to achieve. They take months of focus and consistent practice. Now, without my prompting he sets financial goals and educational goals for himself, and I credit the things he’s learned in MMA training

Persistence – He’s been at this 18 months and still hasn’t earned his second belt. His first belt took 9 months. Some days he practices free grappling, which is Jiu Jitsu (the art of softness – no hitting or punching). He lost dozens of these matches, but improved with each loss. Previously, he avoided things that weren’t easy for him, now he accepts the challenge even if the odds are are against him. Why? He’s discovered that if he keeps trying, he will improve. Sometimes he sees improvement in an hour, other times it takes months. But with consistent effort, improvement happens. This is the same son that invented the word “Shandshowbo” when he was 4. It means keep trying even when it’s hard.

Confidence – There is no substitute for self-confidence. If you don’t believe in your ability to overcome obstacles, if fear of failure stops you, you will never reach your goals.

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”

Confidence comes from deep inside, and it is reflected in your posture, the way you shake hands, if you look someone in the eye when they speak to you. The kids at ASMA are taught to stand up straight, look each other in the eye, shake hands, and speak clearly and confidently. In my experience, very few kids have the basic social skills that come with confidence. Confidence comes from knowing you have the mental and physical strength to deal with adversity and challenge. MMA training fosters that confidence.

Nutrition – Look at a group of today’s youth and you’ll see that few kids understand the foundation of good nutrition. MMA training stresses the importance of eating healthy natural foods and avoiding sugar, HFCS, and processed foods. Each day, the instructor requires my son to name 5 fruits and vegetables he has eaten that day. If he can’t, he does 25 push ups. This method has been so effective, in 18 months, my son has never had to do those push ups. By 6 years old, he developed an obsession with eating healthy foods. He nags us to feed him healthy food. Today, he frequently says things like, “I’m not eating candy for the next 60 days.” He does this with no prompting from me or the instructors. He does it because he wants to be healthy and test himself. That is radical self-discipline for a 7 year old.

Physical Fitness – Each training session starts with a 10-15 minute run, followed by a routine of stretches and calisthenics. After about a year, he could do over 100 squats and 50 push-ups in near perfect form. Many mornings he gets up early and works out for 20 minutes on his own. One morning I awoke at 6 AM to sounds coming from the living room. There was my son doing squats. Physical fitness isn’t a goal, it’s a habit, and MMA training ingrains the habit young.

Frustration Tolerance – Trying something difficult for the first time is frustrating, especially if you’re around other people who make it look easy. The same is the case for MMA training. Many times my son grapples with bigger more experienced kids, they end up on top of him, and it’s frustrating and difficult to get out from underneath them. I’ve seen the frustration on his face after a difficult situation. A situation when he fails repeatedly. But in time, I’ve seen him turn that frustration from fear and anger, into determination, and finally achievement.

Focused Attention – Your strength and ability at any task, is directly related to your ability to focus your attention on your goal and the task at hand. The power of focused attention is the most powerful thing you control. The importance of focus can’t be stressed enough. I don’t care what you’re doing, writing, painting, drawing, speaking, running, or swinging a golf club, focus is essential.

As many of you know, children, especially boys, struggle with focus and attention, some more than others. Some kids just “space off” a little, others are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and are prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs. Putting a child on mind altering drugs is a huge decision, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Alternative treatments are possible, and Martial Arts training can and has worked as an alternative therapy for ADD/ADHD. (Please do not stop any medication without consulting with your child’s physician.)

Many kids show typical ADD/ADHD symptoms because they aren’t getting enough exercise. Parents and schools tend to discipline a hyperactive child by making them sit still for long periods of time (timeout). For most hyper kids, this only produces more hyperactivity. Instead, have them run laps or do squats or push ups. Exercise helps kids focus.

Sportsmanship – Have you seen a kid throw a fit when they don’t win? Have you seen him mock his opponent when he does win? Have you seen a child look for a weaker opponent simply because he didn’t want to lose? Have you seen him refuse to try when he realized he would probably lose? These are all issues of sportsmanship. Sportsmanship is a basic social skill we all should master. We all compete at some level, and good sportsmanship reflects strong character.

Trying challenging things and failing builds sportsmanship, and MMA training challenges kids. No one is a superstar on day one. Everything is earned and all bullying is shunned.

Why MMA?

My son loves it and he doesn’t like team sports. Maybe that will change, but until it does, MMA provides all the physical and mental benefits of team sports.

We hear a constant refrain about the dangers facing our children today – Obesity, ADD/ADHD, Stranger Abduction, and Apathy. We also hear about the entitlementality – kids growing up believing they’re entitled to things that must be earned – things that cannot be bestowed from the outside – things that must be grown over time in your soul. To build a strong future we need to help young men and women build a strong character. Unfortunately, for the most part, character isn’t being learned or taught in our schools.

Building strong character begins at home, but a child needs input for many sources, sources that may not be available in every home. As parents we are limited to our own knowledge and perspectives, and for me and Christine, that isn’t enough. Our kids need role models, who can share knowledge and experience, we as parents do not have.

The Great Fargo-Moorhead Flood of 2009 – Amazing Pictures

Off-topic post…

As some of you know, I grew up in the Red River Valley where the flood of the century is happening. Three of my brothers are still there.

My brother, Paul is a photographer and hasn’t had time to document as much of this historic event as he would like. He has been sandbagging for days on end.

He posted some pictures of the area where he was volunteering today:

The family who owns this house is winning the battle for now. What you can’t see in this picture is the makeshift sandbag dikes which run for miles and miles on each side of the river. What these folks have done is absolutely amazing. I was told that if the average citizen hadn’t volunteered to save this city, 80% of the city would be underwater right now.

They have 18 inches of snow on the ground and are praying for cold weather so it doesn’t melt. Another blizzard is on the way early next week and that’s better than rain.

What you aren’t hearing in the media As Bob Collins is reporting at MPR, these makeshift dikes leak and need to be manned 24/7 with pumps. As the water leaks in they pump it back out.

To win this battle they are going to have to keep this up for another week.

The city has built contingency dikes outside the the dikes pictured above.

The National Guard patrols the streets, but looting and anarchy aren’t a problem. These people have come together as a community to fight for their property and their lives. You can’t imagine how miserable these conditions are, how hopeless the national weather service told them it was, and they refuse to quit. There’s no whining and no complaining, only smiles and a little gallows humor. No one knows if they will win, history will be written after the snow melts and the floodwaters subside. And still, able bodied men and women are going door to door offering their help to anyone who needs it. The biggest problem is – too many volunteers.

If you’d like to see more photos from Paul E Olson’s coverage of the Fargo Moorhead flood of 2009, visit his website.

He’s taking a walk downtown this evening to capture more scenes, and if they have a story to tell, you’ll see them here.

Everything is Amazing, But Nobody is Happy

Life comes at you in waves, some up, some down. Yesterday Christine and I had a few surprises that are going to be challenging. Sometimes, when you’re skipping along the sidewalk a bully comes along and pushes you into the mud. While life deals you unexpected challenges, it is your choice how you frame them.

Sometimes people rob us. Sometimes bad stuff happens to us, sometimes to people we love.  But wallowing in resentment and self-pity is self-destructive, and vengeance and violence create more injustice. The only good answer is… deal with it (however you must) and move on.

We’ve become a society of whiners who panic at the slightest setbacks. Things are happening right now that may change that mindset for many generations. One of the best things that came out of the Great Depression were ethical business leaders who were grateful for the opportunity to add value to the world.

Today, too many people are focused on what they can get, not what they can give.

I was talking to my father last night. He grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota during the Great Depression. He said many times during the 1930s his family went months on less than 25 cents. Roosevelt sent agents out to slaughter their cattle without compensation (the government wanted to reduce the supply of cattle to increase prices – it didn’t work). Eventually the government took their farm because they couldn’t pay their taxes.

Many years before the government killed my Grandfather’s livestock and stole his farm, he was drafted into the First World War and gassed on the battlefield. He survived, but it almost killed him. His lungs were reduced to 50% capacity and all his teeth fell out. He had recurring bouts of illness over decades where he spent months in the hospital while my Grandmother ran the farm and raised four boys.

You know what? They lived to be over 90 and I never once heard them complain about how hard they had it. In fact, they thought that life was amazing.

I recall my Grandmother’s first airline flight and how she couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was.

You can’t see how wonderful the world is while you’re complaining.

When we open our eyes, we see that life is truly amazing, how blessed we are, and that happiness is a choice.

This video brings that message home:

I found this video via Mark J. Perry who publishes the economics blog CARPE DIEM. I love economics. But what I love most about Mark J. Perry’s blog is how he consistently finds economic news that is POSITIVE. Thanks for the good news Mark!

How to Generate More Cash This Christmas

A post from Christine Olson (who is going to be posting here much more often)

How can you make more money?

We all could use some more cash right now, right? Sometimes friends, family and neighbors ask “How can I can make a few extra bucks for some Christmas spending money?”

$500 – $1500 selling clutter

Most of us have too much clutter. Why not turn it into cash? Almost any parent has at least $500 or even up to $1500 worth of junk sitting around the house they can sell. Between Craigslist and eBay there is no excuse to not create some extra cash this Christmas Season.

Continue reading How to Generate More Cash This Christmas

What Does Personal Freedom Mean to You?

How does personal freedom manifest itself in your life?

To some, freedom means driving a car 150 mph, to others it’s a million dollars in net worth. Not to me. To me, freedom is having enough slack in your schedule to be spontaneous. To move on a moments notice. To control your time. That’s freedom.

To me, personal freedom means:

Spending an afternoon teaching little boys how to skip rocks across Nine Mile Creek.

Showing little boys how a Beaver can drop a hundred foot tree with persistent effort. (And not to worry if you grab your crotch in a picture when you’re 3. It’s the only time you’ll get away with it.)

To me:

  • Freedom is the sound of a 1969 Dodge Charger.
  • Freedom is bacon and eggs fried over a campfire.
  • Freedom is smores and ghost stories.
  • Freedom is posting about your kids.

What does freedom mean to you?