Gemblo Light

At Origins earlier this summer Tom Vasel was kind enough to give me a copy of Gemblo Lite, the smaller version of the Korean game Gemblo. The publisher is trying to increase awareness of the game by getting world-famous game reviewers and bloggers to talk it up. Tom apparently couldn’t find anyone that met those criteria, so he handed me a copy.

A couple of weeks ago Jacob, Matthew, and I sat down to give it a try. At first we assumed it would play just like Blokus, but there's a subtle difference: in Gemblo, you can play off of any edge of a piece, whereas in Blokus you can only play off the ends. Other than that, the games are very similar though Gemblo does a much better job of dealing with variable player numbers.


I can't comment on the differences between the light version and the original big version, though I do like the fact that the box fits very nicely on my standard gaming bookshelf. The components in this version are nice, with good contrast between the different player colors and an easy-to-use board that shows what to use for different numbers of players. Our game played in about 30 minutes, and I suspect we could play in 20 now that we know how to play.

If you like Blokus, you'll probably like Gemblo but... I'm not sure why you would need both as the games are more alike than different. One consideration is this: Gemblo Light is smaller and supports up to four players, while the smaller version of Blokus (Blokus Duo / Travel Blokus) only supports two. So if you want a smaller box game in this genre, Gemblo Light is the way to go.

Developing Healthy Money Management Habits with Kids - Our Plan for Matthew and Jacob

Julie and I launched a new program for the boys last night - it will officially kick in on Oct 1, but they got the program last night over dinner and seem to be pretty excited about the plan. This is adapted from some of the teachings of personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, who has been instrumental in guiding our philosophy about money management and debt avoidance. I took the $ amounts out, so if you want to adopt something similar just substitute in what you think is appropriate based on your situation.

I especially like the fact that the boys are already talking about some savings goals and what they would like to buy with their own money (with cold hard cash).

The Goal

To develop healthy money management habits, learn how to save for the future, pay cash for purchases, and how to earn money for needs and wants without borrowing money.

The Basics

Jacob and Matthew will earn $x per month in base salary, payable on the 1st and 15th of each month. This base salary is for the core set of responsibilities that both boys have as part of our family:

  • Making your bed each morning after you wake up
  • Setting and clearing the table at meals
  • Taking care of food and water for pets
  • Keep room and game room straightened up (CDs away, etc.)
  • Keep bathroom in decent condition (wiped, straightened, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous odd jobs as requested by mom & dad

Commission Earning

In addition to the base salary, Jacob and Matthew can earn extra money by taking on extra jobs that earn commissions ("fees for services rendered") according to the following commission schedule:





Cook a meal (main + side dish)


Vacuum downstairs or upstairs


Do 1 load of laundry


Cleanup after dinner (everything!)


Mow Lawn

$ / side

Clean the litter box up to 4x / week


Gardening work for 20 minutes


Sweep out front & garage


Clean bathroom (toilet, sink, etc.)




Savings and Giving Expectations

Jacob and Matthew are expected to set aside some of their salary and commission so that they can give to those in need and save for items that they want to buy with cash.


Jacob and Matthew will set aside at least 10% of their salary + commission for giving. They will each decide on a charity to give the money to on a quarterly basis.

Saving To Buy With Cash

Jacob and Matthew will set aside at least 10% of their salary + commission for savings. As an incentive to save, mom and dad will match up to $x each month of the money set aside by the boys for savings. The only catch is this: the savings + match must remain in savings for at least 90 days after saving or the match will be forfeit. This is an incentive to save for long-term wishes and delay gratification.


I'm sitting here on a United flight from Connecticut to Chicago, watching a preview of the upcoming TV series "Friday Night Lights". This is a high school football drama loosely based on the movie that came out a year or two ago. It looks to be a good show, and for those of you not in the USA it should help give an understanding of the importance of that sport to many Americans. Of course, as an American, when I say "football" I mean American football and not soccer.

I have the extreme fortune to be coaching youth football this year in Sherwood. I'm the assistant coach for Matthew's team comprised of 3rd and 4th graders. Matthew is in his second year playing, and Jacob is in his fourth year. It is a dominant presence in our lives from August through the end of October, with practices 3-4 nights per week and games on Saturdays. The Sherwood youth program is one of the strongest in the state, and I feel that our community as a whole has a true program in the sense that the entire community is behind it, we have significant involvement from the high school coaching staff, and that safety and sportsmanship are key components to everything that we do.

I have a lot more experience coaching baseball than football, and I was more than nervous going into this season. I'm the defensive coordinator but have done much of the offensive line coaching as well. This is even more of a challenge for me in that as a youth player I was a running back and quarterback and didn't play much defense at all. Of course I've been forced to educate myself and lean on others. The one I've leaned on the most is my own son Jacob, who is in his fourth year as an offensive and defensive lineman in the Sherwood program and can usually answer any question I pose.

For those of you that care, Sherwood runs a Wing-T offense (popularized by the University of Delaware) and I've elected to run a split-6 defense (four down lineman and four linebackers, with the two outside linebackers playing a role that is like a blended defensive end and cornerback). When I say "Sherwood runs a Wing-T offense", I mean the entire program runs the same offense from 3rd grade through high school. This offense relies heavily on speed, mis-direction, and play progressions that keep the defense guessing where the ball is going. We don't overpower defenses off the line (our kids are usually smaller) but we've had great success with traps and pulling guards to get players where they need to be to break our backs free.

As a 3rd/4th grade team, we are generally expected to run-run-run the ball with little or no passing game. Matthew is playing fullback and his good friend James is quarterback; they played football together last year and were also on the same baseball team last spring when I coached. James is a talented quarterback with a great arm, and Matthew is a solid (and TALL) receiver so we are mixing in a healthy dose of passing plays.

I tell you, there is nothing like watching 11 kids that you've worked with for 6 weeks execute plays together like a fine-tuned machine. Baseball is a great sport, but teamwork is on the fringes as it requires mostly individual effort (pitching, hitting, fielding). Matthew's team had an outstanding game last Saturday, winning 26-14 after being down 14-0. Matthew had a great day. scoring all four touchdowns, rushing for about 180 yards, and receiving for about 40 yards. He also had 9 tackles. Impressive.

But you know what impressed me most? After every play when he tackled an opponent, he was standing there next to the player reaching out a hand to help him up. It is hard to teach sportsmanship like that, but it is moments like those that help remind me of what being a parent is all about.

Jacob is enjoying similar success but in a much more reserved way. There are weight limits in youth football, and while Jacob is very fit and lean, he has always been a big kid and at 5'4" 125 lbs (he's 11, turning 12 in October) he cannot carry the ball. He has turned into an absolute terror as a defensive lineman. I don't get to see the stats for his team, but I saw at least 4 tackles for losses in his game on Saturday. This is pretty unusual for an inside lineman - they are supposed to plug holes and set up the ends and linebackers to make the big tackles. It must be hard for him deep inside to observe and hear about Matthew's glory carrying the ball, but Jacob remains incredibly supportive of his little brother and clearly recognizes the importance of his own accomplishments.

As a coach, the best stories are those kids that don't have the talent of the stars but find significant ways to contribute to the team. These are kids that work hard, listen, and adjust as necessary to become key contributors. I've got several boys on the team that have impressed all of us and are turning into key role players. If you think that kids these days are dead-beats that sit at home and play XBox all afternoon you should check out the 350+ youth players in Sherwood that show up for 2 hours three days a week for practice. That's a big part of what football (or any team sport) is about: showing up and working hard to achieve a difficult goal when there are so many paths with less resistance that a child can take.