They wanted lifestyle shots...

Before we begin this post, I want to say I was not paid for this. I was given a watch. But I really needed one at the time, and this watch is unlike any other watch I have ever had. Also, I want to thank Jord Watches for being good sports about this post. You'll see...

I haven't posted in more than six months. I was wondering what would get me back on this horse. The last thing I expected it to be was a watch. And a wooden watch at that. Mostly because I never knew wooden watches existed. You can't expect what you don't know exists. Wow, I leave for 6 months and I become Socrates. I should abandon this blog more often. 

Back to the wooden watch...

A few months ago, I got an email from a watch company called Jord. They wanted to give me a watch made out of wood. I ignored that email because I didn't catch that part about giving me a watch. Then they emailed me again. And again. This time, I caught that part about wanting to give me a watch. Wow, I leave for 6 months and I forget the fundamentals of reading. Apparently all three emails mentioned the fact that they wanted to give me a watch. 

This was the coolest watch ever. A watch made out of wood! I had been wearing the Pebble that I reviewed last year, but it had just conked out, so now was a good a time as ever to make a fashion statement. "I will gladly accept a watch... what would you like from me?"

"Lifestyle shots."

They showed me some samples from other bloggers. They were all fashion bloggers. There was good lighting, manicures, pearls, handbags and playful smiling going on. 

"Are you sure you want me to do lifestyle shots? I'm a dad."

They sent me the Ebony and Rosewood Dover watch and said go for it. So I did.

This one is called "Poop Patrol" and it explores a father's mad rush to pick up all the dog poop in the yard before the lawn guys come. Of course, we are in a drought, so there's no lawn. But what are we going to do? Fire the guy over something he can't control? Dads are benevolent.

Every week is an opportunity to grow, learn and prosper. But the best lessons are ones that recycle learnings from past experiences. What a great metaphor for this one that I call "Blue Can" -- like Blue Steel, but sustainable.

Recycling.jpg

A dad just powers through whatever needs to get done. Come on, life, give me your best shot. A dad can take whatever the world can "Dish Out."

"Between the Seats" captures every dad's superpower: to be able to reach down into any dark corner, crevice or pocket and just pull out whatever's been festering there for the past few months. Luckily, 8 times out of 10, it's just gummy bears or goldfish.

A dad's responsibility is to keep those under his care healthy and safe. So even if it's a ton of fun to burn last year's homework, somebody's got to rain on the parade. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. May I present "Aww! Come on!!"

Like a sea captain, a dad needs to steer his ship through the proverbial ocean, no matter how rough it gets. "Hurricane 5 year old" has felled lesser men. Luckily if you know what time it is, you can count your way down to calmer seas. 

Finally, we have "Plating" -- because we all know that the difference between winning and losing is simply presentation. Also, finally a better view of the watch! 

Presentation.jpg

Ok, so what's in it for you? Possibly a watch. That's way better than what you usually get from here. The people at Jord were nice enough to let me give away one $120 gift certificate for a Jord watch (you can buy a whole watch with that, plus it's always free shipping worldwide with them... yes, my friendly Canadians, that means you!). Usually when I do this, I make you leave a comment and then a few weeks later I remember that I was doing a giveaway, and then I randomly choose a winner and I contact them and they have no idea what I am talking about. 

Jord is helping me do this right. They gave me a Raffle Copter code. I have no idea how to integrate that so, it's sitting at the bottom of this post somewhere. If you can find the link to Raffle Copter, click it! It will take you to a contest page. Fill it out and on Nov. 5 someone will win. I think they will contact you, or I will. Either way, if you win, you will be contacted. Lastly, they gave me a widget to track visits to their site but I don't know how to integrate it into the body of my post, so if you see a random "Mens Watch" floating around somewhere, click it to go to their site. Help them out. Visits = love. Everybody who gives me a cool watch deserves some love. Hope you enjoyed the post. I've had too much bourbon tonight to end this post in any logical way. The end. 

Amazing! Kale! Recipes! Wow!

I got my hands on some kale. So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do: I fancied myself a food expert and created THE MOST AMAZING KALE RECIPES THAT WILL NOM YOUR MOTHERNOMMING MIND! I better see these on Pinterest sometime. That's all I'm saying. Enjoy:

THE KAELSTROM

What do you get when you combine Kale with the two most popular food ingredients of our time? The unholy trinity of the culinary world. The perfect storm. The opposite of stock art. 

Start with some beautiful kale. I actually have no idea what constitutes beautiful kale, since it all just looks like a used cold cut platter to me.

Add your pop culture cred multiplier.

Some "foodie juice"...

Blend artisanally.

Ponder the life choices you made up until this moment.

If you think that's crazy, let's talk about something really crazy: texting and driving. Did you know it causes 200,000 vehicle crashes a year? Suddenly, that "LOL" doesn't seem that important to transmit right this second now, does it? Don't you wish there were an easy way to help you resist the urge to search for a 3mm x 2mm key while barreling down the road strapped to a 3,000 lb metal object, aside from the fact that you are barreling down the road strapped to a 3,000 lb metal object? Before we answer that, I have more culinary inspiration to drop. 

SHISH KALEBOBS

I will pretty much eat anything on a stick. Even kale, theoretically. So LET'S IMPALE SOME KALE!

ShishKalebob.JPG

To ensure even cooking, liberally brush some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs onto the leaves. Actually, any household accelerant will do. 

Place on the grill and make sure to get a good sear. 

When the Shish Kalebob reaches a nice ash consistency, throw some burgers on the grill and pat yourself on the back. You rid the world of that much more kale. 

While you're ridding the world of kale, why not rid yourself of texting and driving? Remember that I said there was an easy way to resist the urge to text and drive? I wasn't kidding. It's called DriveMode by AT&T, and now it's available on both Droid and iOS for free. What does it do? First, it takes the temptation to respond out of the equation, by silencing text message alerts and even auto-replying for you. The app even turns on and off depending on if your vehicle is moving. The best part is that DriveMode can track your kids' usage of it (assuming they drive. If they don't, then I guess you can use it to prevent running really fast and texting). In other words, you'll be alerted if they turn it off. If only they had a similar app for bike helmets. If you do happen to catch your kids turning DriveMode off, I'm all about the consequences. And that comes in the form of my next recipe.

CHOCKALE CHIP COOKIES

The "Choc" merely stands for chock full o' fibery goodness. There's no chocolate in this. In fact, there is no joy in this cookie at all. Because it starts and ends with kale.

Make or buy some cookie dough. It really doesn't matter because here comes the kale. POW!

Form into little balls and place them about two inches apart on a baking sheet.

Bake per whatever feels right. The important part is that you garnish this culinary delight with kale, because it actually is a great garnish. Step back and savor the meta of it all. 

Wait for the children to do something wrong, and punish accordingly.

Just like the mad rush to shove kale into every conceivable dish possible, that text you have to send while in the car -- IT CAN WAIT. I wish there were a website that allowed you to take a pledge to not use kale ridiculously, but we're simply not that lucky. There is, however, a site where you can pledge not to text and drive. I encourage you all to take the pledge

And just for the record, I was not paid for this post. I was, however, given an iPhone to not text and drive with (complete with the DriveMode app). I've used it a few months, and I admit, it has been difficult. I am a red light texter. But I also believe that there are other things one can occupy himself with while driving. 

The OneDay App is really a diabolical time machine disguised as an easy movie maker

Tracking Pixel

Don’t be fooled! There’s an app out there called the OneDay App. It’s this free app that supposedly helps you create really cool “interview” movies of your loved ones answering questions without requiring any editing skills whatsoever. In fact, you do it all via your smartphone. They asked me to try it out and even compensated me for it (for those of you more comfortable with legalese, “the following post is a sponsored piece of content” and for those more comfortable with Jim-ese “I played with a wicked cool app and will now entertain you with content I made with it while I enjoy this beer that I didn’t have to pay for and I think that’s a win-win, don’t you?”).  After I said ok, I discovered too late that this app is actually an ultra powerful time machine and you should use it at your own risk! Since I was committed to writing something, consider the following post my expose on this perilous time traveling piece of techno-wizardry!

It started out just fine. I downloaded the app to see what it was all about. As they promised, it was pretty easy. You can choose from a number of question sets (divided into seasonal, and then life stages such as baby/toddlers and kids, all the way to older folks).  Since Lessi was within arm’s reach, I sat her down and began to interview her, using the “Personality” question set under the Babies/Toddlers section. I hit the record button as each question flashed across the screen. When I was done recording her answers, the app strung the questions, answers and even background music together into a coherent video that I could now share on social media or email. 

Related aside: I have Super8 camcorder videotapes of Fury from age 3-6 that are still sitting in a box waiting to be edited and sent around to relatives. He’s 12 now. 

Lessi, however, won the technology game and now has this to show for it:

One good video deserved another. Here’s Lilz, showing us her comedic acting chops:

Wicked awesome right? Well, I got bold and started perusing some other question sets. Being over 40, I decided to check out the interview “About Your 40’s and 50’s” under the adult section. However, instead of turning the camera on myself, I decided to experiment on Fury and TXU. This is when things took an unexpected turn. All of a sudden, lightning bolts hit the clocktower, a phone booth with George Carlin appeared, and these two guys emerged. Since I had the app open, I decided “why the hell not?” and let the camera roll.

Who knew that jumping to age forty gave you a southern accent?

Since their answers at 40 were definitely more entertaining than any stories I could regale you with, I decided to move on. If asking the boys questions for 40 year olds jumped them forward in time, that meant that asking myself questions meant for a baby would…

If you watched the above video, you are more starved for entertainment than I thought. Also, I am sorry.

Crazy can’t-unseeable time travel moments aside, one thing’s for sure. The OneDay App is simple to use, and when kids (and grown-ups too, I guess) grow as fast as they do, catching all that in a fun, scrapbooky format is the best way to make sure that you don’t have to resort to time machines to remember days and memories gone by. Right now OneDay just published its Christmas questions set. I know you haven’t gotten around to sending your cards out yet. Don’t fret – make a video instead and send it around. You’re welcome. Will someone now please soak my binky in JD?

The FTC would like me to remind you that this indeed was a sponsored post, to which you just undoubtedly said to yourself “they PAID for that?” and went and downloaded it because you felt so bad for OneDay, but then kept using it because wow SO EASY and SO COOL.

You might be suffering from this fake disease, so watch my fake ad

Cell Displacia is no laughing matter. In fact, with 80 million victims each year in the US alone, you or someone you love may be suffering from it right now. So consider the ad below more of a PSA than an advertisement. Actually, the FTC requires that you consider it sponsored content for Asurion (the folks who have found a way to alleviate the symptoms of Cell Displacia by replacing your mobile device) . May I suggest that you just consider it another opportunity for me to do things like juggle flaming cell phones, wear duct tape underwear, jump off cars on a skateboard and generally put myself in harm's way for your amusement? Because that one makes the most sense. 

The bleak reality of a lost cell phone

Disclosure: I found overly sad music for the video, so it's not as armageddony as the soundtrack might lead you to believe. But it is a major pain to lose or break your phone. Also, no children were (permanently) hurt during the filming of this video. And yes that was a real machete, but it was really dull. Also, I almost didn't do this sponsored post because I thought "is cell phone insurance that relevant to me?" and then I remembered that this is Shannon's phone:

And while I was trying to think up an idea for this video, I removed the cover on my phone to wipe some grit off. Turns out it wasn't grit, it was phone shards.

Since I could not take a picture of my own phone, I asked Brendan to snap the above picture for me, at which point I noticed his phone:

In case cracked phones are getting a little old for you, here's our latest exhibit of relevance from the other day:

We are well qualified to represent that sample of the cell phone using population for whom cell phone insurance provided by Asurion would be a smart decision for us, and nothing but regret for Asurion. But that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to show you a video that we made to illustrate what a drag it is to lose your cell phone

The following is optional, but interesting. Here's some surprising facts I learned about this topic while working with Asurion on this project:

  • $5 billion worth of cell phones are lost or stolen every year. $400 of that is sitting at the bottom of a reservoir in Southern CA. Yeah, that was me. And yes, Asurion replaced it way before they approached me for this.
  • If you have one of the popular cell phones, just know that your chances of it being stolen or lost is 35% higher. Lost probably should be in quotes here.
  • Cell phone theft makes up more than 30% of robberies in major cities. I'm going to add that cell phones likely prevented robberies in the old days. I had a girlfriend whose brother came home one day in 1995 with his 20 lb cell phone (and most of his clothing) bloodied. He used it to knock a rival gang member out. No, there's no app for that.
  • 40% of Americans would rather get in a fight with their best friend than lose their cell phone. What if your best friend steals your phone? That's Jesse Pinkman level messed up for life, yo.

Until next time, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your cell phone insured. 

This post was sponsored by Asurion, and I hope not at all to their chagrin. 

If to-buy lists could talk

This is part 2 of my last post about eBay. All disclosures and A+'s from that one apply. My punctuation keys need a break. 

Shopping is functional, and I usually find it to be a chore because of that fact. I need socks, so I go buy them. There's nothing exciting in that transaction. As proof, I offer up last weekend: I bought socks. I passed up one set because it had two good colors, and then a random striped pair. Who wears striped socks? And why do the other colors have to wallow in unworn limbo because the third pair was so lame? It's a shame, really. So I bought a less offensive set. That was the extent of the excitement there. I had to choose 3 pairs that I was meh about because the two pairs I really liked came with a striped pair I would never wear. The human machine's ability to process disparate data points on the fly is amazing! This human machine, however, lost the socks he bought right after he brought them indoors. For a week, I've been randomly yelling "where are my new socks!?" in hopes that someone will come forward with any new information that will lead to the recovery of my new socks. 

While shopping when you have to spend money is boring, shopping when you don't have to spend money can be a bit more interesting, and I argue, revealing. When you put a wish list or to-buy-someday list together, that's when your practical side that enters stuff into Quicken can just chill for a minute. This is what my eBay collections are all about. Stuff that I would like to buy, theoretically. Not only are the choices a better representation of the unfettered me, there's a story behind them if you look hard enough. 

Since I'm all about chillin for a bit, you actually don't have to look hard at all. I literally wrote each story down for you on my eBay collections. 

Take my Aquatic Therapy collection, for example. The story behind this is that I am a huge fish nerd. Tanis has a thriving tropical ecosystem in the middle of the badlands of Canada because of the fish advice I gave her on Twitter, and Beta Dad's eyes are now open to the conspiracy behind fish food feeding instructions. You can read more about my journey into this world in my eBay collection (click the image to jump over):

And then there's my Playing With Fire collection. Seeing as I told the boys the other day to "go in the backyard and burn something" when they complained that they were bored, it's not surprising that I'd have a collection dedicated to cool things that have to do with heat (click the image, baby):

At the end of it all, I am a parent. And nothing says parenting quite like improvisation. These are some things that prove that Home Depot is actually more useful than Babies R Us when it comes to getting you through the day with your kids (image, click it).

All in all, I have 24 of these collections and accompanying stories on my eBay page, each one a perfectly good reason I could fill out on my insurance form to cover therapy. If you have an eBay account, follow me. I promise I'm more interesting than that Felix Cookie Jar on your watch list.

Great eBay Curator!! ~~~AAAAAA++++++~~+++++~~~+!!!!!!!11

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by eBay. Pleasure 2 work with! AAAAAAA+++ they can sponsor this post again anytime!! AAAAAAA+++++++++++++!!!!!!! 4 stars!!! 

I didn't realize it until I sat down to write this, but my eBay account is the oldest internet related membership that I have. When I made my first eBay purchase, I still had an AOL account, and the only dub step I ever heard was the sound of my modem connecting. I've bought some really cool stuff over the years, and I even started an online store on it years ago, but I only sold one item. I guess I'm really good at knowing what I want, but horrible at knowing what other people want. 

But that's cool because I've collaborated with eBay to create a whole slew of collections of stuff that I want. Wait - eBay collections?? Oh yes. Want to see the coolest Boba Fett stuff that I found on eBay? Of course you do (click on the picture to access the collection):

Also, did you know that my true goal is life is to outlive you? Yes YOU. All of you. Here's some stuff I think I would need in order to accomplish this (clicking on the picture shall transport you into my world):

If you follow me on social media, you know I'm constantly grumbling about the 4 hours a day I spend getting to and from work. In addition to a sherpa, here are some things that would make that more tolerable (click on the picture to leave this god forsaken blog post):

I could go on, but I have 24 of these, each with its own story as to why I created it. It's like 24 individual blog posts! And seeing as I have only posted like 12 times this year, it's like I'm giving you two years of posts on my eBay account.

So peruse my eBay collections, follow them, or build your own. If you want to see what fellow curators have gathered up, just check #FindItFollowIt on Twitter.

Disclosure #2: eBay is a GREAT sponsor!!!!!! Prompt payer!! AAAAAAA+++++++++++++++~~~~~

The minivan of the future won't have lasers

One of the best things about having a blog is that really fun stuff happens. It’s not everyday that a major auto manufacturer asks you “hey, can your kid draw the minivan of the future so we can animate it for you?” Duh. Of course! “Can we also pay you money to allow us to do this?”

Oh you mean like make my kid his own cartoon video that he narrates, so you can put it on the Chrysler blog, so when his friends ask what he did last weekend he can say “oh nothing much. Automotive industry pioneer Chrysler commissioned me for a drawing and used it in a national marketing campaign and you can see it at http://blog.chrysler.com/vehicles/next30years/ (because he always reads off full URLs to his friends) and then dad took me to Hot Topic with the money and we spent it on pop cultural artifacts he’d usually not let me buy, because something about college tuition, and then we ordered all of the milkshakes.” At which point his friend crushes the popsicle stick Optimus Prime that he made last weekend underfoot.

Yes, of course you can pay me for that <-- this is called a well hidden, integrated disclosure statement. More disclosure: I probably would have paid them for that. But that would cause a tear in the blogger/brand continuum so I negotiated hard. Now I’m writing this astride my very own camel with a laptop saddle/charging dock powered by the sun. If you want the good brand swag you have to be willing to fight for it.

So what was this all about? Basically, it’s the 30th anniversary of the minivan, which Chrysler invented. I remember that, actually. I pushed my dad hard to buy one because it had a sliding door from the future. Instead, he bought a Camaro. In hindsight, never argue with dad. He is always right. While no minivan made by anyone could ever compete for a spot in my heart for that ’84 Camaro, I have to give Chrysler props for changing the way families transport their children (lying in the back of the station wagon with the groceries was my mode of transport back in the day).

And they'll probably keep on innovating for the next 30 years. Of course, now they have the power of crowdsourcing to help steer them in the right direction. Chrysler asked Fury if he could help them envision the minivan of the future. I was excited about this because I envisioned laser guns, hyperdrive and all sorts of cool stuff coming from him. His response to my vision?

"Dad, think back 30 years. That was like the 1980s. Cars weren't that different back then. We probably thought cars could fly in 30 years.  I'm not going to do that. I will look stupid."

"But Fury, they want you to imagine. Imagine the future. Think Star Wars!"

"The terrain will be different because of war and natural disasters. I will add all-terrain corkscrew wheels."

Some peoples' kids are dreamers. Some are strategizers. 

So, here's a well thought-out, practical and attainable vision for the minivan of THE FUTURE 30 short years from now, as strategized by my son. He likely already called his lawyer to patent this idea. Sorry Chrysler, I'm sure your legal team did not anticipate this move.

I love this video, but I cannot help but feel a void where MY vision of the future should be. What about my dreams? What about a minivan that I would want to buy for my family a generation from now? I strategize for a living. On my blog, I want to dream. So Chrysler, I submit to you my minivan of the future. 

Presenting the Chrysler 2044 Town and Country. Key features include: 

  • Military grade half-track truck mobility for a comfortable post-apocalyptic ride with the option of Zombie mode (for negotiating terrain with more organic debris) or Skynet mode (for transport across infrastructure damage and better maneuverability for avoiding hunter-killer drones).
  • Strong box for survival essentials made by Gladiator Garageworks because I renovated my garage a few years ago and couldn't afford to install Gladiator Garageworks cabinets, and this is my dream so let me have it.
  • Astromech navigation/companion because, Star Wars.
  • Ghost flames. Of course. 

Please animate this, Chrysler. Or better yet, just build it. I haven't patented it yet. 

What else are you going to spend $20,000 on?

In case my lighting-fast publishing rate of 0.57 posts per month is too much of a literary firehose to drink from, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that many months ago (i.e. two posts ago), Happy Family Organic Superfoods chose me to be one of their Bright Side Bloggers. I would embed the video I made with them, but it's easier to just scroll two mouse-wheel revolutions and see the original post. Anyway, the point of that project was of course to entertain you, but it was also to give you a chance to win $20,000 toward your kid's education. 

So, in case you missed it the first time, go back and check it out. Basically, you submit a funny story about feeding your kids, written or video, and they enter you into a contest where you could win all that money towards your kid's education. Regurgitated mashed potato in your face was never more lucrative!

"$20,000 towards education?" you ask. 

"Yes," I say "It's a pretty good investment."

"What's it really worth, though," you say.

"Let me Google some stuff," I respond. "I need to make this post longer, anyway."

So here goes. So in addition to making your kid smarter, what else is worth $20,000 in this world? Start with these:

  • You could start your own concrete restoration and beautification franchise. I actually explored this on behalf of a friend, a few years back. I went to the 2-day seminar and everything. There are so many things you can do with driveways and concrete. They involve intricate stamps and finishes, and being bored off your a%^ applying them (I know I bleeped out a harmless word, but Happy Family is wholesome and they paid me, so respect!).
  • You could buy a really nice coffee maker like this:Of course, you'd have to give your customers the option of cash, credit or monthly installments for a cup of coffee. I'm waiting for my credit score to improve before I actually set foot in a Blue Bottle Coffee Shop (which is where this machine sits, or presides).
  • My second job was worth $20,000. Actually $19,000. For $19,000 a year, I did publicity for The House of Blues in West Hollywood. Hey, I was young and I needed the bragging rights! I got a private concert from Johnny Cash (I sat in on sound check), I got to wristband Eddie Vedder, and shake Tony Bennett's hand, so who cares if being there 15 hours a day worked out to less than minimum wage. I'm STILL bragging to you about this, 20 years later. That's longevity.
  • Or, you could have a kid with Halle Berry and then get $20,000 per month for child support, like Gabriel Aubry did. Work smarter, not harder!
  • Or work funner. You can buy this on Craigslist for $20,000:"I will destroy your yard and lift random things for $20 a pop." That would be my billboard.
  • Get a friend to throw in an extra $20K and you can add "disposal" services to your repertoire.
  • Or just get a lionThe guy who owns this $20K lion lives in Kabul. "I like a stable, predictable life" is probably not the bubble he filled in on his OK Cupid profile. He probably also didn't realize that lion cubs grow up to be grown up lions, and that grown up lions like to remind themselves that their claws and teeth work pretty well together. Know why? Because he probably didn't invest in a good education.

And BAM. I bring it all back to the beginning. A $20,000 investment in education is worth quite a lot more than other things with a $20,000 price tag. Go shoot a video, or jot down some words. But don't think too hard about it because I am a slow poster and left you just a few days to do it. The last day to enter is August 31. Go to the Happy Family Stories from the Bright Side page on Facebook and enter. 

 

Not Cool Enough For Kia

I thought my coolness portfolio was pretty solid. My Facebook Likes page has bands like TSOL, Black Flag and Minor Threat in it, and as of last winter, I could still bomb drop off the hood of a car (post-skateboarding Ben Gay application notwithstanding). While all those things weren't cool when I was in high school, I figured those were investments in my future. "They'll be cool when I'm 41," I used to assure myself. 

Earlier this summer I turned 41, and around the same time, Kia invited Fury and me to check out the Vans Warped Tour and also drive a Kia around for the weekend. This was a blog post I couldn't refuse. And that's pretty much my disclosure statement right there: me, Fury, Vans Warped Tour, a Kia to review, no financial compensation, but a priceless experience with my kid. Totally worth it. What I missed, however, was the fine print: you will realize how old and uncool you are. 

Before I get into it, here's a brief history of Kia and me. For years, I thought of the brand as a low cost alternative to Japanese cars, since Japanese brands have risen from resignational to aspirational in the past three decades. Our family had a Honda CVCC in the 70s, and the only thing aspirational about that was hoping you didn't fall through the rusted floorboards on the way to school. A few years ago, a car ad caught my eye as I was watching a show on my DVR. I thought it was a Luxus or Infiniti. When the ad flashed a Kia logo, I rewound and watched that ad three more times because it made no sense that this was a Kia. This was an ad for the redesigned Kia Optima. What? Around that time, I also went to the LA Auto Show. My favorite car of the show? A Kia (I even wrote that on the Flickr caption). This is the picture I took from that show (a concept Kia GT, I believe). Undeniably slick. 

So yes, I was double excited to not only drive a Kia for the weekend, but to also check out the Vans Warped Tour with Fury. Although I didn't get to drive the Optima of my dreams ("dads with grey hair" isn't their target demo, I suppose), I did get to try out the Sorento, their heftier, more dad-appropriate SUV. So this post will be part car review, part Vans Warped Tour adventure. To make it easier for both me and you, the rest of this post will proceed in two tracks, clearly labeled. This facilitates your reading only the parts you want, and my laziness when it comes to formulating clever transitions.

Car stuff:

The Kia Sorento is a solid-looking SUV. It's not as beefy as a Chevy or Ford, but it can hold its head up high and share the road with them. It doesn't try to look space-aged or cross-over-ish. That's good, because I don't like that at all. Are you noticing that I am not a professional car reviewer? Me too. Also, Fury is not a professional car ad model. That's him, falling off the curb as I tried to take an establishing shot. Well, you pretty much know how the rest of this post will go. Buckle up.

Tour Stuff:

The Vans Warped Tour is all about youth, expression, angst, constructive aggression, sweat and adrenaline. I'm sure glad Kia tempered it by putting us up at the W Hotel.  True gentleman make sure to catch up with local and world happenings over poached eggs prior to crowdsurfing the pit. 

Car Stuff:

The Kia has push-button start. I have never driven a car with push-button start. So my first observation with the Kia was "wow, this car is as quiet as my sister's Prius!" You know why? Because the car wasn't actually on when I made that observation. You apparently need to step on the brake while pushing the button to start a push-button starting car. I did not know this until I put the car in reverse to back out of my driveway. It rolled a little, due to gravity and then the steering wheel locked up due to "Jim you are an idiot, this car isn't even on." Conclusions: the Kia Sorento isn't actually as quiet as an electric car. Also, it is important that you know how to properly start a car before you review it. 

Once I did figure out how to start it, I found the drive to be quite pleasant. Great sound system, and a really really huge sunroof that extends from the front seat to the back. Also, this vehicle has an Eco Mode if you want to save gas. Disclosure: when Kia is paying for the gas, screw that. Disclosure: I like the environment, but I like overtaking cars on the freeway more. Disclosure: the picture below is merely a re-enactment of me driving, as portrayed by my son. 

Tour Stuff: 

When I got the invite for this trip, the first thing I did was go to the Warped Tour website to check out the bands on the roster (Kia is the main tour sponsor, BTW).  I really shouldn't have done that. There are literally dozens of bands on the Warped Tour. I only recognized one: The Aquabats. Know why? Because they performed on Yo Gabba Gabba. These guys below were also performing. That's the band We Came As Romans, and we got to hang out with them prior to the show. 

I hope these guys make it big because they are genuinely nice guys, and the autographed picture they gave us will be worth some good money in the future, and Fury will be able to hang this picture in his office when he's an executive, or running a small country or something. 

It's really hard to be 41 and sound cool when conversing with an up and coming rock band. First, I tried to play up my Vans cred by explaining to them that I had to mail order Vans from the back of a Thrasher magazine back in my day. I may as well have added that I did this uphill in the snow both ways. Then I told them that I was really into hardcore when I was their age and rattled off a bunch of bands I was into, like Minor Threat, Adolescents, Government Issue, Decendents, etc. In the nicest of ways, they were like "yeah, the kids aren't into punk stuff anymore, the Warped Tour kind of evolved with with the times." I always pictured the day I could bust out the hardcore punk card as an adult and bask in coolness. I'm now filing that card away, next to "Super Sounds of the 70's"

Car Stuff:

I've never had a back-up camera before, so using with this was really fun. I think it actually saved a life as well. I live in a cul-de-sac, so no random people ever traverse the sidewalk in front of my house. One day, I was backing the Sorento out of the driveway and did my usual check-over-the-shoulder for neighborhood kids. The coast was clear. I started backing up. Just then a random guy walking a German Shepherd appeared smack dab in the viewfinder, out of nowhere. I slammed on the brakes. After he passed, I stopped and observed him out my rearview. He made a circle around the cul-de-sac and then walked out. Really odd. Kia, if you planted him there so I'd talk about how great the backup camera is, I must say that was indeed well played.

Tour Stuff:

Perhaps the best thing about being at the Warped Tour was the fact that Fury and I got wristbands that gave us all access with "no escort required." The picture below is Fury taking full advantage of that and watching a band play the arena, from the stage. My favorite part of that was being able to enjoy free gyros and lemonade backstage. Super Sounds of the 70's.

We also checked out a number of the smaller stages, where I realized that screaming at the top of your lungs is now a musical genre, and apparently the big thing with kids these days. I think it's called Screamo (hyperlink to wikipedia for you). Get off my lawn so I can listen to my Samhain and sip my iced tea in peace!

Lucky for me, Fury isn't too into the Screamo stuff, but here's a big flashing neon sign of the times for you: his favorite band of the day? It consisted of nothing more than a kid with a Mac.

Summary Stuff:

As far as father-son bonding experiences go, you couldn't really top this. This was a concert and a car review, but what I'll remember from this was that it was a moment in time for me to share stories of my "rebellious youth" with my son. While the music itself will forever change, the fact that it is loud and grownups can't understand it will always remain constant. You can't be cool in the eyes of the next generation. Just like the gap that's required for two electrodes to make a spark, healthy mockery between kids and parents is simply a part of movement. So with that, I'm proudly passing the cool torch to my son. And not a moment too soon. I'm going to a Hall and Oates concert tonight. 

How Happy Family Organics Helped Me Become a Kinder, Gentler Guerilla

My child feeding philosophy is simple: tis better to put the good stuff in than keep the bad stuff out. In other words, even though I would rather my kids not eat sugar, I know it tastes mighty fine, and everyone deserves something mighty fine every once in a while. So you can have it. You just need to make sure something good goes into your system along with it. Our dessert rule has always been in order to earn dessert, you have to finish your vegetables and/or fruit. Simple as that. You can leave the bread, the meat, the rice, the pasta etc. You just have to eat the good stuff in order to eat the bad stuff. If you opt to skip the green, dad eats your dessert. 

Now you can argue that this makes kids see vegetables in a negative light and this is sabotaging them from the get-go. But let's get real. Vegetables suck. And fruit is ok if it's perfectly in season. A Snicker's bar? Always delicious. Always in season. Frozen, room temp, or melted. At least I'm not hiding broccoli puree in a brownie, like a wuss. I'm owning this! When my kids eat broccoli, they are eating broccoli, stem, floret and all. And the whole time, I'm reaffirming "you'll poop good. You can thank me later." Not everything in life has to be shiny and fun. Chomping down those 3 asparagus stalks makes that chocolate chip cookie all the sweeter. Nothing wrong with teaching my kids the value of a hard earned reward. If vegetables have to take the fall, so be it. 

So Happy Family royally messed things up for me. 

It all started when they contacted me to be a "Bright Side Blogger." They told me that they wanted to film me talking about getting my kids to eat healthier and then have improv actors do silly things. Everyone has me at silly things. Here is where I would insert my FTC disclosure, but seeing as I created an entire disclosure post already, I will spare you. Watch this instead (click the image to go to Happy Family's Bright Side page).

While the filming of all this was amazing, and I will always look upon it as one of those unique experiences that bloggers are so lucky to be able to partake in, I still don't forgive Happy Family for messing up my healthy eating tactics. When I arrived in NYC to film this, I was given a bag of goodies, consisting mostly of squeeze pouches in different flavor blends. I don't remember specifics, but I remember trying one because I figured I should at least try the product. You know what? I liked it. Not because I was in NYC on their dime, but because coconut makes everything good, and Happy Family knows this. I hadn't even gotten into the car to take me to the studio before I skipped a quick run to the bar and opted for another pouch instead. I'm not proud of this, but these are that good (not to say I wouldn't squeeze some vodka into these sometime). During the shoot itself, I consumed four more.

But that's not the worst of it. When I returned home, I experimented on my kids.  Here are the results:

The easist fruit they ever ate. One part of me wants to jump up and down and declare that I have discovered a solution to healthy kids eating; the other part of me curses Happy Family. This teaches kids that they can have it all. That healthy and tasty can coexist in the same pouch. Now they probably think they can get into any college they want, or that they will get great jobs when they graduate. This is not good! 

See this picture below? Those are Happy Yogis: little organic freeze dried (or I think so - I'm no snack creation guru) discs of yogurt. She passed up cookies for these. 

And this weekend, I was opening a bag of Skittles that she asked for when she spotted this canister of Happy Puffs, which I wasn't planning on giving to her because they are for babies. Evidently not.

You win, Happy Family. Now my kids have learned that you don't have to suffer in order to have good things. While I'm amazed that there is something out there that is healthy to a fault and can compete with candy and cookies come dessert or snack time, I have to say I will really miss taking cookies hostage as bargaining chips in my quest to get my kids to eat healthier. 

All that I stated above was true: my opinion, my own words, my own kids, my own healthy eating tactics. If you have similar healthy eating tricks, experiences or amusing stories, and would like to possibly win $20K toward college, go to the Stories From the Bright Side page and share them. EARN it, because evidently, earning dessert is now an obsolete activity. 

The disclosure, the whole disclosure and nothing but the disclosure (and a little organic fruit snacking goodness)

Some people think "sponsored campaign" is a dirty phrase. I don't. In fact, without these, I would probably let this blog languish its way down the SEO relevancy ladder. My life has been so crazy busy lately that the last thing on my mind is updating my little piece of the internet. Mainly because I write slow. If I commit to a post, that's an entire night, shot (I have to wake up in 3 hours to catch a plane, in fact). I tell you, contracts and beer money are the only thing keeping this blog alive. And it's less the money part than the "here's a topic - write about it" part. It is so much easier to write a post with a writing prompt (pronounced con-trakt) than to just pick something out of thin air. I'm horrible at finding things in thin air. I'm really good at just doing what people tell me. I'd be the gold star earner at labor camp that all the other prisoners hated. Funny thing about this campaign -- I didn't realize it was a paid gig until after I said yes. It involved a trip to NYC and a day in front of the camera. Ever since I tried out for Karate Kid part 4 in college for the role of "thug #5" and didn't get it (true story), I've hungered for my day on the screen, any screen. The compensation part was my "oh damn, for real?" moment. Don't tell their PR firm this because I had to fake that I expected to get paid once they told me ("oh, yes. That amount should be workable, since I really like your product and want to help you out."). Accidental money rules, as does healthy fruit-based squeeze pouch snacking.

FTC disclosure statements are my superpower. In fact, I think I'm going to be the first person in blogging history to make his disclosure statement his enitre post. If you couldn't tell from the artfully crafted picture above, I was chosen by Happy Family to be one of their Bright Side Bloggers. As part of the deal, they flew me out to New York and filmed me recounting my various mealtime adventures with my kids. While I did this, they had an improv comedy gang act out random skits inspired by my words. See? You'd do it theoretically for free too! They also sent me home with a ton of their snacks -- all organic, and truthfully, all pretty damn good. I mean, nothing beats a cold beer, but I actually found myself consuming convenient squeeze packs of organic fruit puree goodness througout my time in NYC. 

Look ma, no beer! Also, I am eating how the astronauts eat. Squeeze packs: It's not just for babies anymore. Anyway, they are still editing the videos and mine should be done soon. That (and cuter pics of my kids enjoying the product we got to take home) will come in a post I will publish in a few days. Yes, I said a few days, not a few months, as has been par for the course lately. Amazing what organic fruits and contracts can achieve. Stay tuned! 

Finding Zen (and donuts) in Business Travel

I started my first job three days after I graduated college, and that was only because I graduated on a Friday. I've never done a semester abroad, set foot in a hostel, or partaken in a cross-country journey of self-discovery, only to realize that what I really loved was right here at home the whole time.

I'm 40 years old, and I've never even taken a real vacation in my adult life -- the kind where you aren't there to visit or bury someone. My sedentary ass would be easy pickins for a drone strike if it weren't for business travel.

Most people I talk to hate traveling on business. The jet lag, the fast food, the rental cars, and of course, the hotels. "Nothing beats sleeping in your own bed," people say. While there is some truth to that statement, there's something to be said for hearing the "beepbeep" of a properly magnetized key card, walking into a tidy room with a made bed, throwing your stuff on the floor, sitting on the bed for a quick secon-- and then waking up at 3:30am fully dressed with your shoes on, trying to guess where you are. Because once you figure it out, you realize that nobody cares that you passed out, smell like $7 bottles of airplane booze and Designing Women is on TV.

The best part is you pick up the phone, hit zero, and somebody polite not only answers, but they call you Mr. Lin. Then you ask them to wake you up at 6:30. You can't even get your mom to do that anymore! You crawl under the blankets, shoes on or off because it's totally your choice, and fall soundly asleep because you don't have to worry about if you set your alarm for PM instead of AM. 

The next morning, you take a shower, throw your towels on the floor because you can, get dressed, and go do what you have to do. That night when you come back, guess what? Your bed is made, there are clean towels on the rack, your toilet paper has a pointy fold, and you have brand new shampoo. Some of my wildest fantasies don't even involve folded toilet paper!

When you know you've got a decent place to rest your head at the end of the day, everything else just falls into place. I offer some highlights from recent business trips as proof:

I got to fulfill my dreams of driving around like a jerk and still have everyone slow down for me because they think I'm a cop. Nothing like renting a Crown Vic for the week! 

crownvic.jpg

Actually, there is one thing better... and that's driving around like Jack Ryan from Clear and Present Danger. Wearing a suit and driving a Suburban with tinted windows (in Washington DC no less!) makes you feel like a man's man. My only disappointment was that nobody tried to take us out with a rocket-propelled grenade. But fate more than made up for that by granting us a parking space. In NEW YORK CITY. Smack dab in front of THE APPLE STORE, when we were trying to find parking to go to the Apple Store! It was such a sign of divine intervention that we simply left the car there and walked back to the hotel, on principle, and picked it up the next morning. I know... pics or it didn't happen. See below. Amazing.

suburban.jpg

From the city to the country, I was all over the map the past couple years. And for most of it, Shannon was there to snap the most memorable moments (you should have seen her massive eye roll when snapping that Crown Vic one). But where our opinions differ on police vehicles, we both like donuts and fishing. This one below was snapped two hours before we had to be at a government conference in North Carolina. 

bass.jpg

We caught this beauty, pictured below, in Portland. That is a maple bacon donut from the world famous Voodoo Doughnuts. We found this because we saw a line wrapped around a city block and figured something must be good at the end of that line, so we waited. We were so right.

maplebacon.jpg

I should really just end this post here because nothing tops a donut with bacon on it. Wait... this just in. Oh yeah, we also caught ourselves a double rainbow! 

doublerainbow.jpg

Later that year, work brought us to the other side of the world, where I was able to do things that looked really official, like sign documents that celebrated some glorious spirit of partnership or something like that. I don't know. I'm just up there because the suit fits me.

forum.jpg

I also got to do some planking. I say that like it's some privilege or something. It's not. It's just idiotic. Which simply ensures that I will do it. 

Tiger.jpg

Here's me failing the "you must be this civilized to ride this ride" test in Shanghai. 

ShanghaiCivilizedPark.jpg

So why am I writing about business travel? Because all successful business trips have one thing in common: a good night's rest at a great hotel. And it just so happens that one of these great hotels is turning 50 this year. You might have guessed that it's the Radisson because you skipped ahead and looked at the graphic below. I cannot control you people. It's frustrating sometimes.

Anyway, Radission is celebrating its anniversary by giving away one room a day for 50 days, through 50 blogs. Today is my day to choose one of you to be the next winner. Just leave a comment by 9pm PST on Friday, Nov. 2 telling me what your favorite thing about hotel living is, and I will throw your name in a hat. Then I will think "This is so stupid and inefficient" and then use random.org instead to choose my winner. 

If you don't win, but want more chances, just go to Radisson's Facebook page for that day's giveaway blog. 

And in case you're wondering, yes, I did get some free hotel stays in lieu of cash compensation for this post. I fully intend to use them, ironically, for non-business travel. 

I can't read. And now I'm part of a reading club?

Here's a fun fact: the only reason this blog exists is because I can't read. The moment I open a book, I can't make it more than five pages before my face is planted nose deep into the spine, drooling. I'm sexy and I know it. This proved to be problematic back in 2007, when I had a two-hour LA Metro train ride to work. The Metro doesn't exactly traverse the "wish you were here" LA hotspots. When you fall asleep and miss your stop, all you wish for is your mommy. Blogging meant I could stay awake, and that led to good things like getting to work on time, and also not being dead.

My kid used to take advantage of this affliction of mine. He'd pick the longest story possible at bedtime (i.e. longer than 5 pages) just to make me dream talk. You know what I mean, right? You know when you're on the phone with someone and you're dead tired and you start dreaming and say something totally non-sensical, and then they're like "what did you just say?" and then you wake up just enough to kind of remember what came out of your mouth, at which point you scramble to explain what you just said, as if you totally meant to say it? "Um, you were talking about back stabbing friends and I said pickle sunny side up ergonomic because everyone knows you can't eat on a Sleep Number bed, yet I have jerk friends who come over and eat breakfast on it. And to add insult to injury they add gherkins to that bullshit! God! Don't you hate that?"

So, getting back to my original point, Fury used to make me read long books to him because he knew that five pages in, Peter Rabbit would be riding the cashmere pineapple Pythagorean theorem. His squeals of laughter were totally worth the feelings of complete parental ineptitude that this phenomenon would trigger, however. 

In addition to the above, I also have to admit that I can't do fiction. Just never got into it. With a few exceptions (pretty much all having the name Stephen King attached to them), I have never enjoyed, nor appreciated fiction. I read true crime books. I read history. I read business, pop psych, biographies, memoirs... but fiction? Never appealed to me. When I read, I feel like I need to learn something. Fiction isn't true. Therefore, it is a waste of my time. I know this is wrong, and I know movies are fiction and I enjoy those. What's life without inconsistencies?

I recently bought The Final Storm for a plane ride, thinking it was a WWII history book. When I found out it was fiction, I tried to read it on the plane anyway. Big mistake. After every sentence, my brain countered with "you know, Jim, this never happened." I fell asleep three times and got through about 30 pages before accepting that I hated it. If you did the math, that's twice my reading endurance. This proves that I tried.

So now I'm part of an online book club. 

Say what??

This is a good time to give you my FTC disclosure statement: I said no at first. I said I don't like to read because I fall asleep after five pages. I said I don't like fiction either, which means half the catalog is dead to me. They said they would pay me. I was between jobs at that time. I said "ok, keep talking." They said that this is a reading app that lets you write comments in the margins as you read; and your friends who are also reading the same book can read your comments, and you can read theirs. It's like live tweeting a book! It's like a sidebar conversation. It's like the filmmaker's commentary on a DVD. Plus, I could pay the electric bill. Done.

Real-time social reading. This is the answer to all my reading problems. Being able to read your friends' notes on each page is like having that friend who makes conversation with you in the car so you don't fall asleep at the wheel. And that is what the Copia social e-reading tool is all about. And a 6-paragraph preamble is what I'm all about. Bullet points are nice too: 

  • Copia is device agnostic. It's not going to iPad heaven, but it'll have a good time on any platform while it's here. It'll even work on a web browser.
  • You can buy millions of book titles direct from the site. I just read Escape from Camp 14. It's a memoir of the only person to ever escape from a North Korean labor death camp. You will never look at life the same way ever again. Don't say I didn't warn you.
  • If your friends are reading the same book, you can read their notes in the margins as you read. So in the case of Escape from Camp 14, I fully expect to see notes like "Jim I hate you" "I am now depressed for life. Thanks a lot, Jim" and "Kim Jong Il can suck it!" 
  • If you go to someone's profile page, there's a cool Venn diagram thing that shows how their library overlaps yours. That's the kind of dangerous technology that causes soulmates. 
  • Copia got a whole bunch of us parent bloggers together for this, so if you're into that kind of thing, check out the Copia Parents Book Club.
  • You can also set up impromptu reading groups with your friends on Copia. Some of us decided to read the same book at the same time to take advantage of the real-time commenting feature. Feel free to join MrLady, Redneckmommy and LaidOffDad and me in our splinter group, Tanis, Doug, Jim, and Shannon Do Books. I believe you need to be logged in for that group link to work, but getting an account is free.

You may have noticed that the book we decided to read is a work of fiction. That's because Doug picked it and I'm trying to remain open to new frontiers. Just note that if you happen to be reading Telegraph Avenue with us, you might see a comment that reads jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjafvirwj'bvowirtjrq. Just be thankful Copia hasn't yet figured out how to share drool.

------------- 

If you want to jump into the pit with us, or simply enjoy agnostic reading, leave a comment and share with me one book you've been wanting to read by Friday, Oct 5 11:59pm PST (leave the comment by then, not finish the book by then). I will draw TEN lucky winners to receive any book of their choice through Copia. So get a book, fire up the iPad/iPhone/Droid/laptop and join us!

Life's Hella Good

 

Look closely at the picture above. To the casual observer, this may look like Nerf darts scattered across a suburban cul-de-sac. To me, they spell the word validation. Validation for a moment's notice decision to move the entire family from Los Angeles to a small town no one's ever heard of in Northern CA. Validation for my using the word hella in a post title in an attempt to adopt the vernacular of my new home (ok, maybe some things can never be validated).

When we first packed up and left, I had fears. My own migration into suburbia also happened in 4th grade. It didn't go so well. While times and racial tolerance are different now, I couldn't help but worry that I was removing Fury from everything that he ever knew and plunking him down in unfamiliar territory to fend for himself. Well, he fended for himself, alright. With Nerf guns blazing, sqeals of laughter and a gang of neighborhood homies of all colors, creeds and Axe spray varietals. They show up at all hours of the day, ravage our snacks like locusts, and make this new house a home for Fury.

And because this town was built with parks and bikepaths connecting every neighborhood, I can actually let him bike outside of our own driveway for once. In fact, I give him a cell phone and he rides for miles. I know this because he calls me and says "Dad, I am in front of [any given address]. Check Google Maps. How far have I gone?"

The only thing missing is jobs, which d Wife and I both moved here without. However, things are looking up on that front for both of us. I don't like to jinx things that help me pay my mortgage, so that's all I will say about that for now. However, not having to go to work each day means I can do things like help my buddy Toheed (who moved here from LA a year before I did, and wouldn't shut up about how awesome it was until I did too) do random things like dismantle a car wash. Lessons learned there: a rented forklift is worth every penny, and tweakers you hire off the street are excellent at unbolting lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of bolts.

The dismantled carwash is pictured above. Also, the house next to ours is empty and available in case you're looking to move to the best little town no one, not even NorCal people, have ever heard of. And no, we're not turning it into a carwash, though if that crossed your mind, you know me well.

Oh yeah, file this one under "Makes your relocation a whole hell of a lot easier to swallow": LG Electronics found me at the Dad 2.0 Summit and said (and I paraphrase): "Jim, we'd like to pimp your family room for our Techorating Challenge."

I said yes, and showed them a picture of my family room:

"Have at it," I said.

Then this happened...

And then they gave me a script, some makeup and turned my house into a film studio for 18 hours.

They also did the same thing to High Tech Dad and then pitted us against one another in a grueling fight to the finish. At least we both get to plunk down at the end of this Techorating Challenge and rehydrate in front of our 55" LG LCD 3D TVs (QRS... TUV... WXY and Z). The electronics and home decorating cockfight, hosted by ESPN's Stuart Scott, is depicted below, if you dare:

I'm showing you all this because it too can be yours. Just go to the LG Techorating Challenge Facebook page and enter to win your own Techorated room. You only have one day left to do this (procrastination would be my middle name if it weren't Ching-kuo). They close it off on Wednesday, May 2 at 11:59:59 pm EST. You have to vote for one of us, but really, it doesn't matter who you vote for. The TV and room make-over were enough for me. I don't even know what I win, if I win and it doesn't really matter.

And remember kids, a good disclosure statement gives you healthy teeth and gums and keeps your blog out of the government no-no house, so here goes:

*YO YO YO! LG or its affiliates have not kicked me over a dime for any articles or posts. They did, however hook me up with a gang of stuff, like a 55" 3D LCD TV, some classy "MTV Cribs" caliber furniture (I'm still waiting on that stripper pole, though), an LG Bluetooth Soundbar, and they even threw in a microwave just for the hell of it. All this was provided as part of the Techorator program experience. However, all articles, tweets, and other materials that I post related to LG products and the Techorator program are entirely my own opinion. In fact, everything I post is always my own opinion, which would mean that if this were North Korea, I would be making license plates with my healthy teeth.

*Mic drop. Peace in the middle east.

You put your success in the box

The moving trucks roll up to our driveway in 90 minutes. But this little quickie deserves mention...

When I carved out this little space of mine on the internet nearly five years ago, I didn't have too many expectations. I had never read a blog before. I figured this was little more than a glorified MySpace page. Then one day I discovered I had 13 subscribers. I was ballin!! And with that, came big dreams.

One of them was to get free Cheez-Its. Shoot for the stars, baby.

Two days ago, we finally got the keys to the new house. As we walked up to the front door, I noticed a box waiting for me. It was addressed to BusyDad and it was from a PR company representing a certain thing that I love.

Disclosure: I spent my own money on the paper towels, Craftsman toolbox and granite countertops.The best thing about success? You can define it any way you damn well please.

Quid Pro Quo: Cheez-It is running a “Vote for the Top Cheese” election, visit www.Facebook.com/cheezit. Voting ends April 5, 2012. White Cheddar always gets my vote, for anything.

Put an egg on it

Due to paperwork delays, red tape and general bureaucratic lethargy, we still haven't gotten the keys to our new home (in case you missed it, we recently relocated from Los Angeles to deep within the suburban depths of Northern California). Luckily, my buddy also lives in town so we've been crashing at his place for the past two weeks. This is the same friend who renovated our old house. The same friend whose old house we also crashed at while all that remodeling took place. Yeah, we follow him around the country and he totally loves us. Insert sacrasm where appropriate.

Since we're only here temporarily, we've been eating on the fly, which means tons of pizza, Cheez-Its and Panda Express. But living out of the freezer isn't entirely a bad thing. Especially when you're a Zatarain's Krewe member and your mission this month is to play with Zatarain's "Meals for Two" frozen entrees.

Zatarain's recently tracked me down at my friend's house and left a box of frozen goodies. Not one to back down from a creative cooking challenge, I would usually have done something absurdly epic with them by now. However, since I don't know my way around my friend's kitchen, I'm going to save that for a post later this week when I can break-in my own new kitchen.

So for now, I just wanted to say...

When you're too tired to fry up a skillet of bacon...

When you can't find all the mixing bowls to make pancakes...

When you want something more substantial than cereal...

When you haven't yet figured out where the McDonald's in your new town is...

Grab whatever you can...

Zatarain's Beef and Mushroom Pasta. Not just for dinner anymore.

AND PUT AN EGG ON IT.

Anything is breakfast when you pair it with runny yolk.  

Disclosure: it was friggin good. I ate all of the pasta, even though it's for two. And my kids looked at me weird.

More serious disclosure: Zatarain's sent me those for free. I'm a paid ambassador. After this post, I'm not so sure.

Ok, this time for real: this pasta was so easy to cook. I dumped it frozen into a pot. After 10 minutes and a few stirs, it was done. The beef was surprisingly tender. The sauce was wicked tasty. I'm not just saying that. Try some for yourself, and if you disagree, I will fight you in the Thunderdome.

The time I painted my room with Frosted Flakes and bile

One random night in second grade, I was lying in my bed watching TV. I was on the tail end of the flu, and my dad was sitting on the couch in my room to make sure I was ok. I know it sounds like my second grade bedroom was all pimped out because I had a TV and a couch, but this was a hand-me-down black and white we got from a relative, and the couch was the one we had for ages before getting new furniture. I also know I don't have to justify my childhood socio-economic status with you. I just do these things anyway.

As the night wore on, the queasiness in my stomach gave way to hunger.

"Dad, I'm hungry. I want Frosted Flakes."

"No, too heavy."

"But dad, I want some!"

"Ok, ok."

My dad sure was the best.

Few things ever tasted as good as that bowl of Frosted Flakes, each heaping spoonful a mouthplosion of sugary, crunchy, just-enough-soggy corn goodness followed by a cold, creamy, sugary whole milk chaser. I polished off that bowl before the weatherman could finish his 3-day forecast (I also watched news as a youngster because I had to keep up on the Iranian Hostage Crisis. I know I don't have to justify my childhood media preferences with you. I just do these things anyway). With hunger pangs abated, I settled into the inevitable slumber that would follow. My body, however, wasn't intent on the world "settle." In fact, the opposite happened.

"Dad?"

"Hmm?"

"I don't feel well..."

"I told y---"

Then this happened:

Dramatic re-creation from actual eventsI learned a few things that day:

1) If you put your hand to your mouth to block puke, the puke always wins.

2) When you decrease the space from which liquid is expelled with something like a hand, you increase its exit pressure, and therefore its velocity and trajectory. This works to your advantage with garden hoses. This works to your disadvantage when you are trying not to paint your bedroom walls with vomit.

3) When you've reached the point of no return, don't move your head from side to side in a desperate attempt to find something to puke in. It only results in more wall, furniture, bookshelf, desk and old black and white television set coverage.

4) My dad was the nicest dad ever. He just got up, got a roll of paper towels, and cleaned up my Frosted Flake room motif. And we never spoke of it again.

5) Listen to your dad.

As a member of the Vicks Blogger Brigade, my job is to entertain and enlighten you with my personal stories related to being sick (and getting better), and conceptually tie them in with the awesomeness of Vicks. I really hope Vicks appreciates that I have now forever tied Frosted Flake puke with NyQuil in your mind. Turns out, the awesomeness is me.

To make up for it, I will try to give you something back. How about a Vicks Cool Moisture Humidifier and a "Feel Better Kit" that includes VapoRub, DayQuil, NyQuil, and a mess of Vicks Nature Fusion products? I'll even make it easy for you. Just go to the Vicks Facebook page and answer the question that's on their wall:

"Fill in the blank: I know I’m getting better when I can finally smell ______."

Then come back here and let me know you did it. Just don't write "Frosted Flakes puke" as your answer. Well, you can if you want. That might be kind of amusing. Either way, I'll pick a winner on March 16 at 5pm PST.

Just emerging from my Zatarain's Food Coma

Sorry it's been a while since my last post. I'm going to go ahead and blame Zatarain's. You may know them as the authority on New-Orleans style foods, with their famous seafood boils, Jambalaya and Gumbo mixes, and of course that Creole mustard that doubles as currency in some parts of the country. I simply know them as the guys who lured me to New Orleans under the guise of immersing me in all things New Orleans, and then clobbered me over the head with one of the best culinary experiences of my life. Jerks. They've ruined all other food for me. As I sit here eating a leftover hot dog from last week, I'm chasing it with a squeeze bottle of Zatarain's Creole mustard, straight up. All it does is bring me back.

It all started with hairnets and safety glasses, like so many other worthwhile activities...

That's me with fellow Zatarain's Krewe Ambassadors Laura (Super Glue Mom), Kristen (Dine and Dish), Rachel (Southern Fairytale) and Steph (Lick My Spoon). Please note that most of my photos were pulled from our collective Zatarain's Flickr Pool because they can all take better pictures than I. We went through a rigorous selection process for this distinguished title that included an assessment of our aptitude for lining up like a bell curve and rocking the game show hands.

Next, Zatarain's gave us a factory tour to show us where all the magic happens. Kind of like MTV Cribs, minus the stripper pole bedroom, and with more cayenne pepper. So much cayenne. I was really disappointed in myself for sneezing so much. That's what we wussy California people get for eating so much avocado.

Then they fed us. It's not so much the fact that they forced us to shovel delicious cauldrons-full of Zatarain's Jambalaya and spicy sausage down our gullets that made this so agonizing, it's that they told us to pace ourselves for the restaurant tour to follow. Jerks!

Because clearly there are some things I'm not good at.

Have you heard of Chef John Besh? He's not only the big daddy of the New Orleans restaurant scene, he's also the Zatarain's spokeschef. I should trademark that term, since I obviously missed the boat on Linsanity. After we indulged in Jambalaya, we visited three of his restaurants. Each one uses Zatarain's products in their signature dishes. Each one contributed to my massive food coma. Each one killed us dead with amazing food. I submit the following as proof:

This was Borgne, our first stop. Chef Besh himself welcomed us with roasted oysters, artichoke stuffed with crabmeat, empanadas stuffed with dirty rice and etc. etc. etc. and beer and cocktails and my mind is fuzzy. All I can say is this man doesn't stand in front of his spread. He presides over it.

I ate two plates of these oysters because everybody was busy taking pictures. You snap, you lose.

I shot pictures of Rachel taking pictures because whatever she shoots will be better than mine anyway.

Then we all took the shot shots.

Then we moved onto Chef Besh's Domenica, an Italian-themed restaurant. To get to the private room we had to go through the kitchen. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time. YEAH BABY. I snapped a pic of them making fusilli along the way.

All I have to say is CRAB PIZZA and CARBONARA. This crab was cooked in Zatarain's crab boil. It was legit.

Here's some homemade Limoncello, which we all "sampled."

The rest of this post will be shorter, because somehow I can't remember much. I remember the King Cake with actual gold flake on it, though (which, by the way, recently took first place in the NOLA Eats King Cake Tasting Party).

And here's another picture of me taking a picture of Rachel taking a picture.

By the time we made our way over to August, I was barely able to eat. I didn't even bring my camera. I had tapped out by then. The food was incredible, which makes me sad. I took one bite out of the most amazing crabcake-stuffed shrimp and jambalaya stuffed quail and wept silently. I actually could not sleep later that night because all I could think about was how good it was, and how I could not coax another bite into my mouth. I worry about the important things at night. Of course, they had to bring out EVERY DESSERT ON THEIR MENU as a final course. We just passed them around the table on the left hand side, taking a bite out of each as they passed. Which proves the theory that there's always room for a dozen desserts.

The next morning, I was hungry again. We started the day with brunch at the legendary Brennan's. Then we took a tour of New Orleans. A food history tour. Of course.

The day ended with the entire Krewe hanging out with the Zatarain's GM and his family, watching one of the dozens of Mardi Gras parades that turn New Orleans into a massive celebration for two weeks each year. Unlike what we non-NOLA people percieve Mardi Gras to be, based upon pictures our single guy friends send us the media, Mardi Gras is all about simply being infectiously happy with friends, family, food and drink.

When all was said and done, I realized something. As a brand ambassador, I expected this initial immersion trip to be about Zatarain's product line. It wasn't. We sampled the sights, sounds and flavors of New Orleans. We spent time with the Zatarain's family, literally. We took in all New Orleans has to offer. And now we understand. Zatarain's is simply all that stuffed into a colorful little box.

All of those happy faces above are part of the Zatarain's 2012 Ambassador Program. We were compensated for our time, and all opinions are our own. None of the elation was faked.