My procrastination means that Mini Hornit is the entire BusyDad Gift Guide

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A few months ago, I got a pitch for a cool kids' gadget. It's called the Mini Hornit, and it's a bicycle horn/light that makes a bunch of different sounds and lights. I usually would have passed on it, but all the kids had coincidentally acquired new bikes this year, so I sent an email back that said something along the lines of "this is really cool, but unless you can send me five, there will be bickering." That usually thwarts my having to open this blog and put words in it. But not this time. They sent me five. Man! Foiled by generosity.

So here I am, months later. I've procrastinated long enough, but in fairness to me, this is so much better than a random October post. Nobody buys reasonably priced gadgets that fit in stockings in October. And although you'd like to think that you've done that by mid December, I'll just wink at you and tell you about the discount code "busydad" that will get you 10% off your order. No, I don't make any money off these (or this post, for that matter). I'm just a nice guy, with kids who have bikes, who happens to write slow. 

You can say that by default, this Mini Hornit post is my holiday gift guide. Who needs choices at this time of year? We simply want to be done. Just watch this video, because I came up with a ton more uses for this than simply putting it on your kid's bike. However, I take no responsibility for the usefulness of these hacks, or if you get sued by the Dukes Of Hazzard. Don't even try to understand that last sentence, per usual.

So Merry Christmas, etc. Happy New Year and good luck! Remember, use the discount code busydad for 10% off your order. This is a fun gift, even if you don't use it to snack shame your kids. 

BlackBerry Z30 vs. My iPhone: The Grudge Match

A few years ago, I completed part I of a BlackBerry review. I really liked it at first, but then as time wore on, I invoked the mercy rule and skipped part II. Let's just say that until "Let It Go" came along, there was nothing I associated more with the word Frozen than the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

I went from a BB Army loyalist to a hater. And that's when the iPhone that I got through work filled that void perfectly. Life went on, BlackBerry was behind me. Then this happened:

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Disclosure: this BlackBerry Z30 didn't just show up at my door with a challenge match in mind. It was sent to me by one of my favorite PR people whom I haven't heard from in forever, and it seemed like a fitting way to end the BlackBerry saga once and for all, so I took the challenge (i.e. hey, free phone for my kid after i'm done with it!). There was much catching up involved, but no payment, and no promises. Just a fair shot at redemption. I'm all about a good fight. 

As you know, if you've read my blog, I am not a reviewer. I'm not a tech writer. If you landed here because I skillfully SEO'd BlackBerry Z30, click the back button and refine your search to "CNET BlackBerry Z30" for a more educational result.

This is a down and dirty review based upon things that are important to ME. I like to eat bugs and wear shock collars from time to time. Just managing expectations here.

DOES IT FREEZE?

No! No it doesn't!! I dragged this post out more than two months, which gave me ample time to catch it freezing up on me. It never even froze once. My iPhone also doesn't freeze, so we'll call this a draw. It is a very satisfying, redeeming, meaningful draw, however, given my history with BlackBerry.

TYPING

The reason I have always liked the BlackBerry was because of the real keyboard. I still prefer this over any touch system. That's why I was really sad when I saw that the new line dropped the real keyboard. However, BlackBerry has incorporated a very impressive predictive text system that I think has massive potential. As you type, the keyboard displays words that it thinks you might be trying to type. In addition, these words are displayed above the next letter that you are likely to type, so you don't have to look for them. When you see the right word, you swipe it upward to accept. Here's an example. 

I wanted to see if this innovation would translate into actual time savings on the keyboard so I typed a blurb from a Baken-Ets pork rind bag because that was sitting next to my computer, and I just injured my back yesterday so I cannot move to go find something else to transcribe, and no, your name doesn't have to be Bubba to love pork rinds, and aren't you glad I'm not eating bugs?

So... given all that, I timed myself typing out a paragraph from the back of the bag, using my iPhone and my Z30 predictive text. As it turns out, my time with the iPhone was 1 min, 30 seconds in trial #1 and 1:28 in trial #2. With the Z30, the times were 2:38 and 2:02 respectively.

While this might seem like clear victory for the iPhone, there are a couple factors involved: 

  • I'm very used to my iPhone keyboard.
  • Z30 has autocorrect like iPhone does and during these two months I've been largely ignoring the predictive text and typing iPhone style because I am a creature of habit, so this was my first attempt at consciously relying on predictive text.
  • There was more than an immediate 30-second improvement from trial #1 to trial #2, which says to me getting used to predictive text isn't that hard. 

So the jury is still out on which system is in fact, better. Too many outside considerations that are not the Z30's fault. I can say, however, that they are both better than the Droid swype system. Man, I hated that when I had a Droid. In fact, I hated everything about the Droid. 

EMAILS AND NOTIFICATIONS

Z30 wins hands-down on this one. Some of my favorite features of the Z30 include the following things that my iPhone cannot do:

  • Message hub: while the iPhone can display your emails from various accounts together in one stream, the Z30 can display that plus your texts, call notifications, BBM messenger messages (I miss BBM - and it's sad I had no one to test BBM with during these two months), social media notifications (which you can set on or off) in one place. I think the Droid platform can also do this, but I hate Droids, so who cares.
  • Priority hub: this is a brilliant feature. This is a view that shows only your most important messages, as deemed by an algorithm at first (people with your last name, people you reply to, etc) but over time can be configured by you (you can manually designate any sender as priority, or un-prioritize them, when you are reading their email/text). 
  • Attachment view: you can hit a button and view a list of all attachments that have been sent to you. No need to find that email, open it, and download the attachment. 

SYNCHING 

The BlackBerry Z30 wins here too, simply because you don't have to use iTunes. iTunes is the devil. A really confusing, temperamental, arbitrary devil. iTunes is a necessary evil that you have to put up with to use Apple products. They design such good products at Apple, so why does iTunes have to suck so bad? Z30 wins by virtue of the fact that it's not iTunes. 

There's some really cool features that make it intuitive to synch files and share media over a wireless network, but honestly, all that is overshadowed by the feature I affectionately call "not #$*^%$ iTunes." 

PICTURES AND MEDIA

As a parent, this function is of utmost importance to me. I want to be able to take good pictures with my phone. So how does the BlackBerry Z30 fare here? Let me break it down:

Quality: when your subject holds still, the pictures come out great. Here's a picture of Lessi that I took:

That looks as good as any iPhone pic. However, I did have to take more pictures with the BlackBerry than I usually do with the iPhone to get this picture because the BlackBerry doesn't do well with motion. Pictures came out blurry a lot of the time. It also doesn't do well with low light conditions, something I know the iPhone is really great at. 

However, the BlackBerry Z30 comes with something that can help alleviate the need to take multiple pictures to get just the right one, and this is my number one WOW feature of the BlackBerry: Time Shift mode. Time shift mode is a function where the camera takes a bunch of consecutive pictures rather than just one when you press the shutter. You can then toggle each person's face separately along that timeline to find the right moment you want to immortalize on the picture. 

Wait. What? That made no sense. I know, I didn't get it either when I first read about it, so I filmed the process to better illustrate what I mean. This is worth watching because it's some sick innovation.

Right? Essentially, it lets you change history and create pictures that technically never existed. When your phone can violate the space time continuum so flippantly, you're got something quite powerful at your disposal. 

Another notable feature is the sound quality on the Z30. The speakers are way better than those of the iPhone. I say if you're going to annoy your family with your favorite Hall & Oates chart toppers, you might as well provide them with the highest quality audio for their suffering pleasure.

APPS

This has always been the weakness of BlackBerry, in my opinion. Even if the iPhone is technically inferior, and Droids are the saddest excuse for technology, they still have way more apps than the BlackBerry. While I am lucky in that the apps I use are either available for BlackBerry (Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Ubercab) or have 3rd party versions (iGrann for Instagram), I recognize that the average smartphone user might feel constrained when using a BlackBerry. 

What I can tell you though is that BlackBerry recently partnered with the Amazon App Store to bring 200,000+ apps to BlackBerry, including Netflix, Pinterest and Minecraft. That may even out the playing field a little more. Amazon is kind of a big deal.

For now, I have to give iPhone the edge on this, but the gap is closing. 

COMFORT FEATURES

I really missed a few things when I switched to the iPhone. One of them was the red blinking LED light whenever I got an email or notification on my BlackBerry. I have to say it was nice having that back. I also REALLY missed the back button. Things seemed to operate in a more linear fashion with BlackBerry because of the back button. You simply hit 'back' to go back to where you just were. With the iPhone, you have to hit home first, then open the app you were just on. It's annoying. The iPhone doesn't have any equivalent comfort features that other phones lack, except maybe the free Apple sticker. Status is comfort, right?

BATTERY LIFE

The Z30 never dies! It's incredible, the endurance that it has. I can't say the same for my iPhone. Z30 is the clear winner in this department. I carry an external battery with me all day and it just looks like an iColostomy bag when my iPhone is attached to it. 

SUMMARY

While I do love my iPhone and will continue to use it because it was issued to me from my work, I have to say that I am totally impressed with the BlackBerry Z30. Aside from its inability to take pictures of subjects in motion, I really had no gripes with it, and when going head-to-head against my iPhone, it actually came out on top for pretty much everything else. 

So the question remains, did BlackBerry win back my affections? I have to say YES, in a big way. 

And with that a new question arises. You think it can win YOU over? One of you lucky folks is going to find that out, actually. I am giving one BlackBerry Z30 away (or you can choose the Q10 if you are a hardcore keyboard loyalist). For a chance to win, all I ask you to do is tell me what phone you have now and what about it irks you. I'll give you one week to submit your comments and choose a winner randomly Sunday, August 17 at 9pm PST.

The Not Really Book Reviews Post

I'd like to begin this post with some disclosure: I didn't get paid anything for this post. I also don't read. The problem with not reading is you can't really do book reviews for friends who deserve them. That's a reality I'm just going to have to work around, because these people deserve kudos for the books they wrote. So consider this a people review. I'm going to talk about the people behind these books, and hopefully that will get you to purchase them (the books). By the way, none of these are affiliate links. The only thing I earn if you buy any of these books is the satisfaction that you did something because of what I said. Sometimes power is more satisfying than money.

Minimalist Parenting, by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest

Christine and Asha are two of my favorite people in the world. There is no such thing as small talk when I see them. Every conversation I've ever exchanged with them has been big. They make me laugh, think, admire or be simply dumbfounded at their insightfulness. They are the kind of people to which people always say "you need to put that in a book." And that they did. I've had a copy of this book for a while, and it's perfect for a non-reader like me, because it is made up of easily digestible sections. A few months ago, I sat down to read it and I spilled my Jack Daniels all over it. By the time I cleaned it up, the window of opportunity had passed (i.e. I tweeted it, and then got sucked into the internet).

I'm sure I will read it someday again, but I hope more that you will. And I hope even more that you will purchase this book before Nov. 1. Because if you do, Christine and Asha are donating ALL of the proceeds to help women in Ethiopia. Their publisher is also matching that. So do the right thing and purchase your copy of Minimalist Parenting (and read more about the organization they are helping) today... or tomorrow: minimalistparenting.com/helpwomenatrisk/

Julie Black Belt, by Oliver Chin

A few years ago, my sister bought me a kids' book about my Chinese zodiac sign, so I could read it to Fury. When she gave it to me, she told me that she met the author and he was a really cool dude. He was also doing a reading of his book at the local Children's museum. So of course we went. The author's name seemed familiar to me, so I went with notion that maybe I knew him. When we got there, it turned out that I did know him. He was the graphics editor of my college newspaper when I was an illustrator there. I used to work for him almost 20 years ago!

A few weeks ago, we went to see my sister compete at the San Francisco Dragon Boat races. Guess who was there promoting his books? That's when I figured out that the universe wanted me to get back into illustrating for him, but we settled instead on me giving his newest book some well deserved mention on this blog. So check out Julie Black Belt (the 2nd in this series) and get it for your kids.

Dad's Book of Awesome Projects by Mike Adamick

In 2009, at the BlogHer Voices of the Year reading, I didn't know who Mike was. Then he got up on stage and read his post. It was then that I realized that there are some people I will never write like. Well at least I made better crafts than he did. Wrong. His crazy book of crafts that make me feel like a total slacker dad came out earlier this year. I haven't attempted any of these projects, but I thumb through them often. Kind of like I do with cookbooks. It's all about inspiration, right? Mike lives in the Bay Area like I almost do, and I've run into him a few times at conferences, but I really think we need to hang out. I want him to make me a pair of comic book shoes.

Carhartt: the most badass thing to ever meet needle and thread

I’m not a clothes guy. Given the choice, I would buy everything from the Army Navy Store. Actually, that’s what I did until the need to procreate forced me to consider otherwise. But really, rip-stop pants with ample pockets and black ribbed sweaters with reinforced elbows are classic, versatile and mission-ready. So what if most of my missions end with “save as…” rather than necklaces made of enemy ears.

Let’s just say I’m not on the pitch list for many clothing brands. And let’s just say when they do send me stuff, I sit on it for years. Yes, plural. So the first part of this post is pure blogger guilt relief. Ralph Lauren and Gold Toe sent me stuff back in 2011. Actually, they sent stuff for Fury. And like a proper blogger’s kid, he wore his cool Ralph Lauren shirt and Gold Toe socks to the first day of school without me asking.  

When I snapped this picture, I was actually wearing the Gold Toe socks they sent me as well. But Fury got the cool socks that are labeled L and R because they’re built for the contour of each foot. What? Is that even necessary? He insisted they were the best socks he’d ever worn. So there you have it. Gold Toe makes the best socks (as an SEO guy, I have to say I just gave them killer anchor text– well worth the wait).  

Then last March, we moved from SoCal to NorCal, so there was actually another “first day of school.” Without missing a beat, Fury wore his Ralph Lauren shirt again.

Ralph Lauren makes the best shirts to wear on your first day of school (BOOM. Blogger guilt eliminated).

With that out of the way, I would like to get into the whole reason I’m writing this post: Carhartt sent me their Quick Duck Woodward jacket, and this post is a review of it. However, by doing this I’m keeping it real. You can buy Carhartt at an Army Navy store. In fact, I‘ve owned the iconic Carhartt Sandstone jacket for several years. Except I call it my Toby Keith jacket. Sometimes if I’m feeling more classic, I call it my George Strait jacket.

I’m an Asian guy who likes country music. Kindly lead the elephant out of the room now, so I can get on with this post.

Another reason I agreed to this review is because I was cold. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, San Francisco is always chilly. I started my new job in May, and so far there have only been three days I could walk outside without a jacket. The one I’ve been wearing since my first day is a thin Banana Republic sweater jacket (which in my professional years has become my Army Navy store for office attire).

I call my daily trip to work the “Commuter Triathlon” because there are three parts to it, and PowerBar could get some mileage sponsoring that BS. It starts out with a 45-minute drive to the train station. Then I park the car at the BART station and ride an hour into the city. Then, I unfold this bad boy:

Then I scoot the mile from the BART station to my office. Field mice gestate in less time than it takes me to get to the office.

But let me tell you something. Wearing this jacket makes my commute feel more like a conquest than a schlep. Because it is. Simply. Bad. Ass.

First, the Carhartt brand is synonymous with killing your own food, barehanded. I’ll get to that one day, I swear. No one messes with you when you are wearing Carhartt – even if you’re on a kick scooter. And that’s a bold statement, because ‘wheee!’

 

Next, this jacket is windproof, water resistant and WARM. Scooting through the mean streets of San Francisco feels like a warm cup of hot chocolate. In fact, I put this jacket through the ultimate test a few weeks ago when I lost my car keys. With my trusty scooter and battle-ready jacket, I rode all over town trying to find a car rental place and/or dealership. When that failed, I had to take a bus that dropped me off a few miles from home. By this time it was 10pm or so, which meant I had been outdoors scooting aimlessly for 7 hours. My face and hands were frozen, but my consistent core body temperature ensured my survival.

This what inability to move one’s face or fingers looks like.

So yes, this jacket saved my life in a #FirstWorldProblems sort of way. Speaking of which, this jacket also has an extra long “drop tail” which means no more embarrassing “unplugging your mac from the power strip” crack at work. It also has 6 pockets, and I’m not talking about costume pockets, either. I’ve transported water bottles, electronics, sandwiches, alcohol and other items in them. The other day, I even carried a lightbulb in one of the pockets. My favorite thing about this jacket is that even though it’s built to be rugged, it actually looks presentable in an urban professional setting. This is the jacket I wear to work. Colleagues and clients see me in it. It can hang with corporate America. Because when your jacket simply defaults to the popped collar look, you’re probably a big deal.

Hey guess what? YOU are also big deal, which is why Carhartt is giving one of you this jacket. Just leave me a comment explaining why you want yourself or your man in this jacket and you’ll be entered in my drawing. I will randomly choose a winner on Sunday, January 27 at 9pm PST. By the way, I wasn’t paid for this review. They sent me the jacket to use and abuse. I’ve so far managed only to spill coffee on it. Damn triple stitched seams.

Note: don't worry if your comment doesn't post immediately. This blog platform has a hyperactive spam filter. I will check it often and push legit comments live in due time.

But does it pass the Tiger Dad test?

Sometime last fall, Brainy Baby asked if I wanted to try their latest flashcard/DVD/Book set, the 123s Counting Collection. I couldn't really say no. Because that would be like saying "no, I don't want my baby to be smarter." At least to me it does. Well played, Brainy Baby.

We tried them out this weekend. Tiger dad style. I never said this would be a cakewalk, Brainy Baby.

By the way, Brainy Baby wants to help you make your baby smarter, too. Just leave a comment complimenting my baby's acting debut and I'll enter you in the drawing. I'll give you until Friday, Jan 13, 5pm PST.

The improbable burger review: a PR case study

This isn't so much a post about two new burgers from Red Robin and Wendy's, as it is a post about PR, timing and entropy. As a former PR professional, I respect the PR game. I laugh at bad pitches like everyone else, but I do it with a twinge of sympathy.

First, a disclaimer: I'm not a big PR score on any firm's list. My traffic, though targeted, is too low in volume to be worth anyone's real effort. Unless your product is a book about how to be a Jedi Ninja, my influence in anything is incremental, at best. So by pointing out that these two PR firms got a post out of me is more for case study value than to boast about how lucky these two firms were. Because, again, no one is going to buy a burger from this review. The ROI was zero. Calm your troll jets and read on.

I received an email the other day from the firm representing Wendy's. They have this new "W" burger. I write about my life as a parent. Fast food has very little to do with my day to day life. I deleted the email. This is not a slam on the PR company at all. Their job is to pitch. Not all pitches hit their mark. It's part of the game.

A few days later, I received a very interesting email about the name "Jim." It was chock full of facts about the name Jim, and it was sent only to bloggers named Jim. My name happens to be Jim, so this made me feel researched. To a blogger, nothing makes you feel as warm and fuzzy as being researched. Turns out the pitch was about Red Robin's new Jim Beam burger. Since I think bloggers have as much responsibility as PR firms for creating a pleasant PR/Blogger ecosystem, I felt it my responsibility to reward a well thought-out, creative, compelling, super-targeted pitch. I agreed to try the burger and post about it -- *head in shame* for a gift card.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was also in the middle of my Paleo diet (aka Caveman Diet - where you only eat what cavemen could hunt and gather, e.g. meats and vegetables, and avoid products of agriculture, such as starches, sugar and dairy). Any excuse to break that diet in the name of science. Bring it!

A few days later, a follow-up email from the Wendy's rep arrived in my inbox. Because I had just agreed to do a Red Robin review, I thought that it might be interesting to review both burgers in one post, thereby making it more like a burger round-up than a "look what I posted in exchange for a gift card" kind of post. I emailed her back and agreed to review the Wendy's burger... *shielding body from barrage of a blogger beatdowns* for a gift card.

In conclusion, this post happened as a result of:

  • Creative thinking (pitching Jims only)
  • Luck (I was reviewing another burger anyway)
  • Follow-up (I wouldn't have remembered the first Wendy's pitch, otherwise)
  • Serendipity (I was severely bread-deprived)

And now after all this build up, my burger review is sure to be totally anti-climactic, but here it is anyway:

If your name is Jim, Jimmy or James, you get a free Sweet Jim Beam Bacon Swiss Burger on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at every Red Robin (for real!)

Brilliant promotion, isn't it? Just so I could pimp this in good conscience, I had to try the burger first. I also made Fury try it, because he is a burger purist. He only eats burgers plain: with just the patty and the cheese, and no condiments or garnishes. If he liked it with all the accoutrements, that alone would make it post-worthy.

They also sent me a pretty rockin' Jim Beam shirt. Disclosure, I wears it.BusyDad's opinion: I was skeptical at first because I hate burgers with barbecue sauce on them. While the Jim Beam burger is merely glazed with a Jim Beam glaze, and not drowned in sauce, it was along the same spectrum in my mind. I was wrong! The glaze gives the burger a sweet undertone without taking center stage. I love caramelized onions and swiss, so that was pretty much as expected: highly palatable. The garlic butter grilled brioche was a nice touch. I really thought it was added at the last minute to enable Red Robin's marketing copywriters to write something fancy in the description, but the crunch of the bun and the distinct garlic flavor that ensued really optimized my burger enjoying experience. In other words, I'd hit that again. Maybe on Dec. 6! Paleo be damned.

Fury's opinion (transcribed word-for-word): I couldn't really tell the difference of the bun, but the onions added a really good flavor to it. It added a tangy sweetness to it. The Jim Beam sauce was pretty good, and I liked the way they had the swiss cheese. It seemed like the right kind of cheese for the burger. I would add another patty to make it a double [even though the single was still too big for him to finish in one sitting. Gluttony runs in the family].

Wendy's "W" Burger - kind of fun, for fast food

I actually enjoy fast food (I ate my first Big Mac at the age of 5). I know it's not really a part of this nutritious breakfast, but neither is a Reese's Peanut Butter cup, so don't be vilifying, yo. Last week, we went to lunch at Wendy's so Fury and I could try the new "W" Burger. Lisa had no issue with it (Frostys. She loves the Frostys - it is not spelled Frosties because Frosty is a proper noun. I'm not stupid), as long as we could do the drive-thru because once the baby is in her car seat and peacefully chillin, you don't rock the boat.

So I found that juicy doubleBusyDad's opinion: the "W" is part of the "Dave's Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburgers" line. This burger is marketed as a low-cost, but hefty burger, with two 2.25 oz fresh (never frozen of course) patties, two slices of cheese and special sauce. At $2.99, it had to be pretty weak in order for me not to give this a thumbs up. So I give it a thumbs up. It actually reminds me a lot of the iconic SoCal king of fast food burgers, the In 'n Out Double-Double. The sauce and construction are very similar. If you know burgers, to be even compared to a Double Double is an honor. So Wendy's can be very proud of their newest creation.

Fury's opinion (transcribed word-for-word): When you bite it, the sauce leads you in. I took out the tomatoes because I don't really like them. I don't like onions either, but I kept them in there, and it actually added kind of a tangy flavor, which I wasn't expecting. I liked it more than the Jim Beam burger. And I liked how they made it a double [he finished this in one sitting].

Back in Black(berry)

 

Greetings, comrades. I just got back from China (if you count 'just' in Jim Blog years). Some of you may recall that my blog was banned the last time I was there. This time, I couldn't use that convenient excuse to let this blog lay fallow. Apparently, BusyDad has been deemed fit for the People. Or, I've gotten soft (or more Proletarian) in my old age. Given this fact, in conjunction with the fact that Twitter was blocked (unlike last time), I committed to blogging from China every two days.

It's the thought that counts.

China was indeed a thrice in a lifetime (so far) experience, and even though it was for a work conference, I loved every minute of it. Well, except for the minute after I landed (at midnight, after traveling for 20 hours) and was told that my boss had booked me for a speech at a university in eight hours. Come to think of it, the next few hundred minutes writing a speech weren't so fun either. Aside from that, it was a blast.

But this post isn't about China. That post is coming after MrLady and I sort through the 900 or so pictures we collectively took and create the super-mega narrated slideshow of glory.

This post is about cell phones. Namely this baby right here:

That there is the new Blackberry Bold 9900, running on the new Blackberry 7 OS. I'm supposed to tell you that Blackberry sent it to me in exchange for my honest opinion on it, but I hate dry disclosure statements. So instead, I'm going to tell you how I got to this point.

It was 1992-ish. I was at my girlfriend's house one night and her little brother stumbles into the living room, blood spatter all over his shirt. He proceeds to tell us about this fight he just got into, and how his cell phone saved his life. How? He beat the guy with it. Better than bricks, those old cell phones. Just as heavy, but more ergonomic for maximum bludgeoning comfort.

I stayed away from hoodlums with calling plans for the next few years and finally broke down and got a cell phone after I graduated from college. I told myself it was only for emergencies. I actually kept it in the glove compartment and only used it for emergencies.

Then I moved to Califormia and got a job in music PR. Well of course I needed one then. I still smile when I think about that Star Tac. You know, the one that P. Diddy always had in his videos when he was still Puff Daddy? Pimpin.

After that, I just went with the free ones because I drive with the phone in my lap and always forget that fact when I get out of the car, which later became a tall truck. I must have broken at least a dozen or so phones during this era.

One day, I discovered that Casio made a virtually indestructible cell phone (G'z One). Waterproof and shock resistant? Sold. I used to drop that thing in my beer at bars, and huck it against the wall during work meetings for emphasis. I loved that phone. And people thought I was weird.

As resistant as I was to the whole phenomena of the smart phone (I was one of those "cell phones are for talking!" people), by 2008, I broke down and got a Blackberry because I traveled a lot for work. Before long, I too was was walking into trees on the sidewalk (that really happened).

One day, a cleverly named Motorola phone entered the market. One with a Star Wars tie-in. While I could resist the iPhone because I cannot function without a real keyboard, the Droid actually had a keyboard. Also, I could write "This is the Droid you're looking for" in my email signature because no one else would ever be so clever as to do that! I strayed. And I hated every minute of it. I will Droid-bash (catharsis is healthy) when I do my comprehensive video review later this month. This post is already too long and I haven't even gotten to the point, which is that I switched back. Loudly. And Proudly.

I. Am. The. Blackberry. Army.

So yes, they sent me this phone to review (and keep), for which I just wrote the longest disclosure known to the internet. Militant loyalty (and a well-indexed blog) has its privileges. I've had it about a week and here are my initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Looks: Nothing says "like a boss" like a Blackberry. Period. Even though the Bold has maintained its iconic look, they've added a few cool touches to it, the most signigificant being the beveled brushed steel casing. Brushed steel! Just hold it next to your face and it automatically chisels your jawline and makes your eyes more piercing. Then flip it over and look at the battery cover: carbon fiber (or something that resembles it). Is this a fine tuned performance vehicle, or a phone? A phone, but it looks fast and furious.

Web Browsing: I'll admit it. I never surfed the web with my previous Blackberrys (Blackberry is a proper noun, which is why I didn't write Blackberries). Surfing the web was futile. However, the new OS claims to be 40% faster with a liquid graphics touchscreen that makes web browsing a breeze. I ventured onto the web a few times this week, and while it still doesn't match the browsing capability of the iPhone or Droid, it is indeed much much better now. Navigating a website no longer makes me kick puppies.

Apps: Apps aren't really my thing. However, I will tell you this: you know how Twitter is blocked in China? You cannot access it from any computer. You cannot access it via any iPhone app, either. But the Twitter for Blackberry app? It totally flies under the Communist Party radar (as does the Blackberry Facebook app). The only reason I was able to tweet from China was because I had my Blackberry Torch with me. Authoritarian regimes got nuthin on the BB! Also, Blackberry IM totally rules. In fact, I would go Blackberry for that app alone.

Battery Life: I need my battery to last throughout the work day. The Blackberry is the only major smartphone with any respectable battery life. On an average workday, my Bold 9900 can go from 6:30am to 6:30pm before I have to stick it on a charger. My Blackberry Torch went a few hours longer, but then again, it doesn't have brushed steel.

Email: I have to keep track of a dozen email addresses (and secret identities). The Blackberry handles email like no other smartphone. This is why I went with it in the first place. I will go over this in more detail in my formal review, but I will point out that I love how emails are organized by thread (like Gmail) in the new OS. It threw me off at first, but once I figured out what it was doing, I loved it.

Overall, I'm really impressed with the Bold 9900. I only have one issue with it so far, and that is the fact that it occassionally hangs up (not in the phone call sense - but in the "in limbo" sense), forcing you to wait a couple seconds before you can do anything, but I've learned to just admire the brushed steel when that happens. Much better than kicking puppies. When I do my video review, I will do side-by-side comparisons with a Droid, as well as my old Blackberry Torch, so you can view empirical evidence instead of reading my hyperbolic propaganda.

Until next time, Party people.

BusyDad's Favorite Things (that PR firms gave me)

If you know me at all, you know that I am not a review blogger. I don't often do giveaways either. However, if you wave something cool in front of my face for free, and also tell me that I can break something off for my readers, well then I start humming "it ain't no fun, if the homies can't haaaaave none..."

Are you allowed to sample Snoop Dogg in an FTC disclaimer? Guess I'll find out soon enough.

Without further ado, here are the coolest things that PR firms gave me this holiday season:

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Tony Hawk Crashing Into a Fountain!
Tony Hawk Shred for Wii ($99.99 for bundle; $59.99 software only)

Last year,  Tony Hawk revolutionized virtual skateboarding with Ride. Featuring a controller that was pretty much a skateboard deck with wicked advanced technology inside, the game allowed you to control your character by literally riding the skateboard controller. This year's follow up to that game is called Shred. And it rocks. Whereas Ride strove for ultra realism in its venues and tricks, Shred is more like how you would ride a skateboard while lucid dreaming. You launch yourself off buildings, perform 4 kick flips while sailing from one rooftop to another, and crash in spectacular immortal fashion into landmarks and fountains and stuff. Kind of like if they skateboarded in the Matrix. Graphics-wise, they went with more of a comic book feel. They also added snowboarding to the mix.

What does this ex-skate punk like best about Tony Hawk Shred? I can tear it up with baby on board. What does Fury like about it? Bigger air, less effort. What did the neighborhood kids like about it? They got to be "on the internet" as part of my Tony Hawk Shred review. They all gave this game a big "rock on" as well.

So real, you gotta wear a helmet.

So, you want to win your own copy of Tony Hawk Shred for Wii? Watch the video at the bottom of this post. You'll receive instructions on how to enter, as well as earn extra entries for individual items featured in this post.

It's Like Mad Max's Quest for Gas. Except It Runs on Batteries
Battle Machines Laser Tag RC cars ($64.99)
 

About a year ago, I introduced Fury to the Mad Max trilogy. As a kid who takes all his toys apart to "customize," Fury loved the idea of taking random vehicles and bolting weapons of conventional destruction onto them. So that's what we did with some of his RC cars. But since we were limited to masking tape, tin foil and whatever Star Wars weapons he had lying around, this is the best we could do:

Luckily, we're good at making sound effects, so we engaged our RC cars in driveway death matches, complete with all the "pchew! pchew!" action you could ever ask for.

This year, things are different, thanks to Battle Machines, by Jada Toys. I wish I invented these, because then I would have the hottest toy of the holiday season under my belt. Combining laser tag with Radio Control, Battle Machines are pretty much my childhood dream, manufactured.

It works like this. You each get one truck and one controller. You can control the movement of the truck just like you would a standard RC vehicle. But then each controller also has a trigger. If you maneuver your truck behind your opponent's and fire, your opponent's truck will suffer 1 hit. When you've hit your opponent 3 times (indicated by all 3 hit lights being lit), their car dies. For one player action, you can make the other car go on autopilot, so you can chase it around and shoot it. Seriously, how cool is that?

So, you want to win your own Battle Machines 2-pack (2 trucks, 2 controllers)? Watch the video at the bottom of this post. You'll receive instructions on how to enter, as well as earn extra entries for individual items featured in this post.

The BusyDad LEGO Worship Continues
Creationary by LEGO Games ($34.99)

You can beat me at a lot of things. But never at Pictionary. That's why when I learned about Creationary, I had to try it. Yup, you guessed it. Pictionary, but with LEGO pieces instead. I know, right? Crazy awesome. Fury and I have been LEGOing since he was about 4 years old. His skills are impressive. But how would he hold up under pressure? We put him to the test:

The game is real easy to play. And in fact, the instructions are merely suggestions, as they encourage you to make up your own rules. It's like anarchy with colorful interlocking blocks. Here are some of the highlights of tonight's game:

I personally love Fury's rendition of "game console" - it totally captures the essence of a Wii. Also, the knife was genius due to the use of contextual clues.

Sorry, no giveaway available for this item. However, you can download the free app version here.

How to Make Your Kid Too Hip for his Age
Atari Greatest Hits, volume 1 for Nintendo DS ($29.99)
Aerial7 Sound Disk Beanie ($60.00)

1) Go retro.

"Hey dad, how come all the games in your day were made up of squares??"

That was Fury's first reaction to Atari Greatest Hits. And then it was laughter. Kids. What do they know?

Eventually, once he got over the fact that you kind of have to use your imagination when playing a classic 80s video game, he enjoyed this. For a few minutes. Which is fine, because I will play Missile Command, Asteroids, Tempest and Centipede all day long.

Atari Greatest Hits has everything you thought was cutting edge amazing 25 years ago. I really wish it had Combat, though. That was my all-time favorite.

2) Wear a beanie

This isn't your everyday beanie. Notice the wires going to his Nintendo DS? That is a Sound Disk Beanie by Aerial7. It has headsets sewn right into them. Man, back in our day, we had to work hard to look cool. And our Walkman headsets didn't help the cause at all. Aerial7, you are spoiling our kids. Let this be my official complaint in writing.

So, you want to win a copy of Atari Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 or a pair of Aerial7 headphones? Watch the video at the bottom of this post. You'll receive instructions on how to enter, as well as earn extra entries for individual items featured in this post.

Boring Cereal Killer
Me & Goji custom cereal (cost varies)

I know this is totally random for a holiday gift idea, but hear me out. These two guys decided one day that it would be cool to start a company that sold custom healthy cereal. So they did. And it was.

You go to their website, select the ingredients, name your mix, upload a photo if you want, and order. There's not much more I can say about it. But for some reason it struck me as pretty awesome. Here's the cereal Fury ordered:

See how he named it "The Furious Mix" and uploaded a picture of himself driving an Aston Martin (see the rest of our photoset from the LA Auto Show here)? The kid's got class I tell ya. The cereal is pretty good too. Just remember that it's healthy, so don't expect it to taste like Capt. Crunch. Also, the shape of the cereal tube makes this an excellent stocking stuffer. See? I knew I could find the relevant tie-in, given enough time.

So, you want to win your own custom cereal? Watch the video at the bottom of this post. You'll receive instructions on how to enter, as well as earn extra entries for individual items featured in this post.

Don't Ever Say I Don't Reach Across the Aisle
Burger King, baby.

I will talk about whole grain cereal in one sentence and then switch up on you and talk about a juicy flame broiled Whopper the next. Why? Because there's a time and place for everything, and now seems like a great time. I loves me a Whopper or 3. In fact, I love Whoppers so much, that when my parents used to take us to Burger King when we were kids, I'd challenge my sister (who wasn't a vegetarian yet) to a race to see who could finish their Whopper first. Then I'd eat slow and let her win. Why? Because I hated finishing my Whopper first and watching her enjoy hers while I had none left. True story. I confessed that to her a few years ago and she called me a dork.

Anyway, just wanted to remind you that when you're all frazzled from shopping for the holidays and have no desire to put something on the stove, a Whopper will never judge you. And it's flame broiled. Oh, also, Burger King wants to give one lucky Busy Dad Blog reader an Xbox Kinect prize pack.

WHAT?

Yup. An Xbox Kinect prize pack, complete with an Xbox 360 4GB console, Kinect Sensor, and two games (Kinect ADVENTURES and Kinect SPORTS). Plus a $10 BK gift card.

And no, I did not even get one. This is just for you. Because I want you to be happy, and also tell everyone what a nice guy I am. But I reserve the right to come over sometime and try it out.

So how do you win this Xbox? Watch the video at the bottom of this post. You'll receive instructions on how to enter, as well as earn extra entries for individual items featured in this post.

*  *  *  *  *

Before you watch this video, remember. Honor is a very important thing to me. Your first quest is based upon the honor system. You may try to game the quest, but that would make me sad. And you wouldn't like me when I'm sad. You have until Wed, December 15, 9pm PST to enter.

Dexter cooks. With Kikkoman.

The other day, I recieved a huge box from Kikkoman. You may know them as the soy sauce people. You're right. They do indeed make the best soy sauce this side of the Great Wall. What I didn't realize was that Kikkoman soy sauce makes an excellent brining solution for your holiday turkey too. What a killer concept!

Which naturally led me to think, "how would Dexter cook Thanksgiving dinner?" Ok, I'll be honest, pretty much anything prompts me to think "what would Dexter do?" because I'm a little bit obsessed over that show. Case in point? I made a video that answers my first question:

Speaking of meals to kill for, I did a little experimenting with some of the other items that came in my Kikkoman goodie box. Did you know that Kikkoman makes the best tempura batter mix and Panko bread crumbs, hands down? Totally makes you realize that buying that deep fryer was less an impulse buy, than a manifestation of destiny. Both of these recipes I made up put a new twist on some Thanksgiving staples:

Loaded Mashed Potato Patties

Every Thanksgiving spread needs mashed potatoes. This version makes them portable. And incorporates all the good stuff from another potato favorite: the loaded mashed potato.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately (you know, because each one deserves your full wrath)
  • 8 slices of cooked bacon, give or take 50 (hey, I get it. It's bacon.). Chopped.
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • Some flour in a bowl - I didn't measure. That's why I write here and not on Food Network.
  • Some Kikkoman Panko breadcrumbs in a bowl - again, if you have a whole box, just add more as you need it. I'm not going to micromanage your cooking.
  • A deep fryer, or a pan with oil in it.

Throw the potatoes, ONE egg, bacon and chives in a mixing bowl. Take your hand and mash it all up good. Don't wimp out on me. Get visceral with your cooking. It's very satisfying, trust me. The following should be in bowls, lined up in a path toward your fryer or pan in the following order:

Cheese, flour, one beaten egg, Panko bread crumbs.

Take a small handful of the potato mixture and form a small pattie. Grab some cheese and place it in the middle. Grab more mixture and mash it on top, so now you have a pattie with cheese in the middle.

Dip the pattie in flour. Then egg. Then the Panko breadcrumbs. Then fry until golden brown.

Tempura Apples

Remember the old school McDonald's apple pies? How they were cinnamony and fried? I sure miss those. These are my attempt at finding a substitute. And they're pretty damn good. Desperation is the mother of invention.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Fuji apples
  • Cinnamon sugar (just mix a bunch of sugar with a bunch of cinnamon)
  • Kikkoman Tempura batter (mix up one serving; instructions on box)
  • A deep fryer, or equivalent
  • Caramel sauce

Slice up the apples and put them in a mixing bowl. Pour some cinnamon sugar on top and toss it. Let it sit for a few minutes while you mix up the batter.

Dip the apple slices in the batter and then drop them in the oil. Then after they are done, let them cool off for a bit. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on those bad boys and drizzle melted caramel on top. You can also top that with a scoop of vanilla ice cream instead. Or in addition. Awesome plus awesome is always more awesome. 

Want your own goodie box full of Kikkoman products and nifty swag? I'm giving one away. Just leave me a comment and I'll pick sometime this weekend. Maybe Sunday? Whatever. This isn't Food Network.

Shreddin' with Razor

Note: I'm giving away a ton of stuff this month. If you are new to this blog, I don't often do this. If you are a repeat reader, wow. Just wow. You're still here. Hey, we're creeping up on the holiday season and that means there are a ton of companies out there who want to get your attention. Which makes me the gatekeeper of cool. If the product makes it here onto these pages, that means I deem it awesome. And most likely it'll come with a giveaway. I get free stuff, you get free stuff. I got your back and stuff.

Last month, Fury and I were invited on a play date thrown by Razor USA. You may know them as the guys who brought you the Razor Scooter. If you don't know what I am talking about, you are one of the 8% who possess zero brand recognition for the product, which means you probably wear a tin foil hat to keep the aliens away. And live in a bunker.

Razor took over a local park and we spent the day trying out their latest products:

This is the E100 motorized scooter. All of the scooter, none of the effort! Hey, it could be worse. He could be watching Netflix.

This is the GroundForce Drifter. All the street racing goodness of The Fast and the Furious, without all the pesky car decals. Here's the trouble with this thing: it totally rocks. This becomes a problem when your kid cannot stop asking Santa Claus for it. And you have to make up excuses about how elf unions operate and how they called for a strike in the motorized products division due to protests over shipping 30,000 North Pole elves' jobs to China.

Isn't he... pretty in pink. This Sweet Pea is the "closest thing to a motorcycle I ever rode, dad!!" So frilly handlebars be damned, full throttle ahead.

During lunch, Fury made sure to touch base with Razor USA founder and President Carlton Calvin. This is where Fury informed him that if you turn the RipRider 360 too sharply, the wheel rubs your calf. If I see a RipRider with a longer front fork next season, Fury will expect a developer's credit. Or at least a GroundForce Drifter.

That there is a Team Razor rider evoking panic reactions that made it totally obvious the audience was full of parents.

What did I spend my time doing? Mastering the RipStik. This is a skateboard-like contraption that sits on 2 caster wheels and resembles something an intelligent 38 yr old man should simply admire from afar if he valued his tailbone at all. If I learned anything at all that afternoon, it's that intelligence is overrated, and it's best to ride next to soft patches of grass.

Razor sent Fury and me a RipStik and RipRider 360 after the event because it's awesome watching a grown man eat pavement while his son rides along next to him. But you know what? This old guy still has some shred left in him. Check out our video test drive below.

Also, I've saved the best for last. You can actually win a RipStik or RipRider360 right here simply by leaving a comment below (and letting me know which drawing you'd like to be entered in. I won't sweat you if you say "both."). I will draw 2 winners Wednesday the 17th at 9pm PST. Just don't leave a lame as comment like "Enter me in the contest." Because I totally won't.

Because we never turn down Star Wars reviews

Tis the season for holiday product reviews! But don't worry, I only review things if I can make the review entertaining (loosely defined), or if it's Star Wars related. Whew, now the pressure's off if you hate this video. I love making my own rules.

Today, Fury and I review two Star Wars things:

Millennium Falcon: A 3-D Owner's Guide

Roomates Peel & Stick Clone Wars Wall Decals

Go ahead, click the links. I don't earn any money off them. And as long as we're in a disclosing kind of mood, I make no money off this review. I did get free product though. But really, if you count the fact that I spent my entire Sunday filiming and editing for a free book and some stickers, it proves that I just work for your admiration, and nothing more. Actually, I thought it was a really good lesson for my kid, too. I couldn't take him to the park today because we had to shoot. When he got all whiny about it, I said "Nothing in life is free, kid. You like getting all this free stuff? You have to work for it. Now go sit in that cockpit and kick this thing into hyperspace." Yes, there is a real Millennium Falcon cockpit in this video. Now will you please just watch it already?

Oh, for your troubles, I've arranged a couple giveaways, too. Leave me a comment and I'll put you in a drawing for Thursday 9pm PST. You could win one of three (3) Millennium Falcon books or a prize pack of giant Clone Wars wall decals.

Good enough?

Go Stuff a Stocking

With this:

Fury and his Kid Test Labs cohorts TXU and Brendan recently did a video review of this awesome book by Bonnie Burton.

And I think I've reached the pinnacle of my life and can simply retire from all this now. Because the OFFICIAL STAR WARS BLOG wrote about it.

So like a spider who has laid her eggs, there is nothing more I can do but find a corner, smile and wither away.

But first, check out their review. You can even win a copy of the book, just in time for stocking stuffing, or your equivalent holiday money draining tradition.

Getting Busy

Heh. Oh, will you look at that! I didn’t realize what time it was. Is that clock right? It says One-Month-Since-You-Posted-You-Slacker o’clock. Pacific time. I wonder if I can just get away with a meme or something? Or a Kanye “Ima Let You Finish” picture? Maybe I can--

Damn you, Momo! Always calling me out. Fine. Here’s a post about funny stuff that Fury says:

Whole Grain Cereal is not Ur BFF

 At the breakfast table the other day…

“Hey, dad? I thought this cereal was supposed to be good for me.”

“It is, Fury.”

“It has no trans fat, no saturated fat, but oh my God! Cholesterol!”

“Wha? There’s cholesterol?”

“Yeah, oh my God, cholesterol!”

“Gimme that.”

Can't argue with that. It's in writing.

Ok, I admit that was a sub-par coming-out-of-sabbatical post. Definitely not worth a month’s wait. How about I sweeten the pot with a “like father, like son” post?

Look Smart

During college, I wanted to look smart -- mainly because a football player muscle-bound physique just wasn’t in the cards for me. I figured the whole nerdy chic thing might be a wee bit more attainable for someone like me (ya think?? Skinny, Asian, Ivy Leaguer). 

But I was missing one essential accessory: glasses. I had perfect vision, and it was cramping my style. That style being specifically that exquisite pair of tortoise shell Armani frames. So I faked it. Zero prescription lenses raise your IQ by 5 points and your GQ by 10.

Fast forward 15 years. Harry Potter has made smart kids with glasses cool again. So at his request (and two straight demerit-free weeks) we went and raised Fury’s IQ and GQ at Target’s optical dept. They’re technically for his Halloween costume, but yeah, he totally wore them to school today.

 

Obviously, I need to up the ante. Momo, you are ruthless. You’ve left me no choice. I’m busting out the giveaway post.

Relieving Guilt with a Postage Stamp

I like reviewing cool products, and I love giving stuff away. But I don’t enjoy doing straight giveaways or reviews without some sort of relevant context. Now I have a huge pile of random things that I need to write about and give away. I guess that means I’m consistently irrelevant?

No matter, I’m giving stuff away. FREE is relevant in any language. The following cool things have been sitting on my desk, guilt tripping me for almost a year. If you want to enter my drawing to win any one of these, just tell me which in the comments section:

Toon Books: When Fury was 2, I started adding comic books into his bedtime story rotation. He loved them. And let me tell you, when you can start the sentence “ogliotronic fuel cells built upon a...” and your toddler can complete it with “haptic interface,” it’s pretty damn freaking cool. So when these Toon Books people sent me some of their children’s books done up like comic books, Fury ate them up. I actually had some pictures of him running away from taking a shower because he wanted to finish reading first. But I cannot find them in my computer!! So you’ll just have to trust me that 9 out of 10 kids agree that Toon Books are better than a shower.

Poingo: See that pen in the box? That pen has 256 mb of memory and will store 50 books, which you can download from the Poingo website. Sure, it’s no kindle, but can you run your pen along pictures and hear sound effects from Finding Nemo and Cars and Lion King? Can your kindle read to you? I thought not. 9 out of 10 kids agree that Poingo is cooler than Kindle.

Pocket Doodles for Kids: You know when you go on a long car ride and you forget to bring the car charger and then the PSP dies and then you get “but daaaaaad! I told you to bring it for me!” for the remainder of the trip? This little distraction has fewer moving parts and requires better hand-eye coordination. This nifty book of half completed pictures and other doodling games is a simple idea. And totally brilliant. 9 out of 10 kids choose a new PSP over this book, but you’re the parent and know better.

Oh, you are strong. Time to pull out the triple-threat. A post about a blog trip, hanging out with blog peeps and announcing a new project.

Bloggers: the Next Generation

I have to thank Electronic Arts (EA). For totally ruining my kid for every Christmas and birthday to come. They really just could have sent him a few games to review and end it at that. But no, they had to invite him to spend 3 days in San Francisco. Playing video games. NEW ones. That haven’t come out yet. Games like MySims Agents, Nerf II “N-Strike Elite” and SimAnimals Africa. And he got to preview Spore Hero for Wii. He played lots and lots and lots of Spore. And they fed him ice cream sundaes. Bastards. And on top of that? Guess who also came along? Mr Lady and her kids. Which meant Fury, 1 of 3, and 2 of 3 finally got to meet. In REAL LIFE!

Exceeds the recommended daily allowance of Epic.(See more EA pics on MrLady’s Flickr page )

And 3 of 3 had me at her beck and call for 3 days.

Because I’m a sucker for illegally high doses of cute. And I spent the weekend thinking “I so gotta make me one of these. Or steal this one.”

The boys, however, entertained more constructive thoughts. And took lots and lots of video. And paid very close attention to release dates, product attributes and playability. The boys knew there was a higher purpose to this trip. The boys knew their parents co-write a blog that hasn’t been updated in 6 months. The boys knew that little corner on the internet could be better served “under new management.” The boys are planning on ruling the world. And they’ve got a header made.

Look out, world. It’s happening soon.

I’m about to give up. How about one of those tearjerker video snippets? You know, the kind that makes all guys shed an empathy tear?

Good Ride, Dada Truck, Good Ride

Sadly (but to my great relief), a few weeks after I put the beloved dada truck up on Autotrader, I was able to find it a nice home. Here is our last moment together, saying bye as the new owner drove off into the sunset.

As heartbreaking as it was, I now have one year’s private school tuition in the bank. And Fury, after being dragged out of the house to participate in this video “can now go back to playing Spore.” Kids. Sigh.

What? You can’t be serious. This is like a year’s worth of posts, Momo! You know what? I’m sick of this. I’m going to go write on somebody else’s blog. How’s that? On top of that, I will make it a lighthearted yet useful post about kids and eating. So there.

Going Green: How to get your kid to eat veggies

Ok you leave me no choice. Here:

I was feeling a little bit queasy today. So I went to the drugstore and got me one of these test thingies.

Oh well, probably just some bad fish.

d Wife also felt a bit off. And since I had an extra one, she tried it. Twice. With two different brands. Turns out, that myth about BusyDad taking his blog post titles really seriously?

 

Your Momma Don't Dance... But Mine?

Totally does. And much to my surprise, she pretty much tears up the dance floor. Actually, I'm lying. It doesn't surprise me one bit. Take this with a grain of salt because she is my dear old ma, but I have never encountered anyone more driven than she. And never will.

She is also the most humble person I have ever met, so I risk getting a phone call after this post where my mom screams frantically "Jim!! take it down, take it down!" So, while I can, I'm going to tell you about the little woman that could.

My mom came to this country as the wife of a diplomat. She decided she wanted a job. So she got one. Her first job in the US was as a bilingual kindergarten teacher. As much as she loved her students (and they loved her, evidenced by full grown adults stopping her in the street to thank her for being the best teacher they ever had), she needed a bigger challenge. Maybe a Master's degree. So she got one. Working full time, taking care of my sister and me, and hitting the books in the basement "study" after we were in bed, she achieved it. And she moved on to teaching high school. But she needed a bigger challenge. Maybe a Doctorate? So she got one. In the same way as she got her Master's. And she eventually made her way up the ladder. This time into the (major metropolitan city) school department, where she has been runnin' thangs in the foreign languages department for close to a couple decades now.

But the tale is not over. Back in my early martial arts days, I did Shotokan Karate. My mom, who failed at anything athletic she had ever encountered (her high school gym teacher once told her "you couldn't run even if a tiger was chasing you") was intrigued by Shotokan's graceful power and decided to try a class. And maybe eventually earn her black belt. She got one. And along the way, this woman they all called "mom" at the dojo was throwing back Black & Tans with the boys every thursday night after training (when prior to this, half a glass of Lite beer would knock her out).

So a little over a year ago, when my sister gave mom a gift certificate for a few ballroom dance lessons at a local studio, we all should have known. We all should have known that we'd get the phone call that went like this:

"Hi Jim! I'm going to be in Las Vegas in April."

"For a conference, ma?"

"No, to compete in the Ballroom Dance Nationals!"

 And a picture like this:

With mom and her dance partner Chris, Fury (with medal) and sis

Of course, I made you all a video. Because you have to see this. My mom is 60 years old with only a little over one year of experience. And also, I wasn't allowed to film this and it's always more fun when you don't have permission. And last also, Ford had contacted me about 2 weeks prior to our trip and asked if I would like to drive the Ford Flex for a few days and review it. A free tank of gas, a pimpin' ride to Vegas, and a fridge in the middle console (of all things, that is what made me say yes)? Bring it on.

For those of you not interested in cars, my review appears below the video (it's about 6 min long).

 

What I Think of the Ford Flex

Style: Urban, but not too urban cool that you look like a fool driving it at 36 yrs of age. But I have to say I did feel a little bit over my head in hip factor when I was driving the Flex. It didn't help that so many people would turn their heads and look at the car when they drove by. I'm hoping it was because they admired the styling rather than because they were laughing at me.

Mileage and Safety: Excellent. Not that I tested the safety features... but the brochure points out that it has earned a 2009 Five-Star rating and gets 24 mpg highway. That stuff matters now that I have a family and no discretionary income to waste on gassing up a huge 4x4.

Handling: I have read the reviews stating that the Flex has great pickup. I guess if you measure this vehicle against other vehicles in its class (i.e. compare it fairly), it probably does. But to me, it felt sluggish. Then again, my car is turbocharged, and my other car has an 8.1 liter, 6 mpg behemoth of a engine. Not good comparisons. But the ride is smooth. So smooth that you won't even notice going 110 on the highway to Vegas. Theoretically.

Interior Room: Oh lordy! It's like a limo in there. You could probably play raquetball in there too. Room for days. It's the low floor, high ceilings and spacious boxy design. Awesome.

Amenities: This is where the Flex just kicks major ass. Power liftgate is awesome. I hate having to put 10 grocery bags and two 12-packs of soda down just to close the liftgate in my wife's SUV. Being able to press a button is a luxury you don't realize you need until you have it. Also, the Flex's SYNC system, that lets you hook up your phone, MP3 player and whatever other gadgets you have, and then control it all with your voice makes you feel all warm and futuristic. It's also safer, but I'll go with futuristic.

My Favorite Thing: The fridge in the middle console. So you lose a potential seat with the fridge, but I would gladly tie an extra passenger to the roofrack to be able to enjoy a cold beverage whenever I want to. Especially in LA, where traffic and heat are a daily challenge. It even has freeze mode -- perfect for keeping specimens from field trips that didn't make the drive home and are starting to smell.

Overall, I have to say I really like the Ford Flex. I wouldn't give up my current car to have one, but my wife would. And has been asking for one ever since Vegas. Hook it up, Ford.

Would CNET Get Soaked For You? No. But I Would.

I may lack every single prerequiste necessary to attain the coveted alpha nerd title of "CNET Reviewer" but why let some pesky little thing like copyright stop me from living my dreams? So when Nokia asked me to review their 6650 Flip Phone I said yes. Plus, they gave me my own area on their website to essentially twitpic my life for 2 weeks. (Go here and click chapter 4 if you are interested.)

Excuse/ignore the following passage. I'm taking this SEO opportunity to lay the smack down on one of the worst customer service violaters in corporate America. Skip to below the asterisks to continue with this post. Thank you.

*****
I said yes, EVEN if it meant that to test this phone, I had to deal with AT&T. Let me take this opportunity to say that I DESPISE AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless). They have the WORST customer service I have ever encountered. Dare I say, AT&T is the United Airlines of cell phone providers? AT&T doesn't care about Black people. Nor Asian people. Nor White people. Nor Hispanic people. Hell, if you walk and breath air, they consider you a lesser being. They LIE about not having any record of prior conversations with you where they agreed to downgrade your service plan. They LIE about submitting letters of complaint to management. Two times. They tell you straight up "no, a manager cannot speak with you." And I was HAPPY to pay $175 to break my contract 2 years ago. And when I was using a pre-paid AT&T account to test out this phone, 8 out of 10 emails I sent to the Nokia site to upload my photos bounced back due to network failures. I had to send some pictures 3 or 4 times before they went through. I am now happily under contract with Verizon Wireless, and let me tell you, NIGHT AND DAY. They actually understand what it means to keep a customer happy. You rock, Verizon!

*****

Just to clarify, Nokia and AT&T are not related. I simply had to have a temporary AT&T account to use this phone. Nokia's cool. And overall, I enjoyed using the Nokia 6650 Flip Phone. I apologize to anyone who has found this post while searching for review information on the Nokia 6650 Flip Phone, because unless you know me, you're probably thinking that review will actually help you in some way.

I'm no tech guru. Let that be a warning to you. Enjoy my review.

Better Than Legos??

cover.jpg “Dad, I wanna read the book instead of playtime tonight.”

I wish I recorded that. I will never hear that again. We play with Legos during his pre-bedtime playtime. Nothing trumps Legos in Fury’s mind.

As far as book reviews go, that says it all really. There’s nothing I can add to lend more credibility to this book, but I’ll try. For those of you who visit this blog, you may have noticed the badge on the right side that says BusyDad Tales. Some of you may have actually clicked on it before. If you enjoy the comics, chances are you (and your kids) will thoroughly enjoy the book Don’t Touch That! Because the same guy wrote it.

Yes, my partner in comic crime, Jeff Day, has written a kid’s book! A very entertaining and informative kid’s book. Don’t Touch That! is a guide to all things icky, poisonous and bite-y that one may encounter in the great outdoors. Like a field guide with all the boring stuff stripped out.

With chapters that cover all your basic categories (plants, insects, reptiles, mammals, etc.), Don’t Touch That! does a great job explaining the effects of everything from a poison ivy rash to a bite from a rabid critter. But more importantly, it teaches kids how to identify, avoid and treat scratchies and owies when they occur. And unlike me, Jeff actually knows what he’s talking about. He’s a doctor.
 

DontTouchThatTarantula.jpg
My favorite feature of this book? The cartoon illustrations scattered throughout the pages. They give the writing a twist, and to be honest, they themselves are a little twisted. But that’s what’s cool about it. This is not your typical nature book.

I was going to provide you with some excerpts, but I don’t like to type. Instead, here’s me and Fury reading some passages from the book:

 

DontTouchThatSnakes.jpg Jeff informed me this weekend that his book is finally available through Amazon.com, and it’s starting to move. This could not have happened to a nicer, more talented guy. I highly recommend this book and you have my personal guarantee that it’s the best $9.95 you’ll ever spend on a book for your kid. And while you’re at it, check out his personal website. The guy can draw!

Of course, I’m all about the giveaways! I asked Jeff to give me a few copies to send to my readers. He not only sent me some, he drew a cartoon on each and autographed them. If you want to enter the drawing, please leave a comment about anything having to do with a creepy crawly experience that you or your kid has encountered. Please note that he will feature them on his website as well.

I’ll start:

When I was about 9, a yellowjacket landed on my burger. I did not see it. Yellowjackets do not like the inside of people’s mouths, apparently. He promptly retaliated by stinging me on the tongue. As I screamed, he seized that window of opportunity to crawl out my mouth and fly away. That bastard was telling the story to his pollen jock buddies for years to come.

Oh – and the trumping of Legos lasted a day and a half, in case you’re wondering. The next night, he asked me to sit by him and read the book. As he played with Legos. Spoil my kid much? 

At Least it Wasn’t a Breast Pump...

I’m big time, suckas… I finally got pitched by a real PR person. In honor of my former profession, I am making good on my promise to do a feature for the first PR person brave enough to trust me to write about their client. This is NOT a pay per post. I do not get a kick back for any sales. This is pure unadulterated editorial. Plus I got y’all a discount. I should have asked for a case of Newcastle at least. Damn… rookie mistake.
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