Run, Dad, Run; or Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse; or Men's Wearhouse should sponsor my marathon bid

I couldn't decide on a title for this post. Mostly because I am dehydrated and sore. Also, the blisters. So many blisters. They mock my near-fail of a promise I made to myself when I became a dad. That promise was that in the event of a catastrophic civilization-altering event, I would be able to protect my loved ones and ensure that we at least would outlive our neighbors. This is the reason I did Muay Thai into my 40's. This is why I endured Crossfit. This is why I have always held myself to the standard of "I need to be able to vanquish anyone within a 100-foot radius of me at any given time." Don't believe me? Watch my eyes if you are ever in a room with me. Those are the eyes of someone plotting the quickest way to neutralize every human being around me, should the necessity ever arise.

That said, I almost let myself down today.

It started with a simple decision I made this morning. I elected to forgo the kick scooter I usually take with me to work in favor of walking the mile from the train station to my office. I was dressed in wingtips, a nice blazer and I even tucked the shirt in. Definitely not scootin' attire. This was important client meeting attire. 

The meeting went well, and my choice in clothing was duly complimented by several parties, further validating my decisions of the day. I got back on the train to pick Lessi up from preschool, just like always. Except today was not like always. 

One stop away from the train station where I parked my car, the conductor made the announcement that they were kicking everyone off. Structural problems, she said. They made no special bus arrangements, she said. You're all on your own. 

I was one of the lucky ones, as I was only two miles from where I was supposed to get off the train anyway. Any other day, this would be a nice opportunity to go on a brisk walk and enjoy a serendipitous walking tour of suburban California. But today, not really. Thirty minutes and counting until the pick-up cut-off at Lessi's school. 

No worries, I could just Ubercab it to the next train stop. Whoops. No Ubercab service in suburban California. And the few minutes it took me to reach that conclusion pretty much killed my chances of catching a regular cab. It also killed 10 minutes off that clock. Why did I leave the scooter at home again?

"Twenty minutes. Two miles to the garage. Car parked on the 6th floor. Daughter waiting at pre-school. It's not the apocalypse, but it looks like you're gonna have to put your back into this one." It's been a while since I've done any running, but I thought muscle memory would serve me well. Turns out it did. My form was great. However lungs are not a muscle, and they actually have really below-average memory. Also, my decision to keep my blazer on to keep it from wrinkling wasn't the best idea either. And backpacks with laptops in them are hard to run with. Or maybe it's the lack of sport foam in wing tip dress shoes. Whatever the reason, none of that was working with me on this otherwise beautiful 80-degree day. 

At around the 3/4 mile mark (precision courtesy of Google Maps after the fact), my aversion to wrinkled blazers gave way to my aversion to death by heatstroke. The blazer went into the backpack. Quarter mile later, the dress shirt, so exquisitely tucked not more than 20 minutes prior, flapped free in the wind, unbuttoned, even the cuffs. If you're going to look like the mild-mannered protagonist in a spy thriller who just unwittingly discovered a government conspiracy and is now running from the secret police with the incriminating floppy disc in your backpack (movie fantasies can take place in the eighties, you know), I say own it!

Time was running out, things were hurting, and my spirits were low. This was the Presidential Fitness Test version of succumbing to zombies before my neighbors. I decided to capture my farewell on Vine. 

But fate works in funny ways. As I was resigning myself to the fact that I wasn't going to make it, I spied a lone figure jogging toward me from the opposite direction. He was a tall man with a short beard. His gait was effortless, his face reassuring. As we approached one another, he raised his hand, and I raised mine. As we high-fived mid-stride, he said "you got this, man!" 

That was all it took. My rhythm came back, my limbs enjoyed a shot of adrenaline and my burning lungs powered through and delivered. I made it to the parking garage with five minutes left. Three minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of Lessi's school. 

"You look really yucky, dada!" was the first thing Lessi said. But her smile, and the fact that there were other kids still there left stranded by the train mishap, made me realize that at least for today, I rescued her from the zombies. 

BARTrunning.jpeg

Minecraft Dynasty

Some dads look upon their kid and see a budding athlete; some a rising scholar; others a blossoming thespian. I see a future honoree of the Inc5000. It started with surplus fruit. A few months later, the spark of entrepreneurship manifested itself as Starburst bracelets at his school's open marketplace event. Last week it was open marketplace time again, and Fury went straight for the elementary school jugular: Minecraft. In case you didn't click on the link I conveniently left you in the last sentence, the open marketplace is an event at Fury's school where they let kids sell anything they want, with school-regulated "Colt bucks" serving as legal tender.

If you don't know what Minecraft is, you haven't spoken to anyone between the ages of 7 and, well, dead. Simply put, it is a video game that puts you in an 8-bit world where you build and destroy things with your friends. That's it. It's like playing outside if you had access to earth-moving machinery, demolitions, were able to fly, and didn't have to secure permits or heed zoning laws.  

Marketers (and my 10-year old) have not overlooked the merchandising potential of this phenomenon. Fury called me while I was at work the other day to discuss this. 

This is a creeper. This 8-bit creature scoffs at your HD ultra realism and steals your money.While he knew he wanted to sell something related to Minecraft, he hadn't quite settled on the product just yet. He floated the idea of some sort of paper handcraft. However, as his entrepreneurial advisor, father and fellow Shark Tank devotee, I cautioned that this project would involve too much skilled labor and certainly wasn't scalable. We needed something that could be easily manufactured by exploiting low cost foreign labor. Always prepare for success. 

We decided upon Minecraft Creeper necklaces. Creepers are the bad guys in the Minecraft world. I texted Lisa a list of items we needed to buy in order to make these. She took Fury to the store and bought a bunch of things that weren't on my list, but would actually make the manufacturing process easier and more efficient. Some things never change.

Then he got to work. 

When I got home, my job was to figure out how to make those double slip knots that make necklaces adjustable. Never try to tie fancy knots via YouTube. You end up hating YouTube, string, and life itself. I finally found a simple necklace knot tutorial and we managed to complete all 23 necklaces. Of course, because I just threw them in a pile, they all got hopelessly tangled. After 15 futile minutes trying to separate them and reaffirming my hatred for string and life, I cut them all and started over. But we eventually got there.

When I saw Fury the day after his open marketplace, he was chillin' on the couch with two necklaces dangling from his neck.

"How did sales go?"

"I sold out in two and a half minutes. I made $35,000."

"Why do you still have two left?" 

"One is for me, and the other one is in the middle of a bidding war."

"Nice! What's it at?"

"So far $25,000 is the highest bid, and I am keeping it open till Friday."

Future Inc5000 honoree? No, my imagination is far more ambitious than that. This is the image that flashed across my mind at that moment. Shark Tank, season 5.

While I could just end this post here with that clever display of Photoshop skillage, I couldn't leave out a conversation I had with Fury last night over dinner, because of course he has to top his own punch line. With one day left in bidding, I asked him how things were going.

"Well, I ran into some problems with a kid trying to scam me. He gave me half the money and he took the necklace and ran into the bathroom."

"He took it? Did you get it back?"

"Yeah, I paid my friend to get it back for me?"

"Why did you pay a friend?"

"Dad, he's a 6'2" fourth grader. I use him a lot."

"What, is he like your enforcer?"

"Yeah, I pay him all the time. $2,000 to take care of things. $5,000 to follow me around as my bodyguard and make me look awesome."

Maybe a different Photoshop and future ambition is in order here. And we might have to set up an Etsy store while we're at it. As a front.

I home business school my kid, part II

(Part 1 is here, but these two posts really have nothing to do with one another aside from the fact that it's a catchy title and I was too lazy to think up a different one.)

Fury's school does the coolest thing. A few times a year, they hold a student marketplace where kids can get their entrepreneur on and set up stalls to sell anything they want. They can peddle used items, homemade edibles, store-bought edibles, crafts, services -- pretty much anything they can think up and drag to school, except for weapons.

Which saddens me because I really wanted to pass down my handmade ninja star business to himTo provide legal tender for these activities, the school has established its own currency system. You start off the year with a set amount, and throughout the school year you can earn or spend those dollars for doing (or getting out of) chores and tasks. But what really separates the wheat from the chaff is the student marketplace. This is where fake money fortunes are made or squandered.

I learned of this recently when Fury asked "Hey, dad, I need you to help me make some Colt Cash."

I opened my mouth to say "well first you need to find an unclaimed street corner and a good supplier," but thought better of it and just said "why do you need cold cash?"

"No, Colt Cash!" And this was followed by the description I shared with you above.

Since our entire family watches the show Shark Tank religiously (it is the best show on TV), and I never pass up an opportunity to do my Mark Cuban impersonation, I proceeded to grill him on his business idea, which was this:

That's a Creeper costume from the game Minecraft. If your kid has succumbed to Minecraft, let's start a support group. No better yet, a drinking and partying group because our kids would never notice anyway.

Once we got to the "but how scalable is this? And could you get production cost to under $2 if we made it in China?" the holes in his business plan were simply too big to ignore. Plus, it might be hard to bike to school with them. So we did some brainstorming. What could we sell that would capitalize on the buying impulses of elementary school students with play money burning a hole in their pockets?

We had it. I wrote up a list of materials that he needed to go buy with mom, along with instructions on how to put it all together.

When I got home from the work the next day, the product was assembled and ready to go.

Introducing CANDYWARE, fashionable accessories made with real candy!

Of course, to hedge his bets, Fury also created two consulting companies (advertised on either side of the board above): Poptropica Island Boys, where he helps you get past some supposedly really tough island level on the Poptropica video game, and SkinTek, in which he uses a Minecraft skins app, which he bought with his own allowance, to create skins for your Minecraft characters (note the clever logo he drew up with the word Tek rolling off a conveyor belt).

When I got home from work the next day, he gave me the breakdown:

ALL 24 BRACELETS SOLD WITHIN 5 MINUTES

"And I already have orders for another batch!"

"So how much Colt Cash do you have now?"

"$45,000!"

"And how much did you start the year with?"

"$7,000... and I'm going to buy my way out of homework FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!"

A good entrepreneur: knows how to make money. A dangerous entrepreneur: knows how to spend it wisely.

* * * *

Bonus: I also posted this week on MamaPop about what a bummer it is that fighting is now like a pop culture thing. I complain like you're on my lawn or something. It's quite lovely.

May the Force be Merry

I sold my beloved Chevy Truck more than 2 years ago because we put Fury in private school and needed money to pay for it. It was a painful, but very necessary act of parenting that I'm reminded of every 20th of the month, when his tuition gets pulled out of my bank account. Also, whenever we buy things that come in huge boxes at Ikea.

But last month, it was a little less painful. The subject line on an email from school read: Star Wars Holiday Luncheon - December 9, 2011.  And the email inside? Volunteer to serve lunch for the Rebel Alliance on Dec. 9. Also, dress the part.

I was the first one to put my name in. School tuition ROI, thy name is "I get to wear my Han Solo costume in public."

Today was that day.

When I walked into the assembly hall to check in, I was greeted by Star Wars music blaring, a laser light show on the ceiling and, yes, a Christmas tree made of lightsabers.

Before the kids got there, I flexed a little Star Wars knowledge on some well-intentioned, but less Star Wars enlightened parent volunteers. Someone suggested that I battle the mom dressed as Darth Vader with lightsabers as the kids filed in. I politely pointed out that Han Solo would never stoop down to the level of battling anyone with a lightsaber because the Force to him is just a hokey religion.

"Trust me, the kids will call us out on that one."

While I didn't have to defile Star Wars by making Han Solo pick up a lightsaber, I did have to jump in for the save a few times. One of the kids pointed out that Darth Vader was wielding a blue lightsaber and that was clearly wrong. I quickly jumped in to help the befuddled Vader by pointing out that Vader had just destroyed a hapless Jedi and took his lightsaber. The second grader stared me down for a few seconds, nodded in acceptance and asked me for more juice.

Obi Wan is coming to townI have never waited tables in my life, but can I just put it out there that I would never, ever work at a restaurant that served 8th graders? They don't as much eat, but descend upon a group of tables like locusts. As a parent waiter today, I got in all my cardio for the week. And my brain hurts.

This just made me happier that Fury is a 4th grader. When his group sat down, it was pretty simple. Plus, all his friends kind of know me so they, like, listen to me.

Yes, that's my Boba Fett hoodie he's wearing. When did he get so big?

If I eat one of these, there will be balance in the Force

Intergalactic princesses love scoundrel dad bloggersWhen lunch was over, it was as if a million kids' voices cried "recess" and suddenly disappeared. I walked back to the Millennium Volvo and went back to the office. After heading home to change, of course.

It's the ship that made the daycare run in less than 12 minutes.

I home business school my kid

We have a persimmon tree in our backyard. My mom loves persimmons like unicorns love bacon, but unfortunately she lives on the other side of the country. If you've never had a persimmon, they taste like an unripe tomato crossed with a papaya. Papaya tastes like corpse. This is why I dislike persimmons. Fury and Lisa also hold them in similar disdain. So every year, I have the same problem: what to do with these persimmons. Sometimes I get some social media traction with them, sometimes I give them away, and sometimes I simply let them rot on the tree (this is how I discovered the abomination of evolution that are yard rats).

This year, I did something different: I incorporated them into the BusyDad curriculum of life skills. Today's class: starting a business.

Lesson 1: Hammer out a supplier arrangement

Fury and I struck a deal. In exchange for providing him with high value product (the street value, i.e. price at Pavilions Supermarket, of a Fuyu Persimmon is $2.49 each), Fury would pay me a commission of 25% of gross sales.

Lesson 2: Philanthropy sells

I told Fury that I would donate my 25% cut to my Movember Team. This way, he could tell customers that part of the proceeds went to charity.

Lesson 3: Don't put anything in permanent writing

Market sentiment and demand fluctuate constantly. Never commit fully to signage that cannot be adjusted accordingly. Dry erase boards are highly recommended.

Lesson 3.5: Slam your competitors a little bit

In case 4th grade penmanship isn't your forte, the bottom reads: don't buy smaller ones for $2.49 each at Pavilions.

Lesson 4: Put the product into your customers' hands

Also, make sure there's always plenty of beer around to keep your supplier happy and willing to cut up fruit samples for you.

Lesson 4: Lift with your legs, not your back

Or, always have your chiropractor on speed dial.

Lesson 5: Tend to your shop

Patience is a virtue, but your iPod touch kills boredom dead (as soon as it's done recharging, which leads me to a bonus lesson: always keep your gadgets charged).

Lesson 6: Provide security

Those dogs will slobber the hell out of anyone who tries to jack Fury for his fruit.

Lesson 7: Woo high dollar customers

You know you've tapped the right market when your first customer rolls up in a pimped out Mercedes.

Lesson 8: Utilize partnerships to leverage resources

Your neighbor has a table, Sour Patch Kids and a box full of Pop Chips? Expand your storefront and diversify your product line!

Lesson 9: Don't get high on your own supply

Your baby sister, however, gets the friends and family discount (turns out she loves persimmons).

Lesson 10: Take advantage of the holiday shopping rush to boost sales

This is one week after the first stand. You can't really pass up the opportunity to have a Black Friday sale, and you might as well also sell your extra Lego set while you're at it.

Lesson 11: Hire professionals, and barter services to help with cashflow

The sign above was created by a professional whiteboard artist. In return, Fury agreed to help that artist make one last push for Movember donations by making him look really badass. Fury actually had an app for that (and his iPod was fully charged).

Side note: Today is the FINAL day of Movember!! My team has raised more than $12,000 dollars for men's cancer awareness, treatment and education. That is frikkin incredible!! Every dollar counts. If you'd like to donate to the cause, click to go to my Movember page.

Lesson 12: Money does grow on trees

You just have to exploit the right ones.

Like blog training wheels

When I made the difficult decision a few years ago to sell my beloved truck to pay for private school, I knew it was the right thing to do. However, it was merely a parental gut feeling. I didn't have the metrics to back it up. And when you're shelling out an extra grand per month, you kind of yearn for some ROI. Any ROI.

And this is it:

And he only got one spam Post-It about best hot tub deals.Fury gets to experience the euphoria known as comments (I did say any ROI). From 3rd grade on, Fury's school throws a Publishing Party every few months to showcase students' narrative writing skills. They get to write about anything they want. Throughout the course of a few months, they revise, refine and polish their narratives. On the day of the Publishing Party, they print them out, invite parents over, and hand everyone Post-It notes and pens.

With juice, cookies and pens in hand, parents and students go from desktop to desktop, reading the stories and leaving comments via post-it notes. Kind of like the intepretive dance version of the blogosphere.

I really love this idea because I get to see how much better my kid is at writing than the other kids get to see how all the children are applying practical writing skills to enhance their creative instincts. Fury loves it because he gets to use the phrases "I emptied my clip" and "then I checked my ammo" without being sent to the school counselor.

Fury really wants an Xbox. He's accepting sponsorship opportunities for his next Publishing Party piece.

* * * * * * * *

In case you're interested, here's his narrative from this morning:

 

War of Flambia
By Marcus A. Lin

“Alright, ammo?” I said, checking.

“Check,” said my friend: Mustafa.

“Check,” said my other friend: Waffiat.

I blinked in the high light of the after-noon. I ran around my driveway. SPLAT!!!!!A socaboom (a bag of food coloring with soda ) hit my face. Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam! Pellets of small pains hit me. I ran forewords to Maghkmood. Blamblamblamblam!! Then I remembered that I had food coloring on my mask. I wiped on my jacket. I tripped and fell on some grass. “oof!!”I stood up “ARRRGH!!!” My nose started bleeding from the fall. I realized I had only used 4 bb’s. I took off my mask.

Suddenly a couple bb’s hit my cheek. Then, sharp stings bombarded me. I pulled on my mask. Dive-rolled to avoid the bb’s. Thick pumps of adrenaline hit me. One of my socabooms popped. SPLOOOSH!!! I went flying, I must have had some cuts now. Chak chak chak!!! I felt like boulders where hitting me now. Chak!!Ch-ch-chak!!!! Waffiat came to help me. SPLOOOOOSH!! Mustafa came to help me. I shot a clip at Othman, a friend on the other team.

CHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCHCH!!!!!!!!!! My clip emptied. I reloaded and unloaded 3 more clips. Finally after ten minutes, we got out. 

After we got out, I called a 5 minute break. I looked at my wounds: a bruise, a few cuts, and a bloody nose . I then checked my ammo: 3 clips, 10 pistol clips, 1 extra large clip, and 7 socabooms.

 “OK we can start,” I said. Me and my friends rushed  over to a small wall made by containers. I shot the first shot. Then our friends shot at us. Twwappp! Thwwwwwappp! I shot back, blammblambllllllllllllllllllaaam! I emptied a clip. Then, Reneme and Othman switched to pistols. "Hey guys let’s throw two of our socabooms at time” I suggested.

“OK.” Waffiat agreed

“10  9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 GOOO!!!!” We all threw two of our socabooms at them at the same time. The result: A MEGA – HYPER- SUPER- AWESOME-DESTRUCTO- BLAST!!!SPLOOOOOSHKABOOOKABLAMO!!!!!!

“OK OK! We give up!!” Othman said

“WHOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” I yelled. We went inside my garage.”Whoa what a great game,” I said.

“Yeah” Othman agreed

The end

Lessons from a business trip

A couple weeks ago, my boss called to tell me that we were having dinner with a really important contact. In New York City, on Easter Sunday. I live in Los Angeles, and it was Thursday. I should have known the Chinese Communist Party was behind this. No really, it was. My company is owned by a technology company in China, and an influential provincial government bigwig and his delegation were going to be in the city. We had to make sure they had a good time. "Oh, give Shannon a call. We'll need her too." Of course.

I could recount this trip in long form narrative, but I won't. You're getting the "Lessons Learned" version because these days, I'm simply to busy to do that. My apologies.

Cover all the bases

When you're entertaining government officials from a foreign land, make sure to get there a day early and explore all the options. Because no matter how tedious it may be to kick back at a cigar lounge, survey the table service options at the local exotic entertainment club, or hit various rooftop bars to find that perfect fit for your guests, you have to think "I'm going to put my all into this, for the benefit of the company." That's what good employees do.

My boss and I apologized to Shannon for dragging her to NYC to evaluate Margaritas for Chinese officials.

Appreciate miracles 

"I need to buy some iPads for our guests," my boss said. "Just drop me off at the Apple store and circle the block." Well, since it was Easter Sunday, and smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, it was hard enough to walk around the block, much less drive it. But as soon as I dropped him off, a parking space opened up. And it wasn't just any old parking space -- it was one big enough for the "Clear and Present Danger" Suburban we had rented to make the Chinese officials feel safe, like Harrison Ford was protecting them. Also, it was smack dab in the front of the Apple store. And since it was Sunday, it was free.

We just left the car there and took a cab back to the hotel. You just don't let a spot like that go. On principle.

China is the world's fastest growing market for wine

In China, business deals are done over dinner and drinks. So we made sure to supply plenty of wine at our dinner. I recently learned that China is the fastest growing market for it. I sincerely hope it's not because all Chinese like to down entire glassfuls of Caymus as if they were shots of birthday tequila. Somewhere, some famous guy who is associated with fine wine was turning over in his grave that night. And despite the fact that it went against every fiber in her wine enlightened soul, Shannon went glass-shot for glass-shot with them. I have a feeling that if the night went on longer, the officials would have gone home with "MrLady" tramp stamps.

Everyone likes to feel like a mobster

On Monday morning, we had breakfast with the delegation and took them to Central Park for a stroll. As my boss and the vice governor hashed out a business deal, I kept three paces in front of them and looked as menacing as I could, for no other reason than to look badass in case there were surveillance photos being taken.

Ok, well, besides this, I was being menacing the entire time. I swear.

Appease the kids

Which basically means spend too much money at FAO Schwarz to alleviate feelings of parental guilt for leaving them on Easter Weekend.

My hair is more haphazard than that monkey's. It's a wonder people take me seriously.

Appreciate perspective

One of the things that impressed me most about the Chinese Vice Governor was how good his English was. He also knew every minute detail about American history and geography, more so than I did, sad to say. I asked him how he managed to learn so much.

"I love American history. It's so short."

When your boss says pack for a week "just in case"... you're going to be gone for a week

"Let's drive the Suburban down to Washington DC and Virginia, I have some meetings lined up with government people." (US government, this time)

So off we went, the three of us, suited up like feds, driving a really official looking vehicle. I usually hate driving, but we all looked too good for me to care.

Everyone likes to feel like a mobster, part II

When you've never been to New Jersey, and you drive down the Jersey Turnpike, and you're a huge fan of the Sopranos, good friends will indulge your desire to take a picture like this.

Also, they'll say "hold on a sec" and before you know it...

Woke up this mornin', got yourself a gun...

"Amazon Cloud FOR THE WIN!" Shannon exclaimed.

This is why she is our Director of Communications.

Detours take you where you need to go

The following segment will mean nothing until you read this. And then, it will seem out of place nestled in this post. But important stories have the knack of just happening wherever they need to happen.

"Hey, can we make a detour into Delaware? I want to show you where I lived."

It almost seemed like an afterthought, a last minute idea, a trivial whim, the way Shannon brought it up. But it had to be this way. You don't plan this type of thing. You can't think about this type of thing. You just put it out there, hand someone the wheel and buckle up.

Along the way, there were jokes made about two well-dressed Asian men and one white woman in a Black Suburban, rolling through the projects where she grew up. There was banter about how we were going to load up on Cheesesteaks that would put Philly joints to shame from the Claymont Sub Shop. But I knew that as we got closer, nostalgia would give way to real memories, and all I could do at that point was merely witness.

I witnessed Shannon, standing in front of this house. A home that rejected her 19 years ago and still held the power to keep her at bay. 

"I want to knock on that door but I can't." Her mother no longer lives there.

We walked. Past kids playing on stoops, who paused to witness this curious trio traversing through their front yards, crossing through communal backyards in shoes unfit for ankle-high weeds, looking for something.

"Here it is. Stand right here. This is my recurring nightmare."

It was nothing more than an open area of grass. A rolling, lush, green field made monstrous by a little girl's memory of home.

"This is the creek I crossed to get to school."

She placed one foot on a rock and stood there, tentative. Then jumped to the next one. "These rocks are in the exact same place as I remember!" As I stood there, watching Shannon cross the creek in front of me, and my boss looking around nervously behind me, no doubt trying to remember if he had locked the car doors, everything felt random. Simultaneously poignant, yet laugh out loud funny, natural, yet out of place, peaceful, yet unsettling.

As Shannon stood there on the other side of the creek, in the same spot yet a lifetime away from when she last took a breath of Delaware evening air, I witnessed her finally knowing what was behind her so that she could clearly see what was in front of her. With work shoes caked with mud, we walked back toward the car, passing by the dumpster where her mother made her discard the last material traces of her life that day. We also walked by her mother's new apartment, where Shannon heard they moved her a few years later.

"Do you need to say bye?"

"No."

We got in the car and moved on.

Rules regarding expensive booze

When you buy a $2,000 bottle of Cognac for Chinese government officials, there are certain things you need to do:

  • Make sure the restaurant will allow you to bring it in.
  • If it doesn't, then make sure that the Vice Governor is willing to bring it home in his already overstuffed luggage.
  • If not, then promise that you'll bring it to him upon your return to China.
  • Keep it in a safe place, like the 3rd row seat of a tinted Chevy Suburban.
  • When you return the Suburban, don't forget that you have a 3rd row seat. And don't go all the way to the airport and realize that you left the bottle in the 3rd row seat right before you get to the security line.
  • Do find a cab right away to get your ass back to the car rental place.
  • Do count your lucky stars that the car rental people were too lazy to open the mystery bag in the 3rd row seat and simply threw it in the dumpster.
  • Do dive into said dumpster to retrieve your $2,000 bottle of Cognac.

Kids get tan if you don't see them for a week

One week away from your kids can really cause you to miss the hell out of them. And also be really jealous of them for spending their weekend in San Diego kayaking, lounging and working on their beautiful Southern California tans.

No one will read your long ass posts to the very end

Except you, of course. Thanks.

Blyzzdizzaym

I attended the Blissdom conference last week, and it was awesome. I did things that I can't ever do when my wife is around. Like fall sleep with my shoes on. Oh yes I did. P. Diddy where you at? You better sign this bad boy. 

Let's put this east coast west coast beef aside. It's all about the Lisa Leonard Blissdom bling, baby. Also the friendship bracelet kit that Marie gave me. (photo courtesy of MomoFali's Flickr)

I was invited to Blissdom to present a session, and I will get to that later. First, the real reason I love going to blog conferences:

Being silly and responsibly inebriated with friends, as model parents who set a good example even when their kids are thousands of miles away often do:

Errbody in the garden gettin tipsy: Lotus, me, Mishi, Aimee and Momo (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

Goofy Goobers: me, Heather, Karen, Momo, Maile, Allison, Rachel, and Lotus... up in da club (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

Indulging my Asian Karaoke Gene by singing... a Toby Keith song (and defining irony better than Webster ever could).

Kelly and Julie ask Who's Your Daddy... Blogger (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

Indulging in indulgence.

Filling myself with heart, spirit and pressurized dairy product (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

Losing my bid for Mayor.

I should have just used Foursquare (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

While all of the above was fun and games, the reason I went to Blissdom was that I was invited to speak. It all happened so suddenly. One day I was casually emailing with Megan (who did a bang up job soliciting and choosing the conference sessions) about topics that I would hypothetically take vacation days off work and fly to Nashville to go see, and the next moment, I found myself on a plane headed to Nashville, feverishly finishing a PowerPoint regarding a topic I hypothetically would take vacation days to go see, minus 2 vacation days.

And then it was showtime.

The conversation between my homette Rachel and me probably went something like "knock 'em dead Jim!" "I think I forgot to pee." (photo courtesy of Heather Durdil's Flickr)

The session itself was entitled "Innovative Writing Techniques." So of course I opened it up with a slide of double rainbows, unicorns, bacon, the Death Star and ninjas, proving that I never forgot the first rule of math club: find the common denominator.

Because even ninjas can't carry a room for 90 minutes, I'm glad I had the help of my very talented, highly professional, all-around awesome co-presenters Mrs Flinger and Amy Turn Sharp. They talked about writing prompts, finding your voice and a whole lot of other compelling, relevant subjects, while I yelled at the computer.

I got your RAM right here!! (photo courtesy of Heather Durdil's Flickr)

When I got the PowerPoint presentation to work again, I spoke on the topic of the importance of medium. Essentially, my thesis was how you tell a story is often just as important as what you tell. And to illustrate that, I took a very common saying, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog," and showcased some interesting ways I would go about telling that tale.

And now, for the first time on national internet, are the videos and other randomness that were previously available ONLY to session attendees.

But first, a word from our sponsor:

Well, Huggies Little Movers diapers isn't technically my sponsor, but they are paying me in caaash money and diapers to blog  about my diaper experiences on their website High Chair Critics (click through to my intro post - even if you don't read it, there is an ultra cute pic of Fury and Lessi kicking it old school). They were looking for a dad who has trouble keeping up with life to represent them in their "Too Fast, Keep Up" campaign, and considering I can only blog like once a month, I was a shoo-in. I said yes because the opinions and the absurdity are all mine. Also, if one of you wins some of their $5 million in prizes and points (contest codes inside of every pack of Little Movers diapers), I will have done something useful in this life.

And now, the back to our scheduled post...

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
A study in ways to "write" things when you are too lazy to actually write

Make a list:

Make a haiku (nothing beats a 17 syllable commitment):

Write an opinion piece:

Get scientific on it, a la Mythbusters:

Piggyback on the most viral video of the year:

Get your friends involved:

When the smoke cleared, and the sessions were done, and the flashmobs were danced (yes I was in that), and the drink tickets were spent, and the sponsor booths were dismantled, all we were left with was what we came for in the first place: our homies.

Flash-Loitering: Jana, Rachel,  Me and Momo (photo courtesy of Secret Agent Mama's Flickr)

To my OG friends from back in the day, like Rachel, Momo, Mishi, Lotus, VDog, Jenny and Kim...

To friends I have picked up along the way, like Julie, Amy, Becky, Kelly, Leah...

To friends I looked forward to meeting in person for the first time and was so glad I did, like Aimee, Karen and Jana...

To new friends I just met, like Heather, Kelli and Emily...

To my comrades in the session trenches, Amy and Leslie...

To the friend I owed a Guinness to for a year, Kat...

... and of course to anyone at Blissdom who went out of their way to say hi and didn't make me feel like the creepy dude at the women's conference.

Thank you for laughing with me (and at me, when appropriate), singing with me, shakin wit me, drinkin with me, chillin with me, and generally making me feel at home, despite our chromosomal differences. Admittedly, it's a difficult line to walk as a male blogger in a female world. But when you have close friends who can accept you as one of the group, but still make you feel like a guy's guy (these shirt buttons are snaps, ladies!), it's blissfully the best of both worlds.

But just in case, I kept the toilet seat up the entire time.

Why I'm OK being called a Mommy Blogger (aka Tony Hawk's "Stand Up for Skateparks" rocked)

"Name?"

"Jim Lin"

The volunteer at the check-in table flipped through her clipboard a couple times before giving me the "are you sure?" look.

"Oh right, I must be listed at the celebrity tabl--"

That thought bubble of mine abruptly popped as she followed up with "are you on a list?"

"Oh, yeah. The blogger one."

"Oh, the mom blogger list." she concluded.

*mumble mumble* "yeah... that one."

So, I didn't enter Tony Hawk's "Stand Up for Skateparks" fundraiser like a rock star. But at least Fury and I partied like a couple of 'em.

Stand Up for Skateparks is an annual event that benefits the Tony Hawk Foundation, whose mission it is to build skate parks in underprivileged neighborhoods. To me, there is no single initiative out there that is more suited to keep at-risk kids off the streets than this. Skateboarding is cool. This isn't macaroni art at the community center. Skateboarding makes you sweat. Kids today need to learn to move more than just their thumbs. Skateboarding can make you famous and stinkin' rich. Let's be realistic. That's motivation.

Skateboarding is also badass. Which is why you'll run into guys like UFC star Chuck Liddell.

Besides the fact that Chuck Liddell has been one of my favorite UFC guys since his debut in 99, this picture is all the more awesome because Fury finally got to meet the guy he used to imitate when he was 3. This is Fury getting his "rally-hawk" on when Liddell avenged his loss against Jeremy Horn in 2005.

New heroes, old heroes, they were all there. I'll buy you a beer if you know who this guy is:

Give up? That's Lance Mountain! He was one of the original Bones Brigade guys, along with Tony Hawk. When I was in high school, a bunch of us chipped in for a Bones Brigade skate video called Future Primitive, which we mail-ordered out of Thrasher magazine. We passed that video among us and watched it till the heads on our VCRs wore off. Now that's file sharing at its best.

We also enjoyed free booze, free t-shirts, free booze, free hats, free booze, free granola bars, free booze, free stickers, free booze, free pizza, free booze, and got to try out Tony Hawk's newest video game: Tony Hawk Shred.

Shred is similar in game play to Tony Hawk's groundbreaking Ride game, released last year, but the graphics are more comic-booky and the tricks are way more fantasy-superhumanish, and you can snowboard (There aren't many sure things in life, but I do know that last sentence I just wrote will never make it into the testimonial list on the Tony Hawk Shred commercial).

There was also an old fashioned photo booth. It was pretty rad. And I wouldn't have written about that, except for the fact that I really love this set I took with Fury and I wanted to show you.

But the BEST part about the event? The part that I didn't know until after I accepted the invitation? FREAKIN' JANE'S ADDICTION performed. Arguably my favorite band in college. I was actually at the very first Lollapalooza concert ever (at Great Woods, in MA) when Jane's Addiction headlined. But this time, I could actually see the band without binoculars.

Also different this time? I noticed whenever Perry Farrell dropped the F-bomb. And I cringed juuust a little bit. But after a while, the vigilant parent act wore off, and all of us parents just accepted this as one of those cool bad parenting moments you laugh (or blog) about later.

Perry himself put it best when he reassured the audience. "Don't be like us when you grow up, kids. Grow up to be like Tony Hawk. Tony's a good guy. We're his weird uncle. This next song's about whores."

 

Because in the end, when you and your son can rock out to the same band, it's a bonding moment that will never be forgotten. Also, the neck pain.

Also, pictures with weird Uncle Perry...

WAIT.

That's not the coolest thing that happened. This was:

As Fury and I perused the silent auction, we noticed a gift basket for the show "The Office" which included a DVD set, T-shirts, caps, mugs and water bottles. I would have walked right by it, had it not been for the golden opportunity presenting itself. I had to do it.

You see, now I can say the following and it will be 100% verifiably true:

"I used to train in mixed martial arts. I beat Chuck Liddell."

I have the receipt to prove it.

As the event came to a close, we gathered our stuff, paid for an auction item I didn't think I'd actually win, and walked towards the exit. We managed to catch one more celebrity making his way out as well.

Thanks, Tony Hawk! You are indeed a good man. Fury has your book to read, your tricks to learn and your example to follow.

As for me? I've got my spoils of war. Sorry, Chuck. Better luck next year.

A Tale of Two Concerts

Prologue

I have the most random taste in music. On a single drive home from work, my soundtrack will cover everything from Mack 10 to Abba to John Coltrane to The Descendents to Luciano Pavarotti to Waylon Jennings to Poison and back again.

Chapter 1: Willie Nelson

Yes, I love Willie Nelson. Don't laugh. In fact, seeing him in concert has always been on my bucket list. And then I got a phone call last week from my buddy Joey the Fireman.

"Jiiiim...What are you doing tonight?"

"The usual." [Joey has learned family-man-speak for "nothing as exciting as what you probably have planned for tonight."]

"Apply for a hall pass -- Willie Nelson is playing the Greek!"

I began to strategize for my night-out visa application.

"Well, I've always wanted to see Willie in concert and Lisa knows that..."

"Dude, the man is 150 years old. We may never get another chance!"

Joey is a smart man. I called Lisa, told her Willie Nelson was 150 years old, and received clearance to abandon the family on a Friday night to watch one of my cowboy heroes (yes, a Boston-born Asian guy can indeed have cowboy heroes).

I rushed home to have dinner with the family and then got me to the Greek. The Greek Theater is a concert venue nestled in the Hollywood Hills, so if you get there late, you go to off-site parking, which is basically a cleared patch of woods. Upon exiting my car, I noticed a family of deer grazing not 50 feet from me. They were hanging out with a coyote. I guess those nature shows are rigged. Some other guy was witnessing all this with me. It wasn't until he walked away that I realized it was Johnny Knoxville from Jackass. If ever there was an "only in L.A." moment, that was probably it.

After risking a coyote mauling to snap the above picture, I made my way over to the theater to meet up with Joey. The first two songs Willie performed were two of my favorites (Whiskey River, Beer for my Horses), and he rocked them, or so I hear. Joey and I were stuck in the booze line trying to get our Jack Daniels on. Priorities.

We were seated separately (long boring story), so I found my seat and got settled in, right in between two nice couples. Very retired couples. The aroma of pot smoke and IcyHot will now forever remind me of "On the Road Again."

The concert was awesome. But Willie pretty much bluesified all of his songs to suit the LA crowd, which I could have done without because I'm hardcore outlaw, you know? Joey and I met up during the encore and as luck would have it, Willie performed one of our favorites: Good Hearted Woman.

"Hey Jim, remember that time we did this at Karaoke together?"

"Huh? We did? I don't remember. When?"

"At your birthday party."

"Oh, no wonder."

That's me and Joey for you... making memories neither of us can ever remember.

Chapter 2: The Pixies

There are only three bands in existence that have been on my "heavy rotation" list consistently since high school, 20+ years ago: Led Zeppelin, Guns n Roses and the Pixies. So when I found out that the Pixies were getting the band back together for the 20th anniversary of the Doolittle album, I pulled the birthday card.

"What do you want for your birthday?"

"Pixies tickets."

"Who are you going to go with?"

"No one. I shall go by myself. Pixies tickets, please."

"Where are they playing?"

"San Diego. I want Pixies tickets please"

"That's far..."

"Pixies. Pixies. Pixies. I don't care."

Or something equally childish...

So, on my birthday, my wife got me a card. And inside that card was a gift card. For iTunes. I think d wife likes to see me weep.

But then it was cake time. And on top of the cake was a printout, from Ticketmaster. WOOHOO!!! And another birthday card that said that she booked me a room at the La Jolla Shores hotel so I wouldn't kill myself driving back (I fall asleep on the road when it's dark). Also, a "hint, hint" about making this a family trip.

Since the concert was on a Sunday, I thought it might be fun to head over in the morning, spend all day on the beach and then head back the next morning. Oh no... Fury had this thing called school to attend. You know what's cool about being a parent? You don't have to forge a note from dad to get out of stuff anymore. You are the dad! Membership has its privileges.

Sunday morning, we packed up the car and headed down to San Diego. Fury was playing Rock Band on his iPod Touch and I told him to plug it into the car stereo so we could all enjoy the tunes. Yes, video game soundtracks also function as playlists in our household. When we reached the San Diego County border, Fury had earned himself a mystery song unlock.

"What new song did you unlock, Fury?"

"COOOOOL!! Debaser by the Pixies!!"

These coincidences just happen to me. A bone from the blogging gods or whatever.

And cute baby pictures from the beach also happen to me.

The Pixies played in the basketball arena of UC San Diego. I got totally lost trying to find the place, but I managed to get there in time to catch the end of the opening act: two DJs spinning some trancy electronic music. I guess I would have enjoyed it more if I were younger, or C3PO.

At least I wasn't the only nostalgic ex-youth at the show. I noticed a few roving packs of grey haired folks among the mostly collegiate crowd. But you know what? It was us old timers who got the most satisfaction screaming "then god is seven!" during Monkey Gone to Heaven. Dare I say it was pretty much a religious experience in its own right.

So was swimming with actual sharks the next morning. I tried to get a picture of the waves cresting, with silhouettes of sharks clearly visible within them, but I failed. You'll have to accept my re-created version below.

Yes, real sharks were swimming not 10 feet from us. You just can't get that adrenaline rush sitting in a classroom (disclosure: they were harmless leopard sharks, but Fury's classmates don't need to know that).

Epilogue:

I was humming the opening to Debaser yesterday while playing Bionicles with Fury. Right on cue, he chimed in "Got me a movie, I want you to know! Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know!" I love that kid.

Random Segue:

So I want to know... how do you influence/monitor your kids' choices when it comes to grownup music? Obviously, my filter is set on low. If you agree or disagree, chime in on my discussion topic in the SoCal Family Connect (you don't have to be a SoCal parent). </shamelessplug>

Watch Jim Eat

This is not a gourmet post. This post contains no recipes. This post is about me eating. In the most visceral way. Why? Because when you decide to haul your family to the LA County Fair, you better be willing to get your grub on.

I've driven to the fair 4 times, and have attended it 3. That's how horrific the traffic getting there is. One year, we spent an hour and a half on the freeway exit ramp. By the time we made it off the ramp, we were over it. I hopped right back on the freeway and went home.

So why did I end up behind this on Labor Day?

Good PR. As a former PR person, I'm a sucker for a relevant pitch. I'm not going to mention her name or Twitter handle in case she prefers to remain behind the scenes, but the PR person for the LA County Fair saw me tweeting about how much my new Verizon Droid was driving me nuts and how short its battery life was. She immediatley emailed me about tickets to the fair (with wine tasting tix), and sent me an iGo Charge Anywhere.

Hey, I don't run advertising on this blog, but if you offer me an opportunity to drink for free and solve a pressing woe at the same time? You're getting a post. Does this suffice for disclosure? Good enough for me.

I'm not really into rides. I actually won't ride anything that completes a circle more than once. I will throw up. I don't do carnival games either. I have no place in the house for a 5 ft Sylvester. That leaves beer and food.

But as bad luck would have it, I was (and still am) on the Paleo Diet, otherwise known as the Caveman Diet. Basically, I can only eat meat, vegetables and fruit, i.e. whatever our hunter-gatherer ancestors could rustle up. No dairy, no sugar, no starch. Alcohol is also a no-no, but I want to lose weight, not my sanity, so, no. Beer is greenlighted in my version of Paleo.

I'm not sure if the Caveman Diet actually requires you to eat like a caveman, but...

Turkey legs are totally Caveman-compliant.

So are porkchops-on-a-stick. I have a personal rule: if it's cooked in a stick, I eat it. You think I'm kidding. I ate coccoons on a business trip to China back in '07 because they were lightly dusted with garlic-chili powder and grilled on a stick.

It's not a County Fair without people trying to sell you a hot tub.

Check.

In my opinion, it's also not a true fair without a fried dough stand. But I think that's a California problem, not an LA County Fair problem. People in CA are SO MISSING OUT because if you haven't had fried dough, you simply haven't experienced all life has to offer. Every carnival or fair on the east coast, no matter how tiny, has at least one fried dough stand. Funnel cakes don't come close. Don't even try to convince me. If anyone can tell me where in this great state I can find a hunk of fried dough, I will owe you for life.

Moving on...

I'm glad these guys bought "Awesome County Fairs for Dummies" and read that no fair is complete without at least one python molurus bivittatus, better known by its 3rd grade name, Freaky Albino Snake.

And it's always fun to get caught on the wrong side of the tracks...

Nearly getting squashed by a train makes you re-think your life. My immediate thought was, "you only go to the LA County Fair once a year. What's a little fried carb really going to do to my diet?"

Friends, when you fall off the wagon you might as well get mangled in its spokes. May I present to you the "Everything Fried" food stand:

Going back a fuller, carbier man.

Friends don't let friends wear thier jeans this low. If my gut relocated itself to my ass, I'd be a hotter man.All in all, it was a killer time. I only have one regret. I came on the wrong weekend:

But you? You can take advantage of the above. I'm giving away two general admission tickets (concerts are extra, but can you really put a pricetag on Hall and Oates? Or Bad Company?). Just leave a comment sharing your favorite fair/carnival junkfood indulgence by midnight Thu Sept 23 and I will do a random drawing on Friday morning.  

Reconnecting

Last weekend, I flew home to Boston. I didn't gather up the wife and kiddies, didn't call a bunch of friends in town, didn't make plans to hit all my favorite eateries, didn't do much more than pack a black suit and a toothbrush, really. I flew home to pay respects to my grandfather, who had just passed away.

Grandpa savored life. He loved his family, loved a bloody prime rib, loved riding his bikes, and loved a good bargain. A true weekend yardsale marauder, he was. Where do you think he bought all those assorted bikes? As sad as we were that he was no longer with us, we looked upon this as a chance to spend time together as a solid branch of the family tree that he and my grandma nurtured for over a half a century.

Because it was long overdue.

This picture below? Has never happened in our family history. All five of his grandchildren in one place at the same time. We've always been too busy living our respective lives in Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and who knows where else to let our grandma smell-kiss all our heads and take a picture with her.

By the way, it totally messes with your mind when you find out that the cousin you haven't seen since she was 3 is now an architect (top right).

It's also quite awesome to be able to buy your cousins a round of brews in Harvard Square.

And then take them to check out your freshman dorm, regaling them with tales of... well not much actually. College wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But being on campus after not setting foot on its hallowed grounds for 16 years (stop doing math in your head. I'm just old, ok?) really rocked. As I'm trying to pantomime below.

Being home also meant spending quality time with mom. Here's me going to the pub, while mom waits in the car.

Before you all throw internet rocks at me, I did invite her to come with. This was the night she was shuttling everyone from the airport, and we had 20 minutes to kill before we had to get my sister. She knows I need my Guinness. And she just wanted to rest. We both got what we wanted.

It was also quite amusing to see my old room. Since moving out in 1990, my mom has turned my room into her office. But she kept my posters on the wall, like an embarrasing time capsule.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me talking about what a gigantic fish nerd I am. Well, here's proof:

Freshwater Bass of Norh America, yo. Ladies, control yourselves.

This one actually redeems my hip cred a little bit. A flyer I took from a club when I saw Social Distortion in the early 90's.

I had a Facebook page in 1990. This one had staples in it, and it was really hard to change your profile pic. Otherwise, I totally would have.

Whenever I go home to Boston, I have to bring back one thing: a decent cannoli. This means that I dragged my cousins under the guise of sightseeing to the North End, Boston's version of Little Italy. The North End is beautiful. Here's a thousand words to describe it:

But of course, it's also a tourist attraction, so that means lots of restaurants with TVs... playing every iconic "Italian American" movie ever made, on repeat.

These damn tourists also make it as hard to buy a cannoli as it is to ride Space Mountain. This meant there was no way I was going to subject my cousins to it. This decision was followed by the customary "no cannoli for me" version of that scene from Platoon.

Upon picking up on my subtle despair, my cousin Laurinda said "Wait. You were on a food mission? I didn't realize this was a food mission. I never give up on a food mission! We're going to wait in line!"

We are family. All my crazy cousins and me.

Because you have to be, in order to wait in a line like this for a pastry item.

Well, not exactly "a"... make that a whole stinkin' box of 20!!

We ate well that night. On the sidewalk. And people actually tried to buy some from me. I told them they could have my cannoli when they pried it out of my cold sticky hands.

The next morning, I said goodbye to my house...

And my city...

... and returned home.

Come on kids! We've gone over this. The "Children of Asian parents" contract clearly stipulates Ivy League souvenir clothing items in the Terms and Conditions.

Grandpa, thank you for giving us the strong roots to make all this possible.

In memory of Cheng-Hwa Lin 1916 - 2010

The Density of Man

On Sunday night, we met up with my friend Lolita and her boys and MrLady, who works for me (I know I didn't have to bring that up, but she has a better blog than I do and I'm petty) and is in town for the week. Since we had the kids with us, we thought it might be fun to have dinner at the restaurant adjoining the local bowling alley.

After everyone was fed, we hit the lanes. Shoes were rented and a kid-sized ball acquired. While the grownups sat and talked, Jaden, Jack and Fury bowled. But with one ball between the three of them, the game dragged, as they had to wait for the ball to make its way back after every roll.

Sometime after the 3rd or 4th frame, two kid-sized balls magically rolled up into the ball bullpen of the lane next to us (I have no idea what that's called - you know, the place where the balls rest after they are shot back to you from the pin area??). Being that the lane was empty, I strolled over to grab the balls. But just as I picked them up, I noticed some hip young folks walking over to use the lane. As I scanned the group for little kids who might need the ball, I noticed her:

I usually don't care about celebrity sightings and all that, but Avril Lavigne is one of those pseudo crushes you never admit to, but your wife totally knows about because you linger too long on Proactiv commercials when you channel surf. I'm usually not at a loss for words either, except when I am forced into situations where I have one chance to talk to a celebrity crush or else go through life wondering "what if..."

Realizing the futility of saying something witty and memorable, I resigned to merely inquiring "uh, are you going to be needing these kids' balls?"

"Yes... I totally need those kids balls..." she replied, injecting an artful pause before letting me off the hook with a smile. "Just kidding, you can have them!"

I think I may have said "mmmrrgsnhfthanks" before running off with her balls.

I may have also tried to tell my wife how cool it was that Avril Lavigne talked to me, and she might have said "Jim, good for you. I don't really care..."

With three balls to use, the rest of the game went by quickly, and soon it was time to go. Lessi was tucked back into her stroller and... uh oh, there was one step to climb to leave the lane area!!

"It's one stair," MrLady remarked. "Just lift the stroller."

"No," Lolita pointed out. "He wants to take the ramp."

Sure, it was inconvenient to wheel my adorable, irresistible baby girl up the ramp right past a certain pop punk princess enjoying a night of bowling. But safety first!

As I skillfully maneuvered Lessi up the ramp, Avril caught a glimpse of her and squealed "Oh! she's the cutest baby ever!!"

"mmmrrgsnhfthanks!"

Grinning, I made my way back to the group, fiddling with the stroller handle that had just come loose.

"So what happened?" asked d Wife.

I quickly volunteered "omigod, I walked by her and she said Lessi's the cutest baby ever! and---"

"Not THAT! What's wrong with the handle!" d Wife shot back.

MrLady looked at d Wife, whose hands were full, looked back at me. And smacked me.

The average weight of a human male brain is 3 lbs. Average density? Like kevlar.

I love it when a punishment comes together

Necessary background fact 1: Fury plays youth lacrosse.

Necessary background fact 2: I'm not a sports dad, but I have this thing for focus and heart. As long as you try your ass off, even if you suck, I'm good. I've not been "good" at Fury's games.

Necessary background fact 3: As much as I want to fix #2, I don't want to push too hard and take the fun out of lacrosse for him.

Necessary background fact 4: Earlier this year, we took Fury to a collegiate lacrosse game to show him what it looks like when it all comes together. He ran into a kid who brought bubbles and spent the entire time chasing bubbles.

Onto the post...

On Saturday afternoon, Fury and I came across the NCAA lacrosse semi-finals while channel surfing. Knowing that he would never sit through an entire game, I offered this up:

"Fury, I know you want to watch other stuff, but I want you just to watch 10 minutes of this, so you can see real lacrosse in action."

whine, whine, whiney, oh maaaan!! this is boring!! whine whine etc etc...

"Fury, it's just 10 minutes. I'm making you watch just TEN minutes."

whine, whine, whiney, I don't care about watching unless I'm in it... whine whine etc etc...

"Fury. 10 minutes. And stop whining. If you say one more word, I promise you will hate your life. You will say nothing, starting in 3, 2, 1..."

"But Daaad I..."

"Enjoy the game, Fury. The entire game. And the next one too."

Yes, I realized that this move would kill background fact #3, and Fury would forever hate lacrosse. But I was over it. Hell, I've never even played lacrosse. I have no ties to the sport. And I was more than ok throwing it under the bus to show him that I mean business when I say stop whining.

In the past, our punishments have always involved taking something away from Fury. Problem is, the kid is a master at finding ways to entertain himself. No computer? I'll play Legos. No TV? I'll draw. No Toys? I'll read. But this time? He was suffering. There he sat. No toys, no Nintendo DS, no books, and 3 hours of NCAA lacrosse action to look forward to.

He was miserable. He was writhing in agony. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling a little smug.

Fury was lucky that the first game we watched was down to the last 5 minutes. That meant only a 30 minute pre-game show for Duke vs Virginia, followed by the game itself.

With tears of frustration, a broken spirit and what seemed like 3 lifetimes, we eventually made it to the second half of the game. A minute into the 3rd quarter, Virginia was leading Duke 8-5.

But then something happened.

Duke scored. Then scored again. And again. And again. And Fury sat up.

Then Duke scored once again. And Fury cheered.

Then Duke scored two more times. And Fury left the room.

When I caught up to him, Fury was in our bedroom, talking to mom. "... and then they tied it, and then they kept on scoring! Like 7 goals in a row!"

Then he ran back to the living room. "Dad, can I have some almonds?" I grabbed a bag of smoked almonds for him and cracked open a beer for me.

And then began the nail biting. After Duke's 7 unanswered goals earned them a comfortable 12-8 lead, Virginia struck back with a rally of their own, scoring 3 in a row to cut Duke's lead down to 1. At this point Fury was yelling "noooo!!"

"So, Fury, you like Duke, eh?"

"Yeah! I like their team name better!"

Good enough for me. Also, neither of us were sitting at that point.

With 1:21 left in the game, it was tied 12-12.

And it stayed that way until Duke sealed Virginia's fate with a goal at the 12 second mark. With cheers and fists pumping, Fury finished out the last 10 seconds of his punishment.

"Ok, Fury, you're done!"

"Dad, that was the best punishment I ever had! And I need you to record my next punishment."

I had no idea what that meant. "Huh?"

"The championship game on Monday. I want you to record it for me."

As I set the DVR I realized, you don't always have to succeed to win.

Dadvatar: The Blissdom Chronicles

 

There is a community living among us that few outside observers have successfully documented, let alone infiltrated. It is a collective of beings who organize themselves in complex social networks based upon tribes and niches. They frolic on Pandora, but can also be found on Twitter, Facebook , Flickr and other imaginary worlds. And their lifeblood is a seemingly infinite energy source called comments and connection. This community I speak of is the world of women bloggers. And I ran among them for three days.

This is my story.

Prologue

You can say I was recruited for this mission four months ago. Selected by the US Potato Board to participate in the Tastemaker Challenge, I was the sole male representative out of nine contestants pitted against each other to do creative things with potatoes and put them on YouTube. After I had accepted the assignment, there was a conference call.

“And for the final challenge, we’re sending you all to cook live. At Blissdom.”

The Adventure

Before I knew it, I was placed into a metal sleep chamber with the words Southwest painted on the side. When I awoke, I found myself in Nashville, TN, carrying a swag bag containing a “smoky eyes” kit, facemask creams, binkies and bling. My mission had begun. As I explored this new world called the Opryland Resort, I couldn’t help but notice how sharp the color-coded rugs were, and how 3-D the vegetation looked under the resort’s bio-domed enclosure.  

I knew I had little time to waste, but was hesitant to just jump feet-first into this community. Sure, my feet were sporting new shoes I bought just for Blissdom, but just because you look the part, doesn’t mean the tribe will accept you.  

Luckily this acclimation period was made a lot easier by friends I had on the inside. Julie made the cross-country journey with me, and I had Tanis, Rachel and Melanie on speed dial. No matter how confident, one must never step into a conference full of women bloggers without someone to vouch that you're a "friend of ours." It worked for Donnie Brasco, it works for BusyDad.

My first day was spent simply adjusting to the environment. Diving right into an estrogen fueled crowd has seriously scarred brave predecessors of mine. And like the bends, it can mess with your blood. By the late evening, however, I had taken a good dose of Jack Daniel's magic elixir and thus began my night of exploration. To my pleasant surprise, the crowd was very friendly. And I never once had to dig into my aresnal of secret ninja moves from the government.

But they did make me learn their ways. My mind was an empty vessel. I was thirsty for knowledge. And, as it turns out, not at all allergic to feathers.

(That's me bein' gangsta fabulous with Rachel. I posed this way because
when Secret Agent Mama asks you to pose for a picture, you don't say no.)

Here's one of me just having a great time with the natives. I don't remember when this was taken. I don't really remember taking it. The official reason on the post-mission brief is: the oxygen on that planet is too thin and I was lightheaded. Go with it.


(Mishi, Rachel, Melanie and me. Because everyone celebrates the unveiling of Google Buzz by getting...)

The next day, I was feeling a lot more comfortable in my new skin. Mostly because I got to do what I came to do: cook. The Tastemaker Challenge finals took place Friday night and it was everything you'd ever want in a cooking showdown. An array of ingredients, fanfare, drink tickets and my very own Team Jim cheerleading squad.

 

(Lotus, Tanis and Mishi. I had to beg them repeatedly not to kneecap the other contestants. Especially Tanis, who was weilding a bedazzled pimp cane all weekend. I still have welts.
Not pictured, Vodkamom... and my welts.)

 (My assignment was to use feta cheese in a potato salad. Note exasperation on face and 3rd vodka gimlet next to small bowl. Pic courtesy of Secret Agent Mama.)

When the dust settled, I was waist-deep in random chopped up items. I figured if my dish wasn't going to win, I would at least have fun with the fact that I didn't have to clean up my mess. Plus, I have this thing for blades.

Even though I didn't win, the victories went to two very deserving competitors: Jo Lynne won in the video category, racking up the most votes over the past three months, and Rachel won the evening's judging with this dish.

[insert more random stuff in here so that people don't realize that you don't remember much between that and the next picture.]

The next day can be summed up with one word: Karaoke

(Yeah. I know. Watch the video. Pic courtesy of Rachel.)

If you couldn't tell from this post, I had an amazing time mixing and mingling with the women of Blissdom. Admittedly, I was very apprehensive going into it. While I had been to Blogher before, there is a growing male contingent at that conference, so at least you have your school of fish to hide in if needed. This time, however, I was literally the only male on the registration list of 500. While I knew that my closer friends would be ok with this, I really wasn't sure how the others would take to my crashing the party. On the final evening, I shared this sentiment with a small group who had assembled in Blissdom founders Alli Worthington and Barbara Jones' suite.

"I wasn't sure if I'd be accepted here..." I muttered.

"We don't just accept you, we welcome you, Jim" Alli responded.

 This blue facepaint? I'm totally keeping it.

Boyz Night Out. Done Right.

There comes a time in every man's life when the call of the wolfpack beckons. When his instinctual urge to belch, fistbump and exchange wasszuuups with the homies drives him to log off Club Penguin in search of opportunities to high five and lose his voice. These are the times when the village elders must step up and offer guidance. And Monster Jam tickets.

Step 1: Round up the Boyz.

Boyz nights outs are best when shared by, well, your boyz. Guys who have had your back since day one. Guys like Jaden and Jack. Jack isn't pictured below because I don't think he was born yet when this was taken.

Once comfortably seated (and in some cases, booster seated), you begin your road trip. Make sure you all pre-emptive pee before you get on the road. You can bitch and moan all you want that you don't have to go right now, but the elder won't stop the car because then you'll all miss the pit party. So go pee. Now. I said go.

Step 2: Talk about girls.

Jaden: [some name this author can't remember] has a crush on me.

Fury: Oh I've seen her before, she is H-O-T (make sure to spell out words that might embarrass you in front of the elder). I saw her in your yearbook.

Jaden: Yeah, she is H-O-T alright.

Jack: Yup. I think she is H-O-T too.

Step 3: Trucks. Big. Ass. Trucks.

And buy program books for the drivers to sign. Just like those autograph books at Disneyland, but without all the over-the-top cartoony animal characters.

I know...

I said I know. But this is different. They crush stuff.

And there is nothing cooler than getting the autograph of those who crush stuff and do jumps. Trust me.

Except for maybe being within 10 feet of the most awesomest, meanest, wicked coolest thing ever in the whole wide world, aka Gravedigger.

Step 4: Be Rowdy

Find a venue that enables you to toss that "inside voice" out the window.

And scream and shout. Or snarl. Whichever best suits your mood.

Step 5: Embrace Excess.

Nothing like a nice good explosion to usher in the evening's festivities.

A little substance abuse never hurt anyone. Permanently.

And there's no such thing as too much horsepower...

or sick air...

or GRAVEDIGGER!!

Step 6: Witness a Bouncer Swarm

So we're exiting the men's room during intermission when I hear the familiar sound of "drunk and disorderly" meets "security staff fed up with your shenanigans." As this was taking place not 10 feet from us, I instinctually grabbed the 3 young 'uns to get them out of melee range. This was immediately met with "aw, I wanna see what's going on!" and "oooh! what's happening!" and "cool, a fight!"

I surveyed the landscape and determined that the bouncer-to-hooligan ratio favored the quick restoration of order, so we watched the scuffle from ringside.

"You see? That's what happens when you get too drunk. You don't follow rules and get dragged out by security."

And that's one to grow on.

Step 7: Wait in long lines and blow cash on random stuff.

Here's a tip. If you ever go to a Monster Truck show, buy your souvenirs first. If you wait until the end of the evening, when 30,000 other people learn that they should have bought their souvenirs first, you'll be standing in line, all wishing you had bought your souvenirs first. But of course, even if you wait forever in line, don't start thinking about what you want to buy until you get to the front of the line. Because pressure is fun. As is agitating the guy at the booth who just wants to go home. Oh, and use your credit card because they love that.

And then stand proud. Because you have done your part to keep the machine chugging along. MOICHENDISING! Where da real money is made!

Step 8: Pee in the parking lot.

Yup.

Step 9: Denny's.

You can't call it a Boyz Night Out until you've at least attempted to eat a Moons Over My Hammy. Right?

Step 10: Pass the #$%@ Out

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

For more Monster Jam / Boyz Night Out pics, check out my Flickr set.

Shuffle On. To The Great Big Playlist in the Sky.

I'm really really good at dropping things. A discriminating expert, if you will. If an item incorporates any kind of delicate soldered wiring, wafer-thin circuit boards and liquid crystal displays, it will meet an untimely end involving acceleration at 9.8 m/s2. With few exceptions, every cell phone I have ever owned was upgraded by reason of kissing concrete.

The first time I opened the box to my iPod Classic back in 2006, I knew our relationship was doomed. What Apple designers may call slick, compact, modern design, I call "slippery heavy sucker." But amazingly we survived, against all odds. Through 3 jobs, commutes on the LA Metro, cross country flights and a gadget obsessed child.

Maybe I got comfortable, maybe I got complacent, or maybe that movie Final Destination also applies to consumer electronics. But it finally happened. Right before Christmas. I was walking to the car, iPod and Blackberry in one hand (first mistake). I spied a piece of Fury's toy helicopter on the walkway and decided that maybe he'd want it (second mistake). I bent over to pick it up (3 strikes, you're out). That mo-men-tary loss of muscular coordination sent the iPod and Blackberry on a irrecoverable slide. I hope I'm never faced with grasping onto 2 of my children over a cliff's edge with only the strength to rescue one of them, because now I know what that feels like. I caught the Blackberry.

They say the first stage of grief is denial. As the internal drive of my iPod clicked and sputtered in a futile attempt to finish its last Guns n Roses song, I placed it in the cradle next to the car stereo. I drove with that clicking iPod for a week. Like a dead hamster you leave in its cage in hopes that maybe tomorrow it'll wake up, I got in the car each morning and flicked the iPod a few times.

The second stage of grief is plunking down $224 for a replacement on Amazon.com. And donating the old one to science.

"Fury if you can fix this, it's yours."

"I think it needs a paperclip to join the wires, dad."

"Have at it, son."

At least he had fun.

Then the shiny new iPod arrived. And in the cradle it went. It didn't fit so well, or maybe it was all in my head. I put some new music on it, added some new playlists and forged the beginnings of a new partnership.

Until yesterday:

Look a little closer.

We hadn't even gotten to Guns n Roses yet.

The real crime here isn't that someone came onto our property, snooped around, smashed my window and stole something of mine. Because as violating as that feels, I'm sure it was just a couple of punkass kids who were at the right place at the right time.

The real crime here isn't that the timing was so bad. Had they done this just a week ago, they would have stolen a broken iPod and the joke would have been on them.

The real crime here isn't that I'm now out $224 for the iPod and $245 for the replacement window. It sucks, but at least my family is safe.

The real crime?

I now have to listen to L.A. radio.

They drew first blood.

I'm a Skate Punk. Was.

I recently bought Fury a skateboard. Last night I was showing him the finer points of an ollie. Well, explaining. The showing part didn't go so well. Because when you're 37 years old and haven't skated in 20 years, your skate tricks look less like this:

 

And more like this:

"Well Fury, I'm just old, that's all."

"Tony Hawk is older than you and he's waaaay better."

I should never have taken him to meet Tony Hawk. Well, at least you can read about it (and witness some real skating) on Fury's new review blog:

Kid Test Labs Meets Tony Hawk

When Left To My Own Devices...

... I break one of them (digital camera) and I lose another (my Blackberry) to the watery depths of a Southern California reservoir. I say this for two reasons: to apologize for the crappy quality of the photos in this post (as I had to make do with the snapshot function of my video cam) and to apologize to those of you who interact with me outside this blog for not returning any phone calls or text messages lately. With that out of the way, let's rewind to the beginning.

d Wife leaves me twice a year for about 2 weeks at a time to attend tradeshows for her job. For the most part, it goes quite smoothly, for there's not much she can do for this household that I can't, and vice versa. We enjoy what you'd call a very business-trip-friendly family dynamic. However, she's been gone nearly a week now, and let's just say it only takes a few days of solo parenting for your true strengths and weaknesses to show.

Regarding Pets

It's not that I forget to feed them, I just keep forgetting the fact that we're missing the one piece of the puzzle that's usually required to complete such a task.


Dude. We do not run on photosynthesis.

But admit it, I rock at adding cool new pets to the Busy household. Meet Hisser, the hissing cockroach:

If it dies, I'll just call it "good pest control."

Of course we had to first relocate the last critter cage resident before Hisser could move his stuff in.

Meet Mother Bates, the praying mantis who laid her eggs in there and died. THREE years ago. We put a wig on her and placed her by the windowsill.

Regarding Recreational Activities

In general, I'm not very good at not enjoying beverages of the brewed and/or distilled variety. And my "d Wife on business trip" dishwasher load kind of reflects that.

I should really ease up on that creme brulee.

But my buddy Toheed the Contractor was willing to drive.

He had just refurbished this old speed boat. The risk of getting stranded would make anyone giddy.

But first, we had to stop off at his service station to wash the boat.

There's got to be an easier way to earn a Capri Sun.

And it was all good.

We planned to fish, but fishing sucks in SoCal, so rather than set him up for disappointment, we just opted to ride around, really really really fast.

When I look at this picture, two words come to mind: Jan Hammer.

Things were going great until the boat broke down. And I discovered that although we were lucky that it broke down at a dock on which we stopped to buy more beer, the boat ramp was about 100 feet away. This meant tying ropes to the boat, which meant bending over, which always means my gut likes to press the release button on my Blackberry harness, which means I should have seen it coming. But I didn't. And in slow motion it fell (heart attack), and then landed on the dock (relief), and then fell out of its protective case (oh that's fine, that's what it's for), and then bounced (lunge) and went over the edge (noooooooo...). Kerplunk.

And I still had to hand tow that sucker to the boat ramp.

I know, that's Toheed and Fury towing it. Let's just say he knows I need to abandon most things halfway in order to "blog it."While all this was happening, I was totally sucking at something else: remembering birthday parties that we had RSVP'd for. d Wife has a knack for schedules. And like a tailbone or appendix, my ability to remember key dates has rendered itself obselete in my 8 years of marriage because I just rely on her to remind me of things we need to do. I mean, I DID remember it. I just thought it was on Sunday, rather than Saturday (which doesn't work for weddings, flights, court dates and job interviews, either). So this is my apology in writing to Lolita and her son Jaden for showing up 8 hours late to the party.

Regarding Food and Dining

On the few days during the week when I'm actually lucky enough to share a meal with my family, d Wife makes it a point to turn off all electronic devices and enjoy some quality time together at the dinner table. I applaud that and totally agree. But Fury is going to grow up to be a business traveler if watching his old man has any impact on his future career choices. So I might as well get him used to eating at the bar with his laptop.

Lisa, that is not tupperware we are eating out of. It is an atmospheric anomaly, like what happens when people take pictures of "UFOs."

I also feel that in addition to his professional life, I am responsible for teaching my boy how to survive in the wild. And you can be damn sure that no son of mine is ever going to starve in the woods because he couldn't find a serving platter!

On a boat, we go by the "5-hour rule."

But this doesn't mean I won't expose him to the finer things in life, for a man's ability to appreciate classy culinary establishments from an early age is of the utmost importance when forging a true gentleman.

Because the wings are great. And I read Playboy for the articles.Regarding Awesomeness

"Hey dad, what time is it?"

"Um, it's 8:55."

"No, it's not, Dad."

"Well, look at my watch, what time does this look like to you?"

"It's time to get ill."

 Raising my boy.

I'm doing it right.

Just Call Me Britney

This whole truck selling thing from the last post has been tough on both me and Fury. Last weeked, we gave the truck one last wash and this weeked I got the AC fixed. It's now ready for Craigslist. Since the Dada Truck was originally intended to be passed down to Fury when he got old enough to drive, he's been trying in his own way to prevent the inevitable. Last week, he offered up his Wii ("How much does a Wii depreciate, Dad?") and just tonight he asked, "Dad, can I buy your truck and just IOU until I'm 16?"

Unfortunately, Bank of Dad needs a bailout, so the best I could offer him was one last drive. With him at the wheel. Lucky for the the City of Arcadia, he can't yet reach the pedals. So instead, I drove him to the parking lot of a local shopping center. Being Sunday night, it was pretty empty.

Fury climbed to the front seat, sat on my lap, took the wheel, threw it in D and I gunned it. With me in full control of the brake and gas pedal, I felt pretty good just letting Fury hoot 'n holler and make me carsick. The radio was playing some Blue Oyster Cult concert and Fury remarked "God, this is perfect truck music!" as he jerked the steering wheel right-left-right-left not unlike the "Fast and Furious" video game he loves so much at Dave & Busters.

As Fury put Dada Truck through a stress test like it's never experienced in 7 years of faithful service, I soon noticed we were no longer alone in that parking lot.

It was the police. Smokey. The one-time. 5-0. The po-po. Rolling up on us. Headlights off and in stealth mode.

"Uh-oh, Fury. It's the cops!"

Fury froze. He was scared. He shot me a quick glance for a directive and I spoke slow and low. "Duck. Roll into the back seat. NOW." I slowed Dada Truck to a stop and did what I thought made sense in that situation. I picked up my phone and pretended to make a call. Because when you stop in the middle of an abandoned parking lot, it's because you wanted to get safely off the road and call your mother. Or something.

The police car continued toward us. The fake phone call wasn't deterring him.

So I threw it into Drive and got the hell out of there. We live a quarter mile away and there are a few turns where I might lose a curious police car. And we did. Much to Fury's relief.

When we walked in the house, we went to tell mom about it. I told her the whole story and when I got to the part where we ditched the cop, I noticed Fury putting up his hand for a high five.

What. I couldn't leave my son hanging, right?