Leo Burnett will regret (or heartily applaud) not hiring me

When I was a fresh college grad, I interviewed with Leo Burnett, one of the world's top 10 ad agencies. I made it through the college recruiting process and was flown to their Chicago headquarters for a day of second round interviews. I was 9 gatekeepers away from achieving my lifelong dream of being a hotshot ad executive. All I had to do was convince 5 of them that I was the right man for the job.

I convinced 4. I was crushed.

That day, I doused my dream with lighter fluid, lit it on fire and stomped on its charred remains. I'm not good at dealing with failure.

Keep the above backstory in mind. Let me move onto the topic of the day: wipes. I'm thinking by now you've clued into the fact that I'm doing this campaign for Huggies. Before all this, I honestly thought "pfft. wipes are wipes." In fact, right after the wipes Huggies sent me ran out, we went and bought some el cheapo ones. They ripped on me. Multiple times. Right as I was grabbing them out of our dispenser. Right when Lessi was pooping mid-change. I wish someone were there to take a picture of me every time I stood dumbfounded, one hand hoisting my baby's legs, the other hand weilding a torn-off corner of a bargain baby wipe. FAILblog gold.

And the other day, out of the blue, d wife texted me wistfully about the days when we had the "good wipes." The pain is real, ladies and gentlemen.

Huggies, you inspired me. Not only to wipe with confidence, but also to tell the world through advertising how good your wipes are. Today, my dream rises up from the ashes. Leo Burnett executive number 5, eat your heart out.

By the way, I'm giving away 5 tubs of the good stuff. If you have a baby or anything else you'd like wiped, leave a comment with a good poop story of your own. Or tell me how awesome I am at commercials. I'll randomly draw a winner next week.

Stupid Blogger Tricks... really stupid

Aimee "Greeblemonkey's" mom is in the hospital. Aimee wants to make her mom laugh. So she posted a video of herself putting her toe in her mouth. Then she asked other bloggers to step up and post their stupidist (most stupid?) tricks so that she could show her mom.

Originally, I was going to post a video of me doing impersonations of all the SpongeBob characters (trust me, I rock 80% of them), but then fate stepped in. My family was over at my friend Lolita's house for dinner tonight. We got to talking about her dog Gidget, who has a talent for escaping enclosed areas, like their yard. Lolita  mentioned the invisible electric dog fence that she just had installed. Then she showed me the collar.

If you know me at all, you can figure the rest out. Aimee, I sincerely hope your mom pees her hospital gown once more.

LEGO'ing without a license

There's a lot of Lego worship going on in the Lin household. And we've done some pretty cool things with them here on this blog. We've experienced the thrill of completion and the agony of subsequent gravity. We've used the Lego Minifigure to replicate bloggers and perpetuate cultural stereotypes (flashing my rice paddy pass). We've played bartender and even nightclub mogul with them.

But this past weekend, we achieved the epic. We colored outside the lines. We went rogue. We went to Michael's.

And bought paints. Paints that I hadn't seen in at least 25 years. Remember when you could go to any drugstore and buy model kit Camaros and F-15s? And you had to glue them together and paint them yourself with those cool little bottles of Tester's model paints? They still exist!!

Combine those with a healthy disrespect for merchandise licensing agreements, and you've got yourself a recipe for fun:

Step 1: find two Lego minifigures you're willing to sacrifice for the greater good. In other words, not the Star Wars ones! Give them a good base coat.

Step 2: let them dry overnight, then apply your outlines.

Step 3: use child labor to fill in those outlines.

Step 4: finish the job once child becomes bored.

Step 5: revel in your awesomeness.

The unofficial offical Venom and Iron Man minifiguresStep 6: Introduce your child to the wonders of stop motion animation.

Oops...

In high school, I was tray sledding with a bunch of my buddies on campus, when we spied a group of elementary kids walking toward our hill. One of my friends packed a snowball and hucked it straight up into the air. It was one of those moments where you half-intend a result, but never expect that it will actually happen. We watched with amusement as it sailed straight up, tracked it as the force of gravity overcame its upward velocity, sending it plummeting back to earth, and all stood mouth agape as that snowball accellerated at 9.81 m/s2 until it met the equal and opposite force of the top of some poor 3rd grader's head, 20 yards away.

Now I have two such moments. I have Airsoft guns to thank for this.

A poop video I couldn't refuse

Let me tell you something about paid campaigns and me. If it's something I'd never blog about for free, I'll pass. I like beer money as much as the next guy, but I've got my eyes on the real prize: my nip-slips posted on TMZ. Dragging you through a post that I dragged myself to write solely for the money is not the path to TMZ enlightenment.

In other words, yes, Huggies paid me to make this video (along with 1 other upcoming video and 2 posts). But they had me at "poop." Because I can achieve fame through poop videos.

Along with beer money, Huggies gave me a ton of their Natural Care Baby Wipes and challenged me to live "Poo Free" this summer. As you'll see below, that's a tall order.

The edited-for-time video is on Huggies' Facebook page but I have the exclusive Director's Cut here:

Birthday. Boy...

"Uhh. huh-huh."

That was all I could muster. Eight years ago today.

Before I become your dad, I envisioned the day in so many different ways. Sprinting down the hospital corridors, high fiving strangers and passing out cigars; clutching you close to my chest (in black and white, of course) while doing the "I must have allergies" man-weep; hoisting you proudly above my head for the throngs of well wishers to behold, a la Lion King.

But the Beavis and Butthead brain fart? Never. I gotta be real with you, kiddo. I didn't know what the hell I was doing.

But somehow, some way...

Elmo turned into Power Rangers turned into Mythbusters.

SesameStreet.org turned turned into CartoonNetwork.com turned into YouTube (supervised, mind you).

Baby Einstein turned into Wiggles turned into Blink 182 (bypassing Mylie, Justin Beiber and the gang entirely, for which I will gladly buy you ice cream).

Legos sets turned into... more Lego sets... turned into "oh my god expensive!" Lego sets.

Crying turned into whining turned into employing the Socratic method to make dad's argument implode before his very eyes (qualdruple negatives should be outlawed in parent-child discourse).

Diapers turned into "All done... wipe!" turned into "Can you get me a comic book, this is going to take a while."

My baby turned into a toddler turned into the beginnings of a young man who will never cease to amaze me.

But you know what? You will also never cease to be this little guy in the video below. No amount of Axe body spray will ever mask that fresh baby smell when I kiss the top of your head, little Simba. Happy Birthday, son.

Waiting

Baby Alessia, you're two months away from joining this nutty little family of ours. The past 7 months have flown by. As well as crawled. I think mom would agree with the latter. She's done all the heavy lifting. Me? I just peel her fruit and sing you songs.

Please keep in mind your dad has an old no-name guitar that won't stay in tune. He also has no real knowledge of the guitar, as he just figured most of this stuff out by trial and error. And finally, in the immortal words of William Hung, "I have no professional experience."

That said, this is for you, baby girl.


("The Waiting" - as stolen from Tom Petty)

Control Freakz

My first remote control car had one button. You'd turn the car on and it would go straight. When you wanted to turn, you'd press the button on the controller and the car would go backwards in a circle. When the nose pointed in the direction you wanted, you'd let go of the button and the car would go straight again. Nothing was cooler.

When Fury was born, it meant the revival of two things: Star Wars and remote control cars.

When he was 3, I took Fury to Radio Shack and bought him this beauty:

Of course, he preferred to just push it around the house. Or have me drive it. I was ok with that. And for the next 4 years, as he amassed an impressive collection of RC toys, I'd put them on a shelf in the garage and test drive them every once in a while. For him, of course. I guess Fury never quite appreciated the fact that he could control something from afar. Well, unless you count completing a game level, building a Star Wars Lego set or conjuring up a cold glass of milk with "Daaaaaaad! can you help meeeee?"

Anyway...

Earlier this year, something clicked. He dusted off one of his RC cars, scrounged for some batteries and found himself in toy heaven. Since January, he's put his roster of vehicles through demolition derbies, all terrain endurance tests, dog attacking missions, snuff films and various forms of "customization." And I wish I'd bought stock in Duracell.

Did you know that an RC tarantula achieves better aerodynamics with its legs pulled off?

And a dragonfly doesn't if it has a gaping head wound?

And those helicopters that were so popular this past Christmas season do an excellent job at imitating an injured moth? Skittering across the floor after achieving 2 seconds of flight never looked so natural.

And also, if you and your kid watch a Mad Max marathon on a Saturday morning, your kid will outfit his RC car to withstand roving bandits looking to steal your gasoline.

And... if you get invited to "The Greatest RC Show on Earth" you WILL say "Oh HELLZ YEAH!" even if you have to put up a post the next day to run a contest for your readers.

YES, this is a contest. And I'm giving away 2 tickets to the RC Expo at the Fairplex in Pomona, March 20-21 (this weekend!). This will be an insane show. RC cars, boats, planes and tanks. Yes, tanks. And a rock crawler test "dirtpile." See below. I can't wait.

To enter, just leave a comment. I'll draw a winner at noon on Friday and contact you by email if you've won. Oh, also you have to endure this 1-minute video of Fury and me having random fun with RC vehicles. Because I've had these clips forever and have never had a reason to post them until now. So you might as well indulge me. Since I might give you tickets.

Neither I, Nor Beef, Will Ever Be The Same

I love beef. Always have. So when I was invited by TheMotherhood.com to come up with some beef recipes as part of their "I Heart Beef" campaign, I was all too happy to oblige. After I said yes, however, I realized something. My best beef recipe consists of the following ingredients: salt, ribeye, heat.

Considering I was given a heap of beef as compensation for my participation, I felt kind of guilty tapping out a one liner, waving good-bye and taking my beef home. I am a man of integrity. I earn my meat the old fashioned way: by making absurd videos. 

So I made one. This one's called "Beef. It's What's For Dinner... and a LOT of Other Things."

And if you came here thinking you'd get a recipe or two, you know me well. I'm all about spreading the food knowledge and love. I've got two finger-food recipes that will make you a hit at parties. Unless you're the one who was supposed to bring the alcohol. In which case you'll get yelled at for bringing this "fancy beef crap" instead of booze. Tread carefully.

But first, the giveaway. Because I know you only love me for my meat.

I will be giving away a $100 Omaha Steak gift card to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment telling me about your favorite memory making everyday occasions special with beef. Really, who hasn't had those?

For extra entries, you can do the following, worth one entry each:

  1. Follow the Beef people on Twitter.
  2. Become a fan of the Beef people on Facebook.
  3. Ask Chef Dave Zino, executive chef of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association a beef cooking question.

Just let me know which of the above you did and I will grant you that many more entries.

Contest deadline is Wednesday, March 3, 11:59pm.

Recipe 1: Beef Curry Puffs

When I graduated from college and became part of the adult world, it meant bringing Doritos and Rolling Rock to parties would no longer suffice. So I threw a bunch of my favorite things together and created these. I've since discovered that these actually exist, but screw it. I'll just consider myself awesome for inventing them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onion (I never get scientific with ingredients - just feel it)
  • 2 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 Tsp cumin (yes, I know curry powder has cumin in it. I just like extra cumin. Cumin rocks)
  • Approx. 4 oz. Mango Chutney (or half a 9 oz. bottle)
  • 1 package puff pastry sheets
  • 1 egg

- Unwrap the puff pastry and set on the counter to defrost (40 min before you need to use it).
- Sauté the onions in butter or canola oil until translucent. About 2 min.
- Add the beef.
- Once the beef begins to brown, add the curry powder and cumin.

Look at that cascade of awesome goodness.- Once the spices have been integrated into the meat, add the Mango Chutney. I like my curries sweet (I LOVE Thai Curry dishes that use coconut milk), so I tend to add more Chutney than the average person would. So use the 4 oz. as a guide. Add some, taste, add some more, taste, etc. That's what makes cooking fun.
- Remove from heat. Let the mixture cool.
- Cut the puff pastry dough into approx. 2" x 2" squares.
- Scoop a small spoonful of meat into the center of a square and pinch the sides together in a triangle. Place onto a greased baking sheet (Pam spray is best).

- Beat the egg in a bowl and add a teensy bit of water. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the egg wash on top of the pastries.


- Place sheet into a preheated 400 degree oven.
- Find a corner to sit in for 15 minutes and spend some quality time with the dog.

- When the pastries are golden brown, they are ready. And crazy delicious.

 

Recipe 2: Surf 'n Turf Handrolls

I love sushi. But I realize that not everyone likes raw fish. This is my version of a more "made for TV" handroll featuring all cooked ingredients. And of course, beef, which is unusual for sushi. But then again, I'm unusual for a mom blogger, so there.


Ingredients:

  • 10 Handroll-sized nori (seaweed) sheets (Most Asian markets have these. If you can't find any cut to handroll size, you can just do it yourself. They are roughly a 4" x 8" rectangle.)
  • An 8 oz. ribeye, or similar steak, grilled and sliced into strips
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cut into strips
  • Fresh chives (not chopped)
  • Sushi rice:
    • 2 cups short grain rice
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 2 Tbs sugar
    • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • Spicy shrimp mixture:
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (if you have an Asian market near you, get Kewpie Japanese mayo. If not, regular mayo works).
    • 1 Tsp chili paste (Sriracha sauce preferred. most markets, even regular American supermarkets, sell it nowadays. Or use Tabasco.)
    • 2 Tsp tobiko (flying fish roe -- those little red granules that coat the outside of your California Roll)
    • 1/2 Tsp Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine -- I have also found this in American supermarkets. If not, then use honey)
    • 1/2 lb cooked shrimp, chopped
    • 2 Tsp chopped fresh chives
  • Sweet "Pickles"
    • 1 Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 4" strips
    • 4 Tbl rice vinegar
    • 2 Tbl sugar
    • 1/4 Tsp salt

To make the sushi rice:

- Cook the rice, set aside.
- Add the water, sugar, vinegar and salt to a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves.
- Let it cool.
- Slowly add the liquid to the rice. And fold it in. Don't add all of it. Add it until it rice is damp but not wet. You don't want soupy rice. You're actually going to discard most of that liquid. It's just hard to measure those ingredients in small quantities to cook.

To make the Spicy Shrimp:

First, here's a pic of the harder-to-find ingredients (Kewpie, Tobiko, Sriracha). Since I live in CA, where there is significant demand for Asian foods in the mainstream, your average supermarket might carry this stuff. And if not, there are Asian markets everywhere. I realize the rest of the country isn't so lucky with the ethnic foods being a stone's throw away from any point in the city.


- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. That's it!

To make the Sweet "Pickles":

- Sprinkle the cucumbers generously with salt (around 2 tsp will do) and set aside for 15 min. The salt will draw the moisture out.
- Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly to get the salt off.
- Add all the ingredients in a bowl and add the cucumbers. Let it sit for a few hours ideally, but these taste good even after 15 min.

Assembly:

- Lay down one nori sheet lengthwise in front of you. Lay some rice down on the left side. Kind of spread/smoosh it. The left side of the rectangle should have rice and the right side should be empty.
- Diagonally lay a strip of steak, an avocado, a pickle and a chive onto the rice, oriented in an 11 o'clock to 5 o'clock position.
- Spoon some shrimp mixture on top.
- Grab a grain of rice and smoosh it into the opposite corners. See circled areas in diagram below. These will serve to glue the ends together after you roll it.
- Bring the lower left corner up to the middle-top (see arrow below). It will form a cone. Then just keep rolling that cone and secure the edges (the smooshed rice).

- That's it! After writing all this, I realized that this is highly complicated. I guess that's why sushi is so expensive. Oh well.  If you're ever in town, I'll make it for you for a bag of Doritos and a 6-pack of Rolling Rock.

"Dad, you're doing reckless magic!" - Tastemaker Video 3

That's that first thing Fury said when he watched my third and final video for the US Potato Board's Tastemaker Challenge. Nice to know my 7-year old has stricter boundaries for absurdity than I do. And I carry that absurdity into the kitchen for my recipe as well. Because I am consistent. This latest challenge's theme was "nutrition in a time crunch." We had to create a dish that would take less than 30 minutes to cook. I could have gone baked potato or shepherd's pie but they wouldn't be different. I wanted to go out with a bang (or a WTF, I'm not picky). I figured if you only had 30 minutes to cook something, you'd want to be able to eat it quickly as well. Like with your hands. So I present you with this:

The above is what I like to call the Frankenstein of meals. Essentially a nice meal of pesto mashed potatoes, herbed chicken tenders and bruschetta... that got into a car wreck. Think Reese's, but with more garlic. At least you can eat it with your hands.

And this is how we got there:

I hope you had fun watching my Tastemaker Challenge videos. Please be sure to rate them if you have a YouTube account. This is a contest and I get a vote for each person who rates my videos. I don't actually win anything, unless you count recognition in potato innovation. But hell yeah, that's better than money and fame!

For the brave souls who would like to try making this, here's the recipe (really, I ate the above, and they are good, just like a cheeseburger, fries and shake is still a cheeseburger, fries and shake if you put it in a blender).

Pesto/Chicken/Bruschetta Open Faced Thing

Chicken:

  • 1/2 lb. chicken tenders
  • Flour to coat
  • Italian herbs (anything you like - I used basil, oregano, thyme, parsley) - enough to mix with the flour to make it herby in appearance
  • Salt and Pepper

Bruschetta

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, insides scooped out, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves (fresh)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Shredded parmesan, for sprinkling
  • 4 slices of good crusty bread

Pesto Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons pesto
  • 3.5 oz half and half

The trick to getting this done in under 30 minutes is integrating the steps amongst the 3 items rather than making these things sequentially. I found this to be quickest:

  • Pour flour into a bowl. You don't need that much, maybe a cup or so. Then add the herbs, salt and pepper into it. I never measure, but it's hard to mess this up.
  • Coat the chicken lightly with this flour mixture, set aside.
  • Wash hands.
  • Scoop the insides of the tomatoes out, and chop.
  • Chop garlic, shallots and basil.
  • Throw it all into a mixing bowl and add olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Stir it up, add salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate.
  • Peel potatoes and put into a covered dish. Microwave high for 8 minutes.
  • During this 8 minutes, heat up oil in a skillet and place chicken in it.
  • After 3 minutes or so, flip the chicken tenders over.
  • They should be done around the same time as the potatoes.
  • Toast the bread.
  • Remove dish from microwave. Mash potatoes. Add butter, half and half, pesto as you mash. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toast should be done by the time you finish mashing.

To assemble, take the toast, plop some mashed potatoes on top, add a chicken tender, pile on some bruschetta topping and sprinkle parmesan on top.

The Reason I Don't Write a Dancing Blog - Tastemaker Video #2

I'm not going to write much in this post. I danced in the video below. That should be enough -- as in the maximum recommended dosage before the onset of adverse side effects.

This is my second entry in the US Potato Board's Tastemaker video contest. This month's theme was Nutrition on a Budget. And as if limiting us to only $10 to feed a family of four weren't bad enough, they challenged us to dance in our videos.

Although we'll be doing this cooking thing live at the United States Potato Board Tastemaker Party at Blissdom 2010 in Nashville, this is the ONLY time I'm dancing for anybody. So you could say this is an exclusive, except that exclusive kind of implies that people actually want to watch this travesty of rhythm I've captured on video.

(If you have a YouTube account, please rate it. We're judged by the number of ratings we garner. Thanks!)

For those of you who still thought my dish looked good even after I ruined your appetite with my nerdtastic gyrations, here's the recipe:

Korean Style Short Rib Lettuce Wraps with Sesame Soy Potato Stix and Scallion Slaw

Ingredients:

Ribs

  • 2 lbs crosscut beef shortribs (most Asian/ethnic markets have these for cheap - like $2.99 a pound or something crazy like that).
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbls honey
  • 2 tbls sesame oil
  • 3 tbl brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch scallion, chopped

Combine ingredients and marinate ribs for at least 4 hours. Grill ribs until done, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Scallion Slaw

  • 1 bunch scallion
  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Slice the green part of the scallion into thin slivers. Place in a bowl and add the other ingredients.

Potato Stix

  • 2 small-med potatoes
  • Sesame oil (to brush)
  • Soy sauce (to brush)
  • Dash of white pepper
  • Salt to taste

Cut the potatoes into thin sticks and line them up on a baking pan. In a bowl, combine 3 parts sesame oil to 2 parts soy sauce. Mix vigorously to combine. Brush mixture onto potato sticks. Bake in 450 degree oven until browned. About 20 min.

Serve with lettuce leaves. Any kind will do. Simply take a leaf, add some potato stix, a few pieces of short rib, some scallion slaw, wrap it all up and shove in your mouth. Deeeelicious.

Ok, so it was just an excuse to pee into tupperware

A couple posts ago, when Fury unleashed upon the Asparagus community, we received several comments about how asparagus makes your pee stink. I had heard that fact myself before, but I always thought it was an urban legend cooked up in some secret Produce Council meeting to create a veggie pariah that made all the other greens more desirable in comparison to gullible kids. Or Mr Lady.

I pretty much trust that my readers are intelligent and would never be duped by such propaganda, but at the same time I wondered if anyone has ever empirically proven that asparagus actually makes pee stink more than it already does.

The things I do for science. Watch, and discover the truth about asparagus.

Mythbustin'

Earlier this year, while perusing a stack of schoolwork that Fury had brought home, I noticed this correction on one of his math packets:

10? My ambitious extremely dexterous child can only hold 10 paperclips in his hand? Heellll no!! So I did what any responsible dad would do: I ripped off a popular TV show and posted the video. We'll let science and a controlled testing environment be the judge of this. And since we had the camera set up aleady, we went ahead and attempted to bust a bonus myth for your enjoyment.

How to Completely Remodel Your Home in 30 days and 12 Easy Steps

As some of you may know, my house recently underwent a total makeover. Whenever people see my house, they always ask "how long did it take?" And then I say "one month," and then they laugh. And then I laugh and we move onto other subjects. It's not worth explaining. But here on my blog, I've got time. So I'm going to explain step-by-step how to remodel your entire house in 30 days.

I'm also going to give away a $100 Home Depot gift card. You know, happy father's day, bribing my readers to leave comments, buying your affections and all that...

Step 1

Move your family to a new city and find the cheapest gas station in town. Fill up twice a week because you have a crazy ass gas guzzling truck that only gets 6 mpg. Bitch constantly to the owner of that gas station about having to fill your tank up twice a week. But since you have a 34 gal. tank and your twice-a-week fillups pretty much cover the rent for his station, he's really cool with you.

Step 2

And because filling up your tank takes about 2 hours at a time, you end up spending lots of quality time at this gas station, just talking about random stuff with this guy. Pretty soon, you find out he's exactly your age, and knows a lot more about lead generation, sales channel management, ROI, Powerpoint and Excel than your average dude who works at a gas station. Turns out, he is a disillusioned corporate refugee who one day just said "Frick this crap. I'm going to open a gas station." And just did it. At around the same time, he finds out you work in the field of online marketing. "Hmm..." he thinks.

Step 3

One day while you are hanging out at the station, Toheed (it's too tiring to type "gas station dude" over and over) casually brings up the online marketing thing, and asks if he can pick your brain about something. But he gets as far as "I wanna sell fish..." before I freak out. "FISH! I LOVE FISH! I am a total fish nerd. Let's DO this!" And we just did it. That was the genesis of OceanPets.com (the site is still up, but the business is defunct - keep reading).

Step 4

Get $800 worth of sales just a couple days after launching the site. Which means you drive your 6 mpg truck to the fish wholesalers near LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) to fulfill orders each day and do it like the big boys -- in special styrofoam containers, pumped oxygen and ice/heat packs (depending on the region to which you're overnighting your tropical fish). Start generating sales of $2,000 per day before long. But then you realize why only the big boys ship live fish: DHL and FedEx often (VERY often) deliver to the wrong address, lose packages and run into storms. All of which does not fare well with Nemo and Dori who are sitting in a plastic bag that only has enough oxygen for a 24 hour trip. And unless you are a big boy with lots of money in reserve, you simply cannot re-fulfill the order, plus pay again to ship it (out of your own pocket) while you wait 6-8 weeks for DHL and FedEx to "review" your loss claim and ask for evidence that the shipment has been damaged. Um, how about "turns out the fish I delivered has ceased to be. It is bereft of life. It is an EX-FISH!" (bonus fish for you if you got that reference).

Step 5

Before calling it quits on the fish business, you insightfully conclude one day that 1) people like to buy live fish 2) it is futile to try to ship fish 3) Toheed has all this empty space inside his gas station 4) you can fit about 23 fish tanks in here with the proper rack set-up 5) you're here all the time anyway 6) the slogan "Fill Your Tank" is the perfect catchy phrase for a gas station/tropical fish store 8) Petroleum products and aquatic life can co-exist, Exxon Valdez notwithstanding.

Step 6

Sell 6 fish in 6 months out of the gas station. Craigslist all the fish tanks. Dust ourselves off and decide with Toheed to sell something less alive through the internet. That was the genesis of Silverguys.com. Let's just say I have a very nice ziploc bag in the closet with all kinds of silver jewelry in it. None of which has been sold. Talk to me, my friend. I give you best price.

Step 7

Go back to your day jobs and stick to what you're good at. Which in me and Toheed's case is being the real-life "Harold and Kumar" wherever we go.

Step 8

Go back to the corporate grind while Toheed buys a smog station in Sacramento. And tries to remodel it. But then is told by the city that he cannot hire any crews to do it unless he goes through a general contractor. So in genuine Toheed style, what does he do? He takes the general contractor's license exam and passes it. Since he now has his license, he throws a couple ads up on Craigslist to see what happens. He lands a ton of jobs and pretty soon he's bringing in more money than selling gas has ever brought. A year later, he brings me in to help him do sales and business development.

Step 9

Not knowing jack about construction, I buy a book and attend a few tradeshows. But Toheed teaches me that that your ability to put a real proposal together, use a spreadsheet and speak English far outweighs any knowledge of construction when you're selling commercial projects. And he is absolutely right.

Step 10

Decide that it's time for another kid, which means the house needs to be bigger. Perhaps a second story? Toheed tells you he can totally do that, so you hire an architect, draft some plans, and send your wife and kid overseas for 2 months so construction can begin. After your wife and kid leave, and you pack all your belongings in boxes and store them in the garage, find out that your zone is the hardest zone in Los Angeles County to get approval for a second story, and it ain't happening without months of jumping through hoops.

Step 11

Make lemonade out of lemons. Rent your house out for two months and go live like a frat boy with your friend Joey the Fireman. That's all I'll say about that.

Step 12

Wait for the economy to slow down and construction projects to dry up along with it. Go back to your day job. Work two more years. Realize you still have construction loan money left and decide it's no longer worth it to try for that second story. Draft new plans (which include your dream kitchen and bar area, which make you feel a lot better about not getting that second story), and then move your family into Toheed's house while he begins construction. Unleash your kid and dogs on this single guy's house and in 30 days? Voila. NEW HOUSE.

* * * * *

I apologize for the length of this post. I really do. We're almost done.

So Toheed succeeded in building us the pimpinest house in only 30 days and I cannot thank him enough for doing this for us (at cost!!). It just proves that in life, there is nothing better than good friends. They stick with you through thick and thin, get into trouble with you, bail you out and laugh with you the whole way through. Really, what more to life is there?

For my good friend, please do me a favor. If you know anyone in the Southern CA area who needs a general contractor, tell them about his company, Complete Construction. He is a great guy and I can vouch for his honesty and committment to service. And if you don't believe me, check out this slideshow I made about our home remodel. It'll blow you away:

 

Awkward segway time (because d Wife and Fury are waiting for me to finish this post so we can get on with Father's Day festivities and can't think of any way to seamlessly weave this giveaway into my post)...

Hey, Happy Father's Day! What goes with remodeling posts and dad? Why, Home Depot of course! And looky. I happen to have $100 Home Depot gift card for you right here! In true BusyDad style, I dropped the ball and failed to put this post up before Father's Day so that the winner would actually have this card in hand to spend on Father's Day. But it actually turned out for the better because now I have a little game to play:

See these really clever gift cards?

 

 

I'll give one to the poor soul got the lousiest Father's Day present this year. If you're a dad, leave a comment on this post describing your lousy present. If you're a mom and you gave a less than ideal gift and would like to make up for it, describe that necktie in detail right here. I'll give you till next Saturday 11:59 pm to get these all in (and pass this post along) and then select a winner.

And if you're really down to the wire and HAVEN'T gotten the father in your life a present yet, here's a link with more info on Home Depot gift cards. I'd want the drill bit one myself. I'm always losing or breaking drill bits, because, you know, I'm only good at doing contruction proposals.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!! 

ADDENDUM:
My first commenter on this post suffered a tragedy that none of us should ever have to face, and in light of that I know some of you felt bad telling me about horrible neckties to win a gift card. Home Depot stepped up (thank you! you rock) and offered her family a $100 Gift Card apart from this contest. So... bring on the bad neckties! The $100 gift card is yours to win - and I've changed the rules, because I can. I will let fate, aka the Randomizer, decide which story gets the card.

ADDENDUM #2:
Geeez how could I forget?? Toheed is getting married this weekend. Please congratulate him (I'll have him check comments)!

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.

A Y Chromosome Runs Through It

Me and balls have never gotten along.

In little league, I made contact with the bat once. And what a beautiful foul ball it was! In youth soccer, I scored one goal. In practice. In middle school, my illustrious basketball career was cut short when a rebound hit my pinky at juuust the right angle to break it. Into a perfect right angle. And football? I must seem like the biggest jerk because I never pick up an errant football that has rolled my way at the park. But really it's because I don't want the 11 year-olds to laugh at me when I try to throw it back. 

Luckily for me, I can throw a lightning jab-cross-hook combo and swing a shin through your neck. I found martial arts close to 20 years ago, and knowing how to throw down has saved me from the embarrassment of not knowing how to throw spirals. I thought the whole ball thing was behind me.

But I have a kid.

My dad told me long ago that the one responsibility of every parent is to make sure the next generation does better than its predecessor. Being a connoisseur of low-hanging fruit, the first mission I set for myself when Fury was born was to make sure that he embraced his balls, in every sense of the word. Especially the sports one.

So ever since Fury could pick up an object and run with it, we enrolled him in a mixed sports program. And because I never fancied myself one of those "sports dads" who gets into brawls at their kids' hockey games, I kind of prided myself in my humanistic approach to children's sports. Let them be kids, let them have fun.

And over the years he did have fun. However, we recently felt it was time to take it one step further. It was time to introduce him to organized team sports. To help him make the transition into something a little more structured than he was used to, I helped him choose a sport that seemed the most fun. We settled on lacrosse. You've got the constant hustle of soccer, the hand-eye coordination of baseball, the rough-and-tumble aspect of hockey or football, and you look like a Bionicle in full battle gear. A no brainer.

Two weekends ago we took him to his first practice. And it went well. He picked up the basics fairly easily and seemed engrossed in the game. Awesome. Visions of high school lacrosse team captain danced in my head (hey, I did bike racing in high school, before Lance Armstrong made it un-dorky. Let a guy dream.).

Last weekend, I went with Fury to his second practice. When they issued his pads and uniform, and he got all suited up, I was welling with pride. That's my boy right there! In his badass uniform, ready to kick ass and dominate the field.

They started by lining up for drills. Well, all of them except for Fury, who was busy playing Rock Band on his lacrosse stick. Then they did passing drills, which Fury could have easily picked up on -- had he not been wandering off to chase a flying bug.

"I'm not that dad."

He missed a pass that his coach tossed his way. He meandered his way like a Family Circus cartoon to fetch the ball.

"I'm not that dad."

When it was his turn to do a shooting drill, he was swordfighting.

"Fury!! Hustle!! What did your coach just tell you?"

Oh no I di'nt. I did not just say that out loud, did I?

I started pacing the sidelines, watching his every giggle, every misstep, every unfocused, fooling around, wasting-my-exorbitant-registration-fee moment. I was turning into every crazy sports dad who micro manages his kid's athletic life, and I hated it. I hated it even more that every other parent watching me seethe was a mom. Way to promote a stereotype, Jim. And how painfully ironic. Me, of all people.

Scariest thing? I saw what I was doing. And I could not stop. Once practice was over, I pulled Fury aside and said "I did not sign you up for lacrosse so you could fool around. If I don't see you listening to the coach when he's talking and focusing on what you're supposed to be doing, I'm pulling you out and returning all this stuff, you hear me?"

I seldom have moments where I really dislike myself. Call it arrogance, call it ignorance, call it confidence, call it what you will. But it hardly ever happens. I despised myself. But part of me felt justified in doing it. The kid is a couple months from turning 7. He can focus. He can pay attention. I know it. But sports is fun. And wielding a stick does lend itself to pretending it's a guitar...

When we got home, I was still feeling way unsettled. Lisa has a knack for pulling it together when I lose it. We sat down and had a talk with Fury. We made beyond a shadow of a doubt clear to him that this was not about performance. This was about focus. This was about effort. We want Fury to have heart. To give it his all. And then Lisa drove it all home with a Rocky-esque male heartstring-tugging example, bringing up my last kickboxing match (yay wife!) where I lost (ok, I see where you're going with this), and was completely dominated (um, I think Fury gets it), and owned (*sigh*) by a kid who was 16 years younger than I was (please get to the heart part before I run and hide) yet I kept moving forward (probably stupidity and punch-drunkenness, but for the sake of the example let's call it heart), and never gave up (coach would have killed me himself if I gave up, but no one has to know). Then we did our hugs and both of us felt a lot better.

I wish I had a conclusion to this post. I don't. We have practice tomorrow morning and I'm going to jog around the track while Fury practices so I don't watch him. I'm going to trust him, trust myself, trust the coach and let fate do its thing.

Damn balls.

(You know I can't leave anything on a serious note, so I present you a lighthearted highlight reel from Fury's first 2 practices.)

Worst American Idol Post. Ever.

Yes, that's me. Yes, I am singing on an "American Idol" stage. No, I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to that show.

Let's back up a bit, shall we?

Remember that Disney trip from a few weeks ago? I went as part of a media showcase for ModernMom.com. Part of that showcase involved participants shooting short promos highlighting different aspects of a Disney vacation. Someone else was supposed to sing. She ended up not making the trip. I'm a sucker for an audience and I like to sing.

Let's back up a few more hours...

Earlier in the evening, Disney held its offical opening party for a new attraction called The American Idol Experience. Basically, if you've got stage talent, you could actually sing your way to the real American Idol by doing well on the AI Experience stage. To kick things off, Disney threw a star-studded party attended by Idol stars from past seasons.

I don't watch American Idol. I had no idea who half these people were. But I made a video about it. I apologize in advance to any fans of the show who may be reading this. I was so unaware of the greatness in which I was basking.

So what does this video include?

  • Footage of famous people. At least I think they were. I just pointed my camera in the direction of the loudest "SQUEEE"s.
  • Shout outs from Diana DeGarmo, Sanjaya and David Cook.
  • Me on stage being filmed for the promo. The finished promo video is on Modernmom.com.

So what does this video NOT include?

Me creeping up on Carrie Underwood hoping to get a "Beer with Busy" shot. How cool would that have been?? It was after I finished shooting my promo. We were walking to the parking lot and so was she (with her entourage). Please note I was feeling pretty fantabulously star-like and a little buzzed. According to Mike, one of our Disney hosts for the week, I shoved my way through Carrie's entourage, reached out to touch her shoulder and was cockblocked politely turned away by her bodyguard. Kind of like that last scene in Silence of the Lambs, I'd imagine...

Eh, I tried. Anyway, the video is pretty amusing. I think. You tell me...

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.