Back in Black(berry)

 

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

It's the thought that counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Am. The. Blackberry. Army.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, Party people.

They called me "Food Media": The LA County Fair food post

Last year, the LA County Fair invited my family to partake in the sights, sounds and festivities that make this annual celebration one of the most popular events in Los Angeles. I ate food. And blogged about it.

This year, they recognized my forte and invited Fury and me to a preview night. For Food Media.

Free beer. Who said blogging would get me nowhere?

Fury started his own blog recently and has already internalized the first rule: always have a camera at the ready.

As we sauntered up to the sign-in table (VIPs saunter, FYI), I was handed my badge and Fury got his. His said "Guest" on it.

Here's the disclosure part: the people on the Rogers Ruder Finn PR team are the nicest people around. That's all I really need to say. I already mentioned the free beer.

Let's eat!

This is a Korean-Inspired Taco from the Calbi Truck.

You kind of have to get around the ravenous kid to see the actual taco. So here's a picture of the truck, instead:

The whole Korean-BBQ-meets-Mexican-fare thing has been wildly popular in Los Angeles, because it is a culinary combination that works. Also, Koreans and Mexicans. While the Calbi truck isn't the first on the block to do this, I'm happy that there are alternatives to waiting in line for 90 minutes to get your Korean shortrib taco on. Because when you invest an hour and a half of your life in a food truck, it leads to this (yes, I ate that ALL in one sitting. Then hibernated for the winter).

Next, Cheesecake-on-a-stick. I have a personal rule: never pass up any food on a stick.

I wish I remembered the name of the vendor, or took a picture of the stand. I tried Googling it and still couldn't find the name. My bad, but I tried.

This was Fury's favorite: the Nutella Crepe from the Crepes Bonaparte Truck.

While it is healthy to indulge, I also feel that it is very important to eat some vegetables at every meal. I think the Chimichurri sauce on that pulled pork slider from the Piaggio Argentinian Food Truck has green in it.

This is Piaggio himself. Thanks for the veggies!

And now, the reason why so many people go to the LA County Fair: Chicken Charlie's! He's the guy that has never met a food he couldn't deep fry. I kind of worship this man. This year, Fury and I sampled his Fried Kool-Aid and Fried Ribs.

The Fried Kool-Aid is featured in the video below. As for the fried ribs, I really was kind of wary at first. I love ribs because they are fatty. Fatty is delicious. But even I would be afraid to dip that madness in batter and fry it without a large side of Pepto Bismol dipping sauce. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Chicken Charlie merely dusts the ribs with his own blend of spices, flour and cornstarch, rather than thick batter. That way, when you fry it, the ribs get tender inside and crisp on the outside, with no batter to weigh it down. Then, he slathers it with his own recipe tangy, spicy BBQ sauce to cut through the oil and fat. It's really heaven. And this here was my personal moment of zen:

Chicken Charlie approves.

How did we end this night of sanctioned gluttony? By riding the mechanical bull, of course. It's all in the video below. 

With tummies full of food and beverage, properly shaken, not stirred, Fury and I ambled (VIPs who have overindulged amble, FYI) back to the car. As we removed our badges, Fury made sure to point out "next year, my badge will say my name on it!" Aim high, blog boy!

Do you want to saunter in and amble out of the LA County Fair like a true Food Media Pro? Then just let me know in the comments below that you want to enter my drawing for a 4-pack of tickets (including a parking pass). The LA County Fair runs from now through Oct. 2, so even though I'm totally late on this post, there's still time to enjoy it.

I will be in China for the next few days on business, and will try to figure out time differences and pick a winner this Friday night. My blog is banned in China (wouldn't you do the same if you could?), but my comments are emailed to me, so it should be no problem. Unless they figure out I am BusyDad and give me work detail fixing up the Three Gorges Dam. In which case, it was nice knowing you. At least it'll allow me to work off those ribs.

Hello my name is Busy, and I like to do drawings

Last summer, d Wife went online to find Fury a lunchbox for the upcoming school year. I don't know how she stumbled upon it, but she ended up purchasing one from Go Green Lunchbox. When it arrived, I didn't think much of it. It was a lunchbox. I have better things in my life to pay attention to. But then I opened it. And my life changed.

It had a whiteboard in it.

If you know me from Twitter, you know that I

Love

Me

a

Whiteboard.

Naturally, I drew a ninja on it. Followed by Optimus Prime, then of course Boba Fett. And that's how Lunchbox Daily was born. Almost every day, I would draw a cartoon on the whiteboard and send Fury to school. I would also post it online. While I loved that people on the internet dug my cartoons (they even got a mention in Wired), my favorite accolades were the ones Fury gave me:

"Dad! I'm the 4th most famous kid at my school because of the lunchbox!"

"All the big kids crowd around the lunchtable to see what you drew."

"Mr. [asst principal] came by to see today's lunchbox."

"I didn't understand the lunchbox today."

While I have to admit that it can get really tedious thinking up things to draw every day of the week, Lunchbox Daily means a lot to me. First, Fury likes it. Also, my mom did the same thing for me when I was a kid. Every night, she would draw cartoons on me and my sisters' lunchbags. They usually had to do with something that happened that day, so I kept them all in a box, like a cartoon diary. Sadly, I have no clue where they are now, but the happiness they brought me is something I will always cherish and I wanted to pass that on.

Also, I want to let you know that over the summer, I painstakingly moved every single cartoon off of my Posterous blog and into their new home right on this blog. Because honestly, that site got more traffic than this blog and this is the one with my name attached to it and, dammit, traffic is a matter of honor and I want it here! Call me an internet Samurai.

Since today is also Fury's first day of school, I thought it was a good time to officially introduce you all to Lunchbox Daily and also post the first cartoon of the school year.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to give props to two essential elements of Lunchbox Daily: Go Green Lunchbox and Mabel's Labels.

Go Green Lunchbox is obvious. They make the lunchbox with the dry erase board on it. Why Mabel's Labels? Because they make cockroach-in-nuclear-winter durable labels, my friends. At the end of last school year, I noticed that the Mabel's Label affixed to Fury's Lunchbox survived the entire year! Fury would wear out a kevlar vest if you let him wear it to recess. Those are some tough labels. Also, they serendipitously became essential to this year's lunchbox and literally saved Lunchbox Daily. Read on...

You know the whole bento box craze that has been hitting the school lunch circuit these days? Go Green was doing this long before it was cool. So there. Their lunchboxes feature a durable outer insulated bag, with a compartmentalized container inside (the bento part, if you will).

And of course, there's the whiteboard on the inside cover. Go Green was nice enough to send me their latest model a few weeks ago; however I must admit that I was a little bit sad because they changed the whiteboard. It seems that they replaced the vinyl whiteboard from last year's model with a metallic one held by a green frame. I did a quick drawing test on it, and it takes dry erase ink better and erases more easily (on the vinyl one, I had to erase it with olive oil to get all the ink out). But what they gained in quality, they lost in size. This new whiteboard, because it is metallic, cannot be sewn directly on the canvas. It must instead sit inside a plastic frame that is sewn into the cover. While this improves writing quality and aesthetics, it greatly reduces drawing space.

I needed to mod this sucker out. Ever seen a grown man gettin' crafty? Now's your chance.

Yes, I'm doing crafts. Wanna make something of it?Like Orange County Choppers, but with lunchboxesThere's crazy in them eyesYes, like the hearts of my vanquished foe, the green frame was cut out of the lunchbox to give me more drawing room. But like the barbarian warriors before me, I cut first and pondered later: "How the hell do I get this metal whiteboard to stick to the canvas now??"

I'm bright like that.

Superglue doesn't work on metal. I don't care what the ads say. But you know what does? Mabel's Labels!! I had never really taken the time to handle a Mabel's Label in the past, so I had no idea that they weren't simply stickers. I have no idea what they are composed of, but they are not of this earth. You know the teflon tape that plumbers use to seal threads between pipes? That's kind of what they're like. Mabel's Labels are stretchy, and they will stick to anything -- and stay there. You want proof? Check it:

That whiteboard ain't going nowhere! And now I have more drawing space for the cartoons, and you can identify my son's lunchbox from outer space. You know what I want? I want a roll of unprinted Mabel's Labels. Just to fix stuff around the house.

I'm horrible at transitions, so here is where I simply tell you that I am giving away a make-your-own-lunchboxdaily-lunchbox kit. This kit includes: one Go Green Lunchbox of your choice, and a Mabel's Labels Ultimate Back-to-School Combo. Box cutter and crazy Asian not included.

To enter, just go to Go Green Lunchbox's site and choose the lunchbox you would want. Then write it in the comment section below. Also, tell me what you wish you could label if you could label anything in the world (because if you can't stick a Mabel's Label on it yet, I'm sure they'll eventually make one that will - yes I am giving them free market research). If you do both things, you will be entered into my drawing. I'll give you until the end of the day Friday. 

Hanker for a hunk of cheese

I have several cardinal rules that I stick to: never pass up a good parking space, always go for the lemon flavored choice, always watch Best in Show if you catch it on TV, and do whatever food related project Rachel ropes you into. Rachel told the Cabot Cheese people to send me two bricks of cheese and expect a write up.

I made up 2 recipes. I was always the teacher's pet.

But before I get to that, I wanted to say that I tried the cheese straight up. And it was good. I love cheese, but I'm not a connoisseur by any means, so all I can say is I ate it 'till my stomach hurt. That's got to count for something in the taster's notebook. But despite my best efforts, I still had two big hunks of cheese left that could easily be wielded to thwart a home invasion. Luckily, d wife was having some friends over that night. It would be like my own recipe focus group.

So I got to work and here's what I came up with.

On the menu tonight, we have Fancy-Ass Mac & Cheese with Cheddafied Brazilian Cheese Bread. Want to make it yourself? Just follow my recipes:

Fancy-Ass Mac & Cheese
Serves: a messload of people
Nutrition Information: There's fatty pork, butter and heavy cream in this. Live a little.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz (6 cups), Conchiglie, cooked and drained
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 6 tablespoons chopped chives, divided into 4 oz and 2 oz   
  • 1/4 lb Crimini Mushrooms (and some butter to sautee in)
  • 1/2 lb Pancetta
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup Panko Style bread crumbs
  • 2 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided into 4 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
  • 5 cups shredded Cabot 3-Year Cheddar cheese, divided into 4 cups and 1 cup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 3-quart casserole dish.

2. Cook the pasta according to instructions. I chose Conchiglie because it looked like it would really hold the sauce well. Notice how one end is pinched? That acts like a lobster trap. The sauce goes in, and is too dumb to turn around and escape.

3. Slice up the mushrooms and sautee them with the shallots and butter. I don't remember the timing. Just do it until it looks good. I'll trust that you know how to do that.

4. Cook the pancetta. Do it just like you would fry up bacon.

Pancetta is essentially bacon, but it isn't smoked after curing, like bacon is. If that's too hard to remember, just look at it as "bacon when I want to impress people with my gourmet-ness." Because that's pretty much what it is. After cooking, chop it. At this point, it looks and tastes like bacon, but less smoky, which is good if you want the flavor of the cheese to be your focal point. See? There is a method to my madness.

5. Take that one tablespoon of butter you set aside and melt it. Pour the panko breadcrumbs and the 2 oz chives you set aside into the butter and use your hands to mix it all up. Lick fingers. Mmm... buttered crunchies.

6. Combine cornstarch, salt, dry mustard and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in heavy cream, water, and butter. Cook over medium-heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 4 cups cheese until melted. Add the Pancetta and the 4 oz chives you set aside. Add cooked pasta; mix well.

7. Pour into your casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese. Then top with the breadcrumb mixture.

8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is in melted and light brown.

9. Test on a child.

Have you ever gone to a Brazilian Barbecue joint? If you have, then you're familiar with Brazilian Cheese Bread, those chewy cheesy morsels that go so fast that you have to fill out an application and put down a deposit to reserve one. Fret no more. Plus, they're gluten-free, if you're into that sort of thing.

Cheddafied Brazilian Cheese Bread
Makes 40 puffs, which is one serving, if you are my wife or son.


Ingredients:

  • 4 cups tapioca flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cabot cheddar
  • 4 eggs
  • A mini-muffin tin

Before you begin, I just wanted to say that it might be really hard for you to find tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch). Aside from this Brazilian dish and some Asian desserts, I don't know of anything that calls for tapioca flour. And no, you can't really substitute anything for it because the chewy, springy nature of tapioca flour is what makes this bread so irresistible. I went to Whole Foods and couldn't even find it. And they had whack ass flours of every variety there. I almost wasn't going to post this one because if the only place you can buy the ingredient is at an Asian market, then 99% of you won't be able to make it.

Harder to find than Kanye's humility

However, my friend Schadenfreudette (whom I gave this recipe to months ago), told me she was able to find it. And she lives in Texas. So I was all yeehah, let's do this!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2. Bring the milk, salt, and butter to a boil in a sauce pan while constantly stirring mixture

3. Once boiling remove the mixture of milk, salt and butter from heat


4. Slowly add tapioca flour, stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed

5. Add the cheese and eggs to mixture

6. Mix until smooth

7. Fill each mini muffin cup all the way up


8. Bake until golden brown, usually about 20 minutes

9. Dump muffins, fill the tins up again and do the last step. Or, stop being a cheap bastard like me and get 2 mini muffin tins. It's worth it.

I hate you for doing this, dad! I'm going to run off with a Brazilian Cheesebread baker who drives a lowered Civic and we'll see who has the last laugh!

Bruce Lee, made practical

Hi there... if you regularly read this blog, then here's more of the same: a random video that I made.

If you're here because of something to do with Blogher (either you saw that this post was honored as one of Blogher's Voices of the Year in the Life category, or you met me at the conference in 4 days - yes I am talking about the past in the future kind of like that long time ago in a galaxy far far away stuff - and remembered the URL of my blog even though I didn't give you a business card - but it's not because you weren't worthy, it's because I didn't have any made - and that's not because I think I'm so popular that you should know me by sight - it's because I'm Asian and is it too much to ask that you be able to discern ONE Asian guy out of, what, 3 Asian dad bloggers in the world? - no, that was unfair to put you on the defensive, I'm simply lazy), I figured I should have a post up that's not over a month old. Also, I felt it should be a post that represents me.

So this is the best I could do. I spoofed my hero, Bruce Lee. To spoof is to love.

Until I can pimp my tie...

You know what? I'm really excellent at making pre-vacation to-do lists. Before we embarked on our family trip to visit my in-laws in the Philippines, I planned to tie up all my loose ends at work, and also complete my blogging obligations. That way, after the 16 hour flight, all I had to worry about was where my first cocktail was coming from.

You know what else? Turns out I'm really bad at following my excellent vacation to-do lists. As a result, a bunch of people at work still don't know I'm halfway around the world right now. Also... hello from the Philippines!

Why the sudden dedication to posting in a timely manner? Because the store I'm writing about really kicks ass, and they have a Father's Day promo, and I know it's too late to realistically promote anything in time for Father's Day, but I hope they forgive me because I'm posting from a foreign land while on vacation, and that should score some points.

A few weeks ago, Ridemakerz invited the family to spend a morning at their store. This involved picking out any toy car we wanted, and then going nuts customizing every aspect of it with rims, tires, aftermarket add-ons and stickers. Kid. Candy store. Badass candy store.

Looking the part is half the battle. Getting ready to pimp our RIDEZ.And that's pretty much the entire concept right there. But really, do you need more than that? Fury picked a Dodge Viper body, while I went with a Corvette. As did Lessi.

She's a Chevy gal. I did good.What I really wanted was the Camaro body because that's the car I drove throughout high school, but it wasn't yet available to the public at the time of the event. They just teased us with a preview model, which I shot a picture of (it IS available now, along with cars from the Cars 2 movie).

Not exactly my '84 Camaro, but almost as coolAfter that, we got to pick 'chassiz' for our vehicles, which we bolted on ourselves at one of Ridemakerz' workstations, which are all equipped with timers for that pit crew experience. Fury picked a standard radio controlled chassis, and I went with the monster truck radio controlled chassis for my Corvette because I also wanted to make a truck, but they only had Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram bodies and the Chevy loyalist in me wouldn't allow me to do that. At least Angry Julie high fived me for that.

Fury asked Larry all of the hard questions, which he answered without skipping a beat. Larry is ready for the big time!After a little building advice from none other than the "ZEO" of Ridemakerz himself, Larry Andreini, Fury went to work.

The pit crew experience totally makes it worth the tripLook at how fast and furious he isI've met and worked for a lot of CEOs in my day, and they all act enthusiastic about their company and the people they work with. But what makes Larry stand out is that he actually IS enthusiastic. And he loves what he does. Larry isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and swap out a toy rim with his bare hands, or encourage a kid to throw a hood scoop on the hood, and an extra one on the roof, for that matter. If it looks good, it can't be wrong. Fury is really good at internalizing advice, which is probably how his Dodge Viper ended up with a winch.

You never know when you have to pull another streetrod out of the mud.Of course, some streetrods were built to never get stuck in the mud.But that's the point of Ridemakerz. You can pimp your Ride in a million different ways, and you can totally indulge the kid in you.

Pic courtesy of Angry Julie, who always manages to capture me when I'm happily doing immature things, which is awesome.

Although Ridemakerz isn't yet a household name (because they're currently only open in a few cities), if you happen to be close to one on Father's Day, I highly recommend that you take advantage of their Father's Day 2 for 1 special: build one Ride and build another for free. I love ties as much as the next guy, but there's a certain satisfaction you get from applying a flame decal that you can't get from anything else.

While I'm at it, here are a couple of other random Father's Day honorable mentions:

McCormick & Schmick's

There are a few reasons why I have a thing for McCormick & Schmick's. First, my mom brings us there to eat every time she's in town, so I always associate it with good things. Second, my buddy used to be the bar manager there and he brought me along with him whenever he did his alcohol run at the local wholesaler, which meant I got to buy jugs of booze for cheap on his permit, like when you borrow your friend's Costco card to buy diapers. Third, last year McCormick and Schmick's invited me to a blogger appreciation dinner, where I met the executive chef and enjoyed an evening of fantastic eats... and I never got around to writing about it. Guilt. The greatest motivator of all.

Anyway, they invited me to submit a paragraph on why I should win their Deserving Dad contest. If I win, I get 12 dinners for two on them. Only thing is, I hate pimping myself for contests so I never promoted it. Also, I'm not on Facebook and it's a Facebook based contest. I think there's one day left. I'm probably in last place. If you click over, I'd just like you to read my entry on why I love being a dad. No need to vote, just read it.

Also, if you find yourself at a McCormick & Schmicks this weekend, you should enter yourself in their Father's Day Ultimate Golf Experience contest. You have until 11:59 pm EST June 19 to enter to win a 3-day golf trip to one of GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses.

Oh, they also are giving away a $50 gift certificate to one of my lucky readers. I know you won't get it in time for Father's Day, but personally, I think anytime is a good time for raw oysters. Just mention in the comments below that you'd like to be entered into my drawing and I'll throw your name in for it.

Wendy's is doing good for foster kids

Did you know that my day job involves helping government agencies track the treatment of child abuse and neglect among Los Angeles County's child welfare/foster care system? True story. So when Wendy's contacted me about Wendy's Father's Day Frosty Weekend, I felt it was kind of my duty to pass it along.

On Father's Day Weekend (June 18, 19), Wendy's will donate 50 cents of every Frosty sold to support Wendy's Wonderful Kids, which finds permanent homes for foster children. In addition, they will donate another 50 cents if you Treat it Forward (http://www.facebook.com/Frosty) by doing the following:

  • Tweet using the hashtag #TreatItFwd
  • Give a “virtual” Frosty as a gift
  • “Virtually toast” your dad by snapping a photo of you raising your Frosty cup, tagging it with the words “Wendy’s Father’s Day Frosty Weekend”
  • Tell friends about Father's Day Frosty Weekend through the application
  • ‘Check-in’ to a Wendy’s during Father’s Day Weekend using Foursquare and a 50¢ donation will be made.

Taking the guilt out of eating ice cream and tweeting? Sign me up!

And a very happy Father's Day to you all! Now can I get my cocktail?

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.

I Don't Remember

9 years ago today, I discovered how hard it is to perform a simple task like verify that there are 10 little fingers and toes when your heart is racing at 160 bpm, and your brain is at once bewildered, amazed and freaked the hell out. That's probably why I don't remember much from that first night you made me a dad. It was simply too amazing to comprehend.

But over time, you settled well into being my son, I settled into being your dad, and my brain settled back to full functionality. I remember your first word (Ack, which meant car. Of course.). I remember your first step. Your first bite of non baby food (chocolate cake!), your first day of preschool, your first Lego set (Star Wars V-Wing), your first pair of Converse, your first Christmas, your first plane ride, your first haircut...

Then just the other night, as I was about to go to bed, I stopped by your room to check on you. Only it wasn't you. It was some kid whose feet could almost touch the end of the bed.

I don't remember when Bob the Builder stopped being his favorite show...

I don't remember the last time I used kitchen shears to snip his vegetables into little unchokeable pieces...

I don't remember when I stopped reflexively hoisting him up to sit on my shoulders wherever we went...

I don't remember when he stopped yelling "knock knock, dada" into the baby monitor every morning when he woke up...

I don't remember the last time he called me dada...

I don't remember when we stopped referring to ourselves as "2 and a baby" whenever we left our names with the restaurant host...

I don't remember the last time I tied his shoes...

I don't remember how this:

Turned into this:

I guess it still is too amazing to comprehend.

At least I remembered it's your birthday, son. Happy Birthday, Fury!

Love,

Dada

80's TV and baby feeding: what you should know

Hey everybody! I got a new job. Actually, I went back to an old job. It's complicated. Anyway, the point isn't that I got a new job. The point is, I'm trying to make excuses for not putting up a real post since mid-December. But considering my new/old job is only 15 min from my house and I have complete flexibility over my hours, I'm not presenting a very good case.

So...

Cute baby!

This is Lessi, not cooperating with the morning routine. One of the perks of making your own hours is the freedom to stay at home and get oatmeal tossed in your face when your baby doesn't much feel like eating. Over the past 10 months (yes, she is almost a YEAR old!! Wha??), I've been honing my distraction skills. Usually, breaking out the ring of measuring spoons is enough to divert Lessi's attention from fighting the feeding so that she'll open her mouth when a bite comes her way. But not this morning. The Elmo voice didn't even work. Don't ask.

Having exhausted all viable options, I began the drum intro... bum-bum, badda bumbumbum...

"Wait, what's this?"

The A-Team theme song!

I had to sing it about 12 times, but Lessi bopped, bounced and smiled the whole time. And ate every single bite of her oatmeal.

I love it when a plan comes together.

UPDATE:
For video proof of the effectiveness of this method, see here.

Some Hot Webcam Action

I like to play with fire. And utensils. So does MrLady. Wanna join us?

While we can't get all TSA on you, if you register for our live cooking class on Wed, March 16, we'll try to stimulate something. Hopefully it's your desire to cook. At 8pm EST, MrLady and I are going to be hosting a live video cooking class on the web called "Cooking with Dad." Part of Cooking Connections, the online cooking school series sponsored by ConAgra Foods and hosted by TheMotherhood.com, this segment was originally meant for dads, but we realized that it's really meant for anyone who wants to turn up the culinary charm, but is afraid to do much more than make a one-inch slit in cellophane and set the microwave for 5 minutes.

In this class, we'll show you how to cook the same "fancy" meal in two distinct styles: Asian and Western. We promise that it will be easier than you ever imagined. However, we can't promise that I won't break into my Yan Can Cook impression. Distracting you from our awkward pauses will be our wonderful co-hosts, who will be chiming in via live text chat on the show page to keep you informed and entertained:

Julie of Angry Julie Monday
Mishelle Lane of Secret Agent Mama
Ashley Evans of Schadenfreudette
Tanis Miller of Attack of the Redneck Mommy
Dan Deguia of Deguia.net
Lotus Carroll of Sarcastic Mom
Melanie Sheridan of Mel, a Dramatic Mommy
PJ Mullen of Real Men Drive Minivans
Momo of Momo Fali
Robin Sue Joss of Big Red Kitchen
Eddie Carroll of Life One Pixel at a Time

While we've got the cooking thing covered, we do need your help to fill the hour. We've decided to go with SNL style commerical breaks created by YOU. If you want to submit a commercial (it can be for anything, but keep it to 30 sec 60 seconds* [really Busy Dad, you never ever should have given Mr Lady keys to your blog. Just sayin.], stay PG-13 and don't piss off the sponsor, duh), just film it before Wed, March 16, upload it to Vimeo and let us know where to find it. We'll play them throughout the hour and have the audience choose their favorites. The top 3 vote getters will each win a gift basket from ConAgra Foods.

Hope to see you then!

Register for "Cooking with Dad" here.

*Life Lesson 327 from Mr Lady: You want something done right? Do it yourself.

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.

Stones, birds and killing them

Help me fellow blogger... you're my only hope.

Some of you may know that I'm going to be speaking at Blissdom in a few days. This is not unlike me, 28 years ago, saying "some of you may know, I have a book report due in a few days." Because tonight is when I crack open the book, read as fast as I can and hope that some semblance of coherence comes out of my mouth later on. Also, since speaking at a blog conference kind of requires one to have a blog, I have to dig this old thing up and post on it.

So, bird #1. Killed.

For bird #2? I'd like to use one of my lifelines: blog a friend.

My presentation is titled: Innovative Writing Techniques: How to Keep Your Audience Breathless

Funny story behind this. See, I'm a lazy home writer. A large part of my day job involves writing, as in proper intro paragraphs, good grammar, sentence transitions, punctuation, and all these other elements that communicate an idea as coherent narrative. This means that when I write for pleasure, the last thing I want to do is use any of that. Instead, I do lazy things like make videos, impersonate the Food Network, sing duets, dance, write fake newspaper articles, make more videos, do mad libs, write some Haikus, eat dog food (and put it on video), make lists, photoshop LEGO scenes, etc. All in an effort to avoid paragraphs. And I say it's worked out pretty well so far.

Until someone thought it was innovative.

Now I have to stand there in front of hundreds, dozens, tens, some people and talk about it. Is this what they call a public calling out? Luckily, I have some real pros helping me with this (Amy Turn Sharp and Leslie Flinger). But I still need to drag some others down with me. My powerpoint skills only go so far.

Here's where you come in: I would like to highlight as many "innovative" blog posts as I can during my presentation. Have you ever written a post that conveys an idea or story in an unorthodox way? Something that wasn't neatly wrapped up in an intro paragraph, 2 body paragraphs and a conclusion?

If so, leave me a link to it in the comments below. I may use it in my presentation at Blissdom. You scratch my back, I get Blissdom attendees to marvel at how creatively lazy you are.

I can see the birds falling out of the sk...

Too soon? Yeeeah, sorry.

My Middle Name

The crowd was evenly split, half of them waving dollar bills while mockingly encouraging their chosen gladiator, Jeff. The other half doing the same, but chanting "Greasy! Greasy! Greasy!"

Greasy Lee. I didn't choose that name. It was bestowed by the 5th grade bully elite upon the chubby Asian kid who always happened to suffer bad hair days.

I glanced across the makeshift arena, which was nothing more than a clearing between two boulders and a tree stump in the woods behind the school. Jeff and I locked eyes. Not in aggression, but more in a desperate telepathic attempt to assure the other that we were doing this for our mutual survival.

I don't remember the fight. But I do remember sitting in math class afterwards, unable to write anything on the worksheet in front of me because my hand was trembling uncontrollably. I also remember the dozens of perfect red dots on Jeff's white polo shirt, which matched the missing skin on my middle knuckle.

There we were. The only two Asian kids in an otherwise white working class New England town, divided and conquered.

* * * *

When we first moved to the suburbs from the heart of Boston, it was every kid's dream come true. A sprawling ranch-style house with a huge playroom, a circular driveway for unhindered bike riding, and an immense backyard. Which meant I could get a dog. Summer was everything it was supposed to be.

Fall meant starting a new school, but I wasn't worried. I had switched schools a couple times before, and it always brought with it new friends. Also, this was the first time I was going to take a bus to school. Just like in the movies!

And the first few moments were just as I had pictured. As we drove up to the corner, I noticed a group of kids laughing, chatting and probably catching up, dressed in their shiny, new back-to-school best.

I said bye to my dad, jumped out of the car and made my way over to my new friends.

"Ching chong!"

"ah sooo!"

"Hey, chink!"

I sat by myself, at the back of the bus.

* * * *

Having grown up in a multi-cultural part of Boston, the only ethnic stereotyping I ever encountered was Bugs Bunny putting on a rice paddy hat every once in a while and bowing at Elmer Fudd. When you're 7, it's kind of funny. When it's not happening to you, it's kind of funny.

Moving to the suburbs in 4th grade taught me a lot about race. Namely, that it mattered. That when you're different, or your parents speak to you in a tongue no one else can understand, people are allowed to make fun of you. I mean, if you think about it, it is kind of funny when a girl walks up to you at recess, smiles and asks you:

"what do you call a fat Chinese kid?"

(smiling back) "What."

"A chunk."

And you learn to laugh along. With every karate chop, ching chong, buck toothed smile, and slant eye gesture they can throw at you.

You also learn to hate your race.

* * * *

"What's your middle name?"

"I don't have one."

* * * *

Eating by myself in the lunchroom had its advantages. On the occasional day when my mom would pack me a steamed bun, shrimp chips or something equally Asian, I could dine incognito, safe from ridicule.

* * * *

"If you don't practice your Chinese, you'll forget it," mom would remind me.

"If it means people forget I'm Chinese, I'll take it," I thought.

* * * *

Jeff didn't look Asian to me. Maybe it's because I'd never met anyone who was only half Asian. But he didn't make fun of me, so there was that. Having someone to sit next to on the school bus and eat lunch with is sometimes all you need to quell the stomachaches that well up before you walk out your front door each morning. Also, he had Atari.

We'd still get picked on, but when you travel in numbers, even if it's two, you take half the punishment.

* * * *

"Why aren't you wearing green?"

"I'm not Irish," I replied.

"Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day," Chris threatened.

"I'm American, so I'm wearing blue," I countered.

I think the kids savored beating me up that day, more so than usual. American. How dare Greasy Lee say that? He eats shrimp chips.

* * * *

Jeff and I got into an argument one day. I don't remember about what. Probably something we would have gotten over the next day.

"Hey Greasy, I'm betting all my lunch money you can beat him up."

"Kick his ass, Greasy. I'm betting two dollars you can."

"We're setting up a fight for you at recess tomorrow. Don't be a pussy, Greasy."

I went to sleep that night, replaying in my head the right cross that Frankie taught me on the school bus. While sitting next to me.

* * * *

I was riding the school bus home one afternoon and grateful that I might make it through the day free of being teased. Two more stops. As I sat there, not really looking at anything or anyone, my gaze met Lenny's, one of the only Black kids in my town. We hesitated for a moment.

"What are you looking at, chink?"

"Fuck you, nigger."

* * * *

My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Cruickshanks was a World War II veteran. He "stormed Iwo Jima and killed Japs." His war stories were actually quite entertaining. He had a passion for them. Science? Not so much.

One day, we were learning about lighting, and how you're safest in a car during a lightning storm.

"Does anyone know why?" he asked the class.

"Because of the rubber tires," he answered for us.

I raised my hand. "Mr. Cruickshanks, that's actually not true. It's because electricity in its quest to be grounded travels around the metal frame of the car and into the ground. In order for the rubber to even be a factor in insulating you from electricity, it would have to be 3 miles thick." [I had actually just learned this at the Museum of Science.]

Mr Cruickshanks stopped writing on the board, turned around slowly and removed his glasses.

"Jim, go back to Shanghai."

* * * *

I studied hard that year, and worked harder than I ever worked. Because all I wanted was get into private school the next year. I didn't do it for the academic challenge. I didn't do it because it would set me up to go to an elite college. I didn't do it because I could reach my full potential. I did it so the teasing would stop. Turns out you can motivate an 11-year old, after all.

And after I made it in, the teasing did stop. I even took Chinese my junior and senior year.

* * * *

"What's your middle name?"

"Oh, it's just my Chinese name. You'll forget it once I tell you, so I'm not gonna bother."

* * * *

By the time college rolled around, I had practically forgotten all about 4th, 5th and 6th grade. I mean, I was doing people a favor not telling them my middle name. I didn't want them to be embarrassed if they mispronounced it, right?

* * * *

Around when Fury was born, I was chatting it up with some guys at work. Someone made a joke about Asians, but quickly apologized to me. A co-worker of mine jumped in.

"Jim? Come on, he's whiter than any of us white guys!"

That made me proud. Then a little bit disgusted.

* * * *

The other day, I was packing Fury's lunch.

"Dad, can you pack me some shrimp chips for snack?"

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I want shrimp chips."

"Ok, but I don't want the other ki-- Ok, I'll pack you shrimp chips."

* * * *

My middle name is Ching-Kuo. And you can pronounce it just fine.

Spreadsheets are like Zen to me (giveaway winner announcement)

A good spreadsheet makes sense of the world. It gives every data point a reason to exist. It is the matrix, defined, contained and tangible.

Within these rows and columns exists power. The power to decide who actually got a return on investment for watching my Saw video and completing the challenges I put forth. I thank all of you who participated. It is cool readers like you who enable me to host these giveaways in the first place. Without you, I am blogging into a void. The void is buzzkill. The void doesn't thank me and say that I'm awesome when random.org chooses it to win an Xbox.

But I ramble... let's get to the winners, shall we?

Tony Hawk Shred for Wii: Gnilleps
Battle Machines: Rebecca
Atari Greatest Hits for Nintendo DS: Otter321 of Life of a New Dad (who granted me a redneck pass earlier this year) and JasKerr
Aerial7 Headphones: Zakary of Raising Colorado (I just call her Grasshopper)
Me and Goji custom cereal: Austin
Xbox Kinect: Becky of The Violet Fig (Who happens to be a fan of my rappin skillz. Good things come to those who endure my karaoke.)

Thanks for playing! If I get around to making the home edition of the BusyDad Game Show, I'll send a copy to everyone who entered my contest. It's hours of enjoyment in the comfort of your own home.

Winners will be emailed. I'm just posting this because it'll buy me a few days to think of something interesting to write...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So real, you gotta wear a helmet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Go retro.

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

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

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

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

2) Wear a beanie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT?

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

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

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

*  *  *  *  *

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

What an anniversary can teach you

Today is me (my?) and Lisa's 9th wedding anniversary. 9 years ago today, we took a leap of faith. And while all the dust hasn't yet cleared, we're still standing. And we've got two more standing beside us. Well, not really. One is kind of rolling around and eating her feet. And I've learned a few things...

Doing the right thing is often the right thing

When Lisa and I first met, we were different people. We had also been 3 or 4 drinks into it. She was here on business from a foreign land. We clicked. I liked her carefree attitude, she liked my shaved head. We spent a weekend together. Then she went up to Northern CA to visit relatives. I drove up there to hang out with them (I'm weird in that I actually enjoy hanging out with relatives). I cooked dinner for them. Good move. Then she and the relatives went to Vegas. I tagged along. Our first and last dinner date was at Denny's. Awesome. Then, just like that, she was on a plane and gone. She went her way and I drove back to LA alone. But little Fury had other plans. Namely, he wanted to be born.

We went back to Vegas. We drove back to LA together.

Just the other day, she watched an old video of mine and remarked "ew, you looked ugly with a shaved head." And then she made me a To-Do list for the next day. 9 years. That's a whole lotta evolving.

We make smart kids

Did you know that if you teach a kid the average gestation period of a human baby, then teach him basic math, followed by the order of the months of the year, they can somehow take that disparate knowledge and apply it to the real world?

Yesterday, Lisa was telling Fury that our 9th anniversary was coming up. Fury paused for a moment.

"So... you were pregnant when you were married? Cool!"

We make awesome kids

Last night, around 3am, I heard Fury's alarm go off. He hit the snooze button. 10 minutes later, it went off again. Then I heard shuffling. And papers. Then I saw a figure tiptioe into our bedroom. This morning, on each of our nightstands was a handwritten note from Fury, wishing us a happy anniversary.

Let me be the SECOND person to wish my wife a very happy 9th anniversary! Happy Anniversary, Lisa!

- Love, Jim

(Dinner at Denny's tonight! woooo!!)

Dexter cooks. With Kikkoman.

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

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

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

Loaded Mashed Potato Patties

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

Tempura Apples

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

Shreddin' with Razor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because we never turn down Star Wars reviews

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

Today, Fury and I review two Star Wars things:

Millennium Falcon: A 3-D Owner's Guide

Roomates Peel & Stick Clone Wars Wall Decals

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

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

Good enough?