Me with a stickblender, singing Johnny Cash

I can tell you one thing: if anyone ever does a Google search for kitchen appliances and Johnny Cash, I can rest assured that my blog will rank prominently.

You deserve some background. Kenmore has invited me to their Kenmore Live Studio in Chicago this coming weekend for a Blogger Summit to check out some of their latest innovations for the home. As part of this, they're giving the good citizens of the internet (remember when the term was netizens? wow, what was your AOL address back then?) a chance to win Kenmore gift cards ($25, $50 and $100) for submitting innovative ways to use everyday appliances to complete day-to-day chores. In their words, "what is your most unusual, yet practical, use of a common household appliance?"

Need a bad example? Watch this video. I think I scored ok on the innovation front, but pretty much failed in the "yet practical" department.

No matter... all the more chances for you to win. There are only a few rules:

  1. Submission must be in video form. For now, just upload to YouTube or something and post your link in the comments. If you're chosen for the next round, you will need the original file handy (preferably in Quicktime).
  2. Unless the appliance is Kenmore, make sure the brand isn't visible (tape works wonders).
  3. Submit it here by Wednesday, Jan 18 by 6pm PST.
  4. This is for US residents only (sorry Canada, you know I totally dig you still!)

Psst... I think you have a really good chance of winning. This is a short turnaround contest, which means fewer entries than you probably think. Turn that camera on and submit something, anything! Go! Go! Go!

But does it pass the Tiger Dad test?

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

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

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

Coughing all the way

The first year I moved to California, my entire family went on vacation to Hong Kong for the holidays. Because of my work schedule, I couldn't go with them. Luckily, I appreciate solitude, and since I was a newly independent single guy, the prospect of spending the holidays by myself in LA didn't seem as sad as it did on paper. But then I got the flu. All by myself. With no one to take care of me. Worst Christmas ever!

This is why I keep a mental checklist to make sure that everyone in my family gets sick before the holidays. Ok, so it's not like I cough in their faces or lick the doorknobs come November or anything. It's more of a peace of mind kind of list. If someone gets sick close enough to the holidays, I know I won't have to worry about them being under the weather once the festivities begin.

So far so good, this year.

My wife is sick right now. She took a sick day yesterday and went to work today, which means she'll be fine by Christmas Eve.

Lessi had the flu in November, and has been sniffly and coughy for a little while. Nothing too intense, which is good. I hate it when babies are miserable. Right now, she is all happy and giggly, but shoots a mean snot rocket every so often. Lisa bought one of those Vicks vaporizer machines for her room. That thing rules. I'll walk in during the course of the night, stand over it and take a deep inhale. Yes, I inhaled. Lessi also likes to take hits off the Vicks minty stick thing (my apologies: I am a Vicks Blogger Brigade member and I'm making up names for their products). In the spirit of disclosure, I did NOT receive any of my Vicks products for free. We went and bought all that with money, so I guess it's ok if I name them myself. Moving on...

Fury got some nasty stomach flu that took him down for a few days earlier this month. Poor kid. Glad that's over with. I noticed today that he sounded a bit nasally, so I'm a little worried. But he's on Winter Break right now, so his "fun fun fun!" gland is probably working overtime, and that has cold-fighting effects, I've heard. He's playing video games right now. I just walked up behind him and slathered some Vicks Vapo Rub on his throat. Why? Because I'm a Vicks ambassador, that's why!

As for me? I have some weird ailment going on. Everything feels sprained. Not sore, but actually sprained. I've had body aches from the flu before, and these aren't those. It literally feels like I fell on each and every one of my fingers and it hurts to move them. Same with my neck and my back and my knees. Even my tongue. I'm afraid to get on WebMD. I'm also coughing so much it wakes me up at night. I'm sure glad I have a tub of VapoRub. And a butter knife.

But you know what would make me really feel better? If you went to Vicks' Facebook page and and sent me a Vicks "Feel Better Friend" virtual giftbox. Because I can't send one to myself. I tried. Shut up, I'm covering up emotional scars. Psychotherapeutics aside, "Feel Better Friend" is free and really cool. In fact, you can send one to all your friends who are feeling craptacular. The page scans your friends' updates and tells you who's sick based on their updates. Then you can swoop in and look like the hero. Win-win. Cough... cough...whimper...

Another year, another ode to Dexter

Tomorrow night at this time, I will be trying to employ strategies to distract myself from the fact that I won't be able to watch another episode of Dexter for an entire year. I'm one of those people who gets genuinely angry when the credits begin to roll, so you can imagine what it's like to watch a season finale with me. Some couch pillows gonna get punched.

Last year my love for Dexter manifested itself in a Halloween costume (with matching office decor).

Then I made a "How Dexter Would Cook a Turkey" video.

This year, I wrote a seasonally appropriate poem. And by sharing it with you, I'm killing two birds with one roll of Saran Wrap, because I'd also like you to know that you can now find me writing for MamaPop.

What? Jim writing for MamaPop??? Yeah, that's what everyone says. Then again, you didn't know Mister Rogers was a Marine sniper either, did you? (I know it's an urban legend, but the analogy worked too well so go with it).

I'm only two posts in and I've already blown most of my pop culture wad. My first post was about Guns N' Roses, and the post that went live today is about Dexter. I guess I'll just post about Star Wars from here on out until they cut me off.

So anyway, without further excuses, please enjoy my latest: Twas the Night Before the 'Dexter' Season 6 Finale.

May the Force be Merry

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

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

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

Today was that day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm so unorthodox with Thanksgiving (some crazy recipes)

... that I don't even do my post about it anywhere near November.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is a state of mind. It's an anytime, all the time kind of thing. Or at least it should be. Read this and you'll agree.

So, Thanksgiving... it's never really been a turkey kind of day for my family. First, my parents were from Asia. Nobody eats turkey in Asia. Nobody uses ovens there, either. Both facts aren't very conducive to late November turkey consumption. In our household, improvisation sometimes led to wonderful things, like my mom's sticky-rice stuffing. Other times, it led to microwaving the holiday bird to a nice grey hue (but to be fair, this was the early eighties when carousel microwaves were the new shiny thing, and the cookbook that came with ours told us it would be the juiciest thing we ever ate, and they were kind of right... it was the juiciest grey thing any of us ever ate).

Over the decades, we've since had our fair share of properly-prepared turkey. Some, like the deep fried variety, were better than others, but I still can't say I'm a fan. I'll eat it once or twice a year, but mostly to get into the spirit of the holidays. It's strictly ceremonial fare for me. Or in my case last year, a psychopathic ritual.

And like last year, Kikkoman sent me a box full of stuff and challenged me to make something with it. So I did. And these dishes were part of this year's Thanksgiving dinner. All of the following recipes are my own. However, they were all field tested on humans, and all of them ended the evening smiling, despite the lack of turkey on the table.

The two mainstays of the night were tried and true favorites that I've posted about in the past. Click on them to get the respective recipes:

Rib Roast (upon re-examination, there's no recipe. Only tantalizing pictures.)
BusyDad's Killa Clam Chowda

I also made sauteed green beans with almonds and a baked brie with fig jam, but I improvised those and did not write the recipes down.

Here are the dishes that I conjured up using Kikkoman ingredients:

Far Eastside Chicken Fried Steak

First time I ever had Chicken Fried Steak was in Texas, visiting my uncle about 30 years ago. I haven't been the same since. You just cannot go wrong taking a hunk of beef, deep frying it and drowning it in gravy. In fact, it may qualify you for sainthood. This is my version of the classic American dish, with a little Asian gangsta lean. It uses Kikkoman Kara Age coating (it's ginger-soy flavored breading, usually for chicken and fish) and a Terriyaki cream sauce... with bacon in it. You feeling me?

Ingredients:

For the steak

  • 1 pouch Kikkoman Kara-Age mix
  • 1.5 lb cube steak
  • Oil, for deep frying (the more the merrier)

for the sauce

  • 1 C Heavy Cream
  • 1/8 C Kikkoman Terriyaki Sauce
  • 1/2 bunch scallion (green onions)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water
  • Toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Preparation:

  1. Pour the Kara-Age into a plastic bag (I used a gallon sized zip loc type bag).
  2. Add the cube steak into the bag and shake it like you used to help your mom make Shake n Bake.
  3. Deep fry the coated steaks for approximately 5-6 min. Set aside.
  4. To make the sauce, melt the butter and throw in the scallion and sautee for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add heavy cream and Terriyaki sauce, bring to a boil.
  6. Add cornstarch mixture. Simmer and stir.
  7. Add bacon bits.
  8. To plate this, cut up steaks on a diagonal, place on a mound of rice, drizzle with sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds over the whole thing.

Note: d Wife added this sauce to egg noodles a few days later. It was quite amazing. Pre-emptively apologize to your arteries, however.

Not-a-Vegetable Mac 'n Cheese

Now that congress has deemed pizza a vegetable, I have to try extra hard to make decadent foods for the holidays. Because who wants health food when you're celebrating? Where there's a will, there's a way. This version of macaroni and cheese is proof of that. d Wife really loves Brie. I love heavy cream and prosciutto. The crunchy, buttery topping is made from Kikkoman Panko Bread Crumbs (hands down the best on the market). Still with me? Read on.

Ingredients:

Macaroni:

  • 16 oz (6C), Macaroni cooked and drained
  • 4 Tb cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 oz Prosciutto randomly torn into little pieces
  • 3 C heavy cream
  • 2 C water
  • 4 Tb butter
  • 3 1/2 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese,
  • 1 1/2 C shredded Brie (it's easier to shred if you freeze it first)
  • 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 C peas, cooked

Panko Crumb Topping:

  • 2 C Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tb dried chives
  • 1 C shredded cheddar
  • 4 Tb butter, in slices/chunks

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 3-quart casserole dish.
  2. Cook heavy cream, water, butter, cornstarch, salt, mustard and pepper in medium saucepan over medium-heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Boil a minute longer. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Add prosciutto, apple and peas. Reeeemix!
  3. Set aside. Make topping.
  4. Combine crumbs, chives and butter. Use two forks and roughly cream it so it's chunky, not smooth.
  5. Pour macaroni into prepared casserole dish. Top with the 1 C cheddar, and then crumb topping.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Audacious Key Lime Crunch Pie

There are few foods that I believe should never be sullied with extraneous things: cheesecake, hummus, ribeye steak, oysters, cannoli, whiskey, coffee... and key lime pie. I had the audacity to mess with a classic. Thus, the name. This delicious aberration improves upon the standard graham cracker crust by using Anna's Ginger Thins. I have never been a fan of ginger snaps, but have you ever had Anna's Ginger Thins? They are unreal. I figured if I was going to mess with the tried and true, I had to go all out. I also added some texture to the key lime part by going with a Kikkoman Panko topping, into which I added lime zest. I still have a tupperware of extra topping in my fridge, into which I stick my tongue occasionally. Speaking of things to stick your tongue into, this is topped with homemade whipped cream.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 C Anna's Ginger Thins crumbs (1 pack)
  • 1 1/2 Tb sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 Tb unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1 14-oz can condensed milk
  • 1/3 C bottled key lime juice
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 Tb sugar
  • 3 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt

Panko Crumb Topping:

  • 1/2 C panko crumbs
  • 1/8 C sugar
  • 2 Tb butter
  • Zest of 1/2 lime

Whipped Cream:

  • 1.5 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 3 Tb powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

For Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix crumbs, sugar, salt.
  3. Add butter, stir. Press into 9 in. glass pie dish.
  4. Bake 5 min. Cool.

For Filling:

  1. Preheat oven to 275.
  2. Whisk all filling ingredients in large bowl until smooth. Pour into cooled crust.
  3. Bake 10 min until center is partly set.
  4. Remove pie, turn temp up to 350.
  5. Sprinkle crumb topping over pie.
  6. Put back in oven and bake 25 more min.
  7. Let it cool, then stick in the refrigerator overnight, or a few hours if you can't wait.

For Whipped Cream:

With a mixer, beat all ingredients until it resembles whipped cream. Steal a few spoonfuls of it, then serve on pie.

Ninja training involves acts of self-deprivation

The improbable burger review: a PR case study

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion, this post happened as a result of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a tad windy the other day

I got a call from d wife in my hotel room the other night while I was in San Francisco on business.

"It's really windy out right now and I'm scared. Our fence just blew over."

"Oh, a piece of the fence flew off? I'll check it out when I get home."

"No. It blew over."

"Oh. Well, don't worry. It won't get much worse than that."

...

...

...

...

 

A dad's job: reassurance, and occasionally talking out of our ass.

BusyDad's #Movember 'stache 11/1/11 - 11/30/11 RIP #NorelcoDads

We are gathered here today to pay respects to a vailiant spirit. One who defied all odds by simply existing. Who struggled tirelessly in the face of opposition, doubt and ridicule. It was a scrappy little spirit, my Movember moustache, and as the saying goes, it's not the follicles in the fight, it's the fight in the follicles. And micron for micron, my little moustache was the baddest of the bad.

And it made me bad by extension. Little kids, like my daughter would pull on it. Didn't pirates pull their beards before battle? Yeah, my daughter thought I was a pirate. My co-worker once asked me "Jim, are you growing something or are you too busy to shave?" That right, I'm too busy being a badass to shave. No one in my Muay Thai gym even noticed my facial hair. Why? Because they are ALL badasses and, you see, it just looked par for the course. When my coach finally did notice it, he straight-up said "that's badass." No ambiguity there.

However, the baddest thing my moustache ever did was join forces with 50+ other dads on the Movember Dad 2.0 team to raise over $12,000 to fight men's cancer. It's the fight in the follicles indeed. In fact, the collective follicles on my team made such a stir that Norelco decided to match our contribution and send us all electric razors to to mark the end of this epic month (my moustache told me to tell you all opinions on the video below are my own, because it was not only badass, it was also a legally compliant one).

Since the last day of Movember fell in the middle of a business trip to San Francisco, I got my razors Fed-Ex'd to the hotel. I wish I could have provided a more glorious venue for the ceremonial shaving of my courageous moustache, but sometimes when all you've got is a hotel sink, you make the best of it. You also make your business partner participate in your silly video. Again.

If seeing manly men shaving is your cup of tea, check out all of the Movember Dad 2.0 crew doing their thing on Norelco's Stache-Tacular Shave-Off site.

Oh, by the way, there's a nice $30 rebate on the SensoTouch 3D razor I used in the video here.

I home business school my kid

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

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

Lesson 1: Hammer out a supplier arrangement

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

Lesson 2: Philanthropy sells

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

Lesson 3: Don't put anything in permanent writing

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

Lesson 3.5: Slam your competitors a little bit

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

Lesson 4: Put the product into your customers' hands

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

Lesson 4: Lift with your legs, not your back

Or, always have your chiropractor on speed dial.

Lesson 5: Tend to your shop

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

Lesson 6: Provide security

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

Lesson 7: Woo high dollar customers

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

Lesson 8: Utilize partnerships to leverage resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson 12: Money does grow on trees

You just have to exploit the right ones.

SAHD for a day

I love being a working dad because, as much as I enjoy spending time with the kids, at least I can handle everything my boss throws at me. That eight hours a day of perceived control does wonders. It's really amazing what Microsoft Office has been able to achieve in the area of sanity preservation. Of course, the real world cannot be parsed into spreadsheet cells and Powerpoint slides, and sometimes it throws you a curve by handing you a feverish baby. Oh well, at least you can spend all day in your PJs:

Now I may be on the Vicks Blogger Brigade, and I might know a thing or two about making fluey sick babies feel better, but no I won't make house calls to watch Yo Gabba Gabba with you if you're feeling under the weather. What I will do, however, is go to Vick's "Feel Better Friend" Facebook app to make you a nice giftbox. I'll give you a virtual teddy bear, embed funny videos of me doing ridiculous things and write you a nice "get well" message -- all from the comfort of my germ-free office. It's simple to do, and will make your sick friends feel better (the coolest thing about this app is that it actually finds your sick friends for you). Sharing (on Facebook) is caring, people.

Another birthday would have been nice, even another day

"I never get sick. But the day I do, I will die."

I always humored my dad and chuckled along in customary admiration whenever he boasted about his hyper-evolved immune system, borne of "5,000 years of Chinese evolution." He took great pride in never taking a sick day, and availed himself of every opportunity to remind us that this was the true metric of one's strength and vitality as a human being. Of course this claim had nothing to do with the fact that he was a mere 130 pounds.

My junior year in high school, he got an offer to work overseas. My dad was a traditional bring-home-the-bacon kind of guy, so if being shipped off to Turkey meant more bacon for his family, he did it. Aside from a few summer visits, I essentially progressed from boyhood to manhood without my dad. 

A year after I graduated from college, I traveled alone to Turkey to visit him. We hung out, we drank, we gambled. We were just two guys, having a good time. A few years later, he came to LA to visit me. We went to Vegas, and we hung out, we drank, we gambled. Two guys, having a good time.

He missed my wedding, as well as the birth of Fury. I progressed from manhood to fatherhood without my dad.

In 2003, when Fury was just a year old, my dad asked me to start looking for a house near us. He wanted to retire; to come home and enjoy the fruits of his toil: his family. I could never picture my dad outside the context of his work persona, but as we visited more open houses, I began to picture him sitting on each respective porch, shooting the breeze with me. No fancy dinners, no casinos -- just a father and son, Scotches in hand, talking about life and comparing notes on the last 20 years.

In 2004, my dad got sick. I'm sure he took pride in the fact that it took lymphoma to finally knock him off his feet. But getting back up was hard, and my mom and sister flew to Turkey when it was too much to handle on his own. In May of that year, I got the dreaded call. I might want to get there as soon as possible. The next day, I was on a plane to Turkey, accompanied by the 2 year-old grandson my dad had yet to meet.

After 18 hours on a plane and an 8-hour layover in Munich, where a certain little boy would only stay quiet if I walked him around the airport on my shoulders, we stepped off the plane in Ankara. In contrast to the usual reception, my welcome party was somber. I expected that. Instead of the usual jokes about customs agents and Turkish prisons, no one said much. I expected that.

"You missed him by 90 minutes," my sister said. I expected that, too.

I felt nothing. Or if I did, I couldn't tell. I held my son on the ride to the hospital and tuned out. When we got there, my mom was waiting for me.

"Want to see dad?" she asked.

I handed Fury over to my sister and rode down the elevator with my mom and the doctor. When the door opened, I saw a gentleman lying on a stainless steel gurney, hair done perfectly, sporting a custom-tailored suit. A gentleman who took cremation as seriously as any meeting with his government contacts, accepting nothing less than being properly attired for the occasion.

I stood over him. My mom put her hand on my shoulder. And I began to cry -- the angry kind, where you pound something, like your deceased father's chest. I wasn't angry at him. I wasn't angry at the world. I wasn't angry at the airline schedule. I was angry for him. I was angry for Scotch conversations with his grown son he would miss out on. I was angry for him not being able to say hi and goodbye to his only grandson. I was angry for him because he never got to teach his son how to be a father. I was angry because this was all so close.

The next day, we visited his office to collect his belongings and say our thank yous and goodbyes. His colleagues entertained us with the usual superlative tales that one reserves for times like these, and we all laughed and remembered.

And then someone said "when Ambassador Lin was too weak from his chemo treatments to walk down the stairs from his office to go home, he'd simply sleep in his office. He never took a sick day."

Of course, we all expected that.

* * * *

One more birthday. It would have changed the world for him. He could have chided me over being a slacker dad and poured me another. He could have beamed with pride hearing his grandson say the words "am-baa-sa-dore!" He could have left the tie hanging in his closet for once in his life. One more birthday isn't simply one more birthday.

This is why I want to thank Tiny Prints and the American Cancer Society for including me in their "More Birthdays" campaign. If anyone could appreciate the significance of one birthday, it is me. Support the American Cancer Society by visiting Tiny Prints' "American Cancer Society Collection" and order a birthday card created by the American Cancer Society's More Birthdays artists. Every card sold enables the American Cancer Society to help more Americans celebrate another birthday. Plus, the cards are really cool because you can add your own picture and message inside them, like this:

These are Fury and my mom's next birthday cards, so if this is Fury or mom, don't look!

If you think one card can't make much of a difference, just ask someone who celebrated another birthday this year.

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. But my disdain for cancer is my own.   

#Movember Update, Day 9: Asian henchman #6 in training

It's been 9 days since I started trying to coax some whiskers in the name of prostate cancer. Let me just say that I've been made fun of online as well as in public (I spoke at Blogworld like this!), but you know what? The weaker my facial hair, the more opportunity I get to tell people why I'm doing this. Besides the "I wanna look like an Asian bad guy from an 80's action flick," of course.

I know my other Movember teammates have been kicking some ass on the moustache front as well as the money raising front, and I'm falling painfully behind on both. So help an Asian bad guy out, won't you? My Movember donation page is here: http://us.movember.com/mospace/2051428/

And yes, I know that technically, goatees aren't allowed. However, I read the rules, and they clearly define a goatee as a moustache that connects with the beard. Seeing as I have zero follicles that can complete said connection, I'm well within the guidelines.

I also stopped cutting my hair. Anything to distract your vision from the struggle going on atop my lip is a public service to you. You're welcome.

#Movember: Chillin' like an Asian villain

Understanding the following post requires knowledge of the following prerequisite facts:

1) I have never grown facial hair. I simply can't do it. Although that has never been empirically determined, there are some things in life you can extrapolate with confidence. My body is smoother than a baby-powdered baby's bottom. I am wind-tunnel tested, aerodynamic. My coefficient of friction is lower than Bank of America's approval rating. While it's generally an Asian thing to lack body hair, other Asians take one look at my silky legs and proclaim "damn, you SO Asian!"

2) I don't do anything I'm not good at. I'm too competitive.

3) I always wanted to look like an Asian villain. The best ones have cool facial hair. Cases in point:

 Odd Job from Goldfinger. Kickin' it old school.

Mr. Fuji from WWF. Fake kickin' it.

Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon. Fake kickin' it Asian, but I dig Max Von Sydow and will consider him an honorary one.Kickin' it generic. The "thug #4" guy who was in every 80's movie that had an Asian bad guy in it. Didn't he also play Genghis Khan in Bill and Ted's? I think so. 4) I don't like cancer.

5) I often buckle under peer pressure.

6) I like milestone numbers.

Last month, I got an email from Doug. He's the big daddy 'round these internet parts, and when he speaks, people listen (he also has an excellent radio voice in real life, so that helps). It was a mass email to the dad blogging collective, inviting us to join his Movember Dadblogger team. Movember is like a walk for hunger thing, but instead of walking, men grow moustaches. And instead of hunger, the money raised goes toward supporting awareness, research and survivorship for prostate cancer and other men's health issues. In other words, a really good cause. While this email invoked fact #4 (not liking cancer), it head-on collided with facts 1 and 2 (I'm bad at facial hair and I don't do things I'm bad at). Since it was a mass email, I quietly let it sit in my inbox, unresponded to.

But Doug is a bugger, and wouldn't let me off that easy. He emailed me. Individually. When I provided the excuse that my facial hair grows in all scraggly like a Vegas morning-after, he assured me that the worst facial hair growers usually raised the most money. While those of you who read this blog know that I am never above making a fool of myself for your entertainment (related: I really hope you watched the final 40 seconds of the video in my last post), I need to look presentable for work (I sell software to government folks). So Doug backed off.

And then a series of events happened.

  • He recruited Shannon to join in on the goading. This went on for weeks with the two of them. Oh fact number 5 (peer pressure wimp), you are a scourge to my existence!
  • I saw Real Steel, and was reminded that Asian villains are cool. Fact #3, activate!
  • Yesterday (the final day to join), Doug tweeted that they were up to 49 members on the team. The next guy would make it an even 50 (milestone. dammit).

Almost villainesqueSo here I am. Movember Dadblogger Team member #50. Clean shaven and ready to exert all of my efforts into sprouting a few hairs on my face for a good cause. While I ask all of you for moral support in this endeavor, I would really love it if you could sponsor me. Any amount would make this embarrassment worthwhile. And if what Doug said about the worst hair growers bringing in the most cash is true, then my five errant whiskers will fund a hospital wing somewhere.

Click Here: Sponsor BusyDad's evil Asian moustache

Gettin' Funky with Pork

Earlier in the week, I promised you a really good pork recipe. Without further ado, and with sincere apologies to Kid n' Play, I present you with my video on how to put the partay into rack of pork.

Actually, I take it back. A little bit of ado is in order.

October is National Pork Month, and TheMotherhood, the National Pork Board and Costco entrusted me to enlighten you with an original recipe that turns a plain old rack of pork into something that will get the party started. Quickly.

While I'm confident that my recipe (Asian Pork Sliders) brings the noise, there are a ton more recipes over on the Pork: Be Inspired page, if you're so inclined. However, if you trust in my ability to take fire to meats for the betterment of humankind, then just watch this:

And for your reference, here are the recipes that go along with the above:

Asian Pork Sliders

My philosophy with parties is that you can only have fun when you use your fingers. So I took my rack of pork and combined it with some really tasty components to make the ultimate party finger food: sliders.

Here are the recipes for each part:

Asian Spiced Pork


  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground star anise
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange

Rub all over meat. Stick in oven at 350 degrees for 20 min per pound.

Asian Slaw

  • 1 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • 1/2 bunch scallion
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil 
  • 1 cup rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Toasted Sesame (as much or as little as you like)

Combine all the vegetable ingredients into a mixing bowl. Pour everything else (except for the sesame seeds) into a tupperware and shake. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to combine. Add sesame seeds.

Steamed Buns

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp yeast (and a little more)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp bacon fat
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Set aside for 5-10 min.
  2. Add flour into a standing mixer or food processor with a dough blade.
  3. Turn the processor on and drizzle the yeast mixture into the flour slowly. It's not going to look like enough water, but trust me, it will become a ball of dough before too long.
  4. Once it becomes a ball, remove it.
  5. Rub the bacon fat on the bottom of a mixing bowl, and then put the dough into the bowl.
  6. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and place somewhere warm-ish for about 90 min.
  7. After 90 min, take the dough out of the bowl pound it out into a circle. Add the baking powder and knead for about 3 min.
  8. Split the dough into two halves and roll each into a rectangle. Roll the rectangle like a cigar.
  9. Cut the cigar into about 6-8 pieces.
  10. Place each piece onto a square of parchement paper, then into a steamer (preferably an old school bamboo steamer).
  11. Cook 6-8 min.

Once all three components have been made, just cut the bun in half, add pork, add slaw and serve. Celebratory dancing optional.

OH, I almost forgot! I'm giving away a pork gift pack that includes good pork-related goodies and a $25 Costco gift card. Just tell me how you like to cook your pork and you'll be automatically entered into my drawing. I'm all about low hurdles.

Do not oreo shake your baby

As parents, we often make mistakes. And while those of us who make them must bear the unfortunate consequences of our actions, we can at least share them with the collective parenting community in the hopes that our experiences serve to prevent others from doing the same.

Babies shouldn't have shakes. They are full of empty calories, sugar and fat - especially the delicious Oreo ones from Sonic. However, when babies are strapped to a baby seat while the rest of the family enjoys the spoils of a trip to Sonic, they tend to take issue with conventional wisdom.

Wholeheartedly.

No one likes to see their baby suffer. "OK, one sip."

Hear that creaking noise? That's a gateway being opened. Or a box, upon which the name Pandora is scribbled.

The baby approves. But a Sonic shake has finite properties. The baby does not accept this scientific premise. The parent is left with no recourse but to document this lesson on his camera phone.

... that is until d Wife says "enough of these shenanigans."

One cranky baby and empty cup later, the other parent mutters "good thing I have a blog."

As raw as I wanna be: pork is good.

When I was three, my mom was in the kitchen one night slicing pork for a stir fry. Due to a recent bout with diarrhea, I hadn't eaten any real food for a while, so I sat there watching, wanting, yearning. If you know three-year olds, you know that they're never simply watching. They're casing the joint. When my mom turned her back, I seized the opportunity. In one coordinated attack, I grabbed a handful of slippery, raw, pink pork off the chopping board, stuffed it into my mouth and experienced bliss.

I dig me some pork.

Lucky for me, the pork people dig me back. And they want me to impart some pork knowledge on you in the form of an original recipe for rack of pork. Rack of PorkWhat's a rack of pork, you ask? It's a hunk of pork chops, stuck together. Given that fact, "take a rack of pork, add fire" would suffice as a delicious recipe. But then they would probably cancel the check they sent me (that is called a disclosure statement creatively crafted into a conditional musing), so instead I've been using that money to experiment with lots of pork, cooking implements, indulgent ingredients and spices. In fact, there's some pork roasting in my oven right now. Did you know that pork lovers prefer the scent of pork over Glade for their homes 10 to 1?

Once I perfect the recipe next week, I will have a video for you.

In the meantime, pick up your very own rack of pork at Costco in honor of Pork Month and get $2.50 off for the rest of October. It's this week's featured cut. This past weekend, I was too lazy to brave the lines at Costco to get my experimental rack of pork, so I went to every other supermarket to find it. No luck. That's why I am roasting a loin roast right now. Don't be a pork dolt like me. Just go to Costco. While you're at it, pick up a 3-pack of guitar amps, just because you can.

One more thing before I go. The three-year-old me wasn't too far off. Did you know that the USDA recently revised its recommendations regarding safe pork temperatures? Turns out you don't have to cook your pork into a smoldering brick in order for it to be considered safe for consumption anymore. In fact, a little pink is actually ok. Just cook your pork to 145 F, let it rest 3 minutes, and you're good to go.

Hey, piggy. Does it feel hot in here? Like perhaps 145 degrees?

Vapo Rub Loves Dads

At least they love me, and by association, other dads, I'm assuming. And I really love breaking up sentences with commas. How did I come to this conclusion? I use a lot of commas. As for the other thing, they are actually paying me to tell you about my experiences, advice and thoughts related to getting sick and feeling better. They aren't putting me in the spotlight to mock the infamous "man cold," or to poke fun at a man's inability to wipe kid snot. Man colds are a serious affliction, and that would be a foolhardy PR move.

What they are doing is making me a member of the Vicks Blogger Brigade. Last year, it was all moms. This year, they needed some dad representation. Not only because today's dad knows a little something about taking care of sick kids, but their ad campaign will feature their first ever "VapoDad." He's a celebrity who also happens to be a great dad (well that narrows it down quite a bit, actually). If famous dads taking care of their little ones does it for you, you might want to check out Vick's Facebook page on October 25 when they reveal who it is.

If unfamous dads taking care of their little ones is more your thing, stay tuned here for the next 6 months, as I chronicle the snot, sweats and tears of cold and flu season, armed with a laptop and a tub of Vapo Rub.

Believe me, I have the street cred for this gig. Did you know I once quit a job over Fury getting sick? A few years ago, I took a sick day from work so that I could stay home with Fury when he had the flu. The next day, my boss called me into his office and reamed me for it. How could I take a sick day when I wasn't even sick? If the other employees found out that they could take sick days for their sick kids, then no one would ever come to work! Then he said he would let it go this time, but I had to make alternate arrangements the next time. My alternate arrangement was to walk out and never come back.

I apply sideways

Don't tell me I'm not gangsta when it comes to taking care of my sick kids.

VapoRub. Represent.

Peace.

Like blog training wheels

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

And this is it:

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

 

War of Flambia
By Marcus A. Lin

“Alright, ammo?” I said, checking.

“Check,” said my friend: Mustafa.

“Check,” said my other friend: Waffiat.

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

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

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

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

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

“OK.” Waffiat agreed

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

“OK OK! We give up!!” Othman said

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

“Yeah” Othman agreed

The end