Works like magic, but the goodness is real: #7billionliters campaign

First, I would like to acknowledge that Fury turned 12 a couple days ago. Happy birthday, son! I started this blog when he was five. I have been blogging for an entire dog year, and Fury has been a very patient video sidekick. To celebrate, I am working on a highlight reel of his best video moments, but that won't be done until the weekend. You're getting this important post instead, for now.

As you may know, I keep a separation of church and state on my blog. I seldom cover my clients' stuff on this blog. But I also know that 9 out of 10 churches and states agree that clean water for children in third world countries is a good thing. So Mr. Presipope, do the honors...

Proctor & Gamble has been providing clean water to kids for some time now. This year, they hit the milestone of delivering their 7 billionth liter. To celebrate, they are donating an additional liter from now until April 22 every time someone uses the hashtag #7billionliters on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. 

How did they do this? With the help of a simple magic packet -- one that I coerced them into giving me so I could spend the afternoon drinking dirty creek water and getting away with it. Of course I made a video of it. I drank dirty creek water and I'm alive and hydrated!

So check this out, be amazed at science, and help get more liters of clean water to kids by using the hashtag #7billionliters as MUCH AS YOU WANT from now until April 22 to donate additional liters of water.

Do it for Fury's birthday! 

The Not Really Book Reviews Post

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

Minimalist Parenting, by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest

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

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

Julie Black Belt, by Oliver Chin

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

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

Dad's Book of Awesome Projects by Mike Adamick

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

Choose Their Own Adventure

Back in August, I set my wok aflame in celebration of an amazing campaign that raised $200,000 for Shot at Life. One thing I dread doing (aside from growing my eyebrows back) is explaining what Shot at Life does. Mostly because no description does it justice. Shot at Life delivers life-saving vaccines to children in 3rd world countries. See? Doesn't sound all that exciting. Fortunately, cavemen invented storytelling. And thanks to this ancient art, Shot at Life has given my previous description, well, life. Throughout the past 28 days, bloggers have been telling the tale of this organization via real stories of people who have made an impact in, or been impacted by the efforts that Shot at Life has made in helping to give children a shot at ____. Space intentionally left blank because when you give kids a chance, they will do anything and everything.

This month, we've seen tales of survivors giving back, stories of heroes in the fight, and even first-hand accounts from my fellow Shot at Life blogger ambassadors who were fortunate enough to witness progress from the front lines.

And now it's my turn. When I was given my story to highlight, I was expecting something totally different. Perhaps a Shot at Life volunteer who had to fend off warlords with nothing but a bo staff and illegal ninja moves. Maybe it was a mom who walked for two days with a 2 year old on her back and 7 year old in tow to get to a vaccination clinic in Uganda, who had to tape broken bottles on her fists to fight off packs of grey wolves in the mountains of Alaska (hey, this is my imagination. If you don't like it, get out of my head). No, my story wasn't any of that. My story was simply a few sentences long.

My story was about this little dude:

And his older brother:

Credit for both photos: Christine McNab/ Measles and Rubella Initiative website

See how older brother is doing that thing with his arm over his head? That's because he doesn't know how old he is. The health worker made him do this because if you can touch your ear like that, you are most likely older than 5. Because he and his little brother were under 5, they both got shots for measles and polio. After that, they were given purple marks on their thumbs to show that they had been vaccinated. Big brother and little brother then went home by themselves, the same way they showed up. 

The end. 

Wait, wait, wait!! This is the final story of this amazing 28-day series? Two kids show up at a clinic, get shots and then go home? It can't simply end this way. We don't even know their names! This is worse than the series finale of the Sopranos. Ok, Shot at Life, you gave me this anchor position for a reason. And that reason is you knew I would pull out all the stops to make the end of this series epic. And that I shall do. 

First, we're going to give these kids names: Ronnie and Mike.

Now, we're going to make this interactive. You, dear reader, will now have to choose. After Ronnie and Mike leave the clinic, do they head:

A) North

B) East

C) West

If you picked North, read paragraph A below. If you picked East, skip to the paragraph labeled B. If you picked West, skip to paragraph C.

Paragraph A

Ronnie is pretty proud of the fact that he didn't even flinch when they gave him that shot. Mike sees the pride in his little brother and smiles. Just then, a meteor-like object whizzes by in the sky in front of them and lands with a crash, rattling the sun-baked dirt below their feet. The boys run toward the crash site in time to see a dozen aliens emerge from a saucer-like object. They're all wielding hypodermic needles and snarl threateningly at the boys as they approach. But Ronnie does not fear their weapons. In fact, he rolls up his sleeve like a big boy. The aliens are so amazed by Ronnie's courage that they crown him and Mike their new leaders. The boys get into the saucer and make their way to their new domain, where they now preside as supreme rulers. Their YouTube channel "Ronnie and Mike: Space Dictators" has 17 million subscribers, and the ad revenue from that alone supports the planet's universal healthcare plan, which includes vaccinations against internet trolls. 

Paragraph B

On their way home, Mike notices a swirling vortex underneath a boulder along the path. Curious, he picks up a pebble and throws it in. Immediately, he hears a whinnying noise coming from inside the vortex. Ronnie utters "horsey!" and jumps into it. Not wanting to get in trouble at home over losing his brother to a vortex, Mike jumps in after him. After several moments of sliding along what can only be described as a rainbow slip n slide, both land with a thud. As the two brothers look up, they notice that they are surrounded by a gentle herd of unicorns, one of which tells them to get on his back (via telepathy of course). The unicorn flies them back through the vortex and to their house. The boys love this new pet that has followed them home, so they feed it some hay. Hay is like the best thing this unicorn has ever tasted (he is totally sick of the bacon that grows on all the trees in his home world), so he calls all his friends up. Now unicorns run wild in the streets of Nigeria. Snopes confirms all this a day later, so for once the email your great aunt Edna forwarded to the whole family is legit.

Paragraph C

The boys wander through the desert and come upon a great deal for a droid. When they get him home to clean, he plays a hologram who keeps asking someone named Obi Wan for help. They wonder if it's old Ben. After a series of incidents that lead them to Ben, who just so happens to be Obi Wan, they enlist the help of a real scoundrel of a smuggler to get them all to a peaceful planet called Alderaan. Little do they know, a dictator has already blown it up. They decide they really dislike this guy and join an opposition party. This opposition party, they discover, isn't the type that enjoys debates. In fact, they too love to blow things up. Especially the thing that the dictator lives in. And that thing is no moon! So they learn how to fly these aircraft with wings shaped like an X, and they launch an attack on that non-moon planet destroyer thing. Some aircraft shaped like bow ties attack them, but in the end they destroy that thing. It's really kind of sad, though, because they will later discover that the dictator is really their dad, which means they totally could have inherited that non-moon thing, given it a more upbeat name than the Death Star, and thrown some wild parties in there. Instead, they get some medals.

You might at this point be asking "hey, um, Jim... this is awfully random. What is the point of all this?" 

I'm glad I pretended that you asked. The answer is this: there is no limit to what kids can do. You just need to give them a shot.

The impact of vaccines on the lives of children around the world is incredible. Now, you can help sustain the impact by sending an email to your member of congress. Welcome your members to the 113th Congress and ask them to make sure that global health and vaccines are a priority in the new Congress. Take action and make an impact!

This story comes from the Measles and Rubella Initiative and is part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Go to www.shotatlife.org/impact to learn more.

How to (grumble) eat better over the holidays (grumble) when you hate eating healthy and only do so in order to live longer

I do a lot of things that are healthy. I do a lot of things that are not healthy. But all in all, I think they yin and yang quite well.  And while it seems noble of me to work with The American Cancer Society strictly “on props,” I really do it to force myself to make sure the healthy keeps pace with the unhealthy. If I’m telling you how to live your life so that you can enjoy more birthdays, it forces me to more or less follow along, because if not, the internet troll that lives in my head will call me out on it. Congratulations! You are all unwitting participants in my self-help strategy.

That aside, let’s talk about holidays.

Over the holidays, you eat. That is what we are supposed to do as decent human beings. You are the ghost of ChristmasFAIL if don’t indulge over the holidays. I am all about going all out on the holiday table. Any dish can be improved with an extra stick of butter (name ONE thing that can’t be). Screw measuring the sugar. Carbs = love. Be a glutton for gluten. I’m not about to take this away from you. It’s only like half a dozen meals out of the year. Enjoy the hell out of them.

But what about the 30 or so other days during the holidays? Yang is such a buzzkill sometimes, I know. But that doesn’t mean healthier meals around those few indulgent holiday meals have to be lame. These are non-lame things that I actually do to keep my waist size the same as it was in college 20 years ago. 

Disclosure time: I hate eating healthy. I do it because I have to. I do it because I want to live longer and have more birthdays, because birthdays mean I can eat all the cake I want with whipped cream frosting (I hate buttercream frosting… how can anything with such glorious ingredients fail so miserably in execution?? That is fodder for another post, though). I am eating a donut right now as I type this. Transparency is the key to authentic blogging.

It is useless for me to write "without further ado" because ado is like my brand now (see above, and above that and above that).

Here are some recommendations from the American Cancer Society on how to live healthier, to which I have added some realistic ways to follow them in your day-to-day eating around the holidays. If you want more info, as well as actual recipes, click that badge on the left that I have worked so hard to try to align with this paragraph.

1) Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. I hate vegetables and I hate fruit (again, transparency). However, I recognize their importance when it comes to overall health. As a grownup, I will simply hold my breath and force a clump of vegetables down my throat whenever I get the chance. And I call my mom when I do, so she can tell me how proud she is of me (no, I REALLY do this. Shut up, before I punch your face).  For my kids, I try to incorporate them as seamlessly into dishes as possible. Here are some tips:  

  • Smoothies. Once they are liquid and you use a silly straw, kids cease to define things as "healthy food." A little non-fat vanilla yogurt in there, and you're golden. I also throw some raw quick oats in there because I know oats are also good for you. But drop the kale and step away. Everything has its limits.
  • Chop them into little pieces and put them into soup or on a pizza (whole wheat raw pizza dough is the best invention ever).
  • Put cheese on them in addition to chopping them up. Anything with cheese on it becomes delicious. Also, anything dipped in tempura batter and deep fried, but I'm not about to replace cancer with cornorary artery disease, so let's move on. 
  • Chop them up, stir fry with ground chicken or turkey, add hoisin sauce or terriyaki and make lettuce wraps.

2) Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.  

  • My kids have eaten whole wheat bread since birth. They don't know any different. I tell them white bread kills kittens. We hang effigies of white bread up and beat them with sticks. That's how you instill an affinity for whole grains.
  • If violence against food isn't your bag, quesadillas made with whole grain tortillas are delicious, too. You can also incorporate the chopped vegetables and cheese into these. 
  • If you're making any kind of pie crust, banana breads or other goodies, whole wheat flour works there, too. I find it tends to be a tad drier, so go heavier on the wet ingredients, by like 10%. If some of those wet ingredients are butter... well, then so be it. At least you're eating whole grains. Rome wasn't built in a day. 

3) Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. This one makes me a little bit sad, as I tear into slabs of meat on the regular. If you would like to follow this guideline, here are my tips on getting the most meat per mouthful without consuming a lot of meat.

  • Take advantage of the concept of surface area. By maximizing the surface area of meat your mouth encounters, your body is somewhat fooled into thinking it has eaten more meat than it actually has. So take a piece of meat and cut it up into small pieces and add it to dishes like those below:
  • Chili: probably the best hearty thing you can eat that's not bad for you. It's not cream based; it has cooked tomatoes in it (which contains lycopene, which fights prostate cancer); and you can throw beans and chopped vegetables in it. You can also use pretty much any kind of meat you have lying around from holiday meals.
  • Stir Fry: while one steak can feed an individual, one steak can feed a whole family if you cut up the meat and use it in a stir fry with vegetables. I keep my stir frys simple: meat, scallions, onions, green and red peppers, mushrooms. Then I make a sauce using cornstarch, soy sauce, some broth, mirin or vinegar and honey. Serve some brown rice with that, and everyone is happy and has consumed 75% less meat. 
  • Fried rice: my post-Thanksgiving meal is always fried rice. And if you go easy on the oil, it's really not that bad for you. When I make my Jim's Super Secret Special fried rice I would never use brown rice. But if you want to stay on the healthy side of things, I will look the other way if you choose to use it. A few months ago, I wrote a full no-holds-barred fried rice tutorial, if you're interested. 

4) Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 for men. I offer this one with no comment or supporting tips. Just sadness.

5) Here's some other random things I do when I'm trying to live longer: 

  • Olive oil and herbs (and a bit of parmesan) instead of cream sauces for pastas, or instead of mayo for pasta salads.
  • Grill vegetables (I make a marinade out of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs). The smoke makes them taste like meat if you're drunk enough. 
  • Chicken broth with chopped scallions as a soup base instead of cream. 
  • Corn starch instead of roux as a thickener. That's actually an Asian thing. I can't take credit. But there are a butt load of non-obese Asians in the world, so they/we they must be doing something right.
  • Make everything with spinach and feta. Although it isn't meat, the combination of spinach and feta wins my allegiance over any flavor combination on earth. I'm going to try and make a spinach and feta bundt cake this Christmas. 

That's all I've got. Don't stress out about holiday meals, stay mindful of healthier options on non-holiday days, hug your loved ones, and live for more birthdays, because the more you can stuff your face with cake, the more fulfilling your life will be. 

We Used Our Words

Comments usually make me laugh. Sometimes they make me think. Occasionally, they piss me off. But never before have they made me feel like a superhero. That is, until the month of August rolled around. What happened in August? This:

There have been many times in my life when I've half-heartedly uttered the phrase "I'm lucky to be a part of..." But right now, at this moment, I am telling you with full heart (and those of 30 other bloggers) that I am so lucky to have been a part of this amazing campaign. 

The premise was simple: blog about the impact that blog comments have made on you, and for each comment anyone left on your post, $20 would be donated to Shot@Life, an initiative of the UN Foundation.

What does a $20 donation to Shot@Life achieve?

It provides four life-saving vaccinations (measles, polio, diarrhea and pneumonia) for one child. $20 SAVES ONE CHILD'S LIFE. And all anyone had to do was leave a comment for this magic to happen. For once, even that guy trying to sell hot tubs via my comment section could feel good about his work.

While I was all set to serve as the last leg in this 31-day relay race, it turns out my teammates were simply too awesome. They reached the goal of $200,000 before the torch was handed to me. YES...

But I'm not going to complain. 10,000 kids will now receive life saving immunizations because of this. 10,000 kids!! Stretched end-to-end, 10,000 kids would be almost as long as the line for Space Mountain. These are kids who could grow up to be world leaders, doctors, athletes or even bloggers. The circle of internet life is complete.

While I feel a teensy bit melancholy that none of my comments will contribute to the overall kid-life-saving fund, there is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, and it is filled with lighter fluid. You see, as the last one to wield the torch, I got to light the ceremonial fire. And that makes everything a-ok. I also went ahead and built you a slide show of my favorite passages from all the other Blogust bloggers who posted before me. It's all in the video, so check it out:

By the way, you can simply pledge your support for Shot@Life, get involved and yes, even donate.

Play more

I like to do good things, and part of that is following through when I commit to doing them. A few weeks ago, I took the LetsPlay pledge and promised I would dedicate more hours per week to getting out there and playing. I realize that this does nothing to ease world hunger, bring peace to the middle east or save the manatees, but I believe that children are our future. And that copyright laws are lax when it comes to blogs.

So aside from throwing Lessi around the backyard (funny digression: she now throws her baby dolls around while yelling "parkour!"), I actually engaged in more active play recently, despite the fact that I just landed a new job (finally! I might add). Some highlights:

Midget Racing

Never has there been an activity where I've had to follow up with "no, it's not that at all!" more so than when I told people I was taking Fury midget racing. I know there's no running and jumping involved, but the point is we're getting out there and his heart rate increases. Also, he realizes that it's like Xbox, but a million times better.  I'll buy that for $10 a lap!  Not for too long, but the point is I'm willing to, in theory.

Certification and racing lessons are actually highly affordable, so I made the mistake of getting all excited for Fury to join the race circuit. Turns out once you're certified, you have to buy your own race car, trailer and something to tow it with (I don't think the Volvo will cut it). Hey Fury, there's this really cool game on Xbox...

Fishing

If I had to pick one activity as my hands-down favorite thing ever in the history of the world, it would be fishing. When we lived in LA, that was the most conspicuous void in my life. At our new home in Northern CA, I can fish any of a dozen places within a 20-minute drive. Heaven isn't too far away. Like I said, lax copyright laws make the blogosphere go 'round.

There's actually a nice regional park and reservoir 15 minutes away that's perfect for a  spontaneous pre-dinner trip. I've taken Fury fishing there a couple of times.

The first time we went, I had no idea what people were catching there (or even if we could catch anything at all without a boat). When we got there, these two old guys were also setting up to fish. While Fury and I caught nothing, one of the old guys caught this delicious bass:

I made Fury pose with it for a picture because you can't do that and not immediately dedicate the rest of your life to catching one like that for yourself. At least not if you share my genes.

I caught this on a business trip. Yes I bring fishing equipment on business trips.The next day, we went out again. This time, we brought his friend from across the street, who had never fished before. Also, due to the lack of rain, the shoreline had receeded about 20 yards, which meant to get to water we had to trudge through ankle-deep mud. When you're 10, mud trumps the prospect of fish. Also, dad spends all his time crawling in the mud looking for shoe that you lost after the mud pulled it off and the hole resealed itself.

You can't get mad at genuine mud-covered smiles, though.

Running

Shortly after I started working again, I decided I needed more structure in my life after so many months of improvised living. I decided to start running again. I also thought it would be nice to bring Fury along, since I leave the house for work before he gets up and return an hour before he goes to bed. This might give us some good bonding time while staying healthy. Two birds, one stone. Then I realized that both dogs would probably enjoy the exercise as well. Four birds. Then one day his buddy across the street decided that it might be fun to run with us, too. Five birds. Today, another neighbor kid joined us. This stone is like a ninja stone, killing birds as far as the eye can see. They say jogging is a sport of quiet solitude. They don't live in my neighborhood.

I guess what I'm saying is play can be pretty much anything, and no matter how busy you are, you can still squeeze it in if you put your mind to it. But if you still need more motivation, how about a 10-foot parachute, like you used to play with in gym class? I'm giving away three of these, and they each come with:

  • 1 sand bucket
  • 1 jump rope
  • 1 carton of sidewalk chalk
  • 1 "Let's Play" frisbee
  • and a few cheat sheet things to kick start some play ideas

To be entered to win this stuff, I'd love it if you took the Let's Play Pledge (676 other people can't be wrong!), but you don't have to in order to win (just leaving a comment will suffice, if you want to get technical). The guilt, however, will eat at you whenever you look at that colorful parachute.

In the end, all I'm asking you to do is play more. Is that so bad?

(oh, forgot to mention... I will accept entries up until Wed, June 6, 10pm PST)

(WAIT! I meant Wed June 13! I expect you to play, not build time machines. Leave it to Zakary to point out when I AsianFAIL) 

It's baby parkour time!

When I was in kindergarten, I jumped off the jungle gym at school and landed on my head, necessitating the only stitches I have ever gotten. My parkour career ended before the sport was even invented. What is parkour? It's the craziest, coolest, break-all-the-bones-in-your-bodiest urban jungle gym sport ever. And Lessi loves it. Of course, I have modified it slightly for our purposes (as well as child protective services).

We call it Baby Parkour, and of course I made a video of us engaging in this new version that I hope will sweep backyards and playgrounds all over the country.

I do these things because I take my role as a Play Ambassador for Let's Play very seriously. Let's Play is a partnership between Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and the non-profit KaBOOM that provides grants to communities to build or fix up playgrounds. When I was a kid, my life revolved around playgrounds, and so should every kid's, regardless of where they live.

In addition to providing playgrounds, Let's Play is committed to simply making sure that families get out there and PLAY. We're not talking math homework. We're not talking vacuuming the house. We're not talking eating our vegetables. We're not talking the proletarian struggle against bourgeoisie. We're talking good old-fashioned, down and dirty outdoor play. Not a difficult cause to be down for.

And since today is the one-year anniversary of Let's Play, all I'm asking you to do is go to their Facebook Page and take the "Let's Play Pledge" to spend 60 more minutes per week activley playing with your kids. That's it. I'm sure your kids think that's a killer idea. While you're there, you can also apply for a grant to fix up or build a playground in your neighborhood (they will give out $3 million in playground grants this year).

It's good + good + good. You know what else is wicked good? My Baby Parkour video on LetsPlay.com.

Check it out and join the LetsPlay.com community while you're at it. We're all about play. There is no better common denominator for "things we all like." Well, that I can write on this blog anyway.

So, SOPA and PIPA walk into this bar

And they ruin the internet.

They also make Lunchboxdaily really boring.

We finally get bi-partisan support on something and it's THIS? I say let the parties go back to bickering, and let us make fun of it all on the internet.

I'm not technically savvy enough to shut my site down for a day in protest of SOPA/PIPA, but I can send you to a site where you can call your local representatives to stop this nonsense.

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!

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].

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.

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

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. 

Give me fried apple pie or give me dea-- oh, wait!

This week, McDonald's announced the return of the McRib sandwich. What a slap in the face.

For nearly 20 years, I have kept the porch light on for the best thing McDonalds ever threw into an elongated semi-spherical cardboard container with ejection flaps: the fried apple pie. From the "Caution, Filling May be Hot" warning label to the guide holes that enabled you to gingerly slide the pie out of the box with your kid fingers, the fried apple pie was the manifestation of fast food perfection. Its unapologetically crispy bubbly crust served as a fitting complement to the molten oozy apple-y goodness percolating inside. The first bite was heaven, the last bite, sweet, sweet sorrow. When I was a kid, I used to stick my nose in the empty box afterwards to simply savor whatever aroma was left.

Then in 1992, McDonald's used my fried apple pie as a pawn in their public relations game, replacing it with a baked version in an effort to appear more health conscious. They even changed the box. My beloved apple pie went from sweet beckoning siren to something more resembling a homicide victim on an autopsy table. It was bloated, grotesque and oozing out of its wounds. Lifeless.

But I didn't fret. A few months tops, I thought. The public will grow restless, demands will be made, heads will roll and the fried pie will be back. Months turned to years. The internet got invented. And I searched desperately for answers.

Sometime around 1999, I found the Fried Apple Pie Locator. It was like finding an underground reisitance movement. I learned a few things, like the fact that you'll most likely find fried pies at McDonald's locations in Walmart stores because their limited space doesn't accommodate an oven. But more importantly, I had a source for old school apple pies.

Operative word: had. I found out last week that one of the underground resistance Walmarts fell to the hands of the enemy. "Sorry sir, we no longer carry the fried pies." When I got home, I checked the pie locator. That Walmart location is still a "confirmed" fried pie location, but only because the last update to the site was made in 2008. The resistance movement has moved on.

I probably would have just taken the defeat and let it go under normal circumstances, but today's news about the McRib woke up the revoltionary in me. McRib? Serious?? If I asked 50 people on the street if they'd rather bring back the McRib or the fried apple pie, I guarantee you more people would say apple pie. Not just a little more -- a landslide more. Go ahead try that yourself and prove me wrong. I assure you, I am not. Hell, I'd rather have the McDLT back. I actually liked keeping my hot side hot and my cool side cool. It made sense. The McRib makes no sense! Pork molded to look like baby back ribs? No one puts a slab of ribs in between bread!

I was channeling Mao, Che Guevara, and the Contras all at once. In my revolutionary fervor, I even made a petition to bring back the fried apple pie and put it out on Twitter, which nobody signed. But just as I was getting ready to say "Screw you guys. I'll do this myself if I have to!" I got a call from d Wife.

"I read your tweets" she said. "Funny, I got you something before I even read those tweets. You'll see when you get home."

What did she get me? These:

Those are fried apple pies, folks. From Pizza Hut! I guess they just came out with these because I went to the Pizza Hut website and they are not listed. Even though I am on a strict Paleo Diet right now, I had to try one, in the name of science. Ok, five. But I had to make sure these were the real deal. And they are. Look at the joy in my face. You simply can't fake this:

Yes, I committed a fashion faux pas by wearing the same shirt, two posts in a row. No, my dog is not eating my apple pies, as he is very well trained, but can still lay a good guilt trip on you. Yes, I am totally going to eat all 10 pies this weekend. No, I guess I won't go down in history as a famous revolutionary. Yes, the Force is strong with my wife... or I whine way too much about fried apple pies. Either way, I'm gonna be burning my tongue for a long time to come and savoring every minute of it.

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

"Name?"

"Jim Lin"

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

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

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

"Oh, yeah. The blogger one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Also, pictures with weird Uncle Perry...

WAIT.

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

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

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

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

I have the receipt to prove it.

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

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

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

The noble-intentioned boob post

For once, I can say I'm working out just for boobs and not get dirty looks.

Hey, I saw that!

Fine, let me explain. You know October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month right? You also might be aware that I kick my own ass 3 times a week at 6 in the morning (which is nuts in its own right) doing Crossfit (yup, that is my Crossfit gym - and I'm divulging personal info, but then again, who would be crazy enough to stalk me at 6 in the friggin morning?). What I love about Crossfit, besides enabling me to purge the contents of my stomach on their driveway every once in a while, is the fact that Crossfitters are always looking to tie workouts to fundraisers. Puking for Philanthropy, in other words (not trademarked - that's my term).

This month, we're helping out Barbells for Boobs, an organization founded by a fellow Crossfitter that funds mammograms for those who can't afford it. The event is called Amazing Grace. Crossfitters across the nation will pay money, collect donations, and then participate in the workout we call "Grace" (all of the standard Crossfit workouts are given female names, because like a hurricane, or a female I guess, they will wreck you).

If you haven't already given to another worthy Breast Cancer cause, and you plan to, I'm asking you to donate to Amazing Grace 2010. Just go here and donate via the sidebar. If you do, please select Crossfit Monrovia in the dropdown menu for Crossfit Affiliate.

This will pretty much kill me. But I've done worse things for boobs.

Watch Jim Eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey legs are totally Caveman-compliant.

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

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

Check.

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

Moving on...

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

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

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

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

Going back a fuller, carbier man.

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

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

Yay for Community

In my younger days, discussion forums were like the Thunderdome. They were a place where keyboard warriors like me could go and pwn other members, put them down with witty insults, and vie for the title of last man standing atop a pile of vanquished LOLcat, Oh Snap, You're Doing it Wrong, Pwned and other clever Photoshopped masterpieces created in mom's basements across the world.

In my old(er) age, I've come to realize that the internet is more than that. Discussion forums can actually be useful. And perusing Pwned pics for this post still offers hours of entertainment. I also never get to the point until the middle of the second paragraph...

Or the beginning of the third. What I'm trying to say is that I've been selected to be a community leader in BlogFrog's SoCal Family Connection online community. First, what is BlogFrog? Let me explain in my own words (I never use provided text, and I never learn my lesson...):

BlogFrog is a site where members can sign up and start or participate in forum-style discussions within "communities" that members start. But at the same time, it helps build a following for your other projects because your profile page provides more than just "OnlineStudBoy72" and an avatar. It provides a feed of your blog posts, tweets and other activities too.

Recently, BlogFrog kicked off its own house-community, called SoCalFamily Connection, sponsored by Screamin' Daily Deals. Why did I agree to do this?

  • My work blocked Twitter and I need a place I can go be mundane.
  • I haven't yet mastered the #$%# Swype function on my droid so I avoid tweeting from my phone.
  • When people call me leader, well, let's just say I like it. A lot.
  • As much as I call myself a Bostonian, I live in SoCal and should take steps to embrace it.
  • Peer pressure. I'm a sucka.
  • Screamin' Daily Deals is a great partner. They are NOT influencing the discussions in any way. But they collect awesome discounts and donate part of the proceeds to schools. Of your choice. Win.

Also, I just got a new HD video camera and I like doing videos. And the other leaders asked me to do a video. Again, peer pressure, sucka, cherish admiration, the whole deal... Here's a silent movie I put together that asks: What would parenting look like if we had no communities to turn to?

So, whether you're from SoCal or not (the topics encompass many general parenting discussions too), join me, along with my fellow community leaders, for some insightful, useful and entertaining grown-up discussions. I promise to only post pwned pics once a week...

SoCal Family Connection Team:

  1. Heather from The Spohrs Are Multiplying
  2. Kelly from Just Spotted and According to Kelly
  3. Sugar Jones from Sugar in the Raw
  4. Angry Julie from Angry Julie Monday
  5. Maegan from ... love Maegan
  6. Megan from Screamin' Daily Deals

Disclosure: legalese... blah blah... I was compensated for being a community leader... blah blah... I think they were all virgins...blah blah... do not operate heavy machinery while using BlogFrog... blah blah... may experience loss of appetite... blah blah... always consult your doctor before posting a LOLCat... blah blah... except Hawaii and Alaska...blah blah... member FDIC.