My procrastination means that Mini Hornit is the entire BusyDad Gift Guide

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A few months ago, I got a pitch for a cool kids' gadget. It's called the Mini Hornit, and it's a bicycle horn/light that makes a bunch of different sounds and lights. I usually would have passed on it, but all the kids had coincidentally acquired new bikes this year, so I sent an email back that said something along the lines of "this is really cool, but unless you can send me five, there will be bickering." That usually thwarts my having to open this blog and put words in it. But not this time. They sent me five. Man! Foiled by generosity.

So here I am, months later. I've procrastinated long enough, but in fairness to me, this is so much better than a random October post. Nobody buys reasonably priced gadgets that fit in stockings in October. And although you'd like to think that you've done that by mid December, I'll just wink at you and tell you about the discount code "busydad" that will get you 10% off your order. No, I don't make any money off these (or this post, for that matter). I'm just a nice guy, with kids who have bikes, who happens to write slow. 

You can say that by default, this Mini Hornit post is my holiday gift guide. Who needs choices at this time of year? We simply want to be done. Just watch this video, because I came up with a ton more uses for this than simply putting it on your kid's bike. However, I take no responsibility for the usefulness of these hacks, or if you get sued by the Dukes Of Hazzard. Don't even try to understand that last sentence, per usual.

So Merry Christmas, etc. Happy New Year and good luck! Remember, use the discount code busydad for 10% off your order. This is a fun gift, even if you don't use it to snack shame your kids. 

The OneDay App is really a diabolical time machine disguised as an easy movie maker

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Don’t be fooled! There’s an app out there called the OneDay App. It’s this free app that supposedly helps you create really cool “interview” movies of your loved ones answering questions without requiring any editing skills whatsoever. In fact, you do it all via your smartphone. They asked me to try it out and even compensated me for it (for those of you more comfortable with legalese, “the following post is a sponsored piece of content” and for those more comfortable with Jim-ese “I played with a wicked cool app and will now entertain you with content I made with it while I enjoy this beer that I didn’t have to pay for and I think that’s a win-win, don’t you?”).  After I said ok, I discovered too late that this app is actually an ultra powerful time machine and you should use it at your own risk! Since I was committed to writing something, consider the following post my expose on this perilous time traveling piece of techno-wizardry!

It started out just fine. I downloaded the app to see what it was all about. As they promised, it was pretty easy. You can choose from a number of question sets (divided into seasonal, and then life stages such as baby/toddlers and kids, all the way to older folks).  Since Lessi was within arm’s reach, I sat her down and began to interview her, using the “Personality” question set under the Babies/Toddlers section. I hit the record button as each question flashed across the screen. When I was done recording her answers, the app strung the questions, answers and even background music together into a coherent video that I could now share on social media or email. 

Related aside: I have Super8 camcorder videotapes of Fury from age 3-6 that are still sitting in a box waiting to be edited and sent around to relatives. He’s 12 now. 

Lessi, however, won the technology game and now has this to show for it:

One good video deserved another. Here’s Lilz, showing us her comedic acting chops:

Wicked awesome right? Well, I got bold and started perusing some other question sets. Being over 40, I decided to check out the interview “About Your 40’s and 50’s” under the adult section. However, instead of turning the camera on myself, I decided to experiment on Fury and TXU. This is when things took an unexpected turn. All of a sudden, lightning bolts hit the clocktower, a phone booth with George Carlin appeared, and these two guys emerged. Since I had the app open, I decided “why the hell not?” and let the camera roll.

Who knew that jumping to age forty gave you a southern accent?

Since their answers at 40 were definitely more entertaining than any stories I could regale you with, I decided to move on. If asking the boys questions for 40 year olds jumped them forward in time, that meant that asking myself questions meant for a baby would…

If you watched the above video, you are more starved for entertainment than I thought. Also, I am sorry.

Crazy can’t-unseeable time travel moments aside, one thing’s for sure. The OneDay App is simple to use, and when kids (and grown-ups too, I guess) grow as fast as they do, catching all that in a fun, scrapbooky format is the best way to make sure that you don’t have to resort to time machines to remember days and memories gone by. Right now OneDay just published its Christmas questions set. I know you haven’t gotten around to sending your cards out yet. Don’t fret – make a video instead and send it around. You’re welcome. Will someone now please soak my binky in JD?

The FTC would like me to remind you that this indeed was a sponsored post, to which you just undoubtedly said to yourself “they PAID for that?” and went and downloaded it because you felt so bad for OneDay, but then kept using it because wow SO EASY and SO COOL.

Fried Chicken Fried Rice. Y'all.

This is going to be one of those dishes that everyone takes for granted at every county fair in the year 2029, and someone will decide to wikipedia its origins and they will find this blog post. It's so humbling to be a part of culinary history that hasn't yet happened. Reckless fusion leads to wonderful things, sometimes.

There's no story behind this - only circumstances.

  • Circumstance #1: four pieces of leftover fried chicken, and no creative way left to coax anyone into eating them.
  • Circumstance #2: cheap dad who refuses to throw food away simply for the sake of maintaining variety on the menu.
  • Circumstance #3: a mess of rice that was a tad undercooked but not ruined enough to throw away. 
  • Circumstance #4: fried rice master in tha house.

Step 1: Tear the meat off the fried chicken and don't leave any of the crispy chunks of breading behind. Who cares if they are not attached to any meat. You want this. Then chop it all up.

Step 2: Chop up some pre-cooked bacon (10-150 slices, depending). Because.

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Step 3: In a wok or deep pan, scramble up some eggs (4-5) in more oil than you are comfortable with. Also, add salt to the egg. Again, more than you are comfortable with. The egg is what pops you with that surprise flavor in fried rice, so you want it turnt up with salt. You're cooking up a recipe with the word "fried" in it twice. Do yourself a favor and stop worrying. Then remove from wok.

Step 4: Add a generous glug more oil. I told you shut your mouth about it. Dump the chopped up fried chicken and bacon into that wok. Heat it all up and get some sear going. Fat on fat violence makes for wonderful aromas wafting through your kitchen. 

Step 5: Make a hole in the middle of all that and pour in a splash of oil. Add in about one bunch-worth of chopped scallion. Let that scallion swim in the oil pool, touching the metal so it too sears. There's your green. Balance has been achieved. 

Step 6: Dump the rice in and move it in a chopping/scooping motion with a solid spatula. Relentlessly. Most plastic spatulas won't cut it. You need backbone, so use wood or metal. You want as much air getting into this mess as possible. Clumps of rice = failure. 

Step 7: Add the cooked egg and keep chopping/scooping until the eggs are in little tiny pieces.

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Step 8: Step back, wipe the sweat from your brow (if your heartbeat isn't going at 80% by the time you're done, you're not doing it right), admire your creation, and serve.

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Step 9: Satiate the peoples' appetite.

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Let the record show that 3 out of 5 kids asked for seconds. This also garnered one enthusiastic high five. 

Shannon and I are not pictured in the above because we are trying not to eat starches. We had not yet decided what to cook for our dinner. To make sure this dish was as epic as I had imagined it would be, I tried one bite out of stash in the wok as the kids dined. Then Shannon tried a bite. Then in the spirit of the scientific method, I took another sample bite. 

"I figured out what we're going to do for dinner," she said. 

"What..."

"We're going to stand here in front of the stove and not eat this fried rice."

And that we did.

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

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

That said, I almost let myself down today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BlackBerry Z30 vs. My iPhone: The Grudge Match

A few years ago, I completed part I of a BlackBerry review. I really liked it at first, but then as time wore on, I invoked the mercy rule and skipped part II. Let's just say that until "Let It Go" came along, there was nothing I associated more with the word Frozen than the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

I went from a BB Army loyalist to a hater. And that's when the iPhone that I got through work filled that void perfectly. Life went on, BlackBerry was behind me. Then this happened:

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Disclosure: this BlackBerry Z30 didn't just show up at my door with a challenge match in mind. It was sent to me by one of my favorite PR people whom I haven't heard from in forever, and it seemed like a fitting way to end the BlackBerry saga once and for all, so I took the challenge (i.e. hey, free phone for my kid after i'm done with it!). There was much catching up involved, but no payment, and no promises. Just a fair shot at redemption. I'm all about a good fight. 

As you know, if you've read my blog, I am not a reviewer. I'm not a tech writer. If you landed here because I skillfully SEO'd BlackBerry Z30, click the back button and refine your search to "CNET BlackBerry Z30" for a more educational result.

This is a down and dirty review based upon things that are important to ME. I like to eat bugs and wear shock collars from time to time. Just managing expectations here.

DOES IT FREEZE?

No! No it doesn't!! I dragged this post out more than two months, which gave me ample time to catch it freezing up on me. It never even froze once. My iPhone also doesn't freeze, so we'll call this a draw. It is a very satisfying, redeeming, meaningful draw, however, given my history with BlackBerry.

TYPING

The reason I have always liked the BlackBerry was because of the real keyboard. I still prefer this over any touch system. That's why I was really sad when I saw that the new line dropped the real keyboard. However, BlackBerry has incorporated a very impressive predictive text system that I think has massive potential. As you type, the keyboard displays words that it thinks you might be trying to type. In addition, these words are displayed above the next letter that you are likely to type, so you don't have to look for them. When you see the right word, you swipe it upward to accept. Here's an example. 

I wanted to see if this innovation would translate into actual time savings on the keyboard so I typed a blurb from a Baken-Ets pork rind bag because that was sitting next to my computer, and I just injured my back yesterday so I cannot move to go find something else to transcribe, and no, your name doesn't have to be Bubba to love pork rinds, and aren't you glad I'm not eating bugs?

So... given all that, I timed myself typing out a paragraph from the back of the bag, using my iPhone and my Z30 predictive text. As it turns out, my time with the iPhone was 1 min, 30 seconds in trial #1 and 1:28 in trial #2. With the Z30, the times were 2:38 and 2:02 respectively.

While this might seem like clear victory for the iPhone, there are a couple factors involved: 

  • I'm very used to my iPhone keyboard.
  • Z30 has autocorrect like iPhone does and during these two months I've been largely ignoring the predictive text and typing iPhone style because I am a creature of habit, so this was my first attempt at consciously relying on predictive text.
  • There was more than an immediate 30-second improvement from trial #1 to trial #2, which says to me getting used to predictive text isn't that hard. 

So the jury is still out on which system is in fact, better. Too many outside considerations that are not the Z30's fault. I can say, however, that they are both better than the Droid swype system. Man, I hated that when I had a Droid. In fact, I hated everything about the Droid. 

EMAILS AND NOTIFICATIONS

Z30 wins hands-down on this one. Some of my favorite features of the Z30 include the following things that my iPhone cannot do:

  • Message hub: while the iPhone can display your emails from various accounts together in one stream, the Z30 can display that plus your texts, call notifications, BBM messenger messages (I miss BBM - and it's sad I had no one to test BBM with during these two months), social media notifications (which you can set on or off) in one place. I think the Droid platform can also do this, but I hate Droids, so who cares.
  • Priority hub: this is a brilliant feature. This is a view that shows only your most important messages, as deemed by an algorithm at first (people with your last name, people you reply to, etc) but over time can be configured by you (you can manually designate any sender as priority, or un-prioritize them, when you are reading their email/text). 
  • Attachment view: you can hit a button and view a list of all attachments that have been sent to you. No need to find that email, open it, and download the attachment. 

SYNCHING 

The BlackBerry Z30 wins here too, simply because you don't have to use iTunes. iTunes is the devil. A really confusing, temperamental, arbitrary devil. iTunes is a necessary evil that you have to put up with to use Apple products. They design such good products at Apple, so why does iTunes have to suck so bad? Z30 wins by virtue of the fact that it's not iTunes. 

There's some really cool features that make it intuitive to synch files and share media over a wireless network, but honestly, all that is overshadowed by the feature I affectionately call "not #$*^%$ iTunes." 

PICTURES AND MEDIA

As a parent, this function is of utmost importance to me. I want to be able to take good pictures with my phone. So how does the BlackBerry Z30 fare here? Let me break it down:

Quality: when your subject holds still, the pictures come out great. Here's a picture of Lessi that I took:

That looks as good as any iPhone pic. However, I did have to take more pictures with the BlackBerry than I usually do with the iPhone to get this picture because the BlackBerry doesn't do well with motion. Pictures came out blurry a lot of the time. It also doesn't do well with low light conditions, something I know the iPhone is really great at. 

However, the BlackBerry Z30 comes with something that can help alleviate the need to take multiple pictures to get just the right one, and this is my number one WOW feature of the BlackBerry: Time Shift mode. Time shift mode is a function where the camera takes a bunch of consecutive pictures rather than just one when you press the shutter. You can then toggle each person's face separately along that timeline to find the right moment you want to immortalize on the picture. 

Wait. What? That made no sense. I know, I didn't get it either when I first read about it, so I filmed the process to better illustrate what I mean. This is worth watching because it's some sick innovation.

Right? Essentially, it lets you change history and create pictures that technically never existed. When your phone can violate the space time continuum so flippantly, you're got something quite powerful at your disposal. 

Another notable feature is the sound quality on the Z30. The speakers are way better than those of the iPhone. I say if you're going to annoy your family with your favorite Hall & Oates chart toppers, you might as well provide them with the highest quality audio for their suffering pleasure.

APPS

This has always been the weakness of BlackBerry, in my opinion. Even if the iPhone is technically inferior, and Droids are the saddest excuse for technology, they still have way more apps than the BlackBerry. While I am lucky in that the apps I use are either available for BlackBerry (Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Ubercab) or have 3rd party versions (iGrann for Instagram), I recognize that the average smartphone user might feel constrained when using a BlackBerry. 

What I can tell you though is that BlackBerry recently partnered with the Amazon App Store to bring 200,000+ apps to BlackBerry, including Netflix, Pinterest and Minecraft. That may even out the playing field a little more. Amazon is kind of a big deal.

For now, I have to give iPhone the edge on this, but the gap is closing. 

COMFORT FEATURES

I really missed a few things when I switched to the iPhone. One of them was the red blinking LED light whenever I got an email or notification on my BlackBerry. I have to say it was nice having that back. I also REALLY missed the back button. Things seemed to operate in a more linear fashion with BlackBerry because of the back button. You simply hit 'back' to go back to where you just were. With the iPhone, you have to hit home first, then open the app you were just on. It's annoying. The iPhone doesn't have any equivalent comfort features that other phones lack, except maybe the free Apple sticker. Status is comfort, right?

BATTERY LIFE

The Z30 never dies! It's incredible, the endurance that it has. I can't say the same for my iPhone. Z30 is the clear winner in this department. I carry an external battery with me all day and it just looks like an iColostomy bag when my iPhone is attached to it. 

SUMMARY

While I do love my iPhone and will continue to use it because it was issued to me from my work, I have to say that I am totally impressed with the BlackBerry Z30. Aside from its inability to take pictures of subjects in motion, I really had no gripes with it, and when going head-to-head against my iPhone, it actually came out on top for pretty much everything else. 

So the question remains, did BlackBerry win back my affections? I have to say YES, in a big way. 

And with that a new question arises. You think it can win YOU over? One of you lucky folks is going to find that out, actually. I am giving one BlackBerry Z30 away (or you can choose the Q10 if you are a hardcore keyboard loyalist). For a chance to win, all I ask you to do is tell me what phone you have now and what about it irks you. I'll give you one week to submit your comments and choose a winner randomly Sunday, August 17 at 9pm PST.

Hitting below the sash

The above picture represents a typical car ride on my days with the kids. I pick them up from school, and we crawl through rush hour traffic for an hour to my house. Fury is out cold. Growth spurts and tween malaise, they knock you out. Lessi usually spends the hour singing "Let It Go" in the back seat and/or asking me questions that make less sense as the hour wears on. Or, she does like the above and gets cranky about something. 

The other day, it was her sock. It was a little too big. So she took it off and dropped it on the floor. She asked me to pick it up, so I fished my hand behind the seat to do so, and promptly handed it back to her, at which point she dropped it again, so I fished my hand behind the seat again, and promptly handed it to her, at which point she dropped it ag---- hey!! 

I refused to give in to her demands. Cue tantrum. Not sure if you know this about me, but I am tantrum proof. I can smile through any little person's crying and yelling. Cue plan B: dada button pushing.

"I don't like the freeway!"

I chuckle.

"I don't like being four! I want to be three again!" 

I admire her for really thinking these through.

"I don't like Krispy Kreme!"

Smart - rebuking our special treat. Cute.

"DADA! BRUCE LEE IS A BAD GUY!"

I think this counts as her first TKO victory.

Parent Developmental Milestones (with apologies to BabyCenter.com)

Want to know if your baby is going to achieve better than a 3.25 GPA during his junior year in college? You can extrapolate that by calculating how many days plus or minus 3.25 months old he was able to roll to his tummy from his back. The internet has it all figured out, don’t you fret. But knowing where your kid stands is only half the picture. What about your own milestones? Have development experts figured out when exactly you overcome the aversion to licking your thumb to wipe that crusty toothpaste from the corner of your son's mouth as you drop him off at school? Science has left us parents to benchmark these milestones on our own, apparently. So with graph paper in hand, here goes.

Babycenter, take notice. I'm going to get the ball rolling. Take over whenever you'd like. 

PARENT DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES
Age 0-1:

What a time of discovery! As your child begins to make sense of his world, his own senses will become more acute. He will even begin to hear his own crying. That's fascinating for him! It drives everyone else crazy - except for you because nature equipped you with the Bose effect. A parent's ability to tune out the frequency of their own child's prolonged wailing in the car or at Target is an evolutionary wonder. Or maybe it's a symptom of waking up at 3:30 a.m. Research still pending... 

Dexterity is another wondrous new skill that marks this stage of your life. Your new parent fingers can now confidently cradle all sorts of things, namely squishy, runny, warm ones to the nearest trash can, or out the car window. In rudimentary stages of development, you may bring your fingers up to your nose in curiosity afterwards, but you soon learn that some things are better left conveniently smeared on your jeans and forgotten. Don’t think this is a skill? A Crossfit guy can roll a monster truck tire 50 yards without puking. Have him try this with a travel-sized Kleenex filled with four ounces of chunky fresh spit-up. Paleo lunch cleanup in aisle four.

In her first year, as your child begins to develop an understanding of words and language, reading to her helps her understand the complexities of this essential life skill. What she doesn't yet understand are the complexities of the Dexter plot that’s starting in 3 minutes, so your parental brain develops the amazing workaround of making up shorter sentences, or changing the story entirely as you flip through the pages really fast. 

Age 1-3:

Your little one is becoming so mobile! As he starts exploring his world, he will step in, pick up and smear everything. It’s about this time that you’ll notice yourself digging deeper into that Starbucks napkin dispenser to grab a fat stack of paper. You will use one and jam the rest of that pile into your glove box. Daily. You will also find yourself strategically placing wipes containers where you live, work and play. Squirrels do this with acorns. 

Just as spawning salmon are able to navigate winding tributaries using some kind of magnetic magic or whatever to get to their spawning grounds, you will also develop an innate skill that will enable you to navigate through your environment. The collective knowledge of every public restroom with a decent changing table will somehow be imprinted in your brain like a Borg Thomas Guide and your travels will hopscotch with the efficiency that only nature could have masterminded. Also, changing a baby on your lap once is like getting grazed by a grizzly claw. You never forget that. 

Fairies, scary bears, firefighters or superheroes. Your toddler is starting to understand the concept of pretend. You’ll notice that you will also naturally transition into pretend mode as you play dress up, cars, or whatever the fantasy of the day might be. Your newfound ability to pretend really shines when it comes to music. “YAY! Let’s listen to the Frozen song, AGAIN! YAY!” you’ll say with nary a tinge of disingenuity. You will be tested, however. His name is Calliou. You will want to erase him with the cheap eraser that rips the paper he’s drawn on. Let it go. Let it go…

Age 4-8:

Your child is growing bigger and stronger! She can run, jump and frolic. It seems like every time you turn around, she grows another inch. Well, did you know that you too are growing stronger? It may not manifest itself on a growth chart, but your strength is in your footing, literally. You’ve been stepping on errant Legos and plastic jewelry for quite some time now and you’ve developed a pain tolerance that Amazonian shamans envy. When one of your younger parent friends steps on a Lego and shrieks in pain, you will enjoy stomping on it, bringing your foot up, plucking the brick out of the deep indent in your foot, and placing it gently into your friend’s palm. 

A child’s developing palate is a thing of wonder. Too bad most kids won’t acquire a taste for nuclear hot wings for a couple more life stages. That’s ok. By this stage in your own development, your palate has adapted to accommodate your body’s need to efficiently turn leftover kids’ meals into fuel for the body. The half eaten chicken nuggets, cold mac and cheese, oatmeal with two bites taken out of it, and PBJ sandwich crusts that would turn a young man’s stomach are now simply your way of cleaning up, fueling up and saving for college tuition. 

It’s amazing to watch your child’s social skills come into full bloom at this stage. She learns to make friends, share toys, take turns and hone all the skills that will be essential for success later in life. Essential for everything except birthday parties, that is. There’s nothing that prepares you for the social agony that is a birthday party you have to attend with your kid. Luckily, your ability to numb the pain kicks in naturally around the time you attend your first one. With the instinct of a predator, you will locate the one lame gazelle in the pack. He is usually wearing a fanny pack. You will randomly glance at him and think “at least I’m not that guy” throughout the party to make yourself feel better. Your brain will also hyper-focus on your child to make every goldfish cracker eaten, every piñata whiff, and every facepaint whisker a thing of amazement and wonder. You will take pictures. You will say “that IS a frosting flower on that cupcake! That’s so awesome!” When you see parents hovering alongside their kids at a birthday party, it’s not for safety. They’re just trying not to go insane with boredom, or worse, engage in forced kid-party socialization with other miserable parents. And they never serve beer. 

Age 9-12:

As children enter this stage in their development, they are making the transition from childhood to adolescence. Many psychological and physiological changes are occurring at this time, which may make it difficult to make certain choices. Clothing and music, being the two of them. This is a hotly contested theory because the other school of developmental thought postulates that it is the parents who lose their ability to recognize, buy or understand what good clothes and music are. Whichever one holds true, our advice is if you avoid Hot Topic, most crises arising out of this life stage can be averted. 

And that brings us to puberty and teenagers. We’re going to need a lot more graph paper and Febreeze for this. Science can wait.

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! 

I didn't need a Pebble, just like I didn't need a cell phone

Remember when cell phones first came out and you were like "I'll only use this in an emergency, so it'll go in the glove compartment." You know you said that. When smartphones first came out, you also said "who needs email so bad that you have to check it on your phone, Mr. I'm-So-Important." That's just the way things go. When scary new technology comes out, our reaction is to say we've lived this long without it, so it's probably not necessary. Then we pop a Starbucks K-cup in our Keurig and binge watch House of Cards on Netflix.

A few months ago, Fury asked me for a Pebble for his upcoming birthday. That's the only reason it rang a bell when I was offered one, courtesy of AT&T.

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Disclosure: I wasn't paid any money to wear this thing on my wrist for the past two months. Having this scary technology to play with for the rest of its (or my) life was the only compensation I got. I need to stop signing my life away like this, or at the very least negotiate some beer into the deal. 

What's done is done.  

Since actually using a Pebble seemed to be the best way to vet this gadget as a potential birthday present, I saw this as serendipitous. And my son saw this as "aw come on, dad! For real?" when I proudly showed him the Pebble on my wrist, just a short time after learning of its existence -- from him. Come to think of it, he also had the same reaction when he visited my office the other day and saw the Boba Fett and frozen Han Solo Squinkies displayed on my filing cabinet. He got Star Wars Squinkies in his stocking, but dad snagged the really good ones from of the assortment pack. Dad gets the big piece of chicken

But I digress. This is about my life with the Pebble smartwatch, a device that has taken an accessory that has remained essentially unchanged -- aside from a few years of glory in the 80's when someone threw a calculator on them as a way to tag people whose lunch money was easiest to steal -- and fundamentally changed the way we interact with it.

Like the first smartphone detractor, I too thought "I can't really think of a reason why I'd need something on my wrist that tells me what's coming through my cell phone, which sits less than a foot away in my pocket."  Now that I've been using this thing since February, I can tell you why (to the great relief of the PR rep who sent me the watch, who is probably now thinking "took you long enough - this better be good, Mr Busy Guy"). Aside from the fact that it's actually pretty cool to read your texts and emails on your watch, here are some other reasons I never saw coming.

Rejecting Calls

I usually carry my phone in my pocket, so when someone calls me, I actually need to reach in my pocket, take out my phone, see who it is, and then decide whether or not answer it. By that time, I've invested so much movement into the endeavor that I may as well answer it. With the Pebble, the scenario goes like this: you feel the Pebble vibrate, you look at your watch like you're checking the time, see who it is, then press a button on the Pebble to reject it. Phone stays in your pocket. The rejection power-to-effort ROI on this thing is incredible!

Cooking in Peace

I'm sure they'll cover it in a Cosmos episode one day, but there's this universal law that states that the number of calls and texts you get is inversely proportional to the difficulty level of the food you are trying to prepare at the moment. I always get calls, texts or pings when I'm cutting meat, handling flour or doing something equally messy. Being the kind of person I am, if I ignore that missive, I will drive myself crazy, thinking "I really should check that voicemail/text/@reply/comment/email right NOW!" So instead, I drop what I'm doing, wash my hands, dry them, reach into my pocket and look at my phone. Most of the time, I realize it was a waste of time and paper towels. But of course, the one call I miss will be the one time George Lucas decides to dial a random person and offer him the part of Boba Fett in the next Star Wars movie, because that's what he does! I know it! With the Pebble, I can just look at my watch and know exactly what I'm missing while my hands are covered in cow blood. And if it happens to be George, I won't recognize the number and I will miss his call anyway because I never pick up random inbound calls. And that's probably why I'll never be Boba Fett. But let's say it's someone I would wash cow blood off my hands for, and they also happen to be in my contacts, like Shannon. Not a waste of paper towels. 

Showering

You know when you're expecting a call, but it doesn't come in, so you go take a shower, and then the moment you start shampooing, you hear the phone ring, so you rush out of the shower all sudsy and drippy, and look at the phone and it's someone else, and now your phone is wet, the floor is flooded and you hate the world? That won't happen with the Pebble. You'd know it wasn't that call because you'd see the caller ID on your watch. Keep enjoying your shower, my friend. Also, how can you hate the world when you can play Tetris in the shower?

Being Covert

There are lots of times when you can't really take your phone out and check it. The Pebble lets you do this. The game changing use case for me is the movie theater. You can check your texts and see who's calling you without taking out your phone. This way, if you feel that it's worth stepping out to reply, you can do so. This is great for playing hooky from work. KIDDING! I am glued to my work... by passion! But speaking of work, meetings are a great place for Pebble. No matter what it's for, taking your cell phone out during a meeting is kind of a dickish move. Looking at your watch (well, unless you are looking at it every 3 min, and look very bored) isn't that conspicuous. Pro-Tip: no matter how funny the text, laughing while looking at your watch might be construed as suspect. Make sure to point at some random person in the room while you do it. 

Romance

Did you know that you can control the music on your phone with the Pebble? I know it, and use it to my advantage. The other day, leaned in to give Shannon a kiss. With the click of a button, the phone on my nightstand played "Kiss On My List." Note: Pebble merely provides the technology. Mad wooing skills are up to you. 

Messing with Kids

There are tons of cool apps you can download onto your Pebble. One of them is a remote control for LG TVs. I happen to have an LG TV, and some victims. Here's the set-up for the video below: TXU and Brendan are watching TV and they have no idea I can control the volume with my watch. I have too much fun pitting them against one another:

Boba Fett

You can download tons of cool watch faces onto your Pebble and you can switch them on the fly. But I ask you this: if you have this one, why would you ever need to?

The verdict on Fury getting a Pebble? Maybe not this year. With great power comes great distraction, and if this thing can distract me in such wonderful ways at 41, I cannot imagine what it can do to a soon-to-be 12-year-old. One day, perhaps grasshopper will be able to snatch this Pebble from my wrist. Then he will be ready.

(If you know me at all, you know that the whole reason I agreed to do this experiment was to be able to weave that last line into my blog.)

On Standing Ovations and Hairstyling

If you want to be at the center of controversy these days, here how you do it: become a dad, have a daughter, style her hair, then sit back and watch the fireworks. You might get hearty applause because you're bustin' stereotypes and representing the new generation of involved dads. On the other hand, you could get internet rocks thrown at you because why should you get credit for something that moms do thanklessly each and every day? 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's one story. And here's the other

Idiotic racist comments from the first story aside, I understand the conflict. I get it that moms do these things each day without applause, and if a man does it, isn't it just as much his job? Yes, yes it is. I completely agree, and so do you -- if you subscribe to that premise. The reality, however, is that we're far from internalizing that premise as a society. Applauding such acts, as mundane and everyday as they are, is our collective way of telling the world that more of this should happen. Not in the moralistic sense, but in the "why the hell don't we see more of this" sense. Sure, one guy ends up getting a frustratingly disproportionate amount credit for one small everyday thing, but I don't care about him. I care that the applause sends a signal to the greater world that we should encourage more of this, because there certainly is a shortage. We should applaud now, so that dads doing their daughters' hair, or moms throwing a football with their sons, or dads taking over the kitchen is no big deal, as it should be. So no, I don't think that dad deserved a standing ovation for making a perfect bun. But I think society needed that applause to push us all in the direction that we should be barreling toward.

Actually, change that. He does deserve a standing ovation, from me at least. Because seriously:

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I can have poop cleanup down to a science. I can slay fools in the kitchen. I can even perform doll surgery. This hair stuff? 

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It's a cry for help. 

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The Easy Button couldn't even help me with that last one. #binderclip

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I'm getting there though, I promise. 

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... with a little help.

Propaganda! Is! Revolutionary! And! Effective!

Welcome to the new epoch of The Busy Dad Blog! I would like to avail myself of this auspicious occasion to provide a state of our union to you, the people's voice of parenting. 

There is a new look and feel to the site. Some may call it a rebranding. I would call it a reinvigorated purpose. A new glorious pathway. One that required diligent effort and much Photoshop. Please give Ashley Mattocks your credit (which she can exchange for chocolate and VCRs) for her dedicated guidance.

You may have also noticed a new central committee. This consists of my new Minister of the Interior, Exterior and everything in between, Shannon and those who will henceforth be referred to as "The Gang of Five." Their dossiers have been vetted, approved and available in this website's About section. 

As with any transitional administration, forging a smooth path to compliance is wrought with bends in the road, if "bends in the road" means the Great Wall of Laundry or enough dirty dishes to line the Marxist-Leninist pathway. While any self-respecting benevolent, great leader always has labor camp at his disposal, there's not much demand in my neighborhood for freshly smelted iron. To my dismay. So instead, I decided to rely on best practices established by luminaries before me to inform, invigorate, and comply: colorful and inspiring posters!

We have a glass problem here, in that children have short memory spans when it comes to cups. When liquid enters their bodies to refresh and replenish, cups get abandoned and forgotten. An average citizen should consume eight cups of liquid per day to remain communally viable. But nowhere in the doctrine does it state eight different cups. They must therefore be corrected.

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A full pantry is a sign of prosperity. However, it must be clarified that "full" is defined as full of edible staples. An empty Oreo package, as expertly resealed as it is, cannot be used to fuel our movement. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step toward the trash can, and maybe five more to complete the assignment. Our trash can even opens on its own. I treat the people right. 

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When you spend your time toiling to advance the cause, or build that five-story underground fortress on Minecraft, you will need to wash the bourgeoisie spatter off your body. The agenda cannot progress on Axe alone. 

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While any leader would be more than proud of accomplishments that challenge the infrastructure that the short-sighted elite have set in stone and porcelain, it is unbecoming of visionaries like me to jam a toilet snake into said infrastructure. 

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Every revolution is a struggle for power. However, I would rather exert our collective effort in wresting it from the ruling class than writing a big check to the electric company. 

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We thank you for your support and compliance. Or else.

You might be suffering from this fake disease, so watch my fake ad

Cell Displacia is no laughing matter. In fact, with 80 million victims each year in the US alone, you or someone you love may be suffering from it right now. So consider the ad below more of a PSA than an advertisement. Actually, the FTC requires that you consider it sponsored content for Asurion (the folks who have found a way to alleviate the symptoms of Cell Displacia by replacing your mobile device) . May I suggest that you just consider it another opportunity for me to do things like juggle flaming cell phones, wear duct tape underwear, jump off cars on a skateboard and generally put myself in harm's way for your amusement? Because that one makes the most sense. 

How to make fried rice without messing it up

I rarely send you elsewhere. However, since I rarely write now, due to my life being even busier than when I first coined my blog name, I'm going to send you to the place that made me this way. I'm in no way bitter about it, however. Ketchum PR has made me happier than I have ever been. I've found a job that lets me be me (and, bonus, they like that!), challenges my skills, and lets me have fun. They also push a drink cart through the corridor every once in a while. Ketchum, you get me. They also just launched a food blog. There's a lot of us at Ketchum who love food, so it was only a matter of time. This weekend, I contributed a post that teaches the proper technique for flawless fried rice. 

For longtime readers of this blog, you may remember that I wrote a Manifesto about fried rice a couple years ago. I've since mellowed out a bit, and that has evolved into a Tao. But the knowledge is still worth dropping, and my opinions are still bullheaded. And I still make fried rice better than your mama. So click over and read. 

The Tao of Fried Rice, on Ketchum PR's food blog, @ppetite.

The bleak reality of a lost cell phone

Disclosure: I found overly sad music for the video, so it's not as armageddony as the soundtrack might lead you to believe. But it is a major pain to lose or break your phone. Also, no children were (permanently) hurt during the filming of this video. And yes that was a real machete, but it was really dull. Also, I almost didn't do this sponsored post because I thought "is cell phone insurance that relevant to me?" and then I remembered that this is Shannon's phone:

And while I was trying to think up an idea for this video, I removed the cover on my phone to wipe some grit off. Turns out it wasn't grit, it was phone shards.

Since I could not take a picture of my own phone, I asked Brendan to snap the above picture for me, at which point I noticed his phone:

In case cracked phones are getting a little old for you, here's our latest exhibit of relevance from the other day:

We are well qualified to represent that sample of the cell phone using population for whom cell phone insurance provided by Asurion would be a smart decision for us, and nothing but regret for Asurion. But that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to show you a video that we made to illustrate what a drag it is to lose your cell phone

The following is optional, but interesting. Here's some surprising facts I learned about this topic while working with Asurion on this project:

  • $5 billion worth of cell phones are lost or stolen every year. $400 of that is sitting at the bottom of a reservoir in Southern CA. Yeah, that was me. And yes, Asurion replaced it way before they approached me for this.
  • If you have one of the popular cell phones, just know that your chances of it being stolen or lost is 35% higher. Lost probably should be in quotes here.
  • Cell phone theft makes up more than 30% of robberies in major cities. I'm going to add that cell phones likely prevented robberies in the old days. I had a girlfriend whose brother came home one day in 1995 with his 20 lb cell phone (and most of his clothing) bloodied. He used it to knock a rival gang member out. No, there's no app for that.
  • 40% of Americans would rather get in a fight with their best friend than lose their cell phone. What if your best friend steals your phone? That's Jesse Pinkman level messed up for life, yo.

Until next time, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your cell phone insured. 

This post was sponsored by Asurion, and I hope not at all to their chagrin. 

If to-buy lists could talk

This is part 2 of my last post about eBay. All disclosures and A+'s from that one apply. My punctuation keys need a break. 

Shopping is functional, and I usually find it to be a chore because of that fact. I need socks, so I go buy them. There's nothing exciting in that transaction. As proof, I offer up last weekend: I bought socks. I passed up one set because it had two good colors, and then a random striped pair. Who wears striped socks? And why do the other colors have to wallow in unworn limbo because the third pair was so lame? It's a shame, really. So I bought a less offensive set. That was the extent of the excitement there. I had to choose 3 pairs that I was meh about because the two pairs I really liked came with a striped pair I would never wear. The human machine's ability to process disparate data points on the fly is amazing! This human machine, however, lost the socks he bought right after he brought them indoors. For a week, I've been randomly yelling "where are my new socks!?" in hopes that someone will come forward with any new information that will lead to the recovery of my new socks. 

While shopping when you have to spend money is boring, shopping when you don't have to spend money can be a bit more interesting, and I argue, revealing. When you put a wish list or to-buy-someday list together, that's when your practical side that enters stuff into Quicken can just chill for a minute. This is what my eBay collections are all about. Stuff that I would like to buy, theoretically. Not only are the choices a better representation of the unfettered me, there's a story behind them if you look hard enough. 

Since I'm all about chillin for a bit, you actually don't have to look hard at all. I literally wrote each story down for you on my eBay collections. 

Take my Aquatic Therapy collection, for example. The story behind this is that I am a huge fish nerd. Tanis has a thriving tropical ecosystem in the middle of the badlands of Canada because of the fish advice I gave her on Twitter, and Beta Dad's eyes are now open to the conspiracy behind fish food feeding instructions. You can read more about my journey into this world in my eBay collection (click the image to jump over):

And then there's my Playing With Fire collection. Seeing as I told the boys the other day to "go in the backyard and burn something" when they complained that they were bored, it's not surprising that I'd have a collection dedicated to cool things that have to do with heat (click the image, baby):

At the end of it all, I am a parent. And nothing says parenting quite like improvisation. These are some things that prove that Home Depot is actually more useful than Babies R Us when it comes to getting you through the day with your kids (image, click it).

All in all, I have 24 of these collections and accompanying stories on my eBay page, each one a perfectly good reason I could fill out on my insurance form to cover therapy. If you have an eBay account, follow me. I promise I'm more interesting than that Felix Cookie Jar on your watch list.

Great eBay Curator!! ~~~AAAAAA++++++~~+++++~~~+!!!!!!!11

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by eBay. Pleasure 2 work with! AAAAAAA+++ they can sponsor this post again anytime!! AAAAAAA+++++++++++++!!!!!!! 4 stars!!! 

I didn't realize it until I sat down to write this, but my eBay account is the oldest internet related membership that I have. When I made my first eBay purchase, I still had an AOL account, and the only dub step I ever heard was the sound of my modem connecting. I've bought some really cool stuff over the years, and I even started an online store on it years ago, but I only sold one item. I guess I'm really good at knowing what I want, but horrible at knowing what other people want. 

But that's cool because I've collaborated with eBay to create a whole slew of collections of stuff that I want. Wait - eBay collections?? Oh yes. Want to see the coolest Boba Fett stuff that I found on eBay? Of course you do (click on the picture to access the collection):

Also, did you know that my true goal is life is to outlive you? Yes YOU. All of you. Here's some stuff I think I would need in order to accomplish this (clicking on the picture shall transport you into my world):

If you follow me on social media, you know I'm constantly grumbling about the 4 hours a day I spend getting to and from work. In addition to a sherpa, here are some things that would make that more tolerable (click on the picture to leave this god forsaken blog post):

I could go on, but I have 24 of these, each with its own story as to why I created it. It's like 24 individual blog posts! And seeing as I have only posted like 12 times this year, it's like I'm giving you two years of posts on my eBay account.

So peruse my eBay collections, follow them, or build your own. If you want to see what fellow curators have gathered up, just check #FindItFollowIt on Twitter.

Disclosure #2: eBay is a GREAT sponsor!!!!!! Prompt payer!! AAAAAAA+++++++++++++++~~~~~

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.

Acknowledgement

I'm no longer married. This transition has been happening for over a year, but now it's official. I'm checking off a different box when I fill out forms. My life has changed - logistically, emotionally, fiscally. But as altering as that is, I can roll with it. It's distracting enough. But when I check that box, there it is, without context, without ambiguity, without distraction: divorced. There's not another word in the English language more laden. At any given moment, that word can trigger frustration, hope, anger, happiness, sadness, relief, regret, elation, guilt, redemption, fear, anticipation, resentment, confusion. At this moment, it's acknowledgement. Simple as that.

This blog is my story, and I'm going to keep telling it. But divorce is a pretty major plot twist. It needs to be acknowledged. The story has taken a different direction, but it will keep meandering toward its point B. There, that wasn't so hard.

The hard part is real life; all the moments that happen when I'm not sitting in front of a blog template or Twitter. In my real life, my kids have to deal with the fact that life is now "mom" and "dad," not "mom and dad." And while it's true that they aren't forced into the conflicts that dictated our life, there was an "our life" in that equation that we all shared. They aren't old enough to understand that I wasn't happy, and that would trickle down to everything around it. I hope one day they will, but that doesn't change the emotions they feel right now, and no cognitive change down the line ever will. You can't retroactivley feel different.

And my relationship with Lisa. That's a doozy. I wasn't happy. I was quite the opposite of that. However, I did not want to be the bad guy. So instead, I harbored my resentment until it became a justification for anything and everything. I tapped out years ago, but I was too scared to just rip the band-aid off, put my head down, and deal with what ensued. At best, I hoped that she would catch up to my feelings about the marriage and we'd one day over coffee just say "so, you want to get a divorce?" At worst, I hoped that she would end up hating me so much that she'd be the one to make the move. She didn't. And even though we fought all the time, at least she was fighting for something. I wasn't. In not wanting to be the bad guy, I became the bad guy. For that I'm sorry. No matter how it ended, I would have been responsible for this marriage ending. I wanted out, she didn't. But what I feel is more important to apologize for is the hurt I caused, over so many years. Whether or not I liked how she tried, she tried. And no matter what resentment drove me to sabotage the marriage, I still did, and caused a lot of permanent hurt. 

No matter how I felt about Lisa, I always loved and respected her family. In fact, I often joked to myself in the darker times that it was her family that kept me from pulling the plug. They gave me pep talks and provided a sympathetic ear during our toughest times. And this is another reason I regret going about this the way I did. It hurt them in a way that cannot ever be repaired. I would hate me too if I were them, so I can't blame them. I can't go back and change history. I can only apologize and learn from it.

This acknowledgement isn't going to fix anything, I know. But it's a necessary step toward my point B, and I hope it in some way helps my kids, their mother and her family toward theirs. We all deserve to find resolution. I only wish it were as simple as that checkbox. Only divorce can make you wish you were filling out an IRS document.

The minivan of the future won't have lasers

One of the best things about having a blog is that really fun stuff happens. It’s not everyday that a major auto manufacturer asks you “hey, can your kid draw the minivan of the future so we can animate it for you?” Duh. Of course! “Can we also pay you money to allow us to do this?”

Oh you mean like make my kid his own cartoon video that he narrates, so you can put it on the Chrysler blog, so when his friends ask what he did last weekend he can say “oh nothing much. Automotive industry pioneer Chrysler commissioned me for a drawing and used it in a national marketing campaign and you can see it at http://blog.chrysler.com/vehicles/next30years/ (because he always reads off full URLs to his friends) and then dad took me to Hot Topic with the money and we spent it on pop cultural artifacts he’d usually not let me buy, because something about college tuition, and then we ordered all of the milkshakes.” At which point his friend crushes the popsicle stick Optimus Prime that he made last weekend underfoot.

Yes, of course you can pay me for that <-- this is called a well hidden, integrated disclosure statement. More disclosure: I probably would have paid them for that. But that would cause a tear in the blogger/brand continuum so I negotiated hard. Now I’m writing this astride my very own camel with a laptop saddle/charging dock powered by the sun. If you want the good brand swag you have to be willing to fight for it.

So what was this all about? Basically, it’s the 30th anniversary of the minivan, which Chrysler invented. I remember that, actually. I pushed my dad hard to buy one because it had a sliding door from the future. Instead, he bought a Camaro. In hindsight, never argue with dad. He is always right. While no minivan made by anyone could ever compete for a spot in my heart for that ’84 Camaro, I have to give Chrysler props for changing the way families transport their children (lying in the back of the station wagon with the groceries was my mode of transport back in the day).

And they'll probably keep on innovating for the next 30 years. Of course, now they have the power of crowdsourcing to help steer them in the right direction. Chrysler asked Fury if he could help them envision the minivan of the future. I was excited about this because I envisioned laser guns, hyperdrive and all sorts of cool stuff coming from him. His response to my vision?

"Dad, think back 30 years. That was like the 1980s. Cars weren't that different back then. We probably thought cars could fly in 30 years.  I'm not going to do that. I will look stupid."

"But Fury, they want you to imagine. Imagine the future. Think Star Wars!"

"The terrain will be different because of war and natural disasters. I will add all-terrain corkscrew wheels."

Some peoples' kids are dreamers. Some are strategizers. 

So, here's a well thought-out, practical and attainable vision for the minivan of THE FUTURE 30 short years from now, as strategized by my son. He likely already called his lawyer to patent this idea. Sorry Chrysler, I'm sure your legal team did not anticipate this move.

I love this video, but I cannot help but feel a void where MY vision of the future should be. What about my dreams? What about a minivan that I would want to buy for my family a generation from now? I strategize for a living. On my blog, I want to dream. So Chrysler, I submit to you my minivan of the future. 

Presenting the Chrysler 2044 Town and Country. Key features include: 

  • Military grade half-track truck mobility for a comfortable post-apocalyptic ride with the option of Zombie mode (for negotiating terrain with more organic debris) or Skynet mode (for transport across infrastructure damage and better maneuverability for avoiding hunter-killer drones).
  • Strong box for survival essentials made by Gladiator Garageworks because I renovated my garage a few years ago and couldn't afford to install Gladiator Garageworks cabinets, and this is my dream so let me have it.
  • Astromech navigation/companion because, Star Wars.
  • Ghost flames. Of course. 

Please animate this, Chrysler. Or better yet, just build it. I haven't patented it yet. 

What else are you going to spend $20,000 on?

In case my lighting-fast publishing rate of 0.57 posts per month is too much of a literary firehose to drink from, I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that many months ago (i.e. two posts ago), Happy Family Organic Superfoods chose me to be one of their Bright Side Bloggers. I would embed the video I made with them, but it's easier to just scroll two mouse-wheel revolutions and see the original post. Anyway, the point of that project was of course to entertain you, but it was also to give you a chance to win $20,000 toward your kid's education. 

So, in case you missed it the first time, go back and check it out. Basically, you submit a funny story about feeding your kids, written or video, and they enter you into a contest where you could win all that money towards your kid's education. Regurgitated mashed potato in your face was never more lucrative!

"$20,000 towards education?" you ask. 

"Yes," I say "It's a pretty good investment."

"What's it really worth, though," you say.

"Let me Google some stuff," I respond. "I need to make this post longer, anyway."

So here goes. So in addition to making your kid smarter, what else is worth $20,000 in this world? Start with these:

  • You could start your own concrete restoration and beautification franchise. I actually explored this on behalf of a friend, a few years back. I went to the 2-day seminar and everything. There are so many things you can do with driveways and concrete. They involve intricate stamps and finishes, and being bored off your a%^ applying them (I know I bleeped out a harmless word, but Happy Family is wholesome and they paid me, so respect!).
  • You could buy a really nice coffee maker like this:Of course, you'd have to give your customers the option of cash, credit or monthly installments for a cup of coffee. I'm waiting for my credit score to improve before I actually set foot in a Blue Bottle Coffee Shop (which is where this machine sits, or presides).
  • My second job was worth $20,000. Actually $19,000. For $19,000 a year, I did publicity for The House of Blues in West Hollywood. Hey, I was young and I needed the bragging rights! I got a private concert from Johnny Cash (I sat in on sound check), I got to wristband Eddie Vedder, and shake Tony Bennett's hand, so who cares if being there 15 hours a day worked out to less than minimum wage. I'm STILL bragging to you about this, 20 years later. That's longevity.
  • Or, you could have a kid with Halle Berry and then get $20,000 per month for child support, like Gabriel Aubry did. Work smarter, not harder!
  • Or work funner. You can buy this on Craigslist for $20,000:"I will destroy your yard and lift random things for $20 a pop." That would be my billboard.
  • Get a friend to throw in an extra $20K and you can add "disposal" services to your repertoire.
  • Or just get a lionThe guy who owns this $20K lion lives in Kabul. "I like a stable, predictable life" is probably not the bubble he filled in on his OK Cupid profile. He probably also didn't realize that lion cubs grow up to be grown up lions, and that grown up lions like to remind themselves that their claws and teeth work pretty well together. Know why? Because he probably didn't invest in a good education.

And BAM. I bring it all back to the beginning. A $20,000 investment in education is worth quite a lot more than other things with a $20,000 price tag. Go shoot a video, or jot down some words. But don't think too hard about it because I am a slow poster and left you just a few days to do it. The last day to enter is August 31. Go to the Happy Family Stories from the Bright Side page on Facebook and enter.