Monday, April 30, 2007

A Bunch Of Randomness: KFC, Celebrities, Loans, And Birthday’s For Plush

Who Switched My KFC With Folger’s Crystals?
These people did - that's who! I read today that the colonel has jumped on the health kick bandwagon replacing trans-fat in it's chicken. What am I going to do now when I need a fix of something really bad? (but taste sooo good…!)
For crying out loud- it's fried chicken in a bucket! I'm not expecting Flax seed and dietary Fiber.

I just hope it still taste the same or I’m switching to Popeye’s for my fix. Because as of now, Popeye's doesn't care about my DHD, BVD's, LCD's or whatever it's called.

Cajun Man Wants My Parking Spot
While loading my daughter and her “stuff” in the stroller at the L.A. Times Festival of Books parking lot - a huge Lincoln Town Car stopped right beside us, waited for a bit (breathed heavily), and a Cajun man/Jr. High kid-voice asked if we were leaving.
“Uhhh, no Adam Sandler, can’t you see we just got here?” And not to be a snob, but who still buys/drives Lincoln Town Cars anyway -- isn't there an age limit of 75 to even own one? (Joey Lawrence almost hit a friend at the Beverly Center’s parking garage - he drove a Lexus; Fabio almost hit another friend near Santa Monica and La Brea – he drove a Mercedes. And those guys aren’t working, Adam is…)
Maybe I should be thankful he only wanted my parking spot and didn’t want to run me over.

You Say You've Got Connections? Well, We're On “The Guest List” For Gymbo’s Birthday
Our Gymboree invited us to “Gymbo the clowns’” birthday party over the weekend. We (or “I”) went largely for the fancy pizza provided and Cold Stone ice cream cake that was being served.
My daughter really liked the whole thing, especially the part where we sang Happy Birthday to the Gymbo plush doll (who mysteriously blew out the candle on his own -- who says clowns “aren’t” evil? Not me!)
If anybody is having a birthday party for their stuffed animal, cat, or Pokemon I’m sure my daughter will love it. Just be sure to provide Cold Stone ice cream cake and we’re there.

I Thought I Would Be 90 Years Old When This Happened
I just sent my last check and now my student loans are paid off! After years of crazy budgeting, selling both kidneys and soul, fencing cars, my gansta rap CD going gold, etc. (sigh of relief.)
I would say “I’m going to Disneyland” but that place is crowded this time of year.

Things The Kid Is Doing Now
When she’s making me bloop (her word for “Soup”) and Edamame’ (she correctly calls it Edamame’) in her toy kitchen and I start eating without her permission, she’ll yell, “Daddy, don’t touch it!!!” – very clearly (she's the Bloop Nazi.)
The other day she ran up to me, really excited, shouting “Daddy! Daddy!” and then when I asked what was up, she burped so loud that the dog barked. She then chuckled and ran away yelling “Mommy! Mommy!”

I wiped a small tear off my cheek and said in my low, impersonated Barry White deep voice, "that's ma' girl" (but low enough so that the wife couldn't hear me...)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Manual For Boys And Possibly Grown Men That Never Grew Up. The CTD Interview of Conn Iggulden

My childhood wasn’t all I expected it to be. I wanted to make catapults (to launch cows with parachutes), learn spy things like “codes, cipers, and secret inks” (to spy on the soviets- I grew up largely in the 80’s), build a go-cart (like the Little Rascals), make a nuclear battery out of coconuts and Capri-Sun (like the professor on Gilligan’s Island), learn to perform First Aid on myself in case I was shot or bit by a venomous snake (like Rambo), or make a bow and arrows like Legolas.
But alas, I was too busy playing Atari, watching T.V., and was told repeatedly by a demanding mother not to get into trouble (or be “a boy”) or else she’d sell me to the gypsies. That’s no way to grow up.

So imagine the day I read this book The Dangerous Book for Boys – a book on how to do all that. And now envision the good folks at HarperCollins arranging an interview with one of the authors, Conn Iggulden?
I may yet be sold to the gypsies (…or get arrested.)

CTD: How did you and your brother come up with idea for this book? Was this stuff you guys did as kids or did you miss out growing up?
Conn: The first list of chapters came from things we did growing up. The treehouse, the bow and arrow, the go-cart, crystals, the electromagnet and secret inks were all things we made, with varying degrees of success. The original treehouse was unbelievably ugly, so we wanted this one to be a good design. We grew up in a suburb of London with a tiny garden, but with the local park, it was enough to get up to all sorts of things. In theory, we were the ‘Black Cat Club’, but in fact it only had two full members, with my brother Hal on Provisional status. He was the one who had to accomplish various tasks to see if we would make him a full member. One was jumping off the garage roof. I told him it wouldn’t hurt if he said the words ‘Fly like an Eagle’. As he landed, his knees came up so fast he knocked himself out. By the time he came round, we’d gone in for sandwiches.

CTD: Have you actually tested these things out? For instance, making your own battery or using urine as secret ink - because God knows I want to try them out but I want to be absolutely confident they'll work.
Conn: Rule number one of the book was that we had to make everything again to be sure they worked. I’ve read too many instruction manuals where it’s obvious the author hasn’t made the raft they’re describing, for example. Making them is the only way to see the problems. My son ended up with the go-cart and I use the workbench myself. The treehouse is in my mother-in-law’s garden as she was the only person I knew with a big tree. The battery was tricky, but we did manage to light a small LED. I’m not admitting to anything about the urine secret ink.

CTD: On, Susan Wagner wrote about how much she, her son, and husband loved your book - but in the articles comments some moms were criticizing the whole idea of this being a "boys" book. As if girls aren't allowed to build go-carts or treehouses. What do you say to those who think this book is sexist?
Conn: I’d say ‘what’s wrong with celebrating boys?’ I know there was a time when we all tried to believe that boys were basically girls who didn’t wash as much, but the reality is they are very different. They learn differently, mature differently, think differently and care about different things. Men and boys love knowing things other people don’t know – from baseball stats to coins, stamps and historical facts. They are competitive and there’s just nothing wrong with understanding that can be pretty healthy. As soon as you accept that boys are different to girls, you have to accept that there’s nothing wrong in writing books for them. As an ex-teacher, I lost count of the number of mothers complaining that their sons never read, but apart from science fiction and Harry Potter, what was out there for them to read? The nice thing about this book doing well is the number of parents who have written to say how pleased they are to see a book that doesn’t bother to please everyone.

CTD: Do you think there could be "A Dangerous Book for Girls"?
Conn: Of course, though I could never write it. My brother and I put everything we know about girls and it came to a page. I’ve heard there will be a girls’ version coming out in the UK and I’m pretty pleased about that – I have two daughters, after all.

CTD: What were you and your brother like as kids? Did you guys get into a lot of trouble?
Conn: Occasionally, of course! We burned a hole in the living room carpet trying to make a huge candle and made the treehouse by taking all the rare wood my dad had collected for twenty years and nailing it to a tree. My dad in particular was a very, very patient man. One thing I try to remember with my own kids is that if they are stupid, or nasty or tell lies or any one of a hundred other things, it doesn’t mean they will turn out to be a monster – kids can make a lot of mistakes and still turn out all right if they have loving parents. That said, my dad walloped me for stealing from him and I’ve never stolen anything from that day to this.

CTD: I must commend you on the history lessons in the book (famous wars, seven wonders of the ancient world, etc.) I very much enjoyed those. But, then again, I'm the kind of guy that really enjoys those History or Discovery Channel "Modern Marvels" specials on the construction of the "Death Star" or "Starship Enterprise". What were your reasons for including those chapters?
Conn: Those chapters came from my experience of teaching 11-18 year olds. In the UK, our kids end up knowing a lot about the Nazis and very little else. I’ve always loved the stories of history and I wanted to pass on some of them that have been allowed to slip away. Good stories of courage never age – and I’ve always thought they raise the game by showing us what we are capable of. After knowing about Scott of the Antarctic, it’s a lot harder to wail and scream if I stub my toe.

Also, I love facts and dates, just as you do. Almost every man tries to become expert in something at some point. It’s just something we do.

CTD: I'm surprised there are no chapters on life threatening situations like aliens invasions, or how to kill attacking zombies with chainsaws. Was that ever considered?
Conn: Yes. In the end, we had to stop adding things in, but I wanted to put my dad’s method of defending yourself from a tiger (As it bites you, reach inside to the end of its tail and with a yank, pull it inside out) or how to survive attack by a giant octopus (bite it between the eyes where there is a nerve point), but sometimes there just isn’t room for everything. The one about the octopus is real, though I have doubts about dad’s tiger story.

CTD: In this day of Video Games and the Internet do you think today's generation of boys would be interested in making paper airplanes, crystals, tying knots, and batteries?
Conn: It turns out the answer is a definite yes, though I admit I wasn’t certain when I was writing the book. Skills and crafts still attract boys – I think it has to do with controlling the world. It’s the same urge that led to latitude and longitude, navigation and all the rest of it. The important thing to remember is that every generation of ten year old boys is a blank slate. If a father takes a weekend to make a go-cart with his son, it will be a memory that will last forever. If that same father shows him how to do a death move in Total Kill Combat, it just won’t.

Also, I think men like the idea of passing on crafts and skills. With computers in our cars, we can’t really show a boy how to clean spark-plugs or regrind the valves on a cylinder head any more, but by god, we can teach them knots, carpentry and simple electrics. Why not? Being competent at things is extraordinarily satisfying.

CTD: I really like the chapters on How To Play Poker, Making a Water Bomb, and Coin Tricks, but my absolute favorite in the one simply titled "Girls", although it's very funny, there are really good tips about how to be a 'gentlemen', but still remain witty and charming. Have you thought about making a book on just "Girls" – because that would not only be beneficial to boys, but also grown married men in their 30's -- not for me of course --- but for a friend.
Conn: I really liked writing that chapter. I kept it as light as possible and yes, it’s a style of writing I enjoy. I’m glad you felt it was gentlemanly – I still see that as something worth passing on to my son. I’m still learning though. With two daughters, it’ll probably be a steep learning curve in the years to come – perhaps I’ll write one when they’re grown.

CTD: Are there things you wish you had included in this book? For instance building a robot, mind reading, or applying war paint. Are you working on a sequel?
Conn: Mind reading is a great one – the sort of techniques the stage performers used. That was a real problem with this book: whenever I told someone what I was doing, they said ‘Have you put Nitric acid etching in? Or the correct way to throw a ruler?’ or somesuch. There are some things I couldn’t get to work, so they didn’t go in. One was a paper balloon with a tiny candle to provide lift. I know it’s possible, but I just couldn’t make one lift off the ground. I almost set fire to my kitchen with one attempt.

I also couldn’t make a telegraph machine work. I built one, but it just wouldn’t tap out morse code the way I wanted. There’s a couple I could perfect if I went back to them. I’ve no doubt I’ll do a sequel at some point, but first Genghis must ride! I love the epic stories of history and as always, there are too many stories to be told and not enough hours in a day.

The book is released in May (father's day gift? or "talk like a pirate day"?) Now I'm off to throw this water bomb off a balcony.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Daddy Days, Vacation Days, And Keeping Weird Looking Kids Away

Sundays over the last few weeks have been the wife’s “I’m trying to study for the GMAT so take our daughter out for at least 4 hours PLEASE days”, or as I like to call them “let’s see how long the kid can survive without mommy days.”
So far, I’m doing pretty well and I’m really enjoying the time alone with my daughter. We’ve been to the movies (survived about an hour of “Meet The Robinson’s” before she told me “All done! All done!!”), Birthday Parties (nothing like getting the kid high on sugar and then coming home), and of course plenty of visits to the neighborhood lake and park.
This past Sunday we paid a little visit to the L.A. Zoo -- a place we have a membership for but have only been once. We were a little jaded on our previous visit last summer; it isn’t nearly as cool as the San Diego Zoo. But whatever, it’s cheap, it’s close, and I can brush up on my gringo Spanish since that’s about all you hear while there (in fact, I think the animals speak Spanish too!)
The only scary part of the visit was hanging out in the Kids Corner (Reardon toddler room, I think it’s called) and some other toddler who looked like she had leprosy (with scales, scars, and dried blood all over her face, and maybe some kind of mutant pink eye with legs...) tried coming over and kissing my kid with a drooling open mouth –I screamed (quietly) and quickly yanked my daughter away and then moved to the far side of the room (checking for Gremlins.)
Great – now I’m “one of those parents.”

After months of debate, research, investigating recommendations (a huge thanks to those who sent me loads of info) and weighing options, we’ve finally figured out where we’re going on vacation late next month – Fiji.
Yup, nothing like dragging a near 2-year old on a 10.5 hour flight (thank God its a redeye) to a far away place that just had a military coup last December, and some outbreak of something in some remote area.
But on the bright side, the UN folk are vacationing there right now, we found out the “bloodless” coup isn’t affecting the posh resorts (or really anybody), and the outbreak of something is on a small part of one of the main islands (we’re going to be on a private island.) The wife and I have been aching to go for years now AND we got a sweet deal because tourism has taken a hit (but it’s rebounding.)
We've met many Fijians over the years on our travels around the South Pacific (they're really friendly people - even more than Canadians, eh) so the way I look at it, the people need the tourism more than ever right now (and did I mention I got a sweet deal?)

Hopefully I don’t come back with leprosy, because that would really suck.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Coverage: Media Frenzy’s Make Parents Like Me Even More Paranoid

Ever since becoming a parent, devastations like the whole Virginia tech killings make me even more anxious about raising a kid and troubled about those who might be among us equally “ready-to-explode” as we go on with our lives. But what frustrates me even more is the way the media reacts to tragedy.

I don’t exactly know if crimes and tragedies are the same as they were 100 years ago, but in this age of instant-information the news just can’t help but to make us think this is all new. I also can’t help but to think the news has complete disrespect for the victims, families, students, and survivors by tossing them up in front of a camera solely to exploit them. And not to mention NBC’s decision to show those sick videos of the kid – why? (By playing it and over again the media is playing into what he wanted – to be immortalized.) It has to be for ratings and for those equally disturbed voyeurs around us, not for any real news.

My mind can’t even comprehend what the victim’s families, friends, survivors, and fellow students are going through. They, like us, go about living and by pure arbitrary chance some sick, evil kid, who wants to blame the world for his inability to deal with the world - decides to target them.
After listening to so many stories on NPR, news shows, talking heads, etc. it all leaves me confused of how to even look for signs that might prevent anything like this from happening in my own life, let alone understand it. It all just makes me even more frustrated and mentally exhausted.
Evil people exist – that’s the reality. Everybody deals with pain, anger, frustration, and hardships in life – it’s all how you deal with it. A small minority can’t deal, but they don’t kill. This one did.

As with anything you have some politicians, talking heads, screamers, “the experts”, etc. blaming everything in the world ---school, guns, teachers, psychologists, police, students, culture, video games, parents --- everything but the kid. But the one that really disturbed me was South Korea’s apology and the Korean community’s fear of a racial backlash - that one just baffles me. As if him being Korean had anything to do with it - are you kidding!?

I’ve now come to the conclusion that I’m ignoring the media on this. If I see it or hear it, I’m switching the station (or site). Yes, it was a tragedy – my heart breaks for anybody even remotely involved. The only good thing was the kid made a good choice taking his own life (I wish he would have just done that in the first place- I know that might be a horrible thing to say for some, but honestly I don’t think he wanted to be helped.) I can’t even imagine the media spectacle if he not killed himself.
Not sure if everybody feels the same way, or just me. Now excuse me, I have a wife and daughter who need me.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Single Professional Women Having Babies Alone. Single Professional Men Just Buy A Porsche

I just found out that a friend of ours is pregnant by "In Vitro Fertilization" (or IVF). Not only pregnant but with twins.
She’s in her late 30’s and like most women the wife and I work with (the ones nearing 40 or older), most are skipping a dude (or partner), adopting from China or Russia, or getting IVF treatment (which by the way - nasty- I didn’t know they had to inject themselves with drugs!?) oh yeah - and order some sperm (some are online from donor guys around the world – kind of like or eharmony but only for the goods.)

Our friend is smart, has quite a head on her shoulders, put a whole lot of thought into this, and there’s no doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t do the best she could and be a fine parent. But from my own experience, 1 kid is really hard with 2 parents at the helm – I can’t even imagine turning that equation around (that's tough for anyone!) I can’t help but feel nothing but empathy for her. I saw a woman at Target today with twin infant carriers and she looked like she needed a few drinks (or vacation) and she was with a dude throwing beef jerky and batteries in the cart near the checkout (by the way- they know men are impulse shoppers by putting that stuff there – I wish they sold men’s underwear that way.)

Later the wife and I were chatting after meeting this friend for lunch -- who is also a pro-woman with a big fancy J.O.B. who could do fine on her own, etc. I asked if she would have done the same if she never “found me” – she replied with “yeah, I think I would have.” Just because she’s always wanted to be a mom and she couldn't imagine missing out on that life experience. But she is more than thrilled not to have to taken that route.
Me? – No, I would have just bought a Porsche, maybe an Aston Martin, and a few embroidered silk jackets with dragons on them.
Growing up I never really considered being a father (as with the vast majority of my single guys friends now.) Now thinking about it about 12 years ago, I was asked once about the possibility by a lesbian friend who was looking for a guy to have a kid with - that was odd even being asked. But no serious consideration even crossed my mind until I met the wife and my whole outlook on life changed. In the single days, I could never have imagined of being a single guy raising a kid if I never found anyone. I had 3 friends in High School who were raised by their Dads and they were all a mess. Actually one of them went on to do porn (so I’ve heard…) Maybe that’s why I was so jaded?
But who knows, maybe as I grew older my paternal outlook (or need to populate the world with another crazy artist) may have changed.

What about all of you -- moms and dads? If you had never met your spouse would you have gone solo?

BTW- Vote! (not only vote, but for vote for me!)
My site was nominated for Hottest Daddy Blogger!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

School FundRaisers: Just What I Needed - A $30 Roll Of $1 Wrapping Paper And Subscription To Outlaw Biker Tattoo Magazine

The thing I fear most about my daughter beginning school (years from now) is not the peer pressure, the 8 hours of homework, or some boy who will likely try to put gum in her hair. Nope, it’s those school fundraisers.

They’re not the same as they were in the old days, when I was kid - once a year selling $1 candy bars to the neighbors, family, and begging the parents to take them to work and peddle them for you to their co-workers so you can win that limo ride to McDonalds for ice cream.
In the school I attended, having your parents do the work was discouraged. They expected us kids to walk the neighborhood for hours, standing in front of grocery stores begging strangers for $1. These days the schools WANT parents to peddle the goods to co-workers, family and unsuspecting neighbors who answer the door. And this tango doesn’t happen once a year, but 4 or 5.
We get hit up by friends (and strangers) at work, in the neighborhood, at the gym, at family events, at the Trader Joe’s, etc. Most of the time, like the suckers we are (and fear of being “one of those people”), we’ll buy the cheapest thing in the catalog - like that $65 paring knife we recently bought, which sucks and got dull after a few uses (also, I'm suspicious of why kids are even allowed to sell knives? Oh yeah - because the cheapest one is $65!!)
I say, if the schools want the money so bad why don’t they just send a ransom note with the kid that says, “Give us $50 or we’ll make your child sell subscriptions to unpopular magazine and dollar-store knives that sell for $600”. I’d respect their honesty and send off a check instead.

But that probably won’t happen. So instead when my kids starts school, I’m going to cash in my karma and hit up all those parents who hit me up for those $40 Fresh Pine Wreaths and $25 bins of cheap nasty-tasting chocolate.
What do you all do? Do you roll with it? Or does the school somehow punish you by egging your SUV, or sewing a scarlet letter on your kid if you don't participate?

BTW- I’ve been nominated for the “Hottest Daddy Blogger” Blogger’s Choice Award by Jenny over at Absolutely Bananas. Vote for me! (If I win, free chicken for everyone!)
My site was nominated<span style=

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter 2007: Party Like It’s 1999

Easter weekend was fun – on Saturday the wife organized a small get-together for my birthday with some close friends. Eating delicious fancy Thai food (thanks Michele!) among a bucket of KFC AND “party-sized” Popcorn Chicken (that’s right - “party-sized”), drinking fancy wine, making Martini’s (fruity ones like pomegranate – a “real” mans man’s drink…) and mixing just about anything that was liquid with Vodka (thanks Rick!) that makes an old guy like me want to fall asleep by 8:30 (and then sleep-in until 12 the next day – sorry Jesus.) Oh and did I mention a small crowd of kids, including my own, running around nearly eating stuff off the floor (it was clean- so it’s all good, right?)
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday (Note to Colonel Sanders: Make the party size popcorn chicken MUCH bigger.)

Easter was another experience. I went solo, with the daughter, to my family’s annual Easter Egg Hunt and Steak BBQ Extravaganza (yeah, that’s what it's really called) while the wife was at home doing homework for her GMAT prep class.
Last year my daughter had no idea what was going on, so the only festive ‘kid-thing’ she did was take a picture with the Easter Bunny (who she just looked at with no reaction.) This year -- well, let me just say, she has discovered those plastic Eggs have candy in it. She was practically smashing the things on her forehead trying to get the M&M’s or Jelly Beans out. There’s nothing like a shivering kid with a messy face repeating “Yummmmmmy…(heh, heh, heh….)” like a mad scientist while occasionally shaking her butt (the wife must have taught her that.) When we got home, I had to remove the contraband (while her back was turned playing with the Easter Basket) and eat it all just to make sure it was permanently removed from the premises (while shaking my butt.)

Because I know I won’t be able to get away with that move next year without a fight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sketches Of The Kid, Married For How Many Years? And Things I Want On My Birthday (Friday)

I know I haven’t posted any sketches or drawings of my daughter in awhile – I haven't stopped sketching her, the wife, strangers (I still enjoy that) it just takes a little more effort posting the things. Here are some recent “quick sketches” (in charcoal on newsprint) while the observing her play...and the only ones that don’t have any crayon scribbles on them.

Yesterday, the wife and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary (wow, that really seems like a long time just writing it down.) Like most parents with a toddler, whose anniversary's land on a school night, we had dinner (take-out) at home with lots of cocktails after the kids’ bedtime (this is one of the drawbacks of not having any babysitters, or family nearby -- the two of us getting out for alone time.)
I still remember thinking at our wedding, “wow! I’m actually getting married – to her.” Now it’s, “wow! I’m actually married to her and we have a kid…!” It's still pretty amazing.

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Friday is my birthday. I was debating taking the day off of work like I’ve done in the past (last year I took the kid to the Getty for the day, just she and I, which was really fun.) But I’m a busy and I'm feeling a little guilty about taking time off.

Here’s my list of things I want this year (because I’m suppose to be getting wiser…):
1. KITT from Knight Rider (it’s for sale)
2. A hidden place to nap for an hour, after lunch, at work (I dream about this everyday...)
3. A Colonel Sanders white suit with matching white beard and wig (to wear on Fridays or to wear when going through the KFC drive-thru.)
4. World Peace (because I hate going through security at airports these days.)
5. iPhone (so I can make calls to KITT while looking really cool)
6. One weekend getaway with just the wife (maybe to see Tom Jones in Vegas – again, like we did in the old days...)
7. My daughter to be potty trained…

Monday, April 02, 2007

I Think I Just Scarred My Daughter For Life

This morning before leaving for work, I made a quick stop to the bathroom with the door partially open and went about my business. I usually don’t leave the door open just because I’m private like that and these days the wife and I have been in potty training mode with the daughter (I don’t want to confuse her.)

While relieving myself, eyes up on a spider web on the ceiling corner, humming a little Bee-Gee’s tune (don’t ask), I hear a small voice beside me “Da-DEE??” There’s my daughter, standing right next to me, holding her blanket, eyes popped out with a confused look on her face as if I just pulled a monkey out of my butt (and maybe an Doodlebop too.)

(…don’t scare her, be calm, no big deal…)

I was scrambling to finish-up midstream and at the same time a little angry that I drank so much juice earlier…

Me: Where’s mommy? Go to mommy – mommy has some crackcorn, I mean 'popcorn'… or cookies…

Daughter: “I want UP! – I want UP!” (running into me with arms up) I waaaant UPPPPPPP!!!”

Me: I can’t pick you up, go find mommy, go to mommy…..mommy has ice cream!!

maneuvering butt to block child from toilet and pee......(
there's more? can there be more...!!)

Now all I can think about is how I might be getting a called from some police station in Bakersfield, in 15 years, hearing that my daughter held up a liquor store, all because of the 'peeing incident' when she was 1.