Japan vs. Omaha, A Photo Quiz

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Travel Stories

We took two trips recently. One was a family vacation to Japan, where we reunited with old friends, made some new ones and experienced a brand new culture. The other was a trip to Omaha, where we saw some reunited with other dear friends, made some new ones, and got to experience the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting first hand.

Rather than bore you with the nitty gritty details of each, I thought I would bore you with a photo quiz. What is a photo quiz, you ask? Shut up! I ask the questions around here. Here you go:

1. Which of the following breakfast items contained more grams of fat?

a) Breakfast in Tokyo:

Miso soup with clams, tamago (egg) and Tofu.

Miso soup with clams, tamago (egg) and Tofu with scallions and soy sauce.

b) breakfast in Omaha:

A Jumbo Honeybun

A Jumbo Honeybun

Answer: With a whopping 29 grams of fat in the 141 gram bun, this would turn every geisha in Japan who ate it immediately into a sumo wrestler. “Jumbo” doesn’t refer to the size of the bun so much as the size of your buns when you eat it. Evidently, Malcolm wants a badonkadonk.

2. Why was this sign put next to the port-a-potties in a Tokyo?

IMG_4664

Answer: I don’t know and I really don’t want to find out.

P.S. Perhaps this is just an opportunity in disguise. I am thinking a “CSI” type crime drama: “PPP: Tokyo” with PPP standing for Peeping Photo Patrol. Think Ted Danson would be interested?

3. Who is the most bad ass duo?

a) Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger

Screen Shot 2016 04 30 at 10.33.02 AM

Photo: Yahoo finance

b) These two

IMG_4559

Answer: Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are billionaire geniuses that have made Berkshire Hathaway one of the most successful companies on the planet. They are 85 and 92 years old, respectively, and consume Cokes and peanut brittle like ravenous goats. They are rockstars in the corporate world. Still, Malcolm and Miu will one day have an album cover that looks like this and that automatically makes them the winner. The album will be titled, “Only one of us uses chopsticks.” (Malcolm and Miu were classmates in Paris. That they will continue to be friends despite being a world apart is kinda awesome.)

4. Is this the best beef in the world?

IMG_4599

Yes, yes it is. This is called Ohmi beef, a type of Wagyu cattle that is raised in certain areas of Japan. You’ve probably heard of Kobe beef, but Ohmi is every bit as good, if not better. The name really means, “Ohmi-fucking gawd!” We had it at a Shabu-Shabu restaurant in Kyoto, sliced paper thin and then boiled for five seconds in a broth, along with some veggies. Look at that insane marbling! It was dreamy, that’s why the picture came out the way it did.

Our friends in Omaha served us some fantastic beef from half of a cow that they recently purchased. It was spectacular. It could not, however, compete. That’s because an Ohmi steak, served like the one pound T-bone that we had in Omaha, would cost $700. Yowza!

5. Which was more crowded:

a) this intersection:

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or b) this “meeting”:

Image result for how many people went to the berkshire hathaway shareholder meeting

Photo: wsj.com

Answer: They were the same! Too many people! Too little space! The Shibuya crossing in Tokyo is said to be the busiest intersection in the world, with as many as 2500 people crossing the street with each green light. It’s a lot like surfing, except with more surgical masks. The shareholder meeting is also crazy. 40,000 people go to it, filling up the nearly 8,000 seat arena and spilling into overflow rooms. Like I said, Buffett and Munger are rock stars. They had an event at a high-end jewelry store the night before, serving dinner and drinks to people who were free to roam around and check out fancy watches and diamonds, etc. There was no space to eat, so we saw plenty of people hunkered down on the floor, devouring the meatballs and carved roast which was offered at the buffet. Considering the cost of a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock is more than $200,000, I am pretty sure we saw millionaires and possibly even billionaires eating floor meatballs. Insane!

Lastly,

6. We’ve traveled to many parts of the world and seen many interesting things. For my money, you can’t beat re-uniting with amazing friends. This is my friend:

IMG_4924

She is out there every day, fighting for what she believes in. She inspires me to do the same. Find your friends, eat some steak (or peanut brittle) with them, and conquer the world.

 

Why Lazy Parenting Is Good Parenting

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Daddy Stories

I am a lazy parent. Well, maybe not a lazy parent, but certainly I am lazy-er than I used to be. I think back to when Malcolm was small and a typical day involved making baby food, changing diapers, feeding time, reading time, play time, tantrum navigation, trips to the park, trips to the store and then, to top it all off, a lengthy pre-bedtime ritual which involved bath time and redoing many of the other things before he would finally drift off to sleep. Phew! That is a shit ton of work, and I am frankly surprised we ever made it through it in one piece.

My approach has changed somewhat over the years, bearing little resemblance to the (some say hovering) presence I used to be. I trace this transformation back to one specific thing that Malcolm used to do: asking me to wipe his butt. Mostly, it was the way he asked: he’d scream, “Wipe!” but really I heard, “Wipe it, loser, and hurry up, I got stuff to do!” The whole transaction reeked of an impolite transaction between an over-entitled business traveler and a shoe shine guy at the airport. There is only so much indignity that a parent can stand, and one day, when Malcolm summoned me, I declined. Of course, he was incredulous, like it was some great honor for me to be involved in his bowel movements at all, but I held my ground and made that kid wipe his own arse. After a lengthy back and forth, he accepted the new truth and began caring for his own backside. That was seven years ago. (In another seven, he will probably start getting it right!)

I felt good for a number of reasons after refusing to wipe Malcolm’s butt, the most notable being the feeling that sometimes, when a parent doesn’t do something for their child, the child is actually better off for it. You will never learn to wipe your butt if your parents do it for you. So why do it then, unless you like wiping butts? In this age of helicopter parenting, could it be that sometimes the best thing a you can do for you kid is to stop doing the thing that you don’t want to do anyways? Wow! Over the years, I have been utilizing this principle to make Malcolm do the things that I don’t like doing, whether it’s putting away his  laundry, making his school lunch, or diagnosing his own communicable diseases.

I realized recently that I was feeling guilty about not being more proactive in certain areas of Malcolm’s life. A bit of reflection has allowed me to recognize that there is more going on than lazy parenting. Here is what is happening:

  1. Play dates.

Malcolm has been asking me a lot to make play dates with this or that person. I don’t like doing it, they require a lot of details and, more importantly, I have to figure out stuff for them to do. Plus I totally get all caught up in the soap opera-esque subtexts: Why this kid and not this other? What happened to fun with gal pals? What do I care? My parents may correct my memory on the subject, but I remember being in fifth grade and I don’t remember parent organized play dates at all. When I was a kid (D’oh! The dreaded words of parenting. Fuck it, I don’t care!) playtime occurred when child A got on their bike and went over to child B’s house. If child B was home and wanted to hang out, they would both get on their bikes and check out what child C was doing. Things continued to a small gaggle of kids had coalesced and adventures were had. Now, we are stuck in this parent controlled system where everything is pre-authorized, pre-planned, and pre-negotiated. Yuck! I hate it, both because it robs kids of their own invention and causes me extra work/mental energy. I recently started telling Malcolm to schedule his own time with other kids. It has had limited success; I am still involved in more of the process than I want, but Malcolm is making all the initial overtures. It would be a lot easier if all his friends lived in our neighborhood.

2. Summer Camp

I used to have Malcolm’s summer schedule planned out by mid-February. I was heavy on camps of differing interests, science camps, sports camps, cheap get dirty and tired city parks and rec camps, grandparent camps, with a few weeks reserved for he and I to engage in some shenanigans. I have nothing set up for Malcolm this summer. If he has some interests that he wants to explore in greater detail this summer, let him figure it out. I don’t feel like it is my job to tell him what he should find interesting and then spend a bunch of time and money getting him summer exposure to it. Oh, I’ll help him identify and plan anything he wants to do, but my days of overscheduling his summers are done. In practice, this means that if he wants us to fork over the cash for him to go to Minecraft Camp, he is going to have to do the leg work himself!

3. School

Malcolm’s preschool and kindergarten severely limited parental involvement in the classroom. At the school, students did all their work in the classroom and parents had little or nothing to offer to help with the kids’ learning (other than money!)  Malcolm has changed schools many times since then and certainly the schools’ cultures have changed as well. My approach hasn’t, though, and I don’t like getting involved in Malcolm’s classwork. If he can’t figure something out, he knows that he needs to ask the teacher about it. I am interested in his schoolwork, for sure, I am just not interested in helping him do it. I ask to look at his work once he is done with it, and rarely if ever, point out the all the wrong answers. He recently had a big science fair project and I can gladly say that the sum total of my contribution to it was going to the store, at his direction, and buying some poster board. Luckily, the project was not a complete disaster, as Malcolm’s partner’s family doesn’t hold the same “hand’s off” policy as ours. Lucky him!

I am not always 100% comfortable with my take. I would like it if Malcolm were more social, pursued his interests more and was more diligent in the outcome of his school work. I mean, who wants their kid to have a shitty science project? Not me, for sure, but Malcolm is ultimately going to have to decide whether he is the kind of kid who will figure things out or just suck at stuff. I will only get in the way. Sometimes, the lazy approach is just what they need.

This is what's really going on in my mind...

This is what’s really going on in my mind…

Seize The Day

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Miscellaneous Waste of Time

Prince is dead. A sad fact, to be sure, but I must admit that I don’t share the same sense of loss as many of you. I only have room in my life for one tiny purple man, and that man for me is, and has always been, Willy Wonka. For every choice lyric or quote you give me from Prince, I can easily fire one back from the madman of candy:

  • Anything you want to, do it; want to change the world… there’s nothing to it.
  • A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.
  • If the good Lord had intended us to walk, he wouldn’t have invented roller skates.

I had an epiphany yesterday and it actually happened before learning about Prince’s death. I needed an epiphany, as I have been struggling a bit lately. Caught up in my own head, I have recently been tortured by all the questions in life which seek to derail an otherwise optimistic existence, questions like, “Will my son ever learn to lift the toilet seat?” or “Why does the pharmacist hate me so much?” I have let life’s tiny irritations accumulate to the point where they almost fully cloud my field of vision. I noticed my problem this week when I thanked my wife for cleaning the entire kitchen and doing the dishes by telling her she forgot to start the dishwasher. (Sorry Amy!) All the insignificant minutiae details of a stay-at-home parent life have caused me to fall into a sense of ennui. This is particularly troubling because I don’t know what that word means. I can’t see the forest because of the trees.

So what was this epiphany? My discovery came, as many good things in life do, from one single word: Kennyfuckinloggins. “Danger Zone” came on the radio yesterday while I was in my car and electricity shot through my veins. Obviously, it wasn’t words that had an impact, for the song is really just an undecipherable ode to why you shouldn’t pronounce the “G” in words that end in “ING.” (Seriously ! Listen to the song and here is what you get: revvin’, howlin’, beggin’, headin’, spreadin’, jumpin’, and shovin’. Its like a description of the RNC convention if it were held in the deep south! I’m all for colloquial pronunciation, but sometimes even Kenny takes it too far.)

No, the song was able to inspire me with its unique ability to conjure the image of grown men playing volleyball while wearing blue jeans and no shirt. (In case you were born in a barn, the song is the mainstay of the soundtrack to the movie, “Top Gun.”) Oh sure, the guys could have put on shorts and tee-shirts to finally settle who the most manly men were, but how homo-erotic would that be? Fuck that. They greased up their finally chiseled torsos, strutted around like dopey roosters and provided, in slow-motion at times, enough sexual energy to make straight women, gay men, and casual volleyball lovers all lose their damn minds.

So here’s where we get to my epiphany. Those men, those heroes, had a lot on their mind at the time. Maverick had daddy issues, the guy from ER dies, there’s sexual tension everywhere, and, to top it all off, the US was under attack. Holy shit! Yet, with all that is going on, the flyboys were able to shed their woes (and their shirts!) to get down to the heart of the matter. They could have easily not played, or played in appropriate athletic attire. But they didn’t. They put on their jeans, lubed up their glorious pecs, abs, biceps and deltoids and did their best impression of Karch Kiraly, all while wearing police sunglasses. USA! USA! USA!

When the song came on, I felt the parallels to my own life immediately. The world around me is constantly pressuring me to keep my proverbial volleyball shirt on. “Don’t enjoy your son,” life whispered to me, “concentrate on his bathroom etiquette.” “Harp on the negatives,” it continued, “no matter what the people in your life do for you.” The whispering continued, drawing me farther and farther away from where I want to be. When I heard the “Danger Zone, I realized, I don’t want to live like that! Somewhere on Macarthur boulevard, after dropping Malcolm off at school, I decided I wasn’t going to let life drag me into the abyss. Think Goose or Iceman obsessed about their pharmacist’s steely glare? No! They played with vigor and sunscreen, hugging and high-fiving until the large crowd that had gathered was in a virtual frenzy. That’s what I want to do.

Tom Cruise aint got shit on me! Except a good body. And glasses that aren't broken.

Tom Cruise aint got shit on me! Except a good body. And glasses that aren’t broken.

Obviously, I don’t think this means I should play more semi-naked volleyball. Rather, my discovery is that I need to seize the day. If I don’t thoroughly enjoy this moment, it will be gone, replaced with something that is actually shitty. I don’t want to waste any more time on hangups. As often I can muster the strength, I need to celebrate those around me and the amazing opportunities that life offers. I want to be a spectacular husband! I want to be a great dad! I want my experience with everyone, whether as a friend, son, or prescription picker upper, to think, “Damn, that kid is bringing it!” Put simply, I need to stop getting in the way of myself. Willy Wonka said, “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” Paradise: I coming for you!

Then again, Wonka also said, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” Maybe I just need to drink more.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Donald Trump

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Soap Box

This election is completely bananas. It seems like it started five years ago when Donald Trump paid a bunch of actors to show up to his kick off announcement, and then descended into anarchy when 17 Republicans joined him in the field. Hillary Clinton was supposed to sail through the primaries, but now finds herself going toe-to-toe with a guy who seems more suited to the role of “crazy guy sitting next to you on a bus” than president. Things have devolved to the point where press coverage of the election has the same tone as two 13 year old girls texting one another:

OMG, did you hear what Cruz said about Trump’s wife?

Crazeballs. Trump threw shade right back, doe. Called Cruzzz a man-ho.

WTF?  Cruz a total creeper.

Normally, you want to get your kids into the political process as much as possible. This year? Not so much. Watching and listening to Donald Trump will undo more of your parenting than a family camping trip to Burning Man. (“Like, wow, man, I never thought mushrooms belonged on a s’more… until now!”) If you are having trouble explaining the Trump phenomenon to your kids, fear not. I have put together this little FAQ guide to help you through this troubling time. Here’s what to say when your kid asks:

  1. Why is he so mad?

Donald Trump isn’t really mad, he is just pretending to be because he thinks it makes him look strong. He thinks that if people think he is strong, he will be a good leader. You can take this opportunity to point out leaders who were strong without being angry, like Nelson Mandela or Yoda. You can also say that Trump is angry because he been divorced twice and declared bankruptcy four times. If they won’t know what that means, you can just say that he is mad because he is orange.

  1. Why is he so orange?
I was too was well on my way to becoming orange. #SeniorPicture

I was too was well on my way to becoming orange. #SeniorPicture

Shoulda saw that one coming! Nobody knows why Donald Trump is orange. Maybe he eats a lot of carrots. Maybe one of his parents was an Oompa Loompa (that would certainly be ironic, wouldn’t it?) Don’t tell your kids about spray tans, though. As soon as you do, they will want one too. This is a great opportunity to tell your kids that, as MLK said, people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. I don’t think that Dr. King ever thought his quote would one day be used in defense of orange people, but hey, look how far we’ve come! Unfortunately for Donald Trump, the content of his character is nothing but a sack full of money and some old pornography.

  1. Why does he call everyone ugly?

Sadly, Donald Trump’s vision of beauty is chiefly derived from old pornography. In his world, if you aren’t good looking, you aren’t worthy. You might be tempted to discuss the obvious disconnect between his comments about the way Carly Fiorina and Heidi Cruz look and the road kill he has affixed on his dome, but that would be giving into the madness. Instead, tell your kids that Trump looks for any potential weaknesses in people and tries to exploit them. He is, in short, a bully. Bullies are bad, you and your kids already know this.

  1. Why is he rich?

Donald Trump was born rich. Even so, he took risks and got richer. There are lots of people who inherit a fortune and then lose it all. To his credit, Trump has been successful in business. Not all his businesses have been successful, but some of his risks have paid off. I think that is useful to kids. You can have stupid ideas like “Trump Steaks” and survive them as long as your good ideas pay off. It’s a great way to learn modern portfolio theory! If kids have a hard time understanding it, try the jelly bean way: Some jelly bean flavors are good (buttered popcorn, cherry, key lime pie,) and some are terrible (vomit, canned dog food.) As long as there are enough good jelly beans in your bag, you will keep buying and eating them right?

  1. Is he racist?

I think it’s usually pretty destructive to point fingers at people and call them racists. Well, most people anyways. It’s pretty easy to call the members of the KKK and white nationalists that support Trump racist. (It’s kinda their thing, just look at their tattoos!) That should also be a signal to you that you are doing something wrong. Tell your kids that if white men in pointy, hooded robes ever hold rallies in their honor, your kids are probably on the wrong track. Trump has no problem lumping every member of a group together into a homogeneous category, (“Ban all Muslims” & “The blacks love me!”) which to me is the very definition of racism. If your kid does the same, you have some parenting to do.

  1. Will he be president?

He could! Evidently, there is a small portion of people in this country that thinks that a risk-taking racist orange man with a dead animal for a hairdo should be our commander in chief. This is an excellent opportunity to talk to your kids about voting. The people who actually vote in this country have an exaggerated effect on the future of the country. Why is this? Nobody votes! In the states where Trump won the primary, here is the percentage of population in that state that voted for him:

Iowa                            2%

New Hampshire        9%

South Carolina           6%

Nevada                       2%

Alabama                     10%

Alaska                         1%

Arkansas                    6%

Georgia                       6%

Massachusetts           6%

Minnesota                  1%

Oklahoma                   4%

Tennessee                  6%

Texas                          4%

Vermont                     4%

Virginia                       5%

Kansas                        1%

Kentucky                    2%

Crikey! The people who are inching us toward a Trump presidency represent a tiny minority of the population. It’s pretty easy to see that voting matters, and matters a great deal. Even a kid can see that. The question becomes, will that tiny minority of the population actually pick a president?