Bootie Call

2013-12-24 16.29.07My first reaction was denial. A grandfather? Me? In my head I am still 19 years old, and that’s certainly too young to be a grandfather. Of course it is also too young to have children who are now in their 20′s. In the world outside my head I indeed have three adult kids (Adult kids? Is that an oxymoron?). In the real world my oldest son is soon to be 26, and sooner to be a father himself.

I remember the day Zach was born. Although we had moved to Rockland County we decided to still have “the baby” in Manhattan. I remember speeding down the Palisades Parkway with reckless abandon, hoping I’d get stopped by an eager Trooper just so I could have the satisfaction of pointing to Zach’s very pregnant mom in the back seat and continue on my high speed journey citation free… Yes, Zach, one of the first (of many) joys you gave your dad was a valid excuse to put the pedal to the metal…

And now another joy.

But at first I was in denial. Was my son ready to be a dad? How would that change his life? He is just establishing himself in his own career. How would it change my life? Was I ready to be a grandfather? Fortunately I came to my senses enough to realize that it is not about me, it is about my son… And his girlfriend… And their life together.

Still, I just wasn’t ready. I am from the school where you get married first, and then have kids, but I realize that social norms are different now, and the path my son is on is not as radical as it first seemed to me. And I know his girlfriend is a wonderful partner and loves my son wholeheartedly, as he does her, and I know she will be a wonderful mother. When Zach had a real scare, she was the one who saved him. I might not be ready, but Zach and Felicia are.

Thanks Mom!

Unlike hesitant me, my own parents were thrilled at the news and instantly embraced it with the same love and excitement that I am sure they will embrace their great-grandson with. It was my mom who finally put some sense in me and helped me paddle my way out of denial and open my eyes to see how exciting it is that our family was entering a new generation, that my son was ready and able to be a dad. I was reminded that they, my parents, were only 22 when I was born.

Shortly after having that conversation with my mom I was in NY for the holidays and walking through the Christmas shops setup for the season in Bryant Park. It was a cold but beautiful day, the kind where you can walk around with a cup of hot coffee or tea or cider and the cold smoke of your breath competes with the rising steam of the drink, a drink you count on to warm your hands as much as your innards. Through wind-teared eyes I spotted them inside one of the crafty pop-up shops, the booties. When was the last time baby booties caught my eye? Never? But I had to have them. Hand made from thick organic wool they were perfect, and the perfect first gift for me to buy for my grandson.  My grandson…

As I paid for the booties, I was suddenly struck with a wave – no a tsunami – of emotion.  I was suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed with the realization my son was going to have a son, and I was going to be a grandfather.  The cute little booties had finally made it real, made the tears start streaming down my face, and the lump of welled up feelings rise up in my throat.  Finally, I was ready.

Being Gramps…

But I was not yet ready for enormity of the real thing.  I had no idea how excited I would become as the due date approached.  As I write this I am on a plane to North Carolina, where Zach and Felicia live.  Where my grandson will be born, maybe even right now, while I am in the air, or later tonight, or sometime tomorrow.  But I am not leaving North Carolina until I meet the little bugger, and hold him in my arms, and put those little booties on his feet.

To be continued…

UPDATE:  My grandson, Liam David Sass, was born on April 10, 2014 at 11:36 pm.  He entered this world weighing 9 lbs 3 oz, 21 amazing inches long.  As someone who loves to write, and leans toward the verbose, I cannot find the words to fully and fairly describe the deep love, pride and joy I have for my son, for Felicia, and for my grandson.  I was in awe as I watched Zach step up into his role as dad and partner, and wonderfully coach and support Felicia (who was amazing in her own right) through a long and uncomfortable labor.  Even more indescribable is the instant love, bond and deep connection I feel to Liam, a bond I felt in the deepest corners of my being the moment our eyes connected for the very first time.  He is a special little boy, and I am so very blessed to be his grandfather.

I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time in North Carolina.  I miss him beyond words already.

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Zach and Liam…

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Of Kids And Dogs…

Iris, the one-eyed wonder

Iris, the one-eyed wonder

Growing up I never had “real” pets. Sure, I had turtles and goldfish and even a snake and a chameleon (not all at the same time…), but I never had dogs or cats. The excuse was that I, as a chubby asthmatic kid, was allergic… but I always suspected that the real truth was that my mom was not inclined to deal with the hair, litter-box, poop and pee that accompany canine and feline ownership.

Call It Puppy Love

But I loved animals, and they loved me. In fact there’s an old story about the time when I was three and we were at a barbecue at a relative’s house. I fell off a picnic bench and broke my arm, and the relative’s dog, a miniature schnauzer that I had befriended, would not let anyone near me, running in circles protectively around me, as I cried and clutched my injured arm. It took some time for my dad to finally fend off the pooch in order to get me to the hospital…

So, when I was finally an “adult” I wanted to get a dog… but dogs are a lot of work, especially for a single guy in a small NY apartment. Eventually, I got a couple of cats, introduced to the finer facets of felines by my then fiancé. After we were married, and moved to Rockland County, the prospect of getting a dog seemed closer (but not close enough to hamper our dink status (Dink = Dual Income No Kids). Then we got pregnant, and life as we knew it, was going to change.

Diapers & Poop Scoopers

So, with my first son Zachary on the way, we figured the time was ripe to become dog owners. If we were going to be staying home more to be parents, we could care for a dog along with our son. Yes, Zach’s first sibling was Ling-Ling, a beautiful Chinese Shar-Pei. By the time Zach’s human siblings came along, Ling-Ling had unfortunately passed away (a long, sad story) but we were committed “dog people” and our kids grew up alongside canine kin including Logan (a great, Great Dane/Lab mix), Molly (a magnificent mutt), Chelsea (a gorgeous Golden Retriever), and over the years over a dozen dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds. We learned many lessons in care and compassion from our furry friends, and I wouldn’t have had my kids grow up any other way. Our dogs have made us all better people.

Iris The One-Eyed Wonder

It has been a long time since I’ve had both a puppy and one of my kids in the house. My dogs are old – I’ve had them more than 12 years and as they’re all rescues I’m not quite sure how old they were when I got them… And, my kids are no longer kids (but I do know how old they are!) As young adults my kids have acquired their own pets as they’ve moved out and onward. They’ve only known a home with dogs, so it is not surprising that they’ve been continuing our course of canine companionship with dogs of their own.

My daughter recently moved back home (yay!) and she brought along her recently rescued puppy, Iris. Despite the fact she is a cyclops – yes, Iris lost an eye shortly before Olivia rescued her, Iris is a ball of energy. My formerly “empty nest” is now bustling as Iris (and my daughter) have brought back some welcome noise and activity to keep us older folk (me and my aged dogs) on our toes (or paws, as the case may be). Kids and dogs are a lot of work, but the love you get (and get to give) in return is well worth it. I am really happy to have both “girls” home.

How about you? Have pets played a role in your home?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads,  Wunderkind!  and Gape Into The Void podcasts.

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A KickA$$ Dad on Kickstarter

We’ve talked about a lot of awesome dads here at Dadomatic.  It’s what we do, right?  So it is with great pleasure and tons of awe and admiration that I mention another frickin’ awesome dad (and a hat-tip to Mashable for bringing it to my attention…).

Uber creative dad, David Engledow, has been documenting his role as “World’s Best Father” with some impressive pictures of him caring lovingly for his beautiful daughter Alice Bee.  But don’t take my word for it, check out David’s great shots in the video below, and consider backing his KickStarter project for a 2013 Calendar featuring his “World’s Best Father” photos.

 

 

Dads rock, and so does creativity!  Thanks for sharing yours David!

What do you think?  Is David Engledow a contender for World’s Best Father?  I am sure Alice Bee will think so when she is old enough to appreciate the work that went into this calendar.  Meanwhile, I need to learn Photoshop!

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Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads and Wunderkind! podcasts.

 

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The Final Dinner at Charlie Trotters

Friday, August 31, 2012 is the final dinner at Charlie Trotters.  I’ve been following the countdown all week…the Web site has a convenient countdown clock and the Chicago Tribune has been running a long series by Mark Caro leading up to tonight’s final dinner, $250 per person

I remember the first time I walked into this culinary pantheon.  It was April 23, 1999.  My then fiancé, now wife Renee and I had gotten engaged only hours earlier, at a nearby neighborhood craft boutique.  She thought we were going to the movies but instead, she had to race home to change clothes and prepare for what be one of the most memorable meals of our lives.  We walked out happy and a signed menu reminding us that, “After love, there is only cuisine.”

The second time I walked in almost four years later, it was a totally different experience.  My then wife was pregnant with our daughter.  I’d been fortunate enough to “win” the opportunity to spend a week (a whole week!) trading my day job in front of a computer for chef whites in one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world.  When I arrived, I was instructed to come in the back door, off the alley, not the front door of the restaurant.  That’s where the staff entered.  Truly, it felt as if I was going backstage for a theatrical production.  No spotlights.  No programs.  Right into the kitchen where all the action was.

I fondly recall so many experiences from that week, but also remember it being the hardest five consecutive days of work of my life.  It’s grueling to stand on your feet from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. almost non-stop.  I don’t think I saw or talked to my wife the entire week as our ships passed in the night (I’d get home in the middle of the night and she’d leave for work a few hours later while I was still sleeping).

In that week (according to the notebook I kept), I watched a lot and did more hands-on than I ever thought I would.  I:

  • cleaned manilla and littleneck clams
  • made sous vide vegetables
  • peeled carrots
  • quartered baby artichokes
  • cleaned fiddlehead ferns
  • cooked razor clams
  • made squid ink pasta (under the watchful eye of Giuseppe Tentori, now of GT Fish & Oyster and Boka, who I’m lucky to still know well today) using 46 egg yolks
  • boned quail and pheasant
  • tasted my first sea urchin
  • washed fresh water chestnuts
  • peeled and blanched grapefruit peels (12 times)
  • butchered ducks and rendered the fat with Matthias Merges, now of Yusho
  • plated seafood salads
  • turned meat on the grill
  • shucked oysters
  • made persimmon bread pudding
  • seeded passion fruits
  • buttered ring molds
  • mixed the batter for coconut macaroons
  • made chocolate-coconut ice cream (1/2 milk, 1/2 coconut milk)
  • separated 120 eggs
  • plated crème caramels
  • sauced plates
  • cut quinces
  • learned to add citrus rinds when steaming seafood
  • tasted bison
  • was asked to remove my apron at 8:30 one night and then seated in the restaurant at a table for one, where I tasted 14 courses…literally everything on the potential menu for anyone that night, including four desserts and wine with each course…and then staggered home

It was…an amazing week.  An experience I will always remember.  And one that I’m sorry my 9-year-old daughter, a lover of fancy food, won’t have the chance to experience.

On Passing Along Creativity To Our Kids

Is creativity a result of genetics or environment?  I have no idea. If you know the answer, please share it.

What I do know, is that I grew up in a household where creativity was generally celebrated, and I have always considered creativity to be one of my strengths. My mother always drew and painted, and as long as I can remember, our apartment prominently featured her art, both things she had painted as a child, and more recent works she created as a mom. She is still creating art. My sister and I were always encouraged to pursue creative activities, and I found myself drawn to writing, theater and music at a young age. I am still creating today, both personally and professionally.

I’d like to think that my kids were also raised in a creative home. Both their mom and I shared our creative pursuits with our kids, and when their homework offered a more creative option than just using a textbook, we did our best to push them down the creative path. A diorama was always a better choice than a written report as far as we were concerned.

Thinking creatively is a life skill that doesn’t just apply to arts and crafts. I firmly believe that being creative, that having a creative mind, is an asset for all types of social and business interactions. Perhaps this is even more true in today’s connected world, where our kids are growing up as personal broadcasters. Our kids are sharing clever 140 character updates, slickly filtered photos, and high-definition videos, as non-chalantly and easily as we may have tossed a crumpled handwritten note to a kid across the classroom when the teacher wasn’t looking.

In a world where content is king, creativity rules.

I am proud of all of my kids and their continued creative pursuits, whether in the kitchen, with an instrument, or in planning an amazing event. The thrill every parent knows from sticking that first drawing on the refrigerator is every bit as sweet when that drawing becomes a story, a picture, a song, a video on YouTube… Anything created by our children can be a source of awesome parental pride (well, not anything… as the parent of twenty-somethings, there are a few of “those” Facebook posts that, well, I could have done without seeing…). But I digress.

This post on creativity was prompted by me discovering an awesome (in my highly biased parent’s point of view) short video that my middle son Ethan stars in and wrote and performed the music for. If I ever wondered what he was doing while away at college in Boston, I couldn’t be happier to see this as one of the results. Ethan just graduated from the Berklee College of Music and is moving to Austin, Texas to pursue his career. I know he will do so creatively…

 

 

Where do you think creativity comes from?


Jeff Sass
 is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 20).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads and Wunderkind! podcasts.

Photo Credit: © picsfive – Fotolia.com

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Cos-Play for Kids?

Who says costumes are just for Halloween?

Kids have always loved to dress up, and frankly, so have a lot of adults.  For many kids and adults one Halloween day a year is hardly enough to satisfy one’s urge to hide behind makeup or a mask and take on the attributes of another person (or creature).  Nothing wipes away inhibitions faster than dressing up and seeing the world through different eyes.  When you are in costume, there’s an energy derived from the way others treat you.  They don’t treat you as yourself, but rather, they treat you as the person or thing your costume represents.  It is a vicarious thrill we learn as kids and (if we let ourselves) continue to enjoy, on occasion, as adults.  Of course as a parent, you can always use your kids as an excuse to unleash your inner character (as this super dad did).

Recently I attended the Florida SUPERCON, and while not as big as the famed San Diego COMIC-CON, I got to enjoy seeing quite a few kids (and parents) in costume.  I wonder which of these parents dressed their kids up and dragged them along only so THEY could break out their inner superhero…

Are costumes just for Halloween in your household, or do you and your kids enjoy some off season Cos-Play???  Please add links to pictures of you and your kids in costume in the comments!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 20).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads and Wunderkind! podcasts.

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Help Me Get My March Madness On!

I love basketball.  To be more specific, I love playing basketball.  I’m not tall, not light, and I’ve never actually been that good at it, but that never stopped me from loving the game.  That probably comes from growing up in a part of Queens N.Y. where asphalt was everywhere and thus so were rims.  Grass and fields were not part of the equation in my childhood.  I lived in an apartment.  My elementary and Junior High Schools had only paved yards, so it was only natural that they offered an abundance of hoops and that basketball became the game of choice, and for most of my formative years, the game I played just about every day.

My Day On Court

Half court, full-court, one on one, three on three, horse, whatever. If it involved bouncing that ball and tossing it toward (and hopefully through) that hoop we played it. We lived it.  I played in leagues.  I played at summer camp.  I even had my moment at age 11 or 12 when I miraculously scored a winning basket, a clumsy, unexpected bank-shot, in the famed (famed for camps in the Berkshires) Pittsfield Tournament.  Back then I was big for my age (I grew early and stopped growing early) so I was valuable on the court to get in the way and grab rebounds, but I rarely had the opportunity to take a shot, let alone score a basket.  I remember the article about the game in the camp newsletter referring to me as “defense specialist” when reporting on that remarkable winning moment.

Kids, Knicks and Dads!

When I became a dad, I was still an avid fan of playing, and couldn’t wait to put up a hoop in my own driveway and play with my sons.  When they got older we played together at the gym.  Yet with all my love for the game, I haven’t kept up as a spectator.  I haven’t really followed a team where I knew all the players since Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe ruled the Knicks, and Phil Jackson was a player, not a coach…  Yeah, I’m that old.  So if I haven’t kept up with the NBA, you can imagine my lack of team knowledge when it comes to college basketball… yet I couldn’t be more excited to say I’ll be heading off to New Orleans this weekend for the NCAA final four!  I am excited because I love the game of basketball, and I am pretty confident I will bear witness to some great games.  And, I’ll be doing it with some great dads!

Life’s Good!

LG – the consumer electronics company whose motto is aptly “Life’s Good” is making sure this weekend life will surely be good for a number of dads including my fellow Cast of Dads co-hosts C.C. Chapman of Digital Dads and Brad Powell of DadLabs.  Courtesy of LG we’ll be spending a few days in the big easy watching some great b-ball and getting the inside track on a wide range of LG products.  The geek in me is as pumped up as the old basketball player as I saw a sampling of some of LG’s 3D TV’s and other products at both the Consumer Electronics Show in January and the Dad2Summit earlier this month.  Lots of impressive technology all around.  As an official NCAA Corporate Partner, LG has a number of events going on  for the NCAA finals, including an LG Home Court Challenge Experience for fans in Bracket Town on Sunday April 1st.  You can get more info about LG and their NCAA promotions here.

Who Should I Root For?

So, do me a favor.  Since I don’t have a team to root for yet, please help me out with my last minute bracket.  Please help give me a crash course in this year’s NCAA finals.  Leave a comment and let me know who I should be rooting for to win the championship.  If you tell me to pick the right team (the team that actually does win) you’ll have a chance to win a prize: If you help me be a better rooter, I’ll give you a chance to win a router! (That’s right, I have a brand new Linksys E4200 Dual Band N Router I’ll give, randomly, to someone who picks the winning team in the comments to this post.  Comments must be received by 12 noon EST on Monday, April 2, 2012).  Thanks for your help!

Go ______________!!!

Disclosure: http://cmp.ly/3/k1OU88

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 20).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads and Wunderkind! podcasts.

Treat Your Kids Like Rock Stars!

It was the limo that put the word “stretch” in Stretch Limo.  It was a long, luxurious, glistening and gaudy white limousine worthy of any superstar celebrity in need of a ride.  It was a head-turner, and it had just turned and pulled up in my driveway.  The driver sheepishly knocked on my door.  I looked at my watch.  It was about the time I needed to head to the airport for yet another business trip.  By this time, my kids had looked out the window and noticed the wheeled wonder blocking the family minivan.  Amidst screams of “who’s limo is that???” I answered the door.

“Mr. Sass?  I’m here to take you to the airport…”

I gazed beyond the driver to the beautiful behemoth in the driveway, and then, with puzzlement, at the man in my doorway.

“Oh, that?” he explained.  “All the town cars were out this morning, so I had to take the stretch.  Don’t worry. I’m only gonna charge you the Town Car rate.”

“Cool…” was about all I could say.  Then, as the driver grabbed my bags, I looked at my watch again.  It was tight, but there should be just enough time.  I asked the driver, “Do you mind if we make one quick stop along the way?”

*  *  *

Except for a little anxiety about making my flight, it was the one and only time I welcomed the long line of cars slowly creeping forward toward the student drop off zone.  Hawkes Bluff Elementary School was walking distance from our house so we only drove the kids to school if it was raining or if they were running late.  This morning was an exception. I welcomed the slow arrival, as did my kids, who waited until just enough of their fellow students were staring at the long limo before they rolled down the smoked glass to reveal who was inside.

By the time we rolled up to the drop off zone, two of my three kids were standing on the seat, heads poked out through the sunroof so they could wave and taunt their jealous classmates as we came to a stop in front of the sign waving school aide.  The smiling driver, donning a classic “chauffeur” cap and happily playing along, ceremoniously opened the limo door, and out popped the Sass kids to the imaginary popping of paparazzi and a red carpet only they could see.

Best school entrance evah!  (and one my kids, now in their 20′s, still talk about).

Have you ever had the chance to treat your kids like rock stars?

 

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 20).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads and Wunderkind! podcasts.

Photo Credit: © andersphoto – Fotolia.com

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Are You Old Enough For Facebook?

English: "G" rating of Motion Pictur...

Image via Wikipedia

This is a post I wrote on my own blog a few months back. I thought it would fit nicely here with the dadomatic community. If you have children and you let them play on social media websites, or are wondering what to do because your child is asking for a Facebook/Twitter/Google Plus account, this is my approach/opinion. There is no right or wrong way to approach social media with children. I think teaching them to follow the rules is what is important.

Well, we (my wife and I) decided to let our oldest daughter have a Facebook account. She’s fourteen now. Facebook “rules” state children must be at least thirteen. I have seen many parents circumvent that rule and let their children younger than thirteen have an account. I’m not sure what use it is to a six, seven, ten or even twelve year old. Personally, I think doing that teaches children to disrespect the rules, and authority. It tells children it’s okay to break the rules when it suits you. If you are one of those parents, don’t be surprised when they break YOUR rules. You have set the precedent.

We took our time, and learned the pros and cons of social networking before allowing our oldest to participate. And of course it is still evolving. Naturally, our daughter has been wanting one since she turned thirteen, as most, if not all her friends were already on Facebook too, and Facebook says it’s okay at thirteen. But we know from personal experience it can be a time waster. And there are hidden dangers lurking on the Internet. So we wanted to be sure she understood how to use the social networking tool. With the privacy settings changing regularly, we felt additional precautions were necessary. After all, WE as parents get to decide when our children are old enough for, and have a reasonable reason for using Facebook. Thirteen is the age Facebook is comfortable with, but you don’t have to sign your child up immediately on their thirteenth birthday. We didn’t. And now we are confident enough in the service’s privacy settings and in our daughter for understanding the need to be selective and cautious.
We’re encouraging our family members and close friends to connect with her. However we also think about how some people, even family and close friends, are not careful about what they post and not selective about who gets to read their content. I want to remind you that there are minors on Facebook, as well as the rest of the Internet. Either your friends have children they allow on Facebook or maybe you have children that you allow on Facebook. You should be selective what you post and who you allow to see your posts. Since there is no preview option (nor is it logical to have one)  for parents to prescreen their children’s newsfeed, photos, notes and other options, we are left to trust the network of friends and family we allow to connect with our children to be guardians of the community when we are not there.

One feature that Facebook and Google Plus have is “list” (Facebook) or “circles” (G+) where you can place your friends, family or other connections. People will only see the content posted to the list or circle you placed them in, and people don’t know what list they have been placed in. Please use the list/circle feature with your friends and please put minors on a G-rated content list, meaning that what YOU post to that list is G-Rated. And I did say G-Rated because PG means Parental Guidance, and it is just not rational to expect parents to sit right next to their children during their Facebook time all the time.

If you need help learning how to use the “list” function, I am happy to explain. You can connect with me through my website at www.charlieprofit.com

 

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27 Dads, 27 Mustaches – A Movember Story

DADS OF SUMMIT HEIGHTS PS

Last year, a bunch of the teachers at my daughter’s school formed a team and participated in Movember. For those of you not familiar, during Movember men around the world grow mustaches in the month of November, to raise money and awareness to fight prostate cancer and other men’s health issues.  All the kids rallied around the teachers and got involved. You could tell the kids were proud of those teachers and they should have been.

So this year, my friend Alan had an idea. He thought it would be fun if a bunch of dads from the school formed a Movember Team. He sent out an email to the school dads he knew, and asked everyone to pass it on to anyone else they knew in the neighborhood.

I thought it was a great idea and a bunch of the other dads did too. I figured it was a great opportunity to teach my daughters about charity, and let’s face it, when you get a chance to do something your kids can be proud of  you have to take it. The fact that we would have to get together as a group, and that there may be beer present at such a gathering didn’t hurt either.

When November started, about 15 dads were on the Dads of Summit Heights PS Movember Team. That number quickly grew to 27. What none of us expected, is what we would accomplish.

The Principal, Thelma Sambrook, and the staff and children at Summit Heights have been very supportive.  Word spread through the neighborhood and school district, and people started donating not just to us individually, but to the team. With a few days left in November, our small group of dads has raised more money than all but 35 teams in all of Canada.

Think about that. Movember is pretty big up here in Canada. I know everywhere you look here in Toronto, there is a guy growing a mustache. All of the big and high profile companies get teams together. Local newscasters, large corporations, banks, all take part. And our group of dads has raised more money than all but 35 teams. We’ve raised over $22,000.

One of the dads has done some calculations and he’s figured that our average contribution per teammate is well above that of the top 3 fundraising teams. It’s also been pointed out that we have raised more money than the Parliament of Canada. Just 27 dads.

The school had an assembly and invited us. The Principal talked about Movember and called us up in front of the kids. It was that chance to make our kids proud. The kids were out there in the audience, all of them with mustaches painted on. When I spotted my daughters and made eye contact, the look on their faces- it was pretty awesome.  The whole thing was pretty special. All because a dad had an idea and acted on it.

To support the Dads of Summit Heights PS Movember effort, you can donate to me or the team here.

The reason I wanted to tell this story though, is that it’s pretty amazing what this small group of dads has done. I’m proud to be a small part of it. Sometimes it feels like one person can’t make a difference. I’m here to tell you they can. One dad had an idea, and 26 others joined him and raised over $22,000 to fight prostate cancer. Imagine what you and 26 of your friends can do. Then do it.

Ian Gordon is the father of two daughters (8 and 3).  He is a digital marketing professional, and host of the Startup Daddy podcast.

A Father And Son Create A Charity Around Laughter

Us dads are always looking for activities we can share and experience with our kids.  Sometimes it is a sport or hobby.  Sometimes it is a book or movie.  Sometimes it is helping with a school project.  My friend Steve Spiro and his son Sam have found a project they can work on together, while bringing smiles and laughter to the sick and wounded.  After all, laughter is the best medicine!  Here is a short interview I did with Steve and Sam about the organization they setup to donate comedy books to hospitals, www.LaughterIsTheBestMed.org.

 

LaughterIsTheBestMed.org: Dadomatic Interview with Sam & Steve Spiro from Jeffrey Sass on Vimeo.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

You can find Steve’s -er, Arnie Goldberg’s book, “Why Jews Don’t Camp” here (affiliate link).

Our Children’s World Is Magical

(This post was inspired by my recent trip to Intel’s Santa Clara Headquarters for their annual “Upgrade Your Life” Experience…)

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic…”

- Arthur C. Clarke

Of all the wonderful words that Clarke wrote, few have been as powerful and prescient as his frequently cited statement above. He was right.  More than right, he has defined the world we live in today, and more importantly, the world our children will carry forward. It is truly a magical world.

The Magic

In our lifetimes we have seen technology advance well beyond “sufficient,” to provide us with tools and capabilities that are so indistinguishable from magic we already take them for granted. You wouldn’t think twice about standing on a street in NY and speaking to your friend while they are on a boat off the coast of France…yet that is magic.  We take for granted that we can sit on the couch with a laptop or tablet and watch a movie sent to the device without wires or discs… yet that is magic.  Having near instant access to the answer to nearly any question imaginable, from a mobile device you carry in your pocket… is magic. Getting off a plane at crowded airport and getting a notification that a friend you haven’t seen in person in years is also in the same terminal building, so you get to hang out together for ten awesome minutes… is magic.  I could go on and on.

The Magicians

Unlike the magic of wizards and sorcerers, the magic of technology cannot simply be invoked with incantations and chants of “abracadabra.”  The magic of technology is created by a different type of magician – the engineers, scientists, visionaries and entrepreneurs who can not only envision the magic but who can also figure out ways to build it.  Today’s magic comes from people and companies who have leveraged brainpower, innovation and imagination to make the impossible possible.  Chief among these modern day magicians is Intel. As an Intel Advisor I’ve had the privilege of taking a peek inside Intel and meeting many of the brains behind the magic and the wizards behind the curtains of innovations that have changed our lives and will change the lives of our children.

It’s The Process, Not Just The Processor

What makes technology become magic is what it empowers us to do.  As amazing as it is to acknowledge the advancements and engineering prowess it has taken to facilitate the evolution of the microprocessor (following Moore’s Law and decreasing in size while increasing in power and efficiency by silicon leaps and bounds), the true amazement is not in the chips, but rather in what the chips enable us to do.  Intel employs scientists, researchers, anthropologists, sociologists, even futurists, to study human behavior to better understand where the true power of the microprocessor can be put to work. In one day on the Intel campus for the Upgrade Your Life event we saw firsthand how technology is changing healthcare, education and the care of our environment.  We saw how technology is facilitating independent living for a rapidly growing population of seniors.  Magical things like placing sensors in chairs to wirelessly alert the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient when her husband, known to wander off, gets up from his favorite chair, so she can come home from next door and make sure he is ok.  By using technology to place shift and skill shift aspects of healthcare, many of the services provided today by institutions can potentially be moved to the home, which for many could diminish the need for a nursing home.  The possibilities are endless, and the advancements are desperately needed as cost effective, and more importantly – effective healthcare is critical for an aging population.  We live longer, and the magic of technology may enable us to live better too.

Unleashing Human Potential

The talented artist Hugh MacLeod was hired by Intel to create some of his inspiring cartoons at the CES Show in January and he leveraged the phrase “The processor is an expression of human potential,” which succinctly and sincerely captures the essence of the magic of technology.  While I don’t mean for this to come off as just a puff piece for Intel, I do mean to use Intel as an example of one of the many companies that really are creating magic that will likely benefit our children in ways we can only begin to imagine.  Think of the world you lived in when you were the age your children are today.  How many of the things your children now take for granted would have seemed like magic to you back then?  I grew up in a world before there was a computer on every desk (and now in every pocket.)  My kids know no other world.  What is magic to me, is ordinary to them.

I can’t wait to see the advancements that my kids won’t be able to distinguish from magic!  Can you?

 

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

Disclosure: I am part of the “Intel Advisor” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf.  Intel covered my travel, accommodations and expenses for my trip to Santa Clara for the Upgrade Your Life event.

Photo Credit: © ioannis kounadeas – Fotolia.com

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Of Tattoos and Determination


The arm in the picture above belongs to my 23 year-old son, Zach.  The tattoo belongs to him as well.  It is his first.  Personally, I am not at all the “tattoo type” and while I have come to appreciate and admire them (in many, but certainly not all, instances) I don’t see much “ink” in my own future.  I’d say it was a generational thing, but Zach’s mom has a few tattoos herself. Zach wasn’t the first of my kids to jump on the permanent self-expression bandwagon.  My 19 year-old daughter Olivia has a rose tattoo (though I doubt she has ever seen or read the eponymous and wonderful Tennessee Williams play, one of my favorites).  If my middle son has splurged on some ink while away at school in Boston, he has yet to break it to me.

Ink Has Lost Its Stink

As a parent, I have odd feelings about tattoos.  They are so permanent, and thus the dad in me can’t help but feel that my own kids – even though they have passed the age of 18 that we accept as the benchmark of adulthood – aren’t quite ready to make a decision today that perhaps they will feel differently about 5, 10 or even 20 years from now.  A tattoo is so… permanent. Then I look around the world I actually live in (which is not always the same as the world that exists inside my mind) and I see my friends and co-workers and so many others who have embraced some “ink” as nonchalantly and proudly as they would any other personal attribute or fashion statement.  Ink, in many ways, has become a literal sign of the times, and, like it or not, an accepted personal accoutrement.

Characters and Character

I suppose there is something romantic about the permanence of a tattoo and thus the (hopefully) carefully considered design and meaning of the art one literally chooses to brand themselves with. My daughter chose a flower.  My son, some Japanese characters, with a meaning only he (and those who can read Japanese characters among us) will understand at a glance. While at first I wasn’t sure I would smile upon seeing his tattoo, I did have to smile when he told me what the characters meant.  His tattoo says, “DETERMINATION.”  Zach, is the embodiment of determination.  Working in kitchens throughout college, and now as a full-time chef, Zach became an avid runner who, determined, lost over 150 pounds in less than a year, completed a half-marathon, and recently bought his first home.

Determination.

His determination (and subsequent success) has filled me with pride.  How can I not love his tattoo, and the meaning behind it?

What do you think of “ink” as it relates to your kids?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

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Getting An Upgrade From Intel


Chips anyone?

As part of the “Intel Advisors” program, my fellow Cast of Dads co-host Michael Sheehan (@hightechdad) and I were the lone males at the recent “Upgrade Your Life” experience at Intel‘s Santa Clara headquarters.  Surrounded by a bevy of talented women entrepreneurs and bloggers we were treated to an inspiring peek inside Intel and in particular, a deeper look at some ways technology is impacting our environment, our health and our education — in essence, how technology is impacting our lives and the lives of our families. I attended this event last year as well, where, among other things, I was introduced to the Intel Reader, a fascinating product to help the visually impaired.  There was a lot of great information and learning at this year’s event as well and I look forward to sharing more details here.  Meanwhile there is a good overview at the Intel Inside Scoop blog, and below is a short video recap Michael and I recorded in the lobby.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 23, Ethan, 21 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

Disclosure: I am part of the “Intel Advisor” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf.  Intel covered my travel, accommodations and expenses for my trip to Santa Clara for the Upgrade Your Life event.

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The Single Dad’s Sounding Board?

From the mundane to the major, one of the things I have had to grapple with over the seven months since my wife passed is that I really no longer have a single sounding board to just talk through issues or hear myself say them out loud.

I recently posted on my Single Dad blog about missing this aspect of a relationship.

The current conundrum is an important decision.  The good news is no matter what I do, I am OK, but still I’d love to make the right decision.  Yeah, there are a lot of people I can seek out and opinions I can get.  But there is not really anyone who knows the intimacy of living in my house and how things go.  And that’s what’s missing.

I even remember a moment when I was dealing with an issue of similar gravity a year ago, and I sat in my wife’s hospice room and talked to her.  At the time she was non-communicative and I am not sure if she even heard me or understood what I was saying.  But it helped to just say it out loud and hear the issues and run through the possible solutions.

So for now, I’ll take this one on myself-spend the day (or the weekend) over analyzing and then jumping forward with what I am sure will be the right course.

Looking Inward for Solutions

Dropping a cross post from my Dad the Single Guy blog because I think this audience would have some thoughts on this too:

I’ve never been one (or at least I hope I have not been one) to look for help unless I am truly out of options and just can’t figure out a problem or issue.  This is especially true when it comes to parenting and raising my kids.  Beyond a sense of responsibility, I think I owe it to them to just figure it out.

Sometimes the answer is asking for help-and with some reluctance on my part I have become more willing to do that.

But then came a blog post a friend shared via Twitter and on Facebook entitled “Sacrificial Lambs: How We Are Destroying Our Children” and it got me thinking.  The blog (and please do read it for yourself and not just accept my thoughts) basically outlines how schools, social services and third-party support have allowed the nation’s poorest children to slip through the cracks.

I am not questioning the reasoning or the information presented by Peter Cookson.  I do take issue with the fact that Mr. Cookson (whom I’ve never met or read anything else from) thinks the problem can be fixed through social change-in effect change the “system” and change the outlook.

That just can’t be.  Certainly there are things that can be done. Families should not have to live pay-check to pay-check at the poverty line.  But they should be the first-and only line of defense in the well-being of their children.  There is no government program or school based fix.

Parents have to make the sacrifice for the kids they brought into the world.  Perhaps I am sensitive to this because of sacrifices I’ve seen made for my kids-and the sacrifices I make for them, and certainly I do not have all of the answers nor do I want to position myself as a poster-child for family life.

And, I do believe there should be a social net so children do not fall through the cracks.  But the fix has to start with family engagement-from parental school involvement, to family structure (and I do not mean nuclear family here, rather an engaged mother or father figure) to making time for your kids.

Today is a perfect example.  I am writing this blog on an eastbound LIRR train.  I left work early with a 6PM call still on my schedule to make sure my older daughter got to her softball practice on time.  Tomorrow, I will leave early again to get the younger one to a softball game.  The car pools are set up to get them to Hebrew school.  I’ve emailed with both of their teachers today about in class happenings.
It can be done.  It’s not easy and it is a commitment of time and energy-but they are my kids and I’ll raise them.

 

Perspectives Are Shaped By Our World

This is cross posted from my Single Dad blog, but I think its relevant for the Dad-O-Matic audience too.

NYC's Upper West Side via myupperwestside.comI had an exchange with 10.5 today (through a closed bathroom door might I add) that made me chuckle slightly, and appreciate the differences of the changed world in which we live.  And in this case, I am not talking about change as a bad thing, or the catalyst for bad things.

She took the phone into the bathroom for privacy while talking to her best friend.  When I walked by the door and heard the muffled voice I asked (through the door) if she was in her phone booth.  She replied, “What’s a phone booth?”

I answered back that it was an obscure reference, never mind.

Today’s exchange brought to mind one that I had with both girls several months ago when I dug out my old radio bag-that still had my Marantz tape recorder, microphone, several mic flags and of all things cassette tapes-both of my kids were most fascinated by the rolls of quarters that were still tucked away in there.  “I needed them,” I told them, “to do my work.  Its how a story got on the air quickly.”

“Why didn’t you take out your cell phone?” 8.5 asked me.  A question that cemented the realization that my kids only know a world of the cell phone.

It’s a changed world.  I was talking to another parent at one of my daughter’s softball games the other night-and we were talking about growing up in the late 70′s and early 80′s-when our bikes meant freedom, and we were out the door after breakfast and knew to be home (or at least close by) about the time the street lights flipped on at night.

But that’s not today’s world.  And that’s not what this is about.

Instead, it’s about the icons that we know shift.  Has the iPhone replaced the phone booth?  Remember the scene from one of the Chris Reeve Superman movies, when he was looking for a phone booth to change in, and all he found were the partial phone booths mounted on posts?  It was the start of the modular life.

Dropping 10.5 off at her friend’s house tonight, we were talking about my aversion for electric cars.  I believe they are a feel good green effort rather than a true change.  I’ll buy a flex-fuel car-and look to not put gas into it, I truly hope the gas station my daughter’s know today will be the phone booth of my grandchildren’s world.

Until then though-even in the latter stages of my early 40′s I can remember fondly just a little, right?

 

Being Pro-Fit

I recently started a fitness training program and post regular updates on my website. I wrote this post to give my reason why I am getting fit. I think being a parent comes with many responsibilities and one is to teach our children how to live a healthy lifestyle. I thought this might be motivation for some of you thinking about doing a fitness program. This  is cross posted at www.charlieprofit.com (click the Insanity button). [Read more...]

Google’s “Dear Sophie” Ad Makes Dads Proud!

Product commercials are known to be sappy on occasion.  It seems the pulling of our heartstrings is a proven selling technique right up there with sex and humor.  Effective branding ads frequently play with our emotions, creating clever brand associations that, when they work, can be deep and lasting.  Google has a winner with it’s current ad for Chrome, as a Dad’s love and pride for his daughter is brilliantly expressed through the thoughtful and personal digital history he creates for her, leveraging Gmail and other Google products from within his Chrome  browser.

Scrap the Scrapbook!

Granted, this is a commercial, but the email diary Sophie’s Dad creates for her is a brilliant idea any Dad (or Mom) can use as a way to memorialize all those special moments as our kids grow from infancy to insanity.  For a geek Dad this seems far better than a scrapbook.  Just set up an email account for your kid, and start sending them emails, with pictures and videos as attachments.  Then, one day, when they are old enough, and least expect it… hand over their username and password, and let them read through their life through your eyes!  Easy. Fun. Touching. Brilliant!   I wish I could have done this when my (now young adult) kids were kids.  What do you think?

Here is the ad, “Dear Sophie.” (Hat tip to MG Siegler at TechCrunch, which is where I first saw the ad…)

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

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Signs, Signs Everywhere is Signs

Cross posted from Dad the Single Guy:

Can you read them all?There are lots of signs out there-some that are really obvious, like the ones on the road when you are driving. Some that are designed to make you take an action, like a sale sign in a store, and some that are societal-a parent non-verbally communicating with their children, unspoken communication between siblings or the underpinnings of a conversation; at least partially implied.

And so it goes.

Over the extended spring break the girls have had from school, I’ve done a lot of driving-and read lots of signs on highways and roads. Those are pretty easy. I’ve also started doing some camp shopping, and although it can be confusing the sale signs in stores are pretty evident and can be read pretty easily.

Last night I went out to dinner with my kids, and was not overly happy with their behavior at the table. After a warning, came the look. You know it. You use it. Your parents used it on you. The look. A non-spoken sign, but sign none the less.

Then comes the much tougher ones-the ones that are implied or at least partially implied through conversation or actions. The ones that carry a lot of meaning to the conveyor, but if missed can create an awkward moment for all.

I was at the gym this morning, just doing my thing. Generally at the gym I am not a talker, it’s not a social event for me. That said, there are a couple of people I know at the gym-most because of the years I’ve been going and others are from the community and we cross paths at the gym. This morning I was talking to a friend in the former category-someone who I crossed paths with two gyms ago and has moved gyms over the years on about the same schedule as I do.

(BTW, there is a whole post about changing gyms-its not a very easy thing to do)

As I was talking with John, a woman I recognize from the gym I work out in now came up to us and interjected herself into the conversation. After just a few minutes of idol chit-chat with no real meaning, I kind of peeled away, but the ear-buds back in and got back at it. Five minutes later I looked over and John was still engaged.

Twenty minutes later, now on the treadmill, John got onto the open one next to me and told me the woman I turned away from wants to go out. Now, I’ve seen her just about every day for the last six months, we’ve waved and nodded-I think I’ve even had a quick conversation on an elliptical machine (boxed in with nowhere to run). But I’ve never gotten that vibe.

So now I have to think about what tomorrow will be like. I’ll go for avoidance-just to keep it simple. But now I know. Have to read ALL the signs.

 

Making Today A Better Day Than Yesterday

This is cross-posted from Dad The Single Guy because I think the audience here will have a different take on this one:

While it sounds simple, for the last 18 months or so I’ve tried to focus on getting day-to-day for me and the girls, and along the way doing the best I can to make today better than yesterday.  And I’ve tried to help the girls understand this philosophy and implement it in their day-to-day as well.  Along the way there have been successes and failures.  By my rough count-we come out ahead though; more wins than losses.

I paid my doctor a visit yesterday-it has been a while, and as I was giving the nurse the updates on my history, I told her I was now widowed and we discussed that briefly.  A little later in the discourse came the discussion of , “What meds do you take?”

I am not one to take meds needlessly.  In fact, even when the girls are sick, if it’s just a cold I really don’t medicate them, and almost never give them antibiotics.  It’s a personal choice.  So, when she asked me what meds I was on, I answered Zyrtec for my allergies.  Her response was, “Are you sure?”

I was pretty sure, so I asked her if she had anything good I could try.  She then told me she was expecting me to say some course of antidepressants.  And I was taken aback by that.  I’ve never even thought about needing that.  It’s just never been a part of my thought process.  Mind you, I am in weekly therapy, and the girls between school and private go twice a week-and yet I just have never even thought about it.

Which made me ask if she thought I needed it.  Her response was, “Men are good at hiding their emotions anyway.”  I am barely in my doctor’s office once a year, so there is no real way the nurse there would know my baseline, so I let the whole conversation slide-but it does make me think…

Am I too focused on the moment?  Is it time to start thinking about tomorrow and next week and pull the focus away from what is happening now?

There is a good case to be built for that-for too long my focus has been on making sure today is a good day that we are missing out on what is ahead; not taking advantage of all there is.

But that said, there is still so much complexity in the here and now that I don’t think in total we would be doing as well without focusing on it.

So onward we go, perhaps over simplified-but when all is said and one, today will be better than yesterday.

 

Follow Me On the Yellow Brick (Road)

One of the interesting things about being a 40+ tech nerd is that I have what I think is a unique and different view of devices and apps than the usual 20-something.  So when I go to a Tweetup (a meeting of Twitter users), I am usually the oldest or among the oldest.  When I am part of a FourSquare swarm (20+ FourSquare check ins at a single location) again I am usually among the oldest there.  And frankly, I am pretty comfortable with it, I can hold my own.

Now, if you are reading this and do not know what FourSquare and Twitter are, it may be a little rough, but hang in and who knows maybe you can unleash your inner tech-nerd.

(If you are on Twitter and don’t yet, please do follow me @esd714)

For the last couple of weeks-at the urging of the CEO of a company called Yellow Brck I have been testing and using a location based social app geared to parent called Yellow Brick.  Its a free app for iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) available via iTunes.

Basically, the app allows you to mix location based checkins (FourSquare) with activity based check ins (Get Glue) and share them with your (limited right now) Facebook network.  When you dig a little deeper into the app, there are some good couponing features that are location based.

Right now, while the user base for the app is small, it seems most of the couponing is NYC based.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone not in the NYC area who tries this app if they have a different couponing experience.

To check in on the app, after opening it, select check in, and then drill down first through activities (and remember this is a parents and kids app).  The list includes movies, birthday parties, parks and nap time.  Once the activity is selected, you have the option of including a location.

Location services appear to be driven from the device’s LBS-so you have to agree to allow the app to know where you are and its a pretty extensive list.  One thing I would like to see going forward is a way to read review on locations-either via Yelp or home grown within the app.

Right now the app draws friends and shares information only with Facebook.  This is a calculated decision based on engagement on Facebook.  Twitter networks tend to be broader, but less engaged.  I would want to see this option (especially for friending) extended to Twitter.  In many cases I have friends who are mobile on Twitter but not on Facebook-but that may be a fringe use-case.

The other nice part about the network sharing, is the ability to not share location information with your network.  I have written about this extensively on my social media blog.  Its a best practice, and one that I practice dillegently to only share location information with people I actually know.

The flip-side is being able to connect with others (on FourSquare I have had many productive and inpromtu business meetings) based on check ins and knowing where key people in my network are.  The same with parenting (and Single Dadd’ing).  Its always great to hook up with friends and kids friends and a few fewer calls and texts to make it happen is not so bad.

For now, Yellow Brick is only available for iOS.  The CEO says an Android version is in the works.

Give it a shot, and friend me up.

Visiting Day At The Kids’ House (and Dinner for Dad)

2/3rds of the Sasslets

Kids: You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them!  Granted, that expression may have originally been coined for someone (er, some gender) other than kids, but these days I’d like to think it has ample applications to our offspring, for, as challenging and frustrating as being a parent can seem at times, the rewards far outweigh the work, and when the days of being needed daily suddenly come to an end it is, frankly, quite an adjustment.  I will soon be celebrating my 23rd year of fatherhood, and for the first time in over 22 years, I am living my life in a house without kids.

Empty Nest, Full of Pride…

Sure, it is an accomplishment to get your kids to the point when they can go out into the world on their own, and start playing in the same game of “adulthood” that we, ourselves, navigate each day.. but it is an accomplishment that comes with a price… the price of change… the price of not being “needed” in the ways you have become so accustomed to… in the ways the have been so deeply and dearly ingrained in your life as a parent. While I am filled with immense and immeasurable pride for my kids, for what they have accomplished, and more importantly, for the fine young people they have become, I am at times overwhelmed by how much I miss having them around.  I knew this was coming, and that I was about to experience a taste of sunrise, sunset, but I never imagined how truly different things would feel.

Keep Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Closer, And Your Kids As Close As Possible

While my middle son has been thriving at college in Boston for a few years now, I was spoiled to have the other two here with me at home.  Now, since my oldest son has become a first time homeowner and has absconded with my daughter, his sister, as a housemate, I am left to my own devices, and fewer vices.  Miraculously, there are no longer stacks of filthy dishes in the sink when I come home.  Lights and televisions are not left on in rooms that are unoccupied.  Plates of half eaten food and half filled glasses are not strewn about the most unlikely nooks and crannies of the house to feed the undernourished community of grateful ants. The laundry room is available for me to do my laundry… any time I want.  My house is CLEAN.  My house is QUIET.  My house is BORING.  Luckily, my “local” kids have only moved ten minutes away, and in an odd twist of “role reversal” after so many years of feeding them, I was invited to “their house” for dinner for the first time.

It was wonderful.

Parenthood is forever, and forever changes.  Cherish every moment along the way.  The things you find most aggravating today are likely the things you will miss most sorely when they are gone…

(And if you can get at least one of your kids to become a professional chef, you’ll enjoy “dinner at the kids house” even more!)

The Daddy Dating Game

Today was a planned work from home day for me.  It’s a day I can have dinner with the girls and just make sure I am around.  Lately I’ve been trying to schedule two of these a week and try to give them a chance to talk or just hang and not have to worry about sitters and other distractions.

I posted this over on my Dad the Single Guy blog too because I am very fascinated by the way conversation went from fairly benign to very deep in almost no time.  I would be interested in what the community things about this.

Tonight 10.5 had hebrew school, and with Purim in the rear view mirror, temple attention (at least for the Hebrew school  set) turns to Passover.  In the world of Hebrew school that means the model seder.  Today, home came the list of things I have to send it.  Its broken down by class-and that became the jumping off point for a discussion I was no way prepared for, but had to deal with.

In explaining the classes beyond 13, when they have their Bat Mitzvah I tried the metaphor of – right now everything you are learning is about being Jewish and getting ready for Bat Mitzvah.  After that (if they choose to continue) they learn how to be Jewish in life-and begin to identify for themselves what role (if any) religion will have in their lives….

Which somehow lead its way to my dating life, and the gulf between the girls on the subject matter.  8.0 is exuberant in her support of my dating-can’t happen fast enough.  I had to temper her exuberance with a reality check-her mother and I dated for nearly 10 years before we got married.

10.5 has a very different outlook.  She cast it as I am not ready, after all my wife died three months ago.  When I asked her about this, and why she thought it, the reality is she is not ready to have me date.

And it seems the same exuberance that 8.0 has for a female figure, 10.5 is guarded against.  It’s aninteresting split in the girls.  If I had to guess (or if I was sitting in the comfy chair at my therapist) I would guess it has to do with Risa’s physical capabilities from birth to three or four for both.  After 10.5 was born, Risa physically was able to bond and be engaged.  With 8.0 it was much more of a challenge for Risa.  There was no less love (it seems gratuitous to add this, but I feel like I need to) but the ability to manage a 2-3 year old and bond with a baby was just not as robust.

The next interesting part of the conversation came when we talked about specific people-who are single and I could possibly date–10.5′s outlook changes a lot.  Could it be the worry is about her having to bond with someone new?  The challenge of creating relationship dynamics at 10+ rather than having it instilled?

 

Daddy Wrapping

Got the job done at least, right?

What gifts look like after a daddy wrap

I put this over on my Dad The Single Guy blog this morning, but wanted to add it here because its one of those relationship issues that people on this blog seem to like.

One of the semi-corny things you hear about a marriage is that its a partnership-we all have things we don’t do well, and together, the number of things that are not done well should be diminished.  By and large, I concur with that thinking….

And this morning I was reminded of one of those things that my wife (even as she was losing her physical capabilities) was able to do, and back me up for something I really don’t do well-gift wrapping.  Its trivial I know, but still a place where two together make a better whole.

Knowing this weakness, I usually bluff, and use the gift bag.  But today, because of poor planning on my part, I had to actually take out the wrapping paper and the results just were not very pretty.

 

Whenever I have to wrap presents like that, I am reminded of two stories from my life.

First in college, a girl I was dating was doing an internship at Macy’s (yeah the department store) and she got me and a couple of friends a four day temp job wrapping gift boxes for display after Thanksgiving.  Needless to say, my wrapping days were pretty limited, and they utilized me more in the manual labor area of hauling Christmas decorations around the store.

Second, my days on the deli counter at Valley Caterers in Franklin Square.  I could wrap a meanpound of bologna, but still can’t get a gift wrapped to look normal.

 

Thoughts of God, Spirituality and Beliefs

Are they all this easy to read?

Hopefully, if I get a sign from God, I will be able to read it.

While I try to work through what this blog will be for me, and how to put all the disparate pieces together, I posted a self-reflective blog over at Dad The Single Guy that has spurred a pretty good discussion on the blog and on my Facebook, so I figured I would see what I could drum up here.

Without just re-posting-the upshot of the posting on DTSG is how in a random encounter last night I was confronted with my opinion on religion and spirituality–and basically I am not a religious person, and I look inward for spiritual guidance.

That said, there the question of is there design?  Is there a grand plan?

To me, life is somewhere between a series of coincidences and random acts-and we come together based on things we affect.  The person I was talking with last night put all of those actions and reactions in the hands of God.

I certainly encourage everyone to have their beliefs and love to debate people on things (sometimes I will do it just to be contrary).  But that said its tough to see where the signs of a God start and end, which makes it tough for me to believe-kind of a left brain/right brain conundrum.

I send my kids twice a week to religious class, and they will get their Bat Mitzvah at 13-but that’s in part to fulfill a promise I made to my wife before we had kids (knowing she would probably not live to see that moment) and because I believe its the right thing to do for my parents and the people I care about-but its not a God driven desire of mine.

My problem though is my kids have picked up on this-and I am worried that my jaded view on religion is now being shared by my kids-and they have not had the chance to understand, embrace or decide upon religion.

Navigating this will be tricky.  10.5 is getting to the point where she will start looking for a date for her Bat Mitzvah, and 8.0 will become enmeshed in the hoopla and planning-but will the faithful part of the event translate?  And how can I try to embrace it, while being honest about my own feelings toward it?

And there in lies the conundrum for this audience–navigating the single dad waters of being honest with my kids, honest with myself, loyal to my wife’s memory and making sure the girls have the chance to experience their heritage so they can make a decision on it.

Life’s Journey, One Day At A Time

Its great to be able to contribute to this blog and perhaps find others who are trying to take on life’s challenges one day at a time, and in some cases one crisis at a time.

By way of introduction, I am a recently widowed father of two girls.  There’s tons of background about it on my site Dad the Single Guy so I won’t dive too deep into that.

365 AT DAY 016

Can I look back at the guy in the mirror when I shave? If I can, its all good.

One of the reasons I asked Chris and his team if I could start blogging here as well is because I wanted a chance to reach new people who are in the same challenge as I am, or perhaps who have been through it.  Ironically, I am not a big reader of self-help books or blogs.  But I do think we can all help one another-and the most important part of that is to be out there and want to be helped (and to offer help).

One of the toughest lesssons for me to come to grips with as a single father (I became a widow in December but the reality is I’ve been a single parent for almost two years because of my wife’s debilitating illness) is  never having true down time.  There is always one more thing to do, one more event to schedule and one more errand to run.

That said, its great because I am very close with my girls.  8.0 and 10.5 are outwardly very normal kids-and that is by design.  So each day we get two feet on the floor and take it on-hoping that the guy looking back at me in the mirror when I am shaving is able to look me in the eye.

Hopefully going forward this can be a two-way (or even more than that) dialog about how to meet the challenges of being a dad in the early 2000′s and be successful doing it.
Creative Commons License photo credit: justDONQUE.images

Discussing Dadgets: The Cast of Dads At CES 2011

Three of us Cast of Dads (CC, Michael and myself) were in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and we got together upstairs in the Intel booth to record both a video and audio special episode of the Cast of Dads podcast.  We invited Dave Delaney of Griffin Technology to join us as our first ever guest Dad, and we had a lot of fun talking gadgets and dadgets in the corner of a very busy Intel CES meeting room.  In the show you’ll see us playing with an unusual netbook/tablet from Dell, and stay tuned to future Cast of Dads shows for news on how you may be able to get your hands on one courtesy of Intel & Dell.  Links to listen to the audio version of this show, as well as links to some of the things we talk about, appear below the video.  Enjoy!

You can LISTEN TO THE CAST OF DAD AT CES 2011 show HERE.

Some of the things we mention in the show:

And much, much more…

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.??

DISCLOSURES: I am part of the “Intel Advisor” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf, including the 2011 CES show. I make mention of the  Sony NEX-5 Camera (affiliate link), which I received as a sample from Sony that I am not expected to return.

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Change The World

Life as a parent is busy. We have work. We have bills. We have to take care of our children. We have to take care of our selves. We have church or temple. We have friends. We have commitments. We have as parents tons to do and we often don’t have enough time to pay attention to ourselves. And all that is cool because it’s what makes life crazy and fun.

I’m going to give you another “have to.” I don’t know whether you personally are already involved in a charity or non-profit organization but if you aren’t then you are truly missing out on one of the great joys of life. I’ve been peripherally involved in charities and non-profits for most of my life. I’ve done habitat work, I was involved in Community Consulting Teams, where we worked with Non-Profits. I’ve done charity runs. I even volunteered at the Georgia Aquarium when it first opened. All of that was great but it isn’t the same as truly being involved in a cause.

This past year I joined the board of a newly formed non-profit organization. It’s been a crazy busy year and we’ve done some amazing work in a very short time. We even have a national billboard campaign running already. We’ve raised over $30,000 in 8 months and we are already supporting two major studies. I love working with the team involved in the non-profit and I love the work. The cause of the organization is near and dear to my heart and I never feel like I’m working when I’m helping the organization move forward toward it’s goals.

If you are an  adult and you haven’t made the time to get personally involved in a non-profit then you are truly missing out on one of the most rewarding opportunities out there. I highly recommend you find your personal non-profit to get involved in where you can really help change the world.

Kevin Metzger (TheDADvocate) is father to Haley, Abby and Isaac. He writes on his dyslexia and ADD and his daughter’s CP at MySpellingSucks.com. Kevin also administers TheDADvocateProject.com where he is trying to define today’s dad through his survey and interviews. If you are interested in Kevin’s views on business then you should visit metzgerbusiness.com or just go to kevin-metzger.com to find Kevin where ever he might be on the Internet. As always if you are a dad and have not taken the DADvocate Project Survey please do so now.

(Half) Marathon Man

(Sunday, January 30, 2011) I am writing this after a four mile run. Actually, I am working my way up with interval training, having started a month or so ago by walking two minutes and running one minute, then, a week or so later upping it to two and two, then a week or so later,  two minutes walking and three minutes running and today, feeling inspired, I raised it to alternating one minute of walking followed by three minutes of running.  Soon I hope to be able run the entire four miles…and then, hopefully, even more.

Going The Distance

This morning I drove down to Miami hours before the crack of dawn to watch, up close, the ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon.  I had a vested interest in watching this race as my oldest son, Zach, was running in it, his first half marathon.  I am in awe of Zach these days, and find him to be an incredible source of pride and inspiration to me.  It seems for the moment our roles have been reversed.  The parent/mentor has been outdone by the child/mentee.  While, as the Dad, I am the one who is supposed to motivate and lead by example, now it is Zach leading me down the path of aspiring to run.  In less than a year, Zach has, on his own, lost nearly 150 pounds and now he has trained for, and completed, a half-marathon – 13.1 miles.

Motivation and Perspiration

I found myself overcome with emotion as I watched Zach and the other runners, many in wheelchairs or otherwise physically challenged, many younger than me, and quite a few older than me, all glowing with the sweat of determination as they passed me on the sidelines while they were enroute to the finish line.  Each was competing with over 20,000 other runners, yet each was completing their own very individual and personal triumph.  I came away from the race extremely proud of Zach, and motivated myself.  I did not share the marathoners’ perspiration, but I did share their inspiration, and I hope to one day experience walking- er, running, in their shoes.

Watching the marathon reminded me that there are no limits to our ability to achieve.  There is so much we are capable of, so much we can accomplish, when we just put our mind to it and decide to make it so.  You just have to take one step after another, again and again and again… Keep moving forward and keep the finish line foremost in your mind.  I learned that from my son.

How about you?  What are your kids teaching you?

Here is an Animoto video of some of the pictures I took of Zach and the Miami Marathon.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.??

P.S. & Disclosure: The pictures in the Animoto video above were taken with a Sony NEX-5Camera (affiliate link), which I received as a sample from Sony that I am not expected to return.  It is a great camera and my fellow “Cast of Dads” cohort, Michael Sheehan, has a great and detailed review of the camera here.

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Bringing Toys To Life at CES 2011: Intel Labs OASIS

Central Hall Panorama @CES 2011 (c) 2011 Jeffrey W. Sass - Taken with Sony NEX-5

???I am back from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with sore feet, weary eyes and more than a few gigabytes of images and videos of some cool (and unusual) technology and gadgets.  I look forward to sharing a lot of that content with you here on Dad-O-Matic, and will try to focus on the stuff that you will most likely be able to benefit from or be interested in as parents.

Back To The Future

One of the things that makes the annual pilgrimage to CES exciting is the opportunity to look into the crystal ball and see a bit of the future, as many companies display prototypes and experimental products that are not available today, but may be introduced at some time in the not so distant future.  These are the things that often spark “WOW” moments and geekasmic pangs of “I want one!”  They also often spark the imagination, as you can really see how fast advances in consumer oriented computing and technology are moving us toward a tech enhanced lifestyle that was once only imagined in Science Fiction.  I have no doubt that our kids and grand-kids will be taking for granted the kind of technology infused world we gawked at in movies like BLADE RUNNER, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, MINORITY REPORT and many others.

Sponsors Of Tomorrow

While known best for its microprocessor chips, because of the deep impact those chips have on our lives by being inside and powering so many products we use and will use, Intel considers itself the “Sponsors Of Tomorrow” (and they were also the sponsor of my trip to CES this year).   The company invests heavily in Research and Development and one of the technologies that impressed and awed me the most was on display at the Intel CES booth.  It was a demonstration of the OASIS Perceptive Home project from Intel Labs.

Bringing Toys (and other objects) To Life

Leveraging the massive processing power of the latest microchips, along with 3D Image detection, micro projection, and a host of other technologies, the OASIS project (OASIS stands for Object Aware Situated Interactive System) creates an instant interactive augmented reality experience around common household items.  In the video below I took of the CES booth demo, you can see the OASIS system turning simple LEGO toys on a table top into fully animated, interactive play environments.   A small overhead unit that combines “Kinect-like” cameras, as well as color projectors and speakers, the OASIS can “recognize” objects and then react based on pre-determined logic and rules.  The imagined applications of this technology are endless, from finding recipes or building a shopping list by simply placing items on the kitchen counter, to creating custom interactive play surfaces based on the specific toys your child may be playing with, and as many other uses as a creative mind can imagine.

Playing With Fire The Safe Way

In the video below you will see how OASIS can make a LEGO dragon breathe animated fire… but not to worry, all it takes is a LEGO fire truck to come to the rescue and hose down the dragon caused damage.  I can remember breaking my back crawling around the floor to pick up the pieces of toy railroad tracks, strewn about after my sons would “play.”  If I only had an OASIS back then, my aspiring young Engineers could have created their own virtual railroad system by simply dragging their fingers along the dining room table.  Watch the video below and you will see what I mean.

What do you think? Can you imagine uses for Intel’s OASIS technology in your home? How would you like to see this technology “productized” for your use?  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, and I look forward to sharing more cool stuff and “Dadgets” from CES in upcoming posts.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.??

DISCLOSURES: I am part of the “Intel Advisor” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf, including the 2011 CES show. I was also given a camera by Sony to use to take photographs at CES.

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CES Bound: Gadgets, Dadgets, and A Remote Control Give Away!

International CESThere is no doubt that gadgets have truly gone mainstream.  Look around your home and what do you see?  Smartphones, Tablets, E-book readers, Computers, Game Consoles.  Gadgets galore.  Never before have kids grown up in households that so avidly consume consumer electronics.  Even two year old toddlers are playing with “toys” with processors inside.  Instead of finger painting, they are intuitively fingering capacitive touch screens and learning to read by tapping rather than turning pages.  I am a dad who loves gadgets, so you won’t hear me complain as more and more tech toys (for kids of ALL ages) invade our homes.  When I was part of the Sony DigiDad project I called the cool gadgets dads play with “Dadgets!”  More recently I am honored to have been selected as an “Intel Advisor,” giving me the opportunity to take a closer look at innovative lifestyle tech products such as the Intel Reader.

A SMORGASBORD FOR GADGET LOVERS

For a very long time, one of my favorite conventions to attend has been the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and I have been fortunate to be able to attend for business purposes throughout my career.  This year, in addition to monitoring all the activity in the mobile world in my role at Myxer, I am also attending CES on behalf of Intel and the Intel Advisors, and will have a chance to look more closely at how technology and consumer electronics are impacting our family lives.  I hope to share a lot of what I learn about interesting gadgets and “Dadgets” with you here on Dad-O-Matic while I am at the show, and after I return.  From home electronics to automating our automobiles with apps, the latest and greatest in innovative products and concepts will be on display at CES and I’ll do my best to give you a taste of the technologies and trends I encounter.

TAKING CONTROL WITH TECHNOLOGY & GADGETS

As parents there are many ways we can use technology to take control of our lives and make things at home more funHarmony® One Advanced Universal Remote and convenient.  From remote controlled cameras and baby monitors, to remote controls for the entertainment system in the family room… From robot floor cleaners to wireless streaming music… there are countess ways we incorporate gadgets into our daily home lives, hopefully in ways that make things easier and more fun for all.  One gadget that has won the prestigious “BEST OF INNOVATIONS” award at past CES shows is the Harmony One universal remote from Logitech and I am happy to say I have a brand new Harmony One touchscreen universal remote to give away to a Dad-O-Matic reader! I own a Harmony Remote I bought a couple of years ago and it is a great way to take control of multiple devices, from TV’s to DVD players and sound systems, with a single remote. The best feature is perhaps the setup of the remote. Instead of looking up and entering complicated manufacturer codes, the Harmony series of remotes features a very simple guided online setup.  You just connect the remote to your computer and enter the brand and model of all the equipment you want to control and the software does the rest, configuring your Harmony One perfectly.  The rechargeable Harmony One is one of Logitech’s top of the line remotes, featuring both conveniently placed buttons and a customizable touch screen.  Thanks to the friendly folks at Logitech, I have one Harmony One to give away.  All you need to do is leave a comment on this post between now and the end of the day on January 10th, ideally telling us how you use gadgets to gain more control in your home. One of your comments will be randomly selected to receive the Harmony One.  Good luck!

If there are specific gadgets (or Dadgets) you want me to look out for at CES this year, you can mention that in the comments as well!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.??

DISCLOSURES: I am part of the “Intel Advisor” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf, including the 2011 CES show.  The Harmony One universal remote being offered in this post was provided as a courtesy by Logitech’s PR team.

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Test Driving The Intel Reader

Last month I wrote about a very different type of Digital Reader from Intel.  The Intel Reader is designed to help people with dyslexia and other visual impairments by easily scanning and then “reading” (via text-to-speech technology) virtually any written words that can be photographed by the portable device.  I had the chance to play with the Intel Reader and it really is phenomenal technology.

Checking It Out

As I mentioned in last month’s post, Intel has made an Intel Reader available for someone in the Dad-O-Matic community to try out for one month and see firsthand how this type of technology can potentially improve their lifestyle.  You responded with some great and inspiring comments indicating your interest in using an Intel Reader.  I am pleased to say that Kevin Metzger and his daughter Haley have been sent the sample unit to try out.  Kevin is a devoted dad who has contributed to Dad-O-Matic, but he also has some compelling reasons why he has a personal interest in the enabling technology the Intel Reader represents.  As Kevin said in his comment:

“As you may know my first blog is MySpellingSucks.com an unedited discussion about my ADD and Dyslexia and my Daughters CP. I’ve largely learned to compensate for my dyslexia although I am a very slow reader because of it. The bigger reason I’d like to try the reader is to see how it could help my daughter.

For some reason when Haley tries to read from a page in a book she can not track the words or find her spot on a page. When the words are presented individually she seems to do well. It seems like this tool could help us train her to read larger sections of text slowly by presenting progressions of smaller font as she reads.

From my perspective I’d like to see if I could learn to read faster with its use.”

I look forward to learning more about Kevin and Haley’s experience with the Intel Reader and getting the perspective of someone who has had to live with visual challenges and really can judge the impact of this technology.  I will share Kevin and Haley’s thoughts about the Intel Reader with you here in a few weeks.

To be continued…

(Disclosure: I am part of the “Intel Insider” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf. I was not asked to write this post, but I came up with the idea of doing so because I thought it would be of interest and value to the Dad-O-Matic community. I hope you agree.)

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

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We Became Human Because We Started to Cook & Bacon

I’ve long admired Michael Ruhlman’s writing. From his first-hand experience learning what it takes to become a CIA trained chef in The Soul of a Chef (my favorite) to his work with Thomas Keller on The French Laundry cookbook, he puts you in the kitchen and lets you live the experience as he has.

So it was quite thrilling to hear he was part of the lineup at BlogHer Food ’10 in San Francisco last weekend, a gathering of more than 300 food bloggers covering everything from delicious dessert reviews to a mom who cooks gluten free and everything in between.

Ruhlman had two opportunities where I think he dramatically inspired his audience.  He started by wrapping up the conference Saturday evening with an anecdote from Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Harvard University Anthropologist Richard Wrangham.  In the book, Ruhlman said,  Wrangham poses the argument that we didn’t become human because we “tamed fire” or because of “some genetic accident.”

No.  Ruhlman (via Wrangham) says we became human because we started to cook. Before we started to cook, apes would have to spend 6-8 hours per day chewing up enough food to get enough nourishment to sustain themselves.  “Once we started cooking, we could consume enormous amounts of calories very quickly, leaving us all kinds of time to do other things,” Ruhlman said.  We could divide and conquer tasks. Some people could hunt while others cooked.

And because of that, who we were changed as quickly as our genetics changed (larger brains fed by increased calories, less hair as we travelled longer distances more quickly to find food).  “[Cooking] made us social,” Ruhlman said.  We had to cooperate with one another.  We had to change our temperament.  “You couldn’t be an asshole if you wanted to eat,” Ruhlman said.

Cooking food is what has made us human and over the past 50 years, he suggested, as Americans, we’ve started taking more shortcuts and stopped cooking as often.  Despite a dedicated TV network that’s seen in nearly 100 million American homes according to the New York Times in 2009, we spend less time in the kitchen than ever before.  Take a chicken recipe in a cooking magazine today and see how the same recipe was prepared 10 years ago and you’ll see the time’s been cut in half (thanks to boneless, skinless chicken breasts that require little, cleaning or preparation).  Obesity is at epidemic levels. The environment and the oceans are in trouble. Cooking “is really, really important,” he said.  “Cooking is fundamental to our humanity.”  And we should do it more often, write about it more often, no matter whether you’re blogging about cupcakes or more serious issues.

And with that, he drew a standing ovation from the crowd, which shortly thereafter retreated to the closing night event, where Ruhlman held a demonstration on how to properly cure and cook bacon.

A quick bit of transparency and disclosure before you read any further: my company works for the National Pork Board who was a sponsor of the closing event and obviously benefits from any pork (bacon or otherwise) that you decide to buy and eat as a result of this post. They have not asked me to write this post, the have they not influenced any of the content and they did not pay Michael Ruhlman to talk about bacon.  That, he was able to easily do on his own.

Bacon, he said, is a maligned meat.  It has a bad rap for a number of reasons, not the least of which is our perception as Americans about the role of fat in our diet.

Here’s what he had to say: Michael Ruhlman on Bacon and Fat

But more importantly than what he had to say about why it’s ok to eat bacon was what he had to say about how you can make your own bacon at home.  It’s not nearly as hard as I certainly thought…so check out his recipe about it here.  All you need is a piece of pork belly (any good butcher can get that for you he said) and some simple spices.  And time.  And a bit of water (yes, he put the cold bacon in a pan with tap water and brought it all to a boil before allowing all the water to evaporate and the bacon to cook).

Good luck dads … go make some bacon now!  And then you too can look this happy:

BlogHer Food 2010: Dads Cook Too!

I'm Going!Friday and Saturday is the kickoff of the second annual BlogHer Food 2010 in San Francisco. In all, more than 300 food bloggers are expected to gather to share recipes, swap culinary creation photography tips and of course, eat and meet with some of their favorite food brands.

Though I’m attending for work (disclosure: several of my firm’s companies are participating in the event), I’m looking forward to taking this on from a Dad-o-Matic perspective. Check back next week for the inside scoop!

Adam's cedar-planked Alaskan sockeye salmon (via Mario Batali's Babbo Cookbook)

The “Hole In The Wall” and Child-Driven Education

My love affair with TED continues…  I have written many blog posts here and on my personal blog about amazing and inspiring TED presentations.  It is a wonderful way to expose yourself to people and concepts you might otherwise never encounter, as well as see really smart and passionate people share vision and views on things that are already on your mind.  One thing that is almost always on the mind of parents is education, and I recently discovered this awesome and awe inspiring presentation by “Education Scientist” Dr. Sugata Mitra.  According to his bio:

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The “Hole in the Wall” project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher,an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who’s now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it “minimally invasive education.”

If nothing else, this charming and enlightening video will open your eyes to the fact that kids are kids, no matter where and under what circumstances they live… and it may change the way you think about learning and appreciate even more the power of the Internet and the vast information accessible to us thanks to technology and our truly connected world.  As an added bonus there is a brief appearance by the late, great author Arthur C. Clarke, who eloquently says, “A Teacher who can be replaced by a machine, should be…” and “… when you have interest, you will have education.”  Please take a few minutes to watch.  You won’t be disappointed.  Oh, and I found an interesting tidbit on Wikipedia: “The Hole in the Wall experiment has left a mark on popular culture. Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup read about Mitra’s experiment and was inspired to write his debut novel Q & A – this subsequently went on to become the movie Slumdog Millionaire.”

What do you think? Can children with a computer and the Internet really teach themselves?  Do your kids learn on their own from the Internet?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

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So how do you score that play?

Unless you’re a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, the end of Monday night’s Bears/Packers game was a gem to watch.  With :04 to go, and the score tied at 17, Robbie Gould kicked a field goal to put the Bears up 20-17, en route to a 3-0 start.

But that of course left the Packers with a kickoff return and :04 to try and make a miracle happen.

For most fans watching the game, the ensuing play with all of the laterals, illegal forward passes and whatnot was just the end of the game..something that’s fun to watch because it happens once or twice per season in the NFL.

For me, though, it’s a whole other story.  Since 2003, I’ve been a member of the official statistics team for the Chicago Bears.  Every NFL team has a team like ours – 5-7 people who watch every play and track (on paper and a computer system) the details of each play.  Each rush.  Each pass.  Each tackle.  And our data then flows out to the world … from those in the stadium to NFL.com to wherever your fantasy team resides.

Chicago Bears Statistics Crew with Jimmy Fallon

For us, as exciting as that play might be to watch at home or in the stadium, for us, it’s a near nightmare.  It’s happening so fast…so many players are touching the ball and then releasing it (was it a lateral? a fumble? an illegal forward pass?) that it takes a good 5-10 minutes to sort it all out (and thankfully, our DVR enables us to go back, and check it all to make sure it’s right.)  The NFL also has a team in New York watching the game and they’re a backup to confirm what we’ve seen.

So for all you fantasy football fans or stat geeks out there, here’s how that final play of Monday’s game looks when “scored.”  Click on the image below to see it more legibly.

The Weight Is Over: 5 Tips For Family Fitness

I have always struggled with my weight and grew up convinced that one of my genetic gifts was “big bones.”  Always on the chubby side as a kid, I became accustomed to shopping in Husky Hell and nicknames like “whale” and “bubbles.”  Although at one time or another I have probably tried almost every diet fad, I have finally learned that there is no such thing as a diet. Period.  The only way to effectively lose weight is to change your lifestyle and simply eat better and exercise regularly.

Bringing It Home

As a parent it is apparent how genetics come into play, and all three of my kids, at one point or another, have displayed evidence of my “big bones.”  They even spent a summer or two at the proverbial “fat camp,” though in hindsight that was probably overkill…  As I have worked diligently on improving my own health and fitness I have tried to instill a similar focus on fitness for my kids, and I am very proud of the steps they have all taken toward a more active, healthy lifestyle at home and away.  Here are a few of the tips I have tried to incorporate into my family’s fitness routine:

5 Tips For Family Fitness

1) Water – Say sayonara to soda.  Make pop passe. Don’t let sugary juice add to the size of your caboose.  Water is the drink of champions and champions drink lots of water.  I stopped buying any soda or juice other than the occasional quart of “not from concentrate” orange juice, many years ago and the drink of choice for all of us Sasses is a glass of water.

2) Join A Gym – I started going to the gym regularly about nine years ago, and I joined LA Fitness because at the time they were the only gym in my area that let me also get a membership for my oldest son, then age 13, and I was determined to make fitness a family affair.  Eventually, as they each got old enough, all three of my kids became gym members, and we work out together whenever time permits.

3) Walk & Ride – There is no excuse not to walk, and walking with your kids is a great time to just share the moment together, talking, laughing, and getting some needed “cardio” at the same time.  If you’re feeling more of a need for speed, then break out the bikes and make regular family rides a part of your routine.  Don’t forget to wear helmets – especially YOU!

4) Slow Down When You Eat! – Gobble, gobble should be reserved exclusively for Thanksgiving.  Wolfing down food should be reserved for wolves.  One of the healthiest lessons you can teach your kids (and exercise yourself) is to eat meals at a slow, relaxed pace.  The fastest path to overeating is to eat fast, because your plate is empty before your stomach has time to tell your brain it is full, leaving you no choice but to invoke “Oliver” and say, “please sir, may I have some more?”  The best way to resist seconds is to slow down while eating the firsts.  TIP: Eating as a family and engaging in conversation over meals is a great way to keep the chewing in check.  Another “behavior modification” tip is to insist on putting down the fork, or spoon in between every bite – a great way to break the “shoveling syndrome.”

5) Shop For Success – As the parent you are likely the Ruler of the Refrigerator, the Commander of the Cabinets and the Protector of the Pantry!  Therefore it is your job to fill your Culinary Command Centers with the right stuff.  The easiest way for you and your kids to eat healthy is for you to shop healthy. It is a lot harder to snack on chocolate dipped Oreo‘s if they don’t exist in your household.  The best way to dangle healthy carrots in front of your kids is to make sure you always have fresh carrots in the fridge. Force yourself to take the time to read labels and don’t be fooled by the marketing.  “Reduced Fat” and “Fat Free” are rarely actually better than an equivalent choice that is made with fresh, unprocessed, “whole” ingredients.

What do you think?  Are there additional healthy tips you have?  If they are  fit to go, please add them to the comments!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 19).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

Photo Credit: ?© Ekaterina Pokrovsky – Fotolia.com

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Sharing Tech With Kids

Harold (my 4-ish year old) wanted to shoot a video:

The fun of doing this is that he knows how to open Photobooth (on a Mac). He knows how to switch it to video and hit record, and he knows how to speak to the camera (kind of).

When I think about what our kids need today versus how they were raised, there’s a bit of media literacy (production, critique, skepticism, source-gathering, more) that needs to happen sooner than later. Yes, I think that giving kids laptops is potentially tricky and yet I support it. Yes, I think that switching to an e-reader or tablet of some kind is the smart thing to do for older kids, but there are signs of it being really neat for younger kids (in early reports), but that paper and physical media like pencils is still really important.

It won’t be as simple as giving them the tools and teaching them, but I don’t think we can keep kids luddites either.

I’m curious as to YOUR take on this.

Get Your Hands On A Digital Reader That Says It All: The Intel Reader

(Note: If you and/or anyone in your family is dyslexic or suffers from any vision impairment, please read on for a chance to test an Intel Reader in your home for one month…  Disclaimer: Product links below are Amazon Affiliate links.  I am part of the “Intel Insider” program and am compensated and/or receive other value from Intel to attend events on their behalf. I was not asked to write this post, but I came up with the idea of doing so because I thought it would be of interest and value to the Dadomatic community. I hope you agree.)

The concept of digital readers or so-called “e-Readers” has certainly hit the mainstream, with the likes of Amazon and Barnes & Noble seemingly engaged in pricing wars for their respective Kindle and  Nook devices as well as many other parties entering the e-ink fray, from Sony to Samsung and other lesser known consumer electronics players.  Add to that the iPad and other Tablets and there are no shortage of “electronic reader” devices to choose from.  The Intel Reader, however, is an entirely different type of electronic reader, designed not to be read like a book, but rather to read aloud to you.  Developed by Intel’s Digital Health Group, the Intel Reader was conceived as a powerful, portable device to aid children and adults with Dyslexia and other vision impairments.  Unlike traditional eBook Readers and other digital reading devices for the blind, the Intel Reader does not need to connect with a digital library and download or install content to be read.  Instead, Intel has cleverly created a “point and shoot” reading device, with an integrated scanning camera that quickly, easily and accurately captures any printed words – from the pages of a book, to the labels on a package, to your daily pile of snail mail -  and then reads it aloud to you, while displaying the text for you to follow along.

“Frustration Is The Mother Of Invention”

I was first introduced to the Intel Reader at the “Upgrade Your Life” event I attended at Intel’s Portland Campus in early June.  The device was introduced to us by Ben Foss, Intel’s Director of Access Technology and I have since had the chance to speak further with Ben to get a more complete history of the Intel Reader.  It turns out that there is a very personal story behind the Reader, inspired by Ben’s own experience and frustrations growing up with Dyslexia.  Reading was such a challenge for Ben that he made his way through Stanford Law School by scanning his reading assignments and faxing them to his Mom so she could call him and read them to him over the phone.  The frustration of relying on recordings, slow and limited text to speech conversions, and the kindness of others to read to him, Ben was convinced there had to be a better way and began to experiment with taking pictures of text and using optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert the images to text readable by text to speech programs.

Technology For Independent Living

Recognizing that the same powerful processors that drive portable computers would also have the processing chops to facilitate fast text to speech conversion and other features in a small, portable, battery powered device, Ben approached Intel Health to seek funding to develop a prototype of his concept, stressing the wide range of children and adults whose lives could be dramatically improved by such a reading device.  One of the missions of Intel Digital Health is to find ways for technology to be used to enable people with chronic illnesses to enjoy a more independent lifestyle, and clearly the Intel Reader concept fit the bill.  Ben received funding and the work began.

Good Behavior

One of the things I’ve learned through spending some time with Intel executives is that the company makes product decisions based on a great deal of research on human behavior and ethnograhics.  In creating the current version of the Intel Reader, prototypes were tested with over 400 people, and the observations made had a direct impact on the design, features and functions of the device.  For example, the camera on the Intel Reader is on the bottom, not on the back as one would typically expect on a handheld picture taking device.  The placement of the camera was a result of researchers observing how people were actually using the Intel Reader and recognizing that if a book was open on a table, it was much easier to photograph the pages with the camera on the bottom edge of the device.  Having played with the Reader I can attest to the fact that it is very easy and intuitive to just hold your arms straight out over the book and snap the picture, thanks to the bottom placement of the camera.

Point, Shoot, Listen

I was sent an Intel Reader to play with, and now that I have had the chance to put it through its paces I am going to share the hands on experience with one of you.  The Reader is very easy to use.  As noted there is a camera on the bottom.  Hold your arms out over the pages of the book and snap.  Simple on-screen menus (all of which speak their commands aloud) let you easily manage and play back the documents you have “scanned” by photographing.  You can set the type and speed of the playback voice, and zoom in on the on-screen fonts to enlarge them to seemingly unlimited sizes.  The Intel Reader even lets you make an MP3 file of the reading of any document you have scanned, so you can listen on a PC, phone, iPod, or any other MP3 capable media device.  This is a great feature, that makes the output of the Intel Reader easy to use in places and circumstances where you may not want or be able to bring along the Intel Reader itself.  In fact, you can listen to this blog post, read by the Intel Reader, here.  For scanning larger documents or lots of pages, Intel makes a Portable Capture Station, that holds the Reader above a book, so you can easily snap to scan, turn the page, snap to scan, etc. capturing a large number of pages in one session.  The Portable Capture Station cleverly folds into a self-contained case so you can easily bring it along to work or school or anywhere else you may want to capture content for your Intel Reader.

Success Stories

The best way to truly understand the value of a device like the Intel Reader is to see firsthand how it can have a positive impact on a person’s daily lifestyle. As Ben Foss says, the impact is greatest when the Reader enables people to once again enjoy doing something they love.  Ben has no shortage of great stories about Intel Reader users, from the Dad with Macular degeneration who uses the Reader to be able to see the check when he takes his kids out to dinner, enabling him to once again proudly “pick up the tab” as he used to do… to the kid who was finally able to read the instructions for the game “RISK” only to learn that his buddies had been “cheating” all along in their regular games.  Here is a video of how one woman used the Intel Reader to return to cooking her favorite recipe.  The Intel Reader is not technically a medical device, and thus may not be covered under medical insurance, however, depending on the user’s situation, it may be tax deductible or something that can be purchased on one’s behalf by their school or employer.  If interested in more detail in that regard, please consult with a qualified professional.  To give you an idea of cost, the list price for the Intel Reader is approximately $1,500 and the cost of the optional Portable Capture Station is approximately $399.

Your Turn

Intel has let Dadomatic borrow an Intel Reader to let one of you use it for one month and see firsthand how a digital Reader that speaks to you can make life a little easier.  If you are interested in having the chance to test drive the Intel Reader, please leave a comment below and let me know why you would like to try out the Intel Reader.  One commenter will be selected to be sent an Intel Reader on loan for one month.  To participate I ask  that you agree to share your experience with me so I can include your views in a follow up post here.  Sound like a plan?

Below is a good video demonstration of the Intel Reader.  I look forward to your thoughts on this innovative electronic reader.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

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A Man Inside (Intel)

Here’s the scoop:  As you know, for the past few years I have been active as a so-called “Daddy Blogger,” sharing my dad point of view and stories here at Dadomatic.com and in the weekly Cast of Dads podcast.  With three awesome kids now ages 22, 20 and 18, I have no shortage of experiences and opinions on just about every parenting angle imaginable, so don’t expect me to shut up anytime soon.  On top of that, I am very lucky to often be handed new and interesting things to write about, and in this case I am looking forward to being able to share some insights on exciting new technologies, and how they will impact our family lives as an official “Intel Insider” advisor.

Inside Intel Insiders

Now in its third year, the Intel Insiders program originally sought to connect with early adopters and influencers to help Intel stay in touch and connected with technology enthusiasts.  According to Intel’s Ken Kaplan, “…this year we will be working with influencers actively engaging in lifestyle and parenting conversations online. We are hoping this helps us connect with people who are finding that technology is becoming more important in their lives.”  I am honored and excited to be one of this year’s Intel Insiders along with this impressive group of bloggers:

In June I had the pleasure of visiting Intel’s Portland Campus and today I will be attending an Intel Insiders Summit in NY.  I look forward to sharing more Intel insights with you soon.  Stay tuned…

In accordance to the FTC Guidelines and WOMMA Code of Ethics, I am disclosing that Intel Corporation has covered my travel, accommodations and expenses incurred for the Intel Insider Year III Summit.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

Running

I wonder how many runners there are out here? I wonder how many would be offended if I called myself a runner? Let me tell you my story and you can decide for yourself. Me I know the answer.

I’ve never been a runner. I’ve never thought of myself as a runner and I never wanted to run. I was a wrestler. I was a skier. I was a skateboarder. I was never a runner but in eleventh grade I was convinced to train for our school’s triathlon. It was a 5 mile bike, 5 mile run and 500 yard swim. My training consisted of jogging/walking for 45 minutes twice a week during our phys-ed, but it got me mostly in shape after having dropped wrestling because of bum shoulders. You read that right shoulderS.

I can’t say I was in great shape. I think it took me 3 hours to complete the whole thing but I finished and that was a lot more than most the student body could say. That night was prom and I had such a headache from dehydration that I just went to sleep at the after party right in the middle of everyone.

The next week I was hanging out with a friend and we stopped by our local convenience store. We were hanging out outside and somehow a girl who was too young to be driving was out with her parents 69 Caddy. She was backing out of the parking space next to us and managed to pin my leg between her front bumper and the Bondoed rear corner panel of my friends CJ-7. Thank God for the Bondo as I was able to twist my leg free and the Caddy slipped off my leg and into the back of my friends Jeep. My leg swelled up like a big balloon but I didn’t call the cops and I didn’t have anyone look at my leg. Now 17 years later I still have numb spot and you can still feel the chip in the bone.

For a long time I used that as an excuse and then I just stopped worrying about exercise all together until last year. At the begining of 2009 I saw the ad for the Peachtree road race and decided I wanted to run it. So I went and bought a pair of running shoes from my local running store. They also sold me some socks. I left the store, sent my application via snail mail and started running.

Then a few weeks later I receive a note saying that my entry was too late and had been denied. So I stopped running, as it was starting to get warm. Then in the fall just before my son got here I decided to start running again. So I got my self up to running 1 mile and I did that a total of six times before my son arrived last October. Then I stopped running when my son arrived for about six weeks.

After six weeks I saw a friend of mine tweet about running a half marathon and I thought, now that’s a challenge that I can take on. So I started running with him trying to train for the 1/2 marathon in March. This was late November or early December. I got up to running six miles or so before I realized that I just didn’t have the time required to train. At least without my wife’s agreement I didn’t have the time. So I took a few weeks off.

When I started running again it was like I was starting over, but it didn’t take near as long to get up to running consistently again and I was beginning to enjoy running. I’ve finally covered enough distance that my shoes are beginning to show the wear and I have worn holes through my socks. I have also had to purchase new inserts for the shoes because I had some weird stuff going on in my feet. So now after a life time of hating running, after a year and a half I find my self thinking about needing to replace my running shoes and wondering if I really should get a treadmill for the times I can’t leave the house. For the first time in my life I don’t even doubt if I’ll use it. I know I will, and I hate running on treadmills. But you know what, somewhere along the way I realized something, I love running. So I ask you, am I a runner?

P.S. If you don’t understand how anyone can love running then you haven’t done it for a long enough period of time. Just keep trying and practicing and you will eventually get the runners high. It’s a different experience but anyone can get it, if I can get it. I’m a 255lb guy who should weigh about 190.

(photo credit: © Nadezhda Bolotina – Fotolia.com)

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Cast of Dads #28: Stitches, Veggies and Scooping Poop

In this episode of Cast of Dads one of the dads tells of a late night spill that ended with a trip to the ER and some stitches… which leads to a discussion of kids and injuries… which leads to me recalling the tale of my daughter and her missing finger tip… (you’ll have to listen to the show for the rest of that story!)  In the midst of all the gory talk we manage to give some heartfelt parenting advice, and even some tips on cooking as a family.  Once again we prove that five dads and thirteen kids equals a treasure trove of tales to tell.  Enjoy!

CLICK  HERE TO LISTEN TO “CAST OF DADS” EPISODE 28

Topics discussed in this episode:

If you have been enjoying the Cast of Dads podcast, please tell your friends about the show and have them subscribe to either our direct feed or via iTunes. Also, please leave us a review in iTunes!

Cast of Dads is a group of podcasting and blogging dads who gather to gab about fatherhood. The cast of dads includes C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, who collectively represent 13 kids from the youngest of babies to full grown adults. Each of them brings a unique perspective to being a father.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 22, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

Photo Credit: © Eric Gevaert – Fotolia.com

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Cast of Dads #24: From Father’s Day to “V”-Day

In this show the Cast of Dads regroup to recap our respective Father’s Day activities, but as usual we can’t possibly stay focused on one topic.  Before long we jump from discussing a dad’s happiest day, to a day many dads fear: V-Day! (with “V” standing for Vasectomy!)  Want to know which of the Cast of Dads has already suffered through the “big snip”?  Listen on…

Topics discussed in this episode include:

You can LISTEN TO CAST OF DADS EPISODE 24 HERE.

If you have been enjoying the Cast of Dads Podcast please tell your friends about the show and have them subscribe to either our direct feed orvia iTunes.  Also, please leave us a review in iTunes!

Cast of Dads is a group of podcasting and blogging dads who gather to gab about fatherhood. The cast of dads includes C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, who collectively represent 13 kids from the youngest of babies to full grown adults. Each of them brings a unique perspective to being a father.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

Photo Credit © Barry Barnes – Fotolia.com

A Father’s Day Gift For The DASHing Dad! (and a chance to win one)

An Alarming Situation

Like most dads (and humans for that matter) I generally go to sleep at night and rely on mechanical assistance to wake myself up at the desired hour each and every morning. With that in mind I have been forever in search of the perfect alarm clock.  I have tried them all – atomic clocks that automatically set themselves, clocks that project the time on the ceiling, clocks with big flashing digital displays, clocks that sound like waves, and streams and birds, and more recently, clocks you can use as a dock for an iPod.  I like going to bed listening to different music so the concept of a iPod dock makes sense, but they are fairly large for the nightstand and it is a bit of a pain moving the iPod around.

A Dash To The Rescue

I am pleased to say that thanks to the good folks over at Sony my quest for the perfect alarm clock has ended!  As part of the Sony DigiDad Project, I was given a Sony Dash (more information available here).  I love my Dash and I am certain any digitally inclined dad would love to have one as a Father’s Day gift.  The Dash is a nice looking web connected wedge shaped tablet that sits on a counter or nightstand in either a flat or upright position.  It features a bright and colorful 7 inch touch screen, surrounded by a classy and rugged rubberized frame.  The Dash connects easily to your home wireless network for internet access, and is compatible with the Chumby widget platform, so there are more than 1000 free Internet widgets (apps) you can install on channels on your Dash – from stock quotes, to weather, to music and video, to Facebook and Twitter, it is easy to customize your Dash with the real-time streaming media of your choice.

Best Alarm Clock Evah!

Sony calls the Dash a “personal Internet viewer.” I call the Dash the best bedside alarm clock I have ever owned, and here’s why:

Keeping time – just like your mobile phone, the Dash can set itself from the network so you always have accurate time (no atomic clock necessary).  As an alarm clock, the Dash is full functioned and very customizable. It is easy to set and manage multiple alarms, individual or recurring.

Multiple Clock Choices – in addition to the “built in” clock, there are clock apps you can add in every imaginable style, from analog neon bar clocks, to classic digital alarm styles, to my personal favorite the flip clock.  You can set one clock style or have multiple styles rotate through as part of an easy to manage theme.

Music and Video – no iPod necessary!  The Dash can stream your personal music from Pandora, Slacker and other Internet radio services.  The Pandora app on the Dash is great, and I have my Dash connected with a line out to the surround sound stereo in my bedroom, making the Dash my primary music source in the room.  You can watch Netflix movies and YouTube videos (and more) and while the Dash’s 7 inch screen looks great, with a regular TV in my bedroom I use the Dash much more for music and audio than video.

Weather and widgets galore – local weather information is nicely integrated into the Dash and with apps you can add all sorts of social media feeds.  With an on screen virtual keyboard you can even Tweet and update your Facebook status from the Dash, but I find viewing the info is more practical from this device.  I love the spontaneous serendipity of social media and having my Twitter and Facebook streams flow by on my night table is just one more way I may randomly encounter a message that captures my interest.

Getting Framed - the Dash is also a great digital picture frame, and can stream your pictures (and if you want, your friends’ pictures) from Flickr, Facebook, Photobucket and other sources.

This is just a dash of the things the Dash can do, and as a connected device there will be continual updates, additions and improvements.  There has already been one update pushed to the device since I have had it that improved the interface and added some new themes, which were greatly appreciated.  I am sure there will be more.  You can add apps and themes to your Dash from the device itself, or from a Sony website. While I find it fairly easy and intuitive to manage the Dash and its screens and installed apps, the process of adding new apps and customizing your channels can be a bit clunky especially from the web.  There is room for improvement, but given that this is a connected device, those improvements can come at any time, even after you are enjoying your Dash.

Win A Dash For Your Dad!

Between now and Father’s Day, Sony is giving away a Dash a day, and myself and the rest of the Sony DigiDads (CC Chapman, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan and Brad Powell) will be helping Sony judge the entries.  Here is a quick overview:

Here is how to enter. Use your twitter account to send a tweet to @sonyelectronics telling us why your Dad deserves a dash. Include #sonydash . Each day one winner will be chosen and announced on twitter the following morning by 9:30 AM pacific standard time.

Here’s an example

“@SonyElectronics My dad deserves a dash because he likes to check his email from bed so he doesn’t need to lug his laptop from work.  He’s #1! #sonydash ”

**Be sure to use the Sony dash hash tag: #sonydash **

** You must tweet @SonyElectronics

For the complete rules please visit: http://blog.discover.sonystyle.com/dashfordad

Want one?  Affiliate link to the Sony dash Personal Internet Viewer at Amazon.com

With or without a Dash, I hope you and yours enjoy a great Father’s Day!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.?

DISCLOSURE: http://cmp.ly/2/qsw72z

Getting the Intel on Intel at the “Upgrade Your Life” Event

Pass the dip, please...

As so called “daddy bloggers” for Dadomatic we sometimes get invited to attend events that may lead to information and content that will be of interest to you, our readers. A few months ago, for example, Christopher Johnston was flown to New York to attend an advance screening of the family movie “Secrets of the Mountain.” Today I am being flown to Portland Oregon to attend an all day event tomorrow at the Intel Hillsboro Campus called, “Upgrade Your Life.” I will be joining a number of other invited bloggers and digital “influencers” including:

As you can see, there are only two “guys” in this gang and I am glad to be joining one of my “Cast of Dads” cohorts, Michael Sheehan (aka “HighTechDad“) to help represent the Dadosphere.  Until recently, many events like this seemed to be geared toward women exclusively and it is thanks to YOU, readers of Dadomatic, as well as the growing popularity of other dad and fatherhood blogs such as Digital Dads, DadLabs, and many others, that Dads are being included more and more when family and parenting is being considered.  Kudos to the Intel team for opening up this event to geek parents of all genders!  Speaking of geeks, the agenda for the event includes a wide range of presentations and round-table discussions and I look forward to learning more and sharing what I learn with you.  I wonder if they will be serving “chips” at lunch???

Intel Inside… Everything

Following the “Upgrade Your Life” theme, based on the agenda it looks like we will be looking at how technology impacts:

  • The Workplace
  • Healthcare
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • The Environment
  • The Future

These are all topics we have tackled in one form or another here at Dadomatic, and it should be interesting to see how one of the world’s leading tech companies is approaching them.  We should have access to a number of Intel Executives during the day, so if there are any specific questions you might have for Intel please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to get you some answers while I am “Inside Intel.”

DISCLOSURE: In accordance to the FTC Guidelines and WOMMA Code of Ethics, I am disclosing that Intel Corporation has covered my travel, accommodations and costs related to my visit to their Oregon-based offices.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.

Photo Credit: © Starks – Fotolia.com

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Cheese & Chocolate: Two Tips For An Awesome Graduation Party!

A Sweet Graduation Cap!

Last week I wrote about my son’s graduation from college.  The night of his graduation ceremony his girlfriend and her family threw a party for him at their home.  There were the expected balloons and banners clearly declaring the graduation theme, but there were also two really clever additions that gave the party a special graduation flavor.  I was impressed enough to want to share Amanda’s awesome graduation party food fun.

Cheesy, But Clever

What would graduation be without a diploma?  How about a tray of diplomas made out of rolled cheese slices, tied with strips of scallions…  The most palatable parchment evah!

Diplomas For The Big Cheese Graduate!

Chocolate With Tassels? No Hassle!

In bit of confectionary cleverness, Amanda created edible graduation caps, complete with tassels, by attaching a square of chocolate on top of an upside down mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  A bit of Airheads Xtremes Sourbelt candy sliced thin for the tassel and “voila!”

Graduate With Style And Good Taste!

Simple food fun!

How about you? Do you have any special “graduation themed” food tips you can share?  Please add them to the comments, and if you are celebrating a graduation in your family, CONGRATS!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 20 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads podcast.


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I Photograph Food

I have a confession to make: my name is Adam and I photograph my food.

Food I've Taken Pictures Of, Some Homemade, Some Not

All the time.  At home and in restaurants, whether I cooked it myself or paid for a team of others to labor over a hot stove.

I photograph the simple (pasta with pesto) and the complex (recipes with 14 ingredients, 13 of which are individual recipes in and of themselves).

I do this often without regard for how it makes my family or friends feel when I’m with them.  I know it has made many a dining companion uncomfortable, as I whip out anything from my iPhone to my Nikon DSLR to take photos of what we’re about to eat.  From different angles.  With different settings for lighting.  All just to remember the sweet and the savory on this particular day.

But recently, this hobby/passion/quirk of mine has been validated on multiple fronts, helping crystallize that I’m not alone and not as much on the “fringe” as I used to think:

  • Last week, the New York Times published an article entitled, First Camera, Then Fork: People Who Photograph Food and Display the Pictures Online.  It talks of the growing phenomenon of “photo food diaries” and specific point-and-shoot cameras from Nikon, Canon and others that have dedicated “’food’ or ‘cuisine’ modes…that enable close-up shots with enhanced sharpness and saturation so the food colors and textures really pop.”  The article also tells the story of a man who left his wife sitting at a table at Alinea because he forgot the correct lens for his camera.  What the article doesn’t mention is that Alinea is a mood-setting, dimly-lit restaurant in Chicago that only allows photography without a flash.  It also only serves two two menus, currently priced at $150 or $225 respectively.  Add in wine, tax and tip and a dinner can easily set you back as much (or more) as a front row ticket for a major concert.  Order from the reserve wine list or a add decadent treat like shaved white truffles, and you’re talking about sitting in the “front 10 rows, center section” so to speak.  For that kind of cash, you want the right lens.
  • In March, the folks at Foodspotting unveiled their iPhone application which allows you to “spot” your favorite food and take a photograph of it to share with your friends and others in your social network.  Looking for a spicy tuna roll at a nearby sushi joint?  Just search for it and you can see what you’ll get before you arrive.  As with many other popular geo-location applications, Foodspotting  gives you a chance to earn points and social currency but its heart lies in its fundamental proposition: our users photograph food and they’re proud of it (as illustrated by the graphic on this great t-shirt they were selling at South by Southwest in Austin).

Other validation came before these two, ones that also made me think about the food I eat and the pictures I take of them, but none in a form that I could help me acknowledge my “condition”:

  • For the past 3+ years, Carol Blymire has been blogging (and posting step-by-step photos) as she works her way through a pair of the most complex cookbooks from two of the nation’s most well-regarded (and most expensive) restaurants: The French Laundry and the aforementioned Alinea.  I love her blogs and own both of these cookbooks and to say any single recipe is an investment of time is an understatement.  To then stop and photograph each recipe every step of the way as you might for a cookbook only adds another layer of complexity to an already tough task.
  • My pal James has been officially documenting what he cooks for nearly a year now and unofficially long before that.  He’s much more talented without a recipe/cookbook in front of him than I am and he recently finished up his “30 in 30” challenge: making 30 recipes he’s never made over 30 consecutive days.  And some of his best posting have come since he’s started cooking with his son, something I too enjoy with my daughter.

As I reflect on the photos I’ve taken…surely hundreds if not thousands by this point…the sites above made me think of the five key reasons why I photograph the food I do (and why I skip others).  Let me know if you have any to add to the list!

  • Sadly for my liver, alcohol seems to be a common denominator.  At home or in a restaurant, if there’s a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, somehow that makes the food more photogenic.  I love an Egg McMuffin or a thick chocolate milk shake, but when there’s booze, a camera comes is more likely to come out.
  • Macaroni and Cheese with EdamameThe meal doesn’t have to be organic, directly from the farm or only reproducible on a small or expensive scale.  It’s just fine if the food is from a box or a freezer.  One of my all-time favorites was this “adultified” macaroni and cheese I made using a box of macaroni & cheese and frozen edamame.
  • Price can be an influence.  Whether I’m purchasing ingredients to cook at home (sushi grade tuna, Alaskan King Salmon) or eating in a restaurant, the more expensive the meal, the more likely I am to photograph the food.  But that’s not to say that an inexpensive meal or ingredients are NOT worth photographing.  One of the best meals I can remember in recent memory was at Austin’s The Salt Lick. Some of the best BBQ I’ve ever tasted, smelled or seen…and it just wasn’t complete without taking some photos of the meat smoking.
  • Travel.  Whether for work or for pleasure, when I’m in a new city and enjoying a meal, taking pictures helps document that experience (like the time I visited Santa Fe and took pictures of the Hatch chilies roasting roadside, then packed as many as I could unroasted into my suitcase to take home).
  • At the end of the day, food is a full sensory experience, most often enjoyed when shared with those around you, family that you love and friends you enjoy.  You can see food, smell food, taste food, touch food and hear food (when it’s cooking, at least).  Few other forms of socialized entertainment can connect all five of those senses.

Good Wood

A tragic accident in a High School baseball game that sent a pitcher into a coma after being hit in the head from a batted ball has created quite a stir against the use of aluminum bats. The school and its opponent have agreed to use wooden bats in their next game.

The use of aluminum bats in high schools and colleges has always concerned me. Major League Baseball does not allow aluminum bats and only uses wooden bats. However, high schools and colleges all across the land use this deadly weapon all because of economical reasons. T-Ball and Little Leagues also use these thunder sticks.  Yes, wood costs more in the long run, but I’m sorry, you cannot put a price on the safety of our children. I hope this will lead to a more thorough investigation on the safety of wood vs aluminum bats. There are studies with wildly opposing results so it all depends which report you read. We need an unbiased analysis on this subject matter and quick.

Besides potentially being safer to use, wooden bats would also better prepare youngsters for minor league and major league play which only uses wooden bats. Having played with both types of bats I can tell you it makes a tremendous difference in hitting. It also changes the way you field the ball because of the incredible speed of the ball coming off the metal bat.

Here’s a short video about the horrific accident that might actually help change a decades long travesty. As fathers, I highly recommend that we discuss this with our little league coaches and league officials. Let’s talk to coaches and other dads and let’s see if we can make baseball as safe as possible before another one of our beloved children is hurt.

Editor’s Note: I toned down my obvious emotional involvement with this subject matter. I wrote this right after seeing the news footage of the boy that got hurt so I believe I was perhaps a little too upset to write about it rationally. All I know is that there is still too much confusion over the safety of aluminum bats vs wooden bats. If it turns out that they are equally dangerous, then so be it. I just want a consensus decision to be made.

Class Act

Clemson
Here’s a news item about a tragedy that has a silver lining thanks to the University of Clemson and its football coach Dabo Swinney. High School football star Jake Nicolopulos had a dream to play college football for the Clemson Tigers and it was all set to become a reality until he had a stroke that now requires him to learn how to walk and talk all over again. It appeared as if his lifelong wish to be a part of the Tigers would never happen now.

Not until coach Swinney and company decided to honor Jake’s commitment to Clemson and proceeded to make their offer anyway. Somehow, despite the difficulty in even holding a pen, Jake signed the contract and his dream came true. Just like that. All because of a class act named Dabo Swinney and the fine institution called Clemson.

I heard this story while driving into work this morning on 790 the zone as they interviewed coach Swinney and it moved me deeply. What a wonderful display of humanity that put things in perspective. I’ve always liked Clemson (because my wife graduated from Clemson and played in the Tiger band) but now I’m an even bigger fan. Now that’s a man I would love any of my sons to play football for. Incidentally, my wife Lori also worked as a rehab nurse at Spinal Sheppard Center in Atlanta, GA where Jake is rehabbing.

Here’s more information about Jake and this heart-warming story.

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Photo credit: Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

Food, Glorious Food??? Are We Feeding Our Kids To Death?

(NOTE: usually my posts here are written originally for Dad-o-matic.  That said, I recently wrote on my personal blog about Chef Jamie Oliver’s impassioned and impactful speech about childhood obesity at the recent TED conference.  I realize that Chef Oliver’s speech would likely be of great interest to the Dad-o-matic crowd, so with permission from myself, I am reposting it here.)

My infatuation with TED continues.  I have yet to watch a TED Talk that I haven’t found thought provoking and inspiring.  It is really some of the best content you can find, and it is free!  I have written before about Natasha Tsakos and Philippe Starck‘s amazing presentations.  If you want a deeper understanding of the TED conference, Robert Scoble has written an insightful overview.  This year’s TED just took place and according to reports, one of the highlights was Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver‘s passionate talk on obesity in America.  He shares some shocking and revealing statistics about how our fast food nation is literally eating ourselves to death. As someone who can certainly afford to lose a few pounds I need only to look in the mirror and at many of the people I see day in and day out to recognize that Jamie speaks the truth, and how far we have lost our way when it comes to diet and food.  What do you think?  Do you and your family cook fresh food on a regular basis?  Do your kids know how to prepare a meal using “real” ingredients?  Are these basic skills our fast-paced, over processed society has left undone?  Food for thought…

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes!and Social Networking Rehab.

Refresh Project

pepsi refresh Here’s an amazing project from Pepsi called the PEPSI REFRESH PROJECT where they will spend millions of dollars to fund ideas that we submit that have a positive impact on the world and planet. It’s such a wonderful concept and makes a great deal of sense because not only can we submit our ideas but we also vote on the best ideas submitted. The winners get the financial support they need in order to contribute something good to the world. Such a win-win deal for us all. Pepsi gets their good PR exposure (well deserved in this case), good people get the monetary assistance their project needs and the world benefits from it all.

Do you have an idea that can bring about change for the good? There are several categories for idea submissions and different levels of funding from $5K to $250K. Download the project toolkit and share your idea and you never know! Don’t forget that Pai sent ya! :)

WhoDad

drewbrees2
Congratulations go out to the New Orleans Saints for beating the Indianapolis Colts tonight in the SuperBowl 31-17 behind the MVP arm of Drew Brees. I was happy to see them win mostly because of everything the people of New Orleans went through a few years ago with Hurricane Katrina. It’s such an amazing story.

The thing that touched me the most wasn’t how happy the players were or even the fans who went crazy in the streets… it wasn’t even the extreme joy in Drew’s face as he was holding the SuperBowl trophy. It was seing Drew Brees with tears in his eyes as he held his son Baylen Brees amidst all the madness. Being a dad, I was moved instantly by that moment that he’ll never forget.

drew1 drew3

drew4

Teaching Kids To Share In A Digital Age

Many moons ago, when I was just a mere tike, when my Mom and Dad taught me to “share” they were mostly trying to get me not to explode in a hissy fit when my younger sister or one of my playmates wouldn’t let go of my Legos or give up my G.I. Joe. Life was so simple then… Toys and games were physical things we kids could touch and feel and pull apart and throw against the walls or step on to break. Today, in our increasingly digital world, “sharing” has taken on a meaning much larger than letting friends play with toys.

Images Can Shape Your Image

Today, even from a very young age, our kids have access to the tools to be creators, and to share their creations with their friends and beyond. There has been some good discussion here and here about the perils of sharing too much online. As a parent, there is much concern, and rightly so, about the nature of the images and information our kids are sharing in their digital playgrounds. The flipside, however, is to encourage our kids to share plentifully and appropriately.

The Age Of The Ubiquitous Camera

When I was a kid photography was a very special hobby that, for the most part, required expensive equipment and costly development and printing. Wasted images were wasted money, so a typical kid did not have the opportunity to dabble in “taking pictures” until they had saved up some of their allowance money and demonstrated a certain level of maturity and responsibility. Even the so-called “instant” and “disposable” cameras had developing costs and usage limitations that inherently made them not particularly kid friendly. In the days of film and rolls of 12, 24 or 36 “exposures” every image counted, and parents on a vacation budget couldn’t necessarily spare a few bad shots on the whims of a child photographer. These are entirely foreign concepts in today’s digital world, where even toddlers can play with (kid friendly) digital cameras; almost every mobile phone is also a camera; and thanks to inexpensive and readily available digital storage (including “the cloud”) the perceived cost of taking a picture is zero, and the amount of images, good or bad, that one can capture is virtually unlimited.

Sharing Is Creativity Unleashed

Our kids are growing up in a world where everyone and anyone can create and share in ways that were barely dreamed about a decade or so ago. As a parent, it is enlightening to see how effortlessly our kids have stepped into this world and how digital sharing is second nature to them. I was recently reminded of this when my older son, 21, had a picture he took of his truck published at an enthusiast and parts website, Edge Products.  As part of the Sony DigiDad Project I had a Sony A330 DLSR on loan for a few weeks. I let my kids use it as well and the first thing Zach did was run outside and take pictures of his truck (which, understanding the nature of the relationship between a guy and his wheels, didn’t surprise me at all). What did surprise me is that, without missing a beat, he assumed he would be able to share the pictures, and not just with his friends on his Facebook page.  He immediately started posting and emailing his pictures to Auto and Truck sites, and “pitched” his pictures to editors by email.  Why not?

No Magnets Or Refridgerators Required

As much as we may cherish the crayon scrawled drawings posted in our kitchens, today our kids’ creations can instantly and easily spread way beyond the refridgerator door.  They can be emailed to grandparents and posted to websites for all to see.  Today when we teach our kids to share, they are potentially sharing with the world.  There has been a lot of talk about the potential for negative outcomes from such open sharing, but what about the positive?  How exciting it is to live in a time where the tools for creating and publishing are so readily available to anyone, of any age.  Think of the power our kids have to spread their voice as compared to what we had at their age.

How does that change the way we teach our kids to share in a digital age?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit: © Nikolai Sorokin – Fotolia.com

I’m a dork just like my dad

06_apple_iic

I don’t talk about my dad too often, actually this is my first post where I’m acknowledging him. Unfortunately he has had severe depression for the last 10 -15 years and he hasn’t dealt with it. Three months ago after my son was born it finally got in the way of our relationship and we are not currently speaking. This hurts me and is not really by my choice but it is what it is and it does not take away from the fact the my father was a great dad while we were growing up. He was a doctor and he was busy, but he was there for us and present when he was with us. I never felt neglected and I loved, and love him very much.

This said my dad is definitely a dork, not in a bad way but like me. He was into stereo electronics, was somewhat of an audiophile, and was a general hobbyist with things like electronics. He was however a little slow in moving to a computer but finally bought an Apple IIC that we had for years, actually until I went to college.

There are many things I remember about that computer but two things stand out.
1) My dad’s amazement at: what it could do, how relatively inexpensive it was even though it was extremely expensive, and his fascination taking it out of the box and putting it together. We discovered it together. I was old enough to help put the wires in the right places and really helped him figure out where things went and how to plug them in.
2) The other thing I remember is the computer didn’t have a hard drive.

It’s the lack of hard drive in the first computer that inspired this blog. That and remembering my experience with my dad. I bought a 1 terabyte external hard drive from WalMart last night for $99. I’m completely blown away that I have the much storage in such a little box and it only cost $99. When I first started working 1Tb of data was about $10,000. This is just one of those things that hit me. It’s kind of the inverse of my Dad talking to me about the movies when I was a kid.” I remember when movies cost $0.05″

I wonder is it odd that the hard drive struck me as more amazing than the iPad?

Kevin Metzger is father to Haley, Abby and Isaac and husband to Melanie. He is a Business Systems Architect and writes on tech and business topics at MetzgerBusiness.com. Kevin also writes MySpellingSucks.com for which he was awarded the 2009 East Cobber Father of the year. Recently Kevin has started TheDADvocateProject.com where he is looking for participation from dads to help write a book about this current generation of dads. Come by and fill out the DADvocate survey.

Photo Credit Dale Cruse.

The iPad vs. The iDad!

An apple a day… gives the media lots to talk about.  This week both the tech news and so called “mainstream media” was all abuzz about the long rumored, finally revealed, “tablet” device from Steve Jobs and his team at Apple.  When all the dust settled, as expected, everyone’s attention turned to the “core” of the Apple iPad, and the heated comparisons and complaints began in force.  While many have compared and contrasted the iPad to the Amazon Kindle, other tablet PC’s and Netbooks, there is one comparison that I haven’t seen, and one that is most suited for Dad-O-Matic readers: The iPad vs. the iDad!

The iDad: Why EVERY Home Should Have One!

There is a readily available interactive device that beats the pants off the iPad (and it even wears pants!)  Yes, the iDad is the one device that every household with kids should have, and it has standard features that clearly put the iPad to shame, including cameras, multitasking, expandability, and even a significantly longer battery life.  Yes, the iDad is the groundbreaking computing device that is clearly well positioned to take a bite out of the Apple iPad’s potential market.

Here is a simple comparison:

Which does your household need more, an iPad or an iDad?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

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Savvy Cyber Kids – An Interview

DADvocate – Internet Discussions from Kevin Metzger on Vimeo.

This is a video interview with Security Expert Ben Halpert. Ben has two daughters and a son on the way. When his first daughter was born he began thinking about the security risks for being on line with children and how and when that conversation should start to take place. Ben decided that we are probably reaching out to children too late in life to begin this conversation. Much like teaching your children to say please or thank you Internet behavior conversation needs to start when your children are young and still listen to you.

Ben has started the Non Profit Savvy Cyber Kids. This organization is dedicated to providing resources to parents and teachers that will help them in educating their children on internet safety. Currently Ben has a number of resources available on his site including:

To access all this information and keep up with Ben go to benhalpert.com

I’d also like to thank Jeff Sass for inspiring this interview with his post Having that conversation with your kids. You can find more on Jeff Sass at JefferySass.com

Kevin Metzger is father to Haley, Abby and Issac and husband to Melanie. He is a Business Systems Architect and writes on tech and business topics at MetzgerBusiness.com. Kevin also writes MySpellingSucks.com for which he was awarded the 2009 East Cobber Father of the year. Recently Kevin has started TheDADvocateProject.com where he is looking for participation from dads to help write a book about this current generation of dads. Come by and fill out the DADvocate survey.

Cast of Dads Episode 6: Keep On Truckin’!

No, we didn’t take to the road this week, but we did get our first e-mail question from a listener who happens to be a truck driver.  He goes by the handle of “Jokerman” and he wanted to know if the Cast of Dads could share our thoughts on MP3 players and eBook readers.  Well, needless to say, we did our best to answer Jokerman’s questions and then some.  ;-)

Here is what we talk about in Episode 6:

You can listen to Episode 6 here, and subscribe to either our direct feed or via iTunes. Also, please leave us a review in iTunes!

And of course… Keep on Truckin’!

Cast of Dads is a group of podcasting and blogging dads who gather to gab about fatherhood.  The cast of dads includes C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff,Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, who collectively represent 13 kids from the youngest of babies to full grown adults. Each of them brings a unique perspective to being a father.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Having “That” Conversation With Your Kids…

Sex… is not what this post is about.  No birds and bees here.  Instead I want to talk about the “other” conversation to have with your kids as they approach the age of puberty and start to become young adults.  That is the talk about privacy and managing with common sense the digital trails we deliberately and innocently leave behind in “cyberspace.”  For many parents this may be an even more challenging topic than the dreaded “sex talk.”  As parents, by definition we have generally had sex ourselves, and we were once teens, experiencing the hormonal surges and urges of the beginnings of our sexual lives.  Therefore, though it may give us the willies, we are more or less prepared and have relevant firsthand experience to shed wisdom and guidance on matters of sex.  On the other hand, as parents most of us did not grow up in the same digital world our kids now inhabit.  We did not grow up tempted with “sexting” from our mobile phones.  We did not grow up sharing our lives and loves online, with pictures, videos, and often revealing “status updates” on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.

You Are Your Resume

My oldest son will graduate college this year and enter the “full time” work force.  A few years ago, when he was looking for a part time job, I remember helping him with his resume, crafting the words in a traditional paper format.  You know the drill: Objective, Work Experience, Education, References, etc.  Now as he gets closer to really needing a resume it dawned on me that he needs to concern himself with much more than a classic Curriculum Vitae.  He needs to concern himself with his online resume, in particular, his Facebook resume.  So, we had “the talk.”  In this talk, the protection we discussed had nothing to do with prophylactics (although we DID once have THAT talk).  In this talk I told him to assume that for any job he might apply for, the employer would see everything on his Facebook page.  He should assume that his potential future employers would “Google” him, and take a close look at his digital life.  In some cases that may be more important to them than his old fashioned resume.  I told him that, like it or not, he had to use common sense and think about and filter anything and everything he posts online with the understanding that it may very well shape the impressions of the people who will help him launch his career.

Online Is The Real Vegas

The clever catchphrase of Las Vegas notwithstanding, what happens online does indeed stay online, and that is an important lesson for us to teach our kids.  They have to be made aware that “cyberspace” has a better memory than any elephant. Digital ink is more indelible than any Sharpie pen.  The silliness they may choose to share with their friends is more than likely going to be visible by family and employer alike.  Even if some networks and things are truly private, I think the best way for our kids to approach their online lifestream is to use protection and proceed with the assumption that anything and everything they choose to share is discoverable.

What do you think?  Have you had this talk with your kids?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit: © ioannis kounadeas – Fotolia.com

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Foursquare And Seven Days Ago…

“It’s ten o’clock… do you know where your children are?”  In the days before mobile phones and text messaging, that was a line in a frequently broadcast Public Service Announcement.  Even in our connected world today, as parents we still DO want to know where our children are… all the time.  Now we have the advantage of calling or texting our kids (assuming they are of “phone age” – which is getting younger and younger by the year). I recently discovered another way we can use our smartphones to “check in” with our kids.

Geek Chic, And Fun For Parents Too

One of the companies rising in popularity amongst the tech crowd is Foursquare, a mobile social network that cleverly leverages location based information and gaming elements to keep friends in touch and make exploring the cities you live in and visit more fun.  Using the mobile web or an app for your iPhone, Android, or Palm WebOS phone, Foursquare makes it easy to “check in” at any location you are at.  When you check in, your location (and a short “shout out” message) is broadcast to your Foursquare friends in the same city (and, optionally, to your Twitter or Facebook account). In addition to knowing where all your friends are, as you “check in” to different venues and locations, you earn points and badges on your way to becoming the “Mayor” (person with the most visits) of a particular location.  I recently added my own twist to Foursquare by introducing my son Zach to the program.

It’s Ten O’Clock And I Do Know Where My Children Are

Zach has an iPhone so I encouraged him to get the Foursquare iPhone app and sign up for an account, which he did. Zach commutes to college and works most nights at a restaurant.  He has a very busy schedule and though we live in the same house we are rarely home at the same time.  I often call or text him “where are you?” just to check in and make sure I know that he is ok. Now, with both of us using Foursquare, I know when he has arrived at school and when he gets to work in the evening.  At the same time, he knows where I am, and Zach said he enjoyed following my movements and felt more connected than usual during my recent trip to Las Vegas for the CES show, as Foursquare let him virtually follow me around the convention.

Responsibility And Trust

Foursquare is not a tracking program, and if you are looking for a way to passively keep track of your kid’s movements, this is not the answer.  In order for your location to be broadcast to your friends with Foursquare you have to actively check in at each place you want to share.  It is completely opt-in and not automatic.  On the other hand, if your child has a smartphone and you are looking for a fun way to get them to let you know where they are, and build a sense of responsibility and trust along the way, playing Foursquare could be a lot of fun and functional.

What do you think?  Would you use a game like Foursquare to help stay in touch with your kids, or am I just an old geek?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

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Creating a Virtual Christmas

I mentioned in my last post that I would be doing a project to help make the long distance gap on the holiday much less. So here are some stocking stuffers from the BenSpark.com tree that will help you.

  • A Free Blog
  • Photo Sharing Account
  • Qik Account
  • Cell phone that can run Qik
  • Ustream.tv Account
  • Webcam
  • Twitter Account
  • Eye-Fi Card
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It Fits

 

A Dedicated Blog: Step one in creating a virtual Christmas (this can also be used to celebrate other holidays) is to create a new blog. I decided to use Blogger because it is wicked easy to set up and it is free. Since this isn’t something I’m going to blog on all the time and it is really just for my in-laws to view I don’t need to think SEO, design and so many other things. This is not a long term commitment.

Dress it Up: I did want to make the blog look nice so I grabbed a quick theme from DeluxeTemplates. You certainly don’t have to do this but it is easy enough to do so why not take one quick step to pretty up the place.

Video: I’m not going to be tied to the computer all Christmas day so instead to set up so many things behind the scenes. That way when Christmas Day comes I don’t have to do anything except turn things on. On the new blog I added a gadget to the blog that has the code for my Live Ustream channel. That way when I am live on Ustream the blog will be showing me live. So, when I am not live visitors can look at previous shows. The same can be done with Qik. I set up both of these because on Christmas Day I will be in a wireless network and on the Day after Christmas when we go to visit my wife’s extended family I will only have the cell phone to use. By adding both channels I don’t have to direct my in-laws to multiple places they can go to one place to see everything that is going on.

Photos: I’ll be taking photos during the day and rather than be stuck uploading the images to the blog or to Flickr or anywhere else I can take the photos and have them wirelessly post by using an Eye-Fi card. I can change the settings so that the photos automatically upload with a specific tag on them. The reason I want to do this and why I chose Flickr is that I can create a badge based upon that specific tag. I created a vertical badge that shows the 5 most recent images and added that to the sidebar. This way when I take photos with my camera using an eye-fi card all images automatically have the correct tag and they will show up in the sidebar.

Twitter: You could set up a special Twitter account to quickly text little things that your kids say and capture those truly silly and endearing moments. In blogger you can pull in as many RSS feeds as you would like and thus you can pull in that Twitter feed into the sidebar of that new blog.

Mobile Blog Posts: With blogger you can send blog posts via SMS, MMS or e-mail to your blog. You just have to set that up ahead of time. Just click on Settings / Email & Mobile, there you can make those settings. If you want to post up something quick that your child said then send an SMS message. Post a quick image with title using your cell phone then use MMS. If you want to have more options send the post to your Email Posting Address for blogger. I suggest that when you are setting up this sort of blog you involve the rest of the family to help. So, both my wife and I will set up our phones to be mobile blogging units for the Christmas Holiday. If you’d like to see how things go for us please visit http://holidaybenspark.blogspot.com/.

How A Social Media Guru Helped My Son With His Homework

Thanks to technology, our kids are growing up in an amazing time. Homework assignments that I would have had to use construction paper, crayons and Elmer’s Glue to complete are now being accomplished with laptops and PowerPoint.  Stacks of papers and notebooks have been replaced by files on key chain sized USB drives.  Those are just some of the obvious uses of technology in the classroom.  With all the cool “web 2.0″ and “Social Media” tools available kids are coming up with new and creative ways to fulfill their homework assignments and recently I was happy to make a suggestion that that helped my son get an “A.”

The Animated Ghost of Christmas Present

My son was frustrated with an assignment to act out “Stave 3” of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  Most of his class was going to create a skit of the scene between Ebenezer Scrooge and the second of the three spirits he would encounter, however my son was having a hard time getting together with his classmates to write and rehearse a skit.

I suggested, “Why don’t you make a cartoon?”  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “Seriously,” I said.  “I saw this really cool animation called ‘The Social Media Guru’ that was made using a website where you type the script, direct the characters, and it spits out a YouTube video!”   He was intrigued.  I pointed him to www.xtranormal.com and he was off to the races.

While the hysterical Social Media Guru video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR KIDS, my son’s assignment for his class is, and it is embedded below.

How have your kids used new technology tools for their class assignments?  Please let us know in the comments.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

Photo Credit: Jane – Fotolia.com

 

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Rise of the Social Natives

I recently attended a session at PodCamp New Hampshire on “Digital Natives” and realized halfway through the discussion that my children represent the first generation of “Social Natives.” My son Jackson and I thought it would be nice to share an episode of our show “Two Dudes and One Camera” with the Dad-O-Matic community and give you our take on what the rise of the social natives may mean to society and the world as we know it.

Here is a short list of things we think will change. Please feel free to share your thoughts on what a new generation of social natives will mean in the comment section.

  • Friendships – Think about your first friendships. Most of them probably with other children from your neighborhood, church, school or maybe children of your parents’ friends. My son and daughter will most likely develop real friendships with kids who live nowhere near them. These friendships will be as real and genuine as any other.
  • Never Losing Touch – Over the years I have lost touch with many of my early childhood friends. A lot of them moved when we were still kids and the rest of us dispersed after high school. Sure social tools like Facebook have allowed me to reconnect with some friends but in most cases being separated for over a decade or longer has made true reconnection awkward. Social natives will never have to lose touch with friends simply because their moms and dads choose to move.
  • Schools – The long promised virtual school is possible today. How long will it be before parents are given the choice to enroll their social native children in schools connected via Skype? Children in an economically depressed area of the country will no longer need to be victimized by chronically under performing school systems. What happens to our inner cities when children no longer need to risk their lives to receive an education?
  • Business – By the time my children reach the age of 18 each of them will likely have a global network of friends. Can you even begin to imagine the disruptive businesses these kids will launch?
  • Geo Politics – Sure a country is defined by geographical borders but it also needs a common culture and political framework. There is an old saying that says “all politics is local” but will that be true when social natives take the reigns of power? Yes they will care about local services but only as much as it impacts their lives. If they no longer need a local school system to educate themselves and their children what other local concerns will rally their vote? How will nations interact when an entire generation of world leaders have been interconnected since they were children?
  • Entertainment - Jackson turned 5 today and already he is a prolific content creator. Each episode of “Two Dudes and One Camera” is 7 to 8 minutes long. When his friends and family watch his show that is 7 to 8 minutes in which they are not watching NBC. What happens when some of his other friends and family members start creating and distributing content? How will our society change when there is no longer a common entertainment experience from which we develop a sense of what is funny, what is sad or tragic, what is violent and what is meaningful?
  • Cultural Identity – The nature versus nurture debate is about to be put to the test on a scale previously unimaginable. What we believe and how we behave has historically been due in large part to the circumstance in which we were born. Until recently dissenters were either culturally isolated or eliminated. However, we now live in a world where it is becoming increasingly easier for us to find and connect with other people who share our interests and beliefs regardless of where we live. How will the world change when the social natives come of age with access tools that allow for insulation against those who are intolerant of their beliefs? What happens when angry children filled with rage have no barrier to connecting with other angry punks? The world is about to see the long tail applied to cultural identity and it will have massive implications on how our children live.

What other changes do you see coming? Are you kids social natives? Do you see differences in their lives as a result?

The Sony VAIO P-Mercial: Family Fun With Video

WebAs the latest mission for the Sony DigiDad Project, we were loaned a Sony VAIO P Series Lifestyle PC mini laptop and told to go record a class trip or some other family outing.  My kids are too old for “class trips” and I wanted to do something that actually included the VAIO P, because it has such an unusual form factor for a computer.  And the “P” is a full-blown computer.  It may be light in weight, but it is far from a lightweight when it comes to features and computing power.  To demonstrate, my kids and I created our own spoof of an “infomercial” for the VAIO P.  We call it a “P-Mercial.”  Let us know what you think.  More about the Sony products and making videos with your kids below the video.

As a work of art the VAIO P is a stunning and impressive bit of design and engineering.  It really is gorgeous to behold (and really easy to hold).  It is also a great idea to have something so light and small actually be a full power PC and not a light but limited netbook.  In addition, wireless broadband and an integrated GPS makes a tremendous amount of sense in such a truly portable PC.  Kudos to Sony for putting all this power and features together in such a stylish and attractive package.  That said, gorgeous and cool as the VAIO P is, I found the the high resolution screen much too difficult to read, and the “pointing stick” track ball a bit too awkward to manipulate.  As much as I would think it would be cool to have one of these to toss in my bag, I could not imagine actually using it for any length of time.  Perhaps someone with better eyesight and smaller hands would feel differently.

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

My favorite part about participating in the Sony DigiDad Project has been the opportunity to involve my family in some fun activities that were inspired by the various equipment Sony loaned us.  In this case, Ethan, Olivia and I had a blast shooting our little “infomercial.”  It was a fun, creative and engaging way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and the end result is a video we’ll be able to share and laugh about for a long time to come.  We shot the video with the Sony HDR-XR500, which is probably my favorite item of all the Sony gear I have had the chance to play with as part of this project.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Sony HDR-XR500 is a beautiful piece of equipment.  It takes gorgeous, almost professional looking High Definition video, and it records it on a massive 120GB internal hard drive (up to 48 hours of video storage in HD mode).  I would definitely consider purchasing one of them, especially if my kids and I want to continue producing “infomercials!”

Have you ever collaborated with your kids on a video production?  With all the digital creation tools we now have available it is a fun and memorable way to spend the day.  What do you think?  Is digital content creation going to become the family pastime of our time?  Please share your thoughts (and links to your family video productions) in the comments.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

This post is part of series called the “Sony DigiDads Project” by Sony Electronics where a group of dads, including C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear.  If you want to know more about this project visit the Sony Electronics Community.

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Mid-Movember (Upper) Lip Service

mo-of-honour-smlIt is November 15.  Two weeks ago I introduced you to my hairy situation, having decided to grow a moustache this month in support of Movember and the goal of raising awareness and funds for prostate and testicular cancer research.  While overall the Movember movement is doing an awesome job raising funds around he world, the support from the Dad-O-Matic community has been a hair less than what I was hoping for.  With two weeks left in the month I am happy to be able to step things up with a few incentives.  The details are in the short video below.

If you’d like to have a chance to get some Movember schwag, please visit www.dadomoustache.com and support the Dad-O-Moustache team!  Thanks in advance.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

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Digital Tattletales and the Case of the Taken Tahini

hummusThere is no doubt we live in a digital world. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if we didn’t. As a “Digital Dad” (hat tip to CC Chapman) I have written here before about the impact of text messaging and mobile phones on family life, especially if you have older kids, as I do, who live their lives on their iPhones and Blackberries.

He Said, She Said

Recently, I had my first experience with a “digital tattletale,” when one of my sons used a picture sent from his iPhone to “tell” on his sister. I had to laugh when I received an email message with the subject, “Look what Olivia did…” along with the picture above…

Hummus A Song, Will Ya?

Let me explain. As you may know if you have followed me here, FOOD is very important in my family. We often buy a particular Hummus that comes with a big wad of Tahini in the middle. Apparently, my son came home to find my daughter had scooped out and eaten all the Tahini, leaving just the plain hummus around the edges for the rest of us. My son was so appalled he felt compelled to send me the picture of the Hummus with the “missing” Tahini. I’m not sure what he expected me to do… I certainly was not going to punish my daughter for pulling a Houdini on the Tahini. If she wanted to make it disappear (into her mouth) so be it. After all. food is meant to be eaten.

Have your kids ever been “digital tattletales? What is the most unusual digital message you’ve received from one of your kids? So far, for me, this one takes the cake (or the Tahini as the case may be.)

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

UPDATE ON MOVEMBER:

If you read my post last week you know I am supporting MOVEMBER and am growing a moustache to raise awareness and funds  for Prostate and Testicular cancer research.  So far the progress of my moustache is far outweighing the progress of support for the cause at my donation page.  If you are so inclined, I encourage you to please lend your support at any level you are comfortable with.  If you’ve enjoyed my contributions here at Dad-o-matic, I’d enjoy it if you could help me support this important effort to improve men’s health. Thank you!

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The Gang’s All Hair! Grow A ‘Stache For Charity Cash!

mo-of-honour-smlToday is November 1, and I just had a close shave.  No, I didn’t avoid an accident.  I actually had a close shave… with a razor and some shaving cream, and at least for my upper lip, that will be my last close shave this month.  November is “Movember,” with the “Mo” standing for “Moustache.” As a writer for Dad-O-Matic I have been interested in supporting a charity that is focused on Men’s health issues. I am pleased to say, “hair it is!” Movember can “help change the face of men’s health” by raising money for prostate and testicular cancer. This is one cause worth giving lip service to, especially if it means covering your lip with hair!

What is Movember? It’s the laziest charity in the world! No walking, no running, you don’t even shave!

Movember, the month formerly known as November, is a global charity event where men lose their facial hair inhibitions and commit to grow and groom a “Mo” (Aussie slang for moustache) for the entire month while building teams to support their Mo-growth efforts.  Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, or uniting around a pink ribbon, now men have a hairy ribbon of their own to mobilize around and change the face (literally) of men’s health.

The funds we raise during our Moustache journey go to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LIVESTRONG).

What many people don’t know is that 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and that testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 18-35.

While I am fortunate to say I have not had anyone experience prostate cancer in my family, my dad is a colon cancer survivor (as he likes to say, he is now a semi-colon).  All cancer is bad, and I encourage you to help me support this effort of fund-raising by hair-raising.

I made a short video to introduce my Movember team, which I hope you will join.  You can contribute by donating, and you can also do “mo” by growing your own Mo!  If you send me pictures of you and your Mo (in it’s varying stages of growth) I will include your pictures in my video updates here on Dad-O-Matic.

To join my Movember team called “Dad-O-Moustache” go to www.dad-o-moustache.com or www.dadomoustache.com to register and make a donation.

Please help and get growing as part of my Movember team.  If you too decide to “grow a Mo” please email me update pictures of you and your growth along the way, and I will include YOU in my update posts during the month of Movember!

Learn more about Movember by watching the mofficial Intro Video at http://us.movember.com

Together we can change the face of men’s health!

Prostate and Testicular Cancer Facts:

  • Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men and it will strike one in six men in their lifetime
  • The death rate has fallen 40% compared to what was once projected; however the number of new cases is expected to grow with the aging of “baby boomers,” with the potential to reach 300,000 per year by 2015
  • More than 192,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009.  More than 27,000 will die from the disease
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer afflicting men aged 18-35. The message is clear: more research is needed
  • Within the next decade, cancer is likely to replace heart disease as the leading cause of death in the US. It is already the biggest killer of those under the age of 85

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 17).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

How to Protect Yourself from Germs at Home and at Work

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Thanks to the pandemic spread of Swine Flu, we’re dealing with an especially scary flu season at home and at work. While we’re all familiar with the basics of how to reduce our risks of exposure to germs that lead to getting sick, there are still plenty of things we can do to help make our environments and ourselves more safe. Perhaps this information can help you develop battle plans to combat all of the germs that assault us at home and at the workplace.

Soap and Water

Let’s begin with the basics that we know about but few of us actually do correctly or even at all. The most important thing being washing our hands as often and as thoroughly as possible. According to the CDC, Hands should be scrubbed together with soap for at least 20 seconds (the CDC recommended minimum) under warm water (New studies show that cold water is just as affective as hot water so warm is fine). It sounds basic, but many people just rinse with water or wash their fingertips instead of the whole hand, which doesn’t get the l job done when it comes to removing germs. Here’s an excellent resource from the CDC called “Hand Hygiene Saves Lives” which includes video demonstration and tutorial material.

Antibacterial Protection

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Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, counted bacteria on workplace surfaces for a study sponsored by The Clorox Co., makers of Clorox bleach. The results were shocking, to say the least. Office toilet seats had 49 germs per square inch, he found. But desktops had almost 21,000 germs per square inch. Phones were worse — more than 25,000 germs per square inch! Yes, you read that correctly. Our desks, computer keyboards, mice and phones are much dirtier than toilet seats!

This should only emphasize the extreme importance of hand washing (for more than 20 seconds with warm soapy water) as well as using alcohol-based antibacterial solutions such as hand wipes and gels. While there have been some debate over the level of benefits of antibacterial soaps, there hasn’t been as much disagreement on the values of alcohol-based antibacterial solutions. The CDC recommends hand washing as primary method of prevention and alcohol-based antibacterial wipes and gels as a secondary solution when you can’t wash your hands for some reason.

Quick tip: Another common mistake most of us make after washing our hands in a restroom is touching the door handle while exiting. Even those few that take the time to wash their hands for more than 20 seconds in warm soapy water recontaminate their hands by touching this highly infected area. The best thing to do is use a paper towel to open the door. Some workplaces are placing trash cans near the door for proper disposal of these paper towels.

8-Hour Protection: The downside to washing hands and the antibacterial methods is that they only provide a few seconds worth of protection. The moment you touch something that is contaminated, then so are you. Well, there’s a new antibacterial solution that claims to provide 8 hours of protection against germs. One of the better known offerings is called SkinWear which states it is an FDA approved, safe and natural way to protect yourself for 8 hours against 99.9 % of germs.

Note: Also, any employees whose job descriptions require them to touch other employee’s computer equipment such as members of IT, should also be required to use antibacterial wipes or gels before and after touching anyone’s equipment. The same goes for all other office equipment such as phones, typewriters, etc.

water coolers vs water fountains

water
Another recent study conducted on the Food Network’s “Food Detectives”  revealed some shocking results involving common every day office fixtures such as the office water cooler and water fountains.While not as exhaustive as a clinical study, the tests they conducted revealed that the number of germs found on water coolers where were tremendously higher than the number found on public and private water fountains.

One explanation involved the benefits of water fountain’s angel of trajectory which prevents germs from contaminating the spout. Conversely, the vertical alignment of the water cooler’s spout makes it susceptible to easy contamination by people’s hands and used cups and water bottles.

So what’s the answer? Drinking from water fountains and refilling your bottle there? I’m afraid not as doing so would contaminate the water fountain spout the same way it does for the water cooler. Yes, washing your mug or water bottle and the spouts before each use would help matter greatly, but let’s face it, most people will not take the time or make the effort. So, perhaps its safest to just bring in your own bottle water and avoid refilling for everyone’s health sake.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=8668820

Weapons of Choice Against Catching or Spreading Germs

Here’s a simple checklist of what you can do in your fight against these microscopic enemies.

  1. Wash your hands as often as possible for at least 20 seconds in warm, soapy water
  2. If you can’t wash your hands then use alcohol-based antibacterial wipes or gels (Try to keep a portable container with you no matter where you, especially when traveling).
  3. Resist touching your eyes and mouth as much as possible throughout the day
  4. Never sneeze into the open air, even if you think you’re alone in an area. Sneeze into your arm if you do not have a tissue available.
  5. Stay home at least 24 hours after your fever breaks. Returning to work too soon can infect many other employees. The same is true for not taking a sick day early enough.

image credit Tatiana Sapateiro, abananagrl77, Clearly Ambiguous

100 Faces of Fall: A CyberShot In The Arm

3998978363_c5d80116db_bThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, yet as my task for this latest installment in the Sony DigiDad Project I am asked to write about a bunch of pictures.  Such is the life of a SonyDad.  They (who the heck are “they” anyway???) also say that the best camera is the camera you have with you, and thanks to the good folks at Sony Electronics, this summer the camera I had with me most of the time was either the stellar Sony A330 DSLR or the skinny Cybershot DSC-TX1.  (NOTE TO THE FTC: The cameras in my possession are on loan from Sony, to be returned.  My only compensation for participating in the Sony DigiDad Project is the wonderful memories I have captured digitally and the fun times I have shared with my kids and family playing with the various Sony equipment.) Here is an Animoto video of the photos my kids and I took over the summer and early fall with the Sony Cameras.  You can see the Flickr group of all the photos here.  I share more thoughts on the camera’s themselves below the video.

The Candid On The Camera(s)DSLRA330Y

The pictures above were taken by me and my children using both the A330 and the CyberShot.   I never used a Digital SLR before and I have really enjoyed using the Sony A330.  It takes beautiful pictures, easily and reliably in a variety of lighting conditions.  It feels great in my hands, and the professional air it carries (at least for a DSLR newbie like me) makes the experience of taking photos very enjoyable.  Controls are well placed and easy to use, and the LCD viewfinder folds out in different directions, giving you lots of flexibility for creative camera positions and angles.  It also cleverly has slots for both standard SD cards as well as Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick format, which is a big plus if you are upgrading from a non-Sony camera and already have an ample supply of SD cards.  The A330 is a camera I would love to own myself, and it is a great introduction to DSLR photography.

A CyberShot In The Arm

DSCTX1H_1 This sleek and slim camera is physically svelte and stylish, and for it’s small stature it is loaded with features.  The 10.2 MP still camera also shoots 720p HD video which is all quite impressive in such a small package.  However, the camera is so light and thin I found it difficult to hold steady at times, something that was more a problem for shooting video than still pictures.  The camera also boasts a beautiful and large 3 inch LCD touch screen display, which makes it very easy to change settings and modes at any time.  By far the most impressive (and cool) feature the camera has is the Panorama mode.  This allows you to seamlessly create ultra wide angle panorama views by simply moving the camera from left to right.  The CyberShot “automagically” digitally combines your movement into a single panoramic view (see below).  It takes a few times to get used to the motion in order to properly fill a complete panoramic shot, but once you get the hang of it the feature is very neat.

DSC00098

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While I enjoyed playing with the CyberShot there were a few things that I found to be problematic with it.  For one, while the large touch screen LCD is beautiful indoors, I found it virtually unusable in bright sunlight, leaving me to be shooting “blind” for the most part when outside in the Florida sun.  I had to “point and shoot” without the benefit of really seeing what was in the frame, as the bright sun completely washed out the viewfinder.  I also found the zoom control to be too small for making a steady move without shaking the camera.  Lastly, the CyberShot has an unusual “Multi Connector Cable” which is used to both connect the camera to a PC or to a TV.  The “Multi Cable” has a proprietary connection to the camera at one end, and both a USB connection and Audio/Video connections at the other end.  Personally, as I doubt I would ever connect the camera direct to a TV I would much prefer being able to connect the CyberShot to a PC with a standard mini or micro USB cable.  Unfortunately, the only connection to the camera is the odd multi connector so you must use that cable, with all its tentacles, whether you need them or not.  All things considered, while it is slim and feature packed (I am only touching the surface of what it is capable of), from a pure “point and shoot” point of view, I found the thin feel and the inability to see the LCD in sunlight to be non-starters for me.

Of course, it is not just the camera that makes the photographer, and I had a great time spending time taking pictures of and with my kids.  For that, I am glad Sony gave me a CyberShot in the arm to go out and do so!  How about you?  Was your summer full of digital photography?

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 21, Ethan, 19 and Olivia, 18).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab.

This post is part of series called the “Sony DigiDads Project” by Sony Electronics where a group of dads, including C.C. Chapman, Jeffrey Sass, Max Kalehoff, Michael Sheehan, and Brad Powell, have been given the opportunity to test and review Sony gear.  If you want to know more about this project visit the Sony Electronics Community.


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7 Ways Fantasy Football Can Make You a Better Dad

[podcast]http://www.kimandjason.dreamhosters.com/clubkj_stuff/audio_articles/7_Ways_Fantasy_Football.mp3[/podcast]
100605_footballSummer is winding down, the kids are back in school, and the long, bleak, football hiatus is almost over. If you’re a fantasy football nut, you already know that this is one of the most exciting times of the year. You know the thrill of channeling your inner Jerry Jones in order to take your shot at building a team for the ages, proving once and for all that should you be offered the opportunity, you’d have what it takes to be among the NFL’s top brass.

What you may not have known, however, is that fantasy football can make you a better Dad.

Even though the WAFS (Women Against Fantasy Sports) are bound to be up in my grill no matter what I say, I’d like to throw out the disclaimer that like pizza and beer, a good thing like fantasy football has the ability to wreak real havoc if consumed in extremes. Taking out a second mortgage to finance the 73 leagues you’re in, or being so focused on a game that you neglect to notice your kids lighting your sofa on fire, or accidentally calling your wife Suzy are not good, and will do nothing to help your chances at Dad of the Year.

But in moderation, your fantasy football fix can certainly enhance your fathering. Here’s how:

1) Recharge Your Batteries. Fantasy football allows you to escape from the stressful day-to-day grind that is typical of most modern lives. Pastimes and hobbies are important. We all need some “Me” time once in a while, and there’s nothing selfish about it. Taking some time to recharge by doing something fun gives you more energy to be more fully engaged in the other areas of your life, including parenting. The key is to make sure your spouse also gets some time to herself doing things she enjoys, which is most likely stuff as useless and silly to you as she finds fantasy football.

2) Share Your Passion. It’s always a good thing for your kids to see you passionate about something and having fun. It sends the message that life is not all about work, work, work and provides an example that a well-lived life has a sense of balance. Plus, kids are most secure when their parents are happy and Dads can set the tone of the household. I think about days — fortunately, they were rare — when my dad was in a foul mood, and it cast a dark cloud over the whole family. When he was really excited, we were able to share in that excitement and enjoyed the happier tone.

3) Teach A Lesson on Losing. Speaking of foul moods, unless you experience the mother of all seasons, fantasy football almost always gives you the opportunity to model what it means to lose gracefully. Whether it’s when Tom Brady blows out his knee in the first quarter of the first game (yep, that was me last year), or you lose a crucial game by one tenth of a point, hard losses come our way from time to time. How you deal with them is a great lesson to share with your kids. Remember, kids learn more from what you DO than from what you SAY, so practice what you preach.

4) Improve Math Skills. Trying to learn math without context is boring. But teachng your kid to calculate how many points your quarterback gets with two TDs and an interception, figuring out how many yards your team needs to get to hit paydirt, and reading numbers on the players’ jerseys is not math — it’s fun. When my wife taught kindergarten, one of the most advanced students she taught was a NASCAR fan. He was the only one in the class who could easily read two-digit numbers.

5) Anger Redirection. Fantasy football provides an important outlet for the uber-competitive types. Nobody likes the Little League dad who obnoxiously screams from the sidelines at everyone from the coach to the umpires to the concession stand manager. (I know nobody reading this is THAT guy, right?) I think everyone can agree that it’s always better to take your frustration out an obscenely overpriced running back than a twelve-year-old kid.

6) Bonding Time. More than anything, your kids don’t want stuff, they just want to spend time with you. It doesn’t usually matter what the activity is. Kids are eager for some bonding time, and will probably love to be included in your passion, if you let them. If you take the time to teach your kids the finer points, you can all enjoy time watching the games together (and Mom will get some free time to do her thing!) As your kids get older, they can even join you in a league with their own team, which is great fun. My brothers and I still razz our father over dropping Frank Gore in the middle of his 1,700 yard season back in ’06.

7) Self-Esteem Building. Sometimes, when you’re trying to set your weekly lineup, the decision between whether to start McNabb or Manning really is a toss up. The stats are even and the experts are split. But your kid doesn’t have to know that. Turn the decision over to your youngster and watch her self esteem grow when she sees how much you trust her to make such an important decision.

So there you go. Who knew fantasy football could be a surefire cure for Adultitis AND an opportunity to better yourself as a father?

Jason Kotecki is a dad who also moonlights as an artist, author, and professional speaker. Jason and his wife Kim (a former kindergarten teacher) make it their mission in life to fight Adultitis and help people use strategies from childhood to create lives with less stress and more fun. Stop by www.KimandJason.com and follow them on Twitter @kimandjason