September 10, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I must admit that I am a political junkie. If it weren’t for the kids, work, my wife, and her insistence that I take a shower every single day…I could watch the evening news shows indefinitely.

I get a kick out of watching the verbal sparring, the veiled insults, the accusations that are thrown about and then denied the following day – and that’s just from the political pundits.

Our democratic process is often messy, but it’s something we have all come to expect, coming from the world’s oldest democracy. I wouldn’t trade if for anything else, and it comes as no surprise then, that in other, younger democracies, the process can get downright scary.

I’ve watched clips of the Taiwanese legislature get so heated that actual fights have broken out in session – sometimes between men and women. In one session, I saw shoes being thrown between legislators. There were penny loafers, wing-tips, pumps, and stilettos – projectiles launched at a high rate of speed. I haven’t seen so many shoes tossed about since the last time Nordstrom Rack had it’s semi-annual sale.

I checked Taiwan’s constitution and under Article 11, it states, “The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing, and publication.” I double-checked to make sure no one had added an addendum like “…but if you disagree with what someone has said, feel free to fling your footwear in protest.”

Back in the U.S., it occurred to me that if the current vetting process is good enough to elect someone as important as a president, wouldn’t that same process be just as reliable in making some of our everyday decisions?

To test my theory, I decided to try out this strategy while interviewing someone who was interested in being our babysitter.

The following interview took place between the baby sitter, (or in more politically correct terms, the PALF, which stands for: Pre-Adult Life-skills Facilitator) and me.

ME: Thanks so much for coming down to see us. Tell us why you’d like to be our PALF?

PALF: Well, I love children, and I find it rewarding to take care of kids.

ME: I see here that you used to be a Girl Scout and you’ve won some awards for selling the most cookies.

PALF: Yes, sir.

ME: Were you aware that cookies in general are loaded with carbs and sugar and if consumed regularly and in large quantities could play an adverse role in our children’s future obesity and hypertension problems? Why would you, someone who claims to love children, intentionally encourage behavior that effects our kids lives, and by extension, the lives of a future generation of kids?

PALF: Sir?

ME: What I need to know now, and what I think our kids have a right to know, is whether their PALF is Pro-Health or Pro-Snack?

PALF: Sir! Of course, I want all kids to be healthy but…!

ME: Why the evasiveness, PALF? Next topic – I have a picture of you and a friend standing in front of what appears to be an Eminem concert, is this true? Is it? Is it? I need an answer!

I immediately end the interview as I see her take off her shoes.

To Beard or not to Beard

September 8, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Halloween is a time where we can act out some of our fantasies and be rewarded with candy for doing so.  Now that my kids are at an age where they appreciate Halloween, I find myself experiencing the same sense of fun and excitement through their eyes.

But, for the longest time, Halloween has been a reminder of a painful memory.  The memory of a day, years ago, when I realized that the sky was not the limit and that everything was not possible.

The thing is – I cannot grow a beard.  Hello, my name is Wayne  Chan, and I have stubble envy.

I am talking about my inability to let have that rugged unshaven look, and don’t even get me started about a full on beard.  I am not unlike most Asians in that respect.

Why is it such a big deal, you say?

I recall countless movies where the hero goes out to the wilderness to save the day and they all seem to have stubble by the time they get there.  Remember Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies?  Major stubble.  Don Johnson in Miami Vice?  Stubble city.  Even when James Bond gets thrown out of an airplane wearing a tuxedo, he somehow manages to land safely on the ground, tuxedo intact, yet somehow during the fall is able to grow a five o’clock shadow.

I like to be clean-shaven for business.  For meetings, I’m “clean-shaven, professional sales guy”.  But on weekends, if I ever go out to the forest (and it doesn’t matter that I never do), I want to be “Rough and tumble stubble guy.”  Instead, I look like “clean-shaven, professional sales guy” in the forest.

It’s not like I haven’t tried to grow a beard.  The problem is that I only grow a significant amount of hair right under my chin and it grows out long and straggly.  After a couple weeks, I look less like “Rough and tumble stubble guy” and more like, “Wise man who gives advice to young, martial arts prodigy guy.”

When my wife Maya sees me with any facial hair, does she complement me on my rugged good looks?  No, she says something like, “Honey, why don’t you shave?  I don’t want anyone thinking you’re a bum.”

Which brings me back to my painful memory.

It is Halloween, 1988.  In my desperate desire to act out my “he-man” image, I decide to go to work dressed up like Indiana Jones.  I had the leather jacket, the Indy hat, and I even fashioned a rope to look like a leather whip.

Of course, the most important effect was the stubble, and seeing as how this was not an effect I could produce naturally, I opted for some professional makeup to give me the full stubble look.  It took 90 minutes to put on but it was worth it.

I walked into the office with everything on, feeling great about myself, when an attractive colleague walked up and said, “Wayne, you look so much better when you let your beard grow out, you really should keep it that way.”

A Picture Perfect Picture A Pain to Perfect

September 7, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Ahh…the annual family photo.

The kid’s birthday is coming up and to celebrate that auspicious occasion, we reserve an afternoon to take a family photo to serve as a marker of another year gone by.  Just this once, maybe it won’t make my wife and I a nervous wreck.

It’s not that I don’t like our annual family photos.  Actually, I cherish each and every one of them.  Each one is a testament to another year of growth and discovery for our three kids.

It’s taking the picture that’s torture.

You see, my wife Maya and I are the proud parents of nine year old triplets, which, of course, means that I spend the bulk of my time each day either at parent/teacher meetings or buying a squadron’s worth of rations at Costco.

Anyways, our picture-taking day always starts out with the location.  Which picturesque setting would be the perfect background to display our happy, well adjusted family?  Maybe this year we’ll find the perfect spot with the skyline of San Diego behind us, or perhaps on a sandy beach in La Jolla.  There’s no shortage of scenic locales here in San Diego.  Finding a location is a snap.

This however, will be the last sane and simple decision we will make for the rest of the day.

We drive out to the location.  We walk out to the picture perfect spot, I set up a few chairs or a blanket to sit on, as well as the camera and a tripod.  Maya and I sit down, we have the kids sit around us, we wait until sunset to get the perfect lighting we want, and we ask our babysitter to start taking pictures.  She tries to get the kid’s attention to look at the camera and snap the picture.

As with every other year, the babysitter will fail.  It’s not the babysitter’s fault, mind you.  For whatever reason, if you set up a camera in front of us in an idyllic setting, the one place our kids will not look is at the camera.

Of course, maybe I’m just being too demanding.  If I was just going for a picture of my kids looking at their shoelaces, or having one of them flick the other’s ears, or maybe have one of them kick me in the shin, no problem – mission accomplished.

No, being the particular person that I am, I’d like them to smile for the camera for the picture perfect shot.  Which means, I have to start yelling.

Ethan, look at the camera!
Savannah, look at the camera!
Ethan & Savannah, look at the camera!
Tyler, stop looking at me.  Look at the camera!
We’ll go when I say we can go!
Put that down!
Take that grass out of your mouth!
Good Ethan!  Now smile!
No!  Smile and look at the camera!
Come back here!
Put your hands down!
Who’s kicking me?!?
Stop kicking and look at the camera!

And of course, there’s always the popular, “Look happy or so help me…”

Of the 170 plus shots that were taken, 87% of the photos have one or more of the children not looking at the camera, 10% have one or more of the children not in the picture for various juvenile reasons, and the remaining 3% are unusable because either Maya or myself are glaring at the children, most likely in the middle of browbeating our kids to look at the camera.

If you haven’t already noticed, that means that with all that effort, as with every other year we’ve tried this, we didn’t get a single solitary picture we could use.

Fortunately, we live in the age of digital cameras and photo-editing software, which means that a picture perfect family photo is just a few clicks of the mouse away.

Some purists may say that digitally lopping off heads from one picture and pasting them into others makes the finished photo a fabrication or a farce.  For the most part, I agree with them.  At least I have my limits.

I’m willing to digitally clip out a happy smiling face from each of the kids in various snapshots and cobble them all together for the perfect photographic illusion.  I’m perfectly happy to adjust the brightness or contrast of the picture if that improves the picture.  But when my wife looks at the picture as I’m manipulating it on the computer screen and asks me to “fix her hair”, that’s when I draw the line.

Once you go down that slippery slope, there’s no limit to the “improvements” you can make.  I might decide to drop a few pounds, or maybe I can “upgrade” the steel watch I’m wearing to a gold Rolex.  Maybe the beach background would look better with some perfectly placed coconut trees with a sign hanging from it that reads “Welcome to Waikiki.”

For the past nine years, we’ve managed to create, what I call, a “realistic illusion.”  In the end, our annual family photo is never completely real, but that’s really beside the point.

I love these perfect pictures not for the picture itself, but for what it represents.  It shows a perfectly happy family together, and there’s nothing fake about that.


September 4, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

I was channel surfing the other day and decided to do my civic duty and watch one of the recent presidential debates that was on.  Besides, there weren’t any reruns of Seinfeld on so…

At one point during the debate, one of the candidates used an oft-used phrase, which I find puzzling and a little annoying.  The line comes up whenever diversity issues are addressed and usually sounds something like this:

As an American, it shouldn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, red, yellow, or purple, everyone deserves an equal chance.

Now, I know which groups they are referring to and it doesn’t take too much insight to know that “yellow” represents Asians.

For me, that statement always begs the question: Who are these purple people and why are Asians always grouped next to them?

Have I been so isolated in my life that I have overlooked an entire population of people in need of protection?  Are Asians always grouped next to them because as an ethnic group, we are also often overlooked as a population?  Where are all the purple people in my neighborhood?  Am I losing my mind?

Then, quick as a flash, it comes to me.  I know who this group is.  It was right under my nose the whole time, and what’s more, this purple group is one of the most maligned segments in the country.  The worst part of it is, I have been one of the biggest offenders.

Of course I am referring to – Barney the dinosaur.  But the purple population includes not only Barney, but all of the robotically trained kids that surround him as well.

I must confess, like many others, I loathe Barney. I can’t explain it.  Perhaps it’s a visceral response to the whole Barney “package”.  You watch Barney, and you think that no being, human or animal, in this world or beyond, at any time since creation, could be so nauseatingly sweet without having to suffer through a terminal gag reflex.

Mercifully, we only have one Barney video, which I believe was given to my kids as a present (By the way, whoever gave it to us, mark my words – I am going to hunt you down). The highlight of the video is a song where Barney teaches kids to cover their mouth when they sneeze.  For good measure, they bring in some kids who used to appear with Barney years ago, and they sing and dance their hearts out – all in honor of the sneeze.  By the end of the video, I’m usually scratching my fingernails across a blackboard just trying to drown out the noise of the song.

Maybe it’s because everyone seems so enchanted by a song about oral hygiene.  Perhaps it’s because some of these older kids prancing around look like they’re pushing 40.

Well, it’s time for a change.  After all, who am I to judge?  It’s time for a fresh start.  After all, it shouldn’t matter whether you are black, white, brown, red, yellow or…

A Meat and No Potatoes Kind of Guy

September 1, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

It was a moment two months ago that I will never forget.  I stood on the small digital scale in my office, staring at the readout, unable to comprehend the number that flashed in front of me. “That can’t possibly be right”, I thought to myself.

The next thought was – perhaps the scale needed to be recalibrated.  The good news was that I was right – it did need to be recalibrated.  The bad news was that with the correct calibration I now weighed two pounds more.

Getting desperate, I started looking around the scale wondering if any of my children or my dog Bingo was jumping on the scale behind me whenever I turned away.  No children. No dogs.  There was only an overwhelming feeling that I needed either to go on a diet or gain a few more pounds and look into sumo wrestling as a new profession.

Since that fateful day, I’ve lost about 20 pounds on the Atkins diet.  Atkins, of course, is the diet that limits carbohydrates.  I did some research on “The Zone Diet” and “The South Beach Diet”, which are two other popular diets designed to help you lose weight as painlessly as possible.   For those of you who are also interested in finding a diet that lets you “have your cake and lose it too”, let me just save you some time – there’s no such thing as the “Krispy Kreme Diet”.  Believe me, I’ve checked.

The Atkins diet claims that you can eat as much steak, eggs, and bacon as you want as long as you stay away from starchy foods (rice & bread, for example).  I decided to test this theory out to the extreme for the first few days.  I went to an all-you-can-eat establishment, holding a platter the size of a spare tire, layered from one edge to the other with steaks, chicken, hot dogs – anything protein related.

By the time I made my way back to the table, looking at my plate I thought, “That should be enough meat… if I were a bear getting ready to hibernate.

As an Asian, Atkins is hard to follow since I am addicted to noodles, rice and dumplings.  I recently went to a Vietnamese Pho restaurant (beef noodle soup) where I proceeded to order a bowl of noodle soup minus the noodles.  I’ve had lunch at a dumpling house where I shucked all the dumpling skins like they were peanut shells only to gorge myself on individual fillings.  Do you know what it’s like to try and tell a sushi chef that you’d like a California roll without the rice?

The real problem is my metabolism.  A bowl of chicken broth can sustain me for a week and a half.

Yet, this really should be a blessing.  It could be a product of evolution.  Could it be that my slow metabolism is a centuries old response to my ancestors having to struggle in China with a minimum of resources and very little to eat?  Perhaps I should be grateful that my ancestors have passed along the ability to survive in a sparse environment.

It’s something to ponder over as I sit down to eat spaghetti and meatballs sans the spaghetti.