My Flying Don'ts (and a few Dos)

I travel a fair amount. 100-150 thousand miles a year and I'm closing in on my half million mark (not including all the garbage miles I've flown with Southwest). I've flown in prop planes over Uruguayan villages and the Airbus 380 over the Pacific. I've sat in every row on a plane and I've seen, heard, and smelt all types of people do all manner of things. I'm telling you this not to sound pompous or grandiose (though using words like those says otherwise), I'm telling you this because if there were an Illuminati-like cult of people who defined quality airline experiences, Tom Hanks would surely pick me as a suspect.

And on that obscure reference, here are my top things to not do on a plane.

1. Don't wear your pajamas. Unless you're 9 years old or younger leave the PJs at home. Have some damn respect for yourself. This also goes for sweats with any of the following words written on the ass: Pink, Juicy, or Slut. The only reason those words are written on your pants is because "Overpriced Tacky Whore Pants" wouldn't fit. 

2. Don't order shit they don't have. When the flight attendant asks you what you'd like to drink remember that the menu has the same for the past 60 years. Coffee, tea, soda, house wines, and well liquors. Know your drink and keep it quick. They don't have a kiwi juice with blueberries you dip-shit. 

3. Don't pinch the middle man. No one ever chooses the middle seat. People get the middle seat because they don't fly enough and God doesn't love them. They hate the fact that they have to sit there and the only thing that could make the flight worse is if you Tony Jaa your elbow into their rib cage. Window seat leans on the wall. Aisle seat gets to stretch out one leg. Middle man gets both armrests. It's the decent thing to do. 

Fly a ton, tip your flight attendant, and be an all-around courteous person. Before long  you'll be in the sweet seats watching the sunset bathe your beard in golden rays of majesty.

4. Don't expose your toes. You can only  take off your shoes if all of the following criteria are met. A: The flight is longer than 6 hours. B: You're wearing clean, no-hole socks. C: Your feet do not stink and D: You do not cross your legs and rub that nasty ass foot against me.

5. Don't flirt with that woman. Just because a woman is sitting next to you doesn't mean you have carte blanche privileges to chat with her about meaningless shit. You're not that good looking, you're a solid 3 and maybe a 4 if she's had a few. Let her fly in peace dammit. 

6. Don't fucking recline. There are 6 inches between the back of your seat and my face and I'd rather not spend this entire flight with your skull inside my kissing zone (kissing zone is approximately 8" around my face at any time). Keep your seat up like you have a modicum of respect for your fellow travelers. If you recline your seat in front of me I will sprinkle crushed peanuts into your hair.

7. Don't eat beef jerky, tuna, fast food, or anything else that smells like a goat's rectum. These types of foods are meant to be eaten at home. In a corner, alone, crying, and watching Friends reruns.

8. Don't applaud. The pilots can't fucking hear you and landing the plane was what they're paid to do. It's not Broadway. No one dressed as a cat, Tevye wasn't playing his fiddle on the wing, you didn't hear a single ABBA song, and no one on the flight happened to be a disfigured musical genius obsessed with a soprano at a Paris opera house [I recognize I'm stretching the references a bit].

With all that said (finally), here is the list of things you should do on a plane. 

1. Drink a bourbon.
2. Tip the flight attendant. 
3. Buy drinks for your row.
4. Read a book (paper, not Kindle)
5. Dress like an adult. 
6. Drink another bourbon.
7. Tip the flight attendant again.
8. Buy drinks for your row again.
9. Skip the meal. 
10. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and put on deodorant 30 minutes before boarding and landing.
 

Car Horns Should Expire

I hate car horns. Horns are worse than cancer, AIDS, and post-2000 Adam Sandler movies combined.

People use their horn for all sorts of bullshit reasons. Mad because someone merged poorly? Honk your horn. Person in front of you hasn't moved? Honk your horn. Want to pick up your date but you're a lazy-shit loser and won't walk to the door? Honk your horn. Standing still for more than 3 seconds? OMG honk your horn!!!

Here's my suggestion. Horn time should expire. You buy a car and it's got 3 minutes of horn time. That's 180 one second honks at your disposal. When your honks run out it costs several hundred dollars to put more honks in. Get pulled over and you don't have any honks left then you're written a ticket. Once we assign a dollar value to honks people will start honking more responsibly. 

Or they'll just shove air horns out of their window. 

#paytohonk

Hey Hey Hey Lisbon

Sometimes people ask me what my favorite country is. It's hard to say because every country has it's own flavor, style, and attractions (yes, even Canada) but I'm sure Portugal would always be in my top three. Which is why I was pretty giddy at the idea of doing some work in Lisbon, even though it was a short trip that would ping-pong myself to/from Asia (#assholehumblebrag). 

After four days in Lisbon and here is what I have learned. Firstly, Lisbon (Lisboa if you want to sound like a pretentious American) is the first city in the world to import Guinness outside of the UK. Why is this important to know? It's not. Lisbon is not the capital of Portugal but sometimes kind of maybe is (it's complicated). It's a huge port city, it's older than Rome, taxis are cheap, one of their bridges looks like a quality replicate of the Golden Gate, and the other bridge is the longest in Europe. A famous dish is a salty fish that doesn't live in their waters. The city has some of the most beautiful city streets, incredible holy-shit-how-did-they-do-that architecture, stunning views, ridiculously ornate sidewalks, and I strained my neck several times doing double takes of local women in tall boots.

Also, their outlet mall sucks just as much as any other outlet mall. 

I was here for a work meeting and took a day and half prior to roam around the city. I caught some decent photos, went for a few runs, stayed out too late, got chased by a peacock, ate goat, rabbit, oysters, and only worked on Saturday and Sunday. I made one questionable choice and that was drinking Ferent Branca and liking it.

5 stars, highly recommend, would return, kthxbye.

More photos on Flickr.  
One of my runs on Strava.

It's An Acquired Taste

"It's an acquired taste."

Every time I hear someone tell me that I know what they're really saying is, "This tastes like total shit but if you drink enough shit you'll learn to to like the taste of shit." Coffee is an acquired taste (re:shit). We aren't born enjoying the taste of coffee we grow into it, usually through some sort of peer pressure. 

About a month ago, at age 37, I decided to try my first sip of coffee after having worked in 9 coffee shops in my life. The coffee I tried was Kopi Luwak (aka Civet Coffee) which is better known as cat poop coffee. You can read about Kopi Luwak here but I'll give you Cliffs Notes. The coffee beans are grown in Indonesia like any other bean. Then a wild cat called a civet comes along (imagine if a cheetah mated with a raccoon) and eats those coffee beans. That cat essentially slow roasts the beans in its stomach for a day and then proceeds to defecate the beans. Lastly, some very unfortunate person comes along and does what might be the worst job in the world. He or she cleans the beans from the cat shit, bags them up, and sells them to silly Americans for $100-$600 a pound. Making it one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

It's delicacies like this that makes me wish I had a time machine. I'd like to go back in time to the first person who discovered this. "Hey Rika, did you see that cat just pooped? Imma gonna eat it!"

My coffee drinking friends tell me that Kopi Luwak tastes fine. There is no lingering shit taste and if they were never told they'd assume it was just another cup of coffee (seems like an awful lot of work for a mediocre cup of coffee). Since Kopi Luwak is extremely rare, super expensive, and something coffee connoisseurs seek out, I figured that it would be fine as my first cup.  If I hated it at least I could say I tried something unique. 

And sure enough, I hated it. It tasted like shit. Not literal shit, but figurative shit. It literally tasted like dirty water. No thanks but this is a taste I'd rather not take the time to acquire. Which is unfortunate because we live in such a crazy coffee culture. (Starbucks is a 15 billion dollar company and has nearly 22,000 locations. Which is more than the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th largest coffee chains combined. Dunkin Donuts, Tim Horton's, and Costa Coffee). My coworkers will "go for coffee" 3-7 times a day and I'm sure there are wonderful discussions being had and friendships made but I'll never know because, yuck, coffee.

I'll stick to water. Or maybe tea.

Butt Crack Of Dawn

I woke up a the butt crack of dawn to catch some photos of the sunrise over Shanghai. Why do we call it the "butt crack of dawn?" I'm trying to imagine how someone looks at early morning and makes an association with butt cracks? Was there a person or group of people who had the misfortune to wake up to their girlfriend's butt crack, and she happened to be named Dawn? The alarm goes off, they open their eyes, and BAM! Dawn's ass crack is just dangling above their face. Then later in the day they something late in the day, "I woke up to the butt crack of Dawn." It's a such a weird saying. But I digress. 

Woke up super early and took a run on the Bund. Running on the Bund isn't where "real runners" go to run. I'm still learning where all the real runners are. I cruised up and down catching several shots of the sunrise over Pudong. I can tell that I'm going to be doing this pretty regularly. The buildings in front of the sunlight are just too good. 

Everything was shot with either a GoPro or iPhone 6. Here's the Strava and the Flickr as well.

Sweetness in Seattle

I decided to start my new year in Seattle, Washington. There is something romantic about the city to me. Not sure whether it’s the mountains, the markets, the music, the Cullen family appropriate weather, Bruce Lee’s grave, or an alleyway covered in chewed gum and human spit. But something about Seattle just makes me swoon. This getaway to Seattle was my chance to kick off the first three days of 2015 with three goals in mind.

The first goal is to completely control my diet. The past two months I’ve treated my body like shit. In some countries I’m sure what I did could be considered as a hate crime. Too many sweets, too much soda, piles of fatty food, and I even proposed to a pizza at some point. I had no energy, my mind wasn’t responding as quickly as I would have liked, and my general movements were at a turtle pace (a non-mutant ninja turtle). By going to Seattle I’d be removing myself from all my normal go-to spots for horrible food. I was crashing on my friend Jennifer’s couch and of the twenty-one meals she consumes in a week nineteen of them are lean turkey, Brussels sprouts, and four almond (unsalted, because why add flavor now?). The other two meals are when she snacks on a bag of steam and a bowl of nothing. Jennifer has the kind of diet that every women’s magazine talks about but only 0.00001% of women have the strength to actually pull off. She’s a machine with her eating and just being around her would set me straight and cut my addiction to sugar and fatty foods in no time. 

The second goal was to run every day. I’ve been running three to five times a week for the past couple years and 2015 is the year I’ve decided to dedicate to running. Set some goals, actually train for them, write about it, and properly record it for posterity (Instagram). Seattle is a great place for running, especially trail running. And dedicating three days to exploring some of the best trails in Seattle would be the perfect Adrian-Rocky-style match to a clean and healthy diet. I did my running in three spots; Day one in the Discovery Park, day two in Cougar Mountain, and the third day in Tiger Mountain.

The third goal was to start growing a beard. On one hand it's almost like they're required by law in Seattle while on the other hand I'm just curious what I'd look like if I had a man's jawline.

All in all the trip was a success. I got a great kickstart to my year, hung out with a wonderful friend, and sprouted some hair on my face (a little more grey than I would have liked but fuck it, age with grace I say).


The Strava files. 

Discovery Park

Cougar Mountain

Tiger Mountain

And a full gallery of photos on my Flickr

Taking A Piss at Almaden Quicksilver Park in San Jose

Woke up with the intent on running some new trails and eating a huge pile of tacos afterward. Only achieved one of those goals and it was arguably the wrong one. Went to Almaden Quicksilver Park in South San Jose. It was packed with people and cars (holiday weekend) but it only took a mile of running before all the picturesque families enjoying nature and Lululemon-panted "hikers" were out of sight and couldn't be heard.

I knocked out a little over 8 miles at a casual pace (10:53/mile), got some decent photos, and even pissed in a creek. Highly recommend, especially the latter. Here's the Strava

I started by taking the Almaden Trail and I'm happy I did (all four of my photos are taken on the trail). The trail wasn't technical but it was never flat. Up, up, up, down, repeat. Creek crossings, bridges, and ducking under trees. Constantly changing terrain but going up for the first 4 miles and I saw no one the entire time. Many of the other trails were wide triple-track and this is where I ran past 30-some people. There was nothing wrong with them it's just they didn't provide any real escape. Even though the city was always in view on the Almaden trail I could easily convince myself I wasn't in a city park. 

All You Need To Know About Bourbon

I've visited Louisville, Kentucky twice, once in 2010 and another time in 2014. Both times I was there to explore the Bourbon Trail. Which is less of a trail and more of a map providing directions between nine different distilleries which make up more than 90% of the world's bourbon production. During my two trips I took myself from knowing nothing to being the most knowledgeable bourbon drinker at any table outside of Kentucky. 

Before making these trips, when someone asks me what a bourbon is, I might have told them that all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. When their follow-up question was, "What the fuck are you talking about?" I would have to pretend to choke on my last swig, run to the restroom, and leave through a window. Now I'm happy to say that I can answer the question a bit more intelligently with a simple mnemonic; the ABCs of Bourbon. Remember these ABCs at your next dinner party and you’ll impress. Remember some of the tidbits I have added and you’ll be labeled as an aficionado.

A is for AMERICAN MADE. Bourbon must be made in the US. 
It does not have to be made in Kentucky. The name “bourbon” comes from Bourbon County, Kentucky where it was invented. Ironically, Bourbon County is a dry county where the government forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages.

B is for BARREL. Bourbon must be aged in a brand new, charred oak barrel for a minimum of two years. 
Up to 80% of bourbon’s flavor comes from the barrel. If the bourbon has been aged less than four years federal law requires that maturation date be printed on the label.

You may not reuse a barrel; once it has been used you have extracted much of its flavor, similar to running a second pot of coffee through the same grounds as the first. Once used, many barrels are sent to other countries to make other spirits like rum, tequila, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, and Scotch. The Scotch distillers will reuse the barrels several times before discarding it, giving some barrels close over 50 years of life. Canadians will reuse a bourbon barrel 4-5 times to age a whiskey, then they will use the barrel to age rum like Captain Morgan.

A person who builds a barrel is called a cooper. A barrel is technically a measure of the size of a cask, so the term “barrel-maker” cannot be used synonymously with “cooper.” The facility in which casks are made is also referred to as a cooperage.

C is for CORN. Bourbon must have a minimum of 51% corn. 
Corn gives bourbon a lot of its sweetness, without corn the whiskey carries a much dryer finish. It takes roughly a bushel of grain to make a gallon of spirits (One U.S. bushel equals eight gallons of dry corn). The other 49% of the bourbon can be any combination of grain but the most common are rye, barley, and wheat.

D is for DISTILLATION PROOF. Bourbon must be distilled below 160 proof. 
Anything distilled at over 190 proof is essentially a vodka. It is void of many flavors and you cannot generally tell where it came from. Anything distilled below 190 proof and you start to taste characters of the grains. Whiskeys can be distilled below 190, but bourbon must be distilled below 160.

This low distillation pushes stills very hard and forces you to boil off a lot of the water. When you boil off that water you bring out more complex compounds and higher flavors which will give bourbon it’s complexity.

Alcohol is produced during fermentation. Two of those alcohols are two-carbon alcohol and a 5-carbon alcohol. The former boils at 172 degrees Fahrenheit while the latter boils at 180-190 degrees. In order to get a spirit to 160 proof and have 5-carbon alcohols you have to boil it at 180 degrees. When the 5-carbon alcohols combine with the char of the wood they react and create 5-carbon esters. These 5-carbon esters carry the fruit and floral notes that you taste when you drink a bourbon.

E is for ENTRY PROOF. Whiskey cannot go in the barrel any higher than 125 proof. 
If it were put in the barrel at 150 you would be adding a lot more water to the whiskey, diluting out the flavor. The best proof to barrel at is 110, this will extract many of the complex flavors from the barrel. However, many large bourbon makers barrel at 125 to maintain production volume, because you will lose a lesser percentage of the barrel to evaporation.

F is for FILLING PROOF. You cannot fill the bottle any lower than 80 proof. 
Most bourbon is bottled at 80-105 proof. Many distillers will sell their bourbon at a higher proof than you are expected to drink it, as it is assumed you will add water to tune the flavor to your palette. For example, Jimmy Russell is the Master Distiller at Wild Turkey and he believes that if you are going to drink a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 (101 proof) you will be adding water to it.

G is for GENUINE. You may not add anything to bourbon except water. 
Since Canadian, Irish, and Scotch distillers reuse bourbon barrels, the color of their whiskey is not as strong. So, many of these distillers will revitalize the color by adding caramel coloring. For example, some Canadian whiskey will carry caramel color for the look, but they will also add caramel flavoring, grain neutral spirits and orange wine to enhance the flavor and potency. Crown Royal has sixty ingredients, thirty of which are flavorings.

There you have it. The ABCs of Bourbon, cheers. 

A. American Made.
B. Barrel.
C. Corn.
D. Distillation Proof.
E. Entry Proof.
F. Filling Proof.
G. Genuine