17 December 2013

minimal?'s travels 2003 - 2013

Once upon a time, there was a creature named minimal? who came from Portland. It was very fond of Portland, but it also enjoyed exploring. Having no arms or legs, minimal? was happy to find a friend who would take it places.

The first place they went was San Francisco. Here is the first known photo of minimal? shot with a Motorola RAZR camera phone. It's not the best... (the photo, that is, Coit Tower is nice).

Over the next ten years, minimal? would have many adventures. Below is a map showing where minimal? has been (2003 - 2013) and now there's a movie too - featuring 41 photos of minimal? in action.

minimal? likes to have its picture taken. Sometimes the iconic places have ugly scaffolding or machinery in front of them so the photo has to be taken in an odd way.

Sometimes minimal? just likes having its photo taken in an offbeat way. The photos in this post didn't make it into the movie, but minimal? wanted to share them with you.

Unfortunately, minimal? can't remember where this photo was taken. Does anyone recognize this skyline?

Unfortunately, minimal? doesn't have any photos of itself in Glacier Bay, Alaska or the lovely city of Montreal. Perhaps the photos were accidentally deleted, or perhaps minimal? didn't make it out of the suitcase. 

minimal? hopes someone is good at photoshop, but worst-case it will go back and see these places again because they are nice. Below is the aforementioned slideshow movie with a song you might enjoy.

14 December 2013

Best of 2013 Mix

I've been working on this blog post (and this mix) for a few weeks now. Every time I listen to it, I wonder if there's some sort of theme - melodical or lyrical - tying all these songs together.

Zanna, a good friend of mine, got a quasi-preview. She says it has all the hallmarks of a Madhapa mix: handclaps, horns, a song in Spanish (you know how I do). But what do all these songs have to say about the musical year that was 2013?

I guess if anything, music from 2013 reminds me a smidge of 1993 - that sparkling post hairband / pre-grunge moment in time that gave us Whump! (There it Is), Informer, Mr Wendel, Two Princes and That's the Way Love Goes. Also like '93 we had a lot of female artists on the top of the charts in 2013. Check out the Billboard Top 100 from 1993.

This year's mix includes an above-average number of danceable tunes and virtually nothing that could have been released by 4AD.* I even have a tune on here that pretty much falls into the baby-makin' music category (Rhye's Open). Sorry, there's no Robin Thicke here (figured you've pretty much heard that one). But if you like twerking, boy do I have a song for you (NSFW).

Alright, let's get to it. Below there should be an embedded mix from 8tracks, the cover art is Buzz Aldren's head. If you can't see it below, click through to themadhapa.com or listen to the mix on 8tracks.

Here are the tunes in playlist order:

1. Moon Hooch - Number 9
(this band is only two sax players and a drummer; you will be amazed)

2. Ebony Bones - I See I Say
(Ebony Bones studied w/ Amy Winehouse and recorded her album with the Symphony Orchestra of India. How 'bout that?)

3. Kobo Town - Joe the Paranoiac

4. Major Lazer - Bubble Butt

5. Iron & Wine - Grace for Saints and Ramblers

6. Stealing Sheep - Shut Eye

7. Mean Lady - Bop Bop

8. Daft Punk feat. Panda Bear - Doin' It Right

9. Haim - Forever

10. CHUVRCHES - The Mother We Share

11. Neko Case - Man
(was there any doubt this would make the best of mix?)

12. Phosphorescence - Song for Zula
(Zula was the stand out for both people who got the preview mix)

13. Los Master Plus - El Extraño
(cover of Radiohead's Creep)

14. Rhye - Open
(possibly the first slow jam ever to appear on a best of mix)

15. Augustines - Cruel City
(reminds me of U2 from 20 years ago, plus a little somethin' extra)

* I'm still digesting the new Throwing Muses album and reserve the right to go back and add a tune from Purgatory / Paradise.

I'd also like to sneak in a tune from 2012. A couple weeks after I published my Best Music of 2012 post I was in Portland (of course) and heard Fitzpleasure (another great track from Alt-J's excellent album An Awesome Wave). My favorite track ended up being Dissolve Me, which you can hear in the first 1min 30 sec of this year's diving video.

A few years ago I started calling out my favorite new artist of the year. For 2013 it's Haim (the pronunciation rhymes with "time"). Three sisters plus a (male, non-relative) drummer you never see =  Haim. Mary at  Rats Off has my undying love for a lot of reasons, but especially for the great music she finds.

Haim definitely has a '90s thing going that I can't exactly put my finger on. Mary accurately predicted that there would be lots of quirky vintage hats at their show - right on as always, Miss Mary.

Best Cover Song: El Extraño
(Radiohead's Creep in Español)

Officially, my favorite cover song of 2013 is El Extrano. Unofficially, it's Brian Williams rapping Warren G's RegulatePeace out...

27 September 2013

Scuba Diving Indonesian Borneo: Derawan Maratua Sangalaki

For better or worse: it's impossible for me to find a scuba diving destination where someone I know hasn't already been there done that. So when I stumbled upon the islands of Derawan, Sangalaki and Maratua in Indonesian Borneo and my co-workers said, where?!? I knew I had a winner.

I'll be honest with you. When I say the words Indonesian Borneo in my head, my mind adds ...where she contracted a rare, flesh-eating virus. I don't know if it's because my mom worked for the Health Department, the inflamed STD pictures they showed us in high school, or too many zombie movies. Still, I had to go. As the plane took off I wondered if my last words (with friends) would be: PLOW and POOD. Read more about my Indonesian air travel adventures (earlier post).

Since joining the scuba diver tribe ten years ago, I've become a reverse-travel-snob of sorts. If someone recommends a destination where I'll deplane using an actual jetway - forget it. If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars, I expect to walk across the tarmac and find myself in an airport terminal with one gate and one luggage carousel.

The one thing I have to get over is trying to find places where US corporations don't have a presence. At the Suribaya airport there was a guy who would shrink wrap your cardboard box so it could be used as luggage....and a Starbucks. D'oh!

So why Indonesian Borneo? Well, there are three things I wanted: muck diving, coral gardens and large pelagics. This is a surprisingly tough combo to find, and we got all three.

Derawan had quasi-muck diving. For those of  you who don't scuba dive, muck diving describes the sediment where you find interesting little critters. Sangalaki is where we saw Mantas, and Maratua is where we saw some lovely coral gardens and also a barracuda tornado and an seven foot leopard shark. Oh yeah, and I saw my first hammerhead!

We also visited a village on one of the islands - you can see it in the video below. The little kids all shouted Hallo! Hallo! Later the next evening we went to another island where we saw a turtle laying eggs on the beach. When she was through she gave a long sigh of exhaustion that sounded very human...or perhaps sometimes we humans sound like exhausted turtles.

Riding back to the dive boat that night on the dinghy there were an impossible number of stars overhead. Looking up was almost as cool as looking down at the bio-luminescent water that was as equally twinkly as the sky.

Moments like this that make me feel like I'm a real adventurer. At the same time, I recognize how lucky I am to travel thousands of miles of ocean in an airplane instead of a boat. To think I crossed the Pacific Ocean in about ten hours and it took my ancestors weeks! Makes me wonder what world travel will be like when I'm an old fart.

minimal? visits Indonesia

Check out the scuba diving highlights in the three-and-a-half minute video below. In addition to the barracuda tornado, there's a shot of a black manta and a turtle scratching its butt. Not shown: a mantis shrimp that was a bit camera shy.

23 September 2013

Traveling to Indonesian Borneo

This is a message to inform you that your scheduled shuttle pickup time has been changed to: 4:15 am. Thank you. BEEP!

It was the first of many early mornings greeting the dark: bags packed, bleary-eyed, and ready for adventure. Adventure!

Because sometimes you need to get away from place like this...

...and go to a place like this.

(if you have subscribed to this blog by email, you may need to click through to themadhapa.com to view the images)

Ironically, to escape the rat race of too many people crammed in too little space you have to cram yourself and your belongings into still smaller spaces: shuttle vans, security queues, and of course the airplane itself.

By the way, flying a SE Asian discount air carrier was truly an adventure. I wondered aloud, do they allow smoking on this flight? To which my traveling companion muttered, I can't feel my knees. If you think I'm just being a western tourist a-hole, check out this photo I took in the airplane toilet. Incidentally, the toilet didn't flush... and it was a 6am flight. You can do the math.

Sometimes You Have to Laugh
It's funny though, things that would have really bothered me back home didn't bother me so much, because it was another culture, I guess. For example: in Indonesia, you clear security just before boarding the plane. There's a metal detector and an inspection belt for bags within view of the jetway.

I dutifully pulled out my laptop, took off my watch, and while I was doing this several Indonesian dudes pushed past me. I thought that was odd, but let them take care of emptying their pockets and so forth. While I waited, another couple of guys shoved in between me and the first group. Dafuq? 

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when they didn't queue to board either. Everyone jammed into the jetway. I had to laugh at this because, well, it's an airplane. We're all getting there at the same time. Who cares if you get on the plane first? I had to laugh...

I think this says, "will using my mobile phone crash the airplane?"
Cultural Treasures Available in Your Seat Pocket
The image above is from the inflight magazine. I think the article is meant to discourage people from using their cell phones in flight.

In my seat pocket there was also a prayer card with prayers in Indonesian and English for: Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and Tian Khaghhuzu Shangi Di - which I just typed into Google and the first search result was "Fan Fiction." I have no idea.

I also enjoyed the pre-recorded messages they played over the PA for English-speaking passengers. Before the plane takes off they remind you about the emergency exits and also that the penalty for transporting illegal drugs is death. Just before the plane lands they thank you for flying and remind you not to steal the lifejackets - further noting that your luggage will be searched.

Shortly after the message ends, the pilot drops the plane on the tarmac like a hot f*cking rock.


I hope you've enjoyed this little missive. I hope to do a separate post about the actual dive trip and also the time we spent in Singapore. Until then terima kasih (terry makka see) which is Thank You in Indonesian.

15 June 2013

Seven Days in Sydney Australia

Here is my greatly-overdue Sydney post. The trip, which was last November, was one of the best trips I've taken in a long time. The variety of things to do, interesting food, good beer, great people; I was bummed to leave.

Lots of people asked if we were also going to visit Melbourne or go scuba diving, but I'm glad we spent the whole time in Sydney. We were there for seven full days, but it was essentially a nine day trip since getting to and from takes ages.

On the way over, we flew business class (amazing). We were in coach on the way back (not amazing). I invented a new sleeping technique where I wrapped my scarf around the headrest and hung my noggin in there like it was a sling... or a noose.

Sydney Trip Highlights: 
  • Turkish Food Tour (with Gourmet Safaris)
  • Trying lots of different food in Chinatown (not just Chinese)
  • N2 Extreme Gelato (see video)
  • Blue Mountains Tour (I went with Activity Tours Australia) and Featherdale Wildlife Park
    Monday = less crowded
  • Botanical Gardens (going before 8am = more tranquil, avoid crowds)
  • Spit Bridge to Manly Beach walk (I wrote a separate post about this experience).
  • This rad jewelry maker at The Rocks who has a pendent that looks like "the sparkely" from The Secret of Nimh

Not so Much
  • We should have stayed in a hotel with breakfast included. A very modest breakfast was $25 (two coffees, a pastry, muesli)
  • Opera House Tour the cheapest price for the one hour tour was $56AUS for two people. (booked online, first tour of the day)
  • You won't see any koala pictures, but they were at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. I just felt bad taking photos of them trying to sleep. Ironically, a flight attendent somewhere may have a pic of me sleep-hanging myself.

Jury's Still Out
Australia has spiders that only eat bugs, but have enough venom to drop a horse. You can see all the complete horror show of spiders, snakes, birds, etc at The Australia Museum. Not to worry though, everything there is harmless because it's deceased. 

Most of the museum's critters are behind glass, but in the children's area there are stuffed creatures out in the open. While I waited for Tom to make a head call I found myself mesmerized by this wallaby with bald spots on it from being overly-petted.

Which is why I now refer to The Australia Museum as The Dead Zoo.

We found a few places with cheaper eats
  • A Japanese Noodle place called Mappen on George St. It's cafeteria-style Japanese noodles. You can pick toppings and sides as you go along. For about $35 (total) it was the cheapest meal we had.
  • Another less-expensive spot was Pie Face. They have mini-pies and larger ones. You could get a meat pie for your meal and a mini-pecan pie for dessert. I hope they expand to the US one day.
  • Veg Yum Cha was not as cheap as the two listed above, but it had a nice ambiance under big trees with lights strung in them. You choose different dumpling combos so it can be more or less expensive depending on what you choose.
The six minute video below pretty much covers the rest. Oh, and if you have even a minor interest in Australia, do yourself a favor and read In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. It's funny and informative. For example, did you know one of Australia's prime ministers disappeared after going for a swim in the ocean? He just vanished!

Okay, here's the highlight vid...

14 May 2013

Cycling Zen: Random Thoughts While Road Riding

In case you're wondering, am I still riding my bike lots and lots? Yes.

I don't have too much new to report other than I'm still riding but it's getting hot. I have, however, created the following list of the strange things that go through my head:

I love this weather!
I hate this f*cking wind.
Was that a camel?
That homeless guy has really long fingernails...
I'm gonna shoot a snot rocket on that Lexus
I hope it doesn't get any windier.
I wonder how many cheez-its I can eat at this intersection.
What was that road kill when it was alive?
They'll sell a time trial helmet to anyone.
Look at this turd parked in the bike line.
You know what this bike needs? An RPG.
I hope that's not a sewer grate up ahead.
I'm gonna pass that guy.
Don't speed up, motherf*cker!
I'm gonna eat the s#it out of a grilled cheese.
I can't wait for that beer.

... and the perennial favorite:  Shut Up, Legs!

26 April 2013

Dialect Quiz: Thongs, Pop and Flip-Flops

These are called JoJo's, I don't care what you say.

The other day I came across this old internet meme: The Dialect Quiz. This sort of thing has always fascinated me. For example, as a kid in the Portland area we called flip-flops "thongs" (much to the amusement of, well, everyone's college roommate).  In Hawai'i, they're called "slippaz" and here in the OC they're referred to as flip-flops.

An OC-ism (so far as I can tell) is referring to the grocery store (Albertson's, for example) as "the market." As in, "I ran into your co-worker at the market, she was buying arsenic. Thought you might want to know."

Well, I digress. Here's the official quiz:

  1. What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house? 
  2. What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball? 
  3. What is the bubbly carbonated drink called? 
  4. What do you call gym shoes? 
  5. What do you say to address a group of people? 
  6. What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs? 
  7. What do you call your grandparents? 
  8. What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket? 
  9. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining? 
  10. What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
I would answer thusly:

1. TP-ing a house
2. potato bug*
3. soda (but I used to call it "pop")
4. gym shoes
5. Yo!
6. Daddy Long Legs
7. Grandma and either Papa or Grandpa
8. Shopping cart
9. summer?
10. remote

* I recently had a disagreement with my significant other on this one. In the end I went to the great answerer in the cloud and Googled it. As it turns out, a potato bug is actually this HIDEOUS cricket thing with a giant head. That said, Wikipedia notes that a "roly poly bug" is also referred to as a potato bug, so it's not just me.

Hope you'll share your answers below! I'm especially interested what the alternate answers might be for questions one and six. I have to admit I'm confused by question nine.

21 February 2013

5 Useful Things They Don't Teach in School

Recently I've been thinking of useful things I've learned that they don't teach in school. I don't mean schmalzty stuff like it's okay to fail, or how to love. Bah! I mean useful shit. Here are the first five things that come to mind:

1. How to Microwave Correctly
When microwaving, place your food on the outside of the turntable, not in the center, for more even heating. Read the explanation at lifehacker.com.

2. Turn Off the Lights, All of Them
Ever hear that it takes more energy to power on a fluorescent light (as opposed to leaving it lit)? Turns out, with today's CFL bulbs, it's better to switch them off than leave them on. The gub'ment says so!

3.  Nutrition Labels aren't for (most) Girls
Those nutrition labels on packaged food are based on the caloric needs of an average male adult. For a 5' 3" female, the calorie, fat, protein, etc. amounts are almost halved. Instead of 2,000 - 2,500 calories per day, I get 1200-1400. Exercise, of course, increases this number. Even still, the amounts on the label can be misleading. Calculate your daily calorie allotment.

4. How to Google
To be fair, we didn't have The Google yet when I was in school. Even still, there are a few simple tricks to being a better Googler that everyone should know. 

If all you ever do is type a few words into Google, well, I'm not saying you're doing it wrong, but you could be doing it better. One I use daily is site search. Let's say someone tells me about a recent article from the OC Register website about the Anaheim Ducks. So how do I go about finding this article? 
  • Go to ocregister.com and poke around until I find it?
  • Google "Anaheim Ducks news" and sort through all the articles?

Nyet! None of the above! I go Google and do a site search. It looks like this: 

ducks  site:ocregister.com

Note there are two spaces between "ducks" and site:ocregister.com - you're telling Google to look for the word ducks only on the website ocregister.com

You can use the additional search tools to further refine the results to items from the last hour, 24 hours, week, month or year.

Once you start using this, or the other Google search operators, you'll wonder how you ever used the interwebs without them.

The next time you're want to see what lamps IKEA sells, try: lamps  site:ikea.com and then choose the Images tab to browse pictures of lamps from IKEA's website. 

Beauty, eh?

5. Invest in index funds
There's a saying that Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly. This doesn't apply to stocks. None of us is a financial genius or a psychic. If your employer has a retirement plan and matches contributions, that's free money. Buy an S&P Index fund like SNXFX, contribute to your employer matching max and pat yourself on the back.

I'm no stock expert, but I've read a lot of books, and the Boglehead book is the best of the bunch. By "best" I mean that I had a brokerage account where I followed the index find plan, and another where I went my own way (with an advisor no less). Guess which account is doing better? Yeah, the index fund account which I paid almost zero attention to... less work, better return. 

Why didn't someone teach me this in school?

01 February 2013

Sushi 101: How to Eat Sushi Correctly

Americans who say they like sushi
really just like the taste of soy sauce and wasabi

I recently went on a food tour in Little Tokyo and learned some surprising things about sushi.

In case you're wondering:
As a Japanese-American, madhapa, why didn't you know this stuff already?
      - Mom made lots of delish Japanese food, but not sushi
      - Let's not forget I'm a vegetarian

To verify the authenticity of this Sushi 101 session, I emailed my friend who is married to a Japanese woman (the real kind), has lived in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. He backed up everything I learned and also referred me to this colorful story of the (recently-retired) LA Sushi Nazi.

#1 Don't "smooth" your chopsticks
For one thing, scraping one crappy chopstick against another doesn't actually remove splinters.

The other reason not to is, in Japan and perhaps some high-end sushi joints in the US, they put some thought and expense into those disposable utensils. Rubbing them together is uncouth and the restauranteur may be offended. It's okay to ask for another set of chopsticks if the ones you receive actually have splinters.

#2 Sushi should be eaten with your fingers. Not chopsticks.

The hot towel or oshibori isn't something the Japanese copped from the airlines. So don't wipe your face and neck with it, the towel is only meant for your hands. Why?  Because sushi = finger-food!

(cue noise of record scratching).

Who knew? Sushi (as opposed to rice-less sashimi) was perhaps the world's first finger food. Imagine a Japanese villager in the days before Nintendo. He's looking for a quick snack,  approaches the local sushi stand and orders. He gets a slab or two of rice topped with fish, and buggers off.

People don't carry chopsticks around; sushi was and is a finger food. Would you carry around a knife and fork to eat a sandwich or a hot dog?

Okay, right now I am going to go make some curry and rice. Seriously, this is making me hungry....

...aaaaand, we're back.

#3 Don't mix your wasabi and soy sauce together.

sushi dish for soy sauceI don't know about you, but as soon as that tray o' sushi arrives I scoop up the wasabi splut, douse it in soy sauce and mix until I have a greeny-brown paste. As it turns out - for veg sushi this is okay. You can also mix 'em together if you're eating sashimi (fish sans rice). But generally speaking, mixing wasabi and soy sauce together IS NOT OKAY, ROUND-EYE!

How is it supposed to work? Okay, picture one of those small soy sauce dishes. Sometimes it has a little engraving in it, right? The purpose of that drawing or engraving is to tell you when to stop pouring. You're not supposed to cover up the entire image and limit your overall soy sauce usage to about one tablespoon. This leaves room on the edge of your dish for a swipe of wasabi.

elaborate sushi rollDon't use soy sauce at all if the name of the sushi roll you ordered corresponds to:
  • A creature (dragon, spider)
  • A place (Alaska, California)
  • or includes the word "crunchy."

If you dunk one of the aforementioned rolls in sushi, you're masking the delicious taste of avocado, mayonnaise, tempura bits, or whatever you paid extra for to mask the taste of the fish - with soy sauce and wasabi.

Speaking of which.

#4 Sushi Tastes Better Upside Down

Eat sushi so the fish touches your tongue first. If you like the taste of fish, this ensures you get to really taste the flavor of it. Dousing the sushi in soy sauce or eating it rice first will cause you to lose some or all of the taste of the fish.

After eating the first piece, if you feel the next bit needs some soy sauce, give it a light brush, not a dip, through your soy sauce dish / swipe of wasabi. Fun fact: sometimes the sushi chef puts wasabi under the fish. Who knew that was there?

#5 Eat Your Sushi in the Right Order

Some fish is fattier than others and the leaner cuts should be eaten first. The fattier fish will compromise your palate for the lighter one. How do you know which is which, lean vs fat? On some sushi menus they clue you in by listing a leaner fish such as tuna above a about a fattier one like salmon.

crazy sushi chef

If you order multiple items, the chef may serve the leaner item first. If you accidentally order a fattier one first, eat some of that pickled ginger they give you.

#6 Do These Rules Really Matter?

If you're a vegetarian or you only eat sashimi, the above rules don't matter (except perhaps the chopsticks rule). In fact, if you only eat sushi in North America, you can probably ignore all of the above. But isn't it nice to know that the right way to eat something is with your fingers? It's not rude, it's culturally correct!

In closing...

I got nothin' else. So, how about this: who else remembers the horrifically awesome Kikkoman flash video from the 90's? I don't know which bit of randomness I like best: the cat in the shame room (1min 26) or Kikkoman in bed with a lady (1min 35).

Now sing it with me! Show Me! Show You! Ki-ko-Man! Ki-ko-Man!