Make The Most Of Your Holiday: Get Sick

How To Be Idle at Amazon“Michael, I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.”

- Peter Gibbons, Office Space

I’m usually one of those annoying types that enjoys bragging about never getting sick to perpetually sniffly coworkers. As you would expect, I actually do catch a bug on rare occasions. I’m usually good for one stop-you-in-your-tracks illness a year. Invariably it happens right over the top of a major holiday. I don’t really know why, perhaps it’s the colder weather. But if I haven’t come down with something by New Year’s Day, the smart money says that I’m in the clear until Halloween.

As I write this, I’m wrapping up day six of a yet-unfinished bout with a lovely little case of bronchitis, and, added at the very last minute, special guest pink eye. So if the deep congested coughs weren’t off-putting enough, my zombie eye should do the trick. So that means this year’s ill-iday was Thanksgiving. It seems like such a waste, doesn’t it? The best food day of the year, and you’re stuck eating chicken noodle soup, crashed out on the couch watching the peerlessly poor programming that is holiday television. (Is it just me, or does TV just suck like a Dyson vacuum these days? I didn’t any loss of suction on the tube this whole week.)

But then it occurred to me that actually being sick on a holiday is the ultimate in efficiency from a work perspective. You kill two birds with one stone; a sick day and a holiday day, buy one, get one free! And you don’t get crap about being gone for being sick, because everybody else was gone for the holiday. You didn’t miss anything, and there will be no extra catch up work or email to return. And no accusations about faking it to go golfing or fishing. (Is there anything more irritating than that? It makes you want to want to sneeze on their keyboard and wipe your clammy, sickly hands on their mouse.)

But wait yet it gets better. Sometimes holiday festivities are great fun and you look forward to them. More often though, its the same drive to the same place to eat the same food and talk about the same things with the same people as you have for years. While you don’t probably loathe the experience, the thought probably crosses your time that you’d much rather play computer games in your underwear all day instead. Well, if you’re sick, you get to live that dream and with everyone’s blessing. They usual suspects don’t want to catch whatever nasty thing is causing your hacking cough and running nose. Everybody’s happy! (And you’ll probably find you cough a lot less while engrossed in a good game, than you would listening to the same family argument.) And triple word score if you get a doggie bag!

Ever notice that after a festive holiday you come back to work more worn out than when you left? You won’t have that problem if you spend 18 hours of the day in the dark green comatose land of Nyquil. In spite of the midnight coughing fits and afternoon headaches, I’ve never been more relaxed and more rested than I have been this week.

This all brings to mind a book I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) earlier this year, How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto. To sum it up in a few words, the book is advocates that everyone increase his or her indulgence in rest and relaxation, noting the decided lack of down time or personal time in modern western society. And it does this with a humorous tongue-in-cheek style. And as luck would have it, this book has a chapter on illness. In it, author Tom Hodgkinson, relates how illness gives one the opportunity to take a break, rest up and enjoy life. But as society evolves, this opportunity is being taken away by the abundance of convenient symptom-suppressing pills and the expectation that we’ll use them and get right back to work. Being sick on a holiday, however, completely removes the pressure to do anything productive. (Without digging too deep into the book, I suspect that readers of my blog will find it to be a great, entertaining read.)

I’m not naive enough to think that this book, or my mention of it will be enough to reverse the giant cogs of progress. People will get colds, they will pop some pills, and they will sniffle through their day in the office under the approving eye of management. All I’m saying is that you might consider hanging out in the doctors office the a day or two before a public holiday if you really want to have a good holiday. On second thought, just fake it, people will probably assume you are anyway!

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Tobacco World Event: Biggest Thing Since RTDA

OK, technically Saturday’s mega herf at Tobacco World in Marietta wasn’t the biggest thing since RTDA (IPCPR). Rumor has it that the Big Smoke in Vegas was bigger. But I’ve always favored the theory that if I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. (I often wonder if people simply cease to exist when they’re not in my presence. Hey, it’s tough having delusions of grandeur. But at least it’s cozy here at the center of the universe!)

The Tobacco World Guys Running The Show!
Don’t try this at home, they’re professionals!

Mental health issues aside, the event at Tobacco World was awesome. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve been to since RTDA in Houston (pictures, write up), and likely the biggest cigar event in Georgia this year. I’m not sure if it’s a comprehensive list, but the big names I bumped include Rocky Patel, Gilberto Oliva, Nick Perdomo, Erik Espinosa (of 601), Alan Ruben (of Alec Bradley) and Al Argenti (of Cuban Imports).

The Big Boys Posing
The big boys are out in droves!

The most interesting news of the night is the apparent shake up over at Avalon Cigars. As I mentioned in a previous post, I helped Tom Ramsey set up a herf at the local Highland Cigar Company. Well, the word from this event was that Tom is no longer involved with Avalon, and a lady named Tracie Southern is now representing them in the south east. This came as a huge surprise to me, as I thought he was one of the partners in the business.


Local Cigar Reps

Kent, Alec Bradley rep; Tracie, Avalon Cigar rep; Jeff, CAO Rep

The other noteworthy news is about the swag giveaways. There were a ton of them. Swag was raffled off six pieces at a time for hours, with a humidor full of Opus X’s as a grand prize. The noteworthy part was I didn’t win a single thing! I guess my string of good lucks has finally run it’s course. But hey, the event was fun, and I did pick up bunch of great smokes, and met some new people. I definitely picked up some great fodder for some upcoming reviews too!


Rocky Patel and Cigar Rep

Does Rocky Patel ever take a bad picture?

You can check out the entire gallery of pictures from this event here.

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Casada Connecticut Toro

Casada Connecticut ToroI’ll be honest with you. I’d never heard of these cigars before my friends over at Tex Cigars sent them my way for a review. But it fits the criteria for a cigar I want to smoke and review. So let’s see how this mysterious new smoke stands up.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 x 50 (Toro)
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 2 hours
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$4.00 (Buy ‘em here)

The Pre-Smoke
In looking the cigar over I found it to be very light in color, easily qualifying as “colorado claro” and mostly smooth with only a few veins. One of the cigars I smoked for this review had a small imperfection around the end of the second third.

Nothing else visually stood out about this cigar, so I gave it a little squeeze to check the density. It was nice and firm with a bit of give.

I noted a light sweet hay scent on the wrapper before I clipped it with my flamboyantly-red Xikar for a cold taste. I noted a sweeter, molasses or licorice flavor.

The Burn
In my notes on this cigar, I noted that it has a beautiful ash. And that’s a little refreshing. Many of the cigars I’ve been smoking recently have had flaky, chunky looking ashes. I got about an average length of ash out of the cigar, never longer than about an inch.

The draw was good and consistent also. And the burn line was generally even, though it did stray a bit. In the final third of one cigar the wrapper did crack, but it didn’t unravel. Overall, I’d say it was a pretty good burn.

The Flavor
The cigar opened up with a nice, rich earthy flavor and took on a sweet grain flavor. (I’m thinking barley here, but I won’t swear to it.) I also noted a good deal of honey sweetness to this third.

In the second third it continued to be be very vegetal. Grain and grass became creamy, almondy, wood and leather a bit further along.

In the final third my notes on the two smokes diverge a bit. In the first it tasted woodier and spicier. In the second I got more of an herbal grain flavor, and a surprise appearance of sweet cherries. A bit later on those cherries tasted more like toffee, but it continued to be sweet.

The Price
There’s no need to drag out the price discussion. Four bucks for a cigar with good flavors and a nice burn isn’t too shabby.

The Verdict
I really enjoyed the second, sweeter one I smoked, but the first wasn’t too bad either. I’d say the Casada Connecticut merits further exploration in the future.

I’d like to thank Tex Cigars again for kindly supplying me with these smokes! If you’re interested in trying these out for yourself, consider giving them your business!

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Yes
Recommend It: Yes

What Other People Are Saying
There have been quite a few reviews of this cigar recently, and the verdicts are all over the place. Here’s a quick sample:

The Cigar In Action
Here for your viewing pleasure is Casada Connecticut Toro being transformed into an attractive pile of ash!

My Other Reviews
As always, be sure to check out my Cigar Review Index for a complete list of my reviews, both on this blog and the other sites I contribute to!

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On Boot-Licking, Name-Dropping And Success

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint PosterIn a recent cigar review, a reader left a comment oozing scorn that accused me of licking the boots of cigar industry insiders and dropping names. You could just feel the pulsing, jealous ire of said reader, as he commanded me to never again review anything but average cigars that are always available, inexpensively priced and widely smoked. If he couldn’t find it or afford it, I shouldn’t smoke it and write about it.

Wow. All I can say is… Awesome! I’ve gotten the blogging world’s equivalent of hate mail! As you probably are well aware, it’s very easy to write things that people don’t care about and don’t read. It’s slightly more difficult to write things that people will read and find pretty good. But to bring somebody to a twitching, teeth-gnashing rage without discussing obvious things like politics and religion (and sometimes the Great Pumpkin), well that just takes skill! To celebrate, I’m going to light up the rarest, most expensive cigar that a person with a famous name handed to me for free. (I’m having trouble coming up with which cigar that’d be, as I don’t actually mingle all that much with people are well known. I guess that RTDA Stradivarius might do the trick. Mmmm… 34 dollar cigar I didn’t pay for…)

Seriously though, I make a point of finding cigars that are either new, or new to me and reviewing them. And when I can get my hands on a pre-release cigar, even better. One of the great things about the cigar industry is that it’s growing. In fact, I’ve heard that the cigar industry is now at around 80% of its size during the boom of 1990′s. New things are coming out all the time, and from completely new cigar manufacturers. Isn’t it useful to be able to read about these cigars before you buy them? I know I search for cigar reviews all the time before pulling the trigger on a “deal” I come across to make sure it’s actually a deal. Also, how are you going to find out about new cigars out there if nobody ever reviews anything new or unusual? Just because you can’t find a cigar right now, doesn’t mean it won’t be in every store in a month or two! And just because a cigar is out of your price range doesn’t mean it’s out of everyone’s price range. (You aren’t everyone, no matter how big your waist size gets!)

As to the name dropping aspect of the tirade, I find that even more surprising. The thing I like the most about the cigar industry (well, after the cigars, that is), is that it’s full of unpretentious, friendly, down-to-earth people, that are very accessible. I mean, how the hell else would I have met so many of them? The heads of cigar companies come to herfs and cigar promotions to meet their customers and talk about their cigars. They mingle, they shake hands, they walk, they talk, they breath… Oh my god, I think they’re people just like you and me! And they’re not behind bullet-proof glass, or surrounded by secret service! If you’re reading this, and you haven’t met a cigar “celebrity” (if that word even applies), I recommend checking out the event calendar at your local brick and mortar. (Or check out this list on Cigar Cylopedia.) They will be there, will you?

So in summary, I’ve met at least a dozen famous cigar people, including such names as Kinky Friedman, Jose Oliva, Lito Gomez, Carlos Torano and Tim Ozgener, by going to cigar events. (I’ve never yet had a cigar celeb travel anywhere just to meet me.) I have a bunch of cigars that I didn’t have to pay for, but will spend hours of my own time to smoke and document for your reference for no reimbursement whatsoever. Please leave your hate mail in the comments below.

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Catching Up: The Avalon Cigar Herf And More

Last week I was discussing the still hard-to-find Avalon Cigars with some of the guys over at the CigarLive cigar forum. (Great forum, by the way, consider joining if you’re a cigar lover and you haven’t already!) Well who sends me a private message but Tom Ramsey the man behind Avalon Cigars. He was planning on making a sales trip to the Atlanta area, and issued a challenge.

If I could put together a herf in short order (about two days), he’d bring the cigars. Of course, I rose to the challenge. In short order, I contacted all the local cigar smokers I’m acquainted with, and picked Highland Cigar Company as the place to herf. With the arrangements in place, Tom called up Highland Cigars to secure the arrangements, and then called mutual friend and local cigar baron Sean Williams of El Primer Mundo cigars to meet up with us. And the rest is an aromatic, hazy bit of herfing history. History I’ve documented with the help of my camera.

Here are some highlights. (Click on an image to see a larger version in the new cigar event section of my photography website.)

The Gathering
Tom and Sean chat and behind them Discdog socializes with the regulars

Tom and Sean
Sean Williams and Tom Ramsey

Tom Presenting Brian Autographed Haint Poster
For setting up the herf, I got an autographed Haint poster

Experimental and Unreleased Avalon Blends!
Experimental and Unreleased Avalons!

The Avalon Cigar Spread
The whole spread, more than enough for all in attendance!

You can see the rest of the gallery here.

As I mentioned above, I’ve set up a new cigar event section in on my photography website. In addition to last weeks Avalon cigar herf, I’ve also put up galleries for the August and September Blue Havana II herfs. Here’s a sample of each gallery.

The Blue Havana II August Herf

It’s a Brian Sandwich!

And on a slightly related note, don’t forget to check out my review of the Avalon Honeyboy Lancero over at Stogie Review.

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Nintendo Wii: Fun, But Is It Exercise?

You Sii Mii Wii!As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been visited by the eccentric Japanese guys driving the white Smart Car. They told me that they would like to play, and since they drove such a long way (across the Pacific apparently) I decided the least I could do was buy a Nintendo Wii. And play we did.

It’s a little over a week later, they’ve finished off all of my Sake and have motored down the road, leaving me alone to contemplate my Wii. So now that the rice wine buzz is gone what do I think of it? Is it worth the price? Is it fun? And more importantly, is playing with your Wii exercise? Way back in April I blogged about people using it as fitness regime!

Well the verdict is in on the fun part. It is. I love being able to play tennis at night. I love playing baseball whenever the desire strikes without having to call up my busy middle-aged friends and finding a free baseball diamond. I love playing a quick three holes of golf at lunch without having to take the afternoon off. And that’s all on the Wii Sports game the console comes with. There’s a proliferation of games designed to work with the Wii‘s revolutionary new motion-sensitive controller design.

But is the time I spend fiddling with my Wii time wasted, or does it do more than provide me entertainment when I should be working or reviewing cigars? This question is a bit more difficult to answer. A week later, I think I’ve noticed an improvement in the way my clothes fit and increased energy, but my bathroom scale tells me nothing has changed. The words of the scale might be enough information for some, but I’ve long suspected my scale of being a malicious, pathological liar. So I’ve decided to back that suspicion with a bit of science and fitness geekery: I donned a heart rate monitor.

We’re not talking about just any heart rate monitor here. This thing has been calibrated with my age, weight and gender. It can tell me exactly what my heart rate should be to achieve an optimal workout. It can tell me how may calories I burned, how long I worked out, and how long I achieved that optimal heart rate. And once it does all that, it’ll tell me what my Body Mass Index (BMI) is and how horribly overweight I am. In short, I have the technology to prove my bathroom scale a liar and justify my hours spend playing to my wife.

Here’s stats for an average session:

Playing Time: 35 minutes
Activities: Batting practice, Tennis, boxing practice
Target Heart Rate: 122 – 150 BPM

Heart Rate
Pre-Wii: 76 BPM
Average: 126 BPM
Highest: 158 BPM

Total Time in “The Zone”: 19:54
Calories Burned: 491

Wow. It’s hard to argue with the stats. With nearly 20 minutes spend in the optimal heart rate range and 491 calories burned, it’s safe to say this qualifies as exercise. And my scale is a damn liar. I happen to know that at a brisk 3.2 MPH walk on a 5% grade only burns around 300 calories.

So it’s exercise, but is it worth it? I already pay hefty HOA fees that include work out facilities. Is the additional money spent just redundant. Well, that all depends. Yes, it would appear redundant, but the truth of the matter is that I haven’t been using those facilities. (Excluding the sauna!) My wife takes great pleasure in pointing this out. (I swore I’d us them because of the convenience!) I am using the Wii. So while I’m not exactly being responsible with my money, I am getting exercise I wasn’t getting before. So I’m going to say yes, it is worth it. Especially if you pay the lower $250 price tag.

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