The 11th Most Ridiculous Street Name

Silly Atlanta Road Names on Google MapsIt’s been nagging at me for a while now. For weeks it seems that every time I hear a traffic report on the radio it’s there. Sneering at me. Daring me to notice it. Double-dog-daring me to revisit ancient blog history. Well I’m taking the dare.

I’m announcing here that I’ve found the long lost street that deserved a slot of (dis)honor on my original list of the 10 most ridiculous street names in Atlanta. (If you haven’t enjoyed that classic of western literature, you’re missing out on at least three minutes worth of intermittent chuckling.)

This new low in infrastructure monikers is Welcome All Road. What’s comical about this name is not only does it have a nauseating folksy charm to it, it also happens to border one of the most dangerous places in Georgia. None other than the infamous College Park, GA.

To give you an idea, here’s a handy little break down of College Park’s more charming attributes:

Murder: 1.32 the national average.
Forcible Rape: 2.78 the national average.
Robbery: 3.00 the national average.
Aggravated Assault: 2.55 the national average.
All Violent Crime: 2.83 the national average.

And that’s just violent crime, to find out how much more likely you are to have your car jacked or your house burned to the ground, check out this page of stats from a 2003 FBI report. (Note: I’m linking to Google’s cached version of the page, the actual page is down with some errors.) Of course, these figures are probably lower now that I’m no longer working in that area.

This also reminds me of a famously bad quote from an old X-Men video game, which is, and I quote, “WELCOME TO DIE!!!” But I digress. The point is, this is road’s name is not only incredibly ridiculous and heckle-worthy, it’s also ironically inappropriate. Simply delicious. And for this reason, I crown Welcome All Road the new heavy weight champ of poorly named strips of concrete in Atlanta! Take a bow, Welcome All, you’ve won this title without hardly lifting a glove.

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El Taino Vintage Connecticut Torpedo

It’s that time again. Time again for another cigar review! And once again, I’m about to introduce you to a cigar you probably haven’t heard of before. This time around we’re taking a look at the El Taino Vintage Connecticut Torpedo, which has been generously provided for me to review by Tex Cigars.

If you haven’t heard of them, you’re not alone. Before I opened up this eagerly anticipated shipment, I hadn’t heard of them either. After some time spent scouring the internet for information on these cigars, the most I could come up with is that they are made by Nino Vasquez and come with either Brazilian or Connecticut wrappers. Now you know what I know, let’s check this mysterious new cigar out!

Cigar Stats:
Size: 6 1/2 x 52
Wrapper: Ecuador
Binder: Nicaragua?
Filler: Dominican Republic, Nicaragua
Smoking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Beverage: Water
Price: ~$3.60 (buy it now)

The Pre-Smoke
My first impression of the El Taino torpedo was that somebody really went all out with this cigar. Not only does it have a shiny, ornate band and a cedar tube, it has a second, equally shiny ornate band at the foot of the cedar tube. It’s clear the manufacturer wants to draw your eye, and the eyes of the people around you when you light it up. And you know what? Mission accomplished.

Before sliding off the considerable length of cedar, I tested its scent to for comparison. I’m glad I did. This was the nicest smelling cedar I’ve come across in a while. It had a sweet aroma that made me wonder if the cedar was infused with some botanicals. That really got me curious as to what I was in for. Is this an infused cigar? A sniff of the wrapper answered that question. The portion of the wrapper that wasn’t covered by cedar had a sweet almost buttery flavor, but no botanicals. The part that was under the cedar did pick up some of the sweet cedar aroma, but also had a light compost aroma.

As I do with most torpedos, I clipped the head on about a 45 degree angle (called a “Dickman cut”) to take a cold taste. Unfortunately in the cigar photographed for this review, the wrapper and binder split at the head making it very difficult to get a taste. I believe my less that razor sharp (and as always, flamboyantly-red) Xikar was to blame for this, but it’s hard to say. In previous cigars, I noted a sweet molasses flavor in the cold taste.

The Burn
Overall, the burn was pretty good with this cigar. It burned evenly and produced respectable inch and a half long ashes. And the draw was good. Surprisingly, even the cigar with the head split was very smoke-able, with only a slightly less that optimal draw. (That is until it burned down to the split, then it was nothing but that pesky oxygen with a hit of smoke.)

The Flavor
Creaminess is the name of the game with this cigar. The cigar opens up with a great creamy coffee flavor throughout the first third makes minor flavor transitions between woodiness, mild bits of spice, and a light cherry sweetness. I have to say though, that for a while in the first third, the cigar was somewhat bland.

In the second third the cigar remains pretty light and creamy, but flavors like leather, some dark chocolate and a more distinct cedar begin to appear.

In the final third the flavor became fuller in body. And I a vegetal flavor was added to the leather and dark chocolate flavors that appeared in the previous third. At times this vegetal flavor got to be a bit harsh, making me suspect there might be a slight bit of tar building up. But this harshness didn’t last, and I didn’t notice any build up.

The Price
At around $3.60 a stick, I’d say this qualifies as a budget smoke. Considering that the torpedo vitola is a more challenging shape to roll, and given the bonus aromatic cedar sleeve, I’d say you’re getting some decent value for your money.

The Verdict
I enjoyed this cigar. Even the one with the annoying split was a good smoke. The cigar is a solid, well-priced smoke with a good flavor profile. It starts a bit mild at the beginning but the flavors improve significantly during the second third. I’d say this is a great cigar to accompany your morning coffee if you’re a seasoned smoker, and probably one mild cigar smokers will find rather enjoyable.

I’d like to thank Tex Cigars again for supplying me with the cigars for this review. If you’re interested in trying one out, I encourage you to head on over to the Tex Cigar website to buy them. Jarrod is a great guy, and he’ll take good care of you!

Liked It: Yes
Buy It Again: Likely
Recommend It: It’s definitely worth trying.

Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out my Cigar Review Index.

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Dominican Trip Preview: 3 Arganese Robustos

Arganese CigarsIt’s official, I’m heading to the Dominican Republic (map) along with a small group of cigar enthusiasts, thanks to the generosity of Gene Arganese of Arganese cigars and facilitated by the finest cigar forum on the net, CigarLive. (Join up, it’s free!) So like a college student fighting through a Sunday hangover to cram for a Monday exam, I’ve been smoking every Arganese cigar I have so I can speak intelligently about them when I get there. I’m hoping three cigars will be enough, because that’s all I have! In fact the last of the three I’m blazing through right now were part of a 3 cigar sampler I picked up from the man himself at last year’s RTDA/IPCPR.

So when you think about it, I’m kind of a weasel. I haven’t actually bought an Arganese cigar (yet), and yet, I’m going to visit their facilities in an exotic locale. Well, I have an excuse. As of this time of this writing, the Arganese website indicates that their cigars are not currently available in the state of Georgia. And a quick search of several major online cigar retailers came up with no results. In short, I simply didn’t have the opportunity. And that makes sense because Arganese cigars are the new kid on the block. A fresh face trying to get some attention and some respect in a very large, thriving industry full of big family names with long histories.

I think that’s what this trip is about. It’s not about rewarding dedicated customers, it’s about making new customers and generating some word of mouth. And look, it’s working, I’m smoking their cigars and talking about them. Talk about a win-win for everyone involved!

Gene Arganese
Gene Arganese, the man with the plan at RTDA ’07

Oh yeah, one last thing. Before you pound you keyboard into pieces in a jealous rage, or hurl your wireless mouse through a nearby window, you should know that I am paying for the plane tickets. (Too late? Ah well, it was time to upgrade that old hardware anyway.)

So let’s take a quick look at the cigars. This isn’t going to be one of my standard reviews, simply because I like to smoke the same cigar several times to get a good feel for it. Instead, I’m going to write a brief summary of my experiences with the three different cigars that came in the sampler: The Connecticut Ambassador, the Cameroon Chairman and the Maduro Presidente.

Cigar Stats:
Size: 5 x 50
Wrapper: US Connecticut/Cameroon/Brazil
Binder: Dominican Republic, Indonesia
Filler: Dominican Republic
Beverage: Water, Coffee
Price: ~$6.00 (rumor has it)

The Connecticut Ambassador
This cigar was the last of the three that I smoked, and also happened to be my third place pick of the bunch. That isn’t to say it was a bad cigar. The predominant flavor I detected in it was a creamy grain flavor that kind of reminded me of beer. A hefeweizen to be exact. It also had some good sweet flavors that reminded me of syrup at some points and honey at others. As with the rest, the burn on this was without flaw, producing reasonable lengths of solid ash. If you’re a big Connecticut wrapper fan, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The Cameroon Chairman
Picking the silver medal winner of the pack was a bit difficult. I really enjoyed this cigar. Of course, it’s hard to be objective with this one, as I lit this one up upon finalizing the details of my upcoming trip. But there’s no denying that it had a great flavor profile. I got caramel, an interesting smooth citrus flavor and a semi-sweet vegetal flavor I equate with a good Cameroon wrapper. As with the Ambassador, the burn was great, and the ash was the brightest white of the bunch. The Cameroon Chairman is a cigar that’s going on my cigar shopping list. Now I just need to find a place to buy them.

The Maduro Presidente
I didn’t have to think too long about before awarding the gold to the Maduro Presidente. I enjoyed this cigar right down the nub. It’s hard to beat the smooth, rich, sweet cocoa, chocolate, coffee and finally leather flavors I got out of it. The only thing that called this champ’s ranking into question was darker colored ash. I generally prefer a light colored ash on my cigar, but this one was about the same color as the wrapper. Seemingly in a bid to make up for its less attractive ash, the Maduro Presidente held the longest ash of the bunch, weighing in at a respectable inch and a half. But substance won out over aesthetics handily here. Given to buy more of only one of these cigars, I’m buying this one.

What Other People Are Saying
There’s been a quite a few reviews of Arganese cigars around the web. Here’s the word at the virtual water cooler. (Hint: It’s all good.)

My Other Reviews
If you enjoyed this review, why not take at look at some other cigars I’ve reviewed? Check out my Cigar Review Index for a complete list.

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A Little Help With That Diet Resolution

Heed the sage words of Brian!It’s nearly a week into 2008, and the odds still favor that you haven’t yet given up on your carefully chosen resolution for the new year. OK, maybe the odds are fifty-fifty. But the odds are better than that that you’ve resolved to become that lean, muscular beast that you’ve seen flashing it’s pearly whites on the cover of, well, every magazine under the sun. The reason the smart money is on a diet resolution is that according to The Obesity Society (yeah, I didn’t know they existed either), fully 64% of Americans between the age of 20 and 74 are obese. And because you’re reading this blog, the odds are that you enjoy a good adult beverage and a fine cigar. (Neither key indicators of fitness, sadly.)

The statistic may come as a bit of a shock, but if you think about it, I’m sure you aren’t really surprised. Think about your own life. If you’re anything like me, you’re eating out a lot more than you did a decade ago. You’re also eating a lot more often, and larger portions than you did in the past. I can remember way back when eating out was something that almost never happened. It was an event reserved for special occasions like birthdays and some holidays. I can also remember when the largest fountain drink went from around 16 to 18 ounces to 32. (Now you know why all those cup holders in old cars are so maddeningly small.)

I’ve got another surprise for you. As a chunky monkey in a state full of monkeys that are chunkier than average, my resolution should be to go on a diet. But it’s not. I’ve determined resolutions regarding diet just don’t work. Instead, my focus is to find small, beneficial and most importantly, sustainable changes I can permanently incorporate into my life to prevent weight gain, and hopefully, start me on a road toward weight loss. (For example, the Atkins Diet/South Beach Diet/whatever diet isn’t sustainable, nor is a blender-heavy turn-everything-to-juice diet.) If you can’t do it forever, it will fail. As such, a formalized resolution with a strict begin and end date is irrelevant.

But it occurs to me the tips I’ve picked up along the way maybe useful to those of you who have committed to a diet for the New Year. Here are somethings that seem to be working for me. What do I mean by working, you ask? While I haven’t lost a significant amount of weight recently, I have successfully maintained my current weight for the past year, which is a first for me. Additionally, and more importantly in my opinion, my blood pressure has significantly improved, going from pre-hypertension (on the door step to high blood pressure) to normal. In my book, that ain’t too shabby.

Ok, onto the tips.

Buy a Nintendo Wii. I’m not kidding. Hitting the gym is generally boring and sooner or later you’ll find a reason to quit. Home exercise equipment, which I’ve found marginally easier to stick to, take up too much room and will eventually break down. (I was running around 2 and a half months per exercise bike back in the day.) And unless you’re lucky, most of your friends don’t have the time to meet up for a daily game of tennis. The Wii on the other hand, takes up little space (though you do need some clear area in front of your television), is immensely entertaining, and comes packed with simulated players to play against. And I’m just talking about the Wii Sports game that comes with the console. If you get tired of that game, there is an expanding selection of games available that will help you break a sweat.

The clever guys behind the Wii have noticed this trend toward gaming for fitness, and are coming out with a new one that focuses on fitness called “Wii Fit.” Check it out. (Or at least watch the video clip, which is probably more useful than the article.) And while you’re at it, check out my analysis of my experience with the Wii.

Eat your meals in two courses, and make that first course a ton of veggies. This tip has been a pretty recent addition to my regimen (if you can call what I do a “regimen”). It’s one I’ve cooked up myself. (Pun accidental, but accepted.) I’ve been buying those jumbo bags of frozen mixed vegetables, and about half an hour before I plan to eat lunch or dinner, I fill a nuke a full bowl of these guys. The benefit to doing this is that I’m a lot less likely to eat seconds, or go for any sort of a dessert. Not to mention, it’s helping me get the 3 to 5 servings the old Food Pyramid advised (2 and a half cups in the new “MyPyramid”).

The great thing about this tip is that it works when you go out to eat. Order a house salad with anything you order, and make sure you tell them to bring it out first. Then order whatever you would have normally ordered. Even if it includes a side of those tasty slivers of evil, french fries. You may still eat a few of them, but you’re less likely to polish them all off, which is a net gain.

Standercize. Stand up. Get off your butt. As I discussed in a previous post, simply standing up had a dramatic impact on our bodies ability to burn fat. (See original article here.) When we sit for long periods of time, enzymes responsible for keeping that jelly donut off your thighs close up shop. They stop working almost completely. Apparently they figure that if we aren’t working physically, neither should they.

From my own experience, I have noticed simply standing instead of sitting in the evening has done wonders for my digestion, and has helped a bit with my sleep. And as a bonus, I’ve found standing means I’ll start doing little chores that need to be done almost without realizing it. While it can be incredibly difficult to pry your backside out of the couch after a long day, if you’re already standing, it’s surprisingly easy to do the little things that need to be done. And you’ll probably find that you’ll start to wake out of that evening stupor after you’ve been standing for a while. Hey, if all your doing at night is watching the boob tube anyway, why not do it standing?

Take a nap. This one is a bit easier for me to do than a lot of people, with my current work at home arrangement. But a well timed nap is hard to beat, even if it is hard to find time for. Why am I bringing this up here? Because being tired and stressed (they tend to work together) leads to overeating. When you’re sleep deprived the things (I say “things” because I can’t remember if they’re chemicals, enzymes or itty bitty martians) in your system that register fullness are substantially depleted. And when you’re stressed, your body will have elevated levels of Cortisone which will promote fat storage.

But instead of buying one of those $50 bottles of diet pills with the condescending television ads, you can work on getting a little extra sleep. Run out to your car at lunch time and take five. Or maybe sneak out around three when you’re hitting the afternoon lull. (That was always the time I hit the vending machine for a good dose of carbs and fat.) Heck, one article I read advised turning your visit to the restroom stall as an opportunity for a very short “micro” nap. When you’re well rested, you’ll be surprised at how much food you really need.

Eat at home. Again, this one is pretty easy for me, because my wife is a great cook. As I mentioned earlier, not that long ago, eating out was something that was pretty uncommon for the average person. According to one article I read, “…more than half the average [American] household food budget will be spent on meals bought outside the home….” That wouldn’t be a bad thing if the trend at restaurants wasn’t to increase the size of portions to justify higher tabs while pushing meal-sized desserts and appetizers at you as if it was normal to eat 5000 calories in one sitting.

It’s just easier to eat less at home. Why? Because you have to make it! But beyond that, you have absolute control over the portion sizes. You can do what I advised above and eat a massive bowl of vegetables before your meal. You can tailor your ingredients to maximize health benefits and minimize fat, salt, oil, sugar or whatever you like. And as a bonus, you will save money in the process.

I hope you diet resolvers out there find some of this information helpful. You know, even if you do fall off the wagon, you can always do what I do. Try to find healthy, sustainable habits to incorporate into your life. You never know, if you build up enough of them, you might just lose a little weight without a diet!

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