The Stress Cure They Don’t Want You To Know About

Heed the sage words of Brian!What if I told you that you could experience all the buzz of a vigorous workout without moving a single inch of that spare tire? And what if you could feel all the relaxation of a intense yoga session without even once assuming the Downward Barfing Dog posture? And how about if I told you this miraculous stress-buster was at the center of a massive international conspiracy involving big evil corporations (complete with long mustaches to twirl), heads-of-state, and a secret grove somewhere in California? Would you get really excited, and willingly part with, I dunno, 15 bucks for the secret? How about $13.99? Or would you think I that there was an extra special leaf or two in that last cigar I puffed on? I don’t have actually have the time to write it all up and sell it or anything, but it’d be fun to know.

Well, if you favored the special substance in the cigar theory, you’d be at least partially right. (It’s safe to say you’re partially right to think that about anything you read on this blog.) To my knowledge, no secret societies, corrupt world leaders or evil mega corporations have anything to do with Brian’s new found stress cure. (Yeah, I know, I so wanted there to be a long mustache being twirled too.) But the other stuff about the work-out-buzz and the relaxation is absolutely true.

So OK, I’ve teased it long enough. Recently I re-discovered the 8th wonder of the world. What I like to call the human humidor. (Another term I’m totally trademarking. Totally.) But you probably know it by another name: the Sauna.

As luck would have it, the condo facilities I pay handsomely for includes a large and almost completely unused sauna. I’ve know it was down there for months, and I’ve planned on using it, but it wasn’t until this past weekend I tried it out. Oh my god. Let me tell you, it blew my mind. After about 45 minutes in the thing, I felt like a new man. The overall tenseness that accompanies my level of caffeine abuse of coffee was completely gone. The stress brought on by my generally irresponsible behavior had also vanished. My head was clear. The birds were chirping. The sun was grinning broadly and waving around his 2 scoops of raisins happily and the cows were giggling in the field. I had entered commercial-vana minus the rich baritone voice telling me I needed to buy a breakfast cereal or a minivan. (Now I know why cigars are so much better after time spent in a good humidor!)

So what’s with all the conspiracy theory crap then, you ask? Well later that day I was sitting at the local book shop, browsing the latest pages of the latest health-conspiracy book by my favorite Snake Oil Salesman. You know the one titled something like The such-and-such they don’t want to you to know about? Let me tell you, there’s hardly a nugget of information in the entire book, but it is fun to read. (Only if you didn’t pay for it! Anybody who actually buys his book has gotta be pissed by the end!) The guy somehow manages to be entertaining while writing what amounts to a thinly veiled sales pitch for a membership in his phenomenally expensive cure-everything website. (No, I am not linking to it. I don’t want to be responsible for him taking your money.)

So now your wondering what this flim-flam and products have to do with a blessed thing like Saunas. Well, I’ll tell ya. Nestled in the deep recesses of his spam tome, after numerous chapters expounding on his struggle with evil unnamed powers to bring you this information, was a list of “healthy” recommended practices. Between a weird regimen of the ol’ colon hose-down and highly suspect injections of something that kind of sounded like a growth hormone was the recommendation to hit the sauna daily for around 20 minutes. Well that kind of disturbed me. I start to get worried when this guy and I start agreeing on things.

So what is the deal with Saunas anyway? Are they actually good for you? I decided to do a bit of quick research. And here, in list form are the bite-size nuggets of information I tracked down online:

  • Your skin is an organ. Which is kind of gross in a way I can’t put my finger on. Oh wait, I got it: So does that mean your naughty bits are just a part of the skin organ, or does that mean your skin is one giant naughty bit? Apparently, I’m the only one asking that, because it wasn’t addressed in any of the articles I read.
  • Sweating is a great way to eliminate toxins. In addition to keeping us cool, our sweat glands are also responsible for dumping out the miscellaneous garbage that collects in our systems. I have it on good word that it is neither accurate, nor useful to think of sweating as “peeing on yourself”, but I can understand why you might think that. Because:
  • Sweating keeps your skin clean and in good condition. Apparently, excreting waste on yourself is a good way to keep clean and flexible. (I’m not going any further with that line of thought. :mrgreen: ) In truth, 90%+ of sweat is just water, a very small percentage of it is actually waste.
  • Your heart rate increases by 50 to 75% in the sauna. The end result is a bit like going for a brisk walk, except you get to sit there like a roasting rack of ribs.
  • A sauna session may prevent colds or the flu. I might, it might not. The evidence I saw was all anecdotal. (And on this blog, anecdotal = absolutely true.) I have noticed feeling a lot less congested after a session. Hey, do you really need an excuse?
  • People with high blood pressure might be out of luck. Did I mention yet that I’m not a doctor? Don’t be lazy, talk to one before you jump into the human humidor. You’re already gonna get all these health benefits for doing nothing.  The least you can do is make sure your heart won’t explode while you’re in there. Nobody appreciates an exploding organ in the sauna.
  • You’re not going to lose any real weight by sitting in the sauna. Yeah, you may sweat out a gallon of water, but you know you’re just gonna go sit down in from of the boob tube and replace it with ice cold beer. The people who use the sauna to lose weight are just trying to shave a few pounds to make their wrestling/boxing weight. A few hours later, after the weigh in, they put it right back on.

There a lot more information on the subject out there. A surprising amount. If you’re interested in learning a bit more, here’s a couple of websites to get you started. Print ‘em out and take ‘em with you to the sauna.

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5 Alcohol Facts You’re Better Off Not Knowing

But of course, you’ll make a point of finding out anyways. I’ve been thinking about (i.e. putting off) writing this post for at least a month now, or however long it’s been since I finished reading Alcoholica Esoterica. This book is a great tongue-in-cheek read that covers all the miscellaneous trivia you could ever possibly want to know about alcohol. And at least a few things you just don’t want to know. Like British admiral Nelson being preserved in a giant giant keg of rum after he was killed in a battle at sea. And the ship hands continuing to drink said rum. (Now you know, and there’s no amount of scrubbing, showering and gargling that’ll clean that tidbit from your gray matter. You’re welcome. :twisted: )

Here, in no particular order, are the promised facts about booze you can live a happy life not knowing. (Warning: bringing these items up at parties will not make you popular.)

Yeast poop. When you get right down to it, the happy juice that makes you such a fun guy in your 20′s and makes you a fat irritable bastard by your 30′s is yeast poop. Yeast eat sugar and drop a big, steaming loads of booze wherever they go. And they fart a lot too. Ever wonder what gives your bubbly its sparkly magic? About a million little guys with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, that’s what. Kinda reminds you of that Futurama Slurm episode, doesn’t it? (Sorry, couldn’t find the clip I’m thinking about on YouTube. You have been spared! ;) )

[UPDATE: Eternal thanks to Dana for finding this awesome flash video of the process on the BBC website! (Read article it came from here.)]

Beer, our debt to ancient Sumerians. We owe beer to a lazy Sumerian with a bad sense of hygiene, an iron stomach and a bunch of equally shiftless friends. Rumor has it that the first beer was a loaf of bread that was left on the sill too long. With ample time, the airborne paradise-poopers previously discussed collected on it and started doing what they do best. So when our lazy ancient brother took a mouthful (you know he didn’t bother to slice it), it knocked him on his ass. When he woke up he went to all his friends and said “you gotta try this”. Proving that nature rewards people for being slobs. Or makes them blind.

The bride’s ale. We got the word “Bridal” from drunk, slurring 19th century Englishmen. Looking for any excuse to drink, those lushes from across the pond determined it was important to have a “Bride Ale” to celebrate his fellow man’s loss of independence. (Any excuse would do in the 19th century, there were also “foot ales”, “walking stick ales”, and “cuckoo ales”. Cuckoo ales, because there’s 24 reasons to drink in a day!) Of course the drinking made the lads hungry and thus the “Bride Ale” evolved into the modern day wedding reception. And before long the word “Bridal” came to refer to everything involved with getting hitched.

Beauty in the naughtiness of fishes. Prolific alcoholic W.C. Fields had a concise reason for not drinking water. And I quote: Fish f*ck in it. The irony of course is that yeast poops in his beverage of choice, which is arguably more disagreeable to the palate, theoretically. Thus proving that whatever you choose to consume, something nasty happened in it on its long journey to you mouth.

The magic of yeast flatulence. We already covered the source of bubbly, but I don’t think you yet realize the full, other-worldly potency of this gas. Did you know that a raisin dropped in a glass of fresh flute of champagne will continuously circulate from the bottom to the top and back again until the end of time? (Or until the yeast farts are all spent, whichever happens first.) Try it. And do me a favor, let me know how it works. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

Bonus Fact: Toasting the declaration. Did you know the founding fathers of the U.S. toasted the signing of the declaration of independence? They did. Care to hazard a guess what they toasted with? I can guarantee you got it wrong. It wasn’t Sam Adams! It was Madeira wine. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Neither had I before we went to Portugal. It’s the indestructible cousin of port wine that comes from Portuguese islands 360 miles off the coast of Morocco. And it was precisely this beverage’s ability to withstand years of exposure to the open air, unscathed, that allowed it to make the long sea journey to the colonial United States.

If these tasty tidbits have your mouth watering for more, go grab a brew, and consider picking up the book. (But not at the same time, I think that’s illegal in most states.) Anyways, I really enjoyed the book, and I think you will too. (You know you need a new book for the restroom, you’ve already read that September issue of Reader’s Digest cover to cover twice, and it wasn’t all that great of an issue anyway.) And because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll tell you that you may be able to find it in on of those outlet mall book stores for around four bucks. I did. (Sorry Sony Reader aficionados, it’s not listed in the Sony eBook store. :( Hey, I tried.)

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How To Lose 5 Pounds In 5 Minutes Without Throwing Up

The Places I’m BigAccording to the most granular view of my “ClustrMap” I’m huge in Kansas City. And it looks like I’m also nearly the mayor of a city named Churchill in Manitoba, Canada. (It’s way up there, we’re talkin’ eye-level with Hudson Bay here.) Of course, this has gone straight to my head. And like anybody else with a engorged cranium and an audience, I’m going to write a self-help book. A diet book. And according to the established rules and precedents of diet book authorship, I don’t need to be concerned with a reasonable burden of proof, medical training, or actually being in reasonably good shape. (Exhibit A, Dr. Swill Phil, Exhibit B, The Book) Moving anecdotes about people who might be real, written sincerely enough, are the same thing as facts. I’m totally sincere about that.

Of course, to reward my loyal fans, I’ll let them buy this book from me, and reward them by scribbling on the title page of the book with a flamboyant, but bogus signature. It will work out great. I’ll get rich (because I’ll sell at least 20 books) and my fans will lose weight. At least a couple of pounds. I’ll advise them to pay for the book with as much small change as possible, because coins are heavier than bills. And of course, the more books you buy, the more unsightly weight around your waist you’ll lose. (Pocket change is so lumpy and ugly. Seriously. Not at all hot. Let me help you get rid of it.)

Now all I need are some good platitudes. Some very basic, simple things that will make people feel slightly motivated, but won’t challenge them all that much. I’ll probably stick with things with things people already believe to be true. That way, they’ll feel really smart when they read the book, because they already knew the secrets to weight loss. I’ll put a lot in, so it people will think I’ve made new connections between health principles, and have broken new ground.

Man I feel I’ve given so much already, I’m gonna tag this post “charity”. All this helping people out is hard work. I may have to outsource the actual text to a ghost writer. I mean, I’ve basically done all the hard work at this point, it’s just a matter of putting a bunch of words on paper. Anybody could do that. (And they better do it for less than half of minimum wage, because I’m not made out of money. Not yet.)

Wanna buy a book? Its gonna be a hot fad soon, and it’s always best to be on board with the latest trend as early as possible. Because that makes you look both smart and connected. It’ll only cost you $30. But if you buy it right now, you can have it for $25. And I’ll throw in something else, free. (Hey, what’s something inexpensive that I could give you to get you to give me $25? It shouldn’t cost me more than five bucks, but should be kind of glitzy.)

I think I’ll call the book “How To Lose 5 Pounds In 5 Minutes Without Throwing Up.” That’s a pretty good start. I think it needs a catchy subtitle too, because that makes it look even more intellectual. (More words always equals more brains and therefor more credibility.) I think I’ll go with “You’re Smarter and Fatter Than You Think You Are.” Insulting and uplifting at the same time. Awesome. That should chip away at the ego enough to make people think they need the book, and complement them just enough to make them believe the book will help them.

Whew, man, tough day. I think I’ve earned a beer and a cigar.

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Six Unusal Free eBooks On My Reading List

The Sony eBook ReaderThe thing about blogging is that it tends to steal bits of your time away from daily activities, if you let it. And I’ve been letting it run rampant. Happily though, in my situation, it seems to mostly be cannibalizing my TV time, which is wasted time anyway. But unfortunately it has also been sneaking bites out of my reading time.

Now that my wife has read all the things she’s interested in reading on my Sony Reader (meaning I can use it again), I plan to reclaim some of that time. As an incentive to get myself reading again, I’ve picked a list of the most random, intriguing and off-the-wall books I could find for free on ManyBooks.

Here, more or less in the order I’ve found them, are my selections:

Trapped by Malays by George Manville Fenn – From what I can gather, this is a turn of the (last) century English colonial adventure story that takes place on the Malay peninsula (probably somewhere in modern day Malaysia). News and stories about Malaysia are few and far between where I live now, and I always make a point to check out anything I come across relating to my wife’s home. (I always have to chuckle whenever I hear the word “Malays”, it sounds just like “malaise“. It’s an almost irresistible call for a witty pun. Almost. :) )

The Practical Distiller by Samuel McHarry – As the subtitle to the books says, it’s “An Introduction To Making Whiskey, Gin, Brandy, Spirits, &c. &c. of Better Quality, and in Larger Quantities, than Produced by the Present Mode of Distilling, from the Produce of the United States.” Sounds like a must read for anybody interested in making a bit of moonshine or bathtub gin! This will be especially interesting to me because my friends took me on a tour of an Oregon distillery as part of my recent all-day bachelor party. (Eat your heart out, I got to try a little somethin’ right from the still! “Mmmm… this tastes like blindness!” :D )

King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard – These are the books that inspired the Allan Quatermain character in the truly unfortunate movie The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. If one thing positive can be said for that movie, it forever locked Sean Connery in my head as Allan Quatermain, which can only help make these books more fun to read.

The Hacker’s Dictionary by Eric S. Raymond – This is the youngest book on this list, being a mere 15 years old (1992) as of this writing. It also has the chance of being a book that is impossible to read in the conventional sense, if it truly is a dictionary. However, I’m gonna take a stab at it, and I may just fire up the movie Hackers (1995) to get me in the mood. (The most up to date version of this book can also be found online here, under the name The Jargon File).

The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey – All I can say is that it’s hard to pass up a title like that. Based on the excerpt listed with it, it could be a pompous, insufferable read. If it is, I hope it will so bad that its actually makes a good, but unitentional, comedy. Based on the wikipedia page dedicated to the book, it was considered both “taboo” during its Victoria era context, due at least in part to the description of Mr. De Quincey’s opium trips in great detail. Perhaps it will be a pretentious R-rated Alice in Wonderland?

If any of these sound interesting to you, check ‘em out. Maybe we can compare notes later. And if you do enjoy them, consider making a small donation to ManyBooks. I plan to. They really provide an awesome service to eBooks fans. Happy reading!

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Are eBooks Actually Cheaper?

The Sony eBook ReaderIn previous posts, I’ve done a pretty good job of putting together a solid, if not slightly biased collection of information on the Sony Reader. I’ll admit it, I’m a borderline fanboy, I really enjoy my Sony Reader. I think they’re great, and I really hope it will be phenomenally successful. What’s in it for me? Greater availability of eBooks, at more competitive prices. I don’t get any kick-backs from Sony to hype the reader, I just genuinely think its a fun product in spite of its flaws. (At least I don’t get kick-backs yet. Sony, baby, let’s talk! 8) )

In an attempt to be a bit more objective and helpful to the steady flow of visitors looking for information on the Sony Reader, I’ve decided to investigate the accuracy of much-touted 20% discount on eBooks sold through the Sony eBook store. For comparison, I’ve selected Amazon.com. This is both because it’s really convenient, and because people who buy eBooks have likely purchased books from Amazon in the past.

Title Amazon Sony Savings %
The Secret $13.17 $13.59 -$0.42 -3.18%
The Tipping Point $8.97 $7.99 $0.98 10.92%
Freakonomics $16.77 $15.96 $0.81 4.83%
Einstein $19.20 $13.59 $5.61 29.21%
The Road $8.97 $7.96 $1.01 11.25%
Running with the Demon $7.99 $5.59 $2.40 30.03%
Wikinomics $16.35 $20.76 -$4.41 -26.97%
Step On a Crack $17.63 $14.39 $3.24 18.37%
Simple Genius $14.84 $15.19 -$0.35 -2.35%
The World Is Flat $16.50 $12.00 $4.50 27.27%
Getting Things Done $8.99 $12.00 -$3.01 -33.48%
Where Have All the Leaders Gone? $15.00 $13.59 $1.41 9.40%
 
Summary: $164.38 $152.61 $11.77 7.16%

I’m being honest here, I had no idea how this was going to turn out. (I was pulling for the Reader, but I was prepared to eat crow.) I selected books based mostly on name/cover recognition, assuming that books I recognize are likely to be books people are interested in buying. To improve my chances of being correct, I picked my books from the Amazon’s and Sony’s lists of best sellers. I have, of course, excluded books that are not yet available through the Sony Connect eBook store. I also tried to pick a few books that have been around a while but have solid name recognition. At least a few books on this list are now in paper back. Shipping costs have been excluded from consideration, but will alter the results for single book purchases in favor of Sony.

So based on my semi-scientific, semi-objective list, on average, it is to your advantage to buy eBooks from the Sony store. :D If you bought the entire list from the Sony store, you’d spend $152.61, saving $11.77 or 7.16% compared with a $164.38 Amazon purchase. (So much for the reported 20% savings.) What’s really interesting is that it is more expensive to buy from Sony in some cases. For example, for the privilege of having a digital copy of the book, you pay an extra $3.01 for Getting Things Done and $4.41 for Wikinomics. Clearly, if you were interested in just one of those books, your best bet is to buy it through Amazon (depending on how much you pay for shipping). If you were able to find Amazon prices for either of these in your local book shop, you’d clearly be ahead.

So what’s the bottom line? If you’re expecting the Sony Reader to pay for itself, you’d have to buy $21,875 worth of books to break even. If the average book is price is $12.72 (it is in this list), that means you’d need to buy roughly 1720 books. So I think it’s safe to say that the Sony Reader will never pay for itself based on purchases of bestsellers, at least for most people. (Of course, these figures do not take into consideration the volume eBooks available for free through sources like ManyBooks.net.)

OK, Brian, so why buy it? You need to buy this because you love to read. And because you love cool, compact gadgets that store a ton of stuff. If you’re looking for cost effectiveness, you need to either not buy it or take a chance at finding a deal on eBay. Or you could wait and see if the price comes down. I think it will, but I have nothing to base that on.

My previous posts on the Sony Reader:

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Why eBooks Are Bound to Reign Supreme

The Sony eBook ReaderMike Elgan clearly didn’t read my post on the Sony Reader before he wrote his Computer World article Why e-books are bound to fail. (Side note: Don’t you just hate it when they split an article across several linked pages? Is that crap usability or what?) I’m nailing at least 20 page views a day at this point, so you’d think he’d have heard the news: My wife is carrying on a love affair with my Sony Reader.

My wife is not some silly Sony Reader fangirl; in fact she kept trying to talk me out of buying it. Nor does she have advanced technical prowess. She’s capable with word, excel and an internet browser. And yet in spite of her lack of slide rule aptitude, she curls up every night with my Sony Reader. Yep, Mr. Elgan, she curls up with it. It’s actually a surprisingly easy thing to do. I thought you’d like to hear about it, as you twice mentioned your doubts on the “curling up” scenario.

Of course my wife’s behavior is purely anecdotal, but then so is the example of one book being only $1.25 cheaper on ebooks.com than Amazon. Many books are free on websites like ManyBooks.net. Free beats any price you can find on Amazon. Of course, many of these free texts are classics, but classics are heavily read each year by both students and literature junkies.

As the price of the hardware comes down (and it will), a few lingering quirks are worked out (OK, there’s more than a few), and more eBooks become available at competitive prices. I absolutely believe you will begin to see eBook Readers take off. It already has in the technically-savvy bookworm community. The reduced price will help it spread into the academic and business/road warrior community, and eventually into the non-technical, novel reading community.

And even if I’m wrong, it’s only a matter of time before the feature creep of mobile phones, MP3 players and PDA’s expands to include improved eBook reading features. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of eInk. It’s too revolutionary. While you might be correct in the sense that none of current line of readers will become the next iPod, eBook readers are not going away.

UPDATE: I originally wrote this most of this post last night, and in a great ironic twist, I found my wife curled up with an analog reader. Yeah, a paper book. I was shocked. I asked her why she wasn’t hogging my reader. She said there “weren’t any nice books left on it.” She had polished off Infidel and The Science of Getting Rich (the original The Secret) and wasn’t interested in reading my Allan Quatermain novels. Looks like Sony will be getting a few more bucks from me soon.

UPDATE 2: I think I’ve found my next purchase. Chuck Palahniuk (a Portland/Pacific Northwest Author!) has a new book Rant on the Sony ebook website.

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Cigars and Books: What Does Your Cigar Taste Like?

My humidor these days a pretty schizophrenic collection of single cigars, all in plastic wrap, split into Maduro and non-Maduro groups. And it’s been growing too fast. Until this week, it was possible for me to look at a cigar and know where and why I bought it and about how much it cost. Last night as I added a few Don Pepin Garcia cigars to the mix, I realized that I had no idea where I picked up the a good percentage of the cigars looking back at me.

The forgotten cigar stats bugged me. But that wasn’t the only thing getting on my nerves. A bit later I was enjoying a cigar and trying to analyze the flavor, and I couldn’t put my finger on what the flavor was. The flavor seemed to play heavily the sides of my tongue, but it was a complete mystery. Not a I’ve never-tasted-this-before thing, more of a where-have-I-tasted-this-before. And that’s when it hit me. I need a cigar book. And a list of all the crazy flavors that have ever been rumored to have come from a cigar for the next time I draw a flavor unknown. A book with that list. And check marks next to each item. (Of course, a few fill in the blank lines too, because you never know.)

It would also be extremely interesting to know the composition of the cigars. Knowing that, I might be able to get an hint of whether or not I’d like a cigar by knowing the attributes of its contents. For example, I suspect that I might not like tobacco leaves from Cameroon. It was a major attribute of one cigar I smoked that I found somewhat unpleasant, but it could have just as easily have been another part of the cigar that I found unpleasant.

So I headed over to the nearby Borders to have a look through my options. Simple enough right? Not quite. I found the shelf between spirits and food clearly labeled “cigars”, but there wasn’t a single book about cigars on it. It was full of books on smoothies. (Can you think of a topic less appropriate for a cigar shelf? :???:) I checked the nearby shelves to see if the books had shifted as supplies change. Nothing. I won’t drag it out. They didn’t have a single book in stock on cigars, but they did try to sell me an issue of Cigar Aficionado. The same was true in the next book store I tried (admittedly, it was a mall book store). Since I was in the mall, I tried the chain smoke shop, and all they had was a book on cigar related quotes and anecdotes.

It became clear then that this would have to be an internet purchase. I just hate to buy a book like this, sight unseen, online. Most online book retailers do a rather poor job of giving you any idea of what is contained between the covers. Even those that try (Amazon) are have very limited glimpses inside the book if at all.

So I have a favor to ask of you, fellow cigar enthusiast– Can you tell me if you own a cigar book? If you do, which ones do you have, and what do you think about them?

I’ve seen numerous recommendations, the most common is Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars (the guys from Stogie Review mentioned this one) and The Ultimate Cigar Book (a guy in a chain tobacco store recommended this). Heck, I’ve even seen people online recommending The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars. (Aside from not wanting to be seen reading the book, at least you can be sure that they make no assumptions about your cigar knowledge.)

UPDATE: Oh the delicious, maduro-smoky irony. I write this, and then only a day later I’m watching the Your Questions My Answers #7 at Stogie Review, and I see they have a whole segment on essential books, magazines and movies for cigar smokers. In the course of the video they again recommend Perelman’s Pocket Cyclopedia of Cigars, and Walt even flashes an older copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars. They had mixed reviews for Cigar Aficionado, which doesn’t surprise me, it really is more about lifestyle than cigars. (I only have a subscription because I was able to pick it up with some “award points” I had.) This doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in your opinions, the case isn’t closed! :)

Now I don’t want to go asking a favor without doing anything in return. Starting this very moment, I am compiling a list of all the cigar flavors I can find, both real and imagined. Once I’ve created something that seems reasonably thorough, I’ll make it available for download, probably in a handy format like the one I mentioned earlier.

At this point, the list consists of:

  • Coffee
  • Caramel
  • Black Pepper
  • Spice
  • Cocoa / Chocolate
  • Peat / Moss / Earth
  • Nut
  • Wood
  • Berry

(A portion of this list came from wikipedia.)

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Wireless Electricity Soon?

According to a recent report on CNN Money a Pennsylvania startup company named Powercast and its investors (including big names like Philips) are launching a device that is powered by electricity that travels not through your standard wires, but through the air!

It may sound futuristic, but Powercast’s platform uses nothing more complex than a radio–and is cheap enough for just about any company to incorporate into a product. A transmitter plugs into the wall, and a dime-size receiver (the real innovation, costing about $5 to make) can be embedded into any low-voltage device. The receiver turns radio waves into DC electricity, recharging the device’s battery at a distance of up to 3 feet.

This is something I’ve been looking forward to since I read a book on Nikola Tesla a couple of years ago called Tesla: Man Out of Time. Reportely, the unusual genius was able to power a variety of lights and other machinery without the use of wires… back in the early 1900′s!

Speaking of the book, it was a very enjoyable read- the mysteries surrounding Tesla form an important part of the narrative, making it both fun and historically informative. Again, it’s been a number of years since I read it, so my ability to review it at this time is limited. If you’re interested, there’s a newer edition available now that you can pick up at amazon: Tesla: Man Out of Time

Speaking of sending things through the air, it’d be handy if I could do that with the book- I actually borrowed it from a friend and forgot to return it! I guess that means I should re-read it at some point. :)

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Infidel


Depending on your point of view, at some point or another you will hate reading Infidel, but you need to read it. You need to read it because Ayaan Hirsi Ali risked her life to express the ideas and share the stories in this book.

You will hate it because it will show you things that will surprise and unsettle you; things that you will be hesitant to believe could be possible anywhere in the world. You’ll say things aloud like “No way!” and “Oh my god!” while you stay up late to finish just one more chapter. It’s a fast read (almost breathless by the end), and amazingly it’s not a work of fiction.

Infidel begins with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s early life in Somalia, her travels between her native home and Saudi Arabia and Kenya as she grows into womanhood and finally her introspective and controversial life in Holland as a refugee, a translator, a student and finally a politician. Along the way you watch her develop her unique point of view as a logical, necessary effect of her experiences. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises or dull the impact of her powerful writing, so I’ll only say that women’s rights, physical and mental abuse, sexism and the role of Islam in the modern world are very thoroughly and satisfyingly analyzed and discussed.

I’ve always liked the phrase “vote with your dollars.” And accordingly, I used my $20 to vote in support of basic human rights and freedom of speech for people regardless of their gender and religious background. (And to help cover the costs of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s security detail!) I encourage you to do so also and buy Infidel.

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