Fear And Stupidity In Atlanta

Happy Shootin’ DudeI’m happy to report that Atlanta and I have returned from surprise visit to the 1970’s. On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago I stopped in at a local gas station for a routine fill up. This generally unmemorable event immediately became more noteworthy as the tires of my car rolled onto the filling station’s pavement. The air around the car started to twist and writhe like it was filled with gas fumes.  And then there was a bright light. While my vision recovered, I noticed my radio, which had been tuned to a top 40 station was playing “Afternoon Delight”. What the hell?

My vision recovered not a moment too soon. I slammed the brakes and just missed rear-ending a vintage gas guzzler. “Where the hell did that come from?” I said aloud. From the road, I could clearly see that this gas station only had one other car, and it was gassing up at pump on the far side from this entrance.

I took a deep breath and looked around. There were cars everywhere. And not a single one of them from this century. Come to think of it, not a single one of them younger than 20 years old. What is this, a vintage car show? I wondered. Then I noticed the strange looks I was getting, sitting there in my pint-sized 2003 SUV. And stranger than the looks were the people giving them. It was like I was surrounded by extras from Dazed and Confused! Bell bottoms, wide collar expanses, and giant mops of hair were all around me.

Clearly, the last cigar I smoked had something in it besides tobacco, and I was freaking out. My instincts, which I generally trust, said “get the hell out of here, right now.” But as I began to shift my car into reverse, a land yacht of a Cadillac pulled in behind me. Trapped! Screwed! Nothing to do now but go with the slow flow of groovy cars as they wait in line to gas up.

Before long retro folks in their vintage cars lost interest in my SUV and stopped staring. I started to relax when it became clear that they weren’t zombies from a low budget 1970’s horror film and meant me no harm. And as I relaxed, I started to feel boredom coming on. This line wasn’t moving. Waiting for gas sucks. A lot. The radio wasn’t helping. I switched it off when Barry Manilow started singing about writing the songs that make the whole world sing. I didn’t feel like singing, and Mr. Manilow wasn’t gonna force my hand. I grabbed my crackberry to amuse myself with some web browsing while I waited. No service, dammit.

As I dropped my phone on the passenger seat in disgust, I started to smile. I looked around, and sure enough, there wasn’t a singled idiot bellowing into his cellphone. Whenever I’m stuck in line, it seems like there’s always that moron who seems to think that shouting into his mobile will ensure it doesn’t lose signal strength.

Slowly the line creeped forward, and I amused myself with people watching. Man, these people are skinny! I’m used to being about average weight-wise in any group of people, but clearly I’m the fattest guy here. And dear god, the tight polyester, how the hell can these people stand this heat and humidity wearing that crap?

Finally it was my turn. 13 gallons for $7.67. Damn, that almost made it worth waiting 45 minutes and the weird looks.

As I pulled away from the pump, I felt a cold shiver. Oh god, I hope I’m not stuck here. I can’t imagine programming with punch cards! And just then the air outside my car got strange again. Another flash of light. And as I looked in my rear view mirror the old cars and and people were gone. The gas station was again mostly empty. The price sign listed unleaded gas at $3.91 a gallon and my blackberry buzzed to let me know I had a new email about cheap herbal Viagra. I sighed in relief and burned rubber getting the hell out of that gas station.

I think I’m going to start taking the bus.

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I! Am! Megatron!

In the vein of all movie previews these days, I find it important to shout each word of my proclamations in the most dramatic, angst-filled, spittle-rattling way possible. Thanks for that 300.

Especially things as ridiculous as this:


I AM
68%
MEGATRON

Take the Transformers Quiz

So go take the test, and come back here and either join me in destroying all Autobots, or to receive a vicious cinematic beating, as appropriate for your test results.

I wonder just how much more Megatron I would be if I had preferred to own oil-rich Iran over an iPhone. I guess I’ll be able to have both once I deal with that pesky Optimus Prime. I’ll have to watch that Transformers movie again to see how it all plays out. I have a good feeling it will work out in my favor this time.

But back on the topic of 300, am I the only one that’s noticed a number of blatant, high profile rip-offs of the iconic “This is Sparta” scream? I’m not talking about the many lolcats (or, uh, lolbritneys) based on the still, or the fantastic photoshop work over at fark (which has disappeared). It’s enough now that it’s a cliche. A really, really bad one. And until I saw the recent trailers for the new movie Doomsday, I thought a dead one. With any luck, a little time in the shame spotlight will prevent this become a full on Hollywood outbreak.

Brian’s Scream-opedia of Rip-Offs
Apologies in advance for longish clips. (Hey, finding better ones would have actually required some effort!)

300: The original manly roar. Don’t try this at home. Please don’t. Please!

Beowulf: Good movie, but painfully obvious rip-off. (Scene of the crime at around 1:29.)

Doomsday: Wow, don’t you guys think you missed the whole scream-a-phrase trend by, what, a year? (Cheap rip-off at 1:26.)

Am I missing any? Do let me know!

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The Yellow Dust of Despair Approaches

Happy Shootin’ DudeWith only few short hours to go before almost certain indulgence in green beer, I felt it coming. Coming fast. Like a horse of the apocalypse with a burr under it’s saddle, that wait-a-second-I-feel-funny feeling. Within an hour of that first throat-tickle blossomed into a full fledged head cold. I’m famous for catching a bug on a holiday, but man that was fast. And the holiday wasn’t even a very big one. Thanskgiving? Sure. St. Patrick’s Day? Really?

That first day I wasn’t in a state to question the strangeness of my ailment. I was too busy just fighting the symptoms. And by fighting, I mean I was riding the green waves of Nyquil and talking to myself under the influence of “non drowsy formula” Sudafed. It wasn’t until the clouds of medication broke for a moment that I became aware of what was really going on.

My wife and I were off on an errand. As we drove down one nicely treed road, my wife commented on how pretty the trees were. I returned from green sea for a moment to say comment that they did look really nice. All covered with white flowers. Wait a minute. The trees! The damn trees are flowering!

When we got to our destination I yanked my Crackberry out of it’s holster and punched in the weather channel website. What I saw wasn’t pretty. It looked a little like this:

The Fearful Forcast

I swear I didn’t edit that graphic. Too much.

At this point, you probably don’t know what the big deal is. I didn’t either before I spent a year in the area. This sudden blast of reproductive dust is just the opening act. Looking back through the archives, it was just about this time last year that the yellow blizzard hit us. It coats everything. Lungs, cars, small woodland critters, big woodland critters. You name it. It forms sand bars on the road along the curb and permanently tints all carpeting everywhere. It’s evil. And it results in… more promiscuous trees!

Pollen On Da Hood
Half a day’s accumulation of happy powder on a car’s hood.

It’s a very good time to get out town. But I fear it’s too late! Those damn slutty trees.

(I take no responsibility for this post. I’m outta my head on Sudafed right now.)

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Inconvenient Convenience: Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

Happy Shootin’ DudeSomething has been bothering me for a while now. And this morning it came to a profanity-hollering head, which means it’s time for a rant. But first let me ask you a few questions: When you step up to the checkout counter at your local grocery store, do you have to fill out an application to make your purchase? No, just hand over a fistful of green and walk out with your grocery bags. And how about the electronic store? Same story right? Now what about the post office? Do you need to your information on file to buy stamps? No again, right?

So why in the name of Lucifer’s left ass-cheek should you have to create a profile when you make a purchase online? Isn’t shopping online supposed to be a convenience? Isn’t it supposed to be as easier to buy on the internet than in real life?

Let me explain why this incredibly stupid process has me foaming at the mouth this morning. As a great fan of taking care of as many chores as possible on the internet, I decided to go online to print out some postage for some cigars I’m sending to a friend. I know I have an account on the USPS website, so I spend fifteen minutes trying to remember what my user ID and password are. In no time it becomes clear to me that not only do I not remember it, I apparently made a typo when I answered the “secret question” to reset my password.

No matter, I’ll just buy the postage without signing in. No big deal. So I enter a page worth of shipping details and click continue and boom, I’m looking at a login or register page. What the hell? I can’t buy postage without surrendering all my personal details for them to store in their customer database for my convenience? What if I don’t want you to remember my credit card information and address for my convenience? It’s not very convenient to have to enter all my details twice to make a purchase, especially if I almost never use your service!

To add insult to injury, what’s the deal with all the password restrictions? If you require the user to enter a password with 2 uppercase letters, 5 lower case letters, 3 symbols, 2 numbers and a picture of Al Gore in a sombrero, all your securing is the fact that the user will never, ever remember this password. Unless you’re a bank, YOUR WEBSITE IS NOT THAT IMPORTANT. If I want to make my password 1234, which is about as secure as the average person’s ATM PIN, dammit, let me! I’ll even go half way with you on this. If my password isn’t up to snuff, refuse to save my credit card information. Sound fair?

And while I’m on my soap box, let me just mention that if you do make me login to see what’s at the end of link you email me, you damn well better remember where I was going after I sign in. I can’t tell you how much it pisses me off to follow a link, be forced to log in only to be dumped out to the homepage. (Fortunately for things on my desk the USPS website did not do this to me.)

So in summary, let me help all the online retailers out there with a short, simple lists of things to fix to make your user-friendliness to go from crap to cool.

Signs Your Retail Website Sucks

  • You require your customers to create a profile to purchase things you could just as easily buy in a brick and mortar shop.
  • You require your users to create a password more cryptic than the Voynich Manuscript. Unless you’re a bank, a brokerage firm, or traffic in information requiring security clearance. (No, secret recipe barbecue sauce does not qualify!)
  • You make me login to follow a link, and then forget where I was going. You forget me, I forget about your website.
  • The only thing I should ever have to enter more than once is my 25 character password, and only when I create that stupid profile.

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15 Minutes Starting Right… Now!

Brian's Random Thoughts: No nutritional value, but tasty!On the surface, it would appear that Brian isn’t very active in the blog world these days. That couldn’t be further from the truth! While I have been a bit negligent here on my home blog, I have been very active on my other-other day job (if only it paid!) on The Stogie Review. Those of you that come here for my cigar reviews probably know already that I have a regular Wednesday review over there.

But what you my not know is that I have now mastered all the major mediums. In a pretty big way. So big, that I’m anticipating my Andy Warhol-predicted 15 minutes of fame to begin any moment. (Possibly right now… Maybe now. Hmmm… Apparently not yet. But soon.) Anyway, I just got off the phone with a security firm that provides body guards for all the celebrities. Bono. Britney. And now Brian.

You still have no idea what the heck I’m talking about, do you? Here’s the scoop. In addition to my weekly written review on The Stogie Review, I also am a regular on the bi-weekly video cigar question and answer segment called “Your Questions, My Answers”. (See latest episode here.) Written word, check. Video, check. And just this week, I was a guest on the cigar world’s version of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (well, if the show was on the radio), Dog Watch Cigar Radio. (Download the show here!) It’s like a childhood dream come true. That is if I smoked cigars as a child and the show existed back then. But close enough.

So what does this mean for you, dear reader? Well not too much. We will require you to being showing ID to read these posts, and my security contingent will pat you down to make sure you’re not packing heat. Or lighters with too large a flame. It’s a minor inconvenience, I know, but now that I’m almost certainly a celebrity, it’s a necessary step.

I’m getting word that celebrity status has not yet materialized, but signs point to Monday night at the latest. I’ll keep you posted. Make sure to check in often, you don’t want to miss the fifteen minutes.

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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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Sickness, Dehyrdation and The Palate

Happy Shootin’ DudeEven though I’ve been over my lovely little case of bronchitis (and pink eye too!) for a couple of weeks now, I seem to still be experiencing the side of effects of said malady. Don’t worry, I’m not sick, and the nagging shallow dry cough has hit the road for new throats to set up camp in. What I mean is that a lingering case of dehydration may have been adversely affecting my cigar smoking experience, and as a result, my reviews for the past week or two.

It all came to a head when I realized I was starting to get headaches at the drop of a hat. Smoke a cigar, get a headache. Drink a cup of coffee, get a headache. Drink a beer or a glass of wine, get a headache. And for me, as for the average hung-over reveler, headaches are a symptom of dehydration.

Until I realized I, like the state of Georgia, was undergoing a serious drought, I thought I’d lost my tolerance for stronger cigars. Cigars that I could normally smoke one after another on an empty stomach (probably not a good idea, actually), were suddenly working me over like a loan shark collecting an overdue debt. As you can probably guess, this was a little unsettling. I write regular reviews for the Stogie Review (and irregularly here), as well as spending a lot of times at herfs. Being knocked on your ass by a medium-strength cigar at a herf is the kind of thing that makes you lose a bit of credibility as a cigar reviewer. And look like a pansy. Since I don’t actually know if I command any credibility to begin with, I gotta focus on avoiding the floral resemblance.

During this period of dehydration, when my noggin wasn’t being knocked around like the steel ball in a pinball machine, I noticed that every cigar I smoked was unusually spicy. My palate was surprisingly sensitive to the acidity and pepper flavors in cigars. But after an aggressive re-hydration campaign, the same cigars were noticeable less spicy. And that’s fascinating. What this seems to indicate is that even pairing a cigar with water in an attempt to get a good, unaltered read on the flavors may be a flawed idea. Smoking a cigar without a drink will be a different experience that smoking one with water, because the presence of additional water has an impact on how your palate detects flavor.

Of course, some people already know that a very cold or iced beverage deadens the taste buds. (Ever wonder why cheap beer is served ice-cold?) As part of my recovery process, I’ve been trying to drink room temperature water to avoid irritating my throat. So I’m not just talking about the turning you palate into a flavorless tundra.

So what should you, as a cigar smoker take away from my random, unscientific, anecdotal thesis? A couple of things:

  • If you find your cigars are suddenly kicking your butt, you might be dehydrated. Trying drinking a bunch of water an hour or so before you light up. Consider having some more water with your cigar. Remember that coffee is actually a diuretic! (A very tasty one, given.) Without realizing it, your cup of joe may just be dehydrating you! And keep in mind some areas become drier in the winter, so your environment may be working against you!
  • If you find that your cigars seem pretty bland recently, cut back on your fluids while you smoke them. Or maybe considering smoking your cigar with something warm like tea. If cold beverages deaden your taste buds, it stands to reason that a warm beverage will wake them up.

But what about me? I read your blog, and I don’t smoke cigars! Well keep in mind that the very same palate I use to enjoy the finer qualities of premium tobacco is the palate I use to evaluate red wine and the presence of possible poisons in my wife’s cooking. (She seems to have the mistaken idea that I have a large life insurance policy in her name. The joke’s on her, I’ve left everything to the neighbor’s Chihuahua!)

But if the preciseness of your palate is not a big concern to you (or maybe even a liability if you live on Taco Bell and Schlitz malt liquor), you still should be aware of the importance of water. After billowing plumes of premium tobacco smoke, water is probably the most important thing we can consume on a daily basis. I did a quick search of the web for the effects of dehydration and came across this website that alleges the lack of water is tied to everything from Asthma to diabetes, arthritis, heart burn, back pain and migraines. And you know what? I believe ‘em.

Drink up!

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Standercizing: The New Workout Craze

Heed the sage words of Brian!I’m writing this standing up. That’s right, standing up. Why the heck am I doing that, you ask? Well the latest word from the ever changing, constantly surprising medical research community is that standing up may be every bit as important in determining the size of your waist line as regular exercise. Seriously! But don’t take my word for it, here’s an except of the stunning revelation:

“In most cases, exercise alone, according to a team of scientists at the University of Missouri, isn’t enough to take off those added pounds. The problem, they say, is that all the stuff we’ve heard the last few years about weight control left one key factor out of the equation. When we sit, the researchers found, the enzymes that are responsible for burning fat just shut down… [In tests] After the animals remained seated for several hours, ‘the enzyme was suppressed down to 10 percent of normal,’ Hamilton said. ‘It’s just virtually shut off.’

That’s right, sitting on your posterior may be why that jelly donut you had in the break room is now taking out a mortgage on a lovely little 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom cellulite ripple on your thighs. (The thighs is one place the subprime mortgage crisis hasn’t reached yet.)

But could losing pounds be as simple as standing around like an angst-filled, high schooler in the mall? I’ve decided to check it out in the days since I read the article. Instead of vegging out in the evening on the couch wasting my time watching crummy television programming, I’ve been standing up, wasting my time watching crummy television programming. And you know what? I have noticed a few subtle differences. To begin with, there’s no convenient place to stand and watch the boob tube in my living room.

After the end of first evening, I noticed my lower back and my neck were aching. That wasn’t terribly surprising. Part of my IT geek union membership involves an aptitude for endurance slouching. (The union better not find out about all this standing and good posture, they may revoke my membership.) More importantly, I slept like a log that night. Petrified wood. We’re talking some seriously awesome sleep. The kind of sleep that makes waking feel like crawling out of a warm, deep, fuzzy hole. The only problem with sleep like that is you gotta wake up sometime. If it weren’t for work, I think I had another four hours in me.

In the following days, I also notice the scale seemed to be reading slightly lower figures than normal. However, I don’t know if I can attribute it to standing or to lack of exercise. Due to a recent case of illness, my work out regimen was temporarily put on hold. And as you probably know with muscles, if you don’t use ‘em you lose ‘em. So it’s a toss up. And it probably doesn’t matter anyway, because a boozy weekend virtually erased any losses in the weight department. In either case, my sleep continued to be great.

Another interesting thing happens when you exercise the erectus ability we inherited from homo erectus. You tend to move around a lot. Before you know it, you be absentmindedly doing little chores that you would normally ignore whilst crashed on the couch. Even if you’re in the zombie-coma state that often accompanies a day spent in front of a computer screen swigging coffee, I noticed that after about 10 or 15 minutes, you kinda wake up and feel a bit more energetic. This also makes sense. I noticed when putting together the stats for my post on the exercise prospects of the Nintendo Wii that my heart rate sitting down was as much as 20 BPM less than it was while standing.

So is standing up the new Atkins Diet? I’m gonna go out on a limb and say no. Though I am trying to come up with an entire line of gimmicky products to sell to gullible people who slavishly follow fad diets. (Got any ideas?) I’m calling these people “Standercizers”. (I’m willing to license the term “Standercize” for a small fee! Hell, I’ll even throw in some neon 80’s leg warmers!) Seriously though, while I don’t see standing up a realistic way of losing weight or gaining fitness, I’m going to keep doing it as long as I keep getting the awesome sleep.

The more important issue here is not whether or not standing will actually make you lose weight. It’s about how incredibly fat and lazy have people have to be to not spend any time standing up during the day. When doctors have to advise you to stand up, much less work out, there’s a problem. (I’m envisioning a gym full of large sweaty people on recumbent exercise bikes here, and it isn’t pleasant!) Stand up people! Wait, don’t just stand, Standercize!

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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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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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